Business Elites: Religion: Ethics?

God-Washing Davos « The Business Ethics Blog

Asking religious leaders to help on business ethics? That's scary. Would you ask the Catholic church to consult on child day care? American Evangelicals to help teach your kids science? Israeli Jews about fair treatment of minorities? Consult with Muslim Fundamentalists about the treatment of women? Generally, religion and ethics mix like oil and water.

It sounds like a dog and pony show for the world's masses, an attempt to show that their leaders really care about ethical behavior.



Legitimacy of the Ballot Box

Here's some good Egyption history from Juan Cole: Egypt Class Conflict

A couple of quotes I think are worth a comment.

"Authority is rooted in legitimacy. Leaders are acknowledged because the people agree that there is some legitimate basis for their authority and power. In democratic countries, that legitimacy comes from the ballot box."
"Power flows from the barrel of a gun."

For the last decade or so, the "legitimacy of the ballot box" has been under attack in the US with the last three administrations being attacked relentlesly in order to plant a question of their legitimacy in the minds of the people. I suppose this has always been around at some level but it seems to be reaching new highs.

The Right hit the Clinton administration hard on a corruption angle with Lewinsky, Vince Foster, etc. The Left turned it up a notch with the "Stolen-election" of 2000 in an attempt delegitimize Bush. Now, the Right has taken it to new levels with its un-American, Socialist, Marxist, communist, Kenyan-Muslim, pals-around-with-terrorists, no-birth-certificate, chicago-thug, not my president, attacks on Obama. This current onslaught has been very successfull as I think the number of people questioning the legitimacy of our president is at an all time high (at least in my area and my lifetime.)

So,.. I guess i wonder how far this can go before the "legitimacy of the ballot box" is lost and we move to a "Power flows from the barrel of a gun" scenario?


Indiana Farmland Values Robust

State farmland values robust | Palladium-Item

Farmland values are rising? Imagine that. I'd guess that having a government welfare program that pays farmers/landowners for every acre of farmland they own has something to do with it.

Here's a link to the top Farmer Welfare recipients in Wayne county in 2009 and from 1995-2009

Wayne County Farm Subsidies 2009

Wayne County Farm Subsidies Total 1995 to 2009

I'm not completely against farm subsidies, they have their place though I think we do over do it. Mostly though, I don't like the hypocritical aspect of the farmers. I believe the dominant Indiana farmer belief is that of a Tea-Bagger, free-market, Fox News watcher, that the government is too big, should cut taxes to the bone and stop paying for all those dead-beats who won't work. Yet the farmer class, one of the weathiest, most powerfull in the area, receives millions to keep them afloat (820 Farms got $6.7 million in Wayne county in 2009). If they can't run the farm like a business and survive, they should be in another line of work. or,... at least stop bitching about about the government and turn Fox news off.



Food Speculation

Food speculation: People die from hunger while banks make a killing on food | The Observer

A couple of thoughts on this.

First of all, it's a good example of a problem with an unregulated, free-market, capitalist system. Greed. The pure capitalist will manipulate any market if there are profits to be made. There are never enough profits. It doesn't matter if millions of people are financially destroyed in the process, or if they die of warfare or starvation, it's OK if profits were created for someone.

There's a good argument here for increasing taxes on the wealthy. As the worlds richest groups have accumulated larger and larger shares of the world's wealth, they've created huge pools of money that rocket around the financial markets searching for profits creating havoc where ever they flow. We seen it in the Dotcom bubble, Enron and Electricity markets, the housing bubble, the derivitive bubble, Oil prices, food prices, etc. The excess profits that fill these coffers should be taxed at a level to reduce their abilty to corrupt markets.



Stiring the Pot.

The Propaganda Network stiring it up again.

The Fox Link

The Beck Link

An analysis here: Iranian Martyrs Book Found on Mexican Border as Beck Film Premieres | Crooks and Liars

I wouldn't put it past Fox to plant the book as part of a "Beck" Marketing campaign.


Fox News - More Propaganda

No-More-Mr-Nice-Blog is right on top of the Propaganda Network's crap these days. Here's another example of the Fox News version of "Fair and Balanced"

No More Mister Nice Blog

Here's the actual description of the new press secretary's career.

"CAREER: Time magazine Washington bureau chief, 2005-2008; Time assistant bureau chief in Washington, 2003-2005; Time reporter in Washington, 1993-2003; Time reporter in Moscow, 1990-1993; Time Miami bureau chief, 1989-90; Reporter for Miami Herald, 1987-1988."

Here's Fox Nation's Slanted view.

"Former TIME Mag Moscow Chief to replace Robert Gibbs"

Of course all good Teabaggers know that "Moscow Chief" means "just another communist in the Obama Administration".

Thanks NMMNB


US Pols supporting Terrorist group?

Big Time Dems Join GOPers In Support Of Iranian Terror Group | TPMMuckraker

More US politicians supporting the MEK.

First noted at TNB here: us-citizens-support-terrorist-group

The MEK are an Iranian terrorist group that were supplied and financed by Saddam Hussein to fight Iran. This US list of terrorist organizations decribes the group.

According to evidence which became available after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the MEK received millions of dollars in Oil-for-Food program subsidies from Saddam Hussein from 1999 through 2003, which supported planning and executing future terrorist attacks. In addition to discovering 13 lists of recipients of such vouchers on which the MEK appeared, evidence linking the MEK to the former Iraqi regime includes lists, as well as video footage of Saddam Hussein handing over suitcases of money to known MEK leaders, and video of MEK operatives receiving training from the Iraqi military.

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.


The Propaganda Network

The Fox guys have taken propaganda to a new level.

No More Mister Nice Blog

Rand Paul vs Israel

Republican Senator calls for halt of Israel aid

This won't go over well with our ruling class but it's one of the few things he's said that I agree with. If this had come out prior to the election, there'd be someone else in this senate seat.

I can't imagine this going over very well with the Tea-Bagger crowd,... being so religious-y and all.

I'd guess there'll be some sort of apology soon. You just can't talk about cutting aid to Israel in this country.



The Propaganda Network

Fox News Caught in the act

Political Irony › Fox News sinks to new low

They (Fox News) took Obama’s State of the Union address and specifically edited it and inserted their own soundtrack of — literally — crickets chirping after Obama makes two slightly humorous comments. Then they make fun of Obama because his jokes didn’t elicit more laughter. Watch it:

Well, we couldn’t hear any laughter because you so crudely edited it out. If you listen to the actual video of his speech (e.g., at 48 minutes), he got both laughter and applause for these jokes.


SOTU Word Clouds

Click image for a larger version.

The President:

Paul Ryan

Michelle Bachmann

Mr Ryan seems to be the "Big Government" guy in this group.


The brutal truth about Tunisia

The brutal truth about Tunisia - Robert Fisk

It's the same old problem for us in the West. We mouth the word "democracy" and we are all for fair elections – providing the Arabs vote for whom we want them to vote for


This will really help our image in the Arab world. Deep frustrations with Obama - The Palestine Papers - Al Jazeera English



Tuesday Night Buzz: Income Inequality

Another thought related to income inequality related to this post from a couple of days ago.

Tuesday Night Buzz: Income Inequality

Another thing that changed in the early 80's was a feeling of the Great Depression survivors, that government could do/fix anything has given-way to a baby-boomer view that government was a problem, could not be trusted, and that letting people, businesses and eventually markets run free could do or fix anything. That latter view is peaking today as the baby-boom generation has reached the zenith of its power.

Unlike the Great Depression survivors, the mass of baby-boomers have no memory of what life was like before big government. They never saw the terrible working conditions, child labor, the battles for worker's unions, the elderly as a poor group, the plight of the poor, huddled-masses of the pre-war American industrial age. They grew up in good times and could make their fortune, grab their power, in a reasonably smooth running system. They only saw where government held them back. This has led to today's predominant feeling that if we let business run free the the country as a whole will be better off.

However, allowing businesses to run free has created today's corporate environment where corporations, acting as individuals, hold the real power in our government and the individual has largely been forgotten. Corporate managers are required by law to maximize profits which drives them to lobby for, or evade laws to increase profits. This search for profits also drives jobs out of the US as businesses search for lower labor costs.

So over the last thirty years profits have piled up. This has been a good thing for the corporations and their owners, basically the rich, powerful and well connected, and many would say that these profits will eventually trickle-down to the working class but the rise in inequality over these same thirty years has shown that they do not really trickle down but tend accumulate at the top.


Violent Rhetoric

Since the Arizona shootings, our media elite have been arguing about whether violent rhetoric, mostly from the right at this time, can inspire violence in people. Though it may inspire some random acts of violence, I see more danger in its ability to undermine the people's faith in the poilitcal system.

When bombarded 24/7 with claims like "Bush stole the election", "there was massive voter fraud", "where's the birth certificate", or "Obama's a Socialist/Marxist, Kenyan/Muslim" people begin to question the legitimacy of system. When they see the system as illegitmate or corrupt beyond repair, they often see no reason to play by the established rules and may instead, see taking matters into their own hands as a viable alternative. They vote with bullets and violence instead of at the ballot box. We see this in the developing world a lot and I believe the rhetoric we hear today is pushing us in that direction.

This is what happens when we reach that point.

Tunisia between Democracy and Anarchy Informed Comment

Tunisians woke Saturday morning to delirious joy at the advent of political liberty, but many worried about the simultaneous advent of social anarchy.

The fall of the government of dictator Zine al-Abedin Ben Ali after 23 years left behind a number of political and social vacuums. As for the security breach, it was gangs and Mafia that attempted to step into it. Friday afternoon and into the evening witnessed systematic looting in Tunis and in some other cities. Men in masks attacked civilians. Some Tunisians on the internet accused the police of going rogue. One tweeted, “many policemen have been arrested by the army, many gunshots around presidential palace.” Some tweets are calling the rogue police “counter-revolutionaries.”

Aljazeera says that cars with no license plates cruised the streets looking for opportunities for larceny. Helicopters dropped paratroopers in some towns to combat the looters. One Tunisian interviewed from a quarter of Tunis said, “There is complete disorder here. Families are afraid.” One eyewitness tweeted, “… what a night in Bourj Louzir, robbers still doing their things, and locals keep fighting them, at 3:45 am.” Some tweets report the formation of neighborhood ad hoc militias to patrol for safety. One warned that forming factious militias had been the downfall of Iraqis under US rule. (Iraq is thus a negative, not a positive, example for Tunisian oppositionists). The central train station and some supermarkets were set ablaze late Friday afternoon.

Be careful about what you wish for.


Alan Greenspan

Alan Greenspan's housing bubble coffee break - How the World Works - Salon.com

It's amazing how someone can go from being a hero to goat so quickly. During most of Greenspan's twenty year reign the economy was booming and he was widely seen as the one person most responsible those good times. He was a genius. The great financier of the great US capitalist empire. Now that we've hit harder times, he's seen as the one who created, or at least helped create, the monster. He not only created it but missed the warning signs of its collapse and failed to use his power to reign it in before it crashed down on the world 's economies.

Was he lucky in the good times? Unlucky in the bad times? Short sighted? Evil, purposly sacrificing the future for current profits for his banker friends? I guess history will decide.



Income Inequality

Is Income Redistribution the Key to Economic Growth? | Contrarian Musings

This is an interesting article on the causes of income inequality in the US. The argument is that the ending of the Bretton Woods era, when the US came off the gold standard and allowed the Fed to manage the money supply, is the primary cause of the increased wealth and income inequality over the last thirty years. The view is interesting and may very well be true or at least partially true though I'll leave that argument to those better qualified.

However, this leaves me suspicious of the argument, or at least the motives behind the argument.

(Quoting from a Mark Thoma article)

From the end of World War II until the 1970s, the growing prosperity in the US was widely shared across income groups. However since the 1970s, households at the lower end of the income distribution have experienced income stagnation – “real average hourly earnings (excluding fringe benefits) now stand roughly at 1974 levels” – while those at the top of the distribution have continued to do quite well. (emphasis added)

How can so many smart economists, from Paul Krugman to Mark Thoma, write that sentence or one very similar and not ask the obvious question? What changed? Was there a change in some major macro economic policy in the 1970s that could have affected equality of income and wealth in such a dramatic fashion? Why did inequality start rising so rapidly even before the election of Ronald Reagan? Why did it start rising before the top tax rates were reduced and before the adoption of freer trade (globalization)?

Average hourly earnings may have been stagnant since 1974 and the ending of Bretton Woods system may be responsible for that, but this chart of the US (and other) Gini coefficients makes it pretty clear that the rise in income inequality did not start in 1974 but in 1982-83. Look at the chart, the Gini coeffecient was pretty flat or slightly decreasing from the 1950's to 1982 then it jumps in 1982-83 and has increased steadily ever since. The inequality started changing 10-11 years later, it seems a stretch to assign Bretton Woods the responsibilty for this.

I think the question "What changed?" is a valid question, it's just that the time period is wrong. They should be looking at the 1982-83 period. What happend at that time that could be responsible? Well, how about the Reagan Tax cuts for the wealthy, reduced Government regulation? Maybe?



Mike Pence: Abortions

Pence: Perform abortions? No funds | pal-item.com | Palladium-Item

Mike Pence believes

“It is morally wrong to end an unborn human life by abortion,” Pence said in a news release. “It is also morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to promote abortion at home or abroad.”

But i guess he doesn't think its morally wrong to end a human life by explosives, bullets, etc. At least if that life is a brown-skinned, non-christian that lives on the other side of the world.

from [Mike Pence]

Washington, Apr 3, 2003 - WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Mike Pence voted today to provide almost $80 billion to President Bush to help win the war against Saddam Hussein’s regime and protect the homeland from terrorism.

Also for you budget watchers, note that he's against spending "Millions of dollars" but he's OK with spending BILLIONS of dollars.

I think its morally wrong to support Mike Pence.


Arizona Shootings - Wikileaks

The right thinks,...

that Bill O'Reilly screaming "Tiller, The baby Killer" multiple times on prime time TV couldn't possibly have influenced the shooter of Dr. Tiller


That presenting Obama as a, ... socialist, communist, marxist, kenyan, no-birth-certificate holding, pal'd-around-with-terrorists hoodlum who's trying to take your gun, your bible, AND put your parents in front of death panels, while taking over the auto industry and the banks in a socialist takeover complete with a bunch of those evil Czar guys,...... couldn't possibly cause some nutcase to try to assassinate him.


They want to execute Julian Assange of Wikileaks because they think some of the documents that he was given, and could release, could get someone killed.



Arizona Shootings - Palin

The Palin camp must have been scared initially. They took down the gunsite map, at least for a while. If they didn't think it was wrong, why did they take it down? Anyway, now that she's pretty sure he's not a teabagger, she's all fangs.

The surveyor symbol comment has to be one of the worst cover-your-ass-i-know-its-stupid-but-its-the-best-we've-got-right-now comments ever made by an american politician. I'd put it slightly worse than "I didn't inhale". Though in Palin's defense, I don't think she ever said it herself. It was from one of her minions.



Arizona Shooting - Rhetoric

A good article here: TAPPED Archive | The American Prospect including this cut.

The rhetoric of violence is not the only kind of rhetoric that encourages violence. The apocalyptic rhetoric we've seen from some on the right, most notably Glenn Beck, should be part of this discussion too. When Beck portrays Barack Obama as the head of a socialist/communist/Nazi conspiracy whose goal is the literal destruction of America, he is implicitly encouraging violence. If that really were the nature of the administration, and our liberty really were on the verge of being snuffed out, violence would be justified.

The apocalyptic rhetoric is what we really should be talking about. The flat-out making stuff up and feeding it to the masses 24/7 just to fuel and build the hate. I think it dwarfs the "violent rhetoric".

This type of rhetoric has always been around but I think its reached a dangerous level in the last few years. I thought the left took it too far with the "Bush stole the election" talk but the right has gone off-the-charts since the the Obama win. Limbaugh, the Fox crew, talk radio, Palin, Bachmann are all guilty of this rabble-rousing. They're all trying to out-crazy the each other.

I thought there might be a lull after the Arizona shooting, and there might have been if the shooter had ties to one side or the other, but it looks like he was just an independent nutcase so both sides are ramping it up trying to put him in the other guy's camp.



A Medical Journey

ginandtacos.com - a free market odyssey

Everyone I know has stories like this. Almost everyone I know hates their insurance company with a passion. Yet,... no one I know wants to change.

How can this be?


Capitalism at a Crossroads

Capitalism at a Crossroads - Umair Haque - Harvard Business Review

reflect for a moment on a small laundry list of what industrial-age capitalism hasn't been able to achieve in America during the last decade. Creating net jobs. Growing median income. Creating shareholder value. Creating net wealth. And that's just the tip of a titanic iceberg (for example, here's what an authentic prosperity probably doesn't look like: corporations booking record profits while towns, countries, and households go broke, banks boosting margins thanks to never-ending taxpayer life support, debt-fueled hyperconsumption substituting for happiness, and productivity spiking while empathy, trust, and a sense of meaning in work, life and play dwindle).

Hence, I'd argue that capitalism's got to do better — and to get there, capitalists have to aspire to matter. For too long, capitalists have taken people, communities, society, nature, and the future for granted — but today, they damn well shouldn't. Industrial-age capitalism is, we're discovering the hard way, predicated on extracting wealth from people, communities, society, nature, and the future

I'll buy that book The New Capitalist Manifesto



Did Pot Trigger Giffords Shooting?

Here's the most ridiculous article I've seen about the Arizona shooting.

Did Pot Trigger Giffords Shooting? | FrumForum

We've just gone thru the most heated election cycle in recent history. An election cycle featuring more violent themes than i've ever seen, screamed more loudly and for longer than I've ever seen. Now some nut shoots a politician...

... and David Frum thinks the pot made him do it?



Farm Land Prices

Farm Notes | pal-item.com | Palladium-Item

On Monday, a panel of Purdue University experts will discuss during a free webinar what factors are behind the steady rise in farmland values.
Could it be that owning farm land is a quick ticket to a government subsidized income? As I said in an earlier post, you get what you pay for. Government farm subsidies increase the demand for farm land which drives up the price. End the subsidies and the price will fall.

Here's what the government pays farmers in this area.

Union County, Indiana Top recipient got almost $58,000 in 2009

Wayne County, Indiana Top recipient got over $70,000 in 2009

You can see info for your area here: EWG Farm Subsidy Database


Juan Cole on the Arizona Shootings

A rare slip from Juan Cole.

In this early take on the Arizona shooting, found here [White Terrorism | Informed Comment], is the following statement about Jared Lee Loughner.

"He is said to have used marijuana, which would be consistent with a form of anti-government, right-wing Libertarianism."

Using the fact that he smoked marijuana to connect him to the right is ridiculous. Though smoking marijuana may fit with "anti-government, right-wing Libertarianism", in most peoples minds it probably fits better with "dope-smoking left-wing hippie". This is the kind of statement that the right would hold up as proof that the left is against them and out of touch with reality.

There seems to be plenty of evidence to link this nut-case to the anti-government rhetoric. There is no need to make dubious, "Fox News" like claims to enhance the point.


Mitch Daniels

Mitch Daniels, the Stealth Christian Jihadist, wants to fix education in Indiana

Daniels shifts aim to education reform | 2011-01-08 | Indianapolis Business Journal | IBJ.com

On Indiana's declining incomes.

"But per-person incomes—despite everything Daniels has tried on job creation, road building, property tax reform and daylight-saving time—have only fallen further behind the national average.

In 2004, when Daniels berated his opponent, Gov. Joe Kernan, for Indiana’s sluggish economy, Hoosiers earned 91 cents for every dollar earned by the average American. By last year, it was just 86 cents.

Adjusted for Indiana’s lower cost of living, Hoosier incomes have fallen from 98 cents for every dollar Americans earn, to 95 cents.

Daniels is quick to point out that declining incomes have been a problem in Indiana for decades. State economists have been writing about it since the 1980s."

I do a lot of troubleshooting in my job on computer hardware and software, and in my life repairing my own cars, motorcycles, appliances etc. One thing I've learned is that when you're diagnosing a problem you should look at the last thing that was changed/adjusted/fixed on the item prior to the problem, pretty early in the troubleshooting process. Quite often, the last thing that's changed is related to the current problem. Mitch needs to step back and take a "what's changed" look at the Indiana declining income problem.

The article says Indiana (and i think US) incomes have been declining every year since the 1980's. So what changed it that era? The biggest changes I can remember were Reagan tax reductions and our governments shift to a belief in trickle-down economics? Since then, wealth has piled up in the hands of the rich while normal worker incomes have stagnated. Do you think maybe there could be a connection Mitch?

On Education.

"Daniels and Bennett want to require schools to consider students’ year-to-year growth on test scores as a “significant factor” in evaluating and paying schoolteachers and principals."

I don't see testing helping much. Basically, you get what you pay for. If you're going to base educators pay on test results, you'll end up with schools spending their dollars teaching kids how to take the test and shorting the rest of the education process.

The kids will be given practice test after practice test with a lot of coaching and memorization. The kids and educators will be bored and the ability of our kids to think for themselves will diminished.

"They also want to expand options for parents to send their kids to publicly funded charter schools or even to receive publicly funded vouchers to pay tuition at private schools."

I'm not sure about private school vouchers? They seem like a path to two separate, not-equal education systems with the rich kids and anyone that can afford to pay in the good private system and everyone else in an even more crappy public system.

It may hurt public school funding as it will be harder to convince private-school people to fund the public system with taxes.

As I think about it, it seems like a downward-spiral that would eventually lead to our current college-type system where the rich can afford it, the poor are subsidized and the middle class are squeezed even tighter.

"Daniels also wants to let high schoolers graduate in three years and then receive a college scholarship equivalent to the amount the state would have spent to put them through a fourth year of high school. Right now, the state spends more than $11,000 per student per year"

This doesn't seem like a bad idea.



On Reading The Constitution

You've probably heard that Congress skipped-over a few passages in their reading of the Constitution this week. The unread parts are things that are actually still in the document but have been amended-out so that they do not affect our current law, basically, because later leaders found these passages unfair or found better alternatives.

Here's an article listing what was left out, the big one being the mention of slaves being equal to 3/5's of a free person. [LINK - Washington Post]

Congressional leaders chose to read it as it is applied today not in its original, un-altered form which is fine with me. It's their coronation. They can have it their way.

My personal feeling is that republican leaders didn't want to tread on the view of many on the right, who see the Constitution with a religious-like conviction and see it as basically infalible. They accept it on faith that it is the correct, noble, unchanging law-of-the-land. To read sections that are easily seen as wrong or to give the idea that it could actually be changed is heretical.

But,.... Here's a very good post on why we should read the entire document, warts and all.


Here's a portion but you should read it all

Reading the entire Constitution is a way of reminding ourselves that the Constitution is always a work in progress; that it has been flawed in the past and probably is still flawed in the present; that what we have now before us is not necessarily the final version of the Constitution, but that the Constitution can always be improved and that it must be improved; that no matter how much our political institutions may have failed us in the past, and no matter how much we have failed ourselves in the past, political redemption is always still possible; and that We the People of the United States can still always strive for a more just, more free, and more equal country-- what the Preamble of the Constitution calls a "More Perfect Union."

Reading the entire Constitution-- including its oblique references to slavery--is a way of engaging in proper humility about the products of flawed human beings, but it is also a way of expressing faith in eventual improvement. If the Constitution once allowed great evils, and now it does not, perhaps someday we will be able to recognize the current evils it still allows, and ameliorate them as well.

Again, you should read it all.



Israel Charged Bribes?

WikiLeaks: Israel charged bribes for goods entering Gaza - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Why would they have to charge American companies bribes? You'd think that 3 Billion in US tax dollars we give Israel each year would be enough.



US Citizens support Terrorist Group?

Thanks to Glenn Greenwald for putting this together [Link - GG].

The key points follow.

According to this article, [Washington Post - Link], four US elites met with the MEK a terrorist organization last month.

The Americans - former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge, former White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend and former attorney general Michael Mukasey - demanded that Obama instead take the controversial Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) opposition group off the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations and incorporate it into efforts to overturn the mullah-led government in Tehran.

The MEK are an Iranian terrorist group that were supplied and financed by Saddam Hussein to fight Iran. This US list of terrorist organizations decribes the group.[US State Dept -Link]

According to evidence which became available after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the MEK received millions of dollars in Oil-for-Food program subsidies from Saddam Hussein from 1999 through 2003, which supported planning and executing future terrorist attacks. In addition to discovering 13 lists of recipients of such vouchers on which the MEK appeared, evidence linking the MEK to the former Iraqi regime includes lists, as well as video footage of Saddam Hussein handing over suitcases of money to known MEK leaders, and video of MEK operatives receiving training from the Iraqi military.

Fran Townsend, one of the four US elites meeting with the group, once argued that even voicing support for a terrorist organization was the equivalent of providing material support for a foreign terrorist organization and thus a crime under the Patroit act. [link - CNN Wolf Blitzer]

This is great....

An American citizen, Fran Townsend, who believes that voicing support for terrorists is a crime, meets with and voices support for terrorists.

The Bush administration, which had used "supporting terrorism" as one of the excuses to take out Saddam, now has its administration members supporting a terrorist group that Saddam supported.

While,... another American citizen was convicted of supporting terrorism for very similar actions with the same group.

This shows one of the problems with the "war on Terrorism". Much like in Orwell's 1984, the enemy can be changed at will. When Saddam was our number one enemy, MEK was a terrorist group. Now that Iran is our enemy, the MEK are goods guys.

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.



Crazy Stuff in Arkansas

Massive fish kill blankets Arkansas River - CNN.com

100,000 fish dead and 125 miles away 5,000 birds fall from the sky. Somewhere, a preacher is calling this the beginning of the end. JESUS IS COMING!


Sunday Sacrilege: Pharyngula

A good, short commentary on religion from Pharyngula Sunday Sacrilege: Simple things


Why EL PAÍS published The Leaks

A good post from the Spanish newspaper EL PAÍS on why they decided to work with Wikileaks to publish the cables. ELPAÍS.com in English

A few cuts.

On War and Terrorism

Tens of thousands of soldiers are fighting a war in Afghanistan that their respective leaders know is not winnable. Tens of thousands of soldiers are shoring up a government known around the world to be corrupt, but which is tolerated by those who sent the soldiers there in the first place. The WikiLeaks cables show that none of the Western powers believes that Afghanistan can become a credible nation in the medium term, and much less become a viable democracy, despite the stated aims of those whose soldiers are fighting and dying there. Few people have been surprised to learn that the Afghan president has been salting away millions of dollars in overseas aid in foreign bank accounts with the full cognizance of his patrons.

Meanwhile, next door, Pakistan is awash with corruption as well. It also has a decaying nuclear arsenal that is a major security risk. The country funds terrorist activity against its neighbor India and many countries in the West.

Money from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates is also used to fund Sunni terrorist groups; but as these governments are allies of the United States, Washington prefers to remain silent, excluding them from its list of sponsors of terrorism or those belonging to what the Bush regime dubbed "the axis of evil." Clinton, or one of her direct subordinates, gave the order to carry out espionage within the United Nations, and not just on representatives of so-called rogue states, but on the UN secretary general himself. In turn, he has so far failed to demand an explication for this flagrant breach of international law.

We may have suspected our governments of underhand dealings, but we did not have the proof that WikiLeaks has provided. We now know that our governments were aware of the situations mentioned above, and, what is more, they have hidden the facts from us. I no longer think that commentators such as John Naughton were exaggerating when they compared the Karzai regime in Afghanistan with the corrupt and incompetent puppet government that the United States put in place in South Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. By the same token, Washington and NATO are seemingly becoming increasingly mired in a campaign bearing uncomfortable parallels with the war in Vietnam.

On Assange

It is also important to establish that at no time did Assange ask for money in return for providing access to the leaked documents, nor would EL PAÍS have agreed to such terms. The documents' reliability are beyond question, and nobody - not even opponents of their publication - have questioned their authenticity. The obstinate focus on Assange and his methods, the scrutiny of his motivations, and the repeated attempts to destroy his personal reputation all reflect the colossal lack of respect that US diplomats show for the laws, rules and procedures in the countries where they carry out their missions - beginning with Spain, if the published cables are anything to go by.

On the US's contempt for other nations laws..

We have also seen how US diplomats in Berlin warned the German government of the serious consequences of bringing charges against CIA agents accused of kidnapping Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who was abducted and taken to Afghanistan where he was tortured. El-Masri was then dumped in Albania when it was realized they had the wrong man. Kidnapping and torture are serious crimes. For US diplomats to pressure an ally to prevent suspects from being investigated is unacceptable, and trashes the idea that those diplomats are just doing their job.

On the worlds powerful elite.

As Simon Jenkins of The Guardian wrote earlier this month, power hates to see the truth exposed. I would add that above all, power fears the truth when the truth doesn't fit its needs.

On the newspaper's obligation to a democratic society.

It is the prerogative of governments, not the press, to bury secrets for as long as they can, and I will not argue with this as long as it does not cover up deceitful acts against citizens. But a newspaper's main task is to publish news, and to seek out news where it can find it. As I said in a recent online chat with EL PAÍS readers, newspapers have many obligations in a democratic society: responsibility, truthfulness, balance and a commitment to citizens. Our obligations definitely do not, however, include protecting governments and the powerful in general from embarrassing revelations.

If only someone in the US news media had balls like this.


Canadians coming to US for health care.

The first thing that everyone who is against a single-payer, medicare-for-all system in the US points out, is all those Canadians coming to the US for health care. They ask "if the Canadian system is so good why do they come here for medical care" and they always follow up with an urban-legend like story about someone they met on vacation from Canada coming to the US for health care. They never have any stats to back it up.

Here's a Canadian study on the issue and its answer is "They're not coming here". They don't find any evidence of a mass of Canadians coming to the US for health care.

A summary here:
Phantoms in the snow | The Incidental Economist

The main site. [Link Here]

How Obama Can Work With Republicans

How Obama Can Work With Republicans - Economic View - NYTimes.com

Mr. Mankiw, a professor of economics at Harvard and former advisor to our last President Bush, has an opinion article in the “Liberal” NY Times today. Basically Mr. Mankiw thinks President Obama is going to have to show more bipartisanship going forward and offers a few suggestions. Here’s the TNB response to Mr. Mankiw’s suggestions.

Focus on the long run.

This is a crappy statement that can be turned in any direction and doesn't really mean anything. A tanking economy, as it was at the beginning of Obama's term, is probably something that should deserve "focus" despite being a short term item. An alternative energy policy, Medical and financial reform are a long term items that the republicans fought tooth and nail. Looking back, the response to 9/11 was a short term reaction that was supposed to fix a long term problem, terrorism which has turned into a long term item that has probably made the original long term problem, terrorism, worse. The Bush tax cuts that were promoted as giving the money back to the people, were a short term reaction to a budget that was in better shape than it had been in years. The long term result, huge budget deficits, is the very thing Mr. Mankiw is complaining about. In other words, "focus on the long term" is a bunch of crap.

Think at the Margin

I do believe that at some point a tax rate that is too high will provide an adverse incentive to work but I don't believe it's a big deal at these income levels. In this income range, the worker still keeps far more than government takes and they need their portion to survive.

Unlike Mr. Mankiw, I live with people in and below this income range and I've never heard anyone say they are going to work less because the government will take too much in taxes. Their work hours are mostly forced on them by their employers and meeting the income requirements of our modern world. Housing, food, transportation and insurance costs take far more from most people than a slightly increased marginal tax rate.

One of my own personal marginal tax rate thoughts.... I wonder what the tax rate would have to be to prevent a Wal-Mart-heir from cashing that next dividend check?

Stop trying to spread the wealth.

Wealth can be spread up as well as down. Mr. Mankiw doesn't like seeing it spread downward but doesn't have a problem with it being spread upward. Since the 70's wealth has been spread consistently upwards, as the wealthiest 1% of Americans now own more of the US than at any point since 1929. This upward spread is a direct result of government interference via tax cuts to the wealthy and capture of our government by the wealthy.

Spread Opportunity Instead.

Mr. Mankiw's wants to increase opportunity, which i agree is a good idea but his offer here is to improve the education system by replacing the bottom 5% to 8% of teachers. I see this as the obligatory, right-wing jab at the teachers unions. Yes, education is a mess in this country and yes, as in any field, there are plenty of teachers that should be replaced but to think that the best way to "spread the opportunity" is by firing a few teachers is just ridiculous.

Don’t make the opposition your enemy

Mr. Mankiw thinks Mr. Obama should be nicer to the republicans and is mad because Obama called the republicans "hostage takers" inferring they were terrorists.

Un-fucking-believable! For two years the right-wing propaganda machine has repeatedly called Obama a socialist, Marxist, communist, racist, no-birth-certificate-existing-Kenyan-Muslim and accused him of planning death panels, internment camps, of wanting to take their guns and bibles and basically presented him as a demon bent on the destruction of everything they see as American.

And ... Mr. Mankiw thinks that Obama should be nicer to the Republicans.

Again, Un-fucking-believable!

Here at TNB we think Mr. Mankiw’s marginal tax rate should be raised to the point that he won’t find it worth his effort to write opinion pieces for the NY Times.

They hate us for our Freedom?

Demonstrators ‘return’ tear gas canisters to US ambassador’s home

Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 36, was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital yesterday after inhaling massive amounts of tear-gas during the weekly protest in Bil’in, and died of poisoning this morning. The tear gas used by the Israeli forces in Bil’in is manufactured by Combined Systems Inc.; a United States company based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. This is the first protest where empty tear gas canisters have been returned to an ambassador’s home.

I'd say there's a better chance that they hate us for helping Israel kill them. The Palestinians would love to have our freedom.