Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.

March 28, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As liberated slave laborers wave and cheer, the Nazi commandant of the camp at Altendorn, Germany, is led away to answer for the atrocities that occured in his camp. Major Anthony J. Malankowski of Maspeth, L.I., N.Y. (left) and PFC Arthur Fields lead the Nazi official away.  1945

As liberated slave laborers wave and cheer, the Nazi commandant of the camp at Altendorn, Germany, is led away to answer for the atrocities that occured in his camp. Major Anthony J. Malankowski of Maspeth, L.I., N.Y. (left) and PFC Arthur Fields lead the Nazi official away. 1945

Maybe justice will come some day.

(NYT) A high-level Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, on whether they violated international law by providing a legalistic framework to justify the use of torture of American prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

The case was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The official said that it was “highly probable” that the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants.

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Hey, Paul Krugman!

March 22, 2009 at 12:19 am | Posted in Department of the Treasury, Economy | Leave a comment
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Hilzoy posted this over at Political Animal. I think it’s both a catchy tune and a good question.

Cross posted at FromLaurelStreet

Vote Rigging.

March 20, 2009 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Voting Rights | Leave a comment
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Townspeople going to vote by ballot on whether or not pinball machines should be allowed. Town meeting, Woodstock, Vermont.  1940 March.  (Photo: Marion Post Wolcott)

Townspeople going to vote by ballot on whether or not pinball machines should be allowed. Town meeting, Woodstock, Vermont. 1940 March. (Photo: Marion Post Wolcott)

The circuit court judge, the county clerk and election officers in Clay County (Kentucky) have been charged with “chang[ing] votes at the voting machine” and showing others how to do it.

The 10-count federal indictment charges them with using “corrupt tactics to obtain political power and personal gain.” They were all involved with changing votes cast in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

The Brad Blog is following this actual election fraud:

Clay County uses the horrible ES&S iVotronic system for all of its votes at the polling place. The iVotronic is a touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) device, offering no evidence, of any kind, that any vote has ever been recorded as per the voter’s intent. If the allegations are correct here, there would likely have been no way to discover, via post-election examination of machines or election results, that votes had been manipulated on these machines.

ES&S is the largest distributor of voting systems in America and its iVotronic system — which is well-documented to have lost and flipped votes on many occasions — is likely the most widely-used DRE system in the nation. It’s currently in use in some 419 jurisdictions in 18 states including Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

This makes me physically ill to read.

Sure paper ballots take longer to tabulate, but isn’t veracity more important than unverifiable instant results? Your vote is not just meaningless under the current system but can be turned against you, as happened in Clay County.

Local election departments are mostly used to reward staff and/or supporters of politicians. I know that’s how it works in Massachusetts. I would love to volunteer again as a poll worker, but I refuse to do so under the current broken system. The people running local election departments do not recognize or accept their actual responsibility but see it as an opportunity to move votes in a particular direction. Actual changing of votes is pretty extreme but there are a lot of more innocuous ways in which local election officials interfere with free and fair elections.

Congress and state legislatures need to get on this.

“Push the Republicans out of the way.”

March 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Economy | Leave a comment
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Family living in shacktown community, mostly from Kansas and Missouri. This family has five children, oldest in third grade. Rent seven dollars per month, no plumbing. Husband working on Work Projects Administration wages, forty four dollars.  1939 August.

Family living in shacktown community, mostly from Kansas and Missouri. This family has five children, oldest in third grade. Rent seven dollars per month, no plumbing. Husband working on Work Projects Administration wages, forty four dollars. 1939 August.

(Joe Conason) The fundamental issue not only in America but in the world economy is a crisis of demand. As the Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz has explained—most recently at a panel in New York City sponsored by The Nation magazine and the Nation Institute—average wages have fallen for more than three decades. Among the results of that invidious pattern was rising indebtedness, as banks extended usurious credit to working families struggling to maintain their living standards. Years of rising inequality has upset the equilibrium that resulted in rapid and sustained economic growth for most of the postwar period in this country, and created a prosperous, well-educated and optimistic middle-class society.

Back when America worked well, the gaps between the top and bottom of the income scale were far smaller, the public sector was more robust, the labor movement protected living standards and the rewards of work were more fairly distributed. There is only one way to stop the downward slide and begin to restore that proven pattern of economic dynamism with a wage-led recovery.

Public spending, even unto additional trillions, is the only instrument available to prevent a global depression, assuming that we have not already forfeited that chance. The stimulus bill and the Obama budget are only first steps. We will need another strong shot of stimulus before the summer—not a spending freeze—and we can only pray that the president and the Congressional Democrats will have the guts to push the Republicans out of the way.

Universal Price Ceiling.

March 12, 2009 at 11:20 am | Posted in Historical | Leave a comment
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Construction workers eating in cafe in Alexandria, they say food is up at least one-third. Often prices are doubled for meals.  1940 December.  (Photo: Marion Post Wolcott)

Construction workers eating in cafe in Alexandria, they say food is up at least one-third. Often prices are doubled for meals. 1940 December. (Photo: Marion Post Wolcott)

With World War II came rapid price inflation. On August 28, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Office of Price Administration (OPA) within the Office for Emergency Management and tasked it with stabilizing prices and rents. It became an independent agency on January 30, 1942, under the Emergency Price Control Act.

The OPA was empowered to place ceilings on all prices except agricultural commodities, and to ration tires, automobiles, shoes, nylon, sugar, gasoline, fuel oil, coffee, meats and processed foods. At the peak, almost 90% of retail food prices were frozen. It also had the authority to subsidize production of some of those commodities.

In the face of rapidly increasing food prices and wage rates, President Roosevelt had a fireside chat with the nation on September 7, 1942 to explain the bill he was submitting to Congress for rapid passage to further stabilize prices. If you not heard one of FDR’s fireside chats, I recommend you click through and check out at least the beginning of the transcript (or the audio).

Unfortunately, Leon Henderson, the first administrator of the OPA, pissed off so many people the Democratic Party suffered election losses in November 1942 and it became impossible to pass any further New Deal legislation.

Business people were not particularly happy with FDR’s price controls but some on the left were upset as well:

Leon Henderson, administrator, Office of Price Administration (OPA): director, Civilian Supply Division of the Office of Production Management (OPM), member of the Supply Priorities and Allocations Board

Leon Henderson, administrator, Office of Price Administration (OPA): director, Civilian Supply Division of the Office of Production Management (OPM), member of the Supply Priorities and Allocations Board

The all-powerful government of the United States, which can stop strikes and freeze wages, by the use of troops if necessary, has no such coercive power over capitalist enterprise. Capitalists have to be cajoled “by flexibility in the price structure,” i.e., by skyrocketing prices, to turn to “more essential” war-production. Only by encouraging prices to rise could the government assure itself of expansion of war production. That is to say, only by yielding to the prices demanded by the capitalist owners of industry. Who is master in the house? Not Labor which is chained to frozen wages. Not the government which has chained Labor. The owners of the private property whom the government cajoles—they are master in the house, even in wartime when ostensibly the fate of the nation is taking precedence over private privilege. This is what is so glaringly revealed by Henderson’s admission that war production could be expanded at the expense of consumer production only by permitting skyrocketing prices in war materials. The 66 per cent increase in basic raw materials prices while consumers goods rose 25 per cent expresses the price mechanism by means of which—and only by this means—the government could get the private owners of industry to shift from civilian to war production.

However, this was only one aim of the government, and if it had been the only aim, it could have been achieved by leaving prices of war materials uncontrolled but fixing the prices of cost-of-living commodities. This is what would have been done—had the government wanted to prevent inflation, to prevent the 25 per cent rise in the price of food, clothing and house-furnishings. But the second aim of government policy was precisely a moderate inflation: rises in prices which would cut down the amount of cost-of-living commodities which the masses would be able to purchase with their lagging wages.

Displaying ceiling prices for a line of branded goods related items. Under the governments universal price ceiling, which takes effect Monday, May 18 at the retail level, storekeepers may display the ceiling price for a line of branded goods, such as drugs, foods or tobacco simply by a display card attached to the shelf, placed on the counter or located on a convenient nearby spot.  1942

Displaying ceiling prices for a line of branded goods related items. Under the government's universal price ceiling, which takes effect Monday, May 18 at the retail level, storekeepers may display the ceiling price for a line of branded goods, such as drugs, foods or tobacco simply by a display card attached to the shelf, placed on the counter or located on a convenient nearby spot. 1942

Despite its first year of difficulty, “the price control program proved effective. Overall from 1939 to 1943 the consumer price index jumped about 24 percent while from 1943 to 1945 it climbed only four percent.

Public participation is thought to have been a key to the program’s success:

Most economists credit the government’s introduction of strict controls on the prices of many consumer goods, especially food items, for the success of its anti-inflation efforts. However, this explanation masks a critical fact: price controls proved effective only when the Office of Price Administration encouraged popular participation in the operation of its price control system. Tens of thousands of volunteers were formally authorized to visit retail locations to monitor business compliance with the controls and tens of thousands of additional volunteers served on price boards that were empowered to fine retailers who were found to be in violation of the controls.

I do not mean to romanticize the price control experience. The extent of popular participation was always limited by opponents within the government and business community. There is also no indication that those who volunteered developed a more critical understanding of U.S. capitalism. Moreover, the business community proved able to gut the program quickly once the war came to a conclusion.

Yet, it still remains true that this experience represents a unique case of nationally coordinated and popularly implemented social regulation of one important aspect of economic activity. I believe that by studying the class forces and struggles that shaped the government’s recruitment and use of volunteers to implement its price control policy, we can gain valuable insights into the interrelated dynamics of economic policy making, social mobilization and economic transformation.

FDA Appointment.

March 12, 2009 at 9:32 am | Posted in Department of Health & Human Services | Leave a comment
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Ohio : WPA Art Program, between 1936 and 1940

Ohio : WPA Art Program, between 1936 and 1940


Word is that Margaret A. Hamburg, a former New York City health commissioner, will be President Obama’s nominee to head the Food & Drug Administration. The FDA is part of the Department of Health & Human Services.

The FDA is a mess, by anyone’s standards. The FDA regulates $417 billion worth of domestic food and $49 billion worth of imported food each year (meat, poultry and some egg products are regulated by the Department of Agriculture).

I’ve had a look at the FDA’s current “food protection plan.” I can’t say I am impressed. One of the FDA’s legislative goals is to be able to outsource its already inadequate food inspections to “highly-qualified third parties.” Why have an FDA at all if oversight and enforcement are outsourced to people who have zero accountability?

It seems to me there has been entirely too much reliance on food providers and suppliers to police themselves. It would be nice to be able to buy a jar of peanut butter without wondering what else is in it besides peanuts. I prefer mine not to contain bug and rat bits, even if it is Salmonella Typhimurium free.

Who Is This Brave Republican?

March 11, 2009 at 1:51 am | Posted in House of Representatives, politics straight up | Leave a comment
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Patrick McHenry, that’s who!

He’s an “up-and-comer” in the modern GOP. “Grover Norquist has … praised him as a rising star who understands how the modern GOP works.”

Yes, sir, that he does.

McHenry does just what any other good Republican would do when caught putting American military in harm’s way — he blames someone else.

Ahead of the Republican curve, McHenry understands how the internets work.

McHenry has been working hard to ensure his spot on the Republican gravy train, but his constituents are finally coming to the realization that his interests are not their interests:

(Hickory Daily Record Editorial) In recent days, McHenry may have shown his GOP true colors. He has been quoted as saying his goal is not to do what is best for North Carolina and the country, but instead to do what is best for the Republican Party.

“We will lose on legislation,” McHenry said in an article in the National Journal. “But we will win the message war every day, and every week, until November 2010. Our goal is to bring down approval numbers for (Speaker Nancy) Pelosi and for House Democrats. That will take repetition. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

[snip]

But McHenry’s words are clear. He will not help rebuild the economy, create jobs or make America more secure if it means working with the Democrats. This, he believes, will lead to the unthinkable — Congress remaining in the hands of the Democrats another two years and possibly a second-term for President Obama.

With his vote against the president’s economic recovery package, McHenry has thwarted efforts that could create or save 105,000 jobs in North Carolina, help responsible homeowners stay in their homes, cut taxes for hardworking Americans and put North Carolinians back to work.

I am puzzled why North Carolinians expected anything else from McHenry. He has long association with a a string of unsavory characters alone should have been a warning to them. Have they never heard the proverb “judge a person by the company they keep“? Maybe they are just too nice and can’t believe their own lying eyes.

(Daily Briefing, 10/21/07) Rep. McHenry also has some very shady characters for friends. His roommate was charged with two counts of voter fraud and there is evidence that several young men used McHenry’s address to vote in more than one location. His close friend, National Young Republican Chair, Glenn Murphy, was recently arrested for attempting to perform oral sex on a man while he slept. McHenry’s chief fundraisers are now under FBI investigation and McHenry himself may be implicated. Another close friend, Samuel Currin, recently pled guilty to securities fraud, money laundering, and tax fraud.

Yes, indeed, that’s Patrick McHenry, proud Republican.

Gifford Pinchot: Conservation Advocate

March 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Posted in Department of the Interior, Historical | Leave a comment
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Gifford Pinchot (March 11, 1921

Gifford Pinchot (March 11, 1921

Gifford Pinchot was a Republican. He and Teddy Roosevelt coined the term “conservationist.” He understood the importance of protecting and managing the environment, not because it is pretty but because the resources are finite. He understood that good environmental management is good business.

The Pinchot family carries on his work.

Gifford Pinchot [the third] is co-founder and President Emeritus of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, which offers an MBA that integrates environmental sustainability and social responsibility with innovation and profit. BGI is one of the first graduate schools to weave sustainability throughout its entire curriculum, so that standard business subjects include ethics, cutting-edge sustainability practices, and students’ spiritual perspectives. For the last three years, BGI has ranked at the top of Net Impact’s survey of business schools interested in socially responsible business.

Pinchot’s legacy includes the Gifford Pinchot Task Force which “supports the biological diversity and communities of the Northwest through conservation and restoration of forests, rivers, fish, and wildlife.” His contribution to the country was recognized in 1949 when the Columbia National Forest in Washington state was renamed in his honor.

Modern Republicans may want to forget their past but the GOP has not always been the party of dangerous nut jobs it is today.

Only In America.

March 10, 2009 at 11:29 am | Posted in politics straight up, torture | Leave a comment
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Titta Ruffo, as a clown, circa 1913.

Titta Ruffo, as a clown, circa 1913.

Every society has politicians who hold disgraceful positions on things like torture, abortion and gay rights; but I can think of no European country, indeed almost no country anywhere outside the Muslim world, where a political party who espoused such views could possibly hope to be taken seriously.

“Mittens” Romney Out Of The Club?

March 10, 2009 at 11:17 am | Posted in politics straight up | Leave a comment
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Poster for Federal Theatre Project presentation of A Touch of Brimstone at the Columbia theater.  California : Federal Art Project, 1937

Poster for Federal Theatre Project presentation of "A Touch of Brimstone" at the Columbia theater. California : Federal Art Project, 1937

Speaking on the the third night of the Club For Growth annual meeting, Romney came close to being hooked off the stage.

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