Friday Reads

Good Morning!

Well the week certainly crept by me!   I spent yesterday with the cable guy and the day before with the electric guy and both had to change the wires from the pole to my house.  Most neighborhoods have been fighting to get the utility wires buried for years but the only place they will do that is in the Quarter.  High winds and hurricanes always manage to mess things up and the electric company butchers the live oaks on avenues like mine every spring to protect the wires. Still, they’ll do anything to avoid spending the money. Dividends and bonuses must be paid, you know!!  Both companies seem to just let the infrastructure rot until the very last wire has gone.  It was exhausting and way too reminiscent of post Katrina life.  I hope it lasts for awhile.  It was a cold day for me to be without the furnace. I’m still a bit cranky.

Evidently Former President George W Bush is going to venture outside the country and head off to visit Africa for charity.  Amnesty International is calling for his arrest as a war criminal.

Amnesty International is calling for the arrest of former President George W. Bush while he is traveling overseas in Africa.

The human rights group issued a statement Thursday calling for the governments of Ethiopia, Tanzania or Zambia to take the former president into custody. According to Amnesty, the 43rd president is complicit in torture conducted by the United States during his administration and should be held pending an international investigation.

“International law requires that there be no safe haven for those responsible for torture; Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia must seize this opportunity to fulfill their obligations and end the impunity George W. Bush has so far enjoyed,” said Amnesty senior legal adviser Matt Pollard in a statement.

Bush is traveling overseas in Africa to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS, cervical and breast cancer across the continent.

In a continuation of the violation of rights in the name of terror prevention, the US Senate passed a disturbing addendum to a Defense spending bill.  The “Senate Declines to Clarify Rights of American Qaeda Suspects Arrested in U.S.” which means any of us could be shipped off to Gitmo without due process. Be sure to check who voted for what because some of them will surprise you.

The Senate on Thursday decided to leave unanswered a momentous question about constitutional rights in the war against Al Qaeda: whether government officials have the power to arrest people inside the United States and hold them in military custody indefinitely and without a trial.

After a passionate debate over a detainee-related provision in a major defense bill, the lawmakers decided not to make clearer the current law about the rights of Americans suspected of being terrorists. Instead, they voted 99 to 1 to say the bill does not affect “existing law” about people arrested inside the United States.

“We make clear that whatever the law is, it is unaffected by this language in our bill,” said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who helped shape the detainee-related sections of the bill with Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The disputed provision would bolster the authorization enacted by Congress a decade ago to use military force against the perpetrators of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. It says the government may imprison suspected members of Al Qaeda or its allies in indefinite military custody.

Because the section includes no exception for suspects arrested domestically, the provision prompted a debate about whether it would change the law by empowering the government, for the first time, to lawfully arrest people inside the United States and hold them indefinitely in military custody, or whether it would change nothing because the government has that power already.

The debate brought new attention to the ambiguous aftermath of one of the most sweeping claims of executive power made by the Bush administration after Sept. 11: that the government can hold citizens without a trial by accusing them of being terrorists.

Bostonboomer sent me this interesting link to an article at HuffPo by Soraya Chemaly on the widespread violence against women in the world. These statistics are beyond overwhelming.  They are appalling.

Think there aren’t men who really hate women or think of them, because they are not male, as subhuman, which makes violence somehow more acceptable or inevitable? Maybe you think this is a third world problem, a race or a class specific problem? I know that there are readers who will immediately assume that I’m condemning all men for the actions of a few. In any of these cases, you might want to consider these statistics*:

Consider femicide, which is the murder of women because they are women:

  • In the United States, one-third of women murdered each year are killed by an intimate partner.
  • In South Africa, a woman is killed every six hours by an intimate partner.
  • In India in 2007, 22 women were killed each day in dowry-related murders.
  • In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day.
  • Honor killings, the murder of women for bringing shame to their families, happen all over the world, including the US.

What about slavery, which is what trafficking is?

  • Women and girls comprise 80 percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with the majority (79 percent) trafficked for sexual exploitation.
  • This number is on the low end. The U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 2.5 million people worldwide are victims, of which over half live in Asia Pacific.
  • Trafficking, in the form of the importation of female sex slaves and use of children as sex workers, is on the rise in the U.S. and internationally has reached epic proportions.

Still not outraged? Because if not, there are always euphemistically titled “harmful practices” — which are violent forms of torture and rape. For example:

  • Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting. Every year more than 3 million girls in Africa are at risk of the practice.
  • Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, another euphemism if I ever heard one, married before the age of 18, primarily in South Asia (31.1 million and Sub-Saharan Africa (14.1 million).
  • These numbers don’t include bride burning, suspicious dowry-related “suicides” and “accidental” deaths or other hateful acts.

Now we’re at plain old domestic and sexual violence:

  • Every nine seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.
  • Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.
  • As many as one in four women experience physical and/or sexual violence during pregnancy, for example, which increases the likelihood of having a miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion.
  • Up to 53 percent of women in the world are physically abused by their intimate partners – defined as either being kicked or punched in the abdomen.
  • In Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is so much fun to visit, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds.
  • In Ecuador, adolescent girls reporting sexual violence in school identified teachers as the perpetrator in 37 per cent of cases.

According to the US Department of Justice, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the U.S. (overwhelmingly women). One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. That is almost 20 percent of our population and the US Justice Department acknowledges that rape is the most underreported crime in the nation.

Hillary Clinton has been making all kinds of inroads in her trip to Myanmar. She even brought a peace offering to  Aung San Suu Kyi’s dog who is said to be cute but not

Reuters/Saul Loeb/Pool SOS HIllary CLinton and Aung San Suu Kyi

very friendly . Madam Secretary was told to keep her distance by the human rights activist and Nobel prize winner.  The  dog got a US chew toy according to Reuters corespondent Andrew Quinn. Clinton emphasized the importance of democracy on her last day of the visit and her hope that one day relations between the countries will normalize.  More progress is needed from the Myanmar who has been run by a group of Generals for some time.

Clinton met President Thein Sein on Thursday and announced a package of modest steps to improve ties, including U.S. support for new International Monetary Fund and World Bank needs assessment missions and expanded U.N. aid programs for the country’s struggling economy.
She also said the United States would consider reinstating a full ambassador in Myanmar and could eventually ease crippling economic sanctions, but underscored that these future steps would depend on further measurable progress in Myanmar’s reform drive.

“It has to be not theoretical or rhetorical. It has to be very real, on the ground, that can be evaluated. But we are open to that and we are going to pursue many different avenues to demonstrate our continuing support for this path of reform,” Clinton told a news conference on Thursday in the capital, Naypyitaw, before arriving in Yangon.

If you want a really wonky post on how bad it could get in the US and the world if the Eurozone doesn’t take care of it’s problems, you can read this analysis of UBS analysis at Zero Hedge.

Despite the very short term bounce in markets on yet another soon to be failed experiment in global liquidity pump priming, UBS’ Andrew Cates refuses to take his eyes of the ball which is namely preventing a European collapse by explaining precisely what the world would look like if a European collapse were allowed to occur. Which is why to people like Cates this week’s indeterminate intervention is the worst thing that could happen as it only provides a few days worth of symptomatic breathing room, even as the underlying causes get worse and worse. So, paradoxically, we have reached a point where the better things get (yesterday we showed just how “better” they get as soon as the market realized that the intervention half life has passed), the more the European banks will push to make things appear and be as bad as possible, as the last thing any bank in Europe can afford now is for the ECB to lose sight of the target which is that it has to print. Which explains today’s release of “How bad might it get“, posted a day after the Fed’s latest bail out: because instead of attempting to beguile the general public into a false sense of complacency, UBS found it key to take the threat warnings to the next level. Which in itself speaks volumes. What also speaks volumes is his conclusion: “Finally it is worth underscoring again that a Euro break-up scenario would generate much more macroeconomic pain for Europe and the world. It is a scenario that cannot be readily modelled. But it is now a tail risk that should be afforded a non-negligible probability. Steps toward fiscal union and a more proactive ECB, after all, will still not address the fundamental imbalances and competitiveness issues that bedevil the Euro zone. Nor will they tackle the inadequacy of structural growth drivers and the deep-seated demographic challenges that the region faces in the period ahead. Monetary initiatives designed to shore up confidence can give politicians more time to enact the necessary policies. But absent those policies and sooner or later intense instability will resume.”

I’ve been meaning to do a post explaining what the FED and the five other central banks did to prevent a credit market lock up for the past two days, but, see the first paragraph.  I was reliant on my blackberry for internet access AND phone calls for two days so it didn’t happen. I’ll try to do it today if any one is interested.  Basically, this could be another Lehman Brothers scenario because there are sings that interbank lending has slowed to a trickle.  The extra push of world currencies is supposed to get banks around the world to lend again.  If they don’t lend to each other, than the banks will scramble to cover their reserves and basically rescind and short term loans to corporations for things like inventory, working capital and payroll shortages.  We’re technically not bailout out Europe and we’re trying to prevent another bailout of our usual suspect financial institutions with global exposure.  This wouldn’t be as widespread as the mortgage meltdown since the exposure to that was country wide (no pun intended).  The Fed can maneuver a lot here.  What this could do is create some inflation which has pluses and minuses.  They also are debasing the dollar which is good for exporters bad for importers and people that like to buy cheap foreign goods.  Merkel and the Germans have gotten a little stiff on the plans again so the deal still isn’t made. They’re not keen on the idea of Eurobonds. Increased fiscal integration is slow tracked.

“I personally, and the whole government believes, that eurobonds are the wrong method — and even harmful — in this phase of European development,” Merkel told the General Anzeiger newspaper.

She also emphasised the independence of the European Central Bank and said it was up to the ECB to decide how to ensure currency stability.

I guess the nasty results of the German bond float last week didn’t really sink in afterall.

Okay, so this is incredibly long now and possibly way too depressing for a Friday.  However, you can add the cheery bits down thread.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

27 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. Minkoff Minx says:

    Glad your electric and internet are back…Looking forward to your post on the Fed and other central banks.

    Jon Stewart had this last night…

    America’s Next TARP Model
    A Bloomberg report reveals that the U.S. government loaned banks $7.7 trillion in secret bailout funds at no interest and then borrowed the money back at interest.

  2. The Rock says:

    Thank you for the morning reads, Dak. I know what its like not to have internet at home for awhile. The DOW has been relatively solid this week on good economic news this week. I’d like your take on today’s job numbers. 8.6% IS the lowest number unemployment has reached in a LONG time. What is your take on this?

    Hillary 2012

    • dakinikat says:

      It is good news. We have a long way to go to recover all the lost jobs but it is a move in the right direction. The payroll tax incentives may be helping too. I will look at the details to see if underemployment and part time has changed and also the labor force changes. It looks good on the surface because it is a sizeable drop.

      • dakinikat says:

        Looks like some of the change was good since the number of part time workers dropped while the full time workers increased. The outlook for the long term unemployed looks as bad as every. We may have a huge chunk of workers that have just been permanently disenfranchised from the labor market and will never recover. The labor force numbers are still no the decline indicating some people are just plain giving up on finding a job, so that indicates more about those problems with long term unemployment. There really needs to be a program targeted directly to getting those people back into the work force. They need to focus their labor oriented tax cuts on the those folks with long term issues.

        • Minkoff Minx says:

          Dak, are those employment numbers adjusted for seasonal employees? It sounds like there is some light at the end of the depressing tunnel with the full time numbers up like they are…

      • dakinikat says:

        In October, the household survey showed the number of people unemployed fell by 594,000, but the labor force — the number of people working or looking for work — fell by a little more than half that amount. That means that though the number of employed people rose, a large group just stopped looking for work. That could be due to discouragement of the long-term unemployed or by choice over retirement or child care. So the decline in the unemployment rate to 8.6% was about half due to people finding jobs and half people dropping out.

      • The Rock says:

        I figured that these numbers were ‘short term’ good rather than ‘long term’ good. There has been more movement, at least here in Texas, concerning new hires, but govt. jobs (therefore jobs held by blacks) and healthcare positions are not as prevalent. My initial thought was that the uptick in hiring was seasonal (I have been noticing more employees at Walmart and HEB). Coupled with the news that the European banks are getting a lifeline and the managable gas prices we have been seeing, hope sprung eternal. That said your post about China’s 5-year plan and their investment strategies demonstrates that a long term strategy of economic growth is sorely lacking in our economic overview here in this country. We are still seeing too many communities beset by foreclosures, and another mini flood of prospective employees is about to hit this economy (returning G.I.’s and mid year college graduates).

        But Obumbles is averaging 1 fundraiser every 4 days. That’s good, right?


        Hillary 2012

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Oh, what I would give to see George W. Bush imprisoned in a foreign country! He’s a war criminal and a traitor, but he will never see justice in the U.S.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Susie Madrak has a great post on Dan Froomkin’s review of Confidence Men.

    “Obama is not your boyfriend.”

    • quixote says:

      Froomkin still strikes me as a bit of an idiot. His hypotheses for why Obama’s words and deeds never match is weakness of various kinds. Not impossible. But there is also the 800lb gorilla: maybe he just lies.

      • bostonboomer says:

        He already lost his WaPo job. He probably doesn’t want to be completely blackballed by the Villagers.

  5. quixote says:

    Dak, correct me where this is wrong. It seems like the Eurocrisis can be understood in fairly simple terms.

    + Some fairly flimsy bonds have high yields, but their risk is read as much less because they’re understood to be backstopped by much richer countries (read: “Germany”). (Analogous case: flimsy subprime loans with high yields understood to be backstopped by Federal government.)

    + Now that the bonds are tottering, Germany is insisting on some rules (about a thousandth of the structural changes needed) before actually doing any backstopping. In my book, those changes are higher taxes on the 1%, on financial services, etc. But I don’t think that’s what Cates means.

    +The bondholders just want someone else to take on their losses, same as here. And if nobody does, then the economy gets it. That’s you and me. We can give them what they want or get kneecapped. Or worse.

    Can you blame Merkel for trying to do a bit of preventive maintenance? It’s exactly what people here said the feds should do before bailing out the banks.

    On the other hand, when the economy is actually on fire is not the time to worry about the arsonist. But it’s also true that politicians never do anything except when death is the only alternative.

    I really and truly don’t know what I’d do in Merkel’s position. Hang tough against the bullies and maybe get burned? Give them what they want and hope anyone will pay attention once the crisis is over? What are the chances of that?

    • dakinikat says:

      Actually Krugman’s article today has a fairly succinct answer to this. It’s the same basic problem that we have. Because of the recession, there is decreased aggregate demand and these austerity agendas just further cripple demand and depress the economy. Merkel is worried about the budget implications for Germany and rightly so. However, in the case of the US, getting us back to a normal GDP growth would solve about 40% of budget deficit problems. So, her thinking is short term and ignores the medium to long term effects of further depressing demand. Crippling the economies of Greece, Italy, etc. isn’t going to help any one. Believe me, if these economies were to actually recover, rather than fall into yet another recession, there would be far less problems. It would help of the ECB would guarantee bond spreads right now. They really need to view this a wartime spending right now and that’s not happening. They also need to shore up institutions–as you’ve said–that regulate bank activities so the banks stop getting themselves into this position. Frankly, I think the biggest banks need to be nationalized, split up, and sold into regional banks that are much smaller. We need to undo a lot of damage. We also need to put investment banking back into its box. This is highly unlikely given that many of these folks came out of the 1980s when ‘liberalization’ meant removing any public asset from the tax payer roles and selling it off to the highest bidder and watching some short term efficiency gains as the private sector basically gutted costs (ala the kinda crap Romney did in his day as a slash and burn ‘investor’) and they’re really blind to the fact that slash and burn management only works stuff so far. Investors really need to put their returns expectations back in the box too. Juicy paper profits that are based on momentum, fads, gambling, and stuff like that are just detrimental to economies and the business sector. We need to start enriching people that actually work and produce things. Not gambling. Banks really need to be punished for all of this and the continual bail outs just doesn’t do it. They worst offenders need to be nationalized and chopped up and parts of them sold off. None of this consolidating bad banks into bigger worse banks and then having one big giant mismanaged mess of a financial institution with all the bad managers in place. Merkel’s thinking is way short term and way to based on keeping Germany’s short term prospects looking good. She needs to see the bigger chaos involved if things fall apart and that what she’s doing isn’t going to help Germany weather the storm. Germany is in no matter what.

      • quixote says:

        Yeah. I get that it’s all super-short term thinking. And that not actually plunging into depression is better for tax receipts and everyone’s income. … And that nobody seems to be able to act on that.

        Undo and prevent damage, indeed. But once there’s no crisis, nobody cares anymore. How to get them (Them) to pay attention? Especially since the real powers behind the thrones would rather that we all looked over there, anywhere, except on them.

      • ralphb says:

        Krugman’s blog: Profligate Zombies

        Dean Baker has a series of posts about bad reporting on the euro crisis; he is evidently, and with good reason, upset at the way just about every report states as a fact that excessive borrowing caused the crisis.

        This is another one of those zombie ideas that permeate our discourse; it’s part of the narrative, and no amount of evidence can kill it or even stop reporters/editors from stating it as a fact.
        Yes, Greece. But Greece is now a tiny part of this story. As I said in today’s column, Greece (GDP of about $300 billion) is roughly Greater Miami ($270 billion). Italy and Spain are the big stories, and they were not, repeat not, fiscally profligate.

        With a handy graph.

        • dakinikat says:

          Hedge funds can win no matter what the economy because they just have to bet against stuff. I think the chaos creates profit opportunities for them. They love it. They don’t care who gets hurt. It’s all a game for them. I think so much of this has to do with the fact that many investment banks and investment funds don’t have skin in the real economy any more. They can get fee income from the suckers that do and then make side bets when their suckers lose. It eventually has to collapse or the governments have to stand up to them and disallow some of these crap derivatives. It’s amazing to see how many politicians are sucked into their games because they raise funds political careers, governments, and everything but their funds are from making opposite bets and collecting fees. It’s a racket.

      • quixote says:

        Yup. You’ll notice I think higher taxes on wealth are the long term solution, not stupid and harmful austerity on everyone else.

        The really makes-me-scream thing is that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, not you, not me, not Dak, not even Princeton-prof-white-male-Nobel-winner Krugman. The moneyed classes just do what they think will bring them more money, even when it obviously won’t.

        What part of EVERYBODY LOSES don’t they understand? ??

  6. quixote says:

    The numbers about violence against women are beyond appalling. I’d heard them before, and once they sink in and the level of worldwide unconcern about them sinks in on top of that, then the gut-level knowledge that most people don’t see women as actual human beings also sinks in.

    The mindblowing thing is that “most people” includes a lot of women.

    Besides all the useless pain, what a horrible, horrible waste in a world that desperately needs every last good person it’s got.

  7. foxyladi14 says:

    Dak so glad your electric and internet are back.that would make me cranky too.