Thursday, May 31, 2012

Robert Caro's new history of LBJ offers a mistaken account of the Cuban Missile Crisis

He is one of our greatest historians. So why is his retelling of the Cuban Missile Crisis so mistaken?
Axelrod: Handful of plutocrats trying to buy this government

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, May 30, 2012 21:13 EDT

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said Wednesday that billionaires were trying to buy the United States government in the November elections.

“There was a report this morning that the Republican Super PACs, apart from Romney and apart from his own super PAC, intend to spend a billion dollars in this campaign setting up shadow state organizations—district-wide organizations—as well as running media,” he told Current TV host Jennifer
Politicians' gas price promises just hot air

The recent decline in gasoline prices has at least temporarily made this a less pressing issue in the presidential campaign. There is a real risk, however, that the summer driving season will again push the price to near $4 a gallon and that it will again assume center stage in the national political debate.

That would be unfortunate. No one can be happy about paying more money for gas. But the question is what can Barack Obama, or any other president, really do about it? The answer, which may disappoint some people, is not much.
The Career of Reaganite Barney Frank

Most Democrats think that they belong to the party of the little guy, the party that attempts to constrain Wall Street.  Sometimes a Democrat won’t fight hard enough, or, like Obama, will make political calculations that shave off the better angels of their nature.  This myth says that Reagan deregulated, and Bush led us into the financial crisis.  In fact, that’s a fairy tale.  It was Jimmy Carter who began the deregulation of the financial services industry, who got rid of usury caps, and Bill Clinton that deregulated derivatives and ended Glass-Steagall.  The rush headlong into madness has been fully bipartisan, from the get-go.  It’s not a surprise that as both Republicans and Democrats shed their liberal wings, in favor of neoliberalism, financial instability increased.

The career of Barney Frank casts a large shadow upon the Democratic approach to financial matters, as he perfectly epitomizes how they behaved throughout this time period.  Frank was elected in 1981, as a quintessential Reagan-era Democrat.  He is frequently misunderstood, and cast as a liberal.  In another era, he would have been such.  But he was first and foremost interested in cutting deals, and to that end, his ideology ended up as that of a Reagan-lite.  It’s unfortunate, because by the time he had real power in 2008, he had no firm basis upon which to make decisions for the broad public, and ended up consolidating wealth into the hands of a smaller and smaller number of people.
The Battle for the Cato Institute

Charles Koch and Ed Crane were once allies in the libertarian movement. Now the former friends are facing off in a fight for control of Cato, the think tank they founded together 35 years ago.  

By Luke Mullins

Ed Crane lumbered into Capitol Hill’s Christ Church on a rainy morning in October 2011. He walked the creaky floors in the 19th-century nave and found a seat in the paint-chipped pews. Mourners crowded the interior as the choir began singing.

William Niskanen’s death, at age 78, hadn’t come as a shock. His health had been in decline for two years before his stroke four days earlier. But to Crane, Niskanen’s passing meant more than the loss of a friend and colleague.

“Crane was devastated,” said one observer. “He looked as though it was his own family member who had died.”
America's Spy State: How the Telecoms Sell Out Your Privacy

By David Rosen, AlterNet
Posted on May 29, 2012, Printed on May 31, 2012

You need to know one simple truth: you have no privacy with regard to your electronic communications.

Nothing you do online, via a wireline telephone or over a wireless device is outside the reach of government security agencies and private corporations. Your ostensible personal communication -- whether a phone call, an email, a search, visiting a website, a credit card purchase, a 140 character Tweet, a movie download or a Facebook friending -- is a public commodity, subject to the dictates of the security state and market opportunists.

Corporate surveillance has begun to raise consumer, Congressional and regulatory concerns – a major case, Amnesty v. Clapper, is now before the Supreme Court. One can only wonder why it is not an issue in this year’s election?
Transition to Sustainable Agriculture Key to Global 'Food Security': UN

World can feed more people more efficiently with sustainable agriculture and less waste

- Common Dreams staff 
For the millions of hungry and underfed people on the planet, food security is not an issue of insufficient production, but is an issue of inadequate access, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In a report release today, and presented with the Rio+20 Earth Summit just weeks away, the FAO argues that the "only way to ensure [global] food security is by creating decent jobs, paying better wages, giving world's hungry access to more productive assets and distributing income in a more equitable way."
WOW: In No State Is a 40-Hour, Minimum Wage Work Week Enough to Afford a Two-Bedroom Apartment

The above graphic exploded on Facebook this weekend. It shows how many minimum wage hours a worker needs to work in order to be able to afford a two-bedroom unit at “Fair Market Rent” in any given state. The FMR is a figure determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
How the "Job Creators" REALLY Spend Their Money

by Paul Buchheit
In his "Gospel of Wealth," Andrew Carnegie argued that average Americans should welcome the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, because the "superior wisdom, experience, and ability" of the rich would ensure benefits for all of us. More recently, Edward Conard, the author of "Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong, said: "As a society, we're not offering our talented few large enough rewards. We're underpaying our 'risk takers.'"

Does wealthy America have a point, that giving them all the money will ensure it's disbursed properly, and that it will create jobs and stimulate small business investment while ultimately benefiting society? Big business CEOs certainly think so, claiming in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that an increase in the capital gains tax would reduce investment "when we need capital formation here in America to create jobs and expand our economy."
Why A Cyber Security Bill Will Pass

Everyone from hackers to gamers to average netizens will have to get used to a new normal.
BY Kenneth Rapoza

It’s been a year of one step forward, one step backward for Internet freedom and privacy advocates.

The tug of war over the Internet’s cherished anonymity and chaotic democracy has government on one side and the public on the other holding tight. But at one point in the not-so-distant future, the gamers and the hackers and the libertarian haters of government regulation will prove no match for reality.
Center's activities provide glimpse into network of conservative advocacy groups
Matea Gold and Joseph Tanfani | McClatchy-Tribune News Service

The financial firepower that fueled the rise of a network of conservative advocacy groups now pummeling Democrats with television ads can be traced, in part, to Box 72465 in the Boulder Hills post office, on a desert road on the northern outskirts of Phoenix.

That's the address for the Center to Protect Patient Rights, an organization with ties to Charles and David H. Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankroll a number of conservative organizations.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Finding Oscar: Massacre, Memory and Justice in Guatemala

by Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, and Ana Arana, Fundación MEPI May 25, 2012, 6:59 a.m.

Chapter 1: 'You Don't Know Me'

The call from Guatemala put Oscar on edge.

Prosecutors came looking for you, relatives in his rural hometown told him. Big shots from Guatemala City. They want to talk to you.

Oscar Alfredo Ramírez Castañeda had plenty to lose. Although he was living in the United States illegally, the 31-year-old had built a solid life. He worked two full-time jobs to support his three children and their mother, Nidia. They had settled in a small but cheerful townhouse in Framingham, Mass., a blue-collar suburb of Boston.

Oscar usually did his best to avoid contact with the authorities. But he decided to call the prosecutor in Guatemala City. She said it was a sensitive matter about his childhood and a massacre in the country's civil war long ago. She promised to explain in an email.
Obama faces Armageddon

The trouble in Greece may be Mitt Romney's best shot at winning the White House

September 2008: The collapse of Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers provokes a worldwide economic meltdown.

May 2012: Barack Obama is warned before the Camp David G-8 summit that the financial maelstrom seizing Europe could turn out even worse. If much of Europe slides back into double-dip recession, as Britain has done, millions of Americans will be smacked hard, from Toyota workers in Kentucky to lettuce pickers in sunny California. And almost certainly, Mr. Obama will have turned over the keys to the White House come next January to the “vulture capitalist” Mitt Romney.

Here is the dreadful scenario that growing numbers of analysts fear: Long lines of Greeks, Spaniards and Portuguese pound on bank doors demanding to pull their money out before it is replaced by devalued drachmas, pesetas, escudos. Long-suffering Greek voters fail on June 17 to elect political parties that can form a governing coalition, and Greece takes a messy exit from the Euro. Europe’s already faltering financial system then collapses, sending the entire world into a long-lasting global depression for the new President Romney to tackle.
Paul Krugman: Big Fiscal Phonies

Quick quiz: What’s a good five-letter description of Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, that ends in “y”? 

The obvious choice is, of course, “bully.” But as a recent debate over the state’s budget reveals, “phony” is an equally valid answer. And as Mr. Christie goes, so goes his party. 

Until now the attack of the fiscal phonies has been mainly a national rather than a state issue, with Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, as the prime example. As regular readers of this column know, Mr. Ryan has somehow acquired a reputation as a stern fiscal hawk despite offering budget proposals that, far from being focused on deficit reduction, are mainly about cutting taxes for the rich while slashing aid to the poor and unlucky. In fact, once you strip out Mr. Ryan’s “magic asterisks” — claims that he will somehow increase revenues and cut spending in ways that he refuses to specify — what you’re left with are plans that would increase, not reduce, federal debt.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

David Barton’s latest lunacy: “I’ve decided that Mikey Weinstein is now the new Secretary of the Air Force”

Posted by Mikey Weinstein on @ 11:10 am

We at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) are used to baseless, slanderous attacks. As the sole organization looking out for the constitutionally guaranteed civil rights of armed service members who suffer the horrors of religious oppression and unsolicited, aggressive proselytizing, it comes as no surprise to us that we are daily the specific target of those same perpetrators of religious zealotry who victimize our clients.

Sometimes, though, we can only sit back and chuckle in amusement at the ignorant calumnies and insinuations tossed about by our Christian fundamentalist foes.
Everyone Hates Inflation Because They Don't Understand What It Is

I basically agree with Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry about the failure of the "independent" central bank concept, but I think the question of why the politics of the price level have shifted requires a different explanation than this one:
Politicians are crankish about monetary policy for a simple reason: because they know that it's out of their hands anyway. It's like national politicians in Europe who demagogue about policies that are EU competency. They know they're not going to do anything about it, so they don't have to think about it, they don't have to know about it, and they can say whatever they like. It's interesting to note that, historically, the populist political position was generally pro-inflation--remember William Jennings Bryan and the Cross of Gold? Inflation squeezes creditors--bankers and rich people--and helps debtors--less-rich people. Instead and in defiance of political logic, populists in Europe and in the US are anti-inflation. This is because they don't have to think about monetary policy because they know they can't do anything about it. So they bleat about inflation because when regular people hear "inflation" they hear "higher prices = bad".
I think the real issue here is the changing structure of the economy, not the changing structure of central banking.
10 Reasons You Should be Suspicious of Wall Street's Facebook Fiasco

By RJ Eskow, Campaign for America's Future
Posted on May 23, 2012, Printed on May 27, 2012

Three of Wall Street biggest and best-known financial institutions handled the Facebook IPO, so why were people immediately suspicious when the stock soared and then promptly tanked? Easy answer: Because three of Wall Street biggest and best-known financial institutions handled the Facebook IPO.

Each of them - Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase - has a history of exactly the kinds of unethical and/or illegal behavior that might, just might, explain what happened with Facebook.

Mark Gongloff offers a good overview of Mr. Zuckerberg's Wild Ride, in which a stock that was offered at an IPO price of $38 soared to $45 and then plunged to its current (as of this writing) price of $31. A lot of people lost money - which means a lot of people made money, too.
Florida Right-Wingers Erect Barriers To Unemployment Claims

Memorial for America's Conscience - Guantanamo

On this holiday, Americans should confront a grim fact about our country: We are torturers

Facing the truth is hard to do, especially the truth about ourselves. So Americans have been sorely pressed to come to terms with the fact that after 9/11 our government began to torture people, and did so in defiance of domestic and international law. Most of us haven’t come to terms with what that meant, or means today, but we must reckon with torture, the torture done in our name, allegedly for our safety.

It’s no secret such cruelty occurred; it’s just the truth we’d rather not think about. But Memorial Day is a good time to make the effort. Because if we really want to honor the Americans in uniform who gave their lives fighting for their country, we’ll redouble our efforts to make sure we’re worthy of their sacrifice; we’ll renew our commitment to the rule of law, for the rule of law is essential to any civilization worth dying for.
The Facebook IPO: Shareholders Weren't Invited to the Real Party

by Matt Taibbi
A suit has been filed by Facebook shareholders against Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Morgan Stanley and others. It's based on a very simple concept: when internal analysts learned that Facebook’s numbers were going to be worse than expected, the company and its bankers didn’t tell everyone, but just "selectively disclosed" information to a small group of "preferred investors."

Henry Blodget, who unfortunately should know about these things, gave a good summary of it all on CBS This Morning:
I was on the phone last night with a former hedge fund CEO who was talking about this. "Facebook," he said, "is a colossal example of a complete clusterfuck where everybody wins except the ordinary investor."
What the Facebook Fiasco Tells Us About Our Rigged Stock Market

How long will we keep getting Zuckered?

By Lynn Parramore

May 24, 2012  |  In the wake of the JP Morgan blow-up and the Facebook debacle, Americans are contemplating the stock market with a mixture of alarm and disgust. Both are justified. In world of high-speed trading and other manipulations, the ordinary investor who wants to make money over the long haul can easily get screwed by those playing a short-term game.

On May 18, Facebook went public to relentless mainstream media cheers. As of Thursday, May 24, the stock was down 15 percent of the initial offering of $38 per share. The Internet bubble of 1998-2000 gave us a brutal lesson in what happens when investors shell out gigantic sums for unproven companies. But never mind. Those “rational” creatures neoliberal economists are always going on about -- you know, the kind that operate on “perfect information” -- did what actual humans tend to do. They got overly excited, followed the herd and found out that their information was far from perfect.
FBI quietly forms secretive Net-surveillance unit

CNET has learned that the FBI has formed a Domestic Communications Assistance Center, which is tasked with developing new electronic surveillance technologies, including intercepting Internet, wireless, and VoIP communications.

by Declan McCullagh | May 22, 2012 11:44 PM PDT

The FBI has recently formed a secretive surveillance unit with an ambitious goal: to invent technology that will let police more readily eavesdrop on Internet and wireless communications.

The establishment of the Quantico, Va.-based unit, which is also staffed by agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency, is a response to technological developments that FBI officials believe outpace law enforcement's ability to listen in on private communications.
Messing With Our Minds: The Ever Finer Line Between News and Advertising

Thursday, 24 May 2012 10:58  
By Kingsley Dennis, Truthout | News Analysis 

The manufacturing of consent is endemic within modern societies. Throughout history, the need to "persuade and influence" has always been manipulated by those people in power as a means to maintain authority and legitimacy. In more recent years, the overall manipulation of the mass public mind has become less about making speeches and more about becoming a pervasive presence within the lives of each individual.

Edward Bernays has often been called "the father of public relations," as it was his teachings and research that spurred the postwar years of propaganda. Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, utilized psychological and psychoanalytical ideas to construct an informational system - propaganda - capable of manipulating public opinion. Bernays, apparently, considered that such a manipulative apparatus was necessary because society, in his regard, was composed of too many irrational elements - the people - which could be dangerous to the efficient mechanisms of power (or so-called "democracy").
How Can States Give Tax Money to Private, Religious Schools? Loopholes, Of Course

By Steve M., No More Mister Nice Blog
Posted on May 23, 2012, Printed on May 27, 2012

There was a story in The New York Times today about state programs that offer tax credits to people who donate to private (mostly religious) primary and secondary schools. It's a long story ,and you may have skipped over it, but I'd like to recommend it to you, because so many of the most infuriating things about America happen as a result of these laws.

First of all, the laws are an end run around legal restrictions on the funding of religious schools. The people who support the laws claim that they're constitutional because no tax money goes to religious schools, but if you get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donating to a religious school, as the story says you do in Georgia, that's indirect funding of religious schools by means of diverted tax money -- but, of course, wingnut-dominated courts don't see it that way, so the state laws are routinely upheld.
What really lies behind the 'war on women'

It would be a mistake to see these attacks as simply a backlash against women. This is about empire struggling for social control

Naomi Wolf, Thursday 24 May 2012 16.21 EDT

Are women suddenly running rampant in the streets by the millions, threatening society in unexpected ways?

You would surely think so by looking at the pattern that is visible across the nation: state by state, a well-funded legislative war on women is being unleashed. Many of these new proposed bills, or recently passed state laws, attack in novel ways women's rights to ownership of their bodies and their basic life choices, which second-wave feminists thought long won.
Paul Krugman: Egos and Immorality

In the wake of a devastating financial crisis, President Obama has enacted some modest and obviously
needed regulation; he has proposed closing a few outrageous tax loopholes; and he has suggested that Mitt Romney’s history of buying and selling companies, often firing workers and gutting their pensions along the way, doesn’t make him the right man to run America’s economy.

Wall Street has responded — predictably, I suppose — by whining and throwing temper tantrums. And it
has, in a way, been funny to see how childish and thin-skinned the Masters of the Universe turn out to be.
Remember when Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group compared a proposal to limit his tax breaks to Hitler’s invasion of Poland? Remember when Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase characterized any discussion of income inequality as an attack on the very notion of success?
Capitalism Has Failed: 5 Bold Ways to Build a New World

By Sara Robinson, AlterNet
Posted on May 16, 2012, Printed on May 27, 2012
As our political system sputters, a wave of innovative thinking and bold experimentation is quietly sweeping away outmoded economic models. In New Economic Visions, a special five-part AlterNet series edited by economics editor Lynn Parramore in partnership with political economist Gar Alperovitz of the Democracy Collaborative, creative thinkers come together to explore the exciting ideas and projects that are shaping the philosophical and political vision of the movement that could take our economy back.
The problem, in a nutshell, is this: The old economic model has utterly failed us. It has destroyed our communities, our democracy, our economic security, and the planet we live on. The old industrial-age systems -- state communism, fascism, free-market capitalism -- have all let us down hard, and growing numbers of us understand that going back there isn't an option.

But we also know that transitioning to some kind of a new economy -- and, probably, a new governing model to match -- will be a civilization-wrenching process. We're having to reverse deep and ancient assumptions about how we allocate goods, labor, money, and power on a rapidly shrinking, endangered, complex, and ever more populated planet. We are bolding taking the global economy -- and all 7 billion souls who depend on it -- where no economy has ever gone before.
Bain Capital Debate Busting Larger Story About Role of Business Leaders in Job Creation

By: David Dayen Wednesday May 23, 2012 7:41 am

I focused on fundraising in my story yesterday about the President and Bain Capital, but I should double back and say that the actual argument Obama made is a fairly sound one on the merits. He basically said that the role of a President bears no resemblance to the role of a business leader, particularly a private equity or leveraged buyout specialist. One should have a concern on how to create jobs and the other has what amounts to a fiduciary duty to create profit. And those simply aren’t always compatible.
James K. Galbraith: We Told You So

Like many Americans, I was doing everything I could to help elect Barack Obama. It wasn’t all that much—but as an economist in Texas, I had some authority on the thinking of former Senator Phil Gramm, John McCain’s chief economic adviser. I’d made the front page of the Washington Post describing Gramm as a “sorcerer’s apprentice of financial instability and disaster.” (Gramm, with a certain sense of humor, denied it.) For that, and for my experience drafting policy papers, I was in contact every few days with Obama’s economists.

To economists in my own circle, it had long been clear that the financial crisis then unfolding was an epic event. We had watched the subprime mortgage disaster build up. In August 2007 we knew the meltdown had begun. Bear Stearns had failed. But for reasons that have to do with the pace and rhythm of politics, these issues remained on the back burner, the campaign being dominated by health care and the Iraq war. For those of us on the outside, it was hard to know whether the insiders understood what was coming.
Commonly used pesticide turns honey bees into 'picky eaters'

Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered that a small dose of a commonly used crop pesticide turns honey bees into "picky eaters" and affects their ability to recruit their nestmates to otherwise good sources of food.

The results of their experiments, detailed in this week's issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, have implications for what pesticides should be applied to bee-pollinated crops and shed light on one of the main culprits suspected to be behind the recent declines in honey bee colonies.

Since 2006, beekeepers in North America and Europe have lost about one-third of their managed bee colonies each year due to "colony collapse disorder." While the exact cause is unknown, researchers believe pesticides have contributed to this decline. One group of crop pesticides, called "neonicotinoids," has received particular attention from beekeepers and researchers.
How Homeownership Has Changed in America And Why You Shouldn't Give Up on Buying

By Sara Robinson, AlterNet
Posted on May 21, 2012, Printed on May 27, 2012

In one short decade, home ownership has gone from being the Holy Grail of middle-class financial achievement -- the biggest and most lucrative investment most of us would ever make, and the one most reliably likely to pay off -- to a very risky financial ball-and-chain that more and more of us are going way out of our way to avoid.

To be sure, rental housing is no joy. You're answerable to the landlord for every picture nail, plugged drain and loose window; and you get to endure bad landscaping, cheap appliances and paint and carpet colors not even Martha Stewart could work with. But if the trade-off is between spending your life co-existing with your landlord's surreal aesthetic choices or watching your life savings turn into six-figure debt as the value of your house sinks beneath the waves, more and more of us are choosing to suck it up and embrace the charms of bubblegum pink bathroom tile.

For the last few years, renting has seemed prudent and safe -- even for those lucky enough to have the cash for a down payment and a stable enough income to buy. But as the bubble has deflated, and the prices are getting closer to what they would have been in a less exuberant economy, a few hardy souls are starting to venture back in.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How the US Press Lost its Way

By Robert Parry, Consortium News
Posted on May 21, 2012, Printed on May 23, 2012

Editor’s Note: From May 10 to May 12, journalist Robert Parry participated in a conference entitled, “From the Pentagon Papers to WikiLeaks: A Transatlantic Conversation on the Public’s Right to Know,” sponsored by the Heidelberg Center for American Studies in Heidelberg, Germany.
The conference consisted of media figures, legal scholars and freedom-of-information advocates – and included Neil Sheehan, the New York Times correspondent who got the Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg, and Barry Sussman, the Washington Post editor who oversaw the newspaper’s coverage of the Watergate scandal.
Parry spoke on the last day and offered the following observations:
Much of this conference has focused on the glory days of American journalism in the 1970s. And rightly so. My talk, however, will deal with the more depressing question of why things then went so terribly wrong.

First, let me say it’s been an honor to be at this conference, especially with Neil Sheehan and Barry Sussman, who played such important roles exposing serious crimes of state in the early to mid-1970s. That was a time when U.S. journalism perhaps was at its best, far from perfect, but doing what the Founders had in mind when they afforded special protections to the American press.
Dollars and sense: Why are some people morally against tax?

As the U.S. presidential election campaigns heat up, the economic debate is dominated by bailouts, austerity and, inevitably, taxation. Now a new study published in Symbolic Interaction asks why tax is such an important issue to voters and explores the moral ideas which underpin their views.

Americans are famously hostile to taxes even though they are not heavily taxed in comparison to Canadians and the British. In their study Dr Jeff Kidder and Dr Isaac Martin, from Northern Illinois University and the University of California-San Diego, explore how middle class feelings of exploitation lie behind this hostility.
We must take back control of our food, before it's too late

Big ideas are needed to protect the world's food resources, but that's unlikely as long as huge supermarket chains are in charge

Matthew Herbert, Monday 21 May 2012 11.35 EDT

We are living through a delicious disaster. Never has so much food been offered to us from so many parts of the world, and in such elaborate combinations. The average supermarket carries over 45,000 different product lines, and yet the provenance of most of these products are utterly opaque. The government has handed control of the food chain over to the supermarkets – and with it, any meaningful sense of the common good.

Take fish. There is a crisis in our oceans – according to the WWF as many as 90% of all large fish have been fished out – yet there are no gaping holes on supermarket shelves, or an absence of fish on our menus. Instead, you'd think nothing was wrong. Likewise, our fruit and veg is often harvested by illegal immigrants living in hideous conditions, but their stories are absent from the packaging. Instead, we have pictures of prairies on chicken packets, despite the packaged chickens having rarely, if ever, come in to contact with grass. And that tractor sticker with union flag wheels? It doesn't mean the food was made or harvested in the UK, but to UK standards. It's a massive con trick designed for the benefit of big business, yet sold to us as the natural consequence of choices we've made along the way.
Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools

Published: May 21, 2012

When the Georgia legislature passed a private school scholarship program in 2008, lawmakers promoted it as a way to give poor children the same education choices as the wealthy. 

The program would be supported by donations to nonprofit scholarship groups, and Georgians who contributed would receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits, up to $2,500 a couple. The intent was that money otherwise due to the Georgia treasury — about $50 million a year — would be used instead to help needy students escape struggling public schools.
Paul Krugman: Europe's Leaders Double Down on a Failed Strategy

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 09:18 

I guess we knew this was coming, but in the face of the French and Greek election results and the broader evidence that Europe's economic strategy is an utter failure, the usual suspects are, you guessed it, doubling down.

Simon Wren-Lewis, an economics professor at Oxford, has looked on in horror as the Dutch have agreed on completely unnecessary austerity measures, as a way of showing their commitment to Europe's totally misguided fiscal pact. "Towards the end of April the Dutch conservative coalition government collapsed when the far-right party refused to discuss further budget cuts," Mr. Wren-Lewis wrote on his blog on May 7. "The prime minister resigned. And yet a few days later other parties rallied round to give their support to a similar package of austerity measures, which now have majority support in parliament."
Is Texas Waging War on History?

By Katherine Stewart, Comment Is Free
Posted on May 21, 2012, Printed on May 23, 2012

Don McLeroy, chairman of the Texas State Board of Education from 2007 to 2009, is a “young earth” creationist. He believes the earth is 6,000 years old, that human beings walked with dinosaurs, and that Noah’s Ark had a unique, multi-level construction that allowed it to house every species of animal, including the dinosaurs.

He has a right to his beliefs, but it’s his views on history that are problematic. McLeroy is part of a large and powerful movement determined to impose a thoroughly distorted, ultra-partisan, Christian nationalist version of US history on America’s public school students. And he has scored stunning successes.

If you want to see a scary movie about this movement, consider taking in Scott Thurman’s finely-crafted documentary Revisionaries, currently making the festival circuit, which records the antics of McLeroy and a hard right majority on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) as they revise the textbook standards that will be used in Texas (and many other states).
Occupy: This is how you know you have their attention

You still have it, Occupy. They're still looking at you.

A lot happened in Chicago over the weekend at events related to the demonstrations against NATO. Depending on where you go or who you ask, you get a different picture. It's a real kaleidoscope of images and viewing angles.

I want to look at some of the kaleidoscope, then add things up.
The Enduring Secrets of Watergate

May 22, 2012
Special Report: Forty years ago, burglars working for President Nixon planted bugs in the Democrats’ Watergate headquarters. Then, a month later, a follow-up break-in went awry, touching off America’s most notorious political scandal. But few understand what really happened, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Three times in May 1972, burglars working for President Richard Nixon’s reelection committee tried to enter the Watergate complex, an elegant new building situated along the Potomac River. Their target was the Democratic National Committee.

For the Watergate burglars, the third try was the charm. Armed with an array of burglary tools, two of the Cuban-Americans on the team – Virgilio Gonzalez and Frank Sturgis – entered the building through the B-2 garage level. They climbed the stairs and taped open the doors behind them. Reaching the sixth floor where the DNC offices were located, Gonzalez made quick work of the door lock and the burglars were finally inside.
The Mindboggling Sum We Actually Spend on National Security

By Chris Hellman and Mattea Kramer,
Posted on May 22, 2012, Printed on May 23, 2012

Recent months have seen a flurry of headlines about cuts (often called “threats”) to the U.S. defense budget. Last week, lawmakers in the House of Representatives even passed a bill that was meant to spare national security spending from future cuts by reducing school-lunch funding and other social programs.

Here, then, is a simple question that, for some curious reason, no one bothers to ask, no less answer: How much are we spending on national security these days? With major wars winding down, has Washington already cut such spending so close to the bone that further reductions would be perilous to our safety?
An Obama Spending Spree? Hardly

A dominant theme of the national political discourse has been the crushing spending spree the U.S. has ostensibly embarked on during the Obama presidency. That argument, ignited by Republicans and picked up by many elite opinion makers, has infused the national dialogue and shaped the public debate in nearly every major budget battle of the last thee years.

But the numbers tell a different story.
Paul Krugman: We Could End This Depression Right Now

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on May 22, 2012, Printed on May 23, 2012

The central message of Paul Krugman's new book, End This Depression Now! is simple: It doesn't have to be like this. No external dynamic is keeping unemployment at more than 8 percent and consigning a generation of young workers to an economy in which risk is plentiful and opportunities scarce. It is only a failure of political will -- and an almost universal embrace of conservative voodoo economics – that is keeping us mired in this dark economic moment.

Of the 2009 stimulus, Krugman writes, “Those who had more or less the right ideas about what the economy needed, including President Obama, were timid, never willing either to acknowledge just how much action was required or to admit later on that what they did in the first round was inadequate.” Instead of treating the dismal jobs picture as a crisis requiring their full attention, Washington “pivoted” to talking about the deficit – a phantom menace -- at precisely the wrong time. “People with the wrong ideas,” Krugman writes, “were vehement and untroubled by self-doubt.”
Paul Krugman: What Have Rich People Done for You Lately?
Friday, 18 May 2012 15:05 

 So a former partner of Mitt Romney's at Bain Capital says, in a new book, what Mr. Romney probably believes: we should be really grateful to the rich for all the rich things they do.

Because, you see, they don't spend all their wealth building homes as big as the Taj Mahal; some of it they invest in innovation. "Most citizens are consumers, not investors," Edward Conard, the author of a forthcoming book titled "Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong," told the columnist Adam Davidson for a recent article in The New York Times Magazine. "They don't recognize the benefits to consumers that come from investment."
Scientist Peter Gleick cleared of forging Heartland documents in expose: investigation

By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
Monday, May 21, 2012 11:56 EDT

A review has cleared the scientist Peter Gleick of forging any documents in his expose of the rightwing Heartland Institute’s strategy and finances, the Guardian has learned.

Gleick’s sting on Heartland brought unwelcome scrutiny to the organisation’s efforts to block action on climate change, and prompted a walk-out of corporate donors that has created uncertainty about its financial future.
The Rise of the New Economy Movement

By Gar Alperovitz, AlterNet
Posted on May 20, 2012, Printed on May 23, 2012

As our political system sputters, a wave of innovative thinking and bold experimentation is quietly sweeping away outmoded economic models. In 'New Economic Visions', a special five-part AlterNet series edited by Economics Editor Lynn Parramore in partnership with political economist Gar Alperovitz of the Democracy Collaborative, creative thinkers come together to explore the exciting ideas and projects that are shaping the philosophical and political vision of the movement that could take our economy back.

Just beneath the surface of traditional media attention, something vital has been gathering force and is about to explode into public consciousness. The “New Economy Movement” is a far-ranging coming together of organizations, projects, activists, theorists and ordinary citizens committed to rebuilding the American political-economic system from the ground up.

The broad goal is democratized ownership of the economy for the “99 percent” in an ecologically sustainable and participatory community-building fashion. The name of the game is practical work in the here and now—and a hands-on process that is also informed by big picture theory and in-depth knowledge.

Thousands of real world projects -- from solar-powered businesses to worker-owned cooperatives and state-owned banks -- are underway across the country. Many are self-consciously understood as attempts to develop working prototypes in state and local “laboratories of democracy” that may be applied at regional and national scale when the right political moment occurs.
The First Domino Falls in Greece

by Shamus Cooke

Greece’s situation is not an isolated event, but a bellwether for the industrial world and beyond. The fallout from the 2008 global crisis hasn't reached bottom yet, and the depths will be dug deeper as the Euro crisis spreads — political crisis will create economic crisis and vice versa, as periods of calm and stability are replaced by international turmoil and panic.

The media and politicians have portrayed the Greeks as indolent and stupid, refusing to swallow the economic medicine needed for a healthy recovery. But the austerity medicine of the bankers — slashing and privatizing the public sector, cutting wages and benefits, mass layoffs, etc. — is a cure that threatens to kill.
Paul Krugman: Dimon’s Déjà Vu Debacle

Sometimes it’s hard to explain why we need strong financial regulation — especially in an era saturated
with pro-business, pro-market propaganda. So we should always be grateful when someone makes the case for regulation more compelling and easier to understand. And this week, that means offering a special shout-out to two men: Jamie Dimon and Mitt Romney.

I’ll come back shortly to the troubles at JPMorgan Chase, the bank Mr. Dimon runs. First, however, let me
talk about Mr. Romney, whose remarks about those troubles were so off-point that they constitute a
teachable moment.
The Terrifying Ways Google Is Destroying Your Privacy
By David Rosen, AlterNet
Posted on May 20, 2012, Printed on May 23, 2012

In 1999, Scott McNealy, the former head of Sun MicroSystems, reportedly declared, "You have zero privacy anyway....Get over it." He unintentionally let the proverbial cat out of the bag of the digital age.

In 2009, McNealy’s assessment was confirmed by Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt. In an interview with NBC's Mario Bartiromo, he proclaimed, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." Schmidt’s words have become Google’s new mantra. Welcome to 21st-century corporate morality.

Now, a decade-plus later, McNealy’s prophetic words have take on a far more sinister significance than he probably intended. They are increasingly becoming the operating assumption of the digital corporate state. Whether going online, using a PC, smartphone, tablet or digital TV, users can no longer assume they have any privacy. In fact, users should assume they have absolutely no privacy.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Frank Rich on the National Circus: Bully Romney and the Gay Vote

The polls have not been too kind to Obama's gay-marriage announcement. Both New York Times/CBS and USA Today/Gallup show around 25 percent of voters saying they’re "less likely" to vote for him because of it. Is Obama going to regret that he did this now?No. I think it’s safe to say that that 25 percent wasn’t going to vote for him anyway. Some young voters may be energized by his stand. So, obviously, are some donors. Perhaps some black voters down on gay marriage will stay at home. Perhaps. But in political terms, I’d say Obama’s move is either a wash or a plus. In the long-term perspective of history, his endorsement of marriage equality is a big plus.

Alternatively, could Romney be hurt by his association with the anti-gay-marriage forces?Clearly he thinks so. When he spoke at Jerry Falwell’s old base, Liberty University, in Virginia last week, Mitt was minimalist in his obligatory endorsement of marriage between “one man and one woman.” Even so, the prominent Romney supporter Bill White, the former president of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, had such a strong visceral response to these mild words that he demanded that the campaign return his contribution ($2,500, the maximum). It had finally sunk in that the presumptive GOP nominee was supporting, as White put it, “a constitutional amendment which would attempt to make my own legal and blessed marriage null and void.”
Koch Operative Steered $55 Million To Front Groups Airing Ads Against Democrats; Ads Assailed Candidates Over Abortion, 9/11, Medicare

By Lee Fang posted May 19th 2012 at 2:00PM

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of of Koch Industries, are known as big spenders when it comes to lobbying and influencing public policy. Now, a new document filed with the IRS reveals how the Koch political machine funneled over $54.5 million in previously undisclosed funds to a litany of front groups designed to smear Democrats.

The disclosure suggests that a very wide variety of Republican groups active in the last major election, from pro-life organizations that ran ads on abortion to shadowy fronts that aired partisan commercials with the infamous Ground Zero Mosque conspiracy, have been highly dependent on Koch money. The document also reveals that the Koch’s political network spent much more on electing the current Congress than previously known.
"Catfood Clinton" rides again—at a Pete Peterson summit to kill Social Security

By Gaius Publius, 5/19/2012 09:15:00 AM

Wealth inequity is not a by-product — it's the goal.

If you read here regularly, you know that Pete Peterson, the crazed billionaire who lives, breathes, eats and ... well ... to take down Social Security — a man who has spent a half billion dollars on that soulless psychopathic project — just held a Washington DC "summit" aimed at killing what he loves to hate.

Your safety net.
The answer to our fuel woes might be monster sweet potatoes

By Jess Zimmerman

Corn ethanol is a good idea in theory — what’s more renewable than a fuel source you plant and harvest every year? But corn is such an inefficient energy source that if we wanted to meet our biofuel goals with corn ethanol alone, they’d have to shoulder out every other crop. You know what yields more ethanol per acre than corn, though? Sweet potatoes.
We Had Money In The Federal Budget For ... What?

A Victory for All of Us

By Chris Hedges
In January, attorneys Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran asked me to be the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that challenged the harsh provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We filed the lawsuit, worked for hours on the affidavits, carried out the tedious depositions, prepared the case and went to trial because we did not want to be passive in the face of another egregious assault on basic civil liberties, because resistance is a moral imperative, and because, at the very least, we hoped we could draw attention to the injustice of the law. None of us thought we would win. But every once in a while the gods smile on the damned.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, in a 68-page opinion, ruled Wednesday that Section 1021 of the NDAA was unconstitutional. It was a stunning and monumental victory. With her ruling she returned us to a country where—as it was before Obama signed this act into law Dec. 31—the government cannot strip a U.S. citizen of due process or use the military to arrest him or her and then hold him or her in military prison indefinitely. She categorically rejected the government’s claims that the plaintiffs did not have the standing to bring the case to trial because none of us had been indefinitely detained, that lack of imminent enforcement against us meant there was no need for an injunction and that the NDAA simply codified what had previously been set down in the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act. The ruling was a huge victory for the protection of free speech. Judge Forrest struck down language in the law that she said gave the government the ability to incarcerate people based on what they said or wrote. Maybe the ruling won’t last. Maybe it will be overturned. But we and other Americans are freer today than we were a week ago. And there is something in this.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How FBI Entrapment Is Inventing 'Terrorists' - and Letting Bad Guys Off the Hook

POSTED: By Rick Perlstein

This past October, at an Occupy encampment in Cleveland, Ohio, "suspicious males with walkie-talkies around their necks" and "scarves or towels around their heads" were heard grumbling at the protesters' unwillingness to act violently. At meetings a few months later, one of them, a 26-year-old with a black Mohawk known as "Cyco," explained to his anarchist colleagues how "you can make plastic explosives with bleach," and the group of five men fantasized about what they might blow up. Cyco suggested a small bridge. One of the others thought they’d have a better chance of not hurting people if they blew up a cargo ship. A third, however, argued for a big bridge – "Gotta slow the traffic that's going to make them money" – and won. He then led them to a connection who sold them C-4 explosives for $450. Then, the night before the May Day Occupy protests, they allegedly put the plan into motion – and just as the would-be terrorists fiddled with the detonator they hoped would blow to smithereens a scenic bridge in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park traversed by 13,610 vehicles every day, the FBI swooped in to arrest them.
Sound Familiar? Florida's Pre-Election Voter Restrictions

The State of Florida, likely to be a key battleground in the 2012 elections, is hastily undertaking a purge of voter rolls using methods that seem to be unusually clumsy and inaccurate.

Hmmm. Pre-election voting purge in Florida. Lot of errors. Where have I heard that before?
Philip Pilkington: Keynes’ Alleged Totalitarianism – The ‘Malign’ Forward to the German Edition of the General Theory

By Philip Pilkington, a writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland. You can follow him on Twitter at @pilkingtonphil

In 1936 Keynes wrote a forward to the German edition of his General Theory. Since then it has, as far as I can see, been ignored by his defenders and held up by his most virulent detractors (notably, Austrian School ideologue Henry Hazlitt). Detractors point to what they perceive to be a damning indictment of Keynes’ system in the form of the following quote:
The theory of aggregated production, which is the point of the following book, nevertheless can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state than the theory of production and distribution of a given production put forth under conditions of free competition and a large degree of laissez-faire.
Where are the Missing Five Million Workers?

by Laura Flanders
"Where have all the workers gone?" David Wessel of the Wall St. Journal wondered about the labor force this week:

 “In the past two years, the number of people in the U.S. who are older than 16 (and not in the military or prison) has grown by 5.4 million. The number of people working or looking for work hasn't grown at all.”

So, where have all the workers gone? Have they retired, suspended their labors temporarily, or are they languishing on public assistance? Asks Wessel.
Arizona Goes Birther: Secretary Of State Says It’s ‘Possible’ Obama Won’t Be On Ballot

Nick R. Martin
May 18, 2012, 10:53 AM

The man in charge of running Arizona’s elections has gone to the birthers. Secretary of State Ken Bennett now says he’s not convinced Barack Obama was really born in the United States and so he is threatening to keep the president off the ballot in November.

Bennett’s comments came in an interview late Thursday with conservative radio talk show host Mike Broomhead on Phoenix station KFYI.
216 Reasons We're Losing Ground On Social Issues

May 18, 2012
By Don Hamel
Have you been shaking your head over how the U.S. seems to be going nowhere on the issue of LGBT civil rights, and backwards on contraception, and women’s health and reproduction rights? Doesn’t it seem illogical, even counter-intuitive that lawmakers are speaking out against such basic needs? Can’t think of any reason for it?
  I can give you 216.

In 1970 there were around 40 lobbying firms advocating on behalf of religious organizations, today there are over 200. 
Don't Buy the Spin: How Cutting the Pentagon's Budget Could Boost the Economy

Friday, 18 May 2012 09:22  
By Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, The Nation | News Analysis 

Should the enormous US military budget—which is more than double the combined levels of military spending by China, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Germany—be cut? This question is finally on the table, thanks to the winding down of combat activities in Iraq and Afghanistan and to Washington’s obsession with tamping down the federal deficits that have arisen from the Great Recession. Many who would like to protect the military from the budget knife raise economic arguments to make their case: Won’t cutting military spending be bad for jobs, just when we need to maintain focus on reducing unemployment? Won’t it threaten the country’s long-term technological capabilities?
Paul Krugman: Apocalypse Fairly Soon

Suddenly, it has become easy to see how the euro — that grand, flawed experiment in monetary union
without political union — could come apart at the seams. We’re not talking about a distant prospect, either. Things could fall apart with stunning speed, in a matter of months, not years. And the costs — both
economic and, arguably even more important, political — could be huge.

This doesn’t have to happen; the euro (or at least most of it) could still be saved. But this will require that
European leaders, especially in Germany and at the European Central Bank, start acting very differently
from the way they’ve acted these past few years. They need to stop moralizing and deal with reality; they
need to stop temporizing and, for once, get ahead of the curve.
Campaign Finance Disclosure Decision Means Rove, Others Could Suddenly Have To Disclose Donors

WASHINGTON -- One of the most consequential campaign finance loopholes affecting the 2012 race -- the one allowing big-money donors to secretly funnel millions into campaign ads -- is now closed, after an appellate court ruling on Monday.

In April, a district court judge struck down a Federal Election Commission regulation that allowed donors to certain nonprofit groups -- including those created by Karl Rove and the Koch brothers -- to evade normal disclosure requirements.

And on Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit turned down a request to stay that ruling on a 2 to 1 vote.

Preying on Poverty: How Government and Corporations Use the Poor as Piggy Banks

by Barbara Ehrenreich
Individually the poor are not too tempting to thieves, for obvious reasons. Mug a banker and you might score a wallet containing a month’s rent. Mug a janitor and you will be lucky to get away with bus fare to flee the crime scene. But as Business Week helpfully pointed out in 2007, the poor in aggregate provide a juicy target for anyone depraved enough to make a business of stealing from them.

The trick is to rob them in ways that are systematic, impersonal, and almost impossible to trace to individual perpetrators. Employers, for example, can simply program their computers to shave a few dollars off each paycheck, or they can require workers to show up 30 minutes or more before the time clock starts ticking.
Obama’s new free speech threat

An Executive order seeks to punish U.S. citizens even for "indirectly" obstructing dictatorial rule in Yemen

There is substantial opposition in both Yemen and the West to the new U.S.-backed Yemeni President, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi was the long-time Vice President of the Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, and after Saleh finally stepped down last year, Hadi became President as part of an “election” in which he was the only candidate (that little fact did not prevent Hillary Clinton from congratulating Yemen “on today’s successful presidential election” (successful because the U.S. liked the undemocratic outcome)). As it does with most U.S.-compliant dictators in the region, the Obama administration has since been propping up Hadi with large amounts of money and military assistance, but it is now taking a much more extreme step to ensure he remains entrenched in power — a step that threatens not only basic liberties in Yemen but in the U.S. as well:
President Obama plans to issue an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone who “obstructs” implementation of the administration-backed political transition in Yemen.

The unusual order, which administration officials said also targets U.S. citizens who engage in activity deemed to threaten Yemen’s security or political stability, is the first issued for Yemen that does not directly relate to counterterrorism.
Judge Blocks Enforcement of National Defense Authorization Act

Adam Serwer is filling in while Kevin Drum is on vacation.

On Wednesday, Obama-appointed(!) Judge Katherine B. Forrest blocked the section of last year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that purported to "reaffirm" the 2001 authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda. A group of activists and journalists had argued that the vague wording of the law could subject them to indefinite military detention because their work brings them into contact with people whom the US considers to be terrorists, and in doing so violated their First Amendment rights.

Forrest agreed with the plaintiffs that the relevant section of the law was "not merely an 'affirmation'" of the 2001 authorization for use of military force (AUMF). "Basic principles of legislative interpretation," she wrote, "require Congressional enactments to be given independent meaning"—judges can't simply assume a law does nothing. None of this brings the war on terror to a halt, mind you, because Forrest says there are "a variety of other statutes which can be utilized to detain those engaged in various levels of support of terrorists," so her injunction "does not divest the Government of its many other tools."
5 Things the Science Doesn't Say About the Conservative Brain

By Chris Mooney, AlterNet
Posted on May 8, 2012, Printed on May 19, 2012

Recently here at AlterNet, and around the web, there’s been a lot of discussion of the science of political ideology—basically, the differing psychological or even physiological traits that separate liberals from conservatives. (For a scientific overview of how strongly personality in particular predicts one’s political views, see here.) The debate tends to produce an odd effect: Liberals are intrigued, but many conservatives seem to take it all as an insult--based on a major misunderstanding of what the research actually means.

It’s time to set the record straight. So herewith, we dismantle five major myths about the science of ideology, and what it has to say about conservatism.
Are JPMorgan's Losses a Canary in a Coal Mine?

by Bill Moyers and Simon Johnson
That sound of shattered glass you’ve been hearing is the iconic portrait of Jamie Dimon splintering as it hits the floor of JPMorgan Chase. As the Good Book says, “Pride goeth before a fall,” and the sleek silver-haired, too-smart-for-his-own-good CEO of America’s largest bank has been turning every television show within reach into a confessional booth. Barack Obama’s favorite banker faces losses of $2 billion and possibly more – all because of the complex, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t trading in exotic financial instruments that he has so ardently lobbied Congress not to regulate.
Paul Krugman: In South America, Separating Fact From Fiction

The columnist Matt Yglesias, who just spent time in Argentina, recently wrote in Slate about the lessons of that country's recovery following its exit from the one-peso-one-dollar "convertibility law." As he says, it's a remarkable success story, and one that arguably holds lessons for the euro zone.

"Default and devaluation were hardly a party. They destroyed the country's banking system and wiped out many Argentines' savings," Mr. Yglesias wrote on May 1. "But it did work. Argentina has grown rapidly in subsequent years and its unemployment rate has fallen steadily to 6.7 percent, a rate we envy in the United States."
Pete Peterson Spent Nearly Half A Billion In Washington Targeting Social Security, Medicare

WASHINGTON -- Peter Peterson, a Wall Street billionaire who has been calling for cuts to Social Security and other government programs for years, is hosting a "fiscal summit" Tuesday that brings together Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, former President Bill Clinton, Rep. Paul Ryan, House Speaker John Boehner, Tom Brokaw and Politico's John Harris, among a host of other elites who will gather at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.

The bipartisan luminaries will be carrying on a discussion to a large extent framed by Peterson, who has spent lavishly to shape a national conversation focusing on the deficit rather than on jobs and economic growth.

Accidentally Released - and Incredibly Embarrassing - Documents Show How Goldman et al Engaged in 'Naked Short Selling'

by Matt Taibbi
It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes God smiles on us. Last week, he smiled on investigative reporters everywhere, when the lawyers for Goldman, Sachs slipped on one whopper of a legal banana peel, inadvertently delivering some of the bank’s darker secrets into the hands of the public.

The lawyers for Goldman and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch have been involved in a legal battle for some time – primarily with the retail giant, but also with Rolling Stone, the Economist, Bloomberg, and the New York Times. The banks have been fighting us to keep sealed certain documents that surfaced in the discovery process of an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit filed by Overstock against the banks.
Uncovering the Other ALECs

Wednesday, 16 May 2012 00:00  
By Sarah Blaskey and Steve Horn, Truthout | News Analysis 
Taxpayer-subsidized stealth lobbyists: Lobbyists who circumvent normal lobbying regulations and procedures to advance the corporate agenda in statehouses nationwide on the taxpayer dime.

If Washington DC is the new Versailles, run by corporate overlords and their lobbyist-hired guns, then the 50 statehouses are its paternal twins. That is, while they look different in form, they share the same genetic function as avenues for the fulfillment of the corporate agenda.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has made this abundantly clear through its ongoing ALEC Exposed project, bringing sunshine to the tax-deductible, statehouse-level influence-peddling efforts made by corporations through the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC has been described by CMD as a "corporate bill mill." (Full disclosure: Steve Horn is a former reporter and researcher at CMD. He was on the team that broke ALEC Exposed in the summer of 2011.)
Bill Clinton, Boehner, and Some Other Rich White Guys Had a "Summit" and Agreed: It's Your Fault

'Mortgage Settlement' Funds Paying for Prisons, Not Foreclosure Relief

Needy states use housing aid cash to fund prisons, education shortfalls, and plug budgets

- Common Dreams staff 
As part of a financial settlement over fraudulent mortgage practices earlier this year, some of the nation's largest banks agreed to make payments to state government totaling $2.5 billion that would be earmarked for victims of wrongful foreclosure and other distressed homeowners. Instead, reports the New York Times today, a majority of those funds are going to plug state budget shortfalls, leaving homeowners without recourse and validating critics who questioned the strength of the deal when it was announced in February.

The total settlement was for $25 billion, but only a tenth of that was to come in the form of cash payment to the states. The remainder was to come in the form of “credits” for reducing mortgage debt and other loan activities. 
How the Conservative Worldview Quashes Critical Thinking -- and What That Means For Our Kids' Future

By Sara Robinson, AlterNet
Posted on May 18, 2012, Printed on May 19, 2012

The Conservative War On Education continues apace, with charters blooming everywhere, high-stakes testing cementing its grip on classrooms, and legislators and pundits wondering what we need those stupid liberal arts colleges for anyway. (Isn't college about job prep? Who needs to know anything about art history, anthropology or ancient Greek?)

Amid the din, there's a worrisome trend: liberals keep affirming right-wing talking points, usually without realizing that they're even right wing. Or saying things like, "The education of our children is a non-partisan issue that should exist outside of any ideological debate."

The hell it is. People who say stuff like this have no idea what they're talking about. The education of our children is a core cultural and political choice that reflects the deepest differences between liberals and conservatives -- because every educational conversation must start with the fundamental philosophical question: What is an education for?
The wrong Carlos: how Texas sent an innocent man to his death
Groundbreaking Columbia law school study sets out in shocking detail the flaws that led to Carlos DeLuna's execution in 1989

Ed Pilkington in New York, Monday 14 May 2012 23.00 EDT
A few years ago, Antonin Scalia, one of the nine justices on the US supreme court, made a bold statement. There has not been, he said, "a single case – not one – in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred … the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops."

Scalia may have to eat his words. It is now clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit, and his name – Carlos DeLuna – is being shouted from the rooftops of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. The august journal has cleared its entire spring edition, doubling its normal size to 436 pages, to carry an extraordinary investigation by a Columbia law school professor and his students.

The book sets out in precise and shocking detail how an innocent man was sent to his death on 8 December 1989, courtesy of the state of Texas. Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, is based on six years of intensive detective work by Professor James Liebman and 12 students.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Seniors' Social Security Garnished for Student Debts

Friday, 11 May 2012 00:00 
By Ellen Brown, Truthout | News Analysis 

The Social Security program ... represents our commitment as a society to the belief that workers should not live in dread that a disability, death, or old age could leave them or their families destitute.  -President Jimmy Carter, December 20, 1977.

[This law] assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half century ago ... [The Social Security Amendments of 1983 are] a monument to the spirit of compassion and commitment that unites us as a people. -President Ronald Reagan, April 20, 1983.

So said Presidents Carter and Regan, but that was before 1996, when Congress voted to allow federal agencies to offset portions of Social Security payments to collect debts owed to those agencies. (31 U.S.C. §3716.) Now, we read of horror stories like this:

I'm a 68 year old grandma of 2 young grandchildren. I went to college to upgrade my employment status in 1998 or 1999. I finished in 2000 and at that time had a student loan balance of about 3500.00.

Could not find a job and had to request forbearance to carry me. Over the years I forgot about the loan, dealt with poor health, had brain surgery in 2006 and the collection agents decided to collect for the loan in 2008.
Who Really Caused The Deficit?

This week Republicans will attempt to move the national political conversation back to a familiar theme with a series of attacks on President Obama over the national debt. The GOP released a web video Monday bashing his “broken promises” on the deficit and previewed a major speech Tuesday by likely presidential nominee Mitt Romney on the issue.

Divorced from context, the numbers are uncomfortable for the President and are ready-made for pointed partisan attacks. Under Obama’s watch the national debt has risen from roughly $10 trillion to $15 trillion, a record high. But to what extent are his decisions while in office to blame? The answer: very little. The vast bulk of the debt is the result of policies enacted during the Bush administration coupled with automatic increases in federal spending and decreases in tax revenue triggered by the economic downturn.
Europe’s Man-Made Disaster

The consequences of the rush to austerity will be long-lasting and possibly severe.

This year’s annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund made clear that Europe and the international community remain rudderless when it comes to economic policy. Financial leaders, from finance ministers to leaders of private financial institutions, reiterated the current mantra: The crisis countries have to get their houses in order, reduce their deficits, bring down their national debts, undertake structural reforms, and promote growth. Confidence, it was repeatedly said, needs to be restored.

It is a little precious to hear such pontifications from those who, at the helm of central banks, finance ministries, and private banks, steered the global financial system to the brink of ruin—and created the ongoing mess. Worse, seldom is it explained how to square the circle. How can confidence be restored as the crisis economies plunge into recession? How can growth be revived when austerity will almost surely mean a further decrease in aggregate demand, sending output and employment even lower?