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If Paul Krugman Gets the Higher Inflation He Wants, the U.S. Will Return to Recession

December 10, 2014 in Economics

By Alan Reynolds

Alan Reynolds

U.S. inflation was 1.7% over the past year according to the consumer price index, or 1.4% as measured by personal consumption expenditures (PCE). That may sound like good news, yet we are being told it is actually very bad. “The Fed needs a clear strategy for getting the inflation rate higher,” warns a recent news report, “after falling short of its 2 percent target for 28 consecutive months.” Several eminent economists now argue that a 2% target is much too low, and the Fed must openly aim for 4% inflation to avoid “secular stagnation.”

But this wrongheaded advice is based on dubious theory. In fact, inflation does not cause economic booms and economic booms do not cause inflation.

The phrase, “secular stagnation,” which dates back to economist Alvin Hansen in 1938, was resurrected a year ago by Treasury Secretary Larry Summers at an International Monetary Fund event. According to the e-book Secular Stagnation, “A workable definition for secular stagnation is that negative real interest rates are needed to equate saving and investment with full employment.” Since the Fed has kept the federal funds rate at zero for six years, secular stagnationists say the only way to get the real, inflation-adjusted fed funds lower is to push inflation higher—to 4%.

You can’t simply induce sustainable economic growth by having central bankers fiddle with inflation.”

Paul Krugman’s explanation

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman explains that, “People have to believe in higher inflation, which produces an economic boom, which yields the promised inflation. A necessary … condition for this to work is that the promised inflation be high enough that it will indeed produce an economic boom if people believe the promise will be kept.”

Why does Krugman theorize that “high enough” inflation would produce an economic boom? “Investors expect inflation,” he explains, “which makes them willing to spend more, which pushes the economy to full employment, which then generates the inflation investors expected.”

This whole construction rests on flimsy foundations. For one thing, the pretense that central banks have the knowledge and skill to hit some precise inflation target is just academic hubris. Since the Fed can’t hit a 2% target with sufficient precision to please secular stagnationists, why assume the Fed could hit a 4% target?

Secular stagnationists also define real interest rates in ways that have no relevance to private incentives to borrow or save. Krugman defines real interest rates …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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An Open Letter To My White Male Facebook Friends

December 10, 2014 in Blogs

By Cera Byer, Salon

I'm pleading with the good guys in my world to stop being so defensive and listen to other people's experiences.


This post is for my white male Facebook friends.

Some of the most disturbing, subtle, insidious, racist comments I’ve seen over the past few weeks have been from my white male Facebook friends. I know a lot of my friends are just mass defriending people, but I’m not quite there yet, because I’m (foolishly, naively) hoping I can reach some of you in a way that creates some kind of change. I know, I know, who ever had his mind changed from something he read on the Internet? But here I am, tilting at windmills.

First, let me say, I’m not addressing you to put you on the defensive. I don’t want to fight. But I really am hoping to reach your heart. So please start with holding what I’m going to say in love and openness, and see if you can let this reach your heart before you fight it with your brain meats.

Next, let me say, this doesn’t apply to all of you. There are some great allies, advocates and freedom fighters among my friends, and I ask you to join this discussion.

OK, let’s do this.

My white male friend, you might actually believe in your heart that you are not racist. You might actually believe that this country is full of equality and justice, and get offended at the idea that it’s not, so this might be really difficult for you.

When people tell us that something we believe to be true is actually not 100 percent true, or maybe not true for everyone, we can experience cognitive dissonance. One way to respond to this is to walk away, or get defensive. Another way to respond is to compassionately lean in to it; lean in to our discomfort, our fear, our panic, our incredulity, our doubt. Open ourselves to the idea that our beliefs are just ideas that we go out and seek support for, and therefore there are other ideas out there that could become our beliefs, very easily, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Unbelievable: Big Bank Says It Is Being Suffocated By Regulations Just Like Eric Gardner Was

December 10, 2014 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

Just when you thought the financial industry couldn't get any more out of touch.


Just when you thought Wall Street and the financial industry couldn't get any more arrogant or out of touch, Investec, an Anglo-South African bank, has outdone itself.

The Financial Times reports that Investec put out a research note seizing on Eric Garner's dying words—it is titled “I can't breathe—to complain about the regulatory environment for banks in the United States. Here's how the bank made the comparison:

They are both examples of abuse of power or authoritarian control gone wrong. Standard Chartered—a legitimate business—is being prevented from breathing or operating by US regulatory discriminatory behaviour. The parallel I see is unfettered power by a US agency.

Is this the most offensive thing the banking industry has said since Goldman Sachs's Lloyd Blankfein said he was doing “God's work?” 

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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The Michigan House Just Passed a Bill That Will Allow EMTs to Refuse Treatment to Gay People

December 10, 2014 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

All under the guise of “religious freedom.”


The Michigan House of Representatives just gave the nod to bigots to discriminate against LGBT people under the guise of religious freedom. The “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” a bill that allows people with “deeply-held religious beliefs” to deny LGBT people services — including life-saving health care or medication — was passed by Statehouse Republicans this weekend. It now heads to the state Senate and, if it clears a majority there, will head to the desk of Republican Governor Rick Snyder.

If this latest right-to-discriminate bill sounds familiar, that’s because it is: a similar anti-gay law in Arizona turned out to be so unpopular that even Tea Party darling Jan Brewer vetoed it. The New Civil Rights Movement notes that the bill would allow for “rampant discrimination” in the provision of even the most necessary of services:

For example, under the Religious Freedom law, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a doctor's prescription for birth control, or HIV medication. An emergency room physician or EMT could refuse service to a gay person in need of immediate treatment. A school teacher could refuse to mentor the children of a same-sex couple, and a DMV clerk could refuse to give a driver's license to a person who is divorced.

Michigan’s Republican Speaker Jase Bolger issued a statement claiming he supports to the bill in an effort to promote “individual liberty.” Said Bolger, “I have been horrified as some have claimed that a person’s faith should only be practiced while hiding in their home or in their church.”

The Michigan legislation comes ahead of the announcement of a major anti-LGBT discrimination bill at the federal level. TIME reports that Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley is gearing up to propose a bill that will target LGBT discrimination in housing, employment, education and more. 

 

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Texas Christian Fundamentalist Arrested in Israel for Allegedly Planning to Blow Up Islamic Sites

December 10, 2014 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

Further evidence that most terrorism in the United States is conducted by non-Muslims.


Although the news media typically focuses on Muslim terrorists, the truth is that most terrorism in the United States is conducted by non-Muslims. Out of Israel this week comes an alleged case that involves our country actually exporting this terror, as American Adam Livix was arrested for allegedly plotting to blow up Muslim holy sites.

Livix is a 30 year-old evangelical from Texas who left the United States last year when he was sought for drug-related charges. He has resided in Israel since March 2013, apparently overstaying his tourist visa (his charges include being an undocumented resident).

Livix first lived in Hebron and Bethlehem, among West Bank Palestinians, claiming to be a Navy SEAL. Interestingly, Livix lived in the section of Hebron where Jewish extremists who likely killed Palestinian-American Alex Odeh once fled to. The Israeli security agency Shin Bet claimed that he was asked by Palestinian activists to be part of a plot to assassinate President Obama, but that he declined that offer (it isn't clear who exactly it was who approached him about this earlier alleged plot, or if it even existed beyond conjecture).

Livix later moved to Israel, and began planning terror attacks on Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. He was assisted in this endeavor by an Israeli soldier with whom he lived. His roommate slowly obtained explosives and other armaments he stole from the Israeli army and “expressed … his negative opinion of the Arab population of Israel and his wish to harm sites in Israel holy to Islam,” according to Israel's Justice Ministry.

Speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper, correspondent Ben Wedeman said Livix was “fairly close” to pulling off the plot, having successfully staked out sites for attacks and receiving the explosives from his roommate. 

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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Cop Mistakes Pill Bottle for Gun and Another Black Man Dies

December 10, 2014 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

Numerous witnesses challenge the cops' version of events.


The cop who shot and killed an African-American man in Phoenix, Arizona last week after mistaking a prescription bottle in his pocket for a gun has been named, according to Reuters

According to the Arizona Republic, friends and family said 34-year-old Rumain Brisbon was dropping off food at his family's apartment when he was confronted by a police officer. Officer Mark Rine, 30, is a seven-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department. Police say that Brisbon had a criminal record and was in the middle of a drug deal. According to the Washington Post:

The events that led to Brisbon’s death began with a tip, Phoenix police spokesman Trent Clump told reporters on Wednesday. The tipster said that a drug deal was going down inside a black Cadillac SUV parked near a 7-Eleven. So a nearby 30-year-old officer, who wasn’t named by police, responded to the call, later approaching the car, reported the Arizona Republic.

Clump claimed the officer saw Brisbon exit the car and remove something from its rear. When the officer asked Brisbon to show his hands, the man allegedly put them in his waistband. That prompted the officer to draw his weapon, and Brisbon took off running. “Witnesses indicated to us that the suspect was verbally challenging to the officer,” the Arizona Republicquoted Crump saying.

Attorney Marci Kratter, who represented Brisbon in a prior DUI case, told the Washington Post that the cops “murdered my client” and that their account doesn't add up. “What the police say happened, it doesn’t make any sense at all,” he said. “There’s something not right with it.”

Numerous witnesses also challenge the cops' version of events, according to reports.

Brisbon somehow made it to the house of his girlfriend who opened the door. Both Brisbon and Rine stumbled inside, according to reports. During the struggle, Rine believed he felt the handle of a gun, Clump said. Rine claims Brisbon was reaching for what he thought was a gun and grabbed his left hand. At some point, Rine fired two fatal shots. It was only after shooting Brisbon that Rine realized the man was not …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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HISTORIC VICTORY: Congress Prohibits Justice Department from Undermining State Medical Marijuana Laws

December 10, 2014 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Top Congressional Leaders Side with States on Hemp Research and Medical Marijuana

Provisions on D.C. Marijuana Legalization Remain Unclear: Advocates Say Any Congressional Interference with Law that Passed with 70% Support is Outrageous

The final “must pass” federal spending bill that Congress will consider this week, also known as the “cromnibus,”and released by senior appropriators last night includes an amendment that prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws. The spending bill also includes a bipartisan amendment that prohibits the DEA from blocking implementation of a federal law passed last year by Congress that allows hemp cultivation for academic and agricultural research purposes in states that allow it.

December 10, 2014

Drug Policy Alliance

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Source: DRUG POLICY

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How Our Government Tricks Us into Being Its Careless Spies

December 10, 2014 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

I’ve long been annoyed and increasingly angered by a message from our government on radio, TV and other forms of communication in and around New York City, where I live and work:

“If you see something, say something. If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.”

The message often ends: “Be careful, be safe.” And it’s attached to a means of communication with the government.

Whatever the informal informer thinks is dangerous is not accompanied by any evidence, of course. So if this careless government spy, let’s say, dislikes somebody in the neighborhood for whatever reason, the agent will turn in him or her.

I’ve been aware of little or no objection to this wide open dimension of government spying from most civil liberties organizations, nor — worse yet, from my perspective — any indignant, spied-upon citizen who doesn’t want to become “a person of interest” to the FBI or any other federal intelligence agency.

But, as usual, one ceaselessly vigilant constitutionalist, John Whitehead, founder of the always constitutionally alert Rutherford Institute, has sounded the national alarm. This Paul Revere of our time reported in one of his regular news commentaries:

“For more than a decade now, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has plastered its ‘See Something, Say Something’ campaign on the walls of metro stations, on billboards, on coffee cup sleeves, at the Super Bowl, even on television monitors in the Statue of Liberty.

“Now even colleges, universities and even football teams and sporting arenas are lining up for grants to participate in the program” (“Turning Americans into Snitches for the Police State: ‘See Something, Say Something’ and Community Policing,” Whitehead, rutherford.org, Sept. 22).

This is particularly revealing — and, I hope, shocking to some of you — proof of how conditioned the citizenry of this nation has become to living in an authoritarian society once described chillingly by George Orwell in 1984.

But this is not fiction, as John Whitehead puts it plainly.

If this is new to you, then how does it feel to wake up to this: “This DHS slogan is nothing more than the government’s way of indoctrinating ‘we the people’ into the mindset that we’re an extension of the government and, as such, have a patriotic duty to be suspicious of, spy on, and turn in our fellow citizens.”

In all honesty, however, I do have to note that the concept of community policing does make sense if members of the community who …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Hypocrisy Label

December 10, 2014 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Last month, voters in Washington, D.C., went to the polls, and by an overwhelming margin of 70 to 30 percent approved a measure legalizing the sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana within the District of Columbia. However, D.C. voters did not reckon with Representative Andy Harris (R., Md.), who, along with Representatives Harold Rogers (R.,Ky.) and Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), is attempting to attach a rider to the upcoming year-end spending package designed to fund the government into 2015 (the so-called Cromnibus legislation). The rider would not just prevent the District government from using federal funds to support legalization, but would actually forbid D.C. officials from spending the District’s own tax money to implement the law.

It thus becomes just a little bit harder to take Republicans seriously the next time they talk about federalism and state sovereignty. Yes, of course, D.C. is not actually a state, and Congress does have oversight authority under the Home Rule Act of 1973. But that seems little more than a technicality when it comes to a question of federal intrusion into local affairs. After all, should the federal government overrule local officials and voters on matters of local law enforcement or not?

Do we really care about federalism? Or is a certain outcome more important?”

Observers have long noticed the tendency among liberals toward selective application of their principles. Some might even call it hypocrisy. For example, the freedom to choose is held up as a paramount liberal value when it comes to abortion, but disappears when the question becomes school choice. Many liberal advocates for marijuana legalization would ban cigarettes. And so on.

But conservatives also risk wearing the hypocrisy label if their principles apply only when they like the outcome.

Take another example. A number of Republicans are supporting a constitutional amendment that would prevent the courts from imposing a definition of marriage on the states, essentially allowing each state to decide for itself whether or not to allow gay marriage. While I disagree with such an amendment, it could represent a principled position based on state sovereignty. Yet, it wasn’t so long ago that Republicans in Congress were backing a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited states from legalizing gay marriage, even if this was done by vote of the state legislature or by popular referendum. Indeed, the amendment would even have barred states from passing civil-union legislation. Somehow, 36 Republican …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Underground Punk Rock and Spontaneous Order—The Boredom, Dispatch 4

December 10, 2014 in Blogs

By Political Zach Foster

I woke up as the sun’s rays began to brighten the inside of a beat up Ford F250. I was folded up in the back seat while Midshipman occupied the front. He looked like a bear coming out of hibernation. We both climbed out of the truck and quickly ran out of the shade and into the warmth of the sun.
We got to the edge of the lower meadow when we realized the sunrise over the mountain valley was breathtaking. Midshipman and I split my last two cigarettes and stood smoking in silence as we took in the sun. It was a deeply reassuring feeling becoming one with nature.
This was Sunday morning—Day 10 of The Boredom.
After an indeterminate amount of time we piled into the truck and took a rocky dirt road over to the upper meadow, a mile or two away. There was a turnout on the road, trimmed by a ranch-style minimal wood fence that fed into a path. At the end of the path which took me a short way into the meadow stood a lone cabin.


The cabin was built there in 1859. William F. Holcomb and Ben Choteau, prospectors from Bear Valley, found gold in 1860 while tracking a bear in the next valley north. The discovery triggered a gold rush in San Bernardino County and by 1861 “Belleville” (the town named after the first child born in the valley). However, the boom quickly busted and Belleville was virtually a ghost town by 1864, and literally a ghost town by 1870. I suspect the folks there got caught up in the drama of the Civil War, which even affected California.
Breakfast consisted of leftover pizza from the night before—Midshipman heated up over the engine. …read more

Source: ZACH FOSTER RANTS