March 14, 2012 archive

Mar 14

Marines asked to disarm before Panetta speech

“Words fail.”

In a highly unusual move, around 200 U.S. Marines were asked to leave their weapons outside the tent where U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was set to speak during his trip to Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Although the military said the order was not given in response to Sunday’s shooting of 16 Afghan civilians allegedly by an American soldier, it possibly underlined how high tensions were running after the incident.

“You’ve got one of the most important people in the world in the room,” Maj. Gen. Mark Gurganus told reporters at Camp Leatherneck, dismissing concerns related to the shooting. “This is not a big deal.”

He said he had given the order because the two dozen Afghan soldiers also there were unarmed and he did not want to treat them differently.

…”All I know is I was told to get the weapons out,” Sergeant Major Brandon Hall told The New York Times. Asked why, he replied, “Somebody got itchy, that’s all I’ve got to say. Somebody got itchy; we just adjust.”

Also, Why I am leaving the Empire, by Darth Vader

Written in response to this Goldman douchebag resigning in “moral revulsion.”

Fucking douchebags.

Mar 14

Cartnoon

Crusader vs. the Pirates

Crusader Rabbit Crusade 2 Episode 9

Open Thread

Mar 14

On This Day In History March 14

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 14 is the 73rd day of the year (74th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 292 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1885, The Mikado a light opera by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, had its first public performance in London.

The Mikado, or, The Town of Titipu is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations. It opened in London, where it ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances, which was the second longest run for any work of musical theatre and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time. Before the end of 1885, it was estimated that, in Europe and America, at least 150 companies were producing the opera. The Mikado remains the most frequently performed Savoy Opera, and it is especially popular with amateur and school productions. The work has been translated into numerous languages and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history.

Setting the opera in Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, allowed Gilbert to satirise British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese. Gilbert used foreign or fictional locales in several operas, including The Mikado, Princess Ida, The Gondoliers, Utopia, Limited and The Grand Duke, to soften the impact of his pointed satire of British institutions.

The Mikado is a comedy that deals with themes of death and cruelty. This works only because Gilbert treats these themes as trivial, even lighthearted issues. For instance, in Pish-Tush’s song “Our great Mikado, virtuous man”, he sings: “The youth who winked a roving eye/ Or breathed a non-connubial sigh/ Was thereupon condemned to die / He usually objected.” The term for this rhetorical technique is meiosis, a drastic understatement of the situation. Other examples of this are when self-decapitation is described as “an extremely difficult, not to say dangerous, thing to attempt”, and also as merely “awkward”. When a discussion occurs of Nanki-Poo’s life being “cut short in a month”, the tone remains comic and only mock-melancholy. Burial alive is described as “a stuffy death”. Finally, execution by boiling oil or by melted lead is described by the Mikado as a “humorous but lingering” punishment.

Death is treated as a businesslike event in Gilbert’s Topsy-Turvy world. Pooh-Bah calls Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, an “industrious mechanic”. Ko-Ko also treats his bloody office as a profession, saying, “I can’t consent to embark on a professional operation unless I see my way to a successful result.” Of course, joking about death does not originate with The Mikado. The plot conceit that Nanki-Poo may marry Yum-Yum if he agrees to die at the end of the month was used in A Wife for a Month, a 17th century play by John Fletcher. Ko-Ko’s final speech affirms that death has been, throughout the opera, a fiction, a matter of words that can be dispelled with a phrase or two: being dead and being “as good as dead” are equated. In a review of the original production of The Mikado, after praising the show generally, the critic noted that the show’s humour nevertheless depends on

“unsparing exposure of human weaknesses and follies-things grave and even horrible invested with a ridiculous aspect-all the motives prompting our actions traced back to inexhaustible sources of selfishness and cowardice…. Decapitation, disembowelment, immersion in boiling oil or molten lead are the eventualities upon which (the characters’) attention (and that of the audience) is kept fixed with gruesome persistence…. (Gilbert) has unquestionably succeeded in imbuing society with his own quaint, scornful, inverted philosophy; and has thereby established a solid claim to rank amongst the foremost of those latter-day Englishmen who have exercised a distinct psychical influence upon their contemporaries.”

Mar 14

What’s the difference…

Between a fertilized egg, a corporation, and a woman?

A woman is not a person!

Hilarious.

Mar 14

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning


Cilliae 3

Mar 14

US Labor Market Is Still a Mess

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Wages have not matched inflation, unemployment for those without work for more than six months is topping 40% while real unemployment (U-6) sits at 14.9%, the housing market continues to tumble. The cost of housing, food, health care, education, transportation has gone up while wages have gone in the other direction.

That is the reality of the US economy and it does not bode well for a sustainable recovery, not without a boost from the government. Nobel Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz writes that “the labor market is a shambles” and it’s not going to improve anytime soon without a boost from the government:

Let’s assume that job creation continues at the rate of 225,000 jobs a month. That is only about 100,000 beyond the number required to provide jobs for the average monthly number of new entrants into the labour force. At that pace, it would take 150 months to reach full employment – 13 years, some time around 2025. The independent Congressional Budget Office is more optimistic, forecasting the return of full employment by 2018. [..]

Before the crisis, 40 per cent of all investment was in property. We had a housing bubble that left a legacy of excess capacity. Continuing weakness in the property sector is reflected in high foreclosure rates and low home prices. [..]

Finally, US states and local governments are constrained, to a large extent, by having to balance their budgets. They depend heavily on property taxes, so both revenues and expenditures have plummeted. This is why there are a million fewer public employees than before the crisis. Government as a whole is being procyclical, not countercyclical. [..]

Unfortunately, little has been done about the underlying structural problems. Indeed, the downturn, during which wages have not kept pace with inflation, has in many ways made US inequality worse.

Today the American economy faces three big risks. First, a steeper European downturn, as a result of the excessive austerity and the euro crisis. Second, complacency that the economy will recover quickly without government support. Though every downturn comes to an end, that should not be of much comfort. Third, that we accept that an unemployment rate above 7 per cent is inevitable.

If my Cassandra forecast turns out to be wrong, stimulus can be cut. But if it turns out to be right, and we do too little, we will live to regret it.

We need Congress and the President to stop listening to “Washington Consensus” and the “main stream” economists that are preaching “austerity” that will only prolong the economic decline and increase poverty.

Mar 14

More Bailouts for the “Too Big To Fail”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Besides the $700 billion from TARP and $17.7 trillion from the Federal Reserve the “Too Big To Fail” financial entities are still getting bailouts with tax payer dollars via tax breaks on losses. 90% of the insurance giant, American International Group Inc.’s (AIG), fourth quarter profits from 2011 were “because of an inappropriate tax break the government-owned insurance company continues to receive, according to four former members of the watchdog panel that oversaw the financial crisis bailouts“:

The break allows AIG to count its past net operating losses against future taxes. That amounts to a “stealth bailout” of a company that received about $125 billion in taxpayer money, said the former appointees to the Congressional Oversight Panel for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“It’s been more than three years since AIG lost its reckless bet on mortgage-backed securities, yet today AIG continues to get special tax breaks that last quarter accounted for 90% of its profits,” the panel’s former chairwoman, Elizabeth Warren, told reporters Monday on a conference call. “We think it’s time for Congress to end the special tax break.”

Warren, who is running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, was joined by former panel members Damon Silvers, Mark McWatters and Kenneth Troske in saying the tax break gives the illusion of significant profitability at the company.

The profits benefit AIG’s private stockholders and allow the company to pay higher executive compensation, the TARP panel members said.

“By doing it this way….billions of dollars leak out to the benefits of private parties, who really should not be benefiting from public policy in this way,” Silvers said.

The special tax exemption that AIG and other struggling companies received allows it to deduct its past losses against future tax bills thus showing a net profit. It allowed for AIG to hand out generous executive compensation and benefit private shareholders.

Just last week, Matt Stoller at naked capitalism reported that almost half the banks that had paid back TARP did so with funds from other government programs:

The Government Accountability Office continues its subtle war on the talking point used by Treasury that “TARP made money”. Here’s the GAO, with a report out today.

   As of January 31, 2012, 341 institutions had exited CPP, almost half by repaying CPP with funds from other federal programs. Institutions continue to exit CPP, but the number of institutions missing scheduled dividend or interest payments has increased.

Much of the government-supplied TARP funding (to small banks) was replaced by the Small Business Lending Fund passed in 2010, which Republicans called “TARP 2.0″.  The larger banks, however, where much of the bank-based credit creation in the economy takes place, didn’t use this program.  Instead, they got an implicit subsidy of between $6B (pdf) and $300B a year from the widespread belief that the government will not let their bondholders lose money…

You can take a stand with Ms. Warren and sign her petition:

Call on AIG to play by the rules

Mar 14

Late Night Karaoke