Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Report Reveals Electric Utility Industry's Influence at Universities

By Matthew Kasper, Republic Report | Report

In 1971, Lewis Powell, before becoming a Supreme Court Justice, authored a memo, now known as the Powell Memo, and sent it to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Powell called on corporate America to take an increased role in shaping politics, law, and education. Business leaders, Powell instructed, must marshal their resources to influence institutions that influence public opinion and wield political power – especially at universities. Four decades later, the public can see examples of Powell's instructions taking hold.

Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) has released a report detailing how several universities and professors, funded by fossil fuel and electric utility companies are increasingly producing academic reports, supporting advocacy efforts, and amplifying policies important to utility companies and their trade association, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). This amplification lends credibility to what the industry seeks to achieve in the legislative and regulatory arenas.

Fables of the Reconstruction: Why Clinton's comments about Southern history matter

By Chris Kromm

At a CNN town hall for the Democratic presidential hopefuls this week, Hillary Clinton was asked a seemingly softball question: Who is your favorite president of all time?

Clinton's answer: Abraham Lincoln, a safe bet given Lincoln's consistent ranking among scholars as the country's best leader. But Clinton's response took an odd turn — and generated national controversy, at least among historians and pundits — when she appeared to suggest Lincoln's death was tragic not only because of the South's descent into Jim Crow and white terror, but equally disastrous because of the experiment in postwar democracy known as Reconstruction:
You know, [Lincoln] was willing to reconcile and forgive. And I don't know what our country might have been like had he not been murdered, but I bet that it might have been a little less rancorous, a little more forgiving and tolerant, that might possibly have brought people back together more quickly.

Dave Johnson: Ford Leaves Japan and Indonesia, Blames the TPP

Ford Motor Company announced this week that it will close all operations in Japan and Indonesia this year, because it sees “no reasonable path to profitability.” Last year GM pulled out of Indonesia. What does it say that they are doing this with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the horizon?

Ford is giving up on trying to crack the Japanese and Indonesian automobile markets, saying that the upcoming TPP does not address such problems as currency manipulation and other non-tariff barriers.

Minority And Low-Income Communities Are Targeted For Hazardous Waste Sites, Research Confirms

By Mike Gaworecki

Decades of research show a clear pattern of racial and socioeconomic discrimination when it comes to siting facilities for hazardous waste disposal, polluting industrial plants and other land uses that are disproportionately located in minority and low-income communities.

But what’s been less clear is whether the placement of these facilities was deliberate on the part of the facilities’ owners and public policymakers, or if the noxious facilities came first, leading to disproportionately higher concentrations of low-income residents and minorities moving into the surrounding community.

I worked on Wall Street. I am skeptical Hillary Clinton will rein it in

Wall Street is very much intertwined with the Clintons. I doubt that will change anytime soon

Chris Arnade

I owe almost my entire Wall Street career to the Clintons. I am not alone; most bankers owe their careers, and their wealth, to them. Over the last 25 years they – with the Clintons it is never just Bill or Hillary – implemented policies that placed Wall Street at the center of the Democratic economic agenda, turning it from a party against Wall Street to a party of Wall Street.

That is why when I recently went to see Hillary Clinton campaign for president and speak about reforming Wall Street I was skeptical. What I heard hasn’t changed that skepticism. The policies she offers are mid-course corrections. In the Clintons’ world, Wall Street stays at the center, economically and politically. Given Wall Street’s power and influence, that is a dangerous place to leave them.

A Troubling Op-Ed Portends GOP Agenda Absorbing the Worst Ideals of Silicon Valley

Uh Oh -- are we going to see right-wingers merge their agenda with Silicon Valley greed?

By Adam Johnson

The Washington insider publication Politico has a habit of publishing revealing op-eds by right-wingers in Washington that show their ideology in an unvarnished way. It's a place you can see their true feelings about the poor and the American entitlement system—which is to say runaway contempt for both. One so-bad-it-borders-on-self-parody op-ed dropped January 27, and it wants to massively overhaul several entitlements by subjecting those most in need to the Dickensian nightmare of the “gig economy”: "Uber for welfare: A bold proposal to use the 'gig economy' to reboot the safety net."

Charles P. Pierce: What The Washington Post (and Nearly Everyone) Gets Wrong About Bernie Sanders

Every presidential campaign is necessary aspirational.

It seems that, over at The Washington Post, a once-great newspaper now doing business as an adjunct to the home delivery industry, Fred Hiatt's Workshop For Ghastly Writing is getting a little run for this editorial in which Bernie Sanders is posed as the Lord Mayor Of Munchkinland. There's nothing like the scorn of the Church Of The Savvy. To borrow a comparison from the late Molly Ivins, it's like being gummed by a newt. Folks, leave the snark to the professionals, OK? Anyway, it seems that Fred and his minions find Sanders' proposals to be unrealistic, an insight now shared by almost every putatively liberal pundit, as well as every gas station attendant between Des Moines and Ottumwa. Let's look at the argument, shall we?

Dean Baker: Washington Post Doubles Down with Name Calling on Sanders

The Washington Post again went after Senator Bernie Sanders in its lead editorial, telling readers that the Senator's proposals were "facile." It might be advisable for a paper that described President Bush's case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as "irrefutable" to be cautious about going ad hominem, but this is the Washington Post.

Getting to the substance, the Post is unhappy with Sanders proposal for single payer health insurance which it argues will cost far more or deliver much less than promised. While the Post is correct that Sanders has put forward a campaign proposal rather than a fully worked out health reform bill, it is not unreasonable to think that we can get considerably more coverage at a lower cost than we pay now. After all, there is nothing in our national psyche that should condemn us to forever pay twice as much per person for our health care as people in other wealthy countries. (I have written more about this issue here.)

Is Ted Cruz Right About the Federal Reserve and the Great Recession?

By Mike Konczal

Is Ted Cruz right about the Great Recession and the Federal Reserve? From a November debate, Cruz argued that “in the third quarter of 2008, the Fed tightened the money and crashed those asset prices, which caused a cascading collapse.”

Fleshing that argument out in the New York Times is David Beckworth and Ramesh Ponnuru, backing and expanding Cruz’s theory that “the Federal Reserve caused the crisis by tightening monetary policy in 2008.”

But wait, didn’t the Federal Reserve lower rates during that time? Their argument is that the Federal Reserve didn’t lower them fast enough.

Revealed: Rick Snyder gave state workers in Flint clean water a year before providing it to residents

Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press

LANSING, Mich. — In January 2015, when state officials were telling worried Flint residents their water was safe to drink, they also were arranging for coolers of purified water in Flint's State Office Building so employees wouldn't have to drink from the taps, according to state government emails released Thursday by the liberal group Progress Michigan.

A Jan. 7, 2015, notice from the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which oversees state office buildings, references a notice about a violation of drinking water standards that had recently been sent out by the city of Flint.

Paul Krugman: Plutocrats and Prejudice

Every time you think that our political discourse can’t get any worse, it does. The Republican primary fight has devolved into a race to the bottom, achieving something you might have thought impossible: making George W. Bush look like a beacon of tolerance and statesmanship. But where is all the nastiness coming from?

Well, there’s debate about that — and it’s a debate that is at the heart of the Democratic contest.

Corporate Crime Runs Rampant Thanks to 'Rigged' System: Elizabeth Warren

Report suggests 'some giant corporations—and their executives—have decided that following the law is merely optional'

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

"Corporate criminals routinely escape meaningful prosecution for their misconduct."

This is the damning verdict of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) report released Friday, Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy (pdf).

Described as "the first in an annual series on enforcement," the 12-page booklet "highlights 20 of the most egregious civil and criminal cases during the past year in which federal settlements failed to require meaningful accountability to deter future wrongdoing and to protect taxpayers and families," according to a press statement from Warren's office.

“Black Americans for a Better Future” Super PAC 100% Funded by Rich White Guys

New FEC filings show that all of the $417,250 in monetary donations to a Super PAC called “Black Americans for a Better Future” comes from conservative white businessmen — including $400,000, or 96 percent of the total, from white billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer.

Jon Schwarz

Mercer, co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies on Long Island, is best-known politically for donating $11,000,000 to Keep the Promise I, a Super PAC backing Ted Cruz’s presidential run.

Beyond Mercer’s support of Black Americans for a Better Future and Ted Cruz, Mercer has a long and peculiar history of donations to political and philanthropic causes.

How to feed 11 billion people: Addressing the 21st century's biggest challenge

By Terri Cook

In April 2008, violent protests erupted across the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti. Enraged by soaring food prices and all-too-frequent hunger pangs, protesters smashed windows, looted shops, barricaded streets with blazing cars and stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The week of violence, during which five people were killed, flared after the cost of staples like beans and cooking oil spiked dramatically and the price of rice nearly doubled in four months, increasing hardships in a nation where 80 percent of the population survives on less than $2 per day.

So-called “food riots” aren’t restricted to the Caribbean. Between 2006 and 2008, as the cost of food, fuel oil and other commodities surged to levels not experienced in almost three decades, disturbances erupted around the planet. Large — and frequently violent — protests broke out in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Did Wall Street Banks Create the Oil Crash?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

From June 2008 to the depth of the Wall Street financial crash in early 2009, U.S. domestic crude oil lost 70 percent of its value, falling from over $140 to the low $40s. But then a strange thing happened. Despite weak global economic growth, oil went back to over $100 by 2011 and traded between the $80s and a little over $100 until June 2014. Since then, it has plunged by 72 percent – a bigger crash than when Wall Street was collapsing.

The chart of crude oil has the distinct feel of a pump and dump scheme, a technique that Wall Street has turned into an art form in the past. Think limited partnerships priced at par on client statements as they disintegrated in price in the real world; rigged research leading to the bust and a $4 trillion stock wipeout; and the securitization of AAA-rated toxic waste creating the subprime mortgage meltdown that cratered the U.S. housing market along with century-old firms on Wall Street.

How Two-Party Political Systems Bolster Capitalism

By Richard D. Wolff, Truthout | News Analysis

Mainstream economics has always privileged one debate above all others as its most central. Should production and distribution of goods and services be private or public, done by individuals or the state? Mainstream economists likewise keep aggressively projecting this question as the central debate for politics and politicians. Such arrogant self-confidence is the other side of the insular self-absorption that characterizes so much of the mainstream economics "discipline."

On one side of the debate are devotees of (1) private ownership of productive resources and (2) market exchanges to connect the private owners with one another and everyone else. They believe that private property and markets best serve every society's economic interests - growth, efficiency, fairness and rising mass consumption. On the other side are devotees of government economic intervention to correct, moderate or offset the many flaws and weaknesses they find in private property and markets. They believe that society's best economic interests can only be served through such an intervention. Most people interested in economics and politics have long accepted (been trapped within?) these mainstream positions as the boundaries of economic thought, research and policy.

Paul Krugman: Michigan’s Great Stink

In the 1850s, London, the world’s largest city, still didn’t have a sewer system. Waste simply flowed into the Thames, which was as disgusting as you might imagine. But conservatives, including the magazine The Economist and the prime minister, opposed any effort to remedy the situation. After all, such an effort would involve increased government spending and, they insisted, infringe on personal liberty and local control.

It took the Great Stink of 1858, when the stench made the Houses of Parliament unusable, to produce action.

Paul Krugman: How Change Happens

There are still quite a few pundits determined to pretend that America’s two great parties are symmetric — equally unwilling to face reality, equally pushed into extreme positions by special interests and rabid partisans. It’s nonsense, of course. Planned Parenthood isn’t the same thing as the Koch brothers, nor is Bernie Sanders the moral equivalent of Ted Cruz. And there’s no Democratic counterpart whatsoever to Donald Trump.

Moreover, when self-proclaimed centrist pundits get concrete about the policies they want, they have to tie themselves in knots to avoid admitting that what they’re describing are basically the positions of a guy named Barack Obama.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Gov. Snyder lied: Flint water switch was not about saving money, records show

By Steve Neavling

The Flint water crisis that led to thousands of people being poisoned began because state officials maintained it would save the cash-strapped city money by disconnecting from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) and using a different source.

But it turns out, DWSD offered the state-controlled city a deal that would have saved Flint more money by staying with Detroit.

An e-mail obtained by Motor City Muckraker shows the deal would have saved the city $800 million over 30 years, which was 20% more inexpensive than switching to the Karegnondi Water Authority.

Rick Perlstein: Obama, Transformed

Thinking About the President He Might Have Been

They say the president gave his seventh State of the Union address last Tuesday, but personally, I count eight. On February 24, 2009, Barack Obama’s 35th full day in office, he delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress to explain how America had gotten into its economic mess and how his just-passed $787 billion stimulus bill would help get it out. He spoke about foreign policy, too: about his plans to wrench America’s orientation toward the rest of the world away from the snarling martial barks of the Bush years, rebuild alliances, reestablish diplomacy as a first resort, and use “all elements of our national power”—for, he concluded, “living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger.” It started Obama’s first term off with a wave of nearly universal approval—even among Republicans.

’ve always seen that speech as a key to understanding a certain sort of road not taken by this administration. It’s one that could have led Obama to considerably more success than he has enjoyed, and perhaps even fulfilled expectations that his would be a “transformational” and not a “transactional” presidency—a failure Obama himself seemed to acknowledge by explicitly, almost apologetically, comparing himself unfavorably to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

They’re still lying about Ronald Reagan: What Trump, Cruz and the GOP field won’t tell you about Reaganomics

We know the results of Reagan's tax and spending policies. So why do GOP presidential candidates keep pushing them?

Eliza A. Webb

Every candidate in the GOP presidential race is running on the same economic platform: slash taxes, slash spending, slash regulation. It’s the Republicans’ special formula, guaranteed to spark prosperity and opulence for all. At recent debates, candidates have said things like this:
Marco Rubio: “It begins with tax reform… It continues with regulatory reform. Regulations in this country are out of control… I’m going to side with Ronald Reagan on this and not Nancy Pelosi.”
Ted Cruz: “You pass a tax plan like the tax plan I’ve introduced: a simple flat tax, 10 percent for individuals, and a 16 percent business flat tax, you abolish the IRS… it produces economic growth.”
Ben Carson: “A flat tax for everybody… get rid of the incredible regulations — because every regulation is a tax, it’s a — on goods and services… It’s the evil government that is — that is putting all these regulations on us so that we can’t survive.”

Brian Beutler: Is Nominating Bernie Sanders a Worthwhile Gamble?

Hillary Clinton's supporters have yet to make a persuasive case that Sanders is too great a risk.

For the better part of a year, Bernie Sanders enjoyed a polite if slightly bemused welcome from the non-radical quarters of the Democratic firmament. The wing of the party represented by Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had been ascendant for most of Barack Obama’s presidency, enlarging the potential constituency for a populist presidential primary challenge to Hillary Clinton. As a grumpy-yet-affable elderly Jewish socialist who wasn’t actually a Democrat, Sanders struck members of the liberal establishment as the least-viable tribune of the party’s insurgent wing.

One week from the Iowa caucuses, we now know their assessment was wildly inaccurate. Sanders is within striking distance of Clinton in Iowa, and leads her in most New Hampshire polls. He still trails badly in more ethnically diverse Southern and Western states, but the Clinton campaign and its allies are suddenly contending with the possibility that Sanders will convert victories in both of the first two contests into polling surges elsewhere in the country, imperiling Clinton’s nomination, or at least making her path to it much longer, costlier, and more divisive.

Saudi Arabia's Secret Holdings of U.S. Debt Are Suddenly a Big Deal

by Andrea Wong, Liz McCormick

It’s a secret of the vast U.S. Treasury market, a holdover from an age of oil shortages and mighty petrodollars: Just how much of America’s debt does Saudi Arabia own?

But now that question -- unanswered since the 1970s, under an unusual blackout by the U.S. Treasury Department -- has come to the fore as Saudi Arabia is pressured by plunging oil prices and costly wars in the Middle East.

Big Bank Stocks Have Been Crushed: Here’s Why

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

The conventional wisdom was that the Fed’s rate hike on December 16 of last year was going to help big bank stocks by boosting their ability to charge heftier interest rates on loans. That theory has pretty much been relegated to the dust bin of financial fairy tales along with the Fed’s prediction that the slump in oil prices would be “transitory.” Bank stocks have been cratering like it’s early 2008 all over again and oil prices can’t find a floor, having broken through $60, $50, $40 and now $30 a barrel over the past 12 months.

On top of the oil rout, which may spell corporate credit downgrades, bankruptcies, higher loan loss reserves – none of which are good for bank stocks – there are other bank risks not on the public’s radar screen.

Hillary Clinton Seeks Neocon Shelter

Special Report: Stunned by falling poll numbers, Hillary Clinton is hoping that Democrats will rally to her neocon-oriented foreign policy and break with Bernie Sanders as insufficiently devoted to Israel. But will that hawkish strategy work this time, asks Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In seeking to put Sen. Bernie Sanders on the defensive over his foreign policy positions, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is embracing a neoconservative stance on the Middle East and gambling that her more hawkish approach will win over Democratic voters.

Losing ground in Iowa and New Hampshire in recent polls, the Clinton campaign has counterattacked against Sanders, targeting his sometimes muddled comments on the Mideast crisis, but Clinton’s attack line suggests that Sanders isn’t adequately committed to the positions of Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his American neocon acolytes.

Katha Pollitt: The Schools Where Free Speech Goes to Die

Some of the worst offenders against the First Amendment are religious colleges.

 Trigger warnings, safe spaces, micro-aggressions—in 2015, pundits, politicians, and other serious people had a lot of fun bemoaning academia as a liberal la-la land where hands are held and minds are coddled. I’m rather old-school when it comes to free expression. I didn’t go for author and Northwestern professor Laura Kipnis’s notorious essay cheering professor-student affairs, but surely it was overkill for grad students to bring charges against her under Title IX for having a “chilling effect” on student victims’ willingness to come forward. Wouldn’t writing a letter to the editor have sufficed? As for dropping Ovid’s Metamorphoses from the Literature Humanities core class at Columbia after students demanded trigger warnings about its accounts of rape: Wasn’t it bad enough that Ovid was shipped off to Romania? Must his beautiful poems follow him into exile?

 Attacks on “political correctness” champion educational values: the importance of grappling with challenging ideas and texts, mixing it up with different kinds of people, expanding your worldview, facing uncomfortable facts. How will students grow into strong, independent adults in a tough and complex world if they’ve spent four years lying on a mental fainting couch? Good question. There’s a whole swath of academia, though, that gets left out of the discussion, despite the fact that its restrictions on speech and behavior, on what is taught in the classroom or argued in a lecture series, would make Yale and Northwestern and the rest look like New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I’m referring, of course, to evangelical and Catholic colleges.

One Single, All-Too Common, Character Trait Unites Trump Supporters

Could this large group of Americans provide Trump with a path to the White House?

By Janet Allon / AlterNet

A great deal has been said about just what sort of person Donald Trump is. The consensus seems to be that he’s a narcissistic megalomaniac with a fourth-grade vocabulary. But as fabulous as Trump believes himself to be, he cannot singlehandedly elect himself.

In a fascinating recent poll, a single characteristic emerged as the clearest sign that a voter is a Trump supporter. Contrary to what some might expect, it's not race, gender, income, age or education level. It's authoritarianism, clear and simple. Americans with authoritarian personalities (and they are more prevalent than any of us would like them to be) tend to support Trump.

As Citizens United turns six, the movement to end 'legalized corruption' gains momentum

By Alex Kotch

Six years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, allowing unfettered political spending by corporations and unions.

As a result of that ruling and subsequent lower court decisions, corporations and unions as well as individuals can spend unlimited sums to both directly and indirectly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates for office via super PACs, which are required to disclose their donors, or "social welfare" and other nonprofit organizations, which are not.

Not-So-Subtle Establishment Threat? Bloomberg Hints at Presidential Run

Former New York City mayor indicates willingness to spend "at least $1 billion"... especially if Sanders bumps Clinton

by Jon Queally, staff writer

Is the real establishment getting worried?

As news broke Saturday afternoon that billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is "seriously" considering the idea of a third-party run for president in 2016, some political observers immediately smelled a rat.

The New York Times was the first to report that Bloomberg has asked his political team to draw up plans for what a campaign might look like. The Times cited sources close to the former mayor who said he is prepared to invest "at least $1 billion" of his own money in order to finance a run against the Republican and Democratic nominees that ultimately emerge.

Dark Money: Jane Mayer on How the Koch Bros. & Billionaire Allies Funded the Rise of the Far Right

A fascinating interview about the long history of bought and paid for American politics.

By Amy Goodman / Democracy Now!

Democrats and Republicans are expected to spend about $1 billion getting their 2016 nominee elected. There’s a third group that will spend almost as much. It’s not a political party, and it doesn’t have any candidates. It’s the right-wing political network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, expected to spend nearly $900 million in 2016. The Kochs’ 2016 plans come as part of an effort to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the last four decades. The story of the Koch brothers and an allied group of billionaire donors is told in a new book by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right." Mayer traces how the Kochs and other billionaires have leveraged their business empires to shape the political system in the mold of their right-wing agenda.

“Power is being shifted from the many to the few”: Report exposes scope of the 1 percent’s attack on democracy

Big government talk aside, the 1 percent's real victim is democracy itself, Democracy Initiative experts tell Salon

Elias Isquith

If you had to describe the state of American democracy today in three words, you could do a lot worse than: “Not great, Bob!”

Because whether we’re looking at voting rates, campaign donations, congressional approval, legislative initiative, or something as simple as paving roads and fixing bridges, American democracy’s health — and its ability to maintain its own legitimacy in the eyes of Americans — is, well, not great.

Treating all of these issues one-by-one, however, can make the problem seem both worse and better than it is. Worse, because so many disparate sources of failure suggest that no fixes are possible, and make sentiments like “this is just the way the world is” — or other such fatalist pablum — increasingly hard to resist. Better, because it undersells how expansive, well-funded and coordinated is the attempt to place American plutocracy on an unshakable foundation.

Abortion Is as Old as Pregnancy: 4,000 Years of Reproductive Rights History

By Katie Klabusich, Truthout | News Analysis

Abortion has always existed. The earliest written record of abortion is more than 4,000 years old. Pregnancy has always been accompanied by the seeking and sharing of methods for ending pregnancy.

The United States' history with abortion is complicated and currently in flux. Up until 1821, abortion simply existed and, like pregnancy and other "woman-related" business, was entrusted to midwives and other caregivers. The transition to outright criminalization of abortion would take more than 50 years; prohibition would last a century.

How We Can Overcome Oligarchy Disguised as Democracy

As many countries show, technology can bring decision making closer to the voters.

By Dr Roslyn Fuller

He who says organization, says oligarchy. So wrote German sociologist Robert Michels during the formation of Europe’s big tent ‘people’s parties’ a century ago. According to Michels—a committed realist, as we shall see—even the most radical and progressive of these new parties would eventually succumb to what he termed ‘the iron law of oligarchy’.

Such a state of affairs was, in Michels’ view, not attributable to the people in those parties being evil or uncommitted to their cause, but was inherent in the very structure of the new ‘democratic’ political system. In a world of competitive elections, where radical, progressive movements had to overcome opposition from well-resourced establishment elites in order to win power, they would be forced to adopt an internal organization that was both efficient and hierarchical. In the interests of creating a party machine capable of delivering victory at the polls, power would need to be delegated to specific people within the party, and anyone who held power, even for a short time, could be able to consolidate their position and grow that power base. Marginal as that power might be in the beginning, it would grow, and in time the people’s movements would become bureaucratic top-down behemoths, mirroring the very aristocracy they sought to supplant.

Social Security in the cross hairs: overestimating the deficit

New estimates make the problem sound insoluble

By Alicia H. Munnell

Social Security may be at risk after the November elections. Critics are writing op-eds saying that benefits – relative to previous earnings – are very high, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has come out with an astounding estimate of the 75-year deficit. The stage is being set for benefit reductions. Cutting benefits would be a huge mistake, given that half the private sector workforce does not participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan and that those lucky enough to participate in a 401(k) have combined 401(k)/IRA balances of $111,000 as they approach retirement. Therefore, it is very important to take a hard look at the emerging characterization of the Social Security program. This blog focuses on the 75-year deficit.

The 75-year deficit is the difference between the income rate and the cost rate. The income rate is calculated by adding the current trust fund balance to the present discounted value of scheduled taxes and then dividing by the present discounted value of taxable payroll over the 75-year period. The cost rate is the present discounted value of scheduled benefits divided by the same payroll number. In 2015, the Social Security Trustees Report had an estimated deficit equal to 2.68 percent of taxable payroll. That figure means that if payroll taxes were raised immediately by 2.68 percentage points – 1.34 percentage points each for the employee and the employer – the government would be able to pay the current package of benefits for everyone who reaches retirement age at least through 2089.

Debunking the Case Against Bernie

As Sanders catches up to Hillary in the polls, corporate media circles the wagons as expected.

By Ben Norton

Argumentum ad nauseam refers to the logical fallacy that an argument is correct by virtue of it constantly being repeated. Argumentum ad hominem is the fallacy that a point is wrong because of personal critiques of the person making it.

A new logical fallacy should be added to the list: Argumentum ad centrum, or the flawed claim that an assertion is accurate because it is from the ideological center.

America’s Other Original Sin

Europeans didn’t just displace Native Americans—they enslaved them, and encouraged tribes to participate in the slave trade, on a scale historians are only beginning to fathom.

By Rebecca Onion

Here are three scenes from the history of slavery in North America. In 1637, a group of Pequot Indians, men and boys, having risen up against English colonists in Connecticut and been defeated, were sold to plantations in the West Indies in exchange for African slaves, allowing the colonists to remove a resistant element from their midst. (The tribe’s women were pressed into service in white homes in New England, where domestic workers were sorely lacking.) In 1741, an 800-foot-long coffle of recently enslaved Sioux Indians, procured by a group of Cree, Assiniboine, and Monsoni warriors, arrived in Montreal, ready for sale to French colonists hungry for domestic and agricultural labor. And in 1837, Cherokee Joseph Vann, expelled from his land in Georgia during the era of Indian removal, took at least 48 enslaved black people along with him to Indian Territory. By the 1840s, Vann was said to have owned hundreds of enslaved black laborers, as well as racehorses and a side-wheeler steamboat.

A reductive view of the American past might note two major, centuries-long historical sins: the enslavement of stolen Africans and the displacement of Native Americans. In recent years, a new wave of historians of American slavery has been directing attention to the ways these sins overlapped. The stories they have uncovered throw African slavery—still the narrative that dominates our national memory—into a different light, revealing that the seeds of that system were sown in earlier attempts to exploit Native labor. The record of Native enslavement also shows how the white desire to put workers in bondage intensified the chaos of contact, disrupting intertribal politics and creating uncertainty and instability among people already struggling to adapt to a radically new balance of power.

Europe’s future is bleak with an ageing population and policy failure

Bill Mitchell

I read an interesting article that was published on December 18, 2015 by the Center for Global Development, which is one those centrist-type research and advocacy organisations that lean moderately to the right on economic matters. The article – Europe’s Refugee Crisis Hides a Bigger Problem – discusses what it considers to be “three population related crises”, two of which at the forefront of public attention (because they are moving fast) – the “refugee crisis” and the “terrorism crisis”. The third is “Europe’s slow moving and in inexorable ageing crisis”, which is largely being ignored in the public debate. The article provides a basis to link the three crises together – in the sense that “Europe actually needs millions of migrants a year to mitigate its ageing crisis”. While I have some sympathy with the article, there are many omissions that reflect the bias of the author. Two major issues – mass unemployment and productivity growth are ignored completely. The emphasis in the article is on whether the public sector can afford not to bring in more people to offset the ageing of the EU28 population. That emphasis discloses the bias of the author and diminishes the strength of the article.

WaPo Does Another OMG! Editorial on Social Security and Medicare

Yes, it's a beautiful Sunday morning in our nation's capital (not quite) and the Washington Post is again urging cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The headline tells it all, "A nation that is getting older -- fast."

The editorial lays out the case:
"The implication [of an aging population] is clear: A larger, older cohort will depend on a smaller, working-age cohort. Payroll taxes fund Social Security and Medicare; yet the Congressional Budget Office forecast last year that the ratio of workers to retirees will decline from 3-to- 1 to 2-to- 1 between now and 2040.

What The Big Short Gets Right (and What Politico Gets Wrong)

By Mike Konczal | 01.17.16

Imagine there was no financial crisis. Lehman Brothers went into bankruptcy and the only sound was crickets chirping. No panic, no bailouts, no TARP. There’d be nothing to be mad about, right?

Actually there’s everything to be mad about. We’d still have six million foreclosures destroying communities and people’s lives. The Great Recession would have happened almost exactly as it did, throwing millions of people out of work and scarring their productive lives. And there still would have been a wave of individuals who profited enormously through bad mortgage instruments, leaving everyone else on the hook.

Paul Krugman: Health Reform Realities

Health reform is the signature achievement of the Obama presidency. It was the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare was established in the 1960s. It more or less achieves a goal — access to health insurance for all Americans — that progressives have been trying to reach for three generations. And it is already producing dramatic results, with the percentage of uninsured Americans falling to record lows.

Obamacare is, however, what engineers would call a kludge: a somewhat awkward, clumsy device with lots of moving parts. This makes it more expensive than it should be, and will probably always cause a significant number of people to fall through the cracks.

How Corporations and Politicians Use Numbers to Lie — and How Not to Be Fooled

Do 8 out of 10 dentists really prefer Colgate?

By Larry Schwartz

Americans, as P.T. Barnum once noted, are not all that difficult to fool, and our nation’s somewhat weak math skills don’t help. A Pew Research Center report issued last year, which studied test results of 15-year-olds, ranked the United States 35th in the world in math. Not only has this weakness in understanding numbers created opportunities for mass exploitation by Big Pharma and other industries, it has led to needless and mostly unwarranted fear. While Americans don’t understand math, be assured that corporations do, and they happily use it to mislead and obfuscate in the name of selling their products.

Big Pharma doesn’t only target consumers with its misleading advertising; it also targets your doctor. And why not? Sadly, a medical degree doesn’t necessarily mean your doctor is a numbers whiz. In a report in the journal Psychological Science in the Pubic Interest on doctors’ ability to analyze relevant statistics, they were asked, “If my mammogram is positive, what are the odds that I actually have cancer?” Doctors were given all the information needed to answer that question accurately, and a startling number of them still got it wrong. In fact, only 20 percent of them got it right. (The answer, by the way, is a 10 percent chance.) Of those who got it wrong, 60 percent erred drastically on the side of doom, saying the chances of having cancer were 80 to 90 percent. So if your doctor was in that group, and you got a positive mammogram result, she would have told you that you almost certainly have cancer.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

New NAFTA lawsuits reveal disturbing, dangerous trend

If corporate interests keep suing Canada and other countries under trade agreements like NAFTA, state sovereignty might soon be a thing of the past.

By: Marilyn Reid

Abitibi Bowater is at it again.

In 2010 the company squeezed $130 million out of Canadian taxpayers after the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador expropriated Abitibi’s hydroelectric assets in Grand Falls-Windsor and took back water and timber rights.

The company threatened to sue Canada under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), prompting the Harper administration to settle out of court.

The Internet of Things that Talk About You Behind Your Back

Bruce Schneier

SilverPush is an Indian startup that's trying to figure out all the different computing devices you own. It embeds inaudible sounds into the webpages you read and the television commercials you watch. Software secretly embedded in your computers, tablets, and smartphones picks up the signals, and then uses cookies to transmit that information back to SilverPush. The result is that the company can track you across your different devices. It can correlate the television commercials you watch with the web searches you make. It can link the things you do on your tablet with the things you do on your work computer.

Gaius Publius: Wall Street Reviews What Sanders Plans for Wall Street

Posted on January 15, 2016 by Yves Smith

Yves here. This post provides a solid overview of the Sanders Big Finance reforms, and as important, some of the ways it has been caricatured or flat-out misrepresented.

wanted to add a couple of points.

Disingenuous critics treat the less-than-well-thought out details of the Sanders plan as if it were cast in stone. For example, the idea of a usury ceiling is sound. Classical economists like Adam Smith called for them because they could see in their day that lending with no interest rate curbs led creditors to target borrowers who were desperate or reckless but still had some ability to pay, which then was wealthy gamblers, not productive enterprise. The defect of the Sanders proposal is it sets one rate that is fixed across all products. It should instead be set in relationship to prevailing interests rates and (at a minimum) vary with the maturity of the obligation.

Paul Krugman: Is Vast Inequality Necessary?

How rich do we need the rich to be?

That’s not an idle question. It is, arguably, what U.S. politics are substantively about. Liberals want to raise taxes on high incomes and use the proceeds to strengthen the social safety net; conservatives want to do the reverse, claiming that tax-the-rich policies hurt everyone by reducing the incentives to create wealth.

Now, recent experience has not been kind to the conservative position. President Obama pushed through a substantial rise in top tax rates, and his health care reform was the biggest expansion of the welfare state since L.B.J. Conservatives confidently predicted disaster, just as they did when Bill Clinton raised taxes on the top 1 percent. Instead, Mr. Obama has ended up presiding over the best job growth since the 1990s. Is there, however, a longer-term case in favor of vast inequality?

Planned Parenthood Sues “Complex Criminal Enterprise” Behind Deceptive Videos

—By Nina Liss-Schultz

Planned Parenthood officials announced Thursday that the organization is suing the Center for Medical Progress, the group behind last summer's series of misleading and heavily edited videos that created a firestorm over whether the Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program broke the law. The federal lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, also named David Daleiden, the face of the Center for Medical Progress, Troy Neumann, the CMP's secretary and a well-known anti-abortion activist, and several other CMP members as defendants.

The series of videos, released this summer by the secretive CMP, purported to show Planned Parenthood staff and other abortion care professionals discussing how to traffic fetal tissue for profit. Donating fetal tissue for medical research is legal in the United States, as is receiving reimbursement for the costs associated with the donation. Only two states have fetal tissue donation programs, and Planned Parenthood has categorically denied that it has profited from them. Both state and federal investigations into the health care group's donation programs have found no evidence of wrongdoing. In the fall, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept reimbursement for the tissue donations but would pay for them.

Planned Parenthood Sues “Complex Criminal Enterprise” Behind Deceptive Videos


—By Nina Liss-Schultz

Planned Parenthood officials announced Thursday that the organization is suing the Center for Medical Progress, the group behind last summer's series of misleading and heavily edited videos that created a firestorm over whether the Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program broke the law. The federal lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, also named David Daleiden, the face of the Center for Medical Progress, Troy Neumann, the CMP's secretary and a well-known anti-abortion activist, and several other CMP members as defendants.

The series of videos, released this summer by the secretive CMP, purported to show Planned Parenthood staff and other abortion care professionals discussing how to traffic fetal tissue for profit. Donating fetal tissue for medical research is legal in the United States, as is receiving reimbursement for the costs associated with the donation. Only two states have fetal tissue donation programs, and Planned Parenthood has categorically denied that it has profited from them. Both state and federal investigations into the health care group's donation programs have found no evidence of wrongdoing. In the fall, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept reimbursement for the tissue donations but would pay for them.

Toxic “Reform” Law Will Gut State Rules on Dangerous Chemicals

Sharon Lerner

A NEW SET OF BILLS that aims to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act may nullify the efforts of states such as Maine and California to regulate dangerous chemicals. The Senate’s bill, passed last month, just before the holidays, is particularly restrictive. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act — named, ironically, for the New Jersey senator who supported strong environmental protections — would make it much harder for states to regulate chemicals after the EPA has evaluated them, and would even prohibit states from acting while the federal agency is in the process of investigating certain chemicals.t

How Debt Conquered America

Special Report: America presents itself to the world as “the land of the free” but – for the vast majority – it is a place of enslaving indebtedness, a reality for much of “the 99%” that has deep historical roots hidden or “lost” from our history, as Jada Thacker explains.

By Jada Thacker

Since its center-stage debut during the Occupy Wall Street movement, “the 99%” – a term emblematic of extreme economic inequality confronting the vast majority – has become common place. The term was coined by sociology professor David Graeber, an Occupy leader and author of the encyclopedic Debt: The First 5,000 Years, published just as the Occupy movement captured headlines.

What Graeber’s monumental work did not emphasize specifically, and what most Americans still do not appreciate, is how debt was wielded as the weapon of choice to subjugate the 99% in the centuries before the Occupy protesters popularized the term. Like so many aspects of our Lost History, the legacy of debt has been airbrushed from our history texts, but not from our lives.

Just in Time for the Political Revolution: A Revolution Newspaper

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is stumping across America urging citizens to help him create a meaningful political revolution to take back the country from the death grip of the one percent. His message is resonating. Sanders is attracting crowds of tens of thousands of disillusioned Americans.

Political revolution is also in the air in the state of New York where a group called “Fed Up New Yorkers” has just launched a newspaper whose stated purpose “is to lessen Big Money’s grip on our political system and on our society.” The newspaper founders say their project is both “a publishing project and a political plan.”

A New Look at a Forgotten Egalitarian

Sam Pizzigati

Back in America’s original Gilded Age, in the decades right after the Civil War, no American spoke and wrote more compellingly against the nation’s growing inequality than Henry George, a Philadelphia-born journalist whose writing career initially took off in San Francisco.

George’s immensely popular 1879 book, Progress and Poverty, sold millions of copies, and the reform plan he championed — what become known as the “single tax,” a levy to prevent landowners from deriving any profit from mere ownership — captivated a significant chunk of his generation.

Paul Krugman: The Obama Boom

Do you remember the “Bush boom”? Probably not. Anyway, the administration of George W. Bush began its tenure with a recession, followed by an extended “jobless recovery.” By the summer of 2003, however, the economy began adding jobs again. The pace of job creation wasn’t anything special by historical standards, but conservatives insisted that the job gains after that trough represented a huge triumph, a vindication of the Bush tax cuts.

So what should we say about the Obama job record? Private-sector employment — the relevant number, as I’ll explain in a minute — hit its low point in February 2010. Since then we’ve gained 14 million jobs, a figure that startled even me, roughly double the number of jobs added during the supposed Bush boom before it turned into the Great Recession. If that was a boom, this expansion, capped by last month’s really good report, outbooms it by a wide margin.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Paul Krugman: When China Stumbles

So, will China’s problems cause a global crisis? The good news is that the numbers, as I read them, don’t seem big enough. The bad news is that I could be wrong, because global contagion often seems to end up being worse than hard numbers say it should. And the worse news is that if China does deliver a bad shock to the rest of the world, we are remarkably unready to deal with the consequences.

For those just starting to pay attention: It has been obvious for a while that China’s economy is in big trouble. How big is hard to say, because nobody believes official Chinese statistics.

Rewriting Economic Thought

By Eric Draitser, Michael Hudson's blog | Interview

Eric Draitser: Today I have the privilege of introducing Michael Hudson to the program. Doctor Hudson is the author of the new book Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy, available in print on Amazon and an e-version on CounterPunch. Michael Hudson, welcome to CounterPunch Radio.

Michael Hudson: It's good to be here.

Thanks so much for coming on. As I mentioned already, the title of your book - Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy - is an apt metaphor. So parasitic finance capital is really what you're writing about. You explain that it essentially survives by feeding off what we might call the real economy. Could you draw out that analogy a little bit? What does that mean? How does finance behave like a parasite toward the rest of the economy?

Economists for the last 50 years have used the term "host economy" for a country that lets in foreign investment. This term appears in most mainstream textbooks. A host implies a parasite. The term parasitism has been applied to finance by Martin Luther and others, but usually in the sense that you just talked about: simply taking something from the host.

Lead exposure linked to ADHD in kids with genetic mutation

Association for Psychological Science

Exposure to small amounts of lead may contribute to ADHD symptoms in children who have a particular gene mutation, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"This research is valuable to the scientific community as it bridges genetic and environmental factors and helps to illustrate one possible route to ADHD. Further, it demonstrates the potential to ultimately prevent conditions like ADHD by understanding how genes and environmental exposures combine," says lead researcher Joel Nigg, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the OHSU School of Medicine.

Paul Krugman: Elections Have Consequences

You have to be seriously geeky to get excited when the Internal Revenue Service releases a new batch of statistics. Well, I’m a big geek; like quite a few other people who work on policy issues, I was eagerly awaiting the I.R.S.’s tax tables for 2013, which were released last week.

And what these tables show is that elections really do have consequences.

Wall Street Fine Print: Retirees Want FBI Probe Of Pension Investment Deals

By David Sirota

Diane Bucci and her fellow retired Rhode Island schoolteachers were angry about a deal last year to cut their promised retirement benefits. For 28 years, the elementary school teacher devoted between 7 and 9 percent of her paycheck to the state’s pension system. In return, the 72-year-old had been promised a consistent cost-of-living increase to make sure her retirement stipend kept pace with inflation. Now, though, state officials were trimming her check in the name of replenishing the depleted pension fund.

There was, however, a sliver of hope — or so it seemed: If the pension system could generate better investment returns and amass 80 percent of the money needed to pay current and future retirees, the annual cost-of-living increases would return.

Oil drives our Israel policy: New government documents reveal a very different history of America and the Middle East

The protection of American oil interests has been at the heart of U.S. policies for decades

Irene L. Gendzier

The role of the United States in the Arab-Israeli conflict is an inextri­cable part of history in this region. Confronting that role is indispens­able to understanding both U.S. policy in the conflict and its course. A knowledge of the foundation of U.S. policy in the Middle East in the postwar years is indispensable to an understanding of current U.S. policies in the Middle East in which oil, Palestine, and Israel play such significant roles.

The record of U.S. policy from 1945 to 1949 challenges fundamental assumptions about U.S. understanding and involvement in the struggle over Palestine that continue to dominate mainstream interpretations of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Coming to grips with the U.S. record and its frequently mythified depiction of the struggle over Palestine is criti­cal. Those engaged in the creation of the Common Archive, a project of Zochrot, the Israeli NGO, in which Israelis and Palestinians have joined to reconstruct the history of Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel in 1948, clearly understand the importance of this record. Palestinian historians have long written about this history, and Israel’s “New His­torians” have confirmed it in their challenge to the dominant Israeli narrative of the war of 1948.

'Break Em Up!': Sanders Speech Takes Aim at Big Bank Greed

Speaking in downtown Manhattan, presidential hopeful calls to break up 'too big to fail' banks and reinstate Glass-Steagall

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Speaking just blocks away from the belly of the beast, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Tuesday gave a major policy speech during which he laid out his plan to take on Wall Street and end the era of "too big to fail" banking.

"To those on Wall Street who may be listening today, let me be very clear," Sanders said. "Greed is not good. Wall Street and corporate greed is destroying the fabric of our nation. And, here is a New Year’s Resolution that we will keep: If you do not end your greed we will end it for you."

Digby: They Don’t Really Care About Taxes, Folks

Reihan Salam made a belated but useful observation this morning on a very lively Face the Nation after Trump went on an extended tirade about well … everything:
SALAM: Well, the genius of — the genius of Ted Cruz is also the fact that if you look at the Republican Party, if you’re looking at the elite side, fundamentally you have these libertarian instincts. And what Donald Trump has demonstrated is that this libertarianism does not run very deep with actual Republican voters. Not very deep at all. So what Ted Cruz has done, and you see this actually in his fundraising, what he’s done is he’s managed to get some of that kind of libertarian, business class, Wall Street Republican support, while also getting that kind of populist, national support, a bit of that, and that also means that you get small donors, as well as big donors.

Trump, however, to me, what he’s done, whether or not he wins, I have no idea, honestly. But whether or not he wins, he’s demonstrated that that libertarianism, you know, cutting top rates, cutting tax — gains taxes, all of this stuff doesn’t actually matter to real life Republican voters. Forty percent of Republican voters say that they want upper income taxpayers to pay higher taxes. Whoever do you see in a Republican primary come out and say, you know what, I’m going to leave the top rate alone and I’m going to focus on middle class tax cuts. Something like that.

The Kochtopus Strikes Out at The Big Short Movie

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Call them astroturf organizations or neoliberal think tanks or corporate front groups – it all adds up to the same thing: big corporate bucks are engaged in a vicious propaganda war to recast the 2008 financial crash and its depression-like aftermath as the product of big government meddling rather than corporate lobbyists strong-arming deregulation of banking and Wall Street. The corporate cartel simply cannot allow mandates for tough new regulations to gain footing in Washington, otherwise the multi-decade work of the Kochtopus goes poof. (Kochtopus is short-hand for the political and front group money machine run by billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch.)

Joseph E. Stiglitz: The Great Malaise Continues

NEW YORK – The year 2015 was a hard one all around. Brazil fell into recession. China’s economy experienced its first serious bumps after almost four decades of breakneck growth. The eurozone managed to avoid a meltdown over Greece, but its near-stagnation has continued, contributing to what surely will be viewed as a lost decade. For the United States, 2015 was supposed to be the year that finally closed the book on the Great Recession that began back in 2008; instead, the US recovery has been middling.

Indeed, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, has declared the current state of the global economy the New Mediocre. Others, harking back to the profound pessimism after the end of World War II, fear that the global economy could slip into depression, or at least into prolonged stagnation.

The Misinformation Mess

Exclusive: As Americans approach Election Year 2016, the crisis of misinformation is growing more and more dangerous. On issues from foreign policy to the economy, almost none of the candidates in the race appears to be addressing the real world, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman marvels at the right-wing extremism prevalent in the Republican presidential race not just from the “outsider” candidates but from the “establishment” favorites as well, doubling down on President George W. Bush’s economic prescriptions and foreign policies despite their record of disaster.

The media’s obsession with Donald Trump’s off-the-cuff candidacy “has in one way worked to the G.O.P. establishment’s advantage: it has distracted pundits and the press from the hard right turn even conventional Republican candidates have taken, a turn whose radicalism would have seemed implausible not long ago,” Krugman wrote on Monday.

Rosewood massacre a harrowing tale of racism and the road toward reparations

On New Year’s Day 1923 a white woman was beaten and residents of Sumner, Florida, claimed her assailant was black – which sparked race riots where the casualties were mostly black and hate wiped out a prosperous town

Jessica Glenza

Four black schoolchildren raced home along a dirt road in Archer, Florida, in 1944, kicking up a dust cloud wake as they ran. They were under strict orders from their mother to run – not lollygag or walk or jog, but run – directly home after hitting the road’s curve.

The littlest, six-year-old Lizzie Robinson (now Jenkins), led the pack with a brother on each side and her sister behind carrying her books.

“And I would be [running], my feet barely touching the ground,” Jenkins, now 77, said at her home in Archer.

When New Year’s Meant Freedom

Some white Americans still try to dismiss the evils of slavery, pretending that many slaves were happy serving their white masters. But the morning of Jan. 1, 1863, showed a different reality when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and blacks celebrated, as William Loren Katz recalls.

By William Loren Katz

When the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect Jan. 1, 1863, African-Americans had been fighting the Confederacy near the South Carolina Islands for months. These soldiers assembled with their families to celebrate. Their commander, Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, had been a militant Abolitionist minister who together with black people in Boston had stormed jails to free captured people of color.

In South Carolina he was devoted to his courageous soldiers.

The Worst Media Failures on Public Education in 2015

Here are five of the worst media failures on public education this year.

By Pam Vogel / Media Matters

2015 was an important year in education policy, with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the beginning of the 2016 election campaigns, and local fights for teachers and public schools making national headlines. In an important year for students and teachers across the education spectrum, however, some media outlets used their platforms to push falsehoods. Here are five of the worst media failures on public education this year.

5. Campbell Brown Hired Transphobic, Sexist, Racially Insensitive Writer To "Fact-Check" Education Policy Reporting

This summer, teachers union opponent and former journalist Campbell Brown launched a "non-profit, non-partisan news site about education," called The Seventy Four. In spite of the site's stated mission to combat "misinformation and political spin" with "investigation, expertise, and experience," Brown hired Eric Owens, who has a long history of attacks on students and teachers, to write for the site. Owens has a long history of attacking and mocking teachers and students with transphobic, sexist, victim-blaming, and racially insensitive rhetoric as the education editor at the Daily Caller.

Glenn Greenwald: Spying on Congress and Israel: NSA Cheerleaders Discover Value of Privacy Only When Their Own Is Violated

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the NSA under President Obama targeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top aides for surveillance. In the process, the agency ended up eavesdropping on “the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups” about how to sabotage the Iran Deal. All sorts of people who spent many years cheering for and defending the NSA and its programs of mass surveillance are suddenly indignant now that they know the eavesdropping included them and their American and Israeli friends rather than just ordinary people.

Paul Krugman: Privilege, Pathology and Power

Wealth can be bad for your soul. That’s not just a hoary piece of folk wisdom; it’s a conclusion from serious social science, confirmed by statistical analysis and experiment. The affluent are, on average, less likely to exhibit empathy, less likely to respect norms and even laws, more likely to cheat, than those occupying lower rungs on the economic ladder.

And it’s obvious, even if we don’t have statistical confirmation, that extreme wealth can do extreme spiritual damage. Take someone whose personality might have been merely disagreeable under normal circumstances, and give him the kind of wealth that lets him surround himself with sycophants and usually get whatever he wants. It’s not hard to see how he could become almost pathologically selfregarding and unconcerned with others.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Are Trump supporters driven by economic anxiety or racial resentment? Yes.

by David Roberts

There is much dispute these days regarding exactly what motivates Donald Trump's supporters and, more broadly, the furious right-wing base. Is it economic insecurity or racial resentment?

Bernie Sanders believes it's mostly the former. He told Face the Nation:
Many of Trump's supporters are working-class people and they're angry, and they're angry because they're working longer hours for lower wages, they're angry because their jobs have left this country and gone to China or other low-wage countries, they're angry because they can't afford to send their kids to college so they can't retire with dignity.

10 of the Worst Cable News Moments of 2015

—By Inae Oh

Another year is about to pass, which means we've managed to survive 12 months of cable news—and endure some fantastically awful segments that the networks churned out. But that doesn't mean we emerged unscathed! Whether it was calling the president of the United States a "pussy" on live television or relentlessly covering Donald Trump's circuslike presidential campaign, cable news had plenty of lowlights in 2015. Here are some of the most memorable ones:

San Bernardino shooting

Days after the shooting in San Bernardino, California, several media outlets were able to get inside the home of the two suspected shooters—access that involved a crowbar and a cooperative landlord. Despite the questionable circumstances, reporters from a slew of networks, including CNN and MSNBC, swarmed the residence. The resulting circus of cable TV coverage even disturbed some network hosts.

Why Philanthropy Hurts Rather Than Helps Some of the World's Worst Problems

Submitted by

In America today, big time philanthropists are often lauded for helping to even the playing field for those less fortunate. Every week, millionaires flock from TED conferences to "idea festivals" sharing viral new presentations on how to solve the world's biggest problems (give village children computers, think positive thoughts etc.). But this acceptance of the philanthropic order was not always the case. In the era of Carnegie and Rockefeller, for instance, many distrusted these philanthropic barons, arguing they had no right to horde would-be tax dollars for their own pet causes, especially since these "donations" came from the toil of the workers beneath them.

Larry Summers Lectures Bernie Sanders on Financial and Monetary Policy

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Yesterday Larry Summers penned an opinion piece for the Washington Post, lecturing Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Presidential candidate, on what Sanders should actually be saying in his own op-eds about reforming the Federal Reserve.

No one will ever accuse Larry Summers of being short on arrogance. After promising the American people in 1999, as Treasury Secretary in the Bill Clinton administration, that pushing through the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act would be “the right framework for America’s future financial system,” then watching that system collapse as a result of that repeal just nine years later in the worst economic upheaval since the Great Depression, one would think Summers would find some obscure hole in academia and crawl into it.

For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions


WASHINGTON — The hedge fund magnates Daniel S. Loeb, Louis Moore Bacon and Steven A. Cohen have much in common. They have managed billions of dollars in capital, earning vast fortunes. They have invested large sums in art — and millions more in political candidates.

Moreover, each has exploited an esoteric tax loophole that saved them millions in taxes. The trick? Route the money to Bermuda and back.

Report: U.S. spying on Israel swept up members of Congress

By Nolan D. McCaskill

U.S. spying programs scooped up communications between members of Congress and Israeli leaders, giving the White House insight into Israel’s lobbying of U.S. lawmakers against the Iran nuclear deal, current and former U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal.

The article, published Tuesday afternoon, reports that the U.S. continued to spy on select leaders of allied nations despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to curb such surveillance two years ago, and that it was a top priority to maintain spying on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

Proof That One Good Man or Good Woman in Congress Can Make a World of Difference

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, has breathed new life into bolstering Americans belief in our Democratic system of government and the notion that one good man or good woman can make a meaningful difference in Congress. Senator Warren was the driving force behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which has opened a robust two-way dialogue and redress system with the American people regarding the financial crimes being inflicted on them – otherwise known as Wall Street’s institutionalized wealth transfer system – while it is simultaneously under relentless assault by corporate attack dogs masquerading as Republican members of Congress.

The end of capitalism has begun

Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian

Paul Mason

The red flags and marching songs of Syriza during the Greek crisis, plus the expectation that the banks would be nationalised, revived briefly a 20th-century dream: the forced destruction of the market from above. For much of the 20th century this was how the left conceived the first stage of an economy beyond capitalism. The force would be applied by the working class, either at the ballot box or on the barricades. The lever would be the state. The opportunity would come through frequent episodes of economic collapse.

Instead over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did.

Undercovered in 2015: The Link Between Deportation and Incarceration, and More

Around this time every year, asks reporters, editors and bloggers which key story they feel the mainstream media failed to cover adequately over the last 12 months. This is the first installment of a two-part series.

By Bill Moyers and Staff and Contributors, Moyers & Company

The Social Safety Net Reduced Poverty by Nearly Half

One of the greatest hoaxes pulled on the American people is the assertion that "we waged a war on poverty, and poverty won." The conservative talking point was first uttered by President Reagan, and it has been pushed incessantly by the political class and the media ever since.

But it's not true.

It's official — benefits and high taxes make us all richer, while inequality takes a hammer to a country's growth

One of the most destructive Tory myths has finally been debunked

Lee Williams

The sickening theory of laissez-faire capitalism finally died with the recent report from one of the West’s leading think tanks. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that income inequality actually hampers economic growth in some of the world’s wealthiest countries, while the redistribution of wealth via taxes and benefits doesn't.

In a nutshell: the reality of what creates and reverses growth is the exact opposite of what the current right-wing, neo-liberal agenda has been espousing ever since its rise to power under Thatcher and Reagan in the eighties. Perhaps worst of all, the report showed evidence that the UK would have been 20 per cent better off if the gap between the rich and poor hadn’t widened since the eighties.

Newt Gingrich Says Elizabeth Warren’s Signature Program Is "Dictatorial." Here's What It's Really Done.

If eliminating $16 billion in hidden credit card fees is dictatorial, he's right.

—By Patrick Caldwell | Mon Dec. 28, 2015 6:05 AM EST

"Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is so far outside the historic American model of constitutionally limited government and the rule of law that it is the perfect case study of the pathologies that infect our bureaucracies at the federal level," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich solemnly intoned in his opening statement as an expert witness at a congressional hearing on December 16. "It is dictatorial. It is unaccountable. It is practically unrestrained in expanding on its already expansive mandate from Congress. And it is contemptuous of the rights, values, and preferences of ordinary Americans."

Republicans and outside conservative groups spent much of 2015 attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—the federal financial regulator that opened in 2011, conceived and launched by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) after it was included in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

Congress Forces IRS to Use Private Bill Collectors

A law going into effect this month is forcing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to employ private debt collection companies, a plan which will not only cost the agency money, but will make it easier for scammers to defraud Americans.

The provision, which is buried in the new $305-billion highway bill passed by Congress, means that bill collectors will be using the same tactics to collect tax debt as they do for a late credit-card payment. That concerns IRS officials, who have long warned Americans not to take seriously calls from scam artists claiming to be from the agency.

Paul Krugman: Doubling Down on W

2015 was, of course, the year of Donald Trump, whose rise has inspired horror among establishment Republicans and, let’s face it, glee — call it Trumpenfreude — among many Democrats. But Trumpism has in one way worked to the G.O.P. establishment’s advantage: it has distracted pundits and the press from the hard right turn even conventional Republican candidates have taken, a turn whose radicalism would have seemed implausible not long ago.

After all, you might have expected the debacle of George W. Bush’s presidency — a debacle not just for the nation, but for the Republican Party, which saw Democrats both take the White House and achieve some major parts of their agenda — to inspire some reconsideration of W-type policies. What we’ve seen instead is a doubling down, a determination to take whatever didn’t work from 2001 to 2008 and do it again, in a more extreme form.

France opens archives of WW2 pro-Nazi Vichy regime

France is opening up police and ministerial archives from the Vichy regime which collaborated with Nazi occupation forces in World War Two.

More than 200,000 declassified documents are being made public on Monday. They date from the 1940-1944 regime of Marshal Philippe Petain.

During the war the Vichy regime helped Nazi Germany to deport 76,000 Jews from France, including many children.

Dean Baker: 5 of the Biggest Economic Lies Pushed by the Washington Post

Another attempt by DC's "very serious people" to fan fake generational warfare.

The Washington Post's Catherine Rampell devoted her Christmas day column to a popular Washington past-time: trying to get young people angry at their parents and grandparents so that they are not bothered by the enormous upward redistribution of income taking place in this country.

She begins the piece by telling readers that college students are wasting their time complaining about diversity issues and sensitivity to racism and sexism, then gets to the meat of the story:
“Older generations have racked up trillions in debt and stuck young people with the bill. This is not just due to expensive wars, unfunded tax cuts, Keynesian financial interventions and the other usual scapegoats for fiscal profligacy.

Paul Krugman: Things to Celebrate, Like Dreams of Flying Cars

In Star Wars, Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs; in real life, all the Falcon 9 has done so far is land at Cape Canaveral without falling over or exploding. Yet I, like many nerds, was thrilled by that achievement, in part because it reinforced my growing optimism about the direction technology seems to be taking — a direction that may end up saving the world.

O.K., if you have no idea what I’m talking about, the Falcon 9 is Elon Musk’s reusable rocket, which is supposed to boost a payload into space, then return to where it can be launched again. If the concept works, it could drastically reduce the cost of putting stuff into orbit. And that successful landing was a milestone. We’re still a very long way from space colonies and zero-gravity hotels, let alone galactic empires. But space technology is moving forward after decades of stagnation.