April 11, 2013 archive

We Are Still Exterminating Indians

PLEASE NOTE: “We” is used in the broadest sense to include all of the Americas.  I haven’t bothered with the AmerIndian distinction or Native American semi-obscenity.

Wonk war has broken out again with publication of Napoleon Chagnon’s latest ouevre:


Wonk wars rarely claim a casualty among the participants but often exacts a huge body count among the targets and collaterals as Iraq, above all, symbolizes today.

The book’s subtitle perhaps sums up [Chagnon’s] attitude to both groups: “My life among two dangerous tribes – the Yanomamö and the anthropologists.”


Whatever faults or merits one might find in Chagnon’s scholarship matters not a whit.

I was taken long ago when somehow I knew even less than I do now by a constant raging wonk war in far more tolerant times between the fire breathing liberal Alexander Cockburn and the dinosaurs on the facing page over the attempt of the Russians to quell the Afghani rebellion against the Communist dictators.  

We know now how that turned out but never got the message.

More to the point the wonk war was over purported scientific evidence of germ warfare that turned out to be false, if not fraudulent.  As far as I know now nobody cared enough to do a truly definitive study.

War is what embroils the brain, not so much science.  Truth is of little importance in such contests.

I was then confused by Cockburn’s denunciation of Tibetan culture and semi-approval of conquest by China.  Cockburn’s portrayal of the brutal treatment of women and children in Tibetan culture was directly opposed to the praise showered on a portrayal of an idyllic peaceful culture that persists to this day.

Things are seldom much like opposing viewpoints.

The wonk war brought up memories of an anthropologist who married a Yanomami woman and installed her in a house in an American suburb where they had two children.  The two girls were still in school when the Yanomami woman escaped her unsatisfactory situation to return to the Amazon jungle.  She found a mate who beat her, life was hard, heat and insects and the usual discomforts of the jungle bore down on her but most anything was better than the lonely life in an American suburb apparently.

At least she escaped before having to endure the internet.

Best,  Terry

On This Day In History April 11

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 11 is the 101st day of the year (102nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 264 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1814, the Treaty of Fontainebleau ends the War of the Sixth Coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte, and forces him to abdicate unconditionally for the first time.

War of the Sixth Coalition

There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812-13 while both the Russians and the French rebuilt their forces; Napoleon was then able to field 350,000 troops. Heartened by France’s loss in Russia, Prussia joined with Austria, Sweden, Russia, Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal in a new coalition. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Coalition culminating in the Battle of Dresden in August 1813. Despite these successes, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon, and the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size and lost at the Battle of Leipzig. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost more than 90,000 casualties in total.

Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and 40,000 stragglers, against more than three times as many Allied troops. The French were surrounded: British armies pressed from the south, and other Coalition forces positioned to attack from the German states. Napoleon won a series of victories in the Six Days Campaign, though these were not significant enough to turn the tide; Paris was captured by the Coalition in March 1814.

When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On 4 April, led by Ney, they confronted Napoleon. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. Napoleon had no choice but to abdicate. He did so in favour of his son; however, the Allies refused to accept this, and Napoleon was forced to abdicate unconditionally on 11 April.

   The Allied Powers having declared that Emperor Napoleon was the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace in Europe, Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces, for himself and his heirs, the thrones of France and Italy, and that there is no personal sacrifice, even that of his life, which he is not ready to do in the interests of France.

   Done in the palace of Fontainebleau, 11 April 1814.

   -Act of abdication of Napoleon

In the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the victors exiled him to Elba, an island of 12,000 inhabitants in the Mediterranean, 20 km off the Tuscan coast. They gave him sovereignty over the island and allowed him to retain his title of emperor. Napoleon attempted suicide with a pill he had carried since a near-capture by Russians on the retreat from Moscow. Its potency had weakened with age, and he survived to be exiled while his wife and son took refuge in Austria. In the first few months on Elba he created a small navy and army, developed the iron mines, and issued decrees on modern agricultural methods.


Parts 2 – 4 below fold.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Lace 3

Foreclosures: a Nationwide Crime Scene

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The foreclosure fraud perpetrated by the banks and private mortgage companies that was given a pass by the Obama Department of Justice.

Foreclosure Review Finds Potentially Widespread Errors

by  Shahien Nasiripour, Huffington Post

Nearly a third of all foreclosed borrowers who faced proceedings brought by the biggest U.S. mortgage companies during the height of the housing crisis came to the brink of losing their homes due to potential bank errors or under now-banned practices, regulators have revealed. [..]

The estimates, disclosed Tuesday, far exceed projections made over the past few years after document abuses known as robosigning gained widespread attention in late 2010. [..]

They reveal that nearly 700 borrowers who faced foreclosure proceedings had actually never defaulted on their loans (pdf).

More than 28,000 households that faced foreclosure proceedings were protected under federal bankruptcy laws, while roughly 1,100 had been meeting all the requirements of so-called forbearance plans that their mortgage companies had agreed to, which allow for delayed payments.

Some 1,600 borrowers who faced foreclosure proceedings were protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003, which forces mortgage companies to cap interest rates and follow special procedures when foreclosing on homes belonging to active-duty members of the armed forces and their families.

4 million people wrongfully foreclosed on. Can they get their houses back?

Banks are foreclosing on military members, on people who had been approved for a loan modification, and even on people who were never behind in their payments–all part of an astounding settlement that shortchanged millions of homeowners and left hundreds of thousands wrongfully ejected from their homes.  Former Governor Elliot Spitzer; Alexis Goldstein, former Vice President at Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank, now an Occupy Wall Street activist ; and Faith Bautista, who was the victim of wrongful home foreclosure in 2009, join Chris Hayes and paint a stark picture of what happened, who is responsible and why there isn’t more justice from the government.

The big banks continue to receive %83 billion a year in tax payer money to bail them out. Where is the justice for these homeowners?

Late Night Karaoke

A Fail On Every Level

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

On policy Barack Obama’s proposed budget is just massively bad.  Everyone admits that it is huge cut in benefits for our oldest, poorest, and sickest Seniors.  What you don’t hear so much is that it is also a substantial slash to Veterans, you know, those guys who risked their lives and lost limbs defending our country.  Finally, it is an enormous middle class tax increase falling most hard on annual incomes between $30 – $50,000, the people who actually represent the median instead of Boyars with 6 figure salaries who merely imagine they’re poor because they can’t afford their McMansion, their winter cruise to Aruba, private school, AND a new Mercedes every year.

More than that it’s a complete and utter failure in terms of reducing the deficit, as even Peter Orzag admits

Consider what future projections look like if we instead assume that the chained index will grow just 10 basis points a year more slowly than the current indexes. In that case, the deficit reduction from switching to the chained index would be less than $150 billion over 10 years, rather than $340 billion. And the reduction in the long-term Social Security deficit would be about 7 percent, rather than 20 percent.

This would make a pretty big difference in the effect on Social Security benefits. For an 85-year-old who began receiving checks at 65, checks would be about 2 percent less, rather than 6 percent if the chained index were to grow 25 to 30 basis points more slowly than the standard index.

(I)f switching to the chained index reduces the 10-year deficit by less than $150 billion and the 75-year Social Security actuarial gap by less than 10 percent, can a “grand bargain” built around it really be all that grand?

So even if deficits were a problem (and they’re not as Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out), the measures in Obama’s budget are utterly ineffective at reducing them.  What does work?  Economic growth and even the pitiful little we’ve been able to achieve has succeeded in reducing the deficit to virtually nothing if you look at percentages instead of scary big numbers.

So why then?  As this Politico article points out, Barack Obama and his Administration think it will somehow get the Republicans to agree to new taxes.

For the past two years, Obama has championed what he calls “a balanced approach” to debt and deficit reduction, demanding $700 billion in high-earner tax hikes from Republicans earlier this year as a prerequisite to budget cuts and reform of runaway Social Security and Medicare costs.

The time to pay up is now, Obama’s aides say, and the White House needed to offer something to bring Republicans back to the bargaining table. They insist that he’s opposed to deeply cutting entitlements and is willing to do only the bare minimum needed to get a deal done.

A senior Democratic strategist close to the White House said Obama “didn’t have to put the chained CPI in the budget” but chose to do so as a “gesture of goodwill” to Senate Republicans, who have emerged as a recent bargaining partner.

Well, forget that $700 Billion.  Now the number is $580 Billion.

Mr. President- no amount of revenue is enough for selling out the elderly, poor and disabled; our Veterans who offered their lives; the broad middle class.

No amount of revenue is enough for you to break your promises to the millions who voted for you.

No amount of revenue is enough for you to ensure the Democratic Party faces a toxic electoral climate in 2014 and for the foreseeable future.

Who will ever trust you, or them again?

Well, but if we don’t do it now, just wait for those evil Republicans to get in.

“We’re not going to have the White House forever, folks. If he doesn’t do this, Paul Ryan is going to do it for us in a few years,” said a longtime Obama aide, referring to the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate who proposed a sweeping overhaul of Medicare that would replace some benefits with vouchers.

What’s to stop them from doing it anyway?  Congress is not bound by the actions of a previous Congress.

But they are men of honor.

How did that Filibuster deal work out for you?

And it has always been so effective in the past.  Republicans are already backing away from this one.  From another Politico piece.

House Speaker John Boehner hit President Obama’s budget for failing to cut enough spending while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed it as “just another left-wing wish list.”

“It’s mostly the same old thing we’ve seen year after year,” McConnell said. “And that’s really too bad, because it’s not like we don’t know the kinds of things that need to be done to get our budget back to balance and Americans back to work.”

The president’s 3.77 trillion budget includes $580 billion in new tax revenue, while reducing deficits by $1.8 trillion over 10 years, White House officials contend. It does not balance the nation’s budget within the next decade, something Boehner pointed out while touting Republican budgets.

And then there’s this-


Again Politico

House Republican leaders did give Obama credit for including something known as “chained CPI” in the spending plan, which would slow the rate of growth for Social Security benefits. They were on message in calling for Obama to help them enact policies they agree on, without coming to terms on a large-scale deficit busting package.

“He does deserve some credit for some incremental entitlement reforms he has outlined in his budget. I would hope that he would not hold hostage these modest reforms for his demand for bigger tax hikes. Why don’t we do what we agree to do? Why don’t [we] find the common ground that we do have and move on that?,” Boehner asked, while accusing Obama of “backtracking” on other entitlement reforms the two had discussed in negotiations last year.

Added House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.): “Finally the president has offered his budget to the American people. And what we see inside the document is more of the same: more spending, higher taxes, more debt.”

“The speaker talked about the fact there are some things besides the tax increases that frankly we can find some agreement on,” he said. “I share the sentiment that if we ought to see if we can set aside the divisiveness and come together to produce some results for the people who sent us here.

If the president believes, as we do, that programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are on the path to bankruptcy and we can actually do some things to put them on the right course and save them, to protect the beneficiaries of these programs we ought to do so. We ought to do so without holding them hostage for more tax hikes.”

So Mr. President, you got nothing.  Nothing at all.  A fail on policy.  A fail on politics.

A fail on every level.

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