You are browsing the archive for 2013 April 10.

Avatar of admin

by admin

Media Fail Primary First Amendment Mission

April 10, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

James Madison, who introduced the Bill of Rights into Congress, later said: “The press has been the beneficent source to which the United States owes much of the light which conducted us to the ranks of a free and independent nation” (my book, The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance, Seven Stories Press, 2004).

But now, with the continuous, instantly accessible flood of information on the web, in print, on blogs, in social media, et al, crucial developments concerning our most basic personal rights and liberties are often covered minutely, if at all.

For example, how many of you are aware of the unanimous March 27 Supreme Court decision in Millbrook v. United States, written by Justice Clarence Thomas? It got lost in the enormous, sustained media coverage of the same-sex marriage arguments that were made before the court that week.

The court’s judgment in Millbrook could start to end the immunity of many law enforcement officials who permit the violations of citizens’ constitutional rights. These violations may include assault and other harsh treatment of people in the custody of government enforcement agents, such as prison guards.

Herewith are the brutal facts of Kim Lee Millbrook’s case as retold by John W. Whitehead, who directs the Charlottesville, Va.-based Rutherford Institute. Whitehead submitted an amicus brief supporting Millbrook before the Supreme Court. (If President Madison were still with us, Whitehead would be receiving the Medal of Freedom.)

Whitehead notes that while Millbrook was “serving a 31-year sentence, reportedly for drug and gun-related charges along with witness intimidation,” he was “transferred to a high-security federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa.” (“Millbrook v. U.S.: Holding the Government Accountable for Misconduct by Law Enforcement Officials,” John W. Whitehead,, April 1)

A few days after his arrival to Lewisburg, Millbrook got into a fight with his cellmate, and they were both put in “a shower area.

“Then, according to Millbrook, three prison guards escorted him to the basement holding-cell area, where one guard choked him until he almost lost consciousness and a second guard made Millbrook perform oral sex on him, while a third guard stood watch by the door. Conveniently, no video cameras were monitoring the basement at the time of the alleged assault.”

Whitehead continues: “A non-lawyer relatively well-versed in navigating the legal system, Millbrook turned to the courts for relief in January 2011, suing the federal government for $1.5 million in damages for negligence, …read more
Source: OP-EDS

Avatar of admin

by admin

Baltic Solutions for the Adriatic

April 10, 2013 in Economics

By Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

Slovenia, once celebrated as the poster boy of central and eastern Europe, is now widely perceived as yet another sick man of the eurozone. With bond yields close to those of Portugal and a Moody’s downgrade for one of the country’s largest banks, rumors of an imminent bailout abound — though vehemently denied by Alenka Bratušek, Slovenia’s prime minister.

To solve their problems, Slovenians should look north, as their woes resemble the afflictions facing the Baltic states only four years ago.

Make no mistake — Slovenia is not a basket case. Since the collapse of Yugoslavia, the country has boasted a strong and innovative private sector, superb infrastructure, alpine vistas and manicured lawns, making it look more like Austria or Switzerland than a transitional economy.

In spite of a harsh economic contraction of almost 8 per cent in 2009 and only a weak recovery since, Slovenians remain the most affluent among the denizens of transitional countries of central and eastern Europe, with unemployment still below 10 per cent — much less than the 14.5 per cent in Slovakia, generally perceived as a country that has weathered the crisis successfully. Slovenia’s debt to GDP ratio is hovering at roughly 53 per cent of GDP — by European standards an eminently reasonable number.

Moreover, Slovenia’s troubles are neither unprecedented nor impossible to fix. Unsurprisingly, the key lies in the country’s banking sector, which includes some €7bn in bad loans, around 20 per cent of the tiny Adriatic nation’s GDP. The financial meltdown in Cyprus has shed doubts on the ability of Slovenian banks to deal with the problem and, for that matter, on the ability of the Slovenian government to recapitalize its banking sector, should the need arise.

This is why Slovenia should look north. During its lending boom between 2000 and 2007, Latvia’s indebtedness reached 116 per cent of GDP. At the onset of the crisis in 2008, bad loans in Lithuania and Latvia were roughly one fifth of total loans. And as in Slovenia’s case, which has been a member of the eurozone since 2007, Latvia’s excessive private debt has been partly fueled by a fixed exchange rate regime.

In 2008 and 2009 Latvia, alongside other Baltic states, suffered a deep economic contraction. To a large extent, the Baltic states, including Latvia, reacting similarly, deploying a combination of severe spending cuts and far-reaching structural reforms, and …read more
Source: OP-EDS

Avatar of admin

by admin

Obama's Baby Step

April 10, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

President Obama will officially unveil his proposed 2014 budget today, just 64 days after it was required to be submitted under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Better late than never.

While it is not exactly the compromise the media has portrayed it to be, the president’s budget is a serious proposal that takes some steps in the right direction. It is certainly a much better starting point for negotiations than the nonsense passed last month by Senate Democrats.

For example, President Obama really should be given credit for putting entitlement reform on the table. There can be no serious effort to balance the budget without tackling entitlements, but it’s not an easy thing for a Democrat to do. A politician willing to do what is right even when it is opposed by his own base is rare enough that he should be celebrated. The president’s proposals, further, may give Republicans a bit of political cover for their entitlement-reform plans.

Besides, anything that makes and the AARP this angry can’t be all bad.

The president’s budget acknowledges our fiscal realities, but his reforms fall far short of the structural changes necessary to avoid catastrophic levels of debt. For example, the president has embraced “chained CPI,” a mechanism for calculating cost-of-living increases that better accounts for changes in lifestyle and technology. This apparently was an idea that originated with House Republicans, notably Speaker John Boehner, which just goes to show that not every Republican idea is a good one. Chained CPI would reduce Social Security’s liabilities by roughly $130 billion over the next ten years and, while the savings will grow in the out years, they are nowhere near sufficient to restore the program to solvency. In fact, the actual savings may turn out to be far less than predicted, since the gap between traditional CPI measures and chained CPI has been diminishing over the past several years.

The president has some decent proposals, but his budget is still far from what we need.”

On the other hand, chained CPI would also increase taxes by $124 billion over ten years, as it pushes millions of low- and middle-income Americans into higher tax brackets. One need only recall what an albatross the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) has become for taxpayers it was never meant to hit to understand the potential fallout from applying a slower measure of inflation to …read more
Source: OP-EDS