Saturday, March 30, 2013

Corporations, pro-business nonprofits foot bill for judicial seminars

George Mason University top host of events

By Chris Young, Reity O'Brien, Andrea Fuller
6:00 am, March 28, 2013, Updated: 11:33 am, March 28, 2013

Conservative foundations, multinational oil companies and a prescription drug maker were the most frequent sponsors of more than 100 expense-paid educational seminars attended by federal judges over a 4 1/2-year period, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

Among the seminar titles were “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism,” “Corporations and the Limits of Criminal Law” and “Terrorism, Climate & Central Planning: Challenges to Liberty & the Rule of Law.”

Leading the list of sponsors of the 109 seminars identified by the Center were the conservative Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, The Searle Freedom Trust, also a supporter of conservative causes, ExxonMobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and State Farm Insurance Cos. Each were sponsors of 54 seminars.

IRS To 'Social Welfare' Groups: Show Me The Political Ad Money

by Peter Overby

How the Heritage Foundation Manufactured a New Obamacare Myth

By Jonathan Bernstein

Over the weekend, Alyene Senger at Heritage ran an item called “Obamacare at Three Years: Increasing Cost Estimates.” Her claim:
Over the last three years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has revised its cost estimates for Obamacare’s new entitlements—the Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies—many times, and they have more than doubled since 2010.
And she has a chart showing estimated new costs rising from $898 billion in March 2010 to $1.6 trillion in February 2013. The chart is titled “Obamacare’s New Spending Estimates Keep Rising,” and includes text saying “The Congressional Budget Office as made several estimates of the 10-year cost of Obamacare’s new spending on the Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies, and the costs keep rising.”

Slaves of Defunct Economists

Why politicians pursue austerity policies that never work.

By Henry Farrell
Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea
by Mark Blyth
Oxford University Press, 304 pp.

On January 25, the British statistics office announced that the United Kingdom’s economy had shrunk by 0.3 percent in the last quarter of 2012. After enduring two recessions in the last four years, Britain is now well on its way into a third. The pain has been compounded by a succession of austerity budgets, in which Britain’s Conservative-led government has tried to hack away at spending. Repeated rounds of cuts have battered the British economy. However, Britain’s chief economic policymaker, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, wants still more pain. He is pushing the government to identify £10 billion more in cuts this year.

This makes no economic sense. Olivier Blanchard, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, has pleaded for Britain to start focusing on growth rather than fiscal virtue, claiming that “we’ve never been passionate about austerity.” It doesn’t make any political sense, either. Voters like vague proposals for “reducing government waste” in the abstract, but hate cuts to programs that they care about. Why do so many members of the political elite disagree with Blanchard in their visceral passion for austerity? Why do they keep on pushing for pain when it threatens economic ruin and hurts their election chances?

New e-mails reveal Feds not “forthright” about fake cell tower devices

E-mails could have implications for accused tax fraudster caught via "stingray."
According to new Justice Department e-mails obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, and published on Wednesday, federal investigators have been routinely using “stingrays" to catch bad guys. A stingray is a device that can create a false cellphone tower, and allows authorities to determine a particular mobile phone’s precise location. Stingrays aren't new—law enforcement agencies nationwide are believed to have been using them for years.

But one e-mail in the new trove reveals something brand-new: that the Feds were not fully clear about the fact that they were specifically using stingrays (also known as “IMSI catchers”) when asking for permission to conduct electronic surveillance from federal magistrate judges.

Neonicotinoid pesticides 'damage brains of bees'

By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC World Service

Commonly used pesticides are damaging honey bee brains, studies suggest.

Scientists have found that two types of chemicals called neonicotinoids and coumaphos are interfering with the insect's ability to learn and remember.

Experiments revealed that exposure was also lowering brain activity, especially when the two pesticides were used in combination.

More 'Corporate Welfare': Obama Signs 'Monsanto Protection Act' Into Law 

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

President Obama signed what has been dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act" on Tuesday, legislation critics say amounts to "corporate welfare" for biotechnology corporations like Monsanto, and puts farmers and the environment in jeopardy.

Summing up the provision in H.R. 933: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, Eric Darier, a senior campaigner on sustainable agriculture at Greenpeace International explains that it
will effectively bar US federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops even if they failed to be approved by the government's own weak approval process and no matter what the health or environmental consequences might be.

U.S. Pesticide Approval Process “Grievously Flawed”

WASHINGTON, Mar 28 2013 (IPS) - An environment group here is warning that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a key government regulator, may have been haphazardly approving thousands of pesticides for decades, some of which pose risks to both human and environmental health.

Following on two years of research, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a watchdog group, has found that as much as 65 percent of the 16,000 pesticides the EPA approved between the late 1970s and 2010 were greenlighted through a hasty and potentially incomplete process.

Paul Krugman: Cheating Our Children

So, about that fiscal crisis — the one that would, any day now, turn us into Greece. Greece, I tell
you: Never mind.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a remarkable change of position among the deficit scolds
who have dominated economic policy debate for more than three years. It’s as if someone sent out
a memo saying that the Chicken Little act, with its repeated warnings of a U.S. debt crisis that
keeps not happening, has outlived its usefulness. Suddenly, the argument has changed: It’s not
about the crisis next month; it’s about the long run, about not cheating our children. The deficit,
we’re told, is really a moral issue.

Why Is Socialism Doing So Darn Well in Deep-Red North Dakota?

By Les Leopold

March 26, 2013  |  North Dakota is the very definition of a red state. It voted 58 percent to 39 percent for Romney over Obama, and its statehouse and senate have a total of 104 Republicans and only 47 Democrats. The Republican super-majority is so conservative it recently passed the nation's most severe anti-abortion resolution [3] – a measure that declares a fertilized human egg has the same right to life as a fully formed person.

But North Dakota is also red in another sense: it fully supports its state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND), a socialist relic that exists nowhere else in America. Why is financial socialism still alive in North Dakota? Why haven't the North Dakotan free-market crusaders slain it dead?

Because it works.

Slick, Paranoid Tea Party Video Aims for Violent Insurrection

By Richard (RJ) Eskow

March 26, 2013  |  Attendees at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) were reportedly thrilled by a short sci-fi video depicting a dictatorial near-future government and the underground "Movement on Fire" that springs up to resist it. The video, a thinly veiled advertisement for violent insurrection from the “Tea Party Patriots" group, boasts professional acting and Hollywood production values. But underneath its bright, professional sheen lurk dark overtones of End Times paranoia that will resonate with millions of American fundamentalists. Its apocalyptic imagery is as ancient as Revelations, its glossy look as modern as a Revlon ad, and its near-subliminal barrage of rapid-cut imagery rings with the terror-fueled sermons of 1,000 preachers.

Paul Krugman :It Was Bankers That Brought Cyprus to the Brink

What is it about the islands around Europe's periphery?

Is there some peculiar psychological thing about proximity plus the illusion of isolation that makes them turn themselves into havens for runaway banks? Inquiring minds want to know.

Climate-criminal Senate Democrats: A Keystone pipeline vote list

3/28/2013 10:00am by Gaius Publius

Update: Of the 17 Dem senators listed below, eight are up for re-election in 2014:
Baucus (MT)
Begich (AK)
Coons (DE)
Hagan (NC)
Johnson (SD), retiring
Landrieu (LA)
Pryor (AR)
Warner (VA)
I meant what I said below about this being a choice between holding the Senate and becoming hunter-gatherers. Reasonable people can disagree, but still … hunter-gatherers.

Why the National Labor Relations Act Is a Weak Law Today - and How We Can Restore its Power 

Thursday, 28 March 2013 09:11  
By Ellen Dannin and Ann Hodges, Truthout | Op-Ed 

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act to restore equality of bargaining power between employees and employers. The problem Congress saw was that while employers had the right to incorporate or form partnerships, employees had no legal right to form collective organizations. That inequality of bargaining power was used to depress wages and the purchasing power of wage earners, leading to economic depressions and recessions.

In the midst of the Great Depression, Congress decided it must end this inequality between employees, who had only the power of an individual, and employers, who had the legal right to become collective and pool their power by forming corporations and partnerships. That insight led Congress to enact the National Labor Relations Act to equalize bargaining power and restore prosperity to the United States.

The Confiscation Scheme Planned for U.S. and U.K. Depositors

By Ellen Brown

Confiscating the customer deposits in Cyprus banks, it seems, was not a one-off, desperate idea of a few Eurozone “troika” officials scrambling to salvage their balance sheets. A joint paper by the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bank of England dated December 10, 2012, shows that these plans have been long in the making; that they originated with the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel, Switzerland (discussed earlier here); and that the result will be to deliver clear title to the banks of depositor funds. 

New Zealand has a similar directive, discussed in my last article here, indicating that this isn’t just an emergency measure for troubled Eurozone countries. New Zealand’s Voxy reported on March 19th:
The National Government [is] pushing a Cyprus-style solution to bank failure in New Zealand which will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts . . . .
Open Bank Resolution (OBR) is Finance Minister Bill English’s favoured option dealing with a major bank failure. If a bank fails under OBR, all depositors will have their savings reduced overnight to fund the bank’s bail out.

Digital Grab: Corporate Power Has Seized the Internet

by Norman Solomon

If your daily routine took you from one homegrown organic garden to another, bypassing vast fields choked with pesticides, you might feel pretty good about the current state of agriculture.

If your daily routine takes you from one noncommercial progressive website to another, you might feel pretty good about the current state of the Internet.

Cyprus Has the Global Money Elite’s Fingerprints All Over It

By Richard Eskow | March 26, 2013

The debacle in Cyprus is far from over, but it’s already taught us some very important lessons. We’ve seen, for example, that the world’s financial leaders insist on clinging to the principles of austerity economics even after they’ve failed over and over again. They don’t seem very interested in learning from experience.

They don’t seem to be all that interested in principles of national sovereignty, either.

Not Just the Bees: Bayer's Pesticide May Harm Birds, Too

—By Tom Philpott | Wed Mar. 27, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

Once again this spring, farmers will begin planting at least 140 million acres—a land mass roughly equal to the combined footprints of California and Washington state—with seeds (mainly corn and soy) treated with a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Commercial landscapers and home gardeners will get into the act, too—neonics are common in lawn and garden products. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know all of that is probably bad news for honeybees and other pollinators, as a growing body of research shows—including three studies released just ahead of last year's planting season. 

But bees aren't the only iconic springtime creature threatened by the ubiquitous pesticide, whose biggest makers are the European giants Bayer and Syngenta. It turns out that birds are too, according to an alarming analysis co-authored by Pierre Mineau, a retired senior research scientist at Environment Canada (Canada's EPA), published by the American Bird Conservancy. And not just birds themselves, but also the water-borne insect species that serve as a major food source for birds, fish, and amphibians.

Paul Krugman: Britain's Prime Minister Is a Prisoner to His Policies

“If this plan is working, what would a failing one look like?” So asked Martin Wolf in his column in the Financial Times in response to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent speech insisting that his austerity policy was right, is right and is succeeding.

Simon Wren-Lewis, an economist at Oxford, went through Mr. Cameron’s assertions in some detail online, among other things catching him more or less lying about what the Office of Budget Responsibility — roughly speaking the counterpart of the Congressional Budget Office in the United States — actually said about the impact of austerity on growth. I was particularly struck by the way Mr. Cameron is still claiming that Britain’s low interest rates show that his policy is successful and necessary.

You don't 'own' your own genes

Researchers raise alarm about loss of individual 'genomic liberty' due to gene patents that may impact the era of personalized medicine
NEW YORK (March 25, 2013) -- Humans don't "own" their own genes, the cellular chemicals that define who they are and what diseases they might be at risk for. Through more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules, companies have essentially claimed the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers who analyzed the patents on human DNA. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual "genomic liberty."

In their new analysis, the research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered that 41 percent of the human genome is covered by longer DNA patents that often cover whole genes. They also found that, because many genes share similar sequences within their genetic structure, if all of the "short sequence" patents were allowed in aggregate, they could account for 100 percent of the genome.

Free trade and unrestricted capital flow: How billionaires get rich and destroy the rest of us

3/26/2013 10:00am by Gaius Publius

Paul Krugman makes a point in this post about Cyprus that I’d like use to make a broader and more important point. His point is that Cyprus is already off the euro and has created its own currency, the Cyprus Euro, which at the moment is pegged to the other euro at 1:1. Why is a euro in a Cyprus bank different from other euros? Because you can’t move it freely, so it has less real value. (Read here to see why he thinks that; also here.)

My point, though, is a little different. My point is about unrestricted free trade and capital flow in general and why understanding both is crucial to understanding:

Trees Used to Create Recyclable, Efficient Solar Cell

Solar cells are just like leaves, capturing the sunlight and turning it into energy. It’s fitting that they can now be made partially from trees.

Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University researchers have developed efficient solar cells using natural substrates derived from plants such as trees. Just as importantly, by fabricating them on cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates, the solar cells can be quickly recycled in water at the end of their lifecycle.

The technology is published in the journal Scientific Reports, the latest open-access journal from the Nature Publishing Group.

Why Does No One Speak of America’s Oligarchs?

One of the striking elements of the demonization of Cyprus was how it was depicted as a willing tool of Russian money launderers and oligarchs. Never mind the fact, as we pointed out, that Cyprus is not a tax haven but a low-tax jurisdiction, and in stark contrast with the Caymans and Malta, has double-taxation treaties signed with 46 nations and has (now more likely had) with six more being ratified. Nor is it much of a tax secrecy jurisdiction, according to the Financial Secrecy Index. Confusingly, in the overall ranking, lower numbers are worse (Switzerland as number 1 is the baaadest) but in the secrecy score used to derive the rankings, higher is worse, with 100 being utterly opaque. The total rank is a function of “badness” (secrecy score) and weight (amount of business done). You’ll notice that all the countries ranked as worse than Cyprus have secrecy scores more unfavorable than it, with the exception of Germany, which is a mere 1 point out of 100 less bad, and the UK, which scores considerably lower (Nicholas Shaxson, author of Treasure Islands, would take issue with that reading, but he takes a more inclusive view of the boundaries of a financial services industry. For the UK, thus he not only includes the “state within a state” of the City of London, but also the UK’s secrecy jurisdictions, such as the Isle of Man, in his dim view of the UK as well as the US on secrecy). And even so, its greater volume of hidden activity gives it a much worse overall ranking. Of countries 21 tp 30, only 3 rank as less bad on secrecy: Canada, India, and South Korea.

Ash from refuse could become hydrogen gas

Every year, millions of tons of environmentally harmful ash is produced worldwide, and is mostly dumped in landfill sites or, in some countries, used as construction material. The ash is what is left when rubbish has been burnt in thermal power stations. A researcher from Lund University in Sweden has now developed a technique to use the ash to produce hydrogen gas. The method is presented in a new thesis.

The technique has significant potential: 20 billion litres of hydrogen gas a year, or 56 gigawatt-hours (GWh). Calculated as electricity, the energy is the equivalent of the annual needs of around 11 000 detached houses. Hydrogen gas is valuable and is viewed by many as an increasingly important energy source, for example as a vehicle fuel.

Frank Rich on the National Circus: How Iraq Wounded America

Every week, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich talks with contributor Eric Benson about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week: what the Iraq War has wrought, Reince Priebus's GOP rebranding report, and Rob Portman's convenient gay-marriage reversal.
This week marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In The Greatest Story Ever Sold, written after the war's “Mission Accomplished” phase, you called the conflict a catastrophe “that might have been averted.” Looking back on it now, what surprised you most about how the war unfolded? And what do you think its most lasting impact on America will be? 
If there’s one opinion shared by the war’s critics and cheerleaders, it would be their shock in discovering the Bush administration’s utter incompetence in executing its own ambitions. Given that Bush and Cheney professed to believe that Saddam Hussein actually had weapons of mass destruction, why did they assume the mission would be a cakewalk and have no Plan B for a protracted fight, let alone a multiyear occupation? (The answer can’t be that it’s all Donald Rumsfeld’s fault.) Then again, given the Bush team’s utter ignorance of the country it was invading, perhaps every element of this fiasco was foretold. 

Paul Krugman: Hot Money Blues

Whatever the final outcome in the Cyprus crisis — we know it’s going to be ugly; we just don’t
know exactly what form the ugliness will take — one thing seems certain: for the time being, and
probably for years to come, the island nation will have to maintain fairly draconian controls on the
movement of capital in and out of the country. In fact, controls may well be in place by the time
you read this. And that’s not all: Depending on exactly how this plays out, Cypriot capital controls
may well have the blessing of the International Monetary Fund, which has already supported such
controls in Iceland.

That’s quite a remarkable development. It will mark the end of an era for Cyprus, which has in
effect spent the past decade advertising itself as a place where wealthy individuals who want to
avoid taxes and scrutiny can safely park their money, no questions asked. But it may also mark at
least the beginning of the end for something much bigger: the era when unrestricted movement of
capital was taken as a desirable norm around the world.

147 People


Can 147 people perpetuate economic injustice – and make it even worse? Can they subvert the workings of democracy, both abroad and here in the United States? Can 147 people hijack the global economy, plunder the environment, build a world for themselves that serves the few and deprives the many?

There must be some explanation for last week’s economic madness.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Leaked EPA Documents Expose Decades-Old Effort to Hide Dangers of Natural Gas Extraction

Efforts by lawmakers and regulators to force the federal government to better police the natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," have been thwarted for the past 25 years, according to an exposé in the New York Times. Studies by scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on fracking have been repeatedly narrowed in scope by superiors, and important findings have been removed under pressure from the industry. The news comes as the EPA is conducting a broad study of the risks of natural gas drilling with preliminary results scheduled to be delivered next year. Joining us is Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, a firm that tracks environmental spills and releases across the country, based in Ithaca, New York, where fracking is currently taking place.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What's Missing from the Iraq Debate



The outpouring of commentary surrounding the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war can feel like déjà vu all over again. The political battle lines have changed very little over the past decade: Mostly, those who opposed the war decry the invasion, and its supporters defend it. There have been plenty of (often very good) diagnoses of what went wrong, but the parallel push for intervention in Syria and war with Iran suggests that few lessons will actually be learned from the war.

But here's one surprising detail about the flood of retrospectives: They have almost exclusively been written by Americans, talking about Americans, for Americans. Indeed, many Iraqis fail to see the point of commemorating the disastrous war for the benefit of the American media. 

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

Anu Partanen, Dec 29 2011, 3:00 PM ET

The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence.

Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known -- if it was known for anything at all -- as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life -- Newsweek ranked it number one last year -- and Finland's national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.

Dean Baker: Neither the NYT nor Washington Post Has Heard About Unemployment

It's apparently hard to find out about the state of the U.S. economy in the nation's capital. That is the only way to explain the fact that in their articles on the budget passed by the Senate last night neither the NYT or Washington Post said one word about how the budget would affect the economy over the next decade.

This one should have been pretty basic and simple. As tens of millions of graduates of intro economics classes know, GDP is equal to the sum of consumption, investment, government spending and net exports. Currently, annual GDP is close to $1 trillion below its potential according to the estimate from the Congressional Budget Office because private sector demand plunged following the collapse of the housing bubble.

Secrets of the right-wing conspiracy playbook

The debate over immigration and the border is a classic example of how the extreme right manipulates real issues 

The extremist right in America has always fed on real grievances that go either unaddressed or are mishandled by the mainstream system—by government, and in particular the federal government. In the 1980s and ’90s, they channeled discontent with badly malfunctioning federal farming and land-use policies in rural America into uprisings like the Posse Comitatus and Patriot/militia movements and their various offshoots, such as the Montana Freemen. This led to armed standoffs with federal agents and varying waves of domestic terrorism, all of it emanating from the American heartland.

What these extremists always tell their audiences is that there are simple reasons for their current miseries—inevitably, it is a combination of a secret cabal of elite conspirators running society like a puppet show at the top, crushing the middle-class working man from above, while a parasitic underclass saps his strength from below. This usually plays out, in the worldview of right-wing extremists, as being part of a secret conspiracy to enslave ordinary working people and destroy America.

The Price of Evil at JPMorgan Chase


$16 billion.

That’s how much JPMorgan Chase has paid in fines, settlements and other litigation expenses in the last four years alone. 

More than half of that amount, $8.5 billion, was paid out in fines and settlements as the result of illegal actions taken by bank executives.

$8.5 billion is almost 12 percent of the net income the mega-bank brought in during the same period.

Paul Krugman: Treasure Island Trauma

A couple of years ago, the journalist Nicholas Shaxson published a fascinating, chilling book titled “Treasure Islands,” which explained how international tax havens — which are also, as the author pointed out, “secrecy jurisdictions” where many rules don’t apply — undermine economies around the world. Not only do they bleed revenues from cash-strapped governments and enable corruption; they distort the flow of capital, helping to feed ever-bigger financial crises.

One question Mr. Shaxson didn’t get into much, however, is what happens when a secrecy jurisdiction itself goes bust. That’s the story of Cyprus right now. And whatever the outcome for Cyprus itself (hint: it’s not likely to be happy), the Cyprus mess shows just how unreformed the world banking system remains, almost five years after the global financial crisis began.

Selling the Store: Why Democrats Shouldn’t Put Social Security and Medicare on the Table

by Robert Reich
Prominent Democrats — including the President and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — are openly suggesting that Medicare be means-tested and Social Security payments be reduced by applying a lower adjustment for inflation.

This is even before they’ve started budget negotiations with Republicans — who still refuse to raise taxes on the rich, close tax loopholes the rich depend on (such as hedge-fund and private-equity managers’ “carried interest”), increase capital gains taxes on the wealthy, cap their tax deductions, or tax financial transactions.

Glenn Greenwald: The persecution of Barrett Brown - and how to fight it

The journalist and Anonymous activist is targeted as part of a broad effort to deter and punish internet freedom activism

Aaron's Swartz's suicide in January triggered waves of indignation, and rightly so. He faced multiple felony counts and years in prison for what were, at worst, trivial transgressions of law. But his prosecution revealed the excess of both anti-hacking criminal statutes, particularly the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and the fixation of federal prosecutors on severely punishing all forms of activism that challenge the power of the government and related entities to control the flow of information on the internet. Part of what drove the intense reaction to Swartz's death was how sympathetic of a figure he was, but as noted by Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor in the DOJ's computer crimes unit and now a law professor at GWU, what was done to Swartz is anything but unusual, and the reaction to his death will be meaningful only if channeled to protest other similar cases of prosecutorial abuse:
"I think it's important to realize that what happened in the Swartz case happens in lots and lots of federal criminal cases. . . . What's unusual about the Swartz case is that it involved a highly charismatic defendant with very powerful friends in a position to object to these common practices. That's not to excuse what happened, but rather to direct the energy that is angry about what happened. If you want to end these tactics, don't just complain about the Swartz case. Don't just complain when the defendant happens to be a brilliant guy who went to Stanford and hangs out with Larry Lessig. Instead, complain that this is business as usual in federal criminal cases around the country - mostly with defendants who no one has ever heard of and who get locked up for years without anyone else much caring."
Prosecutorial abuse is a drastically under-discussed problem in general, but it poses unique political dangers when used to punish and deter online activism. But it's becoming the preeminent weapon used by the US government to destroy such activism.

Tell Your Senators to Defend Social Security and Medicare by Supporting These Amendments


This week two Senate budget amendments could affect the future of everybody reading these words – presuming we live long enough to reach our retirement years.

That’s not an overstatement:  The Sanders-Harkin-Hirono Amendment would prevent the government from cutting Social Security benefits, an idea which both sides in the “Grand Bargain” negotiations seem to like far too much for comfort. The Stabenow Amendment would ban the privatization of the Medicare system through the Ryan/Republican “voucher” scheme.*

The 21st-Century Version of Slavery Is Widespread In America 

By Steven Rosenfeld

March 18, 2013  |  A 21st-century version of slavery—captive labor—is rampant at the bottom of the U.S. economy, and Washington politicians and business lobbies want to keep it that way, or even expand it as part of the immigration reform talks now in Congress.

Under a system of “legalized slavery,” foreign workers are routinely thrown in massive debt, cheated out of wages, housed in squalid shacks, held captive by brokers and businesses that seize passports, Social Security cards and return tickets, denied healthcare, rented to other employers (including the military), and sexually harassed and threatened with firing and deportation if they complain, according to two detailed reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center [3] and the National Guestworker Alliance [4]. The reports are based on sworn testimony gathered for lawsuits.

The H-2B visa program [5] that brought 83,000 foreign guestworkers to the U.S. in 2011 for non-farm work has become a stalking ground for some of the worst abuses in American capitalism, according to recent [3] reports [6] by anti-poverty law groups. These reports describe in excruciating detail how predatory capitalists in many manual labor-based industries (supplying national brands like Walmart) lure and prey upon foreigners whose jobs average [5] less than $10 an hour with little regard for human rights, labor law or legal consequence.

Murrey Marder, Early McCarthy Skeptic, Dies at 93

Published: March 19, 2013
By certain journalistic lights, the reporter Murrey Marder was an editor’s nightmare. He wrote slowly and squeezed against deadlines. He debated with editors. His articles were long, often complicated and never laid claim to stylish writing.

But by another, more important standard, Mr. Marder, who died on March 11 at 93, was an ace. In nearly 40 years at The Washington Post, he embodied the role of public watchdog, becoming an emblem of meticulous, thorough news gathering when his persistence in laying bare the lies and exaggerations of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s anti-Communist crusade helped bring McCarthy to ruin.  

ALEC Is Now Deciding What You Eat 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013 15:07 
By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Show | Report 

ALEC is back.

The Conservative corporate-friendly group funded in part by the Koch brothers and responsible for the infamous Stand Your Ground and Voter Suppression ID laws, and a slew of other corporate-friendly laws, now doesn't want you to know about the food that you're eating.

The way they come up with all this is that a couple of times a year they get corporate lobbyists and executives together in a fancy hotel or resort with mostly Republican state representatives and state senators. The ratio is roughly one-to-one of lobbyists to elected officials.

Why the war in Iraq was fought for Big Oil

By Antonia Juhasz, Special to CNN
March 19, 2013 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)

Editor's note: Ten years ago ,the war in Iraq began. This week, we focus on the people involved in the war and the lives that changed forever. Antonia Juhasz, an oil industry analyst, is author of several books, including "The Bush Agenda" and "The Tyranny of Oil."

(CNN) -- Yes, the Iraq War was a war for oil, and it was a war with winners: Big Oil.

It has been 10 years since Operation Iraqi Freedom's bombs first landed in Baghdad. And while most of the U.S.-led coalition forces have long since gone, Western oil companies are only getting started.

Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq's domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms.

Gailbraith and Panitch: Is a New "New Deal" Possible? 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013 11:44  
By Paul Jay, The Real News Network | Interview and Video 

James K. Gailbraith and Leo Panitch discuss the 80th anniversary of the election of FDR and the significance of the New Deal.


PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.
It's been 80 years since the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. On the occasion of that, we are doing a series of interviews with various economists, discussing, debating the significance of the New Deal. And in this series we're going to ask the overall question: is a new New Deal possible given today's politics?

Now joining us to discuss this first of all is Professor James K. Galbraith. He's the Lloyd M. Bentsen Chair in Government and Business Relations at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. He's the author of the book The Predator State, and more recently Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis.

Why the Trader Joe's Model Benefits Workers--And the Bottom-Line

Companies that invest in higher salaries for low-level employees find success in a competitive market.

By Sophie Quinton
Updated: March 21, 2013 | 11:07 a.m.
March 19, 2013 | 1:16 a.m.
The average American cashier makes $20,230 a year, a salary that in a single-earner household would leave a family of four living under the poverty line. But if he works the cash registers at QuikTrip, it’s an entirely different story. The convenience-store and gas-station chain offers entry-level employees an annual salary of around $40,000, plus benefits. Those high wages didn’t stop QuikTrip from prospering in a hostile economic climate. While other low-cost retailers spent the recession laying off staff and shuttering stores, QuikTrip expanded to its current 645 locations across 11 states.

Many employers believe that one of the best ways to raise their profit margin is to cut labor costs. But companies like QuikTrip, the grocery-store chain Trader Joe’s, and Costco Wholesale are proving that the decision to offer low wages is a choice, not an economic necessity. All three are low-cost retailers, a sector that is traditionally known for relying on part-time, low-paid employees. Yet these companies have all found that the act of valuing workers can pay off in the form of increased sales and productivity. 

America's Three-Tiered Justice System

Wednesday, 20 March 2013 00:00  
By Mike Lofgren, Truthout | News Analysis 

Big shots are above the law, the government now admits, but a three-tiered justice system has Congress churning out new bills to keep the prison industry booming.

"Equal Justice under Law," is the motto inscribed on the frieze of the United States Supreme Court building.

Sticklers for semantics say that the modifiers "equal" and "under law" in the Supreme Court's motto are redundant, because justice by definition is equal treatment under a system of written and publicly accessible rules. Whether that is the case is precisely what is at issue in America today.

America Is STILL Paying For The Civil War

Mike Baker, Associated Press | Mar. 19, 2013, 7:34 AM

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — If history is any judge, the U.S. government will be paying for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the next century as service members and their families grapple with the sacrifices of combat.

An Associated Press analysis of federal payment records found that the government is still making monthly payments to relatives of Civil War veterans — 148 years after the conflict ended.

Invasion of Iraq, 10 years later

The Center for Public Integrity

On the evening of March 19, 2003 — ten years ago — U.S. warplanes bombed a site in Baghdad that military officials believed was the hideout of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Although the failed attempt to kill him was followed two days later by hours of missile and bomb strikes, and then a ground invasion, it was an inauspicious start to a war that would lead to a lengthy U.S. occupation of Iraq and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. treasury. Almost 4,500 American troops were killed in the conflict and more than 32,000 were wounded.

Five years ago, in an effort to hold accountable the officials who led the United States into the Iraq war and orchestrated the war’s expansion, the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism combed through thousands of statements made by those officials about the war. The “Iraq; The War Card” project found hundreds of falsehoods, demonstrating that the policy underpinnings of the conflict were based in large measure on poor understanding, at best, or a manipulative public relations campaign, at worst.

Are Health Costs Really Slowing? And What Does it Mean If They Are?

Mar 19, 2013
[This post is based on Chapter 5 of the Council of Economic Advisers new Economic Report of the President.]
The fact shown in the first chart below—a decline in the rate of health spending per person—is becoming pretty widely known.  What’s not known is whether this trend will stick.  As I suggest below, based on the new ERP chapter, I think at least some of it will, and if it does, it signals one of the more important economic developments of our time, with far reaching implications for fiscal policy (and for jobs and growth too, but I’ll speak to that in a different post).

Paul Krugman: Giving Credence to the Wrong People

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, is feeling dyspeptic — not for the first time — over a Washington Post article published earlier this month suggesting that slow growth is the new normal in the United States. In a recent online post, Mr. Baker wondered why we should listen to people who have been wrong about everything so far. But it’s actually worse than he said.

In the Washington Post article, the case for slow growth forever is mainly made by quoting Kevin Warsh, a former governor at the Federal Reserve.

Lesson of JPMorgan’s Whale Trade: Nothing Was Learned

by Jesse Eisinger
ProPublica, March 19, 2013, 1 p.m.

People have learned their lesson.

We've been told that so many times since the near-death experiences of the financial crisis. Bankers and regulators have flipped roles: Now it's the bankers who are cautious and their overseers who are aggressive.

Details of JPMorgan Chase's multibillion-dollar trading loss — brought to light by a riveting and devastating report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations — demonstrate what a sham that is. Bankers aren't acting cautious and chastened. Risk managers aren't in the ascendance on Wall Street. Regulators remain their duped and docile selves.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Direct Deposit and Social Security: Not so Nice for Those who Owe

posted by Nathalie Martin
Jonathan Ginsberg posted an interesting article on the National Association of Chapter 13 trustees web site this weekend, that will be relevant to many of our readers as well. Social security is now requiring all beneficiaries to set up direct deposit, which means the resulted funds could become available to executing creditors if there are any funds from any other source in the account as well. You might recall my blog about this some time back, which contains cites to some of the relevant law.

As my previous blog explains, Federal law provides that Social Security payments are exempt from garnishment from civil creditors. If, for example, a credit card lender sues you and obtains a judgment, that creditor cannot ask Social Security to withhold funds from your government check. While these protections do not apply with equal force to the IRS collecting a tax debt or a creditor collecting child support, all other creditors are not to touch social security funds under any circumstances.

Secretive U.S. Amendment Would Weaken Biotech Oversight

WASHINGTON, Mar 19 2013 (IPS) - Food safety advocates, environmentalists and health professionals here are engaging in a fervent last-minute campaign to highlight a controversial legislative amendment they say would gut the ability of both the judiciary and the federal government to regulate genetically modified agricultural products.

The U.S. Senate is slated to vote early this week on amendments to a massive, “must pass” bill that would fund the U.S. government’s operations beyond Mar. 27 to the end of this fiscal year. That bill – a piece of stopgap legislation known as a continuing resolution – is so important that leaders in the U.S. Senate had previously suggested that they would not include any potentially controversial amendments.

The Shame of America’s Gulag

By Chris Hedges

If, as Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons” then we are a nation of barbarians. Our vast network of federal and state prisons, with some 2.3 million inmates, rivals the gulags of totalitarian states. Once you disappear behind prison walls you become prey. Rape. Torture. Beatings. Prolonged isolation. Sensory deprivation. Racial profiling. Chain gangs. Forced labor. Rancid food. Children imprisoned as adults. Prisoners forced to take medications to induce lethargy. Inadequate heating and ventilation. Poor health care. Draconian sentences for nonviolent crimes. Endemic violence.
Bonnie Kerness and Ojore Lutalo, both of whom I met in Newark, N.J., a few days ago at the office of American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch, have fought longer and harder than perhaps any others in the country against the expanding abuse of prisoners, especially the use of solitary confinement. Lutalo, once a member of the Black Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Black Panthers, first wrote Kerness in 1986 while he was a prisoner at Trenton State Prison, now called New Jersey State Prison. He described to her the bleak and degrading world of solitary confinement, the world of the prisoners like him held in the so-called management control unit, which he called “a prison within a prison.” Before being released in 2009, Lutalo was in the management control unit for 22 of the 28 years he served for the second of two convictions—the first for a bank robbery and the second for a gun battle with a drug dealer. He kept his sanity, he told me, by following a strict regime of exercising in his tiny cell, writing, meditating and tearing up newspapers to make collages that portrayed his prison conditions.  

Corporate-Backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Shrouded in Secrecy  

Tuesday, 19 March 2013 09:15  
By Sam Knight, Truthout | News Analysis 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral trade deal currently being hammered out by the United States and ten other countries, could end up affecting every human being and dollar of wealth on the planet. The extent to which it will is clear to no one, apart from negotiators. But the deal, in its current form, has been in the works since 2010, involves Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, and is open to all 21 countries in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region. US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk, who just left his post in early March, and other top negotiators have said that they would welcome China, and recent reports in the Japanese and Australian media indicate that Japan is set to join. Thus, even the most minor of edits to the draft text could end up making or breaking people from Brisbane to Bangor. But legislators around the world are being kept in the dark about what they're voting on until the deal is hammered out; it's expected to be completed this year. When it's finished, if the experience of Congress here is any indication, legislators will be feeling extraordinary pressure from corporate lobbyists and their heads of state to accept the deal without a fuss.

Dean Baker: Capitalism, Steven Pearlstein, and Morality

The Washington Post had a major column by Steve Pearlstein on the front page of its Outlook section headlined, "Is Capitalism Moral?" The piece notes the sharp upward redistribution of income over the last three decades and asks whether we should just being willing to accept market outcomes.

Of course this question is absurd on its face. The upward redistribution of the last three decades was the result of deliberate government policies designed to redistribute income upward; it was not the natural workings of the market.

Oh no! It’s Climategate Three

by Paul Brown

In 2009, shortly before the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, hackers published a haul of climate scientists’ emails. That was Climategate One. Two years on came another batch, and a few days ago a third. Do they tell us anything about the science – or, perhaps, about the hackers? This Comment offers a few possible pointers.

Black ops” is what the military call it – using false radio messages, news releases and newspapers, leaflets, and creating conspiracy theories so the enemy is confused, demoralized and loses the stomach for the fight.

How Americans Lost the Right to Counsel, 50 Years After 'Gideon'

By Andrew Cohen

You have a right to an attorney in a criminal case, even if you cannot afford one. The Supreme Court said so half a century ago. But today that precious right is systematically ignored or undermined.

Next Monday, America will quietly mark one of the most profound anniversaries in its legal history. Exactly 50 years ago, on March 18, 1963, the United States Supreme Court unanimously announced in Gideon v. Wainwright that the Sixth Amendment guarantees to every criminal defendant in a felony trial the right to a lawyer. "Reason and reflection," Justice Hugo Black wrote, "require us to recognize that, in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided to him."

The Gideon decision, heralded in its own time, has profoundly changed America's criminal justice system ever since. In the past half century since the ruling, the constitutional right to counsel has ensured that millions of criminal suspects -- the guilty, the innocent, and the somewhere-in-between -- have been aided by earnest, capable lawyers. The mandate of Gideon has forced prosecutors to be fairer and more honest in their dealings with defendants. It has burdened trial judges with additional pretrial motions. As a result of all of that, in a justice system designed to test evidence rather than seek truth, the Gideon ruling undoubtedly has resulted in more accurate results at trial.

America’s Latest Phony Fiscal Crisis

In most countries that experience a fiscal crisis, there is no ambiguity about the situation.

The government is unable to sell debt at a reasonable interest rate. This probably coincides with a broader shift out of domestic assets, as smart investors read the writing on the wall or in the newspapers. The currency collapses and, often, inflation accelerates. The government is forced to slash spending and, cap in hand, asks for help from the world’s least popular ambulance service: the International Monetary Fund.

No part of this description fits the modern U.S. Rates on government debt are very low, the currency isn’t depreciating rapidly and inflation seems stable. There is no imaginable circumstance under which the U.S. would need to borrow from the IMF. Yet this great land of innovation has undeniably invented its unique kind of fiscal crisis.

Paul Krugman: Marches of Folly, From Iraq to the Deficit

Ten years ago, America invaded Iraq; somehow, our political class decided that we should respond
to a terrorist attack by making war on a regime that, however vile, had nothing to do with that

Some voices warned that we were making a terrible mistake — that the case for war was weak and
possibly fraudulent, and that far from yielding the promised easy victory, the venture was all too
likely to end in costly grief. And those warnings were, of course, right.

7 Things You Need to Know About the Shocking Cyprus Bailout Crisis That Has Everyone Freaked Out

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

March 17, 2013  |  Editor's Note: The parliamentary vote on the bailout has been delayed until Tuesday.

In a small island nation far, far away, the financial shit is hitting the fan. A new bailout package in the euro zone comes with terms that are causing a tsunami of anxiety across Europe and beyond. Here’s what’s happening and why it matters.

1. What the heck is going on?

Since 2008, the Greek economy has gone from bad to worse. As Greece’s economy collapsed, the European and Greek banks that held the nation’s debts should have been told to eat their losses, write off the debts, and replace their managements. Instead, the European Union stepped in to engineer one bailout after another. The prices for the bailouts were high: austerity policies that didn’t work. The result everywhere is that national income has fallen steeply, while the countries fall further into debt.

Cypriot banks got into trouble from their exposure to neighboring Greece. Finance ministers from euro countries and representatives from the IMF and the European Central Bank came up with a radical plan for a bailout to Cyprus’ banks: In exchange for €10 billion ($13 billion) in rescue money, creditors would impose a one-time tax of 6.75 percent on all bank deposits under €100,000 ($131,000) and 9.9 percent over that amount, while Cyprus cut government spending and raised revenues. The decision to make depositors pay was a stunning departure from past EU-led bailouts.

Government Debt and Deficits Are Not the Problem. Private Debt Is.

By Michael Hudson

(Remarks by Prof. Michael Hudson at The Atlantic’s Economy Summit, Washington DC, Wednesday, March 13, 2013)

There are two quite different perspectives in the set of speeches at this conference. Many on our morning panels – Steve Keen, William Greider, and earlier Yves Smith and Robert Kuttner – have warned about the economy being strapped by debt. The debt we are talking about is private-sector debt. But most officials this afternoon focus on government debt and budget deficits as the problem – especially social spending such as Social Security, not bailouts to the banks and Federal Reserve credit to re-inflate prices for real estate, stocks and bonds.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Glenn Greenwald: Charles Krauthammer's false statement about the US Constitution

To justify the president's War on Terror policies, the Washington Post columnist spreads a demonstrable myth

Charles Krauthammer's Washington Post column this morning, which calls on Congress to enact new legislation authorizing and regulating Obama's drone attacks, is actually worth reading. That's because it highlights the central fact about the Obama legacy when it comes to US militarism, war, and civil liberties. Referencing the monumental shift in how Democrats think about such matters now as compared to the Bush years, he writes:
"Such hypocrisy is the homage Democrats pay to Republicans when the former take office, confront national security reality, feel the weight of their duty to protect the nation — and end up doing almost everything they had denounced their predecessors for doing. The beauty of such hypocrisy, however, is that the rotation of power creates a natural bipartisan consensus on the proper conduct of this war . . .
"Necessity having led the Bush and Obama administrations to the use of near-identical weapons and tactics, a national consensus has been forged. Let's make it open."
That Obama has ushered in a "bipartisan consensus" for these policies - transforming them from the divisive symbols of right-wing extremism into the unchallenged framework of both parties' establishments - is indisputable, one of the most consequential aspects of his presidency.

This Man Wants You to Believe That BPA-Laced Plastic Is Harmless

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is an industrial chemical found in everything from food-can linings to cigarette filters to retail receipts. Nationwide testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found it in "nearly all" of its subjects. A growing body of research has established BPA as an endocrine-disrupting chemical that does harm at tiny doses. But is BPA no big deal, after all?

That's the message of a presentation given at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science last month by Justin Teeguarden, a scientist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a lab that operates under contract with the US Department of Energy. According to a PNNL press release about the presentation, Teeguarden analyzed 150 BPA exposure studies and found that "people's exposure may be many times too low for BPA to effectively mimic estrogen in the human body." The study's funder, the press release adds, was the US Environmental Protection Agency.

EXCLUSIVE - U.S. to let spy agencies scour Americans' finances

Wed, Mar 13 2013
By Emily Flitter and Stella Dawson and Mark Hosenball

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.

The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.

NAFTA at 20: The New Spin

Saturday, 16 March 2013 10:29
By Manuel Perez-Rocha and Javier Rojo, Foreign Policy in Focus | News Analysis

Only a few years ago, analysts were warning that Mexico was at risk of becoming a “failed state.” These days, the Mexican government appears to be doing a much better PR job.
Despite the devastating and ongoing drug war, the story now goes that Mexico is poised to become a “middle-class” society. As establishment apostle Thomas Friedman put it in the New York Times, Mexico is now one of “the more dominant economic powers in the 21st century.”

How Monsanto outfoxed the Obama administration

The inside story of how the government let one company squash biotech innovation, and dominate an entire industry 

By Lina Khan

Last November, the U.S. Department of Justice quietly closed a three-year antitrust investigation into Monsanto, the biotech giant whose genetic traits are embedded in over 90 percent of America’s soybean crop and more than 80 percent of corn. Despite a splash of press coverage when the investigation was initially announced, its termination went mostly unreported. The DOJ released no written public statement. Only a brief press release from Monsanto conveyed the news.

The lack of attention belies the significance of the decision, both for food consumers around the world and for U.S. businesses. Experts who have examined Monsanto’s conduct say the Justice Department’s decision not to act all but officially establishes the firm’s sovereignty over the U.S. seed industry. Many of them also say the decision ratifies aggressive practices Monsanto used to entrench its dominance and deter competition. This includes highly restrictive contractual agreements that excluded rivals, alongside a multibillion-dollar spree to buy up seed companies.

Florida Legislature Pushing ALEC, CSG Sham Fracking Chemical Disclosure Model Bill

Friday, 15 March 2013 09:48  
By Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog | Report 

Florida may soon become the fourth state with a law on the books enforcing hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") chemical disclosure. The Florida House of Representatives' Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee voted unanimously (11-0) on March 7 to require chemical disclosure from the fracking industry. For many, that is cause for celebration and applause.

Fracking for oil and gas embedded in shale rock basins across the country and world involves the injection of a 99.5-percent cocktail of water and fine-grained sillica sand into a well that drops under the groundwater table 6,000-10,000 feet and then another 6,000-10,000 feet horizontally. The other .5 percent consists of a mixture of chemicals injected into the well, proprietary information and a "trade secret" under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which current President Barack Obama voted "yes" on as a Senator.

After a Powerful Lobbyist Intervenes, EPA Reverses Stance on Polluting Texas County’s Water

by Abrahm Lustgarten
ProPublica, March 13, 2013, 6 a.m.

When Uranium Energy Corp. sought permission to launch a large-scale mining project in Goliad County, Texas, it seemed as if the Environmental Protection Agency would stand in its way.

To get the ore out of the ground, the company needed a permit to pollute a pristine supply of underground drinking water in an area already parched by drought.

Further, EPA scientists feared that radioactive contaminants would flow from the mining site into water wells used by nearby homes. Uranium Energy said the pollution would remain contained, but resisted doing the advanced scientific testing and modeling the government asked for to prove it.

Paul Krugman: After the Flimflam

It has been a big week for budget documents. In fact, members of Congress have presented not one
but two full-fledged, serious proposals for spending and taxes over the next decade.

Before I get to that, however, let me talk briefly about the third proposal presented this week — the
one that isn’t serious, that’s essentially a cruel joke.

Way back in 2010, when everybody in Washington seemed determined to anoint Representative
Paul Ryan as the ultimate Serious, Honest Conservative, I pronounced him a flimflam man. Even
then, his proposals were obviously fraudulent: huge cuts in aid to the poor, but even bigger tax cuts
for the rich, with all the assertions of fiscal responsibility resting on claims that he would raise
trillions of dollars by closing tax loopholes (which he refused to specify) and cutting discretionary
spending (in ways he refused to specify).

Why it's one law for the rich in America and McJustice for the rest

Fifty years after the supreme court ordered states to provide legal counsel to all, Americans still only get the justice they can afford

David A Love, Thursday 14 March 2013 10.30 EDT
With an historic vote in the state senate for repeal of that state's death penalty statute, Maryland is on track to become the 18th US state to abolish capital punishment. As much as such repeals are worth celebrating, though, they reform just one aspect of a criminal justice system in which poor defendants are provided shoddy, substandard legal representation, if any at all, and innocent people are convicted and imprisoned and, on occasion, may even have been executed.

Coincidentally, 18 March marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark US supreme court decision in Gideon v Wainwright, which ruled that states under the 14th amendment must provide counsel to criminal defendants who cannot afford a lawyer. The right to counsel already existed in federal criminal prosecutions under the sixth amendment, but the supreme court forcefully reiterated that.

The GOP Knows Power

Special Report: Today’s Republican Party doesn’t believe in democracy, at least not when an election is decided by the votes of blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and young urban whites comfortable with multiculturalism. Then, the outcome is deemed illegitimate and deserves obstruction, as Robert Parry explains.

By Robert Parry

Many Washington pundits are scratching their heads over Republican refusal to budge hardly at all in the face of electoral reversals in 2012 – whether on the budget, judicial appointments or other initiatives from reelected President Barack Obama. But that confusion misses a fundamental fact about the modern GOP: it is contemptuous of the public will and the democratic process.

Indeed, looking back over the last half century as today’s Republican Party was stitched together, the common thread has been a readiness to manipulate elections through dirty tricks, deceptions or the disenfranchisement of voting blocs seen as likely to support the Democratic Party. These strategies weave through GOP actions involving Executive, Legislative or Judicial authority, at both the federal and state levels.

The White House Still Doesn’t Know Who It’s Dealing With

By Terrance Heath | March 13, 2013

After listening to National Economic Advisor to the President Gene Sperling this morning, I think I have a better understanding of at least one reason why we ended up in this sequestration mess, and why no one in Washington can seem to figure way out of it. The White House didn’t know who it was dealing with on the Republican side of the negotiating table during the “fiscal cliff” fiasco. Even more distressing, now that the sequester is in effect, is the possibility that the White House still doesn’t know who it’s dealing with.

Sperling was one of this morning’s speakers at “The Economy Summit” in Washington, DC, sponsored by The Atlantic magazine. Sperling’s interview with Editor in Chief James Bennett followed a panel titled, “Debating America’s Addiction to Debt & Debt Debates: Which Matters More?”, featuring Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect, economist Craig Alexander of TD Bank, Paul McCully of the Global Interdependence Center, Yves Smith from Naked Capitalism, and moderated by Financial Times columnist Edward Luce — who also acted as a rhetorical stand-in for Fix the Debt’s Maya MacGuineas, who arrived late.

Sherrod Brown Goes After the Big Banks

In olden days, it used to be that the bad guys robbed the banks. Now it seems the bad guys are running the banks, at least the big ones, and robbing the rest of us. Nearly every day, newspapers have another disturbing report about how the largest and most influential banks managed to escape prosecution for their blatant fraud or else finagled outrageous subsidies and profits from their monopolistic dominance of the financial system. The worst that happens to privileged bankers who are “too big to fail” is an occasional scolding lecture from angry members of Congress.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, fresh from his impressive re-election victory last fall, is back again with a simple, straightforward solution: make the big boys smaller. He is working on legislation with Republican Senator David Vitter to break up the half-dozen mega-banks and strengthen capital standards. This forced downsizing would make space in the marketplace, allowing many more midsize and smaller banking institutions to flourish. It could also protect the nation from another disastrous bailout of Wall Street at public expense.

Why Americans Don’t Save — and What We Can Do About It

Five studies on American’s dwindling savings

March 7, 2013 • By Pacific Standard Staff
Imagine your car needs a new transmission. It’s going to cost $2,000. Can you scrape that together within the month? If so, you’re better off than nearly half your fellow Americans.

We’re used to thinking of the nation’s economic woes in terms of unemployment. But even our sobering jobless rate masks a deeper economic sickness. In 2011, the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that 44 percent of Americans say they would have trouble coming up with two grand in 30 days if they needed to. These “financially fragile” households—one medical bill or busted furnace away from bankruptcy—cut across low-income groups and the middle class alike. What unites this huge swath of America is not an employment problem, but a savings problem.

How industry scientists stalled action on carcinogen

David Heath, 6:00 am, March 13, 2013 Updated: 2:06 pm, March 13, 2013

HINKLEY, Calif. – Ten days before Christmas 1965, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. station chief Richard Jacobs walked a half-block on a dusty road lined with scraggly creosote shrubs to check out a neighbor’s toilet.

Jacobs carried with him a secret, something he referred to as the “chromate problem.”

Starting in 1952, the power company began mixing a toxic form of chromium with water to prevent rust at a new pipeline pumping station in Hinkley, a remote desert community united by a single school and a general store. PG&E dumped the chromium-laced water into a pond.

Dean Baker: Does Paul Ryan Want to Change the Relationship Between Americans and Their Government or Give Money to Rich People?

Ezra Klein looked at Paul Ryan's latest budget and told readers:
"Ryan’s budget is intended to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the relationship between Americans and their government. That, and not deficit reduction, is its real point, as it has been Ryan’s real point throughout his career."
Well, that is one possibility. There is another option: Paul Ryan wants to makes rich people richer. I think the evidence supports the latter view.

A Smart and Principled Plan to End ‘Too Big to Fail’


The CEO and Research Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas have written a clear, smart, and principled proposal for reforming our banking system, and for managing the moral and financial crises our too-big-to-fail banks have caused and perpetrated. The plan proposed by Richard Fisher and Harvey Rosenblum is clear, because it follows a simple three-point structure; smart, because it provides a comprehensive framework for reform; and principled, because it restores several fundamental principles to our banking system, include the “free-market” principle which conservatives claim (often falsely) to hold so dear.