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Public Employees, Private Parking Meters, Fed Grifters, NATO Terrorists

I was going to just let these news stories drift by but…

So, public sector jobs are slashed in the “Red” states. This is important to keep turning over in our minds. This is not a coincidence. Some people say it is a partisan conspiracy, but I think not; not unless “ideology” counts as conspiracy. Remember:

When it comes to busting up the unions (reducing public sector employees helps with that goal) nobody can say it is mere talking points. It is an actual ideological preference. From the article:

This drop in public-sector workers is well documented, and it is great to get more economists ringing the bell on it. But I think there needs to be more research into how this has happened. As my colleague Bryce Covert notes over at The Nation, “the massive job loss we’ve been experiencing in the public sector is no random coincidence or unfortunate side effect. It is part of an ideological battle waged by ultra conservatives who were swept into power in the 2010 elections.”

As we’ve written before (article, white paper), the 11 states that the Republicans took over during the 2010 midterm elections – Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – account for 40.5 percent of the total losses. By itself, Texas accounts for an additional 31 percent of the total losses. So these 12 states account for over 70 percent of total public sector job losses in 2011. This is even more important because there was a continued decline in public sector workers in 2011 even though the economy was no longer in free fall.

Yes, even the evil business economists concede that contractionary policies are contractionary. Weird. I do love this wording:

The findings in this paper suggest that fiscal contraction will be particularly contractionary in the current-day eurozone. They also indicate that if policymakers come to their senses abandon the current approach of trying to stabilize via austerity, and instead aim for stimulus with back-loaded fiscal retrenchment, the ongoing recession could be mitigated.

Have I said “Team Bernie” today?

ore than $4 trillion in near zero-interest Federal Reserve loans and other financial assistance went to the banks and businesses of at least 18 current and former Federal Reserve regional bank directors in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse, according to Government Accountability Office records made public for the first time today by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Check it out! Top 18 secret government handouts from Fed board members to Fed board members. Nice and cozy.

“This report reveals the inherent conflicts of interest that exist at the Federal Reserve.  At a time when small businesses could not get affordable loans to create jobs, the Fed was providing trillions in secret loans to some of the largest banks and corporations in America that were well represented on the boards of the Federal Reserve Banks.  These conflicts must end,” Sanders said.

I have an idea: let’s privatize everything!

The city of New York is insisting that it won’t make the same mistake Chicago made, at least when it comes to rates. Bloomberg helpfully quoted Julie Wood, a spokesperson for the news agency’s namesake, i.e. the mayor:

“We are taking a careful and deliberate approach to avoid mistakes others have made,” Wood said. New York would retain “full control” of rates and violations enforcement, she said.

We have to hope she’s telling the truth, because meter rates in some New York neighborhoods are already at $5 an hour. A Chicago-style price hike for fat-cat investors might leave us paying thirty bucks an hour to oil barons in Qatar and Saudi Arabia in order to park for dinner in the West Village. Unlikely, sure, but how likely was the city of New York selling its parking meters ten years ago?

Ultimately, these infrastructure deals operate under the same basically predatory, let’s-fuck-the-uninformed-elderly business model that guides companies like J.G. Wentworth. You’ve seen the commercials, of course, where a bunch of cheery-looking opera singers in Wagnerian costumes generously offer to give you money up front for your accident settlement, your annuity, even your lottery winnings…

Of course what they don’t tell you in those commercials is that you’re only getting pennies on the dollar in those deals. Companies like J.G. Wentworth feast upon the financial anxiety/desperation of middle America, where most people can’t wait to collect the whole $100,000 they won in court after losing an eye at work, and will settle for $20,000 they can use to pay the rent (or, more often, the doctor or the pharmacist) this week. Money is so tight out there that people will take a bad deal, even a draconian deal, just to make it to next week, especially when the idea is getting rammed into their heads in high-production-value commercials during football games and American Idol broadcasts five hundred times a week.

So you can understand why your average Joe might give in and sell his annuity to a bunch of friendly opera singers to make his rent. But the billionaire mayor of New York City? There’s simply no legitimate rationale for selling off a critically valuable public revenue stream to private interests.

Yeah, sure it is crazy, but don’t believe for a second that it doesn’t fit the ideology. It fits perfectly. In my insanity, I have come to realize why other – seemingly normal – people smell a conspiracy at every crazy, asinine move: sane people believe nobody could be insane enough to really believe the insane thing they are witnessing. It almost has to be a hoax, right? I don’t believe it is anymore. I believe it is simply the logical conclusion, the correct and rational steps stemming from a peculiar ideology. Did I mention that 46% of Americans believe God created humans in our present form (meaning no evolution whatsoever)??? To not take people at their word is dangerous, and probably a little condescending. *Laughs maniacally and stockpiles food*
Also, NATO protesters charged with terrorism, but the indictment is withheld from their defense team by prosecutors. This looks all kinds of fishy, but hey, I’m sure the government wouldn’t lie to us. *Peaks out curtains at unmarked van*

The Criminogenics of Free-Market Oligarchism…

Sometimes I have to ask myself what we are doing? If it is even half as bad as it seems, and all evidence is that it is more likely twice as bad as it seems, then surely some kind of action is called for. But that is the persistently troubling nature of the problem – it is wrapped up in a cloak of “individuality” and “do-nothingism.” Ho hum. The News Makes Me Crazy.

Engineering a crime spree. One of my core arguments against “economics” is that, while many economists are indeed working from a “scientific” set of principles, the worldview created by free-marketism is theological rather than scientific, and nobody has disabused “the people” of their mistaken ideas – partly because their ideas are supported by large numbers of the economist-priests themselves, partly because the worldview has been made into an American “Identity” of sorts.

So, what do we have? If you believe in your heart of dark little hearts that regulation is the enemy of capitalism, and knowing that to be true you only seek evidence that confirms your worldview, then no matter how bad things go in (say) the financial world, you will stick to what you “know to be true” no matter how much evidence is supplied to the contrary. That is what we call “conceptual confirmation,” where you have a model of the world in your head (conceptually) and you look at the world through those lenses (perceptual filters) and only to confirm your ideas about reality. In other words, it is starting with the answer and trying to bludgeon reality to fit your concepts and models and all of these “a priori truths” you have bouncing around in your noggin. This is the precise opposite of the scientific method.

So, more crime. Surprise surprise, surprise…

But all of this could be said differently, in the language of conspiracy:

“Over the last thirty years, the United States has been taken over by an amoral financial oligarchy, and the American dream of opportunity, education, and upward mobility is now largely confined to the top few percent of the population. Federal policy is increasingly dictated by the wealthy, by the financial sector, and by powerful (though sometimes badly mismanaged) industries such as telecommunications, health care, automobiles, and energy. These policies are implemented and praised by these groups’ willing servants, namely the increasingly bought-and-paid-for leadership of America’s political parties, academia, and lobbying industry.

If allowed to continue, this process will turn the United States into a declining, unfair society with an impoverished, angry, uneducated population under the control of a small, ultrawealthy elite. Such a society would be not only immoral but also eventually unstable, dangerously ripe for religious and political extremism.

Thus far, both political parties have been remarkably clever and effective in concealing this new reality. In fact, the two parties have formed an innovative kind of cartel—an arrangement I have termed America’s political duopoly, which I analyze in detail below. Both parties lie about the fact that they have each sold out to the financial sector and the wealthy. So far both have largely gotten away with the lie, helped in part by the enormous amount of money now spent on deceptive, manipulative political advertising. But that can’t last indefinitely; Americans are getting angry, and even when they’re misguided or poorly informed, people have a deep, visceral sense that they’re being screwed…

Global Sovereignty?? And a daily does of “Not all leaks are created equal.”

So, what exactly is “Global Sovereignty?” I guess that is just admitting to our imperial prerogative to invade your hierarchically (definitionally) lower “national sovereignty.”

The actual article goes on to discuss selective leaking and leak prosecution by the Obama administration. If you don’t think this is a big deal, see below and how most national security type journalists have been chilled, if not yet silenced completely – prosecuted and hauled into court, even… Good times.

Really it would be better if all journalism began and ended at the press briefing. We are at war, damnit, so fall in line!! But haven’t we always been at war with Eurasia? I forget now.

Decoding Dimon. I have argued several times (and will continue to argue) that you can not understand economics without the “Bio-Physical” component. Yves Smith has argued persuasively that you also can not understand modern economics without a deep understanding of how finance actually works. Do I think there is a certain “paid bias” and a little “political posturing with no hope of action” to these “hearings?” Of course. Does it appear that basically nobody is qualified to be asking questions? Also yes.

In Senate testimony, Dimon revealed his idea of “portfolio hedging” to be even more egregious than the harshest critics thought. Dimon presented the job of the CIO to be to make modest amounts of money in good times and to make a lot of money when there’s a crisis. (That does not appear to be narrowly true, since in the last couple of years, during which there was no crisis, the CIO’s staff were among the best paid in the bank and produced significant profits for the bank. That is a bald faced admission that the CIO’s mandate had nothing to do with hedging. A hedge is a position taken to mitigate losses on an underlying exposure should they occur. Instead, Dimon has admitted that the mission of the CIO is to place bets on tail risks that are unrelated to JP Morgan’s exposures. A massive, systemically destructive strategy like the Magnetar trade would fit perfectly within the CIO’s mandate.

Needless to say, this definition is an inversion of not just what the Volcker rule was meant to stand for (limiting financial firm gambles with taxpayer money), it’s NewSpeak, or in this case, DimonSpeak: “a hedge is whatever I say it is, no more and no less.” Another bit of DimonSpeak was his specious response when he was arguing against the Volcker rule. The JP Morgan chief asserted that a customer loan could be construed to be a prop trade. Um, no, Volcker applies to trading books. The fact that he’d run a line like that shows how little he thinks of the intelligence of the Senate Banking Committee and the public generally.

We argued yesterday that Dimon was running a hedge fund in the CIO, and his testimony confirms that. As we wrote:

It’s likely that a significant portion of the CIO’s activities were an accounting gimmick. Let’s remember why it was located in Treasury: it is the chief “investment” office, because it is managing the “investment” portfolio. Banks hold liquidity buffers so that they can meet a bank run. They get special accounting treatment on these positions. While they can sell them at any time, like trading inventories, they are NOT marked to market. Instead, they are kept in an “available for sale” portfolio, which is treated on a hold to maturity basis. That, in really crude terms, means you don’t need to recognize losses until they look pretty certain (usually, credit related).

So what does that mean, in practical terms? It means the CIO is the perfect prop trading/income smoothing vehicle. You can realize gains whenever you want to, by selling (provided the position is in a reasonably liquid market) or possibly even moving it over into your trading portfolio and you can defer most losses. If it makes a turkey trade, it can bury it until the bank has other trading gains or income in other businesses to offset it. And it can keep profitable positions around and realize them as needed to smooth earnings (while the unrealized losses are reported in footnotes, most investors don’t seem to pay much attention to that item). Investors really like smooth earnings, they mistake them for stability and strength of the business, as opposed to adept profit management. No wonder the people in the CIO were so well paid. They’d have to be Dimon’s favorite people.

By this point, most people’s eyes have glazed over. So the thievery shall continue, virtually unchecked.

In other News That Makes Me Crazy: It would appear Fukushima is still around (physical reality seems to persist long after our attention span dries up – Stupid Reality) &  Canadians are still protesting. (via Naked Capitalism) Ho hum.

Montreal. “A vision of free, publicly accessible post secondary education has strong roots in Quebec where the concept of universal access to education is often seen as comparable to socialized health care. This common value is the result of the massive overhaul of post secondary education in the 1960′s when, after mass student protests, the government created nine new university campuses and a free college system that was intended to open up higher education to those not part of the political and economic elite or clergy who then dominated Quebec. While tuition was initially justified to help cover the costs of the expanding campuses, students believed it would be eventually phased out.” “4170 estimated number of arrests made in Quebec since February as a result of the protests.” “We can not punish or arrest people for offenses they have not yet committed or are about to commit. Democracy requires that we take risks and that the police power should be strictly controlled.” Pearl clutching: Eugène Delacroix parody poster sold by Quebec rock band found in arrested Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir’s home, shows Charest dead at feet of the Bananarchiste (Banane Rebelle guidant le peuple). Yves Bolduc, Quebec Health Minister: “There are always subliminal messages MR SUBLIMINAL Banane! Banane! put forward through paintings like this. For certain vulnerable people, this can be a danger.” Be sure not to keep any political cartoons in your house! Red Square: “The idea is to show up at Émilie Gamelin Park with $10 and receive a tattoo of the carré rouge on your chest. The event is called “Tatoo-O-thon de carrés rouges.” From the Facebook event: “They would like us to remove (our red squares). That is why we will put them on our chest in permanently. Imagine hundreds of people getting red squares tattooed on the chest at the same time, all in the same evening. A monumental ‘FUCK YOU’ to the authorities who would like to see (the squares) disappear.” Silent majority: “Will it be the PQ or the Liberals in the next elections? ‘It will either be the street and referendums or democracy and the economy,’ affirms Jean Charest. Under the pretext of this demagogic principle, the government is allowing a situation to fester to the point where it could deteriorate into a major social crisis. If serious events occur, the Premier will demonize civil disobedience, violence, chaos, vandals and all supporters of opposition movements.”

Minister of Culture, Communications, and the Status of Women, Mrs. Christine St-Pierre responds to Fred Pellerin, the red-square toting storyteller, who turned down the National Order of Québec. “St-Pierre’s public affirmation that there is a link between the red square and violence sends the loud and clear message that all those who have spoken out against the tuition hikes are potentially behind the universally condemned actions that have taken place at certain protests. The government is effectively saying that all those who wear the square could even be responsible. It charges anyone who wears the red square of guilt-by-association with the few that have committed some reprehensible acts. It also says that violent incidents are more than just the actions of a fraction of those present.”

Globalization, Debunking the Deficit, Great Depression Redux & Ayn Rand…

Another quick flash of crazy-making.

Hmmmm. Globalization perspectives.

But in spite of the enthusiasm for science that accompanied each wave of globalization, as a historical rule it was primarily commerce and finance that drove globalization, not science or technology, and certainly not politics or culture. It is no accident that each of the major periods of technological progress coincided with an era of financial market expansion and vast growth in international commerce. Specifically, a sudden expansion of financial liquidity in the world’s leading banking centers — whether an increase in British gold reserves in the 1820s or the massive transformation in the 1980s of illiquid mortgage loans into very liquid mortgage securities, or some other structural change in the financial markets — has been the catalyst behind every period of globalization.

This is impressive, but yet again lacks a “bio-physical component.” There is a definite sense that economics, in its modern incarnation, has modeled itself on a continuous flow between “producers and consumers.” This is like a First Law of Thermodynamics perspective, where nothing is created or destroyed, devoid of a Second Law of Thermodynamics understanding where the usable energy dissipates. In other words, interesting article, but still lacking in any understanding of the Bio-Physical realities of the world. Also, if I hear “Technology” as a catch-all mythic term one more friggin time…

I don’t want to be all partisan, but…

Putting all the numbers in the C.B.O. report together, we see that continuation of tax and budget policies and economic conditions in place at the end of the Clinton administration would have led to a cumulative budget surplus of $5.6 trillion through 2011 — enough to pay off the $5.6 trillion national debt at the end of 2000.

Tax cuts and slower-than-expected growth reduced revenues by $6.1 trillion and spending was $5.6 trillion higher, a turnaround of $11.7 trillion. Of this total, the C.B.O. attributes 72 percent to legislated tax cuts and spending increases, 27 percent to economic and technical factors. Of the latter, 56 percent occurred from 2009 to 2011.

Yeah, who’s to say? Ho hum.

It is not the same, but it is not all that different neither… The takeaway points are that 1) Europe is a key player in how world events shake out – see, freedom fries & 2)

There was indeed much wisdom in Kindleberger’s lectures, about how markets work, about how they are managed, and especially about how they can go wrong. It is no accident that when Martin Wolf, dean of the British financial journalists, challenged then former-US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers in 2011 to deny that economists had proven themselves useless in the 2008-9 financial crisis, Summers’s response was that, to the contrary, there was a useful economics. But what was useful for understanding financial crises was to be found not in the academic mainstream of mathematical models festooned with Greek symbols and complex abstract relationships but in the work of the pioneering 19th century financial journalist Walter Bagehot, the 20th-century bubble theorist Hyman Minsky, and “perhaps more still in Kindleberger” (Wolf and Summers 2011).

Also, Occupy the SEC is kinda awesome… And Alexis Goldstein is my new “hot-librarian” heroine:

…with each Senator getting only five minutes each per witness, makes it difficult for a questioner to pin an evasive or clever witness. It won’t be hard for Dimon to either run out the clock or bamboozle his interrogators. But he might, as he did in his hastily-called press conference announcing the losses, make more admissions to the effect that he and senior management weren’t on top of what the group was doing. That would support the notion that JP Morgan’s risk controls were inadequate, which would mean that Dimon’s Sarbanes Oxley certification for 2011, and potentially earlier years, was false.

I prefer to cut through the self-aggrandizing, childishly ego reinforcing words (Ayn Rand Redux) and just state the facts: We have scientifically validated models of human moral development. Yes, they start off “ego-centered” and “selfish” but they expand to include larger and larger chunks of reality. This is what we mean by “inclusivity” and the expansion of the “self-sense.” See Kohlberg & Gilligan, as feminist critique (don’t read “rebuttal,” but rather modification for how women do it along the same lines… See especially: Mapping the Moral Domain: A Contribution of Women’s Thinking to Psychological Theory and Education, Harvard University Press, (1989))

But yeah, Rand is wrong. It isn’t an alternative to academic philosophy or a challenge to what we know. It is simply the rantings of someone with a markedly low level of moral development attempting to justify her self-centered wants and needs… And people eat it up, cause you know, we all want to be self-justified and vindicated, somehow.

Anyways… The News Makes Me Crazy.

Economic Arguments – Lefty & Righty Part 1/7(?)

I briefly mentioned this amazingly concise little article the other day, but I did so in passing… I think I am going to spend the next week or so carefully going through each of the positions 1 by 1. I apologize in advance if this is going to seem tedious to you, but I want to have links to each of these arguments in a coherent form. This is going to save me time and frustration when I argue with people on other blogs or in other forums. I like a good argument, but I can’t stand saying the same things over and over again and getting the same responses over and over again, especially when we seem to garble and mangle the arguments selectively (though in interesting new ways) in accordance with the tides, days of the week, or some as-yet-unknown-to-me astrological influence.

So, bear with me. I will try to get at least one current Crazy Making News Post together each day also, but I believe this will work out in the long run and save me some time – time I can use to read more news and make myself crazier. There may be a meta-flaw in my plan.

For today, I will simply post the nifty little graphics outlining the way Konczal broke down the Demand (or Lefty) arguments and the Supply (or Righty) arguments:

Demand

The first approach is to say that we have a lack of demand in the economy. Those who believe this usually have three sets of policies for dealing with the weak economy: fiscal policy, monetary policy, or (mortgage) debt policy. Here are the three circles with a policy response spectrum for each of the issues. In general, the response on the right side of the arrow is more aggressive.

Supply

Meanwhile, on the supply side, there tends to be another three sets of policy arguments. One is that government policy is the issue, another is that government budgets are the issue, and the third is that the labor force is the issue. Again, the issue on the right side of the spectrum should be considered the more aggressive approach in understanding the topic.

Class Warfare, “Growth” & Inequality

The New Yorker on Class Warfare.

Americans are famously reluctant to adopt the language of class warfare, or even to acknowledge its existence. In its place, they have embraced the argot and imagery of individualism: The hardy frontiersman loading his family and his possessions into a single wagon; the industrious immigrant tending his grocery store or gas station sixteen hours a day; the spotty post-adolescent hunched over his laptop trying to create the next Facebook.

And, of course, the Horatio Alger narrative isn’t completely without foundation. Endowed by nature with fertile land, abundant minerals, and a hospitable climate, and endowed by its founders with democratic and pragmatic approach to politics, the United States has for centuries provided a ready platform for creativity, hard work, and material advancement. From the Irish and Italians to the Vietnamese and Koreans, successive waves of immigrants have moved from the city tenement to the suburban subdivision. Even today, many working-class Mexicans, Haitians, and people of other nationalities are risking their lives to get here.

But individualism is only part of America’s story: class conflict has always played a big role, too. The antebellum plantation economy was based on slavery, a legally sanctioned form of class warfare in which the workers had no rights. In the late nineteenth century, the rise of U.S. industrial might was marked by bitter, violent labor disputes, such as the great railway strike of 1877 and the deadly Homestead Strike of 1892. During the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, organized labor made great advances, many of which it has lost during the past thirty years.

Even when the economy is growing, there are constant conflicts about who gets what. The argument of free-market economists that productivity determines wages and profits is mistaken. Productivity determines the over-all size of the pie. How it is distributed depends on a variety of factors, including relative bargaining strength, international competition, labor laws, and the results of elections. Economics and politics aren’t separate spheres. (emphasis mine) They are two sides of the same coin, something that is particularly evident in the treatment of public-sector workers. With taxpayers footing the bill, every labor contract has political connotations.

Here are some telling little charts:

Productivity has surged, but income and wages have stagnated for most Americans. If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000.

…Growth is back

…But jobs aren’t

I’m not going to parse the last two charts as there has been movement since 2010, but it is important to realize that we can have “growth” without either an increase in jobs or anything approaching an equitable distribution of the productivity gains.

This is my argument: I tend to hear people in the chattering class discuss inequality as if the big, bad socialists want to steal your hard earned money and give it to undeserving, lazy slackers. But redistribution policies are a very different issue. The core argument – that seemingly gets far less attention yet is far more important, for its effects and on the grounds of moral fairness – is the capture of productivity gains. There are a handful of arguments here, and I’d be happy to try and sort them out if anyone is interested, but they essentially come down to technology and whether or not the productivity gains were “earned” by workers or by increased capital investments?? That particular argument is a little bit of a red herring, but without it the entire edifice and pretense of “market efficiency” between labor and capital, without active work (formerly by unions) to re-balance the power distortions, crumbles into neo-liberal dust.

So, if I were to be just a little bit ruthless and go for the proverbial jugular, here is what I would say:

  • If union bargaining power declines and the “magical market & its invisible hand” allocates productivity gains in an increasingly skewed way, will we finally stop talking about “Free markets” like they exist and/or are inherently “fair?”
  • My read of both the “left” side of the economic arguments and the “right” side of the economic arguments can be simplified thus: Lefty wants to intervene in the market to make sure big distortions in efficiency don’t favor the wealthy. Lefty thinks fairer distributions lead to more stable growth. Righty says “no, no. no” inequality is a driving force of growth. These lefty distortions with policies that favor fairness actually rob us of growth. If we grew more, everyone would be better off.
  • We might be able to argue the relative evidence for the core left-right argument about which policies favor growth more (though I would argue both parties’ historical evidence is missing a key component – energy prices, but whatever) but what we can’t seem to argue is that as righty got his way, the distribution of said productivity growth has found its way – in increasing shares – into campaign donor McBillionaire’s pocket.
  • And then, of course, there is the whole absurdity of a system based on continued growth existing in the known physical universe for even 400 more years.
  • Thanks for playing. Game Over.

A Brief Insane In The Membrane Force Multiplier…

Another brief snapshot of insanity…

Another Bank Bailout – Spain Edition. It is obvious that the people with power in this world – financial power – have the full backing of government while the citizens of the world – despite pretexts of “Democracy” are shit outta luck.

…the whole story is starting to feel like a comedy routine: yet again the economy slides, unemployment soars, banks get into trouble, governments rush to the rescue — but somehow it’s only the banks that get rescued, not the unemployed.

 

Nobody is fooled. Of course, this is just a little wealth transfer, not the beginnings of a sound policy – or so says the “almighty market.”

So much has been written about the eurozone crisis, both by me and by others much smarter than me, that it feels pointless to write about it again. The eurozone needs more fiscal consolidation, it needs more transfers from rich to poor countries, it needs to stop running persistent internal trade deficits, and it needs to abandon austerity in the short term. All of these things are politically nearly impossible, and yet, they’re the only solution aside from a crackup. The financial markets are now making it clear that they’ve figured this out and won’t be bought off with anything less.

Inequality redux, volume 1? My perspective here, and I too will wait for some more evidence (cause, like nobody is making any moves anyway, so what harm is there in waiting?), but my take is that increasing inequality reduces aggregate demand, increases rent seeking and shifts the balance of power away from anything approaching a “representative democracy.” Ho hum. Freedom fries.

Bring on the deflation?! Here is an ugly little snapshot of how most people’s wealth and income has fallen. Under our current system, this kind of reduction in incomes and wealth often leads to self-reinforcing “death spirals.” Ho hum.

Who drives Climate Change? Interesting report. I have a sneaking suspicion that with the end of cheap energy and the strains on our natural resources, we are fast approaching the limits of our very own “Malthusian cycle.”
And, just for good measure – 46% of Americans believe God created humans in their present form. You have got to be kidding me? This number is differentiated from the number of people who believe evolution happened, but was “guided by God.” Kevin Drum argues that evolution doesn’t impact the political debate, but I would argue differently… It is a question of worldviews that do not seem very interested in evidence based thinking. What, exactly, has more of an impact on political conversations than that? Ho hum. The News Makes Me Crazy.

O Canada…

Naked Capitalism put together an awesome set of links (yet again) for the Canada protests:

Montreal. Heavy manners in Montreal on Grand Prix weekend: “Le Devoir tested the rumour that wearing the red square gets you stopped and searched in the metro this weekend. It does.” “It’s an undeclared state of emergency – normal rights have been suspended but without announcement. We’re supposed to just understand it.” “I was then told it was ‘better to shut your mouth when you’re wearing a red square.’ The cop TRUDEAU … then arrested—violently—one passer-by who asked what was going on and refused to identify himself (it’s his right if he’s not suspect of an infraction) and they left with the guy after giving me my ticket.” “Since when is it is considered acceptable for cops to put tape over their badge numbers?” “Always be careful at ‪#manifencours‬ more & more undercover cops. My friend was followed for a good hour yesterday.”

Friday. CEGEP student: “We’re not going to put the movement on hold to appease big business, we’re going to be out in the streets every night until we win. This isn’t just about tuition hikes anymore, it’s about civil rights and social inequality. I could care less about the F1 weekend.” Tourist: “I saw a girl in high heels just get clobbered by police. I mean you’re not gonna tell me she was protesting in high heels.” “In front of a line of police a block away, dozens of the protesters – many of them dressed entirely in black – put on masks and ski goggles as they prepared for a fight.” “When the cops walked too far ahead of the group, a large contingency of marchers noticed and sprinted across the park towards Ste-Catherine. A first attempt had failed: this one didn’t. Metcalfe Street [F1 party and tourist scene] was, as a result, a chaotic scene: police forces just barely managed to contain the crowd and prevent them from reaching their goal, and then pushed them back by flooding the street with pepper spray.” “[T]here’s also nothing like walking for those many hours and kilometers, for the first time during my maple spring-summer stay, with hundreds of “veteran” anarchists–from CLAC [see here], a relatively longtime anarchist organization, and people who’ve been to many a mass mobilization and other mayhem, such as Quebec City during the alter-globalization days–along with lots of new anarchists–many clean-cut students, such as the ones pictured below, walking from the Metro to the 5 p.m. planned disruption of a fancy Grand Prix dinner by anticapitalists/anarchists.”

Saturday. Tourist: “‘It’s like a movie,’ one man said Saturday, as he watched a line of riot police block off a street in Old Montreal.” “28 people were arrested as protesters tried to push into the Crescent Street bar strip, where several Grand Prix parties were being held. … At least four police vehicles were vandalized — including one that was completely flipped over — and at least one business had its windows broken.”

Sunday. “FECQ [not CLASSE, not CLAC] leader Éliane Laberge has announced plans for further demonstrations throughout the summer, not just to protest tuition hikes but also to focus on popular dissatisfaction.” Protester: “I just find it to be a really disgusting display of wealth and excess, which is really insulting in the context of what’s happening right now.” “Hundreds of police officers and sniffer dogs swarmed the underground train line that services the track site on Ste-Hélène Island… after an anti-capitalist group [no doubt CLAC] called for disruptions.” “36 people were arrested at a metro stations across the island, a move that a police spokesperson called a preventative measure. ”

Quebec Liberal Minister of Culture Christine St-Pierre offers storyteller, poet and songwriter Fred Pellerin the Order of Quebec. “Here’s the sting that Christine St-Pierre served up for the poet: “He has the right to wear the red square, everyone has the right to free expression, but we know what the red square means: it means intimidation, violence, and people blocking others from going to school. For us, that’s what it means and for the big, big, big majority of Quebecers, that’s what it means.” Pellerin refuses the award. Ethan Cox: “We are at a moment of great possibility, of great promise. But it is also a moment of great danger. This is our chance to clean up the mess we have made, but if we fail, yet again, we risk the spiral of violence Hedges describes.” “Once the panda released me from his embrace on rue Sainte-Catherine on a recent Saturday night, men at the leather bar across the way waved him over for their chance at a law-breaking hug. (CL)

I honestly can’t quite process how we are not much more interested in this?? All that is on my “idiot box” is Obama-Romney, horse race stuff. Some GOP operative just said “You have a lot of money, we have a lot of money. We can both say our facts a lot. If the economy is still bad, we win.” That is some cynical shit. But hey, by the way, Canada is rejecting neo-liberal police state tactics. Maybe we should check in and see what is happening? Is this like when you see the same cat twice in the Matrix and the entire illusion is threatened as the agents close in? There is a glitch in the Matrix, and it isn’t in some faraway land like Egypt or Greece…