Nov 132011
 

 

* QOTD

By digby, Hullabaloo

Atrios:

Well the consensus seems to be we need to just install bankers as the leaders of all the countries, and the only way any of us can survive is if all the richest countries of the world are turned into 3rd world hellholes after the middle class gives all of their money to rich people.

That’s about it.

This phenomenon is also known as disaster capitalism:

After each new disaster, it’s tempting to imagine that the loss of life and productivity will finally serve as a wake-up call, provoking the political class to launch some kind of “new New Deal.” In fact, the opposite is taking place: disasters have become the preferred moments for advancing a vision of a ruthlessly divided world, one in which the very idea of a public sphere has no place at all. Call it disaster capitalism. Every time a new crisis hits—even when the crisis itself is the direct by-product of free-market ideology—the fear and disorientation that follow are harnessed for radical social and economic re-engineering. Each new shock is midwife to a new course of economic shock therapy.

Update: QOTD Part Deux: from Greg Sargent:

The ultra wealthy will spend a whole lot of undisclosed money on a whole lot of ads filled with a whole lot of lies designed to dupe a whole lot of struggling Americans into believing that their number one problem in life is a rag-tag band of nose-ringed hippies who somehow managed to compel our media to tentatively begin a discussion about this, and the very modest actions we should take to begin to change it. …

READ @ http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/qotd.html

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* PROTESTERS HAVE THE RIGHT TO PROTEST … AND TO RESIST UNLAWFUL ARREST

By Washington’s Blog

Top Military Commander and Courts Support Right to Protest

In response to comments from those supporting the police crackdowns on peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional rights but violating local ordinances (see comments here), reader Purplemuse writes:

The Constitution supersedes local ordinances that are being used to OBSTRUCT 1st Amendment Rights. The camping ITSELF is in order to MAKE A STATEMENT – a First Amendment Right. Protesters are not camping because it is fun to expose yourself to the elements and hardship and you want to roast wienies and marshmallows and drink beer while swapping ghost stories.

Would you listen to Colin Powell, retired four-star general in the United States Army, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993) when he says, “It isn’t enough just to scream at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. We need our political system to start reflecting this anger back into, ‘How do we fix it? How do we get the economy going again?’” He also states that the Occupy Wall Street Protests are “As American as Apple Pie.”

Does he go on to qualify his statement by saying, “as long as they obey local (misdemeanor) ordinances. No, he does not. He actually goes on to say that he “gets” it.

If a man, well above your rank, that you’d likely drop everything to stand up in a room to honor, “gets” that peaceful protests, by design (that’s why they are referred to as ‘civil disobedience’) infringe on ordinances and make the public uncomfortable in order to be heard, are as American as Apple Pie; do you think you could set your fear of disobedience aside long enough to defend those protesters against physical harm for exercising those American as Apple Pie Rights? If you can’t than I think you need to join the ranks of officers who simply “do as they are told” and jab petite women in the spleen with billy clubs (as in Berkeley) in order to incite a riot. (BTW: They did not succeed, Berkeley stood firm in determined peace).

(Watch Powell’s statement here).

Of course, it’s not just Powell.  Veterans from every branch of the military – and across 3 generations – are coming out to support the “occupy” protests.

And in response to the Berkeley police saying that linking arms and resisting attempts to clear a space is an act of “violence”, reader David writes:

It is every citizen’s duty to resist false arrest

There is no such crime as “resisting arrest.” This is a fictitious crime dreamed up by law enforcement to accuse a citizen of a crime when they refuse to surrender to the illegal demands of the police.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that resisting a false arrest is not merely a citizen’s right, but his duty! In fact, the Supreme Court has gone so far as to rule that if a law enforcement officer is killed as a result of actions stemming from a citizen’s attempts to defend themselves against a false arrest, it is the fault of the officer, not the citizen. …

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/11/protesters-have-the-right-to-protest.html

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* HOW I STOPPED WORRYING AND LEARNED TO LOVE THE OWS PROTESTS

Much more than a movement against big banks, they’re a rejection of what our society has become.

By Matt Taibbi. Rolling Stone

I have a confession to make. At first, I misunderstood Occupy Wall Street.

The first few times I went down to Zuccotti Park, I came away with mixed feelings. I loved the energy and was amazed by the obvious organic appeal of the movement, the way it was growing on its own. But my initial impression was that it would not be taken very seriously by the Citibanks and Goldman Sachs of the world. You could put 50,000 angry protesters on Wall Street, 100,000 even, and Lloyd Blankfein is probably not going to break a sweat. He knows he’s not going to wake up tomorrow and see Cornel West or Richard Trumka running the Federal Reserve. He knows modern finance is a giant mechanical parasite that only an expert surgeon can remove. Yell and scream all you want, but he and his fellow financial Frankensteins are the only ones who know how to turn the machine off.

That’s what I was thinking during the first few weeks of the protests. But I’m beginning to see another angle. Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It’s about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it’s flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left. …

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-i-stopped-worrying-and-learned-to-love-the-ows-protests-20111110

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* TEN WAYS THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT CHANGES EVERYTHING 

By Sarah van Gelder, David Korten and Steve Piersanti, YES! Magazine

1. It names the source of the crisis.
Political insiders have avoided this simple reality: The problems of the 99% are caused in large part by Wall Street greed, perverse financial incentives, and a corporate takeover of the political system. Now that this is understood, the genie is out of the bottle and it can’t be put back in.

2. It provides a clear vision of the world we want.
We can create a world that works for everyone, not just the wealthiest 1%. And we, the 99%, are using the spaces opened up by the Occupy movement to conduct a dialogue about the world we want.

3. It sets a new standard for public debate.
Those advocating policies and proposals must now demonstrate that their ideas will benefit the 99%. Serving only the 1% will not suffice, nor will claims that the subsidies and policies that benefit the 1% will eventually “trickle down.”

4. It presents a new narrative.
The solution is not to starve government or impose harsh austerity measures that further harm middle-class and poor people already reeling from a bad economy. Instead, the solution is to free society and government from corporate dominance. A functioning democracy is our best shot at addressing critical social, environmental, and economic crises.

5. It creates a big tent.
We, the 99%, are people of all ages, races, occupations, and political beliefs. We will resist being divided or marginalized. We are learning to work together with respect.

6. It offers everyone a chance to create change.
No one is in charge; no organization or political party calls the shots. Anyone can get involved, offer proposals, support the occupations, and build the movement. Because leadership is everywhere and new supporters keep turning up, there is a flowering of creativity and a resilience that makes the movement nearly impossible to shut down.

7. It is a movement, not a list of demands.
The call for deep change—not temporary fixes and single-issue reforms—is the movement’s sustaining power. The movement is sometimes criticized for failing to issue a list of demands, but doing so could keep it tied to status quo power relationships and policy options. The occupiers and their supporters will not be boxed in.

8. It combines the local and the global.
People in cities and towns around the world are setting their own local agendas, tactics, and aims. What they share in common is a critique of corporate power and an identification with the 99%, creating an extraordinary wave of global solidarity.

9. It offers an ethic and practice of deep democracy and community.
Slow, patient decision-making in which every voice is heard translates into wisdom, common commitment, and power. Occupy sites are set up as communities in which anyone can discuss grievances, hopes, and dreams, and where all can experiment with living in a space built around mutual support.

10. We have reclaimed our power.
Instead of looking to politicians and leaders to bring about change, we can see now that the power rests with us. Instead of being victims to the forces upending our lives, we are claiming our sovereign right to remake the world. …

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/ten-ways-occupy-movement-changes-everything/1321111931

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* WALL STREET V. ELIZABETH WARREN

By Simon Johnson, The Baseline Scenario

Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS group has launched the first attack ad against Elizabeth Warren, presumably because she is now running hard for the Senate in Massachusetts.  This ad is not a big surprise, but the line that Mr. Rove takes could well backfire.

The ad states, “we need jobs, not radical theories and protests,” so we can break the argument down into three separate parts.

First, who destroyed more than 8 million jobs in the United States – and plunged us into the deepest and longest lasting recession since the 1930s?  Surely this was not Ms. Warren, who was just a law school professor, in the run-up to 2008.

Mr. Rove is opening the blame game and this is going to go badly for his presumed supporters – the largest banks on Wall Street that took excessive risks, paid their top people well, and then blew themselves up at great cost to the American taxpayer.  By all means, let us have a conversation about jobs and the history of job losses in the United States; “too big to fail” banks do not look good in this context. …

READ @ http://baselinescenario.com/2011/11/10/wall-street-v-elizabeth-warren/#more-9449

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* LEGENDS OF THE FAIL

By Paul Krugman, NYTimes

… I’ve been hearing two claims, both false: that Europe’s woes reflect the failure of welfare states in general, and that Europe’s crisis makes the case for immediate fiscal austerity in the United States.

The assertion that Europe’s crisis proves that the welfare state doesn’t work comes from many Republicans. For example, Mitt Romney has accused President Obama of taking his inspiration from European “socialist democrats” and asserted that “Europe isn’t working in Europe.” The idea, presumably, is that the crisis countries are in trouble because they’re groaning under the burden of high government spending. But the facts say otherwise.

It’s true that all European countries have more generous social benefits — including universal health care — and higher government spending than America does. But the nations now in crisis don’t have bigger welfare states than the nations doing well — if anything, the correlation runs the other way. Sweden, with its famously high benefits, is a star performer, one of the few countries whose G.D.P. is now higher than it was before the crisis. Meanwhile, before the crisis, “social expenditure” — spending on welfare-state programs — was lower, as a percentage of national income, in all of the nations now in trouble than in Germany, let alone Sweden.

Oh, and Canada, which has universal health care and much more generous aid to the poor than the United States, has weathered the crisis better than we have.

The euro crisis, then, says nothing about the sustainability of the welfare state. But does it make the case for belt-tightening in a depressed economy?

You hear that claim all the time. America, we’re told, had better slash spending right away or we’ll end up like Greece or Italy. Again, however, the facts tell a different story. …

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/opinion/legends-of-the-fail.html?_r=1&smid=tw-NytimesKrugman&seid=auto

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* REGIME CHANGE IN EUROPE: DO GREECE AND ITALY AMOUNT TO A BANKERS COUP?

By Stephan Faris

The voice of the people isn’t something the markets seem to want to hear these days. First there was Greece, the cradle of democracy itself, where early this month, the merest mention of a referendum offering its citizens a say in a series of severe austerity measures was enough to send the markets into a tailspin. The ultimate result: the collapse of Prime Minister George Papandreou’s ruling coalition, the rejection of any notion of bringing the proposal before the people, and the installation of a caretaker government under the leadership of Lucas Papademos, a former vice president of the European Central Bank and, until earlier this week, a visiting professor at Harvard.

Then came Italy. As Athens threatened to go under, Rome found itself under pressure not so much for its level of debt — which though high is generally considered within the limits of sustainability — as much as for the erratic behavior of its flamboyant prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. On Monday, investors seemed to make the collective decision that he could no longer be trusted at the helm of the euro zone’s third largest economy and sent Italy’s cost of borrowing up towards crisis levels. By the end of the week, not only was Berlusconi finished, so was the very idea of holding a vote to replace him. The markets had spoken, and they didn’t like the idea of going to the electorate. “The country needs reforms, not elections,” said Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council on a visit to Rome Friday. …

READ @ http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2099350,00.html?xid=thepage_newsletter

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* BERLUSCONI STEPS DOWN, AND ITALY PULSES WITH CHANGE

By Elisabetta Povoledo and Rachel Donadio, The New York Times News Service

… “This is the most dramatic moment of our recent history,” Ferruccio de Bortoli, the editor of the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, said earlier on national television.

The streets of Rome pulsed with a sense of historic change. Many cheered Mr. Berlusconi’s exit. Outside the Palazzo del Quirinale, the presidential palace, a choir and orchestra performed Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus. …

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/italy-poised-install-austerity-measures/1321116173

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* GLORIA STEINEM: ‘I THINK WE NEED TO GET MUCH ANGRIER’

By Rachel Cooke, The Observer

The last person to interview Gloria Steinem for the Observer was Martin Amis, in 1984. He waited for her at the offices of Ms, the magazine that she co-founded in 1972 – “Pleasant though I found it, I was also aware of my otherness, my testosterone, among all this female calm” – and then they headed out together to Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, where Gloria was, as ever, to address a group of students. To read this piece now is excruciatingly embarrassing, especially given Amis’s more recent conversion to what he likes to call the “gynocracy”. Feminism? From the male point of view, he said back then, the reparations look to be alarmingly steep. As for Steinem herself, she is “the least frightening” kind of feminist, being possessed of – prepare to be amazed! – both a sense of humour and good looks. She was, he wrote, relief slowly blooming, “nice, and friendly, and feminine… the long hair is expertly layered, the long fingers expertly manicured. Fifty this year, Ms Steinem is unashamedly glamorous.”

A quarter of a century later, and Steinem is still glamorous: wildly so. But the point is surely that this glamour derives, just as it always did, as much from her extraordinary career – in other words, from her brain – as from her appearance (Mart unaccountably failed to spot this). At 77, she remains tiny of waist and big of hair – and, yes, the nails are as smooth and as shiny as a credit card – but what strikes you most, at least at first, is how preoccupied she seems. She is so busy. It has taken me the best part of two years to bag this slot with her, and even now I’m here, I’m uncertain how much time, in the end, she will have to spare. Does she remember who I work for? I can’t tell. I have the impression that she believes I live in New York – and sure enough, when I eventually tell her that I’ve flown in from London, she looks first amazed, and then, quickly, solicitous. (She might be distracted, but Steinem is also famously nice.)

We are in her flat on the Upper East Side, a womb-like, slightly hippyish basement stuffed with velvet cushions and piled polemics (my going away present, plucked from one of these piles, will be a slim volume by her former Ms colleague, Robin Morgan, called Fighting Words: A Toolkit for Combating the Religious Right). It’s a swanky address but, as she points out, she bought it aeons ago, when even such lowly forms of life as political activists and freelance journalists could still afford a piece of Manhattan real estate. In one corner of the sitting room is her desk, lit by a single lamp; in the other, the desk of her assistant, Amy, who also sits beneath a neat halo of light. Here, two sunbeams in the troglodytic gloom, they drink Starbucks, fire off emails, write books, and generally plan the next stage of the revolution. Visitors like me, though welcomed with pomegranate juice and, when this is discovered to have run out, coconut water, are an unwelcome distraction from the main event, which is work. “I hope to live to 100,” she says. “There is so much to do.” …

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/nov/13/gloria-steinem-interview-feminism-abortion?fb_action_ids=2106541186169&fb_action_types=news.reads&fb_ref=U-rPhwPULIjzOH4XSGI94gpz-CFCONX01FRS-33a32XXX&fb_source=tickerdialog_multiline

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* U.S. TAKES THE LEAD ON BEHALF OF CLUSTER BOMBS

By Glenn Greenwald

Slightly more than two months after he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama secretly ordered a cruise missile attack on Yemen, using cluster bombs, which killed 44 innocent civilians, including 14 women and 21 children, as well as 14 people alleged to be “militants.” It goes without saying that — unless you want Rick Perry to win in 2012 — this act should in no way be seen as marring Obama’s presidency or his character: what’s a couple dozen children blown up as a part of a covert, undeclared air war? If anything, as numerous Democrats have ecstatically celebrated, such acts show how Tough and Strong the Democrats are: after all, ponder the massive amounts of nobility and courage it takes to sit in the Oval Office and order this type of aggression on defenseless tribal regions in Yemen. As R.W. Appel put it on the front page of The New York Times back in 1989 when glorifying George H.W. Bush’s equally courageous invasion of Panama: “most American leaders since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood” and doing so has become “a Presidential initiation rite.”

But one aspect of the December, 2009, attack that perhaps did merit some more critical scrutiny was the use of cluster bombs, weapons which “scatter hundreds of bomblets over a large area but with limited accuracy and high failure rates.” The inevitability of “duds” — “unexploded ordnance” — poses a great risk to civilians, often well after the conflict has ended, since — like land mines — they often detonate when stumbled into by children and other innocents long after they disperse. According to the Cluster Munitions Coalition, cluster bombs “caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system.” As Wired pointed out, while the U.S. used these weapons in both Iraq and Afghanistan, “neither the Taliban nor Saddam used cluster bombs against U.S. troops.” And here is how the Council on Foreign Relations describes the impact these weapons had in the 2006 Israeli bombing campaign in Lebanon:

They left dozens dead or maimed on both sides of the conflict. The reason . . . is because the “fighting in southern Lebanon was often in villages and towns where people were living.” Israel dropped up to four million submunitions on Lebanese soil, one million of which remain unexploded “duds,” according to the UN Mine Action Coordination Center. Throughout the thirty-four-day conflict, the United States resupplied Israel’s arsenal of cluster bombs, which prompted an investigation by the State Department to examine if Israel had violated secret agreements it signed with the United States governing their use. Hezbollah, meanwhile, fired thousands of cluster munitions—a Chinese-made Type 81 122mm rocket—into northern Israel, a number of which targeted civilian populations, according to human rights groups.

Given how indiscriminate and civilian-threatening these weapons are, more than 100 countries have signed a treaty banning their production and use and compelling compensation to their victims. Needless to say, the U.S. has categorically refused to join the Convention, along with the other biggest stockpilers of these weapons, such as Russia, Israel and China. The Obama administration’s refusal to join the Convention has caused tension and controversy even with its most subservient allies, such as Britian, a signatory to the treaty. The British Parliament had insisted that the U.S. rid itself of all cluster munitions at American bases on British soil, but a WikiLeaks cable revealed that “British and American officials colluded in a plan to hoodwink parliament” through “the use of a loophole to manoeuvre around the ban and allow the US to keep the munitions on British territory.”

But now the Obama administration is moving far beyond a mere refusal to join the convention banning these munitions. According to The Independent, the U.S. is playing the leading role “to torpedo the global ban on cluster bombs” through a “proposal that would permit the use of cluster bombs as long as they were manufactured after 1980 and had a failure rate of less than one per cent.” The paper also reports that despite Britain’s long-time role in supporting the ban, its conservative government is now backing the Obama administration’s efforts to codify their use. The Pentagon claims that newer cluster bombs can be used more safely, but activists have documented that “many modern cluster bombs have far higher failure rates on the field of battle than manufacturers claim.”…

READ @ http://www.salon.com/writer/glenn_greenwald/

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* FUKUSHIMA: THEY KNEW

By Greg Palast

I’ve seen a lot of sick stuff in my career, but this was sick on a new level.

Here was the handwritten log kept by a senior engineer at the nuclear power plant:

Wiesel was very upset. He seemed very nervous. Very agitated. . . . In fact, the plant was riddled with problems that, no way on earth, could stand an earth- quake. The team of engineers sent in to inspect found that most of these components could “completely and utterly fail” during an earthquake.

“Utterly fail during an earthquake.” And here in Japan was the quake and here is the utter failure.

The warning was in what the investigations team called The Notebook, which I’m not supposed to have.  Good thing I’ve kept a copy anyway, because the file cabinets went down with my office building ….

READ @ http://www.gregpalast.com/completely-and-utterly-fail-in-an-earthquake/#more-5061

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* U.S. POLITICS: DA GOODS IN DA BOX

THE GUARDIAN, EDITORIAL

Those who wish to serve the American people in the republic’s highest office embark on an almost medieval series of trials of character and endurance. They must avoid the political equivalents of the slough of despair, the sucking bog of emotionalism, the dreaded stupidity tree, the equally dreaded pit which awaits the overly clever, the dungeon of sexist blunders and other Pythonesque terrors on their way to the castle in which languishes the enchanted princess, otherwise known as their party’s nomination for president. It is a harsh business: one misstep, one ill-chosen word, one witness to earlier misdeeds can bring you down and, often, not just down but out.

The intricate arabesque the successful candidate must trace can resemble that of a skier zigzagging down a slope dotted with barrels of nitroglycerine. The process has a farcical dimension, and sometimes induces a state of almost catatonic caution in the candidates. But it is pretty good at weeding out people who ought not to be the president of the United States, and the way the Republican field is now narrowing is heartening. Michele Bachmann’s early star has fallen, while this week Rick Perry oopsed his way to likely oblivion when he couldn’t remember a major government department he had proposed abolishing.

Oddly enough, given Texas’s oil history, this was the department of energy. As Perry subsides into the scenery, so Herman Cain is flailing because of allegations of sexual harassment. Even though these have so far not damaged him as much as was expected, there seems to be a growing understanding among voters that the United States of America is not a pizza, or even a pizza company. To riff on the jingle from the Godfather’s restaurant chain he once ran, da goods may not be in da box. …

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/11/republican-nomination-sensible?newsfeed=true

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