Links, August 25, 2011

I got really behind on these for a few days, so some of these are dated.

A senior military officer claims they’ve finally “got our arms around” contracting to Afghan contractors. But if that doesn’t work, a senior congressional staffer says, they’re going to have “to reduce the [U.S.] footprint in Afghanistan.”

Japan has reintroduced lessons on radioactivity into their middle school curriculum. “The nature of radiation” had been taught until reforms during the 1980s dropped the subject.

We had a heated debate about the canard that half the country doesn’t pay taxes last week. Corey Robin makes a point that I and others also made in the thread: that the real problem with that stat is that it means half of the people who work in this country are paid terrible wages. I agree with him; we’d be better focusing on the low wages here than engaging on the nonsensical claim that these people are deadbeats solely because they’re paid so poorly.

Iran-Contra spook Clair George died of a heart attack on August 11. He was so old (81), he lived at a time when DOJ actually prosecuted Executive Branch figures who lie to Congress. Of course, that was in the era when we didn’t claim the Executive Branch could investigate the Executive Branch. Ah, those were good times.

Jared Bernstein thinks that the collapse in approval of Obama’s treatment of the economy has to do with the focus on the debt ceiling. I’d love to see someone like Nate Silver do more nuanced analysis on this point. In particular, I’d like to see whether people even understand that the “debt ceiling” is related to the “deficit” that polls show, in abstract, concerns people.

The BATF says the supervisors involved in Operation Fast and Furious were not, in fact, promoted, but just moved from a operational to an administrative function. The LAT’s sources stand by the interpretation that these were promotions.

Part of this article about rising levels of drinking in China talks about how important drinking is to doing business, which certainly is consistent with what I experienced when I was doing business there. But it doesn’t consider what that means for gender equality. I would have to explicitly invite women to events (even lunches) that might involve drinking and even there it was generally assumed they wouldn’t drink (I guess, as a heathen I was excepted from that expectation). And I got a real sense that this meant the women were left back at dealers running the business with an “Associate Manager” title while their colleagues with full “Manager” titles were out at drinking lunches with the boss.

SEC whistleblower Gary Aguirre points outs that apologists for the SEC’s document destruction policy–who claim the SEC didn’t violate any existing understanding with the National Archives with their policy–are ignoring a 1992 agreement and pretending a mere name change gimmick changed the rules.

An inquest into the death of the GCHQ spy who was killed and left in a duffel bag last year, Gareth Williams, is scheduled to happen this year.

Detroit says an increasing number of squatters are taking over vacant homes; It seems our state laws make it hard to get rid of them. They should just do what they banks do: pretend they own it. The Registers, after all, can do nothing when they see something out of order on such paperwork.

National Security Archives’ Nate Jones notes that DOD has centralized all FOIA responses for requests on the Osama bin Laden to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He notes that, while OSD has one of the better records on FOIA response at DOD, this might be an attempt to keep the bin Laden photos from Judicial Watch. I’d add, too, that there’s tension bewteen the Army and Navy over this raid, so by centralizing it, you might avoid selective leaks.

China just came out in support of a Palestinian plan to bid for statehood at the UN.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

14 replies
  1. allan says:

    “China just came out in support of a Palestinian plan to bid for statehood”

    So as punishment, we’re going to impose a trade embargo, right?

  2. host says:

    EW,

    The core problem is not crappy wages. Wage levels aggravate the problem, but if you go there, you’ll be vulnerable to the misleading argument that, “you can tax 100 percent of the income of the wealthiest, blah, blah, blah, and the result will only bring in enough revenue to fund the government for (insert small number) of days, blah, blah, so spending cuts are the only solution.”

    None of that propaganda addresses the crisis. There are $54 trillion of estimated privately held wealth in the U.S. The triennial Fed. SCF and the 2010 Levy Institute study agree that the top 20 percent own 87 percent of that $54 trillion, but are responsible for very little of the outstanding consumer owed debt. So, the most the bottom 80 percent own is $7 trillion, minus the debt owed. The bottom 24 percent have negative net worth.

    (Imagine how much worse things are in 2011):
    http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/oss/oss2/papers/concentration.2004.3.pdf
    From the Federal Reserve 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances:
    ….From Page 28:

    The lowest 50 percent of the wealth
    distribution, which held only 2.5 percent of total net worth in 2004, came close to its population share only in holdings of installment debt (46.2 percent of the total) and credit card debt (45.7
    percent of total outstanding balances)…..

    If current benefit schemes, UE insurance, medicaid, food stamps, SS benefits with cola, medicare are to be maintained, military, intel, and domestic security spending must be slashed, and clawbacks similar to what was passed 100 years ago must be made law. Inheritance taxes at Y2K levels with loopholes reduced, and property taxes on other holdings beside real estate.
    Cap gains taxes must be at rates similar to w-2 income. Tax incentives for wealth invested in job creation with decent pay and benefits, tax surcharges on wealth malinvested or parked.

    There are more of us than there are of them. It is unacceptable for anything to be cut from current program levels. We have to stop passively observing them using money, influence and propaganda to destroy the consumer class. The interests and agenda of great wealth and their demands for foolishness like repatriation amnesty for strategically withheld corporate profits now “located” as book keeping entries as foreign deposits, cannot take precedence over this.:

    http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/government-elections/info-07-2011/aarp-responds-obama-deficit-reduction-plan.html
    July 7, 2011
    ..“AARP is strongly opposed to any deficit reduction proposal that makes harmful cuts to vital Social Security and Medicare benefits. Social Security is currently the principal source of income for nearly two-thirds of older American households receiving benefits, and roughly one third of those households depend on Social Security benefits for nearly all (90 percent or more) of their income. The deficit debate is not the time or the place to talk about Social Security. AARP will fight any cuts that are proposed to this important program, including proposals to reduce the cost of living adjustment for beneficiaries (COLA) — such as the proposed chained CPI — which AARP also believes should not be considered as part of the debt ceiling or deficit reduction negotiations.”….

    The majority must decide they will not quietly accept existing to serve the elite and also to cede control of the government’s policies to them.

    The right has been so successful that the only response is to push inheritance and income tax rates back to 1960 levels. Huey Long radicalism was no longer radical by 1960. The alternative is cat food for the seniors’ dinner table, empty shopping malls, rising mortality rates, and eventually, a violent, instead of a political, pushback.

  3. harpie says:

    In a Links post on 8/17, Marcy linked to a video about the J-1 Visa Student protest at Hershey.
    http://www.emptywheel.net/2011/08/18/links-81711/

    [After doing a little research at the State Department web site, I wrote a comment at the end of the thread with information, and contact links about the J-1 Visa program at DoS.]

    This was probably brought up here already, but I was really happy to see this NYT Op-Ed from 8/24/11, by a professor of labor and immigration law at Fordham, though I’m a couple days late with it at this point:

    America’s Sweatshop Diplomacy; JenniferGordon, NYT Op-Ed; 8/24/11
    http://tinyurl.com/3ohjppz

  4. orionATL says:

    david dayan at firedoglake includes the following weblog commentary by john bronte (a new name to me) on the bank of america situation:

    http://brontecapital.blogspot.com/2011/08/bank-of-america-time-everyone-took-long.html

    this is a very informative commentary.

    it is unusual and extremely pleasing to me to read this kind of two-sided, here’s what i think/here’s how i could be wrong commentary.

    but for all his sentences, bronte’s point about boa surviving just gets down to the obama admin not allowing it to fail. that argument in turn, it seems to me, gets down to just how much the obama admin can control.

    note bronte’s concerns with system failures; that is worth thinking about.

    society slowing losing faith in the boa, goldsacks, jpmorgan institutions could do their viability more damage than eric schneiderman – rather like air slowly, but inevitably, leaking from a punctured tire.

    comments are also interesting.

    dayan’s fdl post is here:
    http://news.firedoglake.com/2011/08/25/the-roundup-for-august-25-2011/

  5. matthew carmody says:

    @allan: No, we’re gonna accede to Bibi’s use of some of his nukes. Massive out of proportion response is the Israeli trademark.

  6. KWinIA says:

    I just heard about a Kindle eBook as I was driving back to work from lunch. It’s Science Friday on NPR and the guest is Laura Garrett, the Pullitzer Prize winning science writer. The book is “I HEARD THE SIRENS SCREAM: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks”. It’s apparently only available from Amazon. She’s not happy that an attack on NYC has been used to justify war on Iraq and the curtailing of civil liberties. She also details the horrible way the FBI investigated the anthrax attacks. Did you know there were 10 more “people of interest” whose lives the FBI ruined through their incompetence? The link is http://www.amazon.com/HEARD-SIRENS-SCREAM-Americans-ebook/dp/B005DFHYQK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314382964&sr=8-1.

  7. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    EW andall, Ritholtz knocks the economic stagnation issue for a triple: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/08/the-heart-of-the-matter/
    (Someone feel free to fwd to EconJared for more ammo…)

    And anyone interested in the Cheney propaganda salvo should watch John Dean explain it within Altmeyer’s paradigm of authoritarians. Dean insightful and sane as ever.

    Snd looks like Scahill will be on today’s show. Very interesting transcript: http://current.com/shows/countdown/blog/jeremy-scahill-on-cheneys-new-revised-history-of-the-bush-administration

  8. Morris Minor says:

    When reading Ritholz please remember that public employees are horrible and should always take pay cuts. Especially teachers.

    Why do they hate teachers?

  9. orionATL says:

    @readerOfTeaLeaves:

    thanks for this great cite, rofTL.

    the first commenter to ritzholz’s essay writes:

    ” Winston Munn Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 11:49 am
    Consumption makes up 71% of US GDP, of which 50% is consumption by those families earning <$80K annually. The simple math is that GDP=2x lower-income consumption…"

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