Friday Reads

Glass of wine and book by fireplaceGood Morning!!!

It’s Friday and there’s lots of end-of-year things on my mind.  I have a to do list and the will but this aging body just wants to curl up, read and stay snug someplace warm.    I’m lucky that I have a home and I’m working to refi it down about $250 a month which will really help my budget.  You have to find every little thing you can these days because nearly every one in government is telling us that since they spent so much money or war and bailing out Wall Street, the poor are going to be the first to be shoved off the Fiscal Cliff.  These days, the ranks of the poor includes me because I really don’t want to risk everything to move some place for a job that may or may not be there given the way most state governments are headed these days so I’m living on an adjunct’s salary.

As the deadline for reaching a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff creeps closer, the pressure could build for the White House to eye programs for potential cuts that it has firmly and repeatedly taken off the table.

The two proposals put forth by both sides outline deficit reduction efforts in broad budget categories and are not entirely clear about whether cuts will hurt poor people or not. A small army of the nation’s leading business leaders have screamed loudly that a plunge over the fiscal cliff would be a disaster for business, wreck the nation’s credit rating and shove the United States back into deep recession. That must be avoided at all cost, they warn.

Obama’s consistent answer is that a deal can be cut by approving the tax hikes and revenue raising measures he’s proposed, as well as the major check that he wants to put on endless runaway military spending. This would bring the deficit under $1 trillion and would spare cutting programs that would devastate the poor and working class.

The political and social and economic consequences of the fiscal cliff debate on the poor are enormous. Surveys show that the ranks of the poor are still huge and that the wealth and income gap between the rich and poor is wider than in recent years.

Here’s a sincere New Year’s wish that Obama and the Democrats realize they have no reason to cave.  My hope is history does not repeat itself.

I wanted to share this youtube with you of Vanis Varoufakis who is an economist from Greece teaching  at the University of Athens.  He’s my new hero.  He argues very succinctly that there is not a debt crisis in the world today and he tells us why with some great metaphors including the name of his book “The Global Minotaur”.  This is a version that you may listen to but CSPAN has the video of the speech itself on its website here.

Dr.Varoufakis has a wordpress blog.   He has reprinted an interview with Spanish media about his theory here.  He argues that capitalism died in 2008 and that the bail out of Wall Street was the pivotal event.  The Global Minotaur is Wall Street.  He also believes that this age of bailing out banks and forcing austerity on people ushers in the death of social democracy in Europe.  He makes some very compelling arguments.

The Global Minotaur thought that the market can survive alone, without rules. Now we realise that isn’t so. But, is it necessary to begin with a planned economy? Is it the ‘planned economy’ the solution?

One of the great fallacies of our era is that an economy can exist without a state; without a degree of planning. Take the US. It is, supposedly, the least statist, the free-est market economy on the planet. And yet it is very much a planned economy. Without the military-industrial complex on the one hand and the whole gamut of federal planning authorities and institutions on the other hand, America’s economy would collapse tomorrow. More broadly, capitalism had its golden age after the war because Washington planned meticulously the world capitalist economy. So, the question is not whether there should be planning. The question is what kind of plan is implemented, who by, for whose benefit and with what effect. Currently, the banking sector is fully planned and relies entirely on social transfers and central bank operations. Planning is, therefore, used to prop up banks and to keep bankers in profit. What we need is some proper planning of labour markets so that workers’ labour is re-valued and power shifts from what I call today’s Bankruptocracy to society at large.

You worked with the president Papandreou before the ‘crash’. Did nobody see that the crisis coming? Did nobody make a comment about it?

No, they did not see and, moreover, they did not want to hear of it. Social democrats all over Europe, indeed the world, had come to the catastrophic conclusion that capitalism had been tamed, that crises were a thing of the past, and that society’s interests were best served if the financial sector’s wizardry was never questioned. This is, if you want, the main reason why this Crisis has killed of European social democracy.

Like many economists–including me Krugman, Stiglitz, etc.–he believes that today’s government’s failed to learn the lessons of the 20s and 30s and we are now living in a period of Herbert Hoover’s revenge.  Take the time to listen or watch his speech.  It’s not very wonky because he uses many metaphors and stories to make his point but make his point he does.

Ezra Klein uses his space at WonkBlog to examine gun deaths in the US.  He has gleaned 12 facts about guns and mass shootings that will curl your teeth.  They are all backed by actual, peer-reviewed studies and not myth.  Some of them will not surprise you.  Others will.  This was one of the more surprising points for me.

Gun ownership in the United States is declining overall.

“For all the attention given to America’s culture of guns, ownership of firearms is at or near all-time lows,” writes political scientist Patrick Egan. The decline is most evident on the General Social Survey, though it also shows up on polling from Gallup, as you can see on this graph:

The bottom line, Egan writes, is that “long-term trends suggest that we are in fact currently experiencing a waning culture of guns and violence in the United States. “

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be returning to work next week.

Clinton’s ongoing recovery will still prevent her from flying abroad, but will allow plans to move forward for her to testify in open hearing on the Sept. 11 attack on Benghazi, testimony that she was unable to give — as per her doctor’s orders — on Dec. 20. Her return to a public schedule could also end the weeks of conspiracy theorizing and wild speculation about whether or not she was faking or misrepresenting her illness to avoid testifying.

“The secretary continues to recuperate at home. She had long planned to take this holiday week off, so she had no work schedule. She looks forward to getting back to the office next week and resuming her schedule,” Clinton aide Philippe Reines told The Cable.

Reines declined to say whether Clinton was at her Washington home or her house in Chappaqua, New York, but he said she did spend the holidays with her family. There’s no definite schedule for her Benghazi testimony, but she has pledged to appear before both House and Senate foreign relations committees in January.

Retired Gen. “Stormin’” Norman Schwarzkopf has died.

Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who topped an illustrious military career by commanding the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991 but kept a low public profile in controversies over the second Gulf War against Iraq, died Thursday. He was 78.

Schwarzkopf died in Tampa, Fla., where he had lived in retirement, according to a U.S. official, who was not authorized to release the information publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A much-decorated combat soldier in Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was known popularly as “Stormin’ Norman” for a notoriously explosive temper.

He served in his last military assignment in Tampa as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command, the headquarters responsible for U.S. military and security concerns in nearly 20 countries from the eastern Mediterranean and Africa to Pakistan.

BB’s congressmen–Rep. Edward Markey–will run for Kerry’s Senate Seat in Massachusetts.  Look out sexist and racist jerk of the decade: has been Republican Senator Scott Brown.

“The events of the last several weeks — from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary to the fiscal cliff debate over tax giveaways to the rich, have all made clear that Massachusetts needs a Senator with the right priorities and values,” Markey said in a statement. “I have decided to run for the U.S. Senate because this fight is too important. There is so much at stake.”

A “Markey for Senate” website was already up and running on Thursday and soliciting donations. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Markey will begin his campaign with $3.1 million on hand.

President Obama’s nomination of Kerry for secretary of State has set off a scramble — particularly among Democrats — to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat in the special election next year. Markey is the first candidate from either party to formally declare his candidacy.

So, that’s my offerings today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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32 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. ecocatwoman says:

    Thanks for the links, dak. Finally I have a 2 day weekend, so I’ll watch the CSPAN video. Sounds really interesting – another voice that, apparently, the PTB aren’t listening to.

    Last night O’Donnell predicted that Markey will win, even though most of MA voters don’t know who he is. I heard about him on Facebook & he’s great. Fingers crossed that the birthplace of our country & last state that’s truly liberal will vote him into the Senate.

    Happy Friday all skydancers. Off to get ready for the rat race for one more day. My favortie benefit of this holiday week? Negligible traffic to & from work – WHOO HOO! No doubt we’ll be back to bumper to bumper backups next week.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    Well it is back to “the bargaining table” on Sunday with Obama more than likely willing to throw in even more cuts in order to “get a deal” with the “pirates” of the GOP so I am not expecting much good to come out of this gathering. Past experience has shown that “compromise” can only be reached if the poor carry more than their share for the rich to be “spared”.

    Scott Brown will more than likely throw his hat back into the ring and will receive even more financial support from the likes of the Koch Bros. still in the business of “buying” another seat in the Senate. And chances are he may very welll win due to nothing more than name recognition. Markey was correct in announcing early as his name is not as well known in the western part of the state where I reside.

    Sad to say I see nothing “new” happening on the horizon for the nation other than more obstruction as both sides play “power games” at the expense of the rest of us.

    Boehner is fighting for his vaunted role in congress and McConnell is “itching” to keep from being primaried back home in two years while Obama will not face another election so all bets are off that the public at large will be served.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Markey already has about $3 million in his coffers. I think he will win, and he’ll be a fantastic Senator while making the Senate more liberal. He and Elizabeth Warren will be a terrific team! Markey is going to make Scott Brown look pathetic. Markey is the real thing and he really knows his stuff.

  3. ANonOMouse says:

    It’s all such a big UGH!!!! It’s is so frustrating to know that the decisions impacting our collective future will end up being made by an out-of touch Congress and that they will those decisions not because of us, but in spite of us.

    The saying “Those who ignore history are bound (or doomed) to repeat it” has been a warning screaming at us from past events for thousands of years. Philosophers throughout the ages wrote some variation of that warning to the people of their time, so obviously the blinders have been firmly in place for eons. We’re like small shells in a tide, barely seen, but just relevant enough to irritate a bit if stepped on.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      What we fail to understand is that once they secure one of those prized congressional seats they begin to believe they “own” them. That once they have seated their fat ass into one in either the House or the Senate it becomes theirs for as long as they wish to be there so the rest of us can “pound sand” when it comes to serving our needs.

      The House is on a schedule that fits into 126 days of service throughout the year. Meanwhile a useless war has raged on, homes were lost to foreclosure or struggling to stay above water, women’s rights were being attacked, climate change was showing its colors, gun control was largely ignored, healthcare costs keep soaring, the infrastructure is in tatters, jobs are still being outsourced, and these elected officials are working off a calendar that brings to mind the Texas Legislature.

      The issues facing this nation are immense but most of the issues are solvable. UHC would be a huge benefit to the country but we are up against strong lobbies who “pay” for their access at the table. Most are invited to “write the laws” which serve their interests, not ours.

      We are falling behind globally in education but some states are pushing “Creationism” as part of the curriculum which makes about as much sense as the “study” of Harry Potter as an alternative.

      Essentially about the only prize we hold these days as “Number One” is our culture of violence. In this area we lead the world.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “We are falling behind globally in education but some states are pushing “Creationism” as part of the curriculum”

        My state of residence is on that list. ugh!!!!

  4. ANonOMouse says:

    I can feel my Italian catholic roots screaming in agony after reading this article

    Italian priest’s Christmas flyer: Women incite domestic violence with cold dinners

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/12/27/italian-priests-christmas-flyer-women-incite-violence-with-cold-dinners/

    What a fucker!!!!

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Father Corsi is taking a bit of time off.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        I left the church ages ago when some idiot priest stood up there an denounced homosexuality by desrcribing a biological event as an “abnormality”. My child was no such thing and I walked away!

        I never once regretted it since it was gradually becoming evident over the years that perhaps there was plenty of doubt raised over a “virgin birth, a resurrection, and hell”. Made no sense to me.

        Reading some of this junk described as “theology” ensures I did the right thing. The indoctrination into this way of thinking is what has led to so much chaos in this world since its inception.

        This is exactly where “the war on women” has it foundation.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Father Alfalfa Corsi obviously hasn’t figured out that women are people, the dumb clucker!!

        The He-man-woman-haters Club

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “I left the church ages ago when some idiot priest stood up there an denounced homosexuality by desrcribing a biological event as an “abnormality”. My child was no such thing and I walked away!”

        Oh yeah, I left the church in the 70′s. I got up and walked out right in the middle of one of those gay-hate homilies. It was easy because I didn’t believe much of what the church taught anyway. My attendance at mass was more from habit and a family thing than anything else.

      • bostonboomer says:

        What a moronic jerk. I stopped going to church in the ’60s, as soon as I got my driver’s license. When I was 13, I told my parents I couldn’t be a Catholic anymore. They forced me to go to church. Once I could drive, I went somewhere else while supposedly going to Mass. In the end my parents got disgusted with the church too and left on their own.

      • Delphyne says:

        BB – you set a good example for your parents!

        I left the church after I made my confirmation at age 11 – outright refused to go back. It made it easier that my father didn’t go to church except on Christmas and Easter. But it did affect my mother, who called me a heathen.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “I stopped going to church in the ’60s, as soon as I got my driver’s license.”

        You were way ahead of the curve on that, especially if you were as indoctrinated by the nuns as I was. Growing up in a Sicilian family that was, in retrospect, a bit wild and free spirited, I was bombarded with a lot of mxed messages regarding adherence to religious law. Old Sicilian women gathering in the evening to say the rosary and recite the stations and finishing the night off with poker, wine and a generous dose of profanity, was all perfectly normal to me. :-)

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “I left the church after I made my confirmation at age 11 – outright refused to go back”

        Delphyne….You and BB are making me feel like a late bloomer. Or maybe y’all were just a hell of lot smarter than me? :-) That’s probably it!!!

      • HT says:

        Wow, I’m not the only one. I left the church in 1961 aged 12 because of the way they treated women and gays. Mind you, it was high anglican, which is almost as bad as the vatigan bunch.

      • Delphyne says:

        You’re not a late bloomer, Mouse – I think it’s because both BB and I are Sagittarius sun signs, who generally do not do well when corralled into small spaces where we have no room to breathe, think or be free. Free being the operative word.

        I also went to public school, which I think helped the matter of not being completely church brainwashed. Plus masses were said in Latin way back then and since I didn’t understand a word of what was being said, I’d make up my own stories. Imagine my shock when I learned what they were saying when translated into English!

        Also, Mouse – when I was very young, I told my mother I was in the wrong house, that I should be Italian and my name should be Angela. It must be because of that wild and free spirit you mentioned in your family! Personally, I think the old Catholic women addressed their prayers to Mary or, if going back even further in Sicily, the Black Madonna of Tindari. I blogged about the Black Madonna for an interesting meme during the first 12 days of December. You can see the Black Madonna of Tindari here, you’re interested.

        http://apairofrubyreds.blogspot.com/2012/12/virgin-day-9_9.html

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Thanks for that link Delphyne. I missed your previous link to it, but as I read the story I remember hearing about the Black Madonna, probably from my grandmother or one of her sisters. That city is beautiful and reminds me of the city that my grandparents were from, Termini Imerese. Out of curiosity I googled it and found that Tindari and Termini are only about 90 miles from each other.

        And I have to say that growing up in a Sicilian family was a wonderful experience so I can completely understand why you wanted to be Italian. We were poor, poor, but every occasion, no matter how small, was made into a celebration (even funerals). Apparently poverty didn’t matter because I didn’t know we were poor until I was grown. :-)

      • Mouse, Pat, BB and Delphyne, y’all make me laugh like hell. We all are little heathens! Same here, all around bout the Catholic Church. Only I was in first grade when my mom and I ran away…great comments on this post.

        And HT too!

      • Mouse, I’m from a Sicilian family as well, with a dash of Spanish and Cuban blood…hot heads, all of us. LOL

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “Mouse, I’m from a Sicilian family as well. with a dash of Spanish and Cuban blood…hot heads, all of us”

        All that Latin blood makes for an interesting life. I bet you can go from zero to 60 in the snap of a finger.

    • roofingbird says:

      I doubt that this is the first time Corsi has made such comments. Whether or not the holiday was recently prescribed by the Church doesn’t really matter. As long as this kind of free speech is supported by us, just like with our elected idiot Representatives, it will continue. It must be rooted out earlier.

  5. janey says:

    I am so big financial brain but it seems to me that the fiscal cliff we jumped off years ago was when we shipped jobs overseas and decided to pay our workers so little that they cannot afford to buy the goods we/they produce. It does not matter how efficient a business is if they don’t have a pool of customers to sell to. It also lowers considerably the amount of taxes you can collect. You cannot get blood from a stone. Add to that a few wars that aren’t even considered in the budget, wild unbridled speculation in the housing market, and you have a recipe for disaster and we are living through that disaster now.

  6. Dak, thanks for the Varoufakis links, off to read them now.

    I have one thing to be thankful for this morning, I don’t live in Arizona:

    PHOENIX: Arizona sheriff aims to put armed posse at schools – Nation Wires – MiamiHerald.com

    Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio tells KTVK-TV (http://bit.ly/WMVRwn) he has the authority to mobilize private citizens to fight crime but hasn’t talked to specific districts.

    He says he doesn’t plan to put posse members inside schools but will have them posted around the perimeters.

    • Which makes me think of this south park, It’s Coming Right For Us – Video Clips – South Park Studios

      Jimbo: Boys, looky there. That there’s a Rocky Moutain black bear …one of the few remaining of its kind. Isn’t it beautiful… By God, it’s coming right for us! [Shoots it. It is hit and flips off the mound it was on.]

      Stan: Hey, it wasn’t coming right for us. It was just sitting there.

      Jimbo: Shhh, not so loud. Now that there’s just a technicality.

      Kyle: What do yo mean?

      Jimbo: You see boys, the Democrats have passed a lot of laws trying to stop us from hunting.

      Cartman: Democrats piss me off!

      Jimbo: They say we can’t shoot certain animals anymore, unless they’re posing an immediate threat. Therefore, before we shoot somethin’, we have to say ‘It’s coming right for us.’

      Stan: Wow, you’re smart Uncle Jimbo.
      Ned: Mmm, Jimbo look, mm.

      Jimbo: Ohho, it’s a deer. Looks like about a .46 gauge, Ned. It’s coming right for us! [pulls out a bazooka, mounts it on his shoulder, and fires a rocket. All that's left of the deer is a hind leg, which falls over]

      Cartman: Kickass!! [everyone is in creep position now, except Jimbo]

      Jimbo: Did you see that?! I was imperiled by that ferocious, charging buck.

      I can see it now, these gun freaks will start yelling, its coming right for us and then squeeze a few rounds into the brown skinned “illegal immigrants” bringing kids to school.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Instead of using the lessons of Newtown to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, to close or at the very least slow down the sell of guns at gun shows and through pawn shops, they’ll use Newtown to turn our society into a place where no one has any expectation of safety anywhere and everyone is armed. These freaks are determined to take us back to the wild west days because that’s their idea of freedom.

  7. dakinikat says:

    Speaking of “good” pro-life Catholics, my governor continues to kill people in Louisiana.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/28/gop-obamacare-medicaid_n_2347933.html

  8. dakinikat says:

    Krugman tackles all the crap going on in the media, etc. about the fiscal bunny slope and what the problems really are … it’s amazing to me that NO one listens to economists on this but every one listens to crap political pundits.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/28/a-double-shot-of-misunderstanding/

    • NW Luna says:

      It is amazing — in a very bad way. Why, why are such a large percentage of humans so irrational. Or cowed.

  9. NW Luna says:

    Yeah, armed officers stop gun violence, sure. This happened in a police station. 3 officers were seriously wounded — just lucky (plus bulletproof vest) they weren’t killed.

    Jones, a civilian employee of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, had been arrested for stalking the home of a former girlfriend after a caller told police they saw a suspicious man lurking at about 1 a.m.

    He was brought back to police headquarters and when his handcuffs were removed for a brief period during processing, he lunged at Burns, knocking her down and taking her weapon, police Chief Harry Earle said.

    The suspect “unleashed a barrage of gunfire” at the officers, Earle said. Jones was struck multiple times by return fire and was pronounced dead at the scene, the chief said.

    http://seattletimes.com/text/2020004410.html

  10. ecocatwoman says:

    Heard this story tonight on the way home from work: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/12/28/168204661/tracking-gun-related-deaths-one-tweet-at-a-time

    Slate and a citizen journalist who tweets as @GunDeaths are trying to fill at least some of that information void. Their admittedly incomplete data suggest that on average, at least 17 Americans a day have died from gunshots since the Newtown shootings that claimed the lives of 20 children, seven adults and the gunman.