Saturday Catchup: 2010-07-24

It's Jobs, Stupid: Left to itself, the U.S. economy may not return to its pre-recession rate of unemployment until 2021, says a new study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Even under the more optimistic growth assumptions of the Congressional Budget Office, we’ve got five more years of high unemployment ahead. Not troubling enough? Consider this: millions of jobless Americans means lower wages for those lucky enough to be employed. Median wages rose just 0.8% over the last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, failing to keep up with even the low 1.8% rate of inflation. In real, inflation-adjusted terms, that’s a wage drop. “Excess supply in the labor market — 14.6 million Americans were unemployed as of June — has helped keep wage growth in check,” the Wall Street Journal explains. Or, in the more gleeful terms used by a financial analyst quoted by Bloomberg news last month, “Companies are getting higher-productivity employees for the same or lower wage rate they were paying a marginal employee. Not only are employees higher skilled, you have a better skill match. You have a more productive and more adaptive labor force.” That’s great for business – and helps explain the 44% increase in corporate profits this year – but considerably worse news for anyone trying to work for a living. Without more job creation or growing wages, economic recovery doesn’t translate into anything that benefits the vast majority of Americans. So what’s to be done? -- A Decade of High Unemployment and Falling Wages… Or We Could Create Jobs and Help our Cities by Amy Traub (DMIblog 2010-07-22).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: "It was a branding moment. With their lockstep vote against extending unemployment benefits, the Republicans are indelibly marked as not only heartless but also frivolous in their much-professed concern over the soaring national debt....once again the Republicans seem determined to prove that when it comes to social compassion, they are the worst." -- The Grinches Who Stole Summer by Robert Scheer (Truthdig 2010-07-21).

Not to beat a dead horse, but...It's Jobs, Stupid: "The way to get jobs back is to increase federal spending in the short term in order to make up for the gap left by consumers and businesses (the fastest way to get this money into circulation is by extending unemployment benefits and aiding stranded state and local governments). Over the longer term, we can lift the wages of the vast majority of Americans by expanding and extending the Earned Income Tax Credit -- an income supplement -- up through the middle class, and pay for it by a higher marginal income tax rate on the top. And while we’re at it, exempt the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes, and pay for that by lifting the cap on Social Security taxes on all incomes in excess of $250,000. Beyond that, and over the still longer term, America’s vast middle class and the poor more need to be more productive and innovative, so they can add more value to an increasingly integrated global economy. That means better education. Instead of firing school teachers, closing libraries, and increasing tuitions at public universities, we have to do exactly the opposite." -- Why We Can’t Rely on Foreign Consumers to Rescue American Jobs, and Why the “Jobs for America Summit” is a Bad Joke by Robert Reich (Guernica: a magazine of art & politics 2010-07-21).

It's hard not to think of this as Brother Mose's Teabagger song:

Not To Miss: How could Barack Obama nominate with such confidence a candidate for the Supremes who remains, in conventional terms, a legal and political empty suit? "The very fact that such a person could become dean of the Harvard Law School, Solicitor General of the United States, and now apparently a justice of the Supreme Court, tells us a great deal about how members of the contemporary power elite in America, whether they call themselves 'liberals' or 'conservatives,' see themselves. For Elena Kagan presents a particular kind of blank slate to the world: one that appears to have been the product of, among other things, exquisitely calculated careerism. And that sort of careerism is by necessity always grounded in the relentless pursuit of the approval of the legal and political and economic establishment — something that itself is always inimical to significant legal, political, or economic change. Kagan, in short, is the kind of candidate who is most popular with admirers of the status quo. Indeed, Obama’s nomination of Kagan suggests that, for all his talk of 'change,' he is himself at heart a comfortable denizen of Establishment America – that place where people with the right sorts of resumes rotate profitably between Wall Street, Washington, and the Ivy League, while praising each other for having 'good judgment,' and being 'reasonable' and 'non-partisan.'" -- Elena Kagan, Barack Obama, and the American Establishment by Paul Campos (Lawyers, Gun$ & Money 2010-07-21).

Action: The Investigative Fund incubates in-depth reporting with the potential for social impact. Their work is made possible by support of individuals and institutions committed to a free and independent press. The Fund is a program of The Nation Institute, a 501(c)(3) public foundation, donations to which are tax deductible to the fullest extent provided by law. If you have any questions, or would like other donation options, contact Taya Kitman at (212) 822-0252. Or just give.

File this one under #stillmissdennishopperalwayswill:

Weekly war crimes update: A recent report from Amnesty International has confirmed that 35 women and children were killed following the latest US attacks on an alleged al-Qaeda hideout in Yemen. Initially, there were attempts to bury the story, and Yemen officially denied that civilians were killed as a result of the Dec 17 attack on al-Majala in southern Yemen. However, it has been simply impossible to conceal what is now considered the largest loss of life in one single US attack in the country. If the civilian casualties were indeed a miscalculation on the part of the U.S. military, there should no longer be any doubt about the fact that cluster munitions are far too dangerous a weapon to be utilized in war. And they certainly have no place whatsoever in civilian areas. The human casualties are too large to justify." -- Cluster Bombs and Civilian Lives: Efficient Killing, Profits and Human Rights by Ramzy Baroud (truthout 2010-07-24). See, also: New study claims increases in infant mortality and cancer in Fallujah greater than in Hiroshima by Zaid Jilani (Think Progress 2010-07-24).

The Bush and Blair govs knew that the WMDs and Sadam Hussein-Al Queda links were a pack of lies: This week Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former director general of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, their version of the FBI, said Tuesday that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had greatly increased the terrorist threat to Britain and that intelligence available before the Iraq war had not been sufficient to justify the invasion of that country. Ex-Official Says Afghan and Iraq Wars Increased Threats to Britain by Sarah Lyall (New York Times 2010-07-20). The headline speaks for itself; I'm linking it mainly because The Times buried the story.

True heroes are few: "When we create a legion of heroes in our minds, we blind ourselves to evidence of their destructive, sometimes atrocious, behavior. Heroes, after all, don’t commit atrocities. They don’t, for instance, dig bullets out of pregnant women’s bodies in an attempt to cover up deadly mistakes. They don’t fire on a good Samaritan and his two children as he attempts to aid a grievously wounded civilian. Such atrocities and murderous blunders, so common to war’s brutal chaos, produce cognitive dissonance in the minds of many Americans who simply can’t imagine their 'heroes' killing innocents. How much easier it is to see the acts of violence of our troops as necessary, admirable, even noble. By making our military generically heroic, we act to prolong our wars. By seeing war as essentially heroic theater, we esteem it even as we excuse it." -- “Our American Heroes”: Why It’s Wrong to Equate Military Service with Heroism by William J. Astore (Guernica: a magazine of art & politics 2010-07-23).

Could it be that, somewhere in this nightmarish technological morass, there is something as simple as a delete button?:

"Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space." -- A hidden world, growing beyond control by Dana Priest & William M. Arkin (Washington Post 2010). Also, some perspective from The Nation: Corporate Media Discover Private Spies. In Other News, No WMD in Iraq by Jeremy Scahill (The Nation 2010-07-20).

The Asian Age can use "MNCs" in its headline and, unlike here, the reader knows what they're talking about: "Corporates seek to globalise production but they do not want to globalise justice and rights. The difference in the treatment of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical in the context of Bhopal, and of BP in the context of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico shows how an apartheid is being created. The devaluation of the life of people of the Third World and ecosystems is built into the project of globalisation. Globalisation is leading to the outsourcing of pollution - hazardous substances and technologies - to the Third World. This is at the heart of globalisation - the economies of genocide." -- The Killing Fields of Multi-National Corporations Pesticides, Pollution and the Economies of Genocide by Vandana Shiva (The Asian Age 2010-07-14).

Here's a pull-out from The Asian Age to think about:

quote unquote: “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the less developed countries?” Since wages are low in the Third World, economic costs of pollution arising from increased illness and death are least in the poorest countries. The logic “of relocation of pollutants in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that." -- Obama's chief economic adviser Lawrence Summers, in a memo dated December 12, 1991, to senior staff at the World Bank, where he was chief economist at the time.

Wikireform: We need a People's Project for Societal Reform, a Wikipedia of Change, a think tank for the rest of us....and the internet provides the tools. What's needed is a site with a series of issues open to disinterested creative ideas about all our challenges -- nuclear and other inhumane weapons, global climate change, pollution, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, economic justice, democratization, how to accelerate positive social change... All that's needed is to arrange a voting system where people can see the raw contributions, make comments, and move the best ideas to the forefront without erasing those wild and crazy contributions that might just turn out in the long run to be the most valuable. Best Practices by Winslow Myers (truthout 2010-07-24).

Noam Chomsky catches up with Impractical Proposals: "'It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,' Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. 'The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.'" -- Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This’ by Chris Hedges (Truthdig 2010-07-10).

Hail, hail rock 'n' roll:

When you hear the word "reform," reach for your gun: "Race to the Top" and Arne Duncan's so-called "national turnaround plan" are tied to a $4.3 billion fund to push for charter schools -- schools publicly funded by taxpayers, yet run privately, outside the control of local school boards -- and merit pay schemes where teachers are paid according student test scores -- using eligibility requirements to make states compete for desperately needed education money. The education secretary proposes closing some 5,000 schools across the county and firing entire teaching staffs at schools designated as failing. These national initiatives were first developed by Arne when he was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools for his "Renaissance 2010" program that closed down dozens of schools, predominately in Black neighborhoods, and converted many to charter schools or military academies. At numerous school board meetings and protests, teachers, students and community members warned Duncan that the reckless closing of schools would have dire consequences -- from the loss of cherished neighborhood schools and union teachers to an increase in gang violence. Predictably, these education advocates were proven right. Student achievement stagnated, and deadly violence soared in the schools -- with some 34 deaths and 290 shootings in 2009 as a result of students being transported to schools across gang boundaries. -- Schooling Arne Duncan by Jesse Hagopian (Socialist Worker 2010-07-19 -- Hagopian, a Seattle teacher who lost his job due to budget cuts, is a founding member of the progressive union caucus Social Equality Educators within the Seattle Education Association).

A picture is worth a thousand years: In the age of high-precision cosmology, we realize how very short is the time frame of human civilization in relation to the history of the universe. Within that frame, geneticists are providing us with ever-better maps of early human migration and settlement patterns while art originating from well before Babylon indicates what some of those migratory cultures’ cosmologies might have been like. The symbol-laden anthropological record of the Paleolithic suggests the fruition of a theretofore-nascent neurological potential for artistic and technological expression. The astronomical theories associated with Magdalenian cave art may take a long time (and substantially more evidence) in order to gel, but just considering a celestial dimension to the paintings allows our generation to look with new eyes at one of our oldest shared artistic treasures. Heavenly messages from the depths of prehistory may be encoded on the walls of caves throughout Europe by Holly Capelo (Seed Magazine 2010-07-13).

And, finally, a more benign than usual edition of Those Wacky Republicans - a series:

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