FM newswire for 17 January, hot articles for your morning reading

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis — with a new feature, daily good news!

  1. Provocative commentary:  “The COINdinistas: Last Year’s News“, Kelley B. Vlahos, AntiWar, 12 January 2010
  2. Dumbest post of the week, even among right-wing propaganda:  “The High Cost of No Price“, Veronique de Rugy, 12 January 2010 — The rest of the developed world has equal or larger government funding of health care, and spends far less.  The opposite of what her theory predicts.
  3. Moody’s Says Greece, Portugal May Face ‘Slow Death’“, Bloomberg, 13 January 2010
  4. Interesting review of 2 new books by or about Sarah Palin:  “Sarah and Her Tribe“, Jonathan Raban, NY Review of Books, 14 January 2010
  5. A powerful article I recommend reading:  “Lights Out on Liberty“, Mark Steyn, National Review Online, 14 January 2010
  6. Getting Away with Torture“, David Cole, NY Review of Books, 14 January 2010 — See note below.

Note:  For more information about torture see Something every American should read (25 March 2009) and We close our eyes to torture by our government. The Brits are stronger. (9 April 2009), and So many Americans approve of torture; what does this tell us about America? (30 April 2009).

Today’s topical post is about Haiti, and how our good efforts have helped screw it up:  Teach a man to fish, and you understand what we have done wrong in Haiti (23 May 2008)

Update:  about equality in America — an urban legend of the right

“Inequality, Living Standards, and the Middle Class”, Scott Winship (Pew Economic Mobility Project), Progressive FIX, 12 January 2010 — Part One and Part Two.  For more about inequality, see these posts:

8 thoughts on “FM newswire for 17 January, hot articles for your morning reading

  1. Perhaps the world should leave its gifts ( goods and people ) on Haiti’s doorstep ..for the citizens to use as they will .
    ” Governement is not the solution .. its the problem ” .
    A popular entertainer , using the media stuff thats everwhere ( good communications , good networks , use them too )should try Shakespear’s Henry V ‘s speech to organise the citizens , under their own steam , to fetch the goods , deploy the people , look after the vulnerable :

    ” For he that today sheds his sweat with me
    Shall be my brother ; be he ne’er so vile ,
    This day shall gentle his condition .
    And those unscathed by these dread days
    Shall think themselves cursed they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
    That worked with us upon the earthquake day . “

  2. I had two interesting contrasting thoughts when reviewing the recommended articles. With respect to “Lights Out on Liberty,” I thought, “Thankfully I live in America, where the First Amendment is a foundational law, and people cannot be prosecuted for their political views, even if offensive, and where the fundamental rights built into the rule of law protects those who are in the minority.” Then I read, “Getting away with torture,” and thought, “What has happened to the rule of law in this country, when government officials can violate a fundamental “jus cogens” law of the world (i.e. the prohibition on torture) and not be called into account in the seperate and independent judiciary which is there, in part, to check such abuses.” The trend of the judiciary to put its hands over its eyes and ears with respect to the post 9/11 excesses that have occurred is very troubling. While I understand that the Courts are reluctant to delve into matters under the rubric of national security, at some point they have to draw a line, and probably should have drawn it a long time ago.

    If the judiciary will not check the executive branch, who will protect us from the excesses of the police state? The voters through their elected officials who have enabled and participated in the illegality in the first place?
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    FM reply: The Executive Branch has been doing these things on a large scale at least since WWI. Arresting people and faking the evidence (look — a small bag of blow under your mattress, an unregistered gun in your closet!). Warrentless entry and wiretapping. And probably the occassion hit, based on the various unusual deaths (in prison, esp). Commies, labor leaders, civil rights activists, black power and leftist revolutionaries, etc — and anyone who can usefully be labeled as such (e.g, Martin Luther King).

    The Courts have consistently (but not always) turned a blind eye to these things. To fix these things, we must first accurately understand them.

  3. FM: “The Executive Branch has been doing these things on a large scale at least since WWI. Arresting people and faking the evidence (look — a small bag of blow under your mattress, an unregistered gun in your closet!). Warrentless entry and wiretapping. And probably the occassion hit, based on the various unusual deaths (in prison, esp). Commies, labor leaders, civil rights activists, black power and leftist revolutionaries, etc — and anyone who can usefully be labeled as such (e.g, Martin Luther King).

    I think you make a good point, and criticism of some of the court’s recent decisions on search and seizure are well founded. However, we cannot omit that judicial branch has also enforced the constitution and furthered justice as well, including Brown v. Board, Miranda, Loving v. Virginia, Mapp v. Ohio, Gideon v. Wainright, etc.

    Additional, the judicial branch has no influence over whether, for example, the executive bracnh decides to prosecute a purported assassination, or whether a law enforcement officer plants evidence. The Court can only administer to the case in front of it, and write legal decisions.

    Torture is one of those areas where it does have influence, and it should decide to let people go ahead with suits and not excuse torture on the basis of the so-called state secret doctrine.
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    FM reply: All good points. It’s important to remember that the expansion of the Executive Branch’s power is neither a recent thing nor a thing of the Bush Jr Administration. In correct diagnosis often leads to wrong treatment.

    “Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times.”
    — Gustave Flaubert, in a etter to George Sand, 8 September 1871

  4. Commenting on the COINdistas, I heartily agree with their coming to earth. It is about time that these young people realize that their war is not every war, nor even the mostly next war. The wisest, though not most followed, course is yours, Fabius. Hedge, because Shaping never works.

  5. The EU has flat out accused Greece of falsifying its financial data: Eurostat’s Report on Greek Government Deficit and Debt Statistics, dated January 8, 2010, six times states, “This is to be considered as a case of deliberate misreporting of figures….” The report states:

    The reliability of Greek government deficit and debt statistics has been the subject of continuous and unique attention for several years. In 2004, Eurostat produced a comprehensive report on the revision of the Greek government deficit and debt figures, showing how the Greek statistical authorities had misreported figures on deficit and debt in the years between 1997 and 2003. On five occasions since 2004 reservations have been expressed by Eurostat on the Greek data in the biannual press release on deficit and debt data. When the Greek EDP data have been published without reservations, this has been the result of Eurostat interventions before or during the notification period in order to correct mistakes or inappropriate recording, with the result of increasing the notified deficit. Other elements of this continuous attention are a high number of visits, including four methodological visits, and an action plan agreed with the Greek authorities, addressing the statistical problems that could be diagnosed by Eurostat. That action plan was regularly reviewed by Eurostat. Though eventually an overall level of completion was achieved, given that Eurostat is restricted to statistical matters in its work the measures foreseen in the action plan were mainly of a methodological nature, and did not address the issues of institutional settings, accountability, responsibility and political interference.The 2004 events led to amendments of the EU legal framework for fiscal data in order to strengthen that framework and to improve the monitoring by the Commission of data provided by Member States in the context of the EDP notifications exercises. The existing legal framework and the governance system for government deficit and debt data at EU level are in general functioning well and produce fiscal data of a generally high quality. It is important to acknowledge the overall efficient and loyal cooperation between national authorities and the Commission that characterises this governance system.

    The events which have occurred in Greece, as described in this report, are therefore not considered as systemic and relate to individual, country-specific problems. The most recent revisions are an illustration of the lack of quality of the Greek fiscal statistics (and of Greek macroeconomic statistics in general) and show that the progress in the compilation of fiscal statistics in the country, and the intense scrutiny by Eurostat since 2004, have not sufficed to bring the quality of Greek fiscal data to the level reached by other EU Member States. Even if the existing governance framework for fiscal statistics at EU level functions satisfactorily and enables improvements of a statistical and methodological nature, it cannot prevent deliberate misreporting of data.

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    FM reply: The evolution of the Euro has led to a massive loss of both monetary flexability and trade competitivenss for the PIIGS. What else can they do but lie? Beg? Fold up and go away? The Euro structure is flawed, and has but these nations under stress, with no good alternatives.

  6. 1. COINdistas. I was quick to condemn O for being timid. Perhaps the strategy is to give them enough rope to hang themselves.
    2. Health costs. Like my old boss said: “If you throw enough s**t on the wall, some of it is likely to stick.
    3. I think we can add Spain, and Ireland.
    4-5 I find it interesting that Palin and Mein Kampf were mentioned in the same post. Can we expect “Triumph of the Will” sometime soon.
    6. I have been following the Arar story for some time. If it weren’t for his wife, he would still be in Syria. She is the one who got him out of there. That he is getting no justice does not surprise me. With all those conservative justices on the bench, what else can we expect? Even if the judges were libs, I don’t think things would be much different. The whole Arar thing is just too embarrassing. A trial must be avoided at all cost.
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    FM reply: This seems misleading, as the concatenation is quite long.

    “4-5 I find it interesting that Palin and Mein Kampf were mentioned in the same post. Can we expect ‘Triumph of the Will’ sometime soon.”

    (1) Prosecutors finalize their hate speech indictment against MP Geert Wilders, listing 5 counts of religious insult and anti-Muslim incitement. It indictment charges Wilders with insulting Muslims by describing Islam as a fascist religion and calling for the banning of the Koran, which he likens to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
    (2) Agence France-Presse (AFP) publishes “Dutch filmmaker will face prosecution on racial hatred charges“, 13 January 2010.
    (3) Mark Steyn writes a blog post: “Lights Out on Liberty“, National Review Online, 14 January 2010.
    (4) I post a links to 9 articles, including Steyn’s and an unrelated review of Sarah Palin’s book.
    (5) From this you say “Palin and Mein Kampf were mentioned in the same post. Can we expect ‘Triumph of the Will’ sometime soon.”

    If this is humor, it’s over my head (but then, so much humor is). If not, I don’t see the logic.

  7. FM reply: “All good points. It’s important to remember that the expansion of the Executive Branch’s power is neither a recent thing nor a thing of the Bush Jr Administration.

    Correct, one has only to look at Woodrow Wilson’s administration during WWI, to see vast abuse of executive power.
    * The Committee on Public Information was a thinly-disguised government propaganda agency designed to promote the Wilson agenda before the U.S. entry into the war and after; “Four Minute Men” were trained advocates, given a condensed version of Wilson’s program, and then dispersed into communities across America to promote it.
    * The Alien and Sedition Acts allowed arrest, retention and prosecution of persons suspected of harboring Axis sympathies, often upon threadbare or non-existent evidence.
    * Censorship of newspapers and other information outlets was widespread.
    * Wilson’s isolationist programme, to which he seemed so committed, was 180 degrees opposite of the fervor to rush to war, a conflict in which America’s sons were conscripted to fight a war they had been promised America would not enter.
    * Lastly, numerous industrial and government agencies made the U.S. enterprise a de facto command economy, subject to executive edict, and government regulation on a previously unheard of scale.

    Wilson’s administration, in many ways, foretold the military-industrial-government complex which arose after WWII, and of which Eisenhower warned us.

  8. Reply to Pete and FM:

    Why stop at WWI. Wikipedia entry for the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798).

    Is there a substantive difference between government abuse of power now, government abuse of power in 1798, or government abuse of power say, during Andrew Jackson’s tenure? Is the primary difference the ability of the government to increase its abusive practices through new technology, better organization, and the slow increase of centralized authority, or is it something deeper? Perhaps there a real change occurred with the military industrial complex, which created a whole class of people whose job it is to abuse power, spy, and otherwise operate outside the law.
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    FM reply: You must be kidding. The government in 1798 was far smaller by every metric than the US government of 1918, let alone that of 2010.

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