Links 12/14/10

Lice ‘not behind salmon decline’ BBC

Illinois named worst state for retirement Chicago Breaking Business

The Seven Myths of ‘Slums’ STWR (hat tip reader May S)

US seeks to raise trade pressure on China Financial Times

Last Stand in Kandahar Matthieu Aikins, The Walrus (hat tip reader Michael A)

Time for negotiation in Afghanistan Guardian

Germany admits enslaving and abusing a generation of children Independent (hat tip reader May S)

WikiLeaks cables: Mervyn King plotted banks bailout by four cash-rich nations Guardian (hat tip reader May S)

Judge Voids Key Element of Obama Health Care Law New York Times

Obama haters praise his tax policies because they believe those policies will make him fail Bill Black. Um, he and his colleague Randy Wray do not appear to be fully on the same page here!

Incoming GOP Financial Services Chairman: Washington’s Role Is “To Serve The Banks” AlterNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

How Hedge Funds Create Criminals Lynn Stout, HBR Blogs. OMG, hedge funds are deemed to be a “criminogenic environiment”!

Antidote du jour:

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  1. attempter

    Re the unconstitutional and obscene health racket mandate:

    If one wants to point out that the judges who ruled this was constitutional were Dem appointees, while this judge was a Rep appointee, and from that conclude that all these decisions are partisan, one could try that.

    But for the NYT, of course, only this decision looks partisan, while the prior ones were majestically neutral. The NYT also continues with its standard practice of serving as a stenographer for the elites. Therefore the bill is trying to do this and that, not “is claimed to seek” some result. That’s NYT “journalism”.

    Always remember:

    No one who supports this corporatist bailout bill, or who supports the very existence of the purely parasitic, purely destructive insurance companies, has any right to ever say a word about individuals who allegedly free ride or shift costs. The insurance rackets are free riders infinitely worse than all the uninsured put together could ever be.

    So the second any hack starts in with such an argument (the NYT has several such swine on display today), we should reject him immediately. His position is a fraud on its face.

    By definition anyone who cares about free riding and cost shifting, and reform itself, demands the complete eradication of the insurance rackets and the institution of Single Payer. Everyone knows for a fact that this is the only moral, rational, and practical solution.

    But of course the Obama/Republican (Heritage Foundation) bill never intended anything but to:

    1. Maintain and enhance insurance rent extractions;

    2. Enable employers to shift their costs to individuals;

    3. Enable government to continue to abdicate its core responsibility;

    4. Force atomized individuals into the individual market;

    5. Where the government goon will force them to buy worthless “policies”. The bill is not designed to control costs and will not do so. It was designed to increase costs, but shift them all onto the individual.

    Meanwhile the quality of care delivered will continue to deteriorate, since the bill is also not intended to cause insurance to provide affordable care.

    1. Cynthia

      As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t put it past Obama to order that health care be put under the national security umbrella and then he’ll use his executive authority to override this federal judge’s decision or simply have him assassinated on the grounds that he is an enemy of the state.

      This is what could happen when we allow an American president to give himself the authority to run our country as though he were a dictator whose primary objective is to protect profits on Wall Street. And Obama knows damn well that if he fails to keep for-profit health care profitable, he’ll not only lose enormous campaign contributions from the health care industry, but he’ll also lose out on being appointed to various boards of directors in this particular industry.

    2. Francois T

      WTF are you railing against? Be it public option, universal health care or ACA (Obamacare) you can’t have freeloaders, ergo, there ought to be a mandate, be it via taxation or premiums.

      This is simple financial pooling of the risk, as it apply to basic insurance 001.

      BTW, judge Hudson is dead wrong on all counts. His partisan inclinations transpire in paragraph of his decision. and

      Alas, the judge did not see the pertinence to review THE most relevant jurisprudence pertaining to this case:

      1) Comstock v USA 2007, that reaffirm the “necessary and proper” doctrine.

      2) Jacobson v. Commonwealth 1905, This old case involved vaccination, an activity that cannot be left to the whims of any Joe and Jane. Well…SCOTUS decided that individual freedoms has some limits when the collective well-being is at stake.

      3) Wickard v. Filburn 1942 Yes Virginia! Congress can mandate restrictions on one person’s commerce for the good of Interstate Commerce.

      Of course, judge Hudson, eager to emulate the current Supine Court tries to wiggle out of 100+ years of judicial precedents:

      Under the Cuccinnelli/Hudson theory, the government may be able to regulate voluntary actions that an American take—buying health insurance, for example. But the government cannot require an individual to participate in interstate commerce if he or she does not wish to do so. Here’s the relevant part of Hudson’s decision (it’s on page 23 of the PDF):

      Every application of Commerce Clause power found to be constitutionally sound by the Supreme Court involved some form of action, transaction, or deed placed in motion by an individual or legal entity. The constitutional viability of the [individual mandate] in this case turns on whether or not a person’s decision to refuse to purchase health care insurance is such an activity.

      It should be pretty clear to anyone who’s ever been in a car accident that refusing to buy insurance for something can have broad economic effects. So in its briefs, the Obama administration argued for a broad definition of “activity,” and noted that, in the economic arena, simply refusing to act does not place Americans outside of the reach of government regulation:

      Virginia claims that “inaction in the present, with respect to one subject matter (insurance), which can lead to undesirable results in the future, is [not] ‘activity,'” and therefore beyond the commerce power. This standard is incoherent. Congress can regulate current behavior—even behavior that Virginia would paint as “inaction”—to avert effects on commerce in the future. The person who allows hazardous waste to leak from his property “without any active human participation” is fairly described as inactive. Nonetheless, the Fourth Circuit recognized that he could not “insulate himself from liability by virtue of his passivity,” and that he was subject to the Superfund Act.

      Most legal scholars agree with the Obama administration on this. They believe the commerce clause allows Congress to regulate economic decisions, not just economic activity.

      So, unless the SCOTUS wants to completely redefine the way this country functions (talk about legislating from the bench!) by agreeing with Judge Hudson, this decision isn’t going anywhere.

      1. Cynthia

        The Supreme Court is overrun with pro-corporatist judges and Obama’s health-care reform package is very much of a pro-corporatist piece of legislation. So no need to worry, Francois, I seriously doubt that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Judge Hudson’s decision, declaring that legislation which forces US citizens to purchase health-care insurance is unconstitutional.

      2. attempter

        Francois, I reiterate:

        No one who supports this corporatist bailout bill, or who supports the very existence of the purely parasitic, purely destructive insurance companies, has any right to ever say a word about individuals who allegedly free ride or shift costs. The insurance rackets are free riders infinitely worse than all the uninsured put together could ever be.

        So the second any hack starts in with such an argument (the NYT has several such swine on display today), we should reject him immediately. His position is a fraud on its face.

        So I’ll regard your corporate hack lies with all the respect they deserve.

      3. Keenan

        Francois T:

        The government can compel citizens to pay taxes to support public enterprises. However, the administration’s plan to use government coercion to force citizens into an economic relationship with a private corporate entity – which obtains profits from the relationship – looks a lot like the sort of indentured servitude which was eliminated by the 13th amendment.

        It’s ironic that the first black president is complicit in re-instituting a form of slavery – this time to “corporate persons”

        Tax funded single payer is the only plan which is constitutional. And I’m not especially fond of that but it’s preferable to fattening the FIRE economy parasites.

      4. Externality

        Yes, _Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts_ can be extended to justify all kinds of government intrusions. The US Supreme Court, for example, relied on _Jacobson_ in its decision upholding sterilization of the those the government deemed unworthy of the right to reproduce:

        We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts , 197 U.S. 11 , 25 S. Ct. 358, 3 Ann. Cas. 765. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

        Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 207 (1927) (emphasis added)

        The government is always able to find some reason or another to take away people’s freedom to serve some goal chosen by a small elite. There is no intrusion on personal freedom, autonomy, or dignity that cannot be justified using decisions such as these. The viability of the Western welfare state is being undermined by low birth rates in the US and Europe. Does not, under Bell, the government have a compelling interest in raising birth rates to maintain the viability of these programs? If so, could it, for example, deny abortions and contraceptives to women who have had less than three children? (I do not endorse this approach, but it is a logical outgrowth of Wickard, Buck, Jacobson, etc.)

        Both the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany cited _Jacobson_, _Buck_, and other similar cases as support for their policies, which they argued were not substantially different than the USAs.

    3. Doug Terpstra

      Being forced to buy a defective-by-design product, “The bill is not designed to control costs and will not do so. It was designed to increase costs, but shift them all onto the individual.”

      “Meanwhile the quality of care delivered will continue to deteriorate, since the bill is also not intended to cause insurance to provide affordable care.”

      Quite right, and the conspicuous rigged-market monopoly protection for drug-peddlers is yet more proof. The HC bill is a hideous fascist POS, and like the Trojan horse, it does not detonate until 2014, when everyone, including the guards are asleep.

      I welcome oppostion from any quarter. It is time to make common cause with the Tea Party where interests coincide.

      I’m surprised by Francois’ support for such a horrible bill. Alas, as Cynthia notes, the kleptocracy’s Supine Court is certain to rubber-stamp the mandate. Worse, if anything, it may perversely, selectively strike down any “consumer” protections or benefits such as provisions for pre-existing conditions and for kids.

      1. attempter

        Yeah, and how conceptually absurd to list it alongside Single Payer. What could that have to do with being forced to buy a worthless piece of paper from a private extortion racket?

        It’s also funny that anyone could cite Wickard, since:

        1. It applied to activity, not a poll tax on inactivity.

        2. Why would he think we recognize the constitutionality of Wickard anyway? It’s right up there with Dred Scott, Plessy, or Citizens United as a rogue, anti-constitutional decision.

  2. Ignim Brites

    Bill Black’s argument is BDS squared. If Libs don’t watch themselves they are going to see W on the cover of Time as man of the year.

    1. K. Williams

      Right, Bill Black is making sense. In some complete fantasy world, that is. He’s trying to argue that this bill will represent political suicide for Obama, despite the fact that 69% of voters support it.

      1. wunsacon

        >> Right, Bill Black is making sense. In some complete fantasy world, that is. He’s trying to argue that this bill will represent political suicide for Obama, despite the fact that 69% of voters support it.

        Bill Black does make sense. And a greater percentage of voters prefer that the bill be changed to drop the tax cuts for the rich.

      2. DownSouth

        You’re kind of cherry picking your polls there, aren’t you?

        According to Gallup, the large majority in favor only emerges when people are given only two choices: 1) extending tax cuts for all Americans or 2) letting the tax breaks expire altogether.

        If given three choices, the results change dramatically: 40% in favor of extending the tax cuts for all Americans, 44% in favor of extending them with limits on tax breaks for the wealthy, and 13% in favor of letting the tax breaks expire altogether.

        1. DownSouth

          And of course there’s an entire political dimension that these pollings of mass opinion fail to capture, and that is salience.

          High quality opinion polling can measure salience. The key phrase here is of course “high quality.” These free polls made available to the public are often of very limited usefulness in determing what the actual state of public opinion is.

        2. Francois T

          “You’re kind of cherry picking your polls there, aren’t you?”

          This isn’t “cherry picking” but “fox newsing”.

  3. financial matters,18204/

    American People Hire High-Powered Lobbyist To Push Interests in Congress

    October 6, 2010 | ISSUE 46•40

    WASHINGTON—Citing a desire to gain influence in Washington, the American people confirmed Friday that they have hired high-powered D.C. lobbyist Jack Weldon of the firm Patton Boggs to help advance their agenda in Congress.

    Weldon is reportedly charging the American people $795 an hour.

    “Unlike R.J. Reynolds, Pfizer, or Bank of America, the U.S. populace lacks the access to public officials required to further its legislative goals,” a statement from the nation read in part. “Jack Weldon gives us that access.”

    “His daily presence in the Capitol will ensure the American people finally get a seat at the table,” the statement continued. “And it will allow him to advance our message that everyone, including Americans, deserves to be represented in Washington.”

    The 310-million-member group said it will rely on Weldon’s considerable clout to ensure its concerns are taken into account

    Sources confirmed that Weldon is already scheduled to have drinks Monday with several members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss saving the middle class.

    Weldon said that after successfully advocating on behalf of Goldman Sachs and BP, he is relishing the opportunity to lobby for the American people, calling it the “challenge of a lifetime.” The veteran D.C. power player admitted that his new client is at a disadvantage because it lacks the money and power of other groups.

    “The goal is to make it seem politically advantageous for legislators to keep the American people in mind when making laws,” Weldon said. “Lawmakers are going to ask me, ‘Why should I care about the American people? What’s in it for me?’

    “To be honest,” Weldon added, “the American people have always been perceived as a little naïve when it comes to their representative government. But having me on their side sends a clear message that they’re finally serious and want to play ball.”

    According to Washington heavyweights, hiring Weldon is an immediate game changer and should force politicians to take citizens’ concerns seriously for the first time in decades. Moreover, sources said, Weldon will be able to help lawmakers see the American people as more than just a low-priority fringe group.

    1. LeeAnne

      Attribution would give you credibility if not the “Onion” whose work isn’t witty or subtle -just simply,-a waste of time.

  4. larster

    Those tea partiers should read Bacchus’ comments re regulation of banks and realize they have been hoodwinked. Sounds like Bacchus will be leading the next bailout brigade. Maybe in the south he passes for the intelligensia.

    1. craazyman

      “Maybe in the south he passes for the intelligensia.”

      That’s the funniest line I’ve heard in a while. Yes, there’s a type in the world that can’t think for themselves but they’ll insist on thinking for you. LOL. Seems they’re everywhere these days.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The antidote reminds one of the two legends about the Pekingese dog.

      From Wiki:

      There are two origin stories for the Pekingese. The first is the most common, The Lion and the Marmoset:

      A lion and a marmoset fell in love. But the lion was too large. The lion went to the Buddha and told him of his woes. The Buddha allowed the lion to shrink down to the size of the marmoset. And the Pekingese was the result.
      The second, less-common, originating story is The Butterfly Lions:

      A lion fell in love with a butterfly. But the butterfly and lion knew the difference in size was too much to overcome. Together they went to see the Buddha, who allowed their size to meet in the middle. From this, the Pekingese came.

  5. Jessica

    About Marshall Auerback’s claim that the partial payroll tax holiday is not a threat to social security (because their is insufficient demand in the economy and payroll tax is only needed to hold the combination of demand by the currently employed plus demand by social security recipients from exceeding total supply) (from the 12/13/2010 link)

    He may be correct in economic theory but not in political practice in the contemporary USA. Right now, the expressed demand is less than supply, but there is a huge overhang of non-expressed demand in the form of various perhaps-collectible debts. Future social security payments are on such not-yet-expressed demand. The payoff for all the financial weaponry that should have been written down but so far has not is another not-yet-expressed demand. In current politics, the payoffs to financial chicanery will be treated with far more respect than social security payments that were already paid for in taxes.
    Besides, under the regimes of the past decades, if the elite needs to, they will simply make up some excuse out of thin air as to why money needs to go to them and not to ordinary Americans.
    The very fact that someone as bright, honest, and on the right side as Marshall Auerback could lose sight of how society actually works these days in favor of economic theory says to me that whatever is at work runs so deep that it is difficult for us to grasp it.
    I don’t mean conspiracy. I think the elite has even less idea of what is going on than many people on this blog. I mean that things have changed in a fundamental way that our intellectual models have not fully caught up with.

  6. Sundog

    Smuggling is a centuries-old story in Mexico, and has long been a fixture of the US-Mexico border economy, but the volume of illegally-imported and pirated goods has reached unprecedented levels in recent years due to Mexico’s trade liberalization policies, customs corruption, new opportunities for money laundering, and the lure of cheap products in a low-wage economy. Openings to countries like China and Vietnam have laid new pipelines for pirate goods. In short, almost picture perfect conditions exist for a thriving, irregular economy.

    While the US government and media focus on Mexico’s battles over the illegal drug trade, violence and threats of violence are increasingly related to conflicts over control of the broader underground economy and the multiple products and services of a mammoth but slippery economic sector.

    (no writer attributed) “Pirated Black Market Goods are Mexico’s Top Money Maker”

    I’d like to add that Vanda Felbab-Brown (author of Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs), who has spent time hanging with people in the bizness and has an extraordinarily lucid view of the problem though no quick or easy solutions, seems to emphasize broader aspects of the black economy when discussing Mexico.

    “The day after the gunbattle in Matamoros in which Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén ‘Tony Tormenta’ died, the government reported 10 deaths, the border media reported 40 to 50 deaths, and U.S. officials told us there were 100. We had to report there were at least 10 and a maximum of 100 deaths. In United States newspapers it is unthinkable to report such vague figures but we are forced to,” complains Nora Lopez, state editor of San Antonio Express-News.
    “There are regions where silence dominates, where fear is felt and seen among the people. And I saw that in Reynosa, I was very impressed. Organized crime in the region has emerged as a parallel government that dominates even the press. You feel the helplessness of society and the government,” says [Alfredo Corchado] the journalist who was recently recognized for his coverage of the Mexican drug wars with the 2010 Lovejoy Award.
    “Ironically, I feel more relaxed in Juarez, unlike Matamoros, Reynosa, Ciudad Aleman, Nuevo Laredo and other Tamaulipas municipalities where you do not trust anyone, except for only a very few people and where the tactics of Los Zetas has created a much more raw, more brutal, more sophisticated urban warfare,” says Corchado.
    Heriberto Deandar, editor of El Mañana, the leading newspaper in Tamaulipas, complains about the government’s silence.

    “For a year and a half no one knows for certain how many people have been killed and wounded in armed clashes. The Army does not issue these figures in its press bulletins, state authorities are overwhelmed, the PGR (Mexico’s Attorney General’s office) only e-mails releases mentioning detainees throughout the country and our municipalities only report ‘situations of risk’ through their Facebook and Twitter pages.”

    Gerardo, “Tamaulipas: the first casualty of war is the truth”

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