Sunday, October 19, 2014

Our Downward Spiral Since Citizens United

The corrosive influence of unlimited money in politics continues to grow.

By Norm Ornstein

October 15, 2014 Every once in a while, David Brooks writes a column in The New York Times that makes one just cringe. That was the case with his "Don't Worry, Be Happy" treatment last week of the impact of Citizens United on our politics. By defining the impact narrowly—does either party gain from the Supreme Court ruling and the new Wild West of campaign financing?—and by cherry-picking the research on campaign finance, Brooks comes up with a benign conclusion: Citizens United will actually reduce the influence of money in elections, and, I quote, "The upshot is that we should all relax about campaign spending."

Without mentioning his good friend's name, E.J. Dionne destroyed that case in his own Washington Post column. But a broader critique is necessary. First, Citizens United—and its progeny, and McCutcheon—are not really about whether Republicans get a leg up on election outcomes. They are about a new regime of campaign spending that dramatically enhance corruption in politics and government by forcing lawmakers to spend more and more of their precious time making fundraising calls, raising money for their own campaigns and their parties, and getting insurance against a last-minute blitz of "independent" spending that trashes them when they have no time to raise money to defend themselves. It also gives added traction to extreme groups threatening lawmakers with primary devastation unless they toe the ideological line.

ALEC’s new assault on America: Why the far right isn’t relying on Congress

While the nation fixates on congressional midterm results, here's what Big Money's front group has its eye on

Heather Digby Parton

You know it’s getting close to an election when every political junkie gets obsessed with polling, and men like Nate Silver and Sam Wang are spoken of in hushed tones usually reserved for sports stars and religious figures. As of today it’s not looking good for team D to hold the Senate and there are a lot of reasons why that’s a bad thing for America. Not the least of those is that the Republican party has lost its mind and they are likely going to elect some more fringe characters along the lines of Ted Cruz to the allegedly “greatest deliberative body in the world.”

I had been of the opinion that this wasn’t going to be such a travesty since it’s probably going to last only last two years, but the advent of this new ISIS war and the hysteria around immigration and Ebola means that the congress has quite a bit of leverage over the administration and could demand some very ugly concessions just to keep the government working in a time of crisis. (Yes, they will do that, don’t kid yourself.) So it’s probably a mistake to be sanguine about this election not being important. When the world is blowing up you really need the government to work properly.

What will it take to rein in Big Money?

On Oct. 16, 2014, Ellen Weintraub -- a member of the Federal Election Commission, an agency launched in 1975 after the Watergate scandal to watchdog campaign spending -- visited North Carolina to talk about the rising influence of money in U.S. politics. Institute for Southern Studies Executive Director Chris Kromm joined Weintraub and state Rep. Pricey Harrison on a panel in Raleigh to discuss the new threats money poses to our democracy, and what can be done about it. The following is an edited version of Kromm's remarks.

* * *
Greetings, and thank you for inviting me to be part of this critical discussion about money in our democracy.

I'm especially honored to be here with two individuals -- Commissioner Weintraub and Rep. Harrison -- who have shown remarkable leadership, at the federal and state level, in helping us grapple with this question of how best to ensure that money isn't allowed to drown the voice of ordinary voters.

Report: Senate Report on CIA Will Sidestep Look at Bush 'Torture Team'

According to sources who spoke with McClatchy, five-year inquiry into agency's torture regime ignores key role played by Bush administration officials who authorized the abuse

by Jon Queally, staff writer

According to new reporting by McClatchy, the five-year investigation led by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee into the torture program conducted by the CIA in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 will largely ignore the role played by high-level Bush administration officials, including those on the White House legal team who penned memos that ultimately paved the way for the torture's authorization.

Though President Obama has repeatedly been criticized for not conducting or allowing a full review of the torture that occured during his predecessor's tenure, the Senate report—which has been completed, but not released—has repeatedly been cited by lawmakers and the White House as the definitive examination of those policies and practices. According to those with knowledge of the report who spoke with McClatchy, however, the review has quite definite limitations.

Paul Krugman: Sins, Both Moral and Intellectual

When the going gets tough, the people losing the argument start whining about civility. I often find myself attacked as someone who believes that anyone with a different opinion is a fool or a knave. As I've tried to explain, however, this is mainly about selection bias. I don't spend much time on areas where reasonable people can disagree, because there are so many important issues where one side really is completely unreasonable.

Obviously someone can disagree with my side and still be a good person. On the other hand, there are a lot of bad people engaged in economic debate - and I don't mean that they're wrong; I mean that they're arguing in bad faith.

Leaked TPP Chapter Exposes Sweet Deals for Big Pharma and US Bully Tactics

U.S. pushing rules that 'favor big corporate right holders, and undermine the public’s freedom to use knowledge,' intellectual property expert says

byDeirdre Fulton, staff writer

WikiLeaks on Thursday released a second updated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Intellectual Property Rights chapter, charging that it will hinder affordable access to medicines globally, increase online surveillance, and impinge on civil liberties while benefiting Big Pharma and other corporate interests.

"Our first impression in reading the document is the extent to which the United States has sought hundreds of changes in intellectual property norms, some small and subtle, others blunt and aggressive, nearly of all of which favor big corporate right holders, and undermine the public’s freedom to use knowledge," declared James Love of Knowledge Ecology International.

In the U.S., Downward Mobility and Vulnerability Is a Widely Shared Experience

By Joseph Stiglitz

October 14, 2014 | NEW YORK -- Two new studies show, once again, the magnitude of the inequality problem plaguing the United States. The first, the U.S. Census Bureau's annual income and poverty report [2], shows that, despite the economy's supposed recovery from the Great Recession, ordinary Americans' incomes continue to stagnate. Median household income, adjusted for inflation, remains below its level a quarter century ago.

It used to be thought that America's greatest strength was not its military power, but an economic system that was the envy of the world. But why would others seek to emulate an economic model by which a large proportion -- even a majority -- of the population has seen their income stagnate while incomes at the top have soared?

Conservatives continue to get Iraqi WMD story wrong

10/15/14 10:21 AM——Updated 10/15/14 04:16 PM

Steve Benen

The New York Times has a powerful, front-page article today on Iraqi chemical weapons from the Saddam Hussein era. It’s an impressive piece of investigative journalism from C.J. Chivers – which the right is unwisely seizing on for reasons that don’t make sense.

The article itself doesn’t need embellishment. As Jessica Schulberg summarized, the Times’ report reveals that “between 2004-2011, American troops fighting in the Iraq War found over 5,000 chemical warheads, shells, and aviation bombs. The discoveries were never publicly disclosed by the military; U.S. soldiers who were exposed to nerve agents like sarin and mustard gas while attempting to remove conventional weapons were denied appropriate medical care and ordered to remain silent about yet another miscalculation of the Iraq War. “

How Economists With Bad Ideas Wreck Your Life, America's Economy, and the World

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

Corruption of the Health Care Delivery System

Higher Integrity Health Care for Evidence-Based Decision Making

LEBANON, NH – The foundation of evidence-based research has eroded and the trend must be reversed so patients and clinicians can make wise shared decisions about their health, say Dartmouth researchers in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Drs. Glyn Elwyn and Elliott Fisher of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice are authors of the report in which they highlight five major problems set against a backdrop of “obvious corruption.” There is a dearth of transparent research and a low quality of evidence synthesis. The difficulty of obtaining research funding for comparative effectiveness studies is directly related to the prominence of industry-supported trials: “finance dictates the activity.”

The Stock Market Has Lost Confidence in Central Banks as Gods

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: October 14, 2014

Yes, there is a wall of worry that the stock market is no longer climbing but is now descending. The greatest worry, that makes all others pale in comparison, is that the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, has nothing left in its monetary arsenal but one bullet – Fed-Speak, otherwise known as spin.

After three bond buying programs known as Quantitative Easing (QE) flooded Wall Street with bountiful amounts of play money while failing to significantly lift wages or economic growth, the U.S. central bank now has a balance sheet that has quadrupled since the 2008 crisis to $4.4 trillion. That it would be allowed to engage in QE4 in the next crisis is highly doubtful since QEs have proven to be financial bubble makers, income inequality makers and of little help to the average citizen.

Top 25 Most Censored Stories of 2013-2014

The presentation of the 2013-2014 Top 25 stories extends the tradition originated by Professor Carl Jensen and his Sonoma State University students in 1976, while reflecting how the expansion of the Project to include affiliate faculty and students from campuses across the country has made the Project even more diverse and robust. During this year’s cycle, Project Censored reviewed 237 Validated Independent News stories (VINs) representing the collective efforts of 260 college students and 49 professors from 18 college and university campuses that participate in our affiliate program.

Paul Krugman: Revenge of the Unforgiven

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The world economy appears to be stumbling. For a while, things seemed to be looking up, and there was talk about green shoots of recovery. But now growth is stalling, and the specter of deflation looms.

If this story sounds familiar, it should; it has played out repeatedly since 2008. As in previous episodes, the worst news is coming from Europe, but this time there is also a clear slowdown in emerging markets — and there are even warning signs in the United States, despite pretty good job growth at the moment.

Study: Only 58 percent of votes cast on tamper-resistant systems counted

A Rice University study of tamper-resistant voting methods revealed that only 58 percent of ballots were successfully cast across three voting systems. The researchers concluded additional work is needed to make voting both secure and user-friendly.

The study, "Usability of Voter Verifiable, End-to-End Voting Systems: Baseline Data for Helios, Prêt à Voter and Scantegrity II," examined three new end-to-end voting systems – systems that give voters the option to both verify the system is working properly and to check that their votes have been recorded after leaving the polling place.

Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Campaign to Dismantle the Post Office

run75441 | October 12, 2014 10:00 pm
Guest Post by Steve Hutkins a literature professor who teaches “place studies” at the Gallatin School of New York University.
This is Part 1 in a series of 3 articles as written by Steve Hutkins in 2012. These articles originally appeared on the “Save The Post Office Blog”. Steve lives in a small town in New York’s Hudson Valley. He has no affiliation with the U.S. Postal Service—he doesn’t work for it, nor does anyone in his family. Like millions of Americans, he just likes his local post office, and he doesn’t want to see post offices being closed.

The leaders of the Postal Service have made no secret of their plans for reforming the postal system. They have issued white papers, given speeches, presented “optimization” programs, and appeared before Congressional committees. The plans are clear: eliminate the layoff protections in union contracts; cut the career workforce by nearly half while tripling the number of non-career workers; reduce service standards for first-class mail; do away with Saturday delivery; give management control of workers’ benefit plans; consolidate over 250 processing plants; and close 15,000 post offices.

Billions set aside for post-Saddam Iraq turns up in Lebanese bunker

Rory Carroll, The Guardian
12 Oct 2014 at 19:08 ET
Stuart Bowen, who investigated corruption in Iraq, says US and Iraqi governments ignored appeals to recover money
More than $1bn earmarked for the reconstruction of Iraq was stolen and spirited to a bunker in Lebanon as the American and Iraqi governments ignored appeals to recover the money, it has been claimed.

Stuart Bowen, a former special inspector general who investigated corruption and waste in Iraq, said the stash accounted for a significant chunk of the huge sums which vanished during the chaotic months following the 2003 US-led invasion.

Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century

Monday, 13 October 2014 00:00
By Jonathan D. Simon, Truthout | News Analysis
Is it futile to combat computerized vote-counting fraud, given the more general disenfranchisement of the American public? This and the emerging battlefield of corporate versus public interest is explored in this adapted excerpt from "CODE RED" by Jonathan D. Simon.
Many despairing observers of The New American Century have asked me whether - given the recent revelations about NSA surveillance, along with other signs that American democracy is deteriorating irrespective of which party governs - an honest vote counting system would even matter anymore. A fair question to which I believe the ultimate, if uneasy, answer is "Yes."

There was a brief glimpse during the Occupy movement of what public anger at American Systemic Injustice might come to if it found a way to assemble, to come out of its isolated private homes and apartments and shelters and cubicles into the public squares of the nation. It was a powerful image, one that so shook US rulers in their corporate and governmental corridors of power that they soon resorted to a federally-coordinated blitzkrieg to empty those squares and kill Occupy before it multiplied any further and before the Bastille was in any real danger.

Private Donors Supply Spy Gear to Cops

There’s little public scrutiny when private donors pay to give police controversial technology and weapons. Sometimes, companies are donors to the same foundations that purchase their products for police.

by Ali Winston and Darwin Bond Graham, Special to ProPublica, Oct. 13, 2014, 8 a.m.

In 2007, as it pushed to build a state-of-the-art surveillance facility, the Los Angeles Police Department cast an acquisitive eye on software being developed by Palantir, a startup funded in part by the Central Intelligence Agency's venture capital arm.

Originally designed for spy agencies, Palantir's technology allowed users to track individuals with unprecedented reach, connecting information from conventional sources like crime reports with more controversial data gathered by surveillance cameras and license plate readers that automatically, and indiscriminately, photographed passing cars.

The LAPD could have used a small portion of its multibillion-dollar annual budget to purchase the software, but that would have meant going through a year-long process requiring public meetings, approval from the City Council, and, in some cases, competitive bidding.

Voiceprints Being Harvested by the Millions

LONDON — Oct 13, 2014, 3:10 PM ET
By RAPHAEL SATTER Associated Press

Over the telephone, in jail and online, a new digital bounty is being harvested: the human voice.

Businesses and governments around the world increasingly are turning to voice biometrics, or voiceprints, to pay pensions, collect taxes, track criminals and replace passwords.

"We sometimes call it the invisible biometric," said Mike Goldgof, an executive at Madrid-based AGNITiO, one of about 10 leading companies in the field.

The Deficit Is Down and the Deficit Hawks Are Furious

Monday, 13 October 2014 00:00
By Dean Baker, Truthout | Op-Ed

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the deficit for the 2014 fiscal year that just ended was $460 billion, considerably lower than they had previously projected. This puts the deficit at 2.7 percent of GDP. At that level, the size of the debt relative to the economy is actually falling.

Not only is the deficit down sharply from its levels of 2009 and 2010, when it was near 10 percent of GDP, it is below the levels that even the deficit hawks had targeted back in those years. In other words, even if we had followed the lead of deficit crusaders like Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the deficit would be no lower today.

If anyone thought this would make the deficit hawks happy, they are badly mistaken. They are furious.

Thomas Frank: EXCLUSIVE: Elizabeth Warren on Barack Obama: “They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over and over”

"There has not been nearly enough change," she tells Salon, taking on Obama failures, lobbyists, tuition. So 2016?

Senator Elizabeth Warren scarcely requires an introduction. She is the single most exciting Democrat currently on the national stage.

Her differentness from the rest of the political profession is stark and obvious. It extends from her straightforward clarity on economic issues to the energetic way she talks. I met her several years ago when she was taking time out from her job teaching at Harvard to run the Congressional Oversight Panel, which was charged with supervising how the bank bailout money was spent. I discovered on that occasion not only that we agreed on many points of policy, but that she came originally from Oklahoma, the state immediately south of the one where I grew up, and also that high school debate had been as important for her as it had been for me.

Gaius Publius: Are Democratic Leaders Already “Tea Partying” The Progressives?

As documented frequently by Howie Klein and others, Steve Israel, the DCCC, and to a lesser extent the DSCC, have been disasters for the Democratic Party, if “success” means “taking or keeping control of Congress” and “disaster” means “failing to try to do that.” These Democratic train wrecks have been well document on these pages– for example, here and here. But click any link tagged “Steve Israel” or “DSCC” to get the gist.

You also know that corporate-aligned Democrats, including most party leaders and many who work with them, are more than eager to excoriate any progressives who dare to consider forcing neoliberal Dems out of office, especially if hurting neoliberals also hurts party chances in elections. Attacking the party from the left and attacking neoliberal rule of the party are cardinal sins, almost hanging offenses. The venom goes very deep.

They won, we lost: How corruption became America’s national pastime

How the nation's corporate elite "extorts hard working people for their own political and financial gains"
Janine Wedel

What does “SWIMNUT” know that the world’s supposed experts on corruption or the elites who gather each year for skiing and schmoozing in Davos do not?

This anonymous commenter was responding to an online article about the 2013 ranking of the world’s most corrupt countries, as measured by the best-known international arbiter of corruption, the organization Transparency International. In TI’s survey, the experts canvassed perceive Somalia, North Korea, and Afghanistan as the worst transgressors. But “SWIMNUT” sees it differently:

Not quite sure how corruption is defined but I think the US needs to be included as one of the most corrupt “civilized” countries in the world. . . . In the US . . . we have created a political elite that extorts hard working people for their own political and financial gains.

“SWIMNUT” wasn’t the lone voice of skepticism.

This Alabama Judge Has Figured Out How to Dismantle Roe v. Wade

His writings fuel the biggest threat to abortion rights in a generation.

by Nina Martin October 10, 2014

In 2005, the Witherspoon School of Law and Public Policy held a conference in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The school’s name was something of a misnomer: Rather than grant JDs, Witherspoon staged seminars and lectures offering lessons in what it summarized as “the comprehensive biblical foundation for our common law and constitutional government.” Its target audience was homeschooled young men. The school itself was a project of Vision Forum, a Texas-based ministry whose founder was also a leader in the Christian Patriarchy movement, which preaches, among other things, that husbands should vote for their wives.

Most sitting judges would go to great pains to avoid such a gathering. But Tom Parker, then a few months into his first term on the Alabama Supreme Court, gladly accepted an invitation to speak at that year’s Witherspoon retreat. Before his election to Alabama’s highest court, Parker had been an aide-de-camp to Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose installation of a granite Ten Commandments monument in the state judiciary building had touched off what became for Alabama both a considerable embarrassment and a genuine constitutional crisis. At Parker’s swearing-in, he made it clear that he had sought the bench to continue his old boss’s spiritual fight.

Teenager's mysterious death evokes painful imagery in North Carolina: 'It's in the DNA of America'

Police say they have no evidence of foul play in the hanging death of black teenager Lennon Lacy. But in a case with disturbing racial overtones, his family are left with haunting questions

Ed Pilkington in Bladenboro

Friday 29 August was a big day for Lennon Lacy. His high school football team, the West Bladen Knights, were taking on the West Columbus Vikings and Lacy, 17, was determined to make his mark. He’d been training all summer for the start of the season, running up and down the bleachers at the school stadium wearing a 65lb exercise jacket. Whenever his mother could afford it, he borrowed $7 and spent the day working out at the Bladenboro gym, building himself up to more than 200lbs. As for the future, he had it all planned out: this year he’d become a starting linebacker on the varsity team, next year he’d earn a scholarship to play football in college, and four years after that he’d achieve the dream he’d harboured since he was a child – to make it in the NFL.

“He was real excited,” said his Knights team-mate Anthony White, also 17, recalling the days leading up to the game. “He said he was looking forward to doing good in the game.”

GOP’s scheme to frighten America: 4-point plan of Ebola, Secret Service, Border, ISIS

How Republicans plan to shoehorn fear over 4 very loosely related things through a lens of White House incompetence

Jim Newell

Let whoever said the GOP has no message or plan heading into the final weeks of the election season be damned. They have a plan alright. And no, it’s not this cheap strip of single-ply toilet paper that Reince Priebus distributed last week. It is not Reince Priebus’s list of such specific agenda items as “have big economy good” and “more Constitution.” No one — no one — cared about that. The real message, the real plan, is four-pronged, a bit hazy, dumb, yeah, sure, but artistic and masterful all the same.

The GOP’s strategy for the last month of the campaign is Ebola, Secret Service, ISIS, and the Border. You take any combination of these disparate news events, connect them or don’t as you see fit, and somehow distill your concoction into an argument for why more Republicans should serve in the United States Senate.

The fatal attraction of lead

By Laurence Knight

For millennia lead has held a deep attraction for painters, builders, chemists and winemakers - but historically it's also done untold harm, especially to children. And while it's been banned in petrol, your car still contains several kilograms of it. So have we finally learned how to use lead safely?

Element number 82 is one of a handful that mankind has known for millennia. The oldest pure lead, found in Turkey, was made by early smelters more than 8,000 years ago.

Why is Preet Bharara, the 'scourge of Wall Street', taking a friendly tone towards mortgage bankers?

Preet Bharara, the prosecutor with a legendary record of convicting insider trading cases, says people should lay off Wall Street for the crisis

David Dayen, Friday 10 October 2014 08.00 EDT

Here’s something you don’t expect to hear from a man who made his reputation by jailing bankers and becoming the “scourge of Wall Street”: ask him if fraud existed during the mortgage crisis and his answer is “the evidence is not there.”

The words come from Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, who prosecuted more Wall Streeters for insider trading than anyone who came before him. Worth magazine this week named Bharara at the top of its “100 Most Powerful People in Finance”. Bharara seems to like his high profile, and appears to be gunning for an even bigger one: he suggested that the new US attorney general of the United States should share all of the priorities of Bharara’s own office.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Paul Krugman: Secret Deficit Lovers

What if they balanced the budget and nobody knew or cared?

O.K., the federal budget hasn’t actually been balanced. But the Congressional Budget Office has tallied up the totals for fiscal 2014, which ran through the end of September, and reports that the deficit plunge of the past several years continues. You still hear politicians ranting about “trillion dollar deficits,” but last year’s deficit was less than half-a-trillion dollars — or, a more meaningful number, just 2.8 percent of G.D.P. — and it’s still falling.

So where are the ticker-tape parades? For that matter, where are the front-page news reports? After all, talk about the evils of deficits and the grave fiscal danger facing America dominated Washington for years. Shouldn’t we be making a big deal of the fact that the alleged crisis is over?

Corporations Are Trying to Take Away Your Right to Complain About Their Products

By Sage McHugh

Companies do have the right to sue people for disparaging reviews if they are false. The issue at hand is whether a company can sue a client for posting a negative review that is true. As of now, litigation is largely determined on a case-by-case and state-by-state basis.

Mysterious Campaign Appears to be the Latest Salvo in Battle Over Net Neutrality

As the FCC considers how to regulate Internet providers, the telecom industry’s stealth campaign for hearts and minds encompasses everything from art installations to LOLcats. 
This story has been updated to include a comment from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

On a recent Monday evening, two bearded young men in skinny jeans came to a parklet in San Francisco's trendy Hayes Valley neighborhood and mounted what looked like an art installation. It was a bright blue, oversized "suggestion box" for the Internet.

The boxes, sometimes accompanied by young people in futuristic costumes, have been popping up on both coasts for weeks, soliciting messages of support - but their sponsor has been a mystery. The web site for the campaign, Onward Internet, does not say. Their domain registration is private. And the site includes no contact information, only an animated video heavy on millennial lingo: "The internet was made to move data...we got blogs, likes, selfies and memes, OMG, BRB and TTYL."

This Is What Happens When Republicans Try to Destroy Public Education

Zoë Carpenter on October 8, 2014 - 1:24 PM ET

A month out from the midterm elections, Republican candidates around the country are confronting a shared, and significant, vulnerability: education.

The conservative wave of 2010 allowed Republicans to implement slash-and-burn governance in several states—what Kansas Governor Sam Brownback called a “real live experiment” in tax cuts for corporate interests and cuts to services for everyone else. One of the most devastating casualties was public schools and universities.

Now, several Republicans could fall victim to their own experiment. Conservatives are on the defensive in Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin over their records on education. The issue features prominently not only in local and gubernatorial campaigns but also in Senate races that many predicted would be referenda on Barack Obama, not on conservative governance at the state level.

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Washington Wields the Oil Weapon

By Michael Klare
Posted on October 9, 2014, Printed on October 11, 2014

You remember. It was the oiliest of administrations. The president was a (failed) West Texas oilman. The vice-president had been the CEO of the giant oil field services company, Halliburton, and before taking office, when speaking at the Petroleum Institute and elsewhere, was known to say things like, “The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.” The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, long on the board of Chevron, had a double-hulled oil tanker named for her. They were a crew with the global flow of oil and how to control it on the brain. Just in case you forgot, and I know you haven’t, the new vice president had barely taken office and set up an “energy task force” to develop future policy that he himself would chair when a parade of top oil executives began arriving at the White House to meet secretly with it.

And then, after 9/11, came the assault on the oil heartlands of the planet. I’m sure you remember how, amid the chaos of a burning Baghdad, American troops were ordered to guard only the buildings of Iraq’s Oil and Interior Ministries, and… well, I don’t really have to review all of that for you, do I? Then, of course, Americans put into office the guy who swore he was going to end oil wars and attend to our global warming future instead -- a fellow named Barack Obama who, everyone knew, would step into office without an oil slick in his head.

Wait. So THAT’S what the bailouts were about?

Matt Stoller

One of the reasons that no one went to jail for the elite control fraud that caused the financial crisis is because of the pervasiveness of the criminality. You couldn’t send one guy to jail without having that guy very publicly rat out everyone else. To get to a high level on Wall Street you had to be dirty, like in a corrupt police department. No one trusts the one guy who won’t take bribes. Which brings us to Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former AIG CEO who is now, for lack of a better word, ratting everyone else out.

AIG, of course, is the massive insurance company which was bailed out by the government, with the Fed taking an 80% ownership stake in 2008. The AIG bailout was a strange deal, and it was renegotiated many times over the years. In a normal clean financial company resolution, AIG shareholders would have gotten wiped out. In the bailouts for Goldman, Morgan Stanley, and most of the big banks, shareholders got to keep their shares. AIG shareholders, by contrast, got to keep a little bit of what they had, a sort of split the baby in half deal. Hank Greenberg, as a shareholder, is extremely angry that he was treated this way. He thinks that he was not given equal treatment to Goldman shareholders, and in that he’s right. Most of us think that he should have been wiped out, and Goldman’s shareholders should have been wiped out too, so there’s little sympathy for this very rich man. But it’s utterly true, and everyone (even the most bank-friendly journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin) is acknowledging that it is true, that the government treated AIG shareholders differently. Greenberg is alleging, with good reason, that the motive here was quite sordid.

Dean Baker: The Good News and Bad News About 5.9 Percent Unemployment

The jobs report on Friday showed the economy created 248,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate fell below 6.0 percent for the first time since the early days of the recession. This is good news for workers. While we are still far from anything resembling full employment, it is getting easier for people to find jobs.

If the economy keeps creating jobs at this pace, workers will finally have enough bargaining power to see some real wage gains, thereby getting their share of the benefits of economic growth. But this is also the bad news in the story. There are many powerful people who want to keep these wage gains from happening.

Masaccio: The Shaky Foundation of Neoliberal Economics – Life-Cycle Savings

Posted on by Yves Smith

Yves here. Readers may know that we regularly savage neoliberal economics, which we often refer to as “mainstream economics.” For instance, that’s why we so often take aim at Paul Krugman, who despite his leftist inclinations, never takes them very far because he is intellectually hostage to a flawed, destructive orthodoxy.

We wrote an entire book, ECONNED, devoted to what is wrong with neoliberal economics and how fealty to its precepts produced the global financial crisis. Other economists, such as Steve Keen in his Debunking Economics, have provided even more exhaustive critiques.

The Five-Point Plan Used to Justify Fighting Wars Is Being Deployed in Media Again

Monday, 06 October 2014 10:18  
By John Jewell, The Conversation | News Analysis 

A few hours before the UK’s first air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq, the home secretary, Theresa May, warned the Tory party conference that IS could become the "world’s first truly terrorist state".

May said that IS could realise the “often-prophesied” threat of attacking western enemies with chemical and nuclear weapons. Interesting because, as this conflict has approached, the government has been using the same techniques and devices of propaganda and persuasion that were brought out to justify the Iraq war of 2003, the removal of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011 and the proposed attacks on the Assad regime in Syria in 2013.

If you look back at recent conflicts, and those in the Middle East in particular, the same arguments are made. There is essentially a five-point plan that can be used to justify foreign intervention of most kinds.

When ‘Redefining Marriage’ Meant That Women Had To Be Treated Like Human Beings

Posted on  
“The very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.”
-Sir William Blackstone, 1765
On Monday, the Supreme Court brought the legal battle over marriage equality just inches from a conclusion. By refusing to review several court decisions holding that the Constitution requires gay couples to be treated the same way as straight ones, the justices effectively increased the number of states where same sex marriage is legal to 30. This is the way marriage discrimination ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.

Yet, while total victory for the forces of marriage equality now seems inevitable, supporters of discrimination are unlikely to give up without one final fight. Nor should there be any doubt how opponents of equality plan to defend what remains of marriage discrimination. “[T]he ‘marriage’ that has long been recognized by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right is distinct from the newly proposed relationship of a ‘same-sex marriage,’” according to an opinion by Judge Paul Niemeyer, one of just three federal judges who concluded that marriage discrimination is permissible under the Constitution. When gay people marry, Niemeyer’s argument presumes, they form a fundamentally different bond than the one that exists in a straight couple, and thus it is permissible for the law to treat same-sex couples differently because their marriages are entirely unlike opposite-sex couples’ marriages.

Glenn Greenwald: Key Democrats, Led by Hillary Clinton, Leave No doubt that Endless War is Official U.S. Doctrine

Long before Americans were introduced to the new 9/11 era super-villains called ISIS and Khorasan, senior Obama officials were openly and explicitly stating that America’s “war on terror,” already 12 years old, would last at least another decade. At first, they injected these decrees only anonymously; in late 2012, The Washington Post - disclosing the administration’s secret creation of a “disposition matrix” to decide who should be killed, imprisoned without charges, or otherwise “disposed” of - reported these remarkable facts:
Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaida continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. . . . That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”
In May, 2013, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether it should revise the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF). A committee member asked a senior Pentagon official, Assistant Secretary Michael Sheehan, how long the war on terror would last; his reply: “At least 10 to 20 years.” At least.

Paul Krugman | Conservatives Revive the Canadian Fantasy

Josh Barro tells us in a recent New York Times article that conservatives are once again touting Canada as a role model, in particular using the country's experience in the 1990s to claim that austerity is expansionary after all.

I think this qualifies as a "cockroach" idea ("zombie" ideas just keep shambling along, whereas sometimes you think you've gotten rid of cockroaches, but they keep coming back). I thought we had disposed of all this four years ago. But nooooo.

The most important national-security secrets case you've never heard of

Your phone records, your credit-card bills, your internet trail – the government has the power to summon it all on-demand, without telling you. Until now

Trevor Timm, Wednesday 8 October 2014 07.45 EDT

The most consequential civil liberties case in years is being argued before three judges in California on Wednesday, and it has little to do with the NSA but everything to do with taking away your privacy in the name of vague and unsubstantiated “national security” claims.

The landmark case revolves around National Security Letters (NSLs), the pernicious tool for surveillance-on-demand that the FBI has used with reckless abandon since 9/11 – almost completely hidden from public view, even though they’re used to view the public’s private information. To wit, NSLs allow the FBI to demand all sorts of your stuff from internet, telephone, banking and credit-card companies without any prior sign-off from a judge or their unwitting customers. Worse, companies are served a gag order, making it illegal for them not only to tell you which of your info is being pulled – but to tell the public they’ve received such a request at all.

Why the GOP hates U.S. history: Inconvenient truths that freak out American conservatives

The right is losing its mind over new testing standards that aren't "patriotic" enough. Time for a history lesson!

Sean McElwee

Conservative hero Ben Carson is worried about American teenagers joining ISIS. But it’s not because of “radical Islam.” It’s because of new high school history standards.

American’s right wing, you see, is terrified of history because it is always sentimentalizing it. Many of its arguments rely on a feeling of nostalgia for “good old days,” that appeals almost exclusively to aging whites. That means that a more accurate history, one that considers groups that are traditionally marginalized — women, people of color, Native Americans, immigrants and the poor — don’t necessarily sit that well. Their stories, the stories of the downtrodden, crush the false narrative that many conservatives like to imagine — that of a idyllic past marred by the New Deal, women’s liberation and civil rights.

The Glaring Falsehood That Could Steal Health Care Away From Millions Of Americans

by Ian Millhiser, Posted on October 6, 2014 at 9:04 am

A lawsuit that will cause the structure of Obamacare to “crumble,” according to a state attorney general who is one of the lawsuit’s leading proponents, rests on a falsehood about how one former senator helped shape the act. Nevertheless, a minority of the judges to consider the issues presented by this case, all of whom are Republicans, have already embraced the lawsuit’s legal theory and called for millions of Americans to be stripped of their health insurance. The latest volley in this effort to gut Obamacare was fired on Friday, when three lawyers leading the effort to strip so many Americans of their health care filed their latest brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a case known as Halbig v. Burwell.

Paul Krugman: Why Weren't Alarm Bells Ringing?

Almost nobody predicted the immense economic crisis that overtook the United States and Europe in 2008. If someone claims that he did, ask how many other crises he predicted that didn’t end up happening. Stopped clocks are right twice a day, and chronic doomsayers sometimes find themselves living through doomsday.

But while prediction is hard, especially about the future, this doesn’t let our economic policy elite off the hook. On the eve of crisis in 2007 the officials, analysts, and pundits who shape economic policy were deeply, wrongly complacent. They didn’t see 2008 coming; but what is more important is the fact that they even didn’t believe in the possibility of such a catastrophe. As Martin Wolf says in The Shifts and the Shocks, academics and policymakers displayed “ignorance and arrogance” in the runup to crisis, and “the crisis became so severe largely because so many people thought it impossible.”

Not on a Social Network? You’ve Still Got a Privacy Problem

By Robert McMillan, 10.06.14 | 6:30 am

We already know that if you use an online social network, you give up a serious slice of your privacy thanks to the omnivorous way companies like Google and Facebook gather your personal data. But new academic research offers a glimpse of what these companies may be learning about people who don’t use their massive web services. And it’s a bit scary.

Because they couldn’t get their hands on data from the likes of Facebook or LinkedIn, the researchers studied publicly available data archived from an older social network, Friendster. They found that if Friendster had used certain state-of-the-art prediction algorithms, it could have divined sensitive information about non-members, including their sexual orientation. “At the time, it was possible for Friendster to predict the sexual orientation of people who did not have an account on Friendster,” says David Garcia, a postdoctoral researcher with Switzerland’s ETH Zurich university, who co-authored the study.

Jim Hightower: Let Them Eat Tips

Just when you thought the plutocratic profiteers running America’s exploitative, low-wage economy couldn’t get any more clueless, self-serving, pious, and mingy — along comes Lady Maria of Marriott, magnanimously saying: “Let them eat tips.”

Marriott International supports the political notion that America is divided between a few noble “makers” (like them) and a mass of “takers” (you, me, and the rest of us). Its approximately 4,000 hotels in 78 countries and territories have more than 690,000 rooms and operate under 18 different brand names that range from plebeian chains like Fairfield Inn & Suites to the luxury Ritz-Carlton properties.

Paul Krugman: Voodoo Economics, the Next Generation

Even if Republicans take the Senate this year, gaining control of both houses of Congress, they won’t gain much in conventional terms: They’re already able to block legislation, and they still won’t be able to pass anything over the president’s veto. One thing they will be able to do, however, is impose their will on the Congressional Budget Office, heretofore a nonpartisan referee on policy proposals.

As a result, we may soon find ourselves in deep voodoo.

Richard Eskow: Seven Revelations From Those Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes

The secret Goldman Sachs tapes released this week by ProPublica and This American Life are attracting a lot of attention, and rightly so. They were clandestinely recorded by Carmen Segarra, an investigator for the New York Federal Reserve Bank who was eventually fired – either for being uncooperative or, as she says and the tapes suggest, for attempting to be a strong regulator.

Financial cases can seem complicated, especially in situations when there are multiple parties involved. But the reality that is revealed in these tapes is clear enough, and can be summarized in seven takeaways:

A Look Inside the Fake Abortion Clinics That Are Greatly Outnumbering Real Ones

By Alyssa Figueroa

October 3, 2014 | When Rachel called a crisis pregnancy center located in Texas, she told the receptionist she was facing an unwanted pregnancy and wanted to explore her options. The woman on the phone responded by saying Rachel should come in for a free sonogram to “see her baby.”

Rachel went to the center and a volunteer asked her if she was planning to have an abortion. Rachel said she was still thinking through her decision. The volunteer then stepped out of the room and came back with another woman who introduced herself as a missionary. This woman told Rachel that the Bible says abortion is wrong. She pulled out a brochure titled “A Woman’s Right to Know” and proceeded to read abortion death rates.

Bill Black Discusses “Too Big to Jail” on Bill Moyers

Posted on by Yves Smith

Bill Black gives one of his best recaps ever of the “too big to jail” syndrome on Bill Moyers. For readers who missed the story, Black gave critical testimony in a Federal prosecution of small fry mortgage fraudsters. He helped persuaded the jury that in fact no fraud took place because the banks were willing to underwrite any predatory, poorly underwritten loan in the runup to the crisis. Black savages the posture of the Department of Justice in this case and in general:

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Yeah, the saying in the savings and loan debacle is you never wanted to be the guy that was chasing mice while lions roamed the campsite. So the mice are these alleged tiny frauds type of thing, where they ignore the lions, who are the CEOs of the banks and such.

BILL MOYERS: And the jury said, no, it’s the lions.

The great charter school rip-off: Finally, the truth catches up to education “reform” phonies

Fraud, financial mismanagement, lousy results: Reports highlight awful charter schools and people are catching on

Jeff Bryant

Last week when former President Bill Clinton meandered onto the topic of charter schools, he mentioned something about an “original bargain” that charters were, according to the reporter for The Huffington Post, “supposed to do a better job of educating students.”

A writer at Salon called the remark “stunning” because it brought to light the fact that the overwhelming majority of charter schools do no better than traditional public schools. Yet, as the Huffington reporter reminded us, charter schools are rarely shuttered for low academic performance.

But what’s most remarkable about what Clinton said is how little his statement resembles the truth about how charters have become a reality in so many American communities.

Vietnam’s Neuroscientific Legacy

By Emily Anthes

In 1967, William F. Caveness, a neurologist and veteran of the Korean War, began building a registry of living soldiers who had suffered head trauma in Vietnam. Studies of veterans of the Second World War had suggested that penetrating head injuries could cause seizures, and Caveness, who had documented post-traumatic epilepsy in soldiers injured during the Korean War, was eager to understand more about this connection. “He saw that the Vietnam War was heating up, and he wanted to study some American combat veterans who suffered penetrating brain injuries and survived,” said Jordan Grafman, the director of brain-injury research at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Caveness, the chief of the Laboratory of Experimental Neurology at the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, asked military field surgeons to fill out a form whenever they treated an American soldier with a head injury. The doctors would note the date, time, and geographic location of each injury, and whether the soldier had been wearing a helmet when he was wounded. They would mark the position of the wound on a diagram of a human head, as well as record a heap of clinical information: What was the patient’s pulse, blood pressure, and temperature? Had he lost consciousness, sight, or speech? Could he respond to pain or commands? Were all his reflexes intact?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Paul Krugman: Depression Denial Syndrome

Last week, Bill Gross, the so-called bond king, abruptly left Pimco, the investment firm he had managed for decades. People who follow the financial industry were shocked but not exactly surprised; tales of internal troubles at Pimco had been all over the papers. But why should you care?

The answer is that Mr. Gross’s fall is a symptom of a malady that continues to afflict major decision-makers, public and private. Call it depression denial syndrome: the refusal to acknowledge that the rules are different in a persistently depressed economy.

The Country Simply Can't Go On Like This

By Charles P. Pierce on October 3, 2014

There is someone with Ebola in quarantine down in Texas. It seems as though hospital personnel down there screwed the pooch fairly thoroughly when the man first showed up at the ER with a fever. It also seems as though the response of the officials in Dallas has been less than adequate, at least so far.
In the latest indication, state and local authorities confirmed Thursday that a week after a Liberian man fell ill with Ebola in Dallas, and four days after he was placed in isolation at a hospital here, the apartment where he was staying with four other people had not been sanitized and the sheets and dirty towels he used while sick remained in the home. County officials visited the apartment without protection Wednesday night. The officials said it had been difficult to find a contractor willing to enter the apartment to clean it and remove bedding and clothes, which they said had been bagged in plastic. They said they now had hired a firm that would do the work soon. The Texas health commissioner, Dr. David Lakey, told reporters during an afternoon news conference that officials had encountered "a little bit of hesitancy" in seeking a firm to clean the apartment.
This reminds me of the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when undertakers refused to bury the dead, and emergency workers were afraid to treat people after automobile accidents and commonplace domestic catastrophes. Which is to say this isn't surprising at all.

Rising Tides Lift All Yachts: Why the 1% Grabs all the Gains From Growth

By L. Randall Wray

You’ve probably seen references to the work of my colleague (and former student), Pavlina Tcherneva in recent days.


The NYT article includes links to her published article in the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, the first issue edited by me and my Levy Institute colleague Jan Kregel. Pavlina also presented her results at the just finished International Post Keynesian Conference at UMKC.


Back to the topic at hand. Rising Tides Don’t Lift All Boats. Who wudduva thought?

Aids: Origin of pandemic 'was 1920s Kinshasa'

By James Gallagher Health editor, BBC News website

The origin of the Aids pandemic has been traced to the 1920s in the city of Kinshasa, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, scientists say.

An international team of scientists say a "perfect storm" of population growth, sex and railways allowed HIV to spread.

A feat of viral archaeology was used to find the pandemic's origin, the team report in the journal Science.

They used archived samples of HIV's genetic code to trace its source, with evidence pointing to 1920s Kinshasa.

Gaius Publius: To guarantee a living wage, make government the employer of last resort

I recently wrote about an interview I had with economist and professor Stephanie Kelton at Netroots Nation this year.

The context was “Five Questions” and the talk ranged from climate and “burnable carbon” to what led her to become a leading light of the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) school of economics.

(For a quick look at what MMT economists think, click the link above, or see my own lay-friendly explanation.)

Meet the Budget-Slashing, Job-Killing GOP Governors Who've Ruined Their States

By Joe Conason

The problem isn't that these governors failed to implement their promised panaceas of tax cutting, union busting and budget slashing, all in the name of economic recovery; some did all three. The problem is that those policies have failed to deliver the improving jobs and incomes that were supposed to flow from "conservative" governance. In fact, too often the result wasn't at all truly conservative, at least in the traditional sense -- as excessive and imbalanced tax cuts, skewed to benefit the wealthy, led to ruined budgets and damaged credit ratings.

Dave Johnson: Reagan Set Up The Death Of The Middle Class, But China Was The Clincher

Our 2010 Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series, especially the post Reagan Revolution Home To Roost — In Charts described the beginning of the great decoupling of the American economy from the middle class.

Four Other Lawyer Whistleblowers are Essential at the Carmen Segarra Senate Witness Table

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: October 1, 2014

Wall Street’s crime spree has been coming at the public for the past six years like a geyser spewing from a broken water main. It’s been tough for the public to keep tract of the twists and turns, and equally so for Congress.

What has been lost in all the media frenzy over the tapes released by Carmen Segarra, an attorney and bank examiner at the New York Fed who was fired for wanting to hold Goldman Sachs accountable, according to her lawsuit, is that four other regulatory lawyers have stepped forward from 2006 to earlier this year to report that their Wall Street regulator has been captured. In the case of those four, the captured regulator is the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Wall Street’s P.R. whopper: How its big new lie can trigger another crisis

Hoping to gut regulations in the housing market, big banks are pushing a new line. The problem is who's buying it

David Dayen

In the wake of Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation last week, a former Obama administration official made an incredible statement. The Washington Post reported that Jim Parrott, who advised the Obama White House on housing policy during the first term, said Holder’s “tough” enforcement actions on big banks harmed the economy, with the implication that his replacement should just back off.

First of all, the idea that Eric Holder led a hard-charging onslaught against bank malfeasance is a fantasy. The Justice Department never led one top executive to jail for the mountain of fraud that caused the Great Recession, and much of the misconduct that was never fixed continues to this day. Big banks were so wounded by the DoJ crackdown that their stock prices rose whenever they announced a settlement.

Dave Johnson: Oil Cos. Trying To Use Trade Treaty To Bypass Congress And Raise Prices

You may have heard that there is an oil and gas “boom” happening in the US. You might not know that there is a ban on exporting our own oil. This ban is good for the country but bad for oil companies. And the oil industry is attempting an end run around Congress to do something about it.

There is an ongoing “boom” in oil and natural gas production. Production of natural gas is way up. Imports are down about half since 2007. Texas oil production alone has more than doubled since 2011. This increase in domestic oil production has various consequences. We use much of our rail capacity transporting oil to refineries. The increase in natural gas production is pushing coal use down, and lowering carbon emissions as we fight for a transition away from using fossil fuel at all.

New Report: Global Economies May Be on Path to Another Crash

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 30, 2014

Four noted economists have issued a report under the umbrellas of the International Center for Monetary and Banking Studies and the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) that is raising alarm bells at global central banks.

According to the report: “The world is still leveraging up; an overall, global deleveraging process to bring down the total debt-to-GDP ratio – or even to reduce its growth rate – has not yet started. On the contrary, the debt ratio is still rising to all-time highs.”

Chomsky: The Corporate Assault on Public Education

Let’s turn to the assault on education, one element of the general elite reaction to the civilizing effect of the ‘60s. On the right side of the political spectrum, one striking illustration is an influential memorandum written by Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer working for the tobacco industry, later appointed to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon. At the other end of the narrow spectrum, there was an important study by the Trilateral Commission, liberal internationalists from the three major state capitalist industrial systems: the US, Europe and Japan. Both provide good insight into why the assault targets the educational system.

Let's start with the Powell memorandum. Its title is, “The Attack on the American Free-Enterprise System." It is interesting not only for the content, but also for the paranoid tone. For those who take for granted the right to rule, anything that gets out of control means that the world is coming to an end, like a spoiled three-year-old. So the rhetoric tends to be inflated and paranoid.

Chomsky: Corporations and the Richest Americans Viscerally Oppose the Common Good

Whether public education contributes to the Common Good depends, of course, on what kind of education it is, to whom it is available, and what we take to be the Common Good. There’s no need to tarry on the fact that these are highly contested matters, have been throughout history, and continue to be so today.
One of the great achievements of American democracy has been the introduction of mass public education, from children to advanced research universities. And in some respects that leadership position has been maintained. Unfortunately, not all. Public education is under serious attack, one component of the attack on any rational and humane concept of the Common Good, sometimes in ways that are not only shocking, but also spell disaster for the species.
All of this falls within the general assault on the population in the past generation, the so-called “neoliberal era.” I’ll return to these matters, of great significance and import.

The Rise of ISIS and the Origins of the New Middle East War

Tariq Ali: I’m in conversation with Patrick Cockburn, who can  only be described as a veteran reporter and courageous journalist who has covered the wars of the United States in the Middle East since they began with the invasion of Iraq, and was reporting from the region a long time before on the sanctions against Iraq, the Gulf wars. We’re now at a critical stage where a new organisation has emerged.

Patrick has written a new book, The Jihadis Return, which is an extended essay on the emergence of ISIS and its links to the Sunni population in Iraq and the likely consequences of this for the region. Because there’s absolutely no doubt that what this opens up is yet another front in the unending war that has become a total misery for the people who live in the Arab world today. Patrick, let’s begin by sort of inquiring about the origins of the Islamic State group, ISIS as they call themselves, where do they come out from and when did this start? 

Patrick Cockburn: Well they come most immediately from al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was at the height of its influence in 2006 [and] 2007 when it was an element–but not the only element–in the Sunni resistance to a Shia government and the American occupation. Ideologically, it comes out of the Jihadi movement and actually its religious beliefs are not that much different from Saudi Wahhabism, the variant of the Islam which is effectively the state religion of Saudi Arabia with its denigration of Shia as heretics, [along with] Christians and Jews. It’s just carrying these beliefs to a higher and more violent level but it’s very much in the context of the Jihadi movement 

Tariq Ali: Can I just interrupt you there? This Jihadi movement did not exist in Iraq as such prior to the American invasion and occupation.

Walmart Wants to Offer Banking For America’s Poor, Which Is a Really Crappy Idea

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

September 29, 2014 | The FDIC estimates there are 10 million people living in the U.S. who do not have a bank account — that’s one out of every 13 households. Nearly 33 percent of people living in Starr County, TX can’t write a check. In one census district in Savannah, GA, over 42 percent of residents are unbanked. The unbanked are usually poor, often minorities, and find themselves shunned by banks that can’t make money off them. Typically, they end up turning to predatory check cashers and payday lenders. Many also feel a great sense of social division between themselves and those who have bank accounts.

The crash of 2008 exacerbated America’s growing problem of the unbanked, as many people faced financial ruin and the U.S. saw an increase in distrust of the banking industry. Some people have turned to credit unions, but these institutions generally do not actively recruit lower-income clients, many of whom may be unfamiliar with their services.

Thomas Frank: Bernie Sanders: Longterm Democratic strategy is “pathetic”

Senator Bernie Sanders sits down with Salon to talk inequality, the GOP, and whether or not he'll run for president

Bernie Sanders is a legendary political independent from Vermont. Over the years, he has served as mayor of Burlington, the largest city in that state; as a member of the House of Representatives; and (currently) as a United States Senator. We met last week in his office in one of the Senate office buildings in Washington, D.C., and discussed the Clinton years, the way to beat the Right, and whether or not he should run for president in 2016. Needless to say, his take on the current political situation is not exactly the kind of thing you usually hear when you walk the marble halls of the nation’s capital.

This conversation has been lightly edited.

Paul Krugman: Our Invisible Rich

Half a century ago, a classic essay in The New Yorker titled “Our Invisible Poor” took on the then-prevalent myth that America was an affluent society with only a few “pockets of poverty.” For many, the facts about poverty came as a revelation, and Dwight Macdonald’s article arguably did more than any other piece of advocacy to prepare the ground for Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

I don’t think the poor are invisible today, even though you sometimes hear assertions that they aren’t really living in poverty — hey, some of them have Xboxes! Instead, these days it’s the rich who are invisible.

Greenland Ice Sheet more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought

A new model developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge has shown that despite its apparent stability, the massive ice sheet covering most of Greenland is more sensitive to climate change than earlier estimates have suggested, which would accelerate the rising sea levels that threaten coastal communities worldwide.

In addition to assessing the impact of the increasing levels of meltwater created and spilled into the ocean each year as the climate continues to warm, the new model also takes into account the role that the soft, spongy ground beneath the ice sheet plays in its changing dynamics. Details are published today (29 September) in the journal Nature Communications.

Why Voting Machines Are About To Wreak Havoc On Another Election

by Lauren C. Williams, Posted on September 26, 2014 at 11:26 am

In 2012, hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. waited, at first patiently and then with growing frustration, in lines that ventured out the doors and wrapped around street corners. They weren’t waiting more than seven hours in line to buy the new iPhone — they were waiting to vote on an electronic touch-screen machine.

Technology has made life easier, simplifying common tasks such as banking, publishing a book, talking to friends and paying for things online. But when it comes to voting, technology is stuck in 2002. And with the decade-old electronic voting machines that states use falling apart — creating long lines that cause some not vote at all — voters are slowly losing access to their voting rights.

The big “middle class” rip-off: How a short sale taught me rich people’s ethics

So many of us are clueless about business and finance. Here's why that's just the way the investment class likes it

Edwin Lyngar

The closest I ever came to acting like a rich person was two years ago when I short-sold my primary residence. I might have been able to keep it but strategic default made life easier. I owed about $400,000 on a house that short-sold for $150K. The bank lost more than a quarter of a million dollars, and I lost at least $80K in down payment and property improvements. In a short sale the bank agrees to settle debt for the lesser amount and the seller gets nothing but is “punished” by not being able to finance another house for at least two years (rules vary). My moment of acting rich was when I bought a second house before short-selling the first to skirt around the repercussions of my own bad luck.

When the housing market tanked a few years ago, the government rescued every bank and business (even a damned insurance company), while ignoring everyone else. I realized that the game was fatally lopsided, so I didn’t just walk away in middle-class shame, but rather I employed all my (extremely limited) cunning and deviousness to get a similar home before ditching the old one. I was able to cash in on low housing prices from a couple of years ago, coupled with low interest rates, to come out on top. The biggest barrier to getting a great deal was an almost overpowering need to behave like a middle-class sucker.

Paul Krugman: The Show-Off Society

Liberals talk about circumstances; conservatives talk about character.

This intellectual divide is most obvious when the subject is the persistence of poverty in a wealthy nation. Liberals focus on the stagnation of real wages and the disappearance of jobs offering middle-class incomes, as well as the constant insecurity that comes with not having reliable jobs or assets. For conservatives, however, it’s all about not trying hard enough. The House speaker, John Boehner, says that people have gotten the idea that they “really don’t have to work.” Mitt Romney chides lower-income Americans as being unwilling to “take personal responsibility.” Even as he declares that he really does care about the poor, Representative Paul Ryan attributes persistent poverty to lack of “productive habits.”

Ukrainian Squillionare Victor Pinchuk and His Clinton, Brookings, and Peterson Connections

Posted on September 28, 2014 by Lambert Strether

Lambert here: This is gloriously seamy. The true greatness of the American political class is that they’ll all take money from anybody, so you get stories like this one, where the Clintons, Brookings, and Pete Peterson’s talking shop all cheerfully rake in the dough from an innocent Ukrainian pipemaker and art collector whose $700 million new plant produces steel for seamless pipes used in a wide range of products sold in 80 countries, including pipelines. So one can only wonder what he thought he was buying with his money. I mean, besides art.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

What do Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Anders Aslund, Steven Pifer, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and the Brookings Institution have in common? Answer: they drink unpasteurised milk from the Ukraine. Lots of it.

How damaging this may be for the health depends on how Victor Pinchuk (image left, right), the Ukrainian pipemaker, responds to filings in the Moscow Arbitrazh Court. Reported publicly this week, the court papers suggest that through companies registered in Cyprus, Pinchuk milked about $200 million from the Rossiya Insurance Company in Moscow. For the time being, the Russian court action is a civil one, and seeks repayment by Pinchuk’s East One holding and related companies. If Pinchuk doesn’t repay, Cyprus, European Union, and US court action, alleging conspiracy to defraud, is likely to follow. Pinchuk’s innocence should be assumed in the meantime. Drinking raw milk, however, carries a contamination risk.