Category Archives: Social values

Militarized Policing: One Nation Under SWAT

Yves here. If we had a bona fide democracy left in America, as opposed to a simulacrum of one, the night-after-night spectacle of constabulary overkill in Ferguson would spark outrage and a concerted effort to restrict militarized policing, particularly against peaceful protestors. Officials knew precisely what was at stake when they kept journalists as far away as possible from the 17 city, coordinated paramilitary crackdown against Occupy Wall Street.

But now that many comparatively small cities have war toys like tanks in their possession, and are also hiring former soldiers, it appears that we’ve passed an event horizon. Unless some of these municipalities are prepared to get rid of this militarized policing gear (and not by giving it to another city, but by destroying it or letting it deteriorate into uselessness), it’s inconceivable that the police won’t continue to abuse their greatly expanded powers.

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Debunking the Myth that An Aging Society and a Falling Birth Rate is Bad for the Young

One widely accepted nostrum is that falling birth rates, particularly when accompanied by rising life spans, are bad for economic growth and therefore bad generally. The assumption is that a shrinking pool of 20 to 65 year olds will be forced to support a larger and larger cohort of unproductive citizens, namely, the aged. That vision, of young people hostage to parasitic elders, is also one of the foundations of boomer hate, which is actively stoked by major Republican party funder Stan Druckenmiller, who has been touring college campuses to sell the false notion that Social Security and other social safety nets for the elderly are bad for them.

That picture is at odds with what is actually happening in advanced economies.

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Tom Engelhardt: Requiem for the American Century – Paragraph by Paragraph

* Seventy-three years ago, on February 17, 1941, as a second devastating global war approached, Henry Luce, the publisher of Time and Life magazines, called on his countrymen to “create the first great American Century.”  Luce died in 1967 at age 69.  Life, the pictorial magazine no home would have been without in my 1950s childhood, ceased to exist as a weekly in 1972 and as a monthly in 2000; Time, which launched his career as a media mogul, is still wobbling on, a shadow of its former self.  No one today could claim that this is Time’s century, or the American Century, or perhaps anyone else’s.  Even the greatest empires now seem to have shortened lifespans.  The Soviet Century, after all, barely lasted seven decades.  Of course, only the rarest among us live to be 100, which means that at 70, like Time, I’m undoubtedly beginning to wobble, too.

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Technology Displacing Jobs: The European Case

Yves here. Some technology enthusiasts predict that as many as 47% of current jobs will be displaced in the next decade. Candidates include not only trucking and bus driving (to be eliminated by self-driving vehicles) but more and more white collar work, as computer get better at the sort of information scanning and analysis that is now done by entry and low-level workers. This post examines different scenarios for how that might play out in Europe.

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Yellen Tells Whoppers to the New Yorker

A Nicholas Lemann profile of Janet Yellen in the New Yorker, based on interviews with her, is creating quite a stir, and for many of the wrong reasons. The article verges on fawning, but even after you scrape off the treacle, it’s not hard to see how aggressively and consistently the Fed chair hits her big talking point, that’s she’s on the side of the little guy. As correspondent Li put it:

She’s simultaneously Mother Teresa (spent her whole life caring about the poor without actually meeting any poor people) and Forrest Gump (present when all bad deregulatory polcies were made, but miraculously untainted by them).

Puh-lease! She’s Bernanke in a granny package, without the history lessons.

In fact, as we’ll discuss, Yellen’s record before and at the Fed shows she’s either aligned herself with banking/elite interests or played two-handed economist to sit out important policy fights. Even if she actually harbors concern for ordinary citizens, she’s never been willing to risk an ounce of career capital on it.

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Satyajit Das: History….One Thing After Another!

In Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys, the student Rudge describes history as: “just one f***ing thing after another”. The statement was originally that of Professor of History at Cambridge Herbert Butterfield. The substitution of “f***ing” for “bloody” was a sign of the advance of civilisation since the 1940s.

Jorgen Osterhammel’s fine The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century is anything but a linear recitation of events. Instead, it swoops, shimmies and carves ellipses and spirals through the facts to give readers an insightful view of the nineteenth century in all its complexity and confusion.

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Fourth of July Musings: What Does it Mean to be an American?

By Lambert Strether. Originally published at Corrente

I missed the parade. Which seems about right.

There was a Times series recently, which I didn’t manage to read — even though Jill Abramson really seems to have improved the paper, at least in non-policy areas, before she was axed — on “What does it mean to be an American?” Probably I avoided reading because I couldn’t answer the question. Or because the answer would have been too painful.

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Reform and Be Re-Elected

Yves here. I suspect many will take issue with the cheery view expressed in this article. The authors contend that reformist candidates in the post-crisis era do better at polls than status quo types. That makes sense, but the authors appear to define “reform” in terms in more modest terms than most readers would deem to be sufficient. But this finding sounds correct, intuitively. Look at Elizabeth Warren. Even though she has made great use of her Senate bully pulpit, and has kept a focus on bank re-regulation, her policy proposals, such as her student loan fixes, have been cautious. A frame-breaking reformer, such as a Huey Long, would require a far more divided electorate with geographic concentrations of radicalized voters to be viable.

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Can Grass Root Efforts Combat Greed?

Bill Moyers’ current show focuses on how formerly disparate grass roots groups are starting to work together to shift cultural values away from greed and towards social and economic justice.

To Naked Capitalism readers, this notion may seem a bit quixotic. But Jim Hightower, who has been working with populist movements for over 30 years, sees these groups starting to collaborate on broad-based issues.

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Facebook Users Regularly Treated Like Guinea Pigs

A new Wall Street Journal story probes the frequency and casualness with which Facebook ran experiments with the explicit aim of manipulating users’ emotions. Some commentators pooh poohed the concern about the study, saying that companies try influencing customers all the time. But the difference here is that manipulation usually takes place in a selling context, where the aims of the vendor, to persuade you to buy their product, are clear. Here, the study exposed initially, that of skewing the mix of articles in nearly 700,000 Facebook subscribers’ news feeds, was done in a context where participants would have no reason to question the information they were being given.

While the controversial emotions study may have been Facebook’s most questionable study, it is the tip of an experimentation iceberg.

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Noam Chomsky: America’s Real Foreign Policy –  A Corporate Protection Racket

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs.  In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons.  First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact.  Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.  Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. — and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices.  The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

There is a “received standard version,” common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse.  It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the U.S. and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat.

There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine.  One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989?  Answer: everything continued much as before.

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The Crapification of Biomedical Research

An urgent warning from PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

In the context of such progress, it is remarkable that even the most successful scientists and most promising trainees are increasingly pessimistic about the future of their chosen career. Based on extensive observations and discussions, we believe that these concerns are justified and that the biomedical research enterprise in the United States is on an unsustainable path.

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