March 7, 2012 archive

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Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

G-8 summit to be held at Camp David, not Chicago

By Christi Parsons Tribune reporter, Chicago Tribune

5:42 p.m. CST, March 5, 2012

Camp David will more closely approximate the remote settings in which the G8 leaders prefer to gather. Summits in large cities typically see clamorous protests, while those in the countryside are calmer and more sedate.



Chicago police estimated that 2,000 to 10,000 demonstrators were expected to show up for the overlapping G-8 and NATO summits.  At least two major demonstrations were already planned for downtown during the summit, and organizers said they wanted to send crowds of marchers down Michigan Avenue in the middle of the day.



The mayor had also sought tough changes in ordinances governing public demonstrations. But in the face of criticism from aldermen and civil rights groups, he was forced to scale them back.

(h/t Atrios)

Wrong Finale

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In two previous posts I’ve collected some of letsgetitdone’s reactions to Dylan Matthews’ Washington Post article on Modern Monetary Theory and the responses of other authors-

In this final installment is some of his extensive treatment of Dean Baker’s critiques.

In his first reaction to Dean Baker, letsgetitdone outlines 7 areas of specific differences between Keynesian Deficit Doves and MMT and their policy implications-

  1. Government deficit spending for recovery.
  2. Government fiscal policy over the business cycle.
  3. Long Term Deficit Reduction Planning.
  4. Long Term Deficit Reduction Projections.
  5. Funding Government spending.
  6. Social Security Solvency.
  7. Proposed progressive reform programs.

The end for MMT is achieving public purpose including full employment with price stability as one aspect of it. Since the MMT view is that fiscal policy is much more useful for doing this than monetary policy MMT focuses on how fiscal policy should be set.

Its general view is that alternative budgetary plans have to be assessed from the viewpoint of their anticipated outcomes, without regard to deficits or surpluses as outcomes valued in themselves. Of course, full employment is positively valued and unemployment negatively valued, but a whole range of valued outcomes is relevant for such assessments. Those are the ends, and fiscal policy is the means. Monetary policy and trade policy are also means, but are not nearly as important as fiscal policy in their effective short-term impact.

Baker wrote a second article which letsgetitdone also felt largely ignored the critical differences between MMT and Deficit Dove Keynesianism and this time responded with a 3 part piece-

In the first part he discusses these issues-

Like MMT Says: Monetary Policy Would Be Ineffective

I won’t go into the details here, but the bottom line seems to be that he thinks the Fed could add $20 Billion to aggregate demand mostly through mortgage refinancing arrangements.

My own bottom line is that what he outlines might work, but only proves the MMT point that monetary policy can do very little to help solve our present economic problems. We have about a 28 million person U6 employment problem, which could take as much as $1.2 Trillion in carefully formulated deficit spending. So, adding $20 Billion in aggregate demand to the economy makes very little contribution compared to the scale of the problem. It’s the proverbial drop in the bucket and justifies the lack of emphasis MMT places on this channel.

Expanding US Exports at the Expense of Decreasing Real Wealth?

The MMT argument is that as long as other nations are willing to send us more real wealth in return for dollars, than we send them, then that is a net benefit for American consumers. Certainly, our willingness to accommodate their desire to exchange exports for dollars has caused real damage to US industries, and the erosion of skills and capabilities among workers and has also cost the jobs of Americans.



In other words, the big negatives that are related to our positive current account balance with the rest of the world (colloquially known as our trade deficit) are costs that we don’t have to bear, according to MMT, to get the benefits of imports. We could employ Americans fully, our people could be developing new skills and experiences, our wealth in facilities and social conditions we all share could be vastly increased, if the Government used its capability to help us fulfill the opportunities the current account balances give us to turn to other things that badly need doing, rather than making televisions, toys, clothes, and all the other things we no longer make. MMT says that the Government’s deficit will equal private sector savings plus the current account balance. So, if both are high that makes room for large Government deficits, and, in fact, actually demands them, since if we try to reduce them the end result will be less real wealth coming from imports and less nominal wealth accumulated from savings.

letsgetitdone continues in the second part

Expanding US Exports at the Expense of Decreasing Real Wealth? (continued)

(W)hy do economists like Dean and Paul Krugman insist on relying on far-fetched scenarios to try to argue against simple truths that may apply today? The current account balance will probably be around 4-5% of GDP this year. As the economy recovers it will probably rise to 6% of GDP again, which represents a very real benefit to the United States. But there’s no reason to expect that this growth would continue indefinitely or ever reach 50% of GDP. Why should it? What are the dynamics that would drive things this way, and make other nations value the dollar so much, that they will keep their own populations barefoot?



Dean then continues with other arguments about re-balancing trade and its effects which are largely correct. But his remarks on the devaluation strategy not being “a beggar thy neighbor” strategy are only correct if we assume that such a strategy would not lead to negative compositional effects at the higher level of the international economic system.

If US attempts to devalue were followed by other nations responding in kind, then a race-to-the-bottom could result which would harm workers in all the major nations of the world. In this context MMT would probably say, don’t devalue. Instead use fiscal policy to fully employ all of your working people, and then let other nations devalue your currency as they please. There will be far less danger of a race to the bottom in this scenario, since your attempt to employ all of your own people to domestic tasks producing valued outcomes, can hardly be viewed as an attack on the desires of other nations to continue to export to you.

Is Work Sharing a Separate Channel for Raising Aggregate Demand?

I find myself in complete agreement with the proposals in the past few paragraphs and the arguments for the benefits of work sharing. I have only one problem with it, and that is why Dean classifies this proposal as a separate channel from the Government deficit spending channel?

From my point of view, making the standard work week 35 hours and mandating the kinds of fringe benefits they have in Europe and compensating workers directly with Government subsidies for the reduction of 5 hours of work per week they receive, is definitely using the Government channel to raise aggregate demand, since the increased demand comes from the Government subsidy assumed by the proposal. It’s not a proposal the economists developing MMT have put forward. But I’ve put forward a similar proposal, and I see nothing in it that is in conflict with MMT.

In the third part letsgetitdone concludes with a discussion of Dean Baker’s contention that MMT relies “exclusively” on the fiscal channel-

Pitfalls of the Fiscal Policy Channel

MMT doesn’t advocate wasteful spending, or digging holes for the sake of the activity, or spending money on projects and programs that will waste real resources or people’s lives. There is a risk that any spending, private or public, will be wasteful or involve an excess of real costs over real benefits. But that’s no excuse for avoiding private sector spending, so why should it be one for avoiding public sector spending when that’s called for?

The events of the last ten years show that both Federal spending on Wars, and private spending on financial adventures can be disastrous, but it was wasteful investments on fantasy sand castles that crashed much of the world economy; not deficit spending in the United States intended to achieve public purpose. In fact, that kind of spending has been starved for the past 35 years at least. And right now, there is no record of wasteful public spending that remotely compares with the record of wasteful private spending over that same period.



MMT, itself, it favors spending that can be justified based on projections of its real benefits and costs, not projections of its nominal benefits and costs to a Federal Government that can never have any solvency problem. MMT is against crony capitalism, and for prosecutions of banksters and fraudsters. MMT proposals in the health care area would not only improve health care outcomes and reduce private sector expenditures on health care but would also produce millions of new jobs in the health care sector, while putting the health insurance barons out of business. MMT stimulus proposals for ending the recession, include Revenue Sharing grants to States on a per person basis, so that States could re-hire staff laid off in response to the recession’s impact on tax revenues. It’s very doubtful that hiring back Police, Firefighters, Teachers, and other State Civil Servants would be viewed as wasteful to most people.

Dean’s Conclusion and Mine

(M)y view is that Washington in its current state doesn’t care about logical inconsistency, or rationality, or arithmetic. At this point it is a closed “village” of opinion. As Dean implies, points of view that have no currency in the village don’t get discussed, or ridiculed when they are. The question however, is how does a closed system like this change, since it is fairly closed to changes in viewpoint that may be necessary to use to solve its problems?

I think the answer to that question is raw failure that destroys confidence in the governing world view which is neoliberalism. The highly visible failure of neoliberalism in 2008 wasn’t capitalized on by this Administration. It was loyal to the neoliberal point of vew and followed the prescriptions of neoliberals for fixing the problems it created.

However, the failures of neoliberalism continue. We see the disaster in Europe now taking shape, we see the extreme discontent among so many in American society, including most importantly the young who cannot see any acceptable future. The stresses grow with each passing year of injustice and maintenance of levels of real unemployment that haven’t been seen in this country since the 1930s.



The worst of the anger is yet to sweep this country. When it does, when the banking system falls either in Europe or here, when the big banks are taken into resolution and the serious investigations start under a new Attorney General, the changing of the guard in Washington will come; and the old regime, along with their neoliberal paradigm, will be swept away. And it is then that MMT will be accepted in Congress and the Executive Branch sufficiently, so that its policies will get a chance. If those policies succeed, then neoiberalism will be gone, hopefully for good.

On This Day In History March 7

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 7 is the 66th day of the year (67th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 299 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1976, a group of 600 civil rights marchers are forcefully broken up in Selma, Alabama. This day would be remembered in the Civil Rights Movement as “Bloody Sunday”

The Selma to Montgomery marches were three marches in 1965 that marked the political and emotional peak of the American civil rights movement. They grew out of the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama, launched by local African-Americans who formed the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL). In 1963, the DCVL and organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began voter-registration work. When white resistance to Black voter registration proved intractable, the DCVL requested the assistance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to support voting rights.

The first march took place on March 7, 1965 – “Bloody Sunday” – when 600 civil rights marchers were attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas. The second march took place on March 9. Only the third march, which began on March 21 and lasted five days, made it to Montgomery, 51 miles away.

The marchers averaged 10 miles a day along U.S. Route 80, known in Alabama as the “Jefferson Davis Highway”. Protected by 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army, 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under Federal command, and many FBI agents and Federal Marshals, they arrived in Montgomery on March 24, and at the Alabama Capitol building on March 25.

The route is memorialized as the Selma To Montgomery Voting Rights Trail, a U.S. National Historic Trail.

Selma essentially became the focus the right to vote marches because it was the seat of Dallas County, AL that although it has a black population of 57% with 15,000 blacks elegible to vote, there were only 130 registered. Efforts to register voters were blocked by state and local officials, the White Citizens’ Council, and the Ku Klux Klan, using a literacy test, economic pressure, and violence.

On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, which declared segregation illegal, yet Jim Crow remained in effect. When attempts to integrate Selma’s dining and entertainment venues were resumed, blacks who tried to attend the movie theater and eat at a hamburger stand were beaten and arrested.

On July 6, John Lewis led 50 blacks to the courthouse on registration day, but Sheriff Clark arrested them rather than allow them to apply to vote. On July 9, Judge James Hare issued an injunction forbidding any gathering of three or more people under the sponsorship of civil rights organizations or leaders. This injunction made it illegal to even talk to more than two people at a time about civil rights or voter registration in Selma, suppressing public civil rights activity there for the next six months.

Planning the First March

With civil rights activity blocked by Judge Hare’s injunction, the DCVL requested the assistance of King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Three of SCLC’s main organizers – Director of Direct Action and Nonviolent Education James Bevel, Diane Nash, and [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Orange James Orang, who had been working on Bevel’s Alabama Voting Rights Project since late 1963, a project which King and the executive board of SCLC had not joined. When SCLC officially accepted Amelia Boynton’s invitation to bring their organization to Selma, Bevel, Nash, Orange and others in SCLC began working in Selma in December 1964. They also worked in the surrounding counties along with the SNCC staff who had been active there since early 1963.

The Selma Voting Rights Movement officially started on January 2, 1965, when King addressed a mass meeting in Brown Chapel in defiance of the anti-meeting injunction.

Over the following weeks, SCLC and SNCC activists expanded voter registration drives and protests in Selma and the adjacent Black Belt counties. In addition to Selma, marches and other protests in support of voting rights were held in Perry, Wilcox, Marengo, Greene, and Hale counties.

On February 18, 1965, an Alabama State Trooper, corporal James Bonard Fowler, shot Jimmie Lee Jackson as he tried to protect his mother and grandfather in a café to which they had fled while being attacked by troopers during a nighttime civil rights demonstration in Marion, the county seat of Perry County. Jackson died eight days later, of an infection resulting from the gunshot wound, at Selma’s Good Samaritan Hospital.

In response, James Bevel called for a march from Selma to Montgomery.

Goals of the March

Bevel’s initial plan was to march to Montgomery to ask Governor George Wallace if he had anything to do with ordering the lights out and the state troopers to shoot during the march in which Jackson was killed. Bevel called the march in order to focus the anger and pain of the people of Selma, some of whom wanted to address Jackson’s death with violence, towards a nonviolent goal. The marchers also hoped to bring attention to the violations of their rights by marching to Montgomery. Dr. King agreed with Bevel’s plan, and asked for a march from Selma to Montgomery to ask Governor Wallace to protect black registrants.

Wallace denounced the march as a threat to public safety and declared he would take all measures necessary to prevent this from happening.

The First March: “Bloody Sunday”

On March 7, 1965, 525 to 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Highway 80. The march was led by John Lewis of SNCC and the Reverend Hosea Williams of SCLC, followed by Bob Mants of SNCC and Albert Turner of SCLC. The protest went smoothly until the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and found a wall of state troopers waiting for them on the other side. Their commanding officer told the demonstrators to disband at once and go home. Williams tried to speak to the officer, but the man curtly informed him there was nothing to discuss. Seconds later, the troopers began shoving the demonstrators. Many were knocked to the ground and beaten with nightsticks. Another detachment of troopers fired tear gas. Mounted troopers charged the crowd on horseback.

Brutal televised images of the attack, which presented people with horrifying images of marchers left bloodied and severely injured, roused support for the U.S. civil rights movement. Amelia Boynton was beaten and gassed nearly to death; her photo appeared on the front page of newspapers and news magazines around the world Seventeen marchers were hospitalized, leading to the naming of the day “Bloody Sunday”.

Holder: We Can Kill You Because We Can

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Yes, that is essentially what US Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech at Northwestern University.

   Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asserted on Monday that it is lawful for the government to kill American citizens if officials deem them to be operational leaders of Al Qaeda who are planning attacks on the United States and if capturing them alive is not feasible.

   “Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack,” Mr. Holder said in a speech at Northwestern University’s law school. “In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.” […]

   “Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” Mr. Holder said. “This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”

In taking apart Holder’s justification for murder, David Swanson so chillingly describes the government can kill you anywhere, anyplace, anytime they choose without evidence, charges, arrest or approval:

Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday explained why it’s legal to murder people – not to execute prisoners convicted of capital crimes, not to shoot someone in self-defense, not to fight on a battlefield in a war that is somehow legalized, but to target and kill an individual sitting on his sofa, with no charges, no arrest, no trial, no approval from a court, no approval from a legislature, no approval from we the people, and in fact no sharing of information with any institutions that are not the president.[..]

Nor can promising to imprison people without a fair trial justify murdering people.  But Holder does not do that.  He promises kangaroo courts:

   “Much has been made of the distinction between our federal civilian courts and revised military commissions.  The reality is that both incorporate fundamental due process and other protections that are essential to the effective administration of justice – and we should not deprive ourselves of any tool in our fight against al Qaeda.” [..]

Holder then explains, sensibly enough, why non-military courts work just fine (unless an extreme record of nearly 100% convictions worries you):

   “Simply put, since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in Article III courts and are now serving long sentences in federal prison.  Not one has ever escaped custody.  No judicial district has suffered any kind of retaliatory attack.” [..]

Holder turns next to the presidential power to imprison people that was signed into law on New Year’s Eve as part of the National “Defense” Authorization Act:

   “This Administration has worked in other areas as well to ensure that counterterrorism professionals have the flexibility that they need to fulfill their critical responsibilities without diverging from our laws and our values.  Last week brought the most recent step, when the President issued procedures under the National Defense Authorization Act.  This legislation, which Congress passed in December, mandated that a narrow category of al Qaeda terrorist suspects be placed in temporary military custody.

This legislation did nothing of the sort.  For one thing, Obama unconstitutionally altered it in a signing statement as it applied to a huge prison full of largely non-al Qaeda prisoners in Afghanistan.  In addition, there has been quite a bit of discussion of the power this bill creates to imprison U.S. citizens. [..]

And, despite tremendous, often willful, confusion, the history is clear that Obama insisted on the power to imprison U.S. citizens and to do so outside of the military.

This is madness. The Constitution does not permit any of this. Holder quoted no legal standards. As the New York Times reported in its article on Holder’s speech, “the speech had contained no footnotes or specific legal citations”:

{..} and it fell far short of the level of detail contained in the Office of Legal Counsel memo – or in an account of its contents published in October by The New York Times based on descriptions by people who had read it.

The administration has declined to confirm that the memo exists, and late last year, The Times filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act asking a judge to order the Justice Department to make it public. In February, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a broader lawsuit, seeking both the memo and the evidence against Mr. Awlaki.

And where are the Democrats and so-called “progressives”? As Glenn Greenwald at Salon writes, “Yet, with some righteous exceptions, the silence is deafening, or worse“:

How can anyone who vocally decried Bush’s mere eavesdropping and detention powers without judicial review possibly justify Obama’s executions without judicial review? How can the former (far more mild powers) have been such an assault on Everything We Stand For while the latter is a tolerable and acceptable assertion of war powers? If Barack Obama has the right to order accused Terrorists executed by the CIA because We’re At War, then surely George Bush had the right to order accused Terrorists eavesdropped on and detained on the same ground. [..]

To recap Barack Obama’s view: it is a form of “terror” for someone to be detained “without even getting one chance to prove their innocence,” but it is good and noble for them to be executed under the same circumstances. To recap Eric Holder’s view: we must not accept when the Bush administration says “just trust us” when it comes to spying on the communications of accused Terrorists, but we must accept when the Obama administration says “just trust us” when it comes to targeting our fellow citizens for execution. As it turns out, it’s not 9/11/01 that Changed Everything. It’s 1/20/09. [..]

Find a defender of Obama’s assassination program and all you’ll hear is exactly the same thing: this is only being directed at The Terrorists like Awlaki, so we don’t need any court review or due process. Here was Holder yesterday: “it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks,” and assassination orders are only issued once “the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” [..]

He (Holder) said, for instance, that “the Supreme Court has made clear that the Due Process Clause does not impose one-size-fits-all requirements, but instead mandates procedural safeguards that depend on specific circumstances.” That part is true: in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration’s argument that it could detain American citizens accused of Terrorism without any process for them to contest the accusations against them, though the Court held that something less than a full-scale trial could satisfy the Due Process clause. But as Marcy Wheeler points out, the Court imposed “due process” requirements that are the exact opposite of what the Obama administration is doing with its assassinations.

The very idea that presidential assassination powers will become accepted policy for every future president, that the core of the Constitutional protection of due process can be based solely on the word of the president and made in total secrecy without the opportunity to view, or even refute, any evidence is abhorrent and evil.

These articles with their extensive citations by credible authors are must reads:

Attorney General Holder Says Murder Is Legal

by David Swanson, anti-war activist and author of Day Break and War Is A Lie, who runs the websites DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org (formerly AfterDowningStreet.org)

Attorney General Holder defends execution without charges

by Glenn Greenwald, best selling author, former Constitutional and civil rights litigator and contributing writer at Salon

Eric Holder’s View on National Security: Three Branches. Except for When the Third becomes Inconvenient.

by Marcy Wheeler, author and runs website emptywheel

When the US Government Can Kill You, Explained

by Adam Serwer, writer for Mother Jones

Time to Play “What if Alberto Gonzalez Said That?”

by John Cole, blogger and runs website Balloon Juice

How We Can Help President Obama Today

by Charles P. Pierce, contributing write at Esquire

Assassinating U.S. Citizens: Holder says “Yes We Can”

by Jesselyn Radack, director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project.  

No daylight between Sarah Palin and Obama

whereas Sarah Palin would merely shoot “infra-human” mammals from helipcopters on “hunting expeditions,” Barack Obama has and intends to kill Americans using drones, robot assassins, Navy Seals, CIA, you name it.

Do you miss John Ashcroft, yet?  Damned near.  At least Ashcroft showed an ounce of integrity on his sick-bed concerning illegal surveillance.

Not only should Eric Holder resign, he should take Obama with him to the laughingstocks.

I previously mentioned why Elena Kagan, daughter of Neo-Con, Supporter of Battlefield Earth, would be a terrible Supreme Court choice, and nobody cared, outside very tiny circles.  Well, now you’ve got Holder and Kagan in a 5-4, at their worst, and you’re fucked.  How’s that Big Tent D?  You helped convince America (progressives!) to vote for the Obama/Kagan ticket.  Nice work, buddy.

Yeah, and BTD wants me to “vote Obama” to work for the next Supreme Court selections?  I’ve got bile in my mouth.  

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Super Tuesday Open Thread

I have even less interest in this edition of the Insane Clown Posse than most (if that were possible).  I’ll have neither the time nor inclination to join you.  If you insist on playing along with Mitt there’s a place to scribble below.

Alaska 24+3 12 am Georgia 76 7 pm
Idaho 32 10 pm Ohio 63+3 7:30 pm
Oklahoma 40+3 8 pm Massachusetts 38+3 8 pm
North Dakota 25+3 9 pm Tennessee 55+3 8 pm
Vermont 17 7 pm Virginia 46+3 7 pm

You may well ask what those fancy +3s are.  Those are delegates chosen outside the normal selection process and will not be decided tonight.