Whatever we’re doing there (and nobody seems to know for sure, but it involves poppies) Huffington reports two-thirds of Americans think it hasn’t been worth the cost.
What is the cost?
Difficult to estimate because corruption is pandemic in that country, so everything’s a guess. Perhaps $8 Billion per year to preserve basics, build infrastructure, feed the corruption, and some of this is paid by other nations. National Priorities Project estimates over $10 million per hour, here, paid by American taxpayers.
That’s according to Oxfam. Here
This from Daily Beast:
“The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), an independent agency created by Congress to monitor U.S. spending in Afghanistan, has detailed the money wasted in the Afghan supply process in a series of audits focused on procurement of fuel and vehicle parts for Afghan security forces.
As of March 2013, the U.S. has spent (PDF) about $54 billion funding security forces in Afghanistan and $92 billion on reconstruction, agriculture, and other development projects, according to a SIGAR report.”
Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank, at a Conference of Economic opportunity and Inequality, made a speech, here and raised the hackles of corporate business.
Britain raised the probability of a terrorist attack from religious forces in Syria and Iraq, sounding the alert, here.
These alerts familiar? The US Government issues colored alerts. The colors make it simple.
We have a hunger problem in US. It never gets orange or red alerts.
‘A hungry man is not a free man’
America is the biggest exporter of food.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture reveals that at home, 4% of American households are going hungry for lack of money (that’s 4.4 million households), and another 12% are food-insecure: they eat if they don’t pay rent or other bills.
American poverty is a multifaceted disaster. Why do we export liberty and abundance to other lands when America is not taking care of its own?
We have had a conservative leadership. Many conservatives simply don’t want to take care of our poor. More welfare, according to Social Darwinists, just encourages the poor and then they won’t work. These conservatives are proud of their ruthlessness.
Those conservatives who do believe in helping also believe that the only help should be in the form of charity.
Many conservatives believe that charity is the answer to poverty.
(This is obviously wrong, because if charity really worked, there would be no more homeless and hungry.)
What’s the catch?
The catch is the conservative mindset that charity should only be given to people who are ‘deserving.’ (And conservatives insist on making that judgment themselves.)
So we have 18% of American children living in poverty, and their numbers are growing. We’d rather give charity to foreigners. Conservatives are giving charity selectively because of their prejudice against the poor. — These kids’ parents are welfare cases, so are not ‘deserving.’
But a nation with many hungry millions cannot be a strong nation. A hungry person is not a free person (originally Adlai Stevenson’s dictum) because hunger is coercive. A well-fed person can explore his options, read, and act as an informed member of a democracy. But a hungry person is a problem: he’s distracted, fearful, resentful, and he must look for food.
Unequally distributed hunger creates a division in a society.
Next: in a dangerous dog-eat-dog world, which conservatives insist, there’s Darwinian competition between nations. Conservatives keep saying: to survive, we have to be top dog. But how can we be top dog, with these internal divisions? Outsiders, looking at us, certainly see us weakened by them.
I’m not saying conservatives are rational.
Taking care of our own would heal us, naturally. But fathoms deep in the conservative mind is some dark, lurching logic that weakens us. Something even stronger than the fear of outside threats prevents them helping their fellow Americans.
An absurd calculus. It means that while America is the biggest exporter of food, we have hunger. We have poverty and blight. From the outside it cannot look like America is the land of the free.
Related article here.
Congress says it can’t find the money to provide healthcare for ordinary Americans, who are the public. Investment banks at this writing are furiously lobbying Congress and writing new legislation to push back regulations. And they know they will win. Those coiffed gentlemen want to play the very gambles that helped drop us all in the banking crisis of 2008. And they will do it again. Banks act like they own Congress. And thus you are entitled to feel violated. Read more here
Marketwatch here says it’s not as huge as big tobacco fines. (Interesting comparison, both toxic.)
Collective bank fines now up to $142 Billion. (That’s a B.)
Why do cops arrest people for photographing them? Maybe the cops don’t know its wrong. “Probably because they haven’t been trained otherwise,” [attorney Mickey] Osterreicher told Huff Post. “I think that there are many officers that believe that the minute they tell somebody to do or not do something, that that’s an order. But police can only order somebody to do or not do something based on the law, and there is no law that says you can not record or photograph out in public.” Here
President Obama authorized the military strikes, here.
With Israel’s violent history, change is no more likely than the sun veer off its course.
Faced with obstucting Republicans at home and inflamed military situations overseas, President Obama met with the press 8/1/14 in his usual careful way. Almost like a law professor dealing with fumbling students’ questions, he reminded the press of the context: those awful House Republicans, a Congress that can’t pass legislation, he reminded us of the difficult budget choices when dealing with crises. Carefully he pointed out how complex it all is.
One question from the press was: Is America losing influence in the world? Answer: Well, remember we’re only one country among many…
Obama’s performance on television was tepid. It usually is. His presence has no fire, no punch, no charisma. If it takes an axe to get a job done, this president prefers to use a butterknife. His porcelain academic diction. We wonder if his speeches are written in disappearing ink. He meets obstreperous questions from reporters with a slight frown.
And he shows no swagger. But the President of the United States is entitled to strut. Especially when he faces up to Russia’s leader, Putin. Putin is different material. Hard eyed audacity; under Putin’s polish is a pistol. Putin is currently out to grab land in the Crimea and Ukraine, and so far nothing is stopping him except some vague economic “sanctions.” Obama should be getting in Putin’s face dissuading him from jumping countries, but so far it’s all rational talk.
So what is Obama doing?
We think underneath that polished surface, the President is frail. Detached. He has been tamed. He is not sure.
But world events are breaking fast. Now Israel devastates her neighbor Palestine. Latin America dumps orphans over our border. The Russians shoot down some planes over their border.
Come, Mr President. Tell us again what a complex situation it all is.
Question: If the freemarket capitalistic system is the best, providing people the most freedoms and satisfaction, which of these three nations has the highest suicide rate? (1) England (socialist) (2) Canada (socialist) (3) US (capitalist)
Answer: USA. It ranks 33 (out of 110 countries); England ranks lower at 37; Canada ranks 40. People are killing themselves more in America, which also has the dubious distinction of more military suicides than lives lost to enemy combat.
Democracy stands on two main values: Freedom and equality. But conservatives think equality would take away incentive in their lives, here.
Put together this little game and check out the real motives of the person sitting next to you. It’s called the Nuts Game. Here…
Nearly 2/3 of voters think the stock market is rigged against them, here.
Large companies take out life insurance on their rank-and-file employees, so if the employee dies, the company gets all the money. The employee’s family gets nothing. In fact the employee usually doesn’t know about this. No surprise, WalMart has dead peasant insurance on its employees – here
Wikipedia: “Wage theft is the illegal withholding of wages or the denial of benefits that are rightfully owed to an employee. Wage theft, particularly from low wage legal or illegal immigrant workers of color, is common in the United States. Wage theft can be conducted through various means: overtime, minimum wage violations, employee misclassification, illegal deductions in pay, working off the clock, not being paid at all. These violated rights have been guaranteed to workers in the United States since 1938 by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).] “
How common is wage theft?
Wikipedia “A 2008 study based on surveys of over 4,000 workers in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City found: Wage theft from low wage workers in large cites in the United States is severe and widespread. Incidence varies with the type of job and employee; however, any worker may be impacted. “
LA Times article survey how much low-wage workers suffer, shows average lose 12.5% of their pay, here
As The Daily Need noted in 2011, police actions around Occupy events got civil liberties scholars upset, article. Arresting witnesses for filming police at Occupy demonstrations, for instance, is not what you expect in a free society, but its what some police announced they would do, and tens of reporters were in fact arrested for just doing that.
Why did the Occupy movement disappear so quickly? It didn’t lose steam. It didn’t get lost. And it didn’t dissolve for lack of leadership. It got squashed. In a New York Review article 2012, Michael Greenberg documents some of the squashing.
The Occupy movement got a lot of attention and had a lot of public sympathy. Its disappearance leaves a political vacuum.
Ed Shane, media consultant, says people are more isolated, withdrawing to defend themselves against today’s media deluge. Media agressiveness backfires, and we become more separate from others (Disconnected America: The Consequences of Mass Media in a Narcissistic World – E. Shane)
With J P Morgan paying nearly $2 billion in fines this time, we are reminded Wall St continues to behave like it was a power unto itself and pretty much lawless. It never gets better. Our laws have little influence because the Street is so scantily policed. (Unlike Occupy Wall St movement demonstrations, see above). What changes should be made if we want a lawful Wall St? – Keep in mind we are dealing with a coiffed horde of ultra wealthy sociopaths. Al Lewis comments.
Imagine if you were on an airplane where 1% of the passengers had 40% of the seats. That’s approximately the wealth pattern in America. Statistics.
The two prime values of democracy are freedom and equality. Those are the legs on which it walks. But with this degree of inequality, the second one is broken. More…
According to Huffington, and polls, only about half of Republicans approve the extreme conservative Tea Party. It’s dysfunctional. Will it get separate party status?
The heart of conservative economics is the idea that rich people’s wealth eventually benefits everybody. Rich people begin businesses, hire the poor, and pay them. Rich people spend money on goods the poorer people manufacture. So the wealth at the top “trickles down.”
We’re supposed to see a diagram here of the shape of society as roughly like a diamond, viewed from the side, with most people in the middle class. And as the rich get richer, the top of the diagram moves up, pulling lower ranks up.
But actually the bottom of society is not moving up. So as the top goes up, society just gets longer and more unequal. That’s what’s happening.
Trickle down theory is fairy dust. (But it drives a lot of government policy.) To a large extent, very wealthy people invest in things that bring no benefit for the working poor: paintings, jewelry, real estate.
What’s the alternative? Well there’s a new idea called the Winner Take All theory which says in this competitive society people have an intense drive to win. And the prize for rising to the top is that you grab it all – or a huge percentage – then the losers divide up what’s left.
A winner-take-all society has a different shape. A tall pyramid.
That shape is more accurate, because currently the top 1% of our population actually owns 40% of the wealth. This means a sharp inequality.
The Left is naturally opposed to laissez faire (free market) economics because it produces big wealth only for some people. What it always produces is inequality. The Left doesn’t like hierarchy (inequality) anyway, and the inequality creates great pain for the people who are left behind. The Right actually encourages social inequality. Some of them say it makes the economy run better.
There’s a statistic which population experts now use called the Gini Index. It shows how unequal a society is. It runs on a scale from 0 (perfect equality) to 1 (perfect inequality) and in the U.S. it has been increasing steadily, and it stood at 0.47 in 2005. If the Gini Index gets high, it predicts social unrest.
And there’s some new scientific research comparing nations. It shows that the more social inequality in a country, the shorter the life expectancies. For everybody. Naturally, the Right is vigorously ignoring that research. But it’s your health. That research is the single biggest threat to free market economics.
Still listening to that ‘rising tide lifts all boats‘?
After all we’re going through. After the reports, the statistics, the debates. Next time you hear somebody talk that ‘rising tide lifts all boats,’ just do a U-turn. Flip the channel.
It’s a wrenchingly insulting metaphor from a group of nasty people.
After the catastrophic events of the last few years, they continue to natter the little sayism. ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’
But this image never fits what you see, looking out the window, as you drive through the city.
It is a competitive society. They are proud of that. Now, the outcome of any competition is inevitably a winner and a loser. That’s an inequality. Obviously both people are not lifted; only the winner’s boat.
So they musts concede that in a competition (between people or between groups) one side increases, the other side decreases. The sum of the two is zero. That’s why it’s called a “zero-sum”.
So the truth we need to be telling each other is another picture. Scrap the boats. The accurate picture is: ‘The higher the tree, the deeper the roots.’
The economy is an organic whole. The top and bottom parts are not disconnected from each other. Not detached like boats, and that aspect is obvious. Everything is connected in society. The tree’s branches reach high into the glittering sun because the roots reach low into the clotted dark.
So in the business world. Stratospheric bonuses for CEOs are possible because the wages of the workers have not increased from mud-low.
So why do they keep drawing for us this picture ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ on us?
Because generations of greed are so rationalized.
But why do they say so, when it is clear it is not so? Over and over, like preachers who shout from the pulpit for two thousand years that the rapture is coming, and for two thousand years the congregation then turns out of the church door in rapture. But on the way home, the congregation doesn’t see any rapture. Just the city. On the way home, they notice that every year, the limousines get longer, and every year there are more homeless people.
We think: it can’t be. Some people are raised, yes. But not the poor. Not all are raised.
Educators: this is a teachable moment. That boats metaphor is insulting because it’s not rational. In any competition (on which business is based) one party wins because the other party loses. It is not possible that both the winner and the loser of a competition win.
The depth of this is that, after this is explained, that they will use their sayism again. But repetition is not the same as truth.
If we try to explain to them about the tree roots, they start to object, not on the basis of evidence, but with scorn that we do not understand.
That scorn is no substitute for reality. It is the way they nail their points. And it does not make the boats image true.
Politicians know the effectiveness of images and metaphor to convey complex processes because it’s hard to disprove an image. And in our culture of sound bytes, the shorter the communication, the better — few people stop to ingest an economic treatises. But a competing image, catching the imagination, has the power to move, because it combines concept and feeling. It has a sticking quality. Communicated, it has the power to upset a whole paradigm.
Less boat. More tree.
New study says this is due to shops throwing out food at “faulty expiration dates.” Here
The study says just 15% of all this wasted food would be enough to feed more than 25 million Americans every year.
Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years for leaking this miiitary video of an American attack helicopter killing civilians in Iraq. The video comes from inside the cockpit of an Apache helicopter. It records the voices of the crew as they find some Iraqis walking on the street, then decide they are carrying weapons, then shoot them all to death. Turns out they were not weapons the civilians were carrying but cameras. Two of them were local reporters. Turns out one was not killed, he crawled away wounded and when a local van stopped to rescue him, the Americans turned the helicopter back and shot up the van too. Two school children were inside the van. They were badly wounded. Altogether maybe 12 civilians were killed. This is a wrenching video, the more so because the American crew were recorded adding comments like “nice” to their carnage.
Because Pvt. Manning turned the video over to WikiLeaks, he was court martialed and will now spend most of his life in prison.
The video Collateral Damage is also on WikiLeaks here
BRASS AND IRON is set in 1898 Chicago, with the birth of unions and the story runs with labor protests, work mutinies against exploiters , and it features a red hot, class-conflict romance. Available hereor click on the image.
Story: A sweeping romance set against the labor riots of Chicago in the 1890s. The young Wyand returns from war to Chicago. He is broken with war nightmares. 1898 finds big cities in America the same: the ultra-rich live next to the desperate poor, extravagance flaunted in the face of the overcrowded hungry. Wyand finds no work except in one of the hellish southside factories. The poor neighborhoods are awash in brutal labor riots. Wyand stumbles into a labor mutiny where he saves the life of a beautiful worker, Kate, about to be killed by hired goons. She promptly rejects him as an educated boy, not her working class. He is smitten by her spirit and her beauty, and he pursues. She extracts a price for her affections: Wyand has to help her organize another mutiny against the stranglehold of their exploiters. She leads him into the labor turmoil across gang-infested streets. Strikes were illegal and brutally crushed, and twice their organizing is broken, and suffering and hunger fill the streets. But Wyand is hypnotized by Kate’s spirit. Jailed for striking, he returns to the cause and wins the respect of the workers. Seizing the moment after a bloody street battle, he picks up as a street orator and once again rallies the crowd of desperate and broken. Kate is finally impressed. Together the two work tirelessly to get a foothold in the struggle for justice. They plan a third big uprising against deadly obstacles. They once again confront the widespread fear, the factory owners, the law.
Nearly half of Congress are very rich, here
When will voters get popular representation?
According to this AP article some 80 percent of American adults face poverty, near-poverty and unemployment at some time in their lives. Harvard’s Professor Wilson says it’s a social class thing, and there’s growing inequality.
Despite Obama’s declarations he want to repair the gap, things are not getting better in US, they’re getting worse. The rich get richer and the poor are fighting for breath.
Is anyone interested in reducing social inequality with its proven toxic effects (see post below)? Is anyone interested in closing the gap?
Not the top 1%.
“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.”
This was not originally Jefferson. John Basil Barnhill said it in 1914.
Problems with your bank account? That might be because somebody else has your account number. Banks recycle account numbers
Investigative reporter discovers B of A and other banks routinely use old account numbers again. So the previous owner of your account number can continue to write checks on your account. Here.
Marketwatch quotes under-oath statements from bank employees who said they had to to lie to customers so the bank could foreclose on their properties.
Marketwatch’s Al Lewis: …”The accusations are so outrageous, it’s best to read them in the former employee’s own words — which they have submitted under penalty of perjury.” Here.
• “Although I was called a “Home Retention Specialist,” my job was to collect as much money as possible from homeowners,” said Recorda Simon, who worked at Bank of America’s call center in Fort Worth, Texas, from August 2010 to January 2011.
• “We were told to lie to customers and claim that Bank of America had not received documents it had requested, and that it had not received trial payments” when in fact it had, said Simone Gordon, who worked at Bank of America from July 2007 to February 2012. “A collector who placed 10 or more accounts into foreclosure in a given month received a $500 bonus. Bank of America also gave employees gift cards to retail stores as rewards for placing accounts into foreclosure.”
• “I saw records regarding hundreds of homeowners that Bank of America treated dishonestly,” said Erika Brown, who worked at Bank of America from June 2009 through June 2010. “The homeowners were eligible for loan modifications under HAMP, sent back all the required documents, and made all their required payments. Bank of America nevertheless damaged their credit ratings by reporting them delinquent, tacked on additional charges to their loans, increased the amounts it considered as being owed and often referred these homeowners to foreclosure.”
• “I told my supervisors these practices were ridiculous and immoral,” said William E. Wilson Jr., a team manager for Bank of America from June 2010 through August 2012, in Charlotte, N.C. “We were instructed to delay and then push homeowners to accept an internal refinance so that Bank of America would profit. Once an applicant was finally rejected after a long delay, the bank would offer them an in-house alternative. Bank of America would charge a higher interest rate, ranging up to 5%, as compared to 2% if the loan had been modified under HAMP.”
• “The numbers Bank of America were reporting to the government and to the public were simply not true,” said Steven Cupples, an underwriter who worked at Bank of America until 2012. “Employees who challenged … the ethics of Bank of America’s practice for any reason were fired.”
• “Bank of America was trying to prevent as many homeowners as possible from obtaining permanent HAMP loan modifications, while leading the public and the government to believe that it was making efforts to comply with HAMP,” said Theresa Terralonge, who worked for Bank of America from June 2009 to June 2010.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren calls for new judges to replace the present ones who have grown up slanted towards money interests and who are accustomed to business being their business, here. Big businesses always trying to influence courts, she says. So do we have any courts that are fair?
Gotta love this senator. She’s the only one with the strength to do what Obama should be doing.
Robert Reich says we can’t do anything about these two operations, here, both work under blankets of secrecy. Both are out of control.
According to the poll, George Bush is getting more positive ratings than negative.
Due to forgotten Bush-era Patriot Act provision, Verizon reports all its phone calls to the government. This follows other phone company spying scandals. TSA agency gets these international and domestic call data, TechCrunch reports here
White House says it’s OK, here.
Senator Lindsey Graham explains he needs more missles, drones, active soldiers here.
One in seven Americans need food stamps and that number is growing, causing federal costs to grow. Lawmakers in Congress want cuts, here
Every year CREW publishes an updated list. RON PAUL is on the latest, here
On one side of a city there are people so wealthy that after big parties, they are throwing out meat. On the other side there are people so poor, they cannot afford to buy meat.
Is this a moral problem?
–This question is a litmus test. It is attributed to John Rawls, liberal theorist from the 1970s. Free market and laissez faire conservatives see no problem – they think it’s “in the nature of things” that some people have more than they know what to do with, while others live with scarcity. For them, the inequality is simply not an issue.
Next, there are people who say it’s a technical problem of not enough food being grown to keep everybody in abundance, not a moral problem.
But liberals see it differently. Liberals feel there is something wrong with a system (city, nation) which in total, contains enough food for everybody, but not everyone is able to get it. The situation is unjust.
Liberalism – the left – rests on moral judgments. A prime moral is justice.
A Pew Research article 2011, reporting on their national poll, shows that while the average member of the public remains positive to capitalism, people aged 18-29 said they liked socialism better than capitalism (here, see the table under “Socialism and Capitalism” by category).
Constitution Project report on Bush-era torture: “Democracy and torture cannot peacefully coexist in the same body politic”
Constitution Project report here.
New investigation: US interrogation of detainees in Bush era sometimes used torture, and other “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, which violated laws and international treaties, and were “directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation,” and which “damaged the standing of our nation”
Contitution Project’s investigation report is here.
Average American in debt spends 3.5 hrs/day worrying about it, here
.Life might be good if they let us live it.
Marketwatch: Top 10 companies here paying the least taxes