Quote of the Day: “A crisis of the moral economy.”

by matttbastard

The greatest irony of the Thatcher crusade is that its economics pulled against its ethics. I doubt if the idealised abstinent, puritanical, self-respecting Grantham of her imagination ever existed in the real world. It certainly didn’t exist in her Britain. As a quick reading of the Communist Manifesto would have warned her, free-market capitalism is, of its very essence, subversive. It is restless, heaving, masterless, wonderfully dynamic and creative, but, in itself, utterly amoral. The hot breath of the cash nexus dissolves the ties of faith, community, family and tradition. And, as Friedrich von Hayek pointed out more vigorously than any critic of the free market, entrepreneurial success has nothing to do with merit or fairness. It is about satisfying wants and even at times about creating or manufacturing them; and the wants are as likely to be bad as good. The speculative frenzies and spectacular frauds that have studded its history are of its essence, too: among the forces that drive it, greed, credulity and the herd instinct loom much larger than the rationality that most economists celebrate.

– David Marquand, The warrior woman

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Helping Those Who Help Themselves (To Our Tax Revenue)

by matttbastard

Stephen Gandel of TIME Magazine on “The Hidden Corporate Bailout”:

While the $700 billion bailout has been the focus of attention and scrutiny, the Internal Revenue Service and lawmakers have quietly been making changes to the tax code and how it is followed in an effort to further boost the financial strength of ailing companies. At the same time, though, the changes drain billions of dollars of badly needed tax revenue at a time when the federal deficit is mushrooming. Many of the changes may lower corporate tax revenue for years to come.

[…]

In the past, corporations could deduct from their taxes only a small portion of the losses incurred by a company they acquire. The rule, commonly called Section 382, eliminated the practice of companies avoiding taxes by buying failing corporations just for their losses.

But in late September, just after Congress defeated the first bailout bill, the IRS issued a notice to change that rule to allow banks to significantly lower their taxes when they purchase other banks.
Now, after an acquisition a bank can reduce its IRA bill by claiming that loans on the books of an acquired rival are worth far less than the previous owners thought, not a hard claim to make these days. The acquirer can deduct from its taxes the full amount of the write-down. Before it could only lower its taxable earnings by a small percentage of the write-down of the pre-acquisition loans.

Jones Day lawyers estimate that the rule change could cost the federal government up to $140 billion in revenue during the next few years. But it would only get that high if every bank in the U.S. were sold and their troubled mortgage assets were all written down to zero. Still, a number of banks have made acquisitions since the rule change and are already benefitting. Wells Fargo will book an estimated $25 billion tax credit from its November acquisitions of Wachovia. PNC, which bought National City in October, could get as much as $5 billion in tax benefits from that merger. And Capital One, which bought Chevy Chase Bank earlier this month, is looking at a $500 million tax windfall.

Aww, such a heartwarming story guaranteed to put us all in the holiday spirit!  Nice to hear that, during times of great tribulation for Big Rich, the IRS is going “above and beyond what’s been allowed in the past” to help engineer a soft landing for its favourite constituents–all at the expense of, er, the broader US public.  And there’s much, much more loophole swag tailor-made for corporate citizens being stuffed in the financial goody bags, so for the complete 411 make sure to read the whole damn thing.

Just don’t call it asymmetric class war, kiddies.

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Consumerism Kills Long Island Wal-Mart Worker

by matttbastard

Ok, maybe the title of this post is a tad hyperbolic, but Jesus wept–I don’t care what day of the year it is, working retail should not be a life-threatening pursuit:

A worker died after being trampled and a woman miscarried when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island Wal-Mart Friday morning, witnesses said.

The unidentified worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.

“He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too…I literally had to fight people off my back.”

Talk about a great reason to celebrate Buy Nothing Day.

h/t Patti Digh

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Dividing the Spoils

by matttbastard

Um, Alison, I’m not sure if this what John Quiggin meant when he said “Citigroup’s global operations are too big for the US to handle alone.”

Still, your scoop does lend credence to the theory that modern capitalism was invented by pirates.

Ahem.

Related: For more on Citigroup’s woes (and how fucked we are), see The Wall Street Journal, Yves Smith, and Shaun Mullen, who wryly observes that “[b]eing shocked [by the economic freefall] implies that you still have faith in government and the markets.”

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More on the Representation of White Perfection

by matttbastard

professor what if has posted the final two installments of the five-part series ‘Consuming Whiteness’, which sets out to explore the all-encompassing notion “that whiteness (in food, bodies, clothing, etc) is ideal”.

Samples:

Part 4:

In literature, food and issues relating to consumption often allows characters to metaphorically ‘consume’ or integrate their cultural heritage into hybrid identities. For example, in the works of Bharati Mukherjee, characters’ struggles to integrate themselves into the cultural landscape are accompanied by changing eating practices. While some critics suggest Mukherjee is overtly celebratory in relation to issues of assimilation, I would counter that her fiction presents the way in which dominant (white) American culture figuratively consumes ‘exotic’ cultural foods (and cultural Others) in order to destroy and/or “Americanize” them.

Part 5:

While ads have begun to acknowledge that not all bodies are white, the images in advertisements still do not reflect the diversity of the US populace. Ads are still dominated by images equating whiteness with beauty and perfection (as in fashion ads, makeup ads, holiday ads, mortgage ads) and non-whiteness with bodies that are either meant to serve others (as in cleaning product ads) or bodies that need help (as with ads for medicine, hair ‘cures,’ and drug treatment centers). The analysis offered by scholars such as Susan Bordo and Jean Kilbourne that lay bare the ways in which people of color are animalized, dehumanized, and brutalized in advertisements has not translated into substantial changes in the ads we view/watch.

My thanks to the good professor for the thought-provoking series of posts.

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The Representation of White Perfection

by matttbastard

Professor, What If has embarked on a series of posts exploring how a consumption-obsessed culture in the US has continued to perpetuate the all-encompassing notion “that whiteness (in food, bodies, clothing, etc) is ideal”:

What if we woke up to the fact that white is not right, that brown bread is healthier, that teeth naturally yellow, that white t-shirts are boring, that, for god/dess sake, a white anus is darn right unnatural and unnecessary? Whiteness doesn’t do a body good-what it does is confer white skin privilege-a privilege that allows those with white skin to walk through the world with many advantages through no actions of their own. But [these] privileges are not good in the entire scheme of things for white skinned people either because what they perpetuate is a racist, colorist world that harms everyone-white people included.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Renee

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Bob Watson on Reforming Agriculture

by matttbastard

Related: International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report calls for “world leaders to urgently reform farming rules to boost the state of global agriculture and prevent a food crisis that could threaten international security and the fight against poverty”: The Guardian.  (Report summary here, key findings here.)   Also see this op-ed by George Monbiot, who advises that “[i]f you care about hunger, eat less meat”, and Michael Grunwald on “The Clean Energy Scam”

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Quote of the Day: Half Mast Victories

by matttbastard

The truth about feminism is that we cannot imagine the road to change if it comes back in exclusive dividends. It is meant for the freedom of others who are not here, who have died in vain, in violence, in secrecy, in the dark, and in fear. Feminism, until it thwarts itself from the clutches of materialistic greed, will never liberate anyone. It will succeed in a half-mast victory for a few handfuls of women who’ll erroneously assume the battle was well-fought and won.

– Sudy, LIVE Blogging from WAM: The Truth Out About Feminism (h/t purtek)

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The Real Issues

by matttbastard

While I agree that most race and gender based personal attacks do not address real political issues, we should not forget that racial and gender issues are real issues. We should not forget that racism and sexism are still fundamental problems in the US.

[…]

I know many Americans are uncomfortable openly discussing how race and gender influence our political system, but this doesn’t mean that these issues are not “real.” Denial won’t erase social inequality. It’s a shame that many people would rather purge discussion of racism and sexism from the public discourse than actually work to give people an equal shot.

– Rachel @ Rachel’s Tavern, “Let’s Get Back to the Real Issues”

(more real issues after the fold)

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Liberal Heresy

by matttbastard

Via Greg Sargent:

dnA speak, you listen:

Lord I really don’t like Ronald Reagan. And despite how much I hate the Clintons right now, Bill was a better president than Reagan, by a long fucking shot.

With that said, I dunno if I’d go so far as to single out Obama as a “Lieberdem”, as Natasha Chart does. Now, as Noam Scheiber notes, despite utilizing narcotic, substance-free transformational rhetoric about hope and change that can intoxicate even a perpetual cynic like yours truly, “rather than tacking left, the Obama campaign went straight up the middle, where a much larger universe of potential voters awaited.” And it is a matter of record that Joe Lieberman mentored Obama in the Senate.

ZOMG, d’ya know what this means?! Obama, a proud member of the not-even-remotely-Progressive modern Democratic Party, is just another pro-establishment pol! Please, no earth-shattering revelations about wet water or Popes wearing funny hats; I don’t think my delicate constitution could take any more.

Still, the DLC-Dem charge seems ironic coming from a self-professed “spiteful” Clinton supporter. Um, so, let me see if I’m following: Chart, who claims to have always “disliked Democrats who tore down the Democratic brand, trashed progressives, and praised Republicans”, is standing up to the establishment by supporting a Triangulating perennial DLC favourite/defender (who counts Newt Gingrich as a fan club member) whose husband endorsed Joe Lieberman in ’06 and, during his tenure as both Governor of Arkansas and POTUS, essentially wrote the book on kissing GOP ass (when politically expedient) and eating your own (again, when politically expedient) in order to stake a claim on the mushy middle. All “out of spite”.

*blinks*

Shit, show me a viable Donkey candidate in this election cycle who isn’t a “Lieberdem.” And don’t say “John Edwards”, whose voting record belies his recent populist re-branding as Huey-Long-in-wingtips. Hopefully somebody somewhere is drafting a wide-ranging eulogy for common sense and intellectual consistency during this primary season–to say nothing of bullshit detectors.

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