Saturday, June 22, 2013

Obama’s crackdown views leaks as aiding enemies of U.S.

By Marisa Taylor and Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Washington Bureau

Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

The Tea Party’s Legacy of Racism

June 20, 2013
Exclusive: The American Right demeans racial minorities for playing the victim’s role, but today’s Tea Party is draped in “victimhood,” claiming to be the target of an African-American president and feeling threatened by the nation’s demographic shift. But racist fears have always had a home on the Right, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The Republican conspiracy theory – that the White House ordered the Internal Revenue Service to persecute Tea Party groups – imploded this week with the release of a House transcript showing that the special attention resulted from bureaucratic concerns of a local IRS office, not from political repression out of Washington
But the manufactured IRS “scandal” is only one part of a much larger pattern of the Right falsifying both current events and national history. This false narrative then reverberates through the giant right-wing echo chamber, deceiving millions of Americans who rely on the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh for their news.

Corporatizing National Security: What It Means

by Ralph Nader
Privacy is a sacred word to many Americans, as demonstrated by the recent uproar over the brazen invasion of it by the Patriot Act-enabled National Security Agency (NSA). The information about dragnet data-collecting of telephone and internet records leaked by Edward Snowden has opened the door to another pressing conversation—one about privatization, or corporatization of this governmental function.

In addition to potentially having access to the private electronic correspondence of American citizens, what does it mean that Mr. Snowden—a low-level contractor—had access to critical national security information not available to the general public? Author James Bamford, an expert on intelligence agencies, recently wrote: “The Snowden case demonstrates the potential risks involved when the nation turns its spying and eavesdropping over to companies with lax security and inadequate personnel policies. The risks increase exponentially when those same people must make critical decisions involving choices that may lead to war, cyber or otherwise.”

In Major Blow To Consumers, Supreme Court Protects Mega-Corporations From Liability

By Nicole Flatow on Jun 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm

In case it wasn’t clear already, the U.S. Supreme Court hammered home Thursday morning that it will protect the rights of corporations to force arbitration over the individuals’ access to the court system at any expense.

In a 5-3 ruling with Justice Sonia Sotomayor recused, Justice Antonin Scalia eviscerated almost any opportunity small merchants have to challenge alleged monopolistic practices by American Express in their credit card agreements.

United States of ALEC, A 2013 Follow-Up

This week, Moyers & Company reports on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of — ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. A national consortium of state politicians and powerful corporations, ALEC presents itself as a “nonpartisan public-private partnership”. But behind that mantra lies a vast network of corporate lobbying and political action aimed to increase corporate profits at public expense without public knowledge.

“All of us here are very familiar with ALEC and the influence that ALEC has with many of the [legislative] members,” says Arizona State Senator Steve Farley. “Corporations have the right to present their arguments, but they don’t have the right to do it secretly.”

There's a New Fascism on the Rise, and the NSA Leaks Show Us What It Looks Like

By John Pilger

The American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays invented the term "public relations" as a euphemism for state propaganda. He warned that an enduring threat to the invisible government was the truth-teller and an enlightened public.

In 1971, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked US government files known as The Pentagon Papers, revealing that the invasion of Vietnam was based on systematic lying. Four years later, Frank Church conducted sensational hearings in the US Senate: one of the last flickers of American democracy. These laid bare the full extent of the invisible government: the domestic spying and subversion and warmongering by intelligence and "security" agencies and the backing they received from big business and the media, both conservative and liberal.

Thomas Frank: To Galt’s Gulch They Go

Over the boom and through the bust . . .

There was a time when Atlas would frown and the world of nations would tremble. He was as mighty as Zeus and as petulant as a teenager. His wrath was irresistible, and he was easily provoked. Badmouth him and he might just drop his burden and walk away. Elect someone he didn’t approve of and he’d put a lightning bolt up your ass.

Chile learned the hard way about minding the feelings of the business-class god. In 1970 that country selected as president one Salvador Allende, a socialist of the old school who quickly set about nationalizing banks, telecom concerns, and so on. American companies naturally feared these developments and laid plans to push the country down a different path. They would withdraw investments, executives mused; they would halt purchases of Chilean goods; and they would persuade others to do the same. President Richard Nixon, who was clearly thinking along the same lines, told his CIA director to “make the economy scream.”

unfit to air

“There’s no such thing as a neutral story. But there is such a thing as an honest story.”
How did NPR end up repackaging extreme right-wing talking points into a week-long series claiming to tell the “hidden” truth about disability’s explosive growth in our recession economy? Journalist Chana Joffe-Walt says she spent six months “reporting on the growth of federal disability programs” and trying to “understand what that meant.”  She gets it almost all completely wrong, down to the beautifully-colored graphs.  Here are some clues as to why.

NPR’s series on disability included an episode of “This American Life” and six days of segments on the news show “All Things Considered,” all based on research by “Planet Money” reporter Chana Joffe-Walt. She tells listeners that our country’s disability programs are a “hidden, increasingly expensive safety net.”  She concludes that the growth is due to “squishy” definitions of disability that “can end up with one person with high blood pressure who is labeled disabled and another who is not.”  The people flooding disability rolls have lost their jobs but are still capable of working, or they are children whose parents are using them to get family income. This is happening because of a “disability-industrial complex” that pushes people onto a “de facto welfare program” because that hides our real unemployment numbers, is cheaper for states, and makes some lawyers a lot of money. No one planned or intended this result, she says, and no one is really paying attention, but it threatens to bankrupt our Social Security system and drain the federal budget. Getting benefits rather than working is a “deal” that 14 million American have “chosen” for themselves. Many listeners heard all this and felt grateful for such a challenging, thought-provoking, in-depth piece.

Paul Krugman: Fight the Future

Last week the International Monetary Fund, whose normal role is that of stern disciplinarian to
spendthrift governments, gave the United States some unusual advice. “Lighten up,” urged the
fund. “Enjoy life! Seize the day!”

O.K., fund officials didn’t use quite those words, but they came close, with an article in IMF Survey
magazine titled “Ease Off Spending Cuts to Boost U.S. Recovery.” In its more formal statement, the
fund argued that the sequester and other forms of fiscal contraction will cut this year’s U.S. growth
rate by almost half, undermining what might otherwise have been a fairly vigorous recovery. And
these spending cuts are both unwise and unnecessary.

Benefit payment change hurts poor

Fees mount under debit card system

By Daniel Wagner  |  6:00 am, June 19, 2013 Updated: 3:01 pm, June 20, 2013

A government initiative aimed at saving money by eliminating paper checks is hurting some recipients of federal benefits while earning the bank that operates the program millions in fees charged to consumers.

The U.S. Treasury Department has been urging people who collect Social Security and other benefits to switch to direct deposit rather than rely on mailed checks, to save millions of dollars a year in administrative costs.

But beneficiaries without bank accounts — and even some who do have accounts — are being pressured into using prepaid debit cards offered by Comerica Bank, an effort that is shifting costs to elderly people, veterans and other vulnerable consumers.

Paul Krugman: Sympathy for the Luddites

In 1786, the cloth workers of Leeds, a wool-industry center in northern England, issued a protest
against the growing use of “scribbling” machines, which were taking over a task formerly
performed by skilled labor. “How are those men, thus thrown out of employ to provide for their
families?” asked the petitioners. “And what are they to put their children apprentice to?”

Those weren’t foolish questions. Mechanization eventually — that is, after a couple of generations
— led to a broad rise in British living standards. But it’s far from clear whether typical workers
reaped any benefits during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution; many workers were clearly
hurt. And often the workers hurt most were those who had, with effort, acquired valuable skills —
only to find those skills suddenly devalued.

How Austerity Has Failed

Martin Wolf

Austerity has failed. It turned a nascent recovery into stagnation. That imposes huge and unnecessary costs, not just in the short run, but also in the long term: the costs of investments unmade, of businesses not started, of skills atrophied, and of hopes destroyed.

What is being done here in the UK and also in much of the eurozone is worse than a crime, it is a blunder. If policymakers listened to the arguments put forward by our opponents, the picture, already dark, would become still darker.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Snowden Revelations Cast New Doubts On Intelligence Oversight Process

Brian Beutler - June 19, 2013, 6:00 AM

Depending on which elected official you asked this week or last, the revelation that the NSA regularly collects U.S. phone records, and can easily access some private content like emails and chat transcripts from Internet companies, was either no big deal, an enormous shock to the conscience, or an “I told you so” moment.

For most members who don’t serve on one of the secretive intelligence committees and aren’t among the four highest ranking officials in Congress, the scope if not the existence of the programs came as a surprise. Those members weren’t prohibited from receiving official briefings about classified collections programs. But even if they took unusual interest in the issue, they had to seek out information, without easy access to the subject-area knowledge required to decipher what they’d learned, or the authority to share it with their staffs or other elected officials. The administration didn’t volunteer information, and these members’ generally don’t have aides with top-secret security clearances, let alone expertise in signals intelligence.

Global Power Project: Identifying the Institutions of Control 

Thursday, 20 June 2013 09:41 
By Andrew Gavin Marshall, | News Analysis
The Global Power Project, an investigative series produced by, aims to identify and connect the worldwide institutions and individuals who comprise today's global power oligarchy. In Part 1, which appeared last week, I provided an overview examining who and what constitute the global ruling elite – often referred to as the Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC). In this second part, I will attempt to identify some of the key, dominant institutions that have facilitated and have in turn been supported by the development of this oligarchic class. This is not a study of wealth, but a study of power.
In an article for the journal International Sociology, William K. Carroll and Jean Philippe Sapinski examined the relationship between the corporate elite and the emergence of a “transnational policy-planning network,” beginning with its formation in the decades following World War II and speeding up in the 1970s with the creation of “global policy groups” and think tanks such as the World Economic Forum, in 1971, and the Trilateral Commission, in 1973, among many others.

The function of such institutions was to help mobilize and integrate the corporate elite beyond national borders, constructing a politically “organized minority.” These policy-planning organizations came to exist as “venues for discussion, strategic planning, discourse production and consensus formation on specific issues,” as well as “places where responses to crises of legitimacy are crafted,” such as managing economic, political, or environmental crises where elite interests might be threatened. These groups also often acted as “advocates for specific projects of integration, often on a regional basis.” Perhaps most importantly, the organizations “provide bridges connecting business elites to political actors (heads of states, politicians, high-ranking public servants) and elites and organic intellectuals in other fields (international organizations, military, media, academia).”

Violence against women at epidemic proportions

Multi-country analyses spotlight a dark problem.

Monya Baker
20 June 2013

Three in ten women worldwide have been punched, shoved, dragged, threatened with weapons, raped, or subjected to other violence from a current or former partner. Close to one in ten have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner. Of women who are murdered, more than one in three were killed by an intimate partner.

These grim statistics come from the first global, systematic estimates of violence against women. Linked papers published today in The Lancet and Science assess, respectively, how often people are killed by their partners1 and how many women experience violence from them2. And an associated report and guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Swizerland, along with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council in Pretoria, estimates how often women suffer sexual violence from someone other than a partner, gauge the impact of partner and non-partner violence on women’s health and advise health-care providers on how to support the victims.

Too green to be true? Researchers develop highly effective method for converting CO2 into methanol

Quebec City, June 20, 2013—Université Laval researchers have developed a highly effective method for converting CO2 into methanol, which can be used as a low-emissions fuel for vehicles. The team led by Professor Frédéric-Georges Fontaine presents the details of this discovery in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Researchers have been looking for a way to convert carbon dioxide into methanol in a single step using energy-efficient processes for years. "In the presence of oxygen, methanol combustion produces CO2 and water," explained Professor Fontaine. "Chemists are looking for catalysts that would yield the opposite reaction. That would allow us to slash greenhouse gas emissions by synthesizing a fuel that would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels."

F35 program may be unaffordable, auditor says

The most costly military program in history might wind up busting the Pentagon budget

By Richard H.P. Sia,   6:00 am, June 20, 2013   Updated: 12:28 pm, June 20, 2013

The troubled F-35 fighter jet, which is supposed to serve as the backbone of the U.S. military’s future air combat forces, may cost much more than the nation can afford, a federal auditor told a Senate panel Wednesday.

Michael J. Sullivan, acquisitions director of the Government Accountability Office, told the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee that current projections call for $316 billion in F-35 development and purchases from now through 2037, an average of $12.6 billion a year. Operations and maintenance costs alone will exceed $1 trillion over the fleet’s 35-year lifespan.

How the Transition Movement Is Spreading to Towns Across America

By Jessica Stites

“Resilience,” I was told. “What does that mean?” I asked, thinking vaguely of steel. “The ability to absorb shocks to a system!” was the reply. Well, yes, but …? Pressed for details, Nina Winn, who runs a Transition initiative at the Institute of Cultural Affairs [4] in Chicago, said, “I don’t think there’s a conclusion. Like when a person’s trying to self-improve, it’s a constant growth. Our communities would grow to be a lot more intimate. We wouldn’t be hesitant to ask for that cup of sugar or tomato. The streets would be narrower instead of expanding; there would be fresh produce on every corner that was grown just down the street. You would see people on the street because of that—because where there’s food, there’s people.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

Court Grants Corporations Impunity to Mug Retirees

By Leo Gerard | June 11, 2013

When a kid snatches an old lady’s purse, it’s punished as a crime. But when a corporation manipulates bankruptcy law to deny thousands of retired coal miners benefits they labored their entire lives to earn, it’s endorsed by federal court.

Late last month, a bankruptcy judge sanctioned a scheme in which corporations create shill companies with a dram of assets and a sea of retiree responsibilities. Such a debt-burdened outfit quickly goes bust. Bankruptcy court, the judge said, can’t consider the intent of a company’s creation, but can approve a plan to reorganize it by betraying decades of promises to retirees.

‘Financialization’ as a Cause of Economic Malaise

Bruce Bartlett held senior policy roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and served on the staffs of Representatives Jack Kemp and Ron Paul. He is the author of “The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform — Why We Need It and What It Will Take.”
Economists are still searching for answers to the slow growth of the United States economy. Some are now focusing on the issue of “financialization,” the growth of the financial sector as a share of gross domestic product. Financialization is also an important factor in the growth of income inequality, which is also a culprit in slow growth. Recent research is improving our knowledge of financialization, which has yet to get the attention of policy makers.

According to a new article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives by the Harvard Business School professors Robin Greenwood and David Scharfstein, financial services rose as a share of G.D.P. to 8.3 percent in 2006 from 2.8 percent in 1950 and 4.9 percent in 1980.

Digital Blackwater: How the NSA Gives Private Contractors Control of the Surveillance State

Tuesday, 11 June 2013 12:55  
By Amy Goodman, Democracy NOW! | Video

As the Justice Department prepares to file charges against Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden for leaking classified documents about the National Security Agency, the role of private intelligence firms has entered the national spotlight. Despite being on the job as a contract worker inside the NSA's Hawaii office for less than three months, Snowden claimed he had power to spy on almost anyone in the country. "I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge, to even the president, if I had a personal email," Snowden told The Guardian newspaper. Over the past decade, the U.S. intelligence community has relied increasingly on the technical expertise of private firms such as Booz Allen, SAIC, the Boeing subsidiary Narus and Northrop Grumman. About 70 percent of the national intelligence budget is now spent on the private sector. Former NSA Director Michael V. Hayden has described these firms as a quote "digital Blackwater." We speak to Tim Shorrock, author of the book "Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence."

Republicans to Wage 30-Year Budget War

By Jonathan Chait

Since Republicans took control of Congress in the 2010 elections, they have provoked a series of budget crises, all justified by what they claimed was the extraordinary, Greece-esque threat of a runaway budget deficit. The shrinking of the budget deficit has made it harder and harder to rationalize the hair-on-fire mania required to justify threats like refusing to raise the debt ceiling.

I’ve been wondering how Republicans in Congress would acknowledge this development. The answer seems to be: by moving the goalposts back. Waaaay back — like, another twenty years back. Manu Raju and John Bresnahan report that the latest hang-up is that Senate Republicans are demanding that budget talks use a 30-year timeline. (Keep in mind that the Senate is the “moderate” of the congressional GOP — House Republicans aren’t even talking to Obama.)

National Income: Paying Work, Not Capital

Bruce Bartlett

The most disturbing economic trend today is the falling share of national income—the total amount of money earned within the country—going to workers. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), only 61.8 percent of national income went to compensation of employees in 2012, compared with 65.1 percent in 2001. (Historically, about two-thirds of national income has gone to employee compensation, which includes wages and salaries as well as supplements such as pension contributions and health insurance.) Since the vast majority of workers are in the middle class, this means the middle class has been falling behind over the past decade at an alarming pace.

The flip side to this trend is the rising share of national income going to capital—interest, rent, dividends, and other forms of so-called unearned income. Corporate profits have risen to 14.1 percent of national income from 8.5 percent in 2001. (Historically, corporate profits have been about 9 percent of national income.)

Where Unions Went Wrong on ‘Right to Work’

Labor activists retool their tactics against the bosses.

BY Rebecca Burns

When Michigan became the 24th state in the nation to pass “right-to-work” legislation this March, local union leaders immediately swore to overturn the misleadingly named laws, which threaten unions’ solvency by letting workers who receive the benefits of union representation opt out of paying dues. In January, the state’s unions filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate right-to-work legislation, and labor has also vowed to step up campaigns against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other anti-union state leaders in advance of the 2014 elections.

Fox News Won’t Tell Their Viewers That A Republican Was Behind IRS Targeting

By: Jason Easley Jun. 10th, 2013

Fox News is playing editing clips of Rep. Elijah Cummings, and refusing to tell their viewers that a Republican was behind the IRS targeting of tea party groups.


On America’s Newsroom, Bill Hemmer played the last part of Rep. Cummings interview on CNN where he expresses his opinion that the case is solved without showing their viewers why he feels that way.

American Exceptionalism: Alibi of a Nation

Tuesday, 11 June 2013 09:10
By Mike Lofgren, Truthout | Op-Ed

Whenever a public figure bloviates about American Exceptionalism and the country's purported heavenly mission, one is reminded of the quip attributed to Bismarck: that divine providence looks after drunkards, fools and the United States of America. Accordingly, one is always on the lookout for anyone willing to debunk America's collective personality cult. It was therefore with hopeful expectation that I perused Patrick Smith's Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. This hope was not fulfilled. While the author makes many valid points, the book suffers from an incomplete understanding of history, and, more irritatingly, with a prose style as leaden and sententious as the architecture of Washington, D.C.'s World War II Memorial, which he describes as a metaphor for American myth-making about the past (the relevant excerpt is online here).

How do you feed 9 billion people?

EAST LANSING, Mich. — An international team of scientists has developed crop models to better forecast food production to feed a growing population – projected to reach 9 billion by mid-century – in the face of climate change.

In a paper appearing in Nature Climate Change, members of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project unveiled an all-encompassing modeling system that integrates multiple crop simulations with improved climate change models. AgMIP's effort has produced new knowledge that better predicts global wheat yields while reducing political and socio-economic influences that can skew data and planning efforts, said Bruno Basso, Michigan State University ecosystem scientist and AgMIP member.

Treatment of Mental Illness Lowers Arrest Rates, Saves Money

Research from North Carolina State University, RTI International (RTI) and the University of South Florida shows that outpatient treatment of mental illness significantly reduces arrest rates for people with mental health problems and saves taxpayers money.

“This study shows that providing mental health care is not only in the best interest of people with mental illness, but in the best interests of society,” says Dr. Sarah Desmarais, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research.

Paul Krugman: The Big Shrug

I’ve been in this economics business for a while. In fact, I’ve been in it so long I still remember
what people considered normal in those long-ago days before the financial crisis. Normal, back
then, meant an economy adding a million or more jobs each year, enough to keep up with the
growth in the working-age population. Normal meant an unemployment rate not much above 5
percent, except for brief recessions. And while there was always some unemployment, normal
meant very few people out of work for extended periods.

So how, in those long-ago days, would we have reacted to Friday’s news that the number of
Americans with jobs is still down two million from six years ago, that 7.6 percent of the work force
is unemployed (with many more underemployed or forced to take low-paying jobs), and that more
than four million of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months? Well, we
know how most political insiders reacted: they called it a pretty good jobs report. In fact, some are
even celebrating the report as “proof” that the budget sequester isn’t doing any harm.

Christianity of the Inquisition in the US Army

Larry Wilkerson: Evangelical Christianity is spreading with official support throughout the US armed forces, including the persecution of "non-believers" - May 14, 13

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. And welcome to this week's edition of The Wilkerson Report with Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. Larry was the former chief of staff for Colin Powell for many years. He teaches at the William & Mary College, often appears on The Real News. Thanks for joining us.


JAY: So you recently joined the board of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Why?

Digby: Yes Virginia, the government has lied before about spying on citizens

The revelations of this week reminded me of this story I wrote about back in the Bush years --- when most liberals were united in their opposition to these programs even as the congress did its usual rubber stamping in a "time-o-war." Then, as now, it was all about "balance."


Karl E. Campbell

"For the past four years, the U.S. Army has been closely watching civilian political activity within the United States." So charged Christopher H. Pyle, a former intelligence officer, in the January 1970 edition of Washington Monthly. Pyle's account of military spies snooping on law‑abiding citizens and recording their actions in secret government computers sent a shudder through the nation's press. Images from George Orwell's novel 1984 of Big Brother and the thought police filled the newspapers. Public alarm prompted the Senate Subcommittee on Consti­tutional Rights, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, to investigate. For more than a year, Ervin struggled against a cover‑up to get to the bottom of the surveillance system. Frustrated by the Nixon Administration's misleading statements, claims of inherent executive powers, and refusals to disclose information on the basis of national security, the Senator called for public hearings in 1971 to examine "the dangers the Army's program presents to the principles of the Constitution."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How Wall St. Bailed Out the Nazis

June 6, 2013
Exclusive: The amoral calculations of Wall Street insiders guided Washington’s post-World War II decision to give many Nazi war criminals a pass if they’d help in the Cold War against the world’s socialist movements. CIA Director Allen Dulles was just one of the ex-investment-bank lawyers pushing the trade-off, writes Jerry Meldon.

By Jerry Meldon

Near the end of World War II, the secret collaboration between U.S. spymaster Allen Dulles and Nazi SS officers enabled many German war criminals to escape prosecution and positioned them to fan the flames of post-war tensions between the former allies, the United States and the Soviet Union.

In that way, the Old Nazis — aided by Dulles and other ex-Wall Street lawyers – prevented a thorough denazification of Germany and put the Third Reich’s stamp on decades of atrocities during the long Cold War, spreading their brutal death-squad techniques to faraway places, especially Latin America.

Second Thoughts on October Surprise

June 8, 2013

Special Report: New evidence has shaken the confidence of former Rep. Lee Hamilton in his two-decade-old judgment clearing Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign of going behind President Carter’s back to frustrate his efforts to free 52 U.S. hostages in Iran, the so-called October Surprise case, Robert Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, who oversaw two congressional investigations into Ronald Reagan’s secret dealings with Iran, says a key piece of evidence was withheld that could have altered his conclusion clearing Reagan’s 1980 campaign of allegations that it sabotaged President Jimmy Carter’s hostage negotiations with Iran.

In a phone interview on Thursday, the Indiana Democrat responded to a document that I had e-mailed him revealing that in 1991 a deputy White House counsel working for then-President George H.W. Bush was notified by the State Department that Reagan’s campaign director William Casey had taken a trip to Madrid in relation to the so-called October Surprise issue.

How powerful elites divide the rest of us

The split between political junkies and everyone else stifles meaningful activism. Here's how to break out of it 

By David Sirota

Among the complaints you often hear from political organizers is the one about silos. As the lament goes, too many organizations are trapped in specific single-issue silos and are therefore unable to work in any coordinated fashion as part of a larger movement. It’s a fair criticism, but it misses an even bigger obstacle to achieving lasting change: the vast divide between political junkies and Everyone Else.

On the political junkie side of this chasm are those of us who follow politics and social issues closely. We typically get our information through niche media, email newsletters, membership organizations and the attendant social media feeds. The media that serves this audience seems perfectly happy to commodify dissent by providing niche content that speaks only to a narrow audience — and nobody else. To many looking in from the outside, that creates the image of a holier-than-thou insularity that is, to say the least, off putting. Ultimately, from within this bubble, “activism” becomes narrowly defined as a grinding project of political work trying to somehow convince A) politicians to do things their donors don’t want them to do or B) the larger politically disengaged world to do stuff that can seem too difficult (door knocking, phone banking, etc.) or wholly futile (signing petitions, sending a letter to a lawmaker, etc.).

10 Things Americans Underestimate About Our Massive Surveillance State

The bottom line, which resonates most strongly among civil liberties advocates on the left and conservative libertarians on the right, is not just the loss of privacy but also the growing power of the state to target and oppress people who it judges to be critics and enemies. That list doesn’t just include foreign terrorists of the al-Qaeda mold, or even the Chinese government that has stolen [3] the most advanced U.S. weapon plans; it also includes domestic whistleblowers, protesters and journalists—all of whom have been targeted [4] by the Obama administration Justice Department.
Let’s go through 10 points about these latest revelations of domestic spying to better understand what Americans have underestimated and overlooked about electronic eavesdropping.

Pollution in Northern Hemisphere helped cause 1980s African drought

By Hannah Hickey

Decades of drought in central Africa reached their worst point in the 1980s, causing Lake Chad, a shallow lake used to water crops in neighboring countries, to almost dry out completely.

The shrinking lake and prolonged drought were initially blamed on overgrazing and bad agricultural practices. More recently, Lake Chad became an example of global warming.

Trash-Talking Economists


Thomas Carlyle called economics “the dismal science.” Journalist A. J. Liebling called boxing “the sweet science.” To read the Internet lately you’d think they got the two professions mixed up.

Economics is becoming a battle royale, a free-for-all. It’s a melee where everybody with a fist, glove or folding chair can jump out of the audience and into the ring. It doesn’t matter how much the ref blows his whistle. There will be blood. If economists had entourages, bullets would be flying.

Paul Krugman: The Spite Club

House Republicans have voted 37 times to repeal ObamaRomneyCare — the Affordable Care Act,
which creates a national health insurance system similar to the one Massachusetts has had since
2006. Nonetheless, almost all of the act will go fully into effect at the beginning of next year.

There is, however, one form of obstruction still available to the G.O.P. Last year’s Supreme Court
decision upholding the law’s constitutionality also gave states the right to opt out of one piece of
the plan, a federally financed expansion of Medicaid. Sure enough, a number of Republicandominated
states seem set to reject Medicaid expansion, at least at first.

Your student loan isn’t really a loan

You can't refinance, or get rid of the debt through bankruptcy. Here's how it's even more of a sham than you know 

It’s becoming an annual ritual. Every June, Congress debates what to do about the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans, to avert what this year will be the imminent doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. But interest rates alone don’t tell the whole story.

At a time when overall student debt approaches $1 trillion, the facts reveal that student loans aren’t loans, not in the traditional sense. They exhibit none of the qualities of modern consumer financial instruments, and are often sold under false pretenses, with the promise of a lifelong benefit that never materializes. We need to change how these loans work and have a broader conversation about what we should be doing — including bankruptcy and refinancing — to help future generations obtain a quality, affordable education, which is critical to our economic future.

Noam Chomsky: Ronald Reagan's Secret, Genocidal Wars

The woman, of Mayan Indian heritage, had crossed the U.S. border seven times while pregnant, only to be caught and shipped back across the border on six of those attempts. She braved many miles, enduring blisteringly hot days and freezing nights, with no water or shelter, amid roaming gunmen. The last time she crossed, seven months pregnant, she was rescued by immigration solidarity activists who helped her to find her way to Boston.

Most of the border crossers are from Central America. Many say they would rather be home, if the possibility of decent survival hadn’t been destroyed. Mayans such as this young mother are still fleeing from the wreckage of the genocidal assault on the indigenous population of the Guatemalan highlands 30 years ago.

Paul Krugman: Ruinous Policies Plunge Portugal into Despair

The Financial Times recently published a long, deeply depressing portrait of conditions in Portugal, focusing on the plight of family-owned businesses — once the core of the nation's economy and society, but now going under in droves.

This is what it's really about.

And anyone playing any role in our current economic debate, whether as an actual policy maker or as an analyst giving advice from the sidelines, should be focused, above all, on how and why we're allowing this nightmare to happen all over again, three generations after the Great Depression.

The Obama climate move that nobody noticed

The Obama administration just made a fairly significant move on climate change, and it flew right under the radar.

To explain, let me back up a bit.

How much damage does a ton of carbon emissions do? That dollar figure is known as the “social cost of carbon” and it is, as economist Frank Ackerman put it a few yeas ago, “the most important number you’ve never heard of.”

Dean Baker: Student Loans on the Cheap

Last month Senator Elizabeth Warren put forward her first bill as a senator, a proposal to allow students to borrow for college at a 0.75 percent interest rate, the same rate that the Federal Reserve Board charges banks for borrowing reserves. In putting forward the bill Warren noted the rapid run up in student debt at a time when recent graduates face an especially bleak job market.

As much as I think it would be good to help struggling students, I initially did not like the proposal. As a general rule it is best for the government to be transparent in its subsidies, which means appropriating

Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Expel Investigative Journalism Org From University Campus

Legislators in Wisconsin voted Wednesday to include a provision in the state's budget that would expel an independent and non-partisan investigative journalism group from the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

On a 12-4 vote, with Republicans in the majority, the Joint Finance Committee approved a provision barring the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from occupying any facilities overseen by the University of Wisconsin's board of regents system and prohibiting university employees from working with the center.

American Fascism: Ralph Nader Decries How Big Business Has Taken Control of the US Government

Wednesday, 05 June 2013 11:29  
By Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate, Democracy Now | Video Report 

Describing the United States as an "advanced Third World country," longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader calls for a new mass movement to challenge the power corporations have in Washington. "It is not too extreme to call our system of government now 'American fascism.' It's the control of government by big business, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defined in 1938 as fascism," Nader says. "We have the lowest minimum wage in the Western world. We have the greatest amount of consumer debt. We have the highest child poverty, the highest adult poverty, huge underemployment, a crumbling public works — but huge multi-billionaires and hugely profitable corporations. I say to the American people: What's your breaking point? When are you going to stop making excuses for yourself? When are you going to stop exaggerating these powers when you know you have the power in this country if you organize it?" Nader has just published a new book, "Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns."

'Lending circles' help low-income communities join the financial mainstream

Program helps low-income people build credit, reduce debt, SF State study shows

SAN FRANCISCO, June 4, 2013 -- An innovative financial lending program is helping low-income individuals build credit, reduce debt and find their financial footing, according to a pair of studies released today from San Francisco State University's César E. Chávez Institute (CCI).

Lending Circles, a program managed by the nonprofit Mission Asset Fund, dramatically improved credit scores for low-income residents of San Francisco, the studies found. In addition, the reports suggest the program can be successfully replicated in other communities and could serve as a nationwide model for helping vulnerable populations, particularly immigrants, achieve economic stability. Many of these communities were among the hardest hit by the recent recession.

The World Economy ‘s a Ticking Time Bomb (and The Fuse is Burning)


Respected economist John Kay is about to make a public statement which essentially says that the world economy is a ticking time bomb and global markets are a lit fuse.

Kay is a professor at the London School of Economics, a columnist for the Financial Times, and the author of a widely-read report on stock market flaws which was commissioned last year by the British government.

Kay says that the world is “waiting for the next crisis.” He’ll present that conclusion in a keynote speech which was previewed and extensively quoted earlier this week.

Don't be fooled by the false economic recovery

We all want to believe a recovery is here, but indicators are that it's not. We're getting swindled again by banks and politicians

Heidi Moore, Wednesday 29 May 2013 07.15 EDT
After five years of unemployment, government deficits and financial struggle, every American wants to call it a recovery and call it a day. That's why some optimistic economic data this week seem to have messianic importance, in the ever-optimistic belief that higher consumer confidence and rising home prices will deliver us from economic evil.

But if evil has one power, it is the power of illusion, to mask reality. And, in this case, that is also the power of the positive economic data.

Take the consumer confidence numbers, which are measured every month by the Conference Board and act as one of the more foolish hinges on which to hang our hopes. Consumer confidence in May jumped to 76.2, on a scale of 100. In the popular interpretation, that indicates that consumers believe the economy is improving.

The 4 Plagues: Getting a Handle on the Coming Apocalypse

By Don Hazen

There is an abundance of evidence that there are forces tearing apart the U.S. economy and society, causing increasing levels of fear, anxiety and trauma for large numbers of people. Many people are mystified as to the specific causes of their fears, with a mass media system that constantly broadcasts propaganda about how great America is and a new digital media system that may be exacerbating the problems for a society under immense and unprecedented duress.

There is the added problem that the theories and the means of social change we are familiar with, and to which we still turn, are not remotely up to the task we face, and have mostly proven to be inadequate. Virtually every problem we face has gotten worse over the past 40 years, and heavily sped up since 9/11 and the economic crash of 2007.

New data shows school “reformers” are full of it

Poor schools underperform largely because of economic forces, not because teachers have it too easy 

By David Sirota

In the great American debate over education, the education and technology corporations, bankrolled politicians and activist-profiteers who collectively comprise the so-called “reform” movement base their arguments on one central premise: that America should expect public schools to produce world-class academic achievement regardless of the negative forces bearing down on a school’s particular students. In recent days, though, the faults in that premise are being exposed by unavoidable reality.

Before getting to the big news, let’s review the dominant fairy tale: As embodied by New York City’s major education announcement this weekend, the “reform” fantasy pretends that a lack of teacher “accountability” is the major education problem and somehow wholly writes family economics out of the story (amazingly, this fantasy persists even in a place like the Big Apple where economic inequality is particularly crushing). That key — and deliberate — omission serves myriad political interests.

The Middle Class Faces Extinction—So Does the American Dream

By Stewart Lansley

Inequality is now one of the biggest political and economic challenges facing the United States. Not that long ago, the gap between rich and poor barely registered on the political Richter scale. Now the growing income divide, an issue that dominated the presidential election debate, has turned into one of the hottest topics of the age.

Postwar American history divides into two halves. For the first three decades, those on middle and low incomes did well out of rising prosperity and inequality fell. In the second half, roughly from the mid–1970s, this process went into reverse. Set on apparent autopilot, the gains from growth were heavily colonized by the superrich, leaving the bulk of the workforce with little better than stagnant incomes.

The return of inequality to levels last seen in the 1920s has had a profound effect on American society, its values, and its economy. The United States led the world in the building of a majority middle class. As early as 1956, the celebrated sociologist, C. Wright Mills, wrote that American society had become “less a pyramid with a flat base than a fat diamond with a bulging middle.”

Thanks To Obamacare, Major Insurers Have To Give Back $36 Million To California Small Businesses

By Sy Mukherjee on Jun 5, 2013 at 9:00 am

On Tuesday, Golden State small businesses and their employees got some great news: two of the state’s largest insurers will have to give them over $36 million in insurance rebates because of an Obamacare consumer protection.

The health law forces insurers to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they charge on paying for actual medical services, rather than administrative overhead or profits. That means more money for ordinary consumers — and less for profitable insurance companies.

How Elite Economic Hucksters Drive America’s Biggest Fraud Epidemics

By William K. Black

What do you get when you throw together economic fraudsters, plutocrats and opportunistic criminals? A financial crisis, that’s what. If you look back over the massive frauds that have swept the country in recent decades, from the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s to the 2007-'08 financial crash, this deadly combination always appears.

A dangerous cycle begins when prominent economists pander to plutocrats and bought politicians, who reward them with top posts, where they promote the perverse economic policies that cause fraud epidemics. Crises develop, and millions of people are ripped off. Those who fight for truth are ignored or ruined. The criminals get wealthier, bolder and more politically powerful, and go on to hatch even more devastating cons.

How Big Finance is Eating the World’s Lunch Agricultural Wealth

By Sasha Breger, a lecturer at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and author of the recent book Derivatives and Development. Her research includes global finance, derivatives, social policy, food, and farming. Cross posted from Triple Crisis

If you hear a kind of whooshing, rushing noise, don’t worry—it’s not US jobs moving to China. Today’s great sucking sound is the sound of agricultural wealth being siphoned off into the global financial system. Dragging poverty and insecurity in its wake, this broad movement of wealth from agriculture into finance is enriching and empowering finance capital at the expense of farmers, traders, consumers, rural communities and the earth. In fact, that sucking sound is really the sound of injustice.

Finance capital globally deploys a huge variety of methods and techniques that generally serve to redistribute wealth from agriculture to finance. These include debt, farmland acquisition, commodity hoarding, and derivative and insurance markets. In the following posts, I outline the wealth transfer mechanism in each of these contexts, focusing largely on new data and evidence from the past several years.

What does it mean to have "predicted the crisis"?

Posted by Noah Smith

Since 2008, quite a lot of people have boldly claimed that they "predicted the crisis". Usually, the claimants use this "fact" to argue for the superiority of their economic school of thought, modeling approach, investing approach, or personal intuition. But what does it mean to have "predicted the crisis"?

First of all, there are different things that get labeled "the crisis". These include:

1. The big drop in U.S. housing prices that started in 2006-7.

2. The systemic collapse of the U.S. financial industry that began in 2008.

3. The deep recession and the long stagnation that began in late 2008.

Predicting one of these is not the same as predicting the others.

Walker's Dismal Jobs Agenda Gets a Gold Star in ALEC's "Rich States, Poor States" Report

Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
By Nick Surgey, PR Watch | Report

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got a boost last week from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in its annual Rich States, Poor States report. Despite Bureau of Labor Statistics data putting Wisconsin in 44th place for private-sector job creation, ALEC placed the state as 15th in the country in its ranking of economic outlook, giving Walker -- a former ALEC member -- a boost as he lays the groundwork for a re-election campaign and a possible Presidential bid.

The ALEC report ranks the states by "economic outlook," based on factors including the existence of "right to work" anti-union laws, and the rates at which personal and corporate taxes are levied by the state. Wisconsin gains points in the ALEC assessment for having no inheritance tax, the lowest possible minimum wage, and for having a lower than average number of public employees. But ALEC also docks points because, despite Walkers' infamous attack on the right of public-sector workers to organize in Wisconsin, the state has not passed a private-sector "right to work" law.

How Fox News Misleads Its Viewers

By Laura Clawson

Whoa, really? No, actually. [4]
President Herbert Hoover declared, "Nobody is actually starving. The hoboes are better fed than they have ever been." But in New York City in 1931, there were 20 known cases of starvation; in 1934, there were 110 deaths caused by hunger. There were so many accounts of people starving in New York that the West African nation of Cameroon sent $3.77 in relief.
Also, breadlines. Also, an increase in the suicide rate [5]. But before Stossel even got to that claim, he'd unleashed quite the load of right-wing economic messaging disguised as homespun folksy common sense.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Which Way Out of the Greek Nightmare and the Crisis of Europe?

By Marjolein van der Veen

The origins of Greece’s economic crisis are manifold: trade imbalances between Germany and Greece, the previous Greek government’s secret debts (hidden with the connivance of Wall Street banks), the 2007 global economic crisis, and the flawed construction of the eurozone. As the crisis has continued to deepen, it has created a social disaster: Drastic declines in public health, a rise in suicides, surging child hunger, a massive exodus of young adults, an intensification of exploitation (longer work hours and more work days per week), and the rise of the far right and its attacks on immigrants and the LGBT community. Each new austerity package brokered between the Greek government and the Troika stipulates still more government spending cuts, tax increases, or “economic reforms”—privatization, increases in the retirement age, layoffs of public-sector workers, and wage cuts for those who remain.

Paul Krugman: When Economic Prudence Is Seen As Folly

Nicholas Crafts, an economics professor at the University of Warwick, wrote a really interesting article on the Vox blog recently about Britain's economic policy in the 1930s. The gist is that monetary policy drove recovery through the expectations channel; the Bank of England managed to credibly promise to be irresponsible — that is, to generate inflation.

But how did it do that? Mr. Crafts argues that this was possible for two reasons: the bank was not independent, but just an arm of the Treasury, and the Treasury had a known need to generate some inflation to bring down high debt levels.

For Real Economic Recovery, Government Must Stop Favoring Banks Over Homeowners

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 00:00  
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | News Analysis 

We're now in the sixth year of the economic collapse and the home foreclosure crisis persists. It continues to drag down families, destroy wealth, weaken communities and prevent economic recovery. Inadequate government response has led to a long-term economic crisis that could have been avoided. With good policy, more losses can still be avoided and the economy can begin a real recovery. According to a 2010 report by the Center for Responsible Lending, 2.5 million homes completed the foreclosure process between 2007 and 2010. The 2011 report by the Center for Responsible Lending found that the country was not even halfway through the foreclosure crisis. In total, the Federal Reserve estimates that $7 trillion in home equity was lost from American households between 2006 and 2011 due to the housing crisis.

Like a Wasting Disease, Neoliberals, Libertarians & the Right are Eating Away Society’s “Connective Tissue” 

Part 1

In an industrial or post-industrial society, a civilization with a complex division of labor dispersed throughout a network of metropolitan regions connected with each other and with smaller cities and rural areas, a class of connecting goods and services is required to keep the society and economy cohesive and functioning.  Unlike the goods bought and sold on markets, these mediating or connecting goods are not themselves often objects of desire for purchase by those who use or otherwise benefit from them. In the hypotheses of social theorists and politicians influenced by neoclassical economic ideals, these goods, they think, ought to be delivered via markets and people ought to pay directly for them in market-like cash transactions. As it has turned out in reality, without a social and political commitment and social pressure to fund these goods and services, individuals in isolation and businesses as a group tend to want to “free ride” and not pay for connective goods and services that are usually the frame but not the focus of everyday consciousness in a modern society. Despite the lack of consistent private markets for most connective goods and services, these “in-between” goods and services are vital and fundamental to the existence and maintenance of something like a civilization, a livable complex society with a strong economy. 

Part 2

Corporatocracy/Plutocracy:  The Neoliberal Compromise with Reality

While there are a certain number of “true believers” in the neoliberal ideal that tend to congregate around the banner of libertarianism or related concepts, a vast swath of the political class and ruling elite has been pulled to the right by neoliberalism without openly embracing its hidden utopia.  These political and economic “realists” or “pragmatists” tend to see the true believers in neoliberal ideology as either an ideological “fig-leaf” that can provide a more appealing cover for the agenda of existing large private interests or, occasionally, as a fanatical embarrassment if they show too strong a belief in libertarian ideals. The notion of defunding public services and reducing public regulation of the private sector has a powerful appeal to many corporate and wealthy interests.  So powerful is this appeal in fact that the label and concept of “libertarianism,”  which is now adopted by the most other-worldly, some would say “idealistic”, individuals in the neoliberal spectrum, was coined by a US business lobbyist in the late 1940’s.

Paul Krugman: An Irresponsible Austerity Narrative Endures

The Financial Times published an interesting article on May 16 about problems with Ireland's gross national product (not gross domestic product) accounting. Essentially, measured income is being inflated by foreign companies with no real activity in Ireland that, nonetheless, find ways to make profits materialize in a low-tax jurisdiction.

We sort of knew this was happening — that, for example, a lot of the apparent rise in productivity was just a shift to pharmaceutical companies that add little to the Irish economy. But a new report from the Economic and Social Research Institute suggests that the problem is bigger than realized.

Lead acts to trigger schizophrenia 

Behavioral and MRI study in mice points to a synergistic relationship between lead exposure and schizophrenia gene

Mice engineered with a human gene for schizophrenia and exposed to lead during early life exhibited behaviors and structural changes in their brains consistent with schizophrenia. Scientists at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine say their findings suggest a synergistic effect between lead exposure and a genetic risk factor, and open an avenue to better understanding the complex gene-environment interactions that put people at risk for schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

Results appear online in Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Going back to 2004, work by scientists at the Mailman School suggested a connection between prenatal lead exposure in humans and increased risk for schizophrenia later in life.

How Tea Party Favorite Rick Scott Helped Cook Up a Sweetheart Deal for His Florida Friends

New CBO Study: US to Gift Wealthiest Americans $12 Trillion In Tax Cuts This Decade

A new bombshell report from the Congressional Budget Office shows that the top 10 US tax deductions, credits and exclusions ensure that over $12 trillion in tax revenues will be gifted to multinational corporations over the next decade, with nearly all of the benefits accruing to the wealthiest Americans.

The tax loopholes have been written into the tax code by a bought-and-paid-for Congress that receives its marching orders from the multinational corporations that dominate campaign-finance.

Paul Krugman: From the Mouths of Babes

Like many observers, I usually read reports about political goings-on with a sort of weary cynicism.
Every once in a while, however, politicians do something so wrong, substantively and morally, that
cynicism just won’t cut it; it’s time to get really angry instead. So it is with the ugly, destructive war
against food stamps.

The food stamp program — which these days actually uses debit cards, and is officially known as
the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — tries to provide modest but crucial aid to
families in need. And the evidence is crystal clear both that the overwhelming majority of food
stamp recipients really need the help, and that the program is highly successful at reducing “food
insecurity,” in which families go hungry at least some of the time.

The Best and Simplest Way to Fight Global Poverty

Proof that giving cash to poor people, no strings attached, is an amazingly powerful tool for boosting incomes and promoting development.

By Matthew Yglesias | Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at 12:26 PM

Poverty is, fundamentally, a lack of money. So doesn’t it make sense that simply delivering cash to poor people can be an effective strategy for alleviating it?

Transferring money to poor Americans has been a much bigger success than most of us realize. When it comes to the global poor—the hundreds of millions of slum-dwellers and subsistence farmers who still populate the world—one might be more skeptical. Perhaps the problems facing these unfortunates are simply too profound and too complex to be addressed by anything other than complicated development schemes. Well, perhaps.

Democrat Levels Fox News By Explaining Why Karl Rove Should Be Investigated By IRS

Fox News had a gotcha moment go wrong, when Sen. Dick Durbin explained why Karl Rove deserves to be investigated by the IRS.

Transcript via Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Senator Durbin, I want to pick up on this culture. Starting in 2010, a number of Democratic senators — Democrat senators — sent letters to the IRS asking them to investigate various groups that they said were seeking tax-exempt status, but were improperly involved in politics. Now, in October 2010, you sent a letter to the IRS in which you talked about going after groups.

But you only mentioned one specifically by name and I want to put this up from the October 2010 letter that you wrote to the IRS, “One organization whose activities appear to be inconsistent with the tax status is Crossroads GPS.” That, of course, a group co-founded by Karl Rove.

A Vision For Social Security

By Richard Eskow | May 28, 2013

Is our country losing the vision and values that gave rise to Social Security?

Social Security benefits lag far behind those of other developed countries. A new analysis of census data shows that elder poverty is much higher than we first realized. And yet the discussion in Washington is of cutting, not expanding, it. The number of impoverished seniors would rise sharply if that happened, or if the Medicare cuts currently under discussion became law.

Beware of Economic Nonsense Trotted Out by Profit-Seeking Corporations and Their Stooges

By Robert Reich

One of its contributors, Tim Worstall, recently took me to task [3] for suggesting that a way for citizens to gain some countervailing power over large global corporations is for governments to threaten denial of market access unless corporations act responsibly.

He argues that the benefits to consumers of global corporations are so large that denial of market access would hurt citizens more than it would help them. The “value to U.S. consumers of Apple is they can buy Apple products,” Worstall writes. “Why would you want to punish U.S. consumers, by banning them from buying Apple products, just because Apple obeys the current tax laws?”

I Want to Believe

By Jarrod Shanahan

My old co-driver Nick and I would pass the time on interstate furniture deliveries by assessing the incipient mass movements taking off around the world. We debated the potential of the Arab Spring, Occupy, anti-austerity strikes in Europe, daily wildcats in Chinese factories, and other tantalizing glimpses of working class self-activity. And before long, we always reached the same impasse.

“I agree with you” he’d object, “but how can you expect everyday people to get behind all this?”

Engineering Empire: An Introduction to the Intellectuals and Institutions of American Imperialism

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 10:55  
By Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Hampton Institute | News Analysis 

Educating yourself about empire can be a challenging endeavor, especially since so much of the educational system is dedicated to avoiding the topic or justifying the actions of imperialism in the modern era. If one studies political science or economics, the subject might be discussed in a historical context, but rarely as a modern reality; media and government voices rarely speak on the subject, and even more rarely speak of it with direct and honest language. Instead, we exist in a society where institutions and individuals of power speak in coded language, using deceptive rhetoric with abstract meaning. We hear about 'democracy' and 'freedom' and 'security,' but so rarely about imperialism, domination, and exploitation.

More on the Trumped-Up Charges Against Cyprus

As readers may recall, the Eurozone decided to make an example of Cyprus by using it to set the precedent of raiding deposits to fund a bailout (query: is a self-bailout even properly called a bailout?). Admittedly, if you are going to let your banking sector get to be 800% to 900% of GDP, you had better be sure your banks have really good assets and lots of equity, and the authorities look to have been remiss in that regard. And a lot of cynics thought the real reason for Cyprus being handled so harshly was that the Greek Cypriots had rejected the Annan Plan in a 2004 referendum, nixing integration of the island. The EU had wanted Cyprus to enter the union undivided and was unhappy about the rebuff.

But that wasn’t the reason given for being rough on Cyprus. Instead, the European and US media ran the official script that Cyprus was a big seedy tax haven.

9 Things You Should Know About the New Farm Bill

By Patty Lovera

There are some significant differences between the House and the Senate, in both what their bills actually contain and in the process used to get them through the committee. Both sides had an abbreviated process, skipping the normal step of conducting a series of hearings to explore various issues before writing the bill. But the Senate Agriculture Committee took the streamlining even further, managing to discuss, amend and pass its version of the bill in a little under three hours on Tuesday. The House Agriculture Committee finished theirs in a marathon session that took most of the day, wrapping up just before midnight Wednesday night.

The Real Reason Kids Aren't Getting Vaccines

Forget Jenny McCarthy. This shot scandal is much scarier. 
Much ink has been spilled railing against vaccine skeptics—you know, those people who don't get their kids immunized against catastrophic childhood diseases because they believe the shots can cause autism and other serious problems. In a recent Parade magazine piece, reporter Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear, pointed out that vaccine resisters tend to cluster in places "where parents are often focused on being environmentally conscious and paying close attention to every aspect of their children's development."

Journalist Megan McArdle, in a 2011 post for The Atlantic, opined: "We spent most of the last century trying to stamp out the infectious diseases that used to cripple and kill hundreds and thousands of people every year. Sometimes it seems like the bobo elites plan to spend the 21st century bringing them all back."

Race Is Not Biology

How unthinking racial essentialism finds its way into scientific research