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The Koch Brothers and the Puppets They Control

Bernie Sanders’s web page features the video The Koch Brothers and the Puppets They Control.

The Koch brothers – the second wealthiest family in America worth at least $80 billion – for decades operated in the shadows of American public life while pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into front groups promoting what Bernie has called the “billionaire agenda.” It is not well known, but David Koch was the 1980 Libertarian Party candidate for vice president and helped fund that party. He campaigned on a platform that called for ending all limitations on campaign spending, abolishing taxes on the wealthy and profitable corporations, shutting down Medicare and Medicaid, repealing Social Security, terminating the Postal Service and doing away with the minimum wage. “They want to repeal every major piece of legislation over the past 80 years that protects the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick and the most vulnerable in our country,” Bernie said.

Which potential female running mate for Bernie Sanders’ seems to get the issue and talk as animatedly about this? Which one is good at compromising with people like the Koch’s?

Which one is the darling of Wall Street and which one is so feared by Wall Street that they have fought her tooth and nail? Am I asking hard questions here?

Hillary Clinton Calls For More Sanctions On Russia

Huffington Post has the article Hillary Clinton Calls For More Sanctions On Russia.

Speaking at a University of Connecticut issues forum, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state said she believes the sanctions against the Russian government must be “tightened and widened” to prevent the crisis from escalating.

If this statement does not disqualify Hillary Clinton from being President of The United States, then I don’t know how much more evidence you would need.  This is tantamount to saying “We must escalate to prevent the crisis from escalating.”

The behavior of Russia and the United States is like the teenage game of chicken.  Two cars drive at high speed toward each other that would ultimately lead to a fatal head-on collision.  If one side doesn’t veer away, then they both win the game of not being a chicken.  They are also both dead.  Here we have Hillary Clinton saying, let’s step on the gas, surely the other side will flinch first, if only we can frighten them enough.  Does Vladimir Putin look like the kind of person who could be intimidated?  Russia is no Grenada, despite what President Obama seems to think.

In my previous post Foreign policy and the definition of ‘manhood’, I think I just about predicted Hillary Clinton would take this position.

Also refer to my previous post “We Are Not Beginning a New Cold War, We are Well into It”: Stephen Cohen on Russia-Ukraine Crisis. I had the following quote from Stephen Cohen:

As a contemporary observer, it certainly began in November 2013 when the European Union issued an ultimatum, really, to the then-president, elected president, of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, that “Sign an agreement with us, but you can’t have one with Russia, too.” In my mind, that precipitated this crisis, because why give a country that has been profoundly divided for centuries, and certainly in recent decades, an ultimatum—an elected president: “Choose, and divide your country further”? So when we say today Putin initiated this chaos, this danger of war, this confrontation, the answer is, no, that narrative is wrong from the beginning. It was triggered by the European Union’s unwise ultimatum.

Do certian people in Sturbridge actually read anything I post?

Corrupting Piketty in the 21st Century

Naked Capitalism has an excellent review and discussion in the article Corrupting Piketty in the 21st Century.

The media attention surrounding French economist Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the 21st Century is growing ever more fervent. Here are my two cents.

To me three things are clear to be about this book. First, it is a timely reminder that distribution of resources within society matters. This is especially important for an economics profession who has often ignored the issue and whose core analytical framework is a completely inappropriate tool for its analysis.

Second, and this is quite a surprise, the mainstream economics profession seems to be rather accepting of the book, which, when I read it, seemed to make the claim that most of their scholarly methods are flawed and that the economics profession knows very little about the more important elements of social organisation. While on the surface this appears to be a mature response by the profession to valid criticisms, I fear that the profession will corrupt the message of the book and will unfortunately not have the impact on improving economic scholarship that it seems intended to have.

Third, and this is my one personal gripe, the book fails to acknowledge the many social processes studied by sociologists and even ecologists that have been used to explain unequal outcomes in a wide variety of settings. For example, the process of preferential attachment is fundamental to producing the unequal distribution of the success of artists, musicians and even, ironically, authors. Such a process can not only explain the broader inequalities in terms of access to resources (income and wealth), but also the inequality of book success, where Piketty finds himself in the top 1% of economics authors (and there really is no shortage of books covering similar topics recently, for example here, here, here and here).

There are many links to follow in the article and in the ensuing discussion that I want to follow. One in particular, preferential attachment, has me very curious.

I am still undecided as to whether or not I want to read Piketty’s book.

“The Angry Eye” | Brown Eye-Blue Eye Experiment

Warning: Emotionally Hard To Watch

The Angry Eye – Brown Eye-Blue Eye Experiment – part 1

“The Angry Eye” | part 2 | Brown Eye-Blue Eye Experiment

Chris Hayes on “Understanding” Conservatives

The Daily Kos article is entitled Where I Disagree with Chris Hayes on “Understanding” Conservatives.

Finally, we had Paul Wolfowitz on the program.  A man who has hundreds of thousands of deaths on his hands.  This is a man, along with his fellow neocons, who believes that the ends justifies the means.  After all the deaths, does Chris think he will find some understanding with a mass murderer?  Will there be a Perry Mason moment when Wolfowitz yelled, “I did it!  I killed them all!  I’m so sorry!”

Fat f[rea]king chance of that.

If Chris really wants to try and understand conservatives, I guarantee that he will come to conclusions that most liberals have already learned.  Conservatives are in their own world, and no matter of facts or reasons on the parts of liberals will ever drag them into political compromise.

There was discussion in this article and to a referenced Crooks and Liars article Wherein Chris Hayes Takes Me To The Woodshed about how to learn what conservatives think without just giving them a platform to spread lies.

I have a solution to consider for making these interviews more effective.  Turn on the interviewers microphone so that the listeners can hear the question (or repsonse).  Then turn off that microphone and turn on the interviewee’s microphone for an agreed amount of response time. After the response time is up switch the microphones again.  Let the discussion continue in this round robin way.  There will be no need for anybody to tell the director to “cut off her mike”.  The cut-off will have been agreed to by both sides before the discussion begins.

Without this kind of moderation, it all comes down to who can shout the loudest.  Even in this suggested format, either side is free to shout as much as they want in their segment.  They just don’t have a chance to shout in the other person’s segment.

Here is the video in support of the Crooks and Liars article.

NYT realizes swing voters are a myth

The Daily Kos has the article NYT realizes swing voters are a myth.  Quoting from The New York Times article about the shellacking of the Democrats in the 2010 election, the article said:

It may seem hard to believe that the shellacking was more about who turned up than about who changed their minds between 2008 and 2010, but it lines up with a lot of other evidence about voters’ behavior. Most identify with the same political party their entire adult lives, even if they do not formally register with it. They almost always vote for the presidential candidate from that party, and they rarely vote for one party for president and the other one for Congress. And most voters are also much less likely to vote in midterm elections than in presidential contests.

These stable patterns of American politics reveal a clear path for both parties in 2014: Get your 2012 voters to the polls. Of concern to Democrats right now is that Republicans once again have the upper hand on enthusiasm going into November.

The 2014 fight is not over swing voters. It’s for partisans.

So, if you are favoring Hillary Clinton for 2014 because you think she can attract more swing voters because she is a better compromiser than Elizabeth Warren, you are probably betting on the wrong horse.  Having witnessed the enthusiasm that Elizabeth Warren raised in her campaign for U.S. Senate and having seen the voter turnout, I believe that Elizabeth Warren can generate far more excitement than Hillary Clinton ever could.

Looking at the small universe in my own house, there are only two of us, I know that it was only the level of enthusiasm for Warren that got us to be as involved in the campaign as we were.  We like many of the people running for office this year in Massachusetts, but neither of us can overcome our aversion to campaigning as much as we were able to do for Elizabeth Warren.

Deflation Is About to Wallop Europe

Bloomberg News has the story Deflation Is About to Wallop Europe.  In conclusion the author writes:

The ECB has joined this throng of deflation worriers, with some policy makers, including Draghi, becoming apprehensive over prolonged low inflation. The Austrian central bank governor, Ewald Nowotny, who is on the ECB governing council, recently said he is concerned about “the risks of excessively low inflation.” Another governing council member, Bank of Finland Governor Erkki Liikanen, said last month, “If inflation is low for very long, it creates a challenge because deleveraging will be harder. We must be aware of that risk.”

If you are still concerned with U.S. budget deficits and the possibility of inflation, then you are so last decade if not last century.  You are fighting the wrong war. A good old boss in the capitalistic private sector once told me this about misplaced worry about the future. It is good to worry about the long-term future, but if you cannot get through tomorrow, then there is no long-term future.

More Effective Remedies for Inequality

Naked Capitalism has the post More Effective Remedies for Inequality.

The following is Yves Smith’s comment on the post:

We had a more equitable society when unions were stronger, taxes were more progressive, and anti-trust laws were enforced. This post by Geoff Davi[e]s serves as a reminder that there are remedies other than progressive taxation (which he regards as an after-the-fact remedy) to achieve that end.

I’ll just give you a list of topics in the post by Geoff Davies, author of Sack The Economists.  In the post he only says a paragraph or two about each topic.

This article is a great way to open our minds to many possible solutions beyond just thinking about income taxes.


Elizabeth Warren On The Daily Show

The Daily Show has this interview with Elizabeth Warren.  The previous link is to the full episode.  The segment preceding the one with Elizabeth Warren is really a great setup for the interview itself. As for the interview, the blurb says:

Senator Elizabeth Warren, the author of “A Fighting Chance,” reveals some of the more frustrating aspects of trying to change a political system riddled with loopholes.


In the discussion of student loans, I wonder if my college student friend would wish for more compromise with the Republicans instead of the fight that Warren seems to be showing.

On the other hand, I would wish for some statement from Elizabeth Warren that the idea that each addition to the federal budget must be “paid for” is pure hokum. She did say that that was just the way it was in the current Congress. She didn’t come right out and say that it is a complete misunderstanding of the federal government budget and its connection to our sovereign currency to think that deficits right now are a problem.

What might be a problem is the structural change to our tax system that incurs huge tax expenses to lessen the taxes on the wealthy. This is one way that the tax cutters in Congress insure that the deficit can never be right sized even when the economy gets back to full employment, if it ever does.

‘Incredibly Poor Taste’ : Suggestion To Embrace Puts George On Hot Seat

It’s funny how a little research can change what you think you know.  Or as I like to quote Mark Twain, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

With a recent discussion of the value of compromise above all else, I was looking for a story that would show how ridiculous this idea is. I remember hearing about a television interview where the interviewer asked a rape victim to hug the rapist.

With a little Googling I found the article ‘Incredibly Poor Taste’ : Suggestion To Embrace Puts George On Hot Seat.

WASHINGTON — Collectors of idiotic remarks made by Phyllis George on “The CBS Morning News” hit a bonanza Wednesday morning when George asked Gary Dotson, freed after six years on a rape charge, and Cathleen Webb, the victim who now says the rape never occurred, to hug each other. The request, at the end of a bubbly George interview, lit up CBS switchboards in New York and Washington with calls from offended viewers.

Wait a minute.  I don’t remember that the “victim” had recanted her story.  Of course, how else would the two of them be appearing on a talk show together?

WikiPedia provides a complete story in the article Gary Dotson.

Oh well, this would have been a good story to make my point if the “victim” had really been the person who I thought was the “victim”.  Turns out the other person was the real victim.  I suppose they actually did come to some sort of compromise in the end.