Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Setting a Limit: Free Speech vs Eliminationism

There have been a number of ad-hoc limits proposed to Free Speech Absolutism in the past. For example “You can’t yell ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater” or “Your free speech rights end where your waving arms and fists intersect my nose” and those get us into the right arena. But I want to propose a more concrete rule and one that is actually in place in parts of Europe today: “You don’t get to propose Eliminationism or deny historical examples of it”.

And I would suggest defining “Eliminationism” to include both extermination and absolute exclusion and would entertain expansion of it to total conversion, at least where that is accompanied by force.

Some examples:
http://www.truthtellers.org/alerts/PamGellerIsraelNukeEurope.html

She is beautiful, articulate, and controversial. But she is also fanatical, and even dangerous. Radical Jewish anti-Islamic activist and Fox News regular Pamela Geller said on her blog in 2010: “And I pray dearly that in the ungodly event that Tehran or its jihadi proxies (Hez’Ballah, Hamas, etc.) target Israel with a nuke, that she retaliate with everything she has at Tehran, Mecca, Medina……not to mention Europe. They exterminated all their Jews, but that wasn’t enough. These monsters then went on to import the next generation of Jew-killers.” By “Jew-killers,” she means Muslims: “This new hatred comes from Muslim immigrants. The Jewish people are afraid now.”

Geller shares a similar view with Israeli advocates of “The Samson Option”: if Israel is to be destroyed by nuclear attack, it should destroy the whole world by unloading its entire nuclear arsenal upon it. (See Does the Bible Predict Israel’s “Nuclear Shield?”)

Pam Geller is an eliminationist. And that kind of free speech should not be tolerated. Just as similar language when applied against Jews would be criminalized in Germany.

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/anncoulter167043.html

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.

Ann Coulter is an eliminationist. That should put her beyond the pale. I am not suggesting that this is just easy peasy to actually apply in practice. But only that fencing in speech with a prohibition against advocating mass murder against an entire class of people is a reasonable limit.

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Thought Cartoon: an Exercise in Free Speech for Pam Geller

Picture (literally) this: The Wailing Wall seen from a distance that would represent base to height. With as normal observant Jews at that base praying and inserting prayers into cracks in the wall. At the height a depiction of the Prophet mounted on his horse immediately prior to his Ascent to Heaven (traditionally from the Dome of the Rock). Further with that horse depicted as raising his tail and defecating off the top of Temple Mount onto the prayerful below. Ya think that THIS cartoon of Mohammed would earn a $10,000 top prize from Pam’s contest in Garland Texas? After all it would still be blashemous in Muslim terms and most likely as cartoonish as any other contestant. But somehow I suspect that “First Amendment Absolutist” Pam Geller would be no more amused than was Rudy Giuliani when faced with the (in)famous “Piss Christ” installation back in the day.

Or let us take this a different direction. Back in the day Pam Geller was a prominent right leaning war-blogger who ran a blog called Atlas Shrugs. Which blog often featured pictures of the blog-mistress incidentally(?) dressed in ways that showed off her rather admirable figure. Which led certain irreverant and perhaps obnoxious lefties to refer to her site as Atlas Jugs. Which was to be sure by any standard misogynistic. But certainly protected by the same Free Speech principles that Pam claims to be motivated by today.

I just wonder whether Pam would defend our theoretical Mohammed Horse cartoon or those very real Atlas Juggs references today? If not why not?

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Martin O’Malley was Mayor of Baltimore 1999-2007

Then Governor of Maryland from 2007-2015,i.e. less than 90 days ago.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_O%27Malley

Until a week ago most politically connected Americans knew Maryland as being a deep-blue State and Martin O’Malley as the only Progressive Democrat alternative to Hillary Clinton (Bernie S not being a Democrat, at least not yet). At what point, if ever does what seems to be some long-standing disfunctions in Baltimore policing begin to reflect back on O’Malley?

Baltimore is a literally Hot Topic tonight in a way that it wasn’t before. Does Martin need to fear the coals? Open Political Thread.

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Northwest Plan for Social Security: Conservative “Workers – Take Your Medicine”-ism (and why this Social Democrat likes it)

Long time readers of Angry Bear will be familiar with the Northwest Plan for a Real Social Security Fix. It has been pushed here in a series of posts and in innumerable comments (mostly by Dale Coberly) since 2009 including this core post: NW Plan for a Real Social Security Fix Ver 2.0: 2009 Trigger. Those who have questions about its details can ask them in Comments. But lets have the short version.

The Northwest Plan is inherently conservative in the old-fashioned sense of the word. It accepts that status quo that has resulted from the Social Security Act of 1935 and the important Amendments of 1939, 1950 and 1956 and for the sake of argument accepts the tests and Reporting imposed on Social Security by current law and the practice of the Social Security Trustees and the projections of the Social Security Office of the Chief Actuary. Having accepted that status quo in all its respects it then proceeds to ask a simple question: “What would it take to guarantee full Scheduled Benefits going forward under the constraints of current law and under the projections of the (standard) Intermediate Cost projection?” Or in other words “What would it take to Fix Social Security without Reforming it?” Where ‘Reform’ would include proposals from both the Right (which mostly take the form of benefit reductions) or from the Left (which generally take the form of modifying or eliminating the income cap formula). Or in still other words “What if we just made workers take their medicine and take the entire burden on themselves?”

In answering this question the authors of the Northwest Plan, primarily Dale Coberly with assists from Bruce Webb and Arne Larson, suggest starting from the arithmetic. Which in this case takes the form of “actuarial gap”. Now actuarial gap can be measured and presented in various ways over various time periods but is by the Trustees typically presented in the following form: “What is the gap between current rates of FICA and the rate currently needed to fully fund Scheduled Benefits over the 75 year Long Range Actuarial Window without changing either the Benefit formula or the Cap formula?” Now granted that there are a lot of barely buried assumptions in this formulation what would happen if we just ran with it? And answers to that under the fold.

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After (If) the Iran Deal: What does Israel Do Next?

Nothing could be more predictable than this headline from CNN today: Does Israel have a military option vs. Iran nuclear program?

(CNN)The Iran nuclear negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland, reportedly have made substantive progress, inching closer toward a provisional agreement between the P5+1 and Iran. While the talks continued to unfold this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restated his concern about an agreement with Iran, vowing “to continue to act against any threat.”

If an agreement is reached, the international spotlight will turn to Israel, in anticipation of its possible reaction. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe “Bogy” Yaalon stated that a deal is “a tragedy for the whole world.” The question is, however, what can Israel really do once a deal is signed? In recent days, notable conservatives in the United States have attacked President Barack Obama’s handling of the negotiations with Iran, arguing that a bad deal will force Israel’s hand, leaving it with no choice but to attack Iranian targets.

But is this a realistic conclusion?

My answer to that question is “I don’t think so.” On what do I base that conclusion? On expert opinion. To which skeptics would ask “What makes YOU an expert?”. To which my reply is: “Man it is not MY expert opinion. It is THESE guys”. Who THEY are and what THEY say will require a visit below the fold.

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Awaiting the 2015 Social Security Report (not holding breath)

FEDERAL OLD-AGE AND SURVIVORS INSURANCE TRUST FUND AND FEDERAL DISABILITY INSURANCE TRUST FUND

(c) With respect to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund (hereinafter in this title called the “Trust Funds”) there is hereby created a body to be known as the Board of Trustees of the Trust Funds (hereinafter in this title called the “Board of Trustees”) which Board of Trustees shall be composed of the Commissioner of Social Security, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, all ex officio, and of two members of the public (both of whom may not be from the same political party), who shall be nominated by the President for a term of four years and subject to confirmation by the Senate. A member of the Board of Trustees serving as a member of the public and nominated and confirmed to fill a vacancy occurring during a term shall be nominated and confirmed only for the remainder of such term. An individual nominated and confirmed as a member of the public may serve in such position after the expiration of such member’s term until the earlier of the time at which the member’s successor takes office or the time at which a report of the Board is first issued under paragraph (2) after the expiration of the member’s term. The Secretary of the Treasury shall be the Managing Trustee of the Board of Trustees (hereinafter in this title called the “Managing Trustee”). The Deputy Commissioner of Social Security shall serve as Secretary of the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees shall meet not less frequently than once each calendar year. It shall be the duty of the Board of Trustees to—

(1) Hold the Trust Funds;

(2)[11] Report to the Congress not later than the first day of April of each year on the operation and status of the Trust Funds during the preceding fiscal year and on their expected operation and status during the next ensuing five fiscal years;

(3) Report immediately to the Congress whenever the Board of Trustees is of the opinion that the amount of either of the Trust Funds is unduly small;

(4) Recommend improvements in administrative procedures and policies designed to effectuate the proper coordination of the old-age and survivors insurance and Federal-State unemployment compensation program; and

(5) Review the general policies followed in managing the Trust Funds, and recommend changes in such policies, including necessary changes in the provisions of the law which govern the way in which the Trust Funds are to be managed.

The Social Security Trustees’ Report used to come out like clockwork on March 31. In fact I used to put up links to the most important Tables and Figures based on the URL’s of the previous year’s Report on my own Social Security blog in the confident and proven belief that my readers (both of them) would have instant access to the Report literally the second it was released to the web in accordance with the plain text of the Act. Well in the last two (?) years of the Bush Administration the Report came late, for reasons that seemed, well reasons. But then Bush hated Social Security and had established a Commission to transform it to a privatized system. Surely the Obama Administration would just start issuing the Report on time and consistent with the requirements of the Act. Well no. They never have. And have never explained why they didn’t comply with the plain text of the law. And never explained why certain parties including avowed opponents of Social Security somehow got advance knowledge of a text which historically has been strictly embargoed.

So who knows. Perhaps eager beavers who have bookmarked http://www.ssa.gov/oact/tr/2015/index.html and who link to it around 10AM EDT next Tuesday March 31st will get the same jump on the Report that I did back in the day. It being the law and such. But the Obama Administration has never issued the Report on time or explained the delay. Probably because someone on the inside said “let’s screw with that Social Security fanatic Bruce Webb’s head and delay the Report for any or no reason at all”. Because why not.

Non-paranoid comments on any aspect of Social Security welcome (even Dale and BK)

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“Run Elizabeth Run” : for Majority Leader

Well quite the interesting news twist this morning as Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid announces he will not be running for re-election. Which of course launched the standard narrative of which current lieutenant would move up, giving us the rather stultifying debate of “Schumer vs Durbin”. Or Clinton’s former senior colleague vs Obama’s former senior colleage. Or Chicago vs Wall Street.

But DFA and the PCCC decided to throw a hand grenade in the mix. Progressives push for Warren as next Senate Democratic leader And this might just fly. Certainly it gives an outlet for the Ready for Warren folk and allows them to align with those people (like me) who always thought Elizabeth Warren could do more from the Senate. The beauty of this particular gambit is that Warren really doesn’t have to do anything different except double down on efforts to elect progressive Senators. Something she would naturally be doing anyway. With the bonus that this gives an outlet for frustrated progressives.

Can the Democrats retake the Senate? Well in a good turn-out year sure, we could reasonably expect Clinton coattails. But if you could energize that turnout among progressives who don’t exactly trill to Clintonian magic by showing that pushing for your own Senator could have big impacts should that translate into a Warren leadership that could indeed be a Big Biden Deal (hey this is a family blog). At a minimum it could strengthen Warren’s hand in leadership even if she didn’t nab the top spot.

Something to think about and kick around if you like.

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McClatchy: Fed Interest Earnings Approach $100 Billion

Fed’s interest earnings approach $100b

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve said Friday it transferred a record $96.9 billion to the U.S. treasury in 2014, profits on its unprecedented $4.4 trillion in holdings designed to support the U.S. economy in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Returning to a topic I have raised a few times here at Angry Bear: what is the real cost of financing U.S. Public Debt. Also interesting from the perspective of the repeated desire from the Right to “Audit the Fed”. More from the McClatchy piece:

The Fed’s total assets were $4.5 trillion last year and its holdings generated $115.9 billion in interest income, the central bank said Friday, and that reflected an increase of $25.5 billion from 2013. The Fed also paid banks $6.9 billion in interest income for their balances held at Federal Reserve district banks last year.

The independent Fed, which does not rely on Congress for funding, had operating expenses of $6.1 billion in 2014. This number included $1.9 billion to run the Federal Reserve Board, currency costs and operation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created in the 2010 revamp of financial regulation.

Lots to unpack here and plenty of directions to take the discussion. So rather than noodle on by focusing on my own preoccupations let me turn this over to AB readers. As a Federal Reserve/Public Debt/Quantitative Easing/CFPB Open Thread.

Update: Link to Fed’s Audit Report (h/t McClatchy) Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; Financial Statements as of and for the Years Ended December 31, 2014 and 2013, and Independent Auditors’Report

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Israel: Demography vs. Democracy

Preliminary election results from the Israeli elections are due in a couple of hours and no one who follows this even a little bit imagines that the path going forward is anything but fraught with uncertainty. Indeed it is not clear that given the polling that any stable government can be formed. But what is clear is that on this election day Netanyahu threw down on democracy. He is openly appealing to his base that the existential threat to Israel is a get out the vote campaign among ‘Israeli-Arabs’ aided in his view by foreign NGOs and hostile states.

In an American context this is exactly parallel to shouting “ACORN!” and “New Black Panther Party!” and “Aztlan!” Except where the latter cries are only an implicit (tho barely hidden) appeal to an old idea that ‘American’ = ‘Anglo-American Judeo-Christian’ that ‘dares not say its name’ Israel is officially committed to being a Democratic Jewish State. Well there is nothing democratic about voter suppression among those citizens of your country that are not Jewish (in the case of Israel) or ‘American’ (under the definition used by much of the American Right).

Israel faces some stark choices today. There is a path forward that yields an actual Democratic Jewish Israel. It runs through the Two State solution. There is another path that yields a simple Jewish State of Israel. It runs through a policy of Permanent Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and perhaps through disenfranchisement of the ‘Israeli-Arab’ population of Israel proper. And for those of a certain Real-Politik frame, which at this point certainly includes Netanyahu, this may be workable and realistic, at least under the medium term. After all the apartheid regime of South Africa ‘worked’ (in the sense of supplying well-being to the white minority) for decades. As did in many ways and seen from the same perspective did Pinochet’s Chile over the same time period. And in both cases the U.S. government gave explicit support to both those regimes under the Kirkpatrick Doctrine.

But foreign policy ‘Realism’ or not what was clear to all was that neither South Africa or Chile was a democracy. Which wasn’t a problem to the Kissingers and Reagans and Kirpatricks then or to the Boltons and Kristols now. And it is certainly possible that U.S. governments going forward will simply embrace Israel under a Netanyahu policy of Neo-Apartheid as just being the ‘realistic’ thing to do. But as in the past it will make a mockery out of our claims to back ‘Democracy’. Because Israel will not be small d ‘democratic’.

Netanyahu threw off is cloak of deception by announcing that under no circumstances would there be a Palestinian State along side Israel. He doubled down by declaring an emergency for his party followers in the form of ‘Israeli-Arabs’ actually exercising their rights as citizens to a vote. That combination makes it impossible to have a Democratic Jewish Israel that permanently includes the West Bank. Such a State can be Democratic or Jewish but not both. (Not even if every European Jew exercised his or her right to Aliyah – another stop-gap policy Netanyahu has been pushing.)

It will be an interesting few hours, days and weeks ahead.

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The Book of Joshua: an Operations Manual for parts of the Israeli Right

I tend to stay away from I-P (Israeli-Palestinian) issues for a lot of reasons. First and foremost because it doesn’t pay, for example I got temporally banned (Bo-Jo’d) from Daily Kos for just stepping on that turf. And mostly life is too short and there are plenty of other targets.

And if that is true for you then I suggest not going under the fold at all. Because my conclusion is that there is no possible conclusion, there is no possible reason based solution to the I-P problem or parallel problems such as Daesh. Because reasons. But don’t go there.

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