Sunday, June 28, 2015

Paul Krugman: Hooray for Obamacare

Was I on the edge of my seat, waiting for the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare subsidies? No — I was pacing the room, too nervous to sit, worried that the court would use one sloppily worded sentence to deprive millions of health insurance, condemn tens of thousands to financial ruin, and send thousands to premature death.

It didn’t. And that means that the big distractions — the teething problems of the website, the objectively ludicrous but nonetheless menacing attempts at legal sabotage — are behind us, and we can focus on the reality of health reform. The Affordable Care Act is now in its second year of full operation; how’s it doing?

The U.S. computer industry is dying and I’ll tell you exactly who is killing it and why

I, Cringely

This is my promised third column in a series about the effect of H-1B visa abuse on U.S. technology workers and ultimately on the U.S. economy. This time I want to take a very high-level view of the problem that may not even mention words like “H-1B” or even “immigration,” replacing them with stronger Anglo-Saxon terms like “greed” and “indifference.” The truth is that much (but not all) of the American technology industry is being led by what my late mother would have called “assholes.” And those assholes are needlessly destroying the very industry that made them rich. It started in the 1970s when a couple of obscure academics created a creaky logical structure for turning corporate executives from managers to rock stars, all in the name of “maximizing shareholder value.”

Lawyers arguing in court present legal theories – their ideas of how the world and the law intersect and why this should mean their client is right and the other side is wrong. Proof of one legal theory over another comes in the form of a verdict or court decision. We as a culture have many theories about institutions and behaviors that aren’t so clear-cut in their validity tests (no courtroom, no jury) yet we cling to these theories to feel better about the ways we have chosen to live our lives. In American business, especially, one key theory says that the purpose of corporate enterprise is to “maximize shareholder value.” Some take this even further and claim that such value maximization is the only reason a corporation exists. Watch CNBC or Fox Business News long enough and you’ll begin to believe this is the God’s truth, but it’s not. It’s just a theory.

Fight to Defend Trans Fats Funded With Dark Money

By Ben Norton

A conservative Washington think tank that opposed a federal ban of trans fats has also actively campaigned against climate science and environmental regulation, and is funded by secret donors.

The government on Tuesday announced a ban of industrial partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of artificial trans fats, giving food manufacturers three years to remove them from their products. Food and Drug Administration acting commissioner Stephen Ostroff said the ban “is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.” Tracks the Groups against Family-Supporting Jobs

Submitted by PRWatch Editors

Today, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publisher of the award-winning, launches, a web resource devoted to exposing the corporations, trade associations, "think tanks," and front groups working hard against better wages, benefits, and family-supporting jobs for the American workforce.

"Because local campaigns to pass city and county ordinances to raise the wage and expand access to paid sick days are winning across the country, the Wage Crushers are doubling down in their efforts to hold down wages and disempower working people. With this new online resource, the Center for Media and Democracy pulls back the curtain on the powerful special interests that are literally leading the charge against the higher wages and benefits, like paid sick days, that support working families," said Mary Bottari, deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy.

James K. Galbraith: Europe's Malpractice of Greece

The Greek patient is in a bad way and needs a potent remedy to make a swift recovery, but Europe's financial hospital seems to have forgotten its Hippocratic Oath.

A modern hospital is equipped with a variety of specialized wards. One of them is the intensive care unit, or ICU. Here go those who are especially sick and in need of the most devoted attention. The existence of the ICU recognizes that illness and operations do not affect all patients in the same way. Some, who are robust, recover quickly. Others who are weaker, or older, or sicker, may require different treatments and more help.

Europe's financial hospital has been busy for five years, dealing with victims of the world crisis and of the lending binge that came before it. Ireland, Portugal, Spain and (to a degree) Italy have filled the beds. They have taken the medicine, and followed the prescribed routine. Not one has fully recovered. But then again, none of those countries were ever lethally sick - at the worst, they suffered declines of 5 to 10 percent of GDP, and have been more or less stable for the past few years.

Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman: Controversial GCHQ Unit Engaged in Domestic Law Enforcement, Online Propaganda, Psychology Research

The spy unit responsible for some of the United Kingdom’s most controversial tactics of surveillance, online propaganda and deceit focuses extensively on traditional law enforcement and domestic activities — even though officials typically justify its activities by emphasizing foreign intelligence and counterterrorism operations.

Documents published today by The Intercept demonstrate how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is involved in efforts against political groups it considers “extremist,” Islamist activity in schools, the drug trade, online fraud and financial scams.

Paul Krugman: Slavery’s Long Shadow

America is a much less racist nation than it used to be, and I’m not just talking about the still remarkable fact that an African-American occupies the White House. The raw institutional racism that prevailed before the civil rights movement ended Jim Crow is gone, although subtler discrimination persists. Individual attitudes have changed, too, dramatically in some cases. For example, as recently as the 1980s half of Americans opposed interracial marriage, a position now held by only a tiny minority.

Yet racial hatred is still a potent force in our society, as we’ve just been reminded to our horror. And I’m sorry to say this, but the racial divide is still a defining feature of our political economy, the reason America is unique among advanced nations in its harsh treatment of the less fortunate and its willingness to tolerate unnecessary suffering among its citizens.

Getting Our Story Straight: Honestly Framing the Climate Crisis

By Zhiwa Woodbury, Truthout | Op-Ed

As a lifelong eco-activist, I always thought it was a critical mistake to name the crisis caused by excessive carbon emissions into the atmosphere "Global Warming." It made it sound like it was about the weather, when in reality it is about the end of life as we humans have always known it.

I was somewhat encouraged when the term "Climate Change" entered the conversation, because at least it is a more accurate scientific term for what is happening. But as Per Epsen Stoknes points out in his new book on the psychology of the climate crisis, What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming, this term has fared no better at conveying the urgency and seriousness of this mortal crisis to the average (distracted) American consumer.

Sneak Attack on Net Neutrality Picks Up Steam in Congress

by Amy Kroin

“Maybe every so often we can be on the side of the American people,” Rep. Jose Serrano said, “and not corporations.”

Those are fighting words — but unfortunately the House majority doesn’t seem to be heeding them. Not when it comes to Net Neutrality.

On Wednesday, the House appropriations committee voted against two amendments — one from Serrano, one from Rep. Nita Lowey — to remove anti-Net Neutrality language from a must-pass government-funding package.

Military Sexual Assault Reform Blocked Again in Senate

by Emily Crockett, Federal Policy Reporter, RH Reality Check

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s quest for military justice reform faced another setback on Tuesday, when the Senate blocked a vote to include the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) as an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The amendment failed on a 50-49 vote; it had majority support, but did not get the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster. Last year, the MJIA fell five votes short of overcoming a filibuster.

Opinion: Goldman Sachs’ vampire squid is coming to your neighborhood

Lock your doors — the Wall Street firm wants to lend you money

By Marek Fuchs

When it comes to how well Goldman Sachs GS, +0.16% gets along with Main Street, it’s basically always been a case of pistols at dawn. Of course, when it comes to Goldman and members of the larger public, the feud never settles at sunrise. It just sort of grinds on indefinitely.

Now, though, Goldman is going to pluck up its courage to troll for business along Main Street, getting into the business of small loans to us little people. Tire treads looking a bit worn? Call Lloyd Blankfein, your friendly neighborhood bank mogul. The Goldman CEO, who once said his company had no moral obligation to tell you that it was betting against what it was selling, will help you finance a new set.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Paul Krugman: Voodoo, Jeb! Style

On Monday Jeb Bush — or I guess that’s Jeb!, since he seems to have decided to replace his family name with a punctuation mark — finally made his campaign for the White House official, and gave us a first view of his policy goals. First, he says that if elected he would double America’s rate of economic growth to 4 percent. Second, he would make it possible for every American to lose as much weight as he or she wants, without any need for dieting or exercise.

O.K., he didn’t actually make that second promise. But he might as well have. It would have been just as realistic as promising 4 percent growth, and considerably less irresponsible.

The Sweatshop Feminists

Global elites have appropriated feminist language to justify brutal exploitation and neoliberal development.

by Hester Eisenstein

I have often been asked since the publication of my book what I mean by “feminism seduced.” Who is seducing feminism, and why? It’s a complicated question, with several meanings. I highlight two of them here: the use of cheap female labor by Export Processing Zones (EPZs); and the claim that women, rather than state-led development, are the key to eliminating poverty in the Third World.

tEmployers, governments, and international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have embraced one of the core tenets of contemporary feminism — the right of women to paid work — to justify the employment of women in EPZs in deplorable and often dangerous positions.

Joseph Stiglitz: Sovereign debt needs international supervision

Crisis in Europe is just the latest example of the high costs – for creditors and debtors alike – entailed by the absence of an international rule of law for resolving debt crises

Governments sometimes need to restructure their debts. Otherwise, a country’s economic and political stability may be threatened. But, in the absence of an international rule of law for resolving sovereign defaults, the world pays a higher price than it should for such restructurings. The result is a poorly functioning sovereign-debt market, marked by unnecessary strife and costly delays in addressing problems when they arise.

We are reminded of this time and again. In Argentina, the authorities’ battles with a small number of “investors” (so-called vulture funds) jeopardised an entire debt restructuring agreed to – voluntarily – by an overwhelming majority of the country’s creditors. In Greece, most of the “rescue” funds in the temporary “assistance” programmes are allocated for payments to existing creditors, while the country is forced into austerity policies that have contributed mightily to a 25% decline in GDP and have left its population worse off. In Ukraine, the potential political ramifications of sovereign-debt distress are enormous.

The Long and Disturbing Story of Corporations Outsourcing Catastrophe

In the following excerpt from Out of Sight, the history of US corporate pollution and toxic dumping is recounted.

By Erik Loomis, The New Press | Book Excerpt

From the moment American corporations were born in the late eighteenth century, they saw the natural world as a dumping ground. Within a few years of an industry arriving on a waterway, fish runs went extinct and waterways became disgusting dumps of foul-smelling water that made people sick. The air was no better: smoke coated nearby buildings, killed vegetation, and wiped out bird populations. Although the courts favored this behavior in nineteenth-century decisions, some citizens resisted. As early as the 1870s, residents of Newark, New Jersey, attempted to prevent a paper mill from dumping waste into the Passaic River, just upstream. In the early twentieth century, citizens in Pittsburgh and St. Louis demanded that corporations clean up their smokestacks. They knew that all this smoke and smog made them sick. Chicago passed the nation's first serious smoke law in 1881, giving citizens some legal rights to classify smoke a nuisance and authorizing a municipal inspection agency against smoke violations. While groundbreaking, it was also almost totally unenforced in an era of corporate domination of politics and society. The federal government was not ready to act.

Treasury Reveals What JPMorgan Was Really Doing With London Whale Trades

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Research (OFR), the body created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation to make sure another 2008 epic crash never happened again, quietly released a report last week which not only suggests another 2008-style crash is possible but that regulators will likely be blindsided again.

The report, written by Jill Cetina, John McDonough, and Sriram Rajan, reveals that the big Wall Street banks are ginning up their capital measures by engaging in opaque and potentially dangerous “capital relief trades.”

Everything you need to know about Jeb Bush’s dangerous education agenda

The presumptive GOP frontrunner thinks privatization is a cure-all. In truth, that idea couldn't be more dangerous

Matthew Pulver

“There’s nothing else as large in all of society. Not the military—nothing—is bigger.”

That’s how Randy Best, Jeb Bush’s business partner, sees public education, as an untapped market where untold billions are to be made when kids and their families become educational customers. Touting his impressive assault on public education while Florida governor in yesterday’s announcement of his 2016 candidacy, Bush may become the loudest proponent yet of turning public education into a for-profit enterprise.

After Cutting Taxes On The Rich, Kansas Will Raise Taxes On The Poor To Pay For It

by Alan Pyke

Kansas lawmakers concluded the longest legislative session in state history Friday night by approving a slate of regressive tax hikes that will balance the state’s budget by targeting low-income workers and their families.

More than half of the $384 million in new revenue expected from the tax hike will come from cigarette taxes and sales taxes, two policies described as “regressive” because they fall more heavily on lower-income taxpayers than on the wealthy. Even though everyone who shops will pay the new 6.5 percent sales tax rate – up from 6.15 percent in previous years, and the 8th-highest of any state according to the Tax Foundation – the move is regressive because poorer shoppers already have to stretch each dollar farther than their more flush counterparts.

Robert Reich: Elites Are Waging a War on Public Education

'What we need to do is move toward a system of free public higher education,' he says.

By Danny Feingold

It’s no secret that former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich has some misgivings about the direction of the American economy. But the prolific writer, radio commentator and longtime University of California, Berkeley professor isn’t thrilled about how we are educating our kids, either.

As part of a new project with the activist group, Reich recently released a video that described our education system as “squashing passion for learning, eroding the love of teaching and grinding up generations of young people.” The critique is accompanied by a set of proposals to reinvent American education – one of 10 planks in a broader agenda titled “10 Ideas to Save the Economy.”

Love and money: How low-income dads really provide

Study documents how noncustodial fathers support children through gifts, not cash

Johns Hopkins University

Low-income fathers who might be labeled "deadbeat dads" often spend as much on their children as parents in formal child-support arrangements, but they choose to give goods like food and clothing rather than cash, a Johns Hopkins-led study found.

In the first examination of the magnitude of in-kind child support, published this month in the Journal of Marriage and Family, the team found many disadvantaged noncustodial fathers spend an average of $60 a month on in-kind provisions, while dads paying formal child support spend about $38 a month.

Neoliberalism poisons everything: How free market mania threatens education — and democracy

Reducing everything—including people—to markets makes democracy impossible, UC Berkeley's Wendy Brown tells Salon

Elias Isquith

Among lefties today, there may be no more toxic and discrediting a label than “neoliberal.” To be called a neoliberal is, generally, to be associated with the worst of capitalism’s excesses — Wall Street greed, union-busting, deregulation, standardized testing, wage theft, privatization, exploitation and so on. In some ways, it’s become a catch-all term of abuse for those who are seen as little more than lackeys for the 1 percent and multinational corporations.

For the purposes of political combat, that’s fair enough. In truth, though, neoliberalism isn’t just another word for “corrupt” or “hyper-capitalist”; it’s a specific political ideology, one that’s much younger than capitalism — and one that plenty of people who are basically pro-capitalism oppose. What’s more, if those of us who oppose neoliberalism misinterpret it as simply another word for capitalism, we make the job of fighting it even more difficult. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a capitalist, after all. But a neoliberal, he most certainly was not.

Paul Krugman: Democrats Being Democrats

On Friday, House Democrats shocked almost everyone by rejecting key provisions needed to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement the White House wants but much of the party doesn’t. On Saturday Hillary Clinton formally began her campaign for president, and surprised most observers with an unapologetically liberal and populist speech.

These are, of course, related events. The Democratic Party is becoming more assertive about its traditional values, a point driven home by Mrs. Clinton’s decision to speak on Roosevelt Island. You could say that Democrats are moving left. But the story is more complicated and interesting than this simple statement can convey.

Chris Hedges: America's Addiction to Violence—From War to Vigilante Mobs—Is A Conservative Legacy

This may help to explain why so little of it has been used against state authority.

The following is an excerpt from Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt by Chris Hedges, (Nation Books, 2015):

My father and most of my uncles fought in World War II. One uncle was severely maimed, physically and psychologically, in the South Pacific and drank himself to death. I was in Central America in the 1980s during the proxy wars waged by Washington. I accompanied a Marine Corps battalion as it battled Iraqi troops into Kuwait during the first Gulf War. My family history intersects with the persistent patterns of violence that are a constant in American life, both at home and abroad. Any rebellion must contend with this endemic American violence, especially vigilante violence, as well as the sickness of the gun culture that is its natural expression. As it has done throughout American history, the state, under siege, will turn to extrajudicial groups of armed thugs to repress populist movements. Radical change in America is paid for with blood.

There are some 310 million firearms in the United States, including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns. There is no reliable data on the number of military-style assault weapons in private hands, but the working estimate is about 1.5 million. The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world—an average of 89 per 100 people, according to the 2007 Small Arms Survey. By comparison, Canada has 31 per 100 people. Canada usually sees under 200 gun-related homicides a year. Our addiction to violence and bloodletting—which will continue to grow—marks a nation in terminal decline.

The Sunday Times’ Snowden Story is Journalism at its Worst — and Filled with Falsehoods

By Glenn Greenwald

Western journalists claim that the big lesson they learned from their key role in selling the Iraq War to the public is that it’s hideous, corrupt and often dangerous journalism to give anonymity to government officials to let them propagandize the public, then uncritically accept those anonymously voiced claims as Truth. But they’ve learned no such lesson. That tactic continues to be the staple of how major U.S. and British media outlets “report,” especially in the national security area. And journalists who read such reports continue to treat self-serving decrees by unnamed, unseen officials — laundered through their media — as gospel, no matter how dubious are the claims or factually false is the reporting.

The Scariest Trade Deal Nobody's Talking About Just Suffered a Big Leak

By David Dayen

The Obama administration’s desire for “fast track” trade authority is not limited to passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In fact, that may be the least important of three deals currently under negotiation by the U.S. Trade Representative. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would bind the two biggest economies in the world, the United States and the European Union. And the largest agreement is also the least heralded: the 51-nation Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

On Wednesday, WikiLeaks brought this agreement into the spotlight by releasing 17 key TiSA-related documents, including 11 full chapters under negotiation. Though the outline for this agreement has been in place for nearly a year, these documents were supposed to remain classified for five years after being signed, an example of the secrecy surrounding the agreement, which outstrips even the TPP.

Arne Duncan’s Patently False Promise to Forgive Student Debts at For-Profit Schools

The U.S. government has funneled hundreds of billions of dollars into corporate accounts by bankrolling for-profit schools that systematically fleece their mostly low income and minority students. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promises to forgive the student loans of those who have been defrauded. Unfortunately, Duncan is lying through his teeth

by Glen Ford

Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, claims his department is prepared to forgive the debts of thousands of students who attended the Corinthian Colleges, the for-profit rip-off conglomerate that filed for bankruptcy last month. Duncan chose his words carefully, claiming that the federal government is putting together a process that would forgive the loans of any student who can show that she had been defrauded by any college – Coriinthian or some other school.

Duncan is, of course, lying. His own department estimates it would cost as much as $3.5 billion to provide debt relief to the 350,000 students that have had the misfortune to attend Corinthian schools over the past five years. And Corinthian wasn’t the top dog in the for-profit education scam. Phoenix University, owned by the huge Apollo chain of con artists, had an enrollment of 600,000 five years ago, and still processes the checks of a quarter million victims a year. Forgiving the debts of all the students that have been victimized by the for-profit college industry would cost many tens of billions of dollars – far more than what’s left of the nation’s welfare program. We know that Arne Duncan was making no such commitment on behalf of an administration that loves austerity just as much as the Republicans do.

Plutocrats torched the economy: Our new Gilded Age & the hollowing out of America’s middle class

Tackling inequality isn't just a moral necessity -- it's an economic one, author-expert David Madland tells Salon

Elias Isquith

You may recall how in 2013 — and then again in 2015 — President Obama tried to give his economic vision a snazzy name, something to compete with “trickle-down economics” in terms of memorability and pith. What he came up with, and has stuck with since, is “middle-out economics,” or sometimes “middle-class economics,” which is supposed to communicate his and the Democratic Party’s commitment to seeing the middle class — and not the 1 percent — as the true fount of economic growth.

But although Obama and other Democrats are evidently happy enough with the branding, the actual policy approach that defines a middle-out economics has remained somewhat fuzzy. And that’s where “Hollowed Out: Why the Economy Doesn’t Work without a Strong Middle Class,” the new book from the Center for American Progress’s David Madland, steps in. While politicians’ focus on the middle class can sometimes feel like empty pandering, Madland’s book makes a strong and clear argument that an economy geared around the middle class is not only more in keeping with democratic and liberal norms, but it’s simply better economics, too.

Increased carbon dioxide levels in air restrict plants' ability to absorb nutrients

University of Gothenburg

The rapidly rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affect plants' absorption of nitrogen, which is the nutrient that restricts crop growth in most terrestrial ecosystems. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have now revealed that the concentration of nitrogen in plants' tissue is lower in air with high levels of carbon dioxide, regardless of whether or not the plants' growth is stimulated. The study has been published in the journal Global Change Biology.

Researcher Johan Uddling has been working with Swedish and international colleagues to compile data on how raised levels of carbon dioxide impact on plant growth and nitrogen absorption.

Senators Vote To Repeal Clean Water Rule That Protects Millions Of Miles Of Streams

by Natasha Geiling

Congressional Republicans are one step closer to blocking the Obama administration’s attempt to clarify the EPA’s regulatory powers under the Clean Water Act.

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee voted 11-9 to pass a bill that would effectively repeal the administration’s recently announced regulations for water pollution. The vote was split cleanly among party lines, with only Republicans supporting it.

Kansas Governor Signs Bill That Could Defund State’s Entire Judiciary

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law this week a judicial budgeting bill that could plunge the state into a constitutional crisis. The bill, which provides funding for the Kansas courts over the next two years, contains a non-severability clause that strips the court of its entire budget if any Kansas court strikes down a 2014 law – currently the subject of a lawsuit — that removed the Kansas Supreme Court’s administrative authority over lower courts.

“Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, and a significant number of the members of the Kansas Legislature have, by the passage of this law, demonstrated their reckless disregard for the rule of law and their willful ignorance of Kansas' Constitution,” said Pedro Irigonegaray, a Kansas lawyer involved in the lawsuit. “Shame on them for creating an unjustifiable, unnecessary and costly constitutional crisis.”

Paul Krugman: Seriously Bad Ideas

Oxford, Britain — One thing we’ve learned in the years since the financial crisis is that seriously bad ideas — by which I mean bad ideas that appeal to the prejudices of Very Serious People — have remarkable staying power. No matter how much contrary evidence comes in, no matter how often and how badly predictions based on those ideas are proved wrong, the bad ideas just keep coming back. And they retain the power to warp policy.

What makes something qualify as a seriously bad idea? In general, to sound serious it must invoke big causes to explain big events — technical matters, like the troubles caused by sharing a currency without a common budget, don’t make the cut. It must also absolve corporate interests and the wealthy from responsibility for what went wrong, and call for hard choices and sacrifice on the part of the little people.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

US Austerity Politics: One State's Attempt to Destroy Democracy and the Environment

By Laura Gottesdiener and Eduardo GarcĂ­a, TomDispatch | Report

Something is rotten in the state of Michigan.

One city neglected to inform its residents that its water supply was laced with cancerous chemicals. Another dissolved its public school district and replaced it with a charter school system, only to witness the for-profit management company it hired flee the scene after determining it couldn’t turn a profit. Numerous cities and school districts in the state are now run by single, state-appointed technocrats, as permitted under an emergency financial manager law pushed through by Rick Snyder, Michigan’s austerity-promoting governor. This legislation not only strips residents of their local voting rights, but gives Snyder’s appointee the power to do just about anything, including dissolving the city itself -- all (no matter how disastrous) in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”

If you’re thinking, "Who cares?" since what happens in Michigan stays in Michigan, think again. The state’s aggressive balance-the-books style of governance has already spread beyond its borders. In January, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appointed bankruptcy lawyer and former Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr to be a “legal adviser” to Atlantic City. The Detroit Free Press described the move as “a state takeover similar to Gov. Rick Snyder's state intervention in the Motor City.”

Analysis Shows European Commission's 'Improved' Corporate Sovereignty Model Would Actually Make Things Much Worse

from the institutionalized-regulatory-chill dept

by Glyn Moody

Last year, the controversy around corporate sovereignty was such that the European Commission felt obliged to slam the brakes on this particular part of the TAFTA/TTIP negotiations in order to try to defuse the situation. The ostensible reason for that unexpected pause was to hold a public consultation on the "investor-state dispute settlement" (ISDS) mechanism. It turned out to be of a very limited kind. Rather than asking whether people wanted corporate tribunals passing judgment on their laws and regulations, the European Commission instead presented the ISDS chapter of another agreement, that with Canada, and posed some rather technical questions about the subtle changes it incorporated.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is nominally finished, and is currently undergoing what is known as "legal scrubbing", during which it is checked and polished for final ratification by Canada and the EU, although that's looking much more problematic now than it did a year ago. In the consultation, CETA's ISDS chapter was offered as a kind of template for TAFTA/TTIP. The Commission's argument was that it incorporated many improvements over traditional corporate sovereignty chapters -- which even the EU admitted were flawed -- and could be tweaked further to produce an even better solution for the US-EU negotiations.

Dean Baker: The Trade Deficit and the Weak Job Market

It is often said that the economy is too simple for economists to understand. This is clearly the story with the continuing weakness of the job market and the trade deficit. We are still down more than 3 million jobs from our trend level even with May's strong growth. It should be pretty obvious that losing more than $500 billion a year in demand (at 3.0 percent of GDP) to the trade deficit would be a serious drag on the economy and growth. But for some reason, economists insist on looking elsewhere for the problem.

The basic story should be familiar to anyone who has suffered through an intro economics course. There are four basic sources of demand in the economy: consumption, investment, government spending and net exports. "Net exports" refers to the excess of exports over imports. If we export more than we import so that net exports are positive, then they add to demand in the economy. This means that in addition to the demand we generate domestically, trade is increasing demand in the economy.

Austerity Isn’t Irrational

In Greece and elsewhere, austerity is nothing more than capitalists imposing their class interests.

by John Milios

After the outbreak of the 2008 global economic crisis, extreme austerity policies prevailed in many parts of the developed capitalist world, especially in the European Union (EU) and the eurozone. Austerity has been criticized as an irrational policy, which further deepens the economic crisis by creating a vicious cycle of falling effective demand, recession, and over-indebtedness. However, these criticisms can hardly explain why this “irrational” or “wrong” policy persists, despite its “failures.”

In reality, economic crises express themselves not only in a lack of effective demand, but above all in a reduction of profitability of the capitalist class. Austerity constitutes a strategy for raising capital’s profit rate.

CNN Is Now Selling Advertorial Programming: News You Can't Trust

Mark Karlin

You may not know that sometimes the "news" that you are reading in a newspaper, online, or watching on television is not really "objective" news at all: it's paid-corporate PR that is known as native advertising.

The reason that you might not realize that you are reading an article or whole section that is nothing more than an ad disguised as news is that often the disclaimers that "this content is paid for" (or some variation in wording) are in such small type, you can hardly see them. Add that to the fact that regular news consumers are now often reading information at a dizzying pace so that even if there were a large disclaimer, it might go unnoticed by readers surfing through news sources.

Killing tenure is academia’s point of no return

After busting unions, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has his sights on busting the professoriate

by Mark LeVine

Under Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin has become one of the great laboratories of conservative governance, with a record of union-busting, abortion-restricting, voter-ID-enacting policies that are at odds with the state’s tradition of progressivism. Unlike neighboring Minnesota, which has remained far more liberal — and whose economy is doing far better than Wisconsin’s — the Badger State has seen its Republican establishment increasingly entrenched by enacting policies of fear, resentment and suspicion of the sort that were so well described in Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”

Given this record, it’s not surprising that the Republican-controlled legislature should go after universities, especially with the state’s ongoing budget woes necessitating steep cuts to education. And now the state’s Joint Finance Committee has voted 12-4 to eliminate tenure protections from the state statute, add limits to faculty participation in shared governance and make it easier to fire tenured faculty in good standing for ill-defined reasons of “program modification” or “redirection” rather than the previous requirement of financial emergency (which is already being abused to get rid of entire academic units and their professors across the country). Predictably, if frighteningly, the response of the University of Wisconsin system president and chancellors of the most important campuses has been weak-kneed and not at all comforting for the rank-and-file faculty who need the support of their senior administrators if the fight to protect tenure is to have a chance.

Paul Krugman: Fighting the Derp

When it comes to economics — and other subjects, but I’ll focus on what I know best — we live in an age of derp and cheap cynicism. And there are powerful forces behind both tendencies. But those forces can be fought, and the place to start fighting is within yourself.

What am I talking about here? “Derp” is a term borrowed from the cartoon “South Park” that has achieved wide currency among people I talk to, because it’s useful shorthand for an all-too-obvious feature of the modern intellectual landscape: people who keep saying the same thing no matter how much evidence accumulates that it’s completely wrong.

The Complete History of Monsanto, “The World’s Most Evil Corporation”

By E Hanzai
Global Research, May 20, 2015

Published by GR in June 2014

Of all the mega-corps running amok, Monsanto has consistently outperformed its rivals, earning the crown as “most evil corporation on Earth!” Not content to simply rest upon its throne of destruction, it remains focused on newer, more scientifically innovative ways to harm the planet and its people.

1901: The company is founded by John Francis Queeny, a member of the Knights of Malta, a thirty year pharmaceutical veteran married to Olga Mendez Monsanto, for which Monsanto Chemical Works is named. The company’s first product is chemical saccharin, sold to Coca-Cola as an artificial sweetener.

Even then, the government knew saccharin was poisonous and sued to stop its manufacture but lost in court, thus opening the Monsanto Pandora’s Box to begin poisoning the world through the soft drink.

Cold War II to McCarthyism II

Exclusive: With Cold War II in full swing, the New York Times is dusting off what might be called McCarthyism II, the suggestion that anyone who doesn’t get in line with U.S. propaganda must be working for Moscow, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the U.S. government’s plunge into Cold War II would bring back the one-sided propaganda themes that dominated Cold War I, but it’s still unsettling to see how quickly the major U.S. news media has returned to the old ways, especially the New York Times, which has emerged as Official Washington’s propaganda vehicle of choice.

What has been most striking in the behavior of the Times and most other U.S. mainstream media outlets is their utter lack of self-awareness, for instance, accusing Russia of engaging in propaganda and alliance-building that are a pale shadow of what the U.S. government routinely does. Yet, the Times and the rest of the MSM act as if these actions are unique to Moscow.

The cheapest way to end homelessness is ridiculously simple, according to the largest-ever US study

Drake Baer

The Economic Roundtable just came out with the largest study on homelessness in American history.

And it turns out the best way to combat homelessness is to provide homes.

The study's focus was on Santa Clara County, California, home to the extreme wealth of Silicon Valley and the highest percentage of homelessness in the entire US.

Twilight of the Professors

by Michael Schwalbe

Twenty-eight years ago Russell Jacoby argued in The Last Intellectuals that the post-WWII expansion of higher education in the U.S. absorbed a generation of radicals who opted to become professors rather than freelance intellectual troublemakers. The constraints and rewards of academic life, according to Jacoby, effectively depoliticized many professors of leftist inclinations. Instead of writing in the common tongue for the educated public, they were carrot and sticked into writing in jargon for tiny academic audiences. As a result, their political force was largely spent in the pursuit of academic careers.

Jacoby acknowledges that universities gave refuge to dissident thinkers who had few other ways to make a decent living. He also grants that careerism did not make it impossible to publish radical work or to teach students to think critically about capitalist society. The problem is that the demands of academic careers made it harder to reach the heights achieved by public intellectuals of the previous generation. We thus ended up with, to paraphrase Jacoby, a thousand leftist sociologists but no C. Wright Mills.

How 1970s deodorant is still doing harm

By Laurence Knight

Fluorine is an evil gas. And it is also used to manufacture a string of other artificial gases, some of which nearly left mankind exposed to burning ultraviolet light - and are even now warming the planet.

"Fluorine is the tyrannosaurus rex of the periodic table," says chemistry professor Andrea Sella. "It will react spontaneously with every other element except for helium, neon and argon."

If you ever happen to lay eyes on pure, elemental fluorine, it looks fairly innocuous - a pale yellow gas - but in truth it is so dangerous that Sella's department at University College London does not even keep it in stock.

Why the New NSA Restrictions Won’t Harm National Security

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies will have to appeal to a special court on a case-by-case basis for phone data, but it’s not likely to harm security.

By David Talbot

The National Security Agency lost its authority to grab the phone records of millions of Americans following this week’s change in legislation enacted after 9/11. But there is no evidence that the data produced actionable intelligence during the 13 years the government had access to it anyway.

And besides, the NSA is still expanding its arsenal of Internet surveillance tools on American soil. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the Obama administration is allowing the NSA to tap Internet cables in U.S. territory to look for data about computer intrusions that are coming from overseas, and that the agency does not need a warrant to do so.

Why good people do bad things

Anticipating temptation may improve ethical behavior, study finds

University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Honest behavior is much like sticking to a diet. When facing an ethical dilemma, being aware of the temptation before it happens and thinking about the long-term consequences of misbehaving could help more people do the right thing, according to a new study.

The study, "Anticipating and Resisting the Temptation to Behave Unethically," by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Behavioral Science and Marketing Professor Ayelet Fishbach and Rutgers Business School Assistant Professor Oliver J. Sheldon, was recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. It is the first study to test how the two separate factors of identifying an ethical conflict and preemptively exercising self-control interact in shaping ethical decision-making.

'The Sky Remains Aloft': Dire Minimum Wage Predictions Proved Wrong

Local business success stories show "there's no reason for anyone to treat these kinds of threats as credible any longer"

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

One year after Seattle's mayor signed the nation's first citywide $15 minimum wage into law, dire predictions of economic collapse have not come to pass.

In fact, according to Working Washington—the group that launched the fast food strikes that sparked the fight for $15 in Seattle and then helped lead the victorious campaign—many of the very same business owners and others who predicted such devastation "are now hiring and even expanding their business operations in the city."

WikiLeaks releases documents related to controversial US trade pact

Document dump regarding Trade in Services Agreement comes day after organization put $100,000 bounty on documents from series of US trade treaties

Sam Thielman in New York and Phillip Inman in London

WikiLeaks on Wednesday released 17 different documents related to the Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa), a controversial pact currently being hashed out between the US and 23 other countries – most of them in Europe and South America.

The document dump comes at a tense moment in the negotiations over a series of trade deals. President Barack Obama has clashed with his own party over the deals as critics have worried about the impact on jobs and civil liberties.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The 1 percent’s “centrist” propaganda war: Why Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren are so threatening to the establishment

Even as America gets younger and more progressive, those in power are insisting that Democrats have gone too far

Conor Lynch

After last Novembers elections, the GOP had a bit of a revelation. Once they had gained control of the congress, bipartisanship suddenly became the mature and necessary thing to do. The people spoke, after all, and had given the go ahead for Republican’s to push through their ideology, and it was now the responsibility of the Democrats to play along. “Serious adults are in charge here and we intend to make progress,” said Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, with an air of superiority. Yes, this is the same fellow who made the following remark a few years back: “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” It is also the same party that has fought bitterly against nearly every policy that President Obama has advocated, like health care reform, the economic stimulus, immigration reform, etc.

Paul Krugman: Lone Star Stumble

Remember the Texas economic miracle? In 2012, it was one of the three main arguments from then-Gov. Rick Perry about why he should be president, along with his strong support from the religious right and something else I can’t remember (sorry, couldn’t help myself). More broadly, conservatives have long held Texas up as a supposed demonstration that low taxes on the rich and harsh treatment of the poor are the keys to prosperity.

So it’s interesting to note that Texas is looking a lot less miraculous lately than it used to. To be fair, we’re talking about a modest stumble, not a collapse. Still, events in Texas and other states — notably Kansas and California — are providing yet another object demonstration that the tax-cut obsession that dominates the modern Republican Party is all wrong.

Global Capitalist Crisis and the North American Free Trade Agreement: Reflections 21 Years On

By William I. Robinson, Truthout | News Analysis

Recent US Senate approval won by President Obama for "fast-track" negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal has thrust "free trade" and capitalist globalization again into the headlines. Often referred to as "NAFTA on steroids," the TPP is but the latest in more than two decades of "free trade" agreements that have helped open up the world to transnational corporate plunder.

If we want to understand such deals we would do well to reflect on the first of these, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which went into effect in January 1994. We cannot understand NAFTA without understanding the larger picture of which NAFTA and the TPP form part: the new system of global capitalism and the crisis of that system.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Jamie Dimon’s Legacy: GAO — Americans Face Stark Retirement Prospects

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 3, 2015

The General Accountability Office (GAO) released a sobering study yesterday that looks at how much 55-64 year olds have been able to set aside for retirement. The short answer is: excruciatingly too little. Why that is happening can best be summed up by a headline out this morning at Bloomberg News: Jamie Dimon Becomes Billionaire Ushering in Era of the Megabank.

The GAO study found the following: Approximately 55 percent of households age 55-64 in America have less than $25,000 in retirement savings, including 41 percent who have zero. Most of the households in this age group have some other resources or benefits from a Defined Benefit plan, but 27 percent of this age group have neither retirement savings nor a Defined Benefit plan. For the 59 percent of households age 55-64 with some retirement savings, the GAO study estimates that the median amount saved is about $104,000. While about 15 percent of these households have retirement savings amounts over $500,000, 11 percent have retirement savings below $10,000 and 24 percent have savings of less than $25,000.

Bee Crisis: More Than 40 Percent of Honey Bee Colonies Lost

By Charity Schmidt, PR Watch | Report

A dangerous new pattern in the bee crisis is alarming researchers and advocates. For the first time ever, beekeepers are losing more bee colonies during summer months than the cold winter months.

Beekeepers have reported losing more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies over the last year, according to a recently released survey.

WikiLeaks Strikes Again: Leaked TISA Docs Expose Corporate Plan For Reshaping Global Economy

Leaked Docs reveal that little-known corporate treaty poised to privatize and deregulate public services across globe

by Sarah Lazare, staff writer

An enormous corporate-friendly treaty that many people haven't heard of was thrust into the public limelight Wednesday when famed publisher of government and corporate secrets, WikiLeaks, released 17 documents from closed-door negotiations between countries that together comprise two-thirds of the word's economy.

Analysts warn that preliminary review shows that the pact, known as the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), is aimed at further privatizing and deregulating vital services, from transportation to healthcare, with a potentially devastating impact for people of the countries involved in the deal, and the world more broadly.

Three suicides linked to blanket suspension of Social Security benefits for 900 in Kentucky

David Edwards

Kentucky attorney Ned Pillersdorf this week linked three suicides to the Social Security Administration’s decision to suspend benefits for 900 people without giving them a hearing.

Last week, the Social Security Administration confirmed that it had suspended benefits for 900 people after congressional investigators accused Kentucky attorney Eric C. Conn and David B. Daugherty, a former SSA judge, of fraud in 1,500 cases.

Memo to Readers: If You Want to Beat Big Finance, You Need to be Able to Take the Fight to Their Terrain

Posted on June 2, 2015 by Yves Smith

During the heyday of the financial blogosphere, even when the site’s following was much smaller than it is now, readers were keenly interested in getting to the bottom of hidden sources of risk, chicanery, and other “man behind the curtain” aspects of the operation of finance.

These issues are even more important now. We are 35 years into a finance-led counterrevolution where conservative interests are rolling back not just the New Deal, but are also pushing as far as they can in reducing the political and economic rights of laborers. And “laborers” is anyone who lives off earned income and does not have his pay directly or indirectly tied to the use of capital.

New Data Offer First Infuriating Glimpse At How The Richest 0.001 Percent Pay Income Taxes

by Alan Pyke

Tax day doesn’t sting much if you live at the gilded edge, according to new data on how the top one-hundredth of one percent and the top one-thousandth of a percent of all filers pay their income taxes. People who make tens of millions of dollars enjoyed falling income tax rates and ballooning wealth for a decade as middle-class taxpayers floundered.

The new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data helps illustrate the logic behind Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) call for radically reshaping the American income tax system to create pricey new brackets for extremely high earners. The numbers provide a deeper look inside the highest income echelon, breaking out data on income tax rates and total yearly earnings in previously unpublished detail. In the last year of the Bush tax cuts, there were well over a thousand people who reported more than $60 million in earnings but paid federal income tax rates far below 20 percent.

Zombie Patriot Act Will Keep U.S. Spying—Even if the Original Dies

Forget the White House’s doomsday talk about American intelligence going blind. Thanks to backdoor provisions and alternate collection schemes, U.S. spies will keep on snooping.

Shane Harris

Forget the White House’s doomsday talk about American intelligence going blind. Thanks to backdoor provisions and alternate collection schemes, U.S. spies will keep on snooping.

That argument is highly debatable—at least, in the short term. Not only does the U.S. government have all sorts of other ways to collect the same kind of intelligence outlined in the Patriot Act, but there’s also a little-noticed back door in the act that allows U.S. spy agencies to gather information in pretty much the same ways they did before.

The FBI is operating a small air force to spy on Americans

Jack Gillum, Eileen Sullivan and Eric Tucker, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.

The planes' surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge's approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.

Half of All American Families Are Staring at Financial Catastrophe

And they’re turning to payday loans and other lenders of last resort when crises occur.

Kriston Capps

The most frightening finding in the Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2014 concerns a matter of $400. Four-hundred bucks. Twenty twenties. Four Benjamins.

Or just enough to crush half of all American households.

Paul Krugman: That 1914 Feeling

U.S. officials are generally cautious about intervening in European policy debates. The European Union is, after all, an economic superpower in its own right — far too big and rich for America to have much direct influence — led by sophisticated people who should be able to manage their own affairs. So it’s startling to learn that Jacob Lew, the Treasury secretary, recently warned Europeans that they had better settle the Greek situation soon, lest there be a destructive “accident.”

But I understand why Mr. Lew said what he did. A forced Greek exit from the euro would create huge economic and political risks, yet Europe seems to be sleepwalking toward that outcome. So Mr. Lew was doing his best to deliver a wakeup call.

Mark Crispin Miller: Neoliberalism and Its Impacts on Free Speech, Education and Democracy

By Michael Nevradakis, Truthout | Interview

Mark Crispin Miller is a professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University and the author of several books, including Boxed In: The Culture of TV, Cruel and Unusual: Bush and Cheney's New World Order, and Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform. He is also the editor of the newly-launched "Forbidden Bookshelf" series of e-books.

Michael Nevradakis: On a global level, how are the media furthering and promoting neoliberal policies and the politics of economic austerity, and how is freedom of the press being threatened?

Mark Crispin Miller: The corporate media worldwide has done an excellent job promoting neoliberal policies in every sector of society and culture. American media, which rank very low in the integrity of their news broadcasts, daily media coverage and commentary, are a kind of endless propaganda drive on behalf of austerity economics. For example, the US press is uncritically promoting a huge attack on public education and public schools, extolling the virtues of charter schools, attacking the teachers' unions and so on. I would say that the press is in the hands of the plutocracy, the 1%, and it has a profound effect on press freedom and freedom of expression.

Study links exposure to common pesticide with ADHD in boys

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

A new study links a commonly used household pesticide with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and young teens.

The study found an association between pyrethroid pesticide exposure and ADHD, particularly in terms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, rather than inattentiveness. The association was stronger in boys than in girls.

Discarding the Elderly

by Paul Buchheit

Elder abuse is defined as "harmful acts toward an elderly adult, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect." Financial exploitation comes from the banking industry; neglect emanates from the halls of Congress; and emotions are stirred through the stories of impoverished seniors:
From Reno, Nevada: Here I am at an age when I should be thinking about retiring, desperately trying to find a job. I have used my savings...I'm seeking a court injunction to try and save my home.

From Laurel, Maryland: I am over 60, and I was pushed out of my job because of my age. My rent, car note, and electricity are all two months behind. I can barely get food. Utilities will be cut off soon.

Neoliberalism Has Created New System of Dual Citizenship for the Poor and the 1%

By Bill Fletcher Jr.

In a lecture at Harvard during my freshman year, a professor—who may have been Martin Peretz—offered an insight that left a profound impact upon me. “Citizen,” the professor noted, was a unique and quite revolutionary concept. Different from many other terms, e.g., “comrade,” the notion of citizen implied a specific relationship between an individual and the polity. It specifically suggested a role for the individual within a state system in which said individual was a participant/actor rather than an observer.

Since the resurrection of the concept of “citizen,” in the context of the French Revolution, the term along with “citizenship” has been contested terrain.(1) There is no universally accepted criteria as to how one becomes a citizen of a nation-state. Countries differ greatly on whether being born in a particular territory is sufficient for such definition; under what conditions one can apply to become a citizen; how and under what circumstances can one’s children become citizens? These questions are not answered the same way in any number of Earth’s nation-states.

Gaius Publius: Why Is Malaysia So Important to TPP? The Strait of Malacca

Because of an excellent catch by Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism, I think we can put the finger on why keeping Malaysia in the TPP is important to its proponents. Which may explain why Obama — after all, the first black president — is willing to turn a blind eye to slavery and the murder of trafficked humans. The Strait of Malacca is one of the most important shipping lanes on the planet.

Reuters (my emphasis throughout):
The 900-km long (550 miles) Malacca Strait, linking Europe and the Middle East with the Asia-Pacific, carries about 40 percent of the world’s trade. More than 50,000 merchant ships ply the waterway every year.

About 3.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of Middle East crude passed through the strait and to Japan last year. Middle East crude accounts for 90 percent of Japan’s total imports. Up to 80 percent of China’s crude imports are delivered via the narrow and congested waterway.

So China and Japan have a stake in keeping the Malacca Strait secure, as does India which has a blue water navy patrolling in the Andaman Sea at the western end of the strait.

I'm a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing

by Redditt Hudson on May 28, 2015

On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with.

That's a theory from my friend K.L. Williams, who has trained thousands of officers around the country in use of force. Based on what I experienced as a black man serving in the St. Louis Police Department for five years, I agree with him. I worked with men and women who became cops for all the right reasons — they really wanted to help make their communities better. And I worked with people like the president of my police academy class, who sent out an email after President Obama won the 2008 election that included the statement, "I can't believe I live in a country full of ni**er lovers!!!!!!!!" He patrolled the streets in St. Louis in a number of black communities with the authority to act under the color of law.

Leaked Treaty You've Never Heard of Makes Secret Rules for the Internet

By Jeremy Malcolm, Electronic Frontier Foundation | News Analysis

A February 2015 draft of the secret Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) was leaked again last week, revealing a more extensive and more recent text than that of portions from an April 2014 leak that we covered last year. Together with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), TISA completes a trifecta of trade agreements that the administration could sign under Fast Track without full congressional oversight.

Although it is the least well-known of those agreements, it is the broadest in terms of membership. As far as we know, it presently includes twenty countries plus Europe (but notably excluding the major emerging world economies of the BRICS bloc), who, with disdainful levity, have adopted the mantle "the Really Good Friends of Services." Like its sister agreements, TISA will enact global rules that impact the Internet, bypassing the transparency and accountability of national parliaments. The only difference is that its focus is on services, not goods.

How Mainstream is Bernie Sanders?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment)

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination, has trouble being taken seriously by the corporate media, what with him being a democratic socialist and all.

If you go to Google News and put in his name, you get headlines about him being nothing more than a protest candidate, or having “odd views,” or promoting “dark age economics.”

Richard Eskow: The Populist Agenda: The Fight for a Just Society

The obstacles faced by the progressive movement, especially in a post-Citizens United world, aren’t news to anybody who’s been paying attention. But recent developments may also stir an unfamiliar sensation in the liberally minded observer: optimism.

On Wednesday we began reviewing the state of the progressive agenda, starting with jobs and growth and using the “Populism 2015″ platform as a guide, and found some genuine successes.

Even Before TPP And TTIP, US Already Being Forced To Change Laws By Trade Agreements

from the not-so-cool dept

by Glyn Moody

Recently, we looked at how corporate sovereignty provisions undermine democracy by irrevocably binding future governments. The analysis was framed in terms of the UK's situation, but applied more generally to any country that signs up to investor-state dispute (ISDS) mechanisms in trade agreements. In particular, it applies to the US. And yet in President Obama's (in)famous TPP speech at Nike a few weeks ago -- the one where he claimed some of his "dearest friends" were wrong -- he said the following:
[TPP] critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation -- food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They're making this stuff up. (Applause.) This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.

Paul Krugman: The Insecure American

America remains, despite the damage inflicted by the Great Recession and its aftermath, a very rich country. But many Americans are economically insecure, with little protection from life’s risks. They frequently experience financial hardship; many don’t expect to be able to retire, and if they do retire have little to live on besides Social Security.

Many readers will, I hope, find nothing surprising in what I just said. But all too many affluent Americans — and, in particular, members of our political elite — seem to have no sense of how the other half lives. Which is why a new study on the financial well-being of U.S. households, conducted by the Federal Reserve, should be required reading inside the Beltway.

Dean Baker: How NPR Is Doing Right-Wing's Economic Dirty Work on Debt

Billionaire Peter Peterson is spending lots of money to get people to worry about the debt and deficits rather than focus on the issues that will affect their lives.

National Public Radio is doing its part to try to promote Peterson's cause with a Morning Edition piece [2] that began by telling people that the next president "will have to wrestle with the federal debt." This is not true, but it is the hope of Peter Peterson that he can distract the public from the factors that will affect their lives, most importantly the upward redistribution of income, and obsess on the country's relative small deficit. (A larger deficit right now would promote growth and employment.)

10 Crucial Issues Most Politicians—Except Bernie Sanders—Lie About

By Alex Henderson

Bernie Sanders had a lot to say this week, when he officially launched his presidential campaign with a large rally in Burlington, Vermont. The 73-year-old Sanders, who was elected to the United States Senate as an independent but is running for president in the Democratic primary, described income inequality as “the great moral issue [3] of our time” and called for a single-payer healthcare system, major infrastructure projects and legislation that would break up the U.S.’ largest banks. As president, Sanders told his supporters, he would only nominate Supreme Court justices who were in favor of overturning the 2010 Citizens United ruling. If the rally in Burlington is any indication, Hillary Clinton may very well have the type of aggressive Democratic primary challenger that economist Robert Reich and others have been hoping for.

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Superpower in Distress


Delusionary Thinking in Washington
The Desperate Plight of a Declining Superpower
By Michael T. Klare

Take a look around the world and it’s hard not to conclude that the United States is a superpower in decline. Whether in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East, aspiring powers are flexing their muscles, ignoring Washington’s dictates, or actively combating them. Russia refuses to curtail its support for armed separatists in Ukraine; China refuses to abandon its base-building endeavors in the South China Sea; Saudi Arabia refuses to endorse the U.S.-brokered nuclear deal with Iran; the Islamic State movement (ISIS) refuses to capitulate in the face of U.S. airpower. What is a declining superpower supposed to do in the face of such defiance?

This is no small matter. For decades, being a superpower has been the defining characteristic of American identity. The embrace of global supremacy began after World War II when the United States assumed responsibility for resisting Soviet expansionism around the world; it persisted through the Cold War era and only grew after the implosion of the Soviet Union, when the U.S. assumed sole responsibility for combating a whole new array of international threats. As General Colin Powell famously exclaimed in the final days of the Soviet era, “We have to put a shingle outside our door saying, ‘Superpower Lives Here,’ no matter what the Soviets do, even if they evacuate from Eastern Europe.”

David Cay Johnston: Free-market dogma has jacked up our electricity bills

Prices for electricity are higher in states that embraced market pricing and are likely to rise even more

A new analysis shows that people pay 35 percent more for electricity in states that abandoned traditional regulation of monopoly utilities in the 1990s compared with states that stuck with it. That gap is almost certainly going to widen in the coming decade.

Residential customers in the 15 states that embraced wholesale markets paid on average 12.7 cents per kilowatt-hour last year versus 9.4 cents in states with traditional regulation.

Paul Krugman; The Big Meh

Remember Douglas Adams’s 1979 novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”? It began with some technology snark, dismissing Earth as a planet whose life-forms “are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” But that was then, in the early stages of the information technology revolution.

Since then we’ve moved on to much more significant things, so much so that the big technology idea of 2015, so far, is a digital watch. But this one tells you to stand up if you’ve been sitting too long!

Don’t Blame the Poor for the Faults of Our Economy

Posted May 20, 2015 at 3:30 pm by Alyssa Davis

When assigning blame for our nation’s persistent poverty problem, many policymakers tend to focus on underlying demographics or behavior of the poor—factors like racial background or the rise of single parent households, instead of the stark economic reality the poorest Americans have to contend with. While demographics and individual behavior have a place in the policy discussion, growing inequality is the primary reason the poverty rate has remained elevated over the last several decades.

America will die old and broke: The systematic right-wing plot to ransack the middle-class nest egg

Despite what conservatives say, the safety net works—which is why the 1 percent wants to stage a hostile takeover

Edwin Lyngar

Through a quirk in state term limits combined with a terrible midterm election, the Nevada legislature has been taken over by amateurs and extremists. The legislature is now debating whether to dismantle the Nevada public employee pension system (PERS), a system that has gotten consistently high marks for transparency, responsibility and stewardship.

This attack on retirement benefits follows a very familiar pattern of fabricating data to destroy retirements that work and that people really like. It’s the same nonsense and lies used to destroy private pensions two decades ago, but this time it’s being done as part of a partisan wet dream of “limited government.” It’s a strategy as American as fast food and crumbling infrastructure.