Friday, September 30, 2011

#OccupyThePlanet

I just got a tweet saying that #OccupyWallStreet is changing its name to #OccupyThePlanet and, indeed, their little movement appears to have gone global. Here is a site, Occupy Together, that is keeping track of the various movements. I don't know how big each of these movements are, but David Graeber said he attended Occupy Austin's initial meeting and 500 people showed up (he was at the original Occupy Wall Street movement and there were only about 100 people). Also, Occupy Wall Street is predicting big numbers this weekend. Anyway, here's the list, which is growing every day:

MIDWEST

Occupy Chicago
Occupy Cincinnati
Occupy Cleveland
Occupy Columbus, OH
Occupy Evansville
Occupy Indiana
Occupy Indianapolis
Occupy Kansas City
Occupy Michigan
Occupy Minnesota
Occupy OKC
Occupy Omaha
Occupy OSU (Stillwater)
Occupy St. Louis
Occupy Tulsa
Occupy Wisconsin
Occupy Youngstown

NORTHEAST

Occupy Albany
Occupy Binghamton
Occupy Boston
Occupy D.C.
Occupy Hartford, CT
Occupy Maine
Occupy New Haven
Occupy New Jersey
Occupy Philadelphia
Occupy Pittsburgh
Occupy Providence, RI
Occupy Rochester
Occupy Vermont

SOUTHEAST

Occupy Arkansas
Occupy Asheville
Occupy Atlanta
Occupy Birmingham, AL
Occupy Charlotte
Occupy Chattanooga
Occupy Clarksville, TN
Occupy Columbia, SC
Occupy Columbus, GA
Occupy Daytona Beach
Occupy Durham
Occupy Florence, SC
Occupy Greensboro
Occupy Jacksonville, FL
Occupy Knoxville
Occupy Lexington, KY
Occupy Louisville
Occupy Memphis
Occupy Mississippi
Occupy Nashville
Occupy New Orleans
Occupy Orlando
Occupy Pensacola
Occupy Raleigh, NC
Occupy Richmond, VA
Occupy Sarasota
Occupy Tallahassee
Occupy Tampa
Occupy Winston Salem

SOUTHWEST

Occupy Albuquerque
Occupy Austin
Occupy Dallas
Occupy Houston
Occupy Phoenix
Occupy San Antonio
Occupy Santa Fe
Occupy Tucson

WEST

Occupy Boise
Occupy Colorado Springs
Occupy Denver
Occupy Eugene
Occupy Las Vegas
Occupy Los Angeles
Occupy Napa
Occupy Olympia
Occupy Portland
Occupy Riverside
Occupy Sacramento
Occupy Salt Lake City
Occupy San Diego
Occupy San Francisco
Occupy San Jose
Occupy Santa Cruz
Occupy Seattle
Occupy Spokane
Occupy Ventura

INTERNATIONAL

Occupy Adelaide
Occupy Brisbane
OCCUPY DEN HAAG (NL)
Occupy Finland
Occupy Frankfurt Germany
Occupy Hamburg Germany
Occupy Manchester | March on the Tory Party Conference
Occupy Melbourne Australia
Occupy Montreal
Occupy Perth
Occupy the London Stock Exchange
Occupy Toronto Market Exchange
Occupy Vancouver

Update: Occupy Lexington left a comment with this video, which I'm embedding:



See comment section for additional links.

Update 2: This really deserves its own post (and maybe I will do one later), but this is very touching and worth taking a look at.

#OccupyWallStreet - Interview With Chris Hedges

Thursday, September 29, 2011

OccupyWallStreet: Big Damn Heroes

This was the first thing I remember hearing about Occupy Wall Street. It was posted by fellow Kossack AoT on Daily Kos on August 18, 2011. I don't know how anyone on the Left can be scornful of these young people - who are unquestionably brave and sincere (in my book, two of the most important virtues). So, here is what he wrote:

I gave notice today. I'm leaving to go to go to Wall Street. I'm going to stay there. This is an occupation not just a protest.

I'll be honest, I'm scared. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know if this is going to be some short one off that gets shut down after a day. But what I do know is that I'm going and I'm staying.

I told my dad that I gave notice and he freaked out a bit. Not because of why I did it, but because I did it. In a lot of ways it really was a terribly bad decision, but as far as I'm concerned I didn't really have a choice. Something has to be done and this is the best thing I know to do.

I don't really have a lot that I can say right now, but I feel like there's a lot that needs to be said. I'm doing this for a lot of reasons, the most obvious is because there is clearly something wrong right now, and the traditional ways of dealing of it aren't working. Protests are ignored. Voting can work a little, but given the amount of money in politics it only has a limited effect. But occupation seems like it can work, or is at least worth a try.

I don't know what will come of all of this, but what I do know is that for the first time since Wall Street crashed the world economy and unleashed untold destruction and suffering, someone - at long last - is "stand[ing] outside of the right buildings and yell[ing]":

I'm not sure what the people now occupying Wall Street ultimately will accomplish, but . . . [t]here has to be something to be said for people who at least direct their anger at the people who deserve it. The president has not been interested in doing that . . . . The Democratic party doesn't seem overly concerned any more. Among the Republican presidential candidates, the issue is largely invisible . . . .

[Wall Street] is where the people who created the financial crisis work. That's the scene of the crime. . . . Thank Whoever that there's at least a few people who will stand outside of the right buildings and yell.

And that's exactly right. As Jayne Cobb said (quoting Sheperd Book): "If you can't do something smart, do something right." So, I don't know if their tactics are smart (although so far, I'm impressed), but I do think they're right. And that's a damn sight better than anyone else in this country has managed.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

The Best Among Us - #OccupyWallStreet

By Chris Hedges

There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.

To be declared innocent in a country where the rule of law means nothing, where we have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no long exists, where you, as a citizen, are nothing more than a commodity to corporate systems of power, one to be used and discarded, is to be complicit in this radical evil. To stand on the sidelines and say “I am innocent” is to bear the mark of Cain; it is to do nothing to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet. To be innocent in times like these is to be a criminal. Ask Tim DeChristopher.

Choose. But choose fast. The state and corporate forces are determined to crush this. They are not going to wait for you. They are terrified this will spread. They have their long phalanxes of police on motorcycles, their rows of white paddy wagons, their foot soldiers hunting for you on the streets with pepper spray and orange plastic nets. They have their metal barricades set up on every single street leading into the New York financial district, where the mandarins in Brooks Brothers suits use your money, money they stole from you, to gamble and speculate and gorge themselves while one in four children outside those barricades depend on food stamps to eat. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged. Today they run the state and the financial markets. They disseminate the lies that pollute our airwaves. They know, even better than you, how pervasive the corruption and theft have become, how gamed the system is against you, how corporations have cemented into place a thin oligarchic class and an obsequious cadre of politicians, judges and journalists who live in their little gated Versailles while 6 million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a number soon to rise to 10 million, where a million people a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills and 45,000 die from lack of proper care, where real joblessness is spiraling to over 20 percent, where the citizens, including students, spend lives toiling in debt peonage, working dead-end jobs, when they have jobs, a world devoid of hope, a world of masters and serfs.

The only word these corporations know is more. They are disemboweling every last social service program funded by the taxpayers, from education to Social Security, because they want that money themselves. Let the sick die. Let the poor go hungry. Let families be tossed in the street. Let the unemployed rot. Let children in the inner city or rural wastelands learn nothing and live in misery and fear. Let the students finish school with no jobs and no prospects of jobs. Let the prison system, the largest in the industrial world, expand to swallow up all potential dissenters. Let torture continue. Let teachers, police, firefighters, postal employees and social workers join the ranks of the unemployed. Let the roads, bridges, dams, levees, power grids, rail lines, subways, bus services, schools and libraries crumble or close. Let the rising temperatures of the planet, the freak weather patterns, the hurricanes, the droughts, the flooding, the tornadoes, the melting polar ice caps, the poisoned water systems, the polluted air increase until the species dies.

Who the hell cares? If the stocks of ExxonMobil or the coal industry or Goldman Sachs are high, life is good. Profit. Profit. Profit. That is what they chant behind those metal barricades. They have their fangs deep into your necks. If you do not shake them off very, very soon they will kill you. And they will kill the ecosystem, dooming your children and your children’s children. They are too stupid and too blind to see that they will perish with the rest of us. So either you rise up and supplant them, either you dismantle the corporate state, for a world of sanity, a world where we no longer kneel before the absurd idea that the demands of financial markets should govern human behavior, or we are frog-marched toward self-annihilation.

Those on the streets around Wall Street are the physical embodiment of hope. They know that hope has a cost, that it is not easy or comfortable, that it requires self-sacrifice and discomfort and finally faith. They sleep on concrete every night. Their clothes are soiled. They have eaten more bagels and peanut butter than they ever thought possible. They have tasted fear, been beaten, gone to jail, been blinded by pepper spray, cried, hugged each other, laughed, sung, talked too long in general assemblies, seen their chants drift upward to the office towers above them, wondered if it is worth it, if anyone cares, if they will win. But as long as they remain steadfast they point the way out of the corporate labyrinth. This is what it means to be alive. They are the best among us.

I have never posted anything in its entirety on my blog - it is a blogging custom that makes it more likely that a reader has to link to the original source and thus, the author gets the hit. I could not bring myself to cut even a single word. Please, please, please link to Chris Hedges original article here. In fact, if you could link there twice, I'd be obliged. Thank you and thank you Chris Hedges for such a beautiful column.

Reasons for Optimism re: #OccupyWallStreet


They're getting a few celebrities to turn out (Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons), but - much more importantly - Unions and other community groups are jumping on board at a pretty good clip:

The city's most experienced agitators—the labor and community groups that typically organize
local marches, rallies and sit-ins—have been largely missing from the Occupy Wall Street protest that is in its 13th day at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan.

But that's about to change.

A loose coalition of labor and community groups said Thursday that they would join the protest next week. They are organizing a solidarity march scheduled for Wednesday . . . .

Despite the common cause, the city's established left did not initially embrace the protest, which began Sept. 17 and has been made up mostly of young people angry about the widening income chasm in the country, the growing influence of money on politics and police brutality, among other issues.

But as the action nears the start of its third week, unions and community groups are eager to jump on board....

“It's become too big to ignore,” said one political consultant.

Some of the biggest players in organized labor are actively involved in planning for Wednesday's demonstration, either directly or through coalitions that they are a part of. The United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, Workers United and Transport Workers Union Local 100 are all expected to participate. The Working Families Party is helping to organize the protest and MoveOn.org is expected to mobilize its extensive online regional networks to drum up support for the effort.

Also, Matt Taibbi thinks it could be the start of something big (and I would classify him as pretty much completely jaded and not prone to optimism - so, when he's hopeful, it definitely perks my interest):



And let me just say once more, that I loved the posture Mike Konczal took. Most of the time there's a legitimate question of whether the progressive blogosphere is good for anything, but this is an opportunity, a very rare opportunity, for bloggers to actually be useful. Konczal jumped right in with constructive ideas and basically said: "Hey, I've been thinking about these issues for a long time. Here are some ideas for concrete demands." Bravo Mike Konczal. And for the blogosphere cynics on the Left (Mahablog, Yglesias), it's too soon to tell for sure, but I think you're on the wrong side of history.

Here's Michael Moore speaking to the crowd via the People's Mic (the police confiscated microphones, bull horns, etc. so, the Occupiers came up with this method, which they call the People's Mic):



Update: Here's Digby reporting something's happening here:

Evidently 500 of these guys showed up to protest on Wall Street today. They've been getting screwed on their pensions for years and these mergers are killing them.

This is the first sign of a real middle class revolt.

Update 2: Pepper-spray Bologna slideshow.

Update 3: Just going to gather some of the opinion pieces (with the intent to write about these later: con (here, here, here, here here and here); pro (here, here, here, here and here).

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Mike Konczal - Three Concrete Demands for #OccupyWallStreet


The big beef against the Wall Street protesters has been that they lack concrete demands. Here's Mike Konczal with his suggestions - I really have nothing to add (it's perfect). This is excerpted so, make sure to check out the original:

The demands of the several hundred protesters camped out on Wall Street have been criticized as ad hoc and poorly articulated. The protesters emphasize that their demands are "a process" intended to allow people to "talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people's assemblies ... [and] zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination."

Since they're looking for suggestions, here are three policy changes that should be on their list of demands....

1. Cancel the debts. The crisis we face is fundamentally about a giant pool of bad mortgage debt. We need to work through these debts for recovery to really take off. The only question is who will absorb them—the creditors who made the loans or the people on the other side....

Anthropologist David Graeber cites historian Moses Finley, who identified “the perennial revolutionary programme of antiquity, cancel debts and redistribute the land.” This remains the case. The modern inventions for dealing with failed debts, bankruptcy and inflation, both have failed. The bankruptcy code has a flaw preventing mortgage workouts and inflation is so low that markets are worried that the level of debts could increase with time....

By making banks write down bad loans and work out failed mortgages we’ll have an system where the fraud that originated on Wall Street isn't borne entirely on the real economy.

2. Investigate Wall Street. In the buildup to the crisis, bad loans that could never be paid back were passed out to unsuspecting homeowners. These loans were then passed along a chain until they got to investors who thought the loans were made with the utmost diligence. When the entire house of cards collapsed, homeowners were left with bad loans, investors looked to cover their investments, and a mind-boggling 5 million people were foreclosed on. Loans were made so fast that proper records weren’t kept, which means it’s difficult to hold creditors and debtors accountable....

Several state attorneys general, including ones from New York and Nevada, have taken the lead in demanding an investigation, much to the chagrin of the Obama administration and financial elites. By supporting them, we’ll help build a country where there isn’t a two-tier system of justice.

3. Create a Financial Transaction Tax. It is hard to think of something with such a boring name as a particularly radical solution, but an FTT would be an important first step toward remaking our economy so it is not so dependent on the financial sector.

Thanks to a wave of deregulation laws in the late 1970s and early 1980s, finance has been one of the fastest-growing sectors over the past 30 years.... This way of viewing our economy is less about long-term value than short-term price manipulation, less about investing in communities and peoples than about gaming tax codes and regulation and less about markets as a means of expression and more about consolidated, cornered market power. A financial transaction tax would help fight back against this and begin to steer our economy toward more sustainable and workable ends.

There are endless problems that plague America, but if the battle is brought to Wall Street, the demands should address the financial sector directly....

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Look Back Before You Act



The Onion:

With the United States facing a daunting array of problems at home and abroad, leading historians courteously reminded the nation Thursday that when making tough choices, it never hurts to stop a moment, take a look at similar situations from the past, and then think about whether the decisions people made back then were good or bad.

According to the historians, by looking at things that have already happened, Americans can learn a lot about which actions made things better versus which actions made things worse, and can then plan their own actions accordingly.

"In the coming weeks and months, people will have to make some really important decisions about some really important issues," Columbia University historian Douglas R. Collins said during a press conference, speaking very slowly and clearly so the nation could follow his words. "And one thing we can do, before making a choice that has permanent consequences for our entire civilization, is check real quick first to see if human beings have ever done anything like it previously, and see if turned out to be a good idea or not...."

While the new strategy, known as "Look Back Before You Act," has raised concerns among people worried they will have to remember lots of events from long ago, the historians have assured Americans they won't be required to read all the way through thick books or memorize anything.

Instead, citizens have been told they can just find a large-print, illustrated timeline of historical events, place their finger on an important moment, and then look to the right of that point to see what happened afterward, paying especially close attention to whether things got worse or better.

"You know how the economy is not doing so well right now?" Professor Elizabeth Schuller of the University of North Carolina said. "Well, in the 1930s, financial markets—no, wait, I'm sorry. Here: A long, long time ago, way far in the past, certain things happened that were a lot like things now, and they made people hungry and sad."

"How do you feel when you're hungry? Doesn't feel good, does it?" Schuller added. "So, maybe we should avoid doing those things that caused people to feel that way, don't you think?..."

Paul Krugman:

Kevin O’Rourke follows up on some of what I’ve been writing, and argues that doing good macroeconomics depends crucially on knowing a fair bit about economic history. Indeed....

I’d also say that there’s history and then there’s history. Knowing the time-series properties of US quarterly data since 1947 isn’t what I mean. In macro, in particular, you need to know about drastic events. I don’t have it in front of me, but in his book on the German hyperinflation Frank Graham said roughly this: “Disorder is, for the social sciences, the sole substitute for the controlled experiments of the natural sciences.” That means knowing about prewar experience; it also means knowing about international experience — for there have been numerous crises even since World War II, just not in the United States.

Indeed, my sense is that international macroeconomists — people who followed the ERM crises of the early 1990s, the Latin American debt crisis, the Asian crisis of the late 90s, and so on — were caught much less flat-footed than economists who limited most of their interest to the United States. The now-infamous 2003 Lucas remark about how the problem of depression-prevention has been solved was not something you would have heard from an economist who had paid attention to Mexico, Indonesia, Argentina etc..

Unfortunately, many economists have not learned from the past. And that’s at least part of the reason we are apparently condemned to repeat it.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bernanke Hearts Neoliberalism

Mike Konczal - who I think is as clear and as good as it gets on the economy - has recently argued that the Left should be pressuring the Fed to take whatever actions are necessary to produce inflation. For some reason - (probably because Krugman personally likes Bernanke) - I always thought Bernanke would be more aggressive if he could, but that he's dealing with political pressure - within the Fed, from the GOP and, of course, the mafioso-style threats from Rick Perry.


However, Ben Bernanke delivered a paper today in Cleveland, which gives some insight into what he might be willing to do with respect to the economy and into his thinking generally. And it's really not good. First of all, it looks like he's an inflationista (and that's really not good). Here's what Mark Thoma makes of his position on inflation:
So Bernanke sees low and stable inflation as one of the keys to long-run economic growth, it avoids “costly swings in economic activity,” and from the Fed’s actions recently it appears that the Fed is reluctant to risk an outbreak of inflation. I don’t think this should be a worry, the Fed could be more aggressive now to try to help the unemployed, i.e. let inflation rise above target, without risking its long-run commitment to price stability. But apparently the Fed does not trust itself to bring down the inflation rate in the long-run if it allows it to rise in the short-run. I guess I have more faith in Bernanke and others at the Fed than they have in themselves.
This means there's very little chance of the Fed doing anything really helpful - so, one of our three means of recovery is severely hampered (the other two being fiscal stimulus and debt restructuring).


And that's not all - in fact, here comes the terrifying part - the template for Bernanke's talk was on the Washington Consensus, and he pretty much embraces the project in its entirety:
Fostering Growth in Developing Economies: The Washington Consensus 
*          *          * 
A classic attempt to generalize about the policies that best promote economic growth and development, and a useful starting point for discussion, is the so-called Washington Consensus . . .  
   *          *          * 
By comparing current views with those described by Williamson in 1990, and accepted by many, we may learn something about which ideas have held up and which have been modified or refuted by recent events. I will take in turn the three groups of policies that make up the Washington Consensus. 
The first group of recommendations, as I noted, comprised policies aimed at increasing macroeconomic stability. In this case there is little controversy. Abundant evidence has linked fiscal discipline, low inflation, and a stable macroeconomic policy environment to stronger, longer-term growth in both emerging and advanced economies. In particular, many emerging market economies in the 1990s emulated the success of the advanced economies in the 1980s in controlling inflation. . . . Disciplined macroeconomic policies have also supported growth in emerging markets by fostering domestic savings, stimulating capital investment (including foreign direct investment), and reducing the risk of financial instability. 
The second group of recommendations listed by Williamson emphasized the need for greater reliance on markets: the freeing up of the economy through privatization, deregulation, and liberalization. The basic idea here has held up pretty well . . . most observers today would agree that carefully managed liberalization--the substitution of markets for bureaucratic control of the economy--is necessary for sustained growth. . . .  
The third part of the Washington Consensus focused on strengthening property rights and the rule of law--for example, through effective enforcement of contracts. The evidence suggests that these factors too can be important for development. . . .  
Amending the Washington Consensus 
Overall, some key elements of the Washington Consensus appear well supported both by basic economic logic and by their successful application by a number of countries. However, the experience of the past two decades also suggests some lessons that augment or modify what we thought we knew about economic development in 1990. I will highlight three specific lessons. 
First, the implementation of the Washington Consensus recommendations is important and not so straightforward in practice. In particular, as I alluded to earlier, the sequencing of reforms matters. . . . 
Similarly, dismantling controls on the domestic financial industry has proven counterproductive . . . . 
A second important lesson of the past two decades involves the pivotal role of technologyin economic development. . . . 
A third important lesson that has come into sharper focus, and which was not fully appreciated by the Washington Consensus, involves the capacity to draw on economies of scale to accelerate the pace of technical progress and economic growth. . . .  

So, there it is - full steam ahead with neoliberalism. Sure, there was a slight blip with "dismantling the controls on the domestic financial industry" (it crashed the fucking world economy). And we need to watch the sequencing - our bad Russia! - but other that: Success! Full success


This is so out of touch with reality. These people should be saying: "What the hell happened? How did we get it so wrong?" It's really hard to imagine a profession failing more spectacularly. Compare, for example, Bernanke's ringing endorsement of Washington Consensus policies developed in the 1990s with Paul Krugman questioning whether the profession has learned anything at all since the 1970s:
I’ve never liked the notion of talking about economic “science” — it’s much too raw and imperfect a discipline to be paired casually with things like chemistry or biology . . . . 
Still, when I was younger I firmly believed that economics was a field that progressed over time, that every generation knew more than the generation before.
The question now is whether that’s still true. In 1971 it was clear that economists knew a lot that they hadn’t known in 1931. Is that clear when we compare 2011 with 1971? I think you can actually make the case that in important ways the profession knew more in 1971 than it does now. 
I’ve written a lot about the Dark Age of macroeconomics, of the way economists are recapitulating 80-year-old fallacies . . .  
What I’d add to that is that at this point it seems to me that many economists aren’t even trying to get at the truth. When I look at a lot of what prominent economists have been writing in response to the ongoing economic crisis, I see no sign of intellectual discomfort, no sense that a disaster their models made no allowance for is troubling them; I see only blithe invention of stories to rationalize the disaster in a way that supports their side of the partisan divide. And no, it’s not symmetric: liberal economists by and large do seem to be genuinely wrestling with what has happened, but conservative economists don’t. 
And all this makes me wonder what kind of an enterprise I’ve devoted my life to.

That's the proper attitude of someone who belongs to a profession that has just wrought untold pain and devastation and cannot - for the life of them - do anything to fix this disaster they've created. Instead, Bernanke has concluded that the Washington Consensus was mostly right (just need a tweak here and there) and he's committed to following the path of keeping inflation low - and he'll follow it over a cliff, if necessary.


It's really, really not good. 

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jon Stewart's Crush on Ron Paul

The ABC News blog points out that John Stewart seems to have a bit of a crush (their word, not mine) on Ron Paul. The reasons? Well, it appears to be twofold: 1) the mainstream media appears intent on ignoring Paul; and 2) Paul is consistent. So, last night, Ron Paul appeared on Jon Stewart's show:

 >

Given Stewart's gushing, it's worth taking a look at the reasons Stewart claims to admire Ron Paul. The first reason, of course, is that the media has consistently snubbed Paul:
“How did libertarian Ron Paul become the 13th floor in a hotel?”
Alright, my first reaction was: fair enough, I suppose. But on further reflection, it's not like the mainstream media's doing a bang-up job, but they seem to have a blind spot when it comes to Ron Paul. In fact, Jon Stewart, if you want point out instances where the mainstream media has ignored newsworthy events, how about the Tar Sands protests? Or how about Occupy Wall Street (an event Stewart has yet to cover)? It's just not the case that Ron Paul is the 13th floor - in fact, the 13th floor packed full; at this point, it's sleeping ten to a room. So, in terms of the first argument - the mainstream media ignores Ron Paul - color me unimpressed. Okay, the second argument is consistency.
"[Paul's] been consistent over the years,” Stewart said. “You may disagree with him, but at least you can respect that the guy has a belief system he’s engaged in and will defend."
I agree that it's difficult to find a politician who hasn't completely sold out (the John McCain sell out was particularly painful to watch), but this is hardly enough. First off, ideologues are always consistent - and that's not a compliment. Maintaining consistency in the teeth of the evidence is not something to be admired. Also, standing firm isn't a virtue when the things you stand for are vile. And that is the case with Mr. Paul. There's Mr. Paul's now-famous idea of what freedom is all about (hint: we're free to die if we don't have health insurance):

 

For starters, Janis Joplin had a more nuanced view of freedom - I just don't think it's too much to ask to be both free and alive (and the fact that letting the hypothetical guy die was such a crowd-pleaser creeps me out to no end). So, I'm not sure why that's not game over for Mr. Paul, but apparently, it's not. And that's fine because, as Adele Stan noted, there are many, many additional reasons to reject Mr. Paul's particular brand of craziness. Starting with his position on race.
Ron Paul on Race Based on his religious adherence to his purportedly libertarian principles, Ron Paul opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Unlike his son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Ron Paul has not even tried to walk back from this position. In fact, he wears it proudly . . . .
[T]he forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.
So no, I don't consider consistency a good thing when the thing you're consistent about is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But, of course, it doesn't stop there.
Ron Paul on Reproductive Rights The sponsor of a bill to overturn Roe v. Wade, Ron Paul's libertarianism does not apply to women, though it does apply to zygotes. His is a no-exceptions anti-abortion position . . . .
I must admit, I find it particularly infuriating when a supposed libertarian thinks the state should be able to interfere with a woman's right to choose. Paul may be consistent in the sense that he's always been against a woman's right to choose, but his anti-choice stance is not consistent with his own avowed libertarianism. Let the uninsured die because "that's what freedom is all about," but even rape victims shouldn't be allowed to choose an abortion? That's indefensible.

Okay, moving along...
Ron Paul, Christian Reconstructionists and the John Birch Society The year 2008 was a telling one in the annals of R.on Paul's ideology. For starters, it was the year in which he delivered the keynote address [video] at the 50th anniversary gala of the John Birch Society . . . . 
The semi-secular ideology of the John Birch Society -- libertarian market and fiscal theory laced with flourishes of cultural supremacy -- finds its religious counterpart, as Fred Clarkson noted, in the theonomy of Christian Reconstructionism, the right-wing religious-political school of thought founded by Rousas John Rushdoony. . . .
When Paul launched his second presidential quest in 2008, he won the endorsement of Rev. Chuck Baldwin, a Baptist pastor who travels in Christian Reconstructionist circles, though he is not precisely a Reconstructionist himself (for reasons having to do with his interpretation of how the end times will go down). When Paul dropped out of the race, instead of endorsing Republican nominee John McCain, or even Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr, Paul endorsed Constitution Party presidential nominee Chuck Baldwin (who promised, in his acceptance speech, to uphold the Constitution Party platform, which looks curiously similar to the Ron Paul agenda, right down to the no-exceptions abortion proscription and ending the Fed). 
At his shadow rally that year in Minneapolis, held on the eve of the Republican National Convention, Paul invited Constitution Party founder Howard Phillips, a Christian Reconstructionist, to address the crowd of end-the-Fed-cheering post-pubescents. (In his early congressional career, Julie Ingersoll writes in Religion Dispatches, Paul hired as a staffer Gary North, a Christian Reconstructionist leader and Rushdoony's son-in-law.) 
At a "Pastor's Forum" [video] at Baldwin's Baptist church in Pensacola, Florida, Paul was asked by a congregant about his lack of support for Israel, which many right-wing Christians support because of the role Israel plays in what is known as premillennialist end-times theology. "Premillennialist" refers to the belief that after Jesus returns, according to conditions on the ground in Israel, the righteous will rule. But Christian Reconstructionists have a different view, believing the righteous must first rule for 1,000 years before Jesus will return. 
They also believe, according to Clarkson, "that 'the Christians' are the 'new chosen people of God,' commanded to do what 'Adam in Eden and Israel in Canaan failed to do...create the society that God requires.' Further, Jews, once the 'chosen people,' failed to live up to God's covenant and therefore are no longer God's chosen. Christians, of the correct sort, now are." 
Responding to Baldwin's congregant, Paul explained, "I may see it slightly differently than others because I think of the Israeli government as different than what I read about in the Bible. I mean, the Israeli government doesn't happen to be reflecting God's views. Some of them are atheist, and their form of government is not what I would support... And there are some people who interpret the chosen people as not being so narrowly defined as only the Jews -- that maybe there's a broader definition of that."
Alrighty, religious nutjbob? Check. Thus, of course, Ron Paul - along with almost the entire GOP field field - does not believe in evolution (and he doesn't even know why it should matter that he doesn't believe in evolution).

So yes, Ron Paul has been ignored by the mainstream media, but so are many matters of actual import. In my opinion, Jon Stewart would do better to cover those issues. As it stands, he's mistaking consistency for substance and he's shinning a spotlight on the worst American politics has to offer (and that's saying something).

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Monday, September 26, 2011

#OccupyWallStreet - Anthony Bologna

Turns out the NYPD cop - Anthony Bologna (a/k/a Tony Baloney - really, he's known as that, ht David Graeber) - who just maced a group of Occupy Wall Street protesters for absolutely no reason - has a history of brutality (shocker, I know). Anyway, here's the video (it's really quite startling):

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


And here's Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel:
The Lieutenant who pepper-sprayed a kettled, defenseless woman has been identified as Anthony Bologna. He was IDed, in part, by a lawyer representing one of the people Bologna improperly arrested during the 2004 RNC.
The Guardian has learned that the officer, named by activists as deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, stands accused of false arrest and civil rights violations in a claim brought by a protester involved in the 2004 demonstrations at the Republican national convention. . . .
It sounds like this guy is using his badge to legally and physically abuse people whose politics he disagrees with–someone politically debating choice in 2004 and a woman opposing MOTU power this weekend. I don’t expect Ray Kelly to do anything about such an abusive officer on his staff (in any case, the union would presumably defend Bologna if Kelly tried to fire him). But so long as he remains on the force, we have a name and a face to personify the NYPD’s brutality: Anthony Bologna.

The Twitter - Sean Maher of Firefly and Playboy Club

So, I haven't been writing the last couple of days because I got my Twitter account up and running and - I have to admit - it's totally addictive.

The cool thing that happened is that Sean Maher (Simon from Firefly and currently on The Playboy Club) came out of the closet. The outpouring of support on Twitter - and Sean being completely bowled over by the outpouring of support - was really heart warming.

Anway, here's that article, if you're interested.

Congratulations to Sean!

Michael Moore re: #OccupyWallStreet



I couldn't embed, but it's here and it's worth watching. I love how fired up he is by the end of the segment.

Have to See This to Believe It

Sunday, September 25, 2011

#OccupyWallStreet

David Graeber writing for the UK Guardian (not an American paper, but a British paper) regarding the significance of the Occupy Wall Street protests:
Why are people occupying Wall Street? . . .  
There are obvious reasons. We are watching the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans, a generation who are looking forward to finishing their education with no jobs, no future, but still saddled with enormous and unforgivable debt. Most, I found, were of working-class or otherwise modest backgrounds, kids who did exactly what they were told they should: studied, got into college, and are now not just being punished for it, but humiliated – faced with a life of being treated as deadbeats, moral reprobates. . . . 
It's becoming increasingly obvious that the real priority of those running the world for the last few decades has not been creating a viable form of capitalism, but rather, convincing us all that the current form of capitalism is the only conceivable economic system, so its flaws are irrelevant. As a result, we're all sitting around dumbfounded as the whole apparatus falls apart. 
What we've learned now is that the economic crisis of the 1970s never really went away. It was fobbed off by cheap credit at home and massive plunder abroad – the latter, in the name of the "third world debt crisis". But the global south fought back. The "alter-globalisation movement", was in the end, successful: the IMF has been driven out of East Asia and Latin America, just as it is now being driven from the Middle East. As a result, the debt crisis has come home to Europe and North America, replete with the exact same approach: declare a financial crisis, appoint supposedly neutral technocrats to manage it, and then engage in an orgy of plunder in the name of "austerity". 
The form of resistance that has emerged looks remarkably similar to the old global justice movement, too: we see the rejection of old-fashioned party politics, the same embrace of radical diversity, the same emphasis on inventing new forms of democracy from below. What's different is largely the target: where in 2000, it was directed at the power of unprecedented new planetary bureaucracies (the WTO, IMF, World Bank, Nafta), institutions with no democratic accountability, which existed only to serve the interests of transnational capital; now, it is at the entire political classes of countries like Greece, Spain and, now, the US – for exactly the same reason. . . . 
When the history is finally written, though, it's likely all of this tumult – beginning with the Arab Spring – will be remembered as the opening salvo in a wave of negotiations over the dissolution of the American Empire. Thirty years of relentless prioritising of propaganda over substance, and snuffing out anything that might look like a political basis for opposition, might make the prospects for the young protesters look bleak; and it's clear that the rich are determined to seize as large a share of the spoils as remain, tossing a whole generation of young people to the wolves in order to do so. But history is not on their side. 
We might do well to consider the collapse of the European colonial empires. It certainly did not lead to the rich successfully grabbing all the cookies, but to the creation of the modern welfare state. 
We don't know precisely what will come out of this round. But if the occupiers finally manage to break the 30-year stranglehold that has been placed on the human imagination, as in those first weeks after September 2008, everything will once again be on the table – and the occupiers of Wall Street and other cities around the US will have done us the greatest favour anyone possibly can.
And here's ABC News - finally! - reporting on the violence. See also here.

Why Corporations Are Not People


One Art

For my money, I'll take Elizabeth Bishop over Sylvia Plath any day. What Bishop recognizes (and, in my opinion, Plath misses) is that the most powerful emotions can't be unleashed - they'd tear us apart. We hold them back, best we can, because we have to. (Joss Whedon recognizes this too - if you want to show the intensity of an emotion, show a character trying not to feel it; it's always more powerful to see a person trying not to cry than to see a person crying).

That is what One Art is about: Bishop is anticipating a great loss - the loss of her partner - and she's desperately trying to convince herself she can master loss. Everything about the poem is an attempt at restraint - even the form, the villanelle, is highly restrained. Bishop starts out confident: "The art of losing isn't hard to master." The losses start out insignificant - keys, the hour badly spent - and they build until she writes: "- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love)." That line kills me! I choke up every time I read it. What a subtle and perfect way to express the intimacy of the relationship; this is how we know it's a lover she's going to lose - "(the joking voice, a gesture I love)" - these are the type of tiny, but intensely personal details that only a partner appreciates.

And here in the final stanza, the grief is bursting through. It bursts through her attempts to hold it together and it bursts through the form itself. As she's breaking down and losing her resolve, she qualifies the opening line - the original, confident "losing isn't hard to master," gives way to "losing's not too hard to master," a telling concession. And, as J.D. McClatchy points out, in the last line her "voice literally cracks" (like when a person fights back tears). At this point, Bishop has to step outside of the poem - a kind of poetic breaking of the fourth wall - to order herself to finish the line (Write it!):

The real moral force of her stanza comes – and this is true in many other Bishop poems – from her adverbs:even losing you; not too hard to master. These shades of emphasis are so carefully composed, so lightly sketched in, that their true dramatic power is missed by some readers. . . . 
And then that theatrical last line – how severely, how knowingly and helplessly qualified! . . . The whole stanza is in danger of breaking apart, and breaking down. In this last line the poet’s voice literally cracks. The villanelle – that strictest and most intractable of verse forms – can barely control the grief, yet helps the poet keep her balance. …

I think that's exactly right. The emotion is breaking through the form, but, in the end, once the last word of the first stanza is chosen, the form dictates the last word of the poem. And so Bishop writes "disaster" - not because she's mastered loss, but because there's no choice.

And that's real grief. It's not over-wrought. Rather, terrible, devastating loss happens and ultimately, we go on not because loss can be mastered, but because we don't have a choice.

So, here it is, Elizabeth Bishop, One Art:

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

#OccupyWallStreet and Fellow Kossack David Graeber

 

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

To read or watch #GameofThrones

I’m a sucker for almost any HBO series, and the GOT series got positive reviews. So, I was in for it. But, people had complained on some blogs that the series was hard to follow—lots of characters, and it was not easy to sort them out. So, to better enjoy the series, I decided to read the book first.
The book was hard to get into—confusing, with lots of references to characters that it was hard to sort out. I almost quit at the Catelyn chapter (pp 22-27). I didn’t quit, but just because I really, really wanted to watch a good HBO series. I spent a couple of hours on this short chapter—going back to the appendices, looking up information on the net. There’s a Wiki of Ice and Fire that gives incredible detail, and the HBO homepage for GOT was helpful also.
As I sorted the characters out, I began to be charmed by Martin’s writing. In this first book, he writes from the POV of 8 different people, and he’s skilled at seeing the world as the character he’s using would see it. By the chapter on Bran (page 74), I’d become an admiring fan. Bran’s a 7 year-old boy, one of 5 (6 if you count the bastard) Stark children. Each of the Stark kids got a direwolf puppy (first chapter), and Bran was trying to figure out what to name his pup. He thought his sister Sansa was stupid for naming her direwolf Lady. And he wasn’t that happy with his 3 year-old brother, Rickon, naming his direwolf Shaggydog. His bastard brother, Jon, however, had named his direwolf Ghost, and Bran heartily approved of that name.
Turns out this chapter revealed all kinds of things about the way Martin writes, things that have earned him such devoted fans. First, though Bran’s chapter was very 7 years-oldish, it was nonetheless interesting. Second, Martin laid on details that enriched our understanding of the characters and their settings. His writing, in fact, reminds me of Stephen Wiltshire’s drawing in its ability to layer in information.


But, third, most importantly, the chapter ended with a horrifying surprise. Nothing inconsistent with what had gone before, but completely, breathtakingly unpredictable and irreversible. Here’s one very important thing about Martin—he will kill or maim ANYONE. No. One. Is. Safe. His plot turns happen quickly, unexpectedly, just as life might, often does. So, IOW, not just charming characters, rich detail, but gripping narrative, page-turning stories, such that it’s hard to put the book down once you’re in (for me, it was page 75).
That’s just to begin. I’d also add that the world he creates is complicated, unimaginably but very imaginatively, complicated. So, it’s always interesting. Another point: his characters are complex—his villains are only occasionally without redeeming qualities, and his heroes are usually significantly flawed. In fact, it’s not really always clear just who the heroes and/or villains are. And this I love about Martin: he seems to favor, to rip off the title of Episode 4, “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things.” No LOTR pretty people = good people. Not for Martin. The more broken, the more likely there’s a diamond there buried by crud.
So, read or watch? I’d read first. The series (Season One = Book One) is exactly true to the book in every important detail. So, what the HBO show does is just put up a picture of what the reader, informed by Martin’s writing ability, had already seen. Every bit of it. I haven’t seen anything on film this close to the book since To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t even know if the series is good. I only know I love it, because it’s a picture of something I’ve already seen and come to love.

Any Song of Ice and Fire fans out there?

A joke that a Tyrell of the Reach told about the Martells of Dorne: How many Dornishmen does it take to shoe a horse? Nine. One to do the shoeing, and eight to lift the horse.

Faster Than the Speed of Light

Maybe not, but still super cool:
According to Dr. Autiero’s team, neutrinos emanating from a particle accelerator at CERN, outside Geneva, had raced to a cavern underneath Gran Sasso in Italy — a distance of 454 miles — about 60 nanoseconds faster than it would take a light beam. That amounts to a speed greater than light by about 25 parts in a million. 
“We cannot explain the observed effect in terms of systematic uncertainties,” Dr. Autiero told the physicists at CERN, the European organization for nuclear research. “Therefore, the measurement indicates a neutrino velocity higher than the speed of light.” 
Dr. Autiero said his group had spent six months trying to explain away the result, but could not do it. Given the stakes for physics, he said, it would not be proper to attempt any sort of theoretical interpretation of the results. “We present to you this discrepancy or anomaly today,” he said.
Holy shit! This stuff just fascinates me. But, of course, this is just an anomaly and we are talking about the laws of physics:
The recent history of physics and astronomy is strewn with reports of suspicious data bumps that might be new particles or new planets and — if true — could change the way we think about the world, but then disappear with more data or critical scrutiny. Most physicists think the same will happen with this finding.
And that's fine. Really, I just love that we - meaning human beings - have built a massive particle collider and are thinking and talking about the mysteries of our universe. It makes me hopeful (not that hopeful given that we're careening towards self-induced economic catastrophe, but still, a little tiny bit hopeful). In my opinion, this is us at our best. So, here's Harvard physics professor Lisa Randall talking about lots of cool, geeky science-y stuff including the significance of the Large Hadron Collider.

Twenty Years Ago Today

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Pet Blogging

My baby (when he was a baby - for some reason I don't have anything recent on my computer).
Not really pets, but since they've been coming since 1999 here's Zoe, Wash and this year's babies.

Elizabeth Warren and the Social Contract

By now, most of the liberal blogosphere has seen Elizabeth Warren's clear and convincing invocation of the social contract as the basis for taxing the wealthy. Taxing the wealthy is not class warfare, Warren insisted (with a firmness that is long overdue on the Left), the wealthy became wealthy because of a society we all paid for and therefore, the wealthy owe a debt to society, which will enable the next generation to have the same opportunities today's wealthy enjoyed:
I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No! There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
In my opinion, this is really, really significant (which, I suppose, means I come down on the "narrative matters" side of the debate that the Left has been kicking around since Drew Westen's controversial piece).

I'm currently reading David Graeber's, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. At bottom, debts and contracts are the same thing - they're obligations. When we specify the terms of the "social contract," we're defining the obligations of the members of society. What Graeber documents is that conquerors often claim the moral high ground by insisting the conquered are indebted to the conquerors: "We could have killed you, but we spared your lives. Now you owe us." However, the language of debt invariably gets turned around and the conquered ask: "Who really owes what to whom here?":
[I]n order to be able to run a regime based on violence effectively, one needs to establish some kind of set of rules. . . . In a way it doesn't even matter what they are. Or, at least, it doesn't matter at first. The problem is, the moment one starts framing things in terms of debt, people will inevitably start asking who really owes what to whom. ~ Graeber, p. 8.
Isn't this what happened? The wealthy have seized power over the past 30 years and they have justified their unprecedented largess in terms of debt. In their narrative, they are the "innovators" and "job creators" who are responsible for society's prosperity; accordingly, society owes them their obscene wealth. This is why they shriek and become bizarrely wounded when we fail to appreciate their contributions:
It's confusing to see the snarling red faces of America's financial overlords. Of all the people on earth, what do they have to be angry about? They almost obliterated the world economy, and as punishment, we opened up the U.S. treasury and told them to haul off as much as they could carry. Meanwhile, everyone else is just praying the Medicare age won't be raised beyond 82.  
However, their fury makes perfect sense if you understand that they live inside an all-enveloping fantasy world. You may have seen that Paul Ryan was recently spotted downing two $350 bottles of wine with Cliff Asness, a hedge fund manager. When a woman approached and criticized them for that kind of extravagance as Ryan plots to slash all social spending, Asness apparently said to Ryan "fuck her".... 
So far so normal in 2011. But I don't think anyone's noticed . . . Asness is a protege of Fama, who's an extremely schmancy figure in right-wing economics. . . . And here's the significance of that: Fama was recently spotted confidently telling everyone that the sky is green:
But suppose we buy into the more common negative current view of finance. There is still a big open question. Beginning in the early 1980s, the developed world and some big players in the developing world experienced a period of extraordinary growth. It’s reasonable to argue . . . financial markets and financial institutions played a big role in this growth. . . .
As Paul Krugman pointed out, that's obviously false—developed world economies have grown more slowly since 1980 than before. . . . 
But here's what you have to understand: in the teeny-tiny world in which Cliff Asness and Eugene Fama live . . . the sky actually does look green. While the U.S. economy grew more slowly starting in 1980, it did grow, and almost all of the growth in income went to people like Asness and Fama. Since they're such a small group, they and everyone they know has been doused with a gushing firehose of money. And because they have no imagination and no curiosity about anyone outside their mental circle, they assume that must mean that the rest of the world has gotten doused too. Moreover, it's all due to them and the "financial markets and financial institutions" they've created. 
And that's why Asness and co. are burning with rage at any suggestion that maybe society should put some limits on the number of Indonesian street children they're allowed to eat. They've worked so goddamned hard for decades, manfully enriching all humanity with their brilliance, and merely asking for the smallest sliver of the extraordinary bounty they've created—and THIS is the thanks they get?
But, as Graeber predicts, at some point - and the cratering of the world economy seems an apt time to reevaluate - the conquered come to question the justice of the arrangement. "Hey wait! Society isn't prosperous because of you. You're prosperous - indecently prosperous - because of society! We don't owe you. You owe us!"

It's a critical turn and I haven't heard anyone express it more clearly and plainly than Elizabeth Warren. Seen in this context, I can understand why they're making near-hysterical, breathless accusations of class warfare. They should be afraid.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

HPV and the Good-Girls-Get-it-Too Argument

As a female blogger I feel somewhat duty-bound to comment on the HPV Vax (partially because I think there are some matters well-meaning, left-leaning male bloggers aren't necessarily comfortable covering).

First off, there's Michelle Bachman flat out making up a bullshit anecdote. And yeah, I'm not even going to pretend that the "concerned mother" actually exists. This imaginary mother, who felt so compelled to have her story heard that she tracked down Michelle Bachman, could be on every morning talk show and cable news program going - and yet, where is she? Also, two bioethics professors offered more than $10,000 for the medical records of the fabricated mother's imaginary daughter - still nothing. So, I just don't believe she exists (and, by the way, Bachman isn't the only whack job Republican making up "data").

So okay, everyone can talk about that stuff (which is, in part, why it is being talked about so much). But what everyone might not feel comfortable talking about is the slut shaming that inevitably creeps into any political discussions about sexual health.

With respect to the HPV Vax, it's the argument - an argument the religious right just loves - that the vaccine encourages promiscuity. To put it bluntly: so fucking what if it does? We're talking about cancer. CANCER! And this argument - not hidden, just right out front - is that we'd rather have more people get cancer than encourage promiscuity. The paper-thin, verging-on-text subtext is that only sluts and fags will get cancer (and, in their morally bankrupt world, that's a good thing).

And for me, this is as far as I need to go. I definitely - DEFINITELY! - support mandatory vaccination. Because this sex-phobic, bullshit argument - the argument that a vaccine will encourage promiscuity - is also an argument that will compel fundie parents not to have their own children vaccinated. So yes, I think the government should step in to protect the children of these religious fanatics (not to mention the rest of the population, who will come into sexual contact with these nut job's progeny).

Also, I completely agree with Amanda Marcotte that we should all - once and for all - decide that STIs are like any other infection and that multiple sexual partners pose an increased risk like any other increased risk:
I think the most important conversation this country needs to have is one about how it's not a big moral deal if you get an STI. Viruses and other infections aren't moral agents, casting judgment on your sluttiness. They're just germs. That your odds of getting an STI go up the more people you sleep with---all other things being equal, that is---is as remarkable as pointing out that your odds of getting the flu go up the more people you shake hands with. Part of the problem is that sexual shaming has been an aspect of STI public health campaigns in the past. What we need are public health campaigns that treat it as completely normal that one would have more than one partner in a lifetime, because you almost certainly will. A lifetime is a long fucking time, you know. It's not enough to promote condom usage. We have to treat someone who has a lot of partners with the same moral neutrality as we'd treat someone who gets a job in a public school around a bunch of kids who can give them the flu. They have an elevated risk, but that's part of the price they pay to live the life that they want.
While I completely agree with Marcotte's call to separate crazy Christian, sex-centered morality from public health, I do not support an argument Marcotte highlighted in a separate post - namely, pointing out that there are virtuous women who got HPV from their husbands. Yes, I realize this debunks the idea that only sluts get HPV. But what if only sluts did get HPV? Are we honestly not going to challenge this blatant misogyny?

It reminds me of the days when the media used to show only people who got HIV/AIDS from blood transfusions (or anything other than gay sex) and the reporters would emphasize that the profiled individual got HIV/AIDS "through no fault of their own." There are NO people who deserve to have HIV/AIDS and there are NO people who deserve to have HPV or cervical cancer. The good-girls-get-it-too argument implicitly accepts the odious premise that the sexually promiscuous and deviant deserve cancer or HIV/AIDS. And that is a premise we cannot accept.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Bernanke Stands Up to GOP Bullies

By now, most people have heard that Republican Congressional leaders sent a letter to the Fed - an institution that is supposed to be insulated from political pressure - suggesting the Fed refrain from further intervention in the economy. This, of course, comes on the heels of Rick Perry's mafioso-style warning that Bernanke might not want to print any more money between now and election time (if he likes his knee caps):



I agree with Stan Collender that the GOP letter is really a politically-motivated plea to let the economy fail. At this point, the Republicans believe they can stop any fiscal measures that might actually spur the faltering economy and this is their effort to forestall any monetary measures that might actually boost growth.

Paul Krugman - like Stan Collender - noted that the letter was politically motivated, but conservative, traditionally Republican economist Scott Sumner went so far as to imply the GOP letter was treasonous. And really, what do you call it when a political party intentionally and systematically blocks all paths to recovery during the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression?

Thankfully the Fed - despite borderline physical threats from Perry and unified pressure from GOP Congressional leaders - decided the economy needed additional monetary stimulus (which it obviously does). Bernanke's policy - known as a twist operation - shifts the makeup of the Fed's bond portfolio, selling $400 billion in short-term bonds and using the proceeds to buy bonds with longer term maturities:

The Fed’s strategy is often called a “twist” operation because it simultaneously pushes long-term rates downward and short-term rates upward. And that is exactly what happened in financial markets after the announcement. The interest rate on 30-year Treasury bonds fell two-tenths of a percentage point to drop below 3 percent for the first time since records were kept.

In addition to the twist operation, the Fed also announced it will begin re­investing the proceeds of mortgage-related securities it owns into the same types of securities. This is intended to increase demand for these investments and thereby make it cheaper for mortgage lenders to get the money they use to make home loans.

The general outlook - from liberal economists such as Jared Bernstein - is that these policies will be helpful, but without Congressional action (Obama's Jobs Bill), it won't be enough. Given GOP attempts to block the Fed, it seems likely they'll do everything in their power to thwart Obama's Jobs Bill and with it, America's chance at economic recovery.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rest in Peace Troy Davis

It has been terrible watching the clock tick down over the past week, knowing that Troy Davis almost certainly would be executed.

I've always been opposed to the death penalty. I was against it before we knew we were killing lots of innocent people. Naively, I thought that once DNA testing conclusively proved that hundreds of innocent men were on death row, there would be an outcry. People would demand reform of our criminal justice system. Certainly execution of the innocent would turn the tables on the public's opinion of the death penalty. But there was no reform and the public remained as bloodthirsty as ever. In fact, Rick Perry's record breaking death toll was a big crowd pleaser at the most recent GOP debate.



This completely baffled me for some time. How could people not care that we're executing innocent people? And the only conclusion that I could reach - the only thing that makes sense - is that only poor people (and really only poor men of color) are executed. The odds of being sentenced to death is largely dependent on economic status, gender and race (of the defendant and the victim). That should be an argument against the death penalty. But it turns out it's the reason so few people care. Even when the poor, African-American man we execute is innocent.

Rest in peace Troy Davis.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

That Boy Is Our Only Hope. No, There Is Another.

My Guess For Krugman's Friday Column

If you follow Krugman's blog closely, you can usually figure out the topic of his upcoming column. It looks to me like Friday's column will be about the proposed tax hike on the wealthy (what progressives are referring to as the Buffett Rule). I suspect Krugman will be taking aim at the Right's attempts to obscure the issue through various fuzzy-math tactics. And there might also be something about the Right freaking the fuck out about "class warfare" all over the 24/7 news. So, that's my official guess.