Saturday, July 25, 2015

Four Ways ALEC Tried to Ruin Your State This Year

By Jessica Mason

In a year with unprecedented rightwing dominance in state legislative chambers, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has continued to wreak havoc in states across the country--despite an ongoing exodus of high-profile corporate members, including BP, Google, and several high-tech firms.

ALEC's legislative playbook for 2015 focused on blocking action on climate change, thwarting local democracy, attacking labor unions, and further privatizing public education in the U.S., as CMD reported last year in covering its legislative agenda for the year.

The Mess that Nuland Made

Exclusive: Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland engineered Ukraine’s “regime change” in early 2014 without weighing the likely chaos and consequences. Now, as neo-Nazis turn their guns on the government, it’s hard to see how anyone can clean up the mess that Nuland made, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

As the Ukrainian army squares off against ultra-right and neo-Nazi militias in the west and violence against ethnic Russians continues in the east, the obvious folly of the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy has come into focus even for many who tried to ignore the facts, or what you might call “the mess that Victoria Nuland made.”

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs “Toria” Nuland was the “mastermind” behind the Feb. 22, 2014 “regime change” in Ukraine, plotting the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych while convincing the ever-gullible U.S. mainstream media that the coup wasn’t really a coup but a victory for “democracy.”

The thing Bernie Sanders says about inequality that no other candidate will touch

By Jim Tankersley

There are very few unspoken rules among major-party candidates for president, and Bernie Sanders is breaking one of them. He’s saying that America’s leaders shouldn’t worry so much about economic growth if that growth serves to enrich only the wealthiest Americans.

“Our economic goals have to be redistributing a significant amount of [wealth] back from the top 1 percent,” Sanders said in a recent interview, even if that redistribution slows the economy overall.

Paul Krugman: The Laziness Dogma

Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in just about every other wealthy country; we are known, among those who study such things, as the “novacation nation.” According to a 2009 study, full-time U.S. workers put in almost 30 percent more hours over the course of a year than their German counterparts, largely because they had only half as many weeks of paid leave. Not surprisingly, work-life balance is a big problem for many people.

But Jeb Bush — who is still attempting to justify his ludicrous claim that he can double our rate of economic growth — says that Americans “need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families.”

Here's Why All the Bees Are Dying

Bees are essential for life as we know it, but we're wiping them out.

—By Tim McDonnell | Thu Jul. 9, 2015 2:00 PM EDT

Bees are having a really hard time right now. For about a decade, they've been dying off at an unprecedented rate—up to 30 percent per year, with a total loss of domesticated honeybee hives in the United States worth an estimated $2 billion.

At first, no one knew why. But as my colleague Tom Philpott has reported extensively, in the last few years scientists have accumulated a compelling pile of evidence pointing to a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. These chemicals are widely used in commercial agriculture but can have lethal effects on bees. Other pesticides are also adding to the toll. So are invasive parasites and a general decline in the quality of bees' diets. br />

Why Is Everyone Angry? I'll Tell You Why

Rep. Alan Grayson

This is a short essay on voter anger -- its origin, its attributes, its meaning and its cure. Hint: Most Americans are worse off than they were a long time ago.

I started noticing voter anger around 2009. Initially, its locus was the Tea Party. They're the ones who would form a circle around a political event, holding hands, and start chanting expletives. I attributed this to the Tea Party's deep dissatisfaction with living in the 21st century. To them, basically, everything went south when Jane Wyatt stopped playing Robert Young's Stepford wife on Father Knows Best, and started playing Spock's mother, Amanda ... Grayson, on Star Trek. (Does that mean that Spock and I are future relatives? I don't know.) For them, things have never been the same since.

Greece is the latest battleground in the financial elite’s war on democracy

From laissez-faire economics in 18th-century India to neoliberalism in today’s Europe the subordination of human welfare to power is a brutal tradition

George Monbiot

Greece may be financially bankrupt, but the troika is politically bankrupt. Those who persecute this nation wield illegitimate, undemocratic powers, powers of the kind now afflicting us all. Consider the International Monetary Fund. The distribution of power here was perfectly stitched up: IMF decisions require an 85% majority, and the US holds 17% of the votes.

The IMF is controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It’s now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and all the means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives.

Latest TPP Draft Benefits Big Pharma By Slashing Access to Generics

In secret talks, the Obama administration is seeking to foist corporate-friendly policies on other countries that he has opposed in the United States, new reporting reveals

by Sarah Lazare, staff writer

With another round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations slated for the end of this month, the administration of President Barack Obama is aiming to force developing nations to adopt Big Pharma-friendly policies that are so bad for public health Obama himself has opposed them in the United States.

Citing leaked drafts of the agreement, as well as officials "familiar with the latest May 11 version," Bloomberg journalist Peter Gosselin reported Friday that the deal is likely to include provisions that are almost certain to hike medicine costs while slashing access to generic drugs around the world: "At stake: hundreds of billions of dollars or more in extra costs that consumers may have to pay if the proposals make it harder for cheaper generics to win approval."

Activists in Ferguson Broaden Scope, Unveil 'Power Behind the Police'

The St. Louis-area campaign highlights the networks of powerful individuals who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo

By Sarah Jaffe } July 9, 2015

It's been 11 months since Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson. In that time, a broad-based movement has grown in the area, one that goes beyond protesting police violence, and calls for deeper change to address the racial and economic inequalities rampant in the St. Louis region. The movement has garnered national attention and has won some important victories: the resignation of several local officials and a police chief, the passage of a state bill, currently awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon's signature, that would reduce the amount of revenue municipalities can derive from tickets and fines, and the prospect of raising the minimum wage in St. Louis to $15 an hour.

But activists think there's much more that needs to change in the area. Many of the reforms that protesters called for have not come to fruition. The state legislature this session considered more than 100 bills designed to address the discrimination, poverty and violence faced by the area's black residents, but only one passed. The reason, the activists say, is that – as is the case across the country – powerful interests like things the way they are.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

It’s Not Just the NSA—the IRS Is Reading Your Emails Too

By Thor Benson

The privacy of Americans’ email has an expiration date.

Because of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)—passed in 1986, long before electronic communications became prevalent in the United States—email content is easily accessible to many civil and law enforcement agencies as soon as it is at least 180 days old.

Fortunately, politicians on both sides of the aisle are now backing the movement to change the outdated law.

SCOTUS Comes Calling on Public Sector Unions

A case that could decimate public sector unions is now headed to the Supreme Court.

Justin Miller

The Supreme Court was dishing out win after win for liberals: Affordable Care Act subsidies upheld; same-sex marriage made the law of the land; a legal blow administered to the undemocratic process of gerrymandering. But through it all labor activists were holding their breaths as a case that could decimate public sector unions inched perilously toward the Supreme Court.

Then late last month labor’s worst fears were realized when the Court announced that in its 2015-2016 session it will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that centers on the constitutionality of so-called “agency fees,” which require non-members to pay fees related to union bargaining and member representation efforts.

Stiglitz Calls Climate Talks a 'Charade,' Pushes Plan C

The liberal economist says voluntary agreements don't work and cap-and-trade is 'doomed to failure'

by Peter Coy

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate economist, is trying to persuade global-warming negotiators that they're marching up a blind alley. He says it's probably too late to achieve anything substantial at the long-awaited United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December, so real progress will have to come afterward.

That's not a message the negotiators want to hear, but Stiglitz doesn't care. "I’m saying we ought to be facing reality. We have to learn from our failures," he said in a phone interview this week.

Caught Between 'Grexit' and 'Hell No' — Greece Submits To Austerity's Knife

As Syriza-led government lobbies for support of its latest proposal, few envy position of leftwing government that stood up to Europe's financial elite

by Jon Queally, staff writer

After submitting a proposal for consideration by foreign creditors overnight, the Greek government of Alexis Tsipras on Friday presented the plan to a full meeting of Parliament, in hopes of securing backing for a plan that would keep Greece in the eurozone by exchanging long-term debt relief and further financial assistance for a new set of of harsh austerity programs and conditions.

"We are confronted with crucial decisions," a government official quoted Tspiras as telling Syriza lawmakers during the morning session. "We got a mandate to bring a better deal than the ultimatum that the Eurogroup gave us, but certainly not given a mandate to take Greece out of the eurozone."

Our Top Five Takeaways From Today's Hearings on Encryption

July 8, 2015 | By Jeremy Gillula and Nadia Kayyali

Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, FBI Director Comey wants you to know that he doesn't want another crypto war. As he said today in hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), he just wants a discussion. Of course, it's hard to have a discussion when you're not listening to anyone else. And in this case, Comey and those who support weakening encryption simply aren't listening to the experts telling them that backdoors or golden keys just won't keep us safe.

Paul Krugman: Greece’s Economy Is a Lesson for Republicans in the U.S.

Greece is a faraway country with an economy roughly the size of greater Miami, so America has very little direct stake in its ongoing disaster. To the extent that Greece matters to us, it’s mainly about geopolitics: By poisoning relations among Europe’s democracies, the Greek crisis risks depriving the United States of crucial allies.

But Greece has nonetheless played an outsized role in U.S. political debate, as a symbol of the terrible things that will supposedly happen — any day now — unless we stop helping the less fortunate and printing money to fight unemployment. And Greece does indeed offer important lessons to the rest of us. But they’re not the lessons you think, and the people most likely to deliver a Greek-style economic disaster here in America are the very people who love to use Greece as a boogeyman.

Benghazi! Why Trey Gowdy Is Still Hiding Blumenthal Transcript

Joe Conason

The strange saga of the House Select Committee on Benghazi continues as its chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) fends off renewed questions about the committee’s purpose, as well as demands to release the sworn deposition of Sidney Blumenthal, taken behind closed doors on June 16.

In a July 7 CNN interview, Hillary Clinton – the actual target of Gowdy’s investigation – brushed off accusations about her use of a private email server and mocked his partisan probe. “This is being blown up with no basis in law or in fact,” she said. “That’s fine. I get it. This is being, in effect, used by the Republicans in the Congress, OK. But I want people to understand what the truth is. And the truth is everything I did was permitted and I went above and beyond what anybody could have expected in making sure that if the State Department [servers] didn’t capture something, I made a real effort to get it to them.”

Senate Passes Bill Letting Schools Give Education Money To Financial Consulting Firms

By David Sirota, Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Andrew Perez

As budget-strapped Chicago follows a mass school closure with a new plan to layoff more than 1,400 teachers, one set of transactions sticks out: the city’s moves to refinance $1 billion in debt through complex financial instruments called swaps. The deals were spearheaded over the last few years by financial advisory firms brought in by the city to help find money saving efficiencies. Instead of saving money, though, the Windy City took a big hit: The school system has lost more than $100 million on the transactions and has paid millions in fees to its financial consultants.

Chicago is not alone. School districts across the country have been increasingly relying on high-priced consultants and Wall Street firms for financial and management advice. While proponents say many of the ensuing consultant-driven initiatives have resulted in cost savings, critics note that other initiatives have resulted in investment losses, layoffs and school closures. What is clear is that school districts’ reliance on outside advisers has created business opportunities for the financial industry. And now, thanks to an amendment to federal education legislation moving through Congress, that lucrative market for financial and consulting could become even more flush with cash -- specifically, with federal money meant for impoverished school districts.

The Greek Revolt Against Bad Economics Threatens European Elites

A look behind the scenes of the Greek referendum and what could happen next.

By Lynn Parramore

James K. Galbraith, author of The End of Normal and professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, has an inside view of the crisis leading to the recent referendum in Greece. Galbraith has worked for the past several years with recently departed Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis as both a colleague and co-author, and he has just returned from Greece, where he looked down over the rooftops of Syntagma Square as citizens made history in a strong vote against austerity. He discusses the dramatic turn of events and what is at stake going forward as the austerity doctrine — and the entire neoliberal project — come under threat.

Lynn Parramore: What's your view of the attitudes of the creditor powers — the European Central Bank (ECB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Commission (EC) — toward Greece?

Jamie Galbraith: What happened on the 26 th of June was that Alexis (Tsipras) came to realize, at long last, that no matter how many concessions he made he wasn't going to get the first one from the creditors. That's something Wolfgang Schäuble had made clear to Yanis (Varoufakis) months before.

But it was hard to persuade the Greek government of this because its members naturally expected, as you would when you're in a negotiation, that if you make a concession the other side will make a concession. That isn't the way this one worked. The Greeks kept making concessions. They'd present a program and the other side would say —as you can read in the press — oh, no, that's not good enough. Do another one. Then they'd complain that the Greeks were not being serious.

What Else Was Buried In That Wisc. Bill That Almost Gutted Gov't Transparency

By Tierney Sneed

A provision in a Wisconsin budget package that would have gutted the state’s open records laws were scrapped after the Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the GOP legislative leadership came under intense scrutiny. However, a number of other consequential policy initiatives tucked into the larger budget bill remain intact. Some provisions appear to double down on Walker’s longstanding war on labor. Others roll back efforts to hold law enforcement accountable through transparency measures.

The governor’s office did not return TPM’s request for comment as to whether Walker, who will make his run for the White House official next week, intended to support or veto the measures. However, in the fallout over the open records law changes, legislators of both parties signaled his office was aware -- if not approving -- of all the provisions in the budget package, known as Motion 999, that passed the Joint Finance Committee on Thursday.

BBC Propaganda War v. Greece Reaches New Low After “No” Vote

By William K. Black

If you want to know why economic policy has gone insane in the UK you simply have to read the work of the BBC’s “Economics editor,” Robert Peston. I showed one example of his failed effort to terrify the Greeks into voting “Yes” in favor of continuing the self-destructive policies that have forced Greece into worse-than-Great Depression levels of unemployment in my most recent column. Peston argued that the Greeks had to submit to the troika’s demands that it make these policies even more economically illiterate and self-destructive because the troika would otherwise ensure that Greece’s economy was “utterly crippled.” As you know, the EU stands for “ever closer union.”

Examining the neonicotinoid threat to honey bees

American Chemical Society

The decline of honey bees has been a major concern globally for the past decade. One of the factors that could be contributing to the decline is the use of insecticides -- specifically neonicotinoids -- that persist in rivers and streams. Researchers now report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters that although sunlight plays an important role in degrading pollutants, its effects on neonicotinoids can diminish dramatically even in shallow water.

Neonicotinoids protect crops from pests, such as whiteflies, beetles and termites. They are a popular tool in a farmer's arsenal, but they end up washing into surface waters and soil. Some research has suggested the insecticides play a role in the disappearance of bees, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. But scientists didn't fully understand the fate of neonicotinoids in the environment, an important factor in determining how they might contribute to the disorder. Charles S. Wong and colleagues wanted to investigate sunlight's effects on these insecticides in water.

Paul Krugman: Ending Greece’s Bleeding

Europe dodged a bullet on Sunday. Confounding many predictions, Greek voters strongly supported their government’s rejection of creditor demands. And even the most ardent supporters of European union should be breathing a sigh of relief.

Of course, that’s not the way the creditors would have you see it. Their story, echoed by many in the business press, is that the failure of their attempt to bully Greece into acquiescence was a triumph of irrationality and irresponsibility over sound technocratic advice.

'Shocking...Outrageous': New Revelations Confirm UK Spied on Amnesty International

Tribunal which oversees British intelligence services admits that it mistakenly ruled that GCHQ had not targeted the human rights group for surveillance

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Underscoring "gross inadequacies" in the UK intelligence system, the group which oversees British spy services admitted on Wednesday that the government had targeted Amnesty International for surveillance and unlawfully misused its data—a startling turnaround of a ruling made just 10 days earlier, in which the tribunal declared that Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had not spied on the world's largest human rights organization.

On June 22, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled that two international NGOs, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Legal Resources Center in South Africa, had been subjected to illegal surveillance by the GCHQ.


Steve Randy Waldman

Greece is a remarkable country full of wonderful people, but along dimensions of development and governance, the place is plainly pretty fucked up. It has been fucked up that way for a long time, for decades at least. This has never been secret. Anyone who has visited Athens knows it has far more in common with Bucharest or Istanbul than with orderly Western European capitals. In the run up to Greece’s joining the Euro, everyone who wanted to know knew that Greece’s qualifications to join the Eurozone were, shall we say, ambitious. Mainstream establishment banks “helped” Greece and other Southern European countries with accounting fudges that, while perhaps obscure, were not secret even at the time. Despite protestations when these deals hit the news in 2010 that officials were “shocked, shocked”, they were explicitly blessed by the agency that compiles the statistics on which Eurozone entrance was based in 2002 and Greece’s gaming was extensively reported in 2003 (ht Heidi Moore, both cites). The Euro was and ought to be primarily a political enterprise. In order to sell the common currency to Northern European elites, its architects required Eurozone members to meet strict “convergence criteria” and especially the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact. But in practice, those criteria have always been interpreted flexibly. Most Eurozone members have broken their promises at one point or another, including both Germany and France. The Euro was a unification project, and erred (not unreasonably, I think) on the side of building a big tent.

Feds Awarded Colorado Charter Schools $46 Million because of "Hiring and Firing" Rules

Submitted by Jonas Persson on June 30, 2015 - 10:26am

Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) awarded Colorado $46 million under the Charter Schools Program. Part of the reason the state landed the competitive grant was that charters are free to hire unlicensed teachers and then fire them at will, documents reviewed by CMD show.

Designed to create and expand “high-quality” charter schools, the quarter-billion-dollar-a-year program has been repeatedly criticized by the watchdogs at the department's Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and poor financial controls.

Toward a Rational US Strategy (Part 1)

Special Report: Current U.S. foreign policy is driven by neoconservative ideologues and tough-talking “liberal interventionists” who spread chaos and death around the world while failing to serve real American interests. It’s time for a fundamental rethinking, writes former U.S. diplomat William R. Polk.

By William R. Polk

Judaism, Christianity and Islam have proclaimed that humankind faces the ultimate fate of either eternal torment in Hell or everlasting bliss in Heaven, but they differ both in their descriptions of bliss and torment and on the reasons why individuals go to one or the other.

So it has been also with philosophers pondering our earthly lives. Statesmen, strategists and philosophers have pondered and argued about the actions that impel us toward war or peace. Also, like theologians, they have differed from the earliest times on the routes leading to each.

Toward a Rational US Strategy (Part 2)

Special Report: The ultimate madness of today’s U.S. foreign policy is Official Washington’s eager embrace of a new Cold War against Russia with the potential for nuclear annihilation. A rational strategy would seek alternatives to this return to big-power confrontation, writes ex-U.S. diplomat William R. Polk.

By William R. Polk

In Part One, I dealt at length with America’s relationship with “Lesser” or “Third World” powers because that is where we have been most active since the Second World War. I now turn to America’s postwar rivalry with the other “Great” power, the Soviet Union, and offer some thoughts on our growing relationship with China.

For more than half a century, we and the Soviet Union were locked in the Cold War. During that time we were often on the brink of Hot War. We organized ourselves to fight it if necessary but we also created political alliances, economies and politico-military structures with the announced aim of avoiding war.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Tea Party Freak-Out Obscuring the Truth About Secret Right-Wing Money

A defanged IRS means never having to say you’re accountable.

By Karoli Kuns / The Washington Spectator | June 30, 2015

In the United States, money spent on candidates, politics, or public policy is protected speech under the First Amendment. What happens when protected speech is wrapped in a cloak of secrecy?

How to reconcile Citizens United, which gave corporations the same rights as individuals with regard to political speech while shielding them for any accountability for that speech?

TISA Leaks Part Deux: More Evidence of Concerted Attack on Democracy

A WikiLeaks analysis shows how 52-nation Trade in Services Agreement threatens both net neutrality and personal data privacy

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

One day after it leaked a trove of documents related to the massive, pro-corporate Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), WikiLeaks on Thursday published another four chapters of the proposed 52-nation trade deal, covering key areas ahead of the next negotiating round on Monday.

As with Wednesday's documents, Thursday's batch of texts reveals "a concerted attempt to place restrictions on the ability of participating governments to regulate services sectors, even where regulations are necessary to protect the privacy of domestic populations, the natural environment or the integrity of public services," WikiLeaks declares.

Argentina Shows Greece There May Be Life After Default

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Martin Guzman

When, five years ago, Greece's crisis began, Europe extended a helping hand. But it was far different from the kind of help that one would have wanted, far different from what one might have expected if there was even a bit of humanity, of European solidarity.

The initial proposals had Germany and other "rescuers" actually making a profit out of Greece's distress, charging a far, far higher interest rate than their cost of capital. Worse, they imposed conditions on Greece -- changes in its macro- and micro-policies -- that would have to be made in return for the money.

The Torture of Absolute Power

"...these torture procedures produced no information of any value. We sold our soul to the devil and got nothing at all in return."

by Robert C. Koehler

“The existence of the approximately 14,000 photographs will probably cause yet another delay in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as attorneys for the defendants demand that all the images be turned over and the government wades through the material to decide what it thinks is relevant to the proceedings.”

This was the Washington Post a few days ago, informing us wearily that the torture thing isn’t dead yet. The bureaucracy convulses, the wheels of justice grind. So much moral relativism to evaluate.

The Rise of Violent Right-Wing Extremism, Explained

Experts say attacks like the mass shooting in Charleston have been a growing threat.

—By Jaeah Lee, Brandon Ellington Patterson, and Gabrielle Canon | Tue Jun. 30, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

The US law enforcement community regards homegrown violent extremists, not radicalized Islamists, as the most severe threat from political violence in the country, according to a new study from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. Released late last week, the report comes amid renewed focus on the problem ever since a 21-year-old avowed white supremacist carried out a mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. There is a growing body of research highlighting the threat from right-wing extremists, but who or what exactly does that term encompass, and how big really is the problem? Mother Jones examined various reports and contacted experts to find out more.

What are "far-right" or "right-wing" extremists? While there is no uniform definition, these terms loosely encompass individuals or groups associated with white supremacist, anti-government, sovereign citizen, patriot, militia, or other ideologies that target specific religious, ethnic, or other minority groups. (Meanwhile, how to determine which violent attacks constitute an act of terrorism has been a subject of renewed debate.)

The public's political views are strongly linked to attitudes on environmental issues

But politcal views are not a major factor on biomedical, food safety and space issues

Pew Research Center

July 1, 2015 (Washington) - Public attitudes about climate change and energy policy are strongly intertwined with political party affiliation and ideology. But politics play a more modest, or even peripheral, role on public views about other key issues related to biomedical science, food safety and space, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

The chart below highlights the wide mix of factors tied to public attitudes across a broad set of 22 science issues. It illustrates the strength of connection between political affiliation and opinion, and it shows issues for which other factors - such as educational attainment, knowledge about science, religious affiliation or demographic characteristics - are strongly tied to the public's views.

Was Greece Lured Into “Strategic Deficits”?

Dave Johnson

The job of a lender is to evaluate risk and price a loan accordingly. If there is risk you charge a higher interest rate. That way you still make money on a broad portfolio of loans even when there are a few defaults.

That’s the job of a banker, supposedly. It’s what they are supposed to be good at. If they are bad at their job, give loans to deadbeats (or countries that can’t pay you back) you lose money, and probably shouldn’t in the business of being a lender.

Goldman Sachs Doesn’t Have Clean Hands in Greece Crisis

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 30, 2015

Are Goldman Sachs executives Lloyd Blankfein, Gary Cohn and Addy Loudiadis losing any sleep over elderly pensioners waiting outside shuttered banks in Greece, desperately trying to obtain their pension checks to pay their rent and buy food? Are these Goldman honchos feeling a small pang of conscience over the humiliation by creditors of this once proud country? Perhaps Blankfein, who famously espoused that he’s “doing God’s work” might shed a tear or two for the small child clinging to her elderly Grandmother’s hand as she searches in Athens for an ATM that will give her $66 from her bank account – the maximum allowed per day under the newly imposed capital controls.

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Will Likely Wipe Out Public-Sector Unions

By Mark Joseph Stern

On Friday the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case next term that could wipe out public-sector unions. These unions require all public employees in a certain profession to pay fees associated with nonpolitical union representation, like collective bargaining. Now 10 California teachers, along with the Christian Educators Association International, are suing to halt the collection of these fees. They believe that mandatory union payments constitute compelled political speech in violation of the First Amendment.

There is virtually no chance that the Supreme Court will disagree. Over the last several years, Justice Samuel Alito—undoubtedly unions’ biggest enemy on the court—has been tightening the noose around unions’ necks. Joined by his fellow conservatives, Alito has issued two rulings that restricted public-sector unions’ ability to collect mandatory fees. In the second of these cases, Alito essentially telegraphed that he was prepared to rule that the entire system of mandatory fees is unconstitutional—overturning settled precedent in the process. Next term, he will have that opportunity. And there is every reason to believe he (and the court’s other conservatives) will take it.

Slow-motion tragedy for American workers

Lung-damaging silica, other toxic substances kill and sicken tens of thousands each year as regulation falters

By Jim Morris, Jamie Smith Hopkins, Maryam Jameel

PORT BYRON, New York — Six weeks before Chris Johnson was born in 1974, the U.S. government issued a warning about a substance that would nearly kill him 30 years later.

The substance was silica, a component of rock and sand that is the scourge of miners, sandblasters and other workers who breathe it in. When pulverized into dust, it can cause silicosis — a scarring of the lungs that leads to slow suffocation — as well as lung cancer.

Dean Baker | The Federal Reserve Board, Jobs and the Rewriting of Economic History

As most people know, economists are good at rewriting history. We have seen this in the last few years as the collapse of the housing bubble and the ensuing downturn has been turned into one of those unavoidable tragedies that could not have been prevented. After all, no one could have imagined that house prices wouldn't keep going up forever or that anything bad might happen if prices actually fell.

In reality it was possible, and in fact easy, for those who pay attention to data to know that house prices would fall and that the consequences for the economy would be very bad. But most discussions of the crisis treat it as a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, and absolve the economists in policy positions from any responsibility.

Joseph Stiglitz to Greece’s Creditors: Abandon Austerity Or Face Global Fallout

Simon Shuster

Nobel laureate tells TIME that the institutions and countries that have enforced cost-cutting on Greece "have criminal responsibility"

A few years ago, when Greece was still at the start of its slide into an economic depression, the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz remembers discussing the crisis with Greek officials. What they wanted was a stimulus package to boost growth and create jobs, and Stiglitz, who had just produced an influential report for the United Nations on how to deal with the global financial crisis, agreed that this would be the best way forward. Instead, Greece’s foreign creditors imposed a strict program of austerity. The Greek economy has shrunk by about 25% since 2010. The cost-cutting was an enormous mistake, Stiglitz says, and it’s time for the creditors to admit it.

The Greek Debt Crisis and Crashing Markets

by Michael Hudson

Back in January upon coming into office, Syriza probably could not have won a referendum on whether to pay or not to pay. It didn’t have a full parliamentary majority, and had to rely on a nationalist party for Tsipras to become prime minister. (That party balked at cutting back Greek military spending, which was 3% of GDP, and which the troika had helpfully urged to be cut back in order to balance the government’s budget.)

Seeing how unyielding the opposition was, Syriza’s stance was: “We would like to pay. But there’s no money.”

Paul Krugman: Greece Over the Brink

It has been obvious for some time that the creation of the euro was a terrible mistake. Europe never had the preconditions for a successful single currency — above all, the kind of fiscal and banking union that, for example, ensures that when a housing bubble in Florida bursts, Washington automatically protects seniors against any threat to their medical care or their bank deposits.

Leaving a currency union is, however, a much harder and more frightening decision than never entering in the first place, and until now even the Continent’s most troubled economies have repeatedly stepped back from the brink. Again and again, governments have submitted to creditors’ demands for harsh austerity, while the European Central Bank has managed to contain market panic.

TPP-- How Did Venal Corporate Special Interests Turn Their Defeat Into Victory?

posted by DownWithTyranny

The catastrophic trade package that Obama and Boehner are so determined to deliver to their Big Business and Wall Street contributors doesn't appear ready to die-- not by a longshot. While progressives were celebrating how they had beaten them back last week, the Dark Forces regrouped and came back, with a vengeance. Thursday the House voted 286-138 to pass the TAA (H.R. 1295), a piece of the package that had to be resolved with the Senate's version. At least the Republicans backed away from their mean-spirited and ugly demand that the money for retraining displaced workers by stolen from Medicare. That allowed many Democrats to rally around Boehner and pretend that everything was wonderful with at least this part of the TPP package.

The Five Horsemen (and One Horsewoman) of Europe’s Monetary Apocalypse

Even now, the collective madness grows.

By Don Quijones

As the late great U.S. comedian and social commentator extraordinaire George Carlin once said, the table is tilted, the game is rigged. Nowhere is this truer than in today’s Europe, where power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of unelected, unaccountable bankers and bureaucrats. The result is that representative democracy is on its last legs and national sovereignty (that dirty “S” word) could soon be a thing of the past.

Europe’s tilted table is dominated by the five presidents of its main institutions. Politico calls them, the “Five Horsemen of the Euro’s Future.” Or as I call them, the “Five Horsemen of Europe’s Monetary Apocalypse.” At the head of the table – the same negotiating table that is now being used as a platform for browbeating Greece’s upstart leaders into submission (see this image for that table and those sitting around it) – is Mario Draghi, Europe’s central banker-in-chief.

The Church of Self-Help

SThere’s a reason the poor don’t rise up over inequality. Because our culture shames them.

By Helaine Olen

The question of why we aren’t angrier about our increasing income inequality is back, courtesy of Thomas Edsall at the New York Times. In a Wednesday op-ed he asks, “Why are today’s working poor so quiescent?”

While Edsall believes living conditions are better for the poor than they were in the past (affordable televisions and air conditioners go a long way!), he flags something else to blame for the lack of public rage: the United States’ individualistic culture, one that has left all of us ever-more skeptical of appeals to group action. “There is very little social support for class-based protest,“ he notes.

What's Killing the Babies of Vernal, Utah?

A fracking boomtown, a spike in stillborn deaths and a gusher of unanswered questions

By Paul Solotaroff | June 22, 2015

Every night, Donna Young goes to bed with her pistol, a .45 Taurus Judge with laser attachment. Last fall, she says, someone stole onto her ranch to poison her livestock, or tried to; happily, her son found the d-CON wrapper and dumped all the feed from the troughs. Strangers phoned the house to wish her dead or run out of town on a rail. Local nurses and doctors went them one better, she says, warning pregnant women that Young's incompetence had killed babies and would surely kill theirs too, if given the chance.

"Before they started spreading their cheer about me, I usually had 18 to 25 clients a year, and a spotless reputation in the state," says Young, the primary midwife to service Vernal, Utah, a boom-and-bust town of 10,000 people in the heart of the fracked-gas gold rush of the Uintah Basin. A hundred and fifty miles of sparse blacktop east of Salt Lake City, Vernal has the feel of a slapdash suburb dropped randomly from outer space. Half of it is new and garishly built, the paint barely dry after a decade-long run of fresh-drilled wells and full employment. "Now, I'm down to four or five ladies, and don't know how I'll be able to feed my animals if things don't turn around quick."

Minnesota Loses the Race to the Bottom – And Wins

Isaiah J. Poole

CNBC, the business porn channel for one-percenters, released the results of its latest ratings of “top states for business” and, to its barely disguised surprise, it was not Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Florida, or any of the other states where Republican governors and conservative legislatures have cut government spending, lowered taxes on the wealthy and moved to weaken unions.

Instead, it was union-friendly, tax-and-spend Minnesota.