Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Campaign For America's Future
Common Dreams | News & Views
New York Times
The Baseline Scenario
Digby - Hullabaloo
Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog
New York Review of Books
Sunday, September 19, 2010
After years of questioning the conclusion and methods of an FBI investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and sickened dozens of others, Rep. Rush Holt (D-Hopewell) announced yesterday that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is opening an inquiry into the matter.
Holt, along with a handful of other legislators, had sent a letter to the GAO in May requesting an investigation into the FBI’s handling of the case. The FBI officially closed the case in February after concluding in 2008 that Dr. Bruce Ivins, a former biodefense scientist, was the sole culprit in the attacks.
Senate hopeful O'Donnell admits "dabbling" in witchcraft
Delaware's GOP Senate nominee, Christine O'Donnell, admitted to "dabbling into witchcraft" during a clip aired Friday night on Bill Maher's HBO show "Real Time."
The clip was filmed, but not aired, a decade ago when O'Donnell was a part-time pundit on Maher's "Politically Incorrect."
"I dabbled into witchcraft — I never joined a coven," she said. "But I did, I did. I dabbled into witchcraft.Editorial: The Secret Election
For all the headlines about the Tea Party and blind voter anger, the most disturbing story of this year’s election is embodied in an odd combination of numbers and letters: 501(c)(4). That is the legal designation for the advocacy committees that are sucking in many millions of anonymous corporate dollars, making this the most secretive election cycle since the Watergate years.
As Michael Luo reported in The Times last week, the battle for Congress is largely being financed by a small corps of wealthy individuals and corporations whose names may never be known to the public. And the full brunt of that spending — most of it going to Republican candidates — has yet to be felt in this campaign.
Corporations got the power to pour anonymous money into elections from Supreme Court and Federal Election Commission decisions in the last two years, culminating in the Citizens United opinion earlier this year. The effect is drastic: In 2004 and 2006, virtually all independent groups receiving electioneering donations revealed their donors. In 2008, less than half of the groups reported their donors, according to a study issued last week by the watchdog group Public Citizen. So far this year, only 32 percent of the groups have done so.
Saturday 18 September 2010
by: Lt. Col. Barry Wingard, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
Whether you believe the US Constitution should be applied literally or think the authors intentionally left room for interpretation by future generations, it is generally accepted that our nation’s founding document originates form the notion that government must be guided by the will of those who consent to be governed.
The lifeblood of any such democracy is an informed citizenry, which, provided with facts and context, can properly assess the course of the government's actions. Informed decision-making, in turn, requires open access to relevant information. Unfortunately, over the past several years, we in the United States have seen a concerted effort by our government to prevent massive amounts of revealing information from ever seeing the light of day.
Friday, September 17, 2010
by Robert Parry
As Election Day 2010 approaches – as the United States wallows in the swamps of war, recession and environmental degradation – the consequences of the nation’s three-decade-old decoupling from reality are becoming painfully obvious.
Yet, despite the danger, the nation can’t seem to move in a positive direction, as if the suctioning effect of endless spin, half-truths and lies holds the populace in place, a force that grows ever more powerful like quicksand sucking the country deeper into the muck – to waist deep, then neck deep.
The Tax-Cut Racket
By PAUL KRUGMAN
“Nice middle class you got here,” said Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader. “It would be a shame if something happened to it.”
O.K., he didn’t actually say that. But he might as well have, because that’s what the current confrontation over taxes amounts to. Mr. McConnell, who was self-righteously denouncing the budget deficit just the other day, now wants to blow that deficit up with big tax cuts for the rich. But he doesn’t have the votes. So he’s trying to get what he wants by pointing a gun at the heads of middle-class families, threatening to force a jump in their taxes unless he gets paid off with hugely expensive tax breaks for the wealthy.
Most discussion of the tax fight focuses either on the economics or on the politics — both of which suggest that Democrats should hang tough, for their own sakes as well as that of the country. But there’s an even bigger issue here — namely, the question of what constitutes acceptable behavior in American political life. Politics ain’t beanbag, but there’s a difference between playing hardball and engaging in outright extortion, which is what Mr. McConnell is now doing. And if he succeeds, it will set a disastrous precedent.
Wall Street ‘casino’ spooks small American investors
By Agence France-Presse
Friday, September 17th, 2010 -- 12:19 pm
Michael McCaslin is wary of investing his retirement funds in Wall Street. Its volatility and cryptic trading techniques make him feel lost and unsafe, he says.
"I tried to watch the market over the past couple of years, and you're just lost. I look at the market now and it's like Las Vegas, it's a gamble," the 65-year-old pensioner said.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
By John Gramlich, Stateline Staff Writer
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has canceled a $125,000 contract with a consulting firm that sent a bulletin to the state's Office of Homeland Security in which it described opponents of natural gas drilling as "environmental extremists" and suggested they were a threat to the state.
Rendell told reporters in a news conference on Tuesday (Sept. 15) that Pennsylvania would cancel its deal with the firm, the Institute of Terrorism Response and Research, which also identified animal rights demonstrations and anti-war events as potential security threats to the state.
As the Aging Stoop to Their Labors, Prosperous Pundits Lecture Them About Sacrifice
By Richard Eskow
Created 09/15/2010 - 3:48am
The aging American workforce has been vilified a lot lately, in much the same way the poor were in previous decades. Politicians who once might have spread myths about "welfare queens" are now describing retired people as "greedy geezers." Not to be outdone, well-paid pundits are rushing to lecture people on their moral failings and urging them to rediscover the nobility of sacrifice. But sacrifice for whom, exactly, and to what end? It doesn't seem to matter - and that's the problem.
Fortunately, not everyone's joining the crusade. Today's shining example is John Leland from the New York Times,  who took the time to review the data on aging workers. What's more, he even went out and talked to some of them.
Here's what Mr. Leland learned. As a new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research demonstrates, "one in three workers over age 58 does a physically demanding job ... including hammering nails, bending under sinks, lifting baggage -- (a job) can be radically different at age 69 than at age 62. " Leland also met workers like 58-year-old Jack Hartley, who "works a 12-hour shift assembling tires: pulling piles of rubber and lining over a drum, cutting the material with a hot knife, lifting the half-finished tire, which weighs 10 to 20 pounds, and throwing it onto a rack."
Graveyard DNA rewrites African American history
13:43 16 September 2010
by Shanta Barley
Two of Christopher Columbus's shipmates were the first Africans to set foot in the New World, a study has found.
Using DNA analysis of human bones excavated from a graveyard in La Isabela, Dominican Republic – the first colonial town in the Americas – the new study adds weight to the theory that Africans crossed the Atlantic at least 150 years earlier than previously thought.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday 14 September 2010
by: Robert Scheer | Truthdig | Op-Ed
When will the president give Lawrence Summers his pink slip? He can thank him for his years of service and use the excuse that his top economic adviser wants to spend more time with his family. I don’t care how he sugarcoats it. But Summers deserves the same fate as the millions of workers laid off because of the banking debacle he helped cause, the dire consequences of which he has done precious little to mitigate.
It was Summers who, as treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, pushed through the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which opened the floodgates to the toxic mortgage-backed derivatives that still haunt the economy.
It's five years after passage, and the landmark reforms championed by a progressive president have survived two election campaigns in which opponents have called for their repeal. The leading critics in the business sector seem resigned to working with the new law. And the major implementation milestones have been met, though the slow rollout means that tangible benefits have only just become apparent. Yet all this is not enough to ensure that the law will achieve its key purposes. Without additional reforms, the act passed with much fanfare five years prior will not guarantee universal coverage. More important, it will remain inadequate in key areas, with the real, continuing danger that its limited funding will be outrun by skyrocketing costs.
It sounds like a forecast of where the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the landmark health-care legislation passed earlier this year, will be in 2015. But in fact it describes the actual historical standing of the Social Security Act on the law's fifth anniversary in 1940. During the 1936 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Alf Landon had criticized the legislation as a "cruel hoax"-and gone down to defeat. By the end of 1937, the Supreme Court had affirmed the act's constitutionality, and its "old-age insurance" component, which we now call Social Security, had been implemented successfully (although states were dragging their heels on other parts of the legislation, such as public assistance for the poor). But Social Security covered only half the population. Worse, its benefits were meager and not tied to inflation. As prices rose, those benefits were destined to fall, and they did. It would be another ten years before the program was put on a stronger foundation with the Social Security Amendments of 1950, the founding law for the modern program.Legal analysis: The health insurance mandate is constitutional
The most politically charged feature of the health reform law is the mandate that legal residents have health insurance. Within weeks of the law's passage, 20 states had filed lawsuits charging that the mandate is unconstitutional because it gives the federal government more power than it actually has. State lawsuits are expected to reach the Supreme Court next year. Legal scholar Lawrence O. Gostin writes that the health insurance mandate rests on firm legal ground.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
By Andrew Walker Economics correspondent, BBC World Service
The world is getting older. In most countries, the population is ageing.
That inevitably has dramatic consequences for pensions and other arrangements for supporting older people.
There are two factors behind the trend. The first is clearly, in itself, good news. People are living longer.
Veterans Agency Made Secret Deal Over Benefits
By David Evans - Sep 14, 2010
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs failed to inform 6 million soldiers and their families of an agreement enabling Prudential Financial Inc. to withhold lump-sum payments of life insurance benefits for survivors of fallen service members, according to records made public through a Freedom of Information request.
The amendment to Prudential’s contract is the first document to show how VA officials sanctioned a payment practice that has spurred investigations by lawmakers and regulators. Since 1999, Prudential has used so-called retained-asset accounts, which allow the company to withhold lump sum payments due to survivors and earn investment income on the money for itself.
Why "Scientific Consensus" Fails to Persuade
Individuals with competing cultural values disagree about what most scientists believe
September 13, 2010
Suppose a close friend who is trying to figure out the facts about climate change asks whether you think a scientist who has written a book on the topic is a knowledgeable and trustworthy expert. You see from the dust jacket that the author received a Ph.D. in a pertinent field from a major university, is on the faculty at another one, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Would you advise your friend that the scientist seems like an "expert"?
Monday, September 13, 2010
Paul Krugman: China, Japan, America
Last week Japan’s minister of finance declared that he and his colleagues wanted a discussion with China about the latter’s purchases of Japanese bonds, to “examine its intention” — diplomat-speak for “Stop it right now.” The news made me want to bang my head against the wall in frustration.
You see, senior American policy figures have repeatedly balked at doing anything about Chinese currency manipulation, at least in part out of fear that the Chinese would stop buying our bonds. Yet in the current environment, Chinese purchases of our bonds don’t help us — they hurt us. The Japanese understand that. Why don’t we?
Some background: If discussion of Chinese currency policy seems confusing, it’s only because many people don’t want to face up to the stark, simple reality — namely, that China is deliberately keeping its currency artificially weak.
By Chris Hedges
There are no longer any major institutions in American society, including the press, the educational system, the financial sector, labor unions, the arts, religious institutions and our dysfunctional political parties, which can be considered democratic. The intent, design and function of these institutions, controlled by corporate money, are to bolster the hierarchical and anti-democratic power of the corporate state. These institutions, often mouthing liberal values, abet and perpetuate mounting inequality. They operate increasingly in secrecy. They ignore suffering or sacrifice human lives for profit. They control and manipulate all levers of power and mass communication. They have muzzled the voices and concerns of citizens. They use entertainment, celebrity gossip and emotionally laden public-relations lies to seduce us into believing in a Disneyworld fantasy of democracy.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Updated September 10, 2010, 03:56 PM
Rick Perlstein is the author of "Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America" and "Before The Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus."
The problem is not the Web. Anti-JFK rallies "revealing" to every school child in Orange County, California that Communists planned to colonize the United States by the year 1970 drew bigger crowds than Tea Parties today, with nary a blogger among them.
The problem is that elite media gatekeepers have abandoned their moral mandate to stigmatize uncivil discourse. Instead, too many outlets reward it. In fact, it is an ironic token of the ideological confusions of our age that they do so in the service of upholding what they understand to be a cornerstone of civility: the notion that every public question must be framed in terms of two equal and opposite positions, the "liberal" one and the "conservative" one, each to be afforded equal dignity, respect — and (the more crucial currency) equal space. This has made the most mainstream of media outlets comically easy marks for those actively working to push public discourse to extremes.
When employers and shoppers pay less, everyone suffers.By Daniel Gross
Posted Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010, at 6:54 AM ET
The strike of about 300 workers at a Mott's apple-juice plant in Williamson, N.Y., is nearly four months old. Union members walked off the job after Mott's parent company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., pushed them for concessions. Although Dr Pepper Snapple is highly profitable, a company representative said that it wanted to cut wages by $1.50 per hour and freeze pensions to align factory cost with "local and industry standards." In other words, because its employees were doing better than other workers in the depressed upstate New York region, the company demanded that they do the same jobs for lower wages.
Mott's isn't the only company squeezing its employees during this recovery. With millions out of work, it's a buyer's market for employees. In the economy at large, wages have risen only 1.7 percent in the past year while corporate profits are up nearly 40 percent. A report by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute found that between the second quarter of 2009 and the second quarter of 2010, men's wages fell 1.3 percent.
Welcome to the low-ball culture. In a world of sluggish growth, excess capacity, and depressed expectations, buyers of goods and services—labor, houses, and restaurant meals, among other things—have come to believe that desperate sellers should take any offer they make. But that kind of systemic bargain-hunting can create a dangerous spiral: Employers short-change workers, workers buy fewer goods—and the overall economy suffers.
A crackdown on reckless mortgage lenders by the Federal Housing Administration has failed to root out several executives with criminal records whose firms continue to do business with the agency in violation of federal law, according to government documents, court records and interviews.
The get-tough campaign has also been hamstrung because, even when the FHA can ban mortgage companies for wrongdoing or an excessive default rate, the agency does not have the legal power to stop their executives from landing jobs at other lenders, or open new firms.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
GOP Now Running Against Wall Street Bailout They Voted for – Here’s a List of GOP Reps and Senators Who Voted ‘Aye’
On MSNBC last night, Rachel Maddow looked at the political rationale behind the White House decision to make House Speaker Wanna-Be John Boehner, R-Ohio, the face of the “Party of No” in the midterm elections.
Boehner was chosen, in part, because he is a boozey, overly tanned cartoonish character, but mainly because he was the GOP leader in 2008, back when it was the Bush rubberstamp party. In late September 2008, when the United States financial system was in freefall, Boehner took to the well of the House and tearfully begged the Republican caucus to support the Bush bank bailout of Wall Street and the “too big to fail” banks, officially known as the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008″:
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, MINORITY LEADER: Think about what happens if we don’t pass this bill, think about what happens to your friends, your neighbors, your constituents. So, I ask all of you, both sides of the aisle: what’s in the best interest of our country? Not what’s in the best interest of our party, not what’s in the best interest of our own re- election– what’s in the best interest of our country? Vote yes.
WASHINGTON — With a war chest rivaling that of the Republican Party itself, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has emerged in the last year as perhaps the Obama administration’s most-well-financed rival on signature policy debates like health care and financial regulation.
Critics on the left have long complained about the chamber’s outsize influence. But now they are taking on the business association directly, charging in a complaint filed Friday with the Internal Revenue Service that it violated tax codes by laundering millions of dollars meant for charitable work from a group with ties to the insurance giant A.I.G.The complaint was brought by a group called U.S. Chamber Watch, which was created four months ago — with the strong financial backing of labor unions — to scrutinize the Chamber of Commerce’s growing influence and provide a counterbalance.
By Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — International bank regulators from around the globe will meet in the Swiss town of Basel on Sunday to finalize an important agreement that most Americans have never heard of: one to redraw rules so that banks can't bring the world economy to the brink of collapse again.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is leading the U.S. delegation to the so-called Basel III talks. The assembled bank regulators are expected to agree to impose higher capital requirements on big banks. This would force them to keep more money in reserve to cushion against losses, one of the lessons of the near-meltdown in 2008, when banks had far more toxic assets on their books than funds to protect themselves against a downturn.
It is astonishing how many Democrats in the past three months have been making the worst case scenario for their prospects in the November mid-term Congressional elections. Do they believe that the most craven Republican Party in history needs their help in such a self-fulfilling prophecy?
The arguments that the Democratic pundits, along with some elected lawmakers, are giving focus on the slowing of the recessionary economy and the “natural giveback” to the Republicans of the hitherto safe seats that they lost to the Democrats in 2008.
The mass media-exaggerated aura of the Tea Party, pumped by Limbaugh, Hannity and the histrionic Glenn Beck, has put the Democrats in a defensive posture. It is giving the puzzled Republicans an offensive image. I say puzzled because they can’t figure out the many disparate strands of the Tea Party eruption which includes turning on the Republicans and George W. Bush for launching this epidemic of deficits, debt, bailouts and unconstitutional military adventures.
If back-channel sources are correct, the White House deficit commission is finalizing a deal that would increase Social Security benefits slightly for low-income recipients while cutting them for everyone else. The Commissioners apparently believe that putting this "progressive" gloss on a package of unneeded cuts would allow them to move forward with their predetermined anti-Social Security agenda.
This new proposal would pit middle-class seniors against the elderly poor, forcing them to compete for a stripped-down pool of dollars. The end result would be the one that many Commission members have pursued for years : to cut the most stable and successful program in the Federal government's history.
Accounts of this pending deal come from the top-secret, behind-a-firewall, inside-the-Cone-of-Silence proceedings of the commission itself, which is why they can't be officially confirmed. (Remind me again: Why are such critical issues being debated in secret, only to be presented to Congress for ratification after the November elections?) But if these reports are correct—and there is good reason to believe they are—some members of the Commission presumably believe this strategy would confuse and divide the many Americans who oppose Social Security cuts, while defusing the growing resistance to their actions among progressive members of Congress. 
The commissioners have clearly been stung by the nickname bloggers have given them: the "Catfood Commission."  This recommendation would take the edge off that name, since they could now claim they've made sure nobody will be eating Purina Old Folks' Chow as a result of their actions. It would also give them chance to bait their opponents: Don't you care about poor people?
9 Sep 2010 10:10 AM
If you read RL Miller's post on "climate zombies" you know that open climate denialism is back in vogue in the GOP. However muted denialism may have gotten in the late 2000s, it has come roaring back -- like everything reactionary -- with the economic downturn.
Friday, September 10, 2010
By Chip Berlet
America is in the midst of a 21st-century witch hunt. A loose-knit network of right-wing ideological strategists, Republican Party operatives and media demagogues generate the odious smears. Their goal is to stymie the Obama administration’s policy initiatives, capture Congress in November and unseat President Barack Obama in 2012. This propagandizing echoes the scapegoating of liberals, union and community organizers, peace activists, gay people, Jews and people of color during the anti-communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era.
Whenever the subject of state and local governments' fiscal plight comes up here in the United States, conservatives engage in spittle-flecked denunciations of unions and their crazy pay packages.
Jonathan Cohn tells us in an online piece for The New Republic, published in August: "Conservatives say that excessive public employee pensions exemplify the greed of unions (which sought these generous benefits for public employees) and inefficiency of government (which agreed to pay them). If local and state governments are struggling financially, these conservatives say, they should figure out some way to reduce or revoke those promised benefits, rather than come to Washington and beg for help from the taxpayers."
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, it would take a $2.2 trillion investment to get America’s infrastructure into good condition, including $930 billion for roads and bridges and another $160 billion for schools.
“Japan’s problems now are the same as they were in the 1990s, when you were writing about them. It’s depressing.” So declared one economist I spoke to here. “But the Japanese don’t seem all that depressed,” objected another. Both were right — and the conversation crystallized some thoughts I’ve been having about Japan’s situation, and ours.
A decade ago, Japan was a byword for failed economic policies: years after its real estate bubble burst, it was still suffering from chronic deflation and slow growth. Then America had its own bubble, bust and crisis. And these days, Japan’s record doesn’t look that bad to an American eye.
Why not? For all its flaws, Japanese policy limited and contained the damage from a financial bust. And the question in America now is whether we’ll do the same — or whether we will take a hard right turn into economic disaster.
Why has income inequality grown so explosively over the past 30 years? Why do so many working and middle class voters cast their ballots for a party that's so obviously a captive of corporations and the rich? Why is there no longer any real sustained effort to improve the lot of the middle class?
There's no shortage of answers. There's the "What's the Matter With Kansas" theory. There's the demise of labor unions. There's the well-worn story of the rise of conservative think tanks. There's the impact of globalization on unskilled and semi-skilled labor. There's the growing returns to education in a world that grows more complex every year.
Many have noted the resemblance between the Federal Reserve Board and the Catholic church. Both have long traditions of secret convocations: meetings of the open market committee and the College of Cardinals. Both have a revered leader: the chairman of the board of governors and the pope. And both have claims to infallibility.
OK, it is only the pope who can explicitly claim infallibility. In the case of the Fed chair, infallibility is bestowed by the business reporters and politicians who treat every word from the reigning Fed chair as a priceless pearl of wisdom.
This aura of infallibility is especially painful in the current economic situation when error seems to be the new religion of the Fed. Just to remind everyone – since so much denial has dominated the debate – the only reason that we are facing near double-digit unemployment and the worst economic calamity in 70 years is that the Fed was out to lunch in combating the housing bubble.
Despite parents' allowing romantic sleepovers, the Netherlands has one of the lowest youth pregnancy ratesBy Tracy Clark-Flory
The Dutch could teach American parents a thing or two about the birds and the bees -- namely, the virtues of respect and acceptance of teenage sexuality. I just stumbled across a fascinating study (via Sociological Images) that compares these divergent cultural attitudes toward doing the nasty (which, by the way, is much less likely to be cast as "nasty" or "dirty" in the Netherlands). The report, "Sex, Love, and Autonomy in the Teenage Sleepover" by sociologist Amy Schalet, spills plenty of ink describing the forbidding and fearful American view of premarital teen sex that is all too familiar to most of us stateside. It's her description of parental attitudes in the Netherlands that really surprises, though.A 2003 survey "found that two thirds of Dutch fifteen to seventeen-year-olds with steady boy- or girlfriends are allowed to spend the night with them in their bedrooms, and that boys and girls are equally likely to get permission for a sleepover."
The religious right’s scheme to take the governorship of Hawaii hangs by a thread…
Hawaii has an open primary system and in a story I wrote last April 22, 2010, Christian Right Claims Both 2010 Hawaii Gubernatorial Candidates I predicted exactly what is now happening–an effort to convince evangelical Christians in Hawaii who are registered as Republicans to cross over in the Democratic Party primary this coming Saturday, September 18, and vote for Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann.
By Amy DePaul, AlterNet
Posted on September 9, 2010, Printed on September 10, 2010
With 220,000 students, 10 campuses strung across America’s most populous state, five medical centers, three national science laboratories and groundbreaking academic research, the University of California (U.C.) has long symbolized excellence in public higher education. But all that may be changing as a result of budget cuts, reduced access and tuition hikes plaguing public colleges in California and across the country.
U.C. English professor and author Christopher Newfield believes there is more to the current crisis than the recent economic downturn; rather, he argues in his book, Unmaking the Public University, that conservative elites have long targeted higher education because of its role in creating a more empowered, democratic and multiracial middle class.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 -- 2:57 am
NEW DELHI — British prime minister Winston Churchill deliberately let millions of Indians starve to death, the author of a new book has claimed, alleging he was motivated in part by racial hatred.
As many as three million people died in the Bengal famine of 1943 after Japan captured neighbouring Burma -- a major source of rice imports -- and British colonial rulers in India stockpiled food for soldiers and war workers.
Monday 06 September 2010
by: Thalif Deen | Inter Press Service | Report
Stockholm - A major weeklong international water conference opened in the Swedish capital Monday with an ominous warning: time is running out faster than fresh water.
If the "massive and complex challenges" facing one of the world's most finite natural resources are not resolved soon, the future looks grimly devastating: scarcities, pollution, droughts, floods, desertification and diseases.
Gunilla Carlsson, the Swedish minister for international development cooperation, described the recent floods in Pakistan as one of the major natural disasters facing that country.
Tuesday 07 September 2010
by: Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co.
It is strangely comforting to see that the United States is not alone as it struggles in its morass of failed fiscal policy.
P. O'Neill, a regular contributor to the online magazine A Fistful of Euros, has published some good observations on the mess that followed Ireland's 2009 plunge into harsh austerity. He writes that the debt crisis has led to Irish banks, "owning businesses they never expected to, so that they are now operating hotels that they have taken over and selling repossessed farm equipment.
September 8, 2010 | They say it's too easy.
According to 48 percent of American voters, it's "too easy" to have an abortion in this country.
Every year, legislatures introduce hundreds of bills to restrict abortion. Every year, dozens pass. This year has been no exception. The Center for Reproductive Rights published a report on the nearly 50 new laws that have already been passed this year: biased counseling, forced ultrasounds, bans on insurance coverage, parental notification... And it's only September.
The Great American Stickup: How the Political Class Mugged America and Handed the Money Over to Wall St.
By Amy Goodman and Robert Scheer, Democracy Now!
Posted on September 7, 2010, Printed on September 8, 2010
Goodman: As we continue our discussion on the state of the economy, we’re by veteran journalist and Truthdig.com editor Robert Scheer. His book is just out; it’s called The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street. What is wrong with the economy today? And how did we get here?
Scheer: Well, you know, you say a longtime journalist. I worked for the Los Angeles Times as a national reporter, and I covered these hearings in Washington when the Clinton Administration in the '90s basically fulfilled the promise of the Reagan Revolution. Reagan was not able to reverse the sensible regulations of the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt designed to prevent us from getting into another depression. And those regulations of Glass-Steagall, which Feingold was against -- was for keeping and against reversing, said that investment banks playing with supposedly rich people's money should not be allowed to merge with commercial banks that were using the deposits of people that were insured by the taxpayers and that these were different activities. And Reagan could never pull off that kind of deregulation. In fact, because of the savings and loan scandal at the end of his term, he actually had to sign off on increased financial regulation. But when Clinton came in, he brought in one of the big players on Wall Street, Robert Rubin, who has been head of Goldman Sachs, and basically turned to him and said, "You know, what do I need to do to get Wall Street on my side?" And they said, reverse what they considered to be onerous financial regulation. And Clinton delivered on that. He brought in Rubin then to be his Treasury secretary, who was followed by Lawrence Summers, who’s now the top economics adviser in the Obama White House.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
WASHINGTON — Each year, 36 young lawyers obtain the most coveted credential in American law: a Supreme Court clerkship. Clerking for a justice is a glittering capstone on a résumé that almost always includes outstanding grades at a top law school, service on a law review and a prestigious clerkship with a federal appeals court judge.
Justice Clarence Thomas apparently has one additional requirement. Without exception, the 84 clerks he has chosen over his two decades on the court all first trained with an appeals court judge appointed by a Republican president.That unbroken ideological commitment is just the most extreme example of a recent and seldom examined form of political polarization on the Supreme Court. These days the more conservative justices are much more likely than were their predecessors to hire clerks who worked for judges appointed by Republicans. And the more liberal justices are more likely than in the past to hire from judges appointed by Democrats.
The Justice Department has finally uncovered emails written by John Yoo, the author of the so-called torture memos. But something's missing.
When the Justice Department's report on the so-called torture memos was released in February, the agency's internal watchdog noted that the five-year inquiry "had not been routine" and included the intriguing detail that a trove of key documents had been destroyed. These included almost all of Justice Department official John Yoo's emails. The report noted that investigators for the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility had been informed that these records "had been deleted and were not recoverable." Without the emails of one of the primary authors of the memos, the OPR could only cobble together a partial picture of how Bush administration lawyers had crafted a legal rationale for the use of torture. "Given the difficulty OPR experienced in obtaining information over the past five years," the report said, "it remains possible that additional information eventually will surface."
by George Monbiot
This will not be an easy column to write. I am about to put down 1,200 words in support of a book that starts by attacking me and often returns to this sport. But it has persuaded me that I was wrong. More to the point, it has opened my eyes to some fascinating complexities in what seemed to be a black and white case.
In the Guardian in 2002 I discussed the sharp rise in the number of the world's livestock, and the connection between their consumption of grain and human malnutrition. After reviewing the figures, I concluded that veganism  "is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world's most urgent social justice issue". I still believe that the diversion of ever wider tracts of arable land from feeding people to feeding livestock is iniquitous and grotesque. So does the book I'm about to discuss. I no longer believe that the only ethical response is to stop eating meat.
European governments made a “wrong bet” by pushing for austerity after the global recession, resulting in slower economic growth for the region and the U.S., Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said.
“Europe has made a wrong bet with austerity,” Stiglitz, 67, told reporters today in Budapest. If Germany, the U.K. and France remain committed to budget cutting, “that will have systemic consequences for the entire Europe.”
Europe’s economy is at risk of sliding back into recession as governments reduce spending to rein in budget deficits, Stiglitz, a former chief economist at the World Bank and now a professor of economics at Columbia University in New York, said in an interview with Dublin-based RTE Radio on Aug. 24.
By Terrence McNally and Andrew Bacevich, AlterNet
Posted on September 6, 2010, Printed on September 7, 2010
Andrew Bacevich speaks with a fairly unique mix of experience, authority, passion and wisdom in questioning our nation’s priorities: specifically our willingness to place so much of our national identity, wealth, attention, moral practice, and finally the life and blood of many thousands of our citizens and millions of those of other countries in the hands of our military. A professor of history and international relations at Boston University, Bacevich served twenty-three years in the U.S. Army, retiring with the rank of colonel. He lost his son in Iraq. A graduate of the U. S. Military Academy, he received his Ph. D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. He is the author of several books, including The New American Militarism; The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism; and his newest, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War.
Monday, September 6, 2010
The recession is finally taking its toll on national, state and local unionization rates, according to UCLA's annual report on organized labor.
Following an uptick last year, unionization rates fell between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, by just more than half a percentage point in California and by a full percentage point in the five-county Los Angeles metropolitan area, researchers at UCLA's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) found.
"Given the duration and depth of the recession, it was inevitable that union jobs would be hit," said Lauren Appelbaum, the report's lead author and director of research at the IRLE. "Jobs are continuing to disappear, and unionized jobs continue to disappear along with them."
In an interview on the PBS NewsHour last Wednesday , Joe Biden was unwilling to contradict the official narrative of the Iraq War that Gen. David Petraeus and the Bush surge had turned Iraq into a good war after all. That interview serves as a reminder of just how completely the Democratic Party foreign policy elite has adopted that narrative.
The Iraq War story line crafted by the Petraeus and the new counterinsurgency elite in Washington assures the public that U.S. military power in Iraq brought about the cooperation of the Sunnis in Anbar Province, ended sectarian violence in Baghdad and defeated Iranian-backed Shi’a insurgents.
In reality, of course, that’s not what happened at all. It's time to review the relevant history and deconstruct the Petraeus narrative which the Obama administration now appears to have adopted.
GOP Politician Confirms What Was Long Suspected: Republicans Intentionally Feed the Racism, Anger, and Paranoia of the Far Right
By David Corn, Mother Jones Online
Posted on August 4, 2010, Printed on September 6, 2010
It was the middle of a tough primary contest, and Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) had convened a small meeting with donors who had contributed thousands of dollars to his previous campaigns. But this year, as Inglis faced a challenge from tea party-backed Republican candidates claiming Inglis wasn't sufficiently conservative, these donors hadn't ponied up. Inglis' task: Get them back on the team. "They were upset with me," Inglis recalls. "They are all Glenn Beck watchers." About 90 minutes into the meeting, as he remembers it, "They say, 'Bob, what don't you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn [the US] into a Muslim nation.'" Inglis didn't know how to respond.
As he tells this story, the veteran lawmaker is sitting in his congressional office, which he will have to vacate in a few months. On June 22, he was defeated in the primary runoff by Spartanburg County 7th Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy, who had assailed Inglis for supposedly straying from his conservative roots, pointing to his vote for the bank bailout and against George W. Bush's surge in Iraq. Inglis, who served six years in Congress during the 1990s as a conservative firebrand before being reelected to the House in 2004, had also ticked off right-wingers in the state's 4th Congressional District by urging tea-party activists to "turn Glenn Beck off" and by calling on Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) to apologize for shouting "You lie!" at Obama during the president's State of the Union address. For this, Inglis, who boasts (literally) a 93 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, received the wrath of the tea party, losing to Gowdy 71 to 29 percent. In the weeks since, Inglis has criticized Republican House leaders for acquiescing to a poisonous, tea party-driven "demagoguery" that he believes will undermine the GOP's long-term credibility. And he's freely recounting his frustrating interactions with tea party types, while noting that Republican leaders are pushing rhetoric tainted with racism, that conservative activists are dabbling in anti-Semitic conspiracy theory nonsense, and that Sarah Palin celebrates ignorance.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is currently saying that Dick Cheney's vision of policy towards the Middle East after 9/11 was to re-draw the map:
Vice-President Dick Cheney's vision of completely redrawing the map of the Middle East following the 9/11 attacks is "not stupid," and is "possible over time," former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says.In his new book, A Journey, the former Labour Party leader wrote that Cheney wanted a wholesale reorganization of the political map of the Middle East after 9/11. The vice president "would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it -- Hezbollah, Hamas, etc,"
Here’s the situation: The U.S. economy has been crippled by a financial crisis. The president’s policies have limited the damage, but they were too cautious, and unemployment remains disastrously high. More action is clearly needed. Yet the public has soured on government activism, and seems poised to deal Democrats a severe defeat in the midterm elections.
The president in question is Franklin Delano Roosevelt; the year is 1938. Within a few years, of course, the Great Depression was over. But it’s both instructive and discouraging to look at the state of America circa 1938 — instructive because the nature of the recovery that followed refutes the arguments dominating today’s public debate, discouraging because it’s hard to see anything like the miracle of the 1940s happening again.
Now, we weren’t supposed to find ourselves replaying the late 1930s. President Obama’s economists promised not to repeat the mistakes of 1937, when F.D.R. pulled back fiscal stimulus too soon. But by making his program too small and too short-lived, Mr. Obama did just that: the stimulus raised growth while it lasted, but it made only a small dent in unemployment — and now it’s fading out.
By John de Graaf, The Progressive
Posted on September 2, 2010, Printed on September 6, 2010
A few years ago, after finding-my way through an incredible jumble of bicycles outside her building, I met with a University of Amsterdam professor who studies work-life balance. She recounted a conversation she'd just had with the manager of the Dutch division of an American company who had come to Holland from the United States two years earlier:
Professor: Do you notice a difference between the approach to work time and free time here compared to the United States?
Manager: Yes, it dawned on me my second week on the job. It was a Friday evening, eight o'clock, and we had an important shipment to get out on Monday. I called my assistant at home, and told her to call some of the workers to get some things done on the weekend in preparation.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
The thing about Britain is that their debate is closer to the real meat and potatoes of what this argument is all about. Ours is frustratingly diverted into "Like or Dislike Obama" or "Is the Tea Party Racist" and other tangential questions.
Britain makes it clear: it's really about social democracy vs. neoliberalism.
It is important that an Open Left understand this. This is the debate that is barely allowed to be mentioned on our side of the pond but it's the crucial distinction.
When Paul Krugman argues for Keynesianism he's taking the social democratic side of this argument. But he's not allowed to say so, or at least not willing.
While discussing the September 6 Newsweek cover that highlights the commonly held and often contradictory misconceptions about Obama, Fox News contributors Angela McGlowan and John Fund disappeared the right-wing media's role in spreading the misinformation and instead attributed the misconceptions to Obama's own behavior. Indeed, Fox News and the right wing media have been at the forefront of advancing the very misinformation about Obama that Newsweek identified.
posted: 02 September 2010 02:02 pm ET
Mass extinctions have served as huge reset buttons that dramatically changed the diversity of species found in oceans all over the world, according to a comprehensive study of fossil records. The findings suggest humans will live in a very different future if they drive animals to extinction, because the loss of each species can alter entire ecosystems.
Some scientists have speculated that effects of humans — from hunting to climate change — are fueling another great mass extinction. A few go so far as to say we are entering a new geologic epoch, leaving the 10,000-year-old Holocene Epoch behind and entering the Anthropocene Epoch, marked by major changes to global temperatures and ocean chemistry, increased sediment erosion, and changes in biology that range from altered flowering times to shifts in migration patterns of birds and mammals and potential die-offs of tiny organisms that support the entire marine food chain.
Fannie Mae executives bungled their stewardship of the federal government’s massive foreclosure-prevention campaign, creating a bureaucratic muddle characterized by “mismanagement and gross waste of public funds,” according to a whistleblower lawsuit by a former Fannie Mae executive and onsultant.
Caroline Herron, a former Fannie vice president who returned to the mortgage giant in 2009 as a high-level consultant, claims that the homeowner-relief effort was marred by delays, missteps and executives preoccupied with their institution’s short-term financial interests.
AMONG the few scraps of news to emerge from Barack Obama’s vacation was the anecdote of a Martha’s Vineyard bookseller handing him an advance copy of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, “Freedom.” The book has since rocketed up the Amazon best-seller list, powered by reviews even more ecstatic than those for Franzen’s last novel, “The Corrections.” But I doubt that the president, a fine writer who draws sustenance from great American writers, has read “Freedom” yet. If he had, he never would have delivered that bloodless speech on Tuesday night.
What was so grievously missing from Obama’s address was any feeling for what has happened to our country during the seven-and-a-half-year war whose “end” he was marking. That legacy of anger and grief is what “Freedom” mainlines to its readers. In chronicling one Midwestern family as it migrates from St. Paul to Washington during the 9/11 decade, Franzen does for our traumatic time what Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities” did for the cartoonish go-go 1980s. Or perhaps, more pertinently, what “The Great Gatsby” did for the ominous boom of the 1920s. The heady intoxication of freedom is everywhere in “Freedom,” from extramarital sexual couplings to the consumer nirvana of the iPod to Operation Iraqi Freedom itself. Yet most everyone, regardless of age or calling or politics, is at war — not with terrorists, but with depression, with their consciences and with one another.
By Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes
Sunday, September 5, 2010; B04
Writing in these pages in early 2008, we put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion. This price tag dwarfed previous estimates, including the Bush administration's 2003 projections of a $50 billion to $60 billion war.
But today, as the United States ends combat in Iraq, it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war's broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected.
Moreover, two years on, it has become clear to us that our estimate did not capture what may have been the conflict's most sobering expenses: those in the category of "might have beens," or what economists call opportunity costs. For instance, many have wondered aloud whether, absent the Iraq invasion, we would still be stuck in Afghanistan. And this is not the only "what if" worth contemplating. We might also ask: If not for the war in Iraq, would oil prices have risen so rapidly? Would the federal debt be so high? Would the economic crisis have been so severe?
Obama's economic policies aren't ambitious enough to reverse America's decline.By Eliot Spitzer
Posted Friday, Sept. 3, 2010, at 2:06 PM ET
Fears that the United States is on the cusp of a Japanese-style "lost decade" are grossly overstated: We've already had it—from 2000-2010. Sure, the last two years of the decade were defined by a cataclysm of historic proportions that almost made us forget the bad news of the prior eight years.
In addressing the economic meltdown, we embraced remarkable policy responses that addressed the cataclysm but did not deal with the much deeper and more troubling crisis of our already ended lost decade. We confronted the immediate catastrophe, but not the trend line. That trend line is the cause of the justifiable anxiety of the American public.
We resolved the cataclysm by shoveling gobs of money into the financial services sector, consolidating it into a few too-big-to-fail federally guaranteed entities. But we did little or nothing to confront the job loss, income stagnation, and consequential security loss felt by the middle class, dating not just to 2008, but much further back.
There are these sudden loud noises in the hotel kitchen, one, two, three, probably a tray falling, and then there is so much screaming and a hand holding a gun high in the air and Robert Kennedy, who had walked into the gun, is on the floor with his eyes seeing nothing. On this June night in 1968 he has just won a Presidential primary and suddenly he is fit only for a gravedigger’s dirt.
It happens this way when the claws of madness swipe through the sky. In 1919 Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called it for all time, and crashingly so today, when he wrote, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”
Friday, September 3, 2010
by Les Leopold
The August unemployment numbers are ugly, yet again. Nearly 30 million Americans are still jobless or forced into part-time jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics official unemployment rate is 9.6%. It's borader and more telling jobless rate (U6) of 16.7% confirms that we're stuck in our own version of the Great Depression. We'll need more than 22 million new jobs to bring us back to full-employment. Happy Labor Day.
By Peter Boone and Simon Johnson
Is the global economic recovery still on track? The mainstream view is: yes, without a doubt. But increasingly, there are increasingly reasons to fear another financial disruption – particularly given the latest developments in Ireland.
The consensus among officials and most of the international banking community is that the global economy has stabilized and is now well down the road to recovery. The speed of this recovery is proving disappointing – as seen in the revised second-quarter growth estimate for gross domestic product in the United States, with annualized growth down to 1.6 percent. But, according to this view, easy monetary policy and still-loose fiscal policy around the world will keep sufficient momentum going.
BP is warning Congress that if lawmakers pass legislation that bars the company from getting new offshore drilling permits, it may not have the money to pay for all the damages caused by its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The company says a ban would also imperil the ambitious Gulf Coast restoration efforts that officials want the company to voluntarily support.
BP executives insist that they have not backed away from their commitment to the White House to set aside $20 billion in an escrow fund over the next four years to pay damage claims and government penalties stemming from the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The explosion killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the gulf.
Megan Carpentier | September 3, 2010, 11:02AM
On the cusp of America's celebration of labor's place in American life, the Labor Department released its monthly review of employment statistics to relatively optimistic reactions from the White House and the media, despite the fact that 54,000 fewer Americans had jobs at the end of August than did in July.
The cause for all the celebration is that the 54,000 net new unemployed Americans were mostly Census workers who expected to be unemployed by September, so the overall increase in unemployment wasn't really that bad. But, a deeper look at the numbers belies the rosy rhetoric.
Friday, September 3rd, 2010 -- 10:06 am
A business owner indicted for the human trafficking of 400 laborers from Thailand is a frequent donor to the Republican Party and recently waged war against other companies involved with hiring illegal immigrants.
The Associated Press reports that according to the allegations, "the recruiters lured the workers with false promises of lucrative jobs, then confiscated their passports, failed to honor their employment contracts and threatened to deport them."
THIS promises to be the worst Labor Day in the memory of most Americans. Organized labor is down to about 7 percent of the private work force. Members of non-organized labor — most of the rest of us — are unemployed, underemployed or underwater. The Labor Department reported on Friday that just 67,000 new private-sector jobs were created in August, while at least 125,000 are needed to keep up with the growth of the potential work force.
The national economy isn’t escaping the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. None of the standard booster rockets are working: near-zero short-term interest rates from the Fed, almost record-low borrowing costs in the bond market, a giant stimulus package and tax credits for small businesses that hire the long-term unemployed have all failed to do enough.
Next week, President Obama is scheduled to propose new measures to boost the economy. I hope they’re bold and substantive, since the Republicans will oppose him regardless — if he came out for motherhood, the G.O.P. would declare motherhood un-American. So he should put them on the spot for standing in the way of real action.
But let’s put politics aside and talk about what we’ve actually learned about economic policy over the past 20 months.
When Mr. Obama first proposed $800 billion in fiscal stimulus, there were two groups of critics. Both argued that unemployment would stay high — but for very different reasons.
Imagine a no-holds-barred "summit" that comes up with ideas to solve both our job and environmental problems. What might it come up with?
by Fran KortenAs the midterm political season heats up, one word on every politician's lips is "jobs." And for good reason. People are hurting-they can't pay their mortgages, send their kids to college, pay their dental bills. Young people are wondering if they have a place in the work world.
So the economic pundits cheer when car sales go up, housing starts rise, consumer confidence strengthens. But as the oily ooze in the Gulf tars yet another beach, we all sense something is terribly wrong. We can't keep tearing up the planet to keep ourselves employed. There must be another way.
By Nick Turse, AlterNet
Posted on September 3, 2010, Printed on September 3, 2010
In December 2008, I received an email message from Julian Assange -- the now world-famous public face of the whistleblower organization, Wikileaks. I don’t recall why or how it came about, but he invited me to join a counterinsurgency “analysis team” alongside a number of other academics, journalists and analysts.
The idea was to offer us embargoed material, much as Wikileaks recently did with the files of the Afghan War Diary -- a 6-year archive of tens of thousands of classified military documents, dealing with the U.S. war in Afghanistan -- giving the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel advance access to the documents. The reason for doing so was because Wikileaks had released a number of important U.S. military counterinsurgency manuals in the preceding months, but few reporters had shown much interest in them. Operating in a media environment where breaking the story is key and the fear of being scooped limits the amount of time and energy publications are willing to invest on documents sitting out in public, Assange carried out a trial run of a strategy that served Wikileaks exceptionally well this year.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
My first day back in New York after a year in Berlin, I got on the subway and found my end of the car dominated by an obscenity-shouting black man with a crutch and a suitcase spilling garbage. When he tried to leave the train at Penn Station, he fell and cursed so loudly at two young men who tried to help him up that they backed off. Not once in my time in Berlin did I see anything remotely like this scene. Berlin is a poor city by German standards, with homeless people and beggars and presumably mentally ill people as well. But it doesn't have the kind of destitution we take for granted in the United States, especially for African-Americans. The strong German safety net keeps people from plunging into the abyss.
Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?, Tom Geoghegan's clever and immensely appealing book contrasting Western European social democracies with laissez-faire America, is primarily concerned with the middle class, not the poor. Still, one of the many delusions of middle-class Americans is that ameliorating poverty would be, if not impossible (see Big Government, wastefulness of), a big, expensive, unfair burden that would reward the lazy and the criminal while producing no benefit to upright citizens. As Geoghegan shows, that's not true. Poverty is expensive. It costs middle-class Americans a lot to avoid the poor: in police, in prisons, in home-security systems, in ever more distant suburbs that must then be commuted from, in private schools, in anxiety and fear and hardening of the heart.
by: Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co.
Japan’s lost decades may have changed its society for the worse.
Twenty years of struggling with stagnation have left a mark, reports economics writer Charles Hugh Smith in an online article for AOL Daily Finance. He argues that the “consequences for the ‘lost generations’ that have come of age in the ‘lost decades’ have been dire.”
September 2, 2010 - 9:41am ET
Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to affect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.
Not Even Hiding It Anymore.
New Alaska Senate nominee Joe Miller tells CNN he wants to end Social Security.  "CNN's JOHN KING: How about an American born tomorrow or born the day after Joe Miller was sworn in in Washington? Would that person perhaps grow up in an America where there is not a federal Social Security program if you got your way? JOE MILLER: Absolutely."
Alan Simpson calls another Social Security defender, risks learning something. HuffPost:  "[Merton] Bernstein, who was a senior consultant to the 1983 commission that reformed Social Security, said he used the opportunity to try to educate Simpson ... 'That's not true,' Bernstein said of Simpson's claim -- which he has made in the past and repeated to Bernstein -- that the commission did not account for baby boomers. 'They very clearly and explicitly addressed that issue. That's why they built in a surplus.' ... 'Then why are they in such trouble now?' Simpson responded. Bernstein responded that they are not in fact in trouble today. The surplus is now over $2 trillion and is projected to reach $4.6 trillion."
ProPublica, Aug. 27, 4:57 p.m.
As drilling for natural gas continues in states across America, PBS’s “Need to Know ” bores down into the issue by taking a closer look at the safety concerns that surround the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing . In a report produced in collaboration with ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarten, the program investigates how fracking threatens to contaminate drinking water sources for millions of Americans.
And for those of you who complain that we don’t feature enough celebrities in our work, “Need to Know” talks to actor Mark Ruffalo  about why he opposes fracking. “Need to Know” airs over the weekend on PBS stations across the country. Click here  to find your local station and show time.
A press release from PLoS ONE
Side-by-side comparisons of organic and conventional strawberry farms and their fruit found the organic farms produced more flavorful and nutritious berries while leaving the soil healthier and more genetically diverse.
"Our findings have global implications and advance what we know about the sustainability benefits of organic farming systems," said John Reganold, Washington State University Regents professor of soil science and lead author of a paper published today in the peer-reviewed online journal, PLoS ONE. "We also show you can have high quality, healthy produce without resorting to an arsenal of pesticides."
The study is among the most comprehensive of its kind, analyzing 31 chemical and biological soil properties, soil DNA, and the taste, nutrition and quality of three strawberry varieties on more than two dozen commercial fields—13 conventional and 13 organic.
by: Bill Quigley and Laura Raymond, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis
Another false ending to the Iraq war is being declared. Nearly seven years after George Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Obama has just given a major address to mark the withdrawal of all but 50,000 combat troops from Iraq. But while thousands of US troops are marching out, thousands of additional private military contractors (PMCs) are marching in. The number of armed security contractors in Iraq will more than double in the coming months.
While the mainstream media is debating whether Iraq can be declared a victory or not, there is virtually no discussion regarding this surge in contractors. Meanwhile, serious questions about the accountability of private military contractors remain.
by: James Kwak | The Baseline Scenario | Op-Ed
Hedge fund managers may be good at investing money. (Or they may just be the beneficiaries of luck, like successful stock mutual fund managers.) But that doesn’t mean they can think clearly.Andrew Ross Sorkin comments on the letter by fund manager Daniel Loeb, a former Democratic fundraiser, criticizing the supposed anti-business policies of the Obama administration.
September 1, 2010 04:38 AM EDT
The White House deficit commission is reportedly considering deep benefit cuts for Social Security, including a steep rise in the retirement age. We cannot let that happen.
The deficit and our $13 trillion national debt are serious problems that must be addressed. But we can — and must — address them without punishing America’s workers, senior citizens, the disabled, widows and orphans.
First, let’s be clear: Despite all the right-wing rhetoric, Social Security is not going bankrupt. That’s a lie!
Wednesday September 1, 2010 10:05 am
One area of the debate over the Bush tax cuts that seems pretty cut and dried is the estate tax. Right now there is no estate tax for 2010. If we do nothing, it will revert back to the Clinton-era rates of 55% for estates over $1 million dollars (that’s a marginal tax, by the way, so the tax on an estate worth $1,000,001 would be 55 cents). Various proposals would lower the marginal tax rate and increase the exemption; the most common proposal is to permanently set the estate tax at 2009 rates, with a 45% tax on estates over $3.5 million dollars, $7 million for a couple’s estate.
What’s important to understand is that this reversion to 2009 rates permanently would cost the country $292 billion dollars, according to the Tax Policy Center. If we made it retroactive to capture the tax on estates in this holiday year of 2010, maybe it’s closer to $250 billion. But it’s still a large hole in the budget relative to current law, in a time when every deficit hawk is screaming about long-term debt.
Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 -- 7:48 pm
Peak oil has happened or will happen some time around this year, and its consequences could threaten the continued survival of democratic governments, says a secret Germany military report that was leaked online.
According to Der Spiegel, the report from a think-tank inside the German military warns that shrinking global oil supplies will threaten the world's economic foundations and possibly lead to mass-scale upheaval within the next 15 to 30 years.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service
Posted on August 31, 2010, Printed on September 1, 2010
WASHINGTON -- United States President Barack Obama's refusal in a White House briefing this month to announce a "red line" in regard to Iran's nuclear program represented another in a series of rebuffs of pressure from Defense Secretary Robert Gates for a statement that the US will not accept its existing stocks of low enriched uranium.
The Obama rebuff climaxed a months-long internal debate between Obama and Gates over the "breakout capability" issue that surfaced in the news media last April.
Were Americans misled into the Iraq war? Yes.
But Karl Rove, who served as senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, argued in the Wall Street Journal in July that his "biggest mistake" was not fighting back in 2004 when the story began to spread that the Bush administration had lied to Americans during the run-up to the Iraq war.