Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Morgenson Runs Peterson Institute Propaganda Against “Entitlements” Meaning Medicare and Social Security

I’m generally a Gretchen Morgenson fan, since she’s one of the few writers with a decent bully pulpit who regularly ferrets out misconduct in the corporate and finance arenas. But when she wanders off her regular terrain, the results are mixed, and her current piece is a prime example. She also sometimes pens articles based on a single source, which creates the risk of serving as a mouthpiece for a particular point of view. And the one she chose to represent tonight is one that is in no need of amplification, that of the Peterson Foundation’s well-funded campaign to gut Social Security and Medicare.

The Peterson Institute paper she relies upon, by former Fed and Treasury economist Joe Gagnon and Peterson Institute research associate Marc Hinterschweiger, is about the government deficits and the need to take Serious Measures to get them under control, which of course means reducing entitlements, in particular Social Security and Medicare.

The Truth about the US Economy

The U.S. economy continues to stagnate. It’s growing at the rate of 1.8 percent, which is barely growing at all. Consumer spending is down. Home prices are down. Jobs and wages are going nowhere.

It’s vital that we understand the truth about the American economy.

How did we go from the Great Depression to 30 years of Great Prosperity? And from there, to 30 years of stagnant incomes and widening inequality, culminating in the Great Recession? And from the Great Recession into such an anemic recovery?

The Medicare “Crisis”: A “Shaggy Wolf Story”

Trustees’ Report Much Less Gloomy than Advertised

Summary: Below, Part 2 of the May 13 post headlined “Medicare Trustees Report that Reform Legislation Cuts Medicare Costs by 25 Percent.”

Conservatives continue to use the annual report recently released by Medicare’s Trustees as evidence that Medicare needs what one conservative pundit calls a “sweeping overhaul.” In theory, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare is dead, but somehow, it’s still in the news. Yesterday Newt Gingrich announced that he’s with Ryan, and today Senator John Kerry is calling a press conference to denounce Ryan’s voucher plan.

What has been lost in the debate is the fact that the Trustee’s report is not nearly as gloomy as advertised.

Jared Bernstein Lets Slip Interesting Info About WH Economic Views

By: David Dayen Monday May 30, 2011 11:23 am

Paul Krugman had a good column today on how America needed to end its “learned helplessness” on the jobs crisis. He cited multiple options of things the government could do right now to create jobs, which would of course increase government revenue and over time reduce the deficit. Among them were such ideas as a WPA-type program of public works jobs, repairing roads an rebuilding infrastructure; a dedication to increasing inflation, which would reduce the debt burden; or a “serious program of mortgage modification” that would reduce private debt from homeowners and allow them to spend in a more productive capacity (not to mention the effect on home prices from reducing foreclosures).

Instead, Washington is consumed with reducing the deficit, finding “common ground” on the budget cuts that would theoretically make those reductions, and committed to messing around with Medicare and slashing other vital safety-net programs. Krugman’s point was that another world is possible, and that it’s important for those on the outside of government to explain what that world could look like, even given the opposition from the Republican Party to these measures

Health Care Rationing for Beginners

By James Kwak

“Obama-care kills Medicare as we know it. Obama-care raids $500 billion from Medicare to spend on Obama-care, puts in place a 15-panel board to ration Medicare by unelected bureaucrats.

“Our budget, repeals the raiding, gets rid of the rationing board, preserves this program, makes no changes for a person 55 years of age or older and saves Medicare, by reforming it for our generation, so it’s solvent. The president’s plan does not save Medicare, it allows it to go bankrupt, rations the program and raids the program. We get rid of the rationing, we stop the raiding and we save the program from bankruptcy.”

That was Paul Ryan on Fox News recently.

Ordinarily this wouldn’t be worth responding to, except to point out, as Sam Stein did, that Ryan’s proposed budget alsoraids $500 billion from Medicare,” so the statement that “we stop the raiding” is, um, a lie. But it isn’t news that Paul Ryan has an issue with honesty, except perhaps for David Brooks.

Madison Avenue Declares 'Mass Affluence' Over

The American middle class, concludes a new study from the ad industry’s top trade journal, has essentially become irrelevant. In a deeply unequal America, if you’re over 35 and your income hasn’t yet topped $200,000 a year, you don’t matter.

The chain-smoking ad agency account execs of Mad Men, the hit cable TV series set in the early 1960s, all want to be rich some day. But these execs, professionally, couldn’t care less about the rich. They spend their nine-to-fives marketing to average Americans, not rich ones.

Mad Men’s real-life ad agency brethren, 50 years ago, behaved the exact same way — for an eminently common-sense reason: In mid-20th century America, the entire U.S. economy revolved around middle class households. The vast bulk of U.S. income sat in middle class pockets.

DNA tests find "disturbingly widespread" seafood fraud

May 27, 2011 11:00 AM

If you've long suspected that the "mahi-mahi" on your plate may really be yellowtail, you now have science on your side: Researchers with the non-profit group Oceana have harnessed the power of forensic science to confirm that as much as half of all seafood sold in the U.S. is mislabeled.

"Results from our DNA lab show that about half the time the fish you are eating is not the species listed on the menu," said DNA tester William Gergits. The group accuses the industry of "seafood fraud," and is calling on the federal government to step in to more tightly regulate fisheries and related businesses.

Paul Krugman: Against Learned Helplessness

Unemployment is a terrible scourge across much of the Western world. Almost 14 million Americans are jobless, and millions more are stuck with part-time work or jobs that fail to use their skills. Some European countries have it even worse: 21 percent of Spanish workers are unemployed.

Nor is the situation showing rapid improvement. This is a continuing tragedy, and in a rational world bringing an end to this tragedy would be our top economic priority.

Yet a strange thing has happened to policy discussion: on both sides of the Atlantic, a consensus has emerged among movers and shakers that nothing can or should be done about jobs. Instead of a determination to do something about the ongoing suffering and economic waste, one sees a proliferation of excuses for inaction, garbed in the language of wisdom and responsibility.

Monday, May 30, 2011

World-Wide Assessment Determines Differences in Cultures

May 26, 2011

Conflicts and misunderstandings frequently arise between individuals from different cultures. But what makes cultures different; what makes one more restrictive and another less so?

A new international study led by the University of Maryland and supported by the National Science Foundation's Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences offers insights that may help explain such cultural differences and bridge the gaps between them.

A Decade of Magical Tax-Cut Thinking

The 2001 Bush tax cuts added $2.5 trillion to the national debt and disproportionately benefited the wealthiest households. Have we learned anything?

by Chuck Collins

Republican leaders in Congress have a one-point program for whatever ails the nation: cut taxes for millionaires and large corporations.

Got a revenue surplus? Cut taxes. Got a budget deficit? Cut taxes. Got a toothache? Cut taxes.

These politicians are like my uncle who believed the solution to every problem was a wee glass of scotch. They live in a world of magical thinking.

Who's Killing the US Middle Class? Russia Today Debate With Harvard/Cato Institute Economist

While I'm posting videos, here's a debate on the death of the middle class I did on Russian Television with Harvard economist and Cato Institute maven Jeffrey Miron and Samuel Sherraden of New America. Samuel's a good guy, but Miron and I really went at it.

Global Warming Will Bring Violent Storms And Tornadoes, NASA Predicts

ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2007) — NASA scientists have developed a new climate model that indicates that the most violent severe storms and tornadoes may become more common as Earth's climate warms.

Previous climate model studies have shown that heavy rainstorms will be more common in a warmer climate, but few global models have attempted to simulate the strength of updrafts in these storms. The model developed at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies by researchers Tony Del Genio, Mao-Sung Yao, and Jeff Jonas is the first to successfully simulate the observed difference in strength between land and ocean storms and is the first to estimate how the strength will change in a warming climate, including "severe thunderstorms" that also occur with significant wind shear and produce damaging winds at the ground.

Conservative Media Mangle Memo To Attack The NLRB

May 28, 2011 12:42 pm ET — 5 Comments

Conservative media outlets are deriding a memo recently released by the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that it "shows that the board wants to give unions much greater power over employers and their investment and management decisions." In reality, the memo addresses a narrow portion of labor law that requires employers to bargain with unions if labor costs are a factor when businesses decide to relocate. The changes contemplated in the memo would simply "encourage the use of bargaining rather than after-the-fact assessment of whether bargaining might have been successful."

The new Know Nothings

In their quest to convince voters that America is in danger, Republicans are lying about 9/11 and baldly denying history

Megan Carpentier
guardian.co.uk,Monday 11 January 2010 21.00 GMT

More than 150 years ago, a disparate group of anti-immigrant, conspiracy-minded Americans became sick of traditional politicians and started a grassroots movement to take political power from the hands of those they no longer trusted. When asked by outsiders what their movement was called, they were ordered to answer, "I know nothing," leading others to call them the Know Nothing party. The movement, however, was co-opted by the traditional parties and undermined by policy disagreements, and many members eventually folded into the Republican party. Some things, apparently, don't change as much as we'd like to believe.

Republican leaders, and the 20-somethings crafting their made-for-television talking points, are apparently counting on the fact that their base still knows nothing, or is at least willing to forget what they do know. Not content to blame the Bush-led Wall Street bailouts on President Obama, or the shoe-bomber reprise on Obama's security and intelligence policies that were nonetheless instituted by his predecessors, Republican thought-leaders like Mary Matalin, former White House press secretary Dana Perino and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani have decided that there is one big thing that just couldn't have happened on the Republicans' watch: 9/11.

Mysterious fund allows Congress to spend freely, despite earmark ban

By Cole Deines, CNN
May 28, 2011 -- Updated 2354 GMT (0754 HKT)

Washington (CNN) -- The defense bill that just passed the House of Representatives includes a back-door fund that lets individual members of Congress funnel millions of dollars into projects of their choosing.

This is happening despite a congressional ban on earmarks -- special, discretionary spending that has funded Congress' pet projects back home in years past, but now has fallen out of favor among budget-conscious deficit hawks.

Bubbling sea signals severe coral damage this century

Findings from a "natural laboratory" in seas off Papua New Guinea suggest that acidifying oceans will severely hit coral reefs by the end of the century.

Carbon dioxide bubbles into the water from the slopes of a dormant volcano here, making it slightly more acidic.

Meet the New GOP, Same as the Old GOP

Posted on May 28, 2011, Printed on May 30, 2011

For the better part of two years, the Republican base made it clear it prefers a certain kind of far-right candidate. These activists demanded "insurgents" and "outsiders," who have no use for the entrenched Washington establishment and its corrupt power structure. After the midterms, we'd see a new way of doing business.

Or not.

Hard-charging Republicans who rallied voters last year with cries of "Stop the spending, ban the earmarks" are quietly offering a more familiar Washington refrain now that they're in Congress: not in my backyard.

Come Saturday Morning: GOP Tax Lies about Maryland and Oregon

By: Phoenix Woman
Saturday May 28, 2011 6:45 am

Watching Republicans lie about taxes and money can be entertaining, such as what we’re seeing happen with any Republican who dares touch the leprosy-transmitting kryptonite known as Paul Ryan’s Fantasy Budget. But that doesn’t mean the lies are any less nasty — or that we can depend on the evening news to swat down these lies.

For instance, there are the lies, pushed in part with the repeated Murdoch Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page’s assistance, about rich people allegedly fleeing Oregon and Maryland in droves. BSP’s Sally Jo Sorensen catches a state legislator, Gruesome Glenn Gruenhagen, last seen being, um, freaky (hence the lovely Tildology graphic illustration), spreading the baloney via his e-mails to his constituents:

Maryland and Oregon each passed tax increases on top earners only to end up collecting far less revenue than anticipated. Both states lost approximately one-third of their high-income filers, who relocated to tax-friendly states like Florida. They didn’t necessarily move their entire business out of state, but relocated themselves enough days a year to meet tax-filing requirements.

There's a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Deal With a Jobs Crisis -- Why Is Germany Doing It So Well?

By John Schmitt, AlterNet
Posted on May 30, 2011, Printed on May 30, 2011

The Great Recession hit harder in the United States than in most of the rest of the world. Among the world's rich economies, we experienced the third largest increase in unemployment, trailing only Spain and Ireland. Most advanced economies saw substantially smaller increases in unemployment and one --Germany-- actually saw its unemployment rate decline.

Can we learn anything from countries that weathered the Great Recession better than we did? The experience of two countries --Denmark and Germany-- seems particularly informative. Denmark had a model labor market before the downturn, but ironically, offers a cautionary tale. Germany's economy has been up and down since unification in the early 1990s, but points one way out of our mess.

Global carbon at record high: IEA

1 hr 16 mins ago

PARIS (AFP) – Carbon-dioxide emissions hit a record high last year, the International Energy Agency said on Monday, dimming the prospects of limiting the global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius.

"Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history, according to the latest estimates," the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a statement.

After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt), a five percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt, the IEA said.

Hospitals hunt substitutes as drug shortages rise

"Some experts pointedly note that pricier brand-name drugs seldom are in short supply."

23 mins ago

WASHINGTON – A growing shortage of medications for a host of illnesses — from cancer to cystic fibrosis to cardiac arrest — has hospitals scrambling for substitutes to avoid patient harm, and sometimes even delaying treatment.

"It's just a matter of time now before we call for a drug that we need to save a patient's life and we find out there isn't any," says Dr. Eric Lavonas of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

AT&T Wants to Give You an 80s Makeover

If you were around in the 80s, you might be experiencing a horrible flashback right about now.

No, it’s not because legwarmers and spandex are in style again. It’s because AT&T, that monopoly that once lorded over your rotary phone, has resurfaced with a scheme to rule your mobile phone as well.

Back in the 80s, AT&T’s power was near absolute. That’s why antitrust authorities stepped in to break up the monopoly and protect the American people against abuse.

Now, with AT&T’s planned $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile, we’re reaching the danger point again. And this time control over one of the most vital forms of communication is at stake.

Abortion saved my life

I almost died in an emergency room because the doctor on call refused to perform a necessary procedure

By Mikki Kendall

There's this lawmaker out of Kansas, Rep. Peter DeGraaf, who has a lot to say about abortion. He's currently best known for saying that women should plan ahead in case of rape and not expect their regular insurance to cover an abortion after an assault. And I could spend a lot of time discussing the flaws in his logic, or even hashing out when life begins, but what I'm really concerned about is the idea that anyone besides a pregnant woman should have a say in what she does with her body after finding out she's pregnant.

I'm a mom, and I love my sons more than anything. And it is because I love them that I had an abortion at 20 weeks. It was my fifth pregnancy (I'd had two earlier miscarriages), and, as it turned out, my last. There was trouble from the beginning; I didn't experience any of the normal indicators of pregnancy, so I was already ten weeks along when I found out. I hadn't so much as missed a period; in fact, I was seeing an OB/GYN because of the increased heaviness in my cycle. When we found out, I talked it over with my husband and we debated an abortion before deciding we'd try to make it work. My doctor told me that my pregnancy was very high risk and that she wasn't sure of a good outcome. Per her instructions, I took it very easy because I wanted to give the baby the best possible chance. But I kept having intermittent bleeding and I knew there was a good chance I wouldn't be able to carry to term.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Responding to Ryan

Let me begin by saying that though I’m eager to do an interview where we can really engage with one another’s arguments, I appreciate Paul Ryan response to my questions and hope we can continue the dialogue. In this post, I’m going to focus on his two most important arguments: the one for why his plan will work, and the one for why other plans failed. The first argument can be summed up as “look at Medicare Part D,” the second as “look at the rest of the world.”

”Our premium-support plan is modeled after the Medicare Part D prescription-drug program,” Ryan writes, “in which providers compete against each other for seniors’ business. Medicare Part D came in 40 percent below cost projections done at the time of enactment — that’s almost unheard of for a government program.”

The Republican Job Creators Myth

On Thursday, John Boehner and the House Republican leadership team unveiled their "Plan for America's Job Creators." As he repeatedly made clear before the Economic Club of New York and again on CBS Face the Nation, Boehner's "job creators" are the top two percent of income earners whose Bush tax cuts President Obama has proposed ending. And that presents a bit of problem for the Republicans. After all, George W. Bush's tax breaks for the wealthy sadly coincided with the worst period of job creation of any president since Herbert Hoover. Which means the GOP plan for America's job creators is just another tax cut windfall for the gilded class.

Rick Perlstein on Hubert Humphrey and "the road not taken"

Historian Rick Perlstein has a terrific article in the New York Times commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hubert Humphrey.

But the article is also about us, Democrats and progressives, the road we took in the Johnson-to-Clinton years, and the road we didn't. In the process, Prelstein reshuffles the list of "saints and sinners" who got us to this place. For many, chief on the sinners list is Hubert Humphrey.

America’s Forgotten Liberal



JANUARY was the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth, and the planet nearly stopped turning on its axis to recognize the occasion. Today is the 100th anniversary of Hubert H. Humphrey’s birth, and no one besides me seems to have noticed.

That such a central figure in American history is largely ignored today is sad. But his diminution is also, more importantly, an impediment to understanding our current malaise as a nation, and how much better things might have been had today’s America turned out less Reaganite and more Humphreyish.

Our forgotten man was born in eastern South Dakota to a pharmacist, a trade the son took over after the family moved to Minnesota. That biographical fact was the source for the derisive title of a 1968 biography, “The Drugstore Liberal” — that is to say, like a “drugstore cowboy,” a small-timer, not really a liberal at all, at a time, quite unlike our own, when a liberal reputation was a prerequisite for the Democratic presidential nomination. The unfairness was evident only in retrospect.

An All-American Retirement System: Building for the Future

by: William John Cox, Truthout

While Congress bickers and the president dithers, roads are crumbling, bridges are failing, dams are cracking and water and sewer systems are leaking all across the United States. If that's not enough to worry about, the government is threatening to default on the $2.5 Trillion it has borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund and few private employers are offering decent retirement plans.

A simple solution to all of these problems can be found in a secure national retirement system that allows all American workers and small-business owners the opportunity to participate in a tax-free infrastructure fund invested in the bonds issued by state and local governments.

After Voting To Slash Funding For The EPA, Rep. Barletta Now Outraged It’s Not Doing More In His District

Three months after voting to eliminate funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) now says he’s outraged that the EPA isn’t doing more to protect the health of residents in his district. Barletta is insisting that the agency pay special attention to an area in Pittson, PA, after one resident alleged that a tunnel near a Superfund site gave him cancer. The EPA held an open house and information session to address the concerns of residents in the area, but said it did not plan to conduct further testing.

Despite What Boehner Says, Republicans Have Voted To Cut Medicare, Repeatedly

Brian Beutler | May 27, 2011, 1:54PM

The words "voted to" could come back to haunt House Speaker John Boehner.

In his weekly Capitol briefing with reporters Thursday, Boehner made an unmistakably false claim. "The only people in Washington, DC who have voted to cut Medicare have been the Democrats when they voted to cut $500 billion in Medicare during Obamacare," he said. Given a chance to walk it back, Boehner's spokesman did not.

Even if you leave out the key modifier "voted to" this is far from true. Both parties have actually "cut" Medicare many times over the years. Republicans in particular haven't just voted for cuts, but passed legislation that presidents either signed or vetoed.

Forget Ideology: Conservatives Need to Develop a Basic Sense of Right and Wrong

By BuzzFlash
Created 05/28/2011 - 7:20am

FINDING A VOICE by Ann Davidow

In the film Clear and Present Danger one of the president's henchmen who has engineered an unauthorized war in South America angrily confronts CIA chief Jack Ryan for questioning the operation saying "You are such a boy-scout." For you everything is black and white, no gray areas. To which Ryan replies 'not black and white, right and wrong.' It's a scene that gets at the heart of what happens in the political world when standards are swept aside and replaced by ill-chosen, short-term remedies devised by partisans without conscience.

Decisions these days are rarely made according to principles that define right and wrong. They're all about outwitting political opponents, taking partisan advantage of situations where morality is the last thing under consideration. "Free markets" today are the bellwether of social values and any who dare question the premise are branded socialists or communists. Never mind that free markets are often the end game of unscrupulous manipulators of our fiscal condition, a name given to make what is venal and corrupt seem decent and honorable.

Five Eye-Opening Facts About Our Bloated Post-9/11 'Defense' Spending

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on May 28, 2011, Printed on May 28, 2011

This week, the National Priorities Project (NPP) released a snapshot of U.S. “defense” spending since September 11, 2001. The eye-popping figures lend credence to the theory that al Qaeda's attacks were a form of economic warfare – that they hoped for a massive overreaction that would entangle us in costly foreign wars that would ultimately drain away our national wealth.

They didn't bankrupt us the same way the Mujahadeen helped bring down the Soviet Union decades before, because our economy was much stronger. But they did succeed in putting us deep into the red – with an assist, of course, from Bush's ideologically driven tax cuts for the wealthy.

Oregon Senator Wyden freezes second Internet censorship bill

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, May 27th, 2011 -- 10:32 am

A U.S. Senator from Oregon has once again taken a stand against his own party to defend what he sees as the inherent right to free speech on the Internet, placing a hold on a bill that could force search engines and Internet service providers to block websites deemed to be "infringing" on copyrights.

The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act -- or "PROTECT IP" for short was part of a second attempt to pass provisions of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which failed to clear Congress during its last session thanks to a parliamentary maneuver by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The New-Economy Movement

by Gar Alperovitz

The idea that we need a “new economy”—that the entire economic system must be radically restructured if critical social and environmental goals are to be met—runs directly counter to the American creed that capitalism as we know it is the best, and only possible, option. Over the past few decades, however, a deepening sense of the profound ecological challenges facing the planet and growing despair at the inability of traditional politics to address economic failings have fueled an extraordinary amount of experimentation by activists, economists and socially minded business leaders. Most of the projects, ideas and research efforts have gained traction slowly and with little notice. But in the wake of the financial crisis, they have proliferated and earned a surprising amount of support—and not only among the usual suspects on the left. As the threat of a global climate crisis grows increasingly dire and the nation sinks deeper into an economic slump for which conventional wisdom offers no adequate remedies, more and more Americans are coming to realize that it is time to begin defining, demanding and organizing to build a new-economy movement.

Defend Social Security

Democrats must refuse to mess with the retirement program.

By Heather Digby Parton

In his 1989 book On Borrowed Time, Wall Street baron Peter G. Peterson wrote that “heroic medical interventions on behalf of the aged constitute an unaffordable and unjustifiable claim on society’s resources,” adding that “the elderly, after all, have already accomplished and enjoyed most, if not all, of what they can reasonably expect in life.” In 1994, he famously said, “We will no longer be able to afford a system that equates the last third or more of one’s adult life with a publicly subsidized vacation.” In 2000, when the budget was in surplus, he told PBS that even trying to put more money into the Social Security system was futile because some future politician would just spend it. In 2005 the Bush administration’s failed privatization scheme was a set-back. But Peterson didn’t give up. By 2008, he had created a new organization devoted to sounding the alarm about Social Security solvency (again), and seeded it with $1 billion.

Ayn Rand Indoctrination at American Universities, Sponsored by the Right Wing

By Daniel Denvir, AlterNet
Posted on May 24, 2011, Printed on May 28, 2011

These days, rich conservatives want a lot more than their names on university buildings in exchange for big donations. The Koch brothers recently endowed two economics professorships at Florida State University in exchange for a say over faculty hires. Banker John Allison, long-time head of BB&T, has donated to 60 universities in exchange for their agreeing to teach Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged--some agreements even include the outrageous stipulation that the professor teaching the course “have a positive interest in and be well versed in Objectivism.”

The economic crisis has opened American universities to ever more brazen--and at times decidedly strange--attacks on the hallowed principle of academic freedom. Conservative efforts to shape hearts and minds on campus, however, are far from new. Like anything in a capitalist society, academia is a place where people with money fight for power, and take their advantage where they can. Indeed, the effort to mold higher education--which the Right has long caricatured as a hotbed of revolutionary agitation--in the image of the establishment has been central to the rise of modern conservatism.

Why the Democratic Party Has Abandoned the Middle Class in Favor of the Rich

By Kevin Drum, Mother Jones
Posted on May 27, 2011, Printed on May 28, 2011

In 2008, a liberal Democrat was elected president. Landslide votes gave Democrats huge congressional majorities. Eight years of war and scandal and George W. Bush had stigmatized the Republican Party almost beyond redemption. A global financial crisis had discredited the disciples of free-market fundamentalism, and Americans were ready for serious change.

Or so it seemed. But two years later, Wall Street is back to earning record profits, and conservatives are triumphant. To understand why this happened, it's not enough to examine polls and tea parties and the makeup of Barack Obama's economic team. You have to understand how we fell so short, and what we rightfully should have expected from Obama's election. And you have to understand two crucial things about American politics.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Republicans Announce Jobs Plan -- This Time It's Different

Republicans announce [1]d something they called a "jobs plan [2]" today. This time it's different. It really is. This time it really will create jobs instead of just handing even more money to a few at the top at the expense of the rest of us. You might not believe this because Republicans sell everything by calling it a jobs plan. And what they sell is always tax cuts for the wealthy while cutting the things We, the People do for each other. And it always ends up messing everything up for most of us. But this time it's different.

But This Time It's Different

Republicans always offer something called a "jobs plan" and the plan is always tax cuts for the rich while gutting the things We, the People -- a.k.a. government -- do for each other. Their "jobs plans" always end up enriching the already-wealthy while messing things up really bad for us.

But this time is different because this time they actually offered something that is called a "jobs plan." So there you go! And this time the plan is different because this time the plan is to cut taxes for the wealthy and giant corporations, cut government protections for working people and the environment, but also opening our borders to let in goods made in countries unhampered by democracy's protections while cutting taxes on companies that offshore jobs. So Bob's your uncle [3].

Why the Rich Love High Unemployment

Tuesday 24 May 2011
by: Mark Provost, Truthout

In the last installment of this three-part series, Mark Provost again examines the myths perpetuated by the ruling class to frame massive transfers of wealth to the rich as well-intentioned economic "recovery" policies. Parts 1 [3] and 2 [4] appeared on Truthout in December 2010 and January 2011. - TO

Christina Romer, former member of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, accuses the administration of "shamefully ignoring" the unemployed. Paul Krugman echoes her concerns, observing that Washington has lost interest in "the forgotten millions." America's unemployed have been ignored and forgotten, but they are far from superfluous. Over the last two years, out-of-work Americans have played a critical role in helping the richest one percent recover trillions in financial wealth.

Obama's advisers often congratulate themselves for avoiding another Great Depression - an assertion not amenable to serious analysis or debate. A better way to evaluate their claims is to compare the US economy to other rich countries over the last few years.

A Turning-Point We Miss at Our Peril

We have the choice of burning all the oil left and hacking down all the remaining rainforests - or saving humanity

by Johann Hari

Sometimes, there are hinge-points in human history – moments when we have to choose between an exuberant descent into lunacy, and a still, sober voice offering us a sane way out. Usually, we can only see them when we look back from a distance. In 1793, the great democrat Thomas Paine said the French Revolution shouldn't betray its principles by killing the King, because it would trigger an orgy of blood-letting that would eventually drown them all. They threw him in jail. In 1919, the great economist John Maynard Keynes said the European powers shouldn't humiliate Germany, because it would catalyse extreme nationalism and produce another world war. They ignored him. In 1953, a handful of US President Dwight Eisenhower's advisers urged him not to destroy Iranian democracy and kidnap its Prime Minister, because it would have a reactionary ripple effect that lasted decades. He refused to listen.

Another of those seemingly small moments with a long echo is happening now. A marginalised voice is offering us a warning, and an inspiring way to save ourselves – yet this alternative seems to be passing unheard in the night. It is coming from the people of Ecuador, led by their President, Rafael Correa, and it would begin to deal with two converging crises.

Factory Farms Produce 100 Times More Waste Than All People In the US Combined and It's Killing Our Drinking Water

By Jill Richardson, AlterNet
Posted on May 23, 2011, Printed on May 26, 2011

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently delivered a major victory to factory farms. Under a 2008 EPA rule, any confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) "designed, constructed, operated, and maintained in a manner such that the CAFO will discharge" animal waste must apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit under the Clean Water Act. The livestock industry ridiculed the notion that a farm must apply for a permit to discharge manure whether it intended to discharge it or not. And while, when phrased that way, it might sound ridiculous to you too, the details of the case betray a different story.

David Kirby, author of Animal Factory, The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment, tells story after story in his book of factory farms discharging waste irresponsibly -- sometimes on purpose, and sometimes not. As Karen Hudson, whose story is told in the book, says, "Factory farms are dangerous to the environment; they are ticking time bombs of manure just waiting to be spilled into public waters."

Labor’s Hail Mary pass

By Harold Meyerson
Published: May 24

This is a maddening time for anyone concerned about the lives of working-class Americans. The frustration and anger that suffused AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s declaration last week that labor would distance itself from the Democratic Party was both clear and widely noted. Not so widely noted has been a shift in the organizing strategy of two of labor’s leading institutions — Trumka’s AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union — that reflects a belief that the American labor movement may be on the verge of extinction and must radically change its game.

It took a multitude of Democratic sins and failures to push Trumka to denounce, if not exactly renounce,the political party that has been labor’s home at least since the New Deal. In a speech at the National Press Club last Friday, Trumka said that Republicans were wielding a “wrecking ball” against the rights and interests of working Americans. But Democrats, he added, were “simply standing aside” as the Republicans moved in for the kill.

Fed Gave Banks Crisis Gains on $80 Billion Secretive Loans as Low as 0.01%

By Bob Ivry - May 26, 2011 10:47 AM ET

Credit Suisse Group AG (CS), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) each borrowed at least $30 billion in 2008 from a Federal Reserve emergency lending program whose details weren’t revealed to shareholders, members of Congress or the public.

The $80 billion initiative, called single-tranche open- market operations, or ST OMO, made 28-day loans from March through December 2008, a period in which confidence in global credit markets collapsed after the Sept. 15 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Truth Decay: Conspiracy Theories and Hoaxes Are Blurring Reality

By Greg Guma, Maverick Media
Posted on May 25, 2011, Printed on May 26, 2011

After his End Times prediction failed last week millionaire radio prophet Harold Camping eventually came up with an excuse. During his show "Open Forum" in Oakland on May 23, he explained that the world will still end in October. It’s a process and we’re just getting started. That’s a relief. At first I thought millions of people had just wasted days of time and energy fussing over some hairbrained idea.

There are so many theories out there. Obama is a secret Muslim – millions of people believe that, secular humanists want to repress religion, and liberals are plotting to confiscate people’s guns and push a “gay agenda.” At the opposite end of the political spectrum, there's the assertion that 9/11 was an inside job and all that this entails. No offense meant. I’ve been called a “conspiracy nut” myself, specifically for saying that we should know more about the attack on the Twin Towers. Still, a modern-day Reichstag fire at multiple locations does qualify as a radical conclusion.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Destination within range

Stop worrying about the range of electric vehicles — many of us simply don't drive that far.

We have the technology for creating sustainable energy systems of the future

The fifth Risø International Energy Conference is over and the conclusions of the three-day conference are clear: The climate problems are becoming ever more urgent, but the energy systems of the future present even more issues. Technologically, we have good opportunities for creating sustainable energy systems.

We still need to halt the increase of global carbon emissions before 2020 and in the long term reduce emissions by at least 50% up to 2050. Ultimately, we will have to reduce carbon emissions to close to zero or even remove carbon completely from the atmosphere.

Beyond the Barn: Keeping Dairy Cows Outside is Good for the Outdoors

By Ann Perry
May 24, 2011

Computer simulation studies by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that a dairy cow living year-round in the great outdoors may leave a markedly smaller ecological hoofprint than its more sheltered sisters.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agricultural engineer Al Rotz led a team that evaluated how different management systems on a typical 250-acre Pennsylvania dairy farm would affect the environment. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA commitment to promoting sustainable agriculture. Rotz works at the ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit in University Park, Pa.

Teaching algae to make fuel

New process could lead to production of hydrogen using bioengineered microorganisms.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -— Many kinds of algae and cyanobacteria, common water-dwelling microorganisms, are capable of using energy from sunlight to split water molecules and release hydrogen, which holds promise as a clean and carbon-free fuel for the future. One reason this approach hasn’t yet been harnessed for fuel production is that under ordinary circumstances, hydrogen production takes a back seat to the production of compounds that the organisms use to support their own growth.

But Shuguang Zhang, associate director of MIT’s Center for Biomedical Engineering, and postdocs Iftach Yacoby and Sergii Pochekailov, together with colleagues at Tel Aviv University in Israel and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, have found a way to use bioengineered proteins to flip this preference, allowing more hydrogen to be produced.

An Emerald Isle Greeting for O'bama

Pictures of O'bama's visit to Ireland.--Dictynna

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why Gingrich Matters

James Fallows urges the press not to pay too much attention to Newt Gingrich’s already-floundering Presidential campaign. Comparing it to Donald Trump’s effort, he argues:

if Gingrich coverage turns into Carnival Barkers Part Deux, we’ll end up giving headline attention to disputes that have more to do with reality-show celebrity than with how Republicans will choose their issues and their candidate.

Fallows clearly has a point, but in my view he neglects Gingrich’s broader significance, and thus the reason why his campaign should undergo sustained scrutiny. The modern Republican Party is to a great extent, Gingrich’s party. Not because of the man himself, but rather because of “Gingrichism” — his philosophy of how to conduct politics.

The essential nature of Gingrich’s insurgency in the House and his conduct as Speaker was the destruction of the informal institutions of American governance. By “informal institutions,” I mean those habits and customs outside of formal, written law that make democracy work. Some things are simply not done; everyone agrees to resist the temptation for political advantage in order to make the system work.

Gingrichism is the philosophy that all means short of illegality are fair game in the struggle for political power. He came to the fore in the House minority by personal attacks on other members’ patriotism; he stirred up the Republican base with the argument that the Democrats were not merely wrong, but evil and a threat to the Republic. As Speaker, he destroyed the existing committee structure and bill mark-ups, did away with Congressional institutions to educate members (such as the Office of Technology Assessment or the Administrative Conference of the United States), and centralized power in the leadership. When he did not get his way with Clinton, he cavalierly shut down the government. Not cowed by the political disaster that ensued, he used the House’s impeachment power for political purposes and put the House Oversight Committee in the hands of Dan Burton with the express mandate to harass and cripple political opponents. Gingrich broke institutions not by accident, but on purpose.

Why Liberal Sellouts Attack Prophets Like Cornel West

The liberal class, which attempted last week to discredit the words my friend Cornel West spoke about
Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. Its guiding ideological stance is determined by what is most expedient to the careers of its members. It refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state. It glosses over the relentless assault on working men and women and the imperial wars that are bankrupting the nation. It proclaims its adherence to traditional liberal values while defending and promoting systems of power that mock these values. The pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, the church, culture, the university, labor and the Democratic Party—all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence. Those who expose this moral cowardice and collaboration with corporate power are always ruthlessly thrust aside.

Revealed the keys that give rise to hierarchism in society

In the words of sociologist Harkaitz Zubiri, it is currently accepted that social hierarchy is constructed of individual merits, but the reality is quite different. He thus rejects meritocracy. There is no equality in opportunities, nor neutrality in the rules of the game, nor objectivity in the parameters of evaluation, nor of justice; but paths carved out by persons under the effect of a context full of ups and downs. This is what Mr Zubiri argues in his PhD thesis, presented at the University of Basque Country and entitled, Ibilbide akademiko-profesionalak prekarizazio estratifikatuaren garaian. Meritokrazia auzitan (Academic-professional careers in times of stratified precariousness. Meritocracy questioned).

Whites Believe They Are Victims of Racism More Often Than Blacks

In Zero Sum Game, "Reverse Racism" Seen as Bigger Problem than Anti-Black Racism

May 23, 2011

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. -- Whites believe that they have replaced blacks as the primary victims of racial discrimination in contemporary America, according to a new study from researchers at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. The findings, say the authors, show that America has not achieved the "post-racial" society that some predicted in the wake of Barack Obama's election.

Both whites and blacks agree that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years, according to the study. However, whites believe that anti-white racism has increased and is now a bigger problem than anti-black racism.

Revitalizing the AFL-CIO

When Harry Kelber, the 96 year old relentless labor advocate and editor of The Labor Educator speaks, the leadership of the AFL-CIO should listen. A vigorous champion for the rights of rank-and-file workers vis-à-vis their corporate employers and their labor union leaders, Kelber has recently completed a series of five articles titled “Reasons Why the AFL-CIO Is Broken; Let Us Start a Debate on How to Fix It.”

The reaction: Silence from union leaders, their union publications and at union gatherings.

What's Really Driving The National Debt? Tax Cuts and Wars

By Susie Madrak

From Chad Stone of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a rather eye-popping chart:

As we’ve noted, my colleagues Kathy Ruffing and Jim Horney have updated CBPP’s analysis showing that the economic downturn, President Bush’s tax cuts, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire federal budget deficit over the next ten years. So, what about the public debt, which is basically the sum of annual budget deficits, minus annual surpluses, over the nation’s entire history?

The complementary chart, below, shows that the Bush-era tax cuts and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — including their associated interest costs — account for almost half of the projected public debt in 2019 (measured as a share of the economy) if we continue current policies.

Report: Intelligence Unit Told Before 9/11 to Stop Tracking Bin Laden

by: Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout
Monday 23 May 2011

A great deal of controversy has arisen about what was known about the movements and location of Osama bin Laden in the wake of his killing by US Special Forces on May 2 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Questions about what intelligence agencies knew or didn't know about al-Qaeda activities go back some years, most prominently in the controversy over the existence of a joint US Special Forces Command and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) data mining effort known as "Able Danger [3]."

What hasn't been discussed is a September 2008 Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general (IG) report [4], summarizing an investigation made in response to an accusation by a Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) whistleblower, which indicated that a senior JFIC commander had halted actions tracking Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. JFIC is tasked with an intelligence mission in support of United States Joint Force Command (USJFCOM).

America Becoming an Idiocracy

by Brian Moench

In the 2006 satirical science fiction comedy, Idiocracy, the protagonist Joe Bauers, “Mr. Average American", is selected by the Pentagon for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakens 500 years in the future, to discover a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he's easily the most intelligent person alive and their only hope for survival.

With the Republicans bullying their way through state and federal legislation, the movie has become prophetic to the point where the only thing that isn't believable is that this devolution will take another 500 years. Idiocracy already has its living, fire-breathing poster child, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking Republican and former chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

You may remember Rep. Barton as the Congressman who on behalf of the American people apologized to the CEO of British Petroleum, Tony Hayward, for having our Gulf of Mexico get in the way of Hayward's oil spill. "I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure. [It] amounts to a shakedown, so I apologize."

Are Well-Off Progressives Standing in the Way of a Real Movement for Economic Justice?

By Alyssa Battistoni, AlterNet
Posted on May 22, 2011, Printed on May 23, 2011

Over the past few years, it’s become an article of faith among progressives that we’re living through a second Gilded Age -- you know, an era in which great fortunes accrue to powerful business leaders and institutions and the nation’s wealth is concentrated at the very top. In the past few months, as Republicans have proposed budgets that would cut taxes still further on the backs of the middle and working class, progressives have hammered away at the statistics -- like that the top 1 percent of Americans hold 34.6 percent of the nation’s wealth; the bottom 90 percent, just 26.9 percent.

But the growth in inequality and decline of the middle and working class, though exacerbated by Bush administration economic policies, isn’t a recent phenomenon -- it’s been in progress for decades. Which begs the question: why on earth did it take so long for the Left to take notice? How did we end up with inequality reaching levels not seen since before the Depression without waging anything approximating a real fight against it? Surely the trends of decreasing social mobility and increasing social stratification in the supposed “land of opportunity” call for serious resistance -- where has it been? As thoroughly reprehensible as the Right’s slavishness to wealth and power is, the fact that it took a financial meltdown for economic justice to even begin to replace welfare reform on the political agenda suggests progressives need to do a bit of navel-gazing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Faulty Towers: The Crisis in Higher Education

A few years ago, when I was still teaching at Yale, I was approached by a student who was interested in going to graduate school. She had her eye on Columbia; did I know someone there she could talk with? I did, an old professor of mine. But when I wrote to arrange the introduction, he refused to even meet with her. “I won’t talk to students about graduate school anymore,” he explained. “Going to grad school’s a suicide mission.”

The policy may be extreme, but the feeling is universal. Most professors I know are willing to talk with students about pursuing a PhD, but their advice comes down to three words: don’t do it. (William Pannapacker, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education as Thomas Benton, has been making this argument for years. See “The Big Lie About the ‘Life of the Mind,’” among other essays.) My own advice was never that categorical. Go if you feel that your happiness depends on it—it can be a great experience in many ways—but be aware of what you’re in for. You’re going to be in school for at least seven years, probably more like nine, and there’s a very good chance that you won’t get a job at the end of it.

Fantasy Island

Are Republicans losing their grip on reality?

By Jacob Weisberg
Posted Friday, May 20, 2011, at 12:22 PM ET

At a press conference last week, someone asked Chris Christie for his views on evolution vs. creationism. "That's none of your business," the New Jersey governor barked in response.

This minor incident, which barely rated as news for a few political blogs, offers a glimpse of Christie's personality, which seems increasingly grumpy and snappish. But it says even more about the current state of the national Republican Party, where magical thinking trumps rationality, and even to acknowledge basic realities about the world we live in runs the risk of damaging one's political future.

US military goes to war with climate sceptics

Political action on climate change may be mired in Congress, but one arm of government at least is acting: the Pentagon

Jules Boykoff, Guardian.co.uk,
Friday 20 May 2011 15.30 BST

Federal legislation to combat climate change is quashed for the foreseeable future, scuttled by congressional climate cranks who allege the climate-science jury is still out. What's become clear is that, for some, the jury will always be out. We can't stack scientific facts high enough to hop over the fortified ideological walls they've erected around themselves. Fortunately, though, a four-star trump card waits in the wings: the US national security apparatus.

In 2006, I participated on a panel at the United Nations climate change conference in Nairobi called "Communicating Climate Change". With Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Rajendra Pachauri and respected Arctic scientist Pål Prestud on board, we aimed to figure out ways to convey climate change and its effects with greater precision and weight.

This Is What A Police State Looks Like

The late Chalmers Johnson often reminded us that “A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can’t be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled, lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship.” His warning rings more true by the day, as Americans watch the erosion of their civil liberties accelerate in conjunction with the expansion of the US Empire.

When viewed through the lens of Johnson’s profound insights, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Kentucky v. King makes perfect sense. On May 13, in a lopsided 8-1 ruling, the Court upheld the warrantless search of a Kentucky man’s apartment after police smelled marijuana and feared those inside were destroying evidence, essentially granting police officers increased power to enter the homes of citizens without a warrant.

REPORT: Meet The Billionaires Who Are Trying To Privatize Our Schools And Kill Public Education

Two weeks ago, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) marked “a new era for education in Indiana” when he signed into law one of the most expansive school voucher laws in the country, opening up a huge fund of tax dollars for private schools. A few days later, the Wisconsin state Assembly vastly expanded school vouchers, freeing up tax dollars even for private religious schools. GOP legislators in the Pennsylvania Senate say they have the votes to pass a sweeping voucher bill of their own. And on Capitol Hill, House Republicans successfully revived Washington, D.C.’s voucher system after it was killed off two years ago.

CBS Edits Obama Speech to Stir Israel Controversy

As Jake Tapper explained on ABC World News Thursday night, the Republican response to President Obama's statements regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was "much ado about nothing." After all, U.S. policy under both Presidents Bush and Clinton was largely identical to Obama's assertion that "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." But you'd never know that if you watched CBS Evening News. Providing chum for the right-wing feeding frenzy over the President's Middle East speech, CBS White House correspondent Chip Reid conveniently omitted the second half of Obama's sentence.

TX GOP Slashes Funding For Agency Battling Wildfires, While Also Blasting Obama For Not Spending More

For months, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has berated President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for not giving the state more federal money to combat historic wildfires that have so far burned 2.5 million acres. Despite the fact that the administration has offered 26 different kinds of federal assistance to combat the fires, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) claimed that Obama is waging “a war on Texas.” After months of blaming the President for not doing enough, Reuters reported yesterday that Perry is poised to sign a budget that slashes funding for the state agency that is battling the wildfires.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Secret Donors Multiply in U.S. Election Spending

By J. Crewdson, A. Fitzgerald, J. Salant and C. Babcock - May 19, 2011 6:01 AM ET

In the weeks before last November’s election, television viewers in South Carolina were treated to an animated caricature of Representative John Spratt high- kicking in a chorus line with President Barack Obama and then- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“It’s the worst economy in decades,” the ad intoned, “and the folks in Washington are living it up, spending our tax dollars like there’s no tomorrow.”

That ad and a second one mocking Spratt appeared at least 723 times between Sept. 25 and Election Day and were paid for by a group called the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity, according to ad trackers at Campaign Media Analysis Group, a unit of WPP Plc. Spratt, a 14-term Democrat, saw a seven-point lead in an early poll vanish and lost the election.

Politico Has Not Heard About the Collapse of the Housing Bubble and Economic Crisis

By Dean Baker
May 20, 2011 - 3:10pm ET

That is the conclusion that readers of a Politico article headlined, "budget surplus to deficit: how we got here," must conclude. This article attributes the increase in the deficit in the Obama years to increased spending coupled with tax cuts, only mentioning in passing at the end of the article that the single biggest factor in the rise of the deficit was the economic collapse. It fails to point out that virtually all of the additional spending and tax cuts by President Obama was carried through for the explicit purpose of counteracting the loss of private sector demand due to the collapse of the bubble.

It is absolutely inexcusable for a serious news organization to run a piece like this. The collapse of the housing bubble was by far the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression. Complaining about the size of the deficit under President Obama, while only mentioning in passing the reason for the deficit, is like complaining about a city's use of water without mentioning that it had been trying to extinguish a massive fire.

Birtherism Is Dead. Long Live Otherism.

Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and other 2012 contenders don't think Obama was born in Kenya—they're just saying he's not one of us.

— By David Corn
Thu May. 19, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

Mitt Romney has tried to be the adult in the 2012 GOP race. He hasn't echoed the extreme rhetoric of other Republican presidential wannabes or that of his party's tea party base. In mid-April—before President Barack Obama eviscerated the birther movement by releasing his longform birth certificate (and ordering the raid that killed Osama bin Laden)—Romney declared he would have none of that birther nonsense: "I think the citizenship test has been passed. I believe the president was born in the United States." Yet the former Massachusetts governor is still playing footsie with a popular conservative meme: Obama's not really one of us.

The always-expanding bipartisan Surveillance State

By Glenn Greenwald

When I wrote earlier this week about Jane Mayer's New Yorker article on the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers, the passage I hailed as "the single paragraph that best conveys the prime, enduring impact of the Obama presidency" included this observation from Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin: "We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national-surveillance state." There are three events -- all incredibly from the last 24 hours -- which not only prove how true that is, but vividly highlight how it functions and why it is so odious.

First, consider what Democrats and Republicans just jointly did with regard to the Patriot Act, the very naming of which once sent progressives into spasms of vocal protest and which long served as the symbolic shorthand for Bush/Cheney post-9/11 radicalism:

The Big Squeeze: How Americans Are Being Crushed by Financial Insecurity and Doubt

By David Rosen, AlterNet
Posted on May 19, 2011, Printed on May 21, 2011

The Great Recession officially started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. It was the gravest financial crisis the nation has faced since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Sadly, most Americans have yet to recover.

It fostered what many call the “new normal,” the unspoken sense that America is stuck if not in decline. This new sensibility bears profound consequences; foremost is the recognition that Americans are living lives of lowered expectation and intensified financial uncertainty.

The “American Century” is over. The great historical phase of America’s domestic prosperity and global hegemony is withering. In the decades following the Second World War, American capitalism fashioned the postmodern, and increasingly globalized, world order. In the process, it abandoned America and the American people.

The Great Switch by the Super Rich: How Wealthy Americans Started Paying So Little in Taxes

By Robert Reich, RobertReich.org
Posted on May 20, 2011, Printed on May 21, 2011

Forty years ago, wealthy Americans financed the U.S. government mainly through their tax payments. Today wealthy Americans finance the government mainly by lending it money. While foreigers own most of our national debt, over 40 percent is owned by Americans – mostly the very wealthy.

This great switch by the super rich – from paying the government taxes to lending the government money – has gone almost unnoticed. But it’s critical for understanding the budget predicament we’re now in. And for getting out of it.

Over that four decades, tax rates on the very rich have plummeted. Between the end of World War II and 1980, the top tax bracket remained over 70 percent — and even after deductions and credits was well over 50 percent. Now it’s 36 percent. As recently as the late 1980s, the capital gains rate was 35 percent. Now it’s 15 percent.

10 Steps to Defeat the Corptocracy

By Bruce E. Levine, AlterNet
Posted on May 20, 2011, Printed on May 21, 2011

Many Americans know that the United States is not a democracy but a "corporatocracy," in which we are ruled by a partnership of giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite and corporate-collaborator government officials. However, the truth of such tyranny is not enough to set most of us free to take action. Too many of us have become pacified by corporatocracy-created institutions and culture.

Some activists insist that this political passivity problem is caused by Americans' ignorance due to corporate media propaganda, and others claim that political passivity is caused by the inability to organize due to a lack of money. However, polls show that on the important issues of our day - from senseless wars, to Wall Street bailouts, to corporate tax-dodging, to health insurance rip-offs - the majority of Americans are not ignorant to the reality that they are being screwed. And American history is replete with organizational examples - from the Underground Railroad, to the Great Populist Revolt, to the Flint sit-down strike, to large wildcat strikes a generation ago - of successful rebels who had little money but lots of guts and solidarity.

Friday, May 20, 2011

At a Time of Needed Financial Overhaul, a Leadership Vacuum

by Jesse Eisinger
ProPublica, May 18, 2011, 3:10 p.m

After the worst crisis since the Great Depression, President Obama has unleashed an unusual force to regulate the financial system: a bunch of empty seats.

With Sheila C. Bair soon to leave her post at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Obama administration will have five major bank regulatory positions either unfilled or staffed with acting directors.

Paul Krugman: Making Things in America

Some years ago, one of my neighbors, an émigré Russian engineer, offered an observation about his adopted country. “America seems very rich,” he said, “but I never see anyone actually making anything.”

That was a bit unfair, but not completely — and as time went by it became increasingly accurate. By the middle years of the last decade, I used to joke that Americans made a living by selling each other houses, which they paid for with money borrowed from China. Manufacturing, once America’s greatest strength, seemed to be in terminal decline.

But that may be changing. Manufacturing is one of the bright spots of a generally disappointing recovery, and there are signs — preliminary, but hopeful, nonetheless — that a sustained comeback may be under way.

Deal Reached on Extension of Patriot Act

Friday 20 May 2011
by: Charlie Savage, The New York Times News Service

Washington - Congressional leaders on Thursday reached a deal to extend by four years several statutes that expanded the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s counterterrorism and surveillance powers after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, aides said.

Under the deal, two sections of the so-called USA Patriot Act and a third provision from a related intelligence law would be extended, without any changes, until June 1, 2015. The provisions had been set to expire later this month.

The sections allow investigators to get “roving wiretap” court orders allowing them to follow terrorism suspects who switch phone numbers or providers; to get orders allowing them to seize “any tangible things” relevant to a security investigation, like a business’s customer records; and to get national-security wiretap orders against noncitizen suspects who are not believed to be connected to any foreign power.

Digby: Uhm, don't tell anyone but we're not broke

I would imagine that the conservatives and corporatists in both parties would prefer that this message not get out lest the people start demanding a more equitable sharing of the wealth in this country:

We’re not broke nor will we be
Lawrence Mishel
May 19, 2011

Policy choices will determine whether rising national income leads to a prosperous middle class

Read Briefing Paper

Many policymakers and pundits claim “we’re broke”1 and “can’t afford”2 public investments and policies that support workers. These claims are meant to justify efforts to scale back government programs and public sector workers’ wages and benefits. The “we’re broke” theme also implies that America’s working families should be satisfied with the status quo in terms of wages that have been stagnant for 30 years.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"We have a plan. It's called Medicare"

By Digby
May 19, 2011 - 3:43pm ET

With Republicans going far beyond line drawing to a full blown assault, a big Democrat finally digs in. Greg Sargent:

“It is a flag we’ve planted that we will protect and defend. We have a plan. It’s called Medicare.”

That’s from Nancy Pelosi, who called me from Wisconsin, where she’s holding events today defending Medicare in Paul Ryan’s back yard. On the call, Pelosi laid out a message on Medicare she hopes Dems will use for — well, forever...

Forced Pooling: When Landowners Can’t Say No to Drilling

by Marie C. Baca, Special to ProPublica May 19, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

As the shale gas boom sweeps across the United States, drillers are turning to a controversial legal tool called forced pooling to gain access to minerals beneath private property--in many cases, without the landowners' permission.

Forced pooling is common in many established oil and gas states, but its use has grown more contentious as concerns rise about drilling safety and homeowners in areas with little drilling history struggle to understand the obscurities of mineral laws.

Katha Pollitt: DSK Déjà Vu

The French political class is aghast at the treatment being meted out in New York to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund and likely Socialist Party candidate for the French presidency, who is charged with attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment of a housekeeper in his $3,000-a-night suite at the Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan. On the radio, his friend Robert Badinter, husband of Élisabeth, one of France’s most famous feminists, declared he had been “destroyed before any trial.” Martine Aubry, first secretary of the Socialist Party and also a possible presidential contender, declared herself “stunned, shocked”—not by the allegations, but by photos of DSK in handcuffs. “The heart can only contract before these humiliating and poignant images that they’re giving of him,” wrote Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a senator and former minister. “A horrible global lynching! And what if it were all a monstrous injustice?”

Can the Greek People Teach the ECB Economics?

If the European Central Bank does not ease up on its austerity policies, it may push the heavily indebted countries into a downward economic spiral.

by Dean Baker

There is an old maxim that in any bureaucracy people will always rise to the level of their incompetence. This certainly seems to be the case with the European Central Bank (ECB). After totally ignoring the build-up of dangerous housing bubbles in most euro zone countries, as well as the imbalances that supported these bubbles, the ECB now seems intent on punishing the people in many of these countries for its mistakes.

This is the likely result of the policies that it is now pursuing, whether or not this is the intention. The insistence that the heavily indebted countries in the euro zone - Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain - pay off their debt in full will inevitably lead to years of high unemployment in these countries and trillions of dollars of lost output throughout the euro zone as a whole. The budget cuts demanded of these countries will force large reductions in pensions and other social supports at a time when macroeconomic policies ensure that few jobs are available.

Gov. Rick Perry endorses voter intimidation, say Texas Democrats

By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 -- 5:53 pm

Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry pandered to those who openly intimidate and harass minority voters by cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of King Street Patriots' new headquarters Monday, according to the Texas Democratic Party.

Talking Points Memo reported in October 2010 that the Justice Department was investigating the King Street Patriots' anti-voter fraud campaign after receiving a number of complaints about voter intimidation in Hispanic and African-American areas.

Hospital visitation rights for same sex couples under threat in Wisconsin

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 -- 4:01 pm

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) this week asked a judge if the state may stop defending a law that gives citizens in same sex relationships the right to visit their partner if they're in a hospital.

Passed by Democrats in 2009, the state's domestic partnership registry was meant to give same sex couples more rights. While it succeeded in doing so, rights for domestic partners in Wisconsin do not rise to the level of special rights granted by marriage.

Rise of for-profit hospice industry raises troubling questions, new study says

Ethical and quality concerns grow as end-of-life hospice care, once the province of charitable organizations, is increasingly dominated by investor-owned chains that cherry-pick patients and cut labor costs in order to maximize profits.

A new survey of hospice care in the United States says that the rapidly growing role of for-profit companies in providing end-of-life care for terminally ill patients raises serious concerns about whose interests are being served under such a commercial arrangement: those of shareholders or those of dying patients and their loved ones.

"Under a corporate model of hospice care, there's an inherent conflict of interest between a company's drive to maximize profits and a patient's need for the kind of holistic, multidisciplinary and compassionate care originally envisioned by the founders of the modern hospice movement," said Dr. Robert Stone, an emergency medicine physician in Bloomington, Ind.

The Democrats Attack Unions Nationwide

Wednesday 18 May 2011
by: Shamus Cooke, Truthout

Obvious political truths are sometimes smothered by special interests. The cover-up of the Democrats' national anti-union agenda is possible because to reveal it for the ruse it is would cause enormous disturbances for the Democratic Party, some labor leaders, liberal organizations and, consequently, the larger political system.

Here is the short list of states with Democratic governors where labor unions are undergoing severe attacks: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon, California, New York, Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, Minnesota, Maryland and New Hampshire. Other states with Democratic governors are attacking unions to a lesser degree.

The Democrats in these states have sought to distance themselves from the Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio, who have specifically attacked the collective bargaining rights of unions. The Democrats in the states listed above all hide their anti-union attacks behind a "deep respect for collective bargaining," a position akin to that of a thief who will steal your car but, out of respect, will not target your deceased grandmother's diamond earrings.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How We Can Kick-Start the Economy, Save Lives, Give Working People a Raise and Turn a Deficit into a Surplus

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on May 15, 2011, Printed on May 17, 2011

It won't make you better looking, stop climate change or result in world peace, but progressives in Congress are pushing a bill that would prove a cure for much of the economic pain we're suffering. If passed, it would save lives, make American companies more competitive, put more cash in our pockets and turn those deficits everyone's obsessing over into surpluses as far as the eye can see.

This week, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, introduced the American Health Security Act of 2011(S. 915 in the Senate and HR 1200 in the House), a bill that would create a state-based system similar to Medicare but open to Americans of all ages.

Ron Paul Calls Social Security and Medicare Unconstitutional, Compares Them to ‘Slavery’

Appearing on Fox News Sunday this morning, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) defended his longstanding view that Medicare, Social Security (and pretty much everything else) violate the Constitution. At one point, Paul even claimed that letting Social Security and similar programs to move forward is just like permitting slavery:

WALLACE: You talk a lot about the Constitution. You say Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all unconstitutional.

PAUL: Technically, they are. … There’s no authority [in the Constitution]. Article I, Section 8 doesn’t say I can set up an insurance program for people. What part of the Constitution are you getting it from? The liberals are the ones who use this General Welfare Clause. … That is such an extreme liberal viewpoint that has been mistaught in our schools for so long and that’s what we have to reverse—that very notion that you’re presenting.

Deprivation and neglect found to age children's chromosomes

Study of institutionalized Romanian children finds prematurely shortened telomeres, a mark of cell aging

Boston, Mass. -- Studies in institutionalized Romanian children have found that the length of time spent in conditions of social deprivation and neglect correlates with lower IQ and behavioral problems. A new study, led by researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and Tulane University, shows that early adversity even affects children's chromosomes – prematurely shortening the chromosome tips, known as telomeres, and hastening how quickly their cells "age."

The study, published online this week in Molecular Psychiatry, is the first to find an association between adversity and telomere length in children. It is part of the Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP), which is conducting a long-term clinical trial tracking two groups of institutionalized children: those who remained in the institution and those who were removed to high-quality foster care at varying ages.

Insider: "The Christian Right is Aiming to Destroy All Things Public"

By Frank Schaeffer, De Capo Press
Posted on May 13, 2011, Printed on May 17, 2011
The following is an excerpt from Frank Schaeffer's new book, Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics -- and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway (Da Capo Press, 2011). Raised in Switzerland in l'Abri, a utopian community and spiritual school his evangelical parents founded, Schaeffer was restless and aware even at a young age that "my life was being defined by my parent's choices." Still, he took to "the family business" well, following his dad as he became one of the "best-known evangelical leaders in the U.S." on whirlwind speaking tours. While rubbing shoulders with Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, Schaeffer witnessed the birth of the Christian anti-abortion movement, and became an evangelical writer, speaker and star in his own right.


Ironically, at the very same time as Evangelicals like Dad and I were thrusting ourselves into bare-knuckle politics in the 1970s and 80s, we were also retreating to what amounted to virtual walled compounds. In other words we lashed out at “godless America” and demanded political change—say, the reintroduction of prayer into public schools—and yet also urged our followers to pull their own children out of the public schools and homeschool them. The rejection of public schools by Evangelical Protestants was a harbinger of virtual civil war carried on by other means. Protestants had once been the public schools’ most ardent defenders.

For instance, in the 1840s when Roman Catholics asked for tax relief for their private schools, Protestants said no and stood against anything they thought might undermine the public schools that they believed were the backbone of moral virtue, community spirit, and egalitarian good citizenship.

The Koch Brothers and the End of State Universities

The real scandal around the endowment by the Koch brothers of two chairs at Florida State University is that state universities now have to seek such outside money and accept strings. The reason they have to do so is that many state legislatures have chosen not to have state universities any more. At many ‘state universities’ the state contribution to the general operating fund is less than 20 percent, falling toward 10 percent.

This abandonment of their responsibilities to higher education on the part of the states hurts students in the first instance. Institutions that used to be affordable to students from working and lower middle class backgrounds are now increasingly out of reach for them. State universities are becoming the new Ivies, a good bargain still for the upper middle class and the wealthy, but a distant dream for the daughter or son of a worker in a fast food restaurant.