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Torturers, looters and oligarchs let their freak flags fly

The people who variously collapsed the economy, bought the political process and brought torture into polite society are tired of your disrespect and they’re not afraid to let you know it.

The latest in the parade of former Bush administration officials and CIA personnel to come in from the cold the suburbs and either defend or brag about their roles in the Bush torture regimen is psychologist James Mitchell, the prominent member of the helping professions who is credited with having designed the procedures used by the CIA to torture prisoners and is supposed to have tortured at least one prisoner himself. In an interview with The Guardian, Mitchell said “I’m just a guy who got asked to do something for his country by people at the highest level of government, and I did the best that I could.” Mitchell follows in the footsteps of former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who say the times required torture and the results justify it, and anyway it wasn’t torture.

In some circumstances, in some countries, admitting to having not just devised torture procedures but practicing them as well would land one in hot water. In the US, however, torturers have a very prominent advocate for letting bygones be bygones: the current President. In 2009, when he ordered the release of the documents the Bush administration’s legal team wrote to retroactively and prospectively justify torture, President Obama said that “[i]n releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.”
Continue reading Torturers, looters and oligarchs let their freak flags fly

Paul Krugman is wrong about Medicaid

Paul Krugman suggests in his New York Times column today that continuing the expansion of Medicaid is the answer to the outlandish cost of health care in the United States. He’s wrong. Medicaid is a lifeline for the impoverished, but the program would have to be reformed to the point that it would no longer be recognizable as Medicaid to be satisfactory for most Americans.

The reason Krugman likes Medicaid is the program’s success at controlling costs. He says that of all the health care delivery systems in the country, Medicaid is the one most like those in Europe, which have much lower costs than ours. If that’s true, it’s only because most of the rest of our fragmented system is completely fucked up.

Among the primary aims of European systems is health care equity — providing everybody with the same access to high-quality health care regardless of income or station. Medicaid does not come close to doing that. Krugman says that care from Medicaid providers is good and that lack of access is greatly exaggerated. In my experience the former is sometimes true and the latter, never.
Continue reading Paul Krugman is wrong about Medicaid

JPMorgan Chase goes for the (comedy) gold; crushed by guilt, former New York Fed chief and treasury secretary Tim Geithner retreats to a monastery

Or something like that.

After greasing the skids for Wall Street’s economic vandalism as head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and then opening the national vaults to banksters and brokers as US treasury chief, Timothy Geithner is making his Wall Street employment official. The man who once boasted of “foaming the runway” for banks with the frothy remnants of liquefied former homeowners has accepted a job supervising the mailroom at private-equity giant Warburg Pincus, where he hopes to work his way to the top after gaining experience in the industry while avoiding charges of cashing in on his government service.
Continue reading JPMorgan Chase goes for the (comedy) gold; crushed by guilt, former New York Fed chief and treasury secretary Tim Geithner retreats to a monastery

Bobbing for sharks with Orange John Boehner

John Boehner’s next job could be as a safety buoy bobbing gently in the waters of the Fiscal Shoals, warning off the unwary. (“These are not tears,” he will say with a sad little smile; “it’s only the life-giving waters of the sea in my eyes.”) If he falls, he’ll likely give way to one among the group of 40-something white guys who call themselves The Young Guns, which right there gives you multiple insights into some of the things troubling the Grand Old Party.

House and Senate staff members will take an 8.2% pay cut if their bosses don’t get a tax and deficit deal done before the end of the first federal pay period in 2013. Collectively, the staff are looking at more than $100 million in cuts for the year. Possibly this will have an impact on the negotiations. Their bosses, who included themselves among America’s Warriors and others so valuable or vulnerable as to warrant protection from any budget reductions, face a 0% cut (although their foreign currency conversion allowance will take a brutal hit). Even John Boehner will still get paid despite demonstrating live on national television that he can’t do the job for which he draws a larger pay check than anyone else in the House.

(“Who should get pay cuts?” “Well, let’s start with the obvious: not us. VA nurses first.”)
Continue reading Bobbing for sharks with Orange John Boehner

The Obama justice department: never met a bigfoot badman they couldn’t work with

The surprise in the Obama administration’s deal with London-based HSBC, the money-laundering enterprise moonlighting as the world’s third-largest bank, is that it came in the guise of a criminal prosecution. The bank has pleaded guilty to breaking some laws. Nobody who works or worked at the bank is guilty, though; just the corporate person, . . . → Read More: The Obama justice department: never met a bigfoot badman they couldn’t work with

In which we use prison labor to make body armor to sell overseas

I like to read the contract notices issued by the Pentagon. On a good day you can watch billions and billions of dollars go out the door in support of blowing various things and people up. Among the beneficiaries of today’s contracts is UNICOR, the government corporation that contracts prison labor to make stuff . . . → Read More: In which we use prison labor to make body armor to sell overseas

Pressuring the Obama Administration on climate change, redux

Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this before.

One would like to believe that in the face of a massive and growing emergency, our benevolent governors will recognize the need to do something, figure out what to do and then, do it. With respect to climate change, none of that is happening. I have created a very modest little mechanism through which anyone concerned can help exert some pressure on the Obama administration to at least begin developing a plan for coping with climate change, which I’ll get to downstream a bit.

Everyone who acknowledges the reality of climate change recognizes that it constitutes a crisis. Five years ago, a staid military think tank called the Center for Naval Analyses commissioned and published a report on the national security threat posed by climate change.

In the national and international security environment, climate change threatens to add new hostile and stressing factors. On the simplest level, it has the potential to create sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale far beyond those we see today. The consequences will likely foster political instability where societal demands exceed the capacity of governments to cope.

CNA is populated by retired admirals and generals whose climate change concerns run mostly toward preparing the US military to cope with the consequences of long-term, escalating global unrest. They’re not a group of flamboyant alarmists. Neither are the technocrats and fat cats at the World Bank, whose concerns are keeping the world safe for development, and who last month issued a frankly terrifying report on climate change called “Turn Down The Heat,” in which they predict a 4-degree rise in global temperatures by the end of this century if the threat is left unaddressed. There is, say the authors, “no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible.”

In other words, if we proceed as we are then the next generation but one may get to witness the fabled end of the world as we know it, and we’ll all walk down a long mile of very bad road in the meantime.
Continue reading Pressuring the Obama Administration on climate change, redux

Free trade, terracotta candidates and cardboard bicycles

The giant sucking sound Ross Perot wants you to hear these days is him endorsing Mitt Romney on the basis of Romney’s presumed fiscally responsible policies. Perot, who wasn’t born yesterday, posits that history began in 2009 and says experts support Romney’s contention that the mome raths outgrabe.

Democrats, meanwhile, are shocked, shocked! that the company Romney once owned and still profits from is outsourcing jobs to China in a particularly callous fashion — requiring American workers at Sensata, an auto parts maker, to conclude their own employment by training their Chinese replacements. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (who recently declined to sign a letter pledging to block Social Security cuts) is joining Sensata workers today in a show of solidarity.
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Embargoed until release: President Obama’s Labor Day address

Disclaimer: this is not actually Barack Obama speaking at the site of the Loray Mill in Gastonia, North Carolina on Labor Day in 2012.

Thank you all for coming to Gastonia today.

When I delivered my Nobel Lecture in acceptance of the Nobel Committee’s prize for peace on December 10 of 2009, I did so in the knowledge that I had not earned it and did not deserve it. I told the assemblage that among those more deserving, “there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help – to be far more deserving of this honor than I.”

In retrospect, I should have ended my speech there and left the stage. Because just as I did not deserve that prize, those people, “jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice,” did not deserve to be subordinated to my cause that night, which was not justice but justification of state violence applied to an inexcusably wide range of situations. And I stand before you today to make some small amends, to celebrate and justify our own who across the years have been and still are jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice, and I ask you all, and all other Americans, to celebrate and justify them with me.
Continue reading Embargoed until release: President Obama’s Labor Day address

An epitaph for Obama: “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.”

Not long after the big Republican win in the 2010 elections, the Obama administration’s best and brightest gave up on explaining that putting people to work is really good for both the economy and for people who need work. The concept was too complicated for voters, they thought, so instead the president went off to negotiate with a crew of irresolute drunks and psychotic killer termites over how best to tighten the belt of government around the necks of the poor, the sick, the old and the unemployed.

This is according to David Corn’s new book, Showdown, which is apparently meant as a generous portrait of the administration.

Continue reading An epitaph for Obama: “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.”