Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist rips Justice Dept. for not bringing JPMorgan Chase to trial

By Arturo Garcia
Friday, October 25, 2013 17:44 EDT

Pulitzer Prize-winning financial columnist Gretchen Morgenson criticized the Justice Department’s $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase in an interview with Bill Moyers released Friday, arguing that it is far from an example of a government crackdown on financial industry malfeasance.

“If the Justice Department were being tough on Wall Street, they would be bringing criminal cases,” Morgenson said on Moyers & Company. “They would not be talking about settlements. They would be talking about bringing criminal cases against individuals who helped to perpetrate this immense crisis. So to say that $13 billion is finally the Justice Department’s getting religion, I’m just not a buyer of that.”

Paul Krugman: Gambling with Civilization

The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World
by William D. Nordhaus
Yale University Press, 378 pp., $30.00

Forty years ago a brilliant young Yale economist named William Nordhaus published a landmark paper, “The Allocation of Energy Resources,” that opened new frontiers in economic analysis.1 Nordhaus argued that to think clearly about the economics of exhaustible resources like oil and coal, it was necessary to look far into the future, to assess their value as they become more scarce—and that this look into the future necessarily involved considering not just available resources and expected future economic growth, but likely future technologies as well. Moreover, he developed a method for incorporating all of this information—resource estimates, long-run economic forecasts, and engineers’ best guesses about the costs of future technologies—into a quantitative model of energy prices over the long term.

The resource and engineering data for Nordhaus’s paper were for the most part compiled by his research assistant, a twenty-year-old undergraduate, who spent long hours immured in Yale’s Geology Library, poring over Bureau of Mines circulars and the like. It was an invaluable apprenticeship. My reasons for bringing up this bit of intellectual history, however, go beyond personal disclosure—although readers of this review should know that Bill Nordhaus was my first professional mentor. For if one looks back at “The Allocation of Energy Resources,” one learns two crucial lessons. First, predictions are hard, especially about the distant future. Second, sometimes such predictions must be made nonetheless.

The cost of the financial crisis hits Americans harder than banks

As you rise up the financial ladder, the consequences of the financial crisis are increasingly arbitrary

Heidi Moore, Thursday 24 October 2013 14.24 EDT

What’s the real cost of a financial crisis? Apparently, it depends on who’s paying.

If you’re Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, or Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America, it’s a price your $2tn bank can easily afford to make trouble go away.

If you’re a homeowner, it’s a price that has rendered your past five years a struggle of financial anxiety. If you’re an American, it’s a price that has resulted in a recession and recovery characterized by historically high poverty – with 42 million Americans on food stamps – and historically low rates of Americans working, with only 63% of the population gainfully employed.

Congressional oversight of the NSA is a joke. I should know, I'm in Congress

I've learned far more about government spying on citizens from the media than I have from official intelligence briefings

Alan Grayson, Friday 25 October 2013 07.45 EDT

In the 1970s, Congressman Otis Pike of New York chaired a special congressional committee to investigate abuses by the American so-called "intelligence community" – the spies. After the investigation, Pike commented:
It took this investigation to convince me that I had always been told lies, to make me realize that I was tired of being told lies.
I'm tired of the spies telling lies, too.

Pike's investigation initiated one of the first congressional oversight debates for the vast and hidden collective of espionage agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA). Before the Pike Commission, Congress was kept in the dark about them – a tactic designed to thwart congressional deterrence of the sometimes illegal and often shocking activities carried out by the "intelligence community". Today, we are seeing a repeat of this professional voyeurism by our nation's spies, on an unprecedented and pervasive scale.

State pro-business organizations are publicly funded, but privately controlled

Public-private partnerships further business interests in Arizona, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Florida, amid persistent questions about transparency, disclosure

By Nicholas Kusnetz, 6:00 am, October 23, 2013, Updated: 3:32 pm, October 23, 2013

The offices of the Arizona Commerce Authority are housed in downtown Phoenix at the Freeport-McMoRan Center, the gleaming glass headquarters of an international mining firm of the same name. The authority, which oversees state corporate tax incentives and grants worth hundreds of millions of dollars, is not quite a public agency, as its location two miles east of the state government complex suggests. It’s led by a board of directors run by the governor and Jerry Colangelo, who, after four decades as an Arizona sports and real estate mogul, is a local icon.  Sixteen other corporate executives also sit on the board, including Richard Adkerson, President and CEO of Freeport, to which the authority paid about $411,000 in state funds last fiscal year for renting the space.

There’s a name for this arrangement. The Commerce Authority is a “quasi-public” entity, or a public-private partnership. About 10 other states have also given control over lucrative corporate tax incentives to similar organizations, which are often run by the states’ most influential businessmen, generally at the pleasure of the governor. Supporters say these partnerships are more nimble than government bureaucracies and are insulated from the vagaries of electoral politics. But both liberal and conservative watchdog groups say the practice takes a government function already prone to mismanagement and obfuscation and makes the situation worse by giving oversight of business incentives to businesses themselves.

Paul Krugman: Addicted to the Apocolypse

Once upon a time, walking around shouting “The end is nigh” got you labeled a kook, someone not to be taken seriously. These days, however, all the best people go around warning of looming disaster. In fact, you more or less have to subscribe to fantasies of fiscal apocalypse to be considered respectable.

And I do mean fantasies. Washington has spent the past three-plus years in terror of a debt crisis that keeps not happening, and, in fact, can’t happen to a country like the United States, which has its own currency and borrows in that currency. Yet the scaremongers can’t bring themselves to let go.

Secret Trade Agenda Threatens Shift Toward Sustainable Food System

by Karen Hansen-Kuhn
After being delayed by the U.S. government shutdown, talks for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are quietly gearing up again. Tariff barriers between the U.S. and EU are already low, so these negotiations are focused squarely on achieving “regulatory coherence.” In other words, industry lobby groups and their political allies on both sides of the Atlantic see the trade deal as an opportunity to get rid of rules and regulations that limit their ability to buy and sell goods and services. The outcome of TTIP has implications for the rest of the world. Leaders from both regions have made clear, the terms of this trade agreement will set the standard for future free trade agreements.

TTIP could affect a broad range of issues, from energy to the environment, and intellectual property rights to labor rights. It could also have a significant impact on the evolution of agricultural markets and food systems in the U.S. and EU, as well as solidify the ability of corporations and investors to challenge new regulations that could affect expected profits through international tribunals. Unfortunately, little concrete information is known about the content of the TTIP proposals, since the governments involved have refused to publish draft text.

Dave Johnson: Republicans Demand Social Security And Medicare Cuts, Is It Reported?

Republicans are demanding cuts in Social Security and Medicare if Democrats want to change the terms of the “sequester.” I’m sure their Tea Party “base” would be shocked if they understood this. So would most Americans. So is the media giving Americans the information they need in order to make informed decisions?

4 Things You Need to Know About the Plot to Sell Off Your Pensions to Wall Street

By David Sirota

Less than a year ago, the Wall Street Journal [3] alerted its national readership to what was happening in the tiny state of Rhode Island. In a story headlined “Small State Gets Big Pension Push,” the paper noted that the state’s “rollback of public-employee retirement benefits has turned (it) into a national battleground over pensions.” With the help ofbillionaire former Enron trader John Arnold [4] and his partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts [5], conservative ideologues and Wall Street profiteers who engineered Rhode Island’s big pension cuts were looking to export those “reforms” to other states. Now, after two huge revelations in the last few days, we know more about what that means in practice – we know the kind of corruption and damage the “reforms” mean for taxpayers and retirees, and we know what kind of new muscle is behind the effort to bring that corruption and destruction to other states.

The first set of revelations comes from a detailed forensic analysis of Rhode Island’s pension system by Forbes columnist [6] and former SEC investigator Edward Siedle. Commissioned by groups representing public pensioners [7] in the Ocean State, the data-driven analysis ends up reading like a criminal indictment of the speculator-turned-State-Treasurer Gina Raimondo (D), who is now cheerily touted [8] by the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party as a rising star. Raimondo has received such billing from corporatist Democrats in no small part because of her role in helping turn her state’s pension fund into a private profit center. Indeed, in 2012, this Wall Street-funded Democrat [9] joined with Arnold to champion specific pension reforms that simultaneously slash guaranteed retirement income and give adisproportionate [10] amount of retiree money to the hedge fund industry, thus enriching Raimondo’s old pals in the financial industry. According to Siedle’s report, they also potentially enrich Raimondo personally.

The Scholars Who Shill for Wall Street

Professor Todd Zywicki is vying to be the toughest critic of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new agency set up by the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law to monitor predatory lending practices. In research papers and speeches, Zywicki not only routinely slams the CFPB’s attempts to regulate bank overdraft fees and payday lenders; he depicts the agency as a “parochial” bureaucracy that is “guaranteed to run off the rails.” He has also become one of the leading detractors of the CFPB’s primary architect, Elizabeth Warren, questioning her seminal research on medical bankruptcies and slamming her for once claiming Native American heritage to gain “an edge in hiring.”

Zywicki’s withering arguments against financial reform have earned him guest columns in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times and on The New York Times’s website. Lobbyists representing the largest consumer finance companies in the country have cited his writings in letters to regulators, and the number of times he has testified before Congress is prominently displayed on his academic website at the George Mason University School of Law.

Contrary to Popular Myth, Americans Not Very Litigious

By Sadhbh Walshe

As we were driving away soon afterwards, in pursuit of a more hospitable watering hole, one of the Canadians remarked:
I guess that's what you get for living in such a litigious society.
And this is the problem, right? Because of the presumption that Americans never leave the safety of their own home without their personal injury lawyer's phone number on speed dial, we are forced to live in a society where excessive precautions are taken in most public spaces – and many private ones as well – to ensure that no accident or injury ever occurs. I mean, this is the country where you can spill hot coffee on yourself, sue the company that sold it to you for millions and, worse still, win.
Or so goes the narrative, anyway. The truth is that Americans don't sue that much at all. Seriously, who do you know who can afford to? But because the myth [4] has been so successfully propagated, Americans have to live with the consequences of excessive law suit avoidance that tramples on the one thing that is supposed to be truly sacred in this country – our liberty.

Harry Reid: 'We're Not Going To Have A Grand Bargain'

Sahil Kapur –

"I hope that we can do some stuff to get rid of sequestration and go on to do some sensible budgeting," he said.

Brian Beutler: Ross Douthat’s right-wing fairy tale: What the New York Times columnist misses about Obamacare

A prominent New York Times columnist doesn't understand GOP opposition to Obamacare is part of its war on the poor 

Here’s some good news. Jeff Zients — the guy President Obama tasked with managing the cleanup job — told reporters on a conference call Friday that Obamacare’s federally facilitated insurance marketplaces should be working well by the end of November.

The rollout has been so bad and the threat to the integrity of the law is so real, it stands to reason this isn’t just spin or wishful thinking. It could turn out to be wrong. But at this point the administration gains nothing by sugarcoating things. Quieting criticism for a month won’t have any demonstrable benefits if by the end of November the system’s still broken. They’ll have just compounded the damage they’ve done to their credibility and people’s faith in the project.

The real Social Security retirement age is already 70

10/25/2013 8:00am by Gaius Publius

A Quick Hits piece, and a nice catch from Alicia H. Munnell at MarketWatch. The actual, real, functional retirement age for Social Security is … 70 years old. The logic is impeccable.

Your bottom line — The full Social Security benefit is pegged to a “retirement age” that’s many years after most people retire.

Your other bottom line — Who needs a Grand Bargain? You’re already being screwed by Social Security. Thanks to every Democratic and Republican politician who keeps taxes low for Your Betters.

The Govt. Shutdown Drama Is Over, But There's a New Threat to Our Most Important Social Programs

By Karen Higgins

With the hostage taking of the current crisis has passed, a budget conference committee will be convened whose charge will be further deep cuts beyond the much detested sequester cuts negotiated late last year. And, there’s already “bipartisan” consensus that a central target of those knives will be two of the most important social reforms in U.S. history, Social Security and Medicare.

Look out below, Congress and the White House are preparing to throw Grandma off the cliff.

The Lies That Will Kill America

How Sleazy Christian Con Artists Took Over the GOP

By Amanda Marcotte

Ted Cruz is the most prominent example, at least in the past month. After the shutdown debacle, it became clear that Cruz has no interest in using his position as a Texas senator to work on behalf of the voters who got him there. Instead, his M.O. is pure sleazy televangelist: Lots of public grandstanding to convince his marks, previously known as constituents, that he's on their side, for the sole purpose of shaking them down for money and support without offering anything in return.

Paul Krugman: The World According to the GOP

Over at The Washington Post's Wonkblog, the reporter Lydia DePillis recently asked: "Remember when Republicans were worried about 'economic uncertainty'?" Actually, no, I don't. I remember when they claimed to be worried about economic uncertainty - but it was completely obvious even at the time that this was nothing but an attempt to put a new, quasi-academic gloss on the same old, same old.

What they really meant was that the economy will boom only once we get rid of the Islamic atheist Kenyan socialist and install someone who will be nice to rich people. They grabbed hold of some research that seemed, if you didn't read it carefully, to support their complaints, but there was never any question that they would drop the uncertainty thing the moment it became inconvenient in the pursuit of their real goals. And so they did.

Your College Is Watching You

By Nico Perrino

The National Security Agency? Nope. It's your average college or university.

Earlier this year, when Harvard University violated school policy [6] by secretly searching deans' email accounts, the world glimpsed the intrusive measures one school took to monitor online activity of its staff. "We needed to act to protect our students," said then-dean [7] of Harvard College Evelynn Hammonds, who authorized the search in response to leaked information about a high-profile cheating scandal at the Ivy League institution.

The Trillion Dollar Money Pump for the 1%

by Stan Sorscher
I saw the movie Inequality for All, where Robert Reich explains the depth and meaning of inequality in America. He paints a compelling picture.

Reich sets up the movie with a teaser: "Something happened in the mid-'70s."

Indeed "something did happen in the mid-'70s." For one thing, since then workers' wages as a fraction of the total economy have lagged by over a trillion dollars per year. If workers' wages had kept up with gains in productivity since the mid-70's, wages would be double what they are now. Most new income goes to the top 1 Percent.

Vinyl flooring linked to potentially harmful substances at schools and daycare centers

Large areas of vinyl flooring in daycares and schools appear to expose children to a group of compounds called phthalates, which have been linked to reproductive and developmental problems, scientists are reporting. They published their results on the ubiquitous plastic ingredients in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Chungsik Yoon and colleagues note that polyvinyl chloride (PVC), also known as vinyl, is the second most-produced plastic by volume and is commonly used in flooring.

Who Buys the Spies? The Hidden Corporate Cash Behind America’s Out-of-Control National Surveillance State

By Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, Jie Chen

But that’s not how this movie turned out: The 2012 election proved to be a post-modern thriller, in which the main characters everyone thought they knew abruptly turned into their opposites and the plot thickened just when you thought it was over.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy

By Joanne Barkan - Fall 2013

Big philanthropy was born in the United States in the early twentieth century. The Russell Sage Foundation received its charter in 1907, the Carnegie Corporation in 1911, and the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913. These were strange new creatures—quite unlike traditional charities. They had vastly greater assets and were structured legally and financially to last forever. In addition, each was governed by a self-perpetuating board of private trustees; they were affiliated with no religious denomination; and they adopted grand, open-ended missions along the lines of “improve the human condition.” They were launched, in essence, as immense tax-exempt private corporations dealing in good works. But they would do good according to their own lights, and they would intervene in public life with no accountability to the public required.

Robert Kuttner: Billionaires Against Social Security

America's very rich keep trying to start a movement among college students to blame senior citizens for the sorry state of the economy that kids will inherit. Specifically, the billionaires keep trying to scapegoat Social Security.

This is part of the public relations effort to create a "grand bargain" to cut America's (fast-declining) budget deficit. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation has spent about a billion dollars of Peterson's own money to create faux movements to get students to take up this unlikely cause.

The latest of the billionaires to try this gambit is Stanley Druckenmiller, net worth estimated at $2.9 billion, former head of the hedge fund Duquesne Capital. Druckenmiller's personal campus crusade has been the subject of two fawning profiles, one by Tom Friedman in Wednesday's Times, the other by James Freeman in Saturday's Wall Street Journal.

Growing up poor and stressed impacts brain function as an adult

Sherri McGinnis González
October 21, 2013

Childhood poverty and chronic stress may lead to problems regulating emotions as an adult, according to research published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our findings suggest that the stress-burden of growing up poor may be an underlying mechanism that accounts for the relationship between poverty as a child and how well your brain works as an adult,” said Dr. K. Luan Phan, professor of psychiatry at University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine and senior author of the study.

Dick Durbin Insults Everyone Else’s Intelligence About Social Security

By: letsgetitdone Monday October 21, 2013 3:33 pm

Yesterday on Fox, Senator Dick Durbin said:
WALLACE: I’m going to talk about ObamaCare on a second, but you’re not answering my question. Why does taxes — why do taxes have to be on the table? Why can’t you just make a deal, short-term spending for long-term entitlement reform — which, Senator, you support and President Obama support. You have supported the idea of some entitlement reform.
DURBIN: That’s right. I do, and I’ll tell you why — because Social Security is going to run out of money in 20 years. I want to fix it now, before we reach that cliff.
Medicare may run out of money in 10 years, let’s fix it now. And that means addressing the skyrocketing cost of health care. That’s what ObamaCare is focused on, and yet, the Republicans want nothing to do with it.

ALEC and TIAA-CREF Join the Assault on Public Pensions

Tuesday, 22 October 2013 09:56  
By Isaiah J Poole, Campaign for America's Future | Op-Ed 

The right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council has jumped into the conservative effort to dismantle public pension systems in a big way, making it one of its top 2014 legislative priorities, a public pension advocacy group has warned.

The National Public Pension Coalition, which represents public sector employees, in a statement today flagged ALEC’s entry into the public pension battle as a threat to the financial security of millions of state and local public employees.

It’s an escalation of the campaign against public pensions highlighted in the Institute for America’s Future Report, “The Plot Against Pensions.”

Exposing the Agenda to Fleece Billions from Workers' Retirement Savings

By David Sirota and Matt Taibbi

In the new fable, state and municipal workers are presented as the welfare queens of our age, historical anachronisms living fat and happy in the competition-free panacea of public service, and shamelessly living off the tax dollars generated entirely by the innovation of America's true workforce - its go-getting private-sector employees, who long ago stopped expecting their bosses to give them real health and retirement plans.

Richard Eskow: The Road from Here: What About Medicare and Social Security?

October 20, 2013
As the Bob Dylan song says: “Things should start to get interesting right about now.” You may think they’re already interesting – what with government closings, threats of a debt default, and extremist rhetoric under the Capitol Dome – but chances are we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

In twelve weeks or so our new system of government-by-crisis will resume its regularly scheduled programming: more threats, more confrontations, and even more extreme rhetoric.

The Ocean is Broken

By GREG RAY, Oct. 18, 2013, 10 p.m.

IT was the silence that made this voyage different from all of those before it.

Not the absence of sound, exactly.

The wind still whipped the sails and whistled in the rigging. The waves still sloshed against the fibreglass hull.

And there were plenty of other noises: muffled thuds and bumps and scrapes as the boat knocked against pieces of debris.

What was missing was the cries of the seabirds which, on all previous similar voyages, had surrounded the boat.

The birds were missing because the fish were missing.

Race is central to the fear and angst of the US right

The shrinking white base of the Republican party cannot accept the country in which it now lives – so it shut it down

Gary Younge
The Guardian, Sunday 20 October 2013 13.35 EDT

In the early 1980s veteran pollster Stan Greenberg, conducted a focus group in Macomb County, a Detroit suburb, of former Democrats who had switched allegiance to the Republican Ronald Reagan. After he read a statement by Robert Kennedy about racial inequality, one participant interjected: "No wonder they killed him."

"That stopped me and led to a whole new analysis of Reagan Democrats," wrote Greenberg in a recent report, Inside the GOP. "I realised that in trying to reach this group of people race is everything," he told me.

Inside the Conservative Brain: Why Tea Partiers Are Desperately Afraid

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
The problem, as it turns out, may be the difference in the way people view individuals and collectives; whether you’ve got a “me” or a “we” focus; and how big those categories happen to be.

john a. powell (his name is spelled without capitals) leads the UC Berkeley Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and is considered a leading thinker on race and ethnicity. He spoke Wednesday evening in Manhattan at the Union Theological Seminary as part of a joint series on Economics & Theology [3] put on by UTS and the Institute of New Economic Thinking. INET’s executive director Rob Johnson, along with UTS president Serene Jones and Rachel Godsil of the American Values Institute, joined powell in a lively panel focused on how issues of race and belonging inform what’s happening in America today.

Paul Krugman: Lousy Medicaid Arguments

For now, the big news about Obamacare is the debacle of, the Web portal through
which Americans are supposed to buy insurance on the new health care exchanges. For now, at
least, isn’t working for many users.

It’s important to realize, however, that this botch has nothing to do with the law’s substance, and
will get fixed. After all, a number of states have successfully opened their own exchanges, doing for
their residents exactly what the federal system is supposed to do everywhere else. Connecticut’s
exchange is working fine, as is Kentucky’s. New York, after some early problems, seems to be
getting there. So, a bit more slowly, does California.

Dean Baker: After Budget Deal, Time to Move Forward

President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress deserve credit for successfully fending off Republican efforts to first torpedo the Affordable Care Act and then to attack Social Security and Medicare. Unfortunately, it does not appear that they are prepared to seize on the momentum and try to repair some of the damage that is being done by the prolonged downturn.

The problem is that the Democrats still seem to accept the Republicans’ parameters for the budget debate. The implication is that current deficits are a serious problem. This means that any area where there is an increase in spending must be offset by cuts elsewhere or tax increases. Since the Republicans remain adamantly opposed to any tax increases, reshuffling spending is the only option open to the Democrats.

6 Reasons Privatization Often Ends in Disaster

By Paul Buchheit

The following are six specific reasons why privatization simply doesn't work.

1. The Profit Motive Moves Most of the Money to the Top

The federal Medicare Administrator made $170,000 [3] in 2010. The president of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas made over ten times [4] as much in 2012. Stephen J. Hemsley, the CEO of United Health Group, made almost 300 times [5]as much in one year, $48 million, most of it from company stock.

In part because of such inequities in compensation, our private health care system is the most expensive system in the developed world. The price of common surgeries [6] is anywhere from three to ten times higher in the U.S. than in Great Britain, Canada, France, or Germany. Two of the documented [4] examples: an $8,000 special stress test [7] for which Medicare would have paid $554; and a $60,000 gall bladder operation [8], for which a private insurance company was willing to pay $2,000.

Tea Partyers’ grave fear: Why they disdain young people — even their own!

Sociologist Theda Skocpol tells Salon what drives the angry right -- and what comes after the government shutdown

The past weeks’ showdown in Washington, D.C., has shocked and perplexed some observers. Theda Skocpol was not among them. Skocpol, a veteran Harvard professor, is the author of books on topics ranging from the politics of the U.S. welfare state (“Protecting Soldiers and Mothers”) to the state of grass-roots political engagement (“Diminished Democracy”), and of the definitive social science tome on the Tea Party (“The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism,” with Vanessa Williamson).

With the immediate debt ceiling/shutdown showdown coming to a close, Salon called up Skocpol Wednesday to discuss how the media misunderstand the Tea Party, how an unpopular movement can move so many members of Congress, and why the right hates Obama’s moderate healthcare law so much. What follows is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.

Cruz' Father Suggests Ted Cruz "Anointed" to "Bring The Spoils Of War To The Priests"

Bruce Wilson, Wed Oct 16, 2013 at 02:33:36 PM EST

[update: for some additional perspective, see my story The Tea Party Plan To Shatter the American Republic, The Far-Right Christian Movement Driving the Debt Default by Deborah Caldwell and my story Ted Cruz Worked With Religious Right Founder Paul Weyrich, To Elect George W. Bush]
"The pastor [Huch] referred to Proverbs 13:22, a little while ago, which says that the wealth of the wicked is stored for the righteous. And it is through the kings, anointed to take dominion, that that transfer of wealth is going to occur." - Rafael Cruz, August 26, 2012
In a sermon last year at an Irving, Texas, megachurch that helped elect Ted Cruz to the United States Senate, Cruz' father Rafael Cruz indicated that his son was among the evangelical Christians who are anointed as "kings" to take control of all sectors of society, an agenda commonly referred to as the "Seven Mountains" mandate, and "bring the spoils of war to the priests", thus helping to bring about a prophesied "great transfer of wealth", from the "wicked" to righteous gentile believers.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Paul Krugman: The Sad, but Very Serious, Tale of the Right Honorable Saboteur

Tuesday, 15 October 2013 10:26  
By Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co. | Op-Ed 

Once upon a time, there was a government official with a plan. He had become convinced that the way to fix the economy was to send out teams of saboteurs who would systematically disrupt production around the country.

Why did he believe this?

Never mind; for some reason it was what all the Very Serious People were saying.

Tiny sea creatures are heading for extinction, and could take local fisheries with them

18 October 2013

A species of one of the world’s tiniest creatures, ocean plankton, is heading for extinction as it struggles to adapt to changes in sea temperature. And it may take local fisheries with it.

Research led by Deakin University (Warrnambool, Australia) and Swansea University (UK) has found that a species of cold water plankton in the North Atlantic, that is a vital food source for fish such as cod and hake, is in decline as the oceans warm. This will put pressure on the fisheries that rely on abundant supplies of these fish.

The Abject Failure of Reaganomics

October 17, 2013
Exclusive: House Republicans got next to nothing from their extortion strategy of taking the government and the economy hostage, but they are sure to continue obstructing programs that could create jobs and start rebuilding the middle class. What they won’t recognize is the abject failure of Reaganomics, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Even as the Republican Right licks its wounds after taking a public-opinion beating over its government shutdown and threatened credit default, the Tea Partiers keep promoting a false narrative on why the U.S. debt has ballooned and why the economy struggles, a storyline that will surely influence the next phase of this American political crisis.

If a large segment of the American public continues to buy into the Tea Party’s fake reality, then it is likely that both the political damage and the economic decline will continue apace, with fewer good-paying jobs, a shrinking middle class and more of the bitter alienation that has fed the Tea Party’s growth in the first place. In other words, the United States will remain in a vicious circle that is also a downward spiral.

Worse Than Watergate

Friday, 18 October 2013 09:46  
By Sam Pizzigati, Other Words | Opinion 

The U.S. Supreme Court is mulling a case that could end up giving America’s wealthy a perpetual green light to contribute as much as they want directly to politicians and political parties.

Credit Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman who owns an electrical engineering company, for getting this ball rolling. In the 2012 election cycle, McCutcheon contributed heavily to conservative candidates and Republican Party committees. But the experience left the mega millionaire feeling terribly aggrieved.

Paul Krugman: The Damage Done

The government is reopening, and we didn’t default on our debt. Happy days are here again, right?

Well, no. For one thing, Congress has only voted in a temporary fix, and we could find ourselves
going through it all over again in a few months. You may say that Republicans would be crazy to
provoke another confrontation. But they were crazy to provoke this one, so why assume that
they’ve learned their lesson?

The Air We Breathe Definitively and Scientifically Linked to Cancer

Think Progress / By Kiley Kroh

“The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances,” said [3] Kurt Straif, head of the IARC’s monographs section, which is tasked with ranking carcinogens.

The IARC’s research found the toll of air pollution on public health worldwide is significant. In 2010 alone, exposure to ambient fine particles was recently estimated to have contributed to 3.2 million premature deaths, predominantly from cardiovascular disease, and 223,000 deaths from lung cancer. More than half of the lung cancer deaths attributable to ambient fine particles were projected to have been in China and other East Asian countries.

Conservatives Misunderstand What Went Wrong Under Bush

You'd swear from today's rhetoric that the problem was too much compromise. Nope. 

Conor Friedersdorf, Oct 18 2013, 9:00 AM ET

The Tea Party is composed largely of Republicans who supported George W. Bush when he was the GOP standard-bearer, voting for him twice and criticizing him far less frequently than they defended him, only to rebel against his record at the end of his second term. At that point, partisan loyalty and shared hatred of liberals finally gave way to the realization that the GOP's time in power was a disaster for conservatives.

Humans seldom look inward when assigning blame for bygone disasters, and the story conservatives have settled on seems to be that establishment Republicans have long been selling them out by failing to fight hard enough. As a Fox News commentator put it, echoing talking points used by many hardliners, "I’m sure we will hear establishment apologists calling the events of recent days a compromise. But seeing how the president refused to compromise, it’s more likely the Grand Old Party was the only one bending. Establishment Republicans always talk about doing the right thing for the nation, no matter the price. But when push comes to shove, they always throw in the towel."

The Koch brothers' beer offensive against Obamacare loses its fizz

A Koch-funded front is using free beer to entice students away from health exchanges. But Obamacare is made of stronger stuff

Sadhbh Walshe, Thursday 17 October 2013 08.30 EDT

What's a family values conservative to do when every effort to protect millions of Americans from the scourge of affordable healthcare fails?

Break out the beer, of course. The latest campaign to kill off Obamacare in its infancy is now playing out on college campuses where a conservative group known as Generation Opportunity (GO), who are funded in part by the billionaire Koch brothers, is using the lure of free beer and "opt out" beer koozies to persuade young students not to buy health insurance – or, at least, not to buy it from the Obamacare exchanges.

7 Horrifying Things About the Chicken You Eat

By Martha Rosenberg

Yes. The government also announced that China has been cleared to process chickens [4] for the US dinner plate and that all but one of arsenic  [5]compounds no one even knew they were eatinghave been removed from US poultry production. Thanks for that. Also this month, some food researchers have revealed the true recipe for chicken "nuggets" [6]…just in time for Halloween.

Many people have decided to eat only chicken to avoid the health, environmental, worker and humane questions surrounding red meat. Yet the track record of US chicken in these areas is no better than red meat—and may be worse.

The Tea Party Routed; the Next Crisis Set for December

Even When the GOP Loses, It Wins

Think the Senate deal is a resounding defeat for Republicans? Think again.

The Editors
October 16, 2013

Just hours before a default on our national debt and sixteen days into a wrenching federal government shutdown, it now appears that the barest measure of sanity has prevailed in Washington. The Senate has reached a deal to reopen the government at current funding levels through January 15 and to pass a debt ceiling hike though February 7. The measure is expected to clear the House tonight with scant but necessary Republican support.

Because the deal only includes minor concessions, the Beltway consensus is that it represents a resounding defeat for Republicans, who “surrendered” their original demands to defund or delay Obamacare. In the skirmish of opinion polls, that may be true, for now. But in the war of ideas, the Senate deal is but a stalemate, one made almost entirely on conservative terms. The GOP now goes into budget talks with sequestration as the new baseline, primed to demand longer-term cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And they still hold the gun of a US default to the nation’s head in the next debt ceiling showdown.

A Simple Reform Could Save America From Wall Street and Boost the Economy: What’s Washington Waiting For?

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

We’re talking about a financial transaction tax (FTT) — a tiny tax of, say, less than half a percent: maybe 3 cents per $100  — on Wall Street trading. It’s simple, more than fair, widely supported by the public, and long overdue.

UMD Researchers Address Economic Dangers of 'Peak Oil'

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Researchers from the University of Maryland and a leading university in Spain demonstrate in a new study which sectors could put the entire U.S. economy at risk when global oil production peaks ("Peak Oil"). This multi-disciplinary team recommends immediate action by government, private and commercial sectors to reduce the vulnerability of these sectors.
While critics of Peak Oil studies declare that the world has more than enough oil to maintain current national and global standards, these UMD-led researchers say Peak Oil is imminent, if not already here—and is a real threat to national and global economies. Their study is among the first to outline a way of assessing the vulnerabilities of specific economic sectors to this threat, and to identify focal points for action that could strengthen the U.S. economy and make it less vulnerable to disasters.

ECB’s Draghi: Knowing Too Much About Our Big Banks Could Set Off A Panic

European banks, like all banks, have long been hermetically sealed black boxes. If someone managed to pry open just one tiny corner, the reek of asset putrefaction that billowed out was so strong that the corner would immediately be resealed. In cases where the corner didn’t get resealed fast enough and too much of the reek spread, the whole bank collapsed, only to be bailed out by taxpayers, often in other countries; it’s easier that way.

The only thing known about the holes in the balance sheets of these black boxes, left behind by assets that have quietly decomposed, is that they’re deep. But no one knows how deep. And no one is allowed to know – not until Eurocrats decide who is going to pay for bailing out these banks. How do we know? ECB President Mario Draghi said that on Friday in Washington.

"500 People Will Control American Democracy" If Supreme Court Overturns Campaign Finance Law

The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to strike down most of the remaining limits on massive spending by wealthy donors on political campaigns. On Tuesday, justices heard arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which has been referred to as "the next Citizens United." Republican leaders and wealthy GOP donor Shaun McCutcheon wants the Supreme Court to throw out aggregate limits on individual contributions in a single two-year cycle, saying they violate free speech. "If these advocate limitations go down, 500 people will control American democracy. It would be 'government for the 500 people,' not for anybody else — and that’s the risk," says Burt Neuborne, law professor and founding legal director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. On Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts indicated he is prepared to strike down caps on donations to individual candidates, but perhaps not on donations to political committees. Justice Antonin Scalia appears to be set to back the lifting of all limits. "The Scalia side says, 'Look, if you're rich, you’re entitled to have as much influence as you can buy,’" Neuborne says. "And the Scalia side has won 5-to-4 consistently in recent years."

Shutdown: Conservatives’ Revenge Against the “47 Percent”, Pt.1 

October 10, 2013
Terrance Heath

During the first days of the government shutdown, conservatives were beside themselves with joy. Michele Bachmann (R, MN) told the Washington Post, “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.” Conservative media figures looked forward to “a long siege” that would “ideally” keep the government closed through the 2014 election. It was as if Republicans were relishing revenge against the “47 percent” that Mitt Romney disdained during the 2012 election, and the rest of the American electorate for rejecting the GOP’s agenda.

Shutdown: Conservatives’ Revenge Against the “47 Percent”, Pt.2 

October 11, 2013
Terrance Heath

Punishing the Poor

In the first days of the shutdown, conservatives alternated between celebrating and downplaying the impact.’s Erick Erickson insisted Americans would barely notice the government shutdown. But the consequences of the government shutdown are only too real for the families who will lose food assistance, and the children who would lose access to Head Start. Read between the lines. It’s not that no Americans will suffer as a result of the shutdown. It’s that no Americans will suffer who don’t deserve to suffer anyway. According to the conservative worldview, they are the “immoral undisciplined people” who receive undeserved benefits from government, and those who provide those benefits.

Dean Baker: Republicans are delusional about US spending and deficits

The story of out-of-control debts and deficits is just plain wrong. US deficits have fallen in the past four years

Dean Baker, Monday 14 October 2013 08.30 EDT

It is understandable that the public is disgusted with Washington; they have every right to be. At a time when the country continues to suffer from the worst patch of unemployment since the Great Depression, the government is shut down over concerns about the budget deficit.

There is no doubt that the Republicans deserve the blame for the shutdown and the risk of debt default. They decided that it was worth shutting down the government and risking default in order stop Obamacare. That is what they said as loudly and as clearly as possible in the days and weeks leading up to the shutdown. In fact, this is what Senator Ted Cruz said for 21 straight hours on the floor of the US Senate.

Three more state workers got raises after phantom job transfers

By Jason Stein and Daniel Bice of the Journal Sentinel

Madison — Gov. Scott Walker's administration used phantom job transfers this year to give double-digit pay raises to two employees and a smaller raise to a third, quickly switching them from one post to as many as three others and then back to their original jobs.

The biggest pay increase — $14,416 a year — went to a longtime state economist who helped expose flaws in jobs statistics that were hurting the governor's recall election chances, a Journal Sentinel review has found.

What you learn about humanity from living on the streets

Since I became homeless, people have stolen my belongings and assumed I'm a prostitute. A few have been incredibly kind

Mary, homeless in New York, Sunday 13 October 2013 07.00 EDT
Passers-by mainly ignore me, a homeless woman sitting on the sidewalk or a bench. The people who do speak to me are either curious, or harpies who give me unsolicited and useless advice, or the more irritable who chastise me. I try to explain by example that there are good, decent, employable but destitute people in New York City.

Many people also assume that the homeless are all drug addicts, criminals or prostitutes. I am none of these things, yet I have seen the stereotypes first-hand.

I try to keep busy, doing whatever jobs I can find, often the kinds of jobs illegal immigrants now do. When I volunteered at a church soup kitchen, hoping to do my part, a stranger claimed all these nasty things about me in the presence of the minster and other members of the church. For years, she continued to make these sorts of remarks and warned new volunteers that I would steal from them. No one said a word in my defense.

Very sneaky, Walmart: How the mega-retailer rolled back California regulations

Labor, environmental, and political leaders cry foul as Calif. Democrats curtail landmark environmental law

By Josh Eidelson

While Washington has been warring over the shutdown and the debt ceiling, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed bills expanding access to abortion and restricting local police collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement – bills that advocates hope will join past Golden State laws in proving to be national precedents. But if those bills have gotten little notice amid the showdown in Washington, another – signed by Brown the Friday afternoon before the shutdown – has gotten even less. It’s a “reform” that critics say waters down what’s been the country’s strongest statewide environmental law – and represents Walmart’s latest lobbying coup in a state where Democrats control every branch of government.

“It’s amazing to me how few people are willing to stand up to this corporation,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. “And mainly because they’re afraid.”

Paul Krugman: The Dixiecrat Solution

So you have this neighbor who has been making your life hell. First he tied you up with a spurious lawsuit; you’re both suffering from huge legal bills. Then he threatened bodily harm to your family. Now, however, he says he’s willing to compromise: He’ll call off the lawsuit, which is to his advantage as well as yours. But in return you must give him your car. Oh, and he’ll stop threatening your family — but only for a week, after which the threats will resume.

Not much of an offer, is it? But here’s the kicker: Your neighbor’s relatives, who have been egging him on, are furious that he didn’t also demand that you kill your dog.

And now you understand the current state of budget negotiations.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

NY Fed Fired Examiner Who Took on Goldman

by Jake Bernstein
ProPublica, Oct. 10, 2013, 2:45 p.m.

A version of this story was co-published with The Washington Post.

In the spring of 2012, a senior examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York determined that Goldman Sachs had a problem.

Under a Fed mandate, the investment banking behemoth was expected to have a company-wide policy to address conflicts of interest in how its phalanxes of dealmakers handled clients. Although Goldman had a patchwork of policies, the examiner concluded that they fell short of the Fed’s requirements.

That finding by the examiner, Carmen Segarra, potentially had serious implications for Goldman, which was already under fire for advising clients on both sides of several multibillion-dollar deals and allegedly putting the bank’s own interests above those of its customers. It could have led to closer scrutiny of Goldman by regulators or changes to its business practices.

Republican Extremism and the Lessons of History

This crisis is about nothing other than the Republican Party – its radicalization, its stunning lack of leadership and its disregard for the Constitution

by Sean Wilentz
OCTOBER 10, 2013
This latest episode in the endless Republican reality show is not chiefly about the incompetence and incessant squabbling of ideologues and petty politicians, although it's that, too. Nor is it the outcome of the intense partisan polarization that has thrown Washington into gridlock, as if the problem is abstract partisanship itself, with Democrats and Republicans equally at fault. Least of all is it about rescuing the economy from the Democrats' profligate deficit spending, as Republicans claim – not with the deficit shrinking to its lowest level since the financial disaster of 2008 and with the outlook improving. This crisis is about nothing other than the Republican Party – its radicalization, its stunning lack of leadership and its disregard for the Constitution.

The Republicans have now joined a relatively small number of major American political parties that became the captive of a narrow ideology and either jettisoned or silenced their more moderate elements. The Democratic Party suffered this fate in the 1840s and 1850s, when Southern slaveholders took command of the party's levers of power. So, temporarily, did the Republicans in 1964, when Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign claimed the party for extremists on the right, an augury of things to come. But today's Republicans, whatever their pretensions about channeling the Founding Fathers, are so contemptuous of American history and institutions that they cannot learn from even their own recent past.

The Tragedy of Greece as a Case Study of Neo-Imperial Pillage and the Demise of Social Europe

Sunday, 13 October 2013 00:00  
By CJ Polychroniou, Truthout | News Analysis 

In early 2010, Greece, a weak and peripheral economy in the euro area, went bankrupt but was subsequently "bailed out" by its euro partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Ever since, the small southern Mediterranean nation and birthplace of democracy has been a guinea pig for the policy prescriptions of a neoliberal European Union (EU) under the command of Germany and its northern allies, with the IMF serving as a junior partner. A public debt crisis has been used as an opportunity to dismantle a rudimentary social state, to sell off profitable public enterprises and state assets at bargain prices, to deprive labor of even its most basic rights after decades of hard-fought struggles against capital, and to substantially reduce wages, salaries and pensions, creating a de facto banana republic. It has been done with the support of a significant segment of the Greek industrial-financial class and with the assistance of the domestic political elite, which since the onset of the crisis has relied heavily on dictatorial action to carry out the commands of the country's foreign creditors.

Secret FISA Court Extends NSA Phone Spying

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

The secretive U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved a request made by the National Security Agency (NSA) to continue its dragnet collection of records on all U.S. phone calls.

In what it claimed to be move for transparency, the office of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made the announcement late Friday.

Clapper "has decided to declassify and disclose publicly that the government filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the court renewed that authority," the office's statement read.

Paul Krugman: Dealing With Default

So Republicans may have decided to raise the debt ceiling without conditions attached — the
details still aren’t clear. Maybe that’s the end of that particular extortion tactic, but maybe not,
because, at best, we’re only looking at a very short-term extension. The threat of hitting the ceiling
remains, especially if the politics of the shutdown continue to go against the G.O.P.

So what are the choices if we do hit the ceiling? As you might guess, they’re all bad, so the question
is which bad choice would do the least harm.

Dean Baker: The Ravings of Niall Ferguson, the Real World, and the Needless Suffering of Tens of Millions

For reasons I cannot imagine, Niall Ferguson has achieved some standing as an intellectual with interesting things to say about the economy. Whenever I have read one of his pieces I almost always find it so confused that it would take a blog post at least as long as the original to set it straight. This is why I generally ignore Ferguson, except when prodded by friends and readers.

For this reason I was struck to see that my occasional Niall Ferguson corrections got me on the list of Paul Krugman’s
“like-minded bloggers who play a sinister game of tag with him, endorsing his attacks and adding vitriol of their own. I would like to name and shame in this context Dean Baker, Josh Barro, Brad DeLong, Matthew O'Brien, Noah Smith, Matthew Yglesias and Justin Wolfers.”

Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach Has New Plan to Keep 17,500+ Legal Voters From Voting

Scheme LITERALLY creates two different classes of voters

UPDATED: Arizona Attorney General announces identical plan...

Posted By Brad Friedman On 8th October 2013 @ 06:35 

The man who wrote Arizona's "Papers Please" [2] law before running for Kansas Secretary of State in 2010 on the premise of stamping out "voter fraud" there ... before winning and subsequently not being able to find much, if any of it, at all [3], is nonetheless still at work attempting to keep legitimate voters from being able to cast their vote under the premise that thousands of non-citizens are somehow, secretly, illegally voting in the state of Kansas.
"In Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive," Kris Kobach's personal website still reads [4] today. He just can't seem to find any.

Police Worldwide Criminalize Dissent, Assert New Powers in Crackdown on Protests

By Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, Abby Deshman, Anthony Romero, Hossam Bahgat

Charles Pierce: The Reign Of Morons Is Here

Only the truly child-like can have expected anything else.

In the year of our Lord 2010, the voters of the United States elected the worst Congress in the history of the Republic. There have been Congresses more dilatory. There have been Congresses more irresponsible, though not many of them. There have been lazier Congresses, more vicious Congresses, and Congresses less capable of seeing forests for trees. But there has never been in a single Congress -- or, more precisely, in a single House of the Congress -- a more lethal combination of political ambition, political stupidity, and political vainglory than exists in this one, which has arranged to shut down the federal government because it disapproves of a law passed by a previous Congress, signed by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court, a law that does nothing more than extend the possibility of health insurance to the millions of Americans who do not presently have it, a law based on a proposal from a conservative think-tank and taken out on the test track in Massachusetts by a Republican governor who also happens to have been the party's 2012 nominee for president of the United States. That is why the government of the United States is, in large measure, closed this morning.

Rick Perlstein: Thinking Like a Conservative (Part Four): Goalpost-Moving

Some thoughts today on the apocalyptic horror that envelops us this week, thanks to our friends on the right. Last week I noted that conservatives are time-biders: “The catacombs were good enough for the Christians,” as National Review publisher William Rusher put it in 1960. That’s their imperative as they see it: hunker down, for decades if need be, waiting for the opportune moment to strike down the wickedness they spy everywhere—in this case, a smoothly functioning federal government. “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years,” Grover Norquist said in the first part of the quote, whose more famous second half is “to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Welcome to Commonomics: How to Build Local Economies Strong Enough for Everyone

In our new series, YES! Magazine investigates what it will take to strengthen our local economies for the benefit of all. 

by Laura Flanders 

Chokwe Lumumba was an unlikely candidate for high office in Mississippi. But last June, the former Black Nationalist and one-time attorney to Tupac Shakur was elected Mayor of Jackson. He’s now in hot pursuit, not of big box stores or the next silver bullet solution to what ails the state’s capital city. He wants to create worker-owned cooperatives and small-scale green businesses and to invest in training and infrastructure. It’s the program of change he ran on in the election: local self-reliance.

Jackson’s population is 80 percent black, 18 percent white, and the rest largely immigrant, with heavy concentrations of Indians, Nigerians, and Brazilians.

There's an International Plan to Censor the Internet in the Works -- Let's Stop It in Its Tracks

By Thanh Lam
That’s the time left before the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could become a finalized agreement. For those who are drawing blank looks -- and understandably so -- the TPP is a highly secretive trade deal involving 12 nations around the Pacific Rim.

Described by experts Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy of Public Citizen as“one of the most significant international commercial agreements since the creation of WTO” [3], the TPP is more than a trade agreement - it’s an underhanded attempt by old industry interests to censor the Internet.

The lack of general awareness about the TPP is exactly what unelected trade officials and lobbyists hope for; the more covert the negotiations, the easier it is to usher in extreme new Internet censorship rules.

Making the Economy ‘Scream’

October 9, 2013
Exclusive: In the past when the CIA targeted a troublesome government, a key part of the strategy was to make the economy “scream” to get the people ready for regime change. This tactic now appears to have come home to roost in the Right’s efforts to destabilize President Obama’s government, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Americans who have studied CIA destabilization campaigns around the world may see some striking parallels to the strategy of Tea Party Republicans who have provoked a government shutdown and now are threatening a credit default. The idea is to make the country appear ungovernable and to make the economy “scream.”

This approach is similar to what CIA operatives do to get rid of disfavored political leaders in other countries, such as when President Richard Nixon ordered the spy agency to sabotage Chile’s economy and upset its political stability in the early 1970s.