Kwanzan cherry tree in bloom. April, 2013. Photo by joanneleon.
Kwanzan cherry tree in bloom. April, 2013. Photo by joanneleon.
Kwanzan cherry tree in bloom. April, 2013. Photo by joanneleon.
Cherry Blossom (Original Song)
News and Opinion
h/t to joe shikspack from last night's Evening Blues for most of the news section below.
There's no need for all this economic sadomasochism
The intellectual justification for austerity lies in ruins. It turns out that Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, who originally framed the argument that too high a "debt-to-GDP ratio" will always, necessarily, lead to economic contraction – and who had aggressively promoted it during Rogoff's tenure as chief economist for the IMF –, had based their entire argument on a spreadsheet error. The premise behind the cuts turns out to be faulty. There is now no definite proof that high levels of debt necessarily lead to recession.
Will we, then, see a reversal of policy? A sea of mea culpas from politicians who have spent the last few years telling disabled pensioners to give up their bus passes and poor students to forgo college, all on the basis of a mistake? It seems unlikely. After all, as I and many others have long argued, austerity was never really an economic policy: ultimately, it was always about morality. We are talking about a politics of crime and punishment, sin and atonement. True, it's never been particularly clear exactly what the original sin was: some combination, perhaps, of tax avoidance, laziness, benefit fraud and the election of irresponsible leaders. But in a larger sense, the message was that we were guilty of having dreamed of social security, humane working conditions, pensions, social and economic democracy. ...
Politicians locate economic theories that provide flashy equations to justify the politics; their authors, like Rogoff, are celebrated as oracles; no one bothers to check if the numbers actually add up.
If ever proof was required that the theory is selected to suit the politics, one need only consider the reaction politicians have to economists who dare suggest this moralistic framework is unnecessary; or that there might be solutions that don't involve widespread human suffering.
Unbelievable! Bowles and Simpson Release New Deficit-Reduction Plan Based on Discredited Austerity Research
On April 19th, just after I had written about how the key academic research used to bolster austerity policies was exposed by a 28-year-old grad student at U Mass-Amherst, I got a surprise in my email inbox: Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson giddily announced their new deficit-reduction plan, which includes, among other things, a recommendation to increase the eligibility age for Medicare. Their plan would reduce debt as a share of GDP below 70 percent by 2023, and as the Washington Post reports, “seeks far less in new taxes than the original, and it seeks far more in savings from federal health programs for the elderly.”
There is no question that Bowles and Simpson were doing their dirty work as the influence of Rogoff and Reinhart’s paper had given rise to a misguided Washington consensus on deficit reduction, and that they regularly cited the paper to add an academic sheen to their political recommendations. ...
Once reporters started to ask for explanations, Bowles came out with a breezy dismissal of those unpleasant incumbrances known as "facts." As reported on The Hill, Bowles said, “I have obviously read the report and have referenced it a number of times. I know they had a worksheet error in the report and my understanding is that does make a difference.”
Undaunted, Bowles and Simpson have launched a campaign to reignite congressional interest in a $2.5 trillion package of spending cuts and tax increases. ... There has never been any economic justification for their cynical attempts to rob ordinary people of more of their hard-earned money, but now, as the intellectual dishonesty of cutting government spending in the name of deficit hysteria is on full display, Bowles and Simpson should be booed off the national stage once and for all.
America's New Math: 1 Wall Street Hour = 21 Years of Hard Work For the Rest of UsNew York DA ♥ ♥ ♥ jack-booted thugs, drops criminal charges against Tony Baloney and Johnny Cardona.
The new Rich List is out - yet another example of financial pornography. While nearly 15 million Americans still can't find jobs due to the 2008 Wall Street-created crash, the top hedge manager, David Tepper, earned $1,057,692 an HOUR in 2012 -- that's as much as the average American family makes in 21 years!
America's new math: 1 Wall Street hour = 21 years of hard work for the rest of us.
Together the top 10 hedge fund managers waltzed off with $10.1 billion in 2012, which is more than enough to hire 250,000 entry level teachers or 196,000 new registered nurses.
It's not just that these financial gurus are filthy rich. It's that they are the richest of the rich and we don't even know what they do. Overall, hedge fund managers make 50 to 100 times more than our top athletes, movie stars, CEOs, lawyers, writers, doctors and celebrities.
New York Thug Cops That Pepper-Sprayed and Punched Peaceful Occupiers Let Off On Criminal Charges by DA
The Manhattan District Attorney will not prosecute a pair of high-ranking cops seen on video pepper-spraying and punching Occupy Wall Street protesters more than a year ago, they said Friday.
NYPD Deputy Inspectors Anthony Bologna and Johnny Cardona came under fire after videos of their alleged misconduct surfaced in late 2011.
Bologna was seen firing the crowd-control spray liberally at a seemingly calm group of people near Union Square on Sept. 24, and protester Felix Rivera-Pitre was slugged in the face by Cardona on Oct. 14 during a demonstration in the financial district.
“After a thorough investigation ... we cannot prove these allegations criminally beyond a reasonable doubt,” said the DA’s chief spokeswoman, Erin Duggan.
Every 28 Hours 2012 Report: Extrajudicial Killings of 313 Black People by Police, Security Guards, and Vigilantes
George W. Bush: 'No Need to Defend Myself'
Former US president says that history will be his judge
Ahead of the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center later this week on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the controversial former president says that the library and museum dedicated to his two terms in office will be a place "to lay out facts" but not—as USA Today phrased it—a place that will seek to "explain" or "defend" his policies.
"There's no need to defend myself," Bush said in a phone interview with the newspaper. "I did what I did and ultimately history will judge." ...
As the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion was marked last month, a group of policy experts, anti-war activists and historians—including Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice—wrote:The US war against Iraq was illegal and illegitimate. It violated the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and a whole host of international laws and treaties. It violated US laws and our Constitution with impunity. And it was all based on lies: about non-existent links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, about never-were ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, about Iraq’s invisible weapons of mass destruction and about Baghdad’s supposed nuclear program, with derivative lies about uranium yellowcake from Niger and aluminum rods from China. There were lies about US troops being welcomed in the streets with sweets and flowers, and lies about thousands of jubilant Iraqis spontaneously tearing down the statue of a hated dictator.
And then there was the lie that the US could send hundreds of thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars worth of weapons across the world to wage war on the cheap. We didn’t have to raise taxes to pay the almost one trillion dollars the Iraq war has cost so far, we could go shopping instead.
US Resumes Trend of Drone Attacks on Yemen
Sunday's attack marks second drone strike on country in less than a week
A US drone strike in Yemen killed two people described in corporate media as suspected al Qaeda militants on Sunday, the second such attack in the country in less than a week.
The strike hit a house in Wadi Adeeda in the Marib province, east of the capital, which was reportedly storing weapons.
Agence France-Presse adds: "A tribal source said the strike was followed by ground clashes in which two Yemeni soldiers and a militant were killed."
The two strikes in the past several days break a nearly three-month lull in US drone strikes on Yemen.
US Admits 16 Guantanamo Detainees Being Force-Fed
Half of the 166 detainees as the Guantánamo Bay prison are on hunger strike and 16 of them are being force-fed, a US military official stated Saturday, a further acknowledgement that the detention facility is engaging in an act considered by many a form of torture.
According to Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, 84 prisoners are now on hunger strike, though lawyers representing the detainees have said that most of the 166 prisoners are on hunger strike to protest the cruelty of their indefinite detention. ...
Last weekend, guards at the detention facility fired four "non-lethal" rounds at prisoners to force them from communal cellblocks into isolated one-man cells in an attempt to end the ongoing hunger strike.
Entering a Resource-Shock World
Brace yourself. You may not be able to tell yet, but according to global experts and the U.S. intelligence community, the earth is already shifting under you. Whether you know it or not, you’re on a new planet, a resource-shock world of a sort humanity has never before experienced.
Two nightmare scenarios -- a global scarcity of vital resources and the onset of extreme climate change -- are already beginning to converge and in the coming decades are likely to produce a tidal wave of unrest, rebellion, competition, and conflict. Just what this tsunami of disaster will look like may, as yet, be hard to discern, but experts warn of “water wars” over contested river systems, global food riots sparked by soaring prices for life’s basics, mass migrations of climate refugees (with resulting anti-migrant violence), and the breakdown of social order or the collapse of states. At first, such mayhem is likely to arise largely in Africa, Central Asia, and other areas of the underdeveloped South, but in time all regions of the planet will be affected. ...
In March, for the first time, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper listed “competition and scarcity involving natural resources” as a national security threat on a par with global terrorism, cyberwar, and nuclear proliferation. ...
There was a new phrase embedded in his comments: “resource shocks.” It catches something of the world we’re barreling toward, and the language is striking for an intelligence community that, like the government it serves, has largely played down or ignored the dangers of climate change. For the first time, senior government analysts may be coming to appreciate what energy experts, resource analysts, and scientists have long been warning about: the unbridled consumption of the world’s natural resources, combined with the advent of extreme climate change, could produce a global explosion of human chaos and conflict. We are now heading directly into a resource-shock world.
Where is your threshold for resistance?
Since 2011, when I first read Deep Green Resistance by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith and Aric McBay I’ve been haunted by a question Jensen posed in the book’s preface.
He asks, “Where is your threshold for resistance?”
He goes on to write that 90 percent of the large fish in our oceans are gone. At what point do you get angry and fight back? “Is it 91 percent? 92? 93? 94? Would you wait till they killed off 95 percent? 96? 97? 98? 99?” he writes. “How about 100 percent? Would you fight back then?”
The question doesn’t just pertain to fish. “There is 10 times as much plastic as phytoplankton in the oceans, 97 percent of native forests are destroyed, 98 percent of native grasslands are destroyed, amphibian populations are collapsing, and so on,” he writes. “Two hundred species are driven extinct each and every day.” ...
“We're not breaking records anymore; we're breaking the planet,” Bill McKibben wrote this month in Rolling Stone. “In 50 years, no one will care about the fiscal cliff or the Euro crisis. They'll just ask, ‘So the Arctic melted, and then what did you do?’”
Forget Excel: This Was Reinhart and Rogoff's Biggest MistakeHard to excerpt, but really important article. Strongly recommend reading and watching the video.
Those are important words: "associated with". As I pointed out before, the best argument against taking R-R as austerity's gospel truth was it was just a correlation. Of course a ratio tends to increase more when its denominator increases less. That's how fractions work. But it doesn't prove that the rising ratio causes the stagnating denominator. If anything, the causality runs the other way -- lower growth tends to cause higher debt, as tax revenue falls and safety-net spending rises during a slump. Indeed, as you can see below, Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found that debt-to-GDP predicts past GDP growth much better than future GDP growth. In other words, higher debt doesn't cause lower growth as much as lower growth causes higher debt.
To be fair, R-R do say that they only found that higher debt and lower growth are "associated" and that there's no "bright red line" (even if policymakers interpret it that way) at 90 percent. But they also make it quite clear that they think their correlation is more than just a correlation. They think higher debt causes lower growth, and, after a little throat-clearing, they're not too shy about saying so.
This wasn't the only time they dressed up their correlation as causation. [...]
Congress: We're planning the largest online protest since SOPA. Vote NO on CISPA sooner rather than later.
CISPA -- the bill that would END our online privacy and violate the 4th Amendment -- will go to a vote in the House today. We're planning the largest online privacy protest in history to stop this bill. Can you contact your reps now to warn them?
What's wrong with CISPA? (in as few words as possible)
As it's written, CISPA won't protect us from cyber threats, but it will violate our 4th Amendment right to privacy.
It lets the government spy on you without a warrant. (read more)
It makes it so you can’t even find out about it after the fact. (read more)
It makes it so companies can’t be sued when they do illegal things with your data. (read more)
It allows corporations to cyber-attack each other and individuals outside of the law. (read more)
Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest
Inmates Rising: Worsening Gitmo Mass Hunger Strike in Prisoners' Own Words - Inmates vow strike "to the death" truth-out.org/news/item/1587…— Jeffrey Kaye (@jeff_kaye) April 23, 2013
12 arrested in "die-in" at NYC Federal Courthouse, protesting US policy on Guantanamo, as hunger strike there spreads witnesstorture.org/blog/2013/04/2…— Jeffrey Kaye (@jeff_kaye) April 23, 2013
In New Mexico desert, drone pilots learn the new art of war reut.rs/10akFO8— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) April 23, 2013
EPA criticizes State Dept. analysis of Keystone XL pipeline : wapo.st/17LaAMf— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) April 23, 2013
Adam Lanza kill 20 w an AR15 and is a "disturbed loner."Dzhokhar Tsarnaev kill 4 ppl with IEDs & handgun & is a "WMD" wielding terrorist.— Eli Clifton (@EliClifton) April 23, 2013
Tsarnaev presented to a Magistrate, told of his rights - decent handling of this so far by the DOJlawfareblog.com/2013/04/tsarna…— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 22, 2013
NBC's Brokaw says what CIA has already said: terrorism is in part "blowback" from America killing so many civilians: thenation.com/blog/173975/to…— David Sirota (@davidsirota) April 22, 2013
Neil Diamond, 'Cherry Cherry'