June 5, 2013 archive
Jun 05 2013
Jun 05 2013
Long past time the President took charge of the War on Inventors instead of just giving it lip service.
Private equity firms that take over healthy, cash-rich companies with the use of bail money from financiers, loot the cash and assets from the company, load them up with debt, fire employees, ship the remains to exotic locations and the proceeds to island tax shelters have only to worry about increasing competition for the vulture feast.
Corey Booker got very angry with Obama during the last presidential election for saying mean things about private equity firms like Corey Booker’s in attacking Romney.
Booker was reminded politics was politics, financiers would continue to get bail money and protection as always and that “We the people” has been replaced by “Moneyed interests” in The Constitution by Supreme Court decree. Corey was safe from everybody but even better fed vultures like Chris Christie.
Booker is a quick study. He was at peace with the arrangements and will probably soon join the protection racket known as the U.S. Senate where he too can help with the War on Inventors, which is better known as the War on Science but has a more partisan tone.
Jun 05 2013
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.
Click on image to enlarge
June 5 is the 156th day of the year (157th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 209 days remaining until the end of the year
1933, the United States went off the gold standard, a monetary system in which currency is backed by gold, when Congress enacted a joint resolution nullifying the right of creditors to demand payment in gold. The United States had been on a gold standard since 1879, except for an embargo on gold exports during World War I, but bank failures during the Great Depression of the 1930s frightened the public into hoarding gold, making the policy untenable.
Soon after taking office in March 1933, Roosevelt declared a nationwide bank moratorium in order to prevent a run on the banks by consumers lacking confidence in the economy. He also forbade banks to pay out gold or to export it. According to Keynesian economic theory, one of the best ways to fight off an economic downturn is to inflate the money supply. And increasing the amount of gold held by the Federal Reserve would in turn increase its power to inflate the money supply. Facing similar pressures, Britain had dropped the gold standard in 1931, and Roosevelt had taken note.
Some economic historians, such as American professor Barry Eichengreen, blame the gold standard of the 1920s for prolonging the Great Depression. Others including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman lay the blame at the feet of the Federal Reserve. The gold standard limited the flexibility of central banks’ monetary policy by limiting their ability to expand the money supply, and thus their ability to lower interest rates. In the US, the Federal Reserve was required by law to have 40% gold backing of its Federal Reserve demand notes, and thus, could not expand the money supply beyond what was allowed by the gold reserves held in their vaults.
In the early 1930s, the Federal Reserve defended the fixed price of dollars in respect to the gold standard by raising interest rates, trying to increase the demand for dollars. Its commitment and adherence to the gold standard explain why the U.S. did not engage in expansionary monetary policy. To compete in the international economy, the U.S. maintained high interest rates. This helped attract international investors who bought foreign assets with gold. Higher interest rates intensified the deflationary pressure on the dollar and reduced investment in U.S. banks. Commercial banks also converted Federal Reserve Notes to gold in 1931, reducing the Federal Reserve’s gold reserves, and forcing a corresponding reduction in the amount of Federal Reserve Notes in circulation. This speculative attack on the dollar created a panic in the U.S. banking system. Fearing imminent devaluation of the dollar, many foreign and domestic depositors withdrew funds from U.S. banks to convert them into gold or other assets.
The forced contraction of the money supply caused by people removing funds from the banking system during the bank panics resulted in deflation; and even as nominal interest rates dropped, inflation-adjusted real interest rates remained high, rewarding those that held onto money instead of spending it, causing a further slowdown in the economy. Recovery in the United States was slower than in Britain, in part due to Congressional reluctance to abandon the gold standard and float the U.S. currency as Britain had done.
Congress passed the Gold Reserve Act on 30 January 1934; the measure nationalized all gold by ordering the Federal Reserve banks to turn over their supply to the U.S. Treasury. In return the banks received gold certificates to be used as reserves against deposits and Federal Reserve notes. The act also authorized the president to devalue the gold dollar so that it would have no more than 60 percent of its existing weight. Under this authority the president, on 31 January 1934, fixed the value of the gold dollar at 59.06 cents.
Jun 05 2013
Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama
The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.
WIth the passage of the USA Patriot Act the U.S. government set about creating a true surveillance society . Many believed that with the election of Barrack Obama these types of abuses woud end however that was just wishful thinking as the Obama administration has continued to abuse the rights of all Americans.
The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”. It specifies that the records to be produced include “session identifying information”, such as “originating and terminating number”, the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and “comprehensive communication routing information”.
This is what authoritarian governments do to control their citizens: Oppression out of fear of what those people would do if given the chance to actually express their opinions. Except were talking about the United States of America not some third world dictatorship. One has to assume that the U.S. Constitution no longer applies considering the abuses of this and the past administration.
Jun 05 2013
After three years, the court martial of PFC Bradley Manning, charged with leaking of sensitive information to WikiLeaks, began in Fort Meade in Maryland, yesterday. The proceeding, before a judge, Colonel Denise Lind, could take as long as three months with over 200 scheduled witnesses. IT began with Judge Lind, asking Manning to confirm his decision not to have the case decided by a jury, and if he was satisfied with his defense team, to which, he answered, “Yes, your honor.” Opening statements began with the prosecution’s statement by government lawyer, Captain Joe Morrow.
“This is not a case about a few documents … or about a government official who made a discrete leak,” Morrow said. “It was about dumping hundreds of thousands of classified information into the lap of the enemy. PFC Manning violated the trust of his superiors to gain the notoriety he craved.”
In his opening statement, defense lawyer, David Coombs, gave a starkly different picture of Manning, describing him as a humanist, “young, naive, but good intentioned”.
Coombs referred to a separate set of web chats that Manning had with a transgender woman called Lauren McNamara, who was at the time a man, before the soldier deployed. The chats showed that Manning felt “a huge amount of pressure to do everything he could to help his unit”, Manning said. “He was reading more into politics and philosophy and he indicated he was doing that as he wanted to give the best possible information to his commander and possibly save lives,” Coombs said.
But Manning’s mindset changed dramatically on Christmas Eve, 2009. Manning was ordered to investigate a roadside bomb attack on a passing US military convoy near the base. [..]
“After the 24 December incident he started to struggle. He kept thinking about that family who had pulled over in their car to let the convoy go by,” Coombs said, adding that Manning also had ” a very internal private struggle with his gender”.
The impact of those struggles instilled in Manning a need to “do something to make a difference in this world”, Manning said. “From that moment forward he started selecting information that he believed the public should hear and see, information that would make the world a better place.”
At emptywheel, Marcy Wheel examined the document that the government is using to prosecute Manning. She doesn’t this it says what the government is claiming:
The report itself is actually ambiguous about whether or not our adversaries were using WikiLeaked data. It both presents it as a possibility that we didn’t currently have intelligence on, then presumes it. [..]
If this document is proof Manning should have known (the conflicting statements notwithstanding) that leaking to WikiLeaks would amount to leaking to our adversaries, it’s also proof that DOD knew they had an INFOSEC problem that might lead to leaked information, one they pointedly didn’t address.
But I’m also amused by one of the case studies in the danger of leaked WikiLeaks information: that it might be used to suggest DOD is getting gouged by our contractors working on JIEDDO, our counter-IED program. [..]
To sum up: not only doesn’t this report assert that leaking to WikiLeaks amounts to leaking to our adversaries; on the contrary, the report identifies that possibility as a data gap. But it also provides several pieces of support for the necessity of something like WikiLeaks to report government wrongdoing.
In an interview on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, Firedoglake reporter Kevin Gosztola, who is at Ft. Meade covering the trial, and attorney Chase Madar, author of “The Passion of Bradley Manning,” discussed the start of the court martial and the secrecy that will surround much of the testimony under the guise of “national security.”
Transcript can be read here
Over at FDL’s The Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola summarizes the opeing statement of the prosecution and defense and provides regular Live Updates:
- Bradley Manning’s Trial: Day 1 (Live Updates)
- Defense: Bradley Manning Was Naive to Think He Could Change the World But Had Good Intentions
- Government: Bradley Manning ‘Dumped Information on the Internet into the Hands of the Enemy’
Here is the link for today’s Live Update and Julian Assange’s statement on the first day of the trial:
To convict Bradley Manning, it will be necessary for the US government to conceal crucial parts of his trial. Key portions of the trial are to be conducted in secrecy: 24 prosecution witnesses will give secret testimony in closed session, permitting the judge to claim that secret evidence justifies her decision. But closed justice is no justice at all.
What cannot be shrouded in secrecy will be hidden through obfuscation. The remote situation of the courtroom, the arbitrary and discretionary restrictions on access for journalists, and the deliberate complexity and scale of the case are all designed to drive fact-hungry reporters into the arms of official military PR men, who mill around the Fort Meade press room like over-eager sales assistants. The management of Bradley Manning’s case will not stop at the limits of the courtroom. It has already been revealed that the Pentagon is closely monitoring press coverage and social media discussions on the case.
This is not justice; never could this be justice. The verdict was ordained long ago. Its function is not to determine questions such as guilt or innocence, or truth or falsehood. It is a public relations exercise, designed to provide the government with an alibi for posterity. It is a show of wasteful vengeance; a theatrical warning to people of conscience.
After the screening of Jeremy Scahill’s documentary, “Dirty Wars,” in Washington, DC Friday night, Kevin asked Jeremy for his thoughts on Bradley’s trial.
Jun 05 2013
The main purpose our blogging is to communicate our ideas, opinions, and stories both fact and fiction. The best part about the the blogs is information that we might not find in our local news, even if we read it online. Sharing that information is important, especially if it educates, sparks conversation and new ideas. We have all found places that are our favorites that we read everyday, not everyone’s are the same. The Internet is a vast place. Unlike “Punting the Pundits which focuses on opinion pieces mostly from the mainstream media and the larger news web sites, “Around the Blogosphere” will focus more on the medium to smaller blogs and articles written by some of the anonymous and not so anonymous writers and links to some of the smaller pieces that don’t make it to “Pundits” by Krugman, Baker, etc.
We encourage you to share your finds with us. It is important that we all stay as well informed as we can.
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This is an Open Thread.
It takes a gay man to point out the ludicrous hypocrisy and blatant slap in the face to women of the panel of witnesses at this morning’s hearing on military sexual assaults before the Senate Armed Services Committee. From John Aravosis at Americablog:
In a brazen slap in the face to women in the military, the Senate Armed Services Committee – run by Democrats, mind you – invited 18 opponents of legislation addressing sexual assault to testify at a hearing today, while inviting only 2 witnesses who support the sexual assault legislation, and no sexual assault victims at all to testify.
The picture says it all:
Click on image for the full impact.
At Dependable Renegade, watertiger offers her thoughts on Sen. Saxby Chamblis’ “hormone level created by nature” defense of for rapes in the military for rapes in the military:
What do you call a giant anal sphincter wrapped in worsted wool, ignorance and the American flag? [..]
Remember, this is the guy who (1) avoided serving in Vietnam, and who (2) won election by calling Max Max Cleland, a decorated war veteran who sacrificed mightily for his country, unpatriotic. IOW, Chambliss is a scumbag of the highest order. Asshole Emeritus, even. And a sexist douchebag, to boot. What a guy.
At Corrente, hipparchia has an idea on how to elect more and better Democrats to Congress:
Take a page from the Republican play book: have your candidates for office sign a pledge and then hold them to it.
The pledge? Bring back pork barrel spending. Bring home the Federal dollars to your district or state. Tax the rich to pay for it.
It’s not really a true jobs guarantee program, and it would be a far far better thing if they spend the money on stuff we really need, but even bridges to nowhere provide jobs, plus they’re less morally objectionable than, say, drone manufacturing.
Jim White, at emptywheel, reports of the arrest of an Afghan colonel implicated in atrocities committed by a “shady character” known as Zakaria Kandahari, the CIA and a U.S. special forces team:
In another article at ProPublica, Cora Currier reports “on the death of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war at the hands of U.S.-allied Afghan forces in late 2001.”
I think you know the answer to that question. It’s why John Kiriakou is in prison:
After Obama pledged in 2009 to look into the case, a parallel inquiry was begun the next year in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by current Secretary of State John Kerry.
The fate of that investigation is also unclear. The lead investigator, John Kiriakou, was a former CIA officer who was caught up in a criminal leak prosecution and is now in prison. Other Senate staffers could not provide details on Kiriakou’s efforts. Physicians for Human Rights says contact from the committee fizzled out within a year.
Over at Paul Krugman‘s blog Conscious of a Liberal, Paul was at the Princeton commencement this morning. His nephew graduated. Who knew that they still teach Latin?
(T)he high point so far was the Latin salutation, which was apparently – judging from the reactions of those who understood it – a spectacularly funny stand-up routine. Who knew? [..]
Shirley Tilghman has been a great university president, but even I can tell that she speaks Latin with a very Canadian accent.
And this post on Josh Barro’s attempt at being a reasonable conservative and the unintended consequences of the GOP’s Moral Derpitude.
It must be “Pick on Josh Barro Day.” Atrios takes his turn at Eschaton:
On the twitterz earlier Josh Barro wrote:
Liberals love the ARC tunnel that Chris Christie killed bc they love anything with rails, but it was a dumb, overly expensive project.
I’d rather have a $10 billion pair of tunnels than spend $10 billion on equipment the military doesn’t even want. That probably isn’t a choice, either, but we do the latter all of the time. We shouldn’t get “sensible” when the former is an option.
A couple of interesting posts at Yves Smith‘s site, naked capitalism:
- The Stealth Problem of Predatory Mortgage Modifications
- Why Isn’t Elizabeth Warren Attacking the Student Debt Problem Head On?
The final words go to Charles Pierce at Esquire’s Politics Blog for pointing out this interview with Pentagon Papers whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, on MSNBC’s The Cycle about the opening day of PFC Bradley Manning’s court martial.
Ellsberg wasn’t buying the made-to-order prosecutorial three-rail shot from Manning to WikiLeaks to Osama bin Laden.
“It seems absurd and I would say outrageous to say that giving information to the American public and through WikiLeaks to the world and it indicates nothing more than it does give comfort to our actual enemies…these are commentaries on the policies that are actually shameful. I would like to see the people who participated in the atrocities Bradley Manning exposed investigated.”
He’s still pretty sharp.
Jun 05 2013
An Austerity Success Story in Slovenia
By Megan Greene, Bloomberg News
Jun 3, 2013 6:00 PM ET
Slovenia was among the first euro-area nations to run afoul of the macroeconomic imbalance procedure, a mechanism created in 2011 to monitor compliance with the currency union’s new rules. In April, the EU flagged the country’s high degree of corporate indebtedness. More than half of bank loans in Slovenia are to the nonfinancial corporate sector. Of these, more than 30 percent are nonperforming.
The Slovenian government responded with an ambitious reform program. Among other things, it pledged to inject 900 million euros ($1.18 billion) of capital into its three largest banks, and to move soured assets from these lenders to a bad bank, the Bank Asset Management Company, starting in June. Slovenian Finance Minister Uros Cufer also agreed to bring in an external auditing company to conduct an asset-quality review of the nation’s banks and to verify the size of the hole in this sector.
To raise money for the bank recapitalization, the Slovenian government announced it would sell 15 state-owned enterprises. This is even more ambitious than the Portuguese privatization program, widely considered to be the model for struggling euro-area governments.
Even in the worst-case scenario, the cost of recapitalizing the banks and funding the bad bank amounts to no more than about 10 percent of Slovenia’s gross domestic product. This would increase the government’s debt burden to about 75 percent of GDP, still less than that of most other euro-area governments, including Germany.
That said, the trends in Slovenia are worrisome. Public debt has more than doubled from 22 percent of GDP in 2008 to almost 55 percent in 2012. This is partly because an economic slump, expected to continue for at least another year, has been eroding the denominator, GDP. The share of nonperforming corporate loans at Slovenia’s three largest banks tripled from about 10 percent in 2009 to 30 percent in 2012. The banks’ distress will keep cutting into lending, pushing still more corporate borrowers to the brink.
Jun 05 2013
Originally posted at Voices on the Square
As anyone with chronic health problems knows, issues can and will rear their unruly heads from time to time. Another thing those of us blessed with crapititus in the health department know, is that folks with chronic conditions are more susceptible to other health issues, as if one or two is just not enough. Bwahahahaha!
And so it is with me, down here on the bayou with my fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. The one nice thing I can say about the bayou in the summer is that the damp heat is easy on the joints… 😀
Jun 05 2013
Amidst all the celebration of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the recent past, most people were completely unaware that the prohibition of transpeople serving in the ranks remains inviolate.
Well, it remains sacrosanct except for the fact we have served and do serve and probably shall continue to serve…and try to take care of our transitions in the future.
It is estimated that 1 in 5 transpeople have served, do serve or will serve in the military. That is twice the rate of cis-gendered people.
Such was the case for Kristin Beck. Beck served as an enlisted petty officer in the Navy Seals for 20 years, including a tour with the renowned Seal Team Six. That was not under the name Kristin, of course.
Beck retired as an E-8 Senior Chief Petty Officer, having deployed 13 times, during which she earned both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
Beck’s biggest battle came after she retired. It was the battle to become herself.