yes! we have no bananas….

But doing a quick internet search of United Fruit Company (now called Chiquita), Eric Holder, and Covington and Burling should yield a cornucopia of fruit. Including the name Marc Rich should add some spice. But where are we? Well, let Prof Bill Black guide to stark reality those many of us who still insist on being lost.

On New Economic Perspectives appears his post, “Is it Legal Malpractice to Fail to Get Holder to Promise not to Torture your Client?” One excerpt in the outstanding article of Prof Black is sufficient to demonstrate how far over the horizon integrity and morality have disappeared in the policy implemented by the United States, yet encourages its complete reading.

The standard joke that came to mind when I read Holder’s letter was the bartender who brings out glasses to three customers and asks “which of you ordered his whiskey in a clean glass?”  We take it for granted that no restaurant or bar will knowingly serve us our drinks in a dirty glass.  I always took it for granted that no U.S. attorney general would knowingly allow a criminal suspect in U.S. custody to be the victim of torture, raped, branded, or a host of other forms of brutality.

The situation of Bradley Manning puts an ironic perspective to the declaration of the Attorney-General, a declaration that has been refuted by the long history of invasion, slaughter, genocide and devastation perpetrated by the United States on the indigenous of the US, on countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and Iraq. The damning legacy of its policies continue, and will continue for generations of the innocent,  in Vietnam, Agent Orange; in Iraq, Depleted Uranium.

In his Nobel Acceptance Speech in 2005, Harold Pinter describes the obvious, conveniently glossed over by corporate media, a lecture that informs and inspires; and is rewarding for even those with an induced attention span of 45 seconds, especially at approximately 13 minutes. (At about minute 30 we have the issue of forced feeding in Guantanamo, this in 2005, not in 2013.) Pinter would follow up with his article in 2008 in The Guardian, ‘The biggest bully in the west‘. (Eduardo Galeano would also cast the keen writer’s eye in his recent, Children of the Day, an excerpt of which appears in tomdispatch.]

And the control of the corporate elite over the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government? For one of many examples, we have only to go the PBS documentary, ‘The Untouchables‘, and then do a quick internet search for the former Deputy Attorney-General Lanny Breuer and Covington and Burling. After all, it was that need to stem the rapid systemic decay and international disillusionment and panic that did lead to the choice of that telegenic image with all its symbolism to rehabilitate that facade. Affability and articulateness would be the exceptional qualities that would calm a restive world, with that calm evanescent as integrity and morality failed to appear – you can fool all of the people but for only so long, or something like that.

Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and now Edward Snowden have exposed the farce of ‘democracy’ and ‘beacon of freedom’. Which explains the urgency to ‘disappear’ them, and discourage the audacity of hope of other potential whistle-blowers to expose malfeasance and misfeasance. And the internet? Government of the people, by the people, for the people – a notion as quaint and mythical as The First Thanksgiving, and not at Jamestown.

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Austerity is prosperity, poverty is affluence…

Once upon a time?

A graduate student had a course assignment: Replicate some recent prestigious, empirical work. His selection, ‘Growth in the Time of Debt’ (GITD) of esteemed Professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff (RR), both of Harvard University. After some effort the data for that study were released and made available to the student, Thomas Herndon.

The student repeatedly failed to replicate the results of GITD, despite careful review of all steps and checking of his work. Only after enlisting the assistance of his more acknowledged University of Massachussetts Professors, Michael Ash and Robert Pollen, would Mr Herndon discover that his results were indeed correct and those of the GITD, incorrect. Publicity that errors in the use of Excel were a contributor to the problem would raise the issue to the national and international levels – even though Excel was less significant to the argument and conclusions.

Until that exposure and subsequent attempts by the GITD authors to defend that work (and at the expense of a subsequent, more substantive work), policy makers were driven by what Niall Ferguson would call the ‘law of finance’ and the doctrinaire demand for fiscal austerity. That ‘law of finance’ decreed that a debt/gdp ratio of 90% or above would prove damaging to economic growth, irrespective of the state of the economy. Despite continuing evidence to the contrary and an acerbic reflection on The Colbert Report, a group of dedicated elites would persist in promoting, and successfully so, the benefits of fiscal austerity – in an economy with sluggish growth and high and still intractable level of unemployment, especially at the U 6 level of the US BLS.

In his blog post of 16 April, 2013, Dean Baker would pose the question of damage caused by seemingly advocacy policy analysis and recommendations, How Much Unemployment Was Caused by Reinhart and Rogoff’s Arithmetic Mistake?

This is a big deal because politicians around the world have used this finding from R&R to justify austerity measures that have slowed growth and raised unemployment. In the United States many politicians have pointed to R&R’s work as justification for deficit reduction even though the economy is far below full employment by any reasonable measure. In Europe, R&R’s work and its derivatives have been used to justify austerity policies that have pushed the unemployment rate over 10 percent for the euro zone as a whole and above 20 percent in Greece and Spain. In other words, this is a mistake that has had enormous consequences.

Since that time, the urgency to act on the ongoing crisis aggravated by adherence to the dogma of the elite has continued to be noticeably absent. Profits of banks and financial institutions have surged as have bonuses to their officials. Professor Pollin, in an interview with ‘Dollars and Sense’ in June and posted on ‘Naked Capitalism’ on 22 July, provides some context and insight into the reality of society. Couple excerpts from, Beyond Debt and Growth: An Interview with Robert Pollin.

D&S: All this raises the question of why elites in Europe and in the United States have been so determined to follow this austerity course. How much do you see this as being ideologically driven—based on a view of government debt or perhaps government in general being intrinsically bad? And how much should we see this as being in the service of the interests of the dominant class in society? Or should we think of those two things as meshing together?

RP: I think they mesh together. I think part of it comes from our profession, from the world of economics. It’s been basically 30 years of pushing neoliberalism. It has become the dominant economic agenda and certainly hegemonic within the profession. When the crisis hit, countries did introduce stimulus policies and one of the criticisms [from economists] was that this is really crude and we don’t really know much about multiplier effects and so forth. That’s true, and the reason that we have only this crude understanding of how to undertake countercyclical policies is because the mainstream of the profession didn’t research this. It was not a question. They spent a generation proving that we didn’t need to do these policies—that a market solution is the best. So that’s the economics profession and it does filter into the political debates.

 (we add bold for emphasis) Read the rest of this entry »


Let them eat potato…

Anglo-Irish Bank helped to bring the economy of Ireland to its knees. The economy’s collapse and ensuing massive unemployment would come swiftly with the popping of the housing bubble, a bubble in which Anglo-Irish had starred. Crooked Timber has a nice recapture with its Another Day, Another Billion.

One senior official of Anglo-Irish would apologise profusely for the behaviour of its officials – but only years later when the contents of officials’ conversations were made public, especially one in which he and a colleague reveled in how they conned the unsuspecting, including senior German officials who would provide a massive bail-out. The contempt for the hoi-polloi is never disguised, even with the self-serving expression of regret. As per The Guardian article:

There was “no excuse for the terrible language or the frivolous tone,” he said. “I sincerely regret the offence it has caused. I cannot change this now but I can apologise to those who had to listen to it and who were understandably so offended by it.”

The tapes were made in 2008, when the Irish government was in talks to bail out a number of the country’s troubled banks.

German money flowed to Irish banks after the government issued a blanket guarantee for deposits.

In the recordings, Drumm can be heard laughing while a fellow Anglo Irish executive sings the German national anthem.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, reacted with anger to the tapes and expressed her contempt for the disgraced bankers.

“This is simply very hard to swallow for people who go to work normally every day, who earn their money. It really damages democracy, the social market economy and everything that we are working for,” she said.

For officials of Anglo-Irish Bank, and those in the US in particular, the arm of the law and justice would prove ever too short, or conveniently extended elsewhere in teaching a lesson to the vulnerable made desperate by rewarded wrongdoing. And an acquiescent corporate media can be relied on to provide the obligatory distractions.

However, not deterred by the continuing failure of the judicial process, Deputy Clare Daly would highlight the abandoned responsibilities of the legislative branch of government. Her earlier exposure of the fraudulence and hypocrisy of the June meeting of the G8 in Ireland would make this intervention not just obvious but critical. This intervention of TD Clare Daly in stark terms exposes the international corruption and contemptuous disregard for the people by all branches of government, even when her microphone is cut off.

The ‘reach’ of her statement would remain limited by design of corporate media – to forestall further international outrage. In the meantime as a reminder of another dire time, the exodus of the young continue from Ireland in search of survival and a life that promises a better future and some assistance for some of those left behind.


Letter Perfect…

The letter has been delivered. Yes. But will it be read?

The tendency for constant repetition of falsehoods to become ‘fact’ has been the mainstay of the corporate media. The advent of the internet and independent bloggers, as well as the few remaining independent media, has now exposed that tendency and its dishonesty. In the case of Latin America, the reflex vilification of any leader who espouses the welfare of its citizens instead of surrender of the country’s independence and, in particular, its natural resources to foreign corporate interests has worn thin.

The same vilification and persecution follow those individuals who attempt to expose deceit and illegality. Edward Snowden’s recent revelations have incriminated the corporate media with their deliberate conspiracy of silence and abandonment of their professional obligations and ethics. Though more revelations will come, no more are really needed to pronounce the verdict.

In light of the fact that so few US citizens know so little beyond ‘headline’ news and the falsehoods, a distinguished committee of eminent scholars on Latin America has penned a letter that seeks to inspire more critical thinking on the part of the deliberately misinformed public. Though ostensibly directed at the media as An Open Letter to the Media on the ‘Irony’ of Snowden’s Request for Asylum in Venezuela and Ecuador, the target is the disengaged. Here is an excerpt that touches on the role of whistle-blowers demonised for their exposing of what the corporate media have been failing to do. Read the rest of this entry »


Truth is coming, and the unraveling begins…

“Truth is coming and it cannot be stopped.”

That is the fateful prophesy made by Mr Edward Snowden that set in train the events that would rip away the façade of a Potemkin democracy to reveal an Orwellian state in which collude for their own collective and separate interests the very groups that should be adversarial to ensure the best interests of the people are faithfully and honestly served. The solicitous, reassuring culprit in the façade of deception is the corporate media, breathless in its duplicitous appearance of ‘truth teller’.

The complete unravelling of the duplicity of the corporate media would start with just one question from a so-called TV journalist in one of those shows meant to promote The Manifest Destiny of the United States. With no effort at pretense, Mr David Gregory asked of Glenn Greenwald, “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” And that would be the incriminating question that would reverberate throughout Youtube and the blogsosphere, definitely not through the ‘mainstream media’.

For those who came in late, i.e., those who tend to trust the corporate media from which little information, truth or honesty ever emanates, Glenn Greenwald is a columnist for The Guardian and former constitutional lawyer (a real one) and former blogger at salon.com – The Guardian for its deeds would be soon derisively described as a ‘small newspaper’ by the long discredited Washington Post. Greenwald and The Guardian, historically more recognised and respected than WaPo or NYT, set the ball rolling when they not only broke the news on the comprehensive spying on the citizens of the United States, but also conducted the first part of an interview with the heroic whistleblower, Mr Edward Snowden, former employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and of the very NSA.

With the monomaniacal obsession of an Ahab Read the rest of this entry »


Chile – the good old days

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) continues to yearn for a return of the good old days, those glory days of yore. But for the blogs of now and one of the few respectable and respected newspapers its evangelising would have gone unchallenged in the public square. In homage we cite two. One from Crooked Timber, Noted Without Comment and the other from The Guardian, Wall Street Journal says Egypt needs a Pinochet – can it get away with that?

Clearly, the WSJ editorial board is indifferent to the implication of names such as Allende, Neruda, Bachelet, and the multitudes of the ‘humble disappeared’? To imagine, in 2013 we are given, just one excerpt:

…Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy. If General Sisi merely tries to restore the old Mubarak order, he will eventually suffer Mr. Morsi’s fate…

With such a recommendation the people of Egypt, on the wrong side of the coup d’état, can all sing, Oh Happy Day. And do so in grateful pain before being disappeared, in the tens of thousands. Let’s hope that in these modern times, unlike Allende’s, Morsi’s fate is not aerial, a drone. In 2013 we now have Operation Pinochet 2.0. And code name for the serial coup leader? Torquemada? School of the Americas? No. Mother.