A big storm requires big government: “Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of “big government,” which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it. At a Republican primary debate last year, Mr. Romney was asked whether emergency management was a function that should be returned to the states. He not only agreed, he went further. “Absolutely,” he said. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” Mr. Romney not only believes that states acting independently can handle the response to a vast East Coast storm better than Washington, but that profit-making companies can do an even better job. He said it was “immoral” for the federal government to do all these things if it means increasing the debt. It’s an absurd notion, but it’s fully in line with decades of Republican resistance to federal emergency planning. FEMA, created by President Jimmy Carter, was elevated to cabinet rank in the Bill Clinton administration, but was then demoted by President George W. Bush, who neglected it, subsumed it into the Department of Homeland Security, and placed it in the control of political hacks. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina was just waiting to happen. The agency was put back in working order by President Obama, but ideology still blinds Republicans to its value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast.” From a Times editorial.
The price of inequality: “My argument in the context of the current debate is that no large economy has ever recovered from recession through austerity. But more than that, the sharp rise in inequality — especially in the U.S., which has the greatest inequality gap in the advanced countries — is holding us back. The lack of aggregate demand that has resulted from this inequality is a key factor hindering a return to growth. Simply, those at the top where wealth has concentrated spend much less of their income than those at the bottom or in the middle. So, demand drops. If we want to restore growth, and therefore full employment and greater tax revenues, we need to address the underlying problem of inequality. […] Since so much of the rising income at the top comes from rent-seeking, more progressive taxation — particularly on capital gains — is necessary. Better-enforced antitrust and bankruptcy laws are policy choices that will make a difference. Limiting the power of CEOs to set their own pay is another obvious corrective. […] Economic inequality begets political inequality and vice versa. Then the very vision that makes America special — upward mobility and opportunity for all — is undermined. One person, one vote becomes one dollar, one vote. That is not democracy. That is political decay.” From New Perspective Quarterly.
Bahrain, an American ally, bans all democracy protests: “banned all protest gatherings on Tuesday and threatened legal action against groups said to be backing escalating demonstrations and clashes. The interior ministry order is the most sweeping attempt to quash the anti-government uprising in the Sunni-ruled kingdom since martial law was imposed during the early months of unrest last year. It sharply increases pressure on political groups from Bahrain’s Shia majority, which has led the protests in support of a greater political voice. A crackdown on opposition groups could raise complications for Washington and other western allies that have stood by Bahrain’s monarchy during more than 20 months of unrest. The US has important military ties with Bahrain, which hosts the US navy’s 5th Fleet, but it also has called for increased dialogue to ease the tensions. Shias make up around 70% of Bahrain’s 525,000 citizens, and claim they face systematic discrimination such as being denied top political and security posts. The Sunni monarchy has made a series of concessions – including giving more powers to the elected parliament – but opposition groups say the reforms do little to loosen the ruling family’s grip on power. More than 50 people have been killed in Bahrain’s unrest since February 2011. Among them were two policemen who died this month from injuries suffered in attacks in which firebombs and explosives were used.” From the Guardian.
Cost of mining coal continues to climb: “Although it’s commonly said that the United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal with more than 200 years worth of reserves, digging up those coal reserves and delivering them to customers has been getting more expensive. That’s because of rising costs of transportation, explosives, wages — and geology. In most areas, companies first dig coal from areas that are easiest to access and that have the thickest, richest seams. Over time, however, it becomes more expensive to mine — and more difficult to do so profitably. That’s particularly true in central Appalachia, where the political fight over the reasons for the coal industry’s woes have been most intense. With a lot riding on the outcome of the election in swing states such as Ohio and Virginia, where some coal companies have announced layoffs and mine closures, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been blaming the coal industry’s problems on the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on coal-burning power plants. Indeed, EPA has issued regulations that require new controls at some of the country’s oldest and least efficient coal-fired power plants. And the Labor Department has added safety regulations on mines after workers were killed in some mine explosions. But some of the higher costs of mining have nothing to do with regulations, many analysts say.” From the Washington Post.
Rare case sheds light on cellphone surveillance device: “FBI investigators used a court order authorizing access to cellphone customer data to quietly deploy a powerful surveillance technology known as “stingrays,” privacy groups contend in a new court filing that claims the devices are overly invasive. Your cellphone can be singled out by its international mobile subscriber identity, or IMSI, which then makes it possible to secretly determine your whereabouts using stingray devices, also known as IMSI catchers. The law enforcement tool troubles security experts and civil libertarians alike because it mimics cellphone towers. Stingrays track the locations of mobile devices, including those that are not targeted but are nearby. IMSI catchers can also be adjusted to capture the content of communications, although the government claims that was not done in this case. An expert in 2010 showed spectators at a technology conference in Las Vegas that IMSI catchers could be built at home for as little as $1,500, exposing a potential weakness in cellphone security. Thirty cellphones in the room reportedly attempted to connect to his do-it-yourself tower, and anyone in the room who made a call while connected to it received an automated message that said their communications were being recorded.” From the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Art imitates life: New York City, empty:
Flagler County Jail Bookings