International Implications of Shutdown

United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., east ...
United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., east front elevation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)





International Implications of Shutdown


Did you notice how odd it was that during the shutdown and the subsequent debt ceiling game of chicken that there was precious little discussion of the international implications? I did. It worries me.


Thinking that the United States is invulnerable like Superman might make you confident but it can also make you dead.


What other nations think and do matters? How much was put at risk overseas by actions here? Did we put our allies at risk and give our enemies an advantage?


A few brains in Washington would be good, some working ones anyway.


James Pilant


BERLIN: Europeans agog at Americans’ inability to compromise, aghast at likely long-term impact | Politics | McClatchy DC


No one was amused, however. The United States, after all, is not a bit player on the international stage like Greece. It is the unquestioned global leader. And while after a decade of controversial war it’s not so unusual for Europeans to express hostility toward the United States, many were shocked to see how hostile Americans seem to be to one another – and disinterested in how their internal fight might affect the rest of the world.“This is pure domestic politics,” said Xenia Dormandy, an expert on the United States and its place in the world at the London think tank Chatham House. “Nobody cares about any of the international implications. There’s a lack of desire to even think about the repercussions.”The discord will have long-term consequences, even if the United States is able to see its way through this crisis to yet another battle over spending and the debt ceiling that will come early next year, some predict.


via BERLIN: Europeans agog at Americans’ inability to compromise, aghast at likely long-term impact | Politics | McClatchy DC.


From around the web.


From the web site, Phoebe Rees, JN 325.


On Tuesday, the US government shut down. If you’re a fellow Brit like

me, you might be thinking, “how can this happen – can Democrats and

Republicans not even be charged with the simplest task of keeping the

government open?” undoubtably leading to “the system has collapsed, the

apocalypse is now!” Alas no, this isn’t some sort of Anarchist utopia,

it happens reasonable frequently and can be explained a lot more simply

than you think. Here are the most common misconceptions about the US

government shutdown answered.


1. The government has shut down. Does this mean that the system has collapsed? 


No. Constitutionally, congress must pass laws to spend money. If they

can’t agree on a spending bill, they don’t have the authority to spend

money. Most of the ‘system’ is still in place, but non-essential

services such as gun licensing, zoos and national parks will close for

the duration of the shutdown. So basically, no guns and no zoos for the

foreseeable future. …


White Collar Crime Pays Well?

Man Steals $277k From Autism Research, Gets $5k Fine

stillifeLook, if this had been a once-off, or a first offense for Searls I might not be as upset. But, it wasn’t, and it’s not. He worked his con three times over the course of two years. That’s not making a mistake, or a single offense. He intentionally targeted people in and around the autism community. Let’s face it, autism research just isn’t sexy. The people who typically buy fund-raising raffle tickets are those with loved ones diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, or someone who knows someone like that. These are people who are already financial stretched. And he did this with the promise that the proceeds would go to fund autism research. Which also gives false hope to those buying the tickets, as well as to the charity expecting the money.

In addition to Searles’ scam not being an isolated incident, this isn’t the fist time he’s been caught with his hands in the proverbial cookie jar. According to the Olympian article, “ In 2011, Searles was the subject of a court order in Washington barring him from acting as a mortgage broker because he violated the Mortgage Broker Practices Act.” He was also issued a cease and desist order in regards to any kind of solicitation in the state of Washington.

I’m unhappy with the sentence in this case, 90 days home confinement and a $5,000 dollar fine. He’s a repeat offender and he gathered up 277 thousand dollars with this scam. I have seen white collar crime punished more lightly than virtually any other crime imaginable over the course of my life. It is so unfair. Shouldn’t penalties be assessed in some measure on the harm done and less on the social class of the perp?

James Pilant

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Prison Population is Falling


Fear and Dread?
Fear and Dread?

Prison Population is Falling

The Washington Monthly – Ten Miles Square – Why The Prison Population is Falling

The number of people incarcerated went up every single year from the mid 1970s until 2009. Over that more than 30 year period, there have been economic booms and contractions, changes in the relative strength of the major political parties, alterations in the demographic makeup of the US general population, the waxing and waning of drug epidemics, and countless other changes in American life. What that should tell us is that any simple explanation for why America has the prison policy it does at any given time is wrong or at least incomplete.

Pew notes that over the past 5 years, incarceration fell in 29 states (ruling out another simple explanation: that this is all due to the court order to reduce overcrowding in California prisons). …

The Washington Monthly – Ten Miles Square – Why The Prison Population is Falling


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What are we frightened of? Fear and Dread in the U.S.

What are we frightened of? Fear and Dread in the U.S.

Michael Brenner: The (Very) Few Proud and Brave

Fear and dread, deep and pervasive, are the abiding feature of these times.Existential threats from mysterious forces with no fixed address are most scary because they are not resoluble by focused action taken against a clear target. They gnaw at you as well as frighten you. That produces dread. Dread is free floating fear — it fixes on what might be, thereby magnifying anxieties of experiencing one more horrific events of the past.American actions in the ‘war on terror’ have been driven by dread. Dread that it may happen again, dread of the unknown, dread of the alien. It explains not only the radical thrust of Washington’s conduct in the Greater Middle East but also the dulling of critical faculties. That pertains to torture, kill lists and illegal surveillance as well as the ready resort to military power.

Michael Brenner: The (Very) Few Proud and Brave

Fear and Dread?
Fear and Dread?

I thought this was one of the most well written and provocative single paragraphs I have run across in some years. It’s not just beautiful, it captures the mood of our current era. I have often thought the same thing although minus the eloquence.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, Sec Semper Tyrannis:

The Obama administration faces two fundamental decisions. First, should it rededicate American foreign policy to shoring up the shaky structure of alliances and understandings among the five that has been central to its vision of the region’s strategic future? Second, should it redefine American interests and expectations in ways that favor the emergence of a more durable structure build to accommodate a more realistic set of expectations? To say ‘no’ to the former, and to say ‘yes’ to the latter is to choose a challenging course – diplomatically and politically. For it means forming a highly differentiated view of Islamist elements in the Middle East, a loosening of the servile ties that bind Washington to Tel Aviv, beginning an intricate, multi-party project in the intricate project in the Gulf, and – perhaps most challenging – coping with uncertainty as a constant.




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George Washington – Business Ethics

George Washington – Business Ethics

George Washington – Business Ethics

This is from The Life of George Washington, Volume I, by Washington Irving:

The Virginia planters were prone to leave the care of their estates too much to their overseers, and to think personal labor a degradation. Washington carried into his rural affairs the same method, activity, and circumspection that had distinguished him in military life. He kept his own accounts, posted up his books and balanced them with mercantile exactness. We have examined them as well as his diaries recording his daily occupations, and his letter-books, containing entries of shipments of tobacco, and correspondence with his London agents. They are monuments of his business habits. [Footnote: The following letter of Washington to his London correspondents will give an idea of the early intercourse of the Virginia planters with the mother country.

“Our goods by the Liberty, Capt. Walker, came to hand in good order and soon after his arrival, as they generally do when shipped in a vessel to this river [the Potomac], and scarce ever when they go to any others; for it don’t often happen that a vessel bound to one river has goods of any consequence to another; and the masters, in these cases, keep the packages till an accidental conveyance offers, and for want of better opportunities frequently commit them to boatmen who care very little for the goods so they get their freight, and often land them wherever it suits their convenience, not where they have engaged to do so. … A ship from London to Virginia may be in Rappahannock or any of the other rivers three months before I know any thing of their arrival, and may make twenty voyages without my seeing or even hearing of the captain.”]

The products of his estate also became so noted for the faithfulness, as to quality and quantity, with which they were put up, that it is said any barrel of flour that bore the brand of George Washington, Mount Vernon, was exempted from the customary inspection in the West India ports. [Footnote: Speech of the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop on laying the corner-stone of Washington’s Monument.]

Washington practiced good business ethics by keeping his own accounts and maintaining a reputation for accuracy and competence.

James Pilant

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Another White House Sell Out on the Big Banks

Shouldn’t bankers be held to the same laws the rest of Americans have to obey? This is a no-brainer except in the Washington beltway where banks are considered the basis of the Republic rather than the modern equivalent of train robbing Western desperados. I don’t understand. Why is no one being prosecuted? I once lied to a judge. I didn’t know it was a lie until later. When I found out, I called him up (I was working for the state and dealt with the judge regularly) and explained and apologized. He reminded me that I could have gone to jail for that. I told I was well aware of it. And yet here, banks who lied to the judge, to the courts of the United States, are simply walking away. Unlike me, they knew they weren’t telling truth and unlike me, they were making enormous sums of money by lying, and they are not apologizing. Do you see anywhere in the agreement that they have to say, “I’m sorry.” I don’t see it.

There is a dual system of justice in this country, one for me and you, and one for the 1%. It’s very sad. We have been told that we live in a nation of laws, not of men. But the fact is we live in a nation of men, where one class is better than another in the eyes of the law.

James Pilant

Robo-Signing Bank Settlement is a Criminal Sell Out | Better Markets

“Let me help a few victims I created by ripping them off and illegally throwing them out of their homes by false court filings that I swore were true.”  That’s what the so-called mortgage settlement talks are really all about:  fraud, perjury and crimes.  That’s what these banks did and that’s what they are trying to buy their way out of.

The settlement discussions are the same: eliminate all or almost all liability for the bank and, most importantly, all bank officers and employees in exchange for a loan forgiveness or modification program.  Think about this:  the banks engaged in a years-long pattern and practice of what can only be described as fraudulent if not criminal conduct that would put anyone else in prison for years if not decades, yet banks get to buy off the cops with some money to help the victims they created.

Robo-Signing Bank Settlement is a Criminal Sell Out | Better Markets

Mortgage Settlement Is Great – For Big Banks

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The Declaration of Occupy D.C.

(I am reprinting this declaration on the assumption that Occupy D.C. wants as wide a distribution of the Declaration as possible. CPAC is meeting this week and it was pointed out that their future leaders would be coming from the congressional class of 2010. Well, my future leaders are coming out of the Occupy Movement. I’ve got a lot more future leaders, who make a lot more sense and who might just save the Middle Class.)

The Declaration of Occupy D.C.

Consented to by General Assembly November 30th, 2011 | PDF

We have been captives of corrupt economic and political systems for far too long. The concentration of wealth and the purchase of political power stifle the voices of the increasingly disenfranchised 99 percent. Corporate dominance subverts democracy, intentionally sows division, destroys the environment, obstructs the just and equitable pursuit of happiness, and violates the rights and dignity of all life.

Occupy D.C. is an open community of diverse individuals, facing different forms of oppression and impacted by economic exploitation to differing degrees, but united by a shared vision of equality for the common good. The harsh economic conditions that have plagued the poor, working class, and communities of color for generations have begun to affect the previously financially secure. This acute awareness of our common fate has united us in our struggle for a better future. We recognize that inequality and injustice systemically affect every aspect of our society: our communities, homes, and hearts. To build the world we envision, we commit ourselves to overcoming our personal biases so we can successfully challenge systems of oppression in solidarity.

We are peaceably assembled at McPherson Square, practicing direct democracy on the doorstep of K Street, the epicenter of destructive corporate and governmental relationships. Recognizing that the term ‘occupy’ is associated with exploitation, violence, and imperialism, we are reclaiming it to mean the peaceful liberation of public space. In this disenfranchised city, we are insisting that our economic and political systems serve the people’s interests. Now is the time to advance and complete the struggles of the many who came before us.

We are assembled because…

  • It is absurd that the 1 percent has taken 40 percent of the nation’s wealth through exploiting labor, outsourcing jobs, and manipulating the tax code to their benefit through special capital tax rates and loopholes. The system is rigged in their favor, yet they cry foul when anyone even dares to question their relentless class warfare.
  • Candidates in our electoral system require huge sums of money to be competitive. These contributions from multi-national corporations and wealthy individuals destroy responsive representative governance. A system of backroom deals, kickbacks, bribes, and dirty politics overrides the will of the people. The rotation of decision makers between the public and private sectors cultivates a network of public officials, lobbyists, and executives whose aligned interests do not serve the American people.
  • The entrenched two-party system overlooks public interests by pursuing narrow political goals. This climate encourages candidates to polarize voters for individual power and personal gain. Citizens’ meaningful input has been compromised by gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement, and unresponsive politicians. Residents of Washington, D.C., continue to lack autonomy and legislative representation.
  • The 1 percent benefits from economic, political, and legal structures that oppress communities long targeted by displacement, denial of sovereignty, slavery, and other injustices. These persecuted but resilient communities continue to suffer through generations of disproportionately higher rates of unemployment, poverty, criminalization, and homelessness. Facets of the 1 percent campaign to blame these groups for these problems while obstructing healing and restoration.
  • Those with power have divided us from working in solidarity by perpetuating historical prejudices and discrimination based on perceived race, religion, immigrant or indigenous status, income, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability, among other things. These divisions have inhibited our ability to work in solidarity, though today we recognize the power of uniting as the 99 percent.
  • Financial institutions gambled with our savings, homes, and economy. They collapsed the financial system and needed the public to bail them out of their failures yet deny any responsibility and continue to fight oversight. Corporations loot from those whose labor creates society’s prosperity, while the government allows them to privatize profits and socialize risk.
  • Corporate interests threaten life on Earth by extracting and burning fossil fuels and resisting the necessary transition to renewable energy. Their drilling, mining, clear-cutting, overfishing, and factory farming destroys the land, jeopardizes our food and water, and poisons the soil with near impunity. They privilege polluters over people by subsidizing fossil fuels, blocking investments in clean energy and efficient transportation, and hiding environmental destruction from public oversight.
  • Private corporations, with the government’s support, use common resources and infrastructure for short-term personal profit, while stifling efforts to invest in public goods.
  • The U.S. government engages in drawn-out, costly conflicts abroad. Numerous acts of conquest have been, and continue to be, pursued to control resources, overthrow foreign governments, and install subservient regimes. These wars destroy the lives of innocent civilians and American soldiers, many of whom suffer adverse effects throughout life. These operations are a blank check to divert money from domestic priorities.
  • Government authorities cultivate a culture of fear to invade our privacy, limit assembly, restrict speech, and deny due process. They have failed in their duty to protect our rights. Exacerbated by profiteering interests, the criminal justice system has unfairly targeted underprivileged communities and outspoken groups for prosecution rather than protection.
  • Corporatized culture warps our perception of reality. It cheapens and mocks the beauty of human thought and experience while promoting excessive materialism as the path to happiness. The corporate news media furthers the interests of the very wealthy, distorts and disregards the truth, and confines our imagination of what is possible for ourselves and society.
  • Leaders are trading our access to basic needs in exchange for handouts to the ultra-wealthy. Our rights to healthcare, education, food, water, and housing are sacrificed to profit-driven market forces. They are attacking unemployment insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, creating an uncertain future for us all.*

A better world is possible.

To all people,

We, the Washington D.C. General Assembly occupying K Street in McPherson Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble and reclaim the commons. Re-conceive ways to build a democratic, just, and sustainable world.

To all who value democracy, we encourage you to collaborate and share available resources.

Join your voice with ours and let it amplify until the heart of the movement booms with our chorus of solidarity.
*These grievances are not all inclusive.

Occupy DC |  Declaration

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The 99 Percenters – Why is New York the Center of their Protests?

There are a lot of good reasons for centering the protests in New York, the proximity of the video and print media, the enormous number of opinion leaders in the area, and certainly the ability to recruit and maintain large numbers of protestors.

This would have been very difficult in Washington. Most of that city is a ghetto with little of the private infrastructure available in a modern metropolitan area.

But the history of Wall Street has to be a factor. It’s been a center of corporate power in the United States for almost two full centuries, and only the excesses of the Gilded Age rival the current levels of self-contentedness and pride among the wealthy today.

But there is also this article below. It has some powerful observations about why New York is such a good venue for the 99 percenters. —

Christopher Ketcham writing in McClatchy’s has a new article entitled –

Occupy Wall Street: The new populists?

The focal point, however, is specific: Manhattan. The capital of the finance corporations whose speculation, chicanery and outright fraud have produced havoc and pain for so many Americans. It sets the model nationally for a metastasizing economic regression: the maldistribution of wealth into the hands of the few.

Out of the 25 largest cities in the United States, New York is the most unequal when it comes to income distribution. In New York, the top 1 percent of households claimed 44 percent of all income during 2007 (the last year for which data are available). That’s almost twice the record-high levels among the 1 Percenters nationwide, who claimed 23.5 percent of all national income in 2007. During the housing bubble that ended in our current calamity, the average income for the 1 Percenters in New York went up 119 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of homeless in the city rose to an all-time high last year, with 113,000 men, women and children retreating night after night to municipal shelters. The real hourly median wage in New York between 1990 and 2007 fell by almost 9 percent. Young men and women age 25 to 34 with a bachelor’s degree and a year-round job in New York saw their earnings drop 6 percent. Middle-income New Yorkers – defined broadly as those earning between $29,000 and $167,000 – saw a 19% decrease in earnings. Almost 11 percent of the population in New York, about 900,000 people, lives in what the federal government describes as “deep poverty,” which for a four-person family means an income of $10,500; the average 1 Percenter household in New York makes about that same amount every day.

(Read more:

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Fault Lines: The Top 1% (via THE INTERNET POST)

Exactly. The distribution of income is this country is a great moral and ethical problem. If the money were allocated according to ability and work ethic, that might make some sense but walk around in this country and look at the hard working men and women reduced to penury by law that favor financial “innovation” over hard work and productivity.

James Pilant

The richest 1% of US Americans earn nearly a quarter of the country's income and control an astonishing 40% of its wealth. Inequality in the US is more extreme than it's been in almost a century — and the gap between the super rich and the poor and middle class people has widened drastically over the last 30 years. Meanwhile, in Washington, a bitter partisan debate over how to cut deficit spending and reduce the US' 14.3 trillion dollar debt is u … Read More


80% Of Americans Think Washington Is Broken

80% Of Americans Think Washington Is Broken

What happened? Somebody slap them? How did it take so long? For two decades our Congressman unleashed a tidal wave of speculation that has cost millions of Americans their homes, jobs and the self respect that goes with those things.

Apparently reality has to slap American on both cheeks for recognition to hit. Just Great!

James Pilant