Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 65,486
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 65,486
We have a word for the conscious slaughter of a racial or ethnic group: genocide. And one for the conscious destruction of aspects of the environment: ecocide. But we don’t have a word for the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on, the world as humanity had known it until, historically speaking, late last night. A possibility might be “terracide” from the Latin word for earth. It has the right ring, given its similarity to the commonplace danger word of our era: terrorist.
The truth is, whatever we call them, it’s time to talk bluntly about the terrarists of our world. Yes, I know, 9/11 was horrific. Almost 3,000 dead, massive towers down, apocalyptic scenes. And yes, when it comes to terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings weren’t pretty either. But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes.
In the case of the terrarists -- and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell -- you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing...
How to Make Staggering Amounts of Money and Do In the Planet
...Call it irony, if you will, or call it a nightmare, but Big Oil evidently has no qualms about making its next set of profits directly off melting the planet. Its top executives continue to plan their futures (and so ours), knowing that their extremely profitable acts are destroying the very habitat, the very temperature range that for so long made life comfortable for humanity. Their prior knowledge of the damage they are doing is what should make this a criminal activity. And there are corporate precedents for this, even if on a smaller scale. The lead industry, the asbestos industry, and the tobacco companies all knew the dangers of their products, made efforts to suppress the information or instill doubt about it even as they promoted the glories of what they made, and went right on producing and selling while others suffered and died...
GREAT SOURCE ARTICLE! MUST READ
Posted by Demeter | Sat May 25, 2013, 10:10 AM (0 replies)
"A man who has in mind an apparent advantage, and promptly proceeds to dissociate
this from the question of what is right, shows himself to be mistaken and immoral.
Such a standpoint is the parent of assassinations, poisonings, forged wills, thefts,
malversations of public money, and the ruinous exploitation of provincials and
Roman citizens alike.
Another result is passionate desire - desire for excessive wealth, for unendurable tyranny, and ultimately for the despotic seizure of free states. These desires are the most horrible and repulsive things imaginable.
The perverted intelligences of men, who are animated by such feelings, are competent to understand the material rewards, but not the penalties. I do not mean penalties established by law, for these they often escape. I mean the most terrible of all punishments: their own degradation."
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.)
Posted by Demeter | Sat May 25, 2013, 08:48 AM (0 replies)
Yes, it's so bad, we are reduced to photos and clips of our furry friends (or fiends, depending).
I don't know why, or how, it got so bad so fast. I was listening to the Diane Rehm show (Diane was off, so it was much more bearable. Her voice is really not up to the job, and hasn't been for years), and the pinch-hitter from the BBC mentioned that she had 15 topics to cover in an hour.
Well, we have 3 days, if you count Monday, and at least that many aspects of the global political economy to track. So let's get going.
Posted by Demeter | Fri May 24, 2013, 05:47 PM (73 replies)
The following is an excerpt from from Debtors' Prison by Robert Kuttner (Knopf 2013):
In this, the fifth year of a prolonged downturn triggered by a financial crash, the prevailing view is that we all must pay for yesterday’s excess. This case is made in both economic and moral terms. Nations and households ran up unsustainable debts; these obligations must be honored—to satisfy creditors, restore market confidence, deter future recklessness, and compel people and nations to live within their means.
A phrase often heard is “moral hazard,” a concept borrowed by economists from the insurance industry. In its original usage, the term referred to the risk that insuring against an adverse event would invite the event. For example, someone who insured a house for more than its worth would have an incentive to burn it down. Nowadays, economists use the term to mean any unintended reward for bad behavior. Presumably, if we give debt relief to struggling homeowners or beleaguered nations, we invite more profligacy in the future. Hence, belts need to be tightened not just to improve fiscal balance but as punishment for past misdeeds and inducement for better self-discipline in the future.
There are several problems with the application of the moral hazard doctrine to the present crisis. It’s certainly true that under normal circumstances debts need to be honored, with bankruptcy reserved for special cases. Public policy should neither encourage governments, households, enterprises, or banks to borrow beyond prudent limits nor make it too easy for them to walk away from debts. But after a collapse, a debt overhang becomes a macroeconomic problem, not a personal or moral one. In a deflated economy, debt burdens undermine both debtors’ capacity to pay and their ability to pursue productive economic activity. Intensified belt-tightening deepens depression by further undercutting purchasing power generally. Despite facile analogies between governments and households, government is different from other actors. In a depression, even with high levels of public debt, additional government borrowing and spending may be the only way to jump-start the economy’s productive capacity at a time when the private sector is too traumatized to invest and spend.
The idea that anxiety about future deficits harms investor or consumer confidence is contradicted by both economic theory and evidence. At this writing, the U.S. government is able to borrow from private money markets for ten years at interest rates well under 2 percent and for thirty years at less than 3 percent. If markets were concerned that higher deficits five or even twenty-five years from now would cause rising inflation or a weaker dollar, they would not dream of lending the government money for thirty years at 3 percent interest. Consumers are reluctant to spend and businesses hesitant to invest because of reduced purchasing power in a weak economy. Abstract worries about the federal deficit are simply not part of this calculus...
MORE AT LINK--SEE ESPECIALLY THE DISCUSSION OF FDR AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION
Posted by Demeter | Sat May 18, 2013, 07:03 PM (0 replies)
...By making a few subtle changes to a regulation in the U.S. Code titled “Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies” the military has quietly granted itself the ability to police the streets without obtaining prior local or state consent, upending a precedent that has been in place for more than two centuries.
The most objectionable aspect of the regulatory change is the inclusion of vague language that permits military intervention in the event of “civil disturbances.” According to the rule: “Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances.”
Bruce Afran, a civil liberties attorney and constitutional law professor at Rutgers University, calls the rule, “a wanton power grab by the military.” He says, “It’s quite shocking actually because it violates the long-standing presumption that the military is under civilian control.” A defense official who declined to be named takes a different view of the rule, claiming, “The authorization has been around over 100 years; it’s not a new authority. It’s been there but it hasn’t been exercised. This is a carryover of domestic policy.” Moreover, he insists the Pentagon doesn’t “want to get involved in civilian law enforcement. It’s one of those red lines that the military hasn’t signed up for.” Nevertheless, he says, “every person in the military swears an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States to defend that Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.”
One of the more disturbing aspects of the new procedures that govern military command on the ground in the event of a civil disturbance relates to authority. Not only does it fail to define what circumstances would be so severe that the president’s authorization is “impossible,” it grants full presidential authority to “Federal military commanders.” According to the defense official, a commander is defined as follows: “Somebody who’s in the position of command, has the title commander. And most of the time they are centrally selected by a board, they’ve gone through additional schooling to exercise command authority.” As it is written, this “commander” has the same power to authorize military force as the president in the event the president is somehow unable to access a telephone. (The rule doesn’t address the statutory chain of authority that already exists in the event a sitting president is unavailable.) In doing so, this commander must exercise judgment in determining what constitutes, “wanton destruction of property,” “adequate protection for Federal property,” “domestic violence,” or “conspiracy that hinders the execution of State or Federal law,” as these are the circumstances that might be considered an “emergency.”
AND WE ALL KNOW HOW THAT TURNED OUT
Posted by Demeter | Sat May 18, 2013, 06:47 PM (0 replies)
Giving consumers the info that they need to make conscious buying decisions...
Given the byzantine corporate ownership structures of practically every item Americans purchase, it takes near encyclopedic knowledge to know which companies you are supporting when you buy, say, toilet paper. A new free app will help conscious consumers know whose pockets they are lining, and help them avoid supporting right-wing causes and truth-obscuring corporate conglomerates like Koch Industries and Monsanto. The free downloadable app scans everything in your shopping cart and traces the ownership all the way up to the parent company. Sometimes that trail will resemble a complicated family tree, since parent companies don't always want you to know who their offspring is. Just by way of example, Brawny paper towels, Angel Soft toilet paper and Dixie Cups are all products of Georgia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. The Brothers Koch also have gotten their corporate hands into the seemingly progressive yoga pants industry. But when you buy stretchy Lycra-containing pants for your downward dog, they are made by Invista, a textile company Koch bought.
The idea for an app for more consicous-shopping first germinated at a Netroots Nation gathering, when Darcy Burner, the former Microsoft programmer, suggested some app developer work on it. A group calling itself Buycott was already at work on the challenge, ultimately making the app even more spophisticated than Burner envisioned. It took 16 months for freelance programmer Ivan Pardo, 26, of Los Angeles to develop the app that allows you to scan the barcode of any item in your shopping cart and find out who your purchase is enriching. But it goes beyond that, as Forbes.com's Clare O'Connor reports. Users of the app can "can join user-created campaigns to boycott business practices that violate your principles rather than single companies. One of these campaigns, Demand GMO Labeling, will scan your box of cereal and tell you if it was made by one of the 36 corporations that donated more than $150,000 to oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food." Monsanto, of course, comes to mind, but it has plenty of company including: Coca-Cola, Nestle, Kraft and Unilever.
On a more positive note, Buycott has campaigns to support companies that support progressive causes, like Absolut and Starbucks, both of which have supported marriage equality.
The app is free and downloadable to the Android or iPhone.
Buycott campaigns encouraging shoppers to support brands that have, say, openly backed LGBT rights. You can scan a bottle of Absolut vodka or a bag of Starbucks coffee beans and learn that both companies have come out for equal marriage.
Forbes reached out to Koch Industries and Monsanto for comment and will update this story with any responses.
Update: Tuesday’s traffic surge is causing some problems for Buycott. Pardo says he’s working to fix issues with the Android app in particular. “The workload is a bit overwhelming now,” he said. “For example, our Android app was just recently released and the surge of new users today has highlighted a serious bug on certain devices that needs to be fixed immediately. So all other development tasks I was working on get put on hold until I can get this bug fixed.”
Posted by Demeter | Sat May 18, 2013, 06:22 PM (1 replies)
President Obama used his weekly radio address on Saturday to reassure the American people that he has “played no role whatsoever” in the U.S. government over the past four years.
“Right now, many of you are angry at the government, and no one is angrier than I am,” he said. “Quite frankly, I am glad that I have had no involvement in such an organization.”
The President’s outrage only increased, he said, when he “recently became aware of a part of that government called the Department of Justice.”
Mr. Obama closed his address by indicating that beginning next week he would enforce what he called a “zero tolerance policy on governing.”
“If I find that any members of my Administration have had any intimate knowledge of, or involvement in, the workings of the United States government, they will be dealt with accordingly,” he said.
Posted by Demeter | Sat May 18, 2013, 06:16 PM (0 replies)
Because the Tea Party brings instant connections to the Mad Hatter and the world of Lewis Carroll, we are going through the Looking Glass in hopes of finding our way back to the world we were born into:
CHAPTER I. Looking-Glass house
One thing was certain, that the WHITE kitten had had nothing to do with
it:--it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had
been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of
an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it
COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.
The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the
poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she
rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and
just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was
lying quite still and trying to purr--no doubt feeling that it was all
meant for its good.
Don't you instantly feel like that poor little kitten, being scrubbed backwards and against nature by your own mother? If not, you are in the 1%, and don't belong on this site....
'Now, if you'll only attend, Kitty, and not talk so much, I'll tell you
all my ideas about Looking-glass House. First, there's the room you can
see through the glass--that's just the same as our drawing room, only
the things go the other way. I can see all of it when I get upon a
chair--all but the bit behind the fireplace. Oh! I do so wish I could
see THAT bit! I want so much to know whether they've a fire in the
winter: you never CAN tell, you know, unless our fire smokes, and then
smoke comes up in that room too--but that may be only pretence, just to
make it look as if they had a fire. Well then, the books are something
like our books, only the words go the wrong way; I know that, because
I've held up one of our books to the glass, and then they hold up one in
the other room.
Posted by Demeter | Fri May 17, 2013, 06:10 PM (66 replies)
America’s health care system is collapsing, and we can blame the Economics profession. Most economists approach health care in the wrong way, viewing it as a commodity like shoes or the laptop on which I write. Instead, health care is an idiosyncratic commodity, subject to uncertainty and “asymmetric information” leading to destructive behavior. Trying to force health care into a box, treating it like other commodities, economists have promoted cost sharing, market competition, and insurance oversight of health care providers that have inflated the administrative burden while denying ever more Americans access.
Health care spending has been rising throughout the world as aging and more affluent populations spend on their health. Nowhere, however, has the cost of health care risen as fast as in the United States where costs soared because of rising administrative expense. Compared with other affluent countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (the OECD), the United States spends over twice as much per person as is spent elsewhere. Before 1971 when Canada enacted its Medicare program, a single-payer government funded health care system, Canada spent a higher share of its national income on health care than did the United States; since then, however, while Canada has controlled costs, spending has soared in the United States so that we now spend over $3000 more per person. That is $12,000 for a family of four that is not available for travel, education, housing, or food.
Elsewhere, increases in health care spending have been associated with improvements in the provision of health care and, therefore, go with increasing life expectancy. In the United States, however, spending has increased because of rising administrative costs and increases in the price of prescription drugs and, therefore, has yielded relatively few benefits in improvements in care. Comparing changes in health-care spending and life expectancy between 1971 and 2008, other affluent OECD members gained a year of life expectancy for every $453 in spending; in the United States, however, life expectancy has increased less and spending has risen sharply more so that each year of increased life expectancy has cost over twice as much as in these other countries. Health care spending in the United States has increased by $1283 for every additional year of life expectancy; had our spending per year of added life increased at only the rate of other countries we would be spending over $4500 less per person, $18,000 saved for the average family of four. Most of the difference in relative expenditures, most of the growing waste in spending in the United States, is due to increasing administrative costs in the provision of private health insurance and in the billing and insurance operations within doctors’ offices and in hospitals. The average physician in the United States now spends four-times as much interacting with insurance companies as does the average physician in Ontario, Canada, over $80,000 per physician compared with a little over $20,000 in Ontario. Prescription drug prices and administrative expenses have been the fastest rising costs in the United States health care system; from 1980 to 2005, administrative costs rose by 1300% while drug prices rose by nearly 2000%. There are now 2.5 million administrative support personnel in the American health care system; more than the number of nurses, and five times the number of physicians. We now have more health-care managers than physicians and surgeons.
Rising costs drive up health insurance premiums so that a family health insurance plan now costs about 40% of the average family wage income, up from 7% in 1960. Rising costs are denying ever more Americans access to health care even while businesses and governments wrestle with rising health care spending that squeezes resources available for other purposes. While other countries have controlled health care costs by restraining administrative expenses and drug prices, ballooning costs in the United States come from policies promoted by economists who have urged governments and providers to control costs by making consumers responsible for more of the costs even while raising administrative costs and ignoring monopolistic pricing of pharmaceuticals. Viewing the injured, sick, and disabled as “consumers,” economists see insurance as the source of rising costs because they are not responsible for the costs of care they receive and, therefore, overuse health care. Rising copayments and deductibles are intended to discourage “consumers” from “abusing” health care, as if the victims of auto accidents or cancer should shop around for cheaper, and competition among insurers while limiting provider services by providing more administrative supervision. Ignoring evidence that Americans are less likely to see doctors and other health providers than are residents of other affluent countries, these economists have blamed the high cost of our health care on insurance which, they assume, leads to wasteful over-practice and the provision of unnecessary health care services. Their solution is greater cost sharing, more regulation of providers, capitation, and even the end to insurance by substituting medical savings accounts for insurance...
Posted by Demeter | Fri May 17, 2013, 08:04 AM (0 replies)
Almost five years after Lehman Brothers Holding Inc (LEHMQ). filed for bankruptcy and set off the global financial crisis, managers of the bank’s estate are demanding millions of dollars from retirement homes, colleges and hospitals.
After selling most of its assets, Lehman now says it was shortchanged by scores of nonprofits that were forced to pay to exit derivatives that were unwound after the firm filed for Chapter 11 protection.
The Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California, gave Lehman $2 million in October 2008 to cancel a swap contract used to manage fluctuating interest rates. Lehman says it wants $12.1 million more and has assessed at least an additional $4.7 million in interest, the research center said in its most recent financial statement. The amount Lehman is seeking is more than half of what Buck spent last year researching Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases.
“Lehman is sort of a zombie-like bankruptcy entity: Instead of looking for brains, it’s looking for cash,” said Chip Bowles, a bankruptcy lawyer with Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP in Louisville, Kentucky...
Posted by Demeter | Fri May 17, 2013, 01:03 AM (0 replies)