Saturday, September 29, 2012

Paul Krugman: After Making a Mess of Iraq, Bush Advisers Join Team Romney

I have to admit that I haven't been paying much attention to Mitt Romney's foreign policy; the domestic side already offers a target-rich environment. But my eyebrows shot up when Dan Senor popped up speaking for Mr. Romney in the aftermath of the protests in Libya and Egypt. Dan Senor?

I mean, Mr. Senor is one of the key figures in Rajiv Chandrasekharan's book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," an account of the United States' disastrous occupation of Iraq. As the head of public relations for the Coalition Provisional Authority, Mr. Senor exemplified the core problem with that occupation: officials were chosen for political loyalty to President George W. Bush, not experience or competence, and were evidently much more interested in getting Mr. Bush re-elected than in running the country they were supposed to be fixing.

Leftists Explain Things to Me

Posted on Sep 28, 2012
By Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch

Dear Allies,

Forgive me if I briefly take my eyes off the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal,  and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that,  however, I’ve come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.

O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us.  Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.
Why the American Raj is Under Seige

America can no longer afford its global imperium

by Eric Margolis
The killing of the US ambassador to Libya and angry demonstrations across the Muslim world over a tacky anti-Islamic hate video have produced the usual flood of wrong-headed commentary from our media and politicians.

Across the land comes the familiar cry, “why do they hate us?” That any Americans can in this day and age still be surprised that their nation is hated by many people from Morocco to Indonesia to Nigeria is by far the biggest surprise. We have learned little from 9/11.

America, this is how you’re using your energy

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, an arm of the Department of Energy, is tasked with determining how much energy the United States uses and what it is used for. Wondering how much energy people use in their houses to stay warm? The EIA has that answer. Curious about fuel efficiency trends over time? Ask the EIA. Wondering how much oil America uses compared to how much it imports? Et cetera, et cetera.

Each year the agency puts together a massive report answering that question. Yesterday, it released the report for 2011. Here are some of the most interesting findings.
U.S. Military Still Using "Jesus rifles" in Afghanistan

Posted by Bruce Wilson

It's not official policy, but with Internet access a 12-year old child anywhere in the Islamic world could construct, with relative ease, a plausible conspiracy theory claiming that the United States had invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, and was wielding its military, diplomatic, and soft-power in the Middle East and elsewhere, to combat Islam and advance a global Christian empire.

The continued use, per a breaking NBC story, of the infamous "jesus rifles" by U.S. troops in Afghanistan matters not only because it endangers U.S. troops by needlessly inflaming religious hatreds; for Muslims who suspect a Western war on Islam, it's yet another data point to plug in. As NBC's Kari Huus reports [2],
When the so-called "Jesus rifle" came to light in Jan. 2010, it sparked constitutional and security concerns, and a maelstrom of media coverage. The Pentagon ordered the removal of the secret code referring to Bible passages that the manufacturer had inscribed on the scopes of the standard issue rifles carried by U.S. soldiers into battle in Iraq and Afghanistan... ...The code stamped into the metal of the soldier’s ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) ends with the model number with "JN8:12." which refers to the New Testament passage, John 8:12, which reads: "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
The gunsight, produced by the Michigan company Trijicon, can also feature code referring to scripture from the Biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Corinthians, and Revelations.
Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws

by Suevon Lee
ProPublica, Sept. 27, 2012, 12:35 p.m.

Editor's note, Sept. 27, 2012 This post, which was first published July 23, 2012, has been updated and clarified with new developments.

Voter IDs laws have become a political flashpoint in what's gearing up to be another close election year. Supporters say the laws — which 30 states have now enacted in some form — are needed to combat voter fraud, while critics see them as a tactic to disenfranchise voters.

We've taken a step back to look at the facts behind the laws and break down the issues at the heart of the debate.
Don't Let Them Push Social Security Off The Fiscal Cliff

Paul Krugman: Europe's Austerity Madness

So much for complacency. Just a few days ago, the conventional wisdom was that Europe finally had things under control. The European Central Bank, by promising to buy the bonds of troubled governments if necessary, had soothed markets. All that debtor nations had to do, the story went, was agree to more and deeper austerity — the condition for central bank loans — and all would be well.

But the purveyors of conventional wisdom forgot that people were involved. Suddenly, Spain and Greece are being racked by strikes and huge demonstrations. The public in these countries is, in effect, saying that it has reached its limit: With unemployment at Great Depression levels and with erstwhile middle-class workers reduced to picking through garbage in search of food, austerity has already gone too far. And this means that there may not be a deal after all.

Hedge Fund Hype, Wall Street Horoscopes, and Drop-Top Jets: The Magical Minds of the "Radical Rich"

The Lie Factory

How politics became a business.

by Jill Lepore
September 24, 2012

“I, Governor of California, and How I Ended Poverty,” by Upton Sinclair, is probably the most thrilling piece of campaign literature ever written. Instead of the usual flummery, Sinclair, the author of forty-seven books, including, most famously, “The Jungle,” wrote a work of fiction. “I, Governor of California,” published in 1933, announced Sinclair’s gubernatorial bid in the form of a history of the future, in which Sinclair is elected governor in 1934, and by 1938 has eradicated poverty. “So far as I know,” the author remarked, “this is the first time an historian has set out to make his history true.” 

It was only sixty-four pages, but it sold a hundred and fifty thousand copies in four months. Chapter 1: “On an evening in August, 1933, there took place a conference attended by five members of the County Central Committee of the Democratic party, Sixtieth Assembly District of the State of California.” That might not sound like a page-turner, unless you remember that at the time California was a one-party state: in 1931, almost all of the hundred and twenty seats in the state legislature were held by Republicans; not a single Democrat held a statewide office. Also useful to recall: the unemployment rate in the state was twenty-nine per cent. Back to that meeting in August, 1933: “The purpose was to consider with Upton Sinclair the possibility of his registering as a Democrat and becoming the candidate of the party for Governor of California.” What if Sinclair, a lifelong socialist, ran as a Democrat? That’s one nifty plot twist.
Social Security: Solidarity, Not Investment

The most fundamental misunderstanding about an essential program

by Jeff Nygaard
Recently the Associated Press (AP) published a four-part series of stories examining “the state of Social Security and its long-term health.”  The AP said that “Few things affect more Americans than the future of Social Security, and yet it’s an issue mostly invisible during the current campaign.”  True, it’s not talked about much, but perhaps more important is the fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the program that is revealed when people do talk about it.

This misunderstanding was revealed in the very first installment of the AP series, which appeared on August 5th.  The headline on this kick-off piece read, “Social Security Not Deal it Once Was for Workers.”  Asked the AP, “How can you get a better return on your Social Security taxes?”
Quadrillion Dollar Derivatives Market 20 Times Global GDP

Markus Stanley: Derivative bets not a zero sum game, have far reaching real world consequences


Marcus Stanley is the Policy Director of Americans for Financial Reform. Americans for Financial Reform is a coalition of more than 250 national, state, and local groups who have come together to advocate for reform of the financial sector. Members of AFR include consumer, labor, civil rights, investor, retiree, community faith based and business groups along with prominent independent experts. Dr. Stanley has a Phd in public policy from Harvard University, and previously worked as an economic and policy advisor to Senator Barbara Boxer, as a Senior Economist at the U.S. Joint Economic Committee, and as an Assistant Professor of Economics at Case Western Reserve University.


PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.
After the crisis in 2008, many of us became aware of some language, a vocabulary we hadn't heard before—derivatives, credit default swaps, synthetic bets, this whole dark market that now involves, according to one academic, perhaps as much as $1 quadrillion. So what's $1 quadrillion look like? Well, take a look at these graphics. These are done by Here's what $1 trillion looks like if you put it into a queue next to the Empire State building or the Sears Tower. Okay, that's $1 trillion. Well, here's what $1 quadrillion would look like. Yeah. Enormous. So $1 quadrillion dollars—it boggles the mind. This means that it's—the size of the derivatives market is something like 20 times the value of all products produced on the planet.Well, people say, well, if this is so big and have such enormous implications to the global economy, it should be regulated. And that's a subject of our interview today, 'cause there's a big battle going on about whether or not this market will be regulated, and if so, how.Now joining us to talk about all of this is Markus Stanley. Markus is the policy director of Americans for Financial Reform, which is the main public interest coalition working for stronger financial reform. He previously worked as a senior economist at the U.S. Joint Economic Committee and as an assistant professor of economics at Case Western Reserve University. Thanks very much for joining us, Markus.
Breakthrough in kitchen furniture production: Biocomposites challenge chipboard

Biocomposites challenge chipboard as furniture material. Researchers at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have developed a kitchen furniture framework material from plastic polymers reinforced with natural fibre. The new material reduces raw materials consumption by 25 per cent and the carbon footprint of production by 35 per cent.

"The frames are lighter by nearly a third because they contain more air," says VTT's Research Professor Ali Harlin. "Wastage during production is also reduced. This is a generational shift that revolutionizes both manufacturing techniques and design."
Sheila Bair Gives Her Account of the Crisis, and (Quelle Surprise!) the Bailouts and Geithner Do Not Look Pretty

Sheila Bair’s new book Bull by the Horns is out and based on early reports, it looks like it skewers the bailouts in general and Tim Geithner in particular. But it also gets a lot into the weeds in what still needs to be fixed in bank-land, which is a part of these crisis post-mortems and retrospectives that too often get short shrift.

Rolfe Winkler at the Wall Street Journal has an informative chat with her about the book and her experience during the crisis.
News Consumption of Political Stories Not Enough to Retain Political Knowledge

Teens Must Think About and Discuss Politics to Learn, MU Study Finds

Sept. 25, 2012
Story Contact(s):
Nathan Hurst,, 573-882-6217 

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­—A strong democracy depends on smart voters who choose their leaders based on their knowledge of important political issues. One of the ways that Americans learn about politics is by following the news. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri School of Journalism have found that simply following the news is not enough.

A panel survey involving more than 1,200 teenagers from 12 to 17 years of age found that adolescents learn more about politics when they think and talk about what they read or watch on the news. Edson Tandoc, a doctoral student at MU, found that adolescents who spend more time thinking and talking about the news with their peers and relatives tend to know more about political developments in the country.
The TPP: A Quiet Coup for the Investor Class

The Obama administration's trade negotiators are quietly selling out workers and the environment in a massive Bush-style trade agreement.

by Hilary Matfess 
It would be a relief to report with any certainty that the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a massive proposed free-trade zone spanning the Pacific Ocean and all four hemispheres—are definitely empowering corporations to the detriment of workers, the environment, and sovereignty throughout the region. Unfortunately, the secretive and opaque character of the negotiations has made it difficult to report much of anything about them.

What can be confidently reported about the TPP is that, in terms of trade flows, it would be the largest free-trade agreement yet entered into by the United States—and, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service, that the ministers negotiating the agreement “have expressed an intent to comprehensively reduce barriers in goods, services, and agricultural trade as well as rules and disciplines on a wide range of topics” to unprecedented levels. Yet despite these grandiose ambitions, details of the negotiations and drafts of the text have been purposefully withheld from Congress and American citizens.

Matt Taibbi: This Presidential Race Should Never Have Been This Close

The press everywhere is buzzing this week with premature obituaries of the Romney campaign. New polls are out suggesting that Mitt Romney's electoral path to the presidency is all but blocked. Unless someone snags an iPhone video of Obama taking a leak on Ohio State mascot Brutus Buckeye, or stealing pain meds from a Tampa retiree and sharing them with a bunch of Japanese carmakers, the game looks pretty much up – Obama's widening leads in three battleground states, Virginia, Ohio and Florida, seem to have sealed the deal.

That's left the media to speculate, with a palpable air of sadness, over where the system went wrong. Whatever you believe, many of these articles say, wherever you rest on the ideological spectrum, you should be disappointed that Obama ultimately had to run against such an incompetent challenger. Weirdly, there seems to be an expectation that presidential races should be closer, and that if one doesn't come down to the wire in an exciting photo finish, we've all missed out somehow.

Only a Revolution in Our Thinking Can Save Us From a Water Crisis

By Tara Lohan

September 26, 2012  |  We like to flush our toilets. A lot. Our flush figure for the U.S. is at 5.7 billion gallons [4] a day in our homes alone. It's one of the great examples of American excess -- people across the world don't have enough clean drinking water, and yet we're happy to send it down the drain.

Of course, the last laugh may be on us. As we head into the fall nearly half of U.S. states are experiencing extreme or exceptional drought [5]. Lack of rainfall is the easy culprit, but the truth is we don't manage our water resources well enough to deal with times of shortage. Just ask Atlanta, which went nearly bone-dry in 2007 or Las Vegas, which is working on an engineering a pricy $15 billion [6] water pipeline to supplement its dwindling stocks. We can't blame it all on our flushing frenzy though; power plants and agriculture suck up the vast majority of our water. Not to mention the fact that industry often gets a free pass to pollute, our city managers fail to account for water when green-lighting new development, and we turn the other way when asked to consider the impacts of climate change.
Paul Krugman: In Britain and the US, Economic Mysticism Endures

Friday, 21 September 2012

In a lot of ways George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer (or finance minister) is Britain's answer to Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for vice president. True, he's a toned-down version — no Ayn Rand, please, we're British — but other aspects of the package are there in full force: Mr. Osborne is articulate, has a vision that's completely at odds with everything we actually know about macroeconomics, and he was for a while the darling not just of the right but of self-proclaimed centrists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mr. Osborne's big idea in 2010 was that Britain should turn to fiscal austerity now now now, even though the economy remained deeply depressed; it would all work out, he insisted, because the confidence fairy would come to the rescue.
Ryan's 'Secret' Tape Is Even More Extreme Than Romney's

By Richard (RJ) Eskow
September 24, 2012 - 1:08pm ET

When they booed Paul Ryan at the American Association of Retired Persons last week, most people didn't even know he called Medicare and Social Security "third party or socialist-based systems." Or that he said he wants to privatize them in order to "break the back" of a "collectivist philosophy."

On recently transcribed remarks from an audio recording, Ryan said his ideas and values were shaped by an extremist author who thought humanity must "reject the morality of altruism," and that his opinions on monetary policy are guided by a fictional speech which says "the words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality."

Ralph Reed's Group Compares Obama Policies to Nazi Germany

In a "voter registration" mailer, the outfit founded by the ex-Christian Coalition leader also refers to Obama's "Communist beliefs."

A mailer blasted out by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a nonprofit group spending millions of dollars to mobilize evangelical voters this November to help Mitt Romney's campaign, compares President Barack Obama's policies to the threat posed by Nazi Germany and Japan during World War II. It also says that Obama has "Communist beliefs." A copy of this so-called "Voter Registration Confirmation Survey" was obtained by Mother Jones after it was sent to the home of a registered Republican voter.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition is the brainchild of Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition who was once hailed as "the right hand of God" and who is now tasked with getting out the evangelical vote for Romney. In the mid-2000s, Reed was ensnared in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Reed was a longtime friend of Abramoff's, and he took payments from Abramoff to lobby against certain American Indian casinos. Reed once ran a religious-themed anti-gambling campaign at the behest of an Abramoff-connected Native American tribe to try to prevent another tribe from opening a competitor casino. His current efforts for Romney are something of a political rehabilitation for Reed.
Obama and the Second Term's Ticking Timebomb

Sept 24 -  By Charles P. Pierce at 4:03PM

Oh, Andrew. The willingness to believe in snow-white unicorns is so charming in a person of your brains and abilities.

Not that I don't take your speculations about a second Obama term seriously. I do. I take many of them so seriously that I positively dread the fact that you may be right. To wit:
Obama's previous position had been to favor a roughly 2.5 to 1 spending-cut to tax-hike formula, along with a return to Clinton-era rates on the very wealthy. He's also open to tax reform as a way to raise revenue while minimizing rate increases, as his own Simpson-Bowles commission recommended (after being torpedoed by Paul Ryan). So far, the GOP has refused even a 10 to 1 deal with no revenue increases at all.

Why Are the Right-Wing Media Obsessed with an Imaginary Woman's Success Story?

September 21, 2012  |  Conservatives talk a lot about "dependency," but it's not clear that they know what the word means. Consider, for example, the right's bizarre reaction to a rather benign online campaign the White House pushed briefly earlier this year called “The Life of Julia [3],” a slide-show featuring a fictional Everywoman that was meant to highlight how Obama's policies might improve the lives of average Americans.

It follows the Julia character from age 3 through her retirement. She's self-sufficient, hard-working and entrepreneurial; the embodiment of what conservatives are supposed to applaud. Although she isn't born into a wealthy family, her perserverence is ultimately rewarded with success.

If you're not a consumer of the conservative media, you may not have even heard about Julia, but the right is obsessed with her to an extent that's kind of creepy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Paul Krugman: The Optimism Cure

Mitt Romney is optimistic about optimism. In fact, it’s pretty much all he’s got. And that fact should make you very pessimistic about his chances of leading an economic recovery. 

As many people have noticed, Mr. Romney’s five-point “economic plan” is very nearly substance-free. It vaguely suggests that he will pursue the same goals Republicans always pursue — weaker environmental protection, lower taxes on the wealthy. But it offers neither specifics nor any indication why returning to George W. Bush’s policies would cure a slump that began on Mr. Bush’s watch. 

In his Boca Raton meeting with donors, however, Mr. Romney revealed his real plan, which is to rely on magic. “My own view is,” he declared, “if we win on November 6, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see — without actually doing anything — we’ll actually get a boost in the economy.” 

Are you feeling reassured? 

Four Histories of the Right's 47 Percent Theory

Sep 20, 2012 
Mike Konczal

As you've likely heard, Mitt Romney was recorded at a fundraiser saying that "there are 47 percent who are with [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it [...] These are people who pay no income tax."

The right is splitting over whether or not the 47 percent argument is worth defending. It's important to understand that, while it is true that 47 percent of households don't pay a federal income tax, the distribution of the tax burden isn't what the 47 percent theory is about. The 47 percent theory is all about grand political battles. My colleague Mark Schmitt has one examination of where this theory comes from here, Brian Beutler also investigates the background of the 47 percent meme, and Kevin Drum does a history of the EITC here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Diminishing Returns

Our efforts in Afghanistan were probably doomed from the start. But now it’s over.
The latest news from Afghanistan only underscores what’s been clear for quite some time: that there is no light at the end of the tunnel in this war, no noble way out, not much point to staying in.

In the 11 years we’ve been fighting there, our official war aims have been ratcheted down to adjust for what’s possible, and now it seems even the minimal goals may have slipped out of reach.

Stratosphere targets deep sea to shape climate

North Atlantic 'Achilles heel' lets upper atmosphere affect the abyss

SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 23, 2012 – A University of Utah study suggests something amazing: Periodic changes in winds 15 to 30 miles high in the stratosphere influence the seas by striking a vulnerable "Achilles heel" in the North Atlantic and changing mile-deep ocean circulation patterns, which in turn affect Earth's climate.

"We found evidence that what happens in the stratosphere matters for the ocean circulation and therefore for climate," says Thomas Reichler, senior author of the study published online Sunday, Sept. 23 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Scientists already knew that events in the stratosphere, 6 miles to 30 miles above Earth, affect what happens below in the troposphere, the part of the atmosphere from Earth's surface up to 6 miles or about 32,800 feet. Weather occurs in the troposphere.

'The World According to Monsanto': Fighting a Global Agribusiness Through the Power of Film

A giant, multinational agribusiness is using its market share and patent system to spread genetically modified crops throughout the world

by Marie-Monique Robin
I have been working as a journalist for the past 25 years or so, focusing mainly on human rights and the environment.

What struck me was the number of people I encountered who kept uttering a single name: Monsanto, the giant U.S.-based multinational biotechnology company.

I grew up on a farm in France, hence my keen interest in agricultural issues.

Myths About Industrial Agriculture

Organic farming is the "only way to produce food" without harming the planet and people's health
by Vandana Shiva
Reports trying to create doubts about organic agriculture are suddenly flooding the media. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, people are fed up of the corporate assault of toxics and GMOs. Secondly, people are turning to organic agriculture and organic food as a way to end the toxic war against the earth and our bodies.

At a time when industry has set its eyes on the super profits to be harvested from seed monopolies through patented seeds and seeds engineered with toxic genes and genes for making crops resistant to herbicides, people are seeking food freedom through organic, non-industrial food.

The ‘Self-Made’ Myth and Our Hallucinating Rich

Why is rooftop solar cheaper in Germany than in the U.S.?

By David Roberts

The installed cost for residential solar power systems in Germany — that is, installations of up to 10 kW — is considerably less than in the U.S. Why? That’s the subject of a fascinating analysis [PDF] from sharp minds at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The researchers conducted a survey of German solar installers and reviewed public and private consultant data to get a handle on the German market. The answers they found aren’t as obvious as you might think.

Matt Taibbi: Wall Street Rolling Back Another Key Piece of Financial Reform

POSTED: September 20, 9:33 AM ET

Wall Street lobbyists are awesome. I’m beginning to develop a begrudging respect not just for their body of work as a whole, but also for their sense of humor. They always go right to the edge of outrageous, and then wittily take one baby-step beyond it. And they did so again last night, with the passage of a new House bill (HR 2827), which rolls back a portion of Dodd-Frank designed to protect cities and towns from the next Jefferson County disaster.

Jefferson County, Alabama was the most famous case – the city of Birmingham went bankrupt after being bribed and goaded into taking on billions of dollars of toxic swap deals – but in fact it was just one of hundreds of similar examples of localities being duped into suicidal financial deals by rapacious banks and financial companies. The Denver school system, for instance, got clobbered when it opted for an exotic swap deal pushed by J.P. Morgan Chase (the same villain in Jefferson County, incidentally) and then-school superintendent/future U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, that ended up costing the school system tens of millions of dollars. As was the case in Jefferson County, the only way out of the deal involved a massive termination fee that might have been even more destructive than the deal itself.

"Won't Back Down" Film Pushes ALEC Parent Trigger Proposal

Friday, 21 September 2012 09:18  
By Mary Bottari and Sara Jerving, PRWatch | News Analysis 

Well-funded advocates of privatizing the nation's education system are employing a new strategy this fall to enlist support for the cause. The emotionally engaging Hollywood film "Won't Back Down" -- set for release September 28 -- portrays so-called "Parent Trigger" laws as an effective mechanism for transforming underperforming public schools. But the film's distortion of the facts prompts a closer examination of its funders and backers and a closer look at those promoting Parent Trigger as a cure for what ails the American education system.

While Parent Trigger was first promoted by a small charter school operator in California, it was taken up and launched into hyperdrive by two controversial right-wing organizations: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute.

New Trans-Pacific trade deal ignites fears of job losses

By Rob Hotakainen McClatchy Newspapers

LEESBURG, Va. — With 1,350 employees in its five U.S. factories, New Balance is proud that it still produces 7 million pairs of shoes each year at its plants in Maine and Massachusetts, the last major athletic footwear company that still has manufacturing jobs in the United States.

But the company says those jobs could very well disappear if the U.S. scraps its tariff on athletic footwear coming in from Vietnam.

It’s part of the mounting anxiety caused by the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest trade pact proposed in U.S. history. And as 400 negotiators from nine countries met privately at a golf resort in northern Virginia last week in an attempt to finalize details, New Balance officials weren’t the only ones fretting.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Life Spans Shrink for Least-Educated Whites in the U.S.

Published: September 20, 2012

For generations of Americans, it was a given that children would live longer than their parents. But there is now mounting evidence that this enduring trend has reversed itself for the country’s least-educated whites, an increasingly troubled group whose life expectancy has fallen by four years since 1990. 

Researchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. Experts not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive.

The Latest Lie: "Redistribution Is A Foreign Concept"

Feast of Fools: How American Democracy Became the Property of a Commercial Oligarchy

Thursday, 20 September 2012 10:11
By Lewis H Lapham, TomDispatch | Op-Ed

All power corrupts but some must govern. -- John le Carré

The ritual performance of the legend of democracy in the autumn of 2012 promises the conspicuous consumption of $5.8 billion, enough money, thank God, to prove that our flag is still there. Forbidden the use of words apt to depress a Q Score or disturb a Gallup poll, the candidates stand as product placements meant to be seen instead of heard, their quality to be inferred from the cost of their manufacture. The sponsors of the event, generous to a fault but careful to remain anonymous, dress it up with the bursting in air of star-spangled photo ops, abundant assortments of multiflavored sound bites, and the candidates so well-contrived that they can be played for jokes, presented as game-show contestants, or posed as noble knights-at-arms setting forth on vision quests, enduring the trials by klieg light, until on election night they come to judgment before the throne of cameras by whom and for whom they were produced.

Best of all, at least from the point of view of the commercial oligarchy paying for both the politicians and the press coverage, the issue is never about the why of who owes what to whom, only about the how much and when, or if, the check is in the mail. No loose talk about what is meant by the word democracy or in what ways it refers to the cherished hope of liberty embodied in the history of a courageous people.

The Waning of the Modern Ages

Time to Abolish the American Dream

La longue durée —the long run—was an expression made popular by the Annales School of French historians led by Fernand Braudel, who coined the phrase in 1958. The basic argument of this school is that the proper concern of historians should be the analysis of structures that lie at the base of contemporary events. Underneath short-term events such as individual cycles of economic boom and bust, said Braudel, we can discern the persistence of “old attitudes of thought and action, resistant frameworks dying hard, at times against all logic.” An important derivative of the Annales research is the work of the World Systems Analysis school, including Immanuel Wallerstein and Christopher Chase-Dunn, which similarly focuses on long-term structures: capitalism, in particular.

The “arc” of capitalism, according to this school, is about 600 years long, from 1500 to 2100. It is our particular (mis)fortune to be living through the beginning of the end, the disintegration of capitalism as a world system. It was mostly commercial capital in the sixteenth century, evolving into industrial capital in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and then moving on to financial capital—money created by money itself, and by speculation in currency—in the twentieth and twenty-first. In dialectical fashion, it will be the very success of the system that eventually does it in.

The last time a change of this magnitude occurred was during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, during which time the medieval world began to come apart and be replaced by the modern one. In his classic study of the period, The Waning of the Middle Ages, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga depicted the time as one of depression and cultural exhaustion—like our own age, not much fun to live through.  One reason for this is that the world is literally perched over an abyss. What lies ahead is largely unknown, and to have to hover over an abyss for a long time is, to put it colloquially, a bit of a drag. The same thing was true at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire as well, on the ruins of which the feudal system slowly arose.

A Conservative History of the United States

Posted by Jack Hitt

1500s: The American Revolutionary War begins: “The reason we fought the revolution in the sixteenth century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown.”—Rick Perry

1607: First welfare state collapses: “Jamestown colony, when it was first founded as a socialist venture, dang near failed with everybody dead and dying in the snow.”—Dick Armey

1619-1808: Africans set sail for America in search of freedom: “Other than Native Americans, who were here, all of us have the same story.”—Michele Bachmann

Secret Ryan Transcript: Social Security and Medicare are the Target

Posted at: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 09:47:50 AM
Author: Vincent Miller
This isn’t from a secret video, it's from the untranscribed portion of Ryan’s 2005 speech at the Atlas Society’s “Celebration of Ayn Rand.”  It fits well with the Romney video because it makes clear that middle class entitlements, “so called defined benefit programs” such as Social Security and Medicare ARE an explicit strategic target because they are collectivistic, socialistic and foster dependency.

This is the event where Ryan stated that Rand was the “one thinker” who is the “reason I got involved in public service;” and that Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are “required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.”  Statements he would latter dismiss as “urban legends.”

The speech has been hidden in plain sight on the Atlas Society website, which offers only a partial transcript.  This omits several revealing passages that illuminate Ryan’s philosophy as it relates to policy priorities.

Paul Krugman: Disdain for Workers

By now everyone knows how Mitt Romney, speaking to donors in Boca Raton, washed his hands of almost half the country — the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes — declaring, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” By now, also, many people are aware that the great bulk of the 47 percent are hardly moochers; most are working families who pay payroll taxes, and elderly or disabled Americans make up a majority of the rest.

But here’s the question: Should we imagine that Mr. Romney and his party would think better of the 47 percent on learning that the great majority of them actually are or were hard workers, who very much have taken personal responsibility for their lives? And the answer is no. 

A return to economic sanity

Miracle at the Fed: A hawk becomes a dove, signaling hope, change and job creation are possible in a second term

By Andrew Leonard

Seven weeks before Election Day in the United States, a wonky speech by the president of a regional Federal Reserve Bank is hardly the kind of thing likely to make waves in the larger political discourse. At this point in the campaign, even the most die-hard economy watchers tend to be obsessed more by the latest poll numbers in Iowa or Colorado than the intricacies of monetary policy. Meanwhile, the politicians that one might hope would be focusing their attention on spurring economic growth are locked in a permanent nightmare of partisan sniping. Don’t look for sense from Congress — just try to keep your head down and avoid the mud.

But that’s all the more reason why the speech delivered Thursday by Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Minneapolis Fed, is worth paying attention to. Because an amazing, remarkable thing happened in the course of that that speech: A hawk became a dove! One of the Federal Reserve’s strongest critics of aggressive monetary policy aimed at bringing down unemployment changed his mind.

The Looming Threat That Could Initiate the Next Economic Collapse

By Alexander Arapoglou, Jerri-Lynn Scofield
September 17, 2012  |  Most people now realize big banks aren’t their friends. Only in the fairy tale movie world of It’s a Wonderful Life [4] does banker George Bailey lend a helping hand to friends and neighbors to build a prosperous Bedford Falls.

But many people have no idea that the regulated banking system is only one part of a gigantic problem. Lurking behind regulated banks is the shadow banking system. And it’s from out of these shadows that the next big shock to the global financial system, threatening everyone’s nest egg, might come.
What is shadow banking? Different writers mean different things when they use the term. But the fact that it’s hard to explain only makes it more difficult to constrain.

For our purposes, “shadow banking” is the loosely regulated or unregulated portion of the financial system outside the boundaries of the large and well-known commercial and investment banks.  The shadow banking system includes shadow banks, such as hedge funds, and shadow practices, such as inadequately regulated derivatives. This system is vast, and grew by a factor of five between 1990 and 2011, so that it now represents more than 15 trillion dollars in liabilities, according to a staff report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.  Shadow banking liabilities exceed those of the formal banking sector, and are currently about equal to the entire U.S. gross national product.


The Radical Rich: Moving From Romney to Re-Occupy

We Ar All Welfare Queens Now

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Sep 18 2012, 10:02 AM ET
Thinking some more on Mitt Romney's high-handed claim that one in two Americans will vote for Obama simply to better ensure their own sloth, I was reminded of Lee Atwater's famous explanation of the Southern Strategy:
You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" -- that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me -- because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

The process Atwater is describing really stretches back to 1790 (sorry if I am on repeat here) when Congress restricted citizenship to white people. Progress has meant a series of fights first over direct and indirect components of citizenship (voting, serving in public office, serving in the Army, serving on juries etc.) and less explicit tactics to curtail access to them.

Nontaxpayers are Overwhelmingly the Elderly and Students

When Romney talks about the people who don't pay taxes and tries to make you believe that 47 percent of us are moochers living off the system, it's important to recognize that the people who don't pay federal income taxes are mostly the elderly and students. And notice how narrow the category is -- it's only federal income taxes -- but there are lots of other types of taxes. When all things are considered, "nearly 100 percent of Americans pay taxes in some way, shape or form":
Who Pays Taxes?, Hamilton Project: A popular myth swirling around Washington, DC, and throughout the media these days is that many Americans do not pay taxes, and are therefore free-riding off of our society without contributing themselves. ...  The origin of this misconception is the observation that only about 54 percent of American households paid federal income taxes during recession-affected 2011.  But that statistic is misleading because it provides an incomplete picture of the overall tax burden on American families, and because it incorporates individuals who naturally shouldn’t be paying taxes because of their age or economic circumstances due to the Recession. A closer look reveals that nearly all Americans do, in fact, pay taxes. ...

Matt Taibbi: A Rare Look at Why the Government Won't Fight Wall Street


The great mystery story in American politics these days is why, over the course of two presidential administrations (one from each party), there’s been no serious federal criminal investigation of Wall Street during a period of what appears to be epic corruption. People on the outside have speculated and come up with dozens of possible reasons, some plausible, some tending toward the conspiratorial – but there have been very few who've come at the issue from the inside.

We get one of those rare inside accounts in The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins, a new book by Jeff Connaughton, the former aide to Senators Ted Kaufman and Joe Biden. Jeff is well known to reporters like me; during a period when most government officials double-talked or downplayed the Wall Street corruption problem, Jeff was one of the few voices on the Hill who always talked about the subject with appropriate alarm. He shared this quality with his boss Kaufman, the Delaware Senator who took over Biden's seat and instantly became an irritating (to Wall Street) political force by announcing he wasn’t going to run for re-election. "I later learned from reporters that Wall Street was frustrated that they couldn’t find a way to harness Ted or pull in his reins," Jeff writes. "There was no obvious way to pressure Ted because he wasn’t running for re-election."

Why Sneering at Public Servants Comes So Naturally to Many of America's Richest Citizens

By Sam Pizzigati

September 18, 2012  |  Last year state lawmakers in Illinois did their best to make a Chicago teacher strike impossible. They passed a new law that required at least 75 percent of the city’s teachers to okay any walkout in advance.

How did Chicago teachers respond? In advance balloting early this June, 92 percent of the city’s teachers voted, and 98 percent of those teachers voted [3] to strike if contract negotiations broke down.
This near-total teacher support for the walkout that began last week shows just how intensely frustrated the city’s teachers have become. They’ve been teaching for years in schools woefully ill-equipped to serve the city’s students.

The vast majority of these students, 87 percent [4], rate as “low income.” Many have no books in their homes and no quiet place to study. Some — over 15,000 — have no homes [5] at all.

Big Ag Can't Feed the World -- Here's Who Can

Raj Patel

September 11, 2012  |  Raj Patel is no fan of messiahs and iconic leaders. “One bright shining light is dangerous,” says the writer, activist, and academic who was once mistaken as the savior of humankind by an obscure religious group. Still, there’s no denying that Patel – young, charming, and sharp as a tack – does, in fact, shine. With his critically acclaimed books on food systems and capitalism he has distinguished himself as one of the progressive world’s up and coming public intellectuals.

His quest to understand the global inequities caused by free market economics took the London-born Patel from the halls of Oxford to the London School of Economics, to the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. Along the way he wrote Stuffed and Starved [3] (2008), a cutting critique of how the free market keeps millions of people hungry and millions more obese. His next book, the 2010 New York Times bestseller The Value of Nothing [4], drew on the Great Recession to expose the core cause of our current social, political, and environmental problems.

Patel isn’t just armchair pontificator, though. A self-proclaimed “anarchist sympathizer,” he often can be spotted in the midst of street demonstrations, lending body and voice to grassroots protests against the very organizations he once worked with. Patel is currently traveling the world collecting material for a documentary film, Generation Food, which will show how “people are doing amazing things to feed one another, across the table, across generations, and across the world.”

Frank Rich: My Embed in Red

A week steeped in right-wing media reveals a Republican Party far more despairing than the
lamestream knows.

Published Sep 16, 2012

On the sixth day, I listened to Glenn Beck, and I saw that he was good. Or if not exactly good, then honest-to-God funny.

I had tuned in as part of a thought experiment then entering its final lap: an attempt to put myself in the
Republican brain by spending a solid week listening to, watching, reading, surfing, and otherwise gorging on conservative media. As would also be true of an overdose of liberal media, it was lulling me into a stupor, and I was desperate for a jolt. Beck provided exactly that, in the form of comedy, and to my astonishment, I found myself laughing out loud—with him, not at him.

The Mystery of Neocon Influence

September 18, 2012
The neocons – despite the disastrous Iraq War and other harm they have caused – remain influential in Official Washington, given time on talk shows and space on op-ed pages to expound on their latest dreams of American intervention in the Middle East. But ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar asks, why are they still listened to?

By Paul R. Pillar

Recent attempts by adversaries of President Barack Obama to blame him for yet another undesirable circumstance — in this case, popular outrage in the Middle East over an anti-Islam video — remind us of one of the oddest aspects of discourse in the United States about foreign and security policy: that the same people who not too many years ago inflicted on us the Iraq War are still part of that discourse.

They get air time and column space, and evidently at least somebody seems to be listening to them.

Soledad O’Brien calls out Peter King over Obama ‘apology tour’ myth

By David Edwards
Monday, September 17, 2012 9:52 EDT

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) found himself being grilled by CNN host Soledad O’Brien on Monday about the claim President Barack Obama had gone on an “apology tour” — and the congressman was unable to name a single instance in which the president had apologized for the United States.

After the U.S. embassy in Cairo condemned an anti-Muslim film that mocked the prophet Muhammad and led to protests and the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya last week, GOP hopeful Mitt Romney accused Obama of “sympathizing” with the enemy. And other Republicans quickly followed by reviving a debunked claim that the president had spent part of his first term going on an “apology tour.”

Paul Krugman: Hating on Ben Bernanke

Last week Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, announced a change in his institution’s recession-fighting strategies. In so doing he seemed to be responding to the arguments of critics who have said the Fed can and should be doing more. And Republicans went wild.

Now, many people on the right have long been obsessed with the notion that we’ll be facing runaway inflation any day now. The surprise was how readily Mitt Romney joined in the craziness.

Your Body Doesn’t Lie: People Ignore Political Ads of Candidates They Oppose

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A recent study examined people’s bodily responses while watching presidential campaign ads - and discovered another way that people avoid political information that challenges their beliefs.

In the last days of the 2008 campaign, researchers had people watch a variety of actual ads for Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his Democratic rival Barack Obama while the viewers’ heart rates, skin conductance and activation of facial muscles were monitored.

The results showed that partisan participants reacted strongly to ads featuring their favored candidate, but barely responded to ads featuring the rival candidate.

Does President Obama Want to Cut Social Security by 3 Percent?

Monday, 17 September 2012 09:56  
By Dean Baker, Truthout | News Analysis 

That is a pretty simple and important question. Unfortunately, most voters are likely to go to the polls this fall without knowing the answer.

If the backdrop to this question is not immediately clear, then you should be very angry at the reporters who cover the campaign. One of the items that continuously comes up in reference to the budget deficit is President Obama's support for the plan put forward by the co-chairs of his deficit commission, Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan Simpson. On numerous occasions, President Obama has indicated his support for this plan.

One of the Worst Ideas from Congress in Decades

Sep 10 2012 - 8:12am

The New York Times today has an article with a dramatically understated title: "Lawmakers Push to Increase White House Oversight of Financial Regulators."  It's a good article, but is mislabeled because the bill discussed would actually result in Congress subjecting ALL independent agencies (not just the financial regulators) to White House oversight and, indeed, control.  The article also missed the most important consequence of the bill:  a breathtaking, almost inconceivable power give-a-way by Congress to the White House.  Here's why it's such a dumb idea:

First, if the Legislature passed this bill, it would be one of the biggest transfers of power from the Legislative Branch to the Executive Branch in history.  Since at least 1936, independent agencies have been considered primarily instruments of the Legislative not the Executive Branch – that is why they are called “independent” agencies.  If this bill became law, that would end almost 80 years of a primary method that Congress has used to implement its policy  goals and 22 or more agencies would no long be independent of the Executive Branch; indeed, they would be expressly subject to Executive Branch control.  This would be a dramatic and historic change.

Obama Says One Thing in Spotlight, Another Behind Closed Doors

Sunday, 16 September 2012 09:49  
By Kevin Zeese, October 2011 | News Analysis 

Jobs. That is the issue in the election – at least that is the issue Obama and Romney are focused on – who will create more jobs for a country in desperate need of them. During his convention speech, President Obama mentioned jobs 19 times, Romney did so 16 times. Obama promised a future where the U.S. will "outsource fewer jobs." Of course, Romney is known as someone who made hundreds of millions by outsourcing jobs. Former President Clinton put forth a job scorecard, arguing Obama and the Democrats will create more jobs.

Neither candidate is arguing for a New Deal style government jobs program. Both are relying on private industry to create jobs. But, big business profits by spending less on labor. While in the spotlight of the convention, Obama is critical of jobs being sent overseas but at the same time his U.S. trade representative, Ron Kirk, who works out of the executive office of the president, is negotiating a secret treaty behind closed doors – the Trans-Pacific Partnership – known as 'NAFTA on steroids'. This is a corporate trade agreement that will result in massive outsourcing of jobs.

“Cost-Benefit Analysis”: The Innocent Phrase Masking a Deplorable GOP Scheme To Stop Wall Street Regulation

Beware neutral-sounding phrases that mask hidden agendas. One example from Washington, D.C., this week: “cost-benefit analysis.” Why would anyone oppose assessing whether the benefits of an action outweigh the costs? Of course we favor that!

But now comes a bill sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman, Susan Collins, and Mark Warner (two Republicans and a Democrat) giving the White House the power to intervene in the business of independent regulatory agencies such as the SEC, FDIC, and FCC, under the guise of cost-benefit analysis.

What Krugman & Stiglitz Can Tell Us

End This Depression Now!
by Paul Krugman
Norton, 259 pp., $24.95                                                  

The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future
by Joseph E. Stiglitz
Norton, 414 pp., $27.95

Five years after the onset of the financial crisis that badly damaged the US economy, the nation remains mired in chronic joblessness. The unemployment rate, stubbornly above 8 percent, actually makes the situation look better than it is. Many millions have given up looking for work and no longer figure in the statistics. Long-term unemployment remains at levels unseen since the Great Depression. Young Americans are entering the worst job market in at least a half-century. For both the long-term unemployed and new job seekers, this sustained absence from the workforce will have permanent effects on both their earnings and their well-being. And not just theirs. We have all lost, and continue to lose, from the prolonged mass idleness of potentially productive workers.

Yet Washington is stuck in neutral. Worse than neutral; it is in reverse. As the last elements of the 2009 stimulus phase out, the initial flood of federal aid has slowed to a trickle. If no agreement is reached before early next year, the trickle will become a huge backward flow, as President Obama’s payroll tax cut and all the Bush tax cuts expire while automatic spending cuts agreed to in previous legislative sessions kick in. Already, Republican leaders are threatening to replay last year’s standoff over the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, state and local governments—prohibited from running sustained deficits, increasingly dominated by anti-spending forces—continue to cut aid to those out of work and slash programs that invest in the nation’s future while laying off teachers and other public workers. Without those layoffs, the current unemployment rate would probably be around 7 percent.

Dirty Money: Cities and States Addicted to Soliciting for Corporate Favors

Saturday, 15 September 2012 01:37
By Mike Alberti, Remapping Debate | News Analysis

When executives from the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced their plans to build a new $600 million factory in Mobile, Alabama in early July, local politicians wasted no time in congratulating themselves. "We have worked a long time and have put in many hours to make this announcement a reality," Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said in a press release. "This project will create thousands of well-paying jobs that the people of this area need and deserve."

Airbus wasn't coming to Mobile for free: state and local officials had offered the company an incentive package worth more than $158 million for the plant. To some experts, those subsidies — and the fact that Airbus will compete directly with U.S. companies like Boeing — made the deal disturbingly familiar.

Where the candidates stand on Medicare and Medicaid

by Suevon Lee
ProPublica, Sept. 14, 2012, 2:26 p.m.

Medicare and Medicaid, which provide medical coverage for seniors, the poor and the disabled, together make up nearly a quarter of all federal spending. With total Medicare spending projected to cost $7.7 trillion over the next 10 years, there is consensus that changes are in order. But what those changes should entail has, of course, been one of the hot-button issues of the campaign.

With the candidates slinging charges, we thought we’d lay out the facts.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What Motivates Rejection of (Climate) Science?

Saturday, 15 September 2012 07:43 By University of Western Australia Staff , The Universtiy of Western Australia | Report 

Researchers from The University of Western Australia have examined what motivates people who are greatly involved in the climate debate to reject scientific evidence.

The study Motivated Rejection of Science, to be published in Psychological Science, was designed to investigate what motivates the rejection of science in visitors to climate blogs who choose to participate in the ongoing public debate about climate change.

New Report Finds Financial Crisis Cost Economy $12.8 Trillion

By Pat Garofalo on Sep 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm

 The U.S. is still struggling to claw out of the hole created by the Great Recession, the Wall Street-caused crisis that resulted in the loss of millions of jobs. According to a new report from Better Markets, a pro-financial reform organization, the crisis cost Americans about $12.8 trillion in lost economic output:
Estimated actual gross domestic product (“GDP”) loss from 2008 to 2018, of $7.6 trillion. This is the cumulative difference between potential GDP — what GDP would have been but for the financial and economic crises– and actual and forecast GDP during the period.
The Right-Wing Machine Behind ‘School Choice’

Think public-school teachers are bad and vouchers are good? You may be prey to a well-funded stealth campaign.

By Rachel Tabachnick
September 13, 2012

In June 1995, the economist Milton Friedman wrote an article for the Washington Post promoting the use of public education funds for private schools as a way to transfer the nation’s public school systems to the private sector. "Vouchers," he wrote, "are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a market system." The article was republished by "free market" think tanks, including the Cato Institute and the Hoover Institution, with the title "Public Schools: Make Them Private."

While Friedman has promoted vouchers for decades, most famously in his masterwork Free to Choose, the story of how public funds are actually being transferred to private, often religious, schools is a study in the ability of a few wealthy families, along with a network of right-wing think tanks, to create one of the most successful "astroturf" campaigns money could buy. Rather than openly championing dismantling the public school system, they promote bringing market incentives and competition into education as a way to fix failing schools, particularly in low-income Black and Latino communities.

Home sweet lab: Computerized house to generate as much energy as it uses

NIST unveils net-zero energy residential test facility to improve testing of energy-efficient technologies

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 12, 2012, the U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) unveiled a new laboratory designed to demonstrate that a typical-looking suburban home for a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year. Following an initial year-long experiment, the facility will be used to improve test methods for energy-efficient technologies and develop cost-effective design standards for energy-efficient homes that could reduce overall energy consumption and harmful pollution, and save families money on their monthly utility bills.

The unique facility looks and behaves like an actual house, and has been built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards—the highest standard for sustainable structures. The two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility incorporates energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies such as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems.
Behind Romney's Welfare Attacks, America's Top Poverty Denier

The false ads are inspired by a man with a long history of minimizing the struggles of the poor.

In recent weeks, a Mitt Romney campaign ad has flashed across television screens blasting President Obama on the issue of welfare. The ad claims Obama "gutted" the requirement in the 1996 welfare reform law that recipients look for work in exchange for government support. Media fact-checkers quickly debunked Romney's attack—PolitiFact rated it "Pants on Fire"—and Obama's campaign lashed back with a TV ad of its own. Yet Romney stuck with the welfare attack on the stump, and Romney aide Ashley O'Connor said the ad was the campaign's most potent of 2012.

Romneyland didn't whip up the bogus welfare attack on its own. It relied instead on the work of Robert Rector, a senior researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, DC.
The Pay of Chicago School Teachers and Selected Others

Wednesday, 12 September 2012 03:53

Since the Chicago school teachers went out on strike Monday, many political figures have tried to convince the public that their $70,000 average annual pay is excessive. This is peculiar, since many of the same people had been arguing that the families earning over $250,000, who would be subject to higher tax rates under President Obama's tax proposal, are actually part of the struggling middle class. They now want to convince us that a household with two Chicago public school teachers, who together earn less than 60 percent of President Obama's cutoff, have more money than they should.

Anyhow, if we want to assess whether someone is getting too much money, we always have to ask the follow-up question, compared to what? Here are a few comparisons that I have found useful.

Poorest miss out on benefits, experience more material hardship, since 1996 welfare reform

Although the federal government's 1996 reform of welfare brought some improvements for the nation's poor, it also may have made extremely poor Americans worse off, new research shows.

The reforms radically changed cash assistance—what most Americans think of as 'welfare'— by imposing lifetime limits on the receipt of aid and requiring recipients to work. About the same time, major social policy reforms during the 1990s raised the benefits of work for low-income families.

In the wake of these changes, millions of previous welfare recipients, largely single mothers, entered the workforce. At the same time, welfare has become more difficult to obtain for families at the very bottom, who often have multiple barriers to work. As a result, in the new welfare system, the working poor may be doing better while the deeply poor are doing worse.

A Tale of Two Healhcare Plans

by David Cay Johnston

No issue affecting taxes so clearly divides the two parties in the U.S. election as healthcare. The two parties, in their platforms, describe very different approaches to healthcare economics. Both use political plastic surgery to cover up ugly truths.

The stakes are huge. Americans spend $2.64 per person for healthcare for each purchasing power equivalent dollar spent by the 33 other countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD data shows the U.S. spends $8,233 per capita compared with an average of $3,118 in the other 33 countries.

Have we reached the end of economic growth?

By Brad Plumer , Updated: September 11, 2012

Why has the U.S. economy grown so lethargically over the past few years? Economists have ladled out all sorts of diagnoses. Maybe this is just your run-of-the-mill hangover after a financial crisis. Or perhaps the Federal Reserve hasn’t been aggressive enough in stimulating demand. Maybe it’s Obama’s fault. Or Congress’s fault.

Yet there’s another, more controversial theory making the rounds these days. It’s possible that our expectations for future economic growth are just too high. Perhaps the last century or so of strong economic growth in the United States was all just an aberration that’s now coming to an end. Before the Industrial Revolution took off in Great Britain, after all, the world barely experienced any economic growth. Then we got a whole bunch of nifty, life-changing technologies — from electricity to cars to airplanes. But what if that process has run its course, and we’re now entering another low-growth phase?

Sweden recycles so effectively that it has to import garbage to incinerate

Every country should be so lucky as to have Sweden’s problem: It doesn’t produce enough garbage.

As reported by Public Radio International, Sweden has a remarkably effective recycling program. Only 4 percent of the country’s waste ends up in landfills, with the other 96 percent being reused in some way. There is one problem with that, however: The country has incinerators that burn waste to create heat (a must-have in the region) and electricity. And too little waste means not enough fuel for those fires.

Census: Middle class shrinks to an all-time low

By Carol Morello
The vise on the middle class tightened last year, driving down its share of the income pie as the number of Americans in poverty leveled off and the most affluent households saw their portion grow, new census data released Wednesday showed.

Income inequality increased by 1.6 percent, the Census Bureau said in its annual report on poverty, income and health insurance. This was the biggest one-year increase in almost two decades and suggested that a trend in place since the late 1970s was picking up steam.

As a snapshot of a nation recovering from one of its worst recessions ever, the census report had both shadows and highlights. Median household income declined $777, to $50,054 before taxes. But the poverty rate, which many experts had predicted would rise to rates unseen in nearly half a century, inched down a hair to 15 percent, a decline of about 100,000 people. And fewer Americans were without health insurance, largely because of a provision in the 2010 health-care law allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ policies.

Foreclosure Fail: Study Pins Blame on Big Banks

by Paul Kiel
ProPublica, Sept. 11, 2012, 1:35 p.m.

Over the past several years, we've reported extensively on the big banks' foreclosure failings. As a result of banks' disorganization and understaffing — particularly at the peak of the crisis in 2009 and 2010 — homeowners were often forced to run a gauntlet of confusion, delays, and errors when seeking a mortgage modification.

But while evidence of these problems was pervasive, it was always hard to quantify the damage. Just how many more people could have qualified under the administration's mortgage modification program if the banks had done a better job? In other words, how many people have been pushed toward foreclosure unnecessarily?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chart: How 9/11 Changed the Law

—Brennan Center for Justice, Liberty and National Security Program
| Fri Sep. 9, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

Law change What it means
The FISA Amendments Act of 2008

Allowed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to authorize warrantless surveillance of Americans' international electronic communications.
In 2005, the New York Times reported on the Bush administration's secret wiretapping of American citizens since 9/11. Civil liberties advocates were outraged, but it didn't stop Congress from passing this law in 2008 essentially legalizing certain aspects of the system. Under the new law, for the first time since the inception of the modern legal framework governing surveillance, the government can intercept Americans' international communications without a warrant as long as one party to the communication is "reasonably believed" to be outside the US.
Number of U.S. poor holds steady but earnings gap grows

By Susan Heavey and Lucia Mutikani | Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The poverty rate in the United States stabilized in 2011 for the first time in three years even as incomes fell and inequality grew, according to government figures.

The share of people living in poverty edged down to 15 percent from 15.1 percent in 2010, a "statistically insignificant" drop in the words of analysts at the U.S. Census Bureau, which released the report.

Unemployment benefits helped soften the blow from a harsh economic environment, the report said. All told, 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty last year, little changed from 2010.