March 6, 2015 archive

America’s Waiting Disaster: Infrastructure

In a funny 20 minute segment on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver exposed the disastrous state of America’s infrastructure. From bridges on the verge of collapse, killer pot holes and un-inspected damns, John makes it hilariously apparent, “We aren’t just flirting with disaster, we’re rounding third base and asking if disaster has any condoms.”

America, got condoms?

Bub Buy

Anything but Euros that is.

While I don’t think the temporary plan negotiated last week between Greece and its creditors is necessarily the sellout that some do, I do think the most desirable state of affairs for Europe is for the Euro experiment to collapse.

I would hope that both Spain and Italy, and better yet France, should tell the Germans to pound sand, eat their losses (which will destroy German banks, but since they’re responsible for this mess I feel no sympathy at all) and return to their own national currencies and fiscal policies.

Will this hurt in the short run?  Sure, but the Troika program of austerity at any cost guarantees nothing but perpetual misery and hopeless degradation without relief ever, not 10 years from now or 30 or 50.  How long are you willing to sell your people into debt slavery?  How long do you think before they rise and cast off their shackles?

SYRIZA represents probably the last attempt to address this theft at the ballot.  If it fails the next actions will be far more revolutionary and destabilising in that 1789 kind of way.

Capital Control May Become Necessary in Greece

Damn straight and high time for it too.  What’s the matter with a little capital control unless you’re a thief looking to escape with your loot?

Reform Within the Euro-Zone is a Delusion for Greece

Merkel and Schäuble should be worried about that.  It’s German Banks that are going to get a buzzcut instead of a trim.

Time for Greece to plan its exodus from the euro

By Darrell Delamaide, Market Watch

Mar 6, 2015 3:00 a.m. ET

Germany – as well as the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – made it amply clear in the initial round of negotiations that they have no intention of being reasonable in the way Tsipras and Varoufakis believe they should.

It was always a fairly delusional assumption that German leaders would suddenly see the light and embrace an enlightened Keynesian solution to the economic and social crisis in Greece. Berlin and Brussels remain pitiless and more convinced than ever of the rightness of their destructive neoliberal policies.

The only way Greece can regain its sovereignty – which is essentially what Tsipras’s Syriza party pledged to voters in its rise to power – is to reclaim its sovereign rights, and especially control of its currency and banking system.

The consequences of defaulting on the country’s debt would be dramatic, but relatively short-lived compared to the guaranteed long-term misery of the EU austerity program.

Tsipras faces considerable pressure from his own party to follow through on the election pledge to roll back austerity, even if it means abandoning his commitment to stay in the euro.

A Syriza member of Parliament argued this week that the only way Greece can beat austerity is to break free from the euro and urged his party to face up to this reality.

“The most vital step is to realize that the strategy of hoping to achieve radical change within the institutional framework of the common currency has come to an end,” Costas Lapavitsas, a professor of economics and longtime proponent of leaving the euro, wrote in an op-ed in the Guardian.

“The strategy has given us electoral success by promising to release the Greek people from austerity without having to endure a major falling-out with the eurozone,” Lapavitsas wrote. “Unfortunately, events have shown beyond doubt that this is impossible, and it is time that we acknowledged reality.”

Without a genuine plan to leave the euro and the will to execute it, the Greek government will have no more leverage in the next round of negotiations than it did in the first.

Not that even this threat would budge the Germans. German leaders might then fret and delay further, but they are more likely to just show the Greeks the door.

It’s anyone’s guess what the consequences of a Greek exit would be for the markets or what kind of political backlash there would be in other eurozone members. Opinions range across the spectrum from indifference to turmoil in markets, and from chastened obedience to outright rebellion in other peripheral countries.

But a Greek departure from the euro would create a precedent that could lead to considerable political pressure in Spain or Italy. Perhaps that prospect would prod the Germans into some moderation of austerity policies.

But none of this will happen unless Greece is actually ready to leave the euro. Germany is leaving Tsipras and company virtually no choice on that score.


The Breakfast Club (The Sun Is Below The Yard Arm Somewhere)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Alamo falls to Mexican forces; Michelangelo born; Walter Cronkite retires.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Good Question: Iran’s Foreign Minister suggests the US should ask itself why it continues to create extremists that it later fights. Someone should tell him that to the US that’s a benefit, not a bug.

Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III, Some Assembly Required

On This Day In History March 6

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.

March 6 is the 65th day of the year (66th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 300 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1857, the US Supreme Court hands down its decision on Sanford v. Dred Scott, a case that intensified national divisions over the issue of slavery.

Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves (or their descendants, whether or not they were slaves) were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S. citizens. The court also held that the U.S. Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories and that, because slaves were not citizens, they could not sue in court. Furthermore, the Court ruled that slaves, as chattels or private property, could not be taken away from their owners without due process. The Supreme Court’s decision was written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney.

Although the Supreme Court has never overruled the Dred Scott case, the Court stated in the Slaughter-House Cases of 1873 that at least one part of it had already been overruled by the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868:

   The first observation we have to make on this clause is, that it puts at rest both the questions which we stated to have been the subject of differences of opinion. It declares that persons may be citizens of the United States without regard to their citizenship of a particular State, and it overturns the Dred Scott decision by making all persons born within the United States and subject to its jurisdiction citizens of the United States.

The Decision

The Supreme Court ruling was handed down on March 6, 1857, just two days after Buchanan’s inauguration. Chief Justice Taney delivered the opinion of the Court, with each of the concurring and dissenting Justices filing separate opinions. In total, six Justices agreed with the ruling; Samuel Nelson concurred with the ruling but not its reasoning, and Benjamin R. Curtis and John McLean dissented. The court misspelled Sanford’s name in the decision.

Opinion of the Court

The Court first had to decide whether it had jurisdiction. Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “the judicial Power shall extend… to Controversies… between Citizens of different States….” The Court held that Scott was not a “citizen of a state” within the meaning of the United States Constitution, as that term was understood at the time the Constitution was adopted, and therefore not able to bring suit in federal court. Furthermore, whether a person is a citizen of a state, for Article III purposes, was a question to be decided by the federal courts irrespective of any state’s definition of “citizen” under its own law.

Thus, whether Missouri recognized Scott as a citizen was irrelevant. Taney summed up,

   Consequently, no State, since the adoption of the Constitution, can by naturalizing an alien invest him with the rights and privileges secured to a citizen of a State under the Federal Government, although, so far as the State alone was concerned, he would undoubtedly be entitled to the rights of a citizen, and clothed with all the rights and immunities which the Constitution and laws of the State attached to that character.

This meant that

   no State can, by any act or law of its own, passed since the adoption of the Constitution, introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution of the United States.

The only relevant question, therefore, was whether, at the time the Constitution was ratified, Scott could have been considered a citizen of any state within the meaning of Article III. According to the Court, the authors of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as

   beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

The Court also presented a parade of horribles argument as to the feared results of granting Mr. Scott’s petition:

   It would give to persons of the negro race, …the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, …the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.

Scott was not a citizen of Missouri, and the federal courts therefore lacked jurisdiction to hear the dispute.

Despite the conclusion that the Court lacked jurisdiction, however, it went on to hold (in what Republicans would label its “obiter dictum”) that Scott was not a free man, even though he had resided for a time in Minnesota (then called the Wisconsin Territory). The Court held that the provisions of the Missouri Compromise declaring it to be free territory were beyond Congress’s power to enact. The Court rested its decision on the grounds that Congress’s power to acquire territories and create governments within those territories was limited. They held that the Fifth Amendment barred any law that would deprive a slaveholder of his property, such as his slaves, because he had brought them into a free territory. The Court went on to state – although the issue was not before the Court – that the territorial legislatures had no power to ban slavery. The ruling also asserted that neither slaves “nor their descendants, were embraced in any of the other provisions of the Constitution” that protected non-citizens.

This was only the second time in United States history that the Supreme Court had found an act of Congress to be unconstitutional. (The first time was 54 years earlier in Marbury v. Madison).

Late Night Karaoke

The Daily/Nightly Show (Lobachevsky)

It’s a good thing last night was funny because tonight we’re going to be talking about Ferguson and that’s not very funny at all.


In the category of bad news I spoke too soon about, as it turns out Sam Bee will not be staying with The Daily Show and will instead be joining her husband Jason Jones at TBS.

Variety reports that Comedy Central is looking for a new host in their 30s with a distinct take on culture, news and politics.  They mention Amy Schumer or Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Broad City as being candidates.

Censoring Doctors

Next Week’s Guests-

Gerald Posner will be on to talk about God’s Bankers, the history of the Vatican Bank.  He has a rather checkered past having been involved in several plagiarism scandals and a law suit by Harper Lee over the publication rights of To Kill A Mocking Bird.  Since Lee has been in the news recently and Miami Babylon (one of the allegedly plagiarized works) has been optioned for TV it’s possible those subjects will come up, but knowing Jon I somehow doubt it.

Viacheslav Fetisov’s web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.

Bonus Video

General Betrayed US to His Lover

Former Director of the CIA and four star general David H, Patraeus has reached a plea deal with the Department of Justice for passing classified information to his mistress in exchange for sexual favors. He will plea to one misdemeanor count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material and a $40,000 fine. No jail time.

This is what he handed his girlfriend:

The Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation alleged back in 2012 that Petraeus gave secret information to Paula Broadwell, but the seriousness of the information wasn’t clear until now.

While he was commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, Petraeus “maintained bound, five-by-eight inch notebooks that contained his daily schedule and classified and unclassified notes he took during official meetings, conferences and briefings,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina writes in a statement of fact regarding the case.

The notebooks had black covers with Petraeus’s business card taped on the front of each of them.

All eight books “collectively contained classified information regarding the identifies of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings… and discussions with the president of the United States.”

The books also contained “national defense information, including top secret/SCI and code word information,” according to the court papers. In other words: These weren’t just ordinary secrets. This was highly, highly classified material.

Besides lying to the FBI twice, this man compromised lives of undercover operatives, the troops operating in the field and national security and all he gets is a slap on the wrist. Pater Maas, writing at The Intercept, says that this deal reveals a two tiered justice system for leaks. He cites the penalties handed down to other defendants who did far less than the general:

For instance, last year, after a five-year standoff with federal prosecutors, Stephen Kim, a former State Department official, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act when he discussed a classified report about North Korea with Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2009. Kim did not hand over a copy of the report – he just discussed it, and nothing else – and the report was subsequently described in court documents as a “nothing burger” in terms of its sensitivity. Kim is currently in prison on a 13-month sentence. [..]

In 2013, former CIA agent John Kiriakou pleaded guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by disclosing the name of a covert CIA officer to a freelance reporter; he was sentenced to 30 months in jail. Kiriakou’s felony conviction and considerable jail sentence – for leaking one name that was not published – stands in contrast to Petraeus pleading guilty to a misdemeanor without jail time for leaking multiple names as well as a range of other highly-sensitive information. [..]

In 2013, Army Private Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, pleaded guilty to violating the Espionage Act by leaking thousands of documents to Wikileaks, and she was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Manning received a harsh sentence even though then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2010 that the leaks had only “modest” consequences.

In an interview at The Guardian, Pentagon Papers leaker, Daniel Ellsberg commented on Edward Snowden and former CIA analyst Jeffery Sterling:

The factual charges against [Edward Snowden] are not more serious, as violations of the classification regulations and non-disclosure agreements, than those Petraeus has admitted to, which are actually quite spectacular. [..]

Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer, was also just convicted of leaking classified information to New York Times journalist James Risen last month, “having first revealed it to Congress, as I did”, according to Ellsberg. Sterling was convicted of felony counts under the Espionage Act, and faces sentencing at the end of April. Ellsberg says Sterling’s “violations of security regulations were in no way more serious than what Petraeus has now admitted to”, and that, while it’s too late to do anything about his conviction, the judge should take the Petraeus plea bargain into account at his sentencing.

“If disclosing the identities of covert agents to an unauthorized person and storing them in several unauthorized locations deserves a charge with a maximum sentence of one year,” Ellsberg said, “then Edward Snowden should face not more than that same one count.”

As in the past when those in power violate the law and lie to congress and the FBI there are little to no consequences. So much for the Obama administration’s respect for the rule of law.