Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Battle Over NDAA's Police-State Provisions Continues in Court

Sunday, 26 August 2012 10:14  
By Jake Olzen, Waging Nonviolence | Report 

The Obama administration continues to defend its right to violate the rights of the people it is supposed to govern. On August 6, Department of Justice lawyers filed an appeal in federal court against a recent ruling that temporarily enjoined section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gives powers to the military to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens — on U.S. soil — without charge or trial. The case, and the organizing that surrounds it, will have profound implications for basic constitutional rights, though it has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

The so-called anti-terrorism legislation was signed on New Year’s Eve by President Barack Obama and went into effect on March 1, 2012. The NDAA had been the target of little public scrutiny in 2011, but after its passage both Congress and the Obama administration became targets of outrage among liberals and conservatives alike for the act’s alleged unconstitutionality.
Methane’s Contribution to Global Warming Is Worse than You Thought

By Jason Mark

August 21, 2012  |  Methane is 21 times more heat-trapping that carbon dioxide.” If you’re a frequent reader of environmental websites, no doubt you’ve seen some version of that sentence many times. The “twenty-times” figure is the most common way of explaining how methane (or CH4, or uncombusted natural gas) reacts in the atmosphere.

Just one problem: It’s not entirely accurate — at least not in the time-scale we should be using to think about how to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

Actually, any CH4 released today is at least 56 times more heat-trapping than a molecule of C02 also released today. And because of the way it reacts in the atmosphere, the number is probably even higher, according to research conducted by Drew Shindell [3], a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Center. So why is the 21 times figure the one that gets bandied about? Because methane breaks down much faster than carbon dioxide. While CO2 remains in the atmosphere for at least a century (and probably much, much longer, according to Stanford’s Ken Caldeira [4]), CH4 lasts only about a dozen years. When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had to come up with a way for comparing different greenhouse gases, it decided to use a century baseline to calculate a molecule’s “global warming potential.”

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How Some States Are Giving Oil and Gas Companies the Right to Take Your Land

By Alison K. Grass

No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property … unless the oil and gas industry says so.
August 21, 2012  |  Eminent domain, the government’s right to condemn (or take) private land for “public use,” has at times been a highly contentious topic because it can displace people from their homes to make way for construction of different projects, like highways or roads, civic buildings and other types of public infrastructure. However, what some may not realize is that several states have granted eminent domain authority to certain private entities, including oil and gas companies. These companies are using it as a tool to seize private land, which increases profits and benefits their wallets.

According to the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, in order to pursue eminent domain, the land must be taken for “public use” and the private property owners must receive “just compensation.”

No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Paul Ryan: The Man Who Wasn't There

Paul Krugman: Galt, Gold and God

So far, most of the discussion of Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominee for vice president, has focused on his budget proposals. But Mr. Ryan is a man of many ideas, which would ordinarily be a good thing.

In his case, however, most of those ideas appear to come from works of fiction, specifically Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

For those who somehow missed it when growing up, “Atlas Shrugged” is a fantasy in which the world’s productive people — the “job creators,” if you like — withdraw their services from an ungrateful society. The novel’s centerpiece is a 64-page speech by John Galt, the angry elite’s ringleader; even Friedrich Hayek admitted that he never made it through that part. Yet the book is a perennial favorite among adolescent boys. Most boys eventually outgrow it. Some, however, remain devotees for life.
Obama’s squandered hope

In a dramatic essay, Thomas Frank blames Obama's conciliatory nature for a first term that looked like Bush's third 

By David Daley

This is the point in a presidential election when people begin talking about the lesser of two evils, when the weaknesses in one’s own candidate pale in comparison to the reality of the other side taking over. But in a remarkable essay in the new issue of Harper’s magazine, the political thinker Thomas Frank levels President Obama’s first term as a dramatic failure compared to the rhetoric that landed him in office, and the potential he had to truly transform the country.

Frank, whose books include “What’s the Matter With Kansas” and “Pity the Billionaire,” makes the case that Obama’s conciliatory nature has been a tragic flaw, one exploited by conservatives in Congress again and again. But he also argues that Obama has “enthusiastically adopted” the ideas of the right when it comes to deficit spending, Wall Street regulation, torture policies, healthcare and more. And his reward for reaching for compromise and grand bargains, “for bowing to their household gods,” has been to be depicted as a socialist and a radical leftist.
Going Undercover at the GOP's Voter Vigilante Project to Disrupt the Nov. Election

By Steven Rosenfeld

The Republican True the Vote project is a well-funded scheme with training sessions for activists across the country. Will it work?

August 24, 2012  |  I was nervous getting onto the flight to Denver. Since 2004, I have been a national radio producer, investigative reporter, author and consultant—writing about how elections are won, lost, bungled and improved, with a big focus on voter registration. But I had never snuck into a meeting of right-wing voting vigilantes who are the frontline of a national voter suppression strategy, and where the main speaker was a man whose new book I’d aggressively debunked days before, in an AlterNet article [3] lauded by a leading election law blog [4] and Washington Post [5]. The meeting was a state summit organized by a group called True The Vote [6]. The author was John Fund, who absurdly claims that more than 1,000 felons voted illegally in Minnesota in 2008, sending Democrat Al Franken to the U.S. Senate, where he was the final vote that passed Obama's health care reform.

I didn’t want to be outed or bullied. I support citizen activism and was intrigued, even if I knew I was heading into the heart of the GOP election fraud brigade at the Colorado summit. On the plane, I wondered why many of the right-wing activists I hoped to meet in Denver believe as they do—eyeing almost all phases of the voting process with suspicion and mistaking errors as political conspiracies. The group’s Web site was very thin, but as knowledgeable people told me, they had big money behind them and were organizing on a scale that recalled the early days of the Christian Coalition [7]
America's Exceptional Fiscal Conservatism

Simon Johnson
WASHINGTON, DC – In most countries, to be “fiscally conservative” means to worry a great deal about the budget deficit and debt levels – and to push these issues to the top of the policy agenda. In many eurozone countries today, “fiscal conservatives” are a powerful group, insisting on the need to boost government revenue while bringing spending under control. In Great Britain, too, leading Conservatives have recently proved willing to raise taxes and attempted to limit future spending.

The United States is very different in this respect. There, leading politicians who choose to call themselves “fiscal conservatives” – such as Paul Ryan, now the Republican Party’s presumptive vice-presidential nominee to run alongside presidential candidate Mitt Romney in November’s election – care more about cutting taxes, regardless of the effect on the federal deficit and total outstanding debt. Why do US fiscal conservatives care so little about government debt, relative to their counterparts in other countries?
“Fewer, Poorer, Gloomier”

Is an Anti-Austerity Alliance of Left Neo-classicals and Post-Keynesians Possible? Is it Desirable? (Part 2)

By Michael Hoexter. Cross posted from New Economic Perspectives. Part 1 of this post is available here

United as they are in their critique of neoclassical economics, it would be a mistake to portray post-Keynesians as united among themselves, a further complication for the emergence of any unified message from anti-austerity economists. Post-Keynesian Thomas Palley has recently likened MMTers proposal that government institute a WPA-style “job guarantee” program to the policies of the Tory Cameron government that unemployment benefit recipients work for free. Palley’s concern is that the MMT job guarantee will undermine public sector unions but MMTers dispute that Cameron’s policy is a job guarantee program. Palley’s objections to the job guarantee and MMT were also the subject of a caustic review by Randy Wray, a prominent MMT economist. Steve Keen, who calls himself as “Monetary Circuit Theorist”, has shown an interest in finding points of commonality with MMTers while maintaining at other times a distance from it. MMT, perhaps because it has a popular following and momentum, seems to be a particular target of criticism and self-differentiation by non-MMT post-Keynesians. Perhaps this criticism is meant to be constructive but at times the disputes are often conducted in relatively heated exchanges in blogs and on Twitter, where ultimately outsiders to these disputes will remain confused and will perhaps throw up their hands.
The Five Most Under-Reported Stories of the Summer

Peter Rothberg on August 21, 2012 - 6:01 PM ET

I find back-to-school signs in mid-August jarring and unwanted, but it’s undeniable that summer is quickly fading into another electoral autumn. Before yielding to the insatiable demands of fall though, I solicited thoughts on the summer’s most neglected stories.

The competition is tough, as the London Olympics, the presidential campaign and the tragic Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson break-up have sucked up most of the media oxygen in recent months. But these five issues especially demand far more attention than they’ve received this summer.
Thomas Frank: Check It Yourself

I share a sentiment with the Tea Party movement, and it's not a trivial one: Historical illiteracy is a threat to the health of the republic. Our ignorance of the key events and basic concepts of the nation's development is a matter of statistical fact, and despite years of warnings we continue to show little interest in how the past determines contemporary choices.

Where we differ, the Tea Partiers and I, is on the question of what historical literacy looks like. For them, it is strictly a matter of everyone else acknowledging that the Founding Fathers would take their side in the present-day debates; that Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington were "rightwing extremists," as a popular T-shirt puts it. At Tea Party rallies, quotes from Founding Fathers are emblazoned on protest signs and declaimed from podiums; audiences recite them right along with the speaker; and, of course, there are always a few people on hand who feel such a surge of enthusiasm that they are moved to dress up in the manner of late-eighteenth century Bostonians.
Tomgram: Greg Muttitt, Whatever Happened to Iraqi Oil?

Posted by Greg Muttitt at 8:35am, August 23, 2012.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

It was never exactly rocket science.  You didn’t have to be Einstein to figure it out.  In early 2003, the Bush administration was visibly preparing to invade Iraq, a nation with a nasty ruler who himself hadn’t hesitated to invade another country, Iran, in the early 1980s for no purpose except self-aggrandizement.  (And the Reagan administration had backed him in that disastrous war because then, as now, Washington loathed the Iranians.)  There was never the slightest evidence of the involvement of Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 9/11 attacks or in support of al-Qaeda; and despite the Bush administration’s drumbeat of supposed information about Saddam’s nuclear program (which was said, somehow, to threaten to put mushroom clouds over American cities), the evidence was always, at best, beyond thin and at worst, a potage of lies, concoctions, and wishful thinking. The program, of course, proved nonexistent, but too late to matter.

There was only one reason to invade Iraq and it could be captured in a single word, “oil,” even if George W. Bush and his top officials generally went out of their way to avoid mentioning it.  (At one point, post-invasion, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz did point out that Iraq was indeed afloat “on a sea of oil.”)  Unfortunately, oil as a significant factor in invasion planning was considered far too simpleminded for the sophisticated pundits and reporters of the mainstream media.  They were unimpressed by it even when, as the looting began in Baghdad, it turned out that U.S. troops only had orders to guard the Oil Ministry and Interior Ministry (which housed Saddam’s dreaded secret police).
Mitt’s Medicare Time Bomb

Brian Beutler - August 23, 2012, 5:57 AM

When Mitt Romney signs legislation fully repealing Obamacare, he’ll be setting a time bomb. Not for the uninsured, who will simply continue to go without health care coverage, but for the very Medicare recipients whose benefits Romney’s promising to leave untouched.

By overturning the Affordable Care Act, Romney will restore major spending commitments to the program — billions of dollars worth of higher reimbursements for private insurance companies and hospitals that Obama cut out of the program.
First Our Homes, Now Our Water?

Food & Water Watch Analysis Reveals Wall Street’s Hold on Municipal Water Systems

WASHINGTON - August 22 - Following its disastrous foray into the housing market, Wall Street’s latest earnings scheme is as close as your kitchen sink: the finance industry is increasingly targeting public water systems. A new report released today by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, Private Equity, Public Inequity: The Public Cost of Private Equity Takeovers of U.S. Water Infrastructure reveals that as of January 2012, private equity players had raised $186 billion through 276 infrastructure funds and were seeking another $93 billion to take over infrastructure worldwide.

“Like Wall Street’s manipulation of the housing market in the previous decade, private equity firms and investment bankers are increasingly looking to cash in on one of our most essential resources—water,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “These deals are ultimately a bum deal for consumers, who will end up paying the price through increased water bills and degraded service.”
US middle class in 'lost decade' as income falls

The US middle class is in a "lost decade" as its share of the country's income has been surpassed by affluent earners, a new report says.

The Pew Research Center found that 62% of middle-class Americans reported they were being forced to reduce spending.

And 43% expect their children's standard of living will be better than their own, down from 51% in 2008.
The Fascinating Differences Between The Conservative and Liberal Personality

Evidence suggests that differences between liberals and conservatives begin to emerge at an early age.

August 20, 2012  |   "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin," laments Linus van Pelt in a 1961 Peanuts comic strip. Yet in today's hyperpartisan political climate, religion and politics are obsessively debated, while the "American people" that politicians and reporters constantly refer to seem hopelessly divided. Meanwhile, psychologists are increasingly exploring the political arena, examining not just the ideological differences, but also the numerous factors - temperamental, developmental, biological, and situational - that contribute to the formation and maintenance of partisan political beliefs.

Personality differences are a leading candidate in the race toward understanding the rift between political liberals and conservatives. Using data compiled from nearly 20,000 respondents, Columbia University researcher Dana Carney and colleagues found that two common personality traits reliably differentiated individuals with liberal or conservative identifications. Liberals reported greater openness, whereas conservatives reported higher conscientiousness. This means that liberals (at least in their own estimation) saw themselves as more creative, flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, and open to new ideas and experiences. Across the political personality divide, conservatives self-identified as more persistent, orderly, moralistic, and methodical. These personality differences were even reflected in the bedroom belongings and offices or workspaces of ideological undergrads, with liberal students collecting more CDs, books, movie tickets, and travel paraphernalia, as opposed to their conservative peers, who showed more sports décor, U.S. flags, cleaning supplies, calendars, and uncomfortable furniture. Lest you think that the partisan personality is a uniquely American phenomenon, similar findings on personality and political ideology have emerged in samples across the globe, from North America, Europe, and Australia.
Repubs Will Raise Taxes - For Civil War

by Steven D
Wed Aug 22nd, 2012 at 06:05:35 PM EST

So under what circumstances would a Republican ever call for raising taxes (other than taxes on poor people, that is)?

It's simple: Rebellion! Specifically to fund a civil war if President Obama is re-elected:

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head and Commissioner Mark Heinrich went into great detail Monday night on FOX 34 News @ Nine about why it is necessary to raise the tax rate by 1.7 cents the next fiscal year. [...] “He's going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the UN, and what is going to happen when that happens?,” Head asked.

“I'm thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we're not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.["]
240 Million Americans to Lose Protections From Coal Pollution

US Court Throws Out EPA Coal Pollution Rule, Leaves Millions Exposed to Harmful Emissions

- Common Dreams staff

Up to 240 million Americans will now lose protections against dangerous smog and soot pollution, following a decision by a US appeals court on Tuesday. In a 2-1 decision the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would have reduced harmful emissions from coal-burning power plants and saved the lives of up to 34,000 people per year.

“This decision allows harmful power plant air pollution to continue to aggravate major health problems and foul up our air. This is a loss for all of us, but especially for those living downwind from major polluters,” said John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Proposal to privatize Social Security rears its ugly head again

Despite two major stock market crashes since 2000, the idea of privatizing Social Security is creeping back into public debate via the presidential campaign.

By Michael Hiltzik
August 21, 2012, 6:06 p.m.

Ghosts have nothing on some of the ideas that come out of Washington when it comes to rattling chains and knocking pictures off the wall to terrify the common people.

Case in point: the privatization of Social Security.

One would have thought that this proposal was done in by two major stock market crashes since 2000, not to mention the generally noisome odor arising from almost everything that Wall Street has touched in recent years.
Iceland Was Right, We Were Wrong: The IMF

Jeff Nielson
08/15/12 - 03:14 PM EDT 

VANCOUVER (Silver Gold Bull) -- For approximately three years, our governments, the banking cabal, and the Corporate Media have assured us that they knew the appropriate approach for fixing the economies that they had previously crippled with their own mismanagement. We were told that the key was to stomp on the Little People with "austerity" in order to continue making full interest payments to the Bond Parasites -- at any/all costs.

Following three years of this continuous, uninterrupted failure, Greece has already defaulted on 75% of its debts, and its economy is totally destroyed. The UK, Spain and Italy are all plummeting downward in suicide-spirals, where the more austerity these sadistic governments inflict upon their own people the worse their debt/deficit problems get. Ireland and Portugal are nearly in the same position.

Now in what may be the greatest economic "mea culpa" in history, we have the media admitting that this government/banking/propaganda-machine troika has been wrong all along. They have been forced to acknowledge that Iceland's approach to economic triage was the correct approach right from the beginning.
Paul Krugman: A (Not So) Serious, (Not So) Honest Running Mate

Paul Ryan for vice president, or as Mitt Romney said at the press conference introducing Mr. Ryan as his running mate, "the next president of the United States."

There is lots of horse-race speculation: It's a disaster! No, it changes the conversation away from Bain and those missing tax returns! I have no idea who's right.

What I do know is that anyone who believes in Mr. Ryan's carefully cultivated image as a brave, honest policy wonk has been snookered. Mr. Ryan is, in fact, a big fraud who doesn't care at all about fiscal responsibility, and whose policy proposals are sloppy as well as dishonest. Of course, this means that he'll fit into the Romney campaign just fine.
Inside ALEC's Powerful, Right-Wing Indoctrination Machine

By Alexander Zaitchik

August 20, 2012  |  SALT LAKE CITY -- You won't see signs for the country's sweetest travel-club deal in the window of your local travel store. To join the American Legislative Exchange Council, your fellow citizens must first elect you to statewide office. If you win as a Republican or conservative Democrat, your ALEC state chair will approach with terms of membership you'll find generous, if not impossible to resist. A token $100 buys the opportunity to attend all-inclusive events on ALEC's busy calendar of summits, conferences, and academies, where you and your family can enjoy some of the country's finest resorts and destination hotels. Joints like Utah's Grand America, site of ALEC's just concluded national conference and proud bearer of AAA's "Five Diamond" rating.

It was on the eve of this conference that I first glimpsed the privileges and perks of ALEC membership. I was sitting in the Grand America's Viennese style lobby café, pondering the primrose bush courtyard outside as a young harpist plucked out Fur Elise, when an ALEC staffer appeared and began placing laminated cards on the tables. She was followed by groups of women, the wives and daughters of ALEC state legislators and lobbyists, sitting down to enjoy a British Full Tea of sweets, scones and jams, laid out on an elaborate spread of fine china. I picked up one of the laminated cards and read: "Enjoy your 'ALEC-SNACKS'!" Beneath the text were the logos of Americans for Prosperity and the American Insurance Association, two ALEC sponsors. As ALEC snacks were served, the tables grew atwitter. "This is so nice," said the wide-eyed wife of a Virginia state representative.

Not long after, the china was taken away and the café grew busy with attendees getting down to business. A hundred or so legislators, corporate representatives, and think tank staff [2] greeted each other and ordered cocktails, filling the room with an ambient babble of right-leaning schmooze and networking. I've had to deal with those same damn unions.... We've got a few big tort reform bills in the pipe.... I'd love for you to come visit the plant .... Are you with Goldwater or Heritage now?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spooked by Glass-Steagall’s Ghost?

CAMBRIDGE – America’s long-controversial Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which separated deposit-taking commercial banks from securities-trading investment banks in the United States, is back in the news. This separation long symbolized America’s unusual history of bank regulation – probably the most unusual in the developed world.

American banking regulation had long kept US banks small and local (unable to branch across state lines), unlike their European and Japanese equivalents, while limiting their operational capacity (by barring banks from mixing commercial and investment banking). These limits on American banking persisted until the 1990’s, when Congress repealed most of this regulatory structure. Now the idea of a new Glass-Steagall is back, and not only in the US.
This Former SEAL Attacking Obama's 'Leaks' Has A Very Big Secret Of His Own

Geoffrey Ingersoll | Aug. 17, 2012, 9:32 PM

In an article published recently, I argued that an organization named Operational OpSec Education Fund's recently released Obama attack was insulting and disingenuous, but I really had no idea how right I actually was.

Ken Dilanian of the LA Times gives further depth, reporting that Fred Rustmann, an OpSec member, CIA retiree and an outspoken Republican, appeared on the Hannity and Colmes show in 2005 in order to downplay the outing of a CIA covert operations officer Valerie Plame.

Disclosing the identification of a covert agent is a felony offense, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff for Dick Cheney, went to prison for obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements related to the comment, but he later had his sentence commuted by the Bush administration.
Our Coming Rentcropper Society

We are in the midst of a sea change in terms of the relationship of ordinary Americans to the housing market. Policymakers are not only in denial as to its magnitude, but are actively enabling courses of action that are likely to prove destructive.

One of the accidental and fortunate discoveries of the 1930s was that a long-dated mortgage, meaning 15 to 30 years, was a good fit with working conditions of that era. The Home Owners Loan Corporation refinanced borrowers who were delinquent and in danger of losing their homes from short maturity mortgages to 20 to 25 year ones, considerably lowering borrower payments. This was considered a radical experiment at the time, and was expected to lose $1 billion, a very large sum in those days. When its operations ceased, it had shown a profit. One of the big reasons was the stability of employment. Job tenures were much longer than now; in fact, being fired was rare, and usually a result of business failure or distress, not management whim or need to meet quarterly earnings targets. And with the exception of some very large corporations that liked transferring managers (IBM stood for “I’ve been moved”), families were more likely to remain in the same house over the husband’s working life.
Middle Class Should Rise Up and Ignore the Political Spin

Mary Sanchez | The Kansas City Star

If ever there were a time to pitch a national read-in, this is it.

The 2012 election campaign is upon us, and from what we’ve seen so far, the tenor of the "messaging" is not what anybody would term enlightening.

What the American public needs right now is context. Deeper interpretation of the data that get thrown at us by the news media. Analysis that steps back from conventional wisdom and soberly considers the origin and nature of the stress and fear so many of us feel about where our nation and our society are going.
Glenn Greenwald: US Drone Strikes Target Rescuers in Pakistan - and the West Stays Silent

Attacking rescuers – a tactic long deemed by the US a hallmark of terrorism – is now routinely used by the Obama administration

Glenn Greenwald, Monday 20 August 2012 10.33 EDT

The US government has long maintained, reasonably enough, that a defining tactic of terrorism is to launch a follow-up attack aimed at those who go to the scene of the original attack to rescue the wounded and remove the dead. Morally, such methods have also been widely condemned by the west as a hallmark of savagery. Yet, as was demonstrated yet again this weekend in Pakistan, this has become one of the favorite tactics of the very same US government.

A 2004 official alert from the FBI warned that "terrorists may use secondary explosive devices to kill and injure emergency personnel responding to an initial attack"; the bulletin advised that such terror devices "are generally detonated less than one hour after initial attack, targeting first responders as well as the general population". Security experts have long noted that the evil of this tactic lies in its exploitation of the natural human tendency to go to the scene of an attack to provide aid to those who are injured, and is specifically potent for sowing terror by instilling in the population an expectation that attacks can, and likely will, occur again at any time and place:
"'The problem is that once the initial explosion goes off, many people will believe that's it, and will respond accordingly,' [the Heritage Foundation's Jack] Spencer said … The goal is to 'incite more terror. If there's an initial explosion and a second explosion, then we're thinking about a third explosion,' Spencer said."
Paul Krugman Bashes Niall Ferguson's Newsweek Cover Story As 'Unethical'

The Huffington Post | By Bonnie Kavoussi

Posted: Updated: 08/21/2012 12:20 pm

Paul Krugman says that Newsweek needs to issue a correction for columnist Niall Ferguson's new cover story on why President Obama does not deserve reelection.

Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning Princeton economics professor, wrote in a Sunday New York Times blog post titled "Unethical Commentary" that Ferguson misrepresented the costs of health care reform. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Politics and Prejudice – Insights from Psychological Science

New research from psychological science explores factors operating in political attitudes that could explain why political ideology and prejudice are often linked.

Liberals and Conservatives Both Prejudiced Against Groups with Opposing Values

Research has associated political conservatism with prejudice toward various stereotyped groups. But research has also shown that people select and interpret evidence consistent with their own pre-existing attitudes and ideologies. In this article, Chambers and colleagues hypothesized that, contrary to what some research might indicate, prejudice is not restricted to a particular political ideology. Rather, the conflicting values of liberals and conservatives give rise to different kinds of prejudice, with each group favoring other social groups that share their values. In the first study, three diverse groups of participants rated the ideological position and their overall impression of 34 different target groups. Participants’ impressions fell in line with their ideology. For example, conservatives expressed more prejudice than liberals against groups that were identified as liberal (e.g., African-Americans, homosexuals), but less prejudice against groups identified as conservative (e.g., Christian fundamentalists, business people).
The Creators of the Financial Crisis Are Trying To Rewrite History

National Review, a magazine founded by the late William F. Buckley, is the intellectual leader of the conservative movement. It speaks for the agenda of deregulation and pure free-market theory that overtook and then destroyed our economy.

Back in 2004, National Review put a caricature of me on its cover and called me the most destructive politician in America. Why? Because, as the magazine pointed out in the accompanying article, I was the attorney general of New York at that time, and I and my office were pursuing wrongdoing in a multitude of areas. We were suing coal-burning power plants that were violating the Clean Air Act, we were suing the tobacco companies because of their illegal marketing and deceptive practices, and we were suing virtually all the major Wall Street investment banks for committing fraud and violating their duty of honesty to the public. The feds were doing nothing about these problems before we did. We sued the largest mutual fund companies—which were gaming the market—leading to billions of dollars in refunds to customers and lower fees totaling billions of dollars. Again, this was something the feds were unwilling to do. And, as the article pointed out, we were suing predatory lending companies, long before 2004, and I was warning that subprime debt could be both harmful to the borrower and toxic to the economy. The federal government tried to shut down our effort.
The neverending Republican war on Medicare

by Jon Perr aka Avenging Angel for Daily Kos

In the week since Mitt Romney named Paul Ryan as his running mate, both Democrats and Republicans have claimed theirs is the party which will save and protect Medicare, the federal health insurance program for nearly 50 million seniors. But Americans have good reason to believe one side is lying to them. After all, the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama adds 8 years to the Medicare trust fund, realizing $716 billion in savings over 10 years from private insurers, hospitals and waste while expanding today's benefits to include free preventive care and closing the prescription "donut" hole. In stark contrast, in 2011 and 2012 98 percent of Republicans in Congress voted for Paul Ryan's budget plan, which not only repeals the ACA but would transform Medicare into an under-funded voucher scheme the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office confirmed would dramatically shift health care costs onto future elderly. Just as damning, the Ryan plan takes the same $716 billion in savings to partially offset the cost of its budget-busting tax cut windfall for the wealthy.
Paul Krugman: An Unserious Man

Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate led to a wave of pundit accolades. Now, declared writer after writer, we’re going to have a real debate about the nation’s fiscal future. This was predictable: never mind the Tea Party, Mr. Ryan’s true constituency is the commentariat, which years ago decided that he was the Honest, Serious Conservative, whose proposals deserve respect even if you don’t like him.

But he isn’t and they don’t. Ryanomics is and always has been a con game, although to be fair, it has
become even more of a con since Mr. Ryan joined the ticket.
Fueling the future with renewable gasoline and diesel

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 20, 2012 — A new process for converting municipal waste, algae, corn stalks and similar material to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel is showing the same promise in larger plants as it did in laboratory-scale devices, the developers reported here today. It was part of the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society, which continues through Thursday.

"These results are essential in establishing the credibility of a process that may seem too good to be within the realm of possibility," said Martin Linck, Ph.D. "However, we are moving steadily toward having multiple demonstration-scale facilities in operation by 2014, with each facility producing a range of 3,500-17,500 gallons of fuel a day from non-food plant material. We will be designing commercial-scale facilities that could produce as much as 300,000 gallons per day from the same kinds of feedstocks."
Revealed: How Conservative Radio Creates an Echo Chamber of Hate

August 16, 2012  |  By itself, Pamela Geller's May 2010 appearance on the "Sean Hannity Show" was par for the right-wing talk-radio course. The conservative blogger was brought on to rail against the conservative raison d'outrage of the moment, what she habitually called the “Mega mosque on Ground Zero [3]” (SPOILERS: the whole building really wasn't a mosque, but that wasn't going to stop her) that was being planned in New York City around that time. But a recent study places the Geller-Hannity encounter in a bigger, more dangerous context that observers have noted for years.

The study, released last month by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, used Hannity's radio show and four programs – the "Rush Limbaugh Show," the "Glenn Beck Program," "Savage Nation" and the "John & Ken Show" -- as the focus of an investigation of the influence and confluence of specific interests in ultra-conservative radio programming. The results, as you might imagine, were not surprising.

“The findings reveal that the hosts promoted an insular discourse that focused on, for example, anti-immigration, anti-Islam and pro-Tea Party positions,” the study concluded. “This discourse found repetition and amplification through social media.”
Is an Anti-Austerity Alliance of Left Neo-Classicals and Post-Keynesians Possible? Is it Desirable? (Part 1)

Yves here. The discussion of tribal allegiances in economics in this post helps illustrate why it is so difficult to push back against failed ideas when they are dear to the mainstream. It is also a useful ethnographic guide.

By Michael Hoexter. Cross posted from New Economic Perspectives

I drafted the “Mixed Economy Manifesto” as one attempt to create a common basis for anti-austerity economists and non-economists to argue against, in the clearest terms possible, the waves of government spending cutbacks that are advocated by misguided elites, by the right-wing and by right-leaning neoclassical economists. The 87 “theses” listed at the end of the Manifesto enumerated empirically and logically sound propositions about the economy as it now exists with its mixture of government and private institutions that can under many circumstances productively interact with each other. (I may attempt or others may attempt to expand the arbitrarily numbered 87 to 95 theses which would then be suitable for nailing on doors.) The Mixed Economy Manifesto also contained many statements that would appeal to Left Neo-classicals or New Keynesian economists, while maintaining a basis in what I perceive to be the more realistic ideas about the economy that have been put forward by post-Keynesians, MMTers, and the institutionalist tradition, including Thorsten Veblen and John Kenneth Galbraith.
Paul Ryan and the Problem With Competitve Bidding

—By Kevin Drum  | Sat Aug. 18, 2012 10:40 AM PDT

Paul Ryan is in Florida today promoting his Medicare plan, but there's a part of his plan that he very carefully avoided talking about: what he'll do if his cost controls don't work.

Let's recap: Ryan's plan relies on competitive bidding to hold down costs. Insurance companies bid for Medicare contracts, and seniors all get a voucher that allows them to purchase the second cheapest plan. They can buy one of the cheap plans; they can buy standard Medicare (which submits a bid along with everyone else); or they can pay more and buy a more expensive plan.
New oil spill dispersant made from ingredients in peanut butter, chocolate, ice cream

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 20, 2012 — With concerns about the possible health and environmental effects of oil dispersants in the Deepwater Horizon disaster still fresh in mind, scientists today described a new dispersant made from edible ingredients that both breaks up oil slicks and keeps oil from sticking to the feathers of birds.

"Each of the ingredients in our dispersant is used in common food products like peanut butter, chocolate and whipped cream," said Lisa K. Kemp, Ph.D. She reported on the dispersant at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, being held here this week.
The Conservative Psyche: How Ordinary People Come to Embrace Paul Ryan's Cruelty

By Joshua Holland

August 19, 2012  |  Earlier this year, Democratic operatives looking for the best way to define Mitt Romney discovered something interesting about Paul Ryan's budget. The New York Times reported that when the details of his proposals were run past focus groups, they found that the plan is so cruel that voters [3]simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”

In addition to phasing out the Earned Income Tax Credit that keeps millions of American families above the poverty line and cutting funding for children's healthcare in half, Jonathan Cohn described [4] the “America that Paul Ryan envisions” like this:
Many millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven’t since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn’t have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.
Ryan's “roadmap” may be the least serious budget plan [5] [5]ever to emerge in Washington, but it is reflective of how far to the right the GOP has moved in recent years. According to a recent study of public attitudes conducted by the Pew Research Center, in 1987, 62 percent of Republicans said “the government should take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” but that number has now dropped to just 40 percent (PDF [6]). That attitude was on display during a GOP primary debate last fall when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what fate should befall a healthy person without health insurance who finds himself suddenly facing a catastrophic illness. “Congressman,” Blitzer pressed after Paul sidestepped the question, “are you saying that society should just let him die?" Before Paul had a chance to respond, the audience erupted in cheers [7], with some shouting, “yeah!”

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Recognizing Paul Ryan’s ‘tell’ when he is trying to avoid something

By Matt Miller

In poker a “tell” is the physical giveaway or tic that lets you know someone is lying about his or her hand. In politics it’s the mode of evasion a politician chooses to sidestep a truth he or she doesn’t want to admit or to avoid saying something against self-interest. In his debut interview with Fox News’ Brit Hume Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan’s “tells” were audacious and revealing. They suggest an opening Democrats would be wise to pursue.

Ryan (R-Wis.) tried to cloak himself in his supposedly charming “wonky-ness” to sidestep two simple questions from Hume: When does Mitt Romney’s budget reach balance, and when does Ryan’s own budget plan do the same? Ryan pirouetted because Hume’s queries threatened to expose his famed “fiscal conservatism” as a fraud.

It’s worth parsing Ryan’s tactics in this exchange because it shows the brand of disingenuousness we’re dealing with. So let’s go to the videotape. Have a look at the relevant two-minute portion of the clip (excerpted on this CNN video) and then we’ll dissect it.
On Social Security, Say It IS So, Joe!

O’Brien lays waste to anti-Obama Navy SEAL’s claim of ‘non-partisanship’

By David Ferguson
Friday, August 17, 2012 14:42 EDT

It seems that Soledad O’Brien, the host of CNN’s “Starting Point,” is on a roll. Each day brings another ill-prepared surrogate from one of the presidential campaigns before her, and each day she proceeds to cheerfully eviscerate their talking points before sweetly thanking them for coming on the show and sending them on their way.

On Friday’s edition of “Starting Point” O’Brien challenged “OPSEC” or “Operational Security group” spokesperson and former Navy SEAL Scott Taylor’s purported “non-partisan” status.
Paul Krugman: What’s In The Ryan Plan?

A number of commenters have asked for a summary of what’s actually in the Ryan plan. So this is a utility post.

The first thing you should know is that there are a couple of vintages of the plan, with some changes in detail, but not in general thrust. As it happens, the best nonpartisan analysis, in my judgment, is the CBO report on the first vintage (pdf); as I said, details change, but the general idea remains the same.
Only Bankruptcy Can Help Now

Greece has disappointed its creditors yet again. Now its government plans to ask for more time -- and needs billions more in aid. But Greece's euro-zone partners are unwilling to provide any more help, meaning that the only hope now is to admit defeat and let the country make a fresh start.

Officially, at least, everything is going according to plan. In September, officials with the troika -- made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- are planning to travel to Athens to check on the progress that Greece has made with its cost-cutting program. Then, according to the plan, they could disburse billions more in aid out of the second bailout package for Greece, which the euro-zone countries and the IMF agreed on in February.

But, in reality, it is rather unlikely that all of the €130 billion ($160 billion) in the bailout package will ever be paid out. And what is even more unlikely is that the money would keep Greece from going bankrupt.
Will the Real Independents Please Stand Up?

For die-hard Democrats and Republicans, the decision of who to vote for in November may be a no-brainer. In recent years, however, many voters have rejected such partisan identities, choosing to call themselves Independents.

But new research suggests that Independents may not be as independent as they think.

Psychological scientists Carlee Beth Hawkins and Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia decided to use a tool called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT, to explore the unconscious biases that churn deep inside the Independent mind.
Bill Black: Slate's William Saletan Epitomizes Media's Bizarre Infatuation with Paul Ryan

August 17, 2012 | William Saletan has written a column that epitomizes the media’s bizarre infatuation with Paul Ryan. Saletan entitles his piece “Why I Love Paul Ryan.”  His intro summarizes his attraction to Ryan:  “He’s what a Republican should be: an honest, open-minded, solution-oriented fiscal conservative.”

Here is how Saletan attempts to show that Ryan is worthy of his unconditional love.
“Ryan is a real fiscal conservative. He isn’t just another Tea-Party ideologue spouting dogma about less government and the magic of free enterprise. He has actually crunched the numbers and laid out long-term budget proposals. My liberal friends point out that Ryan’s plan leaves many details unclear. That’s true. But show me another Republican who has addressed the nation’s fiscal problems as candidly and precisely as Ryan has. He’s got the least detailed budget proposal out there, except for all the others.”
Ryan is the leading Tea Party ideologue.
On 77th Birthday, Social Security Under Attack

by Bernie Sanders

We are now in the midst of the fiercest and best-financed attack against Social Security in our lifetimes.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are now being spent to destroy Social Security and endanger the well-being of millions of Americans. We must not allow that effort to succeed.
Ryan's Plan Kills Medicare Now, Not in 10 Years
Posted: 08/13/2012 7:11 pm

I just read a fast-moving mystery novel, Pryme Knumber, by Matthew J Flynn. It was a great read, and none other than Paul Ryan (R-WI) appears briefly. Very appropriately, he appears first standing with a lobbyist. Presciently, Flynn says that, because he does not appear as someone who would "torch a lingerie factory," and for that reason only, he was considered a "future leader" by Republicans who might "do something."

We know what that "something" is -- killing Medicare. And, that is not fiction.
4 Ways Paul Ryan’s Budget Would Devastate The Poor

By Igor Volsky and Pat Garofalo on Aug 17, 2012 at 10:25 am

National media attention has focused on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) drastic restructuring of the Medicare program, detailing the Vice Presidential candidate’s efforts to transform the current benefit guarantee into a “premium support” program for future enrollees. 
BPA link to narrowing of the arteries

A research team from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (PCMD), University of Exeter, and University of Cambridge has for the first time established a link between high levels of urinary Bisphenol-A (BPA) and severe coronary artery stenosis (narrowing of the arteries).

The study is published in PLoS ONE today, 15th August 2012.

The team analysed data from 591 patients who participated in the Metabonomics and Genomics Coronary Artery Disease (MaGiCAD) study in Cambridgeshire, UK. They compared urinary BPA with grades of severity of coronary artery disease (CAD).
5 Ways Privatization Is Ruining America

August 13, 2012 | A grand delusion has been planted in the minds of Americans, that privately run systems are more efficient and less costly than those in the public sector. Most of the evidence points the other way. Private initiatives generally produce mediocre or substandard results while experiencing the usual travails of unregulated capitalism -- higher prices, limited services, and lower wages for all but a few 'entrepreneurs.'

With perverse irony, the corruption and incompetence of private industry has actually furthered the cause of privatization, as the collapse of the financial markets has deprived state and local governments of necessary public funding, leading to an even greater call for private development.
Spiteful behavior is 'extreme', according to study

Given the option to commit spiteful acts, reducing the money payoffs of others at no cost to themselves, many people avoid acting spitefully, but those that do, consistently impose the maximum harm, according to research reported on Aug. 15 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.
Nature | News Demand for water outstrips supply

Groundwater use is unsustainable in many of the world's major agricultural zones.

Amanda Mascarelli
Almost one-quarter of the world’s population lives in regions where groundwater is being used up faster than it can be replenished, concludes a comprehensive global analysis of groundwater depletion, published this week in Nature1.

Across the world, human civilizations depend largely on tapping vast reservoirs of water that have been stored for up to thousands of years in sand, clay and rock deep underground. These massive aquifers — which in some cases stretch across multiple states and country borders — provide water for drinking and crop irrigation, as well as to support ecosystems such as forests and fisheries.
The US Government Can Track Your Location at Any Time Without a Warrant

Is law enforcement tracking your cell phone's GPS more like intercepting a phone call or tailing someone on the street? A federal court decision says it's more like following you—which means the authorities don't need to get a warrant to find out where you are at any given time.

The case involves a marijuana courier, Melvin Skinner, whose disposable cell phone was being tracked by the Drug Enforcement Agency as he moved his cargo from Arizona to Tennessee. The DEA got a court order (not a warrant) compelling Skinner's cell phone company to share his GPS information—the release of which led to Skinner's capture and arrest.
Obama Campaign Strikes Back Against Former Navy SEALs
John Hudson  
Aug 16, 2012

Politically speaking, Navy SEALs aren't the safest targets to rail against in a presidential race, but the Obama campaign isn't hesitating to take down a group of former SEALs who've criticized the president's national security decisions.

On Thursday morning, campaign officials waged a full court press against the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, a group of former U.S. Special Forces and intelligence officials accusing President Obama of leaking vital national security secrets and taking too much credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden. When the group launched its anti-Obama media campaign Wednesday, consisting of TV ads and a 22-minute film, it wasn't clear if Obama officials would avoid a potentially messy confrontation or refute the military veterans publicly. But now the campaign has made clear it views the attacks in the same light as the 2004 John Kerry "Swift Boat" attack ads, which, however misleading, were painfully effective.
The One Housing Solution Left: Mass Mortgage Refinancing

Published: August 12, 2012

MORE than four million Americans have lost their homes since the housing bubble began bursting six years ago. An additional 3.5 million homeowners are in the foreclosure process or are so delinquent on payments that they will be soon. With 13.5 million homeowners underwater — they owe more than their home is now worth — the odds are high that many millions more will lose their homes.

Housing remains the biggest impediment to economic recovery, yet Washington seems paralyzed. While the Obama administration’s housing policies have fallen short, Mitt Romney hasn’t offered any meaningful new proposals to aid distressed or underwater homeowners.
Glenn Greenwald: The Right’s Brittle Heroes

The contrast between Paul Ryan's iconic image and his personal reality is typical of America's
partisan leaders

The contrast between (a) how Paul Ryan is depicted by worshipful Republicans and media figures alike — as a principled fiscal conservative and advocate of Randian self-sufficiency  – and the reality of what he’s done in his life is as stark as it is typical. The American Right has an amazing ability to lionize leaders whose lives are the precise antithesis of the political values that define their image.

For the last decade, conservatives transformed George Bush and Dick Cheney into the embodiments of warrior courage, even though they both scampered away from combat, letting others fight and die for them in a war they both supported. The same is true of almost every leading right-wing super-patriot tough-guy: John Bolton, Bill Kristol, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh – and Mitt Romney. Somehow, when the authoritarians on the Right search for icons of manly warrior power to venerate, they find only those who like to melodramatically play-act as such, but who ran away when it came time to actually perform. Indeed, such figures dress themselves up with extra-flamboyant trappings of faux Toughness for the same reason female impersonators have long favored over-the-top feminine costumes and gaudy make-up: the more one lacks an attribute which one wishes to project, the more extreme one must be in pretending.

Saving the Post Office: Letter Carriers Consider Bringing Back Banking Services
Sunday, 12 August 2012 00:00  
By Ellen Brown, Truthout | News Analysis 

On July 27, 2012, the National Association of Letter Carriers adopted a resolution at their national convention in Minneapolis to investigate the establishment of a postal banking system. The resolution noted that expanding postal services and developing new sources of revenue are important components of any effort to save the public post office and preserve living-wage jobs; that many countries have a long and successful history of postal banking, including Germany, France, Italy, Japan and the United States itself; and that postal banks could serve the nine million people who don't have a bank account and the 21 million who use usurious check cashers, giving low-income people access to a safe banking system. "A USPS [United States Postal Service] bank would offer a 'public option' for banking," concluded the resolution, "providing basic checking and savings - and no complex financial wheeling and dealing."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Is the Era of Oil Nearing Its End?

Sunday, 12 August 2012 09:16

By Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers | Report

Washington - After nearly a decade of warnings that the world’s oil supply was running out, Americans now are hearing about technology breakthroughs that can unlock vast U.S. deposits of natural gas, help reverse a 40-year slide in domestic oil production and perhaps transform America into the next Middle East.

But despite the euphoria, there’s a major problem: The looming American oil glut may simply not be enough to sate the United States and the rest of motorized humanity.
Seven Things The Media Need To Know About Paul Ryan

The media have portrayed Rep. Paul Ryan as a courageous reformer who is offering serious solutions to fix the country's finances. In reality, Ryan is an ideologue who offers fraudulent proposals that would hurt low and middle income Americans and put the social safety net in jeopardy. Media Matters looks at what the media should know about Paul Ryan and his policies.

Media Have Portrayed Ryan As A Serious and Responsible Reformer

1. Ryan Wants Low And Middle Income Americans To "Bear The Entire Burden" Of His Fiscal Reforms

2. Ryan Plan Would Drastically Hurt Medicare And Medicaid Recipients

3. Ryan Has A Fraudulent Plan To Reduce The Deficit

4. Fiscal Hawk? Ryan Supported Policies That Caused Massive Deficits

5. Ryan Has Repeatedly Proposed Partially Privatizing Social Security

6. Ryan Is A Historically Ideological VP Nominee Pick

7. Paul Ryan: George W. Bush Endorsed

Media Have Portrayed Ryan As A Serious and Responsible Reformer

Members Of The Media Have Called Ryan "Courageous," "Genius" And "The Adult In the Room." During his time as House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been portrayed by members of the media as a serious reformer who is working to diligently reform the country's financial situation. For examples of the media's praise of Ryan, go here, here, here, here and here.
Credit to Small Enterprise: The Silent Crisis

Saturday, 11 August 2012 12:09  
By Jayati Ghosh, TripleCrisis | News Analysis 

A new BIS working paper by Cecchetti and Kharroubi makes a point that is becoming more widely known, especially after the continuing financial crises experienced globally since 2008. This is that the level of financial development is good only up to a point, after which it becomes a drag on growth. In fact, the authors argue that when the focus is on advanced economies, a fast-growing financial sector is actually detrimental to aggregate productivity growth. This is explained by the authors on the grounds that, because the financial sector competes with the rest of the economy for scarce resources, financial booms are not, in general, growth-enhancing.

The recent experience of the United States and now particularly Europe, certainly confirms this – and even established doyens of the world of private finance are now more willing to concede this. But one critical aspect of the failure of financial intermediation is still inadequately recognised and discussed: the inability of the currently constituted private financial system to deliver funds to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which still account for the bulk of employment not just in developing countries but also in advanced economies.
Study shows official measures of American poverty off-base

For more than 45 years, the poor in this country have been identified by the U.S. Census Bureau's Official Poverty Measure — a tool that determines America's poverty rate based on pretax money income, which does not reflect all the resources at a family's disposal.

That method of calculating who is poor and who is not has been under fire by researchers for years because it doesn't calculate the benefits of anti-poverty programs — such as food stamps and housing subsidies — into its formula. In response to the criticism, the Census Bureau released in fall 2011 the Supplemental Poverty Measure to more accurately assess poverty in America. A culmination of more than three decades of research on poverty measurement, the supplemental measure is used as a complement, not a replacement, for the Official Poverty Measure.
Why the Right Has New Legal Ammunition in Its Quest to End Medicare, Social Security and Our Entire Social Safety Net

By Jessica Mason Pieklo

If you think the right wing would have been content with killing the healthcare reform law that is the centerpiece of President Obama's agenda, think again. With a new strategy in hand, they're coming for it all: Medicaid, Social Security and welfare programs -- in addition to the Affordable Care Act.

Conservatives may have been dealt a momentary set-back when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in June, but there's every reason to think they plan to use that decision to launch even more legal attacks [3] not just on the healthcare reform law, but on the entire social safety net -- and plenty of reason to worry they'll succeed.

Launching a legal crusade takes time, and theories challenging established law usually get worked out first in the laboratories of law schools and think-tanks. In the case of the challenges to constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and the coming challenges to other social programs, conservatives first decided on a political strategy and then reverse-engineered a legal strategy to get them to their political goals.
Retirement expert: Medicare woes mostly rooted in myth

8/8/2012 | Phil Ciciora, Business & Law Editor | 217-333-2177;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Various misconceptions surrounding the continued viability of Medicare can be debunked or discredited, making it more important than ever for voters and policymakers to fully understand the program’s existing contours and limitations, according to a paper published by a University of Illinois expert on retirement benefits.

Law professor Richard L. Kaplan says Medicare has become one of the most controversial federal programs for numerous reasons, but misinformation has played a key role in fostering criticism of it.
Five Ways We Can Break the Big Banks' Death Grip on the Economy

Thursday, 09 August 2012 14:04
By Stephen Lerner, AlterNet | Op-Ed

Wall Street’s incredible greed and arrogance may have finally handed us the tools and leverage we need. 

Let’s be honest. Many people are feeling a little hopeless and cynical about whether anything can change how Wall Street banks run roughshod over the economy and our democracy. We’ve marched, rallied, sat-in and thousands have been arrested--and yet bankers have remained unrepentant, unpunished, unindicted and seemingly untouchable. But the wheels of history are turning and Wall Street’s incredible greed and arrogance may have finally handed us the tools and leverage we need to challenge and break the death grip Wall Street has on struggling people and communities around the country.
Reuters Runs Interference for Elite Corruption, Scrubs Article That Shows How Banks Get Out of Jail Free

Marcy Wheeler put up a useful post yesterday morning, based on a Reuters article describing the efforts of Standard Chartered to combat the damage done by its making illegal transfers on behalf of Iranian banks.

Marcy picked up on how the article revealed the techniques used by big banks to escape suffering meaningful consequences of their misdeeds:
DHS Crushed This Analyst for Warning About Far-Right Terror

By Spencer Ackerman, August 7, 2012 | 5:04 pm

Daryl Johnson had a sinking feeling when he started seeing TV reports on Sunday about a shooting in a Wisconsin temple. “I told my wife, ‘This is likely a hate crime perpetrated by a white supremacist who may have had military experience,’” Johnson recalls.

It was anything but a lucky guess on Johnson’s part. He spent 15 years studying domestic terrorist groups — particularly white supremacists and neo-Nazis — as a government counterterrorism analyst, the last six of them at the Department of Homeland Security. There, he even homebrewed his own database on far-right extremist groups on an Oracle platform, allowing his analysts to compile and sift reporting in the media and other law-enforcement agencies on radical and potentially violent groups.
David Cay Johnston: The troubled trade deal with South Korea

SEOUL — In March, the United States and South Korea implemented a Free Trade Agreement that President Barack Obama touts as more significant than the last nine such agreements combined. He also said it was central to his goal of doubling American exports within five years.

I think the president suffers from irrational trade exuberance, a view reinforced by my reporting in this city of 10 million people.

This deal is likely to turn out badly for American taxpayers and workers, especially autoworkers.
How The House GOP Budget Would Decimate America’s Cities And States

By Travis Waldron on Aug 9, 2012 at 10:50 am

ThinkProgress has chronicled the ways in which the House Republican budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), targets programs that benefit the poor and middle class to find most of its spending cuts, even as it gives the rich and corporations $3 trillion in tax breaks. The budget also would hit America’s middle class in another way: by decimating state and local budgets, as a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities details.

The budget’s cuts to federal discretionary spending would cause reductions in the amount the federal government contributes to state and local governments, causing deep cuts to state programs that deal with transportation, education, housing, public safety, and the environment, according to CBPP.
Defense Companies Use Congress to Save Their Profits, No Matter What (Part One)
Thursday, 02 August 2012 09:54  
By Dina Rasor, Truthout | Solutions 

In this column two weeks ago, I discussed how the Pentagon and its contractors used several ruses over the years to thwart any discussion about cutting their budget. These ploys are especially frustrating now because the generals and bureaucracy in the Pentagon act like any cuts, especially the cuts planned in the budget sequestration that may or may not take place by the end of the year, are the end of the world as we know it. All this frenzy over any Pentagon budget cuts needs to be tempered by the facts - the Pentagon budget is higher than during the height of the cold war and even the sequestration cuts would take us back to 2006 levels when George Bush was president.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cutbacks to Unemployment Insurance Came Long Before the Great Recession

You may have heard that we’re in the middle of an unemployment crisis. It’s little wonder that an average of 365,500 people per week made new claims for unemployment benefits over the past month. These high numbers have been straining unemployment insurance programs at the federal and state level, and many states have run out of reserves to pay for them, triggering a reduction in benefits. But this crisis wasn’t inevitable. The pull back in unemployment benefits is just another result of state-level choices to cut taxes at the expense of state spending, spending that could be cushioning the blow of the Great Recession.

States are unable to adequately finance their unemployment insurance programs just when they are most needed not because they were unexpectedly overwhelmed. As a new report from the National Employment Law Project shows, it was because they failed to finance them during the good times like they’re supposed to. Here’s the way it works: federal law requires each state to collect unemployment insurance contributions from employers and deposit them into a state trust fund held in the treasury. During good times, the trust funds accumulate reserves so that claims can be paid out during downturns. This makes the program countercyclical, helping to pump money into workers’ pockets and therefore businesses (via their spending) when times are tough.
Paul Krugman: US Conservatives Pile on the Excuses

he commentators Mike Konczal and Jonathan Chait both had good blog posts recently on "You didn't build that," the statement President Obama made during a speech in July that, deliberately misinterpreted, has dominated right-wing discourse these past few days. But I think both of them missed a couple of tricks.

The first is that both in effect shrugged their shoulders over the fact that for several days running the central theme of the Romney campaign has rested on a complete lie.