Sunday, March 29, 2015

The War on Poverty: Was It Lost?

Christopher Jencks

Legacies of the War on Poverty edited by Martha J. Bailey and Sheldon Danziger Russell Sage, 309 pp., $39.95 (paper)

This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort. It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. —Lyndon Johnson, State of the Union Address, January 8, 1964

Some years ago, the federal government declared war on poverty, and poverty won. —Ronald Reagan, State of the Union Address, January 25, 1988

Lyndon Johnson became president in November 1963. In January 1964 he committed the United States to a war on poverty. In August he sought and gained authority to expand the war in Vietnam. Of course, the War on Poverty was only a figure of speech—a political and economic promise, not a war from which young men would return in body bags. Nonetheless, most Americans look back on the two wars as kindred failures. Both have had an exemplary part in the disillusionment with government that has been reshaping American politics since the 1970s. Asked about their impression of the War on Poverty, Americans are now twice as likely to say “unfavorable” as “favorable.” In one poll, given four alternative ways of describing how much the War on Poverty reduced poverty, 20 percent chose “a major difference,” 41 percent chose “a minor difference,” 13 percent chose “no difference,” and 23 percent chose “made things worse.”

Martin O'Malley Wants to Be the Glass-Steagall Candidate

The former Maryland governor escalated his attack on Wall Street as he mulls a run to Hillary Clinton's left.

By Ben Brody

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who seems to be readying a 2016 run as the un-Hillary, stepped up a campaign line this past weekend: bring back the Glass-Steagall Act.

"Today, most Republicans in Congress are hell-bent on disassembling the Dodd-Frank Act," O'Malley's PAC wrote in an email to supporters Monday. "And too many Democrats have been complicit in the backslide toward less regulation."

Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing

by Robert Kuttner

Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer -- yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics.

If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be?

Have the Banks Escaped Criminal Prosecution because They’re Spying Surrogates?

Published March 21, 2015 | By emptywheel

I’m preparing to do a series of posts on CISA, the bill passed out of SSCI this week that, unlike most of the previous attempts to use cybersecurity to justify domestic spying, may well succeed (I’ve been using OTI’s redline version which shows how SSCI simply renamed things to be able to claim they’re addressing privacy concerns).

But — particularly given Richard Burr’s office’s assurances this bill is great because “business groups like the Financial Services Roundtable and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association have already expressed their support for the bill” — I wanted to raise a question I’ve been pondering.

Flower-enriched farms boost bee populations

University of Sussex

Flower strips sown into farmers' fields not only attract bees but increase their numbers, new University of Sussex research has shown.

A two-year study of farms in West Sussex and Hampshire in the UK found that England's most common bumblebee species saw significant population growth where targeted, bee-friendly planting schemes were in place.

The secret to saving the world: How ordinary people actually can prevent global disaster

"Sometimes the most powerful changes are well within the reach of ordinary citizens," says Paul Steinberg

Lindsay Abrams

Let’s face it: you’re not going to save the planet by recycling. Or by riding your bike, or by bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. “Scientists tell us that one out of every five mammal species is threatened with extinction,” is how Paul Steinberg puts it, “and we react by switching coffee brands.”

To which you might add, if even that.

A Smart Strategy to Defeat 'Right to Work'

by Rand Wilson

Wisconsin is now the 25th state to adopt a so-called “right-to-work” law, which allows workers to benefit from collective bargaining without having to pay for it.

It joins Michigan and Indiana, which both adopted right to work in 2012. Similar initiatives, or variants, are spreading to Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and West Virginia—and the National Right to Work Committee and the American Legislative Exchange Council probably have a well-developed list of additional targets.

OSHA Whistleblower Investigator Blows Whistle on Own Agency

Employee says the federal whistleblower program isn’t protecting whistleblowers or the public

By Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner and Felipe Escamilla

For decades, whistleblowers have played a pivotal role in exposing wrongdoing in industries that affect public safety and welfare. NSA leaker Edward Snowden, “Deep Throat” Mark Felt and Enron Corporation’s Sherron Watkins famously blew the whistle on their employers.

The federal government established the Whistleblower Protection Program in the 1970s to shield employees from retaliation when they report wrongdoing or safety hazards in their industry. But insiders say the program is failing the very people it is supposed to protect, and jeopardizing public health and safety in the process.

Private University Police Patrol Off-Campus (and Off the Record)

Members of the University of Chicago Police Department carry guns, make arrests, and patrol tens of thousands of residents unaffiliated with the university—but they don’t have to disclose any information about stops, arrests, and policies. Two Illinois Representatives are finally trying to change that.

Hannah K. Gold, Mar 17, 2015

Campus police at private universities are just like everyone else: they pay their taxes, they sleep in on Sundays, and they’re not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This means that they don’t have to disclose statistics about arrests and stops made, or any of their internal policies.

A newly proposed piece of state legislation might, for the first time, reverse this norm—at least in Illinois. On February 27, Illinois Representative for the 25th district, Barbara Flynn Currie, proposed a bill—HB 3932—to amend the state’s Private College Campus Police Act, on the books and untouched since it was passed in 1992. The act gives campus police at private universities all the powers of municipal police, including making arrests, and sets a minimum standard of training for these officers. In addition, the act details how campus police officers shall be selected and where, both on and off campus, they have permission to patrol. It also bars private campus police from participating in any state, county, or municipal retirement fund, and from being reimbursed for training with state funds.

GOP’s new moral monstrosity: Trickle-down lies enrich the 1 percent, as wing-nuts assert control

Republican extremists have outlined two demented budgets loaded with phony numbers. Why won't Democrats fight back?

Bill Curry

Republicans in Congress proposed their budgets this week. You don’t want to know about them, yet there are things you should know. You should know, for instance, that what I just wrote isn’t true: No actual budgets were proposed this week. A budget details what you plan to do, how much it costs and how you plan to pay for it. The Republican “budgets” do none of that. They’re like Captain Jack Sparrow’s pirate’s code — “more what you call just guidelines” — and really, not even that.

Republicans say any such criticism is unjust, that in the chutes-and-ladders game of federal finances, budget committees don’t write budgets. Oddly enough, it’s true. Budget resolutions merely set standards for later processes known as authorization and appropriation. You’ll be glad to hear I’m not writing about those today, except to say members of Congress who prattle on about government duplication might ask why authorization and appropriations committees can’t set their own standards.

You Shouldn't Be Scared of Homeless People, Homeless People Should Be Scared of You

If anyone in America should be paranoid about crime, it's not white people in the suburbs -- it's the homeless.

By Tana Ganeva / AlterNet

Sometimes, a valiant public servant must take action to protect his constituents, grab a sledgehammer and parade around town smashing homeless people's shopping carts, as Hawaii's State Rep. Tom Brower did two years ago. Others might favor a softer touch. Councilman Cameron Runyan of Columbia, South Carolina, suggested the city ship homeless people to a privately operated "Retreat" 15 miles out of the city. This helpful service would be no free ride though; the homeless people placed there would be expected to hand over their disability checks to help pay for the facility, local media reported.

Shocking official responses to homelessness are in no short supply, although the really outrageous cases can backfire. A backlash forced Runyan to scale back his plans; perhaps he was made aware of the unfortunate historical precedent for rounding up and disappearing undesirables. But the savvy lawmaker looking to spruce up a neighborhood knows there's a better way to sell a crackdown: you need to paint it as essential to public safety, reluctantly undertaken, with plenty of hand-wringing about balancing the rights of homeless people with everyone else's security. That's key, because open antipathy towards the homeless is for mean cops, Wall Street jerks or local politicians who haven't mastered political optics. Everyone else is deeply troubled by homeless people's plight, but at the same time: what about the mom or the tourist who doesn't feel safe walking down a street lined with panhandlers?

Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country?

By Tom Engelhardt

The New American Order 1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of "We the People" By Tom Engelhardt

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Shhh! We Can’t Talk About the Dollar’s Flash Crash on Wednesday

By Pam Martens: March 20, 2015

One would think we had asked for missile launch codes when we reached out to the futures exchanges to find out what caused the precipitous plunge in the U.S. Dollar’s futures contract at 4:04 P.M. Wednesday afternoon – long after the Federal Reserve’s market moving news had been digested by traders.

If currencies are now the new weapons of mass destruction – maybe we were asking for the equivalent of missile launch codes.

14 Reasons Why House and Senate Republicans Have Declared Economic War On Average Americans

Poll after poll finds Americans want the exact opposite of what the GOP proposes.

By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet

If you’re among the millions of Americans who feel bypassed by the economic recovery, you should pay attention to what the GOP-controlled Congress says it wants do to the federal government—via the 2016 budget—because if Republicans get even a fraction of what they have proposed, your living standards will start sliding downhill.

This is the takeaway from economists and experts who know how to ignore the right wing’s ridiculous rhetoric about freedom and opportunity, and instead see exactly who will be hurt, and how that will unfold—if the GOP rips the floor out of virtually every federal social safety net, as they propose, and also raises taxes on already struggling lower wage earners, which they also propose.

Altering brain chemistry makes us more sensitive to inequality

Study finds that prolonging dopamine's effects in the brain boosts compassion

University of California - Berkeley

What if there were a pill that made you more compassionate and more likely to give spare change to someone less fortunate? UC Berkeley scientists have taken a big step in that direction.

A new study by UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco researchers finds that giving a drug that changes the neurochemical balance in the prefrontal cortex of the brain causes a greater willingness to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as ensuring that resources are divided more equally.

The Clintons and the Fed Are Gasping Over the April Issue of Harper’s

By Pam Martens: March 19, 2015

Hillary Clinton just can’t catch a break. As her self-inflicted imbroglio over erasing 30,000 emails involving her time as Secretary of State continues to command press attention, the April issue of Harper’s Magazine is focusing gasp-worthy attention on the “loan-sharking” business that Bill Clinton, as President, assisted in transforming into the too-big-to-fail Citigroup that played a leading role in bringing the country to the brink of financial collapse in 2008.

Paul Krugman: Trillion Dollar Fraudsters

By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.

The 1 percent rigged everything: Why no one can end Ronald Reagan’s “dead wrong” voodoo economics

A thriving middle class is the cause of growth. The middle class creates rich people -- not the other way around

Paul Rosenberg

Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, a highly visible champion of Seattle’s $15/hour minimum wage, wrote a piece in the Atlantic last month pushing on another front in the war against toxic income inequality. “Stock Buybacks Are Killing the American Economy,” he warned, and getting rid of them would be a tremendous boon to the economy.

This latest front rebukes those who say that raising the minimum wage does little to address what ails the American middle class. First, it underscores the obvious: that battling against decades of bad economic policy must necessarily be a multi-pronged affair, with no single action able to solve everything at once. But second, it starkly highlights how much of the problem can be traced to a single source—the profoundly misguided notion that giving even more money to rich people would produce prosperity for all. Instead, the exact opposite has happened. That’s why the attack on stock buybacks is an even more profound attack on economics as usual, even if it, too, only represents one facet of what has to be a multi-faceted approach.

Internal Documents Reveal Extensive Industry Influence Over EPA's National Fracking Study

By Sharon Kelly, DeSmogBlog | Report

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched an ambitious and highly consequential study of the risks that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, poses to American drinking water supplies.

"This is about using the best possible science to do what the American people expect the EPA to do - ensure that the health of their communities and families are protected," Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator for the agency's Office of Research and Development, said in 2011.

Despicable: '60 Minutes' Does Another Hit Job on Social Security

Why is the esteemed show carrying Republicans' water on this issue?

By Joan McCarter / DailyKos, March 19, 2015

CBS News and 60 Minutes love carrying water for Republicans in their ongoing war on Social Security. In the fall of 2013, it was Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) attack on Social Security disability, in which the news magazine presented an entire segment without talking to one single disabled person or disability advocate and declared that the program was "a secret welfare system ... ravaged by waste and fraud." In that case, the program previewed sham report Coburn was releasing. This weekend, they did it again, previewing a Senate hearing on the Social Security Administration's massive database, the "Death Master File," touting the possibilities for fraud and abuse if someone was either incorrectly reported dead or the converse, died and didn't show up on the file.

Clean energy future: New cheap and efficient electrode for splitting water

University of New South Wales

UNSW Australia scientists have developed a highly efficient oxygen-producing electrode for splitting water that has the potential to be scaled up for industrial production of the clean energy fuel, hydrogen. The new technology is based on an inexpensive, specially coated foam material that lets the bubbles of oxygen escape quickly.

"Our electrode is the most efficient oxygen-producing electrode in alkaline electrolytes reported to date, to the best of our knowledge," says Associate Professor Chuan Zhao, of the UNSW School of Chemistry.

The Quiet Plan To Sell Off America’s National Forests

by Claire Moser - Guest Contributor Posted on March 16, 2015 at 8:00 am
Updated: March 16, 2015 at 10:03 am

A proposal to seize and sell off America’s national forests and other public lands could make its way into the House GOP’s budget resolution when it is announced this week.

In a recent memo to the House Budget Committee, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, proposed that America’s public lands be transferred to state control. He then requested $50 million of taxpayer money to be spent to enable transfers to “start immediately.” The memo states that public lands “create a burden for the surrounding states and communities,” and “the solution is to convey land without strings to state, local, and tribal governments.”

Ellen Brown: The ECB’s Noose Around Greece: How Central Banks Harness Governments

Remember when the infamous Goldman Sachs delivered a thinly-veiled threat to the Greek Parliament in December, warning them to elect a pro-austerity prime minister or risk having central bank liquidity cut off to their banks? (See January 6th post here.) It seems the European Central Bank (headed by Mario Draghi, former managing director of Goldman Sachs International) has now made good on the threat.

The week after the leftwing Syriza candidate Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as prime minister, the ECB announced that it would no longer accept Greek government bonds and government-guaranteed debts as collateral for central bank loans to Greek banks. The banks were reduced to getting their central bank liquidity through “Emergency Liquidity Assistance” (ELA), which is at high interest rates and can also be terminated by the ECB at will.

Wealth and power may have played a stronger role than 'survival of the fittest'

Number of reproducing males declined during global growth

Tempe, Ariz. -- The DNA you inherit from your parents contributes to the physical make-up of your body -- whether you have blue eyes or brown, black hair or red, or are male or female. Your DNA can also influence whether you might develop certain diseases or disorders such as Crohn's Disease, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia or neurofibromatosis, to name a few.

In a study led by scientists from Arizona State University, the University of Cambridge, University of Tartu and Estonian Biocentre, and published March 13 in an online issue of the journal Genome Research, researchers discovered a dramatic decline in genetic diversity in male lineages four to eight thousand years ago -- likely the result of the accumulation of material wealth, while in contrast, female genetic diversity was on the rise. This male-specific decline occurred during the mid- to late-Neolithic period.

Only Less Will Do

by Richard Heinberg

When I’m not writing books or essays on environmental issues, or sleeping or eating, you’re likely to find me playing the violin. This has been an obsessive activity for me since I was a boy, and seems to deliver ever more satisfaction as time passes. Making and operating the little wooden box that is a violin is essentially a pre-industrial activity: nearly all its parts are from renewable sources (wood, horsetail, sheepgut), and playing it requires no electricity or gasoline. Violin playing therefore constitutes an ecologically benign hobby, right?

It probably was, a couple of centuries ago; now, not so much. You see, most violin bows are made from pernambuco, a Brazilian hardwood that’s endangered because too many bows have already been made from it. Ebony, too, is over-harvested; it’s used for making fingerboards, tuning pegs, and bow parts. Some fancy older violin bows are even decorated with tortoiseshell, ivory, and whalebone. And while maple and spruce (the main woods from which violins are constructed) are not endangered, whole forests are being cut in China to meet the burgeoning global demand for student instruments. Modern strings (most of which are made using petroleum derivatives) are often wound with nonrenewable silver or aluminum, and almost nobody tries to recycle them.

Nomi Prins: The Volatility / Quantitative Easing Dance of Doom

The battle between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of global financial policy is escalating to the point where the ‘haves’ might start to sweat – a tiny little. This phase of heightened volatility in the markets is a harbinger of the inevitable meltdown that will follow the grand plastering-over of a systemically fraudulent global financial system. It’s like a sputtering gas tank signaling an approach to ‘empty’.

Obscene amounts of central bank liquidity applauded by government leaders that have protected the political-financial establishment with failed oversight and lack of foresight, have coalesced to form one of the most unequal, unstable economic environments in modern history. The ongoing availability of cheap capital for big bank solvency, growth and leverage purposes, as well as stock and bond market propulsion has fostered a false sense of economic security that bears little resemblance to most personal realities.

Sensing threat, utilities put squeeze on solar-roof industry

on March 15, 2015 - 12:01 AM

Three years ago, the nation’s top utility executives gathered at a Colorado resort to hear warnings about a grave new threat to operators of America’s electric grid: not superstorms or cyberattacks, but rooftop solar panels.

If demand for residential solar continued to soar, traditional utilities could soon face serious problems, from “declining retail sales” and a “loss of customers” to “potential obsolescence,” according to a presentation prepared for the group. “Industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges,” it said.

US Quietly Abandons Troop Reduction Plans in Afghanistan

Administration could allow up to 9,800 troops to remain into next year's 'fighting season'

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

The Obama administration is dropping its plans to reduce the amount of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 by the end of the year, significantly altering the timeline which officials had said would see troops largely withdraw from the country by 2016, according to reports.

In fact, officials say, the administration could allow up to 9,800 American troops to remain in Afghanistan well into next year's "fighting season."

Data and Goliath: Privacy Expert Explains the Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World

Bruce Schneier says there are similarities between government and corporate spying.

By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez / Democracy Now!

Leading security and privacy researcher Bruce Schneier appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about the golden age of surveillance and his new book, "Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World." In it, he mentioned that companies use surveillance to manipulate prices as well as news stories and advertising. He told Amy Goodman: “The ads you see aren’t going to be the ads someone else sees, based on your interests, but also based on what the companies believe is your income level, how good a customer you are. You’re going to see different search results than somebody else. So, depending on your political persuasion, you’ll see different advertisements. You’ll see different offers. So you might get a different credit card offer than someone else. And that might be based on your income, on proxies for your minority status. We see a lot of this very personalized advertising designed to influence you and you alone.”

Social Security Doesn’t Come To All Who Paid

Farmworkers find their employers pocketed their Social Security payments—rendering them ineligible for benefits.

BY Joseph Sorrentino

Israel Morales, 44, is one of the thousands of migrant farmworkers hired to harvest New Mexico’s famous chiles. For the past five years, Morales, who asked that his real name not be used, has earned between $4,000 and $7,000 a year stooping to pick chiles in the hot fields. Much of that he sends back to Chihuahua, Mexico, to support his wife and two children, ages 16 and 22, both in school. His earnings are fairly typical for chile workers, according to the Border Agricultural Workers Project. But only a fraction of his earnings were ever reported to the IRS or the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Is Big Oil Finally Entering a Climate Change World?

By Michael Klare
Posted on March 12, 2015, Printed on March 21, 2015

Welcome to the asylum! I’m talking, of course, about this country, or rather the world Big Oil spent big bucks creating.You know, the one in which the obvious -- climate change -- is doubted and denied, and in which the new Republican Congress is actively opposed to doing anything about it. Just the other day, for instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote a column in his home state paper, the Lexington Herald-Leader, adopting the old Nancy Reagan slogan “just say no” to climate change. The senator from Coalville, smarting over the Obama administration’s attempts to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, is urging state governors to simply ignore the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “landmark limits” on those plants -- to hell with the law and to hell, above all, with climate change. But it’s probably no news to you that the inmates are now running the asylum.


Big Oil’s Broken Business Model
The Real Story Behind the Oil Price Collapse
By Michael T. Klare

Many reasons have been provided for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil to about $60 per barrel (nearly half of what it was a year ago): slowing demand due to global economic stagnation; overproduction at shale fields in the United States; the decision of the Saudis and other Middle Eastern OPEC producers to maintain output at current levels (presumably to punish higher-cost producers in the U.S. and elsewhere); and the increased value of the dollar relative to other currencies. There is, however, one reason that’s not being discussed, and yet it could be the most important of all: the complete collapse of Big Oil’s production-maximizing business model.

Paul Krugman: Strength Is Weakness

We've been warned over and over that the Federal Reserve, in its effort to improve the economy, is "debasing" the dollar. The archaic word itself tells you a lot about where the people issuing such warnings are coming from. Its an allusion to the ancient practice of replacing pure gold or silver coins with "debased" coins in which the precious-metal content was adulterated with cheaper stuff. Message to the gold bugs and Ayn Rand disciples who dominate the Republican Party: That's not how modern money works. Still, the Fed's critics keep insisting that easy-money policies will lead to a plunging dollar.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cookie-Cutter ALEC Right-to-Work Bills Pop in Multiple States

By Jody Knauss, PR Watch | Report

This week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed an anti-union right-to-work (RTW) bill into law. RTW laws require unions to provide the same representation and workplace services to all workers in a workplace but make contributing to the cost of that representation optional. They lead to smaller, weaker unions and lower worker wages and benefits.

The Center for Media and Democracy detailed the fact that the Wisconsin bill was taken almost word for word from the American Legislative Exchange Council "model" bill. (See CMD's side-by-side here.) And we reported on the Koch and Bradley Foundation funding behind the panoply of usual suspects that flew into the state to testify on behalf of the bill, including "experts" from the National Right to Work Committee, the Mackinac Center and the Heritage Foundation with assists from ALEC "scholar" Richard Vedder and State Policy Network "stink tanks" like the Wisconsin Public Research Institute. And let's not forget the $1 million in TV ads from the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity group.

Richard Eskow: Will Social Security Decide Maryland’s Senate Race?

The race for Barbara Mikulski’s Maryland Senate seat has just begun. But Social Security is already shaping up as a major issue, especially between two leading contenders: Maryland representatives Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards.

Van Hollen is favored by some party leaders, including Sen. Harry Reid. Edwards, for her part, is extremely popular among progressives and economic populists. Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee promoted a “draft Edwards” movement before she declared her candidacy on Tuesday.

Trade Agreements Rigged to Protect Capital From Democracy

By Park MacDougald, Truthout | News Analysis

Barack Obama, like his Democratic predecessor in the White House, has gone all in for free trade. On January 20, the president used his sixth State of the Union address to ask Congress to pass a legal procedure (trade promotion authority) that would enable him to "protect American workers with strong new trade deals," a reference to two mammoth agreements currently in negotiation: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with 11 partners in the Pacific Rim; and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), with the European Union. The deals would, two decades after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), create the largest and second-largest free trade zones in the world.

The National Security Elites Are Co-Opting Democracy

The following is an excerpt from the prologue to Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America's Stealth Warfare by Scott Horton:

By Scott Horton

A fundamental concept underlying the American Constitution is the delicate rapport established between Congress and the various agencies of the executive. The massive government apparatus, including the ballooning intelligence community, is controlled by the executive. Yet the individual agencies, including the CIA - called into existence and defined by acts of Congress - operate using money that Congress gives them, subject to any limitations Congress may apply. The legislative branch exercises specific powers of oversight and inquiry into the work of agencies of the executive, including the right to conduct investigations, to require documents to be produced and employees of the government to appear and testify before it, and to issue reports with its findings and conclusions.

How Big Sugar Ushered In a New Era of Anti-Science Corporate PR

The original spin doctors weren't working for Big Tobacco. They were representing sugar.

By Lindsay Abrams

Where did Big Oil, Big Pharma and other industries learn to manipulate public policy to best serve their bottom line? The engaging new documentary Merchants of Doubt argues that they’re all following a battle plan borrowed from the tobacco industry.

As for the tobacco industry, they learned it from Big Sugar.

Dean Baker: The Supreme Court and the Democrats' Preemptive Surrender on Obamacare

As the Supreme Court listened to arguments over subsidies in the state exchanges Democrats were making their plans for preemptive surrender. Many were warning that an adverse ruling would be the death of Obamacare.

There is no doubt that a ruling for the plaintiffs would be bad news. It would deny millions of people subsidies in the states without their own exchanges. If the situation is not quickly remedied, it will also lead to the collapse of the exchanges in these states, as more healthy people stop buying insurance. With only less healthy people in the insurance pool, the price of insurance is likely to become unaffordable to almost everyone.

One Simple Way to Save American Democracy: Get Serious About Taxing the Mega-Rich

The Founding Fathers were very clear that they didn't want America to ever degenerate into an oligarchy.

By Thom Hartmann / AlterNet

At what point does great wealth held in a few hands actually harm democracy, threatening to turn a democratic republic into an oligarchy?

tThis week, Forbes Magazine released its list of the 20 richest people on the planet—and tied for number six were Charles and David Koch. Right now, it is easy to call out the billionaire brothers as a threat to our democracy (after all, they have promised to spend nearly a BILLION dollars in the 2016 election), but there are 18 other people on that list.

Operation Rent Seeking

How the war on terrorism became a business model.

By Mike Lofgren

In present-day America’s politically polarized atmosphere, it is easy to characterize divisive issues like the war on terrorism, the Wall Street bailout, or the Affordable Care Act as symbols of a clash of ideologies. Ideology is present in all of these issues, but it is possible to overrate it as a factor in contemporary policymaking. When I was a congressional staffer, I became acutely aware that elected officials choose issues to put at the top of their agendas mainly for their ability to shake money out of the purses of contributors. The subsequent histrionics in the House or Senate chamber are pure theater for the benefit of C-SPAN and the poor recluses who watch it. Behind every political cause is a racket designed to privatize the profits and socialize the losses.

Paul Krugman: Partying Like It's 1995

Six years ago, Paul Ryan, who has since become the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the G.O.P.’s leading voice on matters economic, had an Op-Ed article published in The Times. Under the headline “Thirty Years Later, a Return to Stagflation,” he warned that the efforts of the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve to fight the effects of financial crisis would bring back the woes of the 1970s, with both inflation and unemployment high.

True, not all Republicans agreed with his assessment. Many asserted that we were heading for Weimar-style hyperinflation instead.

The month that killed the middle class: How October 1973 slammed America

From the Arab oil embargo to the auto workers strike, one month more than 40 years ago changed this nation forever

Edward McClelland

Early in 1974, Don Cooper, an autoworker at an Oldsmobile plant in Lansing, Michigan, was demoted from his coveted job in the crankshaft department to the final assembly line, where he had started out as a rookie nine years earlier. Cooper hadn’t done anything wrong. Rather, he was a victim of events 6,000 miles away.

The previous October, Egypt had invaded Israel. When the United States provided military aid to the Jewish state, Saudi Arabia retaliated by cutting off oil exports to Western nations. The Arab Oil Embargo raised the price of gasoline from 36 to 53 cents a gallon — when drivers could get it. To prevent hours-long lines, filling stations sold to cars with odd-numbered license plates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, even plates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

4 things Ferguson needs to do to even begin to fix its race problems

Updated by Dara Lind on March 4, 2015, 4:51 p.m. ET

The Department of Justice's report on racial discrimination in the Ferguson, Missouri, police department and criminal justice system is notable for how damning it is. There's a jaw-dropping anecdote or statistic on practically every one of its 102 pages. But the DOJ's purpose isn't to condemn Ferguson; it's to provide a record of how thoroughly the city has failed so far and to encourage local officials to work with the federal government so it can start to get better.

The report concludes with 26 recommendations for how Ferguson can start fixing its race problems and improve police-community relations in the process. Those recommendations range from very broad to very specific, and while some of them can be implemented easily (like ending 12-hour shifts for police officers), others are more long-term goals (like taking "steps to eliminate all forms of workplace bias" in the police department and city government).

The Libertarian Delusion

The free-market fantasy stands discredited by events. The challenge now: redeeming effective and democratic government

by Robert Kuttner

The stubborn appeal of the libertarian idea persists, despite mountains of evidence that the free market is neither efficient, nor fair, nor free from periodic catastrophe. In an Adam Smith world, the interplay of supply and demand yields a price that signals producers what to make and investors where to put their capital. The more that government interferes with this sublime discipline, the more bureaucrats deflect the market from its true path.

But in the world where we actually live, markets do not produce the “right” price. There are many small examples of this failure, but also three immense ones that should have discredited the libertarian premise by now. Global climate change is the most momentous. The price of carbon-based energy is “correct”—it reflects what consumers will pay and what producers can supply—if you leave out the fact that carbon is destroying a livable planet. Markets are not competent to price this problem. Only governments can do that. In formal economics, this anomaly is described by the bloodless word “externality”—meaning costs (or benefits) external to the immediate transaction. Libertarian economists treat externalities as minor exceptions.

Racists Are Still Trying To Prevent Minorities From Voting-- And Doing Well For Their Efforts - See more at:

posted by DownWithTyranny @ 10:00 AM

Above is a 10-minute highlights video of President Obama's speech yesterday at the Selma 50-year anniversary memorial. The White House has also released the entire two hour and thirteen minute speech. After the speech, the President and his family led the march-- which included 100 Members of Congress and former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura-- across the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, named for a Confederate general and later KKK Grand Dragon and Alabama senator.

If Rudy Giuliani was listening, he must have been confused to hear President Obama paint a soaring and idealistic picture of the hopeful America he loves. Obama: "We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching toward justice... We have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough. If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done. Our march is not yet finished."

And the loser is...

by Tom Sullivan

Remember Solyndra, that failed solar tech startup the GOP tried to hang around President Obama's neck like an albatross? Mitt Romney campaigned in front of the closed Solyndra factory in 2012, trying to deflect attention from his vulture capitalist record at Bain Capital. See, the problem was that Big Gummint was perturbing the economic gods with clean energy subsidies, "stifling free market competition by picking economic winners and losers."

Yesterday, I concluded a post noting that it is some kind of article of faith on the right that "government shouldn't pick winners and losers." Rather than call them hypocrites this fine Sunday morning, let's just say they apply that principle somewhat unevenly.

For Love of Country (and Money)

Scott Beauchamp

“I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Rudy Giuliani said recently to a room of right-leaning businessmen at Manhattan’s 21 Club. ”He doesn’t love you, and he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

Giuliani was right; it was a horrible thing to say. Following an expected pattern, he later walked his remarks back a bit. In a Wall Street Journal editorial, Giuliani claimed that he “didn’t intend to question President Obama’s motives or the content of his heart.” That’s quite a humble concession coming from someone like Giuliani. He’s right that we can’t know the content of man’s mysterious heart. But we can know the contents of his bank account.

Koch Mandates to Cut Education Spending Spread Like a Cancer


The Koch brothers' philosophy of the consolidation of wealth by the few is spreading like a cancer. Just look at how their hand-picked governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker - who received massive financial backing from the Kochs - is now being touted in the corporate media as a Republican contender for president in 2016.

Walker, who never graduated from college (leaving Marquette University in Milwaukee for mysterious reasons), has mercilessly attacked education in Wisconsin - starting with the teachers unions and recently extending to the University of Wisconsin.

Not Guilty: Flood Wall Street Protesters Vindicated By Manhattan Court

Judge rules NYPD violated demonstrators' First Amendment rights

by Sarah Lazare, staff writer

In a ruling on Thursday hailed as a vindication, a Manhattan court has determined ten climate activists "not guilty" on charges related to a thousands-strong climate protest that "flooded Wall Street" in New York City's financial district in September of last year.

Over 100 people—including one dressed as a polar bear—were arrested at the civil disobedience, which took direct aim at the role of capitalism in driving global warming and overall planetary destruction. Timed to coincide with a United Nations summit of heads of state and corporate leaders, the direct action followed the People's Climate March, which featured over 400,000 participants and was led by communities from the front-lines of the climate crisis.

Now They're Saying It in Public: Professor At Koch-Funded University Department Calls For 'Less Democracy'

Garett Jones of George Mason University claims that less democracy would lead to better governance.

By Zaid Jilani

By now, it's common knowledge that the Koch Brothers more or less own the Republican Party – having spent twice as much in election 2012 as the top ten unions combined.

But a lesser-known aspect of Koch influence is their spending on ideological warfare. The Kochs not only spend big in our elections, but they also finance a network of think tanks, advocacy campaigns, and even educational curricula in order to spread their message.

Doubt over climate science is a product with an industry behind it

With its roots in the tobacco industry, climate science denial talking points can be seen as manufactured doubt

Graham Readfearn

It’s a product that you can find in newspaper columns and TV talk shows and in conversations over drinks, at barbecues, in taxi rides and in political speeches.

You can find this product in bookstores, on sponsored speaking tours, in the letters pages of local newspapers and even at United Nations climate change talks.

New models yield clearer picture of emissions' true costs

Costs of fossil fuels sharply rise when health, environment factored in

Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. - When its environmental and human health toll is factored in, a gallon of gasoline costs us about $3.80 more than the pump price, a new Duke University study finds.

The social cost of a gallon of diesel is about $4.80 more than the pump price; the price of natural gas more than doubles; and coal-fired electricity more than quadruples. Solar and wind power, on the other hand, become cheaper than they initially seem.

Dean Baker: The Federal Reserve Board's Plan to Kill Jobs

There is an enormous amount of political debate over various pieces of legislation that are supposed to be massive job killers. For example, Republicans lambasted President Obama’s increase in taxes on the wealthy back in 2013 as a job killer. They endlessly have condemned the Affordable Care Act as a jobs killer. The same is true of proposals to raise the minimum wage.

While there is great concern in Washington over these and other imaginary job killers, the Federal Reserve Board is openly mapping out an actual job killing strategy and drawing almost no attention at all for it. The Fed’s job killing strategy centers on its plan to start raising interest rates, which is generally expected to begin at some point this year.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Warren: Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch Received $6 Trillion Backdoor Bailout from Fed

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 4, 2015

Yesterday, the Senate Banking Committee held the first of its hearings on widespread demands to reform the Federal Reserve to make it more transparent and accountable.

Senator Elizabeth Warren put her finger on the pulse of the growing public outrage over how the Federal Reserve conducts much of its operations in secret and appears to frequently succumb to the desires of Wall Street to the detriment of the public interest.

“The interests of the wealthy”: How the rich control politicians — even more than you think

Esteemed political scientist Michael Jay Barber tells Salon why America is a democracy ... for fat-cat donors

Elias Isquith

The American populace, as a whole, is not always a paragon of good judgment. Yet there’s at least one issue that they’ve got a pretty good handle on — the incredible degree of what Lawrence Lessig has described as a form of legalized corruption, and the detrimental effect it has on the U.S. government overall. Polling on this question can get a little tricky, because it can be difficult to know for sure what respondents are thinking of when they answer the question). But when Americans are asked to list the nation’s most pressing concerns, it’s become quite normal to find a dissatisfaction with government, or a concern about ethics and corruption, at or near the top.

According to a new study from Brigham Young University professor Michael Jay Barber, Americans’ sense that their government doesn’t work for them but rather for the wealthy and powerful is well-placed. In his research, Barber found what many might expect and fear — that politicians are paying much more attention to their financial backers than to anyone else. Constituents included. And even in this era of Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and Wall Street supremacy, the distance between what voters want and what politicians care about is even greater than you’d think.

This Billionaire Governor Taxed the Rich and Increased the Minimum Wage -- Now, His State's Economy Is One of the Best in the Country

Carl Gibson

The next time your right-wing family member or former high school classmate posts a status update or tweet about how taxing the rich or increasing workers' wages kills jobs and makes businesses leave the state, I want you to send them this article.

When he took office in January of 2011, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton inherited a $6.2 billion budget deficit and a 7 percent unemployment rate from his predecessor, Tim Pawlenty, the soon-forgotten Republican candidate for the presidency who called himself Minnesota's first true fiscally-conservative governor in modern history. Pawlenty prided himself on never raising state taxes -- the most he ever did to generate new revenue was increase the tax on cigarettes by 75 cents a pack. Between 2003 and late 2010, when Pawlenty was at the head of Minnesota's state government, he managed to add only 6,200 more jobs.

Himalayan ice shows chemicals ban is working

A unique study of frozen ice cores from the Tibetan Himalayas has shown that international agreements on phasing out the use of toxic persistent organic pollutants are working.

The research paper in the leading American Chemical Society journal, Environmental Science & Technology has been named as the journal's most read paper of 2014.

Pollution is driving force behind growth of nuisance algal scums, study finds

Potentially toxic microbes which pose a threat to our drinking water have undergone a dramatic population explosion over the last 200 years as a result of pollution, research involving experts from The University of Nottingham has found.

The study, published in the journal Ecology Letters, looked at more than 100 lakes in lowland and alpine areas of North America and Europe and found that populations of cyanobacteria -- also known as blue-green algae -- have significantly increased since the 1800s.

Lester Brown: 'Vast dust bowls threaten tens of millions with hunger'

Over his 50-year career, Lester Brown has become known for his accurate global environmental predictions. As he enters retirement, he warns the world may face the worst hunger crisis of our lifetimes

Suzanne Goldenberg

Vast tracts of Africa and of China are turning into dust bowls on a scale that dwarfs the one that devastated the US in the 1930s, one of the world’s pre-eminent environmental thinkers has warned.

Over 50 years, the writer Lester Brown has gained a reputation for anticipating global trends. Now as Brown, 80, enters retirement, he fears the world may be on the verge of a greater hunger than he has ever seen in his professional />

The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site'

Spencer Ackerman

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Gaius Publius: Tobacco Deaths, TPP and the “Trade” Courts

Yves here. Obama’s pending trade deals, the TransPacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, have few fans at Naked Capitalism. But we are always looking for ways for like-minded readers to to alert friends and colleagues to the dangers of the proposed pacts and hopefully take action against them. This post gives concrete, accessible examples of some of the uses made of investor-state dispute settlement panels, which Gaius calls trade courts (even though they are actually secret arbitration panels) by Big Tobacco.

This piece is about corporations as predators, as plunderers, in a literal sense. Please follow closely; I want to get past the sense that “predator” is a metaphor. I want to make the case that the word is a literal description of the way the rich harvest the world.

Richard Eskow: “His Own Man’s” Man: Jeb Bush and the Return of Wolfowitz

Last week the nation was treated to the sad and embarrassing spectacle of Jeb Bush, mollycoddled scion to an empire of failure, proclaiming that “I’m my own man.” Here’s a simple rule of thumb: Anyone who has to say he’s his own man, or woman, isn’t. The 62-year-old Mr. Bush has been coasting on his family’s power and privilege since he was a weed-smoking, Steppenwolf-listening prep school student in the sixties.

From prep school slacker to presidential frontrunner: Now that’s a “Magic Carpet Ride.”

Dean Baker: Throw the Truth Out the Door: President Obama Has to Pass a Trade Deal

Wow, this stuff just keeps getting worse. Apparently anything goes when the big corporations want a trade deal. Otherwise serious people will just make stuff up, because hey, the big campaign contributors want a trade deal to make themselves richer. The latest effort in creative myth-making comes from Third Way, which tells us that post-NAFTA trade deals aren't job losers like NAFTA.

As Jim Tankersley and Lydia DePillis point out, this implicitly tells us that all those pro-NAFTA types weren't right in telling us that NAFTA would create jobs. (Hey, when did these folks stop telling us things about trade that were not true?)

Paul Krugman: Cranking Up for 2016

Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is said to be a rising contender for the Republican presidential nomination. So, on Wednesday, he did what, these days, any ambitious Republican must, and pledged allegiance to charlatans and cranks.

For those unfamiliar with the phrase, “charlatans and cranks” is associated with N. Gregory Mankiw, a professor at Harvard who served for a time as George W. Bush’s chief economic adviser. In the first edition of his best-selling economics textbook, Mr. Mankiw used those words to ridicule “supply-siders” who promised that tax cuts would have such magic effects on the economy that deficits would go down, not up.

Lawmakers Nationwide Launch Concerted Assault on Women's Rights

Since the start of the year, anti-choice bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country.

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

An array of anti-choice legislation is being rolled out in state houses around the country, putting women's health at risk and illustrating how Republican gains in the 2014 elections have exacerbated the fight over reproductive rights.

Already, 57 percent of American women of reproductive age live in states that are considered 'hostile' or 'extremely hostile' to abortion rights, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world.

Failed Theory Posed by Wall Street Dems Puts Hillary Clinton in a Bind

The Hamilton Project, led by the presumed presidential candidate's adviser Robert Rubin, serves up a prescription for the middle class that won't help much—and defies the recommendations of her friends at CAP.

Lawrence Mishel

There was a time where it was plausible to argue that more education and innovation were the primary solutions to our economic problems. But that time has passed. You cannot tell that, however, to the Wall Street Democrats and their Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution.

They’re not ready to change just yet, even though most of the Democratic Party has. This shift was signaled by a recent report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, which is co-chaired by Lawrence H. Summers, who served as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, and as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in President Barack Obama's first term. The report calls for full employment (a "high pressure economy," as Summers calls it), a more welcoming environment for collective bargaining, higher labor standards (overtime, minimum wage, earned sick and paid family leave), changes in corporate governance, and large scale public investment to address middle-class wage stagnation.

Did the GOP Just Give Away $130 Billion of Public Property?

A giant Anglo-Australian mining company is getting the rights to a huge copper reserve—and we don’t know what American taxpayers are getting in return.

Rep. Alan Grayson

In December, two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, pushed Congress and the president into giving away what could amount to over $130 billion in public property.

That’s enough to provide every single unemployed American a minimum-wage job for an entire year. That’s enough to pay for a year of tuition at a public institution for every college student in the US.

The Christian Right Is Quite Scary, But the GOP's Economic Agenda Is America's Big Nightmare

The Republican corporate agenda is a serious threat to society.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

Woe to the American president who says anything sensible on the subject of religion. President Obama forgot that unwritten rule recently at the National Prayer Breakfast when he pointed out what an eighth-grader could tell you: that acts of violence have been committed in the name of many faiths, not just Islam:
“Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. … So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”

Cue Christian right fake freakout.

Paul Krugman: Weimar on the Aegean

Try to talk about the policies we need in a depressed world economy, and someone is sure to counter with the specter of Weimar Germany, supposedly an object lesson in the dangers of budget deficits and monetary expansion. But the history of Germany after World War I is almost always cited in a curiously selective way. We hear endlessly about the hyperinflation of 1923, when people carted around wheelbarrows full of cash, but we never hear about the much more relevant deflation of the early 1930s, as the government of Chancellor Brüning — having learned the wrong lessons — tried to defend Germany’s peg to gold with tight money and harsh austerity.

And what about what happened before the hyperinflation, when the victorious Allies tried to force Germany to pay huge reparations? That’s also a tale with a lot of modern relevance, because it has a direct bearing on the crisis now brewing over Greece.

Government wonders: What’s in your old emails?

By Lindsay Wise

WASHINGTON — If you’ve been remiss in cleaning out your email in-box, here’s some incentive: The federal government can read any emails that are more than six months old without a warrant.

Little known to most Americans, ambiguous language in a communications law passed in 1986 extends Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure only to electronic communications sent or received fewer than 180 days ago.

How Insurers Can Hit You With $10,000 Health Care Bills—Even When You're Covered

Insurance companies are finding new ways to screw customers—undermining promises made by Obamacare boosters that the law would protect against medical bankruptcy.

By Julie Appleby

After Pam Durocher was diagnosed with breast cancer, she searched her insurer’s website for a participating surgeon to do the reconstructive surgery.

Having done her homework, she was stunned to get a $10,000 bill from the surgeon.

The U.S. just barely cracks the top 20 countries when it comes to retirement security

By Jonnelle Marte

Want more retirement security? It might be time to move to Switzerland.

The United States ranked 19th in the world for retirement security, according to an annual ranking of 150 countries by Natixis Global Asset Management. It’s held that spot for three years.

Paul Krugman: Money Makes Crazy

Monetary policy probably won’t be a major issue in the 2016 campaign, but it should be. It is, after all, extremely important, and the Republican base and many leading politicians have strong views about the Federal Reserve and its conduct. And the eventual presidential nominee will surely have to endorse the party line.

So it matters that the emerging G.O.P. consensus on money is crazy — full-on conspiracy-theory crazy.

Why Don’t Americans Know What Really Happened in Vietnam?

Instead of confronting the truth, we scrubbed the record clean—and we’re still paying for it in Afghanistan and Iraq today.

Christian Appy

The 1960s—that extraordinary decade—is celebrating its 50th birthday one year at a time. Happy birthday, 1965! How, though, do you commemorate the Vietnam War, the era’s signature catastrophe? After all, our government prosecuted its brutal and indiscriminate war under false pretexts, long after most citizens objected, and failed to achieve any of its stated objectives. More than 58,000 Americans were killed along with more than 4 million Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians.

So what exactly do we write on the jubilee party invitation? You probably know the answer. We’ve been rehearsing it for decades. You leave out every troubling memory of the war and simply say: “Let’s honor all our military veterans for their service and sacrifice.”

It Wasn’t About Oil, and It Wasn’t About the Free Market: Why We Invaded Iraq

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad’s new book not only interrogates the motivations behind the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but also reveals a cautionary tale for the present.

BY Danny Postel

I was reluctant to review Muhammad Idrees Ahmad's The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War. With all the dramatic developments in the Middle East today—the ISIS crisis, the siege of Kobanê, the deepening nightmare in Syria, the escalating repression in Egypt, the fate of Tunisia’s democratic transition, the sectarianization of regional conflicts driven by the Saudi-Iranian rivalry—delving back into the 2003 invasion of Iraq seemed rather less than urgent. It’s hard enough just to keep up with the events unfolding day-to-day in the region. Reading—let alone reviewing—a detailed study of the internal processes that led to the United States toppling Saddam Hussein over a decade ago seemed remote, if not indeed a distraction.

How growing income inequality is hurting Social Security

By Michael A. Fletcher

Here’s another reason to be concerned about income inequality: it poses a direct threat to the already shaky fiscal health of Social Security, according to a report released Tuesday by the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

The nation’s old-age pension and disability insurance program is funded by a payroll tax that this year applies to wages of $118,500 and below. But the amount of revenue coming in is not as large as it could be, now that an increasing share of wage growth is going to people who make more than that, and the wages of many Americans are stagnant, or even in decline. That is adding fiscal stress to a program already struggling with the demands of an aging population.

Six ways your tech is spying on you – and how to turn it off

Compared with what’s already happening, Samsung’s warning not to discuss sensitive issues in front of its TVs seems pretty tame. But you can fight back

Alex Hern

So, your TV might be spying on you. It probably just wanted to join in with the rest of the technology in your life, because let’s face it: if you live in the 21st century you’re probably monitored by half a dozen companies from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. (And if you wear a sleep tracker, it doesn’t even stop then.)

Compared with some of the technology that keeps a beady eye fixed on you, the news that Samsung’s privacy policy warns customers not to discuss sensitive information in front of their smart TVs is actually fairly tame. The warning relates to a voice-recognition feature that has to be explicitly invoked, and which only begins transmitting data when you say the activation phrase “hi, TV”.

Greenwald: Shedding Light on the Exercise of Power in the Dark


By Todd Krainin

Glenn Greenwald might be the single most polarizing figure in American journalism.

In the 12 months between May 2013 and May 2014, the self-made blogger, civil libertarian and investigative journalist was called "treasonous" by Republican Representative Peter King of New York, given a prestigious Polk Award for national security reporting, accused of "paranoid libertarianism" by The New Republic and awarded a Pulitzer Prize for public service.

The Ideas and Institutions Holding Up Society Are Disintegrating

By Terrence McNally

Economic meltdown ... environmental crises ... seemingly endless warfare. The world is in critical condition. Bad news? Good news? Or both?

Many of the ideas and institutions that define our culture are breaking down -- and that's a good thing, say Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman. In their 2010 book, Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There from Here [3], they write that today's crises are part of a natural process: clearing out what no longer serves us to make room for a new way of being. Are they cockeyed optimists or do they see things others miss?

Right-to-work laws are every Republican union-hater's weapon of choice

Anti-union laws don’t help the economy, don’t create jobs and don’t end ‘compulsory union membership’. They can only kill off unions

Michael Paarlberg

There are few crusades in American politics more quixotic than bashing unions. They are a threat that exists mostly in the imaginations of their opponents: an all-powerful, resurgent labor movement that scares investors and imperils the economy, despite representing just 11% of the US workforce. Right-to-work laws are their weapon of choice.

Last week, the Supreme Court announced it would hear a case that could very well finish off American unions in the last bastion where they have any significant presence at all, the public sector. The case, Friedrichs v California Teachers Association, will decide if right-to-work laws (designed to bankrupt unions by encouraging employees who benefit from collective bargaining agreements to not pay for them) will extend to all public employees nationwide – an outcome Justice Samuel Alito has all but promised to deliver.

Exposing the Republican Party's Sleazy Playbook to Destroy Social Security

By Thom Hartmann

In one of its first actions, the Republican House of Representatives of the 114th Congress, changed its rules to manufacture a Social Security crisis.

GOP Representatives Tom Reed and Sam Johnson introduced a procedural rule change, which was buried on page 30 of 32 in House Resolution 5. It forbids the House from transferring money between the Social Security Retirement Fund and the Social Security Disability Fund, a move that Congress has made 11 times in the past, irrespective of which party was in control. The result is that the Disability Fund, which is expected to run out of reserves next year, cannot be helped using money from the Retirement Fund. Without this “easy fix”—as the New York Times called it—recipients of Social Security Disability will see a 19% cut in benefits.

Edward Snowden revelations: GCHQ ‘using online viruses and honey traps to discredit targets’

Documents released by the American former CIA employee claim that the agency is at the forefront of efforts to develop “offensive” online techniques

Cahal Milmo

Britain’s GCHQ has a covert unit which uses dirty tricks from “honey trap” sexual liaisons to texting anonymous messages to friends and neighbours to discredit targets from hackers to governments, according to the latest leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Documents released by the American former CIA employee claim that the Cheltenham-based intelligence agency is at the forefront of efforts to develop “offensive” online techniques for use against criminals, and individuals and regimes considered to pose a threat to national security.

The Tax Loophole (Almost) Everyone Should Want to Close

Step-up in basis for capital gains explained

James Kwak

In his latest round of tax proposals, President Obama finally called for what is probably the single most obvious change that should be made to the tax code: an end to the step-up in basis at death for capital gains taxes. (The other candidate for “single most obvious change” is eliminating the “carried interest” exemption that allows fund managers to pay capital gains tax rates on their labor income — managing people’s money.)

What is step-up in basis, you may ask? Ordinarily, if you buy something for $100 and sell it for $200 — say, a share of stock — your $100 in profit is a capital gain, which counts as a form of income, and you pay tax on it. The capital gain is calculated as your sale price of $200 minus your “cost basis” of $100. You pay tax at a lower rate than on ordinary “earned” income, like your wages, for reasons that not everyone agrees on. In addition, you also benefit from the fact that you can decide when to sell the stock, so you can defer paying capital gains tax for as long as you want, without interest — so the longer your holding period, the lower the effective annual tax rate.

Richard Eskow: More Evidence "Centrist" Solutions Can't Save Us

We have become a profoundly unequal society. That reality is explored in new detail in a recent study from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). Even more importantly, the INET study shows that it will take a dramatic shift in policy to restore the equilibrium. Unless we can build momentum for a new political agenda, we’ll be divided into a small minority with fabulous wealth and a permanent underclass with few hopes or prospects.

Unfortunately, our mainstream political dialogue shows no sign of adapting to these realities. As the INET study confirms, mainstream Democratic ideas won’t protect us from this dismal future.

Paul Krugman: A Game of Chicken

On Wednesday, the European Central Bank announced that it would no longer accept Greek government debt as collateral for loans. This move, it turns out, was more symbolic than substantive. Still, the moment of truth is clearly approaching.

And it’s a moment of truth not just for Greece, but for the whole of Europe — and, in particular, for the central bank, which may soon have to decide whom it really works for.

How American Oligarchs Are Pushing America to the Brink of Fascism

It used to be more difficult for the ultra wealthy to buy American democracy.

By Thom Hartmann / AlterNet

As the American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is, "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."

Well, it may well be on our doorstep. And the oligarchs are plotting their final takeover by using their economic dominance to capture governmental power; specifically, the governmental power which sets the rules for the very marketplace that provides the oligarchs with such massive wealth.