Archive for International

Just because you don’t hear the term “free-market fundamentalism” much these days doesn’t mean the faith has gone away. More on that in a minute.

Der Spiegel looks at The Zombie System: How Capitalism Has Gone Off the Rails. The wizards of finance are not the choir boys that prove the moral superiority of capitalism, as analyst Mike Mayo believed when he entered the business. Instead, writes Michael Sauga, Mayo found “the glittering facades of the American financial industry concealed an abyss of lies and corruption.”

Ironically, some the most blessed(?) beneficiaries of the corruption, global financial and political leaders, now say they want to fix capitalism, make it more inclusive:

It isn’t necessary, of course, to attend the London conference on “inclusive capitalism” to realize that industrialized countries have a problem. When the Berlin Wall came down 25 years ago, the West’s liberal economic and social order seemed on the verge of an unstoppable march of triumph. Communism had failed, politicians worldwide were singing the praises of deregulated markets and US political scientist Francis Fukuyama was invoking the “end of history.”

Today, no one talks anymore about the beneficial effects of unimpeded capital movement. Today’s issue is “secular stagnation,” as former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers puts it. The American economy isn’t growing even half as quickly as did in the 1990s. Japan has become the sick man of Asia. And Europe is sinking into a recession that has begun to slow down the German export machine and threaten prosperity.

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Oct
18

Six Degrees of Ebola

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Kevin Bacon
(photo credit David Shankbone, Wikimedia Commons)

Is America playing Six Degrees of Ebola yet? Connect yourself to someone on Amber Vinson’s Frontier Airlines flight in six steps or fewer, then run around freaking out? (Something to play on a cruise, maybe?)

Best wishes for a swift recovery, of course, to the two caregivers infected in Texas. Yet Ebola fever (the psychological kind) has so gripped the country that articles are popping up with titles like, Ebola hysteria is going viral. Don’t fall for these 5 myths. Fox News’ Shepard Smith went off script the other day and urged viewers, “Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and television or read the fear provoking words online.” Michael Hiltzik felt it necessary to write 6 ways to avoid being stupid about Ebola in this week’s L.A. Times. His number five is pithy:

5. Listening to Rush Limbaugh may be hazardous to your health. As a one-stop shop of Ebola misinformation, you can’t beat the guy. Limbaugh’s only purpose is to stir up fear, alarm and mistrust of government among his listeners. Inform them, not so much.

But informing listeners was never the point. Fear, mistrust, alarm, and misinformation is right-wing talk’s business model. It’s what listeners tune in for. It’s just not church in some circles — you haven’t been touched by the spirit — unless the preacher works up the congregation with a mind-numbing, shouted cant into a hair-standing-on-end, ecstatic state followed by emotional catharsis.

Perhaps right-wing talk works the same way. A kind of addictive drug, maybe it has begun to lose its zing (along with Limbaugh’s ratings). Perhaps over the years, the ginned-up, faux outrage peddled every day by Rush and his kin has lost its punch. Perhaps the fear-addicted (and fear peddlers) hungering for stronger stuff to give them that old rush again just found it in an ISIS and Ebola cocktail?

That and, as Digby pointed out yesterday, it’s crazy season.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Oct
13

Watch This

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Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post, argues that if Islam is a violent theology, then 99.99 percent of its 1.6 billion followers have failed to get it.

[h/t Jill Boniske]

Categories : International, Religion
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Oct
06

They’re comin-a-git-ya

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The Daily Show
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Oct
03

“Considerably more serious”

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JPMorgan Chase got its computers hacked this summer, compromising personal information from 76 million households. Like oil spills, the size of these breaches always seems to grow after the early low-ball estimates from company spokes-flacks. And nobody seems to have a statement from current chairman, president, and chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon. The NY Times reports:

Operating overseas, the hackers gained access to the names, addresses, phone numbers and emails of JPMorgan account holders. In its regulatory filing on Thursday, JPMorgan said that there was no evidence that account information, including passwords or Social Security numbers, had been taken. The bank also noted that there was no evidence of fraud involving the use of customer information.

Whew, that’s reassuring. Probably just some Matthew Broderick-style Russian kids wanting a sneak peak at Dimon’s newest release of Global Financial Meltdown. Heaven help us if they were real cyber criminals.

Noting that the attack may have begun when hackers breached the computer of a bank employee, the Guardian recounts other recent cyber attacks:

In September, Home Depot confirmed its payment systems were breached in an attack that some estimated impacted 56 million payment cards. Last year’s attack on Target impacted 40 million payment cards and compromised the personal details of some 70 million people.

But the Guardian describes the JPMorgan hack as “considerably more serious.” In addition to the size of the leak, banks hold much more sensitive personal information than retailers.

In his annual shareholder letter, Dimon wrote of cyber security, “We’re making good progress on these and other efforts, but cyberattacks are growing every day in strength and velocity across the globe.”

If those kids want to play Global Financial Meltdown that badly, they can probably get funding from Americans for Prosperity.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
29

A protest made in Hong Kong

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Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong continue. As financial district crowds swelled Monday (reports conflict on this), riot police pulled back, CNN reported, to chants of “Stand down CY Leung!” (Leung is Hong Kong’s current chief executive). Protesters demanded elections free of interference from Beijing.

“The people of Hong Kong want freedom and want democracy!” a protest leader yelled into a megaphone as demonstrators — many of them university students — donned goggles, covered themselves in plastic wrap and held up umbrellas to shield themselves in case they were hit with tear gas or pepper spray. “Redeem the promise of a free election!” chanted the crowd.

With Washington focused on the Middle East, there was a tepid show of support from U.S. officials — and nothing from the White House that I could find — as pro-democracy protesters calling themselves Occupy Central with Love and Peace faced a police crackdown in Hong Kong on Sunday and into the early hours Monday.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement on Sunday that Washington supported Hong Kong’s well-established traditions and fundamental freedoms, such as peaceful assembly and expression.

The outbursts surprised some residents, the Guardian reported Sunday. People there are usually more interested in working and making money:

In many ways it was a very Hong Kong protest, down to the protesters who politely explained that they would not be present the next day as they needed to go to work.

But the resident saw something unique in the exuberance and spontaneity of the peaceful crowd – preempting plans to launch the civil-disobedience movement on Wednesday, a national holiday – combined with the tough tactics of the police. It is the first time officers have fired teargas in Hong Kong for almost a decade.

But the police response over the weekend changed that:

“Before dinner, I never would have imagined that I would join [the protests],” Candy Lamhttp://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/central/, a 32-year-old bank employee, said.

“I thought it was unhelpful to confront the Communist Party in this way, and that we could find other ways to negotiate, but tonight is too much. I saw the 6 pm news and so many of us cried in front of the television.”

A 57-year-old construction worker, who only wanted to be identified by his last name, Ng, said he saw the tear gas on television and decided to join the protest then and there.

As of 7 a.m. EDT this morning, streaming video was still available here.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : International, News
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Sep
27

This will not go well

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So after getting fired, the former convict walks into the front of the Oklahoma business with a knife, attacks two women, and beheads one before being shot and disabled by a company employee, a county reserve deputy:

Mr. Nolen, 30, was convicted in 2011 of multiple drug charges, assault and battery on a police officer, and escape from detention, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. He had earlier arrests on drug and assault charges.

Per another report:

According to the department’s database, Nolen had “Jesus Christ” tattooed across his chest, an image of praying hands on his right arm and “As-salaamu Ataikum,” tattooed on his stomach, which could be a misspelling of “As-salaamu Alaikum,” a standard Muslim greeting that means “Peace be upon you.”

Did we mention the suspect with the Jesus and praying hands tatoos recently converted to Islam? Fox News is already talking about the “ISIS effect.”

More fodder for the fear-mongering campaign ads Gail Collins runs down in the New York Times:

The most popular terrorism-connected campaign theme is overall border security, since it allows conservative candidates to roll up ISIS terrorists with illegal Hispanic immigrants. “She’s for amnesty, while terrorism experts say our border breakdown could provide an entry for groups like ISIS!” announced that David Perdue ad against Michelle Nunn in Georgia. Some experts believe that even at this early hour, Perdue has wrapped up the title of Worst Commercial of the Campaign.

The “terrorism experts,” by the way, are actually the Texas Department of Public Safety.

From there, the ads descend from revoking the passports of American terrorists to Scott Brown, now the Republican candidate for Senate from New Hampshire, bragging how “he sponsored a bill to revoke the citizenship of anyone who gives aid to a terrorist group.” Terrorist, terrorist group, and anyone, of course, being in the eye of the fear-mongerer. Collins notes that Perdue’s ads suggest that Nunn “funded organizations linked to terrorists” when running George H. W. Bush’s Points of Light charity.

Now a beheading. This will not go well.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
25

Germany’s creeping satisfactionism

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Germans are much happier with their lot than Americans, writes Harold Meyerson. Satisfaction tracks more closely with a country’s economy than its style of government, according to a recent Pew survey of the world’s economies. Nine out of ten people in countries with “advanced” economies were dissatisfied with theirs, and eight felt their economies were “bad.” Except Germany.

A strong, manufacturing-driven export economy (with the Euro a factor) and a weaker financial sector sets Germany apart from the United States. Whereas 58 percent in the U.S. feel the economy is bad, 85 percent of Germans felt things in Germany were going well. Why?

Many of Germany’s most successful companies are privately owned and not subject to investor pressure to reward large shareholders through practices prevalent in the United States, such as slashing wages, cutting back on worker training and research and development and buying back stock. Publicly traded German companies still retain their earnings to invest in expansions, a practice that was the U.S. norm until the doctrine of rewarding shareholders with nearly all of a company’s profits took hold during the past quarter-century.

In the United States, major shareholders and the top executives whose pay increasingly is linked to stock price control the corporate boards that approve these kinds of distributions of their companies’ earnings. In Germany, however, the profits that companies rack up are shared more broadly because shareholders don’t dominate corporate boards. By law, any sizable German company must divide the seats on its board equally between management- and worker-selected representatives. Any company with more than 50 employees must have managers meet regularly with workers’ councils to discuss and negotiate issues of working conditions (but not pay). These arrangements have largely ensured that the funding is there for the world’s best worker-training programs and that the most highly skilled and compensated jobs of such globalized German firms as Daimler and Siemens remain in Germany. They have ensured that prosperity is widely shared in Germany — not concentrated at the top, as it is in the United States.

Damned socialists. No … wait.

Some friends observed that tax and economic policy changes in this country over the last thirty years have shifted the business model from one that encouraged, long, slow growth sustained by good schools, sound infrastructure, and reinvestment — more like the German model — to one that encourages financialization and get-rich-quick schemes. Make your money fast and cash out. If that’s not your business model, said one from experience, American venture capitalists are uninterested in your better mousetrap.

Says Meyerson, since the 1980s U.S. business and government leaned on Germany “to get with the Wall Street program.” The Germans declined. Their economy did not. Overall, Germans seem rather satisfied with the results.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
24

War will keep us together

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The WaPo front page headline “Airstrikes bring together
Arab nations often at odds” started that old Captain and Tennile song playing in my head. (I know. Sorry.) It seems we’ve been thinking about it wrong all these years. Lasting war is the only hope for peace in the Middle East.

The four Persian Gulf nations whose warplanes flew in concert with U.S. jets over Syria this week have spent the past few years acting with far less harmony, riven by divergent approaches to address the growth of Islamist political movements in the Arab world.

The differences among the countries have grown so stark and acrimonious that earlier this year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, which has funded Islamists across the region to the consternation of the other three nations. In the months that followed, they have continued to wage a proxy war of sorts in Egypt and Libya, where the UAE recently conducted airstrikes against rebels backed by Qatar.

But then along comes ISIS (ISIL, the Islamic State, etc.). Theodore Karasik, the director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, says the group considered the threat “to be greater than what was happening among them.” The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S. believes that this new and improved radical Islam is such an existential threat to the region that, “We need to confront it as a team.”

Now, combining their roguish ways with old-fashioned American firepower, this undisciplined band of miscreants and misfits must somehow work together to save the galaxy from ISIS — to a 1970s soundtrack.

Uh-huh.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
21

But not a drop to drink?

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As the People’s Climate March begins in New York later today, California struggles with record drought. It’s not just the hippies worried about climate change, and not just here.

The UK must prepare for “the worst droughts in modern times” experts will warn this week at a major international conference to discuss the growing global water crisis.

Britain is looking at ways of reconfiguring its water infrastructure — expanding reservoirs, imposing tougher water extraction licenses, considering more desalination plants. “In the past we have planned for our water resources to cope with the worst situation on record but records are only 100 years long,” explains Trevor Bishop, the Environment Agency’s deputy director. “We may get a situation that is worse than that – with climate change that is perfectly possible.”

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