Saturday, July 26, 2014

Guess I’ll have to dream the rest

Posted on July 23, 2014 by MaxSpeak

The election of John McCain or Mitt Romney would have been a disaster. The election of Barack Obama, for whom I voted in both the primary and two general elections, has been a disaster of lesser order. A valid criterion for evaluating Obama is not “Things could have been worse,” or Republicans would have been worse. That is always true. It is too low a bar from any progressive standpoint. The right counter-factual is what he could have done, not some utterly miserable alternative. Nor would I give credit for what should have been minimally expected of him, such as supporting an increase in the minimum wage, extension of unemployment benefits, defending voting rights, or appointing moderate liberals to the Supreme Court. He deserves points for doing things that are difficult, that force him to stretch, not things that are politically obligatory.

Tax Inversions and the Dems Who Love Them

Jordan Fraade, July 25, 2014

Corporations are people, my friend. Just like human people, they will go to absurd lengths to reduce their income-tax liability, and just like human people, they can move to another country if the one they live in doesn’t suit them. So in that sense, when the generic drug company Mylan announced that it was renouncing its U.S. citizenship to become reincorporated in the Netherlands, it was just another example of a growing trend of so-called “tax inversions.” The method is fairly simple: American companies acquire foreign firms, and then reincorporate in those firms’ home countries to take advantage of their lower tax rates.

Business as usual, right? But a bizarrely obsequious piece on the Mylan move by Andrew Ross Sorkin caught the eye of National Journal’s Ron Fournier because of one intriguing detail: The CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch, is the daughter of a U.S. senator, Joe Manchin.

The Poor Don’t Need a Life Coach

America’s poor need bigger checks, not a “life plan.”

By Jamelle Bouie

What if the poor need more than disposable income to escape poverty? What if they need a life coach?

That’s the position of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who in his new anti-poverty plan wants poor families to work with government agencies or charitable nonprofits to craft “life plans” as a condition of receiving federal assistance under his proposed “opportunity grants.” “In the envisioned scenario providers would work with families to design a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty,” Ryan writes. At a minimum, these life plans would include “a contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success,” a “timeline” for meeting them, “sanctions” for breaking them, “incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract,” and “time limits”—presumably independent of actual program limits—for “remaining on cash assistance.”

Win-win way to aid food security and climate

By Tim Radford

Scientists in the US believe they have identified a way to feed billions more people, while at the same reducing the strains and stresses on the environment.

LONDON, 23 July, 2014 − Imagine being able to contain greenhouse gas emissions, make fertilizer use more efficient, keep water waste to a minimum, and put food on the table for the 10 billion people crowded into the planet’s cities, towns and villages by the end of the century.

An impossible dream? Not according to Paul West, co-director and lead scientists of the Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

Paul Krugman: Left Coast Rising

The states, Justice Brandeis famously pointed out, are the laboratories of democracy. And it’s still true. For example, one reason we knew or should have known that Obamacare was workable was the post-2006 success of Romneycare in Massachusetts. More recently, Kansas went all-in on supply-side
economics, slashing taxes on the affluent in the belief that this would spark a huge boom; the boom didn’t happen, but the budget deficit exploded, offering an object lesson to those willing to learn from experience.

And there’s an even bigger if less drastic experiment under way in the opposite direction. California has long suffered from political paralysis, with budget rules that allowed an increasingly extreme Republican minority to hamstring a Democratic majority; when the state’s housing bubble burst, it plunged into fiscal crisis. In 2012, however, Democratic dominance finally became strong enough to overcome the paralysis, and Gov. Jerry Brown was able to push through a modestly liberal agenda of higher taxes, spending increases and a rise in the minimum wage. California also moved enthusiastically to implement Obamacare.

Senate: Renaissance Hedge Fund Avoided $6 Billion in Taxes in Bogus Scheme With Banks

By Pam Martens: July 22, 2014

Only one word comes to mind to describe the testimony taking place before the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations this morning: Machiavellian.

The criminal minds on Wall Street have twisted banking and securities laws into such a pretzel of hubris that neither Congress, Federal Regulators or even the General Accountability Office can say with any confidence if the U.S. financial system is an over-leveraged house of cards. They just don’t know.

Report: All But Four Of The High-Profile Domestic Terrorism Plots In The Last Decade Were Crafted From The Ground Up By The FBI

from the the-FBI:-rolling-its-own-since-2001 dept

Human Rights Watch has just published a report containing the facts needed to back up everyone's suspicions that the FBI counterterrorism efforts are almost solely composed of breaking up "plots" of its own design. And the bigger and more high-profile the "bust" was, the better the chance that FBI agents laid the foundation, constructed the walls… basically did everything but allow the devised plot to reach its designed conclusion. (via Reason)
All of the high-profile domestic terrorism plots of the last decade, with four exceptions, were actually FBI sting operations—plots conducted with the direct involvement of law enforcement informants or agents, including plots that were proposed or led by informants. According to multiple studies, nearly 50 percent of the more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.
Of those four exceptions, two (Boston Bombing/LAX shooting) were successfully pulled off. Feeling safer with the g-men's increased focus on preventing terrorist attacks?

Amanda Marcotte: Right-Wing Christians Tell Kids 'Convert or Go to Hell,' Then Accuse Liberals of Indoctrinating Christian Kids


Whether it’s liberal college professors supposedly turning kids to Marxism [3] or gay people who are accused of recruiting [4], over and over you hear the claim that the children of conservatives are in serious danger of being talked into everything from voting for Democrats to getting gay-married.

It’s a peculiar thing to obsess over, and not just because it suggests conservatives have an unhealthy unwillingness to allow their children to grow up and think for themselves. It’s because the imagined conspiracies of liberals trying to “indoctrinate” kids are total phantoms. A little digging shows that accusations of indoctrination are usually aimed at attempts to educate [5] or simply offer support and acceptance [6]. While there are always a few rigid ideologues who are out to recruit, by and large liberals are, well, liberal: More interested in arguing and engaging than trying to mold young people into unthinking automatons. 

Paul Krugman: The Specter of Iraq

I don't write much about Iraq and all that these days, but a recent report by James Risen of The New York Times brings back the horror of the whole thing. And I don't just mean the fact that Americans were lied into war; that most of our media and policy elite rushed to join the bandwagon; and that the venture led to awesome waste of lives and money.

No, Iraq was also a moral cesspit. Not only were we taken to war on false pretenses, it was clear that this was done in part for domestic political gain. The occupation was treated not as a solemn task upon which the nation's honor depended, but as an opportunity to reward cronies. And don't forget the torture.

Koch Political Universe Vaster Than Previously Known

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:55
By Brendan Fischer and Nick Surgey, PRWatch

Newly-obtained documents show that the billionaire Koch brothers' political giving is much more expansive than has previously been known.

In addition to the hundreds of millions flowing into politics by way of the Kochs' network of foundations and funding vehicles like Freedom Partners, David Koch writes millions of dollars in personal checks to political organizations every year, and funds from the Koch Industries corporate treasury are used to bankroll the right-wing infrastructure the Kochs have developed. Koch Industries, the company David runs with his brother Charles, is the second-largest privately-held company in the country.

In some cases, Koch giving through largely untraceable personal or corporate checks outstrips the known donations made through the Koch family foundations and secretive pass-through groups like Freedom Partners.

Manufacturing a Middle Class with Quality Jobs

by Dave Johnson

The main presenter at Saturday’s Netroots Nation panel “Manufacturing a Middle Class with Quality Jobs” was Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), representing Flint. Get to know about this guy – he is an absolute rock star. He is sharp, funny and, most important, he is right on top of things. He “gets it” about manufacturing, trade, inequality and the need to invest in building a sustainable economy that provides good-paying jobs and benefits so we can have a thriving and prosperous middle class and ladders up into that middle class for people.

Also on this panel were moderator Joe Sudbay, who we know from AmericaBlog, Laura Clawson from Daily Kos, Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing and Durwin Royal (another rock star), President of United Steelworkers Local 4134, representing more than 1,200 union members in East Texas.

Exclusive: High-Level NSA Whistleblower Says Blackmail Is a Huge – Unreported – Part of Mass Surveillance

Posted on by George Washington
Cross-Posted from Washington’s Blog

The Untold Story In the NSA Spying Scandal: Blackmail

It is well-documented that governments use information to blackmail and control people.

The Express reported last month:
British security services infiltrated and funded the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange in a covert operation to identify and possibly blackmail establishment figures, a Home Office whistleblower alleges.

***
Whistleblower Mr X, whose identity we have agreed to protect, became a very senior figure in local government before retiring a few years ago.

***
He has given a formal statement to that effect to detectives from Operation Fernbridge ….

***

5 Reasons It’s Time for the 4-Day Work Week

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

July 21, 2014 | Psst: Working less is the key to success.

Want to make employees happier and more productive? Give them a four-day work week. The concept was introduced in the 1950s by American labor union leader Walter Reuther, but it’s taken a long time for the country to come around to his way of thinking. There are signs that things are changing. Treehouse, an online education company, has a four-day work-week policy, and CEO Ryan Carlson has never looked back, saying it increases both output and morale. Other forward-thinking companies, like Slingshot SEO, are jumping on board.

Several states have been experimenting with having public employees come in four days a week, a trend which made headlines in the Washington Post [3] when the Virginia legislature let state employees take Fridays off in 2010.

Dean Baker: Cheap Talk at the Fed

Monday, 21 July 2014 10:24

Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen made waves in her Congressional testimony last week when she argued that social media and biotech stocks were over-valued. She also said that the price of junk bonds was out of line with historic experience. By making these assertions in a highly visible public forum, Yellen was using the power of the Fed's megaphone to stem the growth of incipient bubbles. This is an approach that some of us have advocated for close to twenty years.

Before examining the merits of this approach, it is worth noting the remarkable transformation in the Fed's view on its role in containing bubbles. Just a decade ago, then Fed Chair Alan Greenspan told an adoring audience at the American Economic Association that the best thing the Fed could do with bubbles was to let them run their course and then pick up the pieces after they burst. He argued that the Fed's approach to the stock bubble vindicated this route. Apparently it did not bother him, or most of the people in the audience, that the economy was at the time experiencing its longest period without net job growth since the Great Depression.

Paul Krugman: The Fiscal Fizzle--An Imaginary Budget and Debt Crisis

For much of the past five years readers of the political and economic news were left in little doubt that budget deficits and rising debt were the most important issue facing America. Serious people constantly issued dire warnings that the United States risked turning into another Greece any day now. President Obama appointed a special, bipartisan commission to propose solutions to the alleged fiscal crisis, and spent much of his first term trying to negotiate a Grand Bargain on the budget with Republicans.

That bargain never happened, because Republicans refused to consider any deal that raised taxes. Nonetheless, debt and deficits have faded from the news. And there’s a good reason for that disappearing act: The whole thing turns out tohave been a false alarm.

Wolf Richter: UBS Warns Everything Is Overpriced, Prepares For Sell-Off

Posted on by Lambert Strether
 
By Wolf Richter, a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience. Originally published at Wolf Street.

UBS “leapfrogged” – as Bloomberg called it – Bank of America as the world’s largest wealth manager with $1.7 trillion in assets, up 9.7% from a year ago. Global wealth management assets rose 8.7% to $18.5 trillion. These firms get to manage part of the wealth that central-bank policies have generated at the top. So they have some responsibilities, like helping their clients escape the sinewy arm of the taxman, driving valuations ever higher with their trillions – “doing God’s work,” as Goldman CEO Blankfein had put it so eloquently – and preserving their clients’ wealth when the going gets tough.

And UBS just warned in its latest Weight Watcher that the going will get tough. The report is subtitled chillingly, “We are worried. We reduce risk – for now.”

The free market is an impossible utopia

By Henry Farrell July 18

Fred Block (research professor of sociology at University of California at Davis) and Margaret Somers (professor of sociology and history at the University of Michigan) have a new book, “The Power of Market Fundamentalism: Karl Polanyi’s Critique” (Harvard University Press, 2014). The book argues that the ideas of Karl Polanyi, the author of “The Great Transformation,” a classic of 20th century political economy, are crucial if you want to understand the recession and its aftermath. I asked the authors a series of questions.

How Will Capitalism End?

Wolfgang Streeck

There is a widespread sense today that capitalism is in critical condition, more so than at any time since the end of the Second World War. [1] Looking back, the crash of 2008 was only the latest in a long sequence of political and economic disorders that began with the end of postwar prosperity in the mid-1970s. Successive crises have proved to be ever more severe, spreading more widely and rapidly through an increasingly interconnected global economy. Global inflation in the 1970s was followed by rising public debt in the 1980s, and fiscal consolidation in the 1990s was accompanied by a steep increase in private-sector indebtedness. [2] For four decades now, disequilibrium has more or less been the normal condition of the ‘advanced’ industrial world, at both the national and the global levels. In fact, with time, the crises of postwar oecd capitalism have become so pervasive that they have increasingly been perceived as more than just economic in nature, resulting in a rediscovery of the older notion of a capitalist society—of capitalism as a social order and way of life, vitally dependent on the uninterrupted progress of private capital accumulation.

Crisis symptoms are many, but prominent among them are three long-term trends in the trajectories of rich, highly industrialized—or better, increasingly deindustrialized—capitalist countries. The first is a persistent decline in the rate of economic growth, recently aggravated by the events of 2008 (Figure 1, below). The second, associated with the first, is an equally persistent rise in overall indebtedness in leading capitalist states, where governments, private households and non-financial as well as financial firms have, over forty years, continued to pile up financial obligations (for the us, see Figure 2, below). Third, economic inequality, of both income and wealth, has been on the ascent for several decades now (Figure 3, below), alongside rising debt and declining growth.


Meet Executive Order 12333: The Reagan rule that lets the NSA spy on Americans

By John Napier Tye July 18

John Napier Tye served as section chief for Internet freedom in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from January 2011 to April 2014. He is now a legal director of Avaaz, a global advocacy organization.

In March I received a call from the White House counsel’s office regarding a speech I had prepared for my boss at the State Department. The speech was about the impact that the disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance practices would have on U.S. Internet freedom policies. The draft stated that “if U.S. citizens disagree with congressional and executive branch determinations about the proper scope of signals intelligence activities, they have the opportunity to change the policy through our democratic process.”

But the White House counsel’s office told me that no, that wasn’t true. I was instructed to amend the line, making a general reference to “our laws and policies,” rather than our intelligence practices. I did.

Even after all the reforms President Obama has announced, some intelligence practices remain so secret, even from members of Congress, that there is no opportunity for our democracy to change them.

We’re in the third biggest stock bubble in U.S. history

By Brett Arends, MarketWatc

Here’s a quick question for you. What do the following years have in common:


1853, 1906, 1929, 1969, 1999

Pass the question around your office. Call your money manager and ask him or her, too. Post it on your office notice board.

Give up?

Those were the peaks of the five massive, generational stock-market bubbles in U.S. history.

Investors who bought into stocks around those peaks ended up earning terrible returns over the subsequent 30 years. Forget “stocks for the long run.” They ended up with “stocks for a long face.” The bigger the bubble, the worse returns.

Trustee Banks Sued For $250 Billion

Posted on July 19, 2014 by L. Randall Wray

Here’s another story in the continuing saga of Bankster fraud.

As I’ve argued since 2008, it is likely that all—or nearly all–of the residential mortgage backed securities (RMBSs) are fraudulent. The Banksters engaged in fraud at every link in the RMBS food chain.

They defrauded the borrowers. They forced the appraisers to commit fraud (pressured them to overvalue property). They conspired with ratings agencies to overvalue the RMBSs. They created MERS to destroy property records and to cheat local governments out of recording fees. They separated the promissory notes from the deed of trust, invalidating the lien. They hired BurgerKing Robo-signers to create forged documents. They lie in court, committing perjury. They steal homes from owners who don’t even have mortgages. And on, and on, and on. Their depravity knows no bounds.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative

Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Today, it's becoming hard not to.

—By Chris Mooney | Tue Jul. 15, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

You could be forgiven for not having browsed yet through the latest issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. If you care about politics, though, you'll find a punchline therein that is pretty extraordinary.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences employs a rather unique practice called "Open Peer Commentary": An article of major significance is published, a large number of fellow scholars comment on it, and then the original author responds to all of them. The approach has many virtues, one of which being that it lets you see where a community of scholars and thinkers stand with respect to a controversial or provocative scientific idea. And in the latest issue of the journal, this process reveals the following conclusion: A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology, and even traits like physiology and genetics.

TBTF Strike Back! SEC Commissioner Calls FSOC “Vast Left Wing Conspiracy”

Posted on July 18, 2014 by Yves Smith

One of the favored practices of the banking industry in recent years has been to engage in not merely shameless, but truly deranged hyperbole when anyone dares voice so much as an itty bitty threat against their prerogatives. For instance, venture capitalist Tom Perkins had a meltdown in the op-ed section of the Wall Street Journal, conflating criticism of rentier behavior among the 0.1% as an incipient Kristallnacht. Jamie Dimon in March 2009 (yes, you have the date right) had the temerity to complain about the “vilification” of Corporate America over the financial crisis. Even the weak restrictions on executive pay in the TARP produced outcries and desperate efforts to repay the TARP quickly (and the cronyistic Treasury acceded, rather than requiring TBTF banks to get their capital levels higher first).

We witnessed a new outburst of Banking Industry Persecution Complex yesterday from SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar, who was speaking before an assembly of fellow inmates at the American Enterprise Institute. Piwowar has made it clear in previous speeches that he is opposed to provisions of Dodd Frank that call for the designation of systemically important financial institutions known in the trade as SIFIs, or among the laity, TBTF. He’s also tried claiming the Financial Stability Oversight Council is a threat to the SEC’s power. This is ludicrous since the SEC has never been a banking regulator and its influence is vastly less than that of the Fed and Treasury, and even less than that of the FDIC and OCC, which aren’t subject to Congressional appropriations. As former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt wrote in considerable detail in his memoir, Take on the Street, he’d regularly have Congresscritters, particularly Joe Lieberman, threaten to cut the SEC’s budget every time he tried getting serious about regulations. So Piwowar’s claims about the SEC’s power are either disingenuous or unhinged.

Senator Warren Lets Yellen Know She’s Had It With the Fed’s Charade About Too Big to Fail

By Pam Martens: July 16, 2014

Yesterday, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen delivered her Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Senate Banking Committee. Yellen deftly maneuvered questions on slack in the job market, asset bubbles on Wall Street, and assorted digs at the explosion of the Fed’s balance sheet to over $4 trillion as a result of quantitative easing.

When it finally came to the turn of the last Senator on the docket to quiz Yellen, Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Fed Chair gave her a big, warm smile at the beginning of the questioning, likely figuring she was about to steal home and get big kudos for her performance back at the Fed.

Paul Krugman: Addicted to Inflation

The first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem. That goes for political movements as well as individuals. So I have some advice for so-called reform conservatives trying to rebuild the intellectual vitality of the right: You need to start by facing up to the fact that your movement is in the grip of some uncontrollable urges. In particular, it’s addicted to inflation — not the thing itself, but the claim that runaway inflation is either happening or about to happen.

To see what I’m talking about, consider a scene that played out the other day on CNBC.

Microplastics worse for crabs and other marine life than previously thought, study shows

The tiny plastic particles polluting our seas are not only orally ingested by marine creatures, but also enter their systems through their gills, according to a new study led by the University of Exeter.

Scientists also discovered that when microplastics are drawn in through this method they take over six times longer to leave the body compared with standard digestion.

Austerity Economics Is Walking US Prosperity Off a Cliff

Study calls continued spending cuts a 'misguided attempt to solve a short-term debt crisis that simply does not exist'

- Jon Queally, staff writer

The 'economics of austerity'—which includes the continued Republican argument that government spending is a drain on both employment figures and economic growth and must be constantly curtailed—is killing the prospect of improved U.S. prosperity.

That's the finding of a new study by the Center for American Progress based on new figures released by the Congressional Budget Office.

According to Harry Stein and Adam Hersh, economists at CAP and the authors of the study, members of Congress in both parties have allowed for the economy to be "severely damaged" over the last several years by passing "deep spending cuts in a misguided attempt to solve a short-term debt crisis that simply does not exist."

Snowden: NSA employees routinely pass around intercepted nude photos

"These are seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions," Snowden says.

by Cyrus Farivar - July 17 2014, 12:39pm EST

Edward Snowden has revealed that he witnessed “numerous instances” of National Security Agency (NSA) employees passing around nude photos that were intercepted “in the course of their daily work.”

In a 17-minute interview with The Guardian filmed at a Moscow hotel and published on Thursday, the NSA whistleblower addressed numerous points, noting that he could “live with” being sent to the US prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also again dismissed any notion that he was a Russian spy or agent—calling those allegations “bullshit.”

The Human Price of Neocon Havoc

July 17, 2014

Exclusive: Neocons are the “masters of chaos” as they destabilize disfavored governments around the world. But real people pay the price as we’ve seen with Israel’s slaughter of four boys on a Gaza beach and an apparent shoot-down of a Malaysian airliner over war-torn Ukraine, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Whether the tragedy is four boys getting blown apart while playing on a beach in Gaza or nearly 300 killed from a suspected missile strike on a Malaysian Airliner over Ukraine or the thousands upon thousands of other innocent victims slaughtered in Iraq, Syria, Libya and other recent war zones, the underlying lesson is that the havoc encouraged by America’s neocons results in horrendous loss of human life.

While clearly other players share in this blame, including the soldiers on the ground and the politicians lacking the courage to compromise, the principal culprits in the bloodshed of the past dozen years have been the neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” allies who can’t seem to stop stirring up trouble in the name of “democracy” and “human rights.”

GOP lawmakers increase pressure on Congress to fast-track controversial Pacific trade pact

By Reuters
Friday, July 18, 2014 6:42 EDT

Some Republican lawmakers on Thursday threatened to withhold support for a Pacific trade pact unless Congress first passes legislation to ensure any deal will go to Congress for an up or down vote, without amendments.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman (above), the 23 Republican members of the House panel with jurisdiction over trade said Congress would not approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the United States is negotiating with 11 other countries if it did not meet lawmakers’ goals.

Net Neutrality Fight Isn’t About Saving Internet Freedom, It’s About Saving Internet Commerce

By Steven Rosenfeld

July 16, 2014 | Net neutrality, as comedian John Oliver said [3] on his HBO show, may be the worst-named cause ever. Besides being “completely boring,” it refers to “all data being treated equally no matter who creates it and why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field.”

Like many Internet activists, Oliver has been urging all conscientious citizens to tell the Federal Communications Commission to leave the net alone. Go file online comments before Friday's deadline [4], he urges, and don’t allow cable companies to charge content creators different prices for sending data at different speeds, which might disadvantage a NetFlix or Facebook or Google.

We haven't yet tackled inequality; here are five ways to reduce it

The coalition boasts that it's reduced inequality, but actually no government policy in the last 30 years has actually come close to bringing it down to average OECD levels.

by Tim Stacey, Published 16 July, 2014

Inequality is now widely recognised as one of the most important issues affecting our country. Ed Miliband says that tackling inequality “will be Labour’s mission in 2015”, while Cameron Osborne and Cable have boasted that inequality has fallen under their stewardship. But no government policy in the last 30 years has actually come close to bringing inequality down to average OECD levels.

A regularly used excuse for ignoring inequality is the country’s fragile economic recovery. The thrust of the argument is that “one has to think about how to grow the cake before one thinks about how to share it”. It rests on the assumption that high inequality is not only a necessary by-product of a successful economy, but that it is in fact integral to economic growth. The problem with this argument is that it is nonsense.

Far right’s secret SCOTUS strategy: What Boehner’s lawsuit is really about

When a fringe party can no longer win legislative elections, boosting the impact of judges is its best last resort

Heather Digby Parton

If you hadn’t thought the House GOP had gone completely around the bend before, their decision last week to sue the president for failing to enforce a law they had all voted against and to which they remain adamantly opposed must have convinced you. They are actually suing the president because he delayed the health care mandate for small businesses — one of the most highly valued constituencies in the Republican Party. That’s right, they are going to court to screw over one of their most prized voting blocs simply in order to challenge the limits of executive power. That’s either a hard core commitment to principle or their desire to hurt the president is so overwhelming that they are willing to sacrifice their own voters in the process. (And one can’t help but wonder just how dictatorial the president is actually being if the only example of his tyrannical policies they feel confident in citing is one they support.)

The Data of Hate

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

VIKINGMAIDEN88 is 26 years old. She enjoys reading history and writing poetry. Her signature quote is from Shakespeare. She was impressed when the dialect quiz in The New York Times correctly identified where she was from: Tacoma and Spokane, Wash. “Completely spot on,” she wrote, followed by a smiling green emoji.

I gleaned all this from her profile and posts on Stormfront.org, America’s most popular online hate site.

Corporate polluters are almost never prosecuted for their crimes

By John Upton

If you committed a crime in full view of a police officer, you could expect to be arrested — particularly if you persisted in your criminality after being told to cut it out, and if your crime were hurting the people around you.

But the same is not true for those other “people” who inhabit the U.S.: corporations. Polluting companies commit their crimes with aplomb.

Why Big Business Loves Desperate Workers

And how a strong social safety net can make us all more free

by Stephen Pimpare

We don’t think enough about the economic functions of social welfare policy, or about the relationship between the safety net and labor markets, and this hinders our ability to make sense of why some people fight so hard against programs that aid poor and low-income people: We mistake them for anti-welfare ideologues, and dismiss them as cruel or ignorant, but there’s an economic logic to their activism, one that’s revealed if we look at the relationship between welfare and work from both the employee’s and the employer’s perspective. Let me explain.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Revealed: the hunger strikes of America's most secret foreign prisoners

• Protests by detainees held in secret by US in Afghanistan
• Strikes reminiscent of those at Guant√°namo Bay
• Detainees say: 'The Americans did not want to talk to us'

Spencer Ackerman in New York
The Guardian, Wednesday 16 July 2014 09.19 EDT

Sometimes they stopped eating to protest unclean drinking water. Other times they stopped eating because their comrades were placed in segregated housing. Still other times they stopped eating out of dissatisfaction with their access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), their only source of connection to their families and the outside world.

Without any visibility beyond the walls of their prison, non-Afghan detainees that the US holds in almost complete secrecy in Afghanistan have engaged in hunger strikes, the Guardian has confirmed. The hunger strikes are reminiscent, on smaller scale, of those at Guant√°namo Bay that seized the world's attention last year.

How Shall They Impeach Obama? Conservatives Count the Ways

A rundown of the president's high crimes and misdemeanors, according to his haters.

—By Tim Murphy | Thu Jul. 17, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Impeachment is having another moment. On Wednesday, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) became the latest conservative politician to suggest that Republicans may attempt to oust President Obama from office if they take control of the Senate next fall, citing "mounting frustration that a lot of people are getting to." For conservative activists, it's no longer of issue of whether the president should be impeached, but what for. Since 2010, the Obama's haters have floated more than two dozen reasons for filing articles of impeachment. They would like to oust the president for, among other things...

Bombshell Study: America's Wealthy Even More Obscenely Rich Than Anybody Thought

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

July 16, 2014 | Just when you think you've got a handle on how bad wealth inequality is in America's Second Gilded Age, researchers find it's even worse than you imagined.

The European Central Bank has crunched the numbers and it looks like wealth inequality in the U.S. is even more astounding than previous statistics have shown. Of the 10 rich countries the researchers analyzed, America's wealthy have grabbed the largest portion of the country's wealth. The most affluent 1 percent is sitting on between 35 percent and 37 percent of the nation’s wealth, according to a working paper [3] by ECB senior economist Philip Vermeulen. The Federal Reserve figure that has been previously cited had the 1 percent's share at 34 percent. But actually it looks like that's a lowball figure.

Capitalism’s Deeper Problem

July 15, 2014
by Richard D. Wolff

Recent press reports refer to troubling price increases for such assets as real estate, government bonds, companies targeted for acquisition and artwork. A New York Times front-page headline read “The Everything Boom, or Maybe the Everything Bubble.”

Yet while asset prices soar, the production of goods and services, employment and workers’ incomes are not recovering and resuming growth. Instead, Western Europe, North America and Japan are stuck in a longer, deeper crisis than almost anyone expected. Millions have left the labor force. Wages, benefits and job security are declining; the so-called “middle classes” are evaporating. Having promised “recoveries,” desperate governments inject massive new quantities of money into their economies. What they accomplish most are fast-rising asset prices.

Sam Pizzigati: A New Gameplan for Taking Down Privatizers

Analysts at the OECD, the Paris-based research agency, have just shared a grim prediction: If current trends "prevail," all developed nations will show by 2060 "the same level of inequality as currently experienced by the United States."

If we let those current trends continue, that conclusion sounds about right. But why on earth should we let those trends continue? The trends that have made our world so unequal don't reflect some inevitable unfolding of globalization. They reflect wrong-headed political decisions. We can make different decisions.

Citigroup: The Original Gangsta

Posted on Jul 14, 2014
By Robert Scheer

Barack Obama’s Justice Department on Monday announced that Citigroup would pay $7 billion in fines, a move that will avoid a humiliating trial dealing with the seamy financial products the bank had marketed to an unsuspecting public, causing vast damage to the economy.

Citigroup is the too-big-to-fail bank that was allowed to form only when Bill Clinton signed legislation reversing the sensible restraints on Wall Street instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt to avoid another Great Depression.

Greenwald: Leaked Docs Reveal Agency's Digital Propaganda Toolkit

Latest files provided by Edward Snowden show GCHQ's ability to 'manipulate' the Internet using 'hacker’s buffet for wreaking online havoc'

- Jon Queally, staff writer

The latest documents released from a trove leaked to journalist Glenn Greenwald by Edward Snowden reveal that GCHQ has created a virtual toolbox of online hacker tactics that allow British intelligence agents to "manipulate" online communities by seeding the Internet "with false information" and conducting the kind of malicious attacks on networks that send civilian hackers to prison.

According to the most recent reporting from Greenwald at The Intercept:
The tools were created by GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), and constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception contained within the Snowden archive. Previously disclosed documents have detailed JTRIG’s use of “fake victim blog posts,” “false flag operations,” “honey traps” and psychological manipulation to target online activists, monitor visitors to WikiLeaks, and spy on YouTube and Facebook users.

Michael Hudson: No to currency slavery

Western support will allow more IMF and European lending to prop the Ukrainian currency so the Ukrainian oligarchs can move their money safely to British and US banks, economist and author Michael Hudson told RT’s Truthseeker.

RT: Could you summarize for us the tried and tested steps that will lead from IMF loans, to Ukraine’s best assets ending up in private Western hands – the IMF’s ‘knee-breaker’ role as you memorably described it as?

Michael Hudson: The basic principle to bear in mind is that finance today is war by non-military means. The aim of getting a country in debt is to obtain its economic surplus, ending up with its property. The main property to obtain is that which can produce exports and generate foreign exchange. For Ukraine, this means mainly the Eastern manufacturing and mining companies, which presently are held in the hands of the oligarchs. For foreign investors, the problem is how to transfer these assets and their revenue into foreign hands – in an economy whose international payments are in chronic deficit as a result of the failed post-1991 restructuring. That is where the IMF comes in.

Paul Krugman: Obamacare Fails to Fail

How many Americans know how health reform is going? For that matter, how many people in the news media are following the positive developments?

I suspect that the answer to the first question is “Not many,” while the answer to the second is “Possibly even fewer,” for reasons I’ll get to later. And if I’m right, it’s a remarkable thing — an immense policy success is improving the lives of millions of Americans, but it’s largely slipping under the radar.

Rutgers Chemists Develop Technology to Produce Clean-Burning Hydrogen Fuel

New catalyst based on carbon nanotubes may rival cost-prohibitive platinum for reactions that split water into hydrogen and oxygen

Monday, July 14, 2014

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers researchers have developed a technology that could overcome a major cost barrier to make clean-burning hydrogen fuel – a fuel that could replace expensive and environmentally harmful fossil fuels.

The new technology is a novel catalyst that performs almost as well as cost-prohibitive platinum for so-called electrolysis reactions, which use electric currents to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The Rutgers technology is also far more efficient than less-expensive catalysts investigated to-date.

Dean Baker: Fun Accounting and the Export-Import Bank

The establishment types in Washington have become really worried in recent weeks because one of their major troughs, the Export-Import Bank, may not be reauthorized by Congress. The Ex-Im Bank has long been a favored source of below market loans for Boeing, General Electric, and other major companies. If these companies have to pay market interest rates on their loans, it will cost them tens of billions of dollars in profits over the next decade.

The problem became serious after Republican majority leader Eric Cantor's surprise defeat in a Republican primary. As a close ally of big business, Cantor could be counted on to push through re-authorization of the Bank before the September 30 deadline for the current authorization. However his replacement as majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, is more likely to give in to Tea Party demands to end this subsidy to big business.

Texas GOP’s secret anti-Hispanic plot: Smoking gun emails revealed

Rick Perry and GOP state leaders go on trial today -- and the verdict could mean big things for Voting Rights Act

Miriam Rozen

On Nov. 17, 2010, Eric Opiela sent an email to Gerard Interiano. A Texas Republican Party associate general counsel, Opiela served at that time as a campaign adviser to the state’s speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; he was about to become the man who state lawmakers understood spoke “on behalf of the Republican Congressmen from Texas,” according to minority voting-rights plaintiffs, who have sued Texas for discriminating against them.

A few weeks before receiving Opiela’s email, Interiano had started as counsel to Straus’ office. He was preparing to assume top responsibility for redrawing the state’s political maps; he would become the “one person” on whom the state’s redistricting “credibility rests,” according to Texas’ brief in voting-rights litigation.

Thomas Frank: The animatronic presidency: How presidential museums become propaganda palaces, whitewashing Bush’s disasters and Clinton’s failings

At presidential museums, even the cynical melt before multimillion-dollar efforts to portray scoundrels as leaders

Barack Obama has formally entered that phase of the presidential life cycle that is all about defining his legacy, building a presidential library, and courting the judgment of historians. I suppose it is a good thing for politicians to consider the scrutiny of future generations. In fact, I wish they worried about it more; I wish they constantly asked themselves and their advisers what the nation’s scholars will make of their decisions. It would be a healthful check on an otherwise too-powerful office, where the decision to drop a bomb or render a suspect is attended by few other consequences.

Unfortunately, presidential libraries and historical scrutiny are not the same thing. They aren’t even in the same category, really. I visited three of the most recently built presidential museums a few weeks ago—the Bill Clinton Presidential Center plus two museums commemorating the administrations of men named George Bush—and found them to be, by and large, institutions of bald propaganda, buildings on which hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to cast, literally, in stone, a given individual’s personal war with reality.

Members of Congress Declare "Immunity" from Insider Trading Probe

House panel refuses to submit to SEC subpoenas

- Nadia Prupis, staff writer

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee is refusing to cooperate with an insider trading investigation, saying its employees are “absolutely immune” from having to comply with subpoenas from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe ordered the committee last week to explain why it hadn’t responded to the SEC’s year-long request for documents, phone records and the testimony of staff director Brian Sutter, as part of a probe into whether he or other House members leaked private information about health care policy to insurance companies.

Rather than turning over the information, top House lawyer Kerry W. Kircher answered the order by requesting that the case be dismissed.

Why Are TBTF Banks So Happy With The EU Banking Union?

by Don Quijones • July 10, 2014

On Tuesday, November 4th of this year, supervision of the Eurozone’s 130 biggest banks, representing 80% of total financial assets, will be passed from national authorities into the welcoming hands of the ECB. From that day on, European banking union will be a reality.

The banks love the idea, as do apparently most Eurocrats, Members of the European Parliament, and national leaders. Even Angela Merkel and her government have finally come on board, in exchange for guarantees of “quality surveillance, tighter coordination of economic policies, and more binding agreements.”

As for the rest of the inhabitants of the Eurozone – all of whom will be impacted in one way or another – most are blissfully unaware that it is even happening. A new continent-wide banking system is taking shape right before our eyes and under our noses, but our eyes are closed and our noses are blocked.

Ever Wondered Why the World is a Mess?

By Roberto Savio

ROME, Jul 11 2014 (IPS) - While the Third World War has not been formally declared, conflicts throughout the world are reaching levels unseen since 1944.

Of course, for the large majority of people throughout the world, news about these conflicts is just part of our daily news, but another share of our daily news is about the mess in our countries.

This is so complex and confusing that many people have given up the effort to attempt any form of deep understanding, so I thought it would be useful to offer ten explanations of how we succeeded in creating this mess.

The Fifth Surveillance: Corporate Spying On Non-Profits

from the more-revolving-doors dept

In the age of innocence that was brought to an end by Edward Snowden's revelations, we broadly knew of three kinds of surveillance: the classic kind, by countries against other countries; the industrial kind, by companies against companies; and -- the most recent addition -- the Google/Facebook kind, carried out by companies against their customers. Snowden made us aware that countries also carried out large-scale surveillance against huge numbers of their own citizens, the vast majority of whom had done nothing to warrant that invasion of their privacy. But there's a fifth kind of surveillance that has largely escaped notice, even though it represents a serious danger for democracy and freedom: spying carried out by companies against non-profit organizations whose work threatens their profits in some way.
A new report called "Spooky Business" (pdf), from the Essential Information organization (founded by Ralph Nader in 1982), throws some much-needed light on this murky world:
The corporate capacity for espionage has skyrocketed in recent years. Most major companies now have a chief corporate security officer tasked with assessing and mitigating "threats" of all sorts -- including from nonprofit organizations. And there is now a surfeit of private investigations firms willing and able to conduct sophisticated spying operations against nonprofits.
As the study reveals, this kind of activity is now commonplace:
Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations -- including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald's, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON -- have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.

A Dark Alliance: European Union Joins Forces With Wall Street

by Don Quijones • July 7, 2014

Unbeknownst to the vast majority of Europeans and Americans, late-stage negotiations are under way to significantly water down all forms of financial regulation on both sides of the Atlantic. This is part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty (TTIP) being negotiated behind closed doors.

However, contrary to popular wisdom, it’s not the U.S. government that is leading the charge, but rather an unholy alliance between the European Commission, Wall Street, and the City of London.

Oligarchy Blues

Posted on by Yves Smith

Yves here. This article by Michael Ventura, on the degeneration of representative process in the US and the rise of oligarchy, calls for new terminology and frameworks in order to describe our current political and economic conditions accurately, which Ventura contends is a necessary condition for action. I imagine many NC readers will agree with him on that, since many of you engage in precisely this sort of debate in the comments section daily. This piece is a quick sketch, but nevertheless hits some key issues. (Readers might also protest that Ventura isn’t as hard on the Democrats as he ought to be, but they still get some serious whacks in his piece).

Yet one could cynically argue that what Ventura describes is more the path to how we got where we are than our current location. He describes the power of oligarchy, but focuses almost entirely on the political part of the equation. Yet as Tom Ferguson has described in his work on elections, such as his classic book, The Golden Rule, American politics has long been money driven. So the key questions might be: how did a system that has always favored the wealthy and corporate interests nevertheless come to deliver decent outcomes for ordinary citizens for a protracted period?

Thomas Frank: The god that sucked: How the Tea Party right just makes the 1 percent richer

Business won on welfare, taxes, regulation, then sat silent as the crazies took over the GOP. Now we're all screwed 

This Independence Day weekend let’s uncork some vintage Jeremiad. I wrote “The God That Sucked” for Baffler magazine in 2001; the title (for those who don’t remember the Cold War) refers to The God That Failed, an anticommunist tract that had been ubiquitous in the Fifties. My target, however, was a different god, and my setting was the tail end of the “New Economy” boom of the 1990s, during which the worship of “free markets” had become a kind of mania, a millennial revival, even. It was an age of extraordinary consensus on matters economic; everyone believed they had seen the light, that history’s great problems had been solved. And nothing could persuade them otherwise. The market god would punish us again and again as the years passed, but its followers could not be shaken from their simple faith. Today the situation is different, of course. The financial disaster of 2008 put a permanent dent into the reputation of the deity. The public came to despise Wall Street and the One Percent. Weirdly, however, our leadership class still chatters on as happily and obliviously as before. For them nothing has changed, the god’s benevolence has never dimmed, all’s still right with the world—and the stern accountability of the marketplace only applies to others. The original version of this essay appeared in Baffler #14 in 2001 and was later reprinted in the magazine’s anthology, Boob Jubilee; this version has been slightly edited. Read more at TheBaffler.com
**************
Despite this, many economists still think that electricity deregulation will work. A product is a product, they say, and competition always works better than state control.
“I believe in that premise as a matter of religious faith,” said Philip J. Romero, dean of the business school at the University of Oregon and one of the architects of California’s deregulation plan. — New York Times, Feb. 4, 2001
Time was, the only place a guy could expound the mumbo-jumbo of the free market was in the country club locker room or the pages of Reader’s Digest. Spout off about it anywhere else and you’d be taken for a Bircher or some new strain of Jehovah’s Witness. After all, in the America of 1968, when the great backlash began, the average citizen, whether housewife or hardhat or salary-man, still had an all-too-vivid recollection of the Depression. Not to mention a fairly clear understanding of what social class was all about. Pushing laissez-faire ideology back then had all the prestige and credibility of hosting a Tupperware party.

Inequality, the Flavor of the Month

Kathleen Geier, July 11, 2014

Last December, President Obama delivered a speech in which he boldly declared that economic inequality is a “defining issue of our time.” It was a watershed moment—an ambitious speech on a topic presidents rarely address, let alone at such at length. Commenters called the speech “historic.”

So much for history. Last week, the Washington Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb reported that in recent months, Obama and Democrats have turned their backs on economic populism and “largely abandoned” talk about economic inequality.

A Parting Shot at Richard Mellon Scaife

by JOSEPH L. FLATLEY

Here in Pittsburgh, one can almost be perversely proud that a man who leached so much poison into the earth owed his fortune and prominence to the city we call home. Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire philanthropist whose fortune was almost entirely misapplied, died 82 years too late on Independence Day, July 4, 2014.

The “Mellon” in his name came from his mother’s side of the family, whose prominence dates back to the founding of T. Mellon & Sons’ Bank in the 1870s. Mellon would go on to finance many of the coal mines in the area. Further wealth came to the family in 1889, when his son Andrew discovered oil in his backyard in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. At the turn of the last century, Western Pennsylvania was the Dubai of its day — a fossil-fuel-fed confirmation of the maxim “geography is destiny.” This particular destiny would most famously lead to what Hillary Rodham Clinton once termed “a vast right-wing conspiracy” (as if the worst thing this man ever did was attack her husband). It is indeed with great sadness that the Great Panic of 1873 didn’t ruin Mellon’s bank the way that it did over half of Pittsburgh’s nearly 100 others, eventually leading to the civil unrest that the local aristocracy had been fearing for years.

Dean Baker: The Good News About Obamacare in the June Jobs Report

Many people touted the 288,000 new jobs the Labor Department reported for June, along with the drop in the unemployment rate to 6.1 percent as good news. And they were right. For now it appears the economy is creating a job at a decent pace. We still have a long way to go to get back to full employment, but at least we are now finally moving forward at a faster pace.

However there is another important part of the jobs picture that was largely overlooked. There was a big jump in the number of people who report voluntarily working part-time. This figure is now 830,000 (4.4 percent) above its year ago level.

Richard Eskow: Citigroup’s $7 Billion Fraud Deal: The Clique’s Still Clicking in D.C.

July 11, 2014

Pop quiz: Which bank is widely considered too big to fail, needed (and got) a $45 billion government loan during the financial crisis, recently failed a stress test performed by the Federal Reserve – and has enjoyed a revolving-door relationship with both the Clinton and Obama administrations?

If you answered Citigroup, congratulations.

Right-wing “populism” is a joke: Poor-bashing, immigrant-hating and a revolting agenda

From Sarah Palin to Pat Buchanan, here's what it really means when they speak to "the American worker"

Heather Digby Parton

Writer John Judis presciently published an important book about American politics about a decade before its time called “The Paradox of American Democracy: Elites, Special Interests, and the Betrayal of the Public Trust” in which he accurately observed the seeds of discontent among the American public and its mistrust of political institutions. He saw the Tea Party coming before it was born. In the wake of David Brat’s recent win over Eric Cantor he analyzed the race and helpfully defined the right-wing populism that drove it:
American populism is rooted in middle class resentment of those who are seen as enjoying the benefits of the goods and services the middle class produces without having earned them through work. Its ideology is what historians call “producerism.” It first appears in the Jacksonian Workingmen’s Parties and then in the Populists of the late nineteenth century. But it takes a leftwing and a rightwing form.

Facing an ailing economy, leftwing populists from Huey Long to Paul Wellstone primarily blame Wall Street, big business and the politicians whom they fund. Rightwing populists from George Wallace to Pat Buchanan also blame Wall Street, but put equal if not greater blame on the poor, the unemployed, the immigrant, and the minorities, who, like the coupon-clipper on Wall Street, are seen as economic parasites.

Paul Krugman: The Monetary Fever Swamps

July 10, 2014 6:31 pm

Urg. Glug. Mmph. My head feels like it’s stuffed with oatmeal.

No, I haven’t been drinking (although I plan to start in a few minutes.) I have, instead, been spending a lot of time in the monetary fever swamps.

I was aware that there were a fair number of people on the right attacking the Fed, not for running the risk of inflation or financial instability or something, but for expropriating the property of right-thinking, clean-living people who deserve higher interest earnings. But there’s more of it, and it’s more explicit, than I realized. Here’s an example, but there are many more.

“Forbidden Bookshelf” Series Acquaints Public with Books Vanished by Government or Powerful Interests

By: Kevin Gosztola, Thursday July 10, 2014 10:52 am

A digital publisher called Open Road Integrated Media has launched a series called the “Forbidden Bookshelf,” in order to acquaint the public with books that were vanished or, in one way or another, killed at birth by the government or corporate entities when they were first published.

Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University, came up with the idea. He told Firedoglake in an interview that over the years he had found a lot of books he wanted to assign in his courses were unavailable,” which he said “speaks to certain problems in the book publishing industry.”

Utilities to battery-powered solar: Get off our lawn

By Heather Smith

In Wisconsin, utilities are jacking up the price to connect to their electrical grid. In Oklahoma, utilities pushed through a law this spring that allows them to charge the people who own solar panels and wind turbines more to connect to their electrical grid. In Arizona, the state has decided to charge extra property taxes to households that are leasing solar panels.

Welcome to the solar backlash. In Grist’s “Utilities for Dummies” series last year, David Roberts prophesied that solar and other renewables could “lay waste to U.S. power utilities and burn the utility business model, which has remained virtually unchanged for a century, to the ground.” And lo, it is coming to pass — though not without a fight from the utilities first.

Paul Krugman: Who Wants a Depression?

One unhappy lesson we’ve learned in recent years is that economics is a far more political subject than we liked to imagine. Well, duh, you may say. But, before the financial crisis, many economists — even, to some extent, yours truly — believed that there was a fairly broad professional consensus on some important issues.

This was especially true of monetary policy. It’s not that many years since the administration of George W. Bush declared that one lesson from the 2001 recession and the recovery that followed was that “aggressive monetary policy can make a recession shorter and milder.” Surely, then, we’d have a bipartisan consensus in favor of even more aggressive monetary policy to fight the far worse slump of 2007 to 2009. Right?

Inside the Wild, Shadowy, and Highly Lucrative Bail Industry

How $550 and a five-day class gets you the right to stalk, arrest, and shoot people.

—By Shane Bauer

The largest annual gathering of bail bondsmen in the country—the convention of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, or PBUS—was slotted between Dunkin' Donuts and Elk Camp 2013 at the Mirage Resort and Casino, a tall, shiny structure shaped like an open book and set against replicas of the Colosseum and Eiffel Tower on Las Vegas' Strip. The sidewalk out front was littered with cards bearing phone numbers and pictures of naked women. In the courtyard, flames licked the late-winter air to the rhythm of a tribal drum every hour, on the hour. A sign at the entrance announced that the casino's dolphin just had a baby and we would be able to see it soon. As I walked through the smoky slots area I saw a man with a PBUS lanyard doing an extremely forced I'm-having-fun dance with his assistant while a casino employee showed them how to play the one-armed bandit. It was a bit of a letdown from what I'd been anticipating—all-night blackjack sessions with bondsmen and bounty hunters telling tales from the street over stiff drinks. I'd even grown a mustache for the event, thinking it would help me blend in a little—bondsmen have mustaches, don't they?

Paul Krugman: A Delusional Search for Reasonable Republicans

Hank Paulson, the former Treasury secretary, wrote a very sad op-ed about climate change in The New York Times recently. We must act, he declared, in the same way we acted to contain the financial crisis.

It's a dubious analogy: the crisis in 2008 was fast-moving, and people like Mr. Paulson could credibly warn that unless the United States took action, the whole world economy would fall apart in a matter of days. Meanwhile, climate change is slow but inexorable, with enormous momentum; by the time it becomes undeniable that there's a crisis, it will be too late to avoid catastrophe.

New Bank Leak Shows How Rich Exploit Tax Haven Loopholes

By The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
July 8, 2014, 3:45 pm

The identities of thousands of wealthy offshore clients of a major Channel Isles private bank have been leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The individuals include donors to the British government, which has been outspoken against tax havens, and some of the most prominent people in British life.

The ICIJ has exclusively allowed The Guardian newspaper to analyze more than 20,000 of the names, all of whom had dealings with a discreet Jersey, Channel Islands branch of Kleinwort Benson, a famous London firm which specializes in “wealth management.”

Paul Krugman: More on Class and Monetary Policy

A bit more on the question of whose interests are served by hard-money ideology: One way to identify what you might call the creditor class is to look at who derives a lot of income from interest. The Piketty-Saez tables calculate interest income as a share of total income for various percentiles of the income distribution; I looked at the numbers from 2007, when the crisis had not yet struck and returns were “normal”.

David Cay Johnston: Americans have lost out on $6.6 trillion

The inability to maintain 2000-level prosperity has cost us all

July 9, 2014 6:00AM ET

Why are so many Americans feeling squeezed economically even as the economy expands at an accelerating pace?

Last month set a new record for sustained job creation: 52 straight months of added jobs, with a robust 288,000 more jobs in June and more than 9 million jobs created since February 2010. The unemployment rate is down to 6.1 percent, and the number of long-term unemployed has been slashed, from about 5 million people to about 3 million.

The stock market is soaring, reaching a record high on July 3. The Dow Jones industrial average passed 17,000 — amazing compared with its Great Recession low of 6,627 in March 2009, just weeks after President Barack Obama took office.

Who Owns the U.S. Stock Market?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 8, 2014

Serious observers of Wall Street are increasingly asking this question: could a group of trading venues with giant pools of capital, operating in the dark, using high-speed algorithms and artificial intelligence that has a massive historical database and gets smarter with each micro-second trade — effectively own the stock market. Today, we take a look at the massive trading control exercised by just five Wall Street firms.

JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup jointly control trillions of dollars in commercial bank deposits with thousands of branch bank buildings stretching across the United States scooping up the life savings of everyday Joes who have no clue these are also the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bee Foraging Chronically Impaired by Pesticide Exposure: Study

A study co-authored by a University of Guelph scientist that involved fitting bumblebees with tiny radio frequency tags shows long-term exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide hampers bees’ ability to forage for pollen.

The research by Nigel Raine, a professor in Guelph’s School of Environmental Sciences, and Richard Gill of Imperial College London was published today in the British Ecological Society’s journal Functional Ecology.

The Beveridge report revisited: where now for the welfare state?

After unprecedented public spending cuts, we revisit Sir William Beveridge’s welfare state 70 years on and explore the modern evils that society professionals must battle and defeat

Seventy years ago, as the allies were driving Nazi forces back across Europe, Britain was preparing for eventual peace and reconstruction. The nation was gripped not only by dispatches from the front but also by the Beveridge report, the blueprint for what was to become known as the welfare state.

In proposing a system of cradle-to-grave social security, improved education and a national health service, the report lacked nothing in ambition. Its author, Sir William Beveridge, declared that “a revolutionary moment in the world’s history is a time for revolutions, not patching”. Overnight, he became a national hero.

Shades of 1930 in Wall Street Banks’ Dark Pools?

By Pam Martens: July 7, 2014

On June 2 of this year, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a self-regulator of Wall Street’s broker-dealers, dropped a bombshell. For the first time, FINRA released trading data for Wall Street’s dark pools – unregistered stock exchanges that the SEC recklessly allows to trade stocks without making the bids and offers public, along with many other details.

What does states' refusal to expand Medicaid mean for Southerners?

This week the White House Council of Economic Advisers released "Missed Opportunities: The Consequences of State Decisions Not to Expand Medicaid," a report examining the effect of states' decisions on whether to expand Medicaid, the government health care program for low-income people and people with disabilities. The Affordable Care Act gives states the option of extending Medicaid to all non-elderly individuals in families with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Robert Reich: The New Way Big Corporations Like Walgreen Are Shamelessly Dodging Their Taxes

By Robert Reich

July 7, 2014 | Dozens of big U.S. corporations are considering leaving the United States in order to reduce their tax bills.

But they’ll be leaving the country only on paper. They’ll still do as much business in the U.S. as they were doing before.

The only difference is they’ll no longer be “American,” and won’t have to pay U.S. taxes on the profits they make.

Hospitals Are Mining Patients' Credit Card Data to Predict Who Will Get Sick

By Shannon Pettypiece and Jordan Robertson, July 03, 2014

Imagine getting a call from your doctor if you let your gym membership lapse, make a habit of buying candy bars at the checkout counter, or begin shopping at plus-size clothing stores. For patients of Carolinas HealthCare System, which operates the largest group of medical centers in North and South Carolina, such a day could be sooner than they think. Carolinas HealthCare, which runs more than 900 care centers, including hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, and surgical centers, has begun plugging consumer data on 2 million people into algorithms designed to identify high-risk patients so that doctors can intervene before they get sick. The company purchases the data from brokers who cull public records, store loyalty program transactions, and credit card purchases.

Let’s Just Pretend We Didn’t Offshore Manufacturing

Is an iPhone made in China and exported to Europe a U.S. export?

Is an Apple executive a manufacturing worker?

Yes, and yes. At least those could become the answers if a new proposal afoot among some in the administration is allowed to take effect. Federal agencies grouped under the bland-sounding Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC) are proposing to radically redefine U.S. manufacturing and trade statistics.

Under the proposal, U.S. firms that have offshored their production abroad – like Apple – would become “factoryless goods” manufacturers. The foreign factories that actually manufacture the goods – like the notorious iPhone-producing Foxconn factories in China – would no longer be manufacturers, but “service” providers for the rebranded “manufacturing” firms like Apple.

Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein: Full Employment and the Path to Shared Prosperity

There are many policies that can reduce inequality, but there is none as straightforward conceptually and as difficult politically as full employment. The basic point is simple: at low rates of unemployment, the demand for labor allows workers at the middle and bottom of the wage distribution to achieve gains in hourly wages, annual hours of work, and thus income.

Levels of unemployment are not the gift or curse of the gods; they are the result of conscious economic policy. The decision to tolerate high rates of unemployment is a choice. It is one that has enormous implications not just for the millions of people who are needlessly unemployed or underemployed but also for tens of millions of workers in the bottom half of the wage distribution whose bar-gaining power is undermined by high unemployment.

Joseph Stiglitz: The Myth of America’s Golden Age

What growing up in Gary, Indiana, taught me about inequality.

By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ, July/August 2014

I hadn’t realized when I was growing up in Gary, Indiana, an industrial town on the southern shore of Lake Michigan plagued by discrimination, poverty and bouts of high unemployment, that I was living in the golden era of capitalism. It was a company town, named after the chairman of the board of U.S. Steel. It had the world’s largest integrated steel mill and a progressive school system designed to turn Gary into a melting pot fed by migrants from all over Europe. But by the time I was born in 1943, cracks in the pot were already appearing. To break strikes—to ensure that workers did not fully share in the productivity gains being driven by modern technology—the big steel companies brought African-American workers up from the South who lived in impoverished, separate neighborhoods.

Paul Krugman: Build We Won’t

You often find people talking about our economic difficulties as if they were complicated and mysterious, with no obvious solution. As the economist Dean Baker recently pointed out, nothing could be further from the truth. The basic story of what went wrong is, in fact, almost absurdly simple: We had an immense housing bubble, and, when the bubble burst, it left a huge hole in spending. Everything else is footnotes.

And the appropriate policy response was simple, too: Fill that hole in demand. In particular, the aftermath of the bursting bubble was (and still is) a very good time to invest in infrastructure. In prosperous times, public spending on roads, bridges and so on competes with the private sector for resources. Since 2008, however, our economy has been awash in unemployed workers (especially
construction workers) and capital with no place to go (which is why government borrowing costs are at historic lows). Putting those idle resources to work building useful stuff should have been a no-brainer.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

At Some Point, Progressives Need to Break Up With the Democratic Party

by Ted Rall

July 4, 2014 | At a certain point, if you have any relationship with dignity, you're supposed to get sick of being used and abused. Speaking of which: liberal Democrats.

Democratic politicians act like right-wingers. Liberals vote for them anyway.

The Democratic Party espouses right-wing policies. Self-described progressives give them cash.

Samuel Alito: A Movement Man Makes Good on Right-Wing Investments

by Peter Montgomery
Posted: 07/03/2014 12:38 pm

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ended this Supreme Court session with a bang, writing the majority opinion in two cases that gave for-profit corporations the right to make religious liberty claims to evade government regulation and set the stage for the fulfillment of a central goal of the right-wing political movement: the destruction of public employee unions.

Neither of the decisions was particularly surprising. Samuel Alito is the single most pro-corporate Justice on the most pro-business Court since the New Deal. Still, Alito's one-two punch was another extraordinary milestone for the strategists who have been working for the past 40 years to put business firmly in the driver's seat of American politics.

Thomas Jefferson: America’s Founding Sociopath

July 4, 2014

Special Report: For many Americans, Thomas Jefferson is the beloved author of the Declaration of Independence so they broach no criticism of him. But the real Jefferson may have been America’s founding sociopath, a man of racist self-interest and endless hypocrisies, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

On July Fourth, the people of the United States extravagantly celebrate the high-blown expressions on human rights that Thomas Jefferson penned in the Declaration of Independence – especially the noble phrase “all men are created equal.” But Jefferson really didn’t believe that or much else that he said and wrote during his lifetime. He was, in reality, a skilled propagandist and a world-class hypocrite.

Yet, rather than subject Jefferson to a rigorous examination for his multiple hypocrisies, many Americans insist on protecting Jefferson’s reputation. From the Left, there is a desire to shield the lofty principles contained in the Declaration. From the Right, there is value in pretending that Jefferson’s revisionist concept of the Constitution – one favoring states’ rights over the federal government – was the “originalist” view of that founding document.



So, Jefferson – perhaps more than any figure in U.S. history – gets a pass for what he really was: a self-absorbed aristocrat who had one set of principles for himself and another for everybody else.