Friday, September 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: inquiries launched as new pepper-spray video emerges

NYPD officer Anthony Bologna faces two investigations as video emerges of a second pepper-spray incident

The senior New York police officer at the centre of the Occupy Wall Street pepper spray controversy fired the gas at protesters a second time just moments later.

After new video emerged on Wednesday showing the second incident, New York police commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters that the Civilian Complaint Review Board would investigate the officer, deputy inspector Anthony Bologna.
Friedrich Hayek Joins Ayn Rand as a Hypocritical User of Medicare

We’ve been a bit hard on the left of late, so we figured we’d take some steps to balance our programming. Mark Ames, who has been doggedly on the trail of the Koch brothers, found a delicious failure to live up to his oft-repeated standard of conduct by a god in the libertarian pantheon, Friedrich Hayek. And this fall from grace was encouraged one of the chief promoters of extreme right wing ideas in the US, Charles Koch.

Bear in mind that Charles Koch has not merely promoted libertarian ideas generally but in particular founded the Cato Institute, which has done more than any other single organization to wage war on Social Security.
Paul Krugman: Phony Fear Factor

The good news: After spending a year and a half talking about deficits, deficits, deficits when we should have been talking about jobs, job, jobs we’re finally back to discussing the right issue.

The bad news: Republicans, aided and abetted by many conservative policy intellectuals, are fixated on a view about what’s blocking job creation that fits their prejudices and serves the interests of their wealthy backers, but bears no relationship to reality.

Listen to just about any speech by a Republican presidential hopeful, and you’ll hear assertions that the Obama administration is responsible for weak job growth. How so? The answer, repeated again and again, is that businesses are afraid to expand and create jobs because they fear costly regulations and higher taxes. Nor are politicians the only people saying this. Conservative economists repeat the claim in op-ed articles, and Federal Reserve officials repeat it to justify their opposition to even modest efforts to aid the economy.

Friday, 09/30/2011 - 10:05 am by Adam Gluck

What is Reaganomics?

Reaganomics refers generally to the fiscal policies Reagan pursued during his presidency. Its tenets probably sound fairly familiar: cut taxes, reduce government spending, and decrease regulation. It also was characterized by an attempt to control the money supply to reduce inflation.
Meet the Wealthy Men Trying to Buy Our Upcoming Election

By Justin Elliott, Salon
Posted on September 29, 2011, Printed on September 30, 2011

The hidden infrastructure of the 2012 campaign has already been built.

A handful of so-called Super PACs, enabled to collect unlimited donations by the continued erosion of campaign finance regulations, are expected to rival the official campaign organizations in importance this election. In many cases, these groups are acting essentially as outside arms of the campaigns.

These are America's best-funded political factions, their war chests filled by some of the richest men (and almost all are men) in the country.

More than 80 percent of giving to Super PACs so far has come from just 58 donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics  analysis of the latest data, which covers the first half of 2011. The Republican groups have raised $17.6 million and the Democratic groups $7.6 million. Those numbers will balloon, with American Crossroads, the main Republican Super PAC, aiming to raise $240 million.)
The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality
By Glenn Greenwald

(updated below)
It was first reported in January of last year that the Obama administration had compiled a hit list of American citizens whom the President had ordered assassinated without any due process, and one of those Americans was Anwar al-Awlaki.  No effort was made to indict him for any crimes (despite a report last October that the Obama administration was "considering" indicting him).  Despite substantial doubt among Yemen experts about whether he even had any operational role in Al Qaeda, no evidence (as opposed to unverified government accusations) was presented of his guilt.  When Awlaki's father sought a court order barring Obama from killing his son, the DOJ argued, among other things, that such decisions were "state secrets" and thus beyond the scrutiny of the courts.  He was simply ordered killed by the President: his judge, jury and executioner.  When Awlaki's inclusion on President Obama's hit list was confirmed, The New York Times noted that "it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing."
Heeding fake concerns about propriety -- instead of real matters of substance

COMMENTARY | September 29, 2011
Faced with some hot data on oil speculation, the media squawked when it should have jumped.

By Dan Froomkin

After firebrand Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leaked confidential data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to the Wall Street Journal last month -- data that dramatically illustrated how speculators were dominating the oil futures market during the 2008 spike in oil prices -- other news outlets jumped on the story.
In the worst possible way. 
The data, which exposed precisely how much Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and other Wall Street speculators dominated the crude oil futures market, was a big new lead reporters could have used to further explore the dynamics behind the staggering gas price increase that resulted in a huge transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans to the very rich.

Schools Say No To Tea Party's Constitution Lessons

 Earlier this year, tea party groups sparked a bit of an uproar when they announced plans to pressure public schools into teaching their version of constitutional history during the federally mandated Constitution week that began September 17. Led by a large umbrella group, Tea Party Patriots, activists planned to pressure local school officials into using controversial curriculum developed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS). The NCCS was founded by Glen Beck's favorite pseudo-historian, W. Cleon Skousen, who argued in his book The 5,000 Year Leap that the creation of the US was a divine miracle. When the news got out, liberal legal groups expressed outrage and urged schools to reject the plan.
America faces a jobs depression

Keynes was right: only government can get us out of this jobs slump. And only taxing wealth can restore US prosperity

Robert Reich
Thursday 29 September 2011 09.33 EDT

The Reverend Al Sharpton and various labor unions announced Wednesday a March for Jobs. But I'm afraid we'll need more than marches to get jobs back.

Since the start of the Great Recession at the end of 2007, the potential labor force of the United States – that is, working-age people who want jobs – has grown by over 7 million. But since then, the number of Americans who actually have jobs has shrunk by more than 300,000.

In other words, we're in a deep hole – and the hole is deepening. In August, the United States created no jobs at all. Zero.
Big Tobacco knew radioactive particles in cigarettes posed cancer risk but kept quiet
Tobacco companies knew that cigarette smoke contained radioactive alpha particles for more than four decades and developed "deep and intimate" knowledge of these particles' cancer-causing potential, but they deliberately kept their findings from the public, according to a new study by UCLA researchers.

The analysis of dozens of previously unexamined internal tobacco industry documents, made available in 1998 as the result of a legal settlement, reveals that the industry was aware of cigarette radioactivity some five years earlier than previously thought and that tobacco companies, concerned about the potential lung cancer risk, began in-depth investigations into the possible effects of radioactivity on smokers as early as the 1960s.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What's Behind the Scorn for the Wall Street Protests?

It's unsurprising that establishment media outlets have been condescending, dismissive and scornful of the ongoing protests on Wall Street.  Any entity that declares itself an adversary of prevailing institutional power is going to be viewed with hostility by establishment-serving institutions and their loyalists.  That's just the nature of protests that take place outside approved channels, an inevitable by-product of disruptive dissent: those who are most vested in safeguarding and legitimizing establishment prerogatives (which, by definition, includes establishment media outlets) are going to be hostile to those challenges.  As the virtually universal disdain in these same circles for WikiLeaks (and, before that, for the Iraq War protests) demonstrated: the more effectively adversarial it is, the more establishment hostility it's going to provoke.
Jon Stewart to GOP base: Your candidates aren’t the problem — it’s you

By David Edwards

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart offered a little advice to a Republican base that first preferred Rep. Michele Bachmann and then Texas Gov. Rick Perry and now wants New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to be the party’s presidential nominee.

“You want to add another candidate?” Stewart asked the GOP base. “It’s like the Republican primary is a season of American Idol in reverse, where every week you just add some new idiot… Have you ever considered the possibility that your candidates aren’t the problem — it’s you?”
Why Don't the Deficit Hawks Want to Tax Wall Street?

by: Dean Baker, Truthout | News Analysis 
The intensity with which the country's leading deficit hawks continue to ignore financial speculation taxes (FST) is getting ever more entertaining. While deficit hawks like Wall Street investment banker Peter Peterson, Morgan Stanley Director Erskine Bowles and The Washington Post never tire of preaching the virtues of shared sacrifice, somehow sacrifice for Wall Street never features as a part of this story.
"Job Creators": Luntz Strikes Again

by Alan Grayson

If you have been hearing the term “job creators” a lot lately, it’s because Frank Luntz wanted you to.

As PBS put it, Luntz’s expertise is “testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their products, or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate.”  In other words, propaganda.
Republicans Cheer Murders of Colombian Labor Leaders

by: Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future | Report 
Hundreds of executions in Texas -- Republican crowd cheers.

An uninsured person in a coma -- Republican crowd shouts "Let him die!"

And now, labor leaders murdered in Colombia -- Republicans say "A good start..."
Obama Plan Prevents 2012 Recession: Economists

President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan would help avoid a return to recession by maintaining growth and pushing down the unemployment rate next year, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

The legislation, submitted to Congress this month, would increase gross domestic product by 0.6 percent next year and add or keep 275,000 workers on payrolls, the median estimates in the survey of 34 economists showed. The program would also lower the jobless rate by 0.2 percentage point in 2012, economists said.
Study: China Trade Did More Damage To US Economy Than Anyone Knew

By Susie Madrak

Workers have said all along that U.S. trade policies were killing American jobs, and now the research is finally catching up to them. Maybe we'll be smart enough to drop the three Bush trade agreements Obama is currently trying to push:
For years, economists have told Americans worried that cheap Chinese imports will kill jobs that the benefits of trade with China far outweigh its costs.

But new research suggests the damage to the U.S. has been deeper than these economists have supposed. The study, conducted by a team of three economists, doesn't challenge the traditional view that trade is ultimately good for the economy. Workers who lose jobs do eventually find new work or retire, while the benefits from trade, such as lower prices, remain. The problem is the speed at which China has surged as an exporter—overwhelming the normal process of adaptation.
Classism and Stigma in Florida Law: Welfare Applicants Use Drugs Less Than Other Groups

By Kristen Gwynne, AlterNet
Posted on September 27, 2011, Printed on September 28, 2011

Florida is the first state to enact a law requiring welfare applicants to take drug tests, and several other states have expressed interest in the alleged money-saving technique as well.  The policy is simple: Welfare applicants take drug tests and those who fail are denied.  Then, they must wait another year until they can re-apply and be drug tested again. Assuming a significant number of people on welfare use drugs, legislators designed the law to save state money recipients would spend on drugs.  The problem is that preliminary studies do not show that high numbers of welfare applicants use drugs.  In fact, welfare applicants use drugs at rates lower than the general population.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How To Learn the Language of Evil

Alan Wolfe's Political Evil offers lessons liberals especially need.

By Michael Ignatieff
Posted Monday, Sept. 26, 2011, at 4:19 AM ET

Evil is a moral problem for everyone, difficult to acknowledge in ourselves, hard to understand in others, and difficult to defeat without committing lesser evils. Liberals—I count myself as one—have a special problem with evil, connected to our particular form of self-regard. Liberals like to believe we are tolerant, but evil, by definition, cannot be tolerated. We believe that politics ought to be deliberative, but we can't deliberate with evil. We think compromise can be honorable, but there are no honorable compromises with evil. We think politics ought to be governed by reason, but evildoers, while they may reason, are not reasonable. 
In Praise of Extremism

What good did bipartisanship ever do anybody?

 The election is still thirteen months away, but in certain coastal circles, the quadrennial wailing has erupted right on schedule: “If that man gets in the White House, I’m moving out of the country!” This time that man is Rick Perry, who might have been computer-generated to check every box in a shrill liberal fund-raising letter: a gun-toting, ­Bible-thumping, anti-government death-penalty absolutist from Texas. And this time the liberals’ panic is not entirely over-the-top. Perry isn’t a novelty nut job like Michele Bachmann. He’s the real deal. It’s not implausible he could win his party’s nomination and prevail in enough swing-state nail-biters to take the presidency. He could do so because the times and the politician are in alignment. A desperate and angry country is facing the specter of a double-dip recession with zero prospects of relief from a defunct Washington. Perry is the only viable declared candidate—as measured by organizing savvy, fund-raising prowess, poll numbers, and take-no-prisoners gubernatorial résumé—hawking an unambiguous alternative to the failed status quo.
Paul Krugman: Euro Zone Death Trip

Is it possible to be both terrified and bored? That’s how I feel about the negotiations now under way over how to respond to Europe’s economic crisis, and I suspect other observers share the sentiment.

On one side, Europe’s situation is really, really scary: with countries that account for a third of the euro area’s economy now under speculative attack, the single currency’s very existence is being threatened — and a euro collapse could inflict vast damage on the world.

On the other side, European policy makers seem set to deliver more of the same. They’ll probably find a way to provide more credit to countries in trouble, which may or may not stave off imminent disaster. But they don’t seem at all ready to acknowledge a crucial fact — namely, that without more expansionary fiscal and monetary policies in Europe’s stronger economies, all of their rescue attempts will fail.
Fundamental Political and Economic Mistakes are Speeding Up America's Decline

By Pepe Escobar,
Posted on September 25, 2011, Printed on September 26, 2011
More than 10 years ago, before 9/11, Goldman Sachs was predicting that the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) would make the world economy’s top ten -- but not until 2040.  Skip a decade and the Chinese economy already has the number two spot all to itself, Brazil is number seven, India 10, and even Russia is creeping closer. In purchasing power parity, or PPP, things look even better.  There, China is in second place, India is now fourth, Russia sixth, and Brazil seventh.

No wonder Jim O’Neill, who coined the neologism BRIC and is now chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, has been stressing that “the world is no longer dependent on the leadership of the U.S. and Europe.”  After all, since 2007, China’s economy has grown by 45%, the American economy by less than 1% -- figures startling enough to make anyone take back their predictions. American anxiety and puzzlement reached new heights when the latest International Monetary Fund projections indicated that, at least by certain measurements, the Chinese economy would overtake the U.S. by 2016.  (Until recently, Goldman Sachs was pointing towards 2050 for that first-place exchange.)
6 Ways the Rich Are Waging a Class War Against the American People
By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on September 25, 2011, Printed on September 26, 2011
There hasn't been any organized, explicitly class-based violence in this country for generations, so what, exactly, does “class warfare” really mean? Is it just an empty political catch-phrase?

The American Right has decided that returning the tax rate paid by the wealthiest Americans from what it was during the Bush years (which, incidentally, featured the slowest job growth under any president in our history, at 0.45 percent per year) to what they forked over during the Clinton years (when job growth happened to average 1.6 percent per year) is the epitome of class warfare. Sure, it would leave top earners with a tax rate 10 percentage points below what they were paying after Ronald Reagan's tax cuts, but that's the conservative definition of "eating the rich" these days.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Guardian's Phone Hacking Page

All the latest on the phone hacking scandal.
Is the "Special Relationship" Becoming Too Expensive?
by: Jamie Stern-Weiner, New Left Project | Op-Ed 
The wave of popular uprisings across the Middle East created many new spaces for popular political participation. Even where those new spaces are now coming under counterrevolutionary attack, as in Egypt, many Arab governments have had to modify their policies to better reflect the views of an increasingly assertive public.

From the beginning it was clear that this shift would come at the expense of  “the US-Israeli-Saudi system” in the region. The militant assertion of popular will in Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Tunisia, and elsewhere has made it much more difficult for Arab regimes to collaborate with Israel and the U.S., the latter not least because of its role in supporting the former. Israel’s two most important allies in the region have both been forced to take steps against it in an attempt to accommodate public opinion. In Egypt, the not-so-new regime is still very much in bed with both the U.S. and Israel, and continues to value both American aid and security cooperation with its neighbour. But the revolution did make a difference, and the government is having to take public opinion into account to a much greater extent than before.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

China's Chance to Be Our Economic Savior

The US is no longer capable of pulling the world out of economic crisis. Only China has the resources – if it chooses to use them

Can China save the world economy? That is a question that people should be asking as the other potential candidates withdraw from the race. At the moment, the economies of the United States, Europe and Japan are all suffering from weak growth or worse. The debt crisis of eurozone countries threatens another financial crisis that could lead to another plunge in output, not just in Europe but throughout the world.

Meanwhile, the actors who could, in principle, take steps to reverse this dismal course of events are largely paralyzed. The eurozone countries are struggling with efforts to form the necessary fiscal union to support their currency. This requires creating a new legal structure, while also confronting intense political opposition in Germany and other better-off countries that will be asked support the debt of the Greece and other struggling economies.
Fear of Repression Spurs Scholars and Activists to Build Alternate Internets

Computer networks proved their organizing power during the recent uprisings in the Middle East, in which Facebook pages amplified street protests that toppled dictators. But those same networks showed their weaknesses as well, such as when the Egyptian government walled off most of its citizens from the Internet in an attempt to silence protesters.

That has led scholars and activists increasingly to consider the Internet's wiring as a disputed political frontier.
Tax expenditures: a boring thing you should be outraged about

by David Roberts

Compare the following two simplified scenarios.

A. An oil company pays $1 million a year in taxes. Congress gives it a yearly cash grant of $200,000 to explore for new wells.

B. An oil company pays $1 million a year in taxes. Congress gives it a yearly tax break of $200,000 for exploration expenses.

As you can see, A and B are equivalent. In both cases, the federal government was going to get $1 million a year, but instead will get $800,000. In both cases, the federal government is foregoing $200,000 in revenue in order to favor a particular business or industry.
A Billionaires' Coup in the US

The debt deal will hurt the poorest Americans, convinced by Fox and the Tea Party to act against their own welfare

There are two ways of cutting a deficit: raising taxes or reducing spending. Raising taxes means taking money from the rich. Cutting spending means taking money from the poor. Not in all cases of course: some taxation is regressive; some state spending takes money from ordinary citizens and gives it to banks, arms companies, oil barons and farmers. But in most cases the state transfers wealth from rich to poor, while tax cuts shift it from poor to rich.
The Hidden Hands in Redistricting: Corporations and Other Powerful Interests

by Olga Pierce, Jeff Larson and Lois Beckett
ProPublica, Sep. 23, 2011, 10:03 a.m.

Their names suggest selfless dedication to democracy. Fair Districts Mass. Protect Your Vote. The Center for a Better New Jersey. And their stated goals are unarguable: In the partisan fight to redraw congressional districts, states should stick to the principle of one person, one vote.

But a ProPublica investigation has found that these groups and others are being quietly bankrolled by corporations, unions and other special interests. Their main interest in the once-a-decade political fight over redistricting is not to help voters in the communities they claim to represent but mainly to improve the prospects of their political allies or to harm their enemies.
Paul Krugman: The Social Contract

This week President Obama said the obvious: that wealthy Americans, many of whom pay remarkably little in taxes, should bear part of the cost of reducing the long-run budget deficit. And Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan responded with shrieks of “class warfare.”

It was, of course, nothing of the sort. On the contrary, it’s people like Mr. Ryan, who want to exempt the very rich from bearing any of the burden of making our finances sustainable, who are waging class war.

As background, it helps to know what has been happening to incomes over the past three decades. 

Detailed estimates from the Congressional Budget Office — which only go up to 2005, but the basic picture surely hasn’t changed — show that between 1979 and 2005 the inflation-adjusted income of families in the middle of the income distribution rose 21 percent. That’s growth, but it’s slow, especially compared with the 100 percent rise in median income over a generation after World War II.
Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Other Right Wingers Want to Turn Back the Clock to 1900 -- What Was Life Like Back Then?

By J.A. Myerson, AlterNet
Posted on September 22, 2011, Printed on September 24, 2011

Wednesday's 230-195 vote in the GOP-controlled house against Speaker John Boehner's special funding measure to keep the government running past September 30th showed how far the far-right of the already far-right Republican Party will push a principle. They refuse to pass the bill (containing much-needed disaster relief, which is meager enough that the Democrats largely declined to vote for the bill) without deeper budget cuts written in. Boehner will have to rewrite the thing either to placate recalcitrant Democrats, intent on helping the vulnerable, or recalcitrant Republicans, intent on depriving the government of the means to help the vulnerable. One wonders what the odds are regarding his decision.

Weeks earlier, the destruction wrought by Hurricane Irene had provided an excellent opportunity to examine the real-life implications of arguments over the size of government in relation to the quality of liberty. Conservatives have always held that a government’s growth implies freedom’s decline and vice versa, but disaster relief has historically been an area where that formulation acquires the flavor of angels dancing on pinheads: when Americans are suffering and their local communities are ill-equipped to mitigate their despair, the federal government has routinely stepped in with aid.
Conservatives Say It Out Loud: They Hate Democracy

The roots of today's toxic conservative movement lie in Ayn Rand's teaching that wealthy "producers -- now called "job creators" -- should be left alone by the government, namely the rest of us. The rest of us are "freeloaders," "moochers," "leeches" and "parasites" who feed off these producers and who shouldn't be allowed to make decisions to collect taxes from them or regulate them or interfere in most other ways. The Randians hate democracy, and say so, declaring that "collectivism" sacrifices individual rights to majority wishes. (See Concern Over Republican Embrace Of The Ayn Rand Poison.)

For decades these selfish, childish, "you can't make me" beliefs stayed largely below the radar, because conservatives understood that voicing them in public risked alienating ... well, anyone with any sense at all. But for various reasons sense has departed the country and conservatives are finally saying it out loud, for everyone to hear: they hate democracy. They want to limit the country's decision-making and the rewards of our society and economy to those they feel "deserve" to be on top, namely the "producers" and "job-creators."
Middle Class Death Watch -- 33 Frightening Economic Developments

By David DeGraw, Amped Status
Posted on September 18, 2011, Printed on September 24, 2011

Middle-Class Americans Often Fall Down Economic Ladder: Study – nearly a third of Americans who were part of the middle class have fallen out of it
“The promise of the American dream has given many hope that they themselves could one day rise up the economic ladder. But according to a study released those already in financially-stable circumstances should fear falling down a few rungs too. The study…  found that nearly a third of Americans who were part of the middle class as teenagers in the 1970s have fallen out of it as adults…  its findings suggest the relative ease with which people in the U.S. can end up in low-income, low-opportunity lifestyles — even if they started out with a number of advantages. Though the American middle class has been repeatedly invoked as a key factor in any economic turnaround, numerous reports have suggested that the middle class enjoys less existential security than it did a generation ago, thanks to stagnating incomes and the decline of the industrial sector.”
Downward Mobility from the Middle Class: Waking Up from the American Dream
“The idea that children will grow up to be better off than their parents is a central component of the American Dream, and sustains American optimism. However, Downward Mobility from the Middle Class: Waking up from the American Dream finds that a middle-class upbringing does not guarantee the same status over the course of a lifetime. A third of Americans raised in the middle class—defined here as those between the 30th and 70th percentiles of the income distribution—fall out of the middle as adults.”
Rich People and Corporations: The GOP's Trillion-Dollar "Failed Stimulus"

"Class warfare!" Whenever you heard those words, it's a pretty sure bet whoever's saying them is the one who's really conducting class warfare.

And that you're the target.

The Fast and the Spurious

The Republican responses to President Obama's moderate plan for jobs creation have been fast and furious - and really, really repetitive. "Class warfare" is getting thrown around a lot, but other rhetorical warhorses are getting even more of a workout.

"This is another failed stimulus that will not stimulate the economy," said Texas Republican Rep. Francisco Canseco. (Well, a failed stimulus, wouldn't, would it?)
Debt deal: anger and deceit has led the US into a billionaires' coup

The debt deal will hurt the poorest Americans, convinced by Fox and the Tea Party to act against their own welfare

George Monbiot
Monday 1 August 2011 16.29 EDT

There are two ways of cutting a deficit: raising taxes or reducing spending. Raising taxes means taking money from the rich. Cutting spending means taking money from the poor. Not in all cases of course: some taxation is regressive; some state spending takes money from ordinary citizens and gives it to banks, arms companies, oil barons and farmers. But in most cases the state transfers wealth from rich to poor, while tax cuts shift it from poor to rich.

So the rich, in a nominal democracy, have a struggle on their hands. Somehow they must persuade the other 99% to vote against their own interests: to shrink the state, supporting spending cuts rather than tax rises. In the US they appear to be succeeding.
What Does Rupert Murdoch Want With America's Schools?

Posted on September 23, 2011, Printed on September 24, 2011

Rupert Murdoch's reputation precedes him—but one thing he's not well known for is his education reform advocacy. But that could soon change. Next month, Murdoch will make an unusual public appearance in San Francisco, delivering the keynote address at an education summit hosted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has lately been crisscrossing the country promoting his own version of education reform.
The high-profile speech to a collection of conservative ed reformers, state legislators, and educators is just the latest step in Murdoch's quiet march into the business of education, which has been somewhat eclipsed by the phone-hacking scandal besieging his media empire. (On Tuesday, word of Murdoch's appearance at Bush's conference came just hours after reports that News Corp. had agreed to pay more than $4 million to the family of a 13-year-old British murder victim, Milly Dowler, whose voicemail was hacked by reporters for Murdoch's News of the World. ) But Murdoch has made it very clear that he views America's public schools as a potential gold mine.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Truth about 'Class War' in America

The Truth about 'Class War' in America

Republicans claim, in Orwellian fashion, that Obama's millionaire tax is 'class war'. The reality is that the super-rich won the war

Republicans and conservatives always fight back against proposals to raise taxes on corporations and rich individuals by making two basic claims. First, such proposals amount to un-American "class warfare", pitting the working class against corporations and the rich. Second, such proposals would take money for the government that would otherwise have been invested in production and thus created jobs.

Young, Poor, and Desperate

Young, Poor, and Desperate

The poverty crisis is devastating young Americans. Here's what the president can do about it.

America excels in dramatic crises: When a bank goes bust, when a tornado strikes, there's no country in the world that rises to the occasion better. But we don't do so well with the accretive and perhaps more widely destructive social shifts that creep up on us, which is why the realization that we have a full-fledged poverty crisis is so troubling. 

Harvesting 'limitless' hydrogen from self-powered cells

Harvesting 'limitless' hydrogen from self-powered cells

US researchers say they have demonstrated how cells fuelled by bacteria can be "self-powered" and produce a limitless supply of hydrogen.

Until now, they explained, an external source of electricity was required in order to power the process.

However, the team added, the current cost of operating the new technology is too high to be used commercially.

How to prevent a Depression

How to prevent a Depression

Eight drastic policy measures necessary to prevent global economic collapse. None of them will be popular.

The latest economic data suggest that recession is returning to most advanced economies, with financial markets now reaching levels of stress unseen since the collapse of Lehman Bros. in 2008. The risks of an economic and financial crisis even worse than the previous one—now involving not just the private sector, but also near-insolvent governments—are significant. So, what can be done to minimize the fallout of another economic contraction and prevent a deeper depression and financial meltdown?

First, we must accept that austerity measures, necessary to avoid a fiscal train wreck, have recessionary effects on output. So, if countries in the Eurozone's periphery such as Greece or Portugal are forced to undertake fiscal austerity, countries able to provide short-term stimulus should do so and postpone their own austerity efforts. These countries include the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the core of the Eurozone, and Japan. Infrastructure banks that finance needed public infrastructure should be created as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paul Krugman: The Bleeding Cure

Doctors used to believe that by draining a patient’s blood they could purge the evil “humors” that were thought to cause disease. In reality, of course, all their bloodletting did was make the patient weaker, and more likely to succumb.

Fortunately, physicians no longer believe that bleeding the sick will make them healthy. Unfortunately, many of the makers of economic policy still do. And economic bloodletting isn’t just inflicting vast pain; it’s starting to undermine our long-run growth prospects.

Some background: For the past year and a half, policy discourse in both Europe and the United States has been dominated by calls for fiscal austerity. By slashing spending and reducing deficits, we were told, nations could restore confidence and drive economic revival.

The theft of the American pension

The theft of the American pension

In the last decade, the country's biggest companies have raided worker benefits for profit. An expert explains how

By Thomas Rogers

America is in the midst of a retirement crisis. Over the last decade, we've witnessed the wholesale gutting of pension and retiree healthcare in this country. Hundreds of companies have slashed and burned their way through their employees' benefits, leaving former workers either on Social Security or destitute -- and taxpayers with a huge burden that, as the baby boomer generation edges towards retirement, is likely to grow. It's a problem that is already affecting over a million people -- and the most shocking part is, none of this needed to happen.

As Ellen E. Schultz, an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, reveals in her new book, "Retirement Heist," it wasn't the dire economy that led these companies to plunder their own employees' earnings, it was greed. Over the last decade, some of the biggest companies -- including Bank of America, IBM, General Motors, GE and even the NFL -- found loopholes, abused ambiguous regulations and used litigation to turn their employees' hard-earned retirement funds into profits, and in some cases, executive compensation. Schultz's book offers a relentlessly infuriating look at the mechanisms they used to get away with it.

America's Costly War Machine

America's Costly War Machine

Fighting the war on terror compromises the economy now and threatens it in the future.

Ten years into the war on terror, the U.S. has largely succeeded in its attempts to destabilize Al Qaeda and eliminate its leaders. But the cost has been enormous, and our decisions about how to finance it have profoundly damaged the U.S. economy.

Many of these costs were unnecessary. We chose to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan with a small, all-volunteer force, and we supplemented the military presence with a heavy reliance on civilian contractors. These decisions not only placed enormous strain on the troops but dramatically pushed up costs. Recent congressional investigations have shown that roughly 1 of every 4 dollars spent on wartime contracting was wasted or misspent.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Perry Pushed Donor's Nuclear Waste Dump

—By Josh Harkinson | Thu Sep. 1, 2011 3:46 PM PDT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to remove a state commissioner who opposed expanding a West Texas nuclear waste dump run by one of his largest political donors, Reuters reports today. When it became clear that Bobby Gregory of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission might be able to block the dump from accepting out-of-state nuclear waste, Perry's office offered him an alternative job—a prestigious post on the board of regents of a state university.

The news is certain to fuel the longstanding political scandal over the dump, which was licensed in 2008 by Perry's top environmental regulator, Glenn Shankle, over the objections of his staff, three of whom resigned rather than sign off the on the deal (Shankle later left to become a lobbyist for the dump's parent company, Waste Control Solutions). WCS is owned by Harold Simmons, a billionaire corporate raider who has given Perry's campaigns at least $1.2 million.

Paul Krugman: A Constant Flow of Bad News for Europe and the US

In the United States, we have zero job growth, with unemployment still at nosebleed levels, according to a recent government report. Meanwhile, the interest rate on 10-year bonds is down to 2.04 percent, and it’s negative on inflation-protected securities.

Aren’t you glad we pivoted from jobs to deficits a year and a half ago?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Anatomy of a Big Lie About Taxes

If you want to see Republican supply-siders squirm, ask them this simple question about the "Laffer curve": at what marginal tax rate does the “backward bend” (higher tax rates produce less revenue) begin? Even Laffer himself has not ventured an answer. Nor has anyone else.

Examine the depictions of the Laffer curve drawn by Laffer and you find the graph shows only two tax-rate numbers 0% and 100% at which the government collects no revenues — at 0% because their is no tax levied and 100% because there is no incentive to produce.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Paul Krugman: Free to Die

Back in 1980, just as America was making its political turn to the right, Milton Friedman lent his voice to the change with the famous TV series “Free to Choose.” In episode after episode, the genial economist identified laissez-faire economics with personal choice and empowerment, an upbeat vision that would be echoed and amplified by Ronald Reagan.

But that was then. Today, “free to choose” has become “free to die.”

I’m referring, as you might guess, to what happened during Monday’s G.O.P. presidential debate. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”

And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”

The Decline and Fall of the American Middle Class

The heart of our political malaise is that the middle class, so long a powerhouse of US prosperity, is being crushed as never before

No one can accuse the candidates on stage at Monday's Republican debate of not discussing a broad range of topics. They talked about big issues like social security, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, energy independence, repealing healthcare reform and the need for job creation. And they talked about small issues for political point-scoring: like HPV vaccines for girls.

But missing from the debate – and, in fact, much current discussion of America's politics – is the single biggest issue facing the country: the destruction of the American middle class. For stories on how America is bifurcating into haves and have-nots, with precious little in between, you have to dive behind the headlines of the latest Washington political bun-fight and find the devil in the details.

Targeting Dissent

by: Nancy Murray and Kade Crockford, Truthout and ACLU Massachusetts | Special Feature

Ten Years Later: Surveillance in the "Homeland" [4]is a collaborative project with Truthout and ACLU Massachusetts.

How little - yet how much - has changed in the last 40 years. The COINTELPRO papers sound distinctly 21st century as they detail the monitoring of perceived threats to "national security" by the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency (NSA), Secret Service, and the military, as well as the intelligence bureaucracy's war on First Amendment protest activity.

The Church Committee investigation concluded [5] in 1976 that the "unexpressed major premise of the programs was that a law enforcement agency has the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing social and political order."

Three Things to Love (and a Few More to Hate) About Obama’s Jobs Plan

President Obama created big expectations last week for the speech where he announced his new jobs plan. Remarkably, his rhetoric came close to fulfilling them. But what about the actual plan he sent to Congress on Monday? If it were to be enacted in its current form (which it won’t), would it have a shot at turning around the economy? As it turns out, there are definitely some things to like in Obama’s roadmap, even while there are some very big warning signs as well.

On the plus side, President Obama asked for a sizable package. The cost would be $450 billion, with most of the expense in the 2012 fiscal year. By contrast, after removing the fix to the alternative minimum tax, the 2009 stimulus package came to about $300 billion a year in both 2009 and 2010. After seeming determined to think small, Obama is asking for something resembling real money. Of course, this is still well short of what is needed to get the economy back to full employment. The collapse of the housing bubble led to a falloff in housing and consumption demand that together is close to $1.2 trillion annually.

News Corp shareholders lodge complaint against Rupert Murdoch

Major US banks accuse Murdoch and News Corporation of corporate misconduct extending far beyond UK

Full text of shareholders' complaint

Ed Pilkington in New York, Tuesday 13 September 2011 11.37 EDT

A prominent group of US banks and investment funds with substantial investments in News Corporation has issued a fresh legal complaint accusing the company of widespread corporate misconduct extending far beyond the phone-hacking excesses of News of the World.

The legal action, lodged in the Delaware courts, is led by Amalgamated Bank, a New York-based chartered bank that manages some $12bn on behalf of institutional investors and holds about 1 million shares of News Corporation common stock. Its lawsuit is aimed against the members of News Corp's board, including Rupert Murdoch himself, his sons James and Lachlan, and the media empire's chief operating officer, Chase Carey.

More Details Emerge in Republican Assault on Post Office and Postal Unions

By Kenneth Quinnell

The Republican plans to weaken the United States Postal Service are starting to get more and more attention, including Sam Seder's Majority Report, Thom Hartmann, Nicole Sandler's radio show and Allison Kilkenny's brilliant Truthout article:

It was only a few years ago that the USPS was considered not only stable, but thriving. The biggest volume in pieces of mail handled by the Postal Service in its 236-year history was in 2006. The second and third busiest years were in 2005 and 2007, respectively. But it was two events: one crafted during the Bush years and another supervised by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, that would cripple this once great institution.

Perhaps it was its booming history that first drew Congress' attention to the Postal Service in 2006 when it passed the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act (PAEA), which mandated that the Postal Service would have to fully fund retiree health benefits for future retirees. That's right. Congress was demanding universal health care coverage.

Return of the Big GOP Medicare Lie

—By Rick Ungar | Tue Sep. 13, 2011 10:53 AM PDT

The participant's in last night's GOP presidential debate once again took the opportunity to pretend that the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") put a massive dent in Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program.

Michele Bachmann told us that "We know that President Obama stole over $500 billion out of Medicare to switch it over to Obamacare." Mitt Romney intoned "He cut Medicare by $500 billion. This is a Democratic president the liberal, so to speak, cut Medicare."

Yeah…except that nobody stole anything and Medicare was not cut by $500 billion.

Top Air Force Official Issues Religious Neutrality Policy in Wake of Truthout's "Jesus Loves Nukes" Exposé

Wednesday 14 September 2011
by: Jason Leopold, Truthout | Report

A top US Air Force official, in an attempt to ensure the Air Force adheres to the Constitution as well as its own regulations and policies, issued guidelines that calls on "leaders at all levels" to take immediate steps to maintain "government neutrality regarding religion."

In his policy memorandum dated September 1, but sent Tuesday to all major commands, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz said, "Leaders ... must balance Constitutional protections for an individual's free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and its prohibition against governmental establishment of religion."

The First Amendment establishes a wall of separation between church and state and Clause 3, Article 6 of the Constitution specifically prohibits a "religious test."

Noam Chomsky on How the Military Is Bankrupting Us and Why Corporate Interests Want to Destroy Public Programs

By Noam Chomsky and Aaron Mate and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Posted on September 13, 2011, Printed on September 16, 2011

Editor's note: The following is a transcript of a Noam Chomsky interview on Democracy Now! Chomsky covers a wide range of subjects, including the true cost of America's empire, the significance of Obama's recent jobs proposal, and the real reasons why corporate interests and conservatives are intent on demolishing wildly successful public programs like Social Security.

President Obama sent his new jobs proposal to Congress on Monday with a plan to pay for the $447 billion package by raising taxes on the wealthy. Noam Chomsky says, "The healthcare system...the huge military spending, the very low taxes for the rich [and corporations]...those are fundamental problems that have to be dealt with if there’s going to be anything like successful economic and social development in the United States." As Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, calls Social Security a "Ponzi scheme," and Democrats buy into the narrative that the program is in crisis, Chomsky notes that "to worry about a possible problem 30 years from now, which can incidentally be fixed with a little bit of tampering here and there, as was done in 1983, to worry about that just makes absolutely no sense, unless you’re trying to destroy the program."

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is MIT professor Noam Chomsky. His latest book is called 9-11: Was There an Alternative? That last question, "Was there an alternative?," referring to the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Aaron?

AARON MATÉ: Well, Noam, you mentioned the changes in discourse between 10 years ago and today. And actually, this issue of the reasons behind 9/11 came up Monday night at the Republican presidential debate. Congress Member Ron Paul of Texas drew boos from the crowd and a rebuke from other candidates on the podium when he criticized U.S. foreign policy in discussing the roots of 9/11.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happy Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy Day

Thursday, 09/15/2011 - 7:05 pm by Matt Stoller

Three years later we still haven’t dealt with the problems in the financial crisis.

Lehman’s bankruptcy happened three years ago today. It should be quite clear at this point that another Lehman is going to happen again. Policymakers didn’t deal with the crisis of 2008-2009; they turned it into a much longer crisis with far greater lasting damage.

There are two intertwined issues with any major financial panic. One issue is liquidity — can an asset be sold or traded without significant movement in the price? Can an institution exchange its assets for assets of similar value? In a bank run, the answer is no. People are too afraid to accept that their bank deposit is worth what is in the account because they don’t trust the bank that tells them what they have in the account. The second issue is solvency — is there enough value to pay off all creditor claims? Are assets greater than liabilities, even in a liquid market?

Texas poverty figures challenge Rick Perry jobs record

Report published by non-partisan CPPP says poverty in Texas is higher than the rest of America – and growing faster

  • Republican frontrunner Rick Perry has put his economic record as Texas governor at the heart of his presidential nomination campaign, but a report has painted a stark picture of rising unemployment and spiralling poverty in the state.

    The policy paper, published by the Austin-based non-partisan Center for Public Policy Priorities, said poverty in Texas was currently higher than the rest of the US and was growing faster.

The $2 Billion UBS Incident: 'Rogue Trader' My Ass

The news that a "rogue trader" (I hate that term – more on that in a moment) has soaked the Swiss banking giant UBS for $2 billion has rocked the international financial community and threatened to drive a stake through any chance Europe had of averting economic disaster. There is much hand-wringing in the financial press today as the UBS incident has reminded the whole world that all of the banks were almost certainly lying their asses off over the last three years, when they all pledged to pull back from risky prop trading. Here’s how the WSJ put it:

The Swiss banking giant has been struggling to rebuild trust after running up vast losses in the original financial crisis. Under Chief Executive Oswald Grubel, the bank claimed to have put in place new risk management practices, pulled back from proprietary trading and focused on a low-risk client-driven model.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How the rich blew up the banks

By: Charles R. Morris
September 12, 2011 04:45 AM EDT

Gold is a traditional inflation hedge. Yet it has been hovering near record real levels, even as the economy careens toward an inflation-killing double-dip recession. Treasury rates are resolutely stuck at near-zero as the U.S. financial position goes to hell in a hand-basket. Watch for the skies to start raining frogs.

An intriguing paper by Zoltan Pozsar, a senior International Monetary Fund researcher, sheds a new light on these phenomena. A massive buildup of free cash in the hands of companies, hedge funds and rich individuals may be turning many of the canons of conventional banking on their heads.

The cash balloon is hardly a surprise. The top 1 percent of American households has been collecting a 20 percent to 25 percent of taxable income for some years now. At some point, you run out of pockets to stuff it in.

Lehman Brothers: three years of denial

Lehmans crashed for a simple reason: an ignored $8tn housing bubble. But don't expect the Greenspan sycophants to admit it

Dean Baker,,
Monday 12 September 2011 14.30 BST

As we prepare to celebrate the third anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the ensuing financial crisis, it's a good time to assess the situation and ask what has changed. The answer is not encouraging.

Very little has changed about either the realities on the ground or the intellectual debate on economic issues in the last three years. The "too-big-to-fail" banks are bigger than ever as a result of crisis induced mergers. Financial industry profits now exceed their pre-crisis share of corporate profits, and executive pay and bonuses are again at their bubble peaks.

A Dream? A Lie? Or Something Worse?

By Terrance Heath
September 12, 2011 - 3:43pm ET

Given what I've been writing for the past few years about upward mobility and the state of "the American Dream," it doesn't come as a surprise to me that downward mobility is the trend that seems likely to dominate the next decade — especially if Washington continues its current trend.

Nearly one in three Americans who grew up middle-class has slipped down the income ladder as an adult, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Downward mobility is most common among middle-class people who are divorced or separated from their spouses, did not attend college, scored poorly on standardized tests, or used hard drugs, the report says.

The GOP War on Voting

In a campaign supported by the Koch brothers, Republicans are working to prevent millions of Democrats from voting next year

By Ari Berman
August 30, 2011 7:40 PM ET

As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots. "What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century," says Judith Browne-Dianis, who monitors barriers to voting as co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Did the euro just enter its death throes?

Friday we wrote about the striking down-move in the euro. (You can read that short piece here. Here's a short-term chart; here's a longer-term one.

The up-move that started in mid-2010, from $1.20 to $1.45(ish) is the eurozone trying to fix its problems by making sure troubled economies are able to make debt repayments to bankers.

Paul Krugman: It's an Economy, Not a Corporate Venture

Matt Yglesias, the political commentator, is mildly upset over a report that President Barack Obama is turning to the investor Warren E. Buffett and Alan Mulally, the chief executive of the Ford Motor Company, for economic advice.

“My hope is that this is more about a search for ‘validators’ than a search for policy advice,” Mr. Yglesias wrote Aug. 23 on the blog ThinkProgress. “Yet it seems to me that both inside the administration and outside of it there’s a shortage of turning to economists with specific expertise in recessions for advice on coping with the recession.”

It’s not clear how much to make of the report. But it’s always good to remember that businessmen — even great businessmen — don’t necessarily know much about how to make the macroeconomy work.
The End of Loser Liberalism

Saturday 10 September 2011
by: Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research | News Analysis
Progressives need a fundamentally new approach to politics. They have been losing not just because conservatives have so much more money and power, but also because they have accepted the conservatives’ framing of political debates. They have accepted a framing where conservatives want market outcomes whereas liberals want the government to intervene to bring about outcomes that they consider fair.

A simple income tax

Tue Sep 6, 2011 9:29 am EDT

Since at least July 1, 1943, the day income tax withholding from paychecks began to finance war and tamp down demand for consumer goods, American politicians have promised a simpler tax system.

But while politicians talked on for seven decades, the code grew ever more complex with favors for this group or that, favors that mostly benefited the rich.

One country actually has created a very simple income tax. That would be China, its income tax filing rules modeled on those of the U.S. Congress circa 1913-1942.

America is GE's tax haven

By David Cay Johnston
Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:03am EDT

Aug 23 (Reuters) - Washington politicians say high corporate tax rates are driving U.S. companies to invest offshore where tax rates are lower. But that is not General Electric's experience.

GE's disclosures show that over the last decade it paid much lower tax rates in America than offshore, just the opposite of the Washington political mantra. Even more puzzling, the U.S. corporate giant chooses to take more of its profits in other lands despite the higher tax rates there.

Given that GE (GE.N) has a roughly 1,000-person tax department dedicated to paying as little as possible in taxes, what the disclosures show is that something other than tax policy is driving GE's business decisions.

New Docs Detail How Feds Downplayed Ground Zero Health Risks

by Anthony DePalma, Special to ProPublica
Sep. 8, 2011, 4:30 p.m.

In the dark and uncertain days after Sept. 11, 2001, the sight of thousands of shaken New Yorkers returning to their apartments, offices and schools in Lower Manhattan seemed to signal a larger return to normalcy.

Now new documents have emerged showing that federal officials in Washington and New York went further than was previously known to downplay concerns about health risks, misrepresenting or concealing information that ultimately might have protected thousands of people from the contaminated air at ground zero.

Employers Diss Obama Job Plan

Wow, this is just embarrassing. A raspberry from businesses, the object of Obama’s tender ministrations. And the reason? Basically, too little demand, something that tax cuts won’t remedy.

From the New York Times:

The dismal state of the economy is the main reason many companies are reluctant to hire workers, and few executives are saying that President Obama’s jobs plan — while welcome — will change their minds any time soon.


“You still need to have the business need to hire,” said Jeffery Braverman, owner of Nutsonline, an e-commerce company in Cranford, N.J., that sells nuts and dried fruit. While a $4,000 credit could offset the cost of the company’s lowest-cost health insurance plan, he said, it would not spur him to hire someone. “Business demand is what drives hiring,” he said.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wisconsin official tells DMV employees to 'refrain from offering' information on free voter IDs

By Chris Bowers

Wisconsin wanders into poll tax territory:
A Wisconsin official has discouraged state workers from volunteering information about free IDs available under a controversial voter identification law that critics complain is designed to suppress votes, a memo leaked on Wednesday showed.

The memo, provided to the press by Democratic State Senator Jon Erpenbach, was likely to fan concerns among critics of the Republican-backed law that it aimed to suppress votes of thousands of otherwise eligible Wisconsin voters.

How Fewer Working Hours Can Save Our Health, Economy, and the Planet

By Juliet B. Schor, YES! Magazine
Posted on September 9, 2011, Printed on September 10, 2011

Millions of Americans have lost control over the basic rhythm of their daily lives. They work too much, eat too quickly, socialize too little, drive and sit in traffic for too many hours, don’t get enough sleep, and feel harried too much of the time. It’s a way of life that undermines basic sources of wealth and well-being—such as strong family and community ties, a deep sense of meaning, and physical health.

Imagining a world in which jobs take up much less of our time may seem utopian, especially now, when a scarcity mentality dominates the economic conversation. People who are employed often find it difficult to scale back their jobs. Costs of medical care, education, and child care are rising. It may be hard to find new sources of income when U.S. companies have been laying people off at a dizzying rate.

How to Put America Back to Work

The country is — or should be — focused on jobs. Some 25 million Americans who want a full-time job can’t get one. The youth unemployment rate is as much as twice that of the already unacceptable national average.

America has always thought of itself as a land of opportunity — but where is the opportunity for our youngsters who face such bleak prospects? Historically, those who lose their jobs quickly got another, but an increasingly large fraction of the unemployed — now more than 40 percent — have been out of work for more than six months.

President Barack Obama will deliver an address tonight outlining his vision of what can be done. Others should be doing the same.

NJ Governor Christie's Secret Meeting With Koch Brothers Causes Political Firestorm

iThe fallout has led the Democratic Speaker of the NJ Assembly to call the governor "disgraceful," and that she is "beginning to wonder if Gov. Christie is mentally deranged."September 8, 2011 |

Editor's Note: Brad Friedman wrote two recent stories for Mother Jones about secret Koch tapes that caused a "political firestorm" and he follows up here with what he learned about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's tight relationship with the Kochs.

One of the firestorms my stories have created has led the Democratic Speaker of the NJ Assembly to call Gov. Chris Christie "disgraceful", charge that his comments about her were "outright lies", that he is "not fit to lead the state," and that she is "beginning to wonder if Gov. Christie is mentally deranged." All statements given to local media late today in response to our release of the tapes. Though some local Dems are still wondering if it may be the Speaker, rather than Christie, who is hiding the truth.

As I described in my BRAD BLOG piece linking to Part 2 at MoJo on Wednesday morning, the good citizens of the Garden State (and the whole of the mainstream media along with them) learned only yesterday that their Republican Governor had snuck out of state on June 26th, right after appearing on Meet the Press, jetted across the country to deliver the keynote address at the super-secret, ultra-exclusive gathering of rightwing corporate barons and billionaires --- otherwise known as the Koch Brothers 2011 Summer Seminar --- at a resort near Vail, Colorado, before he then flew back home to NJ that night, and went on to appear on three cable news shows, in studio in Manhattan, the next morning. Nobody ever knew he was gone --- at least until my story broke at MoJo yesterday morning.

Let's find progressive ways to tax the winners in our trickle-up economy

Blaming Britain's lack of growth on the taxation of high earners is nonsense – and totally out of step with the rest of the world

Simon Jenkins, Thursday 8 September 2011 22.00 BST

I know very few rich people who got rich to make money. They got rich because, other than spivs and gamblers, they enjoyed their work and were good at it. How much they made might be due to competition, greed, love, prestige, personal rivalry or, as JK Galbraith said of senior executives, a "warm personal gesture by an individual to himself". But there is no evidence that output rises or falls in response to shifts in post-tax income, except for some hourly-paid workers. It therefore does not respond to changes in marginal income tax.

While a few obsessives may so hate paying taxes that they would rather live out their lives in an airport lounge, the differential impact on economic growth of this year's rise from 40p to 50p on incomes over £150,000 must be negligible. So why all this week's talk of abandoning the 50p rate?

Katha Pollitt: The Poor: Still Here, Still Poor

What ever happened to poor people? Even on the left, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley’s Poverty Tour was an exception. Mostly, the talk is of the “middle class”—its stagnant wages, foreclosed houses, maxed-out credit cards and adult kids still living in their childhood bedrooms. The New York Times’s Bob Herbert, the last columnist who covered poverty consistently and with passion, is gone. Among progressive organizations, Rebuild the Dream, a new group co-founded with much fanfare by Van Jones and MoveOn, is typical. It bills its mission as “rebuilding the middle class”—i.e., the “people willing to work hard and play by the rules.” (What are those rules? I always wonder. And do middle-class people really work all that hard compared with a home health aide or a waitress, who cannot get ahead no matter how hard she works and how many rules she plays by?) The ten steps in its “Contract” contain many worthy suggestions—invest in America’s infrastructure, return to fairer tax rates, secure Social Security by lifting the cap on Social Security taxes. There’s nothing wrong with any of this as far as it goes—middle-class people have indeed suffered in the current recession. But let’s not forget that the unemployment rate for white college grads is 4 percent, and every single one of them has been written up in Salon. It’s who’s missing that troubles me: poor people.

Can the Middle Class Be Saved?

The Great Recession has accelerated the hollowing-out of the American middle class. And it has illuminated the widening divide between most of America and the super-rich. Both developments herald grave consequences. Here is how we can bridge the gap between us.

By Don Peck

In October 2005, three Citigroup analysts released a report describing the pattern of growth in the U.S. economy. To really understand the future of the economy and the stock market, they wrote, you first needed to recognize that there was “no such animal as the U.S. consumer,” and that concepts such as “average” consumer debt and “average” consumer spending were highly misleading.

In fact, they said, America was composed of two distinct groups: the rich and the rest. And for the purposes of investment decisions, the second group didn’t matter; tracking its spending habits or worrying over its savings rate was a waste of time. All the action in the American economy was at the top: the richest 1 percent of households earned as much each year as the bottom 60 percent put together; they possessed as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent; and with each passing year, a greater share of the nation’s treasure was flowing through their hands and into their pockets. It was this segment of the population, almost exclusively, that held the key to future growth and future returns. The analysts, Ajay Kapur, Niall Macleod, and Narendra Singh, had coined a term for this state of affairs: plutonomy.

Study reveals cultural characteristics of the Tea Party movement

LAS VEGAS — American voters sympathetic to the Tea Party movement reflect four primary cultural and political beliefs more than other voters do: authoritarianism, libertarianism, fear of change, and negative attitudes toward immigrants and immigration, according to new research to be presented at the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

"Our findings show that the Tea Party movement can best be understood as a new cultural expression of late 20th century conservatism," said Andrew J. Perrin, an associate professor of sociology in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's College of Arts and Sciences, and lead author of the study, "Cultures of the Tea Party."

Findings are based on two telephone polls of registered voters in North Carolina and Tennessee (conducted May 30-June 3, 2010 and Sept. 29-Oct. 3, 2010), and a set of interviews and observations at a Tea Party movement rally in Washington, N.C. Nearly half of poll respondents (46 percent) felt favorably toward the Tea Party movement.

Boredom Can Fuel Hostility Toward Outsiders

by: Tom Jacobs, Miller-McCune | News Analysis

It’s all too easy to divide the world into people like us and outsiders. Newly published research points to a surprising factor that exacerbates this unfortunate tendency: Boredom.

Writing in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, University of Limerick psychologists Wijnand van Tilburg and Eric Igou report boredom increases the value we place on groups we feel a part of and decreases the value of those who feel alien to us. They describe five experiments that provide evidence backing up this idea.

Sorry for not posting... problems kept me offline.