Saturday, July 27, 2013

Abenomics has worked wonders but can it save Japan?

Japan refuses to go quietly into genteel decline. The revolutionary policies of premier Shinzo Abe have done exactly what they were intended to do – a triumph of political will over the defeatist inertia of Japan's establishment.

9:30PM BST 24 Jul 2013

"Abenomics is working," says Klaus Baader, from Societe Generale. The economy has roared back to life with growth of 4pc over the past two quarters – the best in the G7 bloc this year. The Bank of Japan's business index is the highest since 2007. Equities have jumped 70pc since November, an electric wealth shock.
"Escaping 15 years of deflation is no easy matter," said Mr Abe this week, after winning control over both houses of parliament, yet it may at last be happening.
Prices have been rising for three months, and for six months in Tokyo. Department store sales rose 7.2pc in June from a year earlier, the strongest in 20 years.

Estates of Mind

The answer to America’s techno-malaise is to force big corporations to compete more. And to open their patent vaults.

By Barry C. Lynn

For many Americans, the economy is still a cold and hard place. Wages are down, job numbers are barely creeping up, and the latest asset bubble drifts high out of the reach of most folks. About the only hot business around is the rivalry to identify a root cause for our woes. Even as Democrats and the GOP continue to argue the value of stimulus, two new schools of thought have shot into fashion. Importantly, both focus on the role of technology. Strangely, they do so from diametrically opposed points of view.

One is led by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who proudly write in the Luddite tradition. The problem, they say, is too-rapid automation. In short, robots are taking our jobs. The other viewpoint, epitomized by the writings of economists Robert Gordon and Tyler Cowen, says no, the real problem is that we have entered a “great stagnation.” The digital revolution has reached maturity, and no other transformational technology is in sight.

Detroit Gap Reveals Industry Dispute on Pension Math


Until mid-June, there was one ray of hope in Detroit’s gathering storm: For all the city’s problems, its pension fund was in pretty good shape. If the city went under, its thousands of retired clerks, police officers, bus drivers and other workers would still be safe.

Then came bad news. Seemingly out of nowhere, a $3.5 billion hole appeared in Detroit’s pension system, courtesy of calculations by a firm hired by the city’s emergency manager.

Retirees were shaken. Pension trustees said it must be a trick. The holders of some of Detroit’s bonds realized in shock that if the city filed for bankruptcy — as it finally did on Thursday — their claims would have even more competition for whatever small pot of money is available.

The New Sick-onomy? Examining the Entrails of the U.S. Employment Situation

Author: Daniel Alpert  ·  July 24th, 2013

If you can forgive the following gratuitous self-promotion of my upcoming book, I have a story to tell you about the U.S. employment picture. A story that you may find far more interesting than the media and government-led backslapping that has been forthcoming on “jobs days” in the first half of 2013:
“Economists are notorious for getting worked up by numbers, and these days no data dump triggers a sharper frisson of excitement than the two dozen or so tables of employment numbers released at exactly 8:30 a.m. on the first Friday of every month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor.

It’s not just economists who eagerly await—or dread—the U.S. “Jobs Day,” as this Friday has become known in Washington. It’s also politicians, stock analysts, policy wonks, and journalists. Amid the worst economic run of our lifetime—a crisis that keeps morphing and whacking us again—everyone is looking for signs of what’s coming next.

Global Power Project, Part 7: Banking on Influence With Citigroup

Friday, 26 July 2013 09:52  
By Andrew Gavin Marshall, | Report 

In the second quarter of 2013, the third-largest U.S. bank by assets, Citigroup, posted a 42% increase in profits which CEO Michael Corbat praised as a “well balanced” result of “cost cutting” programs, including the firing of 11,000 workers.

This big bank has a sordid history of predatory profiteering and criminal activity, not unlike all the other large banks. In the early 20th century, what was then National City Bank was the main bank for the Rockefeller Standard Oil interests. Over ensuing decades and mergers it eventually came to be Citibank, and in the late 1990s, Citigroup. At that time, the bank was dealing with accusations that it had aided in the laundering of roughly $100 million in payoffs by Mexican drug cartels.

Three Things Obama Can Do Today to Boost the Economy

Today President Obama will give a major economic address in Illinois, the first in a series of speeches designed to refocus the national conversation on job creation and the struggling economy.

This is a mandate Obama gave himself—much of his re-election campaign last year was focused on economic recovery and specifically growing the economy “from the middle out,” a theme he will revisit today. It’s been a crazy year, with some expected distractions from the jobs debate, like immigration reform, and some unexpected ones, like a massive gun control fight and the NSA surveillance saga—but Obama is rightly returning to arguably the nation’s biggest immediate problem, the 22 million Americans who cannot find work and the sagging economic recovery.

Global Power Project, Part 6: Banking on Influence With Bank of America

Thursday, 18 July 2013 09:31
By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy | News Analysis

This July, Bank of America was expecting to report an earnings increase of 32% from last year. The Washington Business Journal declared the bank among the top 10 “most improved brands” of the year. Bank of America is the second-largest bank in the United States following JPMorgan Chase.

So why does this bank deserve such an “improved” reputation? Perhaps it's worth looking at a little of the bank’s record for some clarity.

Inside Groundswell: Read the Memos of the New Right-Wing Strategy Group Planning a "30 Front War"

Ginni Thomas, Allen West, and a crew of conservative journalists and activists have formed a hush-hush coalition to battle progressives—and Karl Rove.

By David Corn | Thu Jul. 25, 2013 9:53 AM PDT

Believing they are losing the messaging war with progressives, a group of prominent conservatives in Washington—including the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and journalists from Breitbart News and the Washington Examiner—has been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for "a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation," according to documents obtained by Mother Jones.&

Collapsing Investment and the Great Recession

Friday, 26 July 2013 09:10
By Gerald Friedman, Dollars & Sense | News Analysis

Investment in real inputs - structures and machinery used to boost future output and productivity - is one of the ways that an economy grows over time. In a capitalist economy, such investments are also crucial for macroeconomic stability and full employment because they provide an “injection” of demand to balance the “leakage” caused by personal and institutional savings. The Great Recession that began in 2007 was marked by a collapse of investment unprecedented since the Great Depression, as well as a dramatic drop in overall production and a sharp jump in unemployment. Since 2009, overall output has been growing again, but we have seen a much slower recovery of investment than after other recessions since 1947. The worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the Great Recession came after a long period of declining investment, and a break in the linkage between corporate profits and new investment.

The Minimum Wage Doesn’t Apply to Everyone

July 26, 2013

Paul Krugman: Republican Health Care Panic

Leading Republicans appear to be nerving themselves up for another round of attempted fiscal blackmail. With the end of the fiscal year looming, they aren’t offering the kinds of compromises that might produce a deal and avoid a government shutdown; instead, they’re drafting extremist legislation — bills that would, for example, cut clean-water grants by 83 percent — that has no chance of becoming law. Furthermore, they’re threatening, once again, to block any rise in the debt ceiling, a move that would damage the U.S. economy and possibly provoke a world financial crisis.

Yet even as Republican politicians seem ready to go on the offensive, there’s a palpable sense of
anxiety, even despair, among conservative pundits and analysts. Better-informed people on the right seem, finally, to be facing up to a horrible truth: Health care reform, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, is probably going to work.

The Bogus High-Tech Worker Shortage: How Guest Workers Lower US Wages

By Hal Salzman, B. Lindsay Lowell and Daniel Kuehn

Paul Solman: A battle rages in economic policy circles: Should America make its borders more open to high-tech guest workers, or should we batten the hatches? Even those who oppose totally open immigration often support temporary guest worker visas, known as H-1B work visas, for high-tech.
But some oppose them, arguing that -- as in other industries -- workers from abroad undercut the wages of those domestic workers who would otherwise do the jobs here in America.

Today we present the case against high-tech guest workers from a trio of academic researchers associated with the Economic Policy Institute. Hal Salzman is a professor at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development and the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. B. Lindsay Lowell is director of policy studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University. Daniel Kuehn is an adjunct professor and doctoral candidate in American University's department of economics.

Thursday, a former guest worker, now Silicon Valley guru, responds.

Salzman, Lowell and Kuehn: When Bill Clinton was president, wages for American IT workers were climbing and American students were clamoring to become computer scientists. Fifteen years later, average real IT wages are no higher. It is no coincidence that high-tech industries are now using guest workers to fill two-thirds of new IT jobs.

And now they're asking Congress to provide them with an even greater supply of guest workers -- a supply that by the IT industry's own estimates would equal 150 percent of the expected number of new IT jobs each and every year going forward. With its passage of the comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Senate has complied, putting out a sign for IT jobs that says, "We prefer guest workers."

A New Ayn Rand for A Dark Digital Future

By Richard Eskow | July 24, 2013

If Thomas Friedman didn’t exist, America’s high-tech entrepreneurs would have had to invent him.  Come to think of it, maybe they did. The dark science-fiction vision he celebrates serves them well, at pretty much everyone else’s expense.

Friedman’s vision is worth studying, if only because it reflects the distorted perspective of some very wealthy and influential people. In their world the problems of the many are as easily fixed as a line of code, with no sacrifice required of them or their fellow billionaires.

Case in point: 15 or 20 million Americans seeking full-time employment? To Thomas Friedman, that’s a branding problem.

10 Reasons the U.S. Economy Is Stuck

By Moira Herbst

July 24, 2013 | More than five years after the great recession hit, the US economy [3] is still sputtering [4]. The government revised GDP growth figures down [5] last month to a meager 1.8% for the first quarter of this year. It doesn't take a PhD in economics to understand why: we have a demand problem. And we have a demand problem because the vast majority of consumers – aka workers – are not earning enough to pay for healthcare, education and retirement, let alone all the other stuff stores and service providers have to sell.

The reality is that we're hollowing out the middle class by wiping out well-paid jobs with benefits and replacing them with low-wage ones that often lack them. That's damaging not only to people who are living on smaller paychecks – or who are indeed unemployed – but also to the health and viability of the overall economy.

Climate change: some reasons for our failures

The nations of the earth are doing very little to avert an impending, entirely foreseeable catastrophe. There are many reasons why – some obvious, others less so

Robert Manne, Sunday 21 July 2013 23.43 EDT

Twenty five years ago, scientists with an interest in the climate were moving towards a consensual understanding, that primarily through the burning of fossil fuels human beings were responsible for potentially catastrophic global warming. At present, at least 97% of climate scientists have reached that conclusion.

Through voluntary international cooperation, the Montreal Protocol of 1992 went a long way to solving the problem of the hole in the ozone layer. Using it as their model for the solution to the even more daunting problem of global warming, in 1997 most nations of the earth signed the Kyoto Protocol. It was eventually ratified by almost all advanced economies being asked to commit to greenhouse gas emission targets.

Larry Summers will destroy the economy (again)

Obama’s leading candidate to run the Fed is an ignoramus with the worst track record in America on regulating banks 

By David Dayen

Multiple sources confirm to Salon that the White House is leaning toward choosing Larry Summers to replace Ben Bernanke as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, a prospect which has made many liberals apoplectic. Previously, the biggest booster of Summers appeared to be Summers himself, as he was waging a one-man campaign for the position. But over the past week, he has won the backing of influential players at the White House with the ear of the president, many of whom are his personal friends and colleagues.

How Big Finance Crushes Innovation and Holds Back Our Economy

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

Whatever happened to innovation in America? President Obama told us that our future depends on it [3]. Across the political spectrum, everyone pretty much agrees that innovation is vital to prosperity.

So why aren’t we getting the job done? Clearly, we’re in desperate need of clean technology that won’t poison us. Our information and communications systems are not up to snuff. Our infrastructure is outdated and crumbling before our eyes. We’re not investing enough in these areas, and it shows. Yet they’re necessary not only for America’s economic health, but for stability and prosperity around the globe.

The Costly Failure of Missile Defense

Never mind that no one is firing ICBMs at us. It’s been three decades since Ronald Reagan cooked up his cockamamie plan to shoot down missiles in the sky, and while technology has improved incalculably since then, after countless billions of dollars—according to The  New York Times, it’s $250 billion—the damn things still don’t work.

Last week, following yet another failure, and as if it just occurred to him, the director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency—yes, it has a whole “agency”—said that he’d look into it:
Following recent testing failures, the director of the Missile Defense Agency told Congress today that he is committed to a full evaluation of the way forward for the nation’s ballistic missile defense system.
Of course, he added, the evaluation will cost money, too.

Nancy Pelosi Driving Force Behind Saving the NSA Spying Program

By: DSWright Friday July 26, 2013 7:55 am

It was kind of odd to see the Democratic Party Leadership vote to spy on Americans given the party’s alleged commitment to civil liberties. Now it is reported that not only did the Democratic Leadership vote against the bill but that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was the driving force behind saving the NSA spying program.
The obituary of Rep. Justin Amash’s amendment to claw back the sweeping powers of the National Security Agency has largely been written as a victory for the White House and NSA chief Keith Alexander, who lobbied the Hill aggressively in the days and hours ahead of Wednesday’s shockingly close vote. But Hill sources say most of the credit for the amendment’s defeat goes to someone else: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It’s an odd turn, considering that Pelosi has been, on many occasions, a vocal surveillance critic.

Just How Low Can Your Salary Go? 117 ALEC Bills in 2013 Fuel Race to the Bottom in Wages and Worker Rights

by PRW Staff — July 23, 2013 - 7:23am<
- by Mary Bottari and Rebekah Wilce

At least 117 bills introduced in 2013 fuel a "race to the bottom" in wages, benefits, and worker rights and resemble "model" bills from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to a new analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of

As working Americans speak out for higher wages, better benefits, and respect in the workplace, a coordinated, nationwide campaign to silence them is mounting -- and ALEC is at the heart of it. ALEC corporations, right-wing think tanks, and monied interests like the Koch brothers are pushing legislation throughout the acountry designed to drive down wages; limit health care, pensions, and other benefits; and cripple working families' participation in the political and legislative process.

The Closed-Door Media Talks That Could End the Open Internet

Big Media lobbyists and unelected bureaucrats are holding closed-door meetings in Malaysia this week, as they continue secret talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a highly secretive and extreme trade deal being negotiated by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Peru, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the United States, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Reports from Malaysia indicate that the TPP talks are stalled over five key issues -- including a key chapter on copyright and Intellectual Property rights that would censor and criminalize Internet use. This is not good news for Big Media lobbyists, who are demanding the TPP include extreme new copyright rules that could end the open Internet as we know it. Big Media is spending a fortune on lobbying as they try to shore up an old-fashioned, high-cost command and control media business model that no longer makes sense in the Internet age.

Don’t buy the right-wing myth about Detroit

Conservatives want you to think high taxes drove people away. The real truth is much worse for their radical agenda

In the wake of Detroit’s bankruptcy, you may be wondering: How could anyone be surprised that a city so tied to manufacturing faces crippling problems in an era that has seen such an intense public policy assault on domestic American manufacturing? You may also be wondering: How could Michigan officials possibly talk about cutting the average $19,000-a-year pension benefit for municipal workers while reaffirming their pledge of $283 million in taxpayer money to a professional hockey stadium?

These are fair questions — and the answers to them can be found in the political mythology that distorts America’s economic policymaking.

Internal Document Reveals House Republicans’ Strategy For Successful Public Events: Plant Questions

By Judd Legum on Jul 23, 2013 at 9:03 am

Approval for Congressional Republicans stands at just 24 percent. So how, exactly, can House Republicans make sure their events with constituents go smoothly?

Republican leaders have an answer: Plant questions.

Paul Krugman: Detroit, the New Greece

When Detroit declared bankruptcy, or at least tried to — the legal situation has gotten complicated — I know that I wasn’t the only economist to have a sinking feeling about the likely impact on our policy discourse. Was it going to be Greece all over again?

Clearly, some people would like to see that happen. So let’s get this conversation headed in the right direction, before it’s too late.

So that’s how H-1B visa fraud is done!

Reader Mark Surich was looking for a lawyer with Croatian connections to help with a family matter back in the old country. He Googled some candidate lawyers and in one search came up with this federal indictment. It makes very interesting reading and shows one way H-1B visa fraud can be conducted.

The lawyer under indictment is Marijan Cvjeticanin. Please understand that this is just an indictment, not a conviction. I’m not saying this guy is guilty of anything. My point here is to describe the crime of which he is accused, which I find very interesting. He could be innocent for all I know, but the crime, itself, is I think fairly common and worth understanding.

The Trade Deals Are Complicated Because They Are Designed to Serve Special Interests

That minor detail was missing from Wonkblog's discussion of the proposed E.U.-U.S. trade agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The piece begins by telling readers in the first sentence:

"Nailing down complicated international trade agreements, with a zillion different interests and moving parts, is no easy feat."

It then adds that the Obama administration will be trying to do two deals at once and that it will have to contend with opposition in Congress.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Why the Right-Wing Media Spent 16 Months Smearing a Dead Teenager

By Eric Boehlert

It was shocking because the idea of a well-paid commentator going on television and blaming an unarmed teen for being shot while walking home inside a gated community because he wore a hoodie -- because he tried to look like "a thug" as Rivera put it -- is repellent.

'Black Day' for Liberty: Hedges' NDAA Challenge Thrown Out

US troops now free to 'seize US citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely,' says Hedges

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer 
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit cast away a case Wednesday brought by journalist Chris Hedges and other prominent civil rights proponents that sought to render the indefinite detention of American citizens, made possible by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, unconstitutional.
Calling it a "black day for for those who care about liberty," Hedges said the ruling makes it possible for the military to "use troops on the streets to seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers."

Koch millions spread influence through nonprofits, colleges

By Charles Lewis , Eric Holmberg , Alexia Campbell , Lydia Beyoud

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Koch Industries, one of the largest privately held corporations in the world and principally owned by billionaires Charles and David Koch, has developed what may be the best funded, multifaceted, public policy, political and educational presence in the nation today.

From direct political influence and robust lobbying to nonprofit policy research and advocacy, and even increasingly in academia and the broader public “marketplace of ideas,” this extensive, cross-sector Koch club or network appears to be unprecedented in size, scope and funding. And the relationship between these for-profit and nonprofit entities is often mutually reinforcing to the direct financial and political interests of the behemoth corporation — broadly characterized as deregulation, limited government and free markets.

Special Deal

The shadowy cartel of doctors that controls Medicare.

by Haley Sweetland Edwards

On the last week of April earlier this year, a small committee of doctors met quietly in a midsized ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel in Chicago. There was an anesthesiologist, an ophthalmologist, a radiologist, and so on—thirty-one in all, each representing their own medical specialty society, each a heavy hitter in his or her own field.

The meeting was convened, as always, by the American Medical Association. Since 1992, the AMA has summoned this same committee three times a year. It’s called the Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (or RUC, pronounced “ruck”), and it’s probably one of the most powerful committees in America that you’ve never heard of.

Paul Krugman: Hitting China's Wall

All economic data are best viewed as a peculiarly boring genre of science fiction, but Chinese data are even more fictional than most. Add a secretive government, a controlled press, and the sheer size of the country, and it’s harder to figure out what’s really happening in China than it is in any other major economy.

Yet the signs are now unmistakable: China is in big trouble. We’re not talking about some minor setback along the way, but something more fundamental. The country’s whole way of doing business, the economic system that has driven three decades of incredible growth, has reached its limits. You could say that the Chinese model is about to hit its Great Wall, and the only question now is just how bad the crash will be.

Fourth Circuit Guts National Security Investigative Journalism Everywhere It Matters

Posted on July 19, 2013 by emptywheel

The Fourth Circuit — which covers CIA, JSOC, and NSA’s territory — just ruled that journalists who are witnesses to alleged crimes (or participants, the opinion ominously notes) must testify in the trial.
There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith, harassment, or other such non-legitimate motive, even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source.
With this language, the Fourth applies the ruling in Branzburg — which, after all, pertained to the observation of a drug-related crime — to a news-gathering activity, the receipt of classified information for all the states in which it most matters.

Marriage rate lowest in a century

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Fewer women are getting married and they're waiting longer to tie the knot when they do decide to walk down the aisle. That's according to a new Family Profile from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University.

According to "Marriage: More than a Century of Change," the U.S. marriage rate is 31.1, the lowest it's been in over a century. That equals roughly 31 marriages per 1,000 married women. Compare that to 1920, when the marriage rate was a staggering 92.3.

8 Stark Realities of America's Dysfunctional New Economy

By Steven Rosenfeld

“It’s difficult to point fingers at people and say, 'You screwed up in some way' or 'You aren’t working hard enough,’” said Erica Seifert, a senior associate at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, which recently conducted a series of focus groups in Florida and Ohio among young college women, Latino voters and white working-class voters. “This economy isn’t functional. The jobs don’t pay.”

Cashing in on Kids: 139 ALEC Bills in 2013 Promote a Private, For-Profit Education Model

Despite widespread public opposition to the education privatization agenda, at least 139 bills or state budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education bills have been introduced in 43 states and the District of Columbia in just the first six months of 2013, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of Thirty-one have become law.

ALEC Vouchers Transfer Taxpayer Money to Private and Religious Schools

News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch has called public education a "a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed."

But this "transformation" of public education -- from an institution that serves the public into one that serves private for-profit interests -- has been in progress for decades, thanks in large part to ALEC.

Reminder: Don’t Pay Attention to Wall Street’s Whines About Regulation

By Kevin Roose

Five years after the financial crisis, Wall Street banks are recovering splendidly. Record profits are becoming routine, and earnings are way, way up. Today, we learned that Goldman Sachs made $1.93 billion last quarter, or double what it made in the same quarter last year. Last week, we learned that JPMorgan Chase made $6.5 billion in the second quarter, or more than $72 million per day. And on Thursday, we're expected to learn that Morgan Stanley — the last of Wall Street's Big Three — made something like $900 million in the quarter.

The lesson of all this? When Wall Street CEOs and other prognosticators warn about the apocalyptic effects of new regulation designed to make the financial industry safer, the best response is to turn around and walk away.

The Secret to Finland's Success With Schools, Moms, Kids—and Everything

The country has cheaper medical care, smarter children, happier moms, better working conditions, less-anxious unemployed people, and lower student loan rates than we do. And that probably will never change

McJobs Are the Future: Why You Should Care What Fast Food Workers Earn

Maybe most McDonald's workers don't make a career of fast food today. But will that be true in 10 or 15 years? 

Jordan Weissmann, Jul 16 2013, 8:08 PM ET

As I wrote earlier today, the corporate brass at McDonald's seem to believe that in order to survive on what they pay their restaurant workers, you need a second job. And hey, credit where it's due: they're probably right. Fast food wages are terrible. If you're relying on a minimum- or near-minimum-wage check each month, it means you're living life on the financial precipice.

Since this out, however, I've gotten a few pointed responses from readers, the gist of which was captured pretty well in this tweet by Vincent from Chicago (I assure you, I'm the one getting yelled at):

Paul Krugman: The Paradox of Flexibility

Bruce Bartlett’s latest has some interesting history from the 1930s that just so happens to bear on my mild chiding of Noah Smith (Smith has an answer that, frankly, I don’t understand — but he’s been such a good guy over time that I’m just going to let this one drop). Anyway, Bartlett focuses largely on the malign influence of Henry Hazlitt, who was among other things writing many editorials for the New York Times, always insisting that the answer to the Great Depression was to encourage big cuts in wages.

Here’s an easy way to protect coastal communities from rising seas and storms

By John Upton

Protecting nature is the best way of protecting ourselves from rising tides and storm surges, according to new research.

Sand dunes, wetlands, coral reefs, mangroves, oyster beds, and other shoreline habitats that ring America help to protect two-thirds of the coastlines of the continental U.S. from hurricanes and other such hazards.

Each degree of global warming might ultimately raise global sea levels by more than 2 meters

07/15/2013 - Greenhouse gases emitted today will cause sea level to rise for centuries to come. Each degree of global warming is likely to raise sea level by more than 2 meters in the future, a study now published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows. While thermal expansion of the ocean and melting mountain glaciers are the most important factors causing sea-level change today, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will be the dominant contributors within the next two millennia, according to the findings. Half of that rise might come from ice-loss in Antarctica which is currently contributing less than 10 percent to global sea-level rise.

Dean Baker: Stiglitz Explains How Patent Protection Both Slows Growth and Increases Inequality

Very nice column from one of my favorite Nobel prize winning economists. Stiglitz explains some of the ways in which patent protection impedes growth and increases inequality.

It's great to see Stiglitz raising alternatives to patents for financing research, but I would disagree with the prize for patent buyouts that he proposes as being the best alternative. I have always preferred a system of direct upfront funding, which could be done through private firms operating on long-term contracts. In response to  a number of requests, here is the argument in brief. (Here's a little longer discussion.)

Part 2: Correcting the Pentagon's Distorted Budget History

By Winslow Wheeler | July 16, 2013

Given the warped measures that high-spending advocates and the Defense Department use to calibrate past, present and future defense spending (described here Monday), it is important to find an independent, objective yardstick to measure Pentagon spending trends accurately.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one.

If there were, this debate would be over, and I could retire.

Part 1: Cooked Books Tell Tall Tales

The vast majority of people in Washington who consider themselves experts on the defense budget also have little idea just how large the increases have been.

Using standard, generally-accepted economic measures to keep the value of dollars spent over time on an equal footing,

Dean Baker: The Return of Larry Summers?

According to accounts in the business press, there is a campaign among Washington insiders to get Larry Summers appointed as Ben Bernanke’s replacement as Federal Reserve Board chair. This could end up being the scariest horror movie of the summer.

It is bizarre that Summers would be seriously considered as the next Fed chair if for no other reason that there is an obvious replacement for Bernanke already sitting at the Fed. Janet Yellen, the vice-chair, has in the past served as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, a member of the Board of Governors in the 1990s and head of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. She also has an impressive academic background, having been a professor at both Berkeley and Harvard.

House Republican GSE Bill Would Codify MERS, Pre-Empt Private Property Rights

By David Dayen, a lapsed blogger, now a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @ddayen

The top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee has tucked a provision into his mortgage finance reform bill that would create a privately held “National Mortgage Data Repository.” The repository would basically look like MERS, the bank-owned electronic database tracking mortgage transfers. The difference is that, while MERS’ activities have drawn legal challenges across the country, the National Mortgage Data Repository would have the force of statute to carry out the exact same behavior. According to the bill text, any document arising from this repository would be seen as presumptively legal, pre-empting state and federal laws on demonstrating the right to foreclose.

Remember Citigroup

By Simon JohnsonOn Thursday of last week, four senators unveiled the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act.  The pushback from people representing the megabanks was immediate but also completely lame – the weakness of their arguments against the proposed legislation is a major reason to think that this reform idea will ultimately prevail.

The strangest argument against the Act is that it would not have prevented the financial crisis of 2007-08.  This completely ignores the central role played by Citigroup.

Five Important SCOTUS Rulings You Didn’t Hear About

Sunday, 14 July 2013 12:34
By Crystal Shepeard, Care2 | Report

The Supreme Court is on a summer break, after a session that was controversial and history making. However, behind the high profile cases making headlines were more than 70 other important cases decided without much fanfare.

Here are five that you may have missed while celebrating under rainbow flags and shedding tears about voter suppression.

Massachusetts’ Simple Solution for Preventing Domestic Homicide

By Amanda Marcotte | Posted Monday, July 15, 2013, at 10:56 AM

In theory, domestic homicide should be easy to prevent, since men who kill their wives or girlfriends (85 percent of victims are female) generally give us lots of warning by beating, stalking, and even raping their victims, usually for years before they finally kill. In reality, it's surprisingly hard to stop someone who really wants to murder you, especially if he has easy access to a gun. Restraining orders don't create a magic force field around the victim. Shelters help, but they are underfunded and depend on the victim giving up substantial rights to hold a job (which gives the abuser the ability to find you), have a social life, or even speak to family members. And trying to figure out which abusers are just run-of-the-mill woman batterers and which will actually kill is surprisingly hard to do.

Paul Krugman: Hunger Games, U.S.A.

Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.

The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the
House passed last week.

Locking Out the Voices of Dissent

Posted on Jul 14, 2013
By Chris Hedges

NEW YORK—The security and surveillance state, after crushing the Occupy movement and eradicating its encampments, has mounted a relentless and largely clandestine campaign to deny public space to any group or movement that might spawn another popular uprising. The legal system has been grotesquely deformed in most cities to, in essence, shut public space to protesters, eradicating our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. The goal of the corporate state is to criminalize democratic, popular dissent before there is another popular eruption. The vast state surveillance system, detailed in Edward Snowden’s revelations to the British newspaper The Guardian, at the same time ensures that no action or protest can occur without the advanced knowledge of our internal security apparatus. This foreknowledge has allowed the internal security systems to proactively block activists from public spaces as well as carry out pre-emptive harassment, interrogation, intimidation, detention and arrests before protests can begin. There is a word for this type of political system—tyranny.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

IMPACT: Maryland bill would protect homeowners from investors buying debt 

Center told story of Baltimore woman who lost residence in water bill dispute 

By Fred Schulte, 12:07 pm, January 18, 2013 Updated: 6:11 pm, January 18, 2013

Maryland lawmakers are sponsoring legislation to prevent Baltimore-area residents from losing their homes for failing to pay small municipal water bills —a stunning scenario detailed in a Center for Public Integrity story.

The legislation is aimed at preventing a repeat of what happened to Vicki Valentine, a Baltimore woman who lost her family’s mortgage-free home over what began as an unpaid water bill of $362. The Center told Valentine’s story in 2010 as part of an investigation into the impact of tax-lien sales on struggling property owners.

Behind The House Conservatives’ Assault On Nutrition Assistance


The one thing that’s worse than the House Republican vote Thursday to pass a farm bill that did not include the nutrition assistance program commonly known as food stamps is what was likely to happen if the nutrition assistance program remained part of the bill.

After having been unable to get support for a farm bill that cut $20 billion from what is now the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, House Republicans were aiming for even deeper cuts and higher barriers to keep people from receiving benefits. Now that the subsidies to farmers and agribusiness are taken care of, extremists in the House Republican caucus hope to ram through morally reprehensible changes to the program.

Dean Baker: The 1% Want Your Kidney: Tales of Redistribution

It is widely recognized that economists are not very good at economics. That is why we are looking at a decade of economic stagnation with tens of millions of people being unemployed or underemployed in Europe and the United States.

If economists were better at economics, central banks in the United States and Europe would have recognized the housing bubbles that were driving economies in the last decade. They would have taken steps to rein them in before they grew so large that their inevitable collapse would sink the world economy.

REPORT: The Sunday Morning Shows Are Still White, Conservative, And Male


In the first six months of 2013, white men dominated the guest lists on the broadcast network Sunday shows and CNN's State of the Union. MSNBC was the only network achieving notable diversity in its guests, particularly on Melissa Harris-Perry's show. Republicans and conservatives are hosted significantly more on the broadcast Sunday shows than Democrats and progressives.

Media Matters has continued its monitoring of the Sunday morning talk shows on broadcast and cable networks. Following up on our previous study, we've added data for April, May, and June to the existing data collected for January, February, and March of this year on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox Broadcast Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, NBC's Meet the Press, CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, and MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki and Melissa Harris-Perry.

The Korean War: Forgotten, Unknown and Unfinished

Friday, 12 July 2013 09:29
By H Patricia Hynes, Truthout | Historical Analysis

The American war in Korea lasted three years, one month and two days and ended in a stalemate on July 12, 1953, at 10:12 am. Fighting continued for 12 more hours, with even more "blood and treasure" on all sides wasted in the intense, deadly fireworks of frustrated, war-wearied soldiers. Americans at home had tired of the deadlocked war and they disconnected from it; American soldiers fighting in it did not understand its historical roots. The war's especially morbid consequences for Korean women have not ended, in what has been "60 years of a war system." The menace of nuclear war in spring 2013 embodies its toxic legacy.

Paul Krugman: Delusions of Populism

Have you heard about “libertarian populism” yet? If not, you will. It will surely be touted all over the airwaves and the opinion pages by the same kind of people who assured you, a few years ago, that Representative Paul Ryan was the very model of a Serious, Honest Conservative. So let me make a helpful public service announcement: It’s bunk.

Some background: These are tough times for members of the conservative intelligentsia — those denizens of think tanks and opinion pages who dream of Republicans once again becoming “the party of ideas.” (Whether they ever were that party is another question.)

Editorial: The Decline of North Carolina 

Published: July 9, 2013

Every Monday since April, thousands of North Carolina residents have gathered at the State Capitol to protest the grotesque damage that a new Republican majority has been doing to a tradition of caring for the least fortunate. Nearly 700 people have been arrested in the “Moral Monday” demonstrations, as they are known. But the bad news keeps on coming from the Legislature, and pretty soon a single day of the week may not be enough to contain the outrage.

In January, after the election of Pat McCrory as governor, Republicans took control of both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since Reconstruction. Since then, state government has become a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot.

Getting Past Stars and Swipes Forever

Thursday, 04 July 2013 09:51

By Sam Pizzigati, Too Much | Op-Ed

Back in 1776, public-spirited patriots emerged from the ranks of colonial America's privileged. But our corporate elite today seems to offer up only thieving, tax-dodging parasites. Why such a contrast?

Almost ten generations have come and gone since 1776. Yet the giants of 1776 still fascinate us. Books about Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington still regularly dot our best-seller lists.

What so attracts us to these “founding fathers,” these men of means who put their security, their considerable comfort, at risk for a greater good? Maybe the contrast with what we see all around us.

Matt Taibbi: Wall Street Rips Off 'The Sting'

Hilarious corruption story hit the news wires this week. It's actually a two-part joke.

Part one is that Thomson Reuters got slapped in the face by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for its absurd practice of selling early access to the results of the consumer confidence survey it conducts each month in conjunction with the University of Michigan.

It turns out that in recent times, if you paid them an extra subscription fee of a few thousand dollars a month, Thomson Reuters would allow you access to the Consumer Confidence data a full two seconds earlier than the rest of its subscribers – at 9:54:58 a.m., as opposed to 9:55:00 exactly.

Justice Denied: 71 New 'Tort Reform' Bills Make It Harder to Hold Corporations Accountable for Causing Injury and Death

By Brendan Fischer

ALEC Agenda Tips the Scales of Justice to Help Corporations Win

For decades, ALEC has been a conduit for the oil, tobacco, and pharmaceutical industries to push legislation that changes the rules to limit accountability when a corporation’s products or actions cause injury or death -- such as when a Koch Industries pipeline explodes and kills teenagers [4], or when the tobacco or pharmaceutical industries withhold evidence that their products are dangerous. In just the first six months of 2013, seventy-one ALEC bills that advance these "tort reform" goals have been introduced in thirty states (see chart below).

“Each of these bills would weaken the legal rights of everyday people who are wrongfully harmed by a corporation or health care provider,” says Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director of the Center for Justice & Democracy, a group that works to protect the civil justice system and fight tort reform. “[The bills] are carefully crafted to provide relief and protections for the industries who wrote them."

Can We Afford to Wait for Redistribution?

Sunday, 07 July 2013 10:16  
By Sam Pizzigati, Too Much | Op-Ed 

The ‘market’ isn’t working for working people. The rich have rigged the rules. We ought to keep trying, of course, to reduce the resulting inequality. But why not, unions are asking, end the rule rigging?

Labor analysts are increasingly making the case for what they call “predistribution.”
Sometimes we need new words to get a grasp on new ideas. Frances O’Grady, Britain’s highest-ranking labor leader, has a new word for us. Predistribution.

Why does O’Grady, the general secretary of the UK’s Trades Union Congress, want us talking “predistribution”? In our staggeringly unequal modern times, her union federation argues in a new paper released last week, redistribution no longer gets us particularly far.

How capitalism's great relocation pauperised America's 'middle class'

As long as workers could wrest gains from capitalism, the system was safe. But with production offshored, that bargain blew up

Richard Wolff, Tuesday 9 July 2013 08.30 EDT
Detroit's struggle with bankruptcy might find some relief, or at least distraction, by presenting its desperate economic and social conditions as a tourist attraction. "Visit Detroit," today's advertisement might begin, "see your region's future here and now: the streets, neighborhoods, abandoned buildings, and the desolation. Scary, yes, but more gripping than any imaginary ghost story."

Detroit, Cleveland, Camden and many other cities display what capitalism left behind after it became profitable for capitalists to relocate and for new capital investments to happen more elsewhere. Capitalism and its driving profit motive first developed in England before spreading to western Europe, north America and then Japan. Over the last two centuries, those areas endured a growing capitalism's mix of horrific working conditions, urban slums, environmental degradation, and cyclical instability. Capitalism also brought economic growth, wealth for a minority, labor unions and other workers' organizations. Writers like Dickens, Zola, Steinbeck, and Gorky saw that capitalism's workings clearly, while those like Marx, Mill and Bakunin understood it critically.

Keep states' hands off your right to vote

By Mark Pocan, Special to CNN
updated 9:08 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Editor's note: U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat, represents Wisconsin's second congressional district. He serves on both the Budget Committee and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and has been appointed an assistant minority whip.
(CNN) -- That didn't take long. Just two weeks since the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, state legislatures are moving quickly on voter suppression measures.

Already, six of the nine states that were previously covered by the requirement that changes in voting procedures be pre-cleared have started to bring up restrictive voter ID laws. If there is a glimmer of hope for voting rights advocates, however, it's that the court merely ruled that the formula was outdated, and that Congress "may draft another formula based on current conditions."

In a Nation in Decline, a Lust for Hatred

Monday, 08 July 2013 16:31  
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed 

The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.

Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship’s 30-man crew—there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel—is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which, in a previous encounter, maimed the ship’s captain, Ahab, by biting off one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod’s destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed—just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.

Koch Pledge Tied to Congressional Climate Inaction

Posted by Jane Mayer

When President Obama unveiled his program to tackle climate change last month, he deliberately sidestepped Congress as a hopeless bastion of obstruction, relying completely on changes that could be imposed by regulatory agencies. A two-year study by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, released today, illustrates what might be one of the reasons why he had to take this circuitous route. Fossil fuel magnates Charles and David Koch have, through Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group they back, succeeded in persuading many members of Congress to sign a little-known pledge in which they have promised to vote against legislation relating to climate change unless it is accompanied by an equivalent amount of tax cuts. Since most solutions to the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions require costs to the polluters and the public, the pledge essentially commits those who sign to it to vote against nearly any meaningful bill regarding global warning, and acts as yet another roadblock to action.

A Patriot Act History Lesson: How Warnings Were Mocked in the Senate

In 2006, Russ Feingold anticipated exactly how the government would stretch, exploit, and abuse vague language -- and was derided for it.

During the winter of 2006, the U.S. Senate was debating the re-authorization of the Patriot Act. The legislation would ultimately pass by a wide margin, and George W. Bush signed it into law. But before that could happen, civil libertarians, led by then-Senator Russ Feingold, tried to amend the 2001 law. They warned that its overly broad language would permit government to pry into the privacy of innocent Americans and warned about the likelihood of executive branch "fishing expeditions."

Dismissive Senate colleagues scoffed at their concerns.

Where the Hell Is the Outrage?

Tuesday, 09 July 2013 09:35  
By Richard Eskow, Campaign for America's Future | Report 

From the first breaths of life to the last, our lives are being stolen out from under us. From infant care and early education to Social Security and Medicare, the dominant economic ideology is demanding more lifelong sacrifices from the vulnerable to appease the gods of wealth.

Middle-class wages are stagnant. Unemployment is stalled at record levels. College education is leading to debt servitude and job insecurity. Millions of unemployed Americans have essentially been abandoned by their government.  Poverty is soaring. Bankers break the law with impunity, are bailed out, and go on breaking the law, richer than they were before.

In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.

By Eric Lichtblau
Published: July 6, 2013

WASHINGTON — In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.

The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.

The Right’s Made-up ‘Constitution’

July 6, 2013
For Tea Partiers and libertarians, it is an article of faith that the Constitution tightly constrained the federal government and gave broad powers to the states. But that is bogus history — mere propaganda — and suggests that the Right’s rank-and-file has never read or understood the document, says historian Jada Thacker.

By Jada Thacker

The Cato Institute’s Handbook for Policy Makers says, “The American system was established to provide limited government.” The American Enterprise Institute states its purpose to “defend the principles” of “limited government.” The Heritage Foundation claims its mission is to promote “principles of … limited government.” A multitude of Tea Party associations follow suit.

At first glance the concept of “limited government” seems like a no-brainer. Everybody believes the power of government should be limited somehow. All those who think totalitarianism is a good idea raise your hand. But there is one problem with the ultra-conservatives’ “limited government” program: it is wrong. It is not just a little bit wrong, but demonstrably false.

Paul Krugman: Defining Prosperity Down

Friday’s employment report wasn’t bad. But given how depressed our economy remains, we really should be adding more than 300,000 jobs a month, not fewer than 200,000. As the Economic Policy Institute points out, we would need more than five years of job growth at this rate to get back to the level of unemployment that prevailed before the Great Recession. Full recovery still looks a very long way off. And I’m beginning to worry that it may never happen.

Ask yourself the hard question: What, exactly, will bring us back to full employment?

We certainly can’t count on fiscal policy. The austerity gang may have experienced a stunning defeat in the intellectual debate, but stimulus is still a dirty word, and no deliberate job-creation program is likely soon, or ever.

Are Corporations Trying to Distract Us with Social Issues While They Take Control of Our Economy?

By RJ Eskow

I was right, but not because I have any special predictive gifts. History had provided the background for Obama’s changed views while Republicans had pioneered his tactics.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Antifreeze, cheap materials may lead to low-cost solar energy

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A process combining some comparatively cheap materials and the same antifreeze that keeps an automobile radiator from freezing in cold weather may be the key to making solar cells that cost less and avoid toxic compounds, while further expanding the use of solar energy.

And when perfected, this approach might also cook up the solar cells in a microwave oven similar to the one in most kitchens.

To feed the future, we must mine the wealth of the world's seed banks today

ITHACA, N.Y. – With fewer than a dozen flowering plants out of 300,000 species accounting for 80 percent of humanity's caloric intake, people need to tap unused plants to feed the world in the near future, claims Cornell University plant geneticist Susan McCouch in the Comment feature of the July 4 issue of Nature.

To keep pace with population growth and rising incomes around the world, researchers estimate that food availability must double in the next 25 years. The biodiversity stored in plant gene banks coupled with advances in genetics and plant breeding may hold the keys for meeting the demands of more food in the face of climate change, soil degradation and water and land shortages, according to the paper.

Pacific Ocean Floor Is a Huge Underwater Garbage Dump 

Thursday, 04 July 2013 11:41  
By Judy Molland, Care2 | Report

It’s old news that plastic bags, aluminum cans and fishing debris not only clutter our beaches, but accumulate in open-ocean areas such as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (basically a giant vortex of plastic soup, roughly twice the size of Texas.)

So much for the myth of the beautiful, natural ocean, stretching off towards the horizon.

Now, a paper by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) shows that trash is also accumulating in the deep sea, particularly in Monterey Canyon, off the coast of California.

How the rich strip wealth of the 99% through debt

7/3/2013 10:00am by Gaius Publius

Coming up on July 4 — a day in which we patriots honor patriotism — I offer this on modern “debt peonage” from Virtually Speaking and David Cay Johnston. It’s a terrific interview; Johnston is just so quick with the numbers and the easy-to-grasp framing.

As Johnston says here (my emphasis and paragraphing):

The idea of modern debt peonage or neo-feudalism came to my attention at Marcy Wheeler’s FDL blog. It’s an old concept–the idea is that you can sell yourself into temporary slavery, with a plan of working off the debt.

Paul Krugman: E Pluribus Unum

It’s that time of year — the long weekend when we gather with friends and family to celebrate hot dogs, potato salad and, yes, the founding of our nation. And it’s also a time for some of us to wax a bit philosophical, to wonder what, exactly, we’re celebrating. Is America in 2013, in any meaningful sense, the same country that declared independence in 1776?

The answer, I’d suggest, is yes. Despite everything, there is a thread of continuity in our national identity — reflected in institutions, ideas and, especially, in attitude — that remains unbroken.  Above all, we are still, at root, a nation that believes in democracy, even if we don’t always act on that belief.

People Get Ready: 'Unprecedented' Weather Glimpses Century Ahead

Latest report from WMO says first decade of century was hottest, wettest on record with more to come

- Jon Queally, staff writer 
The rate of rising oceans has doubled, the heat temperatures for both land and water are on the rise, the melting of the Arctic ice is speeding up, and both the weather extremes the world is experiencing and the overall global warming trends are simply 'unprecedented.'
That's the assessment contained in the World Meteorological Organization's latest report, The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Climate Extremes, which examined the first decade of the 21st century. The report, released Wednesday, arrived with this warning: we better get ready for more.

Mitch McConnell: We Must Rewrite The Constitution Because ‘Elections’ Haven’t ‘Worked’

By Ian Millhiser on Jul 13, 2011 at 11:49 am

Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered what may be the most concise summary of conservative constitutionalism ever spoken — America must rewrite the Constitution to force conservative outcomes because we the people consistently elect lawmakers who disagree with McConnell:
The time has come for a balanced budget amendment that forces Washington to balance its books. If these debt negotiations have convinced us of anything, it’s that we can’t leave it to politicians in Washington to make the difficult decisions that they need to get our fiscal house in order. The balanced budget amendment will do that for them. Now is the moment. No more games. No more gimmicks. The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check. We’ve tried persuasion. We’ve tried negotiations. We’re tried elections. Nothing has worked.

There’s a Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says

By Spencer Ackerman, 05.25.11, 4:56 PM

You think you understand how the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on its citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden says it’s worse than you know.

Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. Wyden (D-Oregon) says that powers they grant the government on their face, the government applies a far broader legal interpretation — an interpretation that the government has conveniently classified, so it cannot be publicly assessed or challenged. But one prominent Patriot-watcher asserts that the secret interpretation empowers the government to deploy ”dragnets” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden told Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.”

Insecticide causes changes in honeybee genes, research finds

New research by academics at The University of Nottingham has shown that exposure to a neonicotinoid insecticide causes changes to the genes of the honeybee.

The study, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, supports the recent decision taken by the European Commission to temporarily ban three neonicotinoids amid concerns that they could be linked to bee deaths.

The High Road to 21st Century Economic Success

By Salvatore Babones, Truthout | Op-Ed 

Where will this century's jobs come from? What can we do about youth unemployment and underemployment? How can today's developed countries maintain their labor standards and environmental laws in the face of competition from China and southeast Asia?

These are questions that keep parents awake at night worrying for the futures of their children. The usual answers offer little hope. No wonder today's underemployed twentysomethings are so depressed.

Eroding soils darkening our future

by Lester Brown

In 1938 Walter Lowdermilk, a senior official in the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, traveled abroad to look at lands that had been cultivated for thousands of years, seeking to learn how these older civilizations had coped with soil erosion. He found that some had managed their land well, maintaining its fertility over long stretches of history, and were thriving. Others had failed to do so and left only remnants of their illustrious pasts.

In a section of his report entitled “The Hundred Dead Cities,” he describes a site in northern Syria, near Aleppo, where ancient buildings are still standing in stark isolated relief, but they are on bare rock. During the seventh century, the thriving region had been invaded, initially by a Persian army and later by nomads out of the Arabian Desert. In the process, soil and water conservation practices used for centuries were abandoned. Lowdermilk noted, “Here erosion had done its worst. If the soils had remained, even though the cities were destroyed and the populations dispersed, the area might be repeopled again and the cities rebuilt. But now that the soils are gone, all is gone.”

Paul Krugman: War On the Unemployed

Is life too easy for the unemployed? You may not think so, and I certainly don’t think so. But that, remarkably, is what many and perhaps most Republicans believe. And they’re acting on that belief: there’s a nationwide movement under way to punish the unemployed, based on the proposition that we can cure unemployment by making the jobless even more miserable.

Consider, for example, the case of North Carolina. The state was hit hard by the Great Recession, and its unemployment rate, at 8.8 percent, is among the highest in the nation, higher than in long-suffering California or Michigan. As is the case everywhere, many of the jobless have been out of work for six months or more, thanks to a national environment in which there are three times as many people seeking work as there are job openings.

NSA spying is legal because once upon a time Dick Cheney's lawyer said so in secret documents that later vanished

by Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis

June 28, 2013 Throughout the past weeks of revelations regarding the NSA and other agencies spying on millions of Americans, a bipartisan clique of hawks in both the Obama administration and Congress have repeatedly stated that the secret survellance practices are legal. The NSA director, General Keith Alexander, has already lied to Congress once that can be proven, without even a threat of sanction. The UK Guardian has released new documents today that show the legal justification for these survellance was so secret the former NSA director may have never actually read them.

The Guardian released the NSA Inspector General's report on the legalities of certain ongoing wiretap programs. It reveals without a doubt that as time progressed, intelligence gathering on people around the world increased, restrictions relaxed, and successive secret legal opinions normalized and regularized what was originally a secret temporary emergency measure. Federal judges and the vast majority congressional Democrats enthusiastically approved the measures without ever actually examining the legal underpinnings due to the reported success of the programs.

America's Poor Are Demonized To Justify Huge Cuts in Gov't Prgrams 

By Bill Moyers, Greg Kaufmann

“People are working and they’re not getting paid enough to feed their families, pay their utilities, pay for their housing, pay for the healthcare… if you’re not paying people enough to pay for the basics, they’re going to need help getting food,” Kaufmann tells Moyers. “There are a lot of corporations that want to be involved in the fight against hunger. The best thing they can do is get on board for fair wages.”