Taking a break from the story in Egypt

We still have some issues to resolve here in the domestic empire.  

Joseph Stiglitz spoke in South Africa recently about the economy and climate change and Jon Rynn has good coverage of the story over at new deal 2.0

Here’s a little bit of the story:

Recently Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-prize-winning economist and Senior Fellow and Chief Economist at the Roosevelt Institute, gave a very interesting speech in South Africa concerning climate change and the global economy. He argued that by implementing policies that help to reverse global warming, we can also reverse the global economic downturn. Although he also pointed out many barriers to doing so, he outlined some interesting policy proposals.

For me, the most interesting part of his speech concerned the use of a Keynesian approach, not just for a single country, as is usually done, but for the entire world economy. Keynes pointed out that when the private sector is unable to generate enough demand in the economy, that is, it is unable generate enough spending from consumption and investment, then the government must step in to kickstart spending. Thus in recessions and depressions many now acknowledge that at some point it may be necessary for the government to spend more than it takes in to get the economy moving again. (See numerous articles from Marshall Auerback on this basic idea.)

There are a couple of fine points to what Keynes was saying, however, that are either often glossed over or challenged. First, he asserted that when demand is low, saving can get in the way of recovery. So — and this is the part that is ignored — since the rich save more than the poor, their excess income gets in the way of recovery. The horrendous implication, from the rich person’s point of view, is that they should be taxed more. The less direct way to put this, which is the way it is discussed even in much of the progressive media, is that an “unequal distribution of wealth” leads to negative economic outcomes. The important statistic for the US is that while in 1970 the top 1% of households pulled in about 10% of total income, now they receive close to 25%. Not good, from a purely Keynesian perspective.

So what does this have to do with climate change? Since he was speaking in South Africa, it was easy for him to point out that the world distribution of wealth is very unequal. Because of this inequality, it will be much harder for developing countries to create less carbon-intensive economies through large-scale investment than for developed countries. In addition, the poorer countries consume more and the richer countries save more. So an obvious policy approach is to tax financial transactions, which moves money from something that (to be charitable) involves savings into consumption and investment by developing countries. The richer countries could also simply give grants to the poorer countries. Stiglitz claimed that about $200 billion per year would be required to help developing countries make the transition to a less carbon-intensive future, which could be financed from a financial tax.

I say read the whole thing if you have the time.

Egypt Military is Fraternizing with the Protestors

The NYT has a good article by David Kirkpatrick and photos of the “chaos” in Egypt.

Strike chaos, make that an uprising.

CAIRO — President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt struggled to maintain a tenuous hold on power on Saturday as the police withdrew from the major cities and the military did nothing to hold back tens of thousands of demonstrators defying a curfew to call for an end to his nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule.

Wow.  When the military was streaming toward Tiannanmen Square in China, the protesters pleaded with the military to join instead of squashing the uprising.  The Chinese troops followed their orders.

Speaking of uprisings.  Some folks out there are asking the media to refer to the events in Egypt as an uprising, not chaos.

Al Jazeera is reported to have been told to leave Egypt.  Will they leave?

The most important political events on this small blue planet are happening in Egypt right now.  Hope this will continue to develop toward the military joining the protests and leading to a political change instead of a military crackdown.

Mr. Mubarak – Resign now.  President Obama, call on Mubarak to step down.

The most important political events on this small blue planet are happening in Egypt right now.

David Neiwert Looks at Home Grown Terrorism

Thought I got this posted yesterday, but I saved and didn’t publish.  Still worth a look I think.

David Neiwert has a powerful graphic showing the cloud of violence that exists here in the US.  A map of violence and terrorism from the political right wing fringe against citizens, liberals, and the government.

It’s strange how the conflict here in the US is right-wingers instigating and inciting violence against “liberals and big government” while in Egypt it is the people in the streets demonstrating to take down a very right-wing, militarist administration led by a guy who will do the bidding of the US in the Middle East as long as we will keep the money flowing. It’s not like the US government is a utopian, socialist endeavor.

Probably the right-wingers with paranoia are right about their fear of the government, but wrong about details and solutions.  It’s not the currency that is the problem so much as the influence of money in the political realm.  It’s not the imaginary death panels in a corporatist health care makeover, it’s the way-too-real suspension of habeas corpus and the pervasive violation of 4th amendment search and seizure that occurs in a surveillance society.

GWOT Expeditionary Ribbon

But maybe I am wrong about all that.  I am told the economic recession is over, the economy is bouncing back, Iraqis love the democracy we have gifted to them paid for by money borrowed from China, there is a light at the end of the tunnel in Afghanistan, we are about to enter a new era of enlightened innovation that will put a chicken dinner in every microwave.

And I guess that’s working for me.  I am heading in to the office shortly to put in a day drafting bankruptcy documents on Sunday.  I will see a little extra prosperity that I don’t really need in the next check.

It’s Sunday, how about a little Gospel Wisdom, a challenge to understand from the parables, Matthew 13:12 “For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

May you live in abundance.  Jump in and chat if you have a take on all this.  I will check in from time to time to day to join the discussion, if one arises.   I have my own take on Matthew 13:12.  I don’t think Jesus was thinking about the flat tax.

Egypt Update, is it Bye, Bye Mubarak?

News this morning said that the internet and almost ISPs in Egypt were down.  There is a lot of speculation that this may just backfire.  Maybe these days if you shut down the internet in a country in turmoil more people take to the street instead of fewer people.

News this afternoon is that President Mubarak has asked his cabinet to resign.

It would be nice to think that authoritarian regimes are no longer able to crack down as the Chinese did at Tiananman Square a few decades ago.

The unrest in the Middle East is spreading.  Tunisia is attempting to sort out the future without a Pro-Western military strong man.  People are in the streets in Yemen.

This is amazing stuff.  It’s not easy for citizens to challenge their own police and military forces.  Do you think the Saudi princes are watching this story?

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

WTF – Winning the Future

Lots of analysis of the SOTU speech out there.   But it seems like so much fluff to me.  The speech was full of platitudes, light on challenge or details.  I have read that the word unemployment did not show up in the speech.  This in a year in which so many folks are still looking for a job.

Click to jump to the NPR piece

I think there was no mention of gun control.  This in the wake of the Loughner-Giffords incident that cries out for legislation to limit access to the large clips and weapons that can fire so many bullets per minute that they might as well be machine guns.

On the lighter side, lots of folks remember salmon as the focus of the speech. Yep, asked to capture the message,  salmon was number one according to an NPR survey.   Click on the graphic above to jump to the NPR article.  Lots of fun stuff there with their word cloud generator analysis of the speech.

Pick your favorites, courtesy NY Mag.

My favorites:

Michael Moore:  Soon a fresh water salmon will sit next to a salt water salmon in the spirit of civility.


Matt Iglesias:  Gay soldiers will win the future by riding high speed trains to salmon farms.

forget about gun control, unemployment, stepping down from our imperial war stance, let’s smoke some salmon, baby!

Anybody have salmon on their buzzword bingo card? I didn’t think so, but we are all chanting salmon now.

On a serious note, a thing of moment, the Egyptians are in the streets for the third day.  If this democracy thing catches on, we might even see Americans in the street asking for some of that stuff.  The Egypt story should be the headline, but it got smoked by salmon.

Ich bin ein Egyptian as JFK might say if he were with us today.

Happy SOTU Tuesday

Courtesy Wikimedia CommonsBoy, there is a lot going on around the small blue planet.

Egyptians are in the street in apparent excitement about freedom in Tunisia.  Will we see the movement spread?  I sure hope so.  Maybe Hosni Mubarak will announce the end of his presidency of Egypt with this term and allow more freedom for dissent in the country?  Wouldn’t that be great?  The LA Times has pretty good coverage in the link above and is reporting that Twitter is blocked in Egypt.


Obama’s White House has decided they no longer need Carol Browner’s services as climate advisor.  Moving to the center?  Is the climate crisis over?  Politico has coverage.

Who else, wikimedia commons, thanks

And of course, there is talk that Pres Obama is going to speak to the huddled masses later today.  Trying to decide if I will try to listen and blog that event.  It’s bound to piss me off, but I have some alcohol on hand that might help me get through it.

I will pass if anyone else jumps in to cover that event.   Or if turns out to be beyond my technical skills to stream and blog at the same time.

My interest is really not in the USA today, I am doing the Egyptian, baby!

A Nation in Lockdown

Pres Obama renewed the national state of emergency this past year.  That is the national state of emergency that was declared after Sep 11, 2001.  This is one long emergency.

Courtesy Wikimedia CommonsA reasonable person has to assume that the State has an excuse to exercise certain powers during a state of emergency that might not otherwise be conducive to a free and open democracy.

One of the things that has happened during this state of emergency is the rendition of individuals to countries where they are tortured.  The torture creates problems for prosecution because the evidence is both tainted and unreliable.  Boy, did the anti-terrorist warriors paint themselves into a difficult corner, but they are in luck, not many people appear to be noticing the problems.

One big problem for this system resolves if you can hold folks indefinitely without ever bring them to trial.  It’s true that we commoners forced a King to recognize the right of habeas corpus many centuries ago and that habeas corpus has been a bulwark against executive abuse ever since, but it has clearly become inconvenient and so “old Europe” that it just had to go.  Have a display at the Smithsonion about habeas corpus, but forget about trying to exercise in US courts.

Another problem that arises with the long term imprisonment of many, many people (some of whom have never and may never see the inside of a courthouse to challenge their detention) is that prisoners are a chatty bunch.  If you let them talk with each other, with their families, with reporters, who knows what they will say.  No problem, we have a solution for that.  Solitary confinement.  It’s torture and it’s effective in a police state.

Read about a nation in lockdown at Solitary Watch.

Happy Monday, all.   Chat it up if you can.

Clarence Thomas, time to remove him from the Bench?

Before we consider the possibility and probability of the democrats or any regulatory agency (Dept of Justice?) actually moving to address the problem, let’s just focus on what the guy has done: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Common Cause says that a review of tax records of the Heritage Foundation show that Virginia Thomas, wife of Clarence, was paid $686,579 between 2003 and 2007.  During those same years, Judge Thomas was required to report spousal income and he checked the box indicating his spouse had no income.

The LA Times has pretty good article and review in the link above, and I think the bottom line is that there will be no consequences, but that doesn’t mean that the way this should turn out.  This guy should be off the bench for his loyalty to conservative politics above any connection to ethics and or the law.   Replace him with Anita Hill as the final chapter in their unfortunate nexus.

How about a Quick Look at Income Inequality?

We are about to enter a new era of cutbacks on services that help the middle class, the working poor and the unemployed.  Just to recall where we are starting from in this new era, let’s take a quick look at how it’s been going since Mr. Reagan declared a new morning for America:

 The Economic Policy Institute has good analysis on the economics of right wing domination of public policy.  This is what trickle down produces.

Tip of the hat to Crooks and Liars for the link contained in a Rachel Maddow v. Steven Moore piece that was cross-linked from the C&L Video Cafe

What’s Up? It’s Saturday! Open Thread

A couple of things jumped out of the news and email box this morning:

  • Olbermann quits.  Mediaite has good coverage, Slatest is rebroadcasting the M coverage. Let’s face it, corporate and progressive media don’t really mix. I actually haven’t heard Olbermann much.  I don’t watch or listen to much of the corporate media unless it gets filtered.  I scan WAPO, NYT and a few others just to see what stories can’t be ignored and how they are being spun, but I don’t read or listen much to the media megaphone.
  •  The WAPO has a story that corporate cash to GE Building, courtesy Wikimedia Commonsrepublicans has really turned up now that the new Congress is in session.  Is this a news story?  Unless you pose it as the best government that money can buy, it seems pretty tame to me.  Meanwhile Obama grabs a guy from GE to help him rake in some corporate cash.  Jack Donaghy and Don Geiss were not available, so Obama went with Jeffrey Immelt.  NYT has coverage.  I like the photo they ran with Immelt at the POTUS podium and Obama applauding.  I think the photographer caught something there.
  • In Seattle, the inquest into the shooting of Native American wood carver John T. Williams has come back with some findings that suggest that there was insufficient threat to justify the police killing of Williams.  The Williams shooting is a story that has lots of us in Puget Sound pretty riled up.  We are tired of police violence in Puget Sound.  Will the prosecutor bring charges against the shooter?  Time will tell.

Lakewood WA police shooting photo