Saturday, September 28, 2013

First step to reduce plant need for nitrogen fertilizer uncovered

MU scientists say discovery could save farmers billions and protect the environment.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Nitrogen fertilizer costs U.S. farmers approximately $8 billion each year, and excess fertilizer can find its way into rivers and streams, damaging the delicate water systems. Now, a discovery by a team of University of Missouri researchers could be the first step toward helping crops use less nitrogen, benefitting both farmers' bottom lines and the environment. The journal Science published the research this month.

Gary Stacey, an investigator in the MU Bond Life Sciences Center and professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, found that crops, such as corn, are "confused" when confronted with an invasive, but beneficial, bacteria known as rhizobia bacteria. When the bacteria interact correctly with a crop, the bacteria receive some food from the plant and, simultaneously, produce nitrogen that most plants need. In his study, Stacey found that many other crops recognize the bacteria, but do not attempt to interact closely with them.

Richard Eskow: The Robots Are Coming – Now What?

A new study says that nearly half of all American jobs may soon be performed by robots. And the White House has just announced the formation of “the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee ‘2.0,’” which it describes as “part of a continuing effort to maintain U.S.leadership in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance America’s global competitiveness.”

That seems like a good idea, but it raises a number of questions. There is only one labor representative on the committee, as compared to eleven corporate CEOs, and it would be good to know why. What’s more, labor isn’t acknowledged in the President’s statement that “industry, academia, and government must work in partnership to revitalize our manufacturing sector.”

The Four Eras of the American Right

September 28, 2013
Exclusive: In the coming weeks, the Republican Party and its Tea Party extremists vow to create budgetary and fiscal crises if the Democrats don’t gut health-care reform and submit to a host of other right-wing demands. But a driving force in this craziness is an anti-historical view of the Constitution, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

As the world ponders why the American Right – through its Tea Party power in Congress – is threatening to shut down the federal government and precipitate a global economic crisis by defaulting on U.S. debt, the answer goes to the self-image of these rightists who insist they are the true defenders of the Founding Principles.

This conceit is reinforced by the vast right-wing media via talk radio, cable TV, well-funded Internet sites and a variety of books and print publications. Thus, the Tea Partiers and many Republicans have walled themselves off from the actual history, which would show the American Right to be arguably the opposite of true patriots, actually the faction of U.S. politics that has most disdained and disrupted the orderly constitutional process created in 1787.

Gaius Publius: Don’t believe the latest lie: There is no “pause” in global warming

One more look, this time in greater detail, at that bogus global warming “pause” you’re going to be hearing so much about shortly.

My guess is that Chuck Todd will be one of those bringing the non-story to you, because … well … Chuck Todd. But hey, watch the Sunday shows as well; they’ll all be hammering the soon-to-be-released fifth assessment report (AR5) from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is due out momentarily. The mainstream media will be denier central (“on the one hand, on the other hand”) for as long as the report is news, and as long they’re paid by climate-denying corporations to report it.

Seymour Hersh on death of Osama bin Laden: ‘It’s one big lie, not one word of it is true’

By Lisa O'Carroll, The Guardian
Friday, September 27, 2013 12:01 EDT

Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.

It doesn’t take much to fire up Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been the nemesis of US presidents since the 1960s and who was once described by the Republican party as “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist”.

He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.

The Fall of the Heritage Foundation and the Death of Republican Ideas

How the Heritage Foundation went from the intellectual backbone of the conservative movement to the GOP's bane -- and how it's hurting the party's hopes for a turnaround

Molly Ball, Sep 25 2013, 7:00 AM ET

During the 1980 election, an up-and-coming Washington think tank called the Heritage Foundation undertook a massive task: to examine the federal government from top to bottom and produce a detailed, practical conservative policy vision.

The result, called Mandate for Leadership, epitomized the intellectual ambition of the then-rising conservative movement. Its 20 volumes, totaling more than 3,000 pages, included such proposals as income-tax cuts, inner-city “enterprise zones,” a presidential line-item veto, and a new Air Force bomber.

Despite the publication's academic prose and mind-boggling level of detail, it caused a sensation. A condensed version -- still more than 1,000 pages -- became a paperback bestseller in Washington. The newly elected Ronald Reagan passed out copies at his first Cabinet meeting, and it quickly became his administration’s blueprint. By the end of Reagan’s first year in office, 60 percent of the Mandate’s 2,000 ideas were being implemented, and the Republican Party’s status as a hotbed of intellectual energy was ratified. It was a Democrat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who would declare in 1981, “Of a sudden, the GOP has become a party of ideas.”

Paul Krugman: Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted

Robert Benmosche, the chief executive of the American International Group, said something
stupid the other day. And we should be glad, because his comments help highlight an important
but rarely discussed cost of extreme income inequality — namely, the rise of a small but powerful
group of what can only be called sociopaths.

For those who don’t recall, A.I.G. is a giant insurance company that played a crucial role in creating
the global economic crisis, exploiting loopholes in financial regulation to sell vast numbers of debt
guarantees that it had no way to honor. Five years ago, U.S. authorities, fearing that A.I.G.’s
collapse might destabilize the whole financial system, stepped in with a huge bailout. But even the
policy makers felt ill used — for example, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, later
testified that no other episode in the crisis made him so angry.

Anti-GMO Campaigners Claim Victory as 'Monsanto Protection Act' Stripped From Senate Bill

Organizers cheer, saying the voices raised against genetically modified foods and giveaways to biotech giants were heard

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer 
An amendment dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act," which currently allows large agriculture and biotech corporations to ignore court orders involving the safety of genetically modified seeds, has been stripped from Senate's spending bill that could be voted on as early as Wednesday afternoon.

Following an organized campaign against the provision in recent months, its removal was being cheered by food safety and environmental activists as a victory.

Seven Things You Should Know About the Wackiest “Fiscal Crisis” Yet

By Joshua Holland, Moyers & Company | Op-Ed 

Sometime in the next week, Congress will either get it together to pass a new budget resolution or the government will shut down (all but essential services). Two weeks after that, the federal government will reach its debt limit. If it is not raised, nobody really knows what will happen. The only sure thing is that it would roil the financial markets and cause some damage to the global economy.

So, we have another fiscal cliff. This contrived crisis is even more irrational than those of the past few years because Republicans in Congress have not only taken a hostage that they can’t shoot, but are demanding that Democrats ditch their signature achievement of the Obama presidency: the Affordable Care Act.

IPCC climate report: human impact is 'unequivocal'

UN secretary-general urges global response to clear message from scientists that climate change is human-induced

Fiona Harvey in Stockholm, Friday 27 September 2013 06.48 EDT

World leaders must now respond to an "unequivocal" message from climate scientists and act with policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations secretary-general urged on Friday.

Introducing a major report from a high level UN panel of climate scientists, Ban Ki-moon said, "The heat is on. We must act."

The world's leading climate scientists, who have been meeting in all-night sessions this week in the Swedish capital, said there was no longer room for doubt that climate change was occurring, and the dominant cause has been human actions in pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Paul Krugman: Japan: Don't Ruin a Good Thing

So far, Abenomics has been going really, really well.

By signaling that the Bank of Japan has changed, that it won't snatch away the sake bottle just as the party gets going, that it's going to target sustained positive inflation, and also by signaling that some fiscal stimulus is forthcoming despite high levels of debt, Japanese authorities have achieved a remarkable turnaround in short-term economic performance.

Matt Taibbi: Looting the Pension Funds

All across America, Wall Street is grabbing money meant for public workers

September 26, 2013 7:00 AM ET

In the final months of 2011, almost two years before the city of Detroit would shock America by declaring bankruptcy in the face of what it claimed were insurmountable pension costs, the state of Rhode Island took bold action to avert what it called its own looming pension crisis. Led by its newly elected treasurer, Gina Raimondo – an ostentatiously ambitious 42-year-old Rhodes scholar and former venture capitalist – the state declared war on public pensions, ramming through an ingenious new law slashing benefits of state employees with a speed and ferocity seldom before seen by any local government.

Called the Rhode Island Retirement Security Act of 2011, her plan would later be hailed as the most comprehensive pension reform ever implemented. The rap was so convincing at first that the overwhelmed local burghers of her little petri-dish state didn't even know how to react. "She's Yale, Harvard, Oxford – she worked on Wall Street," says Paul Doughty, the current president of the Providence firefighters union. "Nobody wanted to be the first to raise his hand and admit he didn't know what the fuck she was talking about."

Rich Are Waging "Pure Class Warfare"

By Elias Isquith

September 26, 2013  |  In a post at his blog, New York Times columnist and award-winning economist Paul Krugman argues that while it may appear the rich want to destroy all forms of government, that isn’t the case. What they really want to do, Krugman writes, is destroy all forms of government that don’t benefit themselves.

More from Krugman:
[M]any of the rich are selective in their opposition to government helping the unlucky. They’re against stuff like food stamps and unemployment benefits; but bailing out Wall Street? Yay!
Seriously. Charlie Munger says [4] that we should “thank God” for the bailouts, but that ordinary people fallen on hard times should “suck it in and cope.” AIG’s CEO — the CEO of a bailed out firm! — says that complaints about bonuses to executives at such firms are just as bad as lynchings [5] (I am not making this up.)

Scientists Break The World Record For The Most Efficient Solar Cell

Rob Wile, Sep. 25, 2013, 9:21 AM

A German-French research team has created a solar cell that can convert 44.7% of the sunlight it receives into energy.

That's a new world record (though as CleanTechnica points out some places measure efficiency differently).

Paul Krugman: Free to be Hungry

The word “freedom” looms large in modern conservative rhetoric. Lobbying groups are given names like FreedomWorks; health reform is denounced not just for its cost but as an assault on, yes, freedom. Oh, and remember when we were supposed to refer to pommes frites as “freedom fries”?

The right’s definition of freedom, however, isn’t one that, say, F.D.R. would recognize. In particular, the third of his famous Four Freedoms — freedom from want — seems to have been turned on its head. Conservatives seem, in particular, to believe that freedom’s just another word for not enough to eat.

Get Out While You Can: Why Young Americans Should Emigrate

By Thomas McGath 

Emigrate, if you can afford it. Millennials have a ton of education and no use for it. There are many other countries that represent a great opportunity for millennials looking to enter into an increasingly globalized work market. I'm not saying we should try to be members of an elite in other countries -- we should reject our shackles and become more worldly.

Part of that is learning a second or third language, something I thought I never would do. This changed after my time abroad in Ireland while studying at University College Dublin. I decided I was going to learn German, even though it was not the most useful of languages. Four years later, after teaching myself German from scratch, I have an operating fluency in German and now live in Berlin, where I will soon start my master's degree. The tuition costs a fraction of what it would in America. Despite being an foreigner, I have access to public health insurance available for students at only 60 Euros a month.

Dean Baker: The Media's Complicity in Cutting Social Security and Medicare

US media outlets are disingenuously claiming that social programs are putting Americans in debt.

Most people have probably heard about the Wall Street efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare. There is a vast list of organizations like Campaign to Fix the Debt, the Can Kicks Back, Third Way, and many more that have as a central agenda item cutting back or privatizing Social Security and Medicare. When we hear one of these organizations tell us these programs should be cut it is not a surprise.

The question is why do mainstream news outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post use their news sections to tell the same stories? Last week when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued new long-range budget projections both papers were quick to ignore the numbers and to tell readers that we have to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Paul Krugman: The (Very) Rich Are Getting (Much) Richer

Inequality wonks wait eagerly for updates to the Piketty-Saez data, in which the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez estimate the concentration of income at the top in the United States based on income tax returns.

The latest edition does not disappoint: It shows, as one might expect but needed confirmed, that the very rich have recovered just fine from the Great Recession, even as the great majority of Americans continue to struggle. In fact, the super-elite — the top 0.01 percent — actually had higher incomes in 2012 than they did at the height of the bubble.

How America’s 401(k) Revolution Rewarded the Rich and Turned the Rest of Us Into Big Losers

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

The Dumbest Retirement Policy in the World

Thirty years ago, as laissez-faire fanaticism took hold of America, misguided policy-makers decided that do-it-yourself retirement plans, otherwise known as 401(k)s, would magically secure our financial future in the face of gyrating markets, economic crises, unpredictable life events, stagnant wages and rampant job insecurity. It was an extraordinary shift in thinking about public policy: Instead of having predictable streams of income from traditional pensions, ordinary people with little financial expertise would suddenly transform themselves into financial gurus, putting money aside and managing complicated investments in tax-deferred accounts.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dean Baker: Obamacare: It's Better Than You Think

In just one week the main part of Obamacare will begin to kick in. This is the state level exchanges that will allow the uninsured to be covered. Beginning on October 1, people will be able to sign up to get insurance in their state regardless of their health.

Most people signing up on the exchanges will qualify for subsidies based on their income and family size. This means that the cost of insurance will be less than the advertised price.

Fox Pushes Dishonest Claims To Defend GOP's Food Stamp Cuts


Fox News rushed to defend a GOP plan to cut $39 million from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), misportraying the program as riddled with fraud and abuse and downplaying the effects those cuts would have on families with children. In reality, fraud amounts to less than 1 percent of the total program, and the cuts would take benefits away from 3.8 million people*.

CLAIM: GOP's Food Stamp Cuts Won't Affect Children

Fox Regular Stephen Moore Falsely Claims That Cuts Wouldn't Hurt Children. On the September 20 edition of America's NewsroomWall Street Journal editorial board member and Fox regular Stephen Moore downplayed the proposed cuts, claiming that "families with children would not be affected by any of this." [Fox News, America's Newsroom9/20/13, via Media Matters]

Why Arne Duncan is threatening to withhold funds for poor kids

By Valerie Strauss, Published: September 21 at 10:58 am

It’s hard to decide  which of the following aspects of the U.S. Education Department’s fight with the state of California over standardized testing is worse:

* Education Secretary Arne Duncan is threatening to withhold some of the approximately $1.5 billion that California receives annually from the federal Title 1 program — funds intended to help poor children receive an education — if state officials don’t agree to implement a standardized-testing regime that he likes.

It's the Austerity, Stupid: How We Were Sold an Economy-Killing Lie

Once again, the Beltway fell for cherry-picked data—and you paid the price.
It was the Excel error heard round the world.

In January 2010, as the global economy was slowly beginning to claw its way out of the depths of the Great Recession, the Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff published a short paper with a grim message: Too much debt kills economic growth. They had compiled a comprehensive database of debt episodes throughout the 20th century, and their data told an unmistakable story: Time and again, countries that rack up high debt levels have gone on to suffer years—sometimes decades—of stagnation.

As economics studies go, it was nothing short of a bombshell. As its conclusions were invoked from Washington to Brussels, tackling the recession suddenly became less important than tackling deficits. For the next three years, stimulus was out, austerity was in, and the protests of critics were all but buried amid the headlong rush to slash spending.

Buy a House, Make Your Payments, Then Discover You've Been Foreclosed On Without Your Knowledge

By David Dayen

Their mortgage servicer, Nationstar, foreclosed on them without their knowledge, and sold the house to an investment company. If it wasn’t for the Sinclairs going to a local ABC affiliate [3] and describing their horror story, they would have been thrown out on the street, despite never missing a mortgage payment. It’s impossible to know how many homeowners who didn’t get the media to pick up their tale have dealt with a similar catastrophe, and eventually lost their home.

As finance writer Barry Ritholtz has explained [4], home purchases involve a series of precise safeguards, designed to protect property rights and prevent situations where borrowers who are perfect on their payments get evicted. “In a nation of laws, contract and property rights, there is no room for errors,” Ritholtz writes. “The only way these errors could have occurred is if several people involved in the process committed criminal fraud.”

Nowhere to Hide: The Government's Massive Intrusion Into Our Lives

Tom Dispatch / By Christopher Calabrese, Matthew Harwood

You’re probably assuming that we’re talking about another blanket National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program focused on the communications of innocent Americans, as revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. We could be, but we’re not. We’re talking about a program of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a domestic law enforcement agency.

US nearly detonated atomic bomb over North Carolina – secret document

Exclusive: Journalist uses Freedom of Information Act to disclose 1961 accident in which one switch averted catastrophe

Ed Pilkington in New York
The Guardian, Friday 20 September 2013 12.03 EDT

A secret document, published in declassified form for the first time by the Guardian today, reveals that the US Air Force came dramatically close to detonating an atom bomb over North Carolina that would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that devastated Hiroshima.

The document, obtained by the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gives the first conclusive evidence that the US was narrowly spared a disaster of monumental proportions when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on 23 January 1961. The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage.

NPR's New Boss: Financial Industry Lobbyist, GOP Donor, Right-Wing Think Tank Booster

By Peter Hart

Last month NPR CEO Gary Knell left to take a job at National Geographic, making him the latest in a string of CEOs who left after a short stint running the public radio outlet. On September 13, NPR named a new acting president and CEO: board member Paul G. Haaga.

The NPR press release  (9/13/13) states that Haaga's "accomplished career" included a stint as "chairman of the Investment Company Institute"–the powerful lobbying group of the mutual fund industry. As the Los Angeles Times  (11/29/03) once reported, "Mutual funds have been mostly shielded from the reforms forced on the financial world–thanks in large part to the efforts of the Investment Company Institute."

The GOP’s “Hunger Games” vision of America

Cutting food stamps and sabotaging Obamacare aren't irrational – they're part of the 1 percent's all-out class war

By Andrew O'Hehir

American conservatives love to attack anyone who raises the issue of worsening economic inequality for waging “class war.” Their compulsion to keep repeating that phrase is revealing in itself; it’s like the serial killer in a movie who can’t help returning to the scene of the crime. Because the only class war being waged in 21st-century America is the relentless, all-fronts struggle conducted by the rich against the poor.

Within the last week, we have learned that poverty remains at near-record levels in our supposedly affluent nation. Even amid a so-called economic recovery, nearly 22 percent of the nation’s children live in poverty, and the overall number of poor people reached an all-time high, at 46.5 million. Income inequality, meanwhile, is roughly twice as bad as it was in the 1970s, reaching a level never seen before in this country or any other industrialized nation.

Richard Eskow: JPMorgan Chase: “Incredibly Guilty”

An outside observer might be forgiven for thinking JPMorgan Chase isn’t so much a bank as it is a criminal enterprise with a bank attached to it. Even before the London Whale scandal, Chase’s documented list of crimes included repeated fraud, perjury, forgery, bribery, and violations of laws against trading with Iran and Syria.

It also shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

Okay, that last statement isn’t true. But the rest of the crimes on that list, and a number of others, are well-documented. And yet, remarkably, not a single senior executive at the bank has been indicted – or, to our knowledge, even been the subject of a criminal investigation.

Case for climate change is overwhelming, say scientists

Eleven days before the IPCC publishes its latest report, a group of eminent scientists says there is massive evidence of human responsibility

By Alex Kirby for Climate News Network, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Monday 16 September 2013 11.25 EDT
With the IPCC report not yet published, there is already heated debate about what it will say, and about the implications of its findings for human development.

The scientists' statement is unequivocal, and is not based on whatever the IPCC may publish. They say: "The body of evidence indicating that our civilisation has already caused significant global warming is overwhelming."

The statement comes from 12 members of the recently established Earth League, which describes itself as "a voluntary alliance of leading scientists and institutions dealing with planetary processes and sustainability issues".

The 10 Farm Subsidy Recipients Who Voted To Cut Food Stamps

Derek Pugh

The House GOP believes in welfare – just not the kind that goes to help the poor, sick, students, elderly or working class. Thursday’s vote to cut food stamps embodies what House conservatives are all about: giving billions away in corporate welfare to the richest with taxpayer dollars.

They are also about helping themselves. Before they rushed off to summer recess House Republicans voted in favor of a farm subsidy bill that was condemned by sensible conservatives as well as progressives for continuing to give wasteful subsidies to Big Agra.

Public Education in the Crosshairs: - ALEC's Private Scholarship Tax Credits

Thursday, 19 September 2013 00:00 
By Ellen Dannin, Truthout | Report 

A commitment to high-quality, free public education for all children has long been the foundation of our democracy and prosperity. Although never fully honored, our commitment to an educated citizenry has created a society that is generally literate and able to participate in democratic governance. That commitment is now under multiple attacks by ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), and many ALEC-created bills target public schools, teachers and teacher unions. One ALEC bill in particular, the "Resolution Supporting Private Scholarship Tax Credits," has mostly flown under the radar - but could have grave, far-reaching consequences.

Gaius Publius: Is privatization driven by corruption? The Chicago parking meter debacle

I’ve been writing about privatization lately, a movement that’s picking up steam all over the country, and indeed all over the world. The Mubarak regime, for example, was widely considered a  ”neoliberal” and privatizing one, famous for looting the Egyptian state and economy of its wealth.

I want to just add this. Given the immensely favorable deals that governments — federal, state and local — give to their private “partners,” how can crony corruption and kickbacks not be a part of it.

Paul Krugman: The Crazy Party

Early this year, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, made headlines by telling his fellow Republicans that they needed to stop being the “stupid party.” Unfortunately, Mr. Jindal failed to offer any constructive suggestions about how they might do that. And, in the months that followed, he himself proceeded to say and do a number of things that were, shall we say, not especially smart.

Nonetheless, Republicans did follow his advice. In recent months, the G.O.P. seems to have transitioned from being the stupid party to being the crazy party.

Walker’s Wrecking Crew Goes After Judiciary

By Rebecca Kemble, September 18, 2013

Control over the executive and legislative branches of Wisconsin state government apparently isn’t enough for Republicans and their corporate backers. Now they want to curtail the powers of the judicial branch by effectively eliminating circuit court judges’ ability to block unconstitutional state laws.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and their Republican allies in the legislature pushed a bill through the Wisconsin State Assembly last June that would automatically nullify an injunction against a state law ordered by a circuit court judge immediately upon appeal. Furthermore, the appeals process is automatically triggered by the filing of any such injunction or restraining order by a circuit court judge.

Algae Biofuel Can Cut CO2 Emissions by up to 68 Percent Compared to Petroleum Fuels Finds New Peer Reviewed Study

Algae fuel will have a significant energy return on investment, consume waste CO2 and can be grown in saltwater on marginal lands

MINNEAPOLIS (September 19, 2013) –Algae-derived biofuel can reduce life cycle CO2 emissions by 50 to 70 percent compared to petroleum fuels, and is approaching a similar Energy Return on Investment (EROI) as conventional petroleum according to a new peer-reviewed paper published in Bioresource Technology. The study, which is the first to analyze real-world data from an existing algae-to-energy demonstration scale farm, shows that the environmental and energy benefits of algae biofuel are at least on par, and likely better, than first generation biofuels.

“This study affirms that algae-based fuels provide results without compromise,” said Mary Rosenthal, ABO’s executive director. “With significant emissions reductions, a positive energy balance, nutrient recycling and CO2 reuse, algae-based fuels will be a long-term, sustainable source of fuels for our nation.”

'Winning the Race to the Bottom'

Critics slam highly secretive deal as a tool for U.S. and corporate power
- Sarah Lazare, staff writer 
As Obama moves to fast-track the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), critics are blasting the highly-secretive trade deal as "NAFTA on steroids" and a tool for advancing U.S. and corporate power.
"If impoverishing working people around the world is the goal, then the trade policies like this are working quite effectively," Chris Townsend, political director for United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), told Common Dreams. "This is the grand-daddy of trade deals, a very destructive project, and it is happening completely under the radar."

Rick Perlstein: On Privatization's Cutting Edge

Last week, for the opening of the school year, I wrote about my interview with Tom Geoghegan about his (so-far) failed suit to stop Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s morally and educationally disastrous crusade to close fifty schools in Chicago. But that’s not all I talked about with Tom. “I don’t want this just to be a Mayor Emanuel–bashing session,” I said. “Because we have to bash Mayor Daley.”

Everyone, I suppose, dislikes parking meters. Chicagoans hate them even more. That’s because Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2008 struck a deal with the investment consortium Chicago Parking Meters LLC, or CPM, that included Morgan Stanley, Allianz Capital Partners and, yes, the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Abu Dhabi, to privatize our meters. The price of parking—and the intensity of enforcement—skyrocketed. The terms were negotiated in secret. City Council members got two days to study the billion-dollar, seventy-five-year contract before signing off on it. An early estimate from the Chicago inspector general was that the city had sold off its property for about half of what it was worth. Then an alderman said it was worth about four times what the city had been paid. Finally, in 2010, Forbes reported that in fact the city had been underpaid by a factor of ten.

Gaius Publius: This week in privatization — they really do have a bridge to sell you

The privatization of public property is something that both Democratic and Republican public officials love to promote.

Republicans love it because they’re vultures, always feeding the poor (you, me and the rest of the “99%”) to the rich. Neoliberal Democrats — that is, the whole of the party leadership — love it because somehow “free markets” unfettered by government regulation means “freedom”.

Blocking the Public’s Right to Know About ALEC

John Nichols on September 18, 2013 - 4:28 PM ET

In the two years since the ALEC Exposed project revealed the role that the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council plays in shaping the laws of states across the nation, the group has had a much harder time hiding its meddling.

In fact, so much national attention has been paid to ALEC’s role in promoting restrictive voter ID laws and controversial Stand Your Ground initiatives that ALEC officials announced last year that they would shut down the task force that was responsible for promoting those measures.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Maybe Eric Schmidt, Sheryl Sandberg, and Elon Musk Just Really Like Butte, Montana


The CEOs of the nation’s largest companies typically don’t have a reason to fly to Butte, Montana. But that’s where they are this week, a who’s who of corporate America, participating in the Montana Economic Development Summit, billed as an effort to “boost our state’s economy by finding Montana solutions for Montana jobs.” That may sound like a regional concern, but the non-Montana titans of industry in attendance include Google CEO Eric Schmidt; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk; and many more, including executives from Ford, Boeing, Hewlett-Packard, ConocoPhillips, Oracle, FedEx and Delta Airlines. Sponsors of the event include even more behemoths, like Walmart, Pfizer, Pepsi, Microsoft, Nike, Lockheed Martin and dozens more.

How can a local Montana jobs summit attract the giants of American commerce, few of whom have any business interests in the state? Well, the convener of the event, Max Baucus, happens to chair the Senate Finance Committee, the key tax-writing panel in the upper chamber. And when he throws an event, nominally about “bringing jobs to Montana,” corporate America recognizes that this gives them another opportunity to dole out favors to the senator who wants to lead a massive rewriting of the nation’s tax laws, designed to lower corporate rates and allow companies to bring back money stashed overseas with impunity. In fact, every corporation associated with the Montana Economic Development Summit has a stake in the tax reform debate, and most have officially lobbied for favorable treatment. Considering the tens of billions that these companies stand to gain if they are successful, a couple days in Butte doesn’t sound like such a bad trade.

Dean Baker: The Simple Reason for the Long Downturn: Housing Bubble Burst

Monday, 16 September 2013 10:58  
By Dean Baker, Truthout | News Analysis 

Many economists and business writers view the duration and severity of the downturn as being a mystery. They argue that it has something to do with the financial crisis, although the exact nature of the relationship is often not quite clear, with the financial crisis looming as a dark cloud hanging over the head of an otherwise healthy economy.

Fortunately, for arithmetic fans the story was never very difficult. In the last business cycle the economy was being driven in large part by a housing bubble. The unprecedented run-up in nationwide house prices lead to booms in both residential construction and consumption.

My grovelling apology to Herr Schäuble

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
September 17th, 2013

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has been vindicated.

For my part, I have been wrong about everything. German discipline policies for the eurozone have been a tremendous success. I am ashamed for suggesting otherwise.


I apologise for mentioning that unemployment is 27.8pc in Greece, 26.3pc in Spain, 17.3pc in Cyprus, and 16.5pc in Portugal, or for pointing that it would be far worse had it not been for a mass exodus of EMU refugees. Nor was is proper to mention that Greek youth unemployment in 62.9pc. These are trivial details.

I apologise for pointing out that the EU-IMF Troika originally said the Greek economy would contract by 2.6pc in 2010 and then recover briskly, when in fact it contracted by roughly 23pc from peak-to-trough, and will shrink another 5pc this year according to the think-tank IOBE. This slippage is well within the normal margin of error.


The Money Behind the Shutdown Crisis

Published: September 17, 2013

Representative Aaron Schock is a conservative Republican from Illinois, but not conservative enough for the hard-right activist group Club for Growth, which is seeking someone to run against him in next year’s primary.

His crime? In 2011, he voted to increase the debt ceiling, and, in 2012, he voted for a stopgap spending bill that prevented a government shutdown. In neither case did he demand the defunding of health care reform.

Nanocrystal Catalyst Transforms Impure Hydrogen into Electricity

Brookhaven Lab scientists use simple, 'green' process to create novel core-shell catalyst that tolerates carbon monoxide in fuel cells and opens new, inexpensive pathways for zero-emission vehicles

USDA Seeks to Expand Pilot Program Which Leaves Meat Contaminated With Fecal Matter

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 09:50  
By Candice Bernd, Truthout | Report 

Half of the USDA inspectors in industrial meat plants will be replaced with inspectors employed by the very same companies whose meats they are inspecting if plans by the US Department of Agriculture are allowed to go forward.

Is there poop in your pork and poultry? It’s a serious question.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has plans to expand a privatized meat inspection model that has been in place for 14 years at five hog plants in the United States and which has been found to fail time and time again at preventing contamination of meat - with fecal matter.

Global Power Project, Part 10: TransCanada Corporation, Kings of the Keystone Pipeline

Saturday, 07 September 2013 09:46 
By Andrew Gavin Marshall

TransCanada Corporation describes itself as “a leader in the responsible development and reliable and safe operation of North American energy infrastructure." Beginning in 2005, the company announced plans for the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2010, Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) approved the full pipeline project, stating that it was in the “public interest” to transport Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast in the United States.

If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport oil from Alberta through six U.S. states: Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Russ Girling, President and CEO of TransCanada, said the project would “improve U.S. energy security and reduce dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.”

First-time measurements in Greenland snowpack show a drop in atmospheric co since 1950s

Cleaner auto combustion appears to have driven the improvement

A first-ever study of air trapped in the deep snowpack of Greenland shows that atmospheric levels of carbon monoxide (CO) in the 1950s were actually slightly higher than what we have today. This is a surprise because current computer models predict much higher CO concentrations over Greenland today than in 1950. Now it appears the opposite is in fact true.

In a paper recently published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Vasilii Petrenko, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, concluded that CO levels rose slightly from 1950 until the 1970s, then declined strongly to present-day values. This finding contradicts computer models that had calculated a 40 percent overall increase in CO levels over the same period.

Breathing better, living longer

Arden Pope’s students know him as an excellent economics teacher, but some would be surprised to learn that, thanks to him, the air they breathe today is cleaner than the first breath they ever took.

In fact, a new study by this BYU professor concludes that improvements in U.S. air quality since 1990 have sparked a 35 percent reduction in deaths and disability specifically attributable to air pollution. Pope was a member of a large research team who co-authored the study for the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dean Baker: Anniversary Present for Wall Street Banks: A Financial Speculation Tax

A tax on financial transactions will reign in banks and other financial institutions, and may prevent another crisis.

As we mark the fifth anniversary of the Wall Street bailouts, it is clear that little has changed in the way they do business. They are still engaging in the same sorts of market manipulation and tax gaming as they did before the crisis. 
The weak conditions on the bailout money had no lasting effect in areas like executive compensation. The industry itself is more concentrated than ever as the big banks used the crisis to merge with other banks, making them even bigger. And the Dodd-Frank reforms have been watered down to the extent that many are now pointless.

What we get wrong when we talk about ‘the financial crisis’

By Mike Konczal, Updated: September 14, 2013

This week is the five-year anniversary of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. That’s being taken to mean it’s the five-year anniversary of the financial crisis.

Wrong. Or, at the least, terribly incomplete. The focus on Lehman obscures the fact that there were really three crises. Sure, there was the crisis in the financial markets in late 2008. But there was also the ongoing financial crisis that would have happened even if Lehman’s failure didn’t cause any troubles. Meanwhile, there’s still a crisis of confidence over whether or not our financial markets are actually benefiting the economy as a whole.

This isn’t just academic. Emphasizing Lehman biases the conversation over financial reform in a subtle but powerful way. The implication is that if Dodd-Frank can prevent the events of fall 2008 from happening, then our work here is done. That view is dangerously wrong.

We've Got a Billionaire Bailout Society—And the 99% May Never Recover From It In Our Lifetimes

By Les Leopold

We are entering a disastrous new era in which all the economic gains go to the top 1 percent, according to data from economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. They report [3] that, "Top 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.4% from 2009 to 2012. Hence, the top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery....  In sum, top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while bottom 99% incomes have hardly started to recover." (In 2012, $394,000 is the cutoff to make it into the top 1 percent.)

The hidden truth behind Teach for America’s political empire

Working for more charter schools and fast-tracked teachers, the organization's growing — whether you like it or not

By James Cersonsky

Teach for America, well known for recruiting high-achieving college graduates to teach in urban and rural areas for two years, has expanded to 48 regions, built an alumni base of 32,000 and piled up $350 million in assets.

Now, as the school year begins, it’s planting seeds to grow further — but not without controversy and intrigue.

Government Hands More Than $1 Trillion to Wealthy While Deficit Is $642 Billion

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 10:32  
By Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future | News Analysis 

While our government is laying off hundreds and hundreds of thousands and cutting services in the name of cutting deficits, a new report exposes that taxpayers are handing more than $1 trillion a year to the wealthiest.

DC Focused On Deficits Not Jobs

Instead of focusing on jobs, Congress and the White House obsess on how to cut the budget -– the things We the People do to make our lives and economy better. While the “sequester” has already cost 900,000 jobs — 1.6 million thru 2014 — Republicans are threatening to shut down the government and force the country to default on its debt as leverage to force even more cuts.

The Most Depressing Discovery About the Brain, Ever

By Marty Kaplan

Kahan conducted some ingenious experiments about the impact of political passion on people’s ability to think clearly.  His conclusion, in Mooney’s words: partisanship “can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills…. [People] who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.”

Study: Trade Deal Would Mean a Pay Cut for 90% of U.S. Workers

By Susie Madrak

I think most of us realize by now what a bad deal these trade agreements are. This study proves that our suspicions are correct. More important, the agreement gives multinational corporations the ability to override a country's environmental laws. What could possibly go wrong?
The verdict is in: most U.S. workers would see wage losses as a result of theTrans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping U.S. "free trade" deal under negotiation with 11 Pacific Rim countries. That's the conclusion of a reportjust released by the non-partisan Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

TPP's corporate proponents have tried to sell the NAFTA-style deal to the U.S. public and policymakers by claiming that it will result in gains for the U.S. economy. They often cite a study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics that used sweeping assumptions to project a tiny benefit from the TPP. We brought that study down to size back in January, showing that, even if one accepts the pro-TPP authors' litany of optimistic assumptions, the much-touted "benefit" from the TPP would amount to an extra quarter per person per day.

How Detroit went broke: The answers may surprise you - and don't blame Coleman Young

By Nathan Bomey and John Gallagher/Detroit Free Press Business Writers

Detroit is broke, but it didn’t have to be. An in-depth Free Press analysis of the city’s financial history back to the 1950s shows that its elected officials and others charged with managing its finances repeatedly failed — or refused — to make the tough economic and political decisions that might have saved the city from financial ruin.

Instead, amid a huge exodus of residents, plummeting tax revenues and skyrocketing home abandonment, Detroit’s leaders engaged in a billion-dollar borrowing binge, created new taxes and failed to cut expenses when they needed to. Simultaneously, they gifted workers and retirees with generous bonuses. And under pressure from unions and, sometimes, arbitrators, they failed to cut health care benefits — saddling the city with staggering costs that today threaten the safety and quality of life of people who live here.

How Millions in America Get Entrenched in Poverty

By Sasha Abramsky

September 4, 2013  |  The following are excerpts from Sasha Abramsky's new book The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives (Nation Books [3], 2013): 

In the fall of 2011, with hunger rearing up across America, the large freezer bins at the Port Carbon Food Pantry (PCFP), in the small, gritty, Appalachian town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, were empty. The shelves next to the freezers were also largely barren. A few boxes of egg noodles provided about the only sign that this was a place in the business of giving out food to those who could no longer afford to buy it. An adjacent room was doing slightly better, displaying stacks of canned fruit, canned corn, beans, and bags of pasta. But, taken as a whole, these were slim pickings. Clients who walked or drove up the hill, the remnants of an unseasonably early snow storm still on the ground, from the center of town to the two-story building were eligible for six to ten days of food, but that food was all they’d be able to get from the pantry for the next two months.

Three years earlier, explained PCFP’s coordinator, Ginny Wallace, the rooms were filled to bursting with food. Then the economy tanked; demand for the free food soared; and at the same time, locals’ ability to donate to the pantry crumbled.

They Know Much More Than You Think

James Bamford

In mid-May, Edward Snowden, an American in his late twenties, walked through the onyx entrance of the Mira Hotel on Nathan Road in Hong Kong and checked in. He was pulling a small black travel bag and had a number of laptop cases draped over his shoulders. Inside those cases were four computers packed with some of his country’s most closely held secrets.

Within days of Snowden’s documents appearing in The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealing several of the National Security Agency’s extensive domestic surveillance programs, bookstores reported a sudden spike in the sales of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984. On, the book made the “Movers & Shakers” list and skyrocketed 6,021 percent in a single day. Written sixty-five years ago, it described a fictitious totalitarian society where a shadowy leader known as “Big Brother” controls his population through invasive surveillance. “The telescreens,” Orwell wrote, “have hidden microphones and cameras. These devices, alongside informers, permit the Thought Police to spy upon everyone….”

Paul Krugman: Rich Man's Recovery

A few days ago, The Times published a report on a society that is being undermined by extreme inequality. This society claims to reward the best and brightest regardless of family background. In practice, however, the children of the wealthy benefit from opportunities and connections unavailable to children of the middle and working classes. And it was clear from the article that the gap between the society’s meritocratic ideology and its increasingly oligarchic reality is having a deeply demoralizing effect.

The report illustrated in a nutshell why extreme inequality is destructive, why claims ring hollow that
inequality of outcomes doesn’t matter as long as there is equality of opportunity. If the rich are so much
richer than the rest that they live in a different social and material universe, that fact in itself makes
nonsense of any notion of equal opportunity.

'Grassroots action' in livestock feeding to help curb global climate change

Scientists meeting in Australia describe how they are turning a dream into reality, with major benefits for people and the environment
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (13 September 2013)—In a series of papers to be presented next week, scientists offer new evidence that a potent chemical mechanism operating in the roots of a tropical grass used for livestock feed has enormous potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Referred to as "biological nitrification inhibition" or BNI, the mechanism markedly reduces the conversion of nitrogen applied to soil as fertilizer into nitrous oxide, according to papers prepared for the 22nd International Grasslands Congress. Nitrous oxide is the most powerful and aggressive greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential 300 times that of carbon dioxide.

5 Years Later, Wall Street Still Sucking Life Out of America Like Vampires at a Blood Drive

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

Five years later, the big banks continue the most expansive crime spree in the history of capitalism, getting bigger, richer and bolder every day. Like undead creatures from a horror film, financial predators have spread themselves into every corner of society, preying and feeding and making us weaker. In an epic fail [3] on the part of federal prosecutors and the SEC, no one at Lehman was ever prosecuted for financial shenanigans that included shady accounting practices former CEO Dick Fuld claims he didn't know about. As the five-year anniversary approaches and the statute of limitations runs out, we can be sure that no one will ever pay for Lehmans' crimes—except for us.

Recovery for the Rich, Recession for the Rest

Richard Eskow

Five years after the financial crisis, it’s become increasingly apparent that the government didn’t rescue “the economy.” It rescued the wealthy, while doing far too little for everyone else.

That didn’t happen by accident. Our government’s response was largely designed by – and for – the wealthiest among us, and it shows. Here’s one highlight from a new analysis: The highest-earning Americans saw their income rise by nearly one-third in a single year, while the needle barely moved for 99 percent of us.

Secret Quarter-Billion-Dollar Koch Brothers Political Operation Revealed

By Steven Rosenfeld

The “Koch brothers’ secret bank,” which is what the website [3] calls the Virginia-based group, whose formal name is Freedom Partners, is the glue that has been holding together the right-wing pantheon of pro-corporate, anti-regulatory, anti-Obama, anti-labor front groups that are against everything from healthcare reform to labor unions to financial market reform to progressive taxation.

Massive $238 billion financial bailout 5 years ago ‘avoided catastrophe,’ only $3 billion has yet to be paid back: Treasury

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 7:15 EDT

The US Treasury said Wednesday the government’s massive response to the economic crisis five years ago paid off, avoiding a catastrophic breakdown of the financial system.

In a report marking the anniversary of the bankruptcy of investment bank Lehman Brothers — which snowballed into the worst crisis since the 1930s — the Treasury defended deploying hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to save other banks, major financial institutions and auto companies.

How the cult of shareholder value wrecked American business

By Steven Pearlstein, Published: September 9 at 12:20 pm

In the recent history of management ideas, few have had a more profound — or pernicious — effect than the one that says corporations should be run in a manner that “maximizes shareholder value.”

Indeed, you could argue that much of what Americans perceive to be wrong with the economy these days — the slow growth and rising inequality; the recurring scandals; the wild swings from boom to bust; the inadequate investment in R&D, worker training and public goods — has its roots in this ideology.

EPA Moves To Fire 9/11 Whistleblower – Again

Scientist Who Disclosed First Responder Risks Faces Removal after Restoration

Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientist who raised the alarm about dangers to First Responders and residents at the World Trade Center conflagration has received a proposed removal more than a year after a federal civil service court ordered her returned to work, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). EPA re-filed the same charges from 2010 which had been thrown out for violations of her constitutional due process rights.

Dr. Cate Jenkins, a senior chemist with more than three decades of agency tenure, publicly charged that due to falsified EPA standards, First Responders waded into dust so corrosive that it caused chemical burns deep within their respiratory systems. After raising the issue to the EPA Inspector General, Congress and the FBI, Dr. Jenkins was isolated, harassed and ultimately removed from her position on December 30, 2010 by EPA, based upon an un-witnessed and contested claim that the soft-spoken, petite childhood polio survivor threatened her 6-foot male supervisor.

5 Years Later, We've Learned Nothing From the Financial Crisis

Why haven't we destroyed the idea that destroyed the world? 

Paul Krugman: C'est La V No More

Dean Baker weighs in on the self-correcting economy discussion — it’s not really a debate — and expresses some skepticism about whether we can expect a recovery even in the Keynesian long run. Fair enough. But a quibble: Dean seems to think that I’m saying that 2008 was unique and completely unlike previous recessions. Actually that was never my view — and my actual view ties in with some of the arguments David Warsh makes in his attack on Larry Summers.

Net neutrality is on trial in Washington. Here’s what you need to know.

By Timothy B. Lee, Published: September 10 at 9:23 am

On Monday, network neutrality got its day in court. The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments from Verizon that the Federal Communications Commission had exceeded its authority by enacting network neutrality regulations.

But if you had gone to court expecting a rousing argument about the merits of network neutrality regulation, you would have been disappointed. Drenched in legal jargon, the argument focused on minutia of the 1996 Telecommunications Act and of past legal precedents.

Fortunately, we're here to help. Read on to learn how we got to this point, what's at stake in the debate, and what will happen if the courts find the FCC overstepped its authority.

No, poverty is not the fault of the poor

It was the banks that crashed the economy, remember?

By Jared Bernstein

We’re starting to prep for “poverty day” around these parts–it’s next Tues, 9/17–the Census Bureau will release the poverty and household income results for last year. There’s lots of rich data and both CBPP and yours truly will have much to say about the results.

But in prepping for a presentation on this stuff for tomorrow, I made the graph below, just showing the sharp increase in the official poverty rate over the great recession. I’ve noted in many posts the limits of the official measure, most importantly re the dates shown in the figure, how it leaves out many of the safety net benefits that expanded to offset the downturn.

NSA admits it put phone numbers on an 'alert list'

By DAVID G. SAVAGE | Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON-The National Security Agency admitted in documents released Tuesday that it had wrongly put 16,000 phone numbers on an "alert list" so their incoming calls could be monitored, a mistake that a judge on the secret surveillance court called a "flagrant violation" of the law.

The documents are the latest to show that not only did the secret spy agency collect more data than most Americans suspected, its agents sometimes went too far when tapping into the data.

Paul Krugman: The Wonk Gap

On Saturday, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming delivered the weekly Republican address. He
ignored Syria, presumably because his party is deeply conflicted on the issue. (For the record, so
am I.) Instead, he demanded repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “The health care law,” he declared,
“has proven to be unpopular, unworkable and unaffordable,” and he predicted “sticker shock” in
the months ahead.

So, another week, another denunciation of Obamacare. Who cares? But Mr. Barrasso’s remarks
were actually interesting, although not in the way he intended. You see, all the recent news on
health costs has been good. So Mr. Barrasso is predicting sticker shock precisely when serious fears
of such a shock are fading fast. Why would he do that?

The New Goliath

Tuesday, 10 September 2013 09:33  
By William Greider, The Nation | Report 

Whatever Congress decides to do about bombing Syria, the United States is still trapped by a historic contradiction of its own invention. Our open-ended commitment to deter or punish bad guys anywhere around the world has not led to the peaceful vision of military planners and humanitarian hawks. It leads instead to more war—longer and more ambiguous conflicts in which there will be no victory, only abstract claims about teaching lessons to wayward nations.

The American Goliath, armed with awesomely superior weaponry and described as "indispensable" by admiring scholars, seems to have forgotten an ancient truth the Greeks and Romans understood. War is about purposeful violence, not diplomacy by other means.

Elizabeth Warren's Powerful Speech: Supreme Court Is on the Path to Being a "Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Big Business"

By Elizabeth Warren

When important decisions are made in Washington, too often, working families are ignored.  From tax policy to retirement security, the voices of hard-working people get drowned out by powerful industries and well-financed front groups.  Those with power fight to take care of themselves and to feed at the trough for themselves, even when it comes at the expense of working families getting a fair shot at a better future.

This isn’t new. Throughout our history, powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor. But we didn’t roll over. At every turn, in every time of challenge, organized labor has been there, fighting on behalf of the American people.

Remember When People Had Pensions? 

Sam Pizzigati

America’s corporate chiefs deserve all their hefty rewards, we’re told, because they take hefty risks. And what exactly are these richly rewarded corporate chiefs putting at risk? Our retirement security.

How’s your 401(k) doing?

Working Americans ask themselves this question — and angst about the answer — an awfully lot these days. Any why not? For most Americans, retirement reality has turned chillingly stark: Either you have a robust set of investments in your 401(k) or you’re facing a rocky retirement.

The 1 percent played Tea Party for suckers

When the super-rich feel threatened, they foment grass-roots uprising on their behalf. Here's why it always works

By Isaac William Martin

On Election Day, November 2, 2010, more than eight million Americans voted for congressional candidates who claimed to represent the Tea Party and its grassroots insurgency against the federal government. Most of the Tea Party candidates won. Their victory marked a sea change in American government. Even before the winners were sworn in, reporters began to refer to the 112th Congress as “the Tea Party Congress.” On the day of the swearing-in, the prominent Tea Party backer David Koch likened the electoral success of the Tea Party to the American Revolution. “It’s probably the best grassroots uprising since 1776 in my opinion,” he said.

The proposals of the new Congress had little in common with the revolutionary slogans of 1776, but many of them would be familiar to activists who had participated in the grassroots uprisings on behalf of the rich in the twentieth century.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

‘Unacceptable Levels’ of Chemical Toxins in Our Lives Exposed in New Film

by Beth Buczynski  |  September 8, 2013  |  5:00 am

Americans have access to modern healthcare, a glut of food and clean water. Yet most of us are sicker, more depressed and more overweight than ever before. Something is poisoning us, but we can’t see it, feel it or taste it. Could it be the thousands of chemicals that flow, often undeclared, through our food and retail systems? “Unacceptable Levels” is a film that seeks to answer that question.

The True History of Libertarianism in America: A Phony Ideology to Promote a Corporate Agenda

By Mark Ames

September 6, 2013
This is an adapted version of an article that first appeared on NSFWCORP. Published daily online and monthly in print, NSFWCORP is The Future of Journalism (With Jokes). For more features, or to subscribe, click here. [3]

This important article kicks off what will be a focus of coverage of AlterNet over the next few months on the corporate-funded "pro-market" arm of  libertarianism in America and the sophisticated methods of inserting business propaganda into the public debate.
Every couple of years, mainstream media hacks pretend to have just discovered libertarianism as some sort of radical, new and dynamic force in American politics. It’s a rehash that goes back decades, and hacks love it because it’s easy to write, and because it’s such a non-threatening “radical” politics (unlike radical left politics, which threatens the rich). The latest version involves a summer-long pundit debate in the pages of the New York Times, Reason magazine and elsewhere over so-called “libertarian populism.” It doesn’t really matter whose arguments prevail, so long as no one questions where libertarianism came from or why we’re defining libertarianism as anything but a big business public relations campaign, the winner in this debate is Libertarianism.

Pull up libertarianism’s floorboards, look beneath the surface into the big business PR campaign’s early years, and there you’ll start to get a sense of its purpose, its funders, and the PR hucksters who brought the peculiar political strain of American libertarianism into being — beginning with the libertarian movement’s founding father, Milton Friedman. Back in 1950, the House of Representatives held hearings on illegal lobbying activities and exposed both Friedman and the earliest libertarian think-tank outfit as a front for business lobbyists. Those hearings have been largely forgotten, in part because we’re too busy arguing over the finer points of “libertarian populism.”

Our Triple Jobs Problem

Sunday, 08 September 2013 10:12 
By Alejandro Reuss, Dollars & Sense | Op-Ed 

If you hear somebody talking about the U.S. “jobs problem,” ask them which one they mean. Let’s talk about three: First, even as unemployment has inched down, the economy has created barely enough jobs to match population growth. Second, this enormous labor-market “slack” has stifled workers’ bargaining power and kept wages low. Third, even with a “tighter” labor market, workers would still be in a weak bargaining position due to the policies of the last thirty-some years, which have undermined unions, the welfare state, and labor-market regulation.