Saturday, March 31, 2012

Paul Ryan: Privatize Medicare, Eliminate Medicaid and Food Stamps

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed $3.5 trillion budget resolution on a 228 to 191 vote, largely along party lines.
If Ryan (R-WI) has his way with his proposed budget resolution, Medicare will be privatized and Medicaid, food stamps and many other federal entitlement programs will be eliminated. The cuts under Ryan’s budget proposal, if implemented, would drastically increase income inequality and poverty.
UCLA Engineering researchers use electricity to generate alternative fuel

Imagine being able to use electricity to power your car — even if it's not an electric vehicle. Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have for the first time demonstrated a method for converting carbon dioxide into liquid fuel isobutanol using electricity.

Today, electrical energy generated by various methods is still difficult to store efficiently. Chemical batteries, hydraulic pumping and water splitting suffer from low energy-density storage or incompatibility with current transportation infrastructure.

In a study published March 30 in the journal Science, James Liao, UCLA's Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Chair in Chemical Engineering, and his team report a method for storing electrical energy as chemical energy in higher alcohols, which can be used as liquid transportation fuels.
The ugly delusions of the educated conservative

Better-educated Republicans are more likely to doubt global warming and believe Obama's a Muslim. Here's why

By Chris Mooney, Alternet

I can still remember when I first realized how naïve I was in thinking—hoping—that laying out the “facts” would suffice to change politicized minds, and especially Republican ones. It was a typically wonkish, liberal revelation: One based on statistics and data. Only this time, the data were showing, rather awkwardly, that people ignore data and evidence—and often, knowledge and education only make the problem worse.

Someone had sent me a 2008 Pew report documenting the intense partisan divide in the U.S. over the reality of global warming. It’s a divide that, maddeningly for scientists, has shown a paradoxical tendency to widen even as the basic facts about global warming have become more firmly established.
A Judicial War on Democracy

March 29, 2012
Exclusive: Comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s three-day debate over the Affordable Care Act have focused on the damage the five Republican justices are expected to do to President Obama by striking down his prized new law. But the bigger story may be their judicial war on democracy, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

James Madison and other Framers of the Constitution had their concerns about the potential excesses of democracy – thus explaining the six-year Senate terms and the intricate system of checks and balances – but they also trusted in democracy and the ability of the people’s government to fashion national solutions to serious problems.

That was one of the reasons Madison and the Framers granted Congress an unlimited power to regulate interstate commerce, trusting that political leaders operating within the democratic process would recognize the needs of their time and apply this broad authority as necessary “to promote the general Welfare” of the American people.
Read the FBI Memo: Agents Can ‘Suspend the Law’

By Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman
March 28, 2012 |  4:40 pm

The FBI once taught its agents that they can “bend or suspend the law” as they wiretap suspects. But the bureau says it didn’t really mean it, and has now removed the document from its counterterrorism training curriculum, calling it an “imprecise” instruction. Which is a good thing, national security attorneys say, because the FBI’s contention that it can twist the law in pursuit of suspected terrorists is just wrong.

“Dismissing this statement as ‘imprecise’ is a rather unsatisfying response given the very precise lines Congress and the courts have repeatedly drawn between what is and is not permissible, even in counterterrorism cases, over the past decade,” Steve Vladeck, a national-security law professor at American University, says. “It might technically be true that the FBI has certain authorities when conducting counterterrorism investigations that the Constitution otherwise forbids, but that’s good only so far as it goes.”
Bee Research Details Harm From Insecticides
New research has begun to unravel the mystery of why bees are disappearing in alarming numbers worldwide: Some of the pesticides most commonly used by farmers appear to be changing bee behavior in small but fatal ways.

Two new studies found that honeybees and bumblebees had trouble foraging for food and returning with it to their hives after exposure to the class of insecticides, which is widely used to protect grains, cotton, beans, vegetables and many other crops.
The New Legal Theory That Enables Homophobic Evangelizing in Public Schools

By Katherine Stewart, The Guardian
Posted on March 29, 2012, Printed on March 31, 2012

Last month, 8,000 public high school students in Montgomery County, Maryland, went home with fliers informing them that no one is “born gay” and offering therapy if they experienced “unwanted same-sex attraction.”

The group behind the flier, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), isn’t the kind one expects to find represented in student backpacks. Peter Sprigg, a board member of PFOX who doubles as a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, recently told Chris Matthews that he believes “gay behavior” should be “criminalized.” PFOX president Greg Quinlan told another talk show host that gays and lesbians practice “sexual cannibalism.”

A number of Montgomery County parents, understandably concerned about the unusual flier, filed a letter of complaint with the school district. “Everything in this flier makes it sound like the goal is to be ex-gay,” said Ms. Yount-Merrell, mother of a high-schooler. “It reiterates a societal view that there’s something wrong with you … if you aren’t heterosexual. And teenagers have a hard enough time.”
The 1% Strike Back

In 2010, as the economy began its slow recovery from the Great Recession, a new study shows the richest 1 percent of Americans captured a staggering 93 percent of all income growth, while the incomes of most Americans stagnated.

Ninety-three percent. Occupy that. The 1 percent are back.

The stock market—leading source of wealth for the few—rebounded. Housing—the leading source of wealth for middle income Americans—continued to decline. Median CEO pay soared [2] a stunning 27 percent. When the 2011 figures come out, the disparities will be even greater. America is recovering the old economy's extreme inequalities.

This divorce of the 1 percent from the rest of us is bad for the economy and for the democracy. It's even bad for your health. The question is what can be done about it.
International commission offers road map to sustainable agriculture

MADISON – An independent commission of scientific leaders from 13 countries today released a detailed set of recommendations to policymakers on how to achieve food security in the face of climate change.
In their report, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change proposes specific policy responses to the global challenge of feeding a world confronted by climate change, population growth, poverty, food price spikes and degraded ecosystems. The report highlights specific opportunities under the mandates of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Group of 20 (G20) nations.

"Food insecurity and climate change are already inhibiting human well-being and economic growth throughout the world and these problems are poised to accelerate," said Sir John Beddington, chair of the commission. "Decisive policy action is required if we are to preserve the planet's capacity to produce adequate food in the future."
How War Came Home to Stay


The Unmooring of American Military Power
By Rachel Maddow
275 pages. Crown Publishers. $25.

A squabble is a noisy quarrel over a trivial matter. A polemic is an aggressive attack on the opinions and principles of others. A screaming match is a contest in which contradictory points are stubbornly reiterated, with no regard for whatever else has been said. A political talk show is a gladiatorial contest in which squabbles, polemics and screaming matches are exploited for their entertainment value.

A book by the host of a political talk show is often an ancillary product or marketing tool. But “Drift,” by Rachel Maddow, whose show is on MSNBC, is much more. It is an argument — a sustained, lucid case in which points are made logically and backed by evidence and reason. What’s more, it follows one main idea through nearly a half-century. The subtitle, “The Unmooring of American Military Power,” explains exactly what “Drift” is about.
Paul Krugman: Broccoli and Bad Faith

Nobody knows what the Supreme Court will decide with regard to the Affordable Care Act. But, after this week’s hearings, it seems quite possible that the court will strike down the “mandate” — the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance — and maybe the whole law. Removing the mandate would make the law much less workable, while striking down the whole thing would mean denying health coverage to 30 million or more Americans.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Farming needs 'climate-smart' revolution, says report

Major changes are needed in agriculture and food consumption around the world if future generations are to be adequately fed, a major report warns.

Farming must intensify sustainably, cut waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farms, it says.
Mass privatization put former communist countries on road to bankruptcy, corruption
Western economists advocated the policy after Soviet Union's Fall

WASHINGTON, DC -- A new analysis showing how the radical policies advocated by western economists helped to bankrupt Russia and other former Soviet countries after the Cold War has been released by researchers.

Authored by sociologists at the University of Cambridge and Harvard University, the study, which appears in the April issue of the American Sociological Review, is the first to trace a direct link between the mass privatization programs adopted by several former Soviet states, and the economic failure and corruption that followed.

Devised principally by western economists, mass privatization was a radical policy to rapidly privatize large parts of the economies of countries such as Russia during the early 1990s. The policy was pushed heavily by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Its aim was to guarantee a swift transition to capitalism, before Soviet sympathizers could seize back the reins of power.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Totalitarian Systems Always Begin by Rewriting the Law

Monday, 26 March 2012 09:06  
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed 

I spent four hours in a third-floor conference room at 86 Chambers St. in Manhattan on Friday as I underwent a government deposition. Benjamin H. Torrance, an assistant U.S. attorney, carried out the questioning as part of the government's effort to decide whether it will challenge my standing as a plaintiff in the lawsuit I have brought with others against President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), also known as the Homeland Battlefield Bill.

The NDAA implodes our most cherished constitutional protections. It permits the military to function on U.S. soil as a civilian law enforcement agency. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to selectively suspend due process and habeas corpus for citizens. The law can be used to detain people deemed threats to national security, including dissidents whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, and hold them until what is termed "the end of the hostilities." Even the name itself—the Homeland Battlefield Bill—suggests the totalitarian concept that endless war has to be waged within "the homeland" against internal enemies as well as foreign enemies.
James O'Keefe totally busted - on law and ethics - by NYU Journalism Prof.

Simply terrific blog post today by Charles Seife, Journalism Professor at NYU.
Journalists are stubborn creatures by nature. I'm no different. Deny me information that I'm entitled to, and I won't let go. It doesn't matter if you're a nonprofit organization or an Obama-administration government agency, I'll fight. So I took the next logical step to put pressure on Project Veritas -- I filed a complaint with the IRS, telling them that Project Veritas wasn't playing by the disclosure rules. Either that, or Project Veritas wasn't really a nonprofit.

That got them talking. I called that morning to tell them that I had filed a complaint, and the woman I got on the phone was, surprisingly, quite cooperative. I put my request in writing, and after a string of e-mails, she admitted that application for nonprofit status had been filed, but it had not yet been approved. Contrary to what the website said, Project Veritas was not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and donations were, as a result, not tax-deductible. James O'Keefe had apparently committed an illegal act that could have caused donors unwittingly to make false claims on their taxes.
New Counterorrism Guidelines Gives Authorities Vast Access to Private Info of Innocent Americans

by Trevor Timm
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signed expansive new guidelines for terrorism analysts, allowing the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) to mirror entire federal databases containing personal information and hold onto the information for an extended period of time—even if the person is not suspected of any involvement in terrorism. (Read the guidelines here).

Despite the “terrorism” justification, the new rules affect every single American.  The agency now has free rein to, as the New York Times’ Charlie Savage put it, “retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats” and expands the amount of time the government can keep private information on innocent individuals by a factor of ten.
What Everyone Needs To Know About The Smear Campaign Against Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)

By Judd Legum on Mar 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Over the last 48 hours, there has been a sustained effort to smear Trayvon Martin, the 17-year old African-American who was shot dead by George Zimmerman a month ago. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said, “They killed my son, now they’re trying to kill his reputation.”

Thus far these attacks have fallen into two categories: false and irrelevant. Much of this leaked information seems intended to play into stereotypes about young African-American males.
Supreme Court upholds limits on religious messages

Taking Control

by Margaret Talbot
March 19, 2012
It would be hard to imagine a more unlikely historical moment than this one for birth control to become a matter of outraged political controversy. For starters, there is the statistic that ninety-nine per cent of all American women who have had sex have used contraception at some point in their lives. For Catholic women, the percentage is almost the same—ninety-eight per cent, according to an analysis released last spring by the Guttmacher Institute. Then, there’s the fact that we live in a society that has become remarkably dependent on the unfettered ambition of women. As the Washington Post reporter Liza Mundy writes in a new book, “The Richer Sex,” forty per cent of working wives now earn more than their husbands, and, by 2030, that number will probably rise to fifty per cent. Women already make up more than half of college and university students. By 2019, if current trends continue, they will make up fifty-nine per cent of total undergraduate enrollment, and sixty-one per cent of those enrolled in graduate programs. This is an economic and educational order predicated on the freedom of women, married and unmarried, to protect their own health and to decide when they’re going to have children.
Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible

The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.

March 26, 2012 |

By Nina Chestney
LONDON (Reuters) - The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.

Scientific estimates differ but the world's temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably.
Worker Ownership For the 21st Century?

It may not be the revolution’s dawn, but it’s certainly a glint in the darkness. On Monday, this country’s largest industrial labor union teamed up with the world’s largest worker-cooperative to present a plan that would put people to work in labor-driven enterprises that build worker power and communities, too.

Titled “Sustainable Jobs, Sustainable Communities: The Union Co-op Model,” the organizational proposal released at a press conference on March 26 in Pittsburgh, draws on the fifty-five year experience of the Basque-based Mondragon worker cooperatives.
Designing a Blueprint for Accountability
Posted: 03/27/2012 8:45 am

If you live in the Washington-Wall Street power corridor, what do you think is the essential first task to reviving the economy? Repealing some of the very few protections against fraud in the market that were put in place after the multiple crises of the past decade. Only in the Washington, D.C. echo chamber -- the same one that brought you the deregulatory spasm that led to the bubbles and inevitable crises in the first place -- could repealing these protections be seen as a step to reviving a moribund economy. Even as the Volcker Rule -- the single most important element of the minimalist reform agenda that was approved -- is being killed through death by a thousand cuts, the voices of entrenched Wall Street have succeeded in turning back the clock.

The root causes of Wall Street's violations are really quite simple to catalogue: conflicts of interest built into business models that promote violations of fiduciary obligation; easy access to "OPM" -- other people's money -- coupled with fee structures that reward selling bad products because others are left holding all the down side risk; and the certainty that institutions that are too big to fail will get bailed out when things really get tough, again insuring the socialization of risk while gains are privatized and held by the fortunate few who are properly situated to take advantage of the aforementioned conflicts and fee structures.
3 Shady Things the Koch Brothers Have Been Up To That the Media Ignore

To the corporate media, the machinations of the 1 percent's most infamous poster boys might look like old news. But for regular Americans, it's a fight for their lives. 
March 27, 2012  |  On an October evening in 2011, a tall, older man stood before a floor-to-ceiling glass window on an upper floor in the massive, modernist Washington Convention Center, surveying the scene in the street below. Protesters had blocked access to the building where David Koch, shielded by the massive panes, was hosting a political gathering of right-wing activists, and were now massed at an intersection, chanting "We are the 99 percent!" It was Koch the protesters had come to castigate -- Koch and all he represents. For if David Koch is nothing else, he is most definitely a member of "the 1 percent" -- the top tier of income-earners in the United States, as is his brother, Charles.
The Strange Conservative Brain: 3 Reasons Republicans Refuse to Accept Reality About Global Warming

Even many well-educated Republicans deny global warming. What's going on here?

March 26, 2012  |  Note: These are notes for remarks that I gave recently at the Tucson Festival of Books, where I was asked to talk about my new book The Republican Brain on a panel entitled "Will the Planet Survive the Age of Humans?"

So the question before us on this panel is, "Will the Planet Survive the Age of Humans?" And I want to focus on one particular aspect of humans that makes them very problematic in a planetary sense -- namely, their brains.

What I've spent the last year or more trying to understand is what it is about our brains that makes facts such odd and threatening things; why we sometimes double down on false beliefs when they're refuted; and maybe, even, why some of us do it more than others.
Can This Man Save the American Economy?

Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans has an ingenious plan to jump-start job creation. His Fed colleagues should listen to him.

By Matthew Yglesias  |  Posted Monday, March 26, 2012, at 11:54 AM ET

Can talking differently boost the economy? It sounds like a silly idea, but as long as the talkers have the right jobs, there’s considerable theoretical reason to believe they can make a huge difference. New research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago shows that talk does matter and that the Fed could significantly improve the economy by choosing its words better.

The messenger for all this was Charles Evans, the president of the Chicago Fed, who is waging a low-profile war to revive the economy by changing how the Fed speaks. Last week, at the annual Brookings Papers on Economic Activity conference, Evans tried to make this case to an elite audience of economists and policymakers. His paper, “Macroeconomic Effects of FOMC Forward Guidance,” co-written with Chicago Fed staffers, is one of the most important policy arguments out there today, arguing that the central bank could significantly stimulate the economy simply by rephrasing its statement that “economic conditions—including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run—are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate through late 2014.”
“The only winning move is not to play”—the insanity of the regulatory race to the bottom

By William K. Black

The plot of the movie WarGames (1983) involves a slacker hacker (played by Matthew Broderick) who starts playing the game “Global Thermonuclear War” with Joshua, a Department of Defense (DoD) supercomputer that has been given partial control by DoD of our nuclear forces.  The game prompts Joshua, who has been programmed to win games, to trick DoD into authorizing Joshua to launch an attack on the Soviet Union so that Joshua can win the game.  The hacker and the professor that programmed Joshua realize that the only way to prevent Joshua from attacking is to teach “him” that no one can “win” global thermonuclear war.  The insanity is that the people who created the game “Global Thermonuclear War” thought it could be won.  Joshua races through thousands of scenarios and ends his plan to win the “Global Thermonuclear War” game by attacking the Soviet Union when he realizes that “the only winning move is not to play.”
Bitter Money Fights Shaped U.S History

On June 1, 1812, President James Madison asked Congress to consider a declaration of war against Britain. The Democratic-Republican majority was happy to oblige.

Britain’s insults to the U.S. ranged from seizing its ships and forcing its sailors into the Royal Navy to supporting American Indian attacks along the Western frontier.

With war approaching, it fell to Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin to figure out a way to pay for it. Gallatin hoped to borrow the money, but he wanted to raise taxes to cover the interest on the new debt. He worried that, otherwise, bond investors would be unwilling to lend large amounts of money to a young country. But the war hawks were ideologically and politically opposed to taxes -- particularly the excise (internal trade) taxes that Gallatin favored.
Paul Krugman: Lobbyists, Guns and Money

Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy — and it is. And it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.

Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.
Why SCOTUS' Health Care Vote Will Have Nothing to Do With Health Care

By Steve M | Sourced from No More Mister Nice Blog
Posted at March 26, 2012, 8:14 am

The health care bill hits the Supreme Court today -- and please, Court-watchers, spare me all the thoughtful explanations of why Scalia or Alito or Roberts or some combination of these guys might vote to uphold the law (I'm talking to you, Nina Totenberg). This is for the Movement. This is for the Cause. It doesn't matter that, say, Scalia upheld a reading of the Constitution's commerce clause in a marijuana case that seems relevant to this case. Only one thing is relevant to this case for the Court's Wingnut Four: the needs of movement conservatism.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Time to abandon the death penalty?

ASK THIS | March 23, 2012
Estimates are that 4 to 8 percent of people on death row are innocent. How many wrongful executions are too many? David Dow, author, constitutional lawyer, and founder of the Texas Innocence Network, poses four key death penalty questions and explores the answers to them.

David R. Dow
1.  How frequently are death penalty trials infected by constitutional errors that go uncorrected?
2.  What is the cost of a death penalty trial, and how does that cost compare to the cost of life in prison?

‘Pink slime’ is the tip of the iceberg: Look what else is in industrial meat

By Tom Laskawy
19 Mar 2012 7:44 AM

You didn’t think I’d miss my chance to weigh in on the latest round of pink slime discussions, did you? Rather than recapitulate the horror that is your favorite form of “lean finely textured beef,” I will instead point you to my favorite statement in defense of pink slime. It was given by American Meat Institute Director of Scientific Affairs Betsy Booren to NPR:
“This is not the same ammonia you’d use in cleaning supplies,” explains Betsy Booren of the AMI Foundation. “It’s a gas, it’s a different compound, and it’s a well-established processing intervention that has a long history of success.”
The big blue: Can deepwater fish farming be sustainable?

By Clare Leschin-Hoar

There’s been a closely watched experiment floating and bobbing in the eddies off the Big Island of Hawaii. Since July, an unanchored pen stocked with 2,000 hatchery-born fish known as kampachi (related to the more familiar yellowtail) has been drifting in the open ocean, tended by marine biologists from the aquaculture company Kampachi Farms. Led by industry pioneer Neil Sims, it’s been dubbed the Velella Project, and it is the first and most important attempt at commercializing offshore aquaculture in the U.S.

Most of today’s marine fish farming takes place close to shore, but many in the industry believe that in order to expand, they need to look further out to the open ocean. And they’re not alone. Aquaculturists in countries like Norway, Ireland, Newfoundland, and Chile are also beginning to explore offshore options, though the technology to accomplish this remains in its infancy.
Wisconsin Lawmaker: If You Are Being Beaten, Just Remember the Things You Love About Your Husband

by Jodi Jacobson, Editor in Chief, RH Reality Check
March 23, 2012 - 8:34am

If you need any further proof that we are in the midst of a full-on patriarchal biblical-religious war on women, a Wisconsin lawmaker is happy to provide it.

According to Yahoo News, Wisconsin Rep. Don Pridemore helpfully suggests that, rather than divorcing an abusive spouse, you should try to remember the things you love about the guy while he is beating you up.
Fannie and Freddie: Slashing Mortgages Is Good Business

by Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica, and Chris Arnold, NPR March 23, 2012, 5 a.m.
Update: On Friday, following the publication of this story by ProPublica and NPR, lawmakers called on the Federal Housing Finance Administration to provide Congress with the new analyses on principal reductions by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In addition, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan urged FHFA to immediately implement appropriate principal reductions to home loans held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
A version of this story was co-published with NPR News and broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition.

New analyses by mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have added an explosive new dimension to one of the most politically charged debates about the housing crisis: Whether to reduce the amount of money beleaguered homeowners owe on their mortgages.

Their conclusion: Such loan forgiveness wouldn’t just help keep hundreds of thousands of families in their homes, it would also save Freddie and Fannie money. That, in turn, would help taxpayers, who bailed out the companies at a cost of more than $150 billion and are still on the hook for future losses.
Ridiculous Ways States Are Trying to Fix Their Broken Budgets

Faced with empty coffers, desperate governors and state lawmakers will try just about anything to improve their cash flow.

Puppy power: California Gov. Jerry Brown is selling t-shirts featuring his corgi, Sutter, and promises to donate $3 from each purchase to the Golden State's general fund.

Pole tax: In 2007, Texas Gov. Rick Perry instituted a $5 tax on strip club patrons to fund sexual-assault prevention and state health insurance. It has since brought in $15 million.
The Wisconsin Story: Scott Walker's Unprecedented Assault on Unions and Democracy And the June 5th Recall Vote

By Brendan Fischer, AlterNet
Posted on March 23, 2012, Printed on March 25, 2012
“The folks that were angry about this started a recall....Not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of thousands of ordinary people did an extraordinary thing. They stood up and took their government back.” -- Gov. Scott Walker, discussing the 2002 recalls that led to his election as Milwaukee County Executive. 
Those words, uttered by Wisconsin Republican Gov. Walker in an ad during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, are strikingly relevant today. 
In a 60-day period during a cold Wisconsin winter, state residents collected nearly one million signatures for Walker’s recall, with an election date now scheduled for June 5. That election, which will likely be very close and will almost certainly break new records for spending in the state, will end this stage of a year-and-a-half-long battle over Walker’s divisive reforms, including his controversial attack on public employee unions.  
When Walker first announced his plans to reform collective bargaining on Feb. 11, 2011 he anticipated the fight would be over in less than a week. Claiming the state was broke (just weeks after cutting the corporate tax rate), Walker announced Act 10 on a Friday and planned a vote the following Wednesday, leaving almost no time for public debate or deliberation. He even scheduled a bill signing at the end of the week.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Dumbest 'Bipartisan' Move Since Repealing Glass-Steagall

Too Smart to Fail: Notes on an Age of Folly

by Thomas Frank

The “sound” banker, alas! is not one who sees danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional and orthodox way along with his fellows so that no one can really blame him.
    –John Maynard Keynes
In the twelve hapless years of the present millennium, we have looked on as three great bubbles of consensus vanity have inflated and burst, each with consequences more dire than the last.

First there was the “New Economy,” a millennial fever dream predicated on the twin ideas of a people’s stock market and an eternal silicon prosperity; it collapsed eventually under the weight of its own fatuousness.
Paul Krugman: Paranoia Strikes Deeper

Stop, hey, what’s that sound? Actually, it’s the noise a great political party makes when it loses what’s left of its mind. And it happened — where else? — on Fox News on Sunday, when Mitt Romney bought fully into the claim that gas prices are high thanks to an Obama administration plot.

This claim isn’t just nuts; it’s a sort of craziness triple play — a lie wrapped in an absurdity swaddled in paranoia. It’s the sort of thing you used to hear only from people who also believed that fluoridated water was a Communist plot. But now the gas-price conspiracy theory has been formally endorsed by the likely Republican presidential nominee.
Documents show NYPD infiltrated liberal groups

By ADAM GOLDMAN and MATT APUZZO | Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Undercover NYPD officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the country, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.

The infiltration echoes the tactics the NYPD used in the run-up to New York's 2004 Republican National Convention, when police monitored church groups, anti-war organizations and environmental advocates nationwide. That effort was revealed by The New York Times in 2007 and in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit over how the NYPD treated convention protesters.
Obama’s Creepy Executive Order: Permanent War Economy

By Matthew Rothschild, March 20, 2012

Last Friday, March 16, President Obama issued a creepy Executive Order.

Entitled “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” it authorizes the President and cabinet officials to take over crucial aspects of the national economy not only during emergencies but also in peacetime.
U.S. Relaxes Limits on Use of Data in Terror Analysis


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is moving to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Thursday signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center, which was created in 2004 to foster intelligence sharing and serve as a terrorism threat clearinghouse.

The guidelines will lengthen to five years — from 180 days — the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said. The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and “data mining them” using complex algorithms to search for patterns that could indicate a threat.
The Right-Wing Plot to Control Your Health Care

By Sara Robinson, AlterNet
Posted on March 21, 2012, Printed on March 23, 2012

Much has been written the past few months about the conservatives' assault on women's autonomy: the intrusive battery of new laws designed to forcibly insert the right-wing's political and religious agenda into the most intimate conversations between women and their doctors.
What's less well understood is that this same effort is also a full frontal attack on the future of government-paid healthcare, and by larger extension, on Americans' trust in their public institutions, and our confidence in government's ability to solve problems the market can't handle.
The 1%’s Doctrine for the 99%

March 21, 2012
Exclusive: Many on the American Right insist federal actions from the Civil War to recent banking regulations were encroachments on states’ rights and personal liberties, but underlying these claims – in the 1860s and today – is the greed of the richest 1 percent treating the 99 percent as chattel, writes Mark Ames.

By Mark Ames

A little over a year ago, while researching the Confederacy’s economy, I stumbled across this unnerving graph charting the value of America’s “stock of slaves” in the last decades before the Civil War.
This graph tells the real story behind the South’s secession: the value of the South’s “slave stock”—the property of the ruling class — soared as secession approached, reaching an almost 90-degree angle in those final years before Harper’s Ferry.
How State Media Turned A Blind Eye To ALEC's Influence On The Voter ID Debate

March 20, 2012 11:59 am ET

Dozens of voter ID laws have been introduced in state legislatures over the past two years, including particularly strict measures passed in seven states in 2011 -- Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin. There is widespread evidence that this surge of voter ID laws stems from model legislation crafted in 2009 by a conservative group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). But a Media Matters analysis has found that the largest newspapers in the seven states that enacted voter ID laws in 2011 have largely ignored ALEC's influence. Indeed, of the newspapers examined, only Rhode Island's Providence Journal mentioned any connection between the state's voter ID bill and ALEC.
The Dallas Fed Is Calling For The Immediate Breakup Of Large Banks

Joe Weisenthal | Mar. 21, 2012, 10:03 AM

It's hard not to think it's a big deal when a branch of the Federal Reserve system calls for the breakup of major American banks.

The bank has just released its annual report, and the title of the letter is: Choosing the Road to Prosperity Why We Must End Too Big to Fail—Now.
In U.S., a growing unease at mixing politics with prayer

Wed, Mar 21 2012
By Stephanie Simon

(Reuters) - Americans are increasingly uneasy with the mingling of religion and politics, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, in the midst of a campaign season punctuated by tussles over the role of faith in the public square.

Back in 2001, when Pew first asked the question, just 12 percent of Americans complained that their politicians talked too much about religion.

That number has risen steadily ever since and hit a record high in the new poll: 38 percent of Americans, including 24 percent of Republicans, now say their political leaders are overdoing it with their expressions of faith and prayer.
Progressive Caucus Releases Sane "Budget For All," Asking 1% to Pay Their Fair Share

Not that anyone in Washington will pay any attention because it doesn't insist that average Americans feel pain and deprivation so the "producers" in society are free to pillage create jobs, but here is the one page outline of the new budget from the Progressive Caucus. Like last year, it actually reduces the deficit much more than Paul Ryan's plan (if anyone actually cares about that.) And it also protects the safety net and stimulates the economy. 

It does ask that the obscenely wealthy people kick in a fair piece of their ill-gotten gains and requires the government to stop fighting useless wars. But I have no problem with that. I would be surprised if most people do.
Paul Ryan's deficit-cutting mania: the real agenda

Tax cuts for corporations and the super-rich; budget cuts for Medicare and Medicaid – how cynical can the congressman be?

Dean Baker, Tuesday 20 March 2012 12.43 EDT

If you want to see House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan sanctimoniously excuse himself and his friends for missing the most predictable economic crisis in the history of the world, you now have the opportunity. In a YouTube video produced by his staff, Ryan tells viewers that the crisis called by the collapse of the housing bubble caught "us" by surprise.

Well, it didn't actually catch us by surprise. Some of us had been warning about the potential damage caused by the collapse of the bubble since 2002. We repeatedly tried to warn of the dangers of the housing bubble in whatever forum we had.
Conservative Bullying Has Made America Into a Broken, Dysfunctional Family: But There Are Ways to Regain Our Well-Being

By Sara Robinson, AlterNet
Posted on March 20, 2012, Printed on March 23, 2012

A marriage counselor friend once told me that he almost always knows by the end of the very first session whether he's being hired to guide a damaged couple back to health, or to help them work toward a divorce -- even when the couple doesn't know the answer to this question themselves.

It's easy to see, he explained. The relationship's future success or failure all hinges on one simple thing: How much goodwill and trust they have left. Even if they've hurt each other badly, the couples who make it are the ones that still retain a few shreds of faith in each other's basic good intentions. She didn't mean to hurt me. He's not always a bastard. Deep down, she still loves me. Deep down, he really wants things to be better.

These couples are still seeing same future together, and still cling to the tattered memories of why they first fell in love. Just a few frayed threads of trust are all that's needed -- if they've got that, the odds are high that with time and work, they can re-weave the fabric of the marriage into something that's once again strong and good.
Matt Taibbi: Another Hidden Bailout: Helping Wall Street Collect Your Rent

Here's yet another form of hidden bailout the federal government doles out to our big banks, without the public having much of a clue.
This is from the WSJ this morning:
Some of the biggest names on Wall Street are lining up to become landlords to cash-strapped Americans by bidding on pools of foreclosed properties being sold by Fannie Mae...

While the current approach of selling homes one-by-one has its own high costs and is sometimes inefficient, selling properties in bulk to large investors could require Fannie Mae to sell at a big discount, leading to larger initial costs.
In con artistry parlance, they call this the "reload." That's when you hit the same mark twice – typically with a second scam designed to "fix" the damage caused by the first scam. Someone robs your house, then comes by the next day and sells you a fancy alarm system, that's the reload.
Leader's Suicide Reveals Frightening, Violent, Organized Misogyny Movement

By Arthur Goldwag, SPLC Intelligence Report
Posted on March 20, 2012, Printed on March 23, 2012

After 10 years of custody battles, court-ordered counseling and imminent imprisonment for non-payment of child support, Thomas James Ball, a leader of the Worcester branch of the Massachusetts-based Fatherhood Coalition, had reached his limit. On June 15, 2011, he doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire just outside the Cheshire County, N.H., Courthouse. He was dead within minutes.

In a lengthy “Last Statement,” which arrived posthumously at the Keene Sentinel, Tom Ball told his story. All he had done, he said, was smack his 4-year-old daughter and bloody her mouth after she licked his hand as he was putting her to bed. Feminist-crafted anti-domestic violence legislation did the rest. “Twenty-five years ago,” he wrote, “the federal government declared war on men. It is time to see how committed they are to their cause. It is time, boys, to give them a taste of war.” Calling for all-out insurrection, he offered tips on making Molotov cocktails and urged his readers to use them against courthouses and police stations. “There will be some casualties in this war,” he predicted. “Some killed, some wounded, some captured. Some of them will be theirs. Some of the casualties will be ours.”
Kill the JOBS Act!

The appalling bill that would repeal essential Wall Street reforms.

Once again, the Puppets on Capitol Hill are about to slam the Muppets on Main Street. The country still hasn’t recovered from the Wall Street-induced financial cataclysm of 2008, yet Congress is preparing to enact the Orwellian ”JOBS Act”—a bill that should in fact be called the “Return Fraud to Wall Street in One Easy Step Act.” The bill will undo some of the most important reforms placed on Wall Street in a generation.

Ten years ago, virtually all of the major investment banks on Wall Street were charged with a monumental deception of the American investing public: touting stocks as great investments when in truth the banks believed the stocks to be “dogs,” “pieces of ----,“ and worse. The banks did this because of the conflicts of interest woven into their business model. They were underwriting the very stocks they were also touting, making the investing public dupes helping the banks generate enormous fees.
How the Right-Wing Brain Works and What That Means for Progressives

By Chris Mooney, AlterNet
Posted on March 20, 2012, Printed on March 23, 2012
Editor's NoteThis essay draws upon Chris Mooney’s forthcoming book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality (due out in April from Wiley), as well as his interviews with George Lakoff, Jonathan Haidt and Dan Kahan on the Point of Inquiry podcast.
If you’re a liberal or a progressive these days, you could be forgiven for being baffled and frustrated by conservatives. Their views and actions seem completely alien to us—or worse. From cheering at executions, to wanting to “throw up” over church-state separation, to seeking to “drown” government “in the bathtub” (except when it is cracking down on porn, apparently) conservatives not only seem very different, but also very inconsistent.

Even the most well-read liberals and progressives can be forgiven for being confused, because the experts themselves—George Lakoff, Jonathan Haidt and others--have different ways of explaining what they call conservatives’ “morality” or “moral systems.” Are we dealing with a bunch of die-hard anti-government types in their bunkers, or the strict father family? Are our intellectual adversaries free-market libertarians, or right-wing authoritarians—and do they even know the difference?
Some Surprises, But No Heroes In State Corruption Analysis

Government accountability efforts lack "teeth" says report

- Common Dreams staff 
Not a single state out of fifty receives an 'A' when it comes to government, according to a five month-long study on state-level government accountability and corruption released today. Orchestrated in partnership by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International, the data-driven analysis looked at transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms in all 50 states.

The "depressing bottom line that emerges" from the State Integrity Investigation, according to its authors, is that despite efforts towards 'openness' and 'transparency,' state efforts often fall short of providing any real transparency or legitimate hope of rooting out government corruption.
How, and How Not, to Improve the Schools

March 22, 2012
Diane Ravitch

Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?
by Pasi Sahlberg
Teachers College Press, 167 pp., $34.95 (paper)
A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All
by Wendy Kopp with Steven Farr
PublicAffairs, 229 pp., $25.99

In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed that teachers should “stop teaching to the test” and that the nation should “reward the best ones” and “replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.” This all sounds sensible, but it is in fact a contradictory message. The president’s signature education program, called Race to the Top, encourages states to award bonuses to teachers whose students get higher test scores (they are, presumably “the best ones”) and to fire teachers if their students get lower test scores (presumably the teachers “who just aren’t helping kids”). If teachers want to stay employed, they must “teach to the test.” The president recommends that teachers stop doing what his own policies make necessary and prudent.

Like George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program is part of what Pasi Sahlberg calls “the Global Education Reform Movement,” or GERM. GERM demands teaching to the test. GERM assumes that students must be constantly tested, and that the results of these tests are the most important measures and outcomes of education. The scores can be used not only to grade the quality of every school, but to punish or reward students, teachers, principals, and schools. Those at the top of the education system, the elected officials and leaders who make the rules, create the budgets, and allocate resources, are never accountable for the consequences of their decisions. GERM assumes that people who work in schools need carrots and sticks to persuade (or compel) them to do their best.
Fracking: Pennsylvania Gags Physicians

Sunday, 18 March 2012 04:59 By Walter Brasch, Dissident Voice | News Analysis 

A new Pennsylvania law endangers public health by forbidding health care professionals from sharing information they learn about certain chemicals and procedures used in high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing. The procedure is commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is the controversial method of forcing water, gases, and chemicals at tremendouspressure of up to 15,000 pounds per square inch into a rock formation as much as 10,000 feet below the earth’s surface to open channels and force out natural gas and fossil fuels.
Kiss the McMansion Goodbye: Is the American Home Shrinking?

A long-term trend toward smaller houses is well underway -- with huge implications for the future of our cities.

By Sara Robinson

I know I'm far from the only one who looks at pictures like this one and thinks wistfully about all the stuff I'd get rid of if I had such a place. I could prune my closet to nothing. Cull out the excess kitchen stuff, and winnow things down to a few pots and place settings. Consolidate all my books, movies and electronic toys onto a single iPad. And my Saturdays would be my own: I could clean the whole place in half an hour flat.
Paul Krugman: Hurray for Health Reform

It’s said that you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies. If the same principle applies to legislation, the Affordable Care Act — which was signed into law two years ago, but for the most part has yet to take effect — sits in a place of high honor. 

Now, the act — known to its foes as Obamacare, and to the cognoscenti as ObamaRomneycare — isn’t easy to love, since it’s very much a compromise, dictated by the perceived political need to change existing coverage and challenge entrenched interests as little as possible. But the perfect is the enemy of the good; for all its imperfections, this reform would do an enormous amount of good. And one indicator of just how good it is comes from the apparent inability of its opponents to make an honest case against it. 

To understand the lies, you first have to understand the truth. How would ObamaRomneycare change American health care?
5 Words And Phrases Democrats Should Never Say Again

By jillwklausen, Daily Kos
Posted on March 19, 2012, Printed on March 23, 2012

We talk about the "Death Tax" and not the proper term, "Estate Tax." Two little words—"Death Panels"—were capable of nearly derailing the best thing that\'s happened to health insurance in this country in decades. Harvard-educated President Obama is universally considered "elite," while Yale-educated George W. Bush is considered "down home."

Many Democrats buy into the old saw that the Democratic party has had a history of "tax and spend" policies that needs to change or be lived down somehow. Until the Occupy movement brought the topic front and center, even most Democrats accepted the notion that businesses were "job creators" and worried more about distracting the opposition from this "fact" than debunking it for the lie it actually is.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rick Perlstein: Why Conservatives Are Still Crazy After All These Years

It suddenly feels like conservatism has gotten crazier than ever.

Republican debate audiences cheer executions and boo an active-duty soldier because he is gay. Politicians pledge allegiance to Rush Limbaugh, a pill-popping lunatic who recently offered "feminazis" a deal: "If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, we want you to post the videos online so we can all watch." Thousands of "Oath Keepers" — "Police & Military Against the New World Order"— swear to disobey the illegal orders certain to come down the pike once Barack Obama institutes martial law. One major Republican presidential candidate talks up indentured servitude — and another proposes turning schoolchildren into janitors. Only 12 percent of Mississippi Republicans believe Barack Obama is a Christian. Arizona Republicans push a bill to allow bosses to fire female employees for using birth control.
Katha Pollitt: Protect Pregnant Women

On March 14, Bei Bei Shuai will have spent one full year in jail in Marion County, Indiana. Her crime? The prosecutor calls it attempted feticide and murder. What it really is: attempting suicide while pregnant.

In December 2010 Shuai was running a Chinese restaurant in Indianapolis with her boyfriend, Zhiliang Guan, by whom she was eight months pregnant. Just before Christmas, he informed her that he was married and had another family, to which he was returning. When Shuai begged him to stay, he threw money at her and left her weeping on her knees in a parking lot. Despairing, she took rat poison and wrote a letter in Mandarin saying she was killing herself and would “take this baby with me to Hades”; friends got her to the hospital just in time to save her life. Eight days later her baby, Angel, was delivered by Caesarean section and died of a cerebral hemorrhage within four days. Three months later, the newly elected prosecutor, Terry Curry—a Democrat—brought charges, claiming that the rat poison that almost killed Shuai had killed her baby. If convicted, she faces forty-five to sixty-five years in prison.
Prof. Richard Wolff: We have a "failed economic system"—To fix it, we must tax the wealthy

This headline captures just one of the many excellent points made by New School professor Richard Wolff in this interview.

The questioner (Sam Seder of the Majority Report) asks just eight questions, and the answers are so cogent and clear that you feel like you've walked through a ton of material and barely exerted yourself. It's quite a performance by both of them.
Senate Bill Could Roll Back Consumers’ Health Insurance Savings

by Lena Groeger
ProPublica, March 16, 2012, 1:01 p.m.

This summer, health insurance companies may have to pay more than a billion dollars back to their own customers. The rebate requirements were introduced as part of the 2010 health-care reform law and are meant to benefit consumers. But now an insurer-supported Senate bill aims to roll back the rebate requirements.

Known as the medical loss ratio rule, it’s actually pretty simple. Under the health-care law provision, 80 to 85 cents of every dollar insurers collect in premiums must be spent on medical care or activities that improve the quality of that care. If not, they must send their customers a rebate for the difference. The goal, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, is to limit the money insurers spend on administrative costs and profit.
Culture of Predation

Former SEC Official Slams House JOBS Act: ‘It Won’t Create Jobs, But It Will Simplify Fraud’

By Travis Waldron on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the House of Representatives easily passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act last week, with both parties touting it as a way to help small business startups and boost the economy. The White House supports the bill, and Senate Democrats are planning to introduce it (or something like it) in the coming days.
Right-to-Work Laws, Explained

Anti-union laws are spreading to new states. But do voters know what right-to-work really means?

Five Right-Wing Violations Against Women That We Must Crush

by: Sarah Seltzer, AlterNet | Op-Ed 
Rush may look like a buffoon in the PR war, and women may be fighting back, but the war on women continues, and we're losing rights by the minute.

Don't be fooled by the Limbaugh backlash. It's true that progressives and women's groups are fighting back with unprecedented vigor, and the campaigns against Komen, against Rush Limbaugh's sexist smears, against the Blunt Amendment, show that women can organize quickly and powerfully over social media. And yes, it remains crucial that the nasty sexism and racism emitting from the shock jock is finally getting its deserved public airing.
Senators Attack Government's Use of Patriot Act

Sens. Wyden, Udall: Americans would be 'Stunned' at Justice Department's Surveillance Powers

- Common Dreams staff

Two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have expressed concerns that the US Justice Department is abusing provisions in the Patriot Act.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado) warned that the government is secretly interpreting sweeping surveillance powers in section 215 of the Patriot Act. They also warned that this "top secret intelligence operation" as the New York Times reported, is "not as crucial to national security as executive branch officials have maintained." The senators said Americans would be "stunned" to learn of the nature of this intelligence program.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

War On Women Part III: The Real Reason Conservatives Hate The Violence Against Women Act

Paul Krugman: Natural Born Drillers

To be a modern Republican in good standing, you have to believe — or pretend to believe — in two miracle cures for whatever ails the economy: more tax cuts for the rich and more drilling for oil. And with prices at the pump on the rise, so is the chant of “Drill, baby, drill.” More and more, Republicans are telling us that gasoline would be cheap and jobs plentiful if only we would stop protecting the environment and let energy companies do whatever they want.

Thus Mitt Romney claims that gasoline prices are high not because of saber-rattling over Iran, but because President Obama won’t allow unrestricted drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal tells readers that America as a whole could have a jobs boom, just like North Dakota, if only the environmentalists would get out of the way. 
(Re) Occupy Greece

By William K. Black
Benzinga Columnist
March 05, 2012 1:07 AM

While the Occupy Wall Street movement set its sights on occupying a financial center, Germany has accomplished the vastly more impressive feat of occupying an entire nation: Greece. Germany has experience at occupying Greece, having done so during World War II.

The art of occupying another nation is to recruit a local puppet to do the dirty work required to repress the citizens. Germany used several puppets, most notoriously the murderous Ioannis Rallis, to (nominally) rule Greece and terrify the Greek people during World War II (after Germany's defeat, Rallis was executed for his treason).
Right-Wing Pundits Smear Soledad O’Brien As ‘Anti-Semitic’ And Racist

By Eli Clifton on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:40 am

A contentious CNN interview by Soledad O’Brien with editor Joel Pollak set off a firestorm of vitriolic name-calling against O’Brien from the far-right, with some critics going so far as to falsely accuse the CNN anchor of anti-Semitism.

In a March 8, interview, O’Brien challenged Pollak’s assertion that a video from 1990 showing President Obama, then a law student, hugging late Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell was a “smoking gun” for Obama’s true beliefs on “racial division and class warfare.” Pollak’s manufactured controversy hinged on characterizing Critical Race Theory (CRT) as “hold[ing] that the Civil Rights Movement was a sham and that White Supremacy is the order and it must be overthrown.” Prodded by Pollak to define CRT, O’Brien accurately characterized it as a theory that “looks into the intersection of race and politics and the law.” (Watch it here.)
Decade of the Living Dead

Posted on Mar 15, 2012
By Nomi Prins

“Zombie Banks: How Broken Banks and Debtor Nations Are Crippling the Global Economy”
A book by Yalman Onaran

Yalman Onaran’s new book, “Zombie Banks: How Broken Banks and Debtor Nations Are Crippling the Global Economy,” makes it clear. The practice of subsidizing zombie banks (those that without support would be dead, but with support are the “walking dead”—sucking at our economic flesh through endless government life support), which began in the U.S. and was adopted in Europe, has dire ongoing economic implications for the global population. Onaran’s highly engaging prose is sometimes amusing, always scary in its content and imminently accessible to an economic layperson. He combines his considerable journalistic skills and powers of insight so concisely that the book can be read and digested in one or two sittings—depending on how much your stomach can take.
Dietary cadmium may be linked with breast cancer risk

PHILADELPHIA — Dietary cadmium, a toxic metal widely dispersed in the environment and found in many farm fertilizers, may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Cadmium occurs at low concentrations naturally, but scientists are concerned because contamination of farmland mainly due to atmospheric deposition and use of fertilizers leads to higher uptake in plants.
The richest get richer

Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:59am EDT
By David Cay Johnston

(Reuters) - The aftermaths of the Great Recession and the Great Depression produced sharply different changes in U.S. incomes that tell us a lot about tax and economic policy.

The 1934 economic rebound was widely shared, with strong income gains for the vast majority, the bottom 90 percent.

In 2010, we saw the opposite as the vast majority lost ground.
Schools We Can Envy

March 8, 2012
Diane Ravitch

Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?
by Pasi Sahlberg, with a foreword by Andy Hargreaves
Teachers College Press, 167 pp., $34.95 (paper)

In recent years, elected officials and policymakers such as former president George W. Bush, former schools chancellor Joel Klein in New York City, former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C., and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have agreed that there should be “no excuses” for schools with low test scores. The “no excuses” reformers maintain that all children can attain academic proficiency without regard to poverty, disability, or other conditions, and that someone must be held accountable if they do not. That someone is invariably their teachers.

Nothing is said about holding accountable the district leadership or the elected officials who determine such crucial issues as funding, class size, and resource allocation. The reformers say that our economy is in jeopardy, not because of growing poverty or income inequality or the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, but because of bad teachers. These bad teachers must be found out and thrown out. Any laws, regulations, or contracts that protect these pedagogical malefactors must be eliminated so that they can be quickly removed without regard to experience, seniority, or due process.
Responsible Populism

Posted on by Simon Johnson

“Populism” is a loaded term in modern American politics. On the one hand, it conveys the idea that someone represents (or claims to represent) the broad mass of society against a privileged elite. This is a theme that plays well on the right as well as the left – although they sometimes have different ideas about who is in that troublesome “elite.”

At the same time, populism is often used in a pejorative way – as a putdown, implying “the people” want irresponsible things that would undermine the fabric of society or the smooth functioning of the economy.
Corn insecticide linked to great die-off of beneficial honeybees

New research has linked springtime die-offs of honeybees critical for pollinating food crops — part of the mysterious malady called colony collapse disorder — with technology for planting corn coated with insecticides. The study, published in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology, appears on the eve of spring planting seasons in some parts of Europe where farmers use the technology and widespread deaths of honeybees have occurred in the past.
The Real Irish American Story Not Taught in Schools

by Bill Bigelow

"Wear green on St. Patrick's Day or get pinched." That pretty much sums up the Irish American "curriculum" that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing.

Sadly, today's high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history. Nor do textbooks make any attempt to help students link famines past and present.
Why We Have to Go Back to a 40-Hour Work Week to Keep Our Sanity

One hundred fifty years of research proves that shorter work hours actually raise productivity and profits -- and overtime destroys them. So why do we still do this?

By Sara Robinson, AlterNet
Posted on March 13, 2012, Printed on March 17, 2012

If you’re lucky enough to have a job right now, you’re probably doing everything possible to hold onto it. If the boss asks you to work 50 hours, you work 55. If she asks for 60, you give up weeknights and Saturdays, and work 65. 

Odds are that you’ve been doing this for months, if not years, probably at the expense of your family life, your exercise routine, your diet, your stress levels, and your sanity. You’re burned out, tired, achy, and utterly forgotten by your spouse, kids and dog. But you push on anyway, because everybody knows that working crazy hours is what it takes to prove that you’re “passionate” and “productive” and “a team player” — the kind of person who might just have a chance to survive the next round of layoffs.