Saturday, June 23, 2012

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.
Exposed: The Other ALECs' Corporate Playbook

Thursday, 21 June 2012 00:00  
By Steve Horn and Sarah Blaskey, Truthout | News Analysis 

How is it that no matter whom we elect as our state representatives - Democrat, Republican, or other - we most often end up with policies that privilege the corporate agenda over the public interest?

It's a simple question, raised by laws promoting charter schools, fracking, union-busting, privatization, deregulation, and countless other corporate-friendly policies that have spread like wildfire around the country, particularly in recent legislative sessions.
Serious People Do Not Use Wealth of People Under Age 35 as a Measure of Their Well-Being

by Dean Baker
There is a well-funded effort in this country to try to distract the public's attention from the massive upward redistribution of income over the last three decades by trying to claim that the issue is one of generational conflict rather than class conflict. Billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson is the most well-known funder of this effort, having kicked in a billion dollars of his own money for the cause.

However, he is far from the only generational warrior. The Washington Post has often gone into near hysterics screaming about retirees living on their $1,100 a month Social Security benefits and getting most of their health care paid for through Medicare. And, there is no shortage of politicians in Washington who like think themselves brave because they will cut these benefits for seniors will protecting the income and wealth of the richest people in the country.
The Tiny Tax that Terrifies Wall Street

Organized Wealth is Out to Screw US

Public attention on right-wing funding in political campaigns has been galvanized by the attack on working people in Wisconsin by an ultraconservative governor out to crush labor unions. Funders such as the Kock Brothers and right-wing institutions such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), have been explored by numerous progressive groups.

There is, however, a much larger elaborate strategic right-wing process at work here. It started with the Powell Memo in 1971 urging corporations and wealthy elites to defend the “Free Market” against “Tax & Spend” liberals, “Big Government” progressives, and “Thugish” union leaders. These slogans are part of a carefully-crafted propaganda campaign by organized wealth.
Another View: The Myth of the Postal Service's Finances

Thursday, 21 June 2012 09:11  
By Robert Weiner and George Clingan, Des Moines Register | Op-Ed 

The future of the U.S. Postal Service has been in limbo for several years. It lost an astounding $25.4 billion between 2007 and 2011 and has already lost $3.2 billion in the first quarter of 2012. The service is on the road to bankruptcy.

The Des Moines Register reported last month that Iowa narrowly avoided 178 closures that the agency planned as part of a national cutback of 3,700 post offices. Because of political pressure against the closings, in their place, and for now, many outposts will see dramatically shorter operating hours.
Sen. Jeff Merkley puts the wood to Jamie Dimon in the Senate Banking Committee hearing

By Gaius Publius on 6/22/2012 09:15:00 AM

There have been a number of stories about Jamie Dimon's recent appearance before the Senate Banking Committee.

Most of them, including Matt Taibbi's, comment on the shameful and ignorant performance of almost every senator in the room — especially, but not exclusively, the Republicans.
Paul Krugman: Welcome to the 30s

Martin Wolf is shrill (and rightly so). "Before now, I had never really understood how the 1930s could happen," the Financial Times columnist wrote in an op-ed published on June 5.

"Now I do. All one needs are fragile economies, a rigid monetary regime, intense debate over what must be done, widespread belief that suffering is good, myopic politicians, an inability to co-operate and failure to stay ahead of events."

Right on cue, the European Central Bank declined to cut interest rates, or announce any other policies that might help. Because what possible reason might there be to take action?
David Cay Johnston: America's Long Slope Down

A broad swath of official economic data shows that America and its people are in much worse shape than when we paid higher taxes, higher interest rates and made more of the manufactured goods we use.

The numbers since the turn of the millennium point to even worse times ahead if we stay the course. 
Let’s look at the official numbers in today’s dollars and then what can be done to change course.

First, incomes and jobs since 2000 measured per American:

Internal Revenue Service data show that average adjusted gross income fell $2,699 through 2010 or 9 percent, compared to 2000. That’s the equivalent of making it through Thanksgiving weekend and then having no income for the rest of the year.
Obama Channels Cheney's Geopolitical Energy Policy

Four Ways the President Is Pursuing Cheney’s Geopolitics of Global Energy

by Michael T. Klare
As details of his administration’s global war against terrorists, insurgents, and hostile warlords have become more widely known -- a war that involves a mélange of drone attacks, covert operations, and presidentially selected assassinations -- President Obama has been compared to President George W. Bush in his appetite for military action.  “As shown through his stepped-up drone campaign,” Aaron David Miller, an advisor to six secretaries of state, wrote at Foreign Policy, “Barack Obama has become George W. Bush on steroids.”

When it comes to international energy politics, however, it is not Bush but his vice president, Dick Cheney, who has been providing the role model for the president.  As recent events have demonstrated, Obama’s energy policies globally bear an eerie likeness to Cheney’s, especially in the way he has engaged in the geopolitics of oil as part of an American global struggle for future dominance among the major powers.
The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia

How America's biggest banks took part in a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy - until they were caught on tape

By Matt Taibbi
June 21, 2012 11:20 AM ET

Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia. Of course, you won't hear the recent financial corruption case, United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, called anything like that. If you heard about it at all, you're probably either in the municipal bond business or married to an antitrust lawyer. Even then, all you probably heard was that a threesome of bit players on Wall Street got convicted of obscure antitrust violations in one of the most inscrutable, jargon-packed legal snoozefests since the government's massive case against Microsoft in the Nineties – not exactly the thrilling courtroom drama offered by the famed trials of old-school mobsters like Al Capone or Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo.

But this just-completed trial in downtown New York against three faceless financial executives really was historic. Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street.
Paul Krugman: Prisons, Privatization, Patronage

Over the past few days, The New York Times has published several terrifying reports about New Jersey’s system of halfway houses — privately run adjuncts to the regular system of prisons. The series is a model of investigative reporting, which everyone should read. But it should also be seen in context. The horrors described are part of a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded.

First of all, about those halfway houses: In 2010, Chris Christie, the state’s governor — who has close personal ties to Community Education Centers, the largest operator of these facilities, and who once worked as a lobbyist for the firm — described the company’s operations as “representing the very best of the human spirit.” But The Times’s reports instead portray something closer to hell on earth — an understaffed, poorly run system, with a demoralized work force, from which the most dangerous individuals often escape to wreak havoc, while relatively mild offenders face terror and abuse at the hands of other inmates. 
Katha Pollitt: What's the Matter With Creationism?

Do you know what the worst thing about the recent Gallup poll on evolution is? It isn’t that 46 percent of respondents are creationists (“God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last ten thousand years or so”). Or that 32 percent believe in “theistic evolution” (“Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process”). Or that only 15 percent said humans evolved and “God had no part in this process.” It isn’t even that the percentage of Americans with creationist views has barely budged since 1982, when it was 44 percent, with a small rise in the no-God vote (up from 9 percent) coming at the expense of the divine-help position (down from 38 percent). Or that 58 percent of Republicans are creationists, although that does explain a lot.

It’s that the proportion of college graduates who are creationists is exactly the same as for the general public. That’s right: 46 percent of Americans with sixteen long years of education under their belt believe the story of Adam and Eve is literally true. Even 25 percent of Americans with graduate degrees believe dinosaurs and humans romped together before Noah’s flood. Needless to say, this remarkable demonstration of educational failure attracts little attention from those who call for improving our schools.
Study: Renewable sources could supply 80% of U.S. electricity by 2050

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, June 21, 2012 10:00 EDT

If the U.S simply committed to building out the transmission infrastructure, the Department of Energy (DOE) believes that currently existing renewable energy technology “is more than adequate” to supply up to 80 percent of the nation’s daily electricity use by the year 2050, a new study has found.

Put together by the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Labratory, the study is the largest-ever to examine the nation’s potential renewable energy capacity. It predicts that while fossil and nuclear fuels will still be needed in 2050, they won’t continue to supply the more than 60 percent of America’s energy they do today.
Maddow on "Fast and Furious," AKA "What Your Uncle Who Watches Fox News All Day Is All Worked Up About"

Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow did progressives a solid by explaining to us what the deal is with the "Fast and Furious" controversy, AKA "What your uncle who watches Fox News all day is all worked up about." Bless you, Rachel Maddow. We all have that uncle/father/brother-in-law/high school friend.

"This is one of those days when what happened today in politics means something totally different to the portion of Americans who watch Fox News than it does to everybody else in the country," she said.
Liberals Working for the Right

Monday, 18 June 2012 09:29  
By Dean Baker, Truthout | News Analysis 

Last week, Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent picked up on a blog post from Democracy editor Michael Tomasky about how liberals should be touting the merits of "government." That is a great idea, if the point is to advance the conservatives' agenda.

It is astounding how liberals are so happy to work for the right by implying that conservatives somehow just want to leave markets to themselves whereas the liberals want to bring in the pointy-headed bureaucrats to tell people what they should do. This view is, of course, nonsense. Pick an issue, any issue, and you will almost invariably find the right actively pushing for a big role for government.
Why Congress Won’t Touch Jamie Dimon: JPM Derivatives Prop Up US Debt

by Ellen Brown
When Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase Bank, appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on June 13, he was wearing cufflinks bearing the presidential seal.  “Was Dimon trying to send any particular message by wearing the presidential cufflinks?” asked CNBC editor John Carney.  “Was he . . . subtly hinting that he’s really the guy in charge?”

The groveling of the Senators was so obvious that Jon Stewart did a spoof news clip on it, featured in a Huffington Post piece titled “Jon Stewart Blasts Senate’s Coddling Of JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon,” and Matt Taibbi wrote an op-ed called “Senators Grovel, Embarrass Themselves at Dimon Hearing.”  He said the whole thing was painful to watch.
Senators Try to Kill EPA Effort to Reduce Mercury and Toxic Air Pollution

Wednesday, 20 June 2012 00:00  
By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report 

The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a Republican proposal to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing new rules that would reduce the amount of dangerous pollutants such as mercury, lead and arsenic emitted from coal burning power plants and prevent more than 100,000 heart and asthma attacks each year.

Lawmakers backing the proposal, led by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), claim the rules are part of the Obama administration's job killing "war on coal."
Rahm Emanuel Still Hates Democracy; and Other Sequels from Five Months of Columnizing

POSTED: By Rick Perlstein

This past April I published a piece here I wanted to call "Rahm Emanuel Hates Democracy." Cooler heads in the front office prevailed, and the piece ended up being called "Rahm Emanuel Has a Problem with Democracy." Here's the sequel: Every time I gave a radio interview in Chicago and mentioned my original title for the piece, some newsroom guy just about kissed me.

There have been innumerable articles about Mayor Rahm Emanuel in national publications. Mine, I learned, was the only one anyone could think of that had been critical. Fawning, should-know-better journalistic big shots praised Rahm, at Rahm's word, as a model of democratic openness. Which made the guys I was talking to – guys used to having mayoral flacks feed them questions for the mayor while they were live on the radio interviewing him – just about ready to spit.
Conservatives Of All Stripes Ignore the Suffering of Their Fellow Americans

By: Rmuse
June 19, 2012

As a virtue of empathy, compassion is concern for the suffering of others, and a fundamental part of Christian love. It is also one of the cornerstones of social interconnection and humanism that is the basis of the highest principles in philosophy, society, and community. Unless someone has been hiding in a cave for the past three years, they understand that Republicans, teabaggers, Libertarians, and a major segment of the religious right have abandoned any sense of compassion for their fellow Americans, but especially the poor. Indeed, conservatives of all stripes have demonstrated that instead of compassion, their agenda is increasing the suffering of tens-of-millions of Americans to reward the wealthiest Americans.
Democratic Unfreedom - Social Technique and the Manufacture of Control

Tuesday, 19 June 2012 10:32  
By Kingsley Dennis, Truthout | News Analysis 
A comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom prevails in advanced industrial civilization, a token of technical progress. - Herbert Marcuse

As Noam Chomsky pointed out, in both "old" and "new" world orders the central goal has pivoted around the issue of control: "Control of the population is the major task of any state that is dominated by particular sectors of the domestic society and therefore functions primarily in their interest ..."[1] Such "particular sectors" as referred to are the minority elite, who pursue controlling strategies to "engineer" national and international affairs in line with their aims. And these aims are for the most part based on greed and power; and the need to keep the masses contented and docile.

The construction of what Marcuse refers to as democratic unfreedom is often implemented through scientific rationalism. The pattern often adopted is in parading rational thinking as the vehicle in which to present specific agendas most suitable to hierarchical power structures. And it is through the rationalism of the elite technocratic establishment that global governance has found its most articulate expression. One of these forms is corporatism and the rise of the conglomerates (media conglomerates were explored in a previous Truthout article). A particular example of corporatism and social control can be found within global food systems, the ways they are monopolized and managed.
How to Tell if Your Favorite Companies Are Truly Progressive or Secretly Selling Out

By Brittany Shoot, AlterNet
Posted on June 18, 2012, Printed on June 23, 2012

Many progressives know that some of their favorite companies have dirty secrets. Many are also aware that in the last 30 years, a number of socially responsible independent companies have accepted buy-outs from larger corporations for various reasons. French Group Danone acquired organic yogurt purveyor Stonyfield Farms in several stages over the last decade. Unilever bought Vermont-based ice-cream company Ben & Jerry’s in 2000. Colgate-Palmolive bought all-natural toothpaste brand Tom’s of Maine in 2006. Clorox purchased natural personal care products manufacturer Burt’s Bees in 2008.

There are many compelling reasons for these corporate acquisitions. In the case of Tom’s of Maine, for instance, the family-owned company became too much to handle for its aging founders, who first launched their humble line of truly all-natural toothpaste in 1970. With none of their children ready to take the reins, founders Tom and Kate Chappell sold an 84 percent controlling stake in the business to Colgate-Palmolive for $100 million. The family retains enough controlling power to keep the company true to its core values, but many loyal customers still saw the sale—and the subsequent packaging changes—as a betrayal.
Paul Krugman: Greece as Victim

Ever since Greece hit the skids, we’ve heard a lot about what’s wrong with everything Greek. Some of the accusations are true, some are false — but all of them are beside the point. Yes, there are big failings in Greece’s economy, its politics and no doubt its society. But those failings aren’t what caused the crisis that is tearing Greece apart, and threatens to spread across Europe.

No, the origins of this disaster lie farther north, in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin, where officials created a deeply — perhaps fatally — flawed monetary system, then compounded the problems of that system by substituting moralizing for analysis. And the solution to the crisis, if there is one, will have to come from the same places.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thomas Frank: It's a rich man's world: How billionaire backers pick America's candidates

While visiting Kansas City last December, I read a local newspaper story lamenting the gradual transformation of Missouri into a reliably Republican citadel—a red state, as we like to say. In the past, I read, Missouri had been different from its more partisan neighbors. It had been a “bellwether” state that “reflected national trends,” rather than delivering votes for any particular party. But now all that was over, and I assumed the article would go on to mourn the death of judicious public reason—the tradition of giving rival arguments a hearing and testing them with that famous “Show Me” skepticism.

I was wrong. Forget the death of open-mindedness. What was actually being mourned that day in the Kansas City Star was a possible loss of advertising revenue by the state’s TV stations. If Missouri was no longer a battleground state, then the two parties and their various backers would no longer fight their expensive electronic war over the airwaves between St. Louie and St. Joe, and “spending on TV ads in the state [would] plummet.”
Is the Secret War in Yemen and Somalia Secret No Longer?

Obama openly described ‘direct action’ – military operations – in both Yemen and Somalia.

by Chris Woods 
In what is being viewed by some as a significant move towards greater transparency, President Obama has officially acknowledged for the first time previously secret US military combat operations in Yemen and Somalia.

The US military has been mounting aggressive combat operations in both countries for some years. Attacks began in Somalia in January 2007, and in Yemen in December 2009. The Bureau monitors operations in both nations, and its data suggests that as many as 180 combat strikes may have taken place in both countries. However until now the US would not even admit that such attacks occurred.
The Economy Comes Unglued

Ever since the beginning of the financial crisis and Quantitative Easing, the question has been before us:  How can the Federal Reserve maintain zero interest rates for banks and negative real interest rates for savers and bond holders when the US government is adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt every year via its budget deficits?  Not long ago the Fed announced that it was going to continue this policy for another 2 or 3 years. Indeed, the Fed is locked into the policy. Without the artificially low interest rates, the debt service on the national debt would be so large that it would raise questions about the US Treasury’s credit rating and the viability of the dollar, and the trillions of dollars in Interest Rate Swaps and other derivatives would come unglued.

In other words, financial deregulation leading to Wall Street’s gambles, the US government’s decision to bail out the banks and to keep them afloat, and the Federal Reserve’s zero interest rate policy have put the economic future of the US and its currency in an untenable and dangerous position.  It will not be possible to continue to flood the bond markets with $1.5 trillion in new issues each year when the interest rate on the bonds is less than the rate of inflation. Everyone who purchases a Treasury bond is purchasing a depreciating asset. Moreover, the capital risk of investing in Treasuries is very high. The low interest rate means that the price paid for the bond is very high. A rise in interest rates, which must come sooner or later, will collapse the price of the bonds and inflict capital losses on bond holders, both domestic and foreign.
An Institutional Flaw At The Heart Of The Federal Reserve

On the “PBS NewsHour” in late May, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner indicated that the continued presence of Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, on the board on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York creates a perception problem that should be addressed. He used the diplomatic language favored by finance ministers, but the message was loud and clear: Mr. Dimon should resign from the board of the New York Fed.

Mr. Dimon has been an effective opponent of financial reform over the past four years. He remains an outspoken advocate of the view that global mega-banks can manage their own risks, and he has stated publicly that the new international and national rules on capital requirements are “Anti-American.”
Senators Grovel, Embarrass Themselves at Dimon Hearing

by Matt Taibbi
I was unable to watch J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s Senate testimony live the other day, so I had to get up yesterday morning and check it out on the Banking Committee’s web site. I had an inkling, from the generally slavish news reports about the hearing that started to come out Wednesday night, that it would be a hard thing to watch.

But I wasn’t prepared for just how bad it was. If not for Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, who was the only senator who understood the importance of taking the right tone with Dimon, the hearing would have been a total fiasco. Most of the rest of the senators not only supplicated before the blowdried banker like love-struck schoolgirls or hotel bellhops, they also almost all revealed themselves to be total ignoramuses with no grasp of the material they were supposed to be investigating.
Did the Supreme Court Just Gut Habeas Rights?

The Supreme Court's decision on Monday not to hear appeals from a group of Gitmo detainees leaves the remaining 169 detainees at the facility with little chance of securing their freedom through US courts.

In the 2008 case Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled detainees at Gitmo could challenge their detention in US courts. That decision was seen as effectively ending the Bush administration's attempt to carve out a legal black hole for suspected terror detainees. Shortly thereafter, Gitmo detainees began appealing their detentions—and frequently winning in court. But in the years since the decision, conservative judges on the DC Circuit have interpreted the law in a way that assumes many of the government's claims are true and don't have to be proven in court. By not taking any of these cases, the Supreme Court has ensured these stricter rules will prevail. Civil-libertarian groups say that essentially leaves detainees at Gitmo with habeas rights in name only, since the rules make it virtually impossible for detainees to win in court. A Seton Hall University School of Law report from May found that, prior to the DC Circuit's reinterpretation of the rules, detainees won 56 percent of cases. Afterwards, they won 8 percent.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

U.N. Monitors for American Elections?

Posted at 6:08 pm, June 14th, 2012 

Republican lawmakers are fond of talking about voter fraud to justify measures to make it harder to vote. Wendy Weiser of New York University’s Brennan Center of Justice put her finger on the nation’s biggest source of voter fraud when she said, “Every year, election officials strike millions of names from the voting rolls using processes that are secret, prone to error and vulnerable to manipulation.” So in the name of combating scandal officials perpetuate it by denying Americans one of their most precious rights. And instead of correcting the abuse, partisan lawmakers are busy erecting still more obstacles to voting.
It’s OK to add to debt to grow jobs

By Josh Bivens | June 13, 2012

Casual observers of budget politics (that is, most voters) may know that the experts in such things are very concerned about rising public debt. They have also probably heard much talk about the “fiscal cliff” the nation is headed for in 2013.

What they might not know is the real danger is that public debt will stop rising quickly. That cutting spending and raising taxes to slow the growth of debt will cause spending to fall across the economy and bring about a new recession.
FBI Terror Plot: How the Government Is Destroying the Lives of Innocent People

By Petra Bartosiewicz, The Nation
Posted on June 14, 2012, Printed on June 16, 2012

It wasn’t long after he met the man called Shareef that Khalifa Al-Akili began to sense he was being set up. Within days of their seemingly chance meeting, Shareef was offering to drive Akili, a 34-year-old Muslim living in East Liberty, Pennsylvania, to the local mosque for prayers. Shareef told Akili he was “all about fighting” and “had a lot of resources at his disposal.” But when Shareef began to probe Akili about his views on jihad and asked him if he could obtain a gun, Akili grew nervous. “I begin to try to avoid him, but would still see him due to the fact that he lived two minutes’ walking distance from my apartment,” Akili said later. In January of this year, Shareef showed up with a “brother” who called himself Mohammed and was keen to meet Akili. Mohammed told Akili that he was a businessman from Pakistan involved in jihad. “He kept attempting to talk about the fighting going on in Afghanistan, which I clearly felt was an attempt to get me to talk about my views,” Akili recalled. “I had a feeling that I had just played out a part in some Hollywood movie where I had just been introduced to the leader of a terrorist sleeper cell.”
Out of curiosity, Akili did an Internet search on the cellphone number he’d received from Mohammed. Much to his surprise, he discovered that the man was, in fact, an FBI informant named Shahed Hussain, who had played a pivotal role in at least two major terrorism-related sting operations in recent years. In a lengthy posting on his Facebook page recounting these events, Akili wrote, “I would like to pursue a legal action against the FBI due to their continuous harassment.” He also set up a press conference in Washington with Muslim civil liberties groups to publicize his fear that he was being entrapped. But it was too late. In mid-March, Akili was arrested and charged with being in possession of a .22-caliber rifle at a shooting range several years earlier, an act deemed illegal because of a decade-old drug conviction. Though his arrest was on nonterrorism-related charges, at his bond hearing FBI agents and US Attorneys told the judge they’d seen unspecified “jihadist literature” at his apartment and also alleged that he’d told one of the informants of his desire to go to Pakistan and join the Taliban. The judge ordered Akili held without bail.
What Happens When Universities Are Run By Robber Barons

Er, UVA’s Teresa Sullivan was fired for what?

By Siva Vaidhyanathan  |  Posted Friday, June 15, 2012, at 7:30 PM

In the 19th century, robber barons started their own private universities when they were not satisfied with those already available. But Leland Stanford never assumed his university should be run like his railroad empire. Andrew Carnegie did not design his institute in Pittsburgh to resemble his steel company. The University of Chicago, John D. Rockefeller’s dream come true, assumed neither his stern Baptist values nor his monopolistic strategies. That’s because for all their faults, Stanford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller knew what they didn’t know.

In the 21st century, robber barons try to usurp control of established public universities to impose their will via comical management jargon and massive application of ego and hubris. At least that’s what’s been happening at one of the oldest public universities in the United States—Thomas Jefferson’s dream come true, the University of Virginia.
Quote of the Day: How the 1 Percent Won

—By Kevin Drum  | Thu Jun. 14, 2012 10:36 AM PDT

Andrew Sprung diagnoses American politics:
Over time, an increasingly extremist GOP has managed to induce a critical mass of voters to green-light its embodiment in law of two ideological tenets that are simple naked rationalizations of the narrowest interests of what we now call the 1%: 1) that tax increases always inhibit productive economic activity, and 2) that "free speech" entails prohibiting any restrictions on vested interests' access to the airwaves for any purpose whatever.
And the epic destruction of American unions over the past few decades has meant there was really no one to fight back against this.
Moyers: How the 1% Is Buying Our Democracy

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship,
Posted on June 15, 2012, Printed on June 16, 2012

If you’re visiting a candidate this summer and looking for a thoughtful house gift, might we suggest a nice super PAC? Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, they’re all the rage among the mega-wealthy. All it takes is a little paperwork and a wad of cash and presto, you can have, as The Washington Post describes it, a “highly customized, highly personalized” political action committee.”

It’s easy — super PACs come in all amounts and party affiliations. You don’t have to spend millions, although a gift that size certainly won’t be turned aside.  Cable TV tycoon Marc Nathanson got a super PAC for his friend, longtime Democratic Congressman Howard Berman from California, and all it cost was $100,000. Down in North Carolina, Republican congressional candidate George Holding received a handsome super PAC that includes $100,000 each from an aunt and uncle and a quarter of a million from a bunch of his cousins. Yes, nothing says family like a great big, homemade batch of campaign contributions.
Paul Krugman: We Don’t Need No Education

Hope springs eternal. For a few hours I was ready to applaud Mitt Romney for speaking honestly about what his calls for smaller government actually mean.

Never mind. Soon the candidate was being his normal self, denying having said what he said and serving up a bunch of self-contradictory excuses. But let’s talk about his accidental truth-telling, and what it reveals. 
Workers’ group releases shockingly short list of ethical restaurants

By David Ferguson
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 17:07 EDT

A group dedicated to the rights of food service workers called Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) has released an annual list of national restaurants and how they treat employees.  A surprising number of U.S. restaurant chains fail to even meet the minimum requirements listed in the guide to be considered fair places to work or ethical places to eat.

The ROC National Diners’ Guide 2012 notes whether restaurants belong to ROC’s “High Road” Restaurant Roundtable program, which brings workers together “to promote the high road to profitability” in the restaurant industry, and then scores restaurants in four categories, the minimum wage for tipped workers, the minimum wage for non-tipped workers, whether or not workers get paid sick days and whether the company offers opportunities for advancement.
Why The Economy Can’t Get Out of First Gear: The Rich Have Sucked It Dry

by Robert Reich
Rarely in history has the cause of a major economic problem been so clear yet have so few been willing to see it.

The major reason this recovery has been so anemic is not Europe’s debt crisis. It’s not Japan’s tsumami. It’s not Wall Street’s continuing excesses. It’s not, as right-wing economists tell us, because taxes are too high on corporations and the rich, and safety nets are too generous to the needy. It’s not even, as some liberals contend, because the Obama administration hasn’t spent enough on a temporary Keynesian stimulus.
What happens if America loses its unions

By Harold Meyerson,  
Published: June 12

Are American unions history?

In the wake of labor’s defeated effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) last week, both pro- and anti-union pundits have opined that unions are in an all-but-irreversible decline. Privately, a number of my friends and acquaintances in the labor movement have voiced similar sentiments. Most don’t think that decline is irreversible but few have any idea how labor would come back.

What would America look like without a union movement? That’s not a hard question to answer, because we’re almost at that point. The rate of private-sector unionization has fallen below 7 percent, from a post-World War II high of roughly 40 percent. Already, the economic effects of a union-free America are glaringly apparent: an economically stagnant or downwardly mobile middle class, a steady clawing-back of job-related health and retirement benefits and ever-rising economic inequality.
The Truth About Religion in America: The Founders Loathed Superstition and We Were Never a Christian Nation

By Kerry Walters, Free Inquiry
Posted on June 15, 2012, Printed on June 16, 2012

Once they begin  to circulate, falsehoods—like counterfeit currency—are surprisingly tenacious. It doesn’t matter that there’s no backing for them. The only thing that counts is that people believe they have backing. Then, like bad coins, they turn up again and again.

One counterfeit idea that circulates with frustrating stubbornness is the claim that America was founded as a Christian nation. It’s one of the Christian Right’s mantras and a favorite talking point for televangelists, religious bloggers, born-again authors and lobbyists, and pulpit preachers. Take, for example, the Reverend Peter Marshall. Before his death in 2010, he strove mightily (and loudly) to “restore America to its traditional moral and spiritual foundations,” as his still-active website says, by telling the truth about “America’s Christian heritage.” Or consider WallBuilders, a “national pro-family organization” founded by David Barton, whose mission is “educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country.” Called “America’s historian” by his admirers, Barton is a prolific writer of popular books that spin his Christian version of American history. And then there’s Cynthia Dunbar, an attorney and one-time professor at Liberty University School of Law. She’s another big pusher of the Christian America currency. Her 2008 polemic One Nation Under God proclaims that the Christian “foundational truths” on which the nation rests are being “eroded” by a “socialistic, secularistic, humanistic mindset” from which Christians need to take back the country.
Economics and Morality: Paul Krugman’s Framing

by George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling
In his June 11, 2012 op-ed in the NY Times, Paul Krugman goes beyond economic analysis to bring up the morality and the conceptual framing that determines economic policy. He speaks of “the people the economy is supposed to serve” — “the unemployed,” and “workers”— and “the mentality that sees economic pain as somehow redeeming.

Krugman is right to bring these matters up. Markets are not provided by nature. They are constructed — by laws, rules, and institutions. All of these have moral bases of one sort or another. Hence, all markets are moral, according to someone’s sense of morality. The only question is, Whose morality? In contemporary America, it is conservative versus progressive morality that governs forms of economic policy. The systems of morality behind economic policies need to be discussed.
GOP Senator Cornyn demands AG Holder resign, Holder gives epic smack-down response


Yesterday, during his ninth appearance before Congress regarding the “Fast and Furious” debacle (read more about that HERE), Senator John Cornyn, Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Attorney General Eric Holder to resign, saying he hoped President Obama would replace him.

AG Holder’s response was epic and a total smack-down of Cornyn. The transcript below is courtesy of Meteor Blades at Daily Kos from his post Sen. Cornyn accuses Eric Holder of perjury, asks him to resign. Gets told to pound sand:
The "Fiscal Cliff"? A Hoax. The Democrats' "Long Game"? A Myth. This Is the Real Budget Battle

The Dark Continuum of Watergate

June 12, 2012
Special Report: The 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in has brought reflections on the scandal’s larger meaning, but Official Washington still misses the connection to perhaps Richard Nixon’s dirtiest trick, the torpedoing of Vietnam peace talks that could have ended the war four years earlier, Rober Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

The origins of the Watergate scandal trace back to President Richard Nixon’s frantic pursuit of a secret file containing evidence that his 1968 election campaign team sabotaged Lyndon Johnson’s peace negotiations on the Vietnam War, a search that led Nixon to create his infamous “plumbers” unit and to order a pre-Watergate break-in at the Brookings Institution.

Indeed, the first transcript in Stanley I. Kutler’s Abuse of Power, a book of Nixon’s recorded White House conversations relating to Watergate, is of an Oval Office conversation on June 17, 1971, in which Nixon orders his subordinates to break into Brookings because he believes the 1968 file might be in a safe at the centrist Washington think tank.
Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises

Posted: Updated: 06/14/2012 6:45 pm

WASHINGTON -- A critical document from President Barack Obama's free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.

The leaked document has been posted on the website of Citizens Trade Campaign, a long-time critic of the administration's trade objectives. The new leak follows substantial controversy surrounding the secrecy of the talks, in which some members of Congress have complained they are not being given the same access to trade documents that corporate officials receive.
Louisiana Reps Object to Vouchers for Islamic School, No Problem With Christian Schools

The Louisiana legislature narrowly passed a new education spending bill last week that allows students in low-performing districts to pay for private school tuition using state-funded vouchers.

The new provisions for funding private and parochial schools has quickly devolved into a war of words over religion. Even though millions of dollars are being made available to dozens of schools with overt religious agendas, some Republicans balked at the last minute when it was revealed that a private Islamic school had also applied for 38 vouchers under the new program:
Why Conservatives Wrongly Blame Single Moms for the Disastrous Failures of the Right-Wing Economic Model

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on June 12, 2012, Printed on June 16, 2012

We should view lower-income single moms as heroes. Most of them make enormous sacrifices to raise their kids -- trying to balance work and parenthood in a society that offers them very little support. Many are forced to forgo opportunity to advance, working multiple jobs just to scrape by. But too often, they're villified – blamed not only for failing to “keep their man,” but also for America's persistently high poverty rate and dramatic inequality.

The idea that the decline of “traditional marriage” is the root cause of all manner of social problems is especially prominent on the political Right. Serious research into the causes of wealth and income inequality has not been kind to the cultural narratives conservatives tend to favor, but they nonetheless persist because such explanations have immense value for the Right. They offer an opportunity to shift focus from the damage corporate America's preferred economic policies have wrought on working people – union-busting, defunding social programs in order to slash taxes for those at the top and trade deals that make it easy for multinationals to move production to low-wage countries and still sell their goods at home – and onto their traditional bogeymen: feminism, secularism and whatever else those dirty hippies are up to.
The Miseducation of Mitt Romney

Diane Ravitch

On May 23, the Romney campaign released its education policy white paper titled “A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education.” If you liked the George W. Bush administration’s education reforms, you will love the Romney plan. If you think that turning the schools over to the private sector will solve their problems, then his plan will thrill you.

The central themes of the Romney plan are a rehash of Republican education ideas from the past thirty years, namely, subsidizing parents who want to send their child to a private or religious school, encouraging the private sector to operate schools, putting commercial banks in charge of the federal student loan program, holding teachers and schools accountable for students’ test scores, and lowering entrance requirements for new teachers. These policies reflect the experience of his advisers, who include half a dozen senior officials from the Bush administration and several prominent conservative academics, among them former Secretary of Education Rod Paige and former Deputy Secretary of Education Bill Hansen, and school choice advocates John Chubb and Paul Peterson.
'Lost Decade' for US Middle Class, says Economist

- Common Dreams staff 
A survey released by Federal Reserve on Monday tells a grim story in numbers what millions of Americans have been feeling in reality for nearly ten years.

The Survey of Consumer Finances, conducted every three years and covering a span from 2007 to 2010, documents steep declines in family income and an overall loss of wealth, mostly fueled by the collapse of the housing market in the US following the subprime mortgage crisis caused by Wall Street in 2008.
How Microsoft and Yahoo Are Selling Politicians Access to You

by Lois Beckett
ProPublica, June 11, 2012, 12:45 p.m.

Microsoft and Yahoo are selling political campaigns the ability to target voters online with tailored ads using names, Zip codes and other registration information that users provide when they sign up for free email and other services.

The Web giants provide users no notification that their information is being used for political targeting.
Family Net Worth Drops to Level of Early ’90s, Fed Says

Published: June 11, 2012

WASHINGTON — The recent economic crisis left the median American family in 2010 with no more wealth than in the early 1990s, erasing almost two decades of accumulated prosperity, the Federal Reserve said Monday.

A hypothetical family richer than half the nation’s families and poorer than the other half had a net worth of $77,300 in 2010, compared with $126,400 in 2007, the Fed said. The crash of housing prices directly accounted for three-quarters of the loss.
Maine study finds potentially disastrous threat to single-celled plants that support all life

Posted June 10, 2012, at 5:02 p.m.
Last modified June 11, 2012, at 6:18 a.m. 
BOOTHBAY, Maine — Phytoplankton. If the mention of the tiny plant organisms that permeate the world’s oceans isn’t enough to pique your interest, consider this: They produce the oxygen in every other breath you take.

Still not interested? This is where it’s hard not to take notice. In 2007, the reproduction rate of phytoplankton in the Gulf of Maine decreased suddenly by a factor of five — what used to take a day now takes five — and according to a recently released study by the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay, it hasn’t bounced back.
JP Morgan’s $2 billion experiment with truthiness

By David Cay Johnston
June 11, 2012
JPMorgan Chase & Co blames its $2 billion, and maybe much larger, trading loss on mistakes made in hedging the market. Bill Black, a finance criminologist, calls this “hedginess.”

“Hedginess” riffs on “truthiness,” the word the comedian Stephen Colbert invented in 2005. Truthiness means favoring versions of events that one wishes to be true, and acting as if they were true, while ignoring facts to the contrary that are staring you in the face. Fake hedges are to real hedges as “truthiness” is to truth. Hence “hedginess.” JPMorgan’s trades got around the Volcker rule, which tries to prevent banks from speculating in financial derivatives, by labeling as “hedges” bets that were clearly not hedges.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why Obama Caved In on National Security

Fed Says U.S. Wealth Fell 38.8% in 2007-2010 on Housing

By Jeff Kearns - 2012-06-12T04:01:02Z

The financial crisis wiped out 18 years of gains for the median U.S. household net worth, with a 38.8 percent plunge from 2007 to 2010 that was led by the collapse in home prices, a Federal Reserve study showed.

Median net worth declined to $77,300 in 2010, the lowest since 1992, from $126,400 in 2007, the Fed said in its Survey of Consumer Finances. Mean net worth fell 14.7 percent to a nine- year low of $498,800 from $584,600, the central bank said yesterday in Washington. Almost every demographic group experienced losses, which may hurt retirement prospects for middle-income families, Fed economists said in the report.
The Real Reason Apple Can't Make Your iPhone in America

by Dave Johnson, AlterNet
Posted on June 11, 2012, Printed on June 15, 2012

The following is an adapted version of a speech delivered at Netroots. 

We used to make things here, and then came free trade and then China opened up, and we moved a lot of manufacturing there, especially electronics. We say Apple here, because Apple is the most obvious, and because the supposed values of Apple conflict dramatically with what we now know about the working conditions of the people who make their products. But we mean ALL OF THEM.

We used to think that China got so much business because labor was cheap. The elites, benefiting from that, said take advantage of the low prices, and our workers can move on to better, more productive pursuits.
FEC Gives Progressives a Boost: You Can Donate to Campaigns By Text Message
Thanks to a new ruling by the Federal Election Commission, citizens can text in donations to political campaigns in 2012. Because many Americans who don't have personal computers access the internet and communicate via their smartphones, this decision opens up a new avenue for small donors.

Sp while it may not quite be the campaign finance equivalent of empowering America's Davids in the David-versus-Goliath struggle against big money flowing intp political campaigns (that would be public financing), progressive groups in coalition had petitioned the FEC to allow the text donations.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rebuild America Act is a model of the New New Deal legislation we should be hammering

by Meteor Blades for Daily Kos

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said to a bleary-eyed but appreciative audience at a Saturday, June 9, morning panel at Netroots Nation that progressives need to stake out and hammer, hammer, hammer our policy positions on the economy. To give no quarter to Congress and the president when it comes to the creation of jobs and the protection of workers already on the job. That's not a new message from Trumka. Because he takes his own advice and hammers, hammers, hammers.

In a fiery Netroots Nation keynote address June 8, Darcy Burner, who is running in Washington's first district for Congress, said progressives tend to view politics as being all about having the best policy. However, she said, the fight is really about power. As obvious as that may sound, it's an essential reminder.
Nanoparticles in polluted air, smoke & nanotechnology products have serious impact on health

Trinity College Dublin scientists establish link between autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and nanoparticles

Dublin, June 11th, 2012 − New groundbreaking research by scientists at Trinity College Dublin has found that exposure to nanoparticles can have a serious impact on health, linking it to rheumatoid arthritis and the development of other serious autoimmune diseases. The findings that have been recently published in the international journal 'Nanomedicine' have health and safety implications for the manufacture, use and ultimate disposal of nanotechnology products and materials. They also identified new cellular targets for the development of potential drug therapies in combating the development of autoimmune diseases.

Environmental pollution including carbon particles emitted by car exhaust, smoking and long term inhalation of dust of various origins have been recognised as risk factors causing chronic inflammation of the lungs. The link between smoking and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis has also been established. This new research now raises serious concerns in relation to similar risks caused by nanotechnology products which if not handled appropriately may contribute to the generation of new types of airborne pollutants causing risks to global health.
The Paycheck Fairness Act's Realpolitik

On average, women make only 77 cents for every dollar men get. But election year grandstanding has put paid to real equity

Naomi Wolf, Friday 8 June 2012 13.20 EDT

Once again, with dispiriting regularity, yet another bill to make it easier to fight for equal pay for women and men has come up for debate by Congress. And once again, we are being bombarded by misleading punditry funded by interested thinktanks.

Is this issue dead, as claimed – and if so, is one of the key justifications for arguing that feminism is unnecessary, correct? Sadly, the answer is a resounding "no".

Opponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act have been stealthy and effective at seeding the debate with disinformation. A well-worn iteration on television and in highbrow analysis magazines is that the wage gap is really due to a "choices gap" – meaning that, these days, any wage disparity between men and women has to do only with the different lifestyle choices women are making. They say women opt for a "mommy track", for instance, or for professions that yield them more freedom to stay home with children.
7 Plutocrats That Bankrolled the GOP Primary -- and What They Want in Return

By Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown
Posted on June 9, 2012, Printed on June 13, 2012

Leave it to Bill Moyers, one of America's most useful citizens, to sum up our country's present political plight in a succinct metaphor: "Our elections have replaced horse racing as the sport of kings. These kings are multibillionaire, corporate moguls who by divine right--not of God, but [of the Supreme Court's] Citizens United decision--are now buying politicians like so much pricey horseflesh."

Pricey, indeed. In its disgraceful, democracy-crushing judicial edict of January 2010, the Court took the big advantage that America's corporate elite already had in politics--and super-sized it. This is the first presidential election to be run under the rigged rules invented by the Court's five-man corporatist majority, and even though voting day is months away, we can already see the results of the thuggish power they bestowed on the moneyed few.
Paul Krugman: Another Bank Bailout

Oh, wow — another bank bailout, this time in Spain. Who could have predicted that?

The answer, of course, is everybody. In fact, the whole story is starting to feel like a comedy routine: yet
again the economy slides, unemployment soars, banks get into trouble, governments rush to the rescue —but somehow it’s only the banks that get rescued, not the unemployed.

Just to be clear, Spanish banks did indeed need a bailout. Spain was clearly on the edge of a “doom loop” — a well-understood process in which concern about banks’ solvency forces the banks to sell assets, which drives down the prices of those assets, which makes people even more worried about solvency. Governments can stop such doom loops with an infusion of cash; in this case, however, the Spanish government’s own solvency is in question, so the cash had to come from a broader European fund.
The Arsenic Diet

By Deborah Blum
June 8, 2012 |  8:57 am

In late May, the organic baby formula maker Nature’s One announced a goal of ”zero arsenic” in its product. Good, you say. Great. Makes perfect sense. Or it would except for this question -  why is a poison like arsenic, of all things, an issue in baby formula?

Read a little further in the Nature’s One press release, and you’ll find a direct link to the problem. The link goes to a February study, published in the Journal of Applied Chemistry, titled “Arsenic Concentration and Speciation in Infant Formula and First Foods.”
Greening the Knowledge Economy: A Critique of Neoliberalism

Sunday, 10 June 2012 08:29  
By Michael A Peters, Truthout | News Analysis 
I was convinced from the outset that the global system based on commodity production could not perpetuate itself indefinitely. Since the end of Fordism and the beginning of the information revolution, the system has been working with growing effectiveness towards the destruction of the foundations of its survival.
-Andre Gorz, 1983, "The Roads to Paradise"

What this age demands more than ever is an understanding not simply of systems in natural, social and geopolitical environments and their interrelations, but also the logic of large-scale system-events, their emergence and collapse, and their impacts for humanity. In the economic and political realm, as social scientists, we need to know more about the logic of large-scale events governing system failures, such as the collapse of the Soviet system in 1989 and the collapse of the neoliberal global financial system in 2008. The social sciences have not been good at predicting or analyzing these kinds of events, which demand a better interface between social and natural sciences and their mediation and understanding through new mathematical and computational theories of complex systems, of complexity and chaos, and of the difficulties with formal mathematical modeling and simulation. Complexity theory is a broad term used for a research approach to problems in diverse disciplines (physics, chemistry, molecular biology, meteorology, economics, sociology, psychology and neuroscience) based on nonlinear, nondeterministic systems evolution. Cybernetic, catastrophe, chaos and complexity are forms of thinking that historically have attempted to theorize these phenomena.
Stiglitz Bares Billionaires’ Weapon -- Government

As a populist war cry, “We are the 99 percent” is hard to beat. What the movement has lacked, though, is a coherent message and agenda. Until now.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who grew up amid the steel-mill grit and grind of Gary, Indiana, has spent decades studying the subject of his provocative new book, “The Price of Inequality.”

His conclusion: Economic growth, democracy and even the upper class itself suffer when the top 1 percent of Americans earns a fifth of the country’s income and controls more than a third of its wealth, as they do today.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The GOP's Bizarre, Disturbing Passion for Raising Taxes on the Poor
By James Kwak
Let's hope the Republican Party is bought and paid for by the rich, because the other explanation for its obsession with raising taxes at the bottom is far more disturbing

The Republicans, it goes without saying, are the party of low taxes. Their position for the past two years has been simple: Budget deficits should be reduced solely through spending cuts, not increases in tax revenues--even if those revenues are increased solely by closing loopholes in the tax code. The vast majority of Republicans in Congress have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which commits them to vote against any bill that would either increase tax rates or increase tax revenues.

That should be the whole story. But it isn't.
States to Residents: Forget Promises to Restore School Funding

Saturday, 09 June 2012 11:12  
By Mike Alberti, Remapping Debate | News Analysis 

When Wichita Public Schools Superintendent John Allison learned that, thanks to rising revenues, Kansas was projected to have a budget surplus of more than $300 million at the end of the year - the state’s first surplus since the recession - he hoped that the legislature would use the money to restore the hundreds of millions of dollars that it had cut from education in the last three years.

From 2008 to the end of the current fiscal year on June 30th, Kansas will have slashed school funding by nearly $700 per student, a decline of more than 12 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. In Wichita, the state’s largest school district, those cuts came to about $60 million of its $600 million budget, Allison said, and translated into large-scale layoffs; the closure of five schools; the elimination of programs such as driver’s education, art, and music; the curtailment of professional development for teachers; and the deferral of necessary maintenance to school buildings.

“We couldn’t take another year like the last three,” Allison said. When news broke about the surplus, “We thought, ‘Finally, things are going to start getting back to normal.’”
Why the United States Can’t Win a Cyberwar

And our political leaders need to understand this—fast.

Sen. John McCain rarely ceases to boggle the mind. He did it again today, highlighting a provision that he inserted in the defense authorization bill requiring U.S. Cyber Command “to provide a strategy for the development and deployment of offensive cyber capabilities.”

“I am very concerned,” he stated, “that our strategy is too reliant on defensive measures in cyber space, and believe we need to develop the capability to go on the offense as well … I believe that cyber warfare will be the key battlefield of the 21st century, and I am concerned about our ability to fight and win in this new domain.”
Tiny corn could be the next big thing

By John Upton

If modern baseball can teach kids anything about science, it’s that steroids make things huge. We’ve all seen players with tree-trunk sized arms blast baseballs out of ballparks thanks to steroid hormones that bulk up muscle cells.

But what’s good for athletic prowess isn’t always good for farmers. Take corn — a crop we grow on 70 million acres of the nation’s farmland. Naturally occurring veggie steroids give corn long stalks, which require lots of water and fertilizer to grow.
40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought

By Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, Published: June 8

As Sen. Sam Ervin completed his 20-year Senate career in 1974 and issued his final report as chairman of the Senate Watergate committee, he posed the question: “What was Watergate?”

Countless answers have been offered in the 40 years since June 17, 1972, when a team of burglars wearing business suits and rubber gloves was arrested at 2:30 a.m. at the headquarters of the Democratic Party in the Watergate office building in Washington. Four days afterward, the Nixon White House offered its answer: “Certain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it was,” press secretary Ronald Ziegler scoffed, dismissing the incident as a “third-rate burglary.”

History proved that it was anything but. Two years later, Richard Nixon would become the first and only U.S. president to resign, his role in the criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice — the Watergate coverup — definitively established.

Another answer has since persisted, often unchallenged: the notion that the coverup was worse than the crime. This idea minimizes the scale and reach of Nixon’s criminal actions.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

5 Ways Louisiana’s New Voucher Program Spells Disaster for Public Education

By Kristin Rawls, AlterNet
Posted on June 8, 2012, Printed on June 9, 2012

Late last month, the state of Louisiana unveiled a new school voucher program, joining 14 other states that have recently increased the availability of vouchers to fund private school tuition with public dollars.

This latest pet project of popular Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, called Louisiana Believes, is now regarded as the most extensive voucher system in the United States -- out-privatizing even the state of Indiana, where nearly 60 percent of the state’s students are eligible for vouchers. By eroding caps on family income levels, and thereby providing voucher assistance to both low- and middle-income families, Indiana’s plan aimed to remake public education in the state more extensively than any voucher system in US history – until now.

Like Indiana’s program, Louisiana’s new voucher plan is so wide in scope that it could eventually cut the state’s public education funding in half. But in a number of crucial ways, the Louisiana model works even harder to destroy public education than Indiana’s program does. Already approved by the Louisiana state legislature, the program sets an alarming precedent for undermining public education in other states.
Wage Theft Epidemic: Bosses Pocket 15 Percent of Workers' Pay

By Jake Blumgart, AlterNet
Posted on June 8, 2012, Printed on June 9, 2012

Marco Jacal and Isidro Suarez were fed up with their employer, the owner of Veranda, an upscale nightclub and restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village. The two men worked as bar backs and busboys, but weren’t paid an hourly wage--instead they were forced to survive on tips handed off by waitresses after their shifts ended.

“We were very angry and upset, because one, two months turned into five months only paid in tips,” Suarez says. But the two men are also immigrants and were unsure of their rights.

When a new manager declared he would act as middleman for their tips, Jacal and Suarez’s “pay” began to shrivel. The waitresses told them how much they had been left, but the numbers didn’t add up. The manager was stealing part of their tips while the owner stole all of their wages. That was too much.
Does cooperation require both reciprocity and alike neighbours?

Max Planck scientists develop new theoretical model on the evolution of cooperation 

June 08, 2012

Evolution by definition is cold and merciless: it selects for success and weeds out failure. It seems only natural to expect that such a process would simply favour genes that help themselves and not others. Yet cooperative behaviour can be observed in many areas, and humans helping each other are a common phenomenon. Thus, one of the major questions in science today is how cooperative behaviour could evolve. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Harvard University, and the University of Amsterdam have now developed a new model combining two possible explanations - direct reciprocity and population structure - and found that both repetition and structured population are essential for the evolution of cooperation. The researchers conclude that human societies can best achieve high levels of cooperative behaviour if their individuals interact repeatedly, and if populations exhibit at least a minor degree of structure. 

The scientists addressed the question how cooperative behaviour could evolve using a game called the prisoner’s dilemma, which considers two types of players: co-operators who pay a cost to help others; and defectors who avoid paying the cost, while reaping benefits from the co-operators they interact with. In general, everyone would be better off if they had engaged in cooperation, but from the point of view of the individual, defection is more beneficial. Selection will therefore always favour the defectors, and not cooperation. Researchers have used population structure and direct reciprocity to explain why cooperation has nevertheless evolved. In structured populations, co-operators are more likely to interact with other co-operators and defectors with defectors. Direct reciprocity involves the repetition of interaction and is therefore based on experiences gained from prior events involving cooperation. In the past, both approaches have been regarded separately.
Recovery? What Recovery?

Behind the New Jobs Numbers, Dull Statistics Tell a Terrifying Story

by Ted Rall
“Worst U.S. Jobs Data in a Year Signals Stalling Recovery,” The New York Times ran as its lead headline on June 2. The Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy created 69,000 jobs during May. The three-month job-creation average was 96,000. Unemployment ticked up a tenth of a point, from 8.1 to 8.2 percent.

Once again, the media is downplaying a blockbuster story—recovery? what recovery?—by dulling it down with a pile of dry, impenetrable statistics.

Wonder why you can’t find a job or get a raise, and your house has been sitting on the market for years? The new jobs numbers are the key to understanding how bad the economy is—and why it’s not likely to get better any time soon.
David Cay Johnston: The Fortunate 400

Six American families paid no federal income taxes in 2009 while making something on the order of $200 million each. This is one of many stunning revelations in new IRS data that deserves a thorough airing in this year’s election campaign.

The data, posted on the IRS website last week, brings into sharp focus the debate over whether the rich need more tax cuts (Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans) or should pay higher rates (President Obama and most Democrats).

The annual report, which the IRS typically releases with a two-year delay, covers the 400 tax returns reporting the highest incomes in 2009. These families reported an average income of $202.4 million, down for the second year as the Great Recession slashed their capital gains.
The Almost Scoop on Nixon’s ‘Treason’

June 7, 2012
Special Report: At the end of Campaign 1968, as Richard Nixon feared his narrow lead could disappear if progress were made on Vietnam peace, a U.S. correspondent in Saigon got wind of a cabal between Nixon and South Vietnamese leaders to block peace talks and secure his victory. History was at a crossroads, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In late October 1968, Beverly Deepe, a 33-year-old Saigon correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, came upon a story that could have changed history. A six-year veteran covering the Vietnam War, she learned from South Vietnamese sources that Richard Nixon’s campaign was collaborating behind the scenes with the Saigon government to derail President Lyndon Johnson’s peace talks.

On Oct. 28, Deepe sent her startling information to her Monitor editors in the United States, asking them to have the Washington bureau “check out a report that [South Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States] Bui Diem had sent a cable to the Foreign Ministry about contact with the Nixon camp,” she told me in a recent e-mail exchange.
Case closed: the stimulus worked

Paul Krugman: Reagan Was a Keynesian

There’s no question that America’s recovery from the financial crisis has been disappointing. In fact, I’ve
been arguing that the era since 2007 is best viewed as a “depression,” an extended period of economic
weakness and high unemployment that, like the Great Depression of the 1930s, persists despite episodes
during which the economy grows. And Republicans are, of course, trying — with considerable success — to turn this dismal state of affairs to their political advantage.

They love, in particular, to contrast President Obama’s record with that of Ronald Reagan, who, by this
point in his presidency, was indeed presiding over a strong economic recovery. You might think that the
more relevant comparison is with George W. Bush, who, at this stage of his administration, was — unlike
Mr. Obama — still presiding over a large loss in private-sector jobs. And, as I’ll explain shortly, the
economic slump Reagan faced was very different from our current depression, and much easier to deal
with. Still, the Reagan-Obama comparison is revealing in some ways. So let’s look at that comparison, shall we?
A Study Shows That America's Biggest Banks Would Need Another $500 Billion Bailout Should Our Economy Fail Again, and More

Friday, 08 June 2012 15:14  
By Thom Hartmann, The Thom Hartmann Program | News Report 


Thom Hartmann here – on the news...

You need to know this. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's recall victory this week is reverberating around the country – and helping other controversial right-wing Governors keep their jobs. In Michigan – a petition drive to recall Governor Rick Snyder – the man behind the controversial "financial managers" law – was dropped. As a spokesman for the group Michigan Rising, which was spearheading the recall effort said, "The results of Wisconsin crystallized how difficult a task it is to recall a sitting governor, even when the unions and the Democratic Party play a significant role in the effort." Recalls are made even more difficult when the Governor has the full-support of America's oligarchs like the Koch brothers – who are willing to spend whatever it takes to keep their guy in the Governor's Mansion. Now is the time for progressives around the nation to continue building a new movement to reverse thirty years of damage done to this nation, its democracy and its economy. Progressives have done this before – building a movement to push back against the Robber Barons of the late 1800's and the Economic Royalists of the 1920's. Time to do it again today to push back against the 1%ers.
How Big Banks Run the World - At Your Expense

Friday, 08 June 2012 00:00  
By Gar Alperovitz, Truthout | News Analysis 

The recent Public Banking conference held in Philadelphia offered a message that is at once so simple - but also so bold - it is hard for most Americans to pause long enough to understand how profoundly their thinking had been corralled by the masters of finance - in ways far, far, far more insidious and powerful than even the latest financial crisis suggests.

To understand what has happened, however, you first have to take a minute to shake a few cobwebs out of your brain about "money" - and how it is created and by whom and for whose benefit.