Monday, February 28, 2011

Revisiting the FBI's Dirty War on Black America

by: Earl Ofari Hutchinson | New America Media | Op-Ed

Thanks to a CNN documentary airing this week, the tale of FBI informant Ernest Withers is now well known. The black photographer spent years busily documenting the civil rights movement and capturing candid images of its leaders, most notably Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whether through flattery or the naiveté of his subjects, Withers and his camera were able to get close— very close— to the movement’s inner circles. He got so close that King and others trusted him to record their most intimate moments—ones that Withers would dutifully report back to his FBI handlers.

Paul Krugman: Leaving Children Behind

Will 2011 be the year of fiscal austerity? At the federal level, it’s still not clear: Republicans are demanding draconian spending cuts, but we don’t yet know how far they’re willing to go in a showdown with President Obama. At the state and local level, however, there’s no doubt about it: big spending cuts are coming.

And who will bear the brunt of these cuts? America’s children.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Paradigms Lost? Cowboys and Indians in the Battle Over Economic Ideas

One of the most interesting organizations to come out of the crisis is the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), which is dedicated to “fresh insight and thinking to promote changes in economic theory and practice.” I attended its first conference in April 2010. The mood was optimistic. Rational expectations theories, the efficient markets hypothesis, capital account openness, Ricardian equivalence, were all on the chopping block. The book of the conference was Skidelsky’s The Return of the Master. We were all Keynesians now, again…for about eight months.

Then came the ECB June 2010 Monthly Report that raised the specter of ‘Ricardian consumers’ and ‘expectation effects,’ while the G20 meeting that same month (coincidence?) focused attention upon ‘Growth Friendly Fiscal Consolidation’ and the overwhelming need to reduce debt. Led by the UK (whose net debt-to-GDP ratio was at that time was below the Maastricht threshold) the voices of orthodoxy quickly regrouped and triumphed. Austerity and belt-tightening gained traction as the advocates of a reinvigorated Keynesianism shifted their sights from dismembering the neoclassical corpus to simply maintaining the legitimacy of spending under any circumstances.

Yes, America Still Needs Unions

Posted on Feb 23, 2011

By Joe Conason

“There was once a need for unions, but they’ve outlived their purpose,” said a nice lady interviewed on the radio in Tennessee just the other day. Annoyed by the spectacle of tens of thousands of teachers, firefighters, cops and other public employees rallying to protect their rights in Wisconsin, she was saying what more than a few Americans think about the labor movement.

They ought to think again—unless they want their children and grandchildren to become the peons of a corporate oligarchy.

REPORT: Top 10 Disastrous Policies From The Wisconsin GOP You Haven’t Heard About

As the standoff between the Main Street Movement and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) continues for the twelfth day, much of the media coverage — and anger — from both sides has focused on Walker’s efforts to strip Wisconsin public workers of their right to collective bargaining. But Walker’s assault on public employees is only one part of a larger political program that aims to give corporations free reign in the state while dismantling the healthcare programs, environmental regulations, and good government laws that protect Wisconsin’s middle and working class. These lesser known proposals in the 144-page bill reveal how radical Walker’s plan actually is

Cummings Backs Obama With Mortgage Fraud Investigation

Susan Crabtree | February 25, 2011, 4:59PM

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is backing President Obama's hard line on mortgage abuses with his own wide-ranging investigation into foreclosure fraud.

Obama has been trying to broker a deal that would have the nation's largest mortgage lenders agree to cough up as much as $30 billion in fines to settle state and federal claims they abused borrowers and illegally foreclosed on homes, according to media reports citing state and federal officials engaged in the discussions.

Frank Rich: Why Wouldn’t the Tea Party Shut It Down?

NO one remembers anything in America, especially in Washington, so the history of the Great Government Shutdown of 1995 is being rewritten with impunity by Republicans flirting with a Great Government Shutdown of 2011. The bottom line of the revisionist spin is this: that 2011 is no 1995. Should the unthinkable occur on some coming budget D-Day — or perhaps when the deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling arrives this spring — the G.O.P. is cocksure that it can pin the debacle on the Democrats.

In the right’s echo chamber, voters are seen as so fed up with deficits that they’ll put principle over temporary inconveniences — like, say, a halt in processing new Social Security applicants or veterans’ benefit checks. Who needs coddled government workers to deal with those minutiae anyway? As Mike Huckabee has cheerfully pointed out, many more federal services are automated now than in the olden days of the late 20th century. Phone trees don’t demand pensions.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Geithner’s Gamble

Simon Johnson


LOS ANGELES – In a recent interview, United States Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner laid out his view of the nature of world economic growth and the role of the US financial sector. It is a deeply disturbing vision, one that amounts to a huge, uninformed gamble with the future of the American economy – and that suggests that Geithner remains the senior public official worldwide who is most in thrall to the self-serving ideology of big banks.

Geithner argues that the world will now experience a major “financial deepening,” owing to growing demand in emerging markets for financial products and services. He is thinking, of course, of “middle-income” countries like India, China, and Brazil. And he is right to emphasize that all have made terrific progress and now offer great opportunities for the rising middle class, which wants to accumulate savings, borrow more easily (for productive investment, home purchases, education, etc), and, more generally, smooth out consumption.

Fox News Chief, Roger Ailes, Urged Employee to Lie, Records Show

Published: February 24, 2011

It was an incendiary allegation — and a mystery of great intrigue in the media world: After the publishing powerhouse Judith Regan was fired by HarperCollins in 2006, she claimed that a senior executive at its parent company, News Corporation, had encouraged her to lie two years earlier to federal investigators who were vetting Bernard B. Kerik for the job of homeland security secretary.

Defense Secretary Gates warns against more land wars in Asia

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, February 25th, 2011 -- 9:52 pm

WEST POINT MILITARY ACADEMY, New York — Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Friday against committing the US military to big land wars in Asia or the Middle East, saying anyone proposing otherwise "should have his head examined."

Gates offered the blunt advice -- hard won after a decade of bitter conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq -- in what he said would be his last speech to cadets at the US Army's premier school for training future officers.

Why We Kick Others When We're Down

by Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor
Date: 25 February 2011 Time: 02:21 PM ET

Just failed a test or screwed up a project at work? Chances are more likely you'll put down others who are different from you to try to lift yourself back up, a new study suggests.

"This is one of the oldest accounts of why people stereotype and have prejudice: It makes us feel better about ourselves," says Jeffrey Sherman of the University of California, Davis, who co-wrote the study. "When we feel bad about ourselves, we can denigrate other people, and that makes us feel better about ourselves."

Really Bad Reporting in Wisconsin: Who 'Contributes' to Public Workers' Pensions?

David Cay Johnston | Feb. 24, 2011 12:16 PM EST

When it comes to improving public understanding of tax policy, nothing has been more troubling than the deeply flawed coverage of the Wisconsin state employees' fight over collective bargaining.

Economic nonsense is being reported as fact in most of the news reports on the Wisconsin dispute, the product of a breakdown of skepticism among journalists multiplied by their lack of understanding of basic economic principles.

Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to "contribute more" to their pension and health insurance plans.

Microcredit Critics Say Debt Doesn't Equal Emancipation

by Kanya D'Almeida

UNITED NATIONS - In response to a pelting critique from academics, economists and grassroots organizers worldwide, the 2011 State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report plans to address the controversies surrounding a development scheme that many believe to have failed.

The report, which is set to be released Mar. 7 in Washington D.C. to great fanfare, will be presented by the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, a man who has earned himself a reputation as either the Superman of poverty-alleviation or the Judas of social change, depending on who you talk to.

ANALYSIS — An Illuminating Expedition to the World of the Uninsured

By Wendell Potter | February 17, 2011

As Congressional Republicans seek ways to starve the new health care reform law of necessary funding — and Democrats try to keep that from happening — it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons why reform was pursued in the first place.

For a reminder, lawmakers might want to spend a few hours in Nashville this weekend. I’m betting they would behave differently when they got back to Washington on Monday.

Hydrofracked? One Man’s Mystery Leads to a Backlash Against Natural Gas Drilling

by Abrahm Lustgarten
ProPublica, Feb. 25, 2011, 6 a.m.

There are few things a family needs to survive more than fresh drinking water. And Louis Meeks, a burly, jowled Vietnam War hero who had long ago planted his roots on these sparse eastern Wyoming grasslands, was drilling a new well in search of it.

The drill bit spun, whining against the alluvial mud and rock that folds beneath the Wind River Range foothills. It ploughed to 160 feet, but the water that spurted to the surface smelled foul, like a parking lot puddle drenched in motor oil. It was no better — yet — than the water Meeks needed to replace.

Behind The Assault On Planned Parenthood

First Posted: 02/25/11 02:19 PM
Updated: 02/25/11 03:14 PM

WASHINGTON -- The House Republican move to strip federal funds from the nation's most well-known reproductive health care provider as part of its budget last week was the culmination of a multi-year effort that involved parallel action by top Republicans and conservative media operatives playing up the work of a California college student who has been creating surreptitious videos of Planned Parenthood employees for years.

The student, Lila Rose, is the president of an organization called Live Action that pays actors to walk into Planned Parenthood offices with hidden cameras, much as James O'Keefe did to undermine the community-organizing group ACORN. The Live Action stars pretend to be a pimp and a prostitute engaged in human trafficking and looking for birth control, STD testing and abortions. The videos that the organization puts out can be convincing and disturbing -- and in at least two cases were found by Planned Parenthood to be legitimate cause for dismissals -- but thorough, frame-by-frame reviews of the full-length videos show that what is posted on YouTube often bears little relation to what happened in reality, due to heavy editing that alters the meaning of conversations.

Only the Wealthiest Americans Favor Stripping Workers' Collective Bargaining Rights

A poll conducted by Gallup earlier this week found that Americans opposed stripping public employees' of their right to negotiate with their employers by a margin of 2 to 1. It got a lot of play (as did Fox News reversing the results and reporting that 61 percent of the public favored the GOP's union-busting).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Money to the People

Delivering foreign aid directly to the world's poor by electronic transfer would cut waste and reduce corruption.

By Henry Jackelen and Jamie Zimmerman
Posted Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, at 7:05 AM ET

Earlier this year, the $21.7 billion Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria was forced to retract or suspend millions of dollars in aid after rampant corruption was discovered. An audit of a modest portion of selected programs found staggering percentages of money misspent or unaccounted for: 67 percent in Mauritania; 36 percent in Mali; and 30 percent in Djibouti. There were also serious concerns involving millions of dollars sent to Zambia. Even more remarkable, though, was the fund's response to the resulting criticism.

Gunrunning scandal uncovered at the ATF

Program aimed at stopping the flow of weapons from the US to Mexico may have allegedly had the opposite effect

By Sharyl Attkisson

WASHINGTON - Keeping American weapons from getting into the hands of Mexican gangs is the goal of a program called "Project Gunrunner." But critics say it's doing exactly the opposite. CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports on what she found.

December 14, 2010. The place: a dangerous smuggling route in Arizona not far from the border. A special tactical border squad was on patrol when gunfire broke out and agent Brian Terry was killed.

Senator vows to reform the PATRIOT Act

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 -- 10:37 pm

A Democratic senator from Oregon said Tuesday that Congress must use the three month extension of the PATRIOT Act to amend the legislation so that it does not violate American's civil liberties.

"Americans deserve laws that strike the best possible balance between fighting terrorism ferociously and protecting the rights and freedoms of law-abiding American citizens," Senator Ron Wyden, a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement.

Little historical evidence to support cutting global health aid during recessions

Boston, MA – The World Bank and World Health Organization have voiced fears that policymakers will break their commitments to support desperately needed global health services in low- and middle-income countries because of the ongoing global economic downturn. Yet, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health, there is surprisingly little historical evidence to justify reversing these commitments.

"In order to achieve a sustainable economic recovery, governments must first take care of people's most basic health needs," said David Stuckler, assistant professor of political economy at HSPH and lead author of the study. "Our findings remind us that there are alternative ways to finance recovery than by cutting vital health services to the world's poorest and most vulnerable groups."

The study appears February 25, 2011, in an advance online edition of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

Despicable: Tea Partier Asks "Who's Going to Shoot President Obama?" Gets Laughs

Rep. Paul Broun (R) of Georgia, one of Congress' most right-wing members, hosted a town-hall event in his district this week. This wouldn't be especially noteworthy were it not for one of the questions he received from a constituent: "Who is going to shoot President Obama?"

The exact wording of the question is not clear because, the Athens Banner-Herald reports, there was a lot of noise at the event. Perhaps more significant than the question was the response of the crowd and Broun, who is a member of the Tea Party Caucus and one of the most right-wing members of Congress.

Corporate-Funded Online 'Astroturfing' Is More Advanced and More Automated Than You Might Think

By George Monbiot, The Guardian
Posted on February 24, 2011, Printed on February 25, 2011

Every month more evidence piles up, suggesting that online comment threads and forums are being hijacked by people who aren’t what they seem to be. The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations: fake grassroots campaigns, which create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies. This deception is most likely to occur where the interests of companies or governments come into conflict with the interests of the public. For example, there’s a long history of tobacco companies creating astroturf groups to fight attempts to regulate them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Paul Krugman: Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.

Here’s a thought: maybe Madison, Wis., isn’t Cairo after all. Maybe it’s Baghdad — specifically, Baghdad in 2003, when the Bush administration put Iraq under the rule of officials chosen for loyalty and political reliability rather than experience and competence.

As many readers may recall, the results were spectacular — in a bad way. Instead of focusing on the urgent problems of a shattered economy and society, which would soon descend into a murderous civil war, those Bush appointees were obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision. Indeed, with looters still prowling the streets of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy, told a Washington Post reporter that one of his top priorities was to “corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises” — Mr. Bremer’s words, not the reporter’s — and to “wean people from the idea the state supports everything.”

Does Academia Discriminate Against Conservatives? Unlikely

by: Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co. | Op-Ed

Ideas are not equivalent to race. Yet now and then you hear stories in the United States that treat ideological divides as being somehow comparable to racial discrimination.

At a Jan. 27 gathering in Texas of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the topic of underrepresentation of conservatives in academics came up during a speech given by the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia. According to an article by John Tierney for The New York Times, Dr. Haidt noted that polls conducted in the United States show that 40 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservative and 20 percent as liberal. An on-the-spot poll showed that about 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the room identified themselves as liberal.

How Quickly They Forget

Following the recall of millions of toys from China because of lead paint and other hazards, Congress got its act together in 2008 and passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Bipartisan majorities rallied around the idea that the government should ensure that products — whether they’re made abroad or here — won’t sicken or maim American consumers or their children.

The new Republican-led House seems determined to roll back those protections. As part of their slash-and-burn continuing resolution, they cut all the financing — some $3 million this year — for a core provision of the safety bill: a database where consumers could report product hazards and the public could check products before buying them.

Does The U.S. Really Have A Fiscal Crisis?

By Simon Johnson

The United States faces some serious medium-term fiscal issues, but by any standard measure it does not face an immediate fiscal crisis. Overindebted countries typically have a hard time financing themselves when the world becomes riskier – yet turmoil in the Middle East is pushing down the interest rates on US government debt. We are still seen as a safe haven.

Yet leading commentators and politicians today repeat the line “we’re broke” and argue there is no alternative other than immediate spending cuts at the national and state level.

Which view is correct? And what does this tell us about where our political system is heading?

Private sector loans, not Fannie or Freddie, triggered crisis

WASHINGTON — As the economy worsens and Election Day approaches, a conservative campaign that blames the global financial crisis on a government push to make housing more affordable to lower-class Americans has taken off on talk radio and e-mail.

Commentators say that's what triggered the stock market meltdown and the freeze on credit. They've specifically targeted the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the federal government seized on Sept. 6, contending that lending to poor and minority Americans caused Fannie's and Freddie's financial problems.

Internet 'kill switch' bill gets a makeover

by Declan McCullagh

A Senate proposal that has become known as the Internet "kill switch" bill was reintroduced this week, with a tweak its backers say eliminates the possibility of an Egypt-style disconnection happening in the United States.

As CNET reported last month, the 221-page bill hands Homeland Security the power to issue decrees to certain privately owned computer systems after the president declares a "national cyberemergency." A section in the new bill notes that does not include "the authority to shut down the Internet," and the name of the bill has been changed to include the phrase "Internet freedom."

Troops or Private Contractors: Who Does Better in Supplying Our Troops During War?

We continue our series on the Department of Defense (DoD) with another solution from Charles Smith. As I mentioned last week, Mr. Smith was a career procurement officer whose career was cut short when he was the chief of the Field Support Contracting Division of the Army Field Support Command and tried to get control of the costs and use of the infamous Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contract with KBR to supply the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. More about his brave fight against the company and intransient Army bureaucracy can be found in this New York Times article.

For this column, he tackles the longtime argument from the DoD, especially the Army, that contractors can do the job supporting the troops cheaper than Army military and civilian personnel (organic support units in DoD speak). This is a subject that is personal for me; for years, I have been championing for change. While Mr. Smith was fighting the internal Army politics over their KBR LOGCAP contracts during the beginning of these wars, I was researching and writing a book on how using contractors can be disastrous for the troops and should not become a permanent solution. The book, "Betraying Our Troops: the Destructive Results of Privatizing War," paralleled many of the problems that Mr. Smith has found with the heavy use of private contractors on the battlefield.

Rick Santorum: The Crusades Get A Bad Rap!

Jillian Rayfield | February 23, 2011, 3:34PM

If you were worried there wouldn't be a 2012 candidate touting the pro-Crusades platform, then today is your lucky day!

"The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical," former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) told a South Carolina audience yesterday. "And that is what the perception is by the American left who hates Christendom."

Five Reasons to Hate the Continuing Resolution

There are plenty of reasons to hate the continuing resolution the House passed Friday. Here are but a few.

Adam Serwer | February 22, 2011

Last Friday, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through the end of the year. In it, they slash funding for key liberal priorities while blocking Obama administration efforts to enforce key regulations. The funding bill has yet to go through the Democratic-controlled Senate, where a legislative impasse between the two parties could lead to a government shutdown. But there's already plenty to be frustrated about.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rachel on Wisconsin: Will Democrats defend unions or let them die?

by Gaius Publius 2/22/2011 01:40:00 PM

This starts out as a story about the wickedness in Wisconsin — new wingnut governor Scott Walker and his "fierce advocacy" (hmm) of union-busting — and ends up as a story about us.

So let's start. In the following Rachel Maddow Show clip, Rachel discusses how the blot in Wisconsin's milkbowl isn't a fight about money, but about something else — Republicans who are willing to go to the mat for their misguided (there's a kind word) principles; and Democrats who maybe aren't.

Why Monsanto Always Wins

Mike Ludwig | Tuesday 22 February 2011

The recent approval of Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa is one of most divisive controversies in American agriculture, but in 2003, it was simply the topic at hand in a string of emails between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Monsanto. In the emails, federal regulators and Monsanto officials shared edits to a list of the USDA's questions about Monsanto's original petition to fully legalize the alfalfa. Later emails show a USDA regulator accepted Monsanto's help with drafting the initial environmental assessment (EA) of the alfalfa and planned to "cut and paste" parts of Monsanto's revised petition right into the government's assessment.

 It's unclear if such internal cooperation continues under the current administration, but regulators still openly rely on data and research provided by the biotech industry when approving GE technology.

Oscar-Nominated 'Gasland' Director Calls Latest Attack on His Film 'Outlandish' and Tells Why the Industry Is Getting Desperate

Josh Fox talks about why the gas industry is losing control of the message and how it has underestimated the power of citizens affected by gas drilling.

When the gas industry sent an open letter this month to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences demanding it revoke its best documentary nomination for the gas-drilling exposé Gasland, many seemed surprised by this brazen missive.

Gasland director Josh Fox wasn't one of those people.

The Less Discussed Part of Walker’s Wisconsin Plan: No-Bid Energy Assets Firesales.

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on February 21, 2011

Have you heard about 16.896?

The fight in Wisconsin is over Governor Walker’s 144-page Budget Repair Bill. The parts everyone is focusing on have to do with the right to collectively bargain being stripped from public sector unions (except for the unions that supported Walker running for Governor). Focusing on this misses a large part of what the bill would do. Check out this language, from the same bill (my bold):

16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Scientist finds Gulf bottom still oily, dead

WASHINGTON – Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a top scientist's video and slides that she says demonstrate the oil isn't degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the sea floor.

That report is at odds with a recent report by the BP spill compensation czar that said nearly all will be well by 2012.

At a science conference in Washington Saturday, marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia aired early results of her December submarine dives around the BP spill site. She went to places she had visited in the summer and expected the oil and residue from oil-munching microbes would be gone by then. It wasn't.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How the Democrats Killed Roosevelt’s Dream of the Affordable Home

Posted on Feb 17, 2011
By Robert Scheer

It’s the same the whole world over
It’s the poor what gets the blame
It’s the rich what gets the pleasure
Ain’t it all a bloomin’ shame?

That chorus of the nineteenth-century Cockney ditty “She Was Poor But She Was Honest,” detailing the travails of a poor lass whose life is ruined by the deflowering advances of a rich man, best captures the mainstream Republican response to the banking meltdown. Their defense has been to blame “bleeding-heart” liberals concerned for the poor for a debacle that occurred unmistakably on their watch, and in response to their antiregulatory ideology, but for which they shuddered to take responsibility.

The effort to shift blame from Wall Street moguls to the poor who took loans they could not afford, while illogical given the frenzy with which those loans were marketed, is also understandable as an act of political desperation. Blame those being swindled rather than the swindlers has been the mantra of America’s right wing bereft of any other explanation for the debacle that will allow them to continue their ways.

Dems Closed Much Larger Budget Shortfall In Wisconsin Without Destroying Worker Rights

Brian Beutler | February 18, 2011, 4:09PM

We know that Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker is framing his bid to roll back public sector worker rights as a necessary measure of fiscal austerity. And we know that's basically bogus. But how bogus? And how accurate are the dire warnings of fiscal crisis? And how standard are the tools Walker's using to address it?

The answers in order: very, overblown, and unconventional.

Flash crash panel calls for market overhaul

By Reuters
Friday, February 18th, 2011 -- 12:22 pm

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. regulators should stem the growing tide of anonymous stock-trading and consider charging high-frequency traders fees for the disproportionate amount of orders they send into the marketplace, said a panel of experts advising how to avoid another "flash crash."

The report laying out 14 recommendations for the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission contains some fresh ideas.

Taken together they would significantly overhaul the high-speed market that has gone almost completely electronic in the last decade.

Frank Rich: The G.O.P.’s Post-Tucson Traumatic Stress Disorder

Six weeks after that horrific day in Tucson, America has half-forgotten its violent debate over the power of violent speech to incite violence. It’s Gabrielle Giffords’s own power of speech that rightly concerns us now. But all those arguments over political language did leave a discernible legacy. In the aftermath of President Obama’s Tucson sermon, civility has had a mini-restoration in Washington. And some of the most combative national figures in our politics have been losing altitude ever since, much as they did after Bill Clinton’s oratorical response to the inferno of Oklahoma City.

Glenn Beck’s ratings at Fox News continued their steady decline, falling to an all-time low last month. He has lost 39 percent of his viewers in a year and 48 percent of the prime 25-to-54 age demographic. His strenuous recent efforts to portray the Egyptian revolution as an apocalyptic leftist-jihadist conspiracy have inspired more laughs than adherents.

How we manage water resources has a direct impact on our health, says Canada Research Chair

For Margot Parkes, Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems and Society at the University of Northern British Columbia, watersheds are living systems that are essential for healthy communities.

"My research focuses on the relationships between ecosystems and health," says Parkes, who presents her work at the THINK CANADA Press Breakfast panel discussion today at AAAS. Originally trained as a medical doctor, Parkes says it is important to take a holistic view of the issue.

The Education Reform Fig Leaf Is Finally Stripped Away

I worked as a Tennessee teacher for almost 20 year before coming to higher education, where I have taught for the past dozen years or so. Never would I have imagined when I left Tennessee schools in 1996 that 15 years later I would be watching a full frontal attack waged to eliminate or neutralize collective bargaining, job security, due process, and the last shreds of academic freedom of Tennessee teachers. But then, it’s not just in Tennessee or just teachers, for this war is being waged on workers in the public or private sectors in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, and elsewhere. This crusade is inspired, funded, and directed by a handful of billionaires who are guided neither by political allegiance nor moral compass. These oligarchs, rather, see workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain as the final stumbling block to the creation of a corporate state that is unimpeded in its aspirations for social control and unrestrained greed and, thus, unchecked by either labor laws or considerations or workers' rights.
Pitted now against this billionaires’ campaign on teachers in Tennessee is the tepid and weak-kneed Tennessee Education Association. This is the same TEA that I remember from my time as a Tennessee teacher, the professional organization that we joined for the liability insurance coverage, not any anything significant they did for teaching. As easy as TEA was to roll in those days, the big difference now is that TEA is even friendlier to “education reform” than it was in the 80s and 90s. Back then, at least there was some modest and low-key protestation when Governor Lamar Alexander installed the Career Ladder Program, which left teacher salaries so low that I and many of my Career Level III colleagues back then worked part-time in the evenings so that we could afford to buy a house or take our families on a vacation.

The real reason for public finance crisis

If you want to know why we have budget deficits all over, look no further than the roaring success of corporate tax avoidance

Richard Wolff
Saturday 19 February 2011 20.00 GMT

Nothing better shows corporate control over the government than Washington's basic response to the current economic crisis. First, we had "the rescue", then "the recovery". Trillions in public money flowed to the biggest US banks, insurance companies, etc. That "bailed" them out (is it just me or is there a suggestion of criminality in that phrase?), while we waited for benefits to "trickle down" to the rest of us.

As usual, the "trickle-down" part has not happened. Large corporations and their investors kept the government's money for themselves; their profits and stock market "recovered" nicely. We get unemployment, home-foreclosures, job benefit cuts and growing job insecurity. As the crisis hits states and cities, politicians avoid raising corporate taxes in favour of cutting government services and jobs – witness Wisconsin, etc.

Cutting $100 Billion?... Easy

If Only Washington Had a Brain
By Tom Engelhardt

Here’s the latest news from Congress, in case you’ve been in Afghanistan for the last couple of weeks. A debate about slashing the federal budget is now upon us, while fears of a possible government shutdown as spring approaches are on the rise. The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives originally picked $40 billion as its target figure for cuts to the as-yet-not-enacted 2011 budget. That was the gauntlet it threw down to the Obama administration, only to find its own proposal slashed to bits by the freshman class of that body's conservative majority.

They insisted on adhering to a Republican Pledge to America vow to cut $100 billion from the budget. With that figure back on the table, Democrats are gasping, while pundits are predicting widespread pain in the land, including the possible loss of at least 70,000 jobs “as government aid to cops, teachers, and research is slashed.”

Report: Public employees make less, including benefits, than private workers

Gov. Scott Walker argues that public employees can sacrifice more of their paychecks for health insurance and retirement because they pay so little for those benefits compared to workers at private companies.

Walker is correct about the disparity, but a new report by the liberal Economic Policy Institute suggests that looking at benefits alone is misleading.

The study looks at total compensation - pay and benefits together - and found that public workers earn 4.8 percent less than private sector employees with the same qualifications and traits doing similar jobs.

Why Are Some Pundits and Politicans Hell-Bent on Underminig Social Security, in Spite of Its Success and Strength?

By Joe Conason, AlterNet
Posted on February 17, 2011, Printed on February 20, 2011

Among the mysteries of modern politics in America is why so many of our leading pundits and politicians persistently seek to undermine Social Security, that enduring and successful emblem of active government. In the current atmosphere of budgetary panic, self-proclaimed "centrists" are joining with ideologues of the right in yet another campaign against the program -- and yet again they are misinforming the public about its purposes, costs and prospects.

Among the puzzling aspects of the crusade against Social Security is the zeal that animates its enemies, as if the present and future recipients of those monthly checks were somehow fattening themselves at the expense of future generations. Whatever drives these well-fed but poorly informed commentators, it isn't the facts.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Republican Duo Supported by Energy Industry Seek to Rein in EPA on Coal Ash

For months now, political pressure has mounted against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate for the first time the disposal of coal ash — an environmental hazard fouling water supplies and threatening communities across the country. The impact of coal ash has been highlighted by the Center for Public Integrity in a series of stories.

This week, the pressure on regulators took a new turn as two Republican congressmen inserted language in a must-pass spending bill that would stop the EPA from moving forward to protect the public and the environment from the hazards of coal ash.

The Republican Strategy

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class – pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don’t believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.

By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.

The Issue of the Decade

Mary Landrieu said a few days back that dealing with the deficit is the "issue of the decade." And this is from a Democrat.

The inside-the-Beltway mentality creates its own Bizarro World, brain-dead obsessions that are so distorted compared to the real world, that it completely takes one's breath away. The fact that both parties are focused on the same obsessions is a tribute to the power of the framing machine the Wall Street-backed conservative media has created.

I write this even though I do actually think getting a handle on the long-term structural deficit is very important both economically and politically. Being the Midwestern Methodist I am, the kind of debt we are running up makes me very unsettled, and paying hundreds of billions of dollars in interest does the economy no good. I also think that, politically, Democrats and progressives always will have trouble making the case for doing the kinds of things we want government to do unless we make progress on bringing the federal deficit under control. I think progressives should do what Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and organizations like Demos (a client), the Campaign for America's Future and others have done, and put out their own plans for reducing the deficit. But having said all that, to mindlessly parrot Republican, panic-inducing talking points about the deficit being the issue of the decade is as wrong as can be.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Funded by the Koch Bros.

The politician trying to eviscerate public-sector unions is in sync with one of his largest financial backers—the right's infamous billionaire brothers.

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, whose bill to kill collective bargaining rights [1] for public-sector unions has caused an uproar [2] among state employees, might not be where he is today without the Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch are conservative titans of industry who have infamously used their vast wealth to undermine President Obama [3] and fight legislation they detest, such as the cap-and-trade climate bill, the health care reform act, and the economic stimulus package. For years, the billionaires have made extensive political donations to Republican candidates across the country and have provided millions of dollars to astroturf right-wing organizations. Koch Industries' political action committee has doled out more than $2.6 million to candidates. And one prominent beneficiary of the Koch brothers' largess is Scott Walker.

Republican Governor Deliberately Spent Wisconsin Surplus To Pick Fight With Unions

It's important that people understand this: This is a fight Gov. Walker picked for the specific purpose of breaking the unions. Wisconsin had a surplus, and as soon as he was sworn in, Walker gave it away to special interests in order to put the state into deficit. Is it a coincidence that every Republican governor is suddenly going after the unions and the pensions? Is it simply bubbling up from the ground for no special reason? Hell, no.

Rep. Chris Murphy Announces Bill To End Supreme Court Immunity To Judicial Ethics Law

The Code of Conduct for United States Judges provides that in almost all circumstances, “a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities.” Yet, because the Justices of the Supreme Court have exempted themselves from this Code, conservative Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito have all participated in high-dollar fundraisers for right-wing political causes. In response to this unethical — but technically legal — conduct by these three justices, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) is pushing a bill that would end the Supreme Court’s immunity to federal ethics law

Are We Headed For Massive Oil Price Spikes? Leaked Cables Claim Saudi Oil Reserves Grossly Overstated

By Jeremy Leggett, The Guardian
Posted on February 10, 2011, Printed on February 19, 2011

John Vidal's report on US diplomatic cables from Saudi Arabia raises the spectre of premature peak oil: an unexpected deline in global oil production in an oil-dependent world. The US government is among many administrations that routinely reassure the public that supplies of oil can go on growing far into the future. But in private, top diplomats have been telling Washington that they hold deep concerns about supplies from the world's number one supplier. This is an issue that has far-reaching consequences for an oil-importing nation like the UK, and for the global economy.

George Monbiot comes out fighting on 'Left Hook' tour

The opening bout between Monbiot and his critics took place at Warwick Arts Centre, where he proved a deft fighter

Plastered on the campus walls leading to Warwick Arts Centre are student posters offering two very different meetings. One publicises UK Uncut, the grassroots movement against corporate tax dodging, the other an economic summit sponsored by RBS, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Barclays Wealth. And both in their contrasting ways also feature in "Gentleman" George Monbiot's Left Hook tour.

On Wednesday night I joined about a hundred people at the centre for the opening night of the tour. Billed as the "Guardian newspaper's unbeaten intellectual heavyweight champion of free speech", it is the first time in many years Monbiot has been on the road. And while admitting to some pre-fight nerves, he was also clearly relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against all comers on any subject.

The Real Reason Glenn Beck Hates Google

By Mark Howard, News Corpse
Posted on February 19, 2011, Printed on February 19, 2011

It's getting harder and harder to keep up with Glenn Beck's conspiracy delusions. If it isn't health care reform being a backdoor to reparations for slavery, it's Cash-for-Clunkers being a plot to let the government take control of your computer. Or food safety regulations being an excuse to raise prices so that people starve. Or that chemical trails from airplanes are actually missiles from a Chinese submarine off the coast of Santa Monica.

Lately Beck has taken to accusing Google of somehow being in cahoots with the federal government to foment unrest around the world or recruit our youth into socialist conclaves or ... who knows what. He is certain that whatever it is, it is evil.

Top 4 Victories Handed to Corporate America by the Supreme Court -- So Far

By Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown
Posted on February 19, 2011, Printed on February 19, 2011

One of the great works of American political literature is Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, first published in 1906. From A-Z, Bierce offered about a thousand irreverent definitions of political, legal, and cultural terms, getting much closer to the truth of what the words really mean than the formal definitions you'll find in Webster's. For example, consider this stinger: "LAWFUL, adj. Compatible with the will of a judge having jurisdiction."

A century later, Bierce's elucidation of the term pretty well nails the Roberts Court, the five-man junta of Chief Justice John Roberts and his fellow black-robed corporados on the Supreme Court: Sam Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. For these extremist judicial activists, 'lawful' is whatever they will it to mean, even if their rulings defy logic, reality, the will of the people, the Founders' clear intentions, legal precedent, common sense, and any sane measure of justice.

States ignored warnings on unemployment insurance

WASHINGTON – State officials had plenty of warning. Over the past three decades, two national commissions and a series of government audits sounded alarms about the dwindling amount of money states were setting aside to pay unemployment insurance to laid-off workers.

"Trust Fund Reserves Inadequate," federal auditors said in a 1988 report.

It's clear now the warnings were pretty much ignored. Instead, states kept whittling away at the trust funds, mostly by cutting unemployment insurance taxes at the behest of the business community. The low balances hastened insolvency when the recession hit, leading about 30 states to borrow $41.5 billion from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits to their growing population of jobless.

The ramifications will be felt for years.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?

Financial crooks brought down the world's economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them

Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

"Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail," he said. "That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that."

I put down my notebook. "Just that?"

"That's right," he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there."

Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.

Republicans seek to quash ‘net neutrality’ rules

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, February 17th, 2011 -- 5:14 pm

WASHINGTON — Republican members of the US Senate and House of Representatives are seeking to quash rules approved by US telecom regulators designed to ensure an open Internet.

The five-member Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in a vote split on party lines, agreed in December to the rules aimed at safeguarding "network neutrality," the principle that lawful Web traffic should be treated equally.

Loan Mod Program Left Homeowner’s Fate in Hands of Dysfunctional Industry

by Olga Pierce and Paul Kiel
ProPublica, Feb. 17, 2011, 5:03 p.m

Last February, with 6 million homeowners in danger of losing their homes, the mortgage industry was assembled at a luxury hotel in San Diego applauding themselves—literally.

“As a group, we owe ourselves a round of applause,” said Yvette Gilmore, vice president of loss mitigation at Freddie Mac, citing the industry’s efforts to avoid foreclosures, garnering loud clapping from the ballroom full of bank executives, lawyers and others in the industry.

Gov. Chris Christie: The Biggest Sham In American Politics

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is being puffed up by many conservatives as the refreshing, straight-talking principled budget slasher that could lead a nationwide right-wing resurgence. Yesterday, conservatives drooled as Christie gave a trademark performance at the American Enterprise Institute conservative think tank. [1]

"Performance" is the operative word. There is nothing straight about Christie's talk.

Far from refreshing, Christie's main brand of politics is the well-worn practice of scapegoating, under the guise of, in his words, "doing the big things and being courageous."

House Dem reveals abortion on the House floor

By Greg Sargent

Strong stuff from Dem Rep. Jackie Speier of California, who delivered an emotional speech on the House floor last night, revealing she had an abortion as she dressed down a Republican colleague for trivializing the decisionmaking that goes into deciding whether to undergo the procedure

'The Next Rush Limbaugh': Conservatives Pumping Right-Wing Young People into Media Jobs

This year's Conservative Political Action Conference offered such panels as "Freelance Writing for Freedom" and "Want to be the Next Rush Limbaugh?"

February 18, 2011 | This year at the Conservative Political Action Committee in Washington, D.C., there were a number of targeted media trainings and journalism-oriented panels. A panel titled “Shining Light into Dark Places” sought to stress the importance of investigative journalism. Others included “Freelance Writing for Freedom,” “So You Want to be a Columnist” and “Want to be the Next Rush Limbaugh?”

Despite Sarah Palin's invectives against the "lamestream media," conservatives seem eager to fill its ranks with right-wing young people.

Obama and Geithner's Insidious Plan to Hand the Entire Housing Industry Over to the Banks

By Robert Scheer, Truthdig
Posted on February 17, 2011, Printed on February 18, 2011

This article first appeared on TruthDig.

A most dastardly deed occurred last Friday when the Obama administration issued a 29-page policy statement totally abandoning the federal government’s time-honored role in helping Americans achieve the goal of homeownership. Instead of punishing the banks that sabotaged the American ideal of a nation of stakeholders by “securitizing” our homesteads into poker chips to be gambled away in the Wall Street casino, Barack Obama now proposes to turn over the entire mortgage industry to those same banks.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Secret Weapon of the Rich: Mone

By Kevin Drum | Wed Feb. 16, 2011 10:12 PM PST

I've written before about Larry Bartels' research showing that politicians basically don't care about the views of low and medium-income individuals. The non-rich simply have no impact on their voting behavior at all. But I know you want more evidence. So here it is.

Republicans Cut Jobs, Keep Oil Company Tax Breaks, Don't Cut Military!

By Dave Johnson
Created 02/16/2011 - 1:29am

As you read this, remember what Republicans did just a few weeks ago to force huge tax cuts for the wealthy, adding as much as $900 to budget deficits. Also, keep in mind that we spend more on military than every other country combined.

People Want Job Creation Not Cuts

Finally, keep in mind that polls show the public wants job creation, and does not want cuts in the things government does for We, the People. On the Campaign for America's Future website front page [1] under "THE PULSE" you can see the results of a poll, showing significant majorities reject cuts in various programs. (Other polls [2] show broad public support for increasing taxes on the wealthy.)

What the public wants, the public doesn't get. This isn't about what the public wants. It certainly isn't about jobs. And, right after increasing the deficits with huge tax cuts for the wealthy, this is not about cutting deficits, either. It certainly isn't about governing or the public interest. This is about one thing only: gutting the [3] hated government.

Former Sen. Russ Feingold Launches 'Progressive Movement'

Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, regarded as liberal but independent during his three terms in the Senate, says he is starting a "progressive" movement to support like-minded candidates and fight the influence of corporate money in campaigns.

Feingold, who was defeated in his bid for reelection in November, has rejected calls from some liberal voices to challenge President Obama as a candidate of the political left in the 2012 Democratic primaries. Instead of returning to electoral politics, he said in a new video he's forming Progressives United, a group that will have a political action committee to raise money and back candidates that "uphold our progressive ideals."

Jamie Dimon’s ‘Biggest Disaster’ Is Waiting

Bloomberg Opinion

Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., has harsh words for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They are “the biggest disasters of all time,” Dimon told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission last fall, according to his just-released interview.

Along with others, Dimon greatly exaggerates the role Fannie and Freddie played in the financial crisis, a theme my MIT colleague, Daron Acemoglu, has written about with great clarity.

Too many bankers assert some version of the refrain: Fannie Mae made me do it. As the FCIC’s report makes clear, it was the private sector that led us into the financial crisis by making massive subprime bets and then using complex derivatives deals to magnify the downside risks.

Florida Gov. Absurdly Refuses Rail Funding, Enraging His Fellow Floridians

The federal government had already allocated over $2 billion for a high-speed rail project linking Tampa and Orlando. With Florida's 12% unemployment rate, the project was poised to give the state a much needed boost -- creating tens of thousands of jobs and boosting economic development, with practically no investment needed from the state government.

Yesterday, for reasons that no one can explain, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced he'd refuse to accept the money and would instead allow the jobs to go to some other state.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Boehner's Spending Cuts Would Kill 1 Million Jobs

At a press conference yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters that if some federal jobs were lost as a result of his proposed spending cuts, "so be it."

How many jobs are we talking about? According to federal budget expert Scott Lilly at the Center for American Progress, Boehner's proposed spending cuts could kill almost 1 million jobs.

Sleepwalking Toward Plutocracy


"Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." - Abraham Lincoln [1] [1]

This grim vision caused Lincoln to "tremble for the safety of my country," as he wrote on November 21, 1864. It foretold of Plutocracy (rule by the wealthy) in America.

Today, we watch his vision coming true: the richest 1 percent of Americans now take home 24 percent of U.S. income, up from 9 percent in 1976. [2] [2] America's wealth is "aggregating in a few hands" right before our eyes, in plain view.

And we stare uncomprehendingly, like deer in the headlights.

Who is Influencing Obama’s Budget Proposal? Follow the Funders

By Rob Johnson, NewDeal 2.0
Posted on February 15, 2011, Printed on February 16, 2011

President Obama is a smart man. When Gallup surveys suggest that unemployment is around 10 percent — and that unemployment plus underemployment is 19 percent of the workforce — then it’s clear that the best way to raise revenues and close the deficit is to put people back to work. President Obama surely knows this. But his actions don’t seem to follow this obvious logic. Why is that?

Part of the reason lies in a group of people who pour money into our political system but don’t necessarily want the same things that ordinary Americans want.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Paul Krugman: Economic Turmoil Has Preceded Revolutions, Though Not Egypt’s

Maybe it’s because I spent time working for the United Nations Development Program in the Philippines in the ‘90s — I was a bit surprised that few people have mentioned the parallel between the Egyptian uprising and the People Power Revolution in Manila, which took place in 1986.

Geithner: cut corporate tax rate substantially

Rachelle Younglai and Kim Dixon
Reuters US Online Report Domestic News

Feb 15, 2011 17:14 EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Tuesday that the United States needs to cut the corporate tax rate substantially with a goal in the high 20 percent range, down from the current 35 percent

A day after the White House unveiled a budget that seeks to trim the country's massive deficit, Geithner reiterated that the Obama administration and Congress had to work together to overhaul the tax code, starting with corporate taxes.

Alan Greenspan: feted for failure

Alan Greenspan was at the wheel, apparently asleep, when the US economy drove off a cliff. Why on earth is he still lionised?

Dean Baker
Tuesday 15 February 2011 17.21 GM

The Brookings Institution stands alongside Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, among the nation's elite intellectual institutions. This is why it so striking that it chose to invite former Federal Reserve board chairman Alan Greenspan to give the keynote address at a forum on reforming the home mortgage finance system last week.

It would be difficult to imagine a more disastrous failure than Alan Greenspan. Tens of millions of people are unemployed, under-employed, or have given up looking for work altogether, as a direct result of Greenspan's ineptitude. Millions of families are facing the lost of their homes. More than one quarter of mortgage holders are underwater with their mortgages.

More Facts Emerge About the Leaked Smear Campaigns Aimed at WikiLeaks Supporters and Chamber of Commerce Critics

As I noted on Friday, the parties implicated in the smear campaigns aimed at WikiLeaks supporters and Chamber of Commerce critics have attempted to heap all the blame on HBGary Federal ("HBGary") and its CEO, Aaron Barr. Both Bank of America and the Chamber -- the intended clients -- vehemently deny any involvement in these schemes and have harshly denounced them. The other two Internet security firms whose logos appeared on the proposals -- Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies -- both issued statements terminating their relationship with HBGary and insisting that they had nothing to do with these plots. Only Hunton & Williams and its partner, John Woods -- the central cogs soliciting these proposals -- have steadfastly refused to comment.

Science Review Casts Doubt on Some Evidence in FBI’s Anthrax Investigation

by Tom Detzel
ProPublica, Feb. 15, 2011, 1:20 p.m.

The National Academy of Sciences is just out with a 190-page review [1] of the forensic science behind the FBI's investigation of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks. The takeaway: Some of the evidence cited to identify Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins as the perpetrator isn't as conclusive as the FBI has claimed.

In particular, the panel of experts said it "did not definitively demonstrate" that the source of the anthrax was spores taken from a flask controlled by Ivins, a microbiologist who did vaccine research at the U.S. Army Institute for Medical Research of Infection Diseases in Maryland. Nor did scientific data generated for the FBI "rule out other sources" for the anthrax, the panel's report says.

Paul Begala: It's Time to Defund Kentucky

While its small-government crusaders decry Obama’s budget and government spending, the Bluegrass State is thriving on D.C. welfare. Paul Begala says it’s the perfect place for a truly democratic experiment.

The great Mark Shields has said that most Americans are theoretical conservatives but operational liberals. I think Shields is right. In fact, we ought to make it a law of political analysis: According to Shields’ Law, the same people who vote for politicians who pledge to slash government spending are appalled when the politicians they elect actually slash government spending.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wall Street’s Dead End

THE stock market has been big news in recent days. Last week’s report that Deutsche Börse, a giant German exchange, intends to buy the New York Stock Exchange, creating a company worth some $24 billion, arrived shortly after the Dow broke the 12,000-point barrier for the first time since before the financial crisis.

These developments drew headlines because they seemed to exemplify significant trends in the American economy. But look at America’s stock exchanges more closely, and there’s less to them than meets the eye. In truth, the stock market is becoming increasingly irrelevant — a trend that threatens the core principles of American capitalism.

Misleading “Research” From The Chamber Of Commerce

By Simon Johnson

On behalf of key financial sector players, Keybridge Research has just published a report that claims the Dodd-Frank reforms for over the counter derivatives market “could cost 130,000″ jobs. My MIT colleague, John Parsons, deftly takes this apart on his blog today – pointing out that the technical basis of this report is very weak (or nonexistent).

John is an expert on these issues and spends a great of time with nonfinancial companies that use derivatives in a sensible and responsible manner. His critique should carry weight – including with the relevant congressional hearings scheduled for this week.

Do We Really Need More Submarines and Aircraft Carriers?

The brewing battle over the defense budget.

By Fred Kaplan

Will this be the year that Congress takes after the defense budget, seeing it not as holy writ laid down by an unchallengeable priesthood but rather as a political document hammered out by competing bureaucracies, each with long-standing vested interests?

It's a bubbling brew out there, the Tea Party Republicans keen to slash any and all federal programs, joined in a potential alliance of convenience with liberal Democrats seeking to kill big-ticket weapons slammed as pork-barrel waste or Cold War antiques.

The Obama administration's proposed defense budget for fiscal year 2012, rolled out Monday afternoon by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, makes for a gigantic target on this shooting range.

Obama and the GOP: United Against the Working Poor

David Cay Johnston | Feb. 14, 2011 11:57 AM EST

Who says bipartisanship is dead?

On Capitol Hill, the Democrats and Republicans may no longer play cards and drink together, but that does not seem to stop them from working together to shift tax burdens down the income ladder even when it violates their promises on the campaign trail.

Grover Norquist calls bipartisanship the political equivalent of date rape. But there is one group that President Obama, many congressional Democrats, and all congressional Republicans ganged up on in December -- the working poor.

Staying Vigilant on Social Security

We should all thank the President for refusing to include Social Security cuts in his 2012 budget. But we should not take the President’s decision for granted. Apparently, the White House was prepared to include specific cuts in Social Security benefits in the 2012 budget just to bring Republicans to the table, but a groundswell of progressive opposition helped stop it in its tracks, the Wall Street Journal reported [1] on Friday.

The lesson is clear: What we are doing is working. But we are still facing a real threat to Social Security, and a White House whose idea of negotiating is conceding in advance to Republican demands. We must temper our current praise for the president with vigilance for the future. Cuts are not yet dead; we need to keep up the pressure.

Paul Krugman: Eat the Future

On Friday, House Republicans unveiled their proposal for immediate cuts in federal spending. Uncharacteristically, they failed to accompany the release with a catchy slogan. So I’d like to propose one: Eat the Future.

I’ll explain in a minute. First, let’s talk about the dilemma the G.O.P. faces.

Republican leaders like to claim that the midterms gave them a mandate for sharp cuts in government spending. Some of us believe that the elections were less about spending than they were about persistent high unemployment, but whatever. The key point to understand is that while many voters say that they want lower spending, press the issue a bit further and it turns out that they only want to cut spending on other people.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Introducing the Progressive Strategy Handbook

by: Joe Brewer, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Are you ready to build the progressive movement that America desperately needs? This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. We’ve finished writing the Progressive Strategy Handbook that you — the community — paid for last fall through a crowdfunding campaign.

So you want to be part of a real progressive movement? You’ve come to the right place.

The Lack of Female Bylines in Magazines Is Old News

If you really want more women writers, get more women editors.

By Katha Pollitt

As Meghan O'Rourke reported here last week, VIDA, an organization for women writers, has released a tally of male and female bylines for the 2010 run of 14 high-end, literary-oriented magazines. Despite a couple of relatively bright spots (the New York Times Book ReviewAtlantic's table of contents and feel that little sinking of the heart that means "I can't believe there's only one woman in the whole issue and it's Caitlin Flanagan." I've written so often about the dearth of women in high-end magazines, including my own home base, The Nation, over so many years, and to so little effect, that sometimes I see myself, sitting at the kitchen table in some year like 2050, enjoying a nice bowl of reconfigurated vitamin-infused plastic bags, and over my phlogistatron will come the headline "Study Shows Men Write 85 Percent of Articles in Interplanetary Media. Martian Weekly Editor in Chief: Where Are the Women?" surprisingly being one), the numbers they found were just as dismally skewed as you might have expected, or even worse. None of this will come as news to the many women who've been keeping score at home, who run their eyes down the Atlantic's table of contents and feel that little sinking of the heart that means "I can't believe there's only one woman in the whole issue and it's Caitlin Flanagan." I've written so often about the dearth of women in high-end magazines, including my own home base, The Nation, over so many years, and to so little effect, that sometimes I see myself, sitting at the kitchen table in some year like 2050, enjoying a nice bowl of reconfigurated vitamin-infused plastic bags, and over my phlogistatron will come the headline "Study Shows Men Write 85 Percent of Articles in Interplanetary Media. Martian Weekly Editor in Chief: Where Are the Women?"

10 Historical 'Facts' Only a Right-Winger Could Believe

By Roy Edroso, AlterNet
Posted on February 11, 2011, Printed on February 13, 2011

As you may have noticed by following their writings, conservatives are not sticklers for historical accuracy, especially when they have a point to defend and not a lot of evidence to support it. Get a load, for example, of John Podhoretz explaining how the pro-choice Rudy Giuliani reduced abortions in New York City (though, um, not really) because he cut crime, which is one of "the spiritual causes of abortion."

Yeah, deadline pressure's a bitch. But there are some bizarre notions of American history in which conservatives have become so invested they've adopted them into their worldview. The best-known example is probably Jonah Goldberg's notion of "Liberal Fascism"; nowadays anytime a conservative talks about, say, Woodrow Wilson or Hillary Clinton, you may expect him to mention their resemblance to Benito Mussolini. They don't even have to think about it, even when normal people are gaping at them open-mouthed like audience members at "Springtime for Hitler" -- it's part of the folklore that helps them understand the American experience.

Frank Rich: At Last, Bernie Madoff Gives Back


WHEN Bernie Madoff was arrested in December 2008, America feasted vicariously on a cautionary tale of greed run amok. But like Rod Blagojevich, the stunt governor of Illinois who had been arrested days earlier, Madoff was something of a sideshow to that dark month’s main events. For a nation reeling from an often incomprehensible economic tsunami and unable to identify the culprits, he was, for the moment, the right made-to-order villain at the right time.

But Madoff was a second-tier player. Some in the upper echelons of New York’s financial world, including in the business press, had never heard of him. His firm’s accountant operated out of a strip mall and didn’t bother with electronic statements. The billions that vaporized in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme amounted to a rounding error next to the eye-popping federal bailouts, including those pouring into too-big-to-fail banks wrecked by their own Ponzi schemes of securitization. The suffering he inflicted on his mostly well-heeled dupes was piddling next to the national devastation of an economy in free fall. In a December when a half-million Americans lost their jobs — a calamitous rate not seen since 1974 — the video of a voiceless, combative Madoff in a baseball cap, skirmishing with photographers outside his Upper East Side apartment house, soon lost its punch.

Finding the Good in the 'Good Old Days'

Home Feature Box:

It’s federal budget time, and they’re talking 1950s on Capitol Hill. Well, sometimes we can move forward by turning the political clock back. But we have to know exactly where to stop.

Last week, in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, President Obama pledged [1] that the federal budget he unveils this week will take “domestic discretionary spending down to the lowest share of our economy since Eisenhower was President.”

No one in the Chamber audience cheered, mainly because Chamber types don't trust Obama when he talks budget cuts. But the rest of us shouldn't be cheering either. If we're going to be heading back to the Eisenhower era, we have much better options for what we ought to be trying to emulate.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Constituents in Upton's and Other House Districts: Let EPA Do its Job!

Yesterday members of Fred Upton's House Energy and Commerce Committee held their first hearing on Chairman Upton's proposal to block the Environmental Protection Agency from updating Clean Air Act safeguards to protect our health from life-threatening carbon pollution. (Hat tip and bow to EPA Chief Lisa Jackson who withstood hours of Dirty Air Extremism from panel members, and didn't give one inch on the EPA's obligation to protect public health by limiting carbon pollution.)

Beyond Reason on the Budget

After two years of raging at President Obama’s spending plans, House Republican leaders have finally revealed their real vision of small government: tens of billions in ideologically driven cuts to job training, environmental protection, disease control, crime protection and dozens of other critical functions that only the government can perform.

In all, they want more than $32 billion in cuts below current spending packed into the next seven months. They would be terribly damaging to a frail recovery and, while spending reductions must be part of long-term deficit control, these are the wrong cuts, to the wrong programs, at the wrong time.

Administration Calls for Cutting Aid to Home Buyers


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s much-anticipated report on redesigning the government’s role in housing finance, published Friday, is not solely a proposal to dissolve the unpopular finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It is also a more audacious call for the federal government to cut back its broadly popular, long-running campaign to help Americans own homes. The three ideas that the report outlines for replacing Fannie and Freddie all would raise the cost of mortgage loans and push homeownership beyond the reach of some families.

That fact is already generating opposition in Congress and among groups like community banks and consumer advocates.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Left is mean but right is meaner, says new study of political discourse

Tufts finds 'outrage talk' on the rise among liberals and conservatives

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass.—While the tragic shooting in Arizona has spotlighted the vitriol that seems to pervade political commentary, objective research examining the scope of this disturbing phenomenon has been lacking. In the first published study of its kind, social scientists at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences have found that outrage talk is endemic among commentators of all political stripes, but measurably worse on the political right, and is more prevalent than it was even during the turmoil of the war in Viet Nam and the Watergate scandal.

What Did Bank CEOs Know And When Did They Know It?

By Simon Johnson

One view of executives at our largest banks in the run-up to the crisis of 2008 is that they were hapless fools. Not aware of how financial innovation had created toxic products and made the system fundamentally unstable, they blithely piled on more debt and inadvertently took on greater risks.

The alternative view is that these people were more knaves than fools. They understood to a large degree what they and their firms were doing, and they kept at it up to the last minute – and in some cases beyond – because of the incentives they faced.

Paul Krugman: Abraham Lincoln, Inflationist

There was a time when Republicans used to refer to themselves, proudly, as “the party of Lincoln.” But you don’t hear that line much these days. Why?

The main answer, presumably, lies in the G.O.P.’s decision, long ago, to seek votes from Southerners angered by the end of legal segregation. With the old Confederacy now the heart of the Republican base, boasting about the party’s Civil War-era legacy is no longer advisable.

But sooner or later, Republicans were bound to notice other reasons to disavow Lincoln. He was, after all, the first president to institute an income tax. And he was also the first president to issue a paper currency — the “greenback” — that wasn’t backed by gold or silver. “There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its people than to debase its currency,” declared Representative Paul Ryan in one of two hearings Congress held on Wednesday on monetary policy. So much, then, for the Great Liberator.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Rich Fantasy Life

I know I should be immune to this by now, but I still find myself awestruck by the incredibly detailed, insulated fantasy world that the American conservative "movement" has created for themselves. No lie is too big to be told, no fact is too firm to be bent around ideology, no myth is too absurd to defend to the knife. The ability to spew deliberate nonsense into the credulous ears of Fox-watching right-bent voters - and to be utterly without shame while doing it - is the core of this "movement's" political muscle, and has been for a number of decades now.

Take, for example, this past weekend's festival of Reagan. The late president's 100th birthday opened the floodgates for an ocean of nonsense to be dumped on the American people. He was a great leader, the conservative's conservative, a small-government hero who deserves a place on Mt. Rushmore.

Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers

It is difficult to read, watch or listen to the news without hearing that public employees are paid too much and get “lucrative” pensions and this is “bankrupting” your state, county or city. Public officials are "in bed" with "union bosses" and state and local government; taxpayer dollars are wasted to pay for people who don’t do much work but live the good life. "Reports" and "studies" confirm this.

People hear the same story over and over and over and over, seemingly coming from everywhere: public employees have it good, with extravagant pay and "lavish" or "plush" pensions, while taxpayers are taking it in the shorts. Public-employee pensions are "bankrupting" the state/county/city. "Unfunded liabilities" are "out of control" and it is time to do something about it before it is too late.

This is part of a broad, nationwide attack on public employees and their unions, and through them, on government and democracy itself.

Americans Want To Cut Spending, But Polls Show They Don't Agree How

When Congress looks for ways to trim the federal budget, they might want to be careful of how closely they listen to their constituents. That's because several polls have shown that Americans are typically terrible estimators of how much money the U.S. spends on particular areas of the budget -- suggesting that public opinion about potential cuts is often influenced by gross misconceptions.

The real effect of 'Reaganomics'

Ronald Reagan promoted the idea that conservatives prefer to leave the economy to the market. Nonsense – we've been gulled

Dean Baker
Monday 7 February 2011 18.30 GMT

At the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth, his most important legacy has gone largely overlooked. Reagan helped to put a caricature of politics at the centre of the national debate and it remains there to this day. In Reagan's caricature, the central divide between progressives and conservatives is that progressives trust the government to make key decisions on production and distribution, while conservatives trust the market.

This framing of the debate is advantageous for the right, since people, especially in the United States, tend to be suspicious of an overly powerful government. They also like the idea of leaving important decisions to the seemingly natural workings of the market. It is therefore understandable that the right likes to frame its agenda this way. But since the right has no greater commitment to the market than the left, it is incredible that progressives are so foolish as to accept this framing.

Corporate Media Push Wrong Story on Obama's Relationship With Business

President Barack Obama is hoping to “mend ties” with big business by speaking to the US Chamber of Commerce (COC), Washington DC’s top lobbyist. That’s the frame we’re hearing in the corporate media even though the President has extended the Bush tax cuts, recently named JP Morgan Chase executive and former COC board member William Daley as his chief of staff, and chose General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head the new “White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.”

Since 2009, GE has closed more than 25 manufacturing plants in the US and slashed thousands of jobs, according to the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. While GE has laid off at least 10,000 workers in the US, it has created more than 30,000 jobs in India over the past decade. The administration’s job czar runs a company that employs more workers overseas than it does in the US.