Saturday, May 25, 2013

“Children Are Dying”

Special report: Because of nationwide shortages, Washington hospitals are rationing, hoarding, and bartering critical nutrients premature babies and other patients need to survive. Doctors are reporting conditions normally seen only in developing countries, and there have been deaths. How could this be allowed to happen?  

By Alexandra Robbins

When the hospital monitor chimes again, Atticus’s parents stop talking and look up at the screen. A light blinks an ominous red as the baby’s breathing rate falls. This alarm lasts much longer than the previous two. Catherine and Byron spring to the foot of Atticus’s bassinet and rub his feet. “Make sure you breathe,” Catherine tells her 11-week-old son. She and her husband keep one eye on the baby while watching the monitor. Atticus coughs.

The chiming continues, a gentle sound at odds with the red flashes. The calm of the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) can be deceptive. Just minutes ago, Catherine explained, “You hear ‘beep beep.’ It’s really subtle, but then you see people running down the hall and you hold your breath.”

Jerry Brown's Political Reboot

In his reprise as governor, he's been as ruthlessly practical as he's been reflective, embracing his inner politician to restore the California dream. 

James Fallows May 22 2013, 9:58 PM ET

One Friday morning this spring, I drove to Washington’s Dulles airport at dawn, to catch the first nonstop flight to San Francisco. When I got off the plane six hours later, the morning sun still slanting through the terminal windows, my cellphone began ringing practically as soon as I turned it on.

“Okay, you’re here!” the man on the other end of the call said, cheerily. I’d been trying to arrange a visit to his office for quite a while, and just the previous evening he’d let me know that if I got there in a hurry, he’d have time to talk the next day, as well as over the weekend. As I walked through the airport, he began reeling off turn-by-turn instructions for reaching his office in Oakland in my rental car. “You’ll take the Bay Bridge to the exit for the 580 East and the 24. But don’t go all the way to the 24! That would send you out to Concord. Take the 980 West until the exit for 27th Street, and then …”

Nietzsche’s Marginal Children: On Friedrich Hayek

Corey Robin | May 7, 2013

In the last half-century of American politics, conservatism has hardened around the defense of economic privilege and rule. Whether it’s the libertarianism of the GOP or the neoliberalism of the Democrats, that defense has enabled an upward redistribution of rights and a downward redistribution of duties. The 1 percent possesses more than wealth and political influence; it wields direct and personal power over men and women. Capital governs labor, telling workers what to say, how to vote and when to pee. It has all the substance of noblesse and none of the style of oblige. That many of its most vocal defenders believe Barack Obama to be their mortal enemy—a socialist, no less—is a testament less to the reality about which they speak than to the resonance of the vocabulary they deploy.
The Nobel Prize–winning economist Friedrich Hayek is the leading theoretician of this movement, formulating the most genuinely political theory of capitalism on the right we’ve ever seen. The theory does not imagine a shift from government to the individual, as is often claimed by conservatives; nor does it imagine a simple shift from the state to the market or from society to the atomized self, as is sometimes claimed by the left. Rather, it recasts our understanding of politics and where it might be found. This may explain why the University of Chicago chose to reissue Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty two years ago after the fiftieth anniversary of its publication. Like The Road to Serfdom (1944), which a swooning Glenn Beck catapulted to the bestseller list in 2010, The Constitution of Liberty is a text, as its publisher says, of “our present moment.”

Paul Krugman: Japan the Model

A generation ago, Japan was widely admired — and feared — as an economic paragon. Business
best sellers put samurai warriors on their covers, promising to teach you the secrets of Japanese
management; thrillers by the likes of Michael Crichton portrayed Japanese corporations as
unstoppable juggernauts rapidly consolidating their domination of world markets.

Then Japan fell into a seemingly endless slump, and most of the world lost interest. The main
exceptions were a relative handful of economists, a group that happened to include Ben Bernanke,
now the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and yours truly. These Japan-obsessed economists
viewed the island nation’s economic troubles, not as a demonstration of Japanese incompetence,
but as an omen for all of us. If one big, wealthy, politically stable country could stumble so badly,
they wondered, couldn’t much the same thing happen to other such countries?

A majority on Earth face severe self-inflicted water woes within 2 generations: Scientists

Bonn Declaration issued by 500 scientists at 'Water in the Anthropocene' conference

A conference of 500 leading water scientists from around the world today issued a stark warning that, without major reforms, "in the short span of one or two generations, the majority of the 9 billion people on Earth will be living under the handicap of severe pressure on fresh water, an absolutely essential natural resource for which there is no substitute. This handicap will be self-inflicted and is, we believe, entirely avoidable."

The scientists bluntly pointed to chronic underlying problems led by mismanagement and sent a prescription to policy makers in a 1,000-word declaration issued at the end of a four-day meeting in Bonn, Germany, "Water in the Anthropocene," organized by the Global Water System Project and detailed in a pre-conference release:

The Supreme Court Agreed To Hear A Case Today That Will Probably Nuke Separation Of Church And State

By Ian Millhiser on May 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Eight years ago, in an opinion warning of the “violent consequences of the assumption of religious authority by government,” retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor offered a challenge to her fellow conservative justices eager to weaken the wall of separation between church and state: “[t]hose who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?”

Today, there are five justices on the Supreme Court who would trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly. And they just announced that they will hear a case that gives them the opportunity to make this swap a reality.

Global War on Terror, RIP

Bob Dreyfuss on May 24, 2013 - 10:29 AM ET

Before you express an opinion about President Obama’s national security speech yesterday, if you didn’t see it live the read the whole speech on the White House’s website. It’s an important and transformative speech, one that is already drawing howls of outrage from right-wing pundits, hawks in Congress and the neoconservatives.

It was a clarion call to end the war on terrorism. Said Obama: “We have to be mindful of James Madison’s warning that ‘No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.’ ” Al Qaeda is on the “path to defeat” (actually, it’s pretty far along that path), and its imitators, affilates and clones are either focused on local struggles or, like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, are far weaker, he said, adding: “None of AQAP’s efforts approach the scale of 9/11.” Among the Al Qaeda types, he said “While we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based.”

Everything You Heard About the Deficit Falling Is Wrong

By Nomi Prins

So went the telling of the deficit story last week. Most of the media bought the notion that somehow the deficit had magically halved to $682 billion from around $1.1 trillion last year, based on not even examining the Treasury Department's own reports before promoting that gleeful and surreal conclusion.

When the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced that the deficit underwent some kind of Fastest Loser diet, Keynesian types were thrilled that their philosophy was validated. The magic number proved that government fiscal stimulus will ultimately boost the economy. (Leave aside that John Maynard Keynes was actually an asset manager and successful speculator.) Thus, budgetary cuts are not necessary.

Gut punch: Monsanto could be destroying your microbiome

By Tom Laskawy

First the bad news: The “safest” herbicide in the history of science may be harming us in ways we’re just beginning to understand. And now for the really bad news: Because too much is never enough, the Environmental Protection Agency just raised the allowable limits for how much of that chemical can remain on the food we eat, and the crops we feed to animals — many of which end up on our plates as well. If you haven’t guessed its identity yet, it’s Monsanto’s Roundup, a powerful weed killer.

The EPA and Monsanto are apparently hoping that no one notices the recent rule change — or, if we do notice, that we respond with a collective shrug. But that, my friends, would be a mistake. While Roundup may truly be the “safest” pesticide ever invented, that isn’t quite the same as “safe.” It just may be that Roundup represents a hitherto unrecognized threat to our health — not because of what it does to our bodies, but because of what it does to our “internal ecology,” a.k.a. our “microbiome.”

Documents Show Exxon Lied in Aftermath of Tar Sands Pipeline Rupture

Oil giant knew of dangerous toxins in Arkansas' Lake Conway, yet claimed waterway was “oil free”

- Jon Queally, staff writer

nternal ExxonMobil documents obtained through an Freedom of Information Act request by Greenpeace shows that the oil giant misled the public about the degree to which the spill of more than 200,000 galllons of tar sands oil in Arkansas had contaminated local waterways.

Following the rupture of the Pegasus pipeline in the town of Mayflower on March 29, area residents were increasingly concerned that Lake Conway had been contaminated. Despite overwhelming evidence that tar sands oil was in the lake, ExxonMobil publicly said this was not the case.

Six Facts Lost in the IRS Scandal

by Kim Barker and Justin Elliott
ProPublica, May 22, 2013, 1:44 p.m.

In the furious fallout from the revelation that the IRS flagged applications from conservative nonprofits for extra review because of their political activity, some points about the big picture -- and big donors -- have fallen through the cracks.

Consider this our Top 6 list of need-to-know facts on social welfare nonprofits, also known as dark money groups because they don’t have to disclose their donors. The groups poured more than $256 million into the 2012 federal elections.

Austerity Comes to America

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 09:35
By Gerald Friedman, Center for Popular Economics | News Analysis

Economists at the University of Massachusetts and elsewhere have thoroughly discredited research suggesting that cutting government spending will promote economic growth during a time of recession.  Even while scholarship has exposed the fallacy of austerity economics and this news has reached wide audiences through Twitter and the Colbert Report, the United States government is embracing austerity’s policy prescriptions.  While employment has barely kept up with the growth of the labor force and the best measure of the unemployment rate (which accounts for those who have given up on looking for work or who work part time because they can’t find full time employment) remains stuck at 14%, the federal, state and local governments are slashing payrolls and reducing spending in order to meet arbitrary deficit targets. The ghost of bad austerity economics continues to haunt, and even to drive, the living.

The Homeland Security Apparatus: Fusion Centers, Data Mining and Private Sector Partners

by Beau Hodai — May 22, 2013 - 7:45am

This article is an extraction of material contained in "Dissent or Terror: How the Nation's 'Counter Terrorism' Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street," published by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a nationwide "homeland security"/"counter terrorism" apparatus emerged. Components of this apparatus include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center, and state/regional "fusion centers." Fusion centers, by and large, are staffed with personnel working in "counter terrorism"/ "homeland security" units of municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/public safety/"counter terrorism" agencies. To a large degree, the "counter terrorism" operations of municipal, county, state and tribal agencies engaged in fusion centers are financed through a number of U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant programs.

Initially, fusion centers were intended to be intelligence sharing partnerships between municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/"counter terrorism" agencies, dedicated solely to the dissemination/sharing of "terrorism"-related intelligence. However, shortly following the creation of fusion centers, their focus shifted from this exclusive interest in "terrorism," to one of "all hazards"-- an umbrella term used to describe virtually anything (including "terrorism") that may be deemed a "hazard" to the public, or to certain private sector interests. And, as has been mandated through a series of federal legislative actions and presidential executive orders, fusion centers (and the "counter terrorism" entities that they are comprised of) work-- in ever closer proximity-- with private corporations, with the stated aim of protecting items deemed to be "critical infrastructure/key resources."

New method for producing clean hydrogen

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University engineers have developed a novel method for producing clean hydrogen, which could prove essential to weaning society off of fossil fuels and their environmental implications.

While hydrogen is ubiquitous in the environment, producing and collecting molecular hydrogen for transportation and industrial uses is expensive and complicated. Just as importantly, a byproduct of most current methods of producing hydrogen is carbon monoxide, which is toxic to humans and animals.

The Duke engineers, using a new catalytic approach, have shown in the laboratory that they can reduce carbon monoxide levels to nearly zero in the presence of hydrogen and the harmless byproducts of carbon dioxide and water. They also demonstrated that they could produce hydrogen by reforming fuel at much lower temperatures than conventional methods, which makes it a more practical option.

OPINION: hidden influence-peddling in Washington

Mainstream media largely ignore how special interests get what they want in nation's capital

By Wendell Potter
6:00 am, May 20, 2013 Updated: 4:13 pm, May 20, 2013

I was not among those who believed the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision would open the floodgates of corporate money to influence elections and public policy. While the decision enables corporations to call for the election or defeat of federal candidates, those expenditures have to be reported and few corporations will take the risk of losing customers by getting involved in politics so publicly.

The reality is, the floodgates have been open for years, and the attention focused on Citizens United has actually been helpful to corporations, because it has diverted the public’s attention away from the deceptive yet perfectly legal ways corporations are able to deploy enormous sums of money to advance their political agendas.

What’s Wrong With Jamie Dimon is What’s Wrong With America


A lot of people have attacked JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon over the years, including this author. After today’s shareholder votes at JPM, Mark Gongloff is right to describe Dimon as a “cult leader.” Gongloff quotes critics, like Public Citizen’s Bart Naylor who offer pointed and very valid criticism of Dimon and his board.

But that’s not the end of the story. It’s too easy to externalize responsibility by pinning the blame on villains. Every people has used the symbolism of demons in an attempt to extirpate something within themselves. The Jamie Dimon story shows that something more fundamental needs repair – in our economy, in our society, in us.

ABC News And CBS News Officially Normalize Fabricated Reporting

by Tommy Christopher | 11:48 am, May 20th, 2013

The dust has settled on the inaccurate email “summaries” that were passed off as real emails by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and seemingly by CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson, and the result is that both news organizations have issued a pass for this basic journalistic breach. Jon Karl put out a statement, sanctioned by ABC News, expressing regret for his source’s error, and characterizing his egregious misrepresentation that he “obtained emails” as a matter of clarity. CBS News’ official position, as of this moment, is that Sharyl Attkisson’s reporting included a disclosure that the emails were not really emails, despite the existence of a memo demonstrating the opposite.

A week ago Friday, ABC News’ Jon Karl reported on emails that he, and other ABC News anchors, said he’d obtained, that purported to show the process involved in developing the talking points on the September 11 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Once CNN’s Jake Tapper actually did obtain a real email, and the White House subsequently released the actual email chain, Karl’s “emails” were revealed to be summaries, provided by a source, which contained invented quotes and significant omissions. Since then, both ABC News and Jon Karl have defended the reporting, and allowed only that Karl “should have been clearer about the attribution,” and that “ABC News should have been more precise in its sourcing of those quotes, attributing them to handwritten copies of the emails taken by a Congressional source.”

How the Government Targeted Occupy

A new report reveals the U.S. spent millions spying on Occupiers and other anti-corporate activists.

BY Lisa Graves

Freedom of conscience is one of the most fundamental human freedoms. This freedom is not merely about one’s ability to choose to believe or not believe in religion or a particular philosophy. In a democracy, freedom of conscience is about the ability to be critical of government and corporations, and to be free from the chilling fear that being critical will subject you to government surveillance.

Freedom of conscience is not fully realized in isolation. Without the ability to share one’s thoughts, to speak out about injustice, or to join with others in peaceably assembling to petition for redress of grievances, this core freedom is not truly free. Americans should be able to exercise these most sacred rights in free society without worry of being monitored by the government.

PBS Killed Wisconsin Uprising Documentary "Citizen Koch" To Appease Koch Brothers

Tuesday, 21 May 2013 09:19  
By Brendan Fischer, PRWatch | Report 

"Citizen Koch," a documentary about money in politics focused on the Wisconsin uprising, was shunned by PBS for fear of offending billionaire industrialist David Koch, who has given $23 million to public television, according to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker. The dispute highlights the increasing role of private money in "public" television and raises even further concerns about the Kochs potentially purchasing eight major daily newspapers.

The film from Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin documents how the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision helped pave the way for secret political spending by players like the Kochs, who contributed directly and indirectly to the election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in 2010 and came to his aid again when the battle broke out over his effort to limit collective bargaining.

The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks

The Goodman Affair: Monsanto Targets the Heart of Science

Tuesday, 21 May 2013 09:41
By Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham, Independent Science News | Report

Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, has jested that instead of scientific peer review, its rival The Lancet had a system of throwing a pile of papers down the stairs and publishing those that reached the bottom. On another occasion, Smith was challenged to publish an issue of the BMJ exclusively comprising papers that had failed peer review and see if anybody noticed. He replied, “How do you know I haven’t already done it?”

As Smith’s stories show, journal editors have a lot of power in science – power that provides opportunities for abuse. The life science industry knows this, and has increasingly moved to influence and control science publishing.

What a Real Cover-up Looks Like

May 21, 2013
Exclusive: Republicans won’t let go of their conspiracy theory about some nefarious “cover-up” in “talking points” for Ambassador Susan Rice’s TV interviews on the Benghazi attack. But they should at least have better skills for detecting a real cover-up, since they’ve had direct experience, as Robert Parry documents.

By Robert Parry

There have been nine public hearings and countless hours of commentary about the so-called Benghazi “cover-up” – really just some bureaucratic back-and-forth about “talking points” for a second-tier official’s appearance on TV. But none of the outraged members of Congress or the news media seems to have any idea what a real cover-up looks like.

In 2011, I gained access to files at the George H.W. Bush library in College Station, Texas, showing how Bush’s White House reacted to allegations in 1991 that he had joined in an operation in 1980 to sabotage President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

Deja Vu on the Hill: Wall Street Lobbyists Roll Back Finance Reform, Again

By Matt Taibbi
POSTED: May 21, 9:22 AM ET

It's becoming an annual tradition: Spring rolls around, and while nobody is looking, Wall Street quietly lays siege to Washington and reaches a hand out to yank the last remaining teeth out of the government's financial regulatory head.

In the last two weeks, we've seen two major developments here. There was a wave of deregulatory bills that snuck through the House with surprisingly bipartisan support, and a series of regulatory decisions by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that will seriously weaken the already-weak Dodd-Frank reform legislation, particularly with regard to derivatives trades.

The 4 Big Ways That Insatiable Corporate Hunger for Profits Has Devastated American Life -- and the World Along with It

By Paul Buchheit

Health Care [3]: Almost half of the working-age adults in America passed up doctor visits or other medical services because they couldn't afford to pay. The system hasn't supported kids, either.

UNICEF study [4] places the U.S. 26th out of 29 OECD countries in the overall well-being of its children.

Education [5]: Student loan balances increased by 75% between 2007 and 2012.

Shocker: Republicans Fight Obama Plan to Privatize the Hugely Popular, Cheap Energy Source of the TVA

By Gar Alperovitz, Thomas Hanna

Buried within the fine print of the 2014 Obama budget is a startling bit of history-changing policy. The government, the administration says, should consider selling off the Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the nation’s largest publicly operated—that is, “socialist”—institutions, and the largest public power provider in the country.

The TVA is a non-profi, free-standing public authority established by the Roosevelt administration during the Depression—a very large utility, if you like. It provides 165 billion kilowatt hours of power to 9 million Americans, has $11.2 billion in sales revenue, employs more than 12,500 people, and provides other educational, training and related services (such as navigation and land management, flood control, and economic development) to the people in the states and region around the Tennessee river basin.

Strikingly, it’s the free-market Republicans who object to this proposed privatization. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who has vehemently opposed government tax credits and subsidies for renewable energy, calls the proposal “one more bad idea in a budget full of bad ideas,” and fears that privatization would lead to higher energy costs for his constituents.

Ongoing disaster evident in too many states

By Doug Hall | May 17, 2013

Earlier this month, the national jobs report was released, revealing the ongoing disaster resulting from a persistently weak economic recovery. Today’s release of state employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics helps identify the states that face the most grave economic challenges more than five years after the beginning of the Great Recession.

Paul Krugman: Macroeconomic Machismo

Atrios, weighing in on the Kinsley Kontroversy, suggests that the evident urge to make Someone Suffer — Someone Else, of course — reflects sadism. But I don’t think that’s right. Lack of compassion, sure; an inability to imagine what it must be like for someone less fortunate than oneself and one’s friends, definitely. But I think that the linked Scott Lemieux post, which equates the austerian fixation on stagflation with the neocon fixation on Munich, is much closer to the mark.

A Word from Our Sponsor

Public television’s attempts to placate David Koch.

by Jane Mayer May 27, 2013

ast fall, Alex Gibney, a documentary filmmaker who won an Academy Award in 2008 for an exposé of torture at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, completed a film called “Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream.” It was scheduled to air on PBS on November 12th. The movie had been produced independently, in part with support from the Gates Foundation. “Park Avenue” is a pointed exploration of the growing economic inequality in America and a meditation on the often self-justifying mind-set of “the one per cent.” As a narrative device, Gibney focusses on one of the most expensive apartment buildings in Manhattan—740 Park Avenue—portraying it as an emblem of concentrated wealth and contrasting the lives of its inhabitants with those of poor people living at the other end of Park Avenue, in the Bronx.
Among the wealthiest residents of 740 Park is David Koch, the billionaire industrialist, who, with his brother Charles, owns Koch Industries, a huge energy-and-chemical conglomerate.

Revealed: Republicans knew about IRS investigations of tea party groups last July

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, May 20, 2013 10:43 EDT

Republicans in Congress have known that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) asked additional questions of some tea party groups seeking tax exempt status since last July, only recently raising the issue as a matter of controversy according to documents released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The questionnaires were revealed after the IRS inspector general explained last week that agents in the Cincinnati office asked for more information of groups applying for tax exempt status if they had the words “tea party” and “patriot” in their title, apparently singling them out over liberal groups seeking similar classification.

Rise Up or Die

Posted on May 19, 2013
By Chris Hedges

Joe Sacco and I spent two years reporting from the poorest pockets of the United States for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We went into our nation’s impoverished “sacrifice zones”—the first areas forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace—to show what happens when unfettered corporate capitalism and ceaseless economic expansion no longer have external impediments. We wanted to illustrate what unrestrained corporate exploitation does to families, communities and the natural world. We wanted to challenge the reigning ideology of globalization and laissez-faire capitalism to illustrate what life becomes when human beings and the ecosystem are ruthlessly turned into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. And we wanted to expose as impotent the formal liberal and governmental institutions that once made reform possible, institutions no longer equipped with enough authority to check the assault of corporate power. 

What has taken place in these sacrifice zones—in postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., and Detroit, in coalfields of southern West Virginia where mining companies blast off mountaintops, in Indian reservations where the demented project of limitless economic expansion and exploitation worked some of its earliest evil, and in produce fields where laborers often endure conditions that replicate slavery—is now happening to much of the rest of the country. These sacrifice zones succumbed first. You and I are next.

ALEC/Koch Cable Pursuing Privatization of the US Postal Service for UPS and Fedex...

OpEd by by Bob Sloan © 2012

An event occurred in front of my home on Wednesday of this week that provided an incentive for me to go ahead and publish an article I’d written about the United States Postal Service (USPS).  The event was a strong-arm robbery of a mailman at a house on our block.  I witnessed this event and was asked to give statements to agents of the Postal Inspector’s Office and local detectives.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been in the news a lot of late.  Many stories about the loss of income and repeat annual income falling far below the Postal Service’s ability to operate have been trumpeted in the MSM.  Critics have called for the USPS to reduce hours, cut employees, close facilities and raise rates to increase annual sales and income. Today some within the business community think the USPS is actually looking at bankruptcy.  There is no doubt the U.S. Mail service is struggling financially but is the fault really that of USPS?

I think it is time to take a long hard look at just how this has come about.  Mail service has been around longer than the U.S. has as a nation:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sheila Bair: Dodd-Frank really did end taxpayer bailouts

By Mike Konczal, Published: May 18, 2013 at 10:27 am

Sheila Bair, the hard-charging former director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, stands at the center of three of the biggest debates in Dodd-Frank implementation.

As someone who knows the FDIC — which is actually the agency that takes down failing banks — she’s in an unusually good position to know whether the law’s resolution authority will work. These are the new powers the FDIC has in Dodd-Frank to impose losses and fail a financial firm (it’s what Barney Frank called “death panels” for financial megabanks). Bair has also been a vocal advocate for higher leverage requirements, which has animated the debate over the recent Brown-Vitter bill. And she was recently critical of the efforts by the House Financial Services Committee to repeal parts of Dodd-Frank that push swaps out of bank holding companies, even though she original opposed a stricter version of that language back in 2010.

We talked about all three of these topics; our discussion is slightly edited for clarity.

Mike Konczal: To start, how do you think Dodd-Frank is unfolding? Specifically, the rules for Title II and “resolution authority.”

Sheila Bair: We finalized most of the rules we could write on our own before I left, though they are working on further clarifications. I think the FDIC has come up with a viable strategy for resolving a large complex financial institution. This is their strategy of using a single-point-of-entry. The FDIC will take control of a holding company and put creditors and shareholders into a receivership where they, not taxpayers, will absorb any losses. This will allow the subsidiaries to remain operational, avoiding systemic disruptions, as the overall entity is unwound over time.

Bill Moyers: 12 Ways You Can Avoid Toxic Chemicals

Bill Moyers / By Lauren Feeney


If you think that lead poisoning is a problem of the past, or one that only affects the urban poor, think again. While it’s true that lead paint has been illegal since the 70s and leaded gasoline was phased out in the 80s, the highly toxic substance still lurks in old homes, parking lots, water pipes, and in products imported from countries that don’t have the same regulations. And while lead poisoning no longer the killer it once was, miniscule amounts of lead can cause neurological damage and behavioral problems in children. According to the CDC, there are currently half a million children with elevated levels of lead in their blood. Here’s what you can do to protect your family from lead poisoning:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Military Quietly Grants Itself the Power to Police the Streets Without Local or State Consent

By Jed Morey

The lines blurred even further Monday as a new dynamic was introduced to the militarization of domestic law enforcement. By making a few subtle changes to a regulation in the U.S. Code titled “Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies” [4] the military has quietly granted itself the ability to police the streets without obtaining prior local or state consent, upending a precedent that has been in place for more than two centuries.

The progressive, anti-imperialist case for international intervention

by David Atkins

In many circles on the political left, there isn't a dirtier word than interventionist. The word conjures associations with the worst kind of arrogant imperialism, a constellation of belligerent privilege that stretches from Rudyard Kipling through Woodrow Wilson all the way to George W. Bush. This is with good reason: after all, most interventionism by Western powers has been well-intentioned but ineffective at best, and immoral, abusive and bloodthirsty at worst. It's not surprising that anyone who declares themselves a progressive and an interventionist will be immediately subject to charges of imperialism, racism, warmongering, economic exploitation and other evils. Nor does being steeped in the excellent work of Naomi Klein, Chalmers Johnson or Joseph Stiglitz shield the liberal interventionist from these attacks. Live and let live, reduce blowback, embrace global diversity, end cultural prescriptivism, and let each nation fend for its own economic interests, the interventionist is told.

'Chemicals of Concern' list still wrapped in OMB red tape 

By Jim Morris, 6:00 am, May 13, 2013 Updated: 8:27 am, May 15, 2013

For anyone anxious about toxic chemicals in the environment, Sunday marked a dubious milestone.

It has been three years since the “chemicals of concern” list landed at the White House Office of Management and Budget. The list, which the Environmental Protection Agency wants to put out for public comment, includes bisphenol A, a chemical used in polycarbonate plastic water bottles and other products; eight phthalates, which are used in flexible plastics; and certain flame-retardant compounds called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs.

Pentagon 'Rewrites Constitution' Affirming Endless War

Senate hearing on the Authorization for Use of Military Force confirms congressional war powers rendered 'null and void'

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

The United States is truly engaged in an endless war.

In a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Forces Thursday morning entitled Oversight: The Law of Armed Conflict, the Use of Military Force, and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, Pentagon officials argued that the wide-ranging counter-terrorism laws implemented after 9/11 will continue to be the law of the land until "hostilities with al-Qaeda," or any individuals potentially associated with the group, come to an end.

Why No One Is Celebrating CBO’s New And Much Lower Deficit Estimate


There was a time when a $200+ billion reduction in the federal budget deficit would have been big news and hailed as a singular achievement worthy of either fiscal sainthood or a dance-on-the-table party…or both.

Yet yesterday’s Congressional Budget Office report showing that the fiscal 2013 federal deficit will be $642 billion, $203 billion less than CBO’s previous estimate of $845 billion, did not create any spontaneous cannonizations or celebrations. It also didn’t change the still-stalemated and crisis-oriented federal budget debate by even a small amount.

Paul Krugman: When Basic Economic Theory Is Ignored, Disaster Will Follow

As I have been writing a lot lately, the clean little secret of the global economic crisis is that standard economic theory actually performed pretty well.

It's true that few anticipated the severity of the 2008 crisis — but that wasn't a deep failure of theory, it was a failure of observation. We actually had a pretty good understanding of bank runs; we just failed to notice that traditional banks were a much smaller share of the system than before, and that unregulated, unguaranteed shadow banks had become so important. Once that realization hit, as the economist Gary Gorton has documented, standard bank-run theory made perfectly good sense of the story.

"The Other IRS Scandal": David Cay Johnston on Dark Money Political Groups Seeking Tax Exemption

The acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Steven Miller, has been forced to resign days after the IRS apologized to tea party and other right-wing groups for putting extra scrutiny on their bids to become tax-exempt organizations. While the IRS targeting of tea party groups has made headlines for days, far less attention has been paid to the roots of the crisis. After the 2010 landmark Supreme Court decision Citizens United, there was a spike in new political organizations seeking tax-exempt status under tax code Section 501(c)(4). The court ruled these groups could raise unlimited corporate money without disclosing donor information.

Republicans Altered Benghazi Emails, CBS News Report Claims

The Huffington Post  |  By Chris Gentilviso  
Posted:   |  Updated: 05/17/2013 9:52 am EDT

One day after The White House released 100 pages of Benghazi emails, a report has surfaced alleging that Republicans released a set with altered text.

CBS News reported Thursday that leaked versions sent out by the GOP last Friday had visible differences than Wednesday's official batch. Two correspondences that were singled out in the report came from National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

The GOP version of Rhodes' comment, according to CBS News: "We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don't want to undermine the FBI investigation."

New Documents Reveal How a 1980s Nuclear War Scare Became a Full-Blown Crisis

By Robert Beckhusen, 05.16.13, 3:43 PM

During 10 days in November 1983, the United States and the Soviet Union nearly started a nuclear war. Newly declassified documents from the CIA, NSA, KGB, and senior officials in both countries reveal just how close we came to mutually assured destruction — over a military exercise.

That exercise, Able Archer 83, simulated the transition by NATO from a conventional war to a nuclear war, culminating in the simulated release of warheads against the Soviet Union. NATO changed its readiness condition during Able Archer to DEFCON 1, the highest level. The Soviets interpreted the simulation as a ruse to conceal a first strike and readied their nukes. At this period in history, and especially during the exercise, a single false alarm or miscalculation could have brought Armageddon.

Tomgram: Andy Kroll, A Democracy of the Wealthy

Posted by Andy Kroll at 7:29am, May 16, 2013.

Once upon a time, the election season began with the New Hampshire primary in early March and never really gained momentum (or much attention) until the candidates were chosen and the fall campaign revved up. Now, the New Hampshire primary is in early January, and by then, the campaign season has already been underway for a couple of years.

Consider campaign 2016, the next 1% presidential election of the twenty-first century. It’s more than underway with congressional hearings that are visibly organized to skewer possible Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and that special table-setter, the first Karl Rove super PAC attack video/ad, also lighting out after the former secretary of state. Looked at another way, like recent presidential campaigns, the 2016 version actually began before the last election ended. The initial media handicapping of future candidates by reporters and pundits, for instance, hit the news well before the first voter emerged from a polling booth in 2012 -- and it’s never stopped. Similarly, the first Iowa poll for the next campaign season made it on the scene within days of the 2012 vote count (Hillary was ahead), and the first attack ads in early primary states are already appearing. With thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of polls to follow, Americans will repeatedly “vote” in contests set up by companies, often hired by political parties or politicians to take the pulse of the public in the unending serial ballots that now precede the actual election.

Richard Eskow: Dear Simpson-Bowles Austerity Gang: Go Home (and Take the Sequester With You)

Simpson and Bowles, those two hired pitchmen for budget-cutting hysteria, are still hawking an economy-killing product called “austerity economics,” a product that’s designed to benefit their wealthy patrons at everybody else’s expense.  This philosophy provides some (very thin) intellectual cover for the Republicans’ lunatic bloodbath of spending cuts.

Of course, Simpson and Bowles and austerity’s other sales people aren’t really economic thinkers. They’re paid to pitch a product. They didn’t invent austerity any more than Alex Rodriguez invented Pepsi.

Dean Baker: Cutting Social Security and Not Taxing Wall Street 

As we move towards the fifth anniversary of the great financial crisis of 2008, people should be outraged that cutting Social Security is now on the national agenda, while taxing Wall Street is not. After all, if we take at face value the claims made back in 2008 by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner, Wall Street excesses brought the economy to the brink of collapse.

But now the Wall Street behemoths are bigger than ever and President Obama is looking to cut the Social Security benefits of retirees. That will teach the Wall Street boys to be more responsible in the future.

Cotton offers a new ecologically friendly way to clean up oil spills

With the Deepwater Horizon disaster emphasizing the need for better ways of cleaning up oil spills, scientists are reporting that unprocessed, raw cotton may be an ideal, ecologically friendly answer, with an amazing ability to sop up oil. Their report, which includes some of the first scientific data on unprocessed, raw cotton's use in crude oil spills, appears in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

OPINION: ObamaCare myths and realities

State exchanges were a Republican idea, and early evidence shows they're working 

By Wendell Potter
6:00 am, May 13, 2013 Updated: 2:06 pm, May 13, 2013

The House of Representatives is expected to vote for the 40th time this week to repeal ObamaCare, not because anyone believes the 40th time will be the charm, but because the exercise will enable Republican freshmen to vote for repeal and brag about it during their campaigns next year.

Those lawmakers probably won’t tell their constituents that two of the most important provisions of the law they profess to hate were actually Republican ideas the Democrats embraced in hopes of getting bipartisan support for reform. The first such provision is the requirement that all Americans not covered by a public plan like Medicare or Medicaid must buy coverage from a private insurance company. The second provision: establishment of state health insurance marketplaces (called exchanges in the law) where private insurers compete online for customers.

Paul Krugman: The Latvia Illusion

The Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf wrote a very good piece recently on attempts to put the Baltic states, Latvia especially, on a pedestal and claim that they prove that austerity works. Mainly he makes points I have made previously: that output is still well below the previous peak, and that unemployment is still very high despite drastic out-migration.

Mr. Wolf adds that in some ways the Baltic states' adjustment was also made easier by the fact that these are very open economies playing catch-up to the West, so that fast export growth was relatively easy to achieve.

So This Is How It Begins: Guy Refuses to Stop Drone-Spying on Seattle Woman

Is this legal? 

Paul Krugman: How the Case for Austerity Has Crumbled

The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire
by Neil Irwin
Penguin, 430 pp., $29.95

Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea
by Mark Blyth
Oxford University Press, 288 pp., $24.95

The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America d
by David A. Stockman
PublicAffairs, 742 pp., $35.00
In normal times, an arithmetic mistake in an economics paper would be a complete nonevent as far as the wider world was concerned. But in April 2013, the discovery of such a mistake—actually, a coding error in a spreadsheet, coupled with several other flaws in the analysis—not only became the talk of the economics profession, but made headlines. Looking back, we might even conclude that it changed the course of policy.

Why? Because the paper in question, “Growth in a Time of Debt,” by the Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, had acquired touchstone status in the debate over economic policy. Ever since the paper was first circulated, austerians—advocates of fiscal austerity, of immediate sharp cuts in government spending—had cited its alleged findings to defend their position and attack their critics. Again and again, suggestions that, as John Maynard Keynes once argued, “the boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity”—that cuts should wait until economies were stronger—were met with declarations that Reinhart and Rogoff had shown that waiting would be disastrous, that economies fall off a cliff once government debt exceeds 90 percent of GDP.

Who doctored a White House email?

CNN appears to have undermined a scoop that damaged the White House 

Was ABC News used by someone with an ax to grind against the State Department? It looks possible. A key email in its “scoop” that the administration’s “talking points” on Benghazi had been changed a dozen times came from White House national security communications adviser Ben Rhodes. It seemed to confirm that the White House wanted the talking points changed to protect all agencies’ interests, “including those of the State Department,” in the words of the email allegedly sent by Rhodes.

But CNN’s Jake Tapper reveals that Rhodes’ email didn’t mention the State Department, and doesn’t even seem to implicitly reference it. The email as published by Karl differs significantly from the original obtained by Tapper.

Justice Dept. Defends Seizure of Phone Records 

Published: May 14, 2013

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday defended the Justice Department’s sweeping seizure of telephone records of Associated Press journalists, describing the article by The A.P. that prompted a criminal investigation as among “the top two or three most serious leaks that I’ve ever seen” in a 35-year career.

“It put the American people at risk, and that is not hyperbole,” he said in an apparent reference to an article on May 7, 2012, that disclosed the foiling of a terrorist plot by Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen to bomb an airliner. “And trying to determine who was responsible for that, I think, required very aggressive action.”

Neo-liberalism – the antithesis to democracy

Posted on Monday, May 13, 2013 by bill

I recall a professor in my student days (formal that is, given we are always students if we remain open) telling a postgraduate class that economic development could only occur if the social democratic pretensions of the left, including tolerance of trade unions, were suppressed – “in the interests of progress”. He laughed and said that it was no surprise that the most right-wing nations grew the fastest. His poster child was South Korea. I recalled that experience when I read two articles recently in the UK Guardian. They are reflections on how neo-liberalism is really the antithesis to democratic ideals. The so-called free markets have nothing to do with freedom or political inclusion.

The first Guardian article (May 9, 2013) – Is Cameron’s Britain what we fought for in the war? – written by a 90-year-old World War II veteran, argued that the neo-liberal period of .economic policy-making is the anathema to what the soldiers had sacrificed for during that war.

It was an evocative piece.

Keith Ellison: “I don’t care what party you’re in. I’m in the Social Security party.” 

5/14/2013 10:00am by Gaius Publius

Is Dem resistance to Neoliberal Leadership spreading in Congress? Here’s Keith Ellison and Elizabeth Warren on Social Security benefit cuts. Listen; it sure sounds like it.

On May 8 the House Progressive Caucus (CPC) and others held a Summit on Defending Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans’ Benefits in the Hart Senate Office Building in DC.

Monsanto and other GM firms are winning in the US – and globally

The US State Department has sadly joined the push to distribute GM crops around the world, whether people want them or not

Wenonah Hauter, Tuesday 14 May 2013 09.00 EDT
If you have a feeling that genetically modified (GM) foods are being forced upon the population by a handful of business interests and vociferously defended by the scientists that work in the agriculture industry or at the research institutions it funds, you might be onto something.

The zeal with which GM proponents evangelize transgenic seeds (and now, transgenic food animals) is so extreme that they are even pouring vast sums of money to defeat popular efforts to simply label GE foods – like the nearly $50m spent to defeat the popular 2012 ballot measure to label GE foods in California, Proposition 37. What's more, it's not just happening in the United States. I am the head of Food & Water Watch, and we have spent months looking at the extent to which the US State Department is working on behalf of the GM seed industry to make sure that biotech crops are served up abroad whether the world wants them or not.

The IRS Tea Party Scandal, Explained

It's Washington's new outrage. What exactly happened and who is responsible?

The Vicious New Bank Shakedown That Could Seriously Ruin Your Life

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

Gangsta-style big banks have taken up where this character left off. They may not send a guy to break your kneecaps, but they are working in the shadows, chasing down debts from credit cards using methods that are both fraudulent and unlawful. They do this whether you actually owe the money or not.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Scientists find impact of open-ocean industrial fishing within centuries of bird bones

The impact of industrial fishing on coastal ecosystems has been studied for many years. But how it affects food webs in the open ocean―a vast region that covers almost half of the Earth's surface―has not been very clear. So a team of Smithsonian and Michigan State University scientists and their colleagues looked to the ancient bones of seabirds for answers, revealing some of the dramatic changes that have happened within open-ocean food webs since the onset of industrial fishing. The team's research is published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

WPost Revives Its Plame-gate Smear

May 13, 2013
Exclusive: The Washington Post not only swallowed George W. Bush’s lies about Iraq’s WMD but the neocon newspaper spat on Americans who dared challenge those lies, especially ex-U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his CIA wife, Valerie Plame. A top Post editor has now revived that abuse, notes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Sometimes it seems that the humane thing to do with the Washington Post would be to counsel it on the advantages of corporate euthanasia. Then, with its faded glories of Watergate clutched to its chest, it could disappear from its embarrassing present in which the newspaper is disgracing whatever good it did in the past.

Yes, I know you could argue that even its Watergate fame was way overrated, that the newspaper missed the most important aspect of the scandal – how it originated with President Richard Nixon’s frantic search for a missing file that documented his sabotage of the 1968 Vietnam peace talks, what President Lyndon Johnson privately had termed Nixon’s “treason.”

Austerity and the Unraveling of European Universal Health Care

By Adam Gaffney - Spring 2013

A great human disaster is now unfolding in the many Eurozone countries that have agreed to slash spending, wages, and living standards to meet the demands of fiscal austerity. One facet of this story that has received far too little attention, however, is the effect of these measures on the health of these nations.

Austerity derives from the Greek austeros, for harsh or severe; but, in the area of health care, it has veered into the cruel: health expenditures dwindle, hospital budgets shrink, health care needs rise, and human suffering worsens. Suicide is on the rise; basic hospital supplies are missing; potentially life-saving surgeries are delayed; the rate of new HIV infections increases; drug shortages are ubiquitous; the prevalence of mental illness spikes. And these are just the obvious results.

The most controversial chart in history, explained

By Chris Mooney

Back in 1998, a little-known climate scientist named Michael Mann and two colleagues published a paper that sought to reconstruct the planet’s past temperatures going back half a millennium before the era of thermometers — thereby showing just how out of whack recent warming has been. The finding: Recent Northern Hemisphere temperatures had been “warmer than any other year since (at least) AD 1400.” The graph depicting this result looked rather like a hockey stick: After a long period of relatively minor temperature variations (the “shaft”), it showed a sharp mercury upswing during the last century or so (“the blade”).

The report moved quickly through climate science circles. Mann and a colleague soon lengthened the shaft [PDF] of the hockey stick back to the year 1000 AD — and then, in 2001, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prominently featured the hockey stick in its Third Assessment Report. Based on this evidence, the IPCC proclaimed that “the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years.”

Sunday, May 12, 2013

This Week in Poverty: Twelve Things You Can Do To Fight Poverty Now

Greg Kaufmann

This is a tough moment in the fight against poverty.

The sequester is the latest chapter in a time-honored tradition of kicking the poor when they are down. A do-nothing Congress certainly isn’t going to do something about poverty without pressure from the grassroots. And it seems that the only way most of the mainstream media will pay attention to the more than one in three Americans living below twice the poverty line—on less than $36,000 for a family of three—is if their lives make good fodder for tabloid television or play out in a courtroom drama.

That said, there are still plenty of people and groups fighting for real change, and plenty of ways you can get involved or stay engaged. I reached out to a handful of folks who dedicate their lives to fighting poverty in different ways.

The Facts Are In and Paul Ryan Is Wrong

By Jonathan Chait

Changes in the way we think about the world are not “news” in the classic sense — they occur gradually, without discrete events to signal them. But they matter. Two such developments have come together recently, both reported in the New York Times. The first is the collapse of intellectual support for the notion that immediate austerity can boost economic growth. The second is a growing consensus that health-care-cost inflation is slowing for deep structural reasons, rather than having undergone a mere temporary dip from the recession. These trends have something in common: They blow to smithereens the intellectual foundations of the Obama-era Republican policy agenda.

During the last four years, the hoary Republican nostrums of lower taxes, spending, and regulation have cohered into a specific view of the world. Paul Ryan has been the leading figure in defining this view and persuading the entire party, almost without exception, to fall in line behind it. The Ryan worldview is that the United States is heading toward a massive debt crisis, that the crisis is driven primarily by rising health-care costs, and only his plan stands any chance of alleviating it.

The Death of Truth: Chris Hedges Interviews Julian Assange

Sunday, 12 May 2013 09:44  
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Interview 

This interview is a joint project of Truthdig and The Nation magazine.
Corporate totalitarianism is spreading rapidly, and it’s not just Assange or Manning they want. It is all who dare to defy the official narrative.

London - A tiny tip of the vast subterranean network of governmental and intelligence agencies from around the world dedicated to destroying WikiLeaks and arresting its founder, Julian Assange, appears outside the red-brick building on Hans Crescent Street that houses the Ecuadorean Embassy. Assange, the world’s best-known political refugee, has been in the embassy since he was offered sanctuary there last June. British police in black Kevlar vests are perched night and day on the steps leading up to the building, and others wait in the lobby directly in front of the embassy door. An officer stands on the corner of a side street facing the iconic department store Harrods, half a block away on Brompton Road. Another officer peers out the window of a neighboring building a few feet from Assange’s bedroom at the back of the embassy. Police sit round-the-clock in a communications van topped with an array of antennas that presumably captures all electronic forms of communication from Assange’s ground-floor suite.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), or Scotland Yard, said the estimated cost of surrounding the Ecuadorean Embassy from June 19, 2012, when Assange entered the building, until Jan. 31, 2013, is the equivalent of $4.5 million.

Coup d’Etat to Trade Seen in Billionaire Toxic Lead Fight

By Andrew Martin - 2013-05-10T18:22:19Z

Across the river from Belinda Elida Barja’s two-room apartment, the lead and zinc smelters of Doe Run Peru spread smoke and dust in the mountain town of La Oroya.

Her 9-year-old son Kenyi has headaches, memory loss, stomach ailments and difficulty concentrating, Barja said. The lead in his blood measured 41 micrograms per deciliter in a 2007 test -- eight times the level the U.S. government considers a cause for action. Barja blames Doe Run Peru.

“They just think about making money,” she said.

Medicare Drug Program Fails to Monitor Prescribers, Putting Seniors and Disabled at Risk

by Tracy Weber, Charles Ornstein and Jennifer LaFleur
ProPublica, May 11, 2013, 9:06 p.m.

Ten years ago, a sharply divided Congress decided to pour billions of dollars into subsidizing the purchase of drugs by elderly and disabled Americans.

The initiative, the biggest expansion of Medicare since its creation in 1965, proved wildly popular. It now serves more than 35 million people, delivering critical medicines to patients who might otherwise be unable to afford them. Its price tag is far lower than expected.

But an investigation by ProPublica has found the program, in its drive to get drugs into patients' hands, has failed to properly monitor safety. An analysis of four years of Medicare prescription records shows that some doctors and other health professionals across the country prescribe large quantities of drugs that are potentially harmful, disorienting or addictive. Federal officials have done little to detect or deter these hazardous prescribing patterns.

Large Corporations Seek U.S.–European 'Free Trade Agreement' to Further Global Dominance

By Andrew Gavin Marshall

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the latest corporate-driven agenda in what is commonly called a “free trade agreement,” but which really amounts to  ‘cosmopolitical corporate consolidation’: large corporations dictating and directing the policies of states – both nationally and internationally – into constructing structures which facilitate regional and global consolidation of financial, economic, and political power into the hands of relatively few large corporations.

Such agreements have little to do with actual ‘trade,’ and everything to do with expanding the rights and powers of large corporations. Corporations have become powerful economic and political entities – competing in size and wealth with the world’s largest national economies – and thus have taken on a distinctly ‘cosmopolitical’ nature. Acting through industry associations, lobby groups, think tanks and foundations, cosmopolitical corporations are engineering large projects aimed at transnational economic and political consolidation of power... into their hands. With the construction of “a European-American free-trade zone” as “an ambitious project,” we are witnessing the advancement of a new and unprecedented global project of transatlantic corporate colonization.

Tax authorities move on leaked offshore documents

By Gerard Ryle, Marina Walker Guevara

2:59 pm, May 9, 2013 Updated: 3:10 pm, May 9, 2013
The U.S., British and Australian authorities are working with a gigantic cache of leaked data that may be the beginnings of one of the largest tax investigations in history.

The secret records are believed to include those obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that lay bare the individuals behind covert companies and private trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands, Singapore and other offshore hideaways.

The hoard of documents obtained by ICIJ represents the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever gathered by a media organization.

How School Privatizers Buy Elections

By Ruth Conniff, May 8, 2013

A fundamental struggle for democracy is going on behind the scenes in statehouses around the country, as a handful of wealthy individuals and foundations pour money into efforts to privatize the public schools.

The implications are huge. But the school privatizers, and their lobbyists in the states, have so muddied the waters that the public does not get a clear picture of what is at stake.

So it was fascinating when investigative reporter Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ripped the veil off a secretive organization and its hidden political activities by publishing a copy [1] of the American Federation for Children's "2012 Election Impact Report."

Tick-Tick-Tick: Do 60 Minutes And America’s Billionaires Want Us to Beg?


If you’re a jobless person looking for food or a wounded vet who needs health care, “60 Minutes” has a solution: Beg a billionaire for it. That was part of the powerful, if covert, message behind last Sunday’s “60 Minutes” broadcast.

The rest of Sunday night’s message, which tracks closely with the right-wing agenda promoted by billionaires like Pete Peterson, goes like this: Keep downsizing government. Keep tolerating and promoting the hijacking of our national wealth by the rich, even as it suffocates the middle class and creates soaring poverty rates. Surrender democratic control over the social safety net to wealthy donors.

And whatever you do, keep stroking their insatiable egos.

Now They Want to Take Away the 8-Hour Day and 40-Hour Week

Tuesday, 07 May 2013 15:13  
By Dave Johnson, Truthout | News Analysis 

Republicans are trying to pass an "alternative" to overtime pay. This is really about taking away the eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek. Will weekends be next? What about an "alternative" to paying workers at all?

House Republicans are pushing a bill that takes away extra pay for overtime, substituting "comp" time instead. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 is the law that brought us the eight-hour workday and the 40-hour workweek. This law does not prohibit employers from requiring workers to work over 40 hours. Instead, it gives employers an incentive to instead pay extra or hire more people, and gives employees a premium if they do have to work longer. (Note that this is also the law that brought us a minimum wage and outlawed child labor.)