Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mario Piperni on Global Warming

Is It Too Late to Throw Miami a Lifejacket?

JULY 30, 2013 BY  

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Anyone who believes that terrorism or Obamacare is the biggest threat facing the human race, is an idiot or just isn’t listening.

More than 1,700 American cities and towns – including Boston, New York, and Miami – will have significant populations living below the high-water mark by the end of this century, a new climate change study has found.

Those 1,700 towns are locked into a watery future by greenhouse gas emissions already built up in the atmosphere, the analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday found. For nearly 80 of those cities, the watery future would come much sooner, within the next decade.

“Even if we could just stop global emissions tomorrow on a dime, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens, Hoboken, New Jersey will be under sea level,” said Benjamin Strauss, a researcher at Climate Central, and author of the paper. But dramatic cuts in emissions – much greater than Barack Obama and other world leaders have so far agreed – could save nearly 1,000 of those towns, by averting the sea-level rise, the study fund.

If you’re calling Florida home, you might want to consider packing up your bags now.

…the region at highest risk was Florida, which has dozens of towns which will fall below the high water mark by century’s end. Miami would be significantly under water by 2041, the study found. Half of Palm Beach with its millionaires’ estates along the sea front would be below the high water line by the 2060s. Other cities such as Fort Lauderdale were already well below sea-level.

Meanwhile the irresponsible jackasses at Fox News and clowns like Senator Jim Inhofe still refer to global warming as a hoax.

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Who Gives, Who Takes

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Jim Hightower on Food Stamp Austerity

Cutting the poor while subsidizing millionaires

Monday, July 29, 2013   |   Posted by Jim Hightower

LISTEN TO THIS COMMENTARY

“Stop the moochers!” shouted a flock of GOP budget whackers in the US House recently, as they literally ripped all food stamp funding out of the farm bill.

They say they’re shocked that use of this program has jumped so dramatically in recent years. Crying that “those” people are costing us money, the House whacked the entire budget for getting food to the poor.

Well, yes, food stamp use is up, but – hello, clueless congress critters – so is the need. Longterm joblessness and falling wages are sucking more and more of your constituents out of the middle class down into the vortex of poverty. It’s disgraceful for you well-paid lawmakers to gut a poverty program that’s working exactly as it’s meant to do, at the very time it’s most needed.

But, next, the flock of budget whackers suddenly flew completely off course. Going from disgraceful to disgusting, they approved a farm bill that gives ridiculous taxpayer handouts to the biggest and richest agribusiness operations in our land. Those entities are wallowing in record-high crop prices and farm income this year, yet the GOP’s pious deficit scolds turned into free-spending corporate socialists, doling out the most generous farm subsidies in US history.

For example, they perverted the crop insurance program into an absurd, guaranteed-income plan for the wealthiest farms, each of which will collect more than a million dollars a year from us. Moreover, these “free-market” Republicans would also have the government (ie, you and me) guarantee an artificially-high price for various commodities produced by the giant farms. And, they would make all of these subsidies permanent.

This is Jim Hightower saying… No grocery money for the needy, but a free feed for millionaire farmers? That’s a moral abomination! For more information and action, contact the Environmental Working Group: www.ewg.org.

Jim Hightower: Free the Ed

Forget student loans – make higher ed free

Tuesday, July 30, 2013   |   Posted by Jim Hightower

Well, finally! Hard-right congressional leaders and the Obama White House have agreed that interest rates on student loans should not double to nearly 7 percent, as they let happen early in July. Instead, college students will be billed at a rate that will steadily rise to above 8 percent.

This is progress?

Well, yes – in that this year’s rate would drop to 3.8 percent. But, for the longer run, obviously not. Even capping the interest rate at 8.25 percent, as the White House demanded, is too high, for it still saddles students with a crushing debt of some $20,000 to 40,000 for a four year degree, just as they’re getting started on their economic path.

But worse, lawmakers are playing small ball, avoiding the big issue. Bickering over percentages shrivels the public debate to its most picayune and meanest point, which our so-called leaders seem to specialize in these days. They focus on the price of everything, without grasping the value anything. And the value of a college education – not only to America’s youth, but most significantly to our whole society’s economic and democratic future – is clearly established.

So the big question we should be asking is this: Why isn’t higher education free? As Les Leopold of the Labor Institute notes in a July 2 Alternet piece, “For over 150 years, our nation has recognized that tuition-free primary and secondary schools were absolutely vital to the growth and functioning of our commonwealth.” Today, open access to a college degree or other advanced training is as vital to America as a high school diploma has been in our past.

Forget interest rates, our young people should not be blocked by a massive debt-load from getting the education that they need – but also that all of America needs them to have for our mutual prosperity and democratic strength.

 

Humor: The Borowitz Report

Scalia Offers to Help Pope Judge Gays

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WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Responding to Pope Francis’s suggestion that the Pope is not capable of judging gays, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia contacted the Vatican today to say that he would be “more than happy” to help the Pontiff do so.

“If he’s having trouble judging homosexuals, well, then I’m his man,” Scalia told reporters after making his offer. “I have over a quarter century of professional experience.”

Justice Scalia said that he was sympathetic to Pope Francis’s difficulty in judging gays, but added, “Once he spends a few weeks watching the master at work, I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it.”

“I wasn’t great at judging homosexuals my first year in the job, either,” he said. “But now I can do it without thinking.”

Justice Scalia said that once Pope Francis feels confident about his ability to judge gays, he would help the Pontiff learn how to judge minorities and women.

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Photograph by Jose Luis Magana/AP.

Humor: The Borowitz Report

Weiner Names New Campaign Manager

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NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—One day after his campaign manager quit, the mayoral candidate Anthony D. Weiner named his penis to the post, telling reporters, “He was already making most of the major decisions, anyway.”

In announcing the new appointment, Mr. Weiner lavished praise upon his penis, calling him “a tough hombre” who “cares about the struggles of ordinary, middle-class New Yorkers.”

After one reporter questioned the wisdom of naming his penis to such an important role in the campaign, Mr. Weiner dismissed that concern, saying, “Look, he’s gotten me this far.”

While Mr. Weiner’s decision to give the top job to his controversial appendage raised eyebrows among political observers, insiders said the move merely reflected his headline-grabbing member’s already prominent role in the campaign.

“He [Mr. Weiner’s penis] has been calling the shots for weeks now,” one source said, adding that clashes between the former campaign manager Danny Kedem and the mercurial body part had led to Mr. Kedem’s exit.

“There was a power struggle between Danny and the package, and Danny lost,” said one campaign source. “Danny would try to talk sense to Anthony, but at the end of the day, the penis had his ear.”

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Photograph by Bryan Pace/New York Daily News.

Counterpunch: The End Is Near

The Consequences of Hubris

The Logical (and Coming) End to the US Empire

by ROBERT P. ABELE

There are numerous legal and ethical arguments that can and have been made in opposition to U.S. foreign policy of raw aggression. For an example of the illegalities of U.S. Empire, examine the Geneva Conventions, all four of which directly proscribe what they each call “outrages” to human dignity, “in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” (I, 1, 3). The “outrages” are named specifically as torture, mutilation, cruel treatment, taking hostages, murder, biological experimentation, and passing sentences on prisoners without benefit of “a regularly constituted court.”

Additionally, the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 both underscore the Geneva Conventions and expand the traditional ethical concerns to rights and duties of neutral states by banning the use of poison gases or arms, destroying or seizing enemy private property, attacking towns and cities that are undefended, pillaging, collective punishment, servility of enemy citizens, and bullets made to wreak havoc once inside the human body. Prescriptions to limit the conduct of war include the requirements to warn towns of impending attacks, to protect cultural, religious, and health institutions, and to insure public order and safety.

For an example of the ethical problems of empire, think about the completely unjustifiable attacks on civilians done by the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and most prominently in Pakistan and Yemen, especially done by drones. Or consider U.S. use of torture, from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay. As everyone knows by now, ethical and humanitarian appeals have been completely and categorically rejected by U.S. leaders, not beginning with 9-11, certainly rejected with greater vigor since then.

But there is another, often overlooked, analysis of U.S. actions, that is the logical result of engaging in the actions of Empire, and that concerns the logical consequence of using massive amounts of resources to attempt to control the resources being used (the second use of the term “resources” here includes citizens; the people of a city or nation). As the economic, logistic, and humanitarian costs all rise in direct proportion to Empire’s actions, the sustaining of the Empire becomes impossible, on the basis of its own internal logic.

In whatever historical epoch you choose, if you take your compass and draw a circle around any given tribe, you can see the desired extent of their territorial claims for resource control. One thus can see that particular group’s 1) resource consumption; and 2) circle of desired resource control. But when two further historical developments are added, such as 3) technologically-driven consumption (e.g. fossil-fuel guzzling appliances and cars, etc.); and 4) now necessary desires forglobal resources needed to feed that group’s consumption habits—then the situation expands sufficiently to become one of using extensive amounts of the very resources one is attempting to control (in the U.S. case, oil and money) for the sake of controlling the resources over which one needs to exert control! This circular logic cannot be maintained when it meets 5) a scarcity of resources; and 6) the natural-institutional-logical antinomy of using resources in massive amounts to control the resources you are using for control. In other words, the empire based on this pattern must end when it runs headlong into resource scarcity, and/or natural-logical contradictions involving its own internal (economic and resource) limitations. This argument against U.S. Empire is not based on ethical or legal grounds (although those remain the best arguments in favor of voluntarily ending empire and regaining our citizenship [civil rights] and humanness)—since those arguments have been put asunder by the U.S. administrators of empire. Rather, the institutional-logical analysis argues that an empire such as the U.S. has constructed exhausts itself by being unable to expand fast enough to control everything it seeks in order to continue its dominance. When the issue of blowback is added—i.e. that other nations and peoples are unlikely to cooperate willingly in having their resources, humanity, and very lives removed from them—the end result, Empire’s fall, could be hastened, and is certainly assured. We can now predict not only how it will happen, but also its imminent coming. Here’s how.

First, the heaviest resource consumers of fossil fuels, in order, are the U.S. military, U.S. citizens, China, and India. The Department of Defense per capita energy consumption is 10 times more than per capita energy consumption in China, or 30 times more than that of Africa. Oil accounts for more than three-fourths of DoD’s total energy consumption. The Post Carbon Institute estimates that abroad alone, the U.S. military consumes about 150,000 barrels per day. In 2006, for example, the Air Force consumed 2.6 billion gallons of jet-fuel, which is the same amount of fuel U.S. airplanes consumed during all of WWII (between December 1941 and August 1945) (from The Resilience Group of the Post Carbon Institute, www.resilience.org ).

Second, concerning the global dimension of resource control, one needs only to understand the preferred method that U.S. Empire acolytes use to justify their actions abroad: the “state of emergency” that was declared after 9/11 has continued unabated since then, due to the “ongoing threat” of “terrorism” (see Jeremy Scahill, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, for the latest detailed instances of this process.). The domestic equivalent to his “war” has been well underway since 9-11. (For detail on the domestic front, see also Trevor Aaronson, Terror Factory, regarding FBI domestic use of the “ongoing threat of terrorism” to deny basic civil rights to citizens).

This allows U.S. government administrators to maintain a “state of exception” to the rule of law. Georgio Agamben, in his book States of Exception, defines this phrase as extraordinary governmental actions resulting from distinctively political crises. As such, the actions of such administrators are in-between normal political operations and legal ones. This “no man’s land” of government policy is not only difficult to define, but brings in its wake a “suspension of the entire existing juridical order.” Thus, states of exception are those in which a government in fact suspends the rule of law for itself, while attempting to maintain some semblance of legal order, for the purpose of consolidating its power and control (see Georgio Agamben, States of Exception, Chapter Two).

Regarding the scarcity of resources issue, none other than the World Bank produced a detailed study of demand and supply projections for the immediate future. The study projects that, on the basis of current consumption and immediately precedent rises in it, the demand for food will rise by 50% by 2030, for meat by 85%, for oil by 20 million barrels a day, and for water by 32%, all by the same year. This is met by alarming statistics and predictions from the supply side. In their report, they state that global food growth rates fell by 1.1% over the past decade, and are continuing to fall, while global food consumption outstripped production in seven of the eight years between 2000 and 2008. Further, the Food and Agricultural Organization and the UN Environment Program estimate that 16% of the arable land used now is degraded. Intensifying competition between different land uses is likely to emerge in future, including food crops, livestock, etc., and the world’s expanding cities. Current rates of water extraction from rivers, groundwater and other sources are already unsustainable in many parts of the world. Over one billion people live in water basins in which the physical scarcity of water is absolute; by 2025, the figure is projected to rise two billion, with up to two thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed conditions (mainly in non-OECD countries). On oil, the International Energy Agency has warned consistently that there is a significant risk of a new “supply crunch” as the global economy “recovers.” Additionally, the IEA’s chief economist argues that peak production could take place by 2020 (from the “World Development Report 2011, Background Paper: Resource Scarcity, Climate Change and the Risk of Violent Conflict,” www.worldbank.org ).

The conclusion from all of these points is nearly obvious: if resources are even relatively scarce, and the habits of and desires for consumption continue to rise among nations, and especially among the citizens of Empire (as has been documented in part above), and if control over those resources is the goal of Empire, but if the Empire consumes more resources than it can logistically or economically control due to natural limitations of those resources themselves, and/or to the consumption of more resources than is either available to it or that it needs to survive, then the power of the Empire will naturally-logically end in a sharp decline, and soon (For applicable details on this, see Richard Heinberg, “The Brief, Tragic Reign of Consumerism—and the Birth of a Happy Alternative,”www.postcarbon.org ).

With all indicators predicting that the contradictions of Empire’s resource consumption, circle of desired resource control, scarcity of resources, and contradiction in resource use and control, are all about to collide in a few years, not decades, it is time to start planning for a post-Empire future. To that end, any psychologist reading this analysis will recognize themes of “realistic conflict theory,” which is a theory which explains how intergroup hostility can arise as a result of conflicting goals and competition over limited resources The key point in bringing this psychological theory into the discussion is that in this theory, it is concluded that friction between groups can be reduced only in the presence of superordinate goals that promote united, cooperative action (see Wikipedia on “Realistic Conflict Theory” for a good overview, summarized here. https://en.wikipedia.org ). Note the agreement of the ethical, legal, and psychological analyses of Empire’s oppression: the most effective resolution to oppression, (empire) dominance, and conflict is united, cooperative action, not the attempt to control or destroy people and nations who stand in the way of our control.

We have seen that progressives have had available to them a standard two-pronged argument against empire—American or any other. Progressives have for good reason appealed consistently to the ethical and the legal arguments available to help stem the desires for world and resource domination. This essays suggests that these two solid arguments should now be combined with an institutional-logical analysis to demonstrate not only the intrinsic, natural limits to empire, but to show reasons how and why empire must and will ultimately disintegrate due to the hubris of ignoring natural limitations of unbridled consumption coupled with attempts at singular control over others’ resources and peoples.

Dr. Robert P. Abele holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Marquette University He is the author of three books: A User’s Guide to the USA PATRIOT Act (2005); The Anatomy of a Deception: A Logical and Ethical Analysis of the Decision to Invade Iraq (2009); Democracy Gone: A Chronicle of the Last Chapters of the Great American Democratic Experiment (2009). He contributed eleven chapters to the Encyclopedia of Global Justice, from The Hague: Springer Press (October, 2011). Dr. Abele is a professor of philosophy at Diablo Valley College, located in Pleasant Hill, California in the San Francisco Bay area.

Mario Piperni on Repug Women’s Issues

Republican Gynoticians

JULY 28, 2013 BY  
 

Gynoticians, of course.

Here, let Amber Tamblyn and David Cross show you how it works.

“…according to this latest research from 1926…” is the basis for most Republican scientific beliefs.

Amber Tamblyn:

Can you imagine if this actually happened to you? If you’re one of millions of American women, it has. It is happening not in an exam room, but in a room with marbled floors, expensive pens and numerous symbols of “freedom,” populated by men and women in crisp suits whose ideas about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are rooted in illogical double-standards and hypocrisies that boggle the mind. These people are making decisions about you, for you, but not by you. They are passing wildly unpopular laws everyday that dictate the choices you can or cannot make, the health care you may or may not be afforded, the rights you can or cannot enjoy in regards to your very own body. Tell Gynoticians like Rick Perry, Trent Franks, Pat McCrory and the Pat McCrorys of women like representative Jodie Laubenberg and Marsha Blackburn that enough is enough: We aren’t just coming for their laws, we’re coming for their JOBS.

(h/t: C&L)
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Mario Piperni’s Illustrated Late-Night Humor

Late Night Political Humor

JULY 26, 2013 BY  

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The best of late night political humor via Daniel Kurtzman’s Political Humor.

Happy Friday.

“There’s a new Anthony Weiner scandal. Weiner is running for mayor of New York City. He confirmed yesterday that some new sexually explicit messages have been leaked. He sent them to a woman on Facebook using the code name ‘Carlos Danger.’ Which is still easier to believe than that other name: Mayor Weiner.” –Jimmy Fallon

“It was revealed that Anthony Weiner sent nude pictures of himself to this woman using a ‘Carlos Danger’ Yahoo email address. His wife was shocked. She said, ‘You still use Yahoo?’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Everybody is still talking about the other baby, the royal baby. In fact, I saw that President Obama released a statement congratulating Prince William and Kate Middleton on the birth of their son. Then he said, ‘And whatever you do – hang on to that birth certificate.’” –Jimmy Fallon

Barack Obama - Born Identity - Birthers  :  http://mariopiperni.com/

“The show tonight may run a little longer than usual, and I’ll tell you why. We have about 300 Anthony Weiner jokes to get through.” –David Letterman

“Let me just say this: You know that your campaign is not going well when you open a press conference by saying ‘I told you there would be more lewd photos.’” –David Letterman

“Weiner says he won’t drop out of the race so that means by day he’ll be Mr. Mayor, and by night he’ll be ‘Carlos Danger, Gaucho of Love.’” –David Letterman

“The royal baby finally has a name. It took a few days but they named him Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge. The parents said they wanted a name that reflects his country’s great history and gets him beaten up at school every day.” –Conan O’Brien

“Queen Elizabeth met the royal baby yesterday. The baby cried, so Queen Elizabeth explained, ‘You’ll never have to work a day in your life.’” –Conan O’Brien

“NASA released pictures of earth taken from 900 million miles away. From 900 miles away, you can make out the Great Wall of China. In Newark, you can make out the governor of New Jersey.” –David Letterman

Chris Christie as Republican Savior - http://mariopiperni.com/

“At the press conference today, Anthony Weiner’s wife said she will stand by her husband. Especially when he goes on the computer.” –Conan O’Brien

“Experts are predicting that the royal baby could pump $380 million into the British economy. So the question is: How do we get this kid to move to Detroit?” –Conan O’Brien

“The royal baby is set to inherit $1 billion. In fact, he’s so rich that he’s already dating a girl half his age.” –Conan O’Brien

“It finally happened. Kate Middleton gave birth to a baby boy today. The baby weighed about eight pounds. Americans were like, ‘How much is that in dollars?’” –Jimmy Fallon

“They named the boy Festus.” –David Letterman
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The Sack of Chicago, the Next Detroit

Chicago CEO Club, With Rahm and Pritzkers on Board, Pushed for Chicago Bond Downgrade, Whacking Local Investors and Pension-Holders

Even more so than most cities, Chicago has had the best government money can buy. In this case, the money is willing to engage in a scorched-earth policy of crushing local investors and wrecking the city budget to achieve its end of taming unions and making Chicago even easier pickings for looting via infrastructure sales.

The backdrop is that the city was hit with a stunning three-ratings-notch downgrade by Moody’s last week, from AA3 to A3. As the Chicago Sun-Times stressed, that sort of drop is unheard of absent a natural catastrophe. From the article (hat tip Joe Costello):

Moody’s Investors dropped the city’s bond rating from Aa3 to A3, citing Chicago’s “very large and growing” pension liabilities, high-fixed costs, “unrelenting public safety demands” and “significant” debt load.

“You don’t usually see a triple-downgrade unless there is a catastrophic event, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack,” said Civic Federation President Laurence Msall.

“This is a financial hurricane event for Chicago. … The city’s borrowing costs will rise dramatically and their ability to use creative financing is going to be limited because of the costs associated with having such a low rating.”

The bond rating at the Chicago Public Schools has dropped repeatedly since Emanuel took office, but Thursday’s triple-drop was the first impacting the city’s bond rating.

“The current administration has made efforts to reduce costs and achieve operational efficiencies, but the magnitude of the city’s pension obligations has precluded any meaningful financial improvements,” Moody’s wrote

Emanuel responded by essentially saying, “I told you so.”

The immediate loser are local investors, since municipal bonds are generally owned by people in the immeidate area, and the city, since it will face higher borrowing costs. So why is Rahm so smug, and why was he so keen to see a downgrade? Normally corporate CEOs and city managers tout the prospects of their charges and want them to have the most favorable borrowing costs.

But the big point of friction has been Chicago’s underfunded pensions, the rest of over ten years of the city failing to contribute enough annually. And Rahm, rather than trying to find equitable solutions, has instead been playing hardball from when he took office:

Last year, Emanuel blindsided and infuriated union leaders whose collaboration he had promised to seek to solve the pension crisis.

Instead of negotiating first with union leaders in Chicago, he went to Springfield to lower the boom. The following day, he sent a letter to city employees to soften the blow of the bitter pill he’s asking them to swallow: a 10-year freeze in cost-of-living increases for retirees; a five-year increase in the retirement age; a 5 percent increase in employee contributions and a two-tiered pension system for new and old employees.

Labor leaders accused the mayor of pitting hardworking employees against taxpayers by portraying a 150 percent increase in property taxes as the only alternative to employee concessions.

In the end, Chicago’s pension crisis was put off along with state’s $83 billion pension problem as lawmakers continued to grapple with rival plans championed by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats.

With that background, here’s the next piece of the story: local CEOs have been pushing the rating agencies for downgrades. Watch this video starting at 47:00. The speaker is Ty Fahner, the head of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago. Members include the union-busting Pritzers, both Penny and Thomas, a long list of current and recent corporate CEOs and chairmen, influential members of the banking and real estate industries, partners from major law firms, and Rahm as an “honorary members”. This is a Who’s Who of business Chicago.

Not only was Fahner open about how aggressive the lobbying by the CEOs for the downgrade had been, and didn’t disagree with the questioner who called it irresponsible (as in “we know we are doing harm to promote what is good for us”), he said they’d had to back off because they didn’t want their handiwork to be too visible, and was exhorting people in the room to take up the campaign for him.

So here we have it: city fathers working to wreck a city budget so their companies will benefit from more tractable, as in more broke, local workers.

I asked a colleague who had worked for Moody’s in the 1990s why outside parties were allowed to influence ratings. His reply via e-mail:

When I was at Moody’s, a substantial majority of the rating downgrades or upgrades that took place were initiated by an outside investor inquiry.

These days, it’s big business for investors to research a bond, conclude that it should be upgraded or downgraded, take the appropriate position in the bond, and then lobby the rating agency to make the move that is supported by their research, and profit from the change in market value (or market to model valuation) that accompanies the rating change.

Since rating agencies have historically invested virtually nothing in surveillance, it is not hard for a diligent investor to be ahead of the rating agency action. Once the rating agency gets the info on the bond, it is very hard for the rating agency to ignore the information.

So these Illinois business leaders are just applying the same techniques that people at Third Point, Paulson, Elliot, etc. have been applying for years. (Not only that, the rating agencies use the same approach against competitors- if they hear from investors/issuers that a competing rating agency is doing something too aggressively, they call it into the SEC – which is what happened to Egan-Jones).

When I first read about the downgrade, my reaction had been that Rahm must have pushed for it. My colleague had a similar reading:

Also, I’m pretty sure I read in last couple of days that Rahm himself lobbied Moody’s to downgrade his state. I think that’s pretty fucked up, but I’m sure his hedge fund buddies taught him all about it. It’s about as evil as I would expect from Rahm as an elected politician.

Nothing has changed with the current corrupt ratings system because it serves too many powerful interests too well. Jane Hamsher, based on a detailed construction of when S&P became a big scaremonger over US deficits and downgraded the US (which was supposed to End the World as We Knew It but as we predicted, didn’t), made a persuasive case that the ratings agency took this stance to ward off regulatory action. Had the US downgrade produced the bond yield blowout that the financial media was convinced would happen, it’s a near certainty that Obama would have gotten his Grand Bargain and Social Security and Medicare would have been trimmed in a serious way. You can expect more drumbeating about the US rating as Obama makes another Grand Bargain push (the biggest upside of the Edward Snowden revelations may not be any curtailment of the surveillance state, but forcing Obama to divert so much political capital to that fight that he doesn’t have enough chips left to push through Medicare and Social Security whackage).

As our former ratings agency staffer concluded:

It is unreasonable to expect that anything would have gotten better with the rating agencies when nothing has been done to change anything. If elected officials really wanted this sort of thing to stop, they would actually, you know, do something. It is clear that they are happy with the current system, which includes a lot more lobbying activity from the big three than it did in the past.

And increasingly, one of the pet political uses is for ratings to serve, as the questioner indicated in the video, to create the illusion that “the market” is insisting on austerity, when powerful people are rigging the process.