Midday open thread

  • To those of you just waking up, welcome to Midday! And for everyone a warm welcome to election year 2012. Most democracies and republics have election seasons or cycles, we have entire election years. And the campaigns are usually half over before those years even begin. Not that the system is broken or anything.
  • Frank Pasquale on the two-tiered response to the economic meltdown:

    There is no concern for communities, none for struggling families, none for the public treasury. There is simply a Kafkaesque interlinkage of contracts and incentives that keep the foreclosure machine humming (along with Potemkin programs like HAMP), putting families on streets with dubious documentation for the paper gains of banks and servicers. The law enforcement apparatus will hammer a disabled man for inadequately monitoring his caretaker, but moves slowly and ineffectively (if at all) against a wholesale abandonment of legality. Glenn Greenwald’s and Bernard Harcourt’s books on such discrepancies, already damning, appear to have understated the extent of our 2-tier justice system.

    This is not simply a problem for lawyers, but for anyone concerned about the overall health of the US economy. The foreclosure disaster is only one particularly pure example of a financial system prone to overcentalization, bubble-blowing, opacity, and disregard for long-term productivity. Henry Mintzberg has warned that the economy will never be “fixed” as long as problematic alliances between business and government consume such a disproportionate share of resources…

    Bottom line?

    The critical conceptual issue here is to begin to see the banks as a sector as permanently embedded in a web of state subsidy and support as health care, defense, and energy. Mintzberg convincingly complains about “the energy companies with their cozy tax deals, the defense contractors that live off government budgets, and the pharmaceutical companies that buy their innovations and price what the market will bear, thanks to patents that governments grant, but without policing their holders.” I also worry about all these sectors. But it may well be the finance sector that is the most menacing to economic growth, and the least accountable. We cannot simply accept lawlessness in the sector as the status quo. Creative and forceful responses are possible, and have precedents both historically, in other nations, and in other sectors in our own economy.

    We can dream.

  • And speaking of dreams

    And Kornacki misses what would be the best part of the entire show: down ballot Republicans backed into the tightest of corners.

  • Talking Points Memo has announced the 2011 winners of the Golden Duke Awards, which were “named in honor of Congressman-turned-inmate Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham, who epitomizes the iconic modern scandal.” The top prize goes to …

    For Meritorious Achievement In The Crazy: Michele Bachmann

    And yes, that is Jack Abramoff listed as one of the judges.

  • This Krugman headline succinctly explains yet another of the many problems with austerity fever:

    A Slump Is A Good Time To Invest In Infrastructure

  • Momentum is building:

    Capital punishment faces its own death sentence in a growing number of US states as decades of ethical and political stalemate are being broken by a fresh focus on cold, hard cash.

    The weakened economy has recently drawn attention to an unexpected but stark fact: that sentencing someone to death costs more than life without parole.

    Maryland, Connecticut, Kansas and Ohio are all currently debating whether to abolish the death penalty while California, which has both the largest budget deficit and the most people on death row of any state, could put it to a public vote in 2012.

  • Republicans have the Endangered Species Act in their crosshairs.
  • It’s well past time this was recognized:

    Said to begin around 5 or 6, when toddlerhood has ended and even the most protractedly breast-fed children have been weaned, and to end when the teen years commence, middle childhood certainly lacks the physical flamboyance of the epochs fore and aft: no gotcha cuteness of babydom, no secondary sexual billboards of pubescence.

    Yet as new findings from neuroscience, evolutionary biology, paleontology and anthropology make clear, middle childhood is anything but a bland placeholder. To the contrary, it is a time of great cognitive creativity and ambition, when the brain has pretty much reached its adult size and can focus on threading together its private intranet service — on forging, organizing, amplifying and annotating the tens of billions of synaptic connections that allow brain cells and brain domains to communicate….

    Middle childhood is when the parts of the brain most closely associated with being human finally come online: our ability to control our impulses, to reason, to focus, to plan for the future.

  • Superluminal neutrinos? Maybe not.
  • Mary Elizabeth Williams has the viral videos of the year. If you don’t know which one wins—now the most watched video in YouTube’s history—you are warned …
  • Bad and worse:

    Afghan officials have seized millions of dollars worth of armored vehicles and weapons from private security firms in recent weeks, a move that has exacerbated concerns about the government’s plan to replace the hired guns that protect convoys and installations with an unprepared state-run guard force.

    The crackdown is being carried out even though the Afghan Public Protection Force failed to meet any of the six benchmarks that were set out for it when President Hamid Karzai formally announced a plan to ban private security firms by March 20. An assessment team led by the NATO military coalition, which is heavily involved in the creation of the Afghan force, concluded in the fall that the guard force is far from ready to take over.

    Diplomats, development experts and company executives worry that the abolition of private security contractors within three months could endanger Afghans and foreigners supporting NATO and its allies, halt reconstruction projects and open new channels for corruption.

    Of course, this being the Washington Post, the article glosses over the problems with the private security firms. Just write it off as another lose-lose in the ongoing endless war.

  • Looking ahead. Hopefully.

    The Occupy movement and the climate movement are natural allies insofar as they both confront the problem of corporate power and its controlling influence on government policy, and the problem of developing strategies and tactics for countering it, changing power relationships, and bringing about equitable solutions.

Daily Kos

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