Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Artificial leaf could debut new era of 'fast-food energy'

Technology for making an "artificial leaf" holds the potential for opening an era of "fast-food energy," in which people generate their own electricity at home with low-cost equipment perfect for the 3 billion people living in developing countries and even home-owners in the United States. That's among the prospects emerging from research on a new genre of "electrofuels" described in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News, the American Chemical Society's weekly newsmagazine.
That Bell Curve Crap -- Again

by Steven D
Tue Nov 29th, 2011 at 07:14:13 PM EST

I understand the fascination with certain white people wanting to justify their political agenda through insisting that African Americans are genetically pre-determined to be less intelligent than whites. Andrew Sullivan is perhaps the most well known media figure who continues to promote this view over and over:

[The study of intelligence] has been strangled by p.c. egalitarianism. The reason is the resilience of racial differences in IQ in the data, perhaps most definitively proven by UC Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen:
"Jensen is still greatly respected by many traditional intelligence researchers," Garlick says. "By 'traditional intelligence researchers,' I mean researchers who still value IQ and continue to do studies that evaluate the effectiveness of IQ in predicting outcomes, or studies that examine possible mechanisms that may cause differences in IQ. However, due to the unpopularity of Jensen’s findings, this group of researchers is now very small. 
"The major move in response to Jensen’s findings hasn’t been rigorous and compelling research to try and disprove his hypotheses and findings. Rather, it has led to an exodus of researchers away from the area, and a drying up of grant funding and research positions for researchers interested in IQ."
Andrew Sullivan fails to acknowledge that the conclusions reached by the authors of the Bell Curve have been shown to be insufficient to show a genetic component between IQ and race (two nebulous concepts in and of themselves).
The Enshrined Entitlements of America’s Wealthy

Tuesday, 11/29/2011 - 10:16 am by Suzanne Mettler

Thirty years ago, Republicans criticized tax expenditures for distorting the market. Now both parties view them as sacrosanct.

The super committee on deficit reduction has now disbanded without even having managed to agree on scaling back tax expenditures. These social welfare policies that are hidden in the tax code bestow their greatest benefits on high-income taxpayers, as I have shown elsewhere. They amount to over 7 percent of GDP, more than what we spend on either defense, Social Security, or Medicare and Medicaid combined, not to mention domestic discretionary programs, which cost far less than any of these.
People's Guide to the Federal Budget

Introduction – Why a People’s Guide?

For a number of years as part of the President's annual budget request the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) included “A Citizen's Guide to the Federal Budget." OMB released the last Citizen's Guide in February, 2001 to accompany the Fiscal Year 2002 budget request. According to that last version, "we know you care a lot about how the Government spends your money. That’s why A Citizen’s Guide to the Federal Budget was created...We hope to make the budget more accessible and understandable."

Since 2001 taxpayers have had to fend for themselves in efforts to make the budget more accessible and understandable. Yet we still care a lot about how the government spends our money, perhaps now more than ever. National Priorities Project (NPP) believes that all people affected by federal spending priorities should have the ability and opportunity to shape our nation's budget. To that end, NPP strives to make complex federal budget information transparent and accessible so people can prioritize and influence how their tax dollars are spent.
Time to Retake Politics From the One Percent in Both Political Parties

by Dean Baker

The country is still celebrating the inability of the supercommittee to cut Social Security and Medicare, but it is important to move on from this victory to retake control of the political debate from the One Percent. As it stands, the One Percent are insisting that the country genuflect over the non-problem of the budget deficit, at a time when tens of millions of workers are unemployed or underemployed, millions of people are facing the loss of their homes and tens of millions of baby boomers are approaching retirement with little other than their Social Security to support them.

The deficit is the agenda of the One Percent. There is no reason that the rest of us should be concerned about budget deficits when the rest of the country is struggling with the economic disaster created by the greed and incompetence of the One Percent.
How Paulson Gave Hedge Funds Advance Word of Fannie Mae Rescue

By Richard Teitelbaum - Nov 29, 2011 12:46 PM ET

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stepped off the elevator into the Third Avenue offices of hedge fund Eton Park Capital Management LP in Manhattan. It was July 21, 2008, and market fears were mounting. Four months earlier, Bear Stearns Cos. had sold itself for just $10 a share to JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)

Now, amid tumbling home prices and near-record foreclosures, attention was focused on a new source of contagion: Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac, which together had more than $5 trillion in mortgage-backed securities and other debt outstanding, Bloomberg Markets reports in its January issue.
Judge Rakoff stands up to SEC and Citigroup

by AdamB

You don't want to mess with the Hon. Jed Rakoff of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

He's the judge, after all, who sought to declare the federal death penalty unconstitutional (even though the parties didn't ask him to), refused in 2009 to approve the SEC's settlement with Merrill Lynch over bonuses until the penalty increased from $33M to $150M, and who ordered the Pentagon in 2006 to release the names of all Guantanamo detainees.

Monday, November 28, 2011

GOP Deniers Block Creation Of Climate Service

By Brad Johnson on Nov 21, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Science-averse Republicans have once again blocked the establishment of a National Climate Service by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, moving from denial of man-made climate change to the denial of climate itself. “I’m very concerned that NOAA has taken steps to form what amounts to a shadow climate service operation,” House science committee chair Ralph Hall (R-TX) cried in September. At a hearing in June, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) blasted the budget-neutral plan to consolidate NOAA’s existing, widely dispersed, climate capabilities under a single management structure as “propaganda services.”
They're owning this cooperation

Taking a cue from a Spanish hill town, the mayor of Richmond, Calif., is recognizing worker-owned co-ops as a possible path out of the poverty and unemployment that plague her city.

Where a hot dog stand now is the main lunchtime option for city workers in this distressed Bay Area town, soon they'll be able to choose from steel-cut oatmeal, goat cheese empanadas and white bean and kale stew, prepared in a mobile cafe. Its owners will share in the decision-making — and any profits.

Richmond Solar has trained needy residents to work as green-energy installers and now aims to transform some into bosses by forming a worker-owned cooperative.
Paul Krugman: Things to Tax

The supercommittee was a superdud — and we should be glad. Nonetheless, at some point we’ll have to rein in budget deficits. And when we do, here’s a thought: How about making increased revenue an important part of the deal?

And I don’t just mean a return to Clinton-era tax rates. Why should 1990s taxes be considered the outer limit of revenue collection? Think about it: The long-run budget outlook has darkened, which means that some hard choices must be made. Why should those choices only involve spending cuts? Why not also push some taxes above their levels in the 1990s?

Let me suggest two areas in which it would make a lot of sense to raise taxes in earnest, not just return them to pre-Bush levels: taxes on very high incomes and taxes on financial transactions.
5 Things to Know About the Durban Climate Talks

The 17th-annual UN climate conference begins this week. What can we expect?

—By Kate Sheppard | Mon Nov. 28, 2011 3:00 AM PST

What a difference two years makes. Heading into the 15th Conference of the Parties, the annual United Nations confab on climate change, hopes were high in Copenhagen, Denmark, that world leaders would hash out a new international agreement on how to address rising temperatures. Now, two years later, many of the same questions remain as negotiators arrive in Durban, South Africa, this week.

Will the United States and leaders of major developing nations like China and India agree to legally binding emission reduction targets? What will come of the Kyoto Protocol, the current pact that guides climate goals set by industrialized nations? (Excluding, of course, the US.) Where will the promised $100 billion in long-term financing to help the poorest nations deal with climate change come from? All of these questions loom as negotiators meet in Durban from November 28 through December 10.
Wall Street Banks Earned Billions In Profits Off $7.7 Trillion In Secret Fed Loans Made During The Financial Crisis

By Travis Waldron on Nov 28, 2011 at 9:25 am

In the lead-up to the financial crisis that crippled the American economy and plunged the country into a recession, the Federal Reserve made trillions in undisclosed loans to struggling banks and financial institutions, according to official documents obtained by Bloomberg News. Six of the country’s largest banks then turned those loans into more than $13 billion in previously undisclosed profits.

The total cost of the Fed loans amounted to $7.77 trillion, and unlike the funds made available by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the loans came with virtually no strings attached for the banks:
Naomi Wolf’s ‘Shocking Truth’ About the ‘Occupy Crackdowns’ Offers Anything but the Truth

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on November 26, 2011, Printed on November 28, 2011

There has been a flurry of speculation surrounding various reports suggesting that a “coordinated,” nationwide crack-down on the Occupy Movement is underway. The problem with these stories lies in the fact that the word “coordinated” is too vague to offer any analytic value.

The difference between local officials talking to each other — or federal law enforcement agencies advising them on what they see as “best practices” for evicting local occupations — and some unseen hand directing, incentivizing or coercing municipalities to do so when they would not otherwise be so inclined is not a minor one. It’s not a matter of semantics or a distinction without difference. As I wrote recently, “if federal authorities were ordering cities to crack down on their local occupations in a concerted effort to wipe out a movement that has spread like wildfire across the country, that would indeed be a huge, and hugely troubling story. In the United States, policing protests is a local matter, and law enforcement agencies must remain accountable for their actions to local officials. Local government’s autonomy in this regard is an important principle.”
To Conservatives, Climate Change is Trojan Horse to Abolish Capitalism

By Naomi Klein, The Nation
Posted on November 27, 2011, Printed on November 28, 2011

The following article first appeared on the Web site of the Nation. For more great content from the Nation, sign up for its email newsletters. 

There is a question from a gentleman in the fourth row.

He introduces himself as Richard Rothschild. He tells the crowd that he ran for county commissioner in Maryland’s Carroll County because he had come to the conclusion that policies to combat global warming were actually “an attack on middle-class American capitalism.” His question for the panelists, gathered in a Washington, DC, Marriott Hotel in late June, is this: “To what extent is this entire movement simply a green Trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine?”

Here at the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, the premier gathering for those dedicated to denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet, this qualifies as a rhetorical question. Like asking a meeting of German central bankers if Greeks are untrustworthy. Still, the panelists aren’t going to pass up an opportunity to tell the questioner just how right he is.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window
While nearly all Americans head to family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.

Senators need to hear from you, on whether you think your front yard is part of a “battlefield” and if any president can send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.
The 1%’s European Coup

by swellsman

The last thing the world needs at a time like this is democracy.  That is what got us into this mess in the first place.  People wanting stuff, and voting for people who said they’d give ‘em that stuff, without showing they’re working.             --Comedian Andy Zaltzman to John Oliver
            The Bugle, Ep. 173a

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Harold Meyerson wrote about “The Growing Tension Between Capitalism and Democracy.”  Meyerson pointed out that
Over the past year . . . capitalism has fairly rolled over democracy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Europe, where financial institutions and large investors have gone to war under the banner of austerity, and governments of nations with not-very-productive or overextended economies have found that they could not satisfy those demands and still cling to power. The elected governments of Greece and Italy have been deposed; financial technocrats are now at the helm of both nations. . . .  It’s as though the markets throughout Europe have had enough with this democratic sovereignty nonsense.  (emphasis added)
Essentially, Meyerson is arguing that the entwined financial system of the Eurozone now gives “financial technocrats” more power to dictate any particular Eurozone country’s fiscal policies than that country’s own citizens have.
The Real Scandal: The Endless Effort to Smear Climate Scientists

By Climate Guest Blogger on Nov 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm

This year has already witnessed multiple events that break climate records: the drought in East Africa, the worst drought in Texas’ recorded history, and record breaking storms and floods in the US south. Those events, anticipated by climatologists decades ago, should remind us that those who persecute and harass scientists, or mendaciously misrepresent their actions and findings, have no sense of decency.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class's venality

Naomi Wolf, Friday 25 November 2011 12.25 EST

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk."

From Alexandria to Zuccotti Park: They've Been Destroying Books For 2,000 Years

Fahrenheit 451: The temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns.

They're back.

But then, they've never gone away. The Book Killers have always been with us. Before recorded history they were with us, murdering the scholars and storytellers and mystics of every tribe they ever conquered.
They were there when Great Library burned in Alexandria 2,000 years ago. They destroyed the library known as the House of Wisdom when the Mongol Empire invaded Baghdad in 1258. They say the invaders took the books from every ruined library in Baghdad and piled them into the Tigris River, to serve as a bridge for their soldiers and chariots.

They say the river ran black with ink for years.
Five Ways that Financial Elites are Destroying Democracy
By Les Leopold

Is democracy compatible with a financial system run by billionaires? Maybe not. Here are five ways that high finance is undermining democracy:

1. Billionaires replace one person, one vote.
Ask any American what’s wrong with our country and they will say that money rules politics. And they are correct. It’s obvious that major political donors and lobbyists for the super-rich have more political influence than we do. As the top 1 percent gains more and more of the nation’s income, the 99 percent effectively become disenfranchised. And of course, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision makes it even easier for the rich to buy political power. Lopsided campaign contributions by and for the super-rich are making a mockery out of elections. In 2010, for example, business outspent labor by a factor of 14 to 1.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

by: Mike Lofgren, Truthout | News Analysis 

Barbara Stanwyck: "We're both rotten!"
Fred MacMurray: "Yeah - only you're a little more rotten." -"Double Indemnity" (1944)
Those lines of dialogue from a classic film noir sum up the state of the two political parties in contemporary America. Both parties are rotten - how could they not be, given the complete infestation of the political system by corporate money on a scale that now requires a presidential candidate to raise upwards of a billion dollars to be competitive in the general election? Both parties are captives to corporate loot. The main reason the Democrats' health care bill will be a budget buster once it fully phases in is the Democrats' rank capitulation to corporate interests - no single-payer system, in order to mollify the insurers; and no negotiation of drug prices, a craven surrender to Big Pharma.
But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.
The Wages of Economic Ignorance

by: Robert Skidelsky, Project Syndicate

London - Politicians are masters at “passing the buck.” Everything good that happens reflects their exceptional talents and efforts; everything bad is caused by someone or something else.

The economy is a classic field for this strategy. Three years after the global economy’s near-collapse, the feeble recovery has already petered out in most developed countries, whose economic inertia will drag down the rest. Pundits decry a “double-dip” recession, but in some countries the first dip never ended: Greek GDP has been dipping for three years.
Moderate Americans Elect group hoping to add third candidate to 2012 election ballot

By Krissah Thompson, Published: November 24

The restless political middle — emboldened by the recent inability of a special congressional committee to agree on a debt-reduction deal — is staking out a controversial plan to insert itself into the 2012 election.

A bipartisan group of political strategists and donors known as Americans Elect has raised $22 million and is likely to place a third presidential candidate on the ballot in every state next year. The goal is to provide an alternative to President Obama and the GOP nominee and break the tradition of a Democrat-vs.-Republican lineup.

The effort could represent a promising new chapter for political moderates, who see a wide-open middle in the political landscape as congressional gridlock and bitter partisan fights have driven down favorability ratings for both parties.
How Occupy stopped the supercommittee

Since the supercommittee's real agenda was to bypass Congress and cut social security, let's give thanks for the 99%

Dean Baker, Wednesday 23 November 2011 10.36 EST

Congress gave us a wonderful Thanksgiving present when we got word that the supercommittee "superheroes" were hanging up their capes. While many in the media were pushing the story of a dysfunctional Congress that could not get anything done, the exact opposite was true. The supercommittee was about finding a backdoor way to cut social security and Medicare, and create enough cover that Congress could get away with it.

It is important to remember the basic facts about the budget and the economy. Contrary to the conventional wisdom in Washington, it is easy to show (by looking at the website of the Congressional Budget Office) that we do not have a chronic deficit problem. In 2007, prior to the collapse of the housing bubble and the resulting economic downturn, the deficit was just 1.2% of GDP.
The growing tension between capitalism and democracy

By Harold Meyerson, Published: November 24

Do capitalism and democracy conflict? Does each weaken the other?

To the American ear, these questions sound bizarre. Capitalism and democracy are bound together like Siamese twins, are they not? That was our mantra during the Cold War, when it was abundantly clear that communism and democracy were incompatible. After the Cold War ended, though, things grew murkier. Recall that virtually every U.S. chief executive and every U.S. president (two Bushes and one Clinton, in particular) told us that bringing capitalism to China would democratize China.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.
Paul Krugman: We Are the 99.9%

“We are the 99 percent” is a great slogan. It correctly defines the issue as being the middle class versus the elite (as opposed to the middle class versus the poor). And it also gets past the common but wrong establishment notion that rising inequality is mainly about the well educated doing better than the less educated; the big winners in this new Gilded Age have been a handful of very wealthy people, not college graduates in general.

If anything, however, the 99 percent slogan aims too low. A large fraction of the top 1 percent’s gains have actually gone to an even smaller group, the top 0.1 percent — the richest one-thousandth of the population.

And while Democrats, by and large, want that super-elite to make at least some contribution to long-term deficit reduction, Republicans want to cut the super-elite’s taxes even as they slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the name of fiscal discipline.

Before I get to those policy disputes, here are a few numbers.
The Fascinating History of How Corporations Became "People" -- Thanks to Corrupt Courts Working for the 1%
By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on November 23, 2011, Printed on November 25, 2011

Occupiers could direct their energy not only at Wall Street, but also at its enablers, in Congress, and ultimately, at the high court. 

Perhaps there were truly free markets before the industrial revolution, where townspeople and farmers gathered in a square to exchange livestock, produce and handmade tools. In our modern world, such a market does not exist. Governments set up the rules of the game, and those rules have an enormous impact on our economic outcomes.

In 2007, the year of the crash, the top 1 percent of American households took in almost two-and-a-half times the share of our nation's pre-tax income that they had grabbed in the 40 years folliwing World War Two. This was no accident – the rules of the market underwent profound changes that led to the upward redistribution of trillions in income over the past 30 years. The rules are set by Congress – under a mountain of lobbying dollars – but they are adjudicated by the courts.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our Reading Guide on Congressional Dysfunction

by Lois Beckett
ProPublica, Nov. 23, 2011, 12:43 p.m.

Congress’ approval rating is abysmal, and the failure of the congressional “super committee” to find a compromise on reducing the national debt has set off a new round of recriminations.

One senator on the super committee, Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, told The Washington Post, “We’re at a time in American history where everybody's afraid — afraid of losing their job — to move toward the center. A deadline is insufficient. You’ve got to have people who are willing to move.”

Decrying partisanship is almost as old as the republic itself. But longtime observers say Congress has actually taken a turn for the worse — with more gridlock, more grandstanding, less compromise to get things done.
Washington’s Debt Panic and the Real Social Debt in America

by Michelle Chen
In the wake of the Congressional Supercommittee's collapse, we finally have consensus on both sides of the aisle: the lawmakers orchestrating the partisan drama are, behind the scenes, happy to collaborate on destroying economic security for all but the wealthiest Americans.

Though the debt hysteria made good political theater, the main immediate impact on the budget is simply to prolong the sense of doom hovering over struggling households. The budget problem those families face isn't some theoretical future debt crisis but the possibility of losing unemployment checks when a year-end legislative deadline hits.
After The Supercommittee: Round Two

Costly U.S. health system delivers uneven care: OECD

WASHINGTON | Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:05am EST

(Reuters) - The U.S. healthcare system is more effective at delivering high costs than quality care, according to a new study that found first-rate treatment for cancer but insufficient primary care for other ailments.

The study, released on Wednesday by the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, said Americans pay more than $7,900 per person for healthcare each year -- far more than any other OECD country -- but still die earlier than their peers in the industrialized world.

The cost of healthcare in the United States is 62 percent higher than that in Switzerland, which has a similar per capita income and also relies substantially on private health insurance.

How White Supremacists Are Trying to Make an American Town a Model for Right-Wing Extremism

A recent influx of white supremacists and Patriot group members to the town of Kalispell, Montana, is causing alarm.

By David Holthouse, Media Matters for America
Posted on November 22, 2011, Printed on November 23, 2011

Editor's note: This is the first of a four-part series by Media Matters of America. 

At first glance the Pioneer Little Europe website seems like it could be the work of the Montana Office of Tourism. Photographs depict the rugged beauty of the Flathead Valley region near Glacier National Park in northwest Montana.

One image shows a young blond-haired girl playing in a meadow overlooking Kalispell, the largest town in the area, with a population around 20,000.

The site also features short news items about the Northwest Montana State Fair and a wildflower beautification program along with Kalispell job postings.
David Cay Johnston: GOP inaction means higher taxes

Nov 22, 2011 14:03 EST

Thanks to Republicans who signed Grover Norquist’s pledge never to raise taxes, your taxes are automatically scheduled to go up in January — unless you are a plutocrat.
The law that cre
ated the congressional super committee set a target of this week for reducing budget deficits. The committee failed to meet the target.

Republican members were willing to cut programs that benefit millions, but they would not raise taxes on the hundreds of thousands of families whose annual income is in the millions and, in a few cases, billions of dollars.
What Killed JFK

The hate that ended his presidency is eerily familiar.

By Frank Rich
Published Nov 20, 2011

Thanksgiving week is a milestone for Barack Obama, but not one that many are likely to commemorate. The president who seemed poised to inherit John F. Kennedy’s mantle—in the eyes of Kennedy’s last surviving child and brother as well as many optimistic onlookers (me included) in 2008—will now have served longer than his historical antecedent. Obama, surely, does not want to be judged against any JFK yardstick, longevity included. It’s his rotten luck that he incited such comparisons at the start by being a young and undistinguished legislator before seeking the presidency; by giving great speeches; by breaking a once-insurmountable barrier for African-Americans, as Kennedy did for Roman Catholics; and by arriving in the White House with his own glamorous wife and two adorable young children in tow. He has usually shrugged off these parallels gracefully. These days, with his honeymoon long over, it’s particularly in his interest to do so. But Obama can’t escape JFK’s long shadow, and neither can we. Another wave of Kennedyiana has arrived just in time for the holidays: three major new books, all three already best sellers. But in the second decade of the 21st century, what, exactly, are the customers buying?

Camelot would seem one of the last go-to articles of national faith for Americans at a time when three quarters of them believe the country is on the wrong track. The Kennedy enterprise still perennially engages the imaginations of high-end artists as various as Don DeLillo, James Ellroy and Stephen Sondheim—not to mention an irrepressible parade of television-mini-series hucksters who come up with such ideas as casting Katie Holmes as Jacqueline Kennedy. The assassination alone has generated more books than there were days in the Kennedy presidency. And the Kennedy cult, as Gore Vidal called it in 1967 when he waded through an early bumper crop of New Frontier memoirs, generally gets a waiver on reality checks.
American Policy Made in China

Robert Kuttner 
Posted: 11/20/11 09:37 PM ET

Last week, President Obama forcefully declared that the United States would not withdraw from the Asia-Pacific, telling the Australian Parliament that he was dispatching 2,500 Marines as well as ships and aircraft to serve at a base in the Australian port of Darwin. The message, in case anybody missed it, was unmistakably directed at China.

But while Obama was making symbolic military gestures, his administration was doing nothing serious to contest China's growing threat to America's economic base. That threat is spelled out in an official government document that should be mandatory reading for all of us -- the annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, released last Thursday.
The Corporatization of the American University

Peter Seybold traces the pernicious influence corporatization has had on the American campus back almost a decade before the Reagan Revolution of 1980, to a memo written by Richmond, Va., attorney Lewis F. Powell Jr. to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in late summer 1971.

Powell, who would be nominated for Supreme Court justice by President Richard Nixon just two months later, said American business had to take the offensive to counter the social movements of the 1960s and early ’70s, said Seybold, a sociology professor at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). Among the institutions Powell said the business world had to recapture was the American campus.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Italian default scenarios

The most important debate of our lifetimes is now ongoing. For many, the answer will be existential. First, the question: Should the ECB “write the check’ for the euro area national governments? In thinking about the answer to this all-important question, I prefer to shift the focus by changing the verb “should” to “will”. 

Answering this slightly different question is much more important than answering the first question for you as an investor, a business person and as a worker. If the ECB writes the check, the economic and market outcomes are vastly different than if they do not. Your personal outlook as an investor, business person or worker will change dramatically for decades to come based upon this one policy choice and how well-prepared for it you are. The right question to ask then is: Will the ECB “write the check’ for the euro area national governments?

To date, my answer to this question has been yes. See, for example, my thoughts on why questioning Italy’s solvency leads inevitably to monetisation and why Investors will buy Italian bonds after ECB monetisation. But what if the ECB doesn’t write the check? What if the ECB let’s Italy default, what then?
Wesley Clark Slams GOP On Defense

Democrats have three words for Republican presidential candidates who attack President Obama as weak on defense in Tuesday’s foreign policy debate: Osama Bin Laden.

Three of the leading military minds in the party, former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, and retired Major General Paul Eaton, lit into the Republican field at a press conference in Washington for their shifting positions and made clear that Obama’s military achievements — including the Al Qaeda leader’s death — will be fair political game in 2012.
Poll: Fox News Viewers Less Informed Than Those Who Read No News

Get this: Fox News is — gasp! — not all that informative, according to Fairleigh Dickinson University’s latest PublicMind poll.

The poll — which asked New Jerseyans where they find news and information about current events — found that Sunday morning news shows are the most informative, while Fox News actually leads people to be less informed than those who consume no news at all.
ANALYSIS: The health care industry's stranglehold on Congress

Special interests target the independent board that may be the last best hope for Medicare reform

By Wendell Potter

One of the reasons why Congress has been largely unable to make the American health care system more efficient and equitable is because of the stranglehold lobbyists for special interests have on the institution.

Whenever lawmakers consider any kind of meaningful reform, the proposed remedies inevitably create winners and losers. Physicians’ incomes most likely will be affected in some way, as will the profits of all the other major players: the hospitals, the drug companies, the medical device manufacturers, and the insurers, just to name a few. The list is long, and the platoons of highly paid and well-connected lobbyists who represent their interests comprise a large private army that conquered Capitol Hill years ago.
Occupy the Budget: How to Pay for the Crisis While Making Our Nation More Equitable, Green, and Secure

by Sarah Anderson
Some lawmakers are trying to give America the cartoon image of a penniless hobo, circa 1932, with holes in his pants and nothing but a cold can of beans for dinner. We're broke, they say, with no choice but to slash spending on public services.

The truth is that we're a rich nation. We need to make big changes, of course. But we should see this crisis as an opportunity to harness the country's abundant resources in ways that will make us stronger.

A new report by my organization, the Institute for Policy Studies, identifies tax and spending reforms that would not only patch up the holes in our nation's pants but create a more equitable, green, and secure nation.
Finally, a Constitutional Amendment for the 99%

It's the Corporate State, Stupid

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini. 

David G. Mills

11/10/04 "ICH" -- The early twentieth century Italians, who invented the word fascism, also had a more descriptive term for the concept -- estato corporativo: the corporatist state. Unfortunately for Americans, we have come to equate fascism with its symptoms, not with its structure. The structure of fascism is corporatism, or the corporate state. The structure of fascism is the union, marriage, merger or fusion of corporate economic power with governmental power. Failing to understand fascism, as the consolidation of corporate economic and governmental power in the hands of a few, is to completely misunderstand what fascism is. It is the consolidation of this power that produces the demagogues and regimes we understand as fascist ones.

While we Americans have been trained to keenly identify the opposite of fascism, i.e., government intrusion into and usurpation of private enterprise, we have not been trained to identify the usurpation of government by private enterprise. Our European cousins, on the other hand, having lived with Fascism in several European countries during the last century, know it when they see it, and looking over here, they are ringing the alarm bells. We need to learn how to recognize Fascism now.
SOPA’s ugly message to the world about America and internet Innovation

By Dominic Basulto

Imagine a country where the government is able to shut down Web sites at the slightest provocation, where elected representatives invoke fears of "overseas pirates" to defend the interests of domestic industries, and where Internet companies like Google must cave in to the demands of government censors or risk being shut down.

No, we are not talking about China, North Korea or Iran — we are talking about the United States, where legislators in both the House and Senate are attempting to push through new anti-piracy legislation by year-end that would benefit Hollywood at the expense of Silicon Valley.
Kyl’s candid confession

By Steve Benen

echnically, the deadline for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — better known as the super-committee — is still a couple of days away, but as a practical matter, members would need to have an agreement in place by tonight. That’s not going to happen, and the committee that everyone assumed would fail will meet expectations.

This was not, however, the only predictable result. We also knew from the outset that when the super-committee failed, the parties would point fingers at each other and the media would go to great lengths to insist “both sides” are to blame, regardless of the facts.
The Top 0.1% Of The Nation Earn Half Of All Capital Gains

By Robert Lenzner | Forbes

Capital gains are the key ingredient of income disparity in the US-- and the force behind the winner takes all mantra of our economic system. If you want  even out earning power in the U.S, you have to raise the 15% capital gains tax.

Income and wealth disparities  become even more  absurd  if we look at the top 0.1% of the nation's earners-- rather than the more common 1%. The top 0.1%--  about 315,000 individuals out of 315 million--  are making about half of all capital gains on the sale of shares or property after 1 year; and these capital gains make up 60% of the income made by the Forbes 400.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Paul Krugman: Across Europe, All Eyes Fixed on Italy

Might we see Italy go careening off the edge in the next few days? I mean, even more than it has?

The Financial Times suggests that we might, writing of a “danger zone” in an article published Nov. 7: “Italian 10-year bond yields rose to euro-era highs of 6.68 percent at one point, well into territory considered unsustainable by the markets. Traders warned that without [European Central Bank] intervention, the Italian bond markets would have seen leaps in yields that forced Ireland and Portugal to accept emergency bailouts.”
It's Not Just Our Leaders Who are in a Crisis. Democracy Itself is Failing

The world's statesmen no longer shape events but merely respond to them, in thrall to market forces

by Peter Beaumont
Are the following intimations of a global crisis in the legitimacy of western democracy? Ireland's confidential budget plan, unseen by the Irish electorate, is leaked by European finance officials to the German parliament where the proposals are examined by the German finance committee.

In Italy, Mario Monti, the country's unelected new prime minister and a former international adviser to Goldman Sachs, stands in the Giustiniani Palace as head of a cabinet of similarly unelected technocrats. Imposed in place of the corrupt, useless and seedy Silvio Berlusconi to satisfy the "markets", Monti promises what we are told the markets want, and that is "sacrifices".
"Near Poor" Struggling Just Above Poverty Startle the Census

by: Jason DeParle, Robert Gebeloff and Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times News Service | Report 
Washington - They drive cars, but seldom new ones. They earn paychecks, but not big ones. Many own homes. Most pay taxes. Half are married, and nearly half live in the suburbs. None are poor, but many describe themselves as barely scraping by.

Down but not quite out, these Americans form a diverse group sometimes called “near poor” and sometimes simply overlooked — and a new count suggests they are far more numerous than previously understood.
Anti-Walker Protester Gets Death Threat | Rock Shatters Coffee House Window

By Matthew Rothschild, November 18, 2011

It’s getting ugly in Wisconsin.

A protester in Sun Prairie who has been outspoken in her opposition to Gov. Scott Walker received a death threat this week. And a coffee house in Madison that isn’t shy about advocating Walker’s recall had its storefront window shattered by a rock while a customer was inside.
Billionaires Use Tax Loophole To Lower Their Tax Rates To 1 Percent

By Pat Garofalo on Nov 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm

In 2009, 1,470 households reported income of more than $1 million but paid no federal income tax on it, through their use of various tax loopholes and shelters. Tax rates for millionaires have fallen by 25 percent since the mid-’90s, while one quarter of millionaires currently pay lower tax rates than the average middle-class household.

Numbers like these are the driving force behind the Buffett rule, the administration’s proposal aimed at ensuring that millionaires can’t pay lower tax rates than middle-class families.
Meet the Political Reform Group That's Fueled by Dark Money

—By Siddhartha Mahanta
Fri Nov. 18, 2011 3:00 AM PST

An upstart political reform group called Americans Elect is looking to blow apart the Democrat-Republican duopoly that dominates American politics. Its imaginative scheme: nominating an independent presidential candidate over the internet. The group is on the ballot in a half-dozen states, and the national buzz surrounding its initiative is growing—but so too are the questions about who's bankrolling this effort and the security of the outfit's voting procedures.

Americans Elect rose from the ashes of Unity08, a group formed in 2006 to increase access to the electoral system for independent presidential candidates. Via Americans Elect's website, registered voters can sign up as "delegates" and nominate "any American [they] believe can be a great leader." (For reference, the site offers a lengthy list of current political figures.) In April, delegates will winnow the field of candidates to six finalists,  each of whom will then select a running mate from another party (if a finalist decides not to run, he or she can decline). And in June, Americans Elect plans to hold an online convention to decide which candidate will appear on the Americans Elect ballot line.
Making Hard Work Fashionable Again

Tyler Cowen writes this weekend that he's temperamentally attached to the traditionalist vision of hard work leading to great wealth. But, he admits, that vision is "showing some wear and tear," which is why the Occupy Wall Street movement is attracting so much support.

Tyler notes three specific problems with this vision: It doesn't distinguish between wealth gained from real production (Model Ts, iPods) and wealth gained from lucrative but socially worthless activity (creating subprime CDOs); it's been undermined by bellicose conservatives who insist on risibly pro-rich policies even when there's no evidence they work; and it's not clear that this vision actually motivates a real-life dedication to responsibility and hard work as much as it used to.
In Kansas, A Public Conference Reveals Deep Contempt for the Poor and for Women

by Kari Ann Rinker, National Organization for Women (NOW), Kansas
November 16, 2011 - 3:49pm

“This Governor failed!” This was my angry proclamation to Kansas Public Radio after listening to Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation speak in Kansas City, Kansas on the topic of childhood poverty. Robert Rector was introduced as the “intellectual godfather of welfare reform." Mr. Rector was invited to Kansas to speak by Governor Sam Brownback.
True Crime Finance Stories

Who’s to blame for the implosion of Greece—and the global economy?
BY Greg Palast

On May 5, 2010, I open up the Wall Street Journal and I could puke. There was this photo of a man on fire, just a bunch of flames with a leg sticking out. Two others burnt with him on a pretty spring day in Athens.

The question is, who did it?

If you read the U.S. papers, the answer was obvious. A bunch of olive-spitting, ouzo-guzzling, lazy Greek workers who refused to put in a full day’s work, and retired while they were still teenagers on pensions fit for pasha, had gone on a social services spending spree using borrowed money. Now that the bill came due and the Greeks had to pay with higher taxes and cuts in their big fat welfare state, they ran riot, screaming in the streets, busting windows and burning banks with people inside.
Rep. Paul Ryan Votes Against Balanced Budget Amendment Because It Doesn’t Ruin The Constitution Enough

By Ian Millhiser on Nov 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Earlier this afternoon, just 261 members of the House voted in favor of a balanced budget amendment — far fewer that the two-thirds majority necessary for the amendment to move forward. One somewhat surprising “no” vote was House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ryan is the House GOP’s chief Chicken Little on the deficit — Ryan spent the last two years of his life running around the country warning that the sky would fall unless we phase out Medicare and enact a long list of equally draconian budget reforms.

Yet, today, when Chicken Little had the opportunity to write a balanced budget amendment into the Constitution, he ran away screaming that the amendment wouldn’t do enough to transform the Constitution into a Tea Party fantasy:
U.C. Davis Calls for Investigation After Pepper Spraying

Police use of pepper spray on a dozen protesters at University of California, Davis, on Friday sparked calls for the resignation of the university’s chancellor and the start of an investigation into the incident.

Videos of the Davis incident uploaded to YouTube show police officers dousing the protesters — mostly students, according to local reports — with orange pepper spray, after repeatedly asking them to disperse from the main quad on campus. The protesters were seated with their arms linked on a sidewalk.
What Do Super Committee Economics and Medieval Blood-Letting Have in Common? They Both Kill the Patient.

By Marshall Auerback, AlterNet
Posted on November 19, 2011, Printed on November 20, 2011

The bipartisan super committee will probably fail to meet the self-imposed November 23rd deadline to enact $1.2trillion of cuts over the next ten years. That failure, as Paul Krugman notes in the New York Times, is a good thing: “Any deal reached now would almost surely end up worsening the economic slump. Slashing spending while the economy is depressed destroys jobs, and it’s probably even counterproductive in terms of deficit reduction, since it leads to lower revenue both now and in the future.”

If the super committee fails to come up with an alternative plan by Thanksgiving, the cuts will hit defense and domestic programs equally. But those cuts won’t begin to go into effect until January 2013, two months after next fall’s election, which also means that the programmed fiscal restriction planned for next year won't come into effect. The likelihood of failure is provoking a negative reaction in both the markets and the mainstream press. But in spite of that, failure might be the difference between sluggish, moderate growth in the U.S. and double dip recession.
The cop group coordinating the Occupy crackdowns

As cities across America evict encampments of the Occupy Wall Street movement, similarities of timing, talking points and tactics among major metropolitan mayors and police chiefs have led critics to wonder: Is some sort of national coordination going on?

The White House says there’s no federal oversight. Speaking November 15 aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said “The president’s position is that obviously every municipality has to make its own decisions about how to handle these issues.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

David Cay Johnston: Closing Wall Street's Casino

A superb example of a sound rule in law and economics that needs reviving, because it can halt the rampant speculation in derivatives, is the ancient legal principle that gambling debts are not enforceable through court action.

Not so long ago — before casinos, currency and commodities speculation, and credit default swaps became big business — U.S. courts would not enforce gambling debts.

Restoring this principle offers a simple way to shrink the rampant speculation in derivatives that was central to the 2008 meltdown on Wall Street.
15 Tea Party Caucus freshmen rake in $3.5 million in first 9 months in Washington

'Business as usual,' one election watchdog says.

By Aaron Mehta and Bob Biersack
6:00 am, November 18, 2011 Updated: 10:36 am, November 18, 2011
On her website, Rep. Diane Black asks constituents to join advisory panels in her Tennessee district. “I believe the best ideas to solve our nation’s problems will come from people like you,” Black writes, “not Washington bureaucrats and special interest groups.”

Black is one of the new Republicans who rode a wave of anti-Washington sentiment into town in 2011, a self-identified member of the tea party wing that has been cast as a new kind of conservative— fiery, unwilling to compromise and determined to downsize the government. But while many say Black and her companions have created a split in the Republican Party, it is not visible among the companies and interest groups that are donating to members of Congress.
Why your vote for Congress might not matter

By James Polk, CNN
updated 10:19 AM EST, Fri November 18, 2011
Philadelphia (CNN) -- Outside Independence Hall, ask a graduate student in line to see the Liberty Bell what he thinks of gerrymandering, and you might get this answer:

"I think Gerry Mandering is a great guy."

No, he isn't.

Gerrymandering is the term for the way politicians draw boundary lines for legislative districts in a way designed to keep one party or the other in power in that particular district.
Gabrielle Giffords' Office Urges Super Committee To Cut Lawmakers' Pay
First Posted: 11/18/11 05:16 PM ET Updated: 11/18/11 05:50 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) may not be back in Congress yet, but her staff is leading a bipartisan effort to pressure the super committee to slash lawmakers' salaries as part of deficit reduction.

In a Thursday letter put together by Giffords' office, 25 lawmakers call on the 12-member super committee to "send a powerful message to the American people that Congress should not be exempt from the sacrifices it will take to balance the budget."

The letter notes that House and Senate lawmakers are paid $174,000 per year -- 3.4 times what the average American with a full-time job earns. A 5 percent cut, which Giffords proposed in January legislation, would save $50 million over 10 years. Adjustments to members' benefit packages, which can be worth 47 percent of salaries, could result in millions of dollars in additional savings.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Looking Closer at Congressional Insider Trading

Last Sunday, 60 Minutes had an explosive piece about what appears to be insider trading conducted by members of Congress. It looked at various examples of when elected representatives used non-public information to buy or sell stocks accordingly, thus profiting from their privileged status.

Washington took notice of the story in a major way. It was the subject of several floor speeches this week, and bills were introduced in both the House and Senate—including one sponsored by Republican Senator Scott Brown—to bar such deals, which are currently well within legal limits and probably even within Congressional ethics rules.
OWS-inspired activism

It was only a matter of time before a coordinated police crackdown was imposed to end the Occupy encampments. Law enforcement officials and policy-makers in America know full well that serious protests — and more — are inevitable given the economic tumult and suffering the U.S. has seen over the last three years (and will continue to see for the foreseeable future). A country cannot radically reduce quality-of-life expectations, devote itself to the interests of its super-rich, and all but eliminate its middle class without triggering sustained citizen fury.
Debunking Economics: An Interview with Steve Keen – Part II

Interview conducted by Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer based in Dublin, Ireland

Part I of the interview can be found here.

PP: Let’s move on to another interesting point about neoclassical economic theory. It’s my understanding that the whole system is assumed to be, at its very essence, one of ‘truck and barter’. In that I mean that they tend to ignore the fact that capitalist economies are, in reality, monetary economies and have nothing to do with barter-based economies. Yet, am I correct in saying that the neoclassicals abstract away from this in order to get away from all sorts of things that make their type of analysis more difficult? I’m thinking in particular of where profits come from and the role of credit in the capitalist system of production. Could you talk about this a little?

SK: That’s actually a strange point of the theory. There was no need to assume the non-existence of money in building a model of capitalism – fundamentally, it makes as much sense as assuming the non-existence of wings when building a model of flight. But this was an established aspect of pre-neoclassical economics long before Walras came on the scene.
Big Banks have abandoned small businesses

Bank of America and company ... funding "small businesses" that make $20 million per year.
The numbers are just staggering.
Bank of America and Citibank, who collectively control about 20% of all deposits in the country, only made .6% of all SBA 7A loans in 2010.
What the hell? Those numbers are insane! Why do we bank with institutions that have completely abdicated any semblance of supporting small businesses? And it's not just BoA and Citi.
Paul Krugman: Failure is Good

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a complete turkey! It’s the supercommittee!

By next Wednesday, the so-called supercommittee, a bipartisan group of legislators, is supposed to reach an agreement on how to reduce future deficits. Barring an evil miracle — I’ll explain the evil part later — the committee will fail to meet that deadline.

If this news surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. If it depresses you, cheer up: In this case, failure is good.

Why was the supercommittee doomed to fail? Mainly because the gulf between our two major political parties is so wide. Republicans and Democrats don’t just have different priorities; they live in different intellectual and moral universes.
The Brutal Politics Of Super Committee Failure

Super Committee Democrats and Republicans and the leaders of both parties will work through the weekend to avoid missing their fast approaching deadline to cut $1.2 trillion from federal deficits over the next decade. Though the 12 members officially have until Wednesday to reach an agreement, the more realistic deadline is Monday evening, by which time they must have word back from CBO about the impact any plan they send to Congress will have on the budget.

Failure is very much an option. And if failure happens, Capitol Hill politics will take a severe turn heading into the 2012 election.
Privatizing Liberty

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Crash of 1929 Was Just a Prelude: Truthout Interviews Whistleblower-Novelist Nomi Prins

by: Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview 
Mark Karlin: Given your expertise in understanding the corruption of Wall Street, what did you find in the practices of the financial world leading up to the 1929 crash that presaged the 2007 crisis?

Nomi Prins: Into the crash of 1929, there were six big banks. Their leaders controlled most of the market activity, sat on each others' boards and owned large chunks of stock in each others' firms. They inflated the values of stocks through "trusts" (financial mechanisms by which many investors could "pool" together their money, and borrowed money, to purchase or sell various stocks in bulk).
ALEC Exposed: Voter ID

This week, we take a look at another in a series of model legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Voter ID Act. Make no mistake about it, this legislation was written to hack away at a very specific segment of the voting public. ALEC and its allies invoked the specter of voter fraud, a wholly manufactured crisis, to justify a series of measures designed to erect barriers to voting among Democratic-leaning demographic groups.
Dodd-Frank’s Derivatives Reforms: Clear as Mud

When the architects of the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul flinched from the most effective solution — breaking up the banks so that none would be too big to drag down the financial system — they forced regulators of the derivatives market into a cumbersome and potentially dangerous workaround.

Those regulators are feverishly making lots of important, arcane rulings that are being followed only by insiders. They are replacing an opaque system prone to failures with a new, huge Rube Goldberg-like system that may reduce global financial risk. Or it may not. Nobody knows, not least the regulators themselves.
Mark Ames: Austerity & Fascism In Greece – The Real 1% Doctrine

See the guy in the photo there, dangling an ax from his left hand? That’s Greece’s new “Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks” Makis Voridis captured back in the 1980s, when he led a fascist student group called “Student Alternative” at the University of Athens law school. It’s 1985, and Minister Voridis, dressed like some Kajagoogoo Nazi, is caught on camera patrolling the campus with his fellow fascists, hunting for suspected leftist students to bash. Voridis was booted out of law school that year, and sued by Greece’s National Association of Students for taking part in violent attacks on non-fascist law students.
Denial of Service Attack Takes Down United Wisconsin's Recall Walker Website! Updatex2=Recall Polka

A computer professional from Milwaukee was called in to United Wisconsin's office in Milwaukee this afternoon to see why its website, which is a main portal for the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, crashed. The website hosts pertinent information regarding field coordination, contacts, FAQs and other information pertinent to the recall campaign. The computer scientist stated, via email that "The site was brought to its knees. I was asked to take a look, and there is an insane amount of requests hitting the server... which is the hallmark of ddos… still working on details."
The Budget Chronicles: The Super Committee’s Predestined Failure

Wednesday, 11/16/2011 - 4:33 pm by Bo Cutter

All signs point to empty political posturing without real solutions. And that was always the expected outcome.
The super committee, set up after the debt limit debacle in early August, is due to report on November 23. This report is supposed to tell us how Congress will meet its self-inflicted requirement to reduce future deficits and the growth of the country’s debt by at least $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years. If this goal is not met, then automatic cuts — called sequestrations — will go into effect, divided equally between domestic and defense expenditures. This report was actually due to the Congressional Budget Office well before now so that the CBO could score the proposals. But if you knew anything about congressional negotiating, you knew that would never happen; it was always doomed to be strung out until the last minute.
A Decade of Missed Chances Bedevils U.S. Prospects: Ezra Klein

After the failure of the 1973 Geneva Peace Conference, the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban sighed that “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” In recent years, the same could be said of Americans.

Two months ago, the U.S. marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Sadly, we commemorated a tragedy without celebrating much triumph. The post-9/11 moment was an unheralded instance of national -- even global -- unity. The Bush administration could have used it for almost anything. And, to be fair, it did. The nation burned trillions of dollars in two wars and a budget-busting round of tax cuts. The president told us to go shopping, and the Federal Reserve held interest rates at extraordinarily low levels. The result? Deficits and a credit bubble. That was missed opportunity No. 1.
Romney staffers wiped out records in ’06

Ex-governor’s aides say they did nothing wrong 

By Michael Levenson and Matt Viser, Globe Staff / November 17, 2011 

Just before Mitt Romney left the Massachusetts governor’s office and first ran for president, 11 of his top aides purchased their state-issued computer hard drives, and the Romney administration’s e-mails were all wiped from a server, according to interviews and records obtained by the Globe.
Romney administration officials had the remaining computers in the governor’s office replaced just before Governor Deval Patrick’s staff showed up to take power in January 2007, according to Mark Reilly, Patrick’s chief legal counsel.
As a result, Patrick’s office, which has been bombarded with inquiries for records from the Romney era, has no electronic record of any Romney administration e-mails, Reilly said.
How Conservatives Exploit the Myth of "Wealthy Elderly" to Justify Gutting Social Security

By Dean Baker, AlterNet
Posted on November 15, 2011, Printed on November 17, 2011

The austerity gang seeking cuts to Social Security and Medicare has been vigorously promoting the myth that the elderly are an especially affluent and privileged group. Their argument is that because of their relative affluence, cuts to the programs upon which they depend is a simple matter of fairness. There were two reports released last week that call this view into question.

The first was a report from the Census Bureau that used a new experimental poverty index. This index differed from the official measure in several ways; most importantly it includes the value of government non-cash benefits, like food stamps. It also adjusts for differences in costs by area and takes account of differences in health spending by age.