Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wall Street Pays Bankers to Work in Government and It Doesn't Want Anyone to Know

By David Dayen

Citigroup is one of three Wall Street banks attempting to keep hidden their practice of paying executives multimillion-dollar awards for entering government service. In letters delivered to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the last month, Citi, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley seek exemption from a shareholder proposal, filed by the AFL-CIO labor coalition, which would force them to identify all executives eligible for these financial rewards, and the specific dollar amounts at stake. Critics argue these “golden parachutes” ensure more financial insiders in policy positions and favorable treatment toward Wall Street.

“As shareholders of these banks, we want to know how much money we have promised to give away to senior executives if they take government jobs,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement. “It’s a simple question, but the banks don’t want to answer it. What are they trying to hide?”

Paul Krugman: The Long-Run Cop-Out

On Monday, President Obama will call for a significant increase in spending, reversing the harsh cuts of the past few years. He won’t get all he’s asking for, but it’s a move in the right direction. And it also marks a welcome shift in the discourse. Maybe Washington is starting to get over its narrow-minded, irresponsible obsession with long-run problems and will finally take on the hard issue of short-run gratification instead.

O.K., I’m being flip to get your attention. I am, however, quite serious. It’s often said that the problem with policy makers is that they’re too focused on the next election, that they look for short-term fixes while ignoring the long run. But the story of economic policy and discourse these past five years has been exactly the opposite.

'Suppressed' EU report could have banned pesticides worth billions

Science paper recommended ways of identifying hormone-mimicking chemicals in pesticides linked to foetal abnormalities, genital mutations, infertility and other diseases including cancer

Arthur Neslen

As many as 31 pesticides with a value running into billions of pounds could have been banned because of potential health risks, if a blocked EU paper on hormone-mimicking chemicals had been acted upon, the Guardian has learned.

The science paper, seen by the Guardian, recommends ways of identifying and categorising the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that scientists link to a rise in foetal abnormalities, genital mutations, infertility, and adverse health effects ranging from cancer to IQ loss.

The Global Fight Against Corporate Rule

Activists are challenging rules that grant corporations the right to sue governments.

Robin Broad and John Cavanagh

Over the past several decades, multinational corporate Goliaths have helped to write and rewrite hundreds of rules skewing tax, trade, investment and other policies in their favor. The extraordinary damage these policies have caused has become increasingly apparent to the communities and governments most directly affected by them. This, in turn, has strengthened the potential of a movement that’s emerging to try to reverse the momentum. But just like David with his slingshot, the local, environmental and government leaders seeking to revise rules to favor communities and the planet must pick their battles carefully.

One of the most promising of these battles takes aim at an egregious set of agreements that allow corporations to sue national governments. Until three decades ago, governments could pass laws to protect consumers, workers, health, the environment and domestic firms with little threat of outside legal challenge from corporations. All that changed when corporations started acquiring the “right” to sue governments over actions—including public interest regulations—that reduce the value of their investments. These rights first appeared in little-known bilateral investment treaties. Twenty years ago, corporate lawyers embedded them in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Today, more than 3,000 trade and investment agreements and even some national investment laws grant foreign investors these powers.

We need our own Tea Party: The fight is much more than Hillary v. Warren

The Democratic Party's a corrupt, empty husk. But it offers a way forward if, like Maddow, we have the right debate

Bill Curry

It’s barely 2015 but 2016 is busting out all over. No fewer than 24 Republicans threaten White House runs. In January a dozen or so went to Iowa to pay homage to popular xenophobe Steve King at an event King humbly dubbed the Freedom Summit. At a tonier soiree that same weekend in Rancho Mirage, California, the Koch brothers pledged to raise precisely $889 million to buy the election outright.

Democrats can’t hold summits because only one of them, ex-Virginia Senator Jim Webb, has so much as filed an exploratory committee. But their game is on too. Obama’s populist-tinged State of the Union speech was widely seen as an attempt to frame the next debate. Hillary Clinton hasn’t filed yet but an ‘independent’ Super PAC aims to raise $300 million in her name. (Someone should tell her.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Paul Krugman: Ending Greece’s Nightmare

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza coalition, is about to become prime minister of Greece. He will be the first European leader elected on an explicit promise to challenge the austerity policies that have prevailed since 2010. And there will, of course, be many people warning him to abandon that promise, to behave “responsibly.”

So how has that responsibility thing worked out so far?

While Deflategate and Chaitgate Rage, America Quietly Robs Its Elderly

A wild new report on the wide-scale scamming of ordinary investors has arrived

By Matt Taibbi

Remember the Matthew McConaughy scene in Wolf of Wall Street? The one where the Lincoln man is doing that weird pound-the-sternum chant and blasting coke and martinis over lunch while he gives Leo de Caprio his famous "Fuck the client!" speech?

That's the scene where Leo's whacked-out boss talks about the three keys to success on Wall Street: jerking off, cocaine and "revolutions," i.e. keeping the client on the investment Ferris wheel indefinitely, while you burn him for fees. On and on it goes, the park is open, 24/7, 365 days a year…

People identified through credit-card use alone

Analysis suggests that making data anonymous is not enough to protect consumers.

Boer Deng

Figuring out what data can be used to identify someone has long befuddled those tasked with keeping information private. Sometimes, the data sets they use to obscure underlying identities fail to do so. A computer-science graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, once uncovered the medical history of then-Massachusetts governor William Weld from de-identified insurance records, for example1.

So it is not particularly shocking that Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a computer-security researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, and his colleagues managed to identify one individual from a sea of ‘anonymized’ credit-card data.

Righting History, 54 Years Later

by Abby Zimet, staff writer

On Jan 31, 1961, fifty-four years ago this week, nine young black men - eight students from nearby Friendship College and a civil rights organizer - sat at the whites-only counter of McCrory's five-and-dime in downtown Rock Hill, South Carolina and ordered burgers and cokes. They were asked to leave. When they refused, they were dragged out, arrested, held in jail and eventually convicted of trespassing. In court, they were ordered to pay a $100 fine. They refused again, opting to serve 30 days at hard labor at a prison farm. The tactic ultimately dubbed "Jail - No Bail" helped galvanize civil rights protests across the South by halting the de facto subsidizing of oppression and for the first time putting the financial burden of illegal jailings on cities and counties, rather than civil rights organizations.

On Wednesday, the eight surviving members of the Friendship 9 were back in a Rock Hill courthouse to hear their sentences vacated and their convictions overturned by Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III, the nephew of the judge who original sentenced them decades ago. The men were represented by Ernest Finney Jr., 83, who had defended their case 54 years ago and later served as South Carolina Supreme Court's first black chief justice. In his ruling for acquittal, Hayes argued the convictions had been “predicated upon values and beliefs that have since been deemed to violate the fundamental guarantees" of the Constitution. "We cannot rewrite history," he said, "but we can right history."

Corporate Law’s Original Sin

By Kent Greenfield

The public be damned,” railroad magnate William Henry Vanderbilt snorted at a reporter in 1882. The impertinent scribe had asked whether Vanderbilt ran his railroads with an eye toward public benefit. At the time, Vanderbilt was among the most powerful men in American business—and by his own estimation the richest man in the world. His figurative middle finger to the American public was big news, appearing on the front page of hundreds of newspapers within twenty-four hours.

The week before his comment, two trains had collided on his railroad inside the Fourth Avenue tunnel in New York City, killing two passengers and injuring hundreds. Many New Yorkers blamed the accident on Vanderbilt’s unwillingness to cut into profits by spending money on safety measures. His contemptuous words, spoken as he dined in his private train car, salted an open wound. The satirical magazine Puck ran a cover cartoon of a ballooned, profligate Vanderbilt wearing a diamond pin, smoking a stogie, and leaning back in a leather chair with a foot on the throat of an eagle dressed in Uncle Sam garb.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Paul Krugman: Punished for Playing by the Rules

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the international business editor at The Telegraph, recently wrote that Europe's slide toward deflation amounts to a "betrayal" of Southern Europe. This sounds over the top, but it is the simple truth. So let me elaborate with a picture I find illuminating.

The chart here shows core inflation (which excludes energy, food, alcohol and tobacco) in Germany, Spain and the euro area as a whole.

How Roy Cohn Helped Rupert Murdoch

Special Report: Through Fox News and a vast media empire, Rupert Murdoch wields enormous political clout in the United States, but his entrée into the world of Washington power came from the notorious McCarthyite Roy Cohn who opened the door into Ronald Reagan’s Oval Office, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Rupert Murdoch, the global media mogul who is now a kingmaker in American politics, was brought into those power circles by the infamous lawyer/activist Roy Cohn who arranged Murdoch’s first Oval Office meeting with President Ronald Reagan in 1983, according to documents released by Reagan’s presidential library.

“I had one interest when Tom [Bolan] and I first brought Rupert Murdoch and Governor Reagan together – and that was that at least one major publisher in this country … would become and remain pro-Reagan,” Cohn wrote in a Jan. 27, 1983 letter to senior White House aides Edwin Meese, James Baker and Michael Deaver. “Mr. Murdoch has performed to the limit up through and including today.”

How More and More U.S. Corporate Profits Escape the Corporate Income Tax

The effective corporate income tax rate is almost exactly the same in the United States as in other OECD countries. (While the U.S. statutory corporate tax rate is well above the OECD average, the many loopholes in the U.S. corporate tax bring the effective rate down substantially.) Then how is it that corporate taxes account for a much smaller share of GDP in the United States than in other high-income countries? The answer lies in forms of incorporation that allow U.S. corporate profits to be taxed at the lower individual income tax rate.

John Miller

Two changes paved the way for more and more profit to escape the corporate income tax in the United States. The federal government extended limited legal liability, which protects owners from losing their personal assets if their business fails, to some partnerships and “pass through” corporations not subject to the corporate income tax. Then the tax reform of 1986 cut the top tax bracket of the individual income tax to 28%, well below the statutory corporate income-tax rate. That opened up a large tax advantage for owners who paid individual income taxes on their profits instead of corporate income taxes.

Pass-through businesses—-S-corporations (which afford up to 100 owners limited liability), partnerships (including limited liability partnerships in which all the partners enjoy limited liability), and sole proprietorships—-have flourished over the last three decades. In 1980, corporations subject to the corporate income tax (called “C-corporations”) generated nearly four fifths (78%) of business net income, a measure of a business’s profitability. By 2007, pass-through businesses’ share of net income surpassed that of C-corporations. In fact, partnerships, S-corporations, and sole proprietorships each outnumbered C-corporations.

US companies cut more than 1m jobs a month. When did workers stop mattering?

Even when the economy is healthy, companies lay off hundreds of thousands of people a week, and up to 1 million a month. The problem: they still see workers as an obstacle to higher profits

Suzanne McGee

IBM will reportedly announce this week the largest corporate layoff ever, at a reported 118,000 jobs. If it does, it is hardly the first time IBM or any other big company will have sacrificed its workers to appease the gods of Wall Street.

At American Express, spending by the company’s cardmembers is growing, and so are revenues and profits. But not payroll: American Express just surprised financial markets by announcing plans to slash 4,000 jobs, cutting the number of employees by 6%.

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV

By Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon

It's become a TV ritual: Every year in mid-January, around the time of Martin Luther King's birthday, we get perfunctory network news reports about "the slain civil rights leader."

The remarkable thing about this annual review of King's life is that several years — his last years — are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

Opinion: Some ugly truths about the bank bailouts

ould you have saved your home with $19,065?

By David Weidner

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — More than 4 million Americans lost their homes in the wake of the financial crisis, but the vast majority of lenders survived through government assistance rushed to Wall Street in the fall of 2008.

The main bailout vehicle, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, was hailed six months ago as a success by the Treasury Department. That came after Popular Inc., one of TARP’s repayment laggards, paid the $1.22 billion due to taxpayers.

Paul Krugman: Much Too Responsible

The United States and Europe have a lot in common. Both are multicultural and democratic; both are immensely wealthy; both possess currencies with global reach. Both, unfortunately, experienced giant housing and credit bubbles between 2000 and 2007, and suffered painful slumps when the bubbles burst.

Since then, however, policy on the two sides of the Atlantic has diverged. In one great economy, officials have shown a stern commitment to fiscal and monetary virtue, making strenuous efforts to balance budgets while remaining vigilant against inflation. In the other, not so much.

Evidence Grows Showing Wall Street as a Negative Economic Force

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: January 27, 2015

Earlier this month, Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, published a stunning indictment of Wall Street as a job creating engine. Clifton reported that the U.S. now ranks 12th among developed nations in business startups with countries such as Hungary and Italy having higher startup rates. Of equal concern writes Clifton, “American business deaths now outnumber business births.”

Clifton has a theory on why America’s crisis in creating new businesses is a well-kept secret.

A Staggeringly Lopsided Economic Recovery

Zoë Carpenter

Just how strong is the economic recovery? Democrats have offered somewhat contradictory answers to that question recently. The picture President Obama painted in last week’s State of the Union address was mostly rosy. “The shadow of crisis has passed,” he declared, citing “a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production.” And indeed, the US economy added more jobs in 2014 than it has since 1999, and unemployment is at its lowest point in more than six years.

The competing, bleaker, view—described most forcefully by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren—is that the good numbers don’t accurately reflect the reality lived by America’s workers. Middle-class families “are working harder than ever, but they can’t get ahead,” Warren argued in an early January speech. “Opportunity is slipping away. Many feel like the game is rigged against them—and they are right.” The tide may be rising, but it’s failing to lift most of the boats.

GOP's Frightening Plot to Build Laboratories for Plutocracy in States They Control

Right-wing initiatives such as tax cuts and 'right-to-work' legislation are on the table.

By Zaid Jilani

In the American political tradition, states are known as “laboratories of democracy,” miniature examples for the rest of the country to learn from. Following the 2014 elections, Republicans gained more power in state legislatures than they've had in their party's history, controlling 69 of the 99 different state chambers across the country.

With these wide majorities, these Republicans are using these laboratories to put into action some of their wildest plutocratic legislative dreams, everything from enacting discriminatory legislation against gay and lesbian Americans to assaulting the rights of workers, to clawing back laws at every level that protect the public interest.

Dean Baker: Why Rand Paul Is Wrong About Social Security Disability

The Republican Congress decided to make overhauling the Social Security disability program one of its first orders of business. On the first day of the new session it put in place a rule change that would make it difficult to address the shortfall the program is projected to face some time next year.

Republican leaders like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul justified this change by insisting that half the people getting disability had the sort of back aches and occasional anxieties that we all face. The difference is that they get checks from the government rather than working. For this reason, Rand argued the program is in serious need of reform.

The Triumph of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

To understand perverse military decision-making, follow the money


In his farewell address in January 1961, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower famously cautioned the American public to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

In his farewell address in January 1961, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower famously cautioned the American public to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

When Liberals Were Organized

Progressives seeking a model for an effective Congress could learn from the nearly forgotten history of the Democratic Study Group.

By Julian E. Zelizer

When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 1994 for the first time in 40 years, one of Speaker Newt Gingrich’s earliest moves was to end the public funding for the Democratic Study Group (DSG), a caucus of liberal Democrats that had been created in 1959. It was one of Gingrich’s shrewdest maneuvers. As Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, a staunch conservative then and now, wrote in an internal memo, “The demise of the DSG severely damages the power structure of the House Democrats.”

Roberts was right. The DSG is almost forgotten today, but its history suggests lessons for the current generation of Democrats. Since 1994, congressional liberals have failed to replicate a powerful, independent organization like the Democratic Study Group. They have been dependent on a House leadership that is sometimes but not always sympathetic to their goals. The closest thing to a DSG, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has been a pale imitation of its predecessor, a fragile informal coalition that has lacked the same kind of leadership, money, publications, communications strategy, or clout. As liberals prepare for the start of the 114th Congress and hope for stronger Democratic returns in 2016, they would benefit from looking back at the history of the DSG to see just how much a vibrant and robust caucus can offer.

Save the Honeybee, Sterilize the Earth

A decade ago, people started panicking about the collapse of the honeybee population and the crash of our food supply. But today there are more honeybees than there were then. We have engineered our way to a frenzied and precarious new normal.

Josh Dzieza

To drive through California's Central Valley is to witness farming on a baffling scale. For hundreds of miles along either side of Highway 99—which splits the valley from the college town of Chico in the north to the sprawling, boxy city of Bakersfield in the south—are orderly corridors of grapevines and cherry trees, followed by flat expanses of yams, followed by fields of carrots and the gigantic harvesters that yank them from the ground by the thousands. Dwarfing all these crops, however, are row after row of snaggly black-limbed almond trees, punctuated occasionally by monolithic towers where the nuts are shelled. In recent years, these almond groves have grown to cover almost a million acres; they now produce four-fifths of all the almonds in the world.

The Central Valley is a paradoxical place, both desolate and tremendously fertile. As Joan Didion, a native of the region, wrote in 1965, the towns there “hint at evenings spent hanging around gas stations, and suicide pacts sealed in drive-ins,” yet “U.S. 99 in fact passes through the richest and most intensely cultivated agricultural region in the world, a giant outdoor hothouse with a billion-dollar crop.” Generations of farmers have transformed this arid and flat valley into a machine that produces more than a third of the vegetables in the United States and nearly two-thirds of the fruits and nuts. To keep running, it must be fed with tremendous quantities of fertilizer, flooded with water pumped from deep underground or diverted from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, doused with insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, and harvested by an arsenal of lumbering machinery. But for the system to work, it also needs bees.

Why industry is trying to tell you how to think

Erin Quinn and Chris Young explain how they investigated the top message peddlers influencing public policy — and why you should care.

By Erin Quinn, Chris Young

The nation’s most politically active trade associations appear to be more interested in lobbying the public than they are in lobbying lawmakers.

That’s the main takeaway from a new Center investigation by Erin Quinn and Chris Young.

Removing the Social Security Tax Cap Would Benefit Most Workers

by Yves Smith

Yves here. As we and others have discussed at some length, the concern over Social Security funding is vastly overhyped. As Nicole Woo discusses in this Real News Network interview, one simple fix, that of eliminating the cap on who is subject to the tax, would solve most of the gap that is anticipated in long-term projections. And the Social Security tax as now constituted is regressive and thus promotes inequality, so lifting the cap also moves the tax system toward being more progressive. That’s before we get to the MMT issue that “taxing” to fund any government activity is a political mechanism that is a holdover from the gold standard days, and not how government functions are funded operationally.

In fact, with more and more promised pensions being slashed, and investment returns flagging thanks to QE and ZIRP, the notion that ordinary people can save enough for their retirement is a chimera. Thus preserving and strengthening Social Security is more important than ever.

Democrats Should Listen To What Sen. Whitehouse Said About Education

Jeff Bryant

A curious thing happened this week on Capital Hill: A politician said something about education that made sense.

The “something” didn’t come from President Obama.

In the president’s annual State of the Union address, “K-12 policy largely took a back seat,” Education Week’s Alyson Klein observed. Indeed, the issue was barely in the car. Although the president took credit for “the highest math and reading scores on record” and a high school graduation rate at “an all-time high,” there were no strong claims about the success of his programs, no bold, new initiatives, and no combative stances against the oppositional positions on K-12 policy.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

How charter school foes are failing

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- As charter schools continue to expand, new research indicates liberal opponents are failing to make effective arguments aimed at curbing the education reform movement.

Opponents' strategy of stressing the role of private companies in running the schools has been largely unsuccessful, said Sarah Reckhow, political scientist at Michigan State University and lead author of the study.

American liberals and conservatives think as if from different cultures

Political conservatives in the United States are somewhat like East Asians in the way they think, categorize and perceive. Liberals in the U.S. could be categorized as extreme Americans in thought, categorization and perception. That is the gist of a new University of Virginia cultural psychology study, published recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Additionally, the study indicates that thought styles - whether analytical or holistic - can be changed through training, enough so to temporarily change political thought and the way a person might vote.

New police radars can 'see' inside homes

Brad Heath, USA TODAY 1:27 p.m. EST January 20, 2015

WASHINGTON — At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant.

Hello people, goodbye soil

Humans erode soil 100 times faster than nature

A new study shows that removing native forest and starting intensive agriculture can accelerate erosion so dramatically that in a few decades as much soil is lost as would naturally occur over thousands of years.

Had you stood on the banks of the Roanoke, Savannah, or Chattahoochee Rivers a hundred years ago, you'd have seen a lot more clay soil washing down to the sea than before European settlers began clearing trees and farming there in the 1700s. Around the world, it is well known that deforestation and agriculture increases erosion above its natural rate.

Hours After State Of The Union, Senate Targets National Parks

by Claire Moser - Guest Contributor Posted on January 21, 2015 at 9:18 am Updated: January 22, 2015 at 8:54 am

Just hours after President Obama’s State of the Union address highlighted the effort to protect more public lands and waters than any other administration, the U.S. Senate is poised to vote on a controversial and unpopular proposal that aims to block the protection of new parks, monuments, and historic sites around the country.

Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer’s (R) proposal, which is being offered as an amendment to a bill that would approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, would add additional paperwork and cost to every locally-driven conservation effort that requires federal designation or land purchase by a U.S. agency.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Davos oligarchs are right to fear the world they’ve made

Escalating inequality is the work of a global elite that will resist every challenge to its vested interests

Seumas Milne

The billionaires and corporate oligarchs meeting in Davos this week are getting worried about inequality. It might be hard to stomach that the overlords of a system that has delivered the widest global economic gulf in human history should be handwringing about the consequences of their own actions.

But even the architects of the crisis-ridden international economic order are starting to see the dangers. It’s not just the maverick hedge-funder George Soros, who likes to describe himself as a class traitor. Paul Polman, Unilever chief executive, frets about the “capitalist threat to capitalism”. Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, fears capitalism might indeed carry Marx’s “seeds of its own destruction” and warns that something needs to be done.

Dean Baker: Democrats Take on Wall Street With Financial Transactions Tax

The House Democratic Party leadership made a remarkable step forward last week in putting out a proposal for a financial transactions tax (FTT). The proposal is part of a larger package which includes a substantial tax credit for workers, and also a limit on the tax deductibility of high CEO pay, but the FTT portion is the most remarkable.

There has long been interest in financial transactions taxes among progressive Democrats. The list of people who have proposed financial transactions taxes over the years includes Representatives Peter DeFazio and Keith Ellison, along with Senators Tom Harkin and Bernie Sanders.

How To Pull Earth Back From The Brink

Johan Rockström, World Economic Forum

Bill and Melinda Gates said a simple pie chart in a newspaper breaking down the major causes of death among children forced them to ramp up their philanthropic effort. Bill Gates remarked, “If you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act.”

Last week, two research papers unambiguously identify the key priorities to reduce global systemic risk and ensure long-term prosperity. The first tracks the “Great Acceleration” in human growth and activity largely since the 1950s. The other, by myself and 17 international colleagues, identifies nine planetary boundaries and calculates that Earth has now transgressed four. Our global civilization is now in a danger zone. It would be prudent to pull back from the brink.

CU Denver study shows cities with more transportation options most resilient

Unexpected gas price spike could be ruinous for some commuters

DENVER (Jan. 20, 2015) - Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver studying how the region would react to a sudden spike in gas prices, found those living closest to their work, in areas with more compact street networks and better multi-modal infrastructure, would be more resilient than others.

"A city that has invested heavily in transit, walking, and biking infrastructure - even if experiencing minimal ridership today - would likely be able to withstand a shock to the system such as rising gas prices far better than a city that has not made such investments," said study author Wesley Marshall, PhD, PE, assistant professor of civil engineering at the CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science, the top research university in Denver.

Plunge in Treasury Yields Is Forecasting More Than Just Deflation

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: January 15, 2015

Plunging yields on U.S. Treasury notes and bonds, record low yields on the sovereign debt of countries in the European Union, together with plunging industrial commodity prices, are sending a crystal clear message to stock markets: there is a glut of supply and too little demand from consumers.

Such a supply-demand imbalance brings about price wars. Thus we have Saudia Arabia slashing prices on oil to its customers in an attempt to grab market share, triggering a global price war in oil; supermarket pricing wars in Britain; gas station pricing wars in the U.S.; mutual fund fee pricing wars; magazine price wars. There is even a chicken nuggets pricing war.

Rahm Emanuel’s offensive new pension-gutting scheme

The mayor of Chicago is now arguing that pension funds are not part of city government at all. How convenient!

David Sirota

On its face, Chicago’s municipal pension system is an integral part of the Chicago city government. The system is included in the city’s budget, it is directly funded by the city, and its various boards of trustees include city officials and mayoral appointees. Yet, when it comes to enforcing the city’s anti-corruption laws in advance of the Chicago’s closely watched 2015 municipal election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is suddenly arguing that the pension funds are not part of the city government at all.

The counterintuitive declaration came last month from the mayor-appointed ethics commission, responding to Chicago aldermen’s request for an investigation of campaign contributions to Emanuel from the financial industry. The request followed disclosures that executives at firms managing Chicago pension money have made more than $600,000 worth of donations to Emanuel. The contributions flowed to the mayor despite a city ordinance — and an executive order by Emanuel himself — restricting mayoral campaign contributions from city contractors.

APS authored Congressional letter to feds asking to crack down on solar industry

Lauren Gilger, Maria Tomasch

PHOENIX - Arizona’s largest utility company has been at odds with the solar panel industry for years.

Now, APS is asking the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on solar companies for deceptive practices.

But they didn’t ask them directly.

Six Arizona Congressmen sent letters to federal regulators asking them to investigate solar leasing companies.

The mystery of shellshock solved

Scientists identify the unique brain injury caused by war

Adam Lusher

When the war poet Wilfred Owen wrote of “men whose minds the Dead have ravished” he was attempting to describe the mysterious effects of shellshock which started appearing during the First World War and of which he himself was a sufferer.

Now, a century after the first cases began to appear, scientists believe they have for the first time identified the signature brain injury that could explain why some soldiers go on to have their lives blighted by the condition.

Paper Exposing Manipulation of Electricity Prices Stymied by Editor with Private Equity Ties

Yves here. I’ve read the detailed traffic between the author Eric L. Prentis and the publication in question, Energy Economics, and have also run them and his paper by academics who have or are supervising significant research and publication efforts. They gave the Prentis paper high marks and agreed that the actions of Energy Economics and its parent Elsevier were troubling, given that the editor who failed to move the routine review process forward has strong ties to the private equity industry. As one put it, “On its face, this conduct raises very grave questions.”

By Eric L. Prentis

How Research Journal Publishing is Being Subverted to Support Ideology — Rather Than the Truth

The allies of Wall Street’s private equity firms appear to use obstruction and delaying tactics when research threatens to expose how they prey on citizens and communities.

I have published previously in academic journals and am familiar with their quality standards and usual practices. The experience I had with Energy Economics, a top-tier publication in that niche, over a paper that was eventually published in another well-regarded, but non-US publication, was such an extreme departure from the norms of academic publishing as to strongly suggest that the reason for inexplicable delays and the eventual refusal to review my paper, is due to the fact that the paper effectively called out private equity price manipulation in electricity markets. As I will demonstrate, my paper was peculiarly re-assigned to an editor with strong ties to the private equity industry who then failed to move it forward in the editorial process, in violation of the policies of the publisher, Elsevier.

The Key To Closing The Income Gap Is An Idea Almost Nobody Is Talking About

by Alan Pyke

After simmering for years among progressive politicians, concern about economic inequality and flagging upward mobility in America seem destined to define the next federal election cycle for both parties. Jeb Bush’s (R) fundraising organization for a possible 2016 White House bid calls itself Right to Rise, and Mitt Romney (R) says that enhancing economic mobility and reducing poverty would be focal points of his campaign should he run again.

That is the political context into which the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity issued a comprehensive slate of policy recommendations on Thursday. The Center for American Progress-convened group, co-chaired by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and his British counterpart Ed Balls, laid out almost 200 pages of ideas for restoring the connection between people and profits. The report casts unchecked economic inequality as a threat to democracy itself, and offers specific suggestions for how to reverse wage stagnation, class tension, and corporate profiteering in both the United States and other industrialized republics.

Republicans and Wall Street Say to Hell With Protecting the Public!

by Bill Moyers

Since December, Congress has twice passed measures to weaken regulations in the Dodd-Frank financial law that are intended to reduce the risk of another financial meltdown.

In the last election cycle, Wall Street banks and financial interests spent over $1.2 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions, according to Americans for Financial Reform. Their spending strategy appears to be working. Just this week, the House passed further legislation that would delay by two years some key provisions of Dodd-Frank. “[Banks] want to be able to do things their way, and that’s very dangerous.” MIT economist Simon Johnson tells Bill.

The Integrity of Ambassador Robert White

At the start of the Reagan administration, Ambassador Robert White refused to cover up the rape-murders of four American churchman in El Salvador and paid for his integrity with the end of his career. His death last Tuesday at age 88 marked the passing of a courageous diplomat, writes ex-CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman.

By Melvin A. Goodman

The death of Ambassador Robert E. White is a reminder of what an American envoy can do to advance our principles and to guide our foreign policy. As an ambassador to Paraguay and El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s, White demonstrated a commitment to social justice and human rights. Sadly, he was dismissed from the Foreign Service by Secretary of State Alexander Haig because the Reagan administration had decided on a policy of militarism in Central America.

Bob White was the ambassador in El Salvador in December 1980 when four American churchwomen were raped and murdered by the armed forces of the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government. The evening before their murders, two of the women had dinner at White’s home to discuss the problems that relief workers were having in El Salvador. At the grave site for two of the women, White repeated over and over again that “This time they are not going to get away with it.”

How the Top-Down Imposition of Unproven Charter Schools Is Roiling Parents and Communities

A fight over education in Nashville might come your way next: It's a proxy for dangerous right-wing education ideas.

By Jeff Bryant

“We know we need to do something about students who are not achieving in our schools.”

That anxious appeal – along with its many variations – has become the refrain now firmly embedded in speeches and opinion columns about American public education.

Yes! Do something. About those kids.

It’s time for a revolution: Bankrupt policies, historic losses call for new generation of leaders

It's always "Groundhog Day" for Democratic leaders who can't adjust, can't organize and can't win. Let's dump them

Bill Curry

As a wise man once said, never underestimate the capacity of an entire social order to commit suicide. The Democratic Party’s old order is doing it now. It may seem strange but make no mistake, the Democrats’ leaders are already unconscious. If they don’t wake up soon, they’ll go the way of the Whigs. If progressives don’t wake up now, they’ll go with them.

I’ve argued that progressive political movements died at the hands of their leaders; that their death is what caused the political collapse we errantly term “partisan gridlock”; that progressives need a timeout from electoral politics; and that both Democrats and progressives are best served by a return to a more arms-length relationship.

What Happens When Conservative Ideologues Get to Run Their Own States

Failures of GOP economics at the state level have electoral implications for Republicans nationwide.

By David Atkins

It would be hard to blame liberal-minded Americans for feeling a sense of despair as we begin a new year. The Republican Party is ascendant and reinvigorated after its smashing victories in 2014 at nearly every level of government. The NYPD is in near open revolt against one of America's most progressive mayors while police departments around the country seem immune to basic reforms.

But in spite of conservatism's seeming upswing, there are signs at a statewide level that its ideology is coming apart at the seams. Even conservatives are starting to take notice and worry.

NAFTA, TPP, and Clinton Global Initiative's "Free Trade" Activism

by Gaius Publius

I want to tie three small pieces into one package. The first piece, Bill Clinton and NAFTA. The second piece, Barack Obama and TPP. The third piece, Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative and its neoliberal "free trade" activism.

Despite "Predictions" NAFTA Exported Millions of American Jobs

Let's start with NAFTA, which everyone now knows was a jobs and trade-deficit disaster, and a billionaire pot of gold. It's likely though that you may not know the details, including the details of how it was sold. So a quick look back.

Neocons: The ‘Anti-Realists’

Special Report: America’s neocons, who wield great power inside the U.S. government and media, endanger the planet by concocting strategies inside their heads that ignore real-world consequences. Thus, their “regime changes” have unleashed ancient hatreds and spread chaos across the globe, as Robert Parry explains.

By Robert Parry

Historically, one of the main threads of U.S. foreign policy was called “realism,” that is the measured application of American power on behalf of definable national interests, with U.S. principles preached to others but not imposed.

This approach traced back to the early days of the Republic when the first presidents warned of foreign “entangling alliances” – and President John Quincy Adams, who was with his father at the nation’s dawning, explained in 1821 that while America speaks on behalf of liberty, “she has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. …

It’s Not Just the Cops

Public defenders know that the trouble with our justice system extends far beyond abusive policing.

Jonathan Rapping, January 12, 2015

One has to admire the way we, as a country, have paid tribute to the lives of Rafael Ramos and Wenijan Liu, the two New York police officers shot to death while sitting in their police cruiser. We have rallied to support their families across ideological lines, demanding that they be remembered with dignity and honor.

But, juxtaposed against continued protests over police mistreatment of black men, they also help to highlight the fact that other lives are not valued at all.

Ten Secret Truths About Government Incompetence

What you can learn from the management mistakes of Obama and Bush.

By Donald F. Kettl

Wednesday, November 9, 2016
To: President-elect
From: Donald F. Kettl
Subject: Ten Secret Truths About Government Incompetence: What you can learn from the management mistakes of Obama and Bush.

Congratulations! You’ve won the nasty 2016 election for president of these United States. It was a long slog through more bad chicken dinners and dusty halls than anyone could be expected to tolerate. You won because you listened carefully to Republican strategist Frank Luntz’s take on the 2014 midterm election, that the “results were less about the size of government than about making government efficient, effective, and accountable.” And that’s just what you built your campaign on.

On January 20, 2017, you’ll be sworn in at noon, give a great speech, sneak out of the Beast for as much of a walk down Pennsylvania Avenue as the Secret Service will allow, cheer your hometown high school band, and dance the night away.

How trade deals like NAFTA neuter governments: Walkom

A new study looks at how NAFTA has prevented Canadian governments from doing what their voters wanted.

By: Thomas Walkom National Affairs, Published on Wed Jan 14 2015

Modern free trade pacts are about more than trade. That’s been known for a long time.

When Canadians were debating free trade with the U.S. in the late 1980s, those challenging the proposed pact warned that it would neuter governments’ ability to act in the public interest.

America's Class War Explained in 1 Chart

The system has been effectively restructured to serve the needs of the ruling elites.

By Mike Whitney

Is America in the throes of a class war?

Look at the chart and decide for yourself. It’s all there in black and white, and you don’t need to be an economist to figure it out.

But please, take some time to study the chart, because there’s more here than meets the eye. This isn’t just about productivity and compensation. It’s a history lesson, too. It pinpoints the precise moment in time when the country lost its way and began its agonizing descent into Police State USA.

Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you've never heard of

In 2011, an ecologist released an alarming study showing that tiny clothing fibers could be the biggest source of plastic in our oceans. The bigger problem? No one wanted to hear it

Mary Catherine O'Connor

Ecologist Mark Browne knew he’d found something big when, after months of tediously examining sediment along shorelines around the world, he noticed something no one had predicted: fibers. Everywhere. They were tiny and synthetic and he was finding them in the greatest concentration near sewage outflows. In other words, they were coming from us.

In fact, 85% of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing.

Looking for the roots of terrorism

Anthropologist Scott Atran has done extensive field interviews with would-be and convicted terrorists.

Sara Reardon

In the wake of terrorist attacks last week on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Paris supermarket, the world has struggled to understand the combination of religion, European culture and influence from terrorist organizations that drove the gunmen. Scott Atran, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, studies such questions by interviewing would-be and convicted terrorists about their extreme commitment to their organizations and ideals. Atran recently returned from Paris, where he talked with members of the shooters’ communities. He spoke with Nature about what he discovered.

Paul Krugman: Francs, Fear and Folly

Ah, Switzerland, famed for cuckoo clocks and sound money. Other nations may experiment with radical economic policies, but with the Swiss you don’t get surprises.

Until you do. On Thursday the Swiss National Bank, the equivalent of the Federal Reserve, shocked the financial world with a double whammy, simultaneously abandoning its policy of pegging the Swiss franc to the euro and cutting the interest rate it pays on bank reserves to minus, that’s right, minus 0.75 percent. Market turmoil ensued.

That Was Easy: In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth

Pair of new studies show how various forms of human activity, driven by a flawed economic system and vast consumption, is laying waste to Earth's natural systems

by Jon Queally, staff writer

Humanity's rapacious growth and accelerated energy needs over the last generation—particularly fed by an economic system that demands increasing levels of consumption and inputs of natural resources—are fast driving planetary systems towards their breaking point, according to a new pair of related studies.

Prepared by researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the first study looks specifically at how "four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity." Published in the journal Science* on Thursday, the 18 researchers involved with compiling evidence for the report—titled 'Planetary Boundaries 2.0'—found that when it comes to climate change, species extinction and biodiversity loss, deforestation and other land-system changes, and altered biogeochemical cycles (such as changes to how key organic compounds like phosphorus and nitrogen are operating in the environment), the degradation that has already take place is driving the Earth System, as a whole, into a new state of imbalance.