Archive | Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Krugman Speaks, No One Listens

Go read the rest:

A similar argument is used to justify fiscal austerity. Both textbook economics and experience say that slashing spending when you’re still suffering from high unemployment is a really bad idea — not only does it deepen the slump, but it does little to improve the budget outlook, because much of what governments save by spending less they lose as a weaker economy depresses tax receipts. And the O.E.C.D. predicts that high unemployment will persist for years. Nonetheless, the organization demands both that governments cancel any further plans for economic stimulus and that they begin “fiscal consolidation” next year.

Why do this? Again, to give markets something they shouldn’t want and currently don’t. Right now, investors don’t seem at all worried about the solvency of the U.S. government; the interest rates on federal bonds are near historic lows. And even if markets were worried about U.S. fiscal prospects, spending cuts in the face of a depressed economy would do little to improve those prospects. But cut we must, says the O.E.C.D., because inadequate consolidation efforts “would risk adverse reactions in financial markets.”

The best summary I’ve seen of all this comes from Martin Wolf of The Financial Times, who describes the new conventional wisdom as being that “giving the markets what we think they may want in future — even though they show little sign of insisting on it now — should be the ruling idea in policy.”

Put that way, it sounds crazy. And it is. Yet it’s a view that’s spreading. And it’s already having ugly consequences. Last week conservative members of the House, invoking the new deficit fears, scaled back a bill extending aid to the long-term unemployed — and the Senate left town without acting on even the inadequate measures that remained. As a result, many American families are about to lose unemployment benefits, health insurance, or both — and as these families are forced to slash spending, they will endanger the jobs of many more.

And that’s just the beginning. More and more, conventional wisdom says that the responsible thing is to make the unemployed suffer. And while the benefits from inflicting pain are an illusion, the pain itself will be all too real.

Chronic Joblessness

I still can’t quite wrap my brain around the fact that a Democratic administration is doing nothing to help the unemployed:

Overall, seven million Americans have been looking for work for 27 weeks or more, and most of them—4.7 million—have been out of work for a year or more.

Long-term unemployment has reached nearly every segment of the population, but some have been particularly hard-hit. The typical long-term unemployed worker is a white man with a high-school education or less. Older unemployed workers also tend to be out of work longer. Those between ages 65 and 69 who still wish to work have typically been jobless for 49.8 weeks.

The effects of long-term unemployment are likely to linger when the overall jobless rate falls toward normal, threatening to create a pool of nearly permanently unemployed workers, a condition once more common in Europe than in the U.S.

“The consequences are worse for those who can’t find a job quickly,” said Till Marco von Wachter, a Columbia University economist. They extend from atrophying skills to a higher likelihood of unhappiness and anxiety. Workers out of work for a long time tend to find it more difficult to find a job, and “the longer people are unemployed the more likely they are to eventually give up searching and thereby drop out of the labor force,” Mr. von Wachter said.

The typical unemployed worker, regardless of occupation, had been unemployed for a seasonally adjusted 21.6 weeks as of April. Because of the deep recession, Congress extended jobless benefits to a maximum of 99 weeks in states with high unemployment. Those extended benefits will expire if Congress doesn’t act; the Labor Department estimates that 19,000 jobless workers could start losing benefits in the first week of June. The House has voted to extend the benefits; the Senate hasn’t yet.

While blue-collar and construction workers have been battered by the recession, they aren’t the only ones hit. Unemployed production workers, including toolmakers, woodworkers and food processors, have been out of work for a median of 38.1 weeks. Unemployed workers whose most recent job was in management, business and financial operations have typically been out of work for 32.3 weeks.

Richard Moran of Ortonville, Mich., the state with the highest U.S. unemployment rate, hasn’t had a job for two-and-a-half years. The 57-year-old, who was laid off from a testing and design job for Chrysler Group LLC, suspects his age is working against him.

Mr. Moran has attended two free training programs. The first, to become a corrections officer, ended at roughly the same time that Michigan was closing prisons amid tightening budgets. He recently finished an auto-parts design course to refresh his skills. “The certificates are piling up,” said Mr. Moran, who also has a four-year college degree in mass communications.

While education is helpful, college graduates have also fallen into the ranks of the long-term unemployed. They represent 15.9% of the long-term jobless, compared with 14.9% of all unemployed workers. Those with high school degrees who haven’t been to college comprise 40.7% of long-term unemployed, compared with 37.8% of all unemployed workers.

‘They Raised A White Flag’

And the killing continued. As you hear in other videos, the Israelis were shooting as they boarded the ship, not in response to attacks. Those people were defending themselves.

Emily Henochowicz, a 21-year-old American student, was hit in the eye with a tear gas canister and her eye was removed yesterday. She is an art student at Cooper Union. A witness said, “It really looked like they were trying to hit us.”

Tear gas canisters are commonly used against demonstrators in the occupied West Bank. In May 2009, the Israeli State Attorney’s Office ordered Israeli Police to review its guidelines for dispersing demonstrators, following the death of a demonstrator, Bassem Abu Rahmah from Bil’in village, caused by a high velocity tear-gas projectile. Tear-gas canisters are meant to be used as a means of crowd dispersal, to be shot indirectly at demonstrators and from a distance. However, Israeli forces frequently shoot canisters directly at protesters and are not bound by a particular distance from which they can shoot.

Disproportionate

Andrew Sullivan, in response to reports of activists attacking Israeli soldiers as they boarded their aid ship:

A simple point. The violence by the activists is pretty abhorrent. These are not followers of Gandhi or MLK Jr. But the violence is not fatal to anyone and it is in response to a dawn commando raid by armed soldiers. They are engaging in self-defense. More to the point: they are civilians confronting one of the best militaries in the world. They killed no soldiers; their weapons were improvised; the death toll in the fight is now deemed to be up to 19 – all civilians.

It staggers me to read defenses of what the Israelis have done. They attacked a civilian flotilla in international waters breaking no law. When they met fierce if asymmetric resistance, they opened fire. And we are now being asked to regard the Israelis as the victims.

Seriously.

This is like a mini-Gaza all over again. The Israelis don’t seem to grasp that Western militaries don’t get to murder large numbers of civilians because they don’t like them, or because they could, on a far tinier scale, hurt Israelis. And you sure don’t have a right to kill them because they resist having their ship commandeered, in international waters. The Israelis seem to be making decisions as if they can get away with anything. It’s time the US reminded them in ways they cannot mistake that they cannot.

Aftermath

From Steve Hynd at Newshoggers:

Reuters reports that between 14 and 16 are dead after Israeli commandos used live ammunition against a humanitarian flotilla which was trying to reach Gaza with supplies yesterday evening. Reuters reports at least 30 injured too, while KUNA puts the injured at 60.

One Israeli serviceman was “moderately injured” by a knife wound during the assault, which took place just after dark and after Israel had attacked vessels flagged in America, Europe and Turkey, while they were still in international waters. The passengers included a holocaust survivor, USS Liberty survivors, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, EU MEPs & hundreds of humanitarian workers.

I’ll have more in the morning, especially on reactions from around the world, but this is a shocking crime against humanity showing no conscience whatsoever. President Obama has to realise at this point that supporting Israel is akin to Reagan’s support for the Botha regime in South Africa in the 80’s.

Update: Here’s some Sky News footage of the assault, via The Guardian, which is constantly updating its report here.

‘Israel lost at sea’

Bradley Burston in Haaretz:

A war tells a people terrible truths about itself. That is why it is so difficult to listen.

We were determined to avoid an honest look at the first Gaza war. Now, in international waters and having opened fire on an international group of humanitarian aid workers and activists, we are fighting and losing the second. For Israel, in the end, this Second Gaza War could be far more costly and painful than the first.

In going to war in Gaza in late 2008, Israeli military and political leaders hoped to teach Hamas a lesson. They succeeded. Hamas learned that the best way to fight Israel is to let Israel do what it has begun to do naturally: bluster, blunder, stonewall, and fume.

Hamas, and no less, Iran and Hezbollah, learned early on that Israel’s own embargo against Hamas-ruled Gaza was the most sophisticated and powerful weapon they could have deployed against the Jewish state.

Here in Israel, we have still yet to learn the lesson: We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege. The siege itself is becoming Israel’s Vietnam.

Of course, we knew this could happen. On Sunday, when the army spokesman began speaking of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in terms of an attack on Israel, MK Nahman Shai, the IDF chief spokesman during the 1991 Gulf war, spoke publicly of his worst nightmare, an operation in which Israeli troops, raiding the flotilla, might open fire on peace activists, aid workers and Nobel laureates.

Likud MK Miri Regev, who also once headed the IDF Spokesman’s Office, said early Monday that the most important thing now was to deal with the negative media reports quickly, so they would go away.

But they are not going to go away. One of the ships is named for Rachel Corrie, killed while trying to bar the way of an IDF bulldozer in Gaza seven years ago. Her name, and her story, have since become a lightning rod for pro-Palestinian activism.

Perhaps most ominously, in a stepwise, lemming-like march of folly in our relations with Ankara, a regional power of crucial importance and one which, if heeded, could have helped head off the First Gaza War, we have come dangerously close to effectively declaring a state of war with Turkey.

“This is going to be a very large incident, certainly with the Turks,” said Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the cabinet minister with the most sensitive sense of Israel’s ties with the Muslim world.

We explain, time and again, that we are not at war with the people of Gaza. We say it time and again because we ourselves need to believe it, and because, deep down, we do not.

There was a time, when it could be said that we knew ourselves only in wartime. No longer. Now we know nothing. Yet another problem with refraining from talks with Hamas and Iran: They know us so much better than we know ourselves.

They know, as the song about the Lebanon War suggested (“Lo Yachol La’atzor Et Zeh”) that we, unable to see ourselves in any clarity, are no longer capable of stopping ourselves.

Hamas, as well as Iran, have come to know and benefit from the toxicity of Israeli domestic politics, which is all too ready to mortgage the future for the sake of a momentary apparent calm.

They know that in our desperation to protect our own image of ourselves, we will avoid modifying policies which have literally brought aid and comfort to our enemies, in particular Hamas, which the siege on Gaza has enriched through tunnel taxes and entrenched through anger toward Israel.

For many on the right, it must be said, there will be a quiet joy in all of what is about to hit the fan. “We told you so,” the crowing will begin. “The world hates us, no matter what we do. So we may as well go on building [Read: ‘Settling the West Bank and East Jerusalem’] and defending our borders [Read: ‘Bolster Hamas and ultimately harm ourselves by refusing to lift the Gaza embargo’].”

Hamas, Iran and the Israeli and Diaspora hard right know, as one, that this is a test of enormous importance for Benjamin Netanyahu. Keen to have the world focus on Iran and the threat it poses to the people of Israel, Netanyahu must recognize that the world is now focused on Israel and the threat it poses to the people of Gaza.

BP Workers Imperiled. Imagine That.

I really could back a law that carried the death penalty for environmental damage – because nothing else seems to work:

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators complained in an internal memo about “significant deficiencies” in BP’s handling of the safety of oil-spill workers and asked the Coast Guard to help pressure the company to address a litany of concerns.

The memo, written by a Labor Department official last week, reveals the Obama administration’s growing concerns about potential health and safety problems posed by the oil spill.

BP said it has deployed about 22,000 workers to combat the spill.

David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health who wrote the memo, raised the concerns Tuesday, the day before seven oil-spill workers on boats off the coast of Louisiana were hospitalized after experiencing nausea, dizziness and headaches.

In his memo to Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, Michaels said his agency has witnessed numerous problems at several work sites.

“The organizational systems that BP currently has in place, particularly those related to worker safety and health training, protective equipment, and site monitoring, are not adequate for the current situation or the projected increase in cleanup operations,” Michaels wrote.

He added that BP “has also not been forthcoming with basic, but critical, safety and health information on injuries and exposures.”

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