Link 8/27/11

Your humble blogger is endeavoring to have something approximating a vacation. However, the operative word is “approximate” since the financial world seems not to be observing the usual end of August slowdown.

I’m leaving Manhattan Saturday AM (this was scheduled well before Irene) and will be in coastal Maine. If we lose power, it will probably take a while to get it back. So you might not get a Sunday night Links or new posts from me.

Re Manhattan: the natives are funny. No one is acting concerned (save the authorities) but grocery store behavior belies that. People here have this weird way of forming long lines to empty stores of milk, water, eggs, and bread any time a blizzard is forecasted, and the hurricane alert is producing the same behavior.

City Orders Evacuation of Coastal Areas New York Times

Depleted Uranium Weapon Use Persists, Despite Deadly Side Effects TruthOut (hat tip reader May S)

State Department Environmental Impact Study of Keystone XL Pipeline Released, Skids Greased for Approval Dave Dayen (hat tip reader Carol B)

Lessons from Iraq for Libya? Don’t do what the US did Christian Science Monitor (hat tip reader May S)

Spy conference draws mix of scholars, history buffs, retired officers McClatchy (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

Canada Halts Trading in Sino-Forest of China New York Times

Bad Slasher Movie: The Democrats’ sad, stupid, doomed campaign to keep the payroll tax cut Slate (hat tip Mat Stoller)

Answering Jonathan Alter’s Challenge Commentary

Big Asset Sale Near at Bank of America New York Times. The sale of the stake in China Construction Bank appears to be back on. Note that this is presumably one of their best assets (the best “non-core” assets are generally the first to be sold in situations like this), and would increase capital levels, but presumably only by the gain on the sale, which looks to be roughly $10 billion.

A banking behemoth in need of charisma, capital and clout John Gapper, Financial Times

Bernanke Shoves DC In The (Jackson) Hole Karl Denninger (hat tip reader Hugh)

Time is money MacroBusiness

Antidote du jour:

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59 comments

  1. Foppe

    Your humble blogger is endeavoring to have something approximating a vacation.

    Enjoy (hopefully)!

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘Re Manhattan: the natives are funny. No one is acting concerned (save the authorities) but grocery store behavior belies that. People here have this weird way of forming long lines to empty stores of milk, water, eggs, and bread any time a blizzard is forecasted, and the hurricane alert is producing the same behavior.’

      Funny Yves should mention blizzards — remember the ‘blizzard of the century’? We’ve had at least ten of them in the past couple of decades! Irene is the summertime version, and unlike anonymous blizzards, she’s got a name.

      The 5 a.m. NHC update shows sustained winds of 90 mph — a moderate Category 1 ‘cane. After making partial landfall over North Carolina and passing into cooler waters farther north, it’s unlikely that Irene will be anything more than a 60 mph tropical storm by the time it reaches NYC — a regular ol’ nor’easter, so to speak.

      But the mighty media Wurlitzer, desperately trying to stay afloat in the dog days of August as the economy sinks beneath its big flat feet, has morphed the diminutive Irene into a monster. I got a call from a worried friend on another continent, asking whether we were boarding up the windows. HA HA HA — I doubt we’ll even bring the plants inside.

      By Monday, the MSM tune will change to, ‘Well, better safe than sorry!’ With the 9/11 anniversary upon us, the hurricane drill gives Big Brother a welcome opportunity to show how well he takes care of his wayward little charges. Shutting down public transit is a small symbolic price to pay. Feel the love, comrades!

      1. jimmy jones

        I don’t know what you want here. It’s cool not to care, but is that really what you want from the government? Our very own Mayor Bloomberg tried this strategy with the Christmas blizzard but it didn’t work very well.

        You’ll hear “better safe than sorry” BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.

          1. JerryDenim

            Who ever has been making the calls at the airlines has been doing even worse.

            My Friday afternoon (!) flight back into New York (Continental to EWR, from Kansas City) was canceled along with pretty much everything else heading east and now I’m stuck until Tuesday. The port authority is keeping all three area airports shutdown until Monday at noon!

            Morons.

      2. Dan Friedman

        Yves,

        I too have been noting the very blasse attitude displayed (It’s really a faux display of ‘sophistication’. Meanwhile my day was spent on long lines (especially at”Whole Paycheck”). Typical Manhattan purchasing pattern: candles and expensive lightening mechanism (in case matches just don’t work during hurricanes), sparkaling water from distant lands (in case the domestic bottled water has been affected pre-Irene; must be an interesting psychological study in here somewhere and very expensive foods (which I expect are thought to survive strong winds better than the ordinarily overprices faux-real-food at Whole Food.

        I’m really enjoying the crowd behavior; reminiscent of the markets.

        But I enjoyed my week in Maine much more. Returned a coule of days ago from Deer Isle. Thinking of running a resort there. People are not so ‘sophisticated’, so they are quite pleasant and interesting, and not driven by the markets, so they are quite sane. Have fun!

        1. LeeAnne

          Bloomberg’s upped the ante with the threat of shutting down electricity. This should guarantee more middle class flight from New York City.

          “Consolidated Edison said it would decide Saturday (after the so-called evacuation deadline)whether to shut off power in the evacuation zone in low-lying areas of lower Manhattan. Salt water can cause substantial damage to power lines running currents, Bloomberg said.

          “It’s conceivable in downtown Manhattan there will be no electricity,” he said.”

          “… Elevators in public housing apartments would be shut down, and other high-rises may choose to do the same.”

          There is also no public surface transportation available in other parts of the city. The downtown evacuation zone is a very small slice of the city.

          Coming within just a few days of the faux Washington, DC evacuation that could only be for a photo opportunity, this shit is really ominous.

          1. LeeAnne

            and furthermore Bloomberg claims its against the law not to obey him:

            ‘”Staying behind is dangerous, staying behind is foolish, and it’s against the law, and we urge everyone in the evacuation zones not to wait until gale-force winds,” he said in a news conference from Coney Island as rain began to fall. “The time to leave is right now.”‘

            So there you have it, a tin pot dictator with a few billion dollars has the law behind him, but you don’t, and threatens to turn off your electricity if the storm doesn’t cooperate -with him -learly a madman.

      3. JustAnObserver

        “I doubt we’ll even bring the plants inside”

        … but don’t forget those plastic garden chairs … remember what happened to (one of) them the last time :-).

      1. ambrit

        Dear okie farmer;
        Humor is one of the best ‘selling’ tools out there. Someone at C…O… has a sense of humor to have let this one by. It’s also a wonderful example of thumbing your nose at the ‘fools’ who you’re opressing too. As for that last joke; the producers probably didn’t have the budget to use an elephant, and, after all, real elephants are too intelligent to allow themselves to be used for immoral ends like the poor ass was.

  2. attempter

    Re payroll tax:

    Ignore the misdirectional lies of the political horse race framing. Here’s the facts:

    1. All the elites want to gut SS and Medicare and will do so if they can.

    2. Whether or not they can will depend 100% on whether or not the people fight them on it. (Here’s the kind of threat where mass phone calls and voter threats can do some good.) It will have nothing to do with whether or not the payroll tax is collected. (And needless to say, the government doesn’t need to collect this tax in order to pay out the benefits, which we all already paid for anyway.)

    3. Therefore, the payroll tax is an isolated issue. It’s nothing but a regressive tax. Every cent extracted from us through it is a cent we need right now lost to us, and instead handed over to our enemies in the form of corporate welfare.

    By now the entire tax system is a class war weapons system. The overtly regressive taxes are the worst and most larcenous, but under kleptocracy all taxes on the non-rich are de facto regressive.

    4. So the best thing for us would be the de facto abolition of the payroll tax. This can only help us. Meanwhile for any non-rich victim of kleptocracy to want to be taxed for no reason other than his own further impoverishment is insane.

    The corporate liberals who support these taxes are conscious pro-kleptocrats themselves.

    5. These regressive taxes are actually meant to serve as social control measures against the growing relocalization movement. If the only way to coerce people into hustling for cash is to force them to pay poll/head/hut taxes, that’s what the system tries to do. And this coercion is in turn the only purpose of those head taxes.

    All regressive taxes are forms of hut tax.

    6. No Taxes on the Non-Rich.

    If necessary, this demand can be supplemented with agitational material explaining how the government doesn’t need to tax at all, and how the Bailout and the rest of corporate welfare prove this.

    1. Linus Huber

      I strongly agree with the idea that one cannot wait but we, the people, have to take constistently and relentessly action. Politics is corrupted by banks and nothing will change until change is forced onto all actors in the public sphere.
      Everyone, please take more immediate action and not simply complain; there are ways to do it. I started something and addressed numerous politicians with it. I am aware that it might most probably be unsuccessful but I dont give a shite.

      http://scare2012.blogspot.com/

      1. ambrit

        Mr Huber;
        I found the link wonderful. Some questions concerning the proposal arose. To wit: What percentage of the wealth liquidity do the ‘little people’ control? If most ‘funds’ today exist only in some sort of electronic ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land,’ how does their movement from one safe haven to another have an impact on the financial sector? If, as is boasted, 50% of Americas ‘wealth’ is controlled by 1% of the population, where will the civic minded class traitors come from? Finally, attempters relocalization initiative irrespective, how will alternative social support methodologies be dissemenated, much less made part of the mass psyche? Sadly, our experiences with Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath show us just how embedded social system memes are within the public psyche. I’m beginning to take seriously the thought that it will take a massive worldwide Great Depression to shift humanity onto a more humane and sustainable course.
        (I still love the cheek of the Shock 20.12.2012 idea. Just getting it into the general public discussion will be enough to really scare lots of ‘elites.’)

  3. carping demon

    Agree with point 1.

    Agree with point 2, if you are referring to the FICA tax.

    Agree with point 3, in that FICA tax is regressive, but taxation has always been a class war “weapons system.”

    Point 4–any ideas on how we can de facto abolish payroll tax? Or any taxes on the non-rich, for that matter? Surely not the congress, or the administration, or the Supremes. And who in blazes are these “corporate liberals” you keep going on about? It’s almost an oxymoron. “Corporate” and “liberal” don’t rest easy together.

    Point 5–taxes originated as social control measures as soon as people were no longer attached to the land. What is this growing relocalization movement? What is it that’s relocating? To where?

    Point 6–say what?

    1. attempter


      Point 4–any ideas on how we can de facto abolish payroll tax? Or any taxes on the non-rich, for that matter? Surely not the congress, or the administration, or the Supremes. And who in blazes are these “corporate liberals” you keep going on about? It’s almost an oxymoron. “Corporate” and “liberal” don’t rest easy together.

      As a rule, of course not. Why would you assume the only option is to grovel before elites and beg them to trickle a better dispensation down upon us? But like I said, here’s one issue where the voters actually can make a credible demand, since one of the few things the kleptocracy still fears is having to raise taxes. This can be turned around into demands to remove existing regressive taxes. For once the wedge issue can go in the right direction. Here’s one place where the much vaunted but never evidenced alliance between democratic activists and tea partiers could even actually take place. If nothing else, we can all agree on rejecting taxation for corporate welfare government.

      But in the end, the way to abolish taxes is to refuse to pay them and make it impossible for thugs to extort them.

      As for corporate liberals, you must be joking. Look at anyone who’s not rich who supports Obama. Look at anyone who supported the health racket bailout (how is it possible to support such radical, extreme corporatism and not be a corporatist?). Blogosphere examples include criminals like yuglesias, ezra klein, and the whole rest of the primary liberal bloggers.

      A corporate liberal is a liberal who actively* supports corporatism. If you don’t see that everywhere you look, you’re not looking anywhere. Or else you’re blind.

      *As opposed to the “progressives”, who mostly passively support it, often in a scatterbrained way. Nevertheless, by definition a liberal supports capitalism, which by now is synonymous with corporatism. So while it’s certainly not an oxymoron, if you’d said instead that “corporate liberal” is redundant, you’d have been technically correct.

      Point 5–taxes originated as social control measures as soon as people were no longer attached to the land. What is this growing relocalization movement? What is it that’s relocating? To where?

      Relocalization is the movement to restore economies and polities to their natural local and/or regional basis. It’s the movement on the part of the people to take back our political and economic sovereignty from the political and economic elites who have stolen it. It’s the movement to establish true economic and political democracy.

      It’s also a practical necessity given the end of cheap, plentiful oil and the environmental unsustainability of the corporate system.

      So it’s power which is relocating, morality which is relocating, and the economic center of gravity which is relocating. It’s relocating to everywhere we can take back our communities, infrastructure, and land from those who have stolen and destroyed these. Most of all it’s relocating in our minds and souls.

      Point 6–say what?

      I said No Taxes on the Non-Rich. As much as is possible we must refuse them completely.

      Those aren’t big words.

      1. carping demon

        A good friend of mine refused to pay certain taxes. They’d say, “Pay” and he’d say “No” and this went on for a few years with no observable effect to either side. Then a relative died and left him a property up in the Cascades. He couldn’t get possession until he paid his taxes. Since it’d been a few years, he didn’t have that much, so I finally paid them for him, ’cause it was a really nice property. He paid me right back in a few weeks, and during those weeks his years his principles kinda disolved, and nothing really changed. Except that he’s got a real nice place to live. He’s retired now, and doesn’t pay taxes at all any more.
        No, they’re not big words, at all.

      2. Paul Tioxon

        How do we change the social order. By revolting. Of course the details of advocating public insurrection are what gets Rick Perry so much ink, BUT you or me, more sets of government contractor eye balling while searching the internet for security threats. I remember when there was fervent reform in the air in Philadelphia and a very liberal, very successful expert in public finance no less, switched from Dems to Reps, so he could run for mayor back in the 1990’s. Many dutiful dyed in the wool Dems, solid well educated liberals all, decided to back the newly minted crusader. When I got a mouthful of how “WE” could storm City Hall and win. I carefully explained how power was transferred from the Republicans century long dominance to the Democrats post WWII.

        Crusading bluebloods, like FDR, who were also returning war vets, staged torch lit night marches to gin up public adrenaline. Yes, torches sans pitchforks, but very intimidating all the same. All kinds of dirt against opponents was used against. Corrupt high level police brass ate their revolvers, lives were ruined, people pushed aside, and even harsh language and was used. You have to know how to make revolution, how to take power. It isn’t all non-violent Black ministers to make a village, it also takes head braking Hoffa’s. The melting pot of revolt will take the high minded debunking to be found here. But it will also take other forms that threaten the political hold over the mechanism of state via elections, pressure by people marching by the millions on streets of DC, and major cities, and state capitals, strikes, and lots of dirt on lots of people who need to be ruined. But, that’s WikiLeaks and Matt Taibbi’s job.

  4. dearieme

    Payroll tax: the first political advice I ever offered to an American was back in Carter’s time: cut (or abolish) payroll taxes and make back the revenue with a tax on gasoline.

  5. Moopheus

    “People here have this weird way of forming long lines to empty stores of milk, water, eggs, and bread any time a blizzard is forecasted,”

    Up here we call this a “French Toast Emergency”. Personally I don’t get stocking up on lots of milk–if your fridge stops working, that’s the first thing to go bad. I’m more worried about the sump pump in the basement, myself.

  6. Norman

    Concerning the XL pipeline, is it true that it will be used to utilize some of those idle Texas refineries to produce diesel fuel which will be exported to Europe, because this country is dragging it’s feet on requiring same in this country? As for thinner steel walled pipe, isn’t that tar sand product more corrosive than crude from the ground? One more, this looks like what has happened in South America that Texaco did, as well other producers in those countries that were bought off, pollution wise, to which the America will be cut down the middle because of being poisoned. “Another way to go Brownie” moment, this time brought to you bu the “O”. This is one hell of a legacy to leave behind, the destruction of a country. I guess that’s what being the 1st is all about, as well as being the last.

    1. justanobserver

      The XL pipeline will get approved, and should be the final proof that the fence sitters need that Obama is not on our side.

      The question is – what to do about it ?

      Perry, Bachman, et al won’t be on our side either and would approve the pipeline in a heartbeat. So we slowly lose with Obama, which I think is more dangerous. I’m wondering if the straight-up fight that would ensue with Republicans in the WH might not be better.

      Then again it never pays to overestimate the intelligence of the American public.

  7. Foppe

    Huh: “Capital One’s Proposed ING Purchase to Face Fed Hearings, Extended Review

    Capital One Financial Corp. (COF)’s proposed purchase of the ING Direct USA online bank faces public hearings and an extended comment period as the Federal Reserve decides whether to approve the $9 billion transaction.
    Hearings on the combination will be held in Washington, Chicago and San Francisco and the comment period was extended to Oct. 12, the central bank said today in a statement. The Fed is working under a mandate from last year’s Dodd-Frank Act to prevent risk to the U.S. economy from large financial firms.
    “This annoys the people doing the deals because it slows things up and may direct attention in unexpected areas, but it’s part of what you bite off when you are a regulated enterprise and want to do a merger,” said Ellen Marshall, a banking lawyer and partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP in Costa Mesa, California. “The Fed does not want to appear cavalier about doing whatever Wall Street thinks is best.’
    Capital One, based in McLean, Virginia, has said the transaction would make it the fifth-biggest U.S. bank by deposits. The central bank said it will examine whether the acquisition creates benefits to the public and risk to the stability of the U.S. banking or financial system.
    Capital One, which derives more than half its revenue from credit cards, agreed in June to buy Amsterdam-based ING Groep NV’s U.S. online bank to gain about $80 billion in deposits and access to 7 million customers. Earlier this month, the lender agreed to purchase HSBC Holdings Plc’s U.S. credit-card business, adding about $30 billion in assets.

  8. Dan Friedman

    Yves,

    I too have been noting the very blasse attitutude displayed (It’s really a faux display of ‘sophistication’. Meanwhile my day was spent on long lines (especially at”Whole Paycheck”). Typical Manhattan purchasing pattern: candles and expensive lightening mechanism (in case matches just don’t work during hurricanes), sparkeling water from distant lands (in case the domestic bottled water has been affected pre-Irene; must be an interesting psychological study in here somewhere and very expensive foods (which I expect are thought to survive strong winds better than the ordinarily overprices faux-real-food at Whole Food.

    I’m really enjoying the crowd behavior; reminiscent of the markets.

    1. KFritz

      There are some good prices in the bulk goods section of Whole Paycheck Foods! But remember to write the numbers clearly on the bag tie. Keeps the reasonable prices reasonable.

  9. Tertium Squid

    “People here have this weird way of forming long lines to empty stores of milk, water, eggs, and bread any time a blizzard is forecasted, and the hurricane alert is producing the same behavior.”

    That’s not weird. What’s weird is the everyday behavior – no food or water in the house and a blithe tranquility that thousand-mile supply chains will never have any disruptions.

    1. gmanedit

      “the everyday behavior – no food or water in the house and a blithe tranquility that thousand-mile supply chains will never have any disruptions”

      I think about that a lot, but many of us in NYC don’t have room to store much. When there’s trouble predicted, I stock up on toilet paper, cat food, canned fish, and cigarettes. High-rise residents risk losing their water supply if the electricity goes out.

      1. gmanedit

        Edit: High-rise residents lose their water supply when the electricity goes out.

        Buildings up through six stories get their water via gravity; above that, electric pumps raise the water to the tanks. In the last blackout, a co-worker hauled pails of water up fifteen flights of stairs. Can’t flush without water.

  10. scraping_by

    Re: Commentary

    It’s not surprising “the flagship of neoconservatism” is joining the progressives in pointing to the economy’s failings. It is surprising because they’re treading a minefield. These failures result from Obama continuing Bush’s neoconservative policies. Nice, ugly dance.

    Back in the 1970’s we noticed the far right kept to personalities. Part of this was distraction from the repellant policies they promoted. Part was concentration on elective politics, beauty contests, at the expense of deliberative politics, which is controlled by anonymous handlers.

    But I think part of it is that they stay attractive to emotional, fearful bullies who want to identify with elites while taking pleasure in the sufferings of others. They have to be made to believe that the pressure they see on others isn’t around the corner, or currently happening, to them.

    Personalities rather than policies is the Big Lie. We can keep to the quiet truth, and help spread it around, and see how the neconservatives do without middle class supporters.

    1. neo-realist

      I wonder if the left needs “personalities” to spread the truth. Quiet Truth tends to be attractive to a minority of cerebral people who read and think a lot and they don’t comprise enough of a majority to take power. The mob likes it boisterous and loud; maybe you gotta give the people what they want to get them on your side.

        1. ambrit

          Dear aet;
          Please don’t give so many opportunities for sarcastic humour mate. Just the word ‘uglier’ is deserving of an entire blog all its’ own.
          Marshall McLuhan may have said; “The medium is the message.” However, medium messages don’t get as much traction as extreme ones. When reasonableness doesn’t work, resort to unreasonableness.

  11. Francois T

    “State Department Environmental Impact Study of Keystone XL Pipeline Released”

    Excuse me but isn’t this the province of the EPA?

    What’s next? EPA’s ambassador to China nominated?

    WTF is that?

    1. Externality

      Since the proposed pipeline crosses the US-Canadian border, it falls within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that President Clinton pushed through Congress.

      Under NAFTA, trans-border activities such as this are ultimately diplomatic, not environmental or state law, issues. While the president is the final decision-maker, he has delegated his authority to the State Department. The State Department’s role is to balance the interests of Americans against those of the government of Canada, the Canadian economy, the transnational companies involved, and the global economy. http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=ad493dca-ede1-4fe6-b8c8-c74839b88de6

      The EPA, which normally has jurisdiction, prepared a report State Department’s environmental impact report “inadequate.” http://michiganmessenger.com/48289/state-dept-releases-updated-eis-on-keystone-xl?lc=int_mb_1001 Again, the effect on Americans and American environment is, under NAFTA, only one consideration. http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=ad493dca-ede1-4fe6-b8c8-c74839b88de6

      After TransCanada hired, as its chief lobbyist, a senior member of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, the State Department decided to proceed with the pipeline.

      A coalition of environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. State Department [in May 2011] for the agency’s refusal to turn over communications between Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and a former campaign manager who is now chief lobbyist for TransCanada.

      https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/05/19-0

      In short, the State Department has the authority, under NAFTA, to overrule the EPA and state regulators in order to benefit Canada and/or transnational corporations.

        1. Externality

          For the purposes of NAFTA, a wide variety of things can be declared a diplomatic matter, and shunted to diplomatic negotiations and/or secretive NAFTA tribunals over the objections of local, state, and national officials.

          Since NAFTA was passed, NAFTA tribunals and state-to-state negotiations have been used to:

          * Destroy the communal landholdings of indigenous Mexican communities, overruling Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution. NAFTA forced the land to be subdivided so that it could be sold to private investors, and the indigenous people forced to compete with US producers and/or leave their lands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Free_Trade_Agreement#Zapatista_Uprising_in_response_to_NAFTA_in_Chiapas.2C_Mexico

          * Punish Canada for trying to ban a gasoline additive it believed to cause brain damage. Canada was forced to pay the manufacturer damages and to allow it to sell it additive in Canada. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Free_Trade_Agreement#Canadian_disputes

          * Punish Mexico after a Mexican community took away the waste disposal permit of, and thereby shut down, a toxic waste dump that was making people ill. The Mexican government was forced by a NAFTA tribunal to compensate US company that could no longer use its leaking toxic waste dump.
          http://www.forumdemocracy.net/article.php?id=110
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metalclad

          * Bring a NAFTA case against Canada for trying to restrict bulk exports of fresh water. The case is still ongoing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Free_Trade_Agreement#Canadian_disputes

          * Sue the US for allowing a US funeral home to successfully sue a Canadian funeral home in state court. http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/free/nafta/990210loewen_story.htm The case eventually went against the Canadian funeral home, after the US funeral home agreed to accept much, much less than they were awarded.

  12. Hugh

    Re the payroll tax cut article, never take seriously any piece that quotes Jared Bernstein as an authority. There is all this kabuki about Obama Administration officials who were “constrained” while they were part of the Administration but are freer to speak out now they have left. The reality is more like that when they were working for the Administration they felt they had to go along with it when Obama and his advisers said that 2 + 2 = 22, but now that they are out they feel freer in saying that 2 + 2 is actually closer to 20.

    Re the discussion above about corporatist liberals, I call them Establishment liberals but it is much the same. The important point is that both modern liberalism (in the political sphere) and capitalism (in the economic one) are based on the Enlightenment notion that individuals are rational and that their collective decisions will also be rational. Now this was never true, and it could be quite a wrench if you are deeply invested in either or both of these. But in the last 35 years, the liberal goals of a fair and equitable society and the capitalist ones of open and efficient markets have been stood on their heads by kleptocratic elites who use their lipservice to liberalism and/or capitalism as a cover for their lootings. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Republicans primarily stress the importance of this inverted capitalism while Democrats stress both it and a liberalism turned inside out. Liberal corporatists and Establishment liberals support the underlying kleptocratic project. They just have some quibbles about its details. This is supposed to give them cred among us rubes, and the sad fact is usually does. So we will talk up and focus on the Krugmans, the Warrens, the Kucinichs, and Sanders thinking that they are standing up for us, when the truth is they belong to the same elite Establishment which is looting us.

  13. carping demon

    What I was getting at above was that you can’t really expect people who are comfortable to make themselves uncomfortable, any more than you can expect them to act “rationally” (which itself is simply somebody else’s POV vis-a-vis their own comfort, anyway.) When we started keeping community wealth in one place, (e.g. temples, exchequers, banks) we set ourselves up to be looted. But we did it so long ago, when the world was so much smaller, that there probably is no real redress available, just continued changing of names to protect the guilty.

  14. LeeAnne

    For those of you on this thread who noticed the faux blase attitude of New Yorkers on grocery lines, I can’t imagine who does your thinking for you. What exactly would its opposite look like to you?

    New Yorkers who wisely stayed in the city for the weekend to avoid storms at the ocean standing in long lines to calmly shop for a few extra staples and batteries is pretty sensible.

    There are lots of reasons to stock up for a few days in advance, similar to a big holiday where you can’t move in Zabars.

    Bloomberg has created scarcity by personally and dictatorially preventing food deliveries into the city and shutting down public transportation creating unnecessary hardships for small businesses.

    And for that he deserves to be booed off any public platform pretending to represent people at any time in any place.

    His dictatorial behavior has been in evidence at least since the Bush 2004 RNC when he illegally jailed more than 1200 PEACEFUL demonstrators that we don’t hear about in the media.

    This is a dry run of some kind incident coming down the pike. There he stands with the police commissioner by his side; the guy who’s being promoted as his successor.

    Bloomberg himself is the threat. Its unprecedented for anyone to shut down any city in this country for any reason.

    1. gmanedit

      “Bloomberg has created scarcity by personally and dictatorially preventing food deliveries into the city and shutting down public transportation creating unnecessary hardships for small businesses.”

      Yes. Some stores and restaurants in my neighborhood are closed because their workers can’t get in.

      Yes, this is a dry run: mandatory evacuations, shutting down public transportation (in a city most of whose residents don’t have cars), shutting down elevators in evacuation zones, proposed electricity cutoffs. Moving people out, preventing others from moving around.

      1. gmanedit

        To add: “His dictatorial behavior has been in evidence at least since the Bush 2004 RNC when he illegally jailed more than 1200 PEACEFUL demonstrators that we don’t hear about in the media.”

        And three times a judge ordered him to release the prisoners, and Bloomberg just ignored him.

        And, of course, he illegally ran for a third term. Completely lawless.

        1. Externality

          Articles from the Associated Press and Al Jazeera re: NYC’s intensifying police state

          “New York becomes the Occupied Territories:
          As the US security state grows and civil rights and liberties erode, Osama bin Laden gets the last laugh.”
          http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/08/2011826101842777735.html

          “With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas”
          http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iiwl_LiP3l8NwLPoSRUULZWhDPTg?docId=68e74ec21cb6481ebff3a063dc4ca2ba

          The NYPD, in conjunction with the CIA, the rapidly expanding homeland security-industrial complex, and Israeli security “experts,” is increasingly using Israeli tactics from the Occupied Territories against New Yorkers. The CIA’s involvement in domestic law enforcement is a clear violation of the CIA’s charter, which specifically bars the agency from becoming involved in domestic law enforcement.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      LeeAnne,

      If you need to buy batteries or flashlights for Irene, you are not prepared for ANY kind of problem. Individual buildings lose power. What are you gonna do that happens when is dark outside? I’m sure its some sort of code violation, but the corridors of my building have NO emergency lights, and they are pitch black when the power goes. Finding my way to the fire stairs with no flashlight would be very hard.

      And the food fear is WAY overdone. NYC was locked down for what, two full days post 9/11? No food shortages. I was in Boston in the 1970s when there was a huge blizzard that prevented food deliveries for four days. There was enough food in the system (inventories) that there weren’t food shortage issues (yes, some items ran out, obviously, like bread, but no calorie dearth.

      New York (Manhattan particularly, thanks to woking population being so much greater than resident population ) is FULL of food. It is the last place you need to worry about shortage in a stress situation.

      1. nobody

        Naked Capitalism : Finance, Political Economy, the Obama administration : : Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog : Hurricane discussion

      2. LeeAnne

        Being single in New York, a large population eats out and does not routinely keep food on hand. Many eat out and depend on restaurants.

        Bloomberg ordered stores to shut down. So, although, yes, there’s plenty of food in Manhattan, the concern, hardly a panic, would naturally be having coffee and fresh milk on hand for a few days when the pantry might be close to empty.

        It turns out to have been a very wise decision.

        1. LeeAnne

          Yves, I misspoke myself. Bloomberg did not order stores to close.

          Bloomberg did however prevent farmers where I do my food shopping from coming into the city over the weekend who could otherwise have individually made their own calculations about the weather risks. (Its Sunday morning and the sun is now blazing).

          The farmers and/or their employees and family members sometimes stay in the city for days on either side of their Farmers’ Market date. There’s a big one on Sundays on Columbus Avenue along the Museum of Natural History, another on Broadway/Columbia U/113th St. that won’t be here today, and of course Union Square was cancelled.

          I bought more than usual Friday morning just in case and because I had the time to do it. Union Square Farmers Market, Fairway, Citarella and Zabars would be inaccessible; the subways and buses were ordered shut down from 12 noon Saturday and people urged to stay indoors for a storm that could go through Monday. Power outages were considered likely; if not intentionally planned.

          There’s a large population living on the city who use buses and subways for grocery shopping at the above mentioned stores located in the W70s and 80s and certain to be out of the way beginning Saturday at 12:30pm.

          I decided not to stand in line to pay for my favorite Apollinaris mineral water. Typical of a lot of brands, it is not always reliably available at any of the stores where I shop; often out at Fairway, sometimes not at the local health food store where there was a long line. But I also didn’t like being without it.

          Shortages are always cropping up; more certainly in a potential supply interruption. Its not at all unusual if you shop for yourself to find one or another item you expected to be there not on the shelf. Sometimes I get to the Farmers Market too late for a grass-fed chicken; sometimes the cream line bottled milk is out. That’s life. That’s marketing.

          You don’t have to be in ‘fear’ to notice you’re missing a few things that ordinarily could wait and you’d rather not be without if you’re going to be stuck in the house for days; aggravated by the fact that the authorities in charge are unreliable.

          When your plans for going to the country on a hot August weekend have been changed why not catch up; get a few things in -just in case?

          And you may be willing to stand in line for comfort food while thinking about what you’re gonna do next.

          Back to my original beef; there’s nothing in any of this that is either faux, sophisticated posturing, or remarkable in any way. Its only logical unless you order everything up -typical for Park Av. There is no place for grocery shopping over there, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone on Park or Fifth carrying grocery bags -come to think of it.

  15. prostratedragon

    Faced with carbon-induced climate change, a best policy would have been to promote reduced consumption of carbon using national co-ordination, and with evident seriousness of purpose. A next best sort of thing would have been to examine ways to protect at least some of the areas exposed to inundation, considering the feasibility, costs, and benefits of alternative remedies and salvation zone demarcations.

    One would in the past have liked to think that one lived in a society that was capable of that level of mature, rational, and above all democratic, if difficult*, planning. Therefore it has been no less than intriguing to note not a whisper of such dialog emanating from anywhere in Congress or any of our major coastal cities, and I would expect NYC, with its visionary entrepreneurial leadership, to take the lead here; please correct me if I have missed something.

    I mentioned this silence to a friend not long ago, who offered the opinion that the leading class did not wish to alarm people unduly. I disagreed at the time, and with this weekend as an example I think I now have some ammunition. Nope, not that.

    Consider Evacuation Zone A. I think people are being prepared for their “solution.” Look on it as a kind of guessing game.

    _________________
    * No matter how you slice it, someone is going to get some bad news, though you’d think that the present era of low interest rates could at least be used to lighten the taxpayers’ burden, if we would get on with it.

    1. Jim

      If you believe that the world faces carbon-induced climate change, then China must be part of the solution. If you want the US to cut by 20% its CO2 emissions, than China must do so as well.

  16. Yosemite Steve

    what’s up with the “commentary” link ‘response to jonathan alter’? I agree completely that Obama is a totally bank owned blip-head when we needed another FDR, BUT that does not keep my blood from boiling when i read some jerk from the right nyuck-nyucking with a huge smirk about how Obama owns the Bush depression lock, stock and barrel. I’d like to understand what the thinking was in including that link here. Does anybody here actually think the author of that BS ‘had a point’ in attacking Obama from the right? Yes, Obama has been a criminals facilitator, but that does not negate the fact that GWB team did everything in their considerable power to ruin the US financially, does it? Just tell me what you were thinking when you added that link here, please. It seems quite incongruous with the ideology and fact based thinking i usually see here.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Y Steve;
      This type of posting is , I believe, included under the rubric: “Know Thy Enemy.”

  17. NancyinStL

    ” People here have this weird way of forming long lines to empty stores of milk, water, eggs, and bread any time a blizzard is forecasted, and the hurricane alert is producing the same behavior.”

    That seems to be a standard pattern, at least as far west as the Mississippi. Mention snow storm and the grocery stores are mobbed w/ people buying milk, bread and eggs. What they did before snow is forecast seems to be a mystery. Personally, we treated a good snowstorm as an occasion to bake our own bread.

    As the forecast looks now, NH, VT and northwestern Maine’s going to get the main remnants of Irene. Enjoy coastal Maine. We spent 10 days in the area (central Maine and Portland) a few weeks ago and loved it. If you’re in the Portland area, I highly recommend the Portland Schooner Company’s sail to Cow Island for a lobster bake.

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