Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for November 11th, 2010

The report the Catfood Commission needs to read

Posted by Charles II on November 11, 2010

United States Remains One of the Least Taxed Industrial Countries:

How high are U.S. taxes compared to other developed nations? To hear “tea party” activists tell it, we’re a high-tax country. But, as data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) make clear, the combined taxes levied by federal, state and local governments in the United States are among the lowest in the developed world. Only two OECD countries have lower taxes, as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) than the United States [namely, Turkey and Mexico].

Our corporate taxes are lower, too.

I’m the first to say that taxing the very rich and corporations will not solve our deficit problem. We need to really reform the health insurance system, stop invading other countries (and cut our military spending) and start investing in our economy. But we can raise several hundred billion dollars by taxing the rich and corporations while staying within OECD norms. Raising our taxes collected by 2% of GDP would leave us with tax rates below the OECD median– around the rates of Japan and Slovakia– and would raise almost $300B. What the Congress is proposing to do, namely lower our tax rates below those of any industrialized nation while running massive deficits and slashing spending on the poor and middle class, is an abomination.

Posted in 'starving the beast', Republicans as cancer, taxes | 6 Comments »

A ray of hope: resistance to impunity

Posted by Charles II on November 11, 2010

I generally think of Colombia as hopeless, a place where people blindly support Uribe and the paramilitaries because they’re scared of the alternative, i.e. Maoist guerrillas and narcos, both of which are violent and do need to be reined in… but at the cost of putting power into the hands of equally violent paramilitaries?

But (via Adrienne) Brother John witnessed something extraordinary: an anti-impunity march.

Impunity is the problem, whether it’s in Colombia or the US. In the US, Bush commits torture… and gets away with it. Banksters crash the financial system, costing millions of Americans their jobs and roiling the entire world economy… and we pay off their bad debts. The Republicans run their entire campaign based on lies as brazen as “Obama is a Muslim” and “death panels”… and they are swept back into power.

This is impunity: Evil no longer feels bound by custom, law, or the fear of God. It does whatever it likes, destroying everything until it is so weakened by destruction that it collapses.

The anti-impunity folks in Colombia face a daunting situation. This post, for example, describes a couple of guys returning from a hearing to which they had voluntarily presented themselves, where they had been falsely accused of being militiamen. They were fired upon by paramilitaries on a motorcycle: prosecutor/judge/jury/executioner. One was shot in the leg, but they managed to escape.

Also, a paramilitary told someone from the Peace Community of San Jose Apartado that he was on a death list compiled by the Black Eagles.

This is impunity. The fact that people are willing to witness against it is a miracle, a ray of hope that should inspire us.

Posted in abuse of power, Colombia, walking the walk, War On Some Drugs | 4 Comments »

Elizabeth Warren: Ms. Amazing

Posted by Charles II on November 11, 2010

If you have a slower connection, you may want to download it.

November 05, 2010

The 14th annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture & Young Activist Award will feature consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren in a talk entitled “Main Street First: Fixing Broken Markets and Rebuilding the Middle Class.”

The inspiration and driving force behind the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren has been described as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” (Time), “a whipsmart consumer warrior,” (S.F. Chronicle), and “a person who will stir up a lot of trouble” (Forbes). She has appeared frequently on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Dr. Phil, and the Rachel Maddow Show. An expert on credit and economic stress, Warren is known for her ability to simplify complex financial issues and for her fierce independence and advocacy on behalf of middle-class families. She is the Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard University and is the author of nine books, including, with her daughter, the best sellers All Your Worth: the Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan and The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle Class Parents Are Going Broke.

The Memorial lecture honors the memory of the late Mario Savio, a spokesperson for Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement (1964), and the spirit of moral courage and vision which he and countless other activists of his generation exemplified. The evening includes a presentation of the Mario Savio Young Activist Award, which recognizes young people engaged in the struggle to build a more humane and just society. It is co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Library, the Goldman School of Public Policy, the Free Speech Movement Cafe and the Graduate Assembly.

Posted in financial crisis, speaking truth to power | Tagged: | Comments Off on Elizabeth Warren: Ms. Amazing

Honduran dictatorship, day 305

Posted by Charles II on November 11, 2010

It has been and remains impossible for me to cover Honduras with anything like the frequency and depth it deserves. However, Adrienne has hit on a topic that is of general concern: the fact that our military is taking control over more and more civilian functions. This first became a point of concern in 2000 when it was discovered that CNN was serving as a training ground for military PSYOPS, and the situation has just gotten worse as the military has embedded in WRAL and WTOC.

Adrienne has identified two aspects of military takeover of civilian society that alarm me. One is the subordination of State Department personnel to AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM described here. Quoting from a State Department briefing by Thomas Countryman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Political-Military Affairs of the DoD:

To genuinely empower his role, SOUTHCOM dual-hatted our POLAD [Foreign Policy Advisor] into a Civilian Deputy to the Commander. His presence, as a senior diplomat with considerable regional expertise, enables SOUTHCOM to take into account a broader range of cross-cultural factors in its planning and implementation of activities. As Civilian Deputy, Ambassador Paul Trivelli has been tasked by the Commander with oversight of strategic planning, security cooperation policy, public affairs, strategic communications and outreach to the NGO and business communities.

The number of POLADs at SOUTHCOM has increased to eleven positions, expanding our ability to interact with SOUTHCOM headquarters and its Component Commands.

See what has happened? The military response is supposed to be under civilian command. Instead, we have a diplomat as the deputy to Southcom’s commander. Supposedly this will sensitize the military as to why the locals object to being under US hegemony. But it seems like a erasure of the lines of civilian control.

Indeed, over the longer term, State and Southcom will exchange officers, effectively merging operations… but there’s little doubt who is the junior partner. We’ve always known that in Latin America, diplomacy was a pleasant smile painted over the iron gauntlet of military force, which has been used so regularly to suppress real democracy south of the border that it’s no surprise the military think that they run things.

So, the other thing Adrienne reports that’s even more disturbing is what she calls Coup University, the subversion of an institution of higher learning into a planning ground for US interventions:

Now, the U.S. Military’s Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the Pentagon’s arm in Latin America and responsible for all U.S. bases the region, and Florida International University (FIU) have partnered in the creation of a so-called “Strategic Culture” Initiative, a center that hosts workshops and issues reports on the “strategic culture” of different Latin American countries. At present, reports have been issued from Argentina; Bolivia; Brazil; Chile; Colombia; Cuba; Ecuador; El Salvador; Guatemala; Haiti; Nicaragua; Peru; and Venezuela.

On its website, the FIU-SOUTHCOM initiative defines strategic culture as “the combination of internal and external influences and experiences – geographic, historical, cultural, economic, political and military – that shape and influence the way a country understands its relationship to the rest of the world, and how a state will behave in the international community.” However, from a look at their reports it is clear that a more accurate definition would be “strategic propaganda for the creation of hegemonic political ideology favorable to U.S. economic and military interests.”…

The concept of “culture” is being used to justify the violent actions of the U.S. military throughout the hemisphere. Culture is also used to justify U.S. training of and funding for Latin American military forces that engage in torture, targeted assassinations of dissidents, and carry out coups d’etats. But the abuse of the culture concept in the service of empire is neither new, nor unique to the militarized university. In the case of Honduras, groups like the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) have promoted the idea that Honduras suffers from a culture of violence—rather than a neoliberal policy of state violence in which poverty is criminalized and the victims of structural violence are blamed. This difference is crucial; if violence is cultural, then “security”—in the form of increased U.S. military aid and training—is a logical solution for disciplining an unruly, uncivilized population. However, if violence is the explicit policy of a militarized client state protecting corporate profits from falling into the hands of the Honduran people, then democracy—however the Honduran people should choose to approach it—is the solution.

Anyone who knows Latin America knows that the principal source of violence has always been that of the conquistadores against the indigenous population. So, yes, they have a culture of violence: the US.

Posted in Honduras | 1 Comment »

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