Saturday, April 30, 2011

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, April 29th, 2011 -- 1:29 pm

Weren't Democrats supposed to be in favor of collective bargaining rights? Well, maybe not.

Welcome to bizarro world.

The Democratic-controlled Statehouse in Massachusetts voted earlier this week to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights, as part of the state's budget measure. It passed by a vote of 157 to 1.

That's precisely the same action taken by Republicans in Wisconsin, where it sparked a massive democratic outcry and weeks of rowdy protests.

Andrew Brietbart smearing college professors with deceptively edited video

By Muriel Kane
Friday, April 29th, 2011 -- 9:54 pm

Andrew Breitbart, who sponsored the heavily edited "pimp" videos that destroyed the anti-poverty group ACORN, is now using the same technique to go after two college professors for statements they allegedly made while teaching a course at the University of Missouri on Labor, Politics and Society.

According to MediaMatters, Breitbart's BigGovernment website has started running a series of videos from the class, claiming that they "instruct students on how fear, intimidation, and, even, industrial sabotage are important and, often, necessary tools."

MediaMatters' analysis of the videos, however, reveals that they have been edited to make it seem that the professors were endorsing the kind of "thuggish" tactics that they were actually rejecting.

Debate Over Debit Card Regs Misses Some Potentially Pro-Consumer Rules

by Marian Wang
ProPublica, April 29, 2011, 11:58 a.m.

Controversy over the Fed’s proposed debit card regulations has largely focused on the proposed cap on interchange fees—the fees banks receive from merchants for processing debit transactions. That provision has sparked an all-out lobbying war between merchants who think interchange fees are too high and banks who accuse the government of attempting to fix prices. Even the small banks and credit unions that are exempt from the proposed cap seem convinced that their exemption won’t work.

Response to Pa. Gas Well Accident Took 13 Hours Despite State Plan for Quick Action

April 28: This post has been updated.

When Chesapeake Energy lost control of a Marcellus Shale gas well in Pennsylvania on April 19, an emergency response team from Texas was called in to stop the leak. By the time the team arrived more than 13 hours later, brine water and hydraulic fracturing fluids from the well had spewed across nearby fields and into a creek.

Why did a team have to be called in from Texas, as the Scranton Times Tribune has reported? That's what we're trying to figure out.

Anti-Union Forces Try to Knock Out New York City’s Hard Hats

On Thursday, construction workers held hard hats in thick hands in the glow of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. In honor of International Workers' Memorial Day, they solemnly honored the sacrifices of fellow workers who had been injured or killed on the job. The scene embodied the heavy legacy of the city’s building trades: the labor that sculpted gotham's majesty, muscular but embattled, angled precariously against the city's powers that be.

Historically, the building trades unions have been known as shrewd political players and a formidable counterweight to developers and the city’s bureaucracy. But now, a civic organization and the real estate industry have teamed up to try to dismantle the construction unions’ political clout.

Unlikely polluters

'Green' energy not always so clean

By Ronnie Greene 6:00 am, April 26, 2011

Just 12 miles apart in the belly of California, a pair of 12.5 megawatt power plants fouled the air with a toxic brew of pollutants — nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and particulate matter. They released thick plumes and visible dust. They failed to install proper monitoring equipment, and failed to file reports on their emissions.

Another instance of coal plants polluting the environment?

Not quite. These are biomass power plants, part of the so-called green wave of the future.

Hold On, Alabama, Your Country's Here For You

The President's plane touched down at Tuscaloosa Regional Airport at 10 am this morning, local time.

That's Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA.

These are the moments that bring us together as a nation, and as people. Just like 9/11 did, before people used it to divide us. I lost friends when those planes struck the towers near my old office. We felt love and support from every part of the country back then. Hopefully the people of Alabama feel ours today. We are so sorry for your loss.

Back then the country singer Alan Jackson, who has his share of fans around Tuscaloosa, asked: "Where were you when the world stopped turning? Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer, and look at yourself and (at) what really matters?"

What really matters. We spend so much time vilifying one another that it takes a tragedy to bring us together. As bitterly divided as we get, most of us still care for each other in time of need. When President Bush spoke from the rubble of the World Trade Center, it seemed in that moment that he spoke for all of us - even those of us who questioned the way he became President. When President Obama came to Alabama, the hand he offered was our hand. The help he's sending comes through the government, but it comes from us. That's all a government really is, when democracy's working: It's just us. So hold on, Alabama. Your country's here for you.

My Class, right or wrong: the Powell Memorandum’s 40th Anniversary

By William K. Black

August 23, 2011 will bring the 40th anniversary of one of the most successful efforts to transform America. Forty years ago the most influential representatives of our largest corporations despaired. They saw themselves on the losing side of history. They did not, however, give in to that despair, but rather sought advice from the man they viewed as their best and brightest about how to reverse their losses. That man advanced a comprehensive, sophisticated strategy, but it was also a strategy that embraced a consistent tactic – attack the critics and valorize corporations! He issued a clarion call for corporations to mobilize their economic power to further their economic interests by ensuring that corporations dominated every influential and powerful American institution. Lewis Powell’s call was answered by the CEOs who funded the creation of Cato, Heritage, and hundreds of other movement centers.

Would GOP Budget Actually Reduce the Deficit?

Jonathan Cohn, April 29, 2011 | 12:00 am

Discussion of the House Republican budget has focused mostly on the privatization of Medicare, the block-granting of Medicaid, and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And that’s appropriate, given the magnitude of the changes and widespread impact they would have. But those proposals are obscuring some other proposed shifts that, in any other context, would be plenty troubling for their own sake. This week I'll highlight five of them. So far, I've written about radical changes to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), changes in the eligibility age for Medicare, a crucial weakening of financial reform, and a neglect of infrastructure. Today I conclude by assessing just how much the Republican budget would actually reduce the deficit.

One reason you hear so many people describing the House Republican budget as “brave” and “serious” is that it would dramatically reduce the deficit. Yes, it would take health insurance away from millions of people, unravel the safety net, and allow America’s infrastructure to deteriorate further. But at least it would substantially improve the government’s fiscal outlook.

And yet that's not as true as you might think, particularly in the first decade. When House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled his proposal, he announced that it would reduce government spending by $5.8 trillion and reduce deficit spending by $1.6 trillion in its first ten years. But Ryan included in his spending reductions the savings from ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Paul Ryan's budget isn't class warfare, it's class genocide

The thirty year long subterranean class warfare of the rich and super-rich against the middle class is entering its final phase – Class Genocide.

Until now, the top 1% has appropriated to itself the benefits of the country’s economic growth, while the middle class stagnated. While making the tax code more regressive, they wealthy have also cut programs that helped people out of poverty and into the middle class. In part they rich were enabled by the American middle classes’ dreams of moving up. Particularly during the booms, entering the top 10% seemed just one stock pick or house flip away for many people, so with a little luck that low-upper bracket could soon be theirs. Since the first government programs cut helped move poor people into the middle class, cutting them did not hurt already middle class Americans. There was always a racial and ethnic component to shutting down entry into the middle class that the politicians subtly played off of.

Paul Krugman: The Intimidated Fed

Last month more than 14 million Americans were unemployed by the official definition — that is, seeking work but unable to find it. Millions more were stuck in part-time work because they couldn’t find full-time jobs. And we’re not talking about temporary hardship. Long-term unemployment, once rare in this country, has become all too normal: More than four million Americans have been out of work for a year or more.

Given this dismal picture, you might have expected unemployment, and what to do about it, to have been a major focus of Wednesday’s press conference with Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. And it should have been. But it wasn’t.

After the conference, Reuters put together a “word cloud” of Mr. Bernanke’s remarks, a visual representation of the frequency with which he used various words. The cloud is dominated by the word “inflation.” “Unemployment,” in much smaller type, is tucked in the background.

UPDATE Wisconsin Recount: Day 2, Prosser Modifies Denial of Walker Meeting

UPDATE: 8:32 p.m. CDT - Did I speak too soon? Per churchlady in the comments, there is a report of a break in the chain of custody of a bag of ballots from Delafield, in Waukesha County. I don't know anything about this source. Does anyone else?

UPDATE 2: 9:43 p.m. CDT - Chatter on the internet leads me to believe the politiscoop story is overblown at best. Not many total votes in Delafield.

I can't give any new numbers, as you will read below, but Day 2 of the recount in Wisconsin's April 5th election for Supreme Court reportedly continued without any major ballot issues on Thursday. Allegations made by JoAnne Kloppenburg in her request for a special investigation are generating a little heat, though!

When Kloppenburg announced her campaign's official request for a recount, she also asked for an independent investigation into specific election irregularities, including long lines in some precincts, the use of photocopied ballots, and delays in vote-reporting in Waukesha County.

The GOP's Shady Plan to Privatize Prisons

By Suzy Khimm, Mother Jones
Posted on April 28, 2011, Printed on April 30, 2011

Last August, two prisoners escaped from an Arizona penitentiary and fled to New Mexico, where they ambushed a couple, shot them to death, and lit their bodies on fire inside a trailer.

These fugitives didn't escape from just any facility: They were housed in a privately run prison managed by the Utah-based Management Training Corporation. After the incident, a review by the Arizona Department of Corrections concluded that the prison had poorly trained staff and deficient equipment—including a faulty security system that emitted so many false alarms, the prison staff simply ignored it.

Alan Simpson Just Asked Me to Leave Rich People Alone

I'm feeling pretty guilty. I hadn't known I was causing billionaires so much suffering. The former co-chair of President Obama's deficit (a.k.a. catfood) commission just asked me during a public event to stop going after rich people. Then he came up to me after the event to make sure I'd gotten the point. He seemed truly worried about it.

This was a panel discussion at the University of Virginia. The panelists were Simpson, David Walker (former U.S. comptroller, former partner and global managing director of Arthur Andersen, and longtime deficit hysteric), moderator Larry Sabato, and odd-man-out Dean Baker (co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research). I say odd-man-out about Baker because Sabato introduced the panelists as all agreeing about things that only Sabato, Simpson, and Walker seemed to agree on (and I'm including the audience when I say that). Sabato declared the national debt the biggest crisis of our lifetimes and claimed that "no foreign country can ever do to us what we're doing to ourselves" by going into debt.

Same Guys, New Jobs

Why Obama's reshuffling of his national security team makes sense.

By Fred Kaplan
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2011, at 11:04 AM ET

So the rumors of recent weeks, about the impending shuffles in President Obama's national-security team, turn out to be true. And under the circumstances, it's hard to imagine a shrewder set of moves, both politically and substantively.

The shifts, which Obama is set to announce Thursday afternoon, are these: Leon Panetta replaces Robert Gates as secretary of defense; Gen. David Petraeus (soon to retire* from the military) fills Panetta's slot as CIA director; Gen. John Allen (Petraeus' former deputy at U.S. Central Command) takes over from Petraeus as commander in Afghanistan; and Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq (and envoy to Afghanistan), takes over from Karl Eikenberry as ambassador to Kabul.

What's glaringly obvious about this list is that, except for Gates, who is taking a long-deferred retirement, it's a game of musical chairs. No fresh talent has been brought into the circle. And one reason for this is that the bench of fresh major-league talent is remarkably thin.

More Than 25% Of CO2 Emissions Come From Buying Cheap Foreign Goods

BY Ariel Schwartz
Wed Apr 27, 2011

Ethonomic Indicator of the Day: 26% -- the amount of global CO2 emissions that come from the production of traded goods and services.

A quick look around your home or office should yield the obvious conclusion that we rely heavily on international trade for many of the nice things we like to do, eat, and play with. But a global economy comes with a heavy greenhouse gas cost. In fact, 26% of all carbon emissions come from the production of traded goods and services. So while clothes from China may be cheap to produce, buying them and having them shipped to you comes with a future cost that many of us would like to ignore.

How to Cripple the GOP for a Generation

By Digby, Hullabaloo
Posted on April 27, 2011, Printed on April 30, 2011

As this week's ongoing uprising at the townhalls shows, Republicans are playing with fire with this Ryan plan. Current seniors are concerned about their own kids and grandkids. After all, they are living in "medical world" where Medicare is at the very center of their lives and they know what's at stake. And I would guess that the next group in line --- people my age --- are also concerned, dealing as they are with their own elderly parents and facing their own impending old age illnesses before too long.

However, as Merrill Goozner explains in this post, it is much worse than they know and the political ramifications will be huge. If the Democrats are smart they will mobilize this constituency around this right now --- it's the baby boom and getting their support will cripple the Republicans for a generation:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Return to Sherwood Forest

David Cay Johnston | Apr. 25, 2011 11:02 AM EDT

Thank goodness for House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Because of the budget plan put forward by the Wisconsin Republican, we are finally going to have a tax policy debate that everyday Americans can understand.

Unlike all those wonky details in most proposals that make millions of eyes glaze over, the Ryan plan can be reduced to terms that most Americans can grasp. All but four House Republicans embraced a form of Ryan's vision in a vote this month, so the plan is a reliable description of what the party's elected leaders in Washington identify as the major problem facing our economy, their solution, and how they would pay for it.

Dodging Bad CEOs

Two of L.A.'s storied institutions let the public down.

Harold Meyerson | April 25, 2011

A curse has befallen Los Angeles. Two of its leading civic institutions -- and for Angelinos of my generation, perhaps its two greatest institutions -- were sold to men so venal, cynical, incompetent, and egomaniacal that they gutted them in just a couple of years. Now, higher authorities have stepped in to stop their further destruction, at least temporarily.

I refer, of course, to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Times. The Dodgers were already a storied franchise when Walter O'Malley moved them from Brooklyn in 1958. The Times had been the city's dominant paper since the early years of the 20th century, but only in 1960, when Otis Chandler became publisher, did it begin its rise to become one of the nation's greatest newspapers.

New study: Health reform to make health insurance affordable for nearly all families

Ninety percent of American families living above the federal poverty level will be able to afford health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. The report finds that new subsidies available through health insurance exchanges established under the law will make premiums affordable for most families. But the authors also warn that high out-of-pocket costs will likely mean some families will still be unable to afford health-related expenses.

Mercury converted to its most toxic form in ocean waters

University of Alberta-led research has confirmed that a relatively harmless inorganic form of mercury found worldwide in ocean water is transformed into a potent neurotoxin in the seawater itself.

Washington on the Rocks: An Empire of Autocrats, Aristocrats, and Uniformed Thugs Begins to Totter

In one of history’s lucky accidents, the juxtaposition of two extraordinary events has stripped the architecture of American global power bare for all to see. Last November, WikiLeaks splashed snippets from U.S. embassy cables, loaded with scurrilous comments about national leaders from Argentina to Zimbabwe, on the front pages of newspapers worldwide. Then just a few weeks later, the Middle East erupted in pro-democracy protests against the region’s autocratic leaders, many of whom were close U.S. allies whose foibles had been so conveniently detailed in those same diplomatic cables.

Suddenly, it was possible to see the foundations of a U.S. world order that rested significantly on national leaders who serve Washington as loyal “subordinate elites” and who are, in reality, a motley collection of autocrats, aristocrats, and uniformed thugs. Visible as well was the larger logic of otherwise inexplicable U.S. foreign policy choices over the past half-century.

Why would the CIA risk controversy in 1965, at the height of the Cold War, by overthrowing an accepted leader like Sukarno in Indonesia or encouraging the assassination of the Catholic autocrat Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon in 1963? The answer -- and thanks to WikiLeaks and the “Arab spring,” this is now so much clearer -- is that both were Washington’s chosen subordinates until each became insubordinate and expendable.

What we're not being told about Paul Ryan's Medicare plan

The mainstream media has failed to report that the Ryan plan is a privatisation programme that will hand $30tn to insurers

Dean Baker,Tuesday 26 April 2011 14.30 BST

The film Casablanca features one of greatest moments in movie history. With Humphrey Bogart standing with a smoking pistol over the body of the dead Gestapo major, Claude Rains, in the role of the French colonel, tells his troops: "the major has been shot, round up the usual suspects."

Unfortunately, the Washington policy gang is busy following Claude Rains' instructions. The nation is drowning in endless accounts of how the huge deficit will sink the economy and the country. These accounts invariably feature stories of a Congress addicted to spending and a nation that wants government benefits that it doesn't want to pay for.

This story has nothing to do with reality, as all budget analysts know. The explosion of the budget deficit in the last three years is a response to the plunge in private sector demand following the collapse of the housing bubble. If the budget deficit were smaller, we would simply have less demand and fewer jobs.

Newt Gingrich faces questions about consulting job and support for biofuels

By John Aloysius Farrell
9:00 am, April 25, 2011

“I am not a lobbyist for ethanol,” Newt Gingrich declared in a mid-winter spat with the editors of The Wall Street Journal over his support for government subsidies for alternative fuel.

But Gingrich was a hired consultant to a major ethanol lobbying group—at more than $300,000 a year.

Why We Regulate - and Why John Walsh Must Resign

By Richard (RJ) Eskow
April 27, 2011 - 1:01am ET

Regulatory agencies exist to protect the public, not the corporations they regulate. The head of the Office of Comptroller of the Currency doesn't seem to understand that. But that's not why John Walsh needs to resign.

The OCC was created to stabilize the economy, make it easier to conduct trade, and protect people's savings. It didn't do that. In fact, it ignored the warnings raised by others. But that's not why John Walsh needs to resign.

His agency failed to anticipate the foreclosure crisis, and it overlooked bank criminality. Later John Walsh misled a Senate panel - and the general public - about the size of the problem. And even after being forced to clarify those misleading statements, Mr. Walsh keeps on repeating them. Whether by intent or ineptitude, he continues to misinform the public.

And that's why John Walsh needs to resign.

The United States faces a crisis not seen since the Depression

The poisonous atmosphere surrounding the role of the state and taxation allows no realistic budget bargaining

Will Hutton in America
The Observer, Sunday 24 April 2011

Maybe it's because Boston is different, a semi-detached city in one of the US's most liberal states. But the news that the world's biggest economy had had its creditworthiness challenged for the first time by the upstart rating agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) hardly seemed to register with the locals.

No one I met fulminated about loss of economic sovereignty or that S&P, whose purblind approval of junk mortgage debt as triple A was one of the causes of the financial crisis, had finally over-reached itself. Bostonians seemed unconcerned. Perhaps this was because it was just one more surreal moment in the pantomime that is American economic and political life.

That was how the markets judged the news. There was a momentary tremor in the Dow Jones. Some analysts shrugged it off; others thought it profoundly serious. But soon the markets were on the rise again as if nothing had happened.

Deficit Fever: Loon Tune Time Among the Elite

We already knew that the folks involved in debating and designing economic policy had a weak understanding of economics, that is why they couldn't see the $8 trillion housing bubble that wrecked the economy, but now it seems that they are breaking their ties to reality altogether. The country is still smoldering in the wreckage of the collapsed housing bubble, but the victims have left the policy debate altogether.

Twenty five million people are unemployed, underemployed or out of the workforce altogether, but that's not on anyone's agenda. Millions of homeowners are underwater in their mortgage and facing the loss of their homes, that's also not on anyone's agenda. Tens of millions of baby boomers are at the edge of retirement and have just lost their life savings. This also is not on anyone's agenda.

Don't Let Goldman off the Hook

The damning new Senate report proves Wall Street still can't be trusted to police itself.

By Eliot Spitzer

With crises mounting daily—wars, deficits, debt limits, natural disasters—it's tempting to forget the cataclysms of the past. In particular, America seems to have amnesia about the Wall Street-induced catastrophe that destroyed so much of our economy. We still haven't learned its lessons, and if we don't pay attention, we're soon going to pay again for its perpetrators' callous disregard for the public interest.

The report last week issued by Sens. Carl Levin and Tom Coburn was a bipartisan indictment of Wall Street and its lead architect, Goldman Sachs. Putting the Levin-Coburn report together with the FCIC report, we now have a pretty extensive set of documents with which to understand the inner workings of a still compromised Wall Street, riddled with conflicts of interest and favoring half-truths at best when dealing with government.

I want to focus on the two most critical conclusions that jump out from these documents. The first has been remarked upon but bears repeating. The second, I do not believe has been discussed at all and is perhaps the more important.

The Vermont Senate Passes Bill Establishing A Single Payer Health Care System In The State

As ThinkProgress previously reported, the Vermont legislature, led by Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), has been considering a proposal to establish some sort of single payer health care system — a system in which a single public insurer provides health insurance to all state residents, similar to the Medicare system for American seniors.

Thrifty Families and Other Lies

Like Their Government, Americans Live on Debt

NEW YORK--During his State of the Union address President Obama repeated this ancient canard: "We have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in," he said. "That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same."

Republicans have used this "families balance their budgets, so should government" line for years. Now Democrats are doing it too. Everyone is jumping aboard the pseudo-austerity bandwagon. (Why pseudo? Neither party really wants to balance the federal budget because it can only be done by bringing home the troops, shrinking the Pentagon by 90 percent, ending corporate welfare, and soaking the rich--i.e. major campaign donors--with higher taxes.)

5 Fun Facts About the Fight Over the Debt Ceiling

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on April 24, 2011, Printed on April 27, 2011

One thing on which virtually everyone agrees – Democrats, Republicans and experts from across the political spectrum – is that not raising the debt ceiling will lead to economic catastrophe. It would send shockwaves across the financial system, undermine confidence in the dollar as the world's reserve currency and reverse our fragile “recovery,” resulting in an extraordinarily painful double-dip recession.

That lawmakers who ostensibly receive a paycheck to govern this country are threatening to bring that dire reality about may be a sign that our political discourse has achieved Peak Crazy.

State Department wants passport applicants to reveal lifetime employment history

By David Edwards
Monday, April 25th, 2011 -- 1:09 pm

The U.S. Department of State has proposed a new questionnaire that would make it almost impossible for some people to get a passport.

The new document (PDF) would require that certain applicants submit a list of every residence and every job they've ever had since birth.

In February, the department published a request in the Federal Register allowing 60 days for comment before the new rules go into effect.

Catastrophic amphibian declines have multiple causes, no simple solution

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Amphibian declines around the world have forced many species to the brink of extinction, are much more complex than realized and have multiple causes that are still not fully understood, researchers conclude in a new report.

The search for a single causative factor is often missing the larger picture, they said, and approaches to address the crisis may fail if they don’t consider the totality of causes – or could even make things worse.

No one issue can explain all of the population declines that are occurring at an unprecedented rate, and much faster in amphibians than most other animals, the scientists conclude in a study just published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Why Wall Street Is Winning

A Hated Financial Center Is Bouncing Back. How Did They Do It?

Two years ago as financial reform was put on the U.S. Congressional agenda, a skeptical Senator, Dick Durbin of Illinois, spoke of the power of the banks over the country’s legislative process.

“They run the place,” he said matter of factly.

The comment was then treated as a sidebar in the few newspapers that carried it, perhaps because it hinted at how interests, not ideology, dictate what happens on Capital Hill.

The remark about a shadowy power structure far more important than all the partisan in-fighting that dominates the news is worth recalling as a way of explaining how little has been done to rain in Wall Street in the years since its crash virtually wrecked the global economy.

Median U.S. household income fell 5% between 1999 and 2009. Globalization remains the core problem

Meteor Blades for Daily Kos

Technologically induced productivity whose benefits are only partially (if at all) passed along to workers. Union busting. Squeezing workers to do more with less (which was something some hotshot facilitator at a management seminar once called "work smarter, not harder" before that insulting slogan went viral). Erosion of the buying power of the minimum wage. A deteriorating manufacturing base abetted by "free trade" agreements that pit Americans against workers in China, India and elsewhere who earn 10 percent at companies which can compete without bothering with safety and environmental regulations. The sum? One of the plagues of the U.S. economy during the past few decades: stagnant wages.

One Surprising Reason People May Believe Bizarre Conspiracy Theories

By Tom Jacobs, Miller-McCune Magazine
Posted on April 25, 2011, Printed on April 27, 2011

K now any conspiracy theorists? No doubt they’ve tried to convince you that man didn’t really land on the moon or President Obama was born in Kenya.

In fact, they were imparting genuinely interesting information — about themselves. New research suggests belief in such theories may reveal a Machiavellian mindset.

“At least among some samples and for some conspiracy theories, the perception that ‘they did it’ is fueled by the perception that ‘I would do it,’” University of Kent psychologists Karen Douglas and Robbie Sutton write in the British Journal of Social Psychology.

The Battle Is Over Money, Not Philosophy

by: Dean Baker, Truthout

Ever since House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan put out his proposal for voucherizing Medicare we have seen a steady drumbeat of stories telling us that this is a battle over the size and role of government. This is not true. It is a battle over money.

This point is important because there are very few people in this country who are interested in debates over philosophy. Insofar as they do give it any thought, most people will say that they prefer small government over big government. They want to see government play a less intrusive role in our lives.

There are probably less than a hundred people in the entire country who support "big government" as a matter of principle. Unfortunately, most of them write columns in major national papers.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What’s Left of the Left

Paul Krugman’s lonely crusade.

By Benjamin Wallace-Wells
Published Apr 24, 2011

If you are looking not only for clues into Barack Obama’s character but for a definition of what his presidency will mean to the country, then the speech on fiscal policy that he delivered at George Washington University the Wednesday before last is the most significant one he has ever given. It is, in its own way, an astonishing document, alive with the themes that undergirded his Philadelphia speech on race and his Nobel Prize acceptance, on the tragic enmeshment of American limitations and American strength. Obama was responding mostly to the Republican budget plan, and he understood exactly what its author, Representative Paul Ryan, had in his sights: “This vision,” Obama said, “is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.”

The WikiLeaks Blog: The Guantánamo Files

In Gitmo Opinion, Two Versions of Reality

by Dafna Linzer
ProPublica, April 25, 2011, 8:34 a.m.

Update April 25, 2011: On Sunday night, a number of news outlets and WikiLeaks published a trove of classified documents on detainees at Guantanamo Bay. ProPublica has been reporting on Gitmo and the issues surrounding indefinite detention for more than two years. In October 2010, Dafna Linzer revealed how the Obama administration censored one federal judge's Gitmo decision that had questioned the government's evidence against a detainee.

When Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. ordered the release of a Guantánamo Bay detainee last spring, the case appeared to be a routine setback for an Obama administration that has lost a string of such cases.

But there turns out to be nothing ordinary about the habeas case brought by Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, a Yemeni held without charges for nearly eight years. Uthman, accused by two U.S. administrations of being an al-Qaida fighter and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, is among 48 detainees the Obama administration has deemed too dangerous to release but "not feasible for prosecution."

The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions

Inspired by Ronald Reagan and funded by the right's richest donors, a web of free-market think tanks has fueled the nationwide attack on workers' rights.

Mon Apr. 25, 2011 12:01 AM PDT

From New Hampshire to Alaska, Republican lawmakers are waging war on organized labor. They're pushing bills to curb, if not eliminate, collective bargaining for public workers; make it harder for unions to collect member dues; and, in some states, allow workers to opt out of joining unions entirely but still enjoy union-won benefits. All told, it's one of the largest assaults on American unions in recent history.

Behind the onslaught is a well-funded network of conservative think tanks that you've probably never heard of. Conceived by the same conservative ideologues who helped found the Heritage Foundation, the State Policy Network (SPN) is a little-known umbrella group with deep ties to the national conservative movement. Its mission is simple: to back a constellation of state-level think tanks loosely modeled after Heritage that promote free-market principles and rail against unions, regulation, and tax increases. By blasting out policy recommendations and shaping lawmakers' positions through briefings and private meetings, these think tanks cultivate cozy relationships with GOP politicians. And there's a long tradition of revolving door relationships between SPN staffers and state governments. While they bill themselves as independent think tanks, SPN's members frequently gather to swap ideas. "We're all comrades in arms," the network's board chairman told the National Review in 2007.

The Corporate State Wins Again

By Chris Hedges

When did our democracy die? When did it irrevocably transform itself into a lifeless farce and absurd political theater? When did the press, labor, universities and the Democratic Party—which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible—wither and atrophy? When did reform through electoral politics become a form of magical thinking? When did the dead hand of the corporate state become unassailable?

The body politic was mortally wounded during the long, slow strangulation of ideas and priorities during the Red Scare and the Cold War. Its bastard child, the war on terror, inherited the iconography and language of permanent war and fear. The battle against internal and external enemies became the excuse to funnel trillions in taxpayer funds and government resources to the war industry, curtail civil liberties and abandon social welfare. Skeptics, critics and dissenters were ridiculed and ignored. The FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA enforced ideological conformity. Debate over the expansion of empire became taboo. Secrecy, the anointing of specialized elites to run our affairs and the steady intrusion of the state into the private lives of citizens conditioned us to totalitarian practices. Sheldon Wolin points out in “Democracy Incorporated” that this configuration of corporate power, which he calls “inverted totalitarianism,” is not like “Mein Kampf” or “The Communist Manifesto,” the result of a premeditated plot. It grew, Wolin writes, from “a set of effects produced by actions or practices undertaken in ignorance of their lasting consequences.”

Climategate: What Really Happened?

How climate science became the target of "the best-funded, best-organized smear campaign by the wealthiest industry that the Earth has ever known."

— By Kate Sheppard
Thu Apr. 21, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

IT'S DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE how a guy who spends most of his time looking at endless columns of temperature records became a "fucking terrorist," "killer," or "one-world-government socialist." It's even harder when you meet Michael Mann, a balding 45-year-old climate scientist who speaks haltingly and has a habit of nervously clearing his throat. And when you realize that the reason for all the hostility is a 12-year-old chart, it seems more than a little surreal.

Back in 1999, Mann—then a newly minted Ph.D. (PDF)—and a pair of colleagues constructed a chart that plotted historical climate data, spanning fro 1000 to 1980. Because recorded temperatures only begin in the late 19th century, Mann and his team largely relied on so-called proxy records—measurements of tree rings, coral, and ice cos whose variations illustrate temperature changes over the years. The graph showed that after nearly 900 years of relatively stable temperatures, there was a sharp uptick starting in the 20th century.

It's Not Just Medicare: GOP Wants to Privatize Food Stamps, Too

By Steve Benen, Washington Monthly
Posted on April 25, 2011, Printed on April 25, 2011

When it comes to criticizing the House Republican budget plan, some big-ticket problems are rather obvious. For example, the GOP wants to eliminate Medicare and gut Medicaid -- ideas that the American mainstream doesn't like.

And as far as the politics of this are concerned, it makes sense for Democrats to pick a small handful of glaring and scandalous priorities in the Republican plan, and focus their fire accordingly. But when it comes to appreciating the larger policy, it's worth keeping in mind that Medicare isn't the only concern here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Imagining a world without oil

By Steve Hallett and John Wright, Thursday, April 21, 4:23 PM

This is the first installment of “A World Without,” a new series that examines the consequences of doing away with something we’ve grown used to -- an idea, institution, commodity, tradition, or event. Send ideas for “A World Without” to

Dismantle the oil rigs and stack them in a pile. Radio the tankers and order them back to port. Pull out the drills and cement up the wells. (A year after the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, let’s hope we’ve learned how to do that, at least.) Tow the platforms back to shore. Plug up the pipelines. And lock up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve while you’re at it — it has only about a month or so worth of oil in it, anyway.

What would happen next? How would we live in a world without oil?

As Offshoring Continues, US Public Peeved at "Free Market"

by Roger Bybee

Many Americans increasingly feel like a trap door has suddenly dropped them into economic quicksand, with major corporations and their government allies pulling them further away from the middle-class security they once had.

These feelings have been heightened by a wave of public-sector union-busting laws in Wisconsin and Ohio that will encourage more private sector wage-cutting (already at a record level ), revelations about the extent of corporations “off-shoring” jobs while creating virtually no new jobs in the U.S. for the entire 1999-2009 decade and news that two-thirds of major corporations are paying no federal income taxes.

Are We Really Drowning In Red Ink?

Brian Beutler | April 22, 2011, 9:36AM

For the next several weeks, and likely through election season, Washington will continue to be gripped by the debate about how to reduce federal deficits and the national debt. It's a common focus of legislative preening, particularly after economic downturns, and even more particularly when Democrats control the White House.

So it's worth keeping in mind how current and projected deficits and debt stack up to their historic levels, relative to GDP. The answers will surprise you.

SOLUTIONS: Forcing contractors to disclose contributions is a good first step

Melanie Sloan, 6:00 am, April 22, 2011

Each year, government contractors spend mountains of money to influence politicians, and then—in a remarkable coincidence—are richly rewarded with billions of dollars in government contracts. It’s a pay-to-play scheme government officials try to keep hidden from the American public, but is common knowledge inside the Beltway.

A step in the right direction is the White House’s proposed executive order that would require government contractors to disclose political contributions totaling over $5,000 before receiving government contracts. Although the contributions made by company officials to candidates and parties is already reported to the Federal Election Commission, significantly, the order would also require disclosure of contributions made by individuals and the company itself to third parties that make independent expenditures or electioneering communications.

‘The Shining’ — national debt edition

By Matt Miller, Wednesday, April 20, 12:01 PM

Remember that great scene in the 1980 film classic, “The Shining,” when the wife comes upon the typewriter of the Jack Nicholson character, who’s supposed to have been working night and day for months on his novel? To her horror, she finds thousands of pages on which Jack has typed, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” formatted in countless, crazy ways. Suddenly his suspected madness becomes all too frighteningly real.

Well, debt limit mania has driven me to a similar frenzied state. If my wife came across my manuscript it would read, “The House Republican budget adds $6 trillion to the debt in the next decade yet the GOP is balking at raising the debt limit. The House Republican budget adds $6 trillion to the debt in the next decade yet the GOP is balking at raising the debt limit.”

Saturday, April 23, 2011

People’s Budget offers sound alternative to Ryan’s plan

The Congressional Progressive Caucus today released a budget proposal titled the People’s Budget, which puts forth a credible, deficit-reducing alternative to the Republican plan proposed by Representative Paul Ryan. This proposal by the Progressive Caucus is a welcome addition to the budget debate.

The Economic Policy Institute has analyzed and scored the specific policy proposals in the People’s Budget and modeled their cumulative impact on the federal budget over the next decade. Our analysis finds that the People’s Budget would balance the federal budget within a decade and place debt held by the public on a sustainable trajectory. Specifically, the budget would move to a surplus of $30.7 billion (0.1% of gross domestic product) in 2021, and debt as a share of the economy would trend downward to 64.1% of GDP in that year. The budget would reduce deficits by $5.6 trillion over the next decade relative to the CBO baseline (adjusted for current policies regarding the “doc fix” and a patch to the Alternative Minimum Tax).

Starship Amerika

By Juan Cole

President Barack Obama is actually siding with police who want to use GPS devices to track you without a warrant. It always disturbed me when on “Star Trek” the captain asked the ship’s computer where a crew member was and was told the person’s exact location. Even the ship’s physician and empathy counselor were not immune from these inquiries, the answers to which could after all sometimes have been embarrassing. Is America heading toward being one big star ship, where government officials can casually inquire at will into our whereabouts and private doings?

Among the many elements of the Obama administration that have disappointed civil libertarians is its interest in spying on Americans. The Bush administration had instituted massive warrantless wiretapping and gathering of telephone records, with the complicity of most telecom corporations. Those who care about the Bill of Rights had hoped that Eric Holder’s Department of Justice would take a stand for the Fourth Amendment, which should be on the endangered species list along with the golden tree frog and the St. Helena dragonet.

Workers Are Never Required to Join Unions

Friday, 22 April 2011 05:18

The NYT wrongly told readers that a bill approved by the New Hampshire legislature would, "disallow collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union." It is already the case that collective bargaining agreements cannot require employees to join a labor union.

Under current New Hampshire law, collective bargaining agreements can require workers to pay representation fees to a union. National labor law requires that a union represent all workers who are in a bargaining unit regardless of whether or not they opt to join the union.

Is S&P’s Deficit Warning On Target?

By Simon Johnson

On Monday Standard & Poor’s announced that its credit rating for the United States was “affirmed” at AAA (the highest level possible), but that it was revising the outlook for this rating to “negative” – in this context specifically meaning “that we could lower our long-term rating on the U.S. within two years” (p.5 of the report). This news temporarily roiled equity markets around the world, although the bond markets largely shrugged it off.

While S&P’s statement generated considerable media attention, the economics behind their thinking is highly questionable – although, given the random nature of American politics, even this intervention may still end up having a constructive impact on the thinking of both the right and the left.

New Details on Wisconsin Supreme Court 'Recount,' Waukesha County Clerk Investigation

Kloppenburg filing for special investigator alleges Prosser met privately with Walker on night after election, Nickolaus may have committed felonies

Both camps agree to hand counts in parts of 31 counties...

Posted By Brad Friedman On 22nd April 2011 @ 02:47 In Election Irregularities, Fox "News", Wisconsin, Election 2011, WI Supreme Court Election | 32 Comments

On Wednesday, Wisconsin's Asst. Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg announced [1] that she will be exercising her right to file for a statewide "recount" following the April 5th election for state Supreme Court against the incumbent Justice David Prosser. She also said that she intended to ask for a special investigator to be named to look into a number of still-unanswered questions about election results that were misreported by Waukesha County's Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, a former employee of Prosser's when both served in the state's Assembly Republican Caucus.

Kloppenburg's complaints have now been filed, and The BRAD BLOG [2] has been reviewing both them, and several additional points of note since yesterday's dramatic presser, in advance of the count which is scheduled to begin next Wednesday, April 27, according to the WI Government Accountability Board [3] (G.A.B.), the state's top election agency.

Paul Krugman: Patients Are Not Consumers

Earlier this week, The Times reported on Congressional backlash against the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a key part of efforts to rein in health care costs. This backlash was predictable; it is also profoundly irresponsible, as I’ll explain in a minute.

But something else struck me as I looked at Republican arguments against the board, which hinge on the notion that what we really need to do, as the House budget proposal put it, is to “make government health care programs more responsive to consumer choice.”

Here’s my question: How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car — and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough.

What has gone wrong with us?

Big Finance Is a Monster That's Consuming Our Economic Security

By Les Leopold, AlterNet
Posted on April 15, 2011, Printed on April 23, 2011

This horror story starts in the 1970s when the economic policy establishment, led by Milton Friedman, thought they were a whole lot smarter than the New Dealers who had put a lid on the financial sector and forced high taxes on the super-rich – all designed to prevent the gamblers from again wrecking our economy like they did in 1929.

Blinded by ideology, the 1970s gang were certain the economy would run much better if free markets were allowed to function without government interference. This meant deregulation of airlines, telecommunications, trucking industry and most importantly, the deregulation of finance. At the same time they called for tax cuts for the rich because these elites were the source of investment capital needed to make the economy grow.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Credit Rating Hoax

Standard & Poor’s, the self-righteous credit-rating agency, has a damn lot of nerve. It provoked scary headlines by solemnly threatening to “short” America. That is, downgrade the credit-worthiness of US Treasury bonds unless Congress and the president oblige creditors by punishing the citizenry with severe budget cuts. What a load of crap.

The headline I would like to see is this: “S&P Execs Face Major Fraud Investigation, Take the Fifth Before Federal Grand Jury.

News coverage on S&P’s credit warning typically failed to mention that Standard & Poor’s itself is in utter disrepute. It was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Wall Street deceitfulness that brought the nation to financial ruin. During the bubble of inflated housing prices, S&P and other rating agencies blessed the fraud-based mortgage securities issued by Wall Street banks with AAA ratings—deceiving gullible investors around the world and assuring bloated profits (and executive bonuses) for the greedy bankers. S&P provided cover for the massive scam that led to the crisis that sank the national economy.

That story line is the essential reason federal deficits soared in the age of Obama. National wealth was massively destroyed, government tax revenues collapsed, the feds spent trillions bailing out the imperiled financial system. In short, the bankers did it, abetted by see-no-evil accomplices like Standard & Poor’s.

We're #1 -- Ten Depressing Ways America Is Exceptional

By David Morris, On the Commons
Posted on April 20, 2011, Printed on April 21, 2011

Recent research contradicts the fundamental tenet of American exceptionalism. A Brookings Institution report comparing economic mobility in the United States and other countries concludes, “…“Starting at the bottom of the earnings ladder is more of a handicap in the United States than it is in other countries.”

For Republican presidential candidates the phrase American Exceptionalism has taken on almost talismanic qualities. Newt Gingrich’s new book is titled, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters. “American the Exceptional” is the title of a chapter in Sarah Palin’s book America by Heart.

And woe be to those who take issue with the phrase. 2008 Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declares, “To deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation.” 2012 Presidential candidate Mitt Romney insists, “The reorientation away from a celebration of American exceptionalism is misguided and bankrupt.”

When Moderation Fails, Part 1: Simpson & Bowles, Standard & Poor's, and Ezra Klein

Historians of the future may one day write that the death of the New Deal began this year. If so, it goes without saying that corrupt forces like the Chamber of Commerce will be a big part of the story. So will billionaire ideologues like Pete Peterson, and greedy politicians looking for a handout. Unfortunately, so will a lot of reasonable people whose biggest problem is that they're temperamentally inclined toward being reasonable and moderate - even when circumstances don't warrant it.

The problem's become so severe that it will take more than one day to address it. It will require criticizing people that I respect, and who in some cases I've met and like personally. A great many moderately-minded individuals seem to have been lulled into accepting a Washington consensus in which the "new normal" means accepting that only remaining choice is between a radical assault on the middle class and a moderately radical assault on the middle class. In that world, a "judicious" assessment of Republican radicalism can easily turn into accommodationism. That can lead in turn to bad deals that create needless suffering.

We begin with somebody I like and respect: Ezra Klein. Ezra's become an important voice in Washington, and he has developed an extraordinary platform at the Washington Post. He's earned it through prodigious, detailed daily output over the course of years. He was highlighted by Politico as part of the Post's "leftward online shift," and he's an MSNBC regular. He's considered a liberal voice by powerful people who know and like him. That's why his approach to deficit reduction and austerity economics is potentially so damaging: people listen to him.

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Who Owns the World?

Military bases R U.S. Or so it seems. After the invasion of 2003, the Pentagon promptly started constructing a series of monster bases in occupied Iraq, the size of small American towns and with most of the amenities of home. These were for a projected garrison of 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops that top officials of the Bush administration initially anticipated would be free to hang out in that country for an armed eternity. In the end, hundreds of bases were built. (And now, hundreds have been closed down or handed over to the Iraqis and in some cases looted). With present U.S. troop strength at about 47,000 (not counting mercenaries) and falling, American officials are now practically pleading with an Iraqi government moving ever closer to the Iranians to let some American forces remain at a few giant bases beyond the official end-of-2011 withdrawal date.

Don’t Get Fooled Again: Writing Our Own Economic Future

My neighbors and I know we can't go back to the old economy. But what can we do to build a new one?

Common Security Clubs are local groups that practice mutual aid, learn about the economic issues that face them, and take collective action. Click here for more blog entries.

On April 1, I sat down with a group of my neighbors—members of a newly formed Common Security Club in our Boston neighborhood—to watch Inside Job, the Academy Award-winning documentary about the 2008 economic meltdown. We were going for an April Fools Day theme: “Don’t get fooled again” by the bankers and executives who caused the crash.

For a lot of us, the theme hit home: “I have a feeling they are going to fool us again,” one person said. “We have the same CEOs, the same regulators. Are we just going to go around and around, from crash to a mild recovery to the next crash?”

It’s a level of vulnerability many of us just can’t feel comfortable with. In community centers, living rooms, and churches around the country, more than forty other groups gathered to view and discuss the documentary that day, seeking to better understand why the economic crisis happened—and how to make their communities more resilient in the future.

Voucher Advocate Betsy DeVos, Right-Wing Think Tanks Behind Koch-Style Attack on PA Public Schools

Rachel Tabachnick
Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 11:28:44 PM EST

The DeVos family crusade to eradicate public education has targeted Pennsylvania, and a voucher bill may come to a vote in the PA Senate as early as Tuesday. It's being marketed as a solution to save public schools, but the big donors are tied to right-wing think tanks that openly advocate, and strategize, the end of public education. How can vouchers improve public schools if the people mobilizing the movement intend to eradicate public education? Regardless of your personal stance on "school choice," it's important to know who is behind the voucher movement and the agenda they don't share with the public or advertise in their media campaigns.

America’s Debt Problem Is Not Caused By Social Programs

April 18, 2011
By Ray Medeiros

In a previous post I used some information that has since been corrected on the original site, Business Insider due to in-depth research into the actual OECD numbers by myself and others. It turns out that the United States spends 16.2% of our GDP on social programs, NOT 7.2%. But as I investigated further into the actual OECD numbers itself, file number, EQ5.XLS, data file EQ5.2 column (C) I have found something even more disturbing.

The United States spends 16.2% of our GDP on social programs and Canada spends 16.9% on theirs and an even closer comparison, Australia spends 16%. These two countries spend the same amount of their GDP to ensure a comfortable standard of living for their citizens as the United States does, yet we do not have the same outcome.

Obama's Real Budget Plan (and Why It's a Huge Gamble)

By Robert Reich,
Posted on April 18, 2011, Printed on April 21, 2011

Paul Ryan says his budget plan will cut $4.4 trillion over ten years. The President says his new plan will cut $4 trillion over twelve years.

Let’s get real. Ten or twelve-year budgets are baloney. It’s hard enough to forecast budgets a year or two into the future. Between now and 2022 or 2024 the economy will probably have gone through a recovery (I’ll explain later why I fear it will be anemic at best) and another downturn. America will also have been through a bunch of elections – at least five congressional and three presidential.

The practical question is how to get out of the ongoing gravitational pull of this awful recession without kowtowing to extremists on the right who think the U.S. government is their mortal enemy. For President Obama, it’s also about how to get reelected.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dems needn’t negotiate

By Heather “Digby” Parton - 04/19/11 06:00 PM ET

Shudders went through the Beltway on Monday on the news that Standard & Poor’s had lowered its outlook for U.S. debt because of its “fears” that the Democrats and Republicans wouldn’t be able to come together to eliminate the deficit. The press breathlessly reported that the market “plunged” 140 points on the news. Chris Matthews barked, “This is scary!”

The so-called plunge turned out to be the biggest one-day drop since ... March 16 of this year. And Paul Krugman wryly commented on his blog that “If S&P warns that U.S. bonds might not be safe, and the price of those bonds rises, you really have to wonder how anyone can write with a straight face that this warning caused other market movements.” But let’s not let any of that get in the way of a good story: “The Market Gods are displeased with all this partisanship and Washington. Must. Heed.”

Digby: Lessons For Today

Here are two very important pieces of relevant information that are not well understood even by many liberals. The first is about the stale trope that the ratio of workers to retirees was once much much higher and has shrunk to an unforeseen, unsustainable level. The second is about the idea that patients are "consumers" who need to be making "smarter choices."

Scott Hochberg:

On Face the Nation this Sunday, Sen. Mark Warner was asked by host Bob Schieffer why his ‘Gang of Six’ would take on Social Security reform in their forthcoming budget proposal. His response reflected a commonly-held myth about Social Security’s history that greatly exaggerates the changes in the worker-to-retiree ratio between 1950 and today. Warner gave as his rationale the popular refrain that "part of this is just math: 16 workers for every one retiree 50 years ago, three workers for every retiree now."

Do-Nothing Congress as a Cure


A trick question: If Congress takes no action in coming years, what will happen to the budget deficit?

It will shrink — and shrink a lot. This simple fact may offer the best hope for deficit reduction.

As federal law currently stands, some significant tax increases are set to take effect in coming years. The most important is the scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012.

Of course, both parties favor the permanent extension of most of those tax cuts — the ones applying to income below $250,000. Both parties also oppose big cuts to the military, Social Security and Medicare, at least in the short term. Unfortunately, the deficit is likely to remain frighteningly large over the next decade without either cuts to those programs or tax increases.

More on "financial martial law" from Big Government Conservatives

Big Government Conservatives are conservatives who don't want anyone in government to have power until they control government; then they want to rule like kings.

The latest example is what's happening in Michigan, where the new Teabag-enabled GOP governor has been given "financial martial law" powers. Our discussion of that subject is here. Rachel Maddow has been on it as well.

How the Wall Street Journal Distorts the Truth About Taxes

Posted: 04/19/11 06:48 PM ET

The Wall Street Journal is the leading mouthpiece for cutting taxes for the rich. The Journal editorial board is fully in the service of that cause. An editorial at the start of this week ("Where the Tax Money Is," April 18, 2011) is a vivid case in point. The Journal claims that IRS data prove the "fiscal futility of raising rates on the top 2%, or even the top 5% or 10% of taxpayers to close the deficit." The IRS data in fact prove exactly the opposite of what the Journal claims.

I direct readers to the "Summary of Latest Federal Income Tax Data" presented by the Tax Foundation, October 6, 2010, No. 249. There the reader will find the data they need to discover how the Journal has gotten it all wrong.

A Broad-Based Solution to Our Energy Problem

The real solution to our oil-consumption problem won't be solved by energy policy.

Ben Adler | April 20, 2011

With instability in the Arab world causing oil prices to surge, and Republicans proposing, with typical venality and idiocy, to solve the problem through either rampant domestic oil drilling or stealing the oil in Iraq and Libya, President Barack Obama is striking a more reasoned tone. In a recent speech at Georgetown University, the president proposed reducing America's foreign oil imports by one-third by 2025. In itself, this sounds like a worthy goal, but given the breadth of the environmental and economic problems that our oil consumption causes, it's unambitious at best.

Bipartisan Senators Indict Wall Street, Media Yawns. Six Guys Push Stale Deficit Hype, Media Goes Wild

It should have been the lead story from coast to coast: A bipartisan panel of senators, including some of that body's most conservative members, released a damning report that slammed bankers, regulators and ratings agencies—and they made it clear that they'd like to see warrants issued against the CEO of Goldman Sachs and other financial executives.

This report was endorsed by all of its Republican members, including conservative co-chair Tom Coburn and Tea Party Senator Rand Paul. Hey, editors, how's this for a headline? "Libs and Tea Party Senators demand: 'Bring me the head of Goldman Sachs.'"

Now that's what I call news!

The media responded with a collective yawn.

Teenage Mutant Theocrats

Frederick Clarkson
Tue Apr 19, 2011 at 10:38:38 PM EST

Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights reports that a recent regional Tea Party Patriots conference held in Idaho was a far-right stew of

"...racist "birther" attacks on President Obama, discussions of the conspiracy behind the problem facing America (complete with anti-Semitic illustration), Christian nationalism, anti-environmentalism, and serious calls for legislation promoting states' rights and "nullification."

While Christian nationalism is often in the mix in such far right settings as this, the presentation on the subject stood out to veteran rightwatcher Burghart.

Fracking Blowout Causes Massive Spill in Pennsylvania

by: Mike Ludwig, Truthout

Thousands of gallons of potentially toxic hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," liquids spilled across pastures and into a stream in rural Pennsylvania early this morning, after a natural gas well suffered a blowout at 11:45 p.m. Tuesday night.

Francis Roupp, a deputy director of the Bradford County emergency services, said "many thousands" of gallons of fracturing liquids were released after a blowout near the well head. Roupp was unsure how much liquid was released, but he said it is possible that hundreds of thousands of gallons could have been released and have spilled across acres of pasture and into a small tributary to a local river.

After Budget Showdown, Women Under the Bus

By Katha Pollitt, The Nation
Posted on April 18, 2011, Printed on April 20, 2011

It’s getting awfully crowded underneath that bus. You know, the metaphorical one women keep getting thrown under, along with their rights, their health and their money. Women lost much of their insurance coverage for abortion during the fight over the healthcare reform bill last fall, but at least they got some good things out of it: coverage for millions of uninsured women, preventive care including breast and cervical cancer screenings, and a bar on refusing coverage for such pre-existing conditions as having been a rape or domestic violence victim. Overall—and assuming the law is not overturned or sabotaged by the Republicans—women will be better off in terms of affordable healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, than if the bill had been scuttled over the Stupak-Pitts amendment.

The New Corporate World Order

By Robert Scheer

The debate over Republicans’ insistence on continued tax breaks for the superrich and the corporations they run should come to a screeching halt with the report in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal headlined “Big U.S. Firms Shift Hiring Abroad.” Those tax breaks over the past decade, leaving some corporations such as General Electric to pay no taxes at all, were supposed to lead to job creation, but just the opposite has occurred. As the WSJ put it, the multinational companies “cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million, new data from the U.S. Commerce Department show.”

General Electric, which was bailed out by taxpayers and which stored so much of its profit abroad that it paid no taxes for the past two years, was forced to tighten up, but while cutting its foreign workforce by 1,000 it cut a far more severe 28,000 in the United States. Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE, recently appointed by President Barack Obama as his chief outside economic adviser, admits that this does not involve poorly paid work that Americans don’t want, but instead prime jobs: “We’ve globalized around markets, not cheap labor. The era of globalization around cheap labor is over. Today we go to China, we go to India, because that’s where the customers are.”

Solar power without solar cells: A hidden magnetic effect of light could make it possible

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells.

The researchers found a way to make an "optical battery," said Stephen Rand, a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics.

In the process, they overturned a century-old tenet of physics.

"You could stare at the equations of motion all day and you will not see this possibility. We've all been taught that this doesn't happen," said Rand, an author of a paper on the work published in the Journal of Applied Physics. "It's a very odd interaction. That's why it's been overlooked for more than 100 years."

The Bank of Mom and Pop

Person-to-person lending is finally ready to take on banks and credit card companies.

By Farhad Manjoo
Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2011, at 5:14 PM ET

Things were looking so good for five years ago. To most people, the economy appeared to be functional, dot-com nightmare stories had faded from memory, and the time seemed ripe for Web 2.0 to take over the world of personal loans. Prosper and several other "person-to-person lending" sites operated like an eBay for credit: Prospective borrowers put up requests for loans, disclosed their credit rating and the reason they needed the money, and tried to make a case for lenders to take a chance on their dream—at attractive premiums.

Gov. Walker planning ‘financial martial law’ in Wisconsin

By David Edwards
Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 -- 5:05 pm

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is reportedly following the lead of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) by preparing a plan that would allow him to possibly take over municipalities that don't pass a financial stress test.

"[T]he Walker legislation would empower the governor to insert a financial manager of his choosing into local government with the ability to cancel union contracts, push aside duly elected local government officials and school board members and take control of Wisconsin cities and towns whenever he sees fit to do so," according to Forbes.

Can biochar help suppress greenhouse gases?

New Zealand study shows biochar to decrease nitrous oxide emissions

MADISON, WI APRIL19, 2011 – Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas and a precursor to compounds that contribute to the destruction of the ozone. Intensively managed, grazed pastures are responsible for an increase in nitrous oxide emissions from grazing animals' excrement. Biochar is potentially a mitigation option for reducing the world's elevated carbon dioxide emissions, since the embodied carbon can be sequestered in the soil. Biochar also has the potential to beneficially alter soil nitrogen transformations.

Fiscal Conservatives Dodge $10 Trillion Debt

Bloomberg Opinion

Washington is filled with self- congratulation this week, with Republicans claiming that they have opened serious discussion of the U.S. budget deficit and President Barack Obama’s proponents arguing that his counterblast last Wednesday will win the day.

The reality is that neither side has come to grips with the most basic of our harsh fiscal realities.

Start with the facts as provided by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Compare the CBO’s budget forecast for January 2008, before the outbreak of serious financial crisis in the fall of that year, with its latest version from January 2011. The relevant line is “debt held by the public at the end of the year,” meaning net federal government debt held by the private sector, which excludes government agency holdings of government debt.

The Tea Party Propaganda Factory You Probably Don't Know About

By David Rosen, AlterNet
Posted on April 19, 2011, Printed on April 20, 2011

The 2010 Supreme Court decision permitting unlimited campaign spending by corporations, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, is one of the most momentous rulings in U.S. legal history. It transforms the long but unspoken truth of American politics – corporate wealth buys legislative power -- into the law of the land.

The Court’s judgment adds one more nail to the coffin of transparent governance based on popular democracy. The unlimited financing and unreported accountability of the media message complements generous campaign contributions, well-paid lobbyists and effective regulatory capture to further ensure that corporate wealth maintains political influence. The Court’s decision is the icing on the cake to an era of unprecedented class polarization, with the rich seizing an ever greater share of the nation’s wealth.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq

By Paul Bignell
Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Plans to exploit Iraq's oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world's largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.

The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain's involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair's cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western governments at the time.

Michael Dell: The Making of an American Oligarch

Before he became the 15th-richest American, Michael Dell was hailed as a corporate wunderkind. His eponymous computer company's "dazzlingly efficient" factory in Austin, Texas, "may be the best hope of keeping blue-collar jobs in the United States," proclaimed the New York Times in 2004. Recently, Dell Inc. has been better known for gobbling up federal contracts and pulling financial shenanigans to line its executives' pockets—all while exploiting tax loopholes, outsourcing production, and laying off American workers.