Sunday, February 28, 2016
After 20 years, Bernie Sanders wants to put welfare back on the national agenda, seeing a chance to use his message of economic equality to undermine Hillary Clinton's base of support among black voters.
Primaries across the South over the next few days give him what might be the best chance he'll get. Hundreds of thousands of Southern families are living on less than $2 in cash a day as a result of legislation President Bill Clinton signed in 1996, according to new research by Johns Hopkins University's Kathryn Edin and University of Michigan's Luke Shaefer.
Fourteen years before Wall Street blew itself up in 2008, the General Accounting Office (now called the Government Accountability Office), warned Congress that Wall Street was on a dangerous path that could put the taxpayer at risk of bailouts as a result of trillions of dollars of derivatives being held by a handful of interconnected firms. These dangers were heightened according to the GAO by shoddy accounting practices for derivatives, inadequate regulatory reporting, and high leverage.
Despite the fact that almost every single warning that the GAO called out in 1994 was ignored by the U.S. Congress, leading to the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression in 2008, Congress has still not attended to the most dangerous elements highlighted in the report.
In October 2015, when word came down that hundreds of thousands of current and future Teamster retirees were facing the loss of a portion of their pension benefits—in some cases, more than half of the monthly payment—Jim Gallagher, a business columnist for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, did what good journalists do. He started asking questions, understanding context, and crafting a cohesive narrative about a crisis that will ultimately reach far beyond the households of union truck drivers. The result was a strong early piece about a story that has drawn increasing attention from local media, but deserves a much bigger spot on the national news agenda.
Historically, it was illegal for pension plans to cut core benefits to people who are already retired; if the plan had money in the bank, it had to pay promised benefits. But many so-called “multi-employer” plans, which serve workers from multiple companies in a particular industry, have been falling into financial distress for years. The federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is supposed to backstop failing private pensions, but the guarantees are lower for multi-employer plans, and the PBGC itself is in trouble.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:57 AM
Out of a population of almost a million, up to a third were extinguished.By John Pilger
Secret documents found in the Australian National Archives provide a glimpse of how one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century was executed and covered up. They also help us understand how and for whom the world is run.
The documents refer to East Timor, now known as Timor-Leste, and were written by diplomats in the Australian embassy in Jakarta. The date was November 1976, less than a year after the Indonesian dictator General Suharto seized the then Portuguese colony on the island of Timor.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:53 AM
Maybe the presidential candidates should start wearing baseballs caps with the slogan: Make America Auditable Again.
The country that has delivered epic accounting frauds like Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, and Bernie Madoff just flunked its own audit. Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, released a thumbs down report on how the U.S. government keeps its books. The GAO said it could “not render an opinion on the federal government’s consolidated financial statements for FY 2015 because of persistent problems with the Department of Defense’s (DOD) finances, the federal government’s inability to account for and reconcile certain transactions, an ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements, and significant uncertainties.”
Posted by Dictynna at 9:51 AM
Several critics have urged Snyder to resign over concerns about the state’s handling of the crisis.
Researcher found no evidence that secret memo was target list for terroristsUniversity of Texas at Dallas
The WikiLeaks organization was criticized for providing a target list for terrorists when it published a secret memo in 2010 with 200 international sites that the U.S. Department of State considered critical to national security.
Was there any truth to that claim?
Dr. Daniel G. Arce, Ashbel Smith Professor and program head of economics in the UT Dallas School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, wanted to find out. In a new study published in the International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection, he found no evidence that the leak led to any attacks.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:43 AM
Exclusive: Sen. Sanders finds himself on the defensive in his uphill primary fight against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in part because he shies away from defining himself as a “realist” and asking if she is a “neocon,” writes Robert Parry.By Robert Parry
Hillary Clinton has scored points against Bernie Sanders by tagging him as a “single-issue candidate” who harps again and again on income inequality. Though the “single-issue” charge is false– the Vermont Senator actually addresses a wide range of topics from global warming to health care to college costs – Clinton’s attack line has been effective nonetheless
It works, in part, because Sanders shies away from thorough discussions about his views on foreign policy while Clinton can tout her résumé as a globetrotter both as First Lady and Secretary of State.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:40 AM
If you took President Obama at his word, this was supposed to be a golden age for investigative journalism in America.
On his first day in office, the Commander-in-Chief penned a memo encouraging executive agencies to adopt a "presumption in favor of disclosure" when processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The White House later rolled out the details of an "unprecedented level of openness" it was determined to bring to Washington. In 2013, Obama famously said he's running the "most transparent administration in history."
It hasn't quite worked out that way.
The Sanders campaign has certainly sharpened the contradictions, hasn’t it? It’s been very clarifying to see Hillary Clinton and her surrogates running against single-payer and free college, with intellectual cover coming from Paul Krugman and Vox. Expectations, having been systematically beaten down for 35 years, must be beaten down further, whether it’s Hillary saying that to go to college one needs some “skin in the game,” or Rep. John Lewis reminding us that nothing is free in America. A challenge from the left has forced centrist Democrats to reveal themselves as proud capitalist tools.
Latest to step up is Paul Starr, co-founder of The American Prospect. Normally the dull embodiment of tepid liberalism, Starr has unleashed a redbaiting philippic— a frothing one, even, by his usual standards—aimed at Bernie Sanders. Sanders is no liberal, Starr reveals—he’s a socialist. He may call himself a democratic socialist to assure us that he’s no Bolshevik—Starr actually says this—but that doesn’t stop Starr from stoking fears of state ownership and central planning. Thankfully the word “gulag” doesn’t appear, but that was probably an oversight.
Robert Califf's ties to Big Pharma run deep and the Obama nominee just sailed through the U.S. Senate.By Martha Rosenberg
It is hard to believe only four senators opposed the confirmation of Robert Califf, who was approved today as the next FDA commissioner. Vocal opponent Bernie Sanders condemned the vote from the campaign trail. But where was Dick Durbin? Where were all the lawmakers who say they care about industry and Wall Street profiteers making money at the expense of public health?
Califf, chancellor of clinical and translational research at Duke University until recently, received money from 23 drug companies including the giants like Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Merck, Schering Plough and GSK according to a disclosure statement on the website of Duke Clinical Research Institute.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:06 AM
Former UK prime minister likens US presidential candidate to Labour leader and says he struggles to grasp their popularity given ‘the question of electability’David Smith
Tony Blair has said he is struggling to understand the appeal of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn because both are hampered by “the question of electability”.
The former British prime minister, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, admitted that he is finding it hard to grasp popular movements in both Britain and the US favouring mavericks who will “rattle the cage” and which reflect a loss of faith in the progressive centre.
In a joint interview with the Guardian and the Financial Times in Washington, he emphasised that Americans must make their own decision but made clear his scepticism about Sanders, the leftwing senator whose challenge to wealthy elites has energised young supporters.
Posted by Dictynna at 7:41 AM
New transatlantic research led by a psychologist at the University of Kent suggests conservatives prefer using nouns.
As part of the study researchers found that US presidents who were considered conservative used a greater proportion of nouns in major speeches.
Posted by Dictynna at 7:32 AM
Trump is blaming foreign workers — and ignoring the CEOs who’ve gutted worker pensions while they pump up their own golden nest eggs.by Sarah Anderson
Donald Trump showed a glimmer of reason in his last debate when he defended his position as the Republican Party’s only presidential contender who is opposed to cutting Social Security.
Alas, it was but a glimmer. A split second later, Trump took a loony leap from defending America’s most effective anti-poverty program to blaming foreign workers for our fiscal challenges. “They are taking our jobs. They are taking our wealth. They are taking our base.”
Foreign workers are not the ones doing the taking. CEOs of big U.S. corporations are responsible for taking jobs and wealth out of this country. And these CEOs are also the ones who deserve much of the blame for our country’s retirement crisis.
Over the past several decades, top executives have gutted worker pensions. Since 1980, the share of private sector workers covered by defined benefit pension plans, the kind that guarantee a monthly benefit after retirement until death, has dropped from 46 percent to 18 percent.
Posted by Dictynna at 7:24 AM
If prediction markets (and most hardheaded analysis) are to be believed, Hillary Clinton, having demonstrated her staying power, is the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination. The Republican race, by contrast, has seen a lot of consolidation — it’s pretty much down to a two-man race — but the outcome is still up for grabs.
The thing is, one of the two men who may still have a good chance of becoming the Republican nominee is a scary character. His notions on foreign policy seem to boil down to the belief that America can bully everyone into doing its bidding, and that engaging in diplomacy is a sign of weakness. His ideas on domestic policy are deeply ignorant and irresponsible, and would be disastrous if put into effect.
Posted by Dictynna at 7:20 AM
A corporate-backed study says the latest Washington trade scam will raise incomes — but for whom?By Jim Hightower
A New York Times article about Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership opened with this sunny headline: “Trade Pact Would Lift U.S. Incomes, Study Says.”
But wait, a study by whom? It comes from the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics.
What’s that? We’re not told, even though that information is key to understanding this group’s upbeat take on the TPP trade scheme.
Posted by Dictynna at 7:17 AM
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Hillary Clinton, liberal virtue, and the cult of the microloan
The day after International Women’s Day in March 2015, I attended a Clinton Foundation production put on by its No Ceilings initiative at the Best Buy Theater in New York City. It wasn’t a campaign event—the 2016 race had not really started at that point—nor was it a panel discussion, as there were no disagreements among the participants or questions from the audience. Instead, it was a choreographed presentation of various findings having to do with women’s standing in the world. But if you paid attention, the event provided a way to understand Hillary Clinton’s real views on the great social question before the nation—the problem of income inequality.
Onto the stage before us came former secretary of state Clinton, the Democratic Party’s heir apparent; Melinda Gates, the wife of the richest man in the world (the event was produced with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation); various NGO executives; a Hollywood celebrity; a Silicon Valley CEO; a best-selling author; an expert in women’s issues from Georgetown University; a Nobel Prize winner; and a large supporting cast of women from the Third World. Everyone strode with polished informality about the stage, reading their lines from an invisible teleprompter. And back and forth, the presenters called out to one another in tones of supportiveness and sweet flattery.
Posted by Dictynna at 10:17 AM
While Americans can do a lot of little things in their daily lives to help reduce carbon emissions, driving a vehicle that gets better gas mileage is by far the best way for an individual to combat climate change, say University of Michigan researchers.
A new study by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute examines how individuals can contribute to reductions of five man-made sources of greenhouse gas emissions, without substantial effort and time and little alteration to one's lifestyle, if any.
Posted by Dictynna at 10:10 AM
Exclusive: To Washington’s neocons like David Ignatius, Sen. Sanders should be disqualified as a presidential candidate for being a “closet realist.” Sanders seems not to accept their forced “regime change” in Syria, nor their plans for more “nation building” like the neocon handiwork in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, writes Robert Parry.By Robert Parry
How little Official Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy elite has learned from the past couple of decades can be measured by reading the last line of Friday’s Washington Post op-ed by David Ignatius, supposedly one of the deeper thinkers from the American pundit class.
Ignatius writes, regarding the Syrian mess, “It’s never too late for the United States to do the right thing — which is to build, carefully, the political and military framework for a new Syria.”
Reading Ignatius and other neocon-oriented policy prescribers, it’s as if Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – not to mention other failed states following U.S. interventions – never happened. Just like Iraq was a cakewalk, Syria will be one of those child puzzles with only 24 pieces, easy to assemble and reassemble.
Posted by Dictynna at 10:07 AM
Doomed as it may be, an oil tax is a step toward redefining energy as a public good—for which everyone pays the cost of overuse and abuse.by Arun Gupta
Going for broke with his final budget, President Obama recently proposed a $10-a-barrel tax on oil to fund a $32 billion annual investment in low-emission vehicles, public transit, and urban planning. It’s a bold proposal that could steer the economy toward a low-carbon future and revives the idea of a carbon tax that Obama proposed upon first taking office in 2009.
Back then, the carbon tax withered on the vine even though it could have done double duty to boost the economy while fighting climate change. This time Republicans pronounced the oil tax “dead on arrival.” But simply introducing the idea now can help make it a priority should Democrats retain the White House. It also affirms that government is better suited to reducing fossil-fuel usage than the market, which has been profiting off fossil-fuel consumption for hundreds of years.
With Hillary Clinton ramping up her attacks on Bernie Sanders as a budget-buster—in the February 11 debate, she claimed his proposals would increase the size of government by 40 percent—the New York Times (2/15/16) offered a well-timed intervention in support of her efforts: “Left-Leaning Economists Question Cost of Bernie Sanders’ Plans.”
While the “left-leaning” is no doubt meant to suggest critiques from those who would be inclined to sympathize with Sanders, all the quoted economists have ties to the Democratic establishment. So slight is their leftward lean that it would require very sensitive equipment to measure.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:58 AM
Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press. Reporting about carnage in the ancient city of Aleppo is the latest reason why.
For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it.
Why DeRay Mckesson's Baltimore Campaign Looks Like It Comes Right Out of Teach for America's Playbook
As Mckesson launches his outsider candidacy for mayor of Baltimore, many worry his roots in the education privatization movement put the city’s public schools in peril.By Drew Franklin
For those who’ve never paid much attention, Teach For America sounds like a benevolent and benign idea: recruit bright college grads, give them some teacher-training and place them in some of the nation’s neediest schools for a two-year commitment to teach kids.
The reality behind TFA’s sunny exterior is somewhat more sinister. Education policy experts today consider the nonprofit founded by Wendy Kopp in 1990 to be at the vanguard of the school privatization movement. TFA is also a media juggernaut in its own right, known for deploying a sophisticated public relations arsenal to advance an agenda focused on crushing teachers’ unions and privatizing public school systems. TFA's funders, including the Waltons, Bill and Melinda Gates and top Fortune 500 corporations, all have plenty to gain from the commodification of public goods and the destruction of public service unions, and its 11,000 corps members provide a valuable service to that end.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:29 AM
Here's How 7 of Bernie's Economic Proposals Would Radically Improve the Majority of Americans' Lives
A handy guide to Bernie's brass tacks.By Gerald Friedman / Dollars and Sense
No one should be surprised by the popular support that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has attracted in his run for president as a democratic socialist. Nor should we be surprised that he has drawn attacks charging that his policies will bankrupt the United States. Sanders’ proposals for infrastructure, early-childhood education, higher education, youth employment, family leave, private pensions, and Social Security would total over $3.8 trillion over 10 years. While this is a large number, it would be barely 6% of federal spending for 2017-2026.
Apart from any benefits these programs would bring directly, their cost would be reduced in four ways: Two operate by offsetting current spending and tax policies—either replacing existing federal spending or reducing tax breaks currently subsidizing private spending. The other two, which account for over 70% of the cost reduction, are the “dynamic effects” of increased economic growth—boosting tax revenues and reducing federal safety-net spending when the economy expands.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:12 AM
America’s two big political parties are very different from each other, and one difference involves the willingness to indulge economic fantasies.
Republicans routinely engage in deep voodoo, making outlandish claims about the positive effects of tax cuts for the rich. Democrats tend to be cautious and careful about promising too much, as illustrated most recently by the way Obamacare, which conservatives insisted would be a budget-buster, actually ended up being significantly cheaper than projected.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:41 AM
Two scientific journals known for their industry ties have become go-to publications for researchers who minimize risks from chemicalsBy Jie Jenny Zou
Hardbound volumes of Critical Reviews in Toxicology and Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology spanning decades are shelved at the National Library of Medicine’s subterranean archives — the world’s largest medical collection — in Bethesda, Maryland.
The peer-reviewed journals are among a select group of medical titles indexed by the National Institutes of Health, and they belong to international associations whose members pledge to uphold ethical and scientific standards. The titles come at a price: an issue of Critical Reviews retails for $372, while an annual subscription to Regulatory Toxicology costs $275.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:38 AM
Big Pharma Identified 7,000 Govt Officials They Need to Control to Run Their Price Gouging Operation
The industry's spending millions to protect you from public officials who might stop them from overcharging you.By Jim Hightower
Big news, people! Especially for those of you upset by the skyrocketing prices of the essential prescription medicines you take — including thousands of patients who were hit last year with a 5,000 percent price increase for one lifesaving drug!
Determined to do something about those despised price hikes, drugmakers themselves have reached into their corporate toolbox for the two most effective means they have to fix their price problem. Of course, putting more corporate cash into research to produce new medicines would be one of those tools, and a renewed commitment to honest competition would be the other, right?
The inside story of the Chinese Casino Money Flooding Into Our ElectionsBy Matt Isaacs
It was around 10:30 p.m. when Steve Jacobs rolled down the gravel driveway. The air was warm for early January, even for Florida. Yellow boat lights bobbed on St. Augustine's harbor, and the scent of star jasmine hung on the breeze. Jacobs stepped onto his porch and found the door still locked. It had only been a few days since he had come home to find it mysteriously ajar.
When Jacobs sat down to work, however, he noticed his crate of files was missing. He headed to the kitchen, opened the top of his coffee maker, and looked inside. The hard drive he'd stashed there was gone too.
Posted by Dictynna at 6:43 AM
nvestigative story reveals how some employers are mining their workers' data.By Michael Arria
An article in the Wall Street Journal documents how some companies are mining data about their workers' personal health in an attempt to keep their insurance costs down.
"Bosses Harness Big Data to Predict Which Workers Might Get Sick," by Rachel Emma Silverman, explains how some businesses are hiring firms to dig up information about their employees' prescription drug use, risk for disease and other personal tidbits. The employers claim it's simply a new method to keep healthcare costs down and improve the well-being of their staff members.
Posted by Dictynna at 6:30 AM
This is Guns and Butter.
Suppose a country owes money to another nation’s government or official agency. How can creditors collect, unless there’s an international court and an enforcement system? The IMF and the World Bank were part of that enforcement system and now they’re saying: ‘We’re not going to be part of that anymore. We’re only working for the U.S. State Department and Pentagon. If the Pentagon tells the IMF it’s okay that a country doesn’t have to pay Russia or China, then now they don’t have to pay, as far as the IMF is concerned.’ That breaks up the global order that was created after World War II. The world is being split into two halves: the U.S. dollar orbit, and countries that the U.S. cannot control and whose officials are not on the U.S. payroll, so to speak.
I’m Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter, Dr. Michael Hudson. Today’s show: The New Global Financial Cold War. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, a Wall Street financial analyst and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His 1972 book, Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire is a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank. His latest book is Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy. Today we discuss his article, “The IMF Changes Its Rules to Isolate China and Russia.”
Posted by Dictynna at 6:22 AM
How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It UpBY Carl Bernstein
In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America’s leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA.
Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.
Posted by Dictynna at 6:19 AM
Un-Democratic Party: DNC chair says superdelegates ensure elites don’t have to run “against grassroots activists”
Critics say the unelected superdelegate system is rigged. Debbie Wasserman Schultz basically admitted this is trueBen Norton
The Democratic Party’s superdelegate system has come under attack this presidential election, as critics blast it as undemocratic. There are hundreds of superdelegates, unelected party elites, who can sway the primary election, undermining the candidate democratically chosen by the party’s mass base.
Bernie Sanders won the primary election in New Hampshire by a landslide in early February, with 60 percent of votes to Hillary Clinton’s 38 percent. Sanders won every demographic group, excluding rich voters and those aged 65 and older. Yet, although Clinton drastically lost, she ended up leaving with an equal number of delegates. This is because of the superdelegate system.
Posted by Dictynna at 6:09 AM
The dream of vertical farming is gaining momentum despite many unanswered questions about its feasibility.By Stan Cox
Five-plus years after the publication of Dickson Despommier's book The Vertical Farm: Feeding Ourselves and The World in the 21st Century, his dream — originally conceived as the production of food in the interior of tall urban buildings — is gaining momentum, despite many unanswered questions about its feasibility.
Although the fanciful skyscrapers depicted in countless architectural renderings of vertical farms have never materialized in the real world, less ambitious indoor food-growing operations have been popping up in cities on every continent. And the buzz is growing even faster than the plants.
Posted by Dictynna at 5:59 AM
Millions of Americans would have trouble defining even one of the amendments to the U.S. Constitution known as the Bill of Rights — which set forth the individual freedoms we gained through bloody street protests and wars waged by our ancestors. Millions of Americans have never participated in a street protest or marched for a cause they care about passionately. Many Americans have lost the ability to even care – believing the system is hopelessly corrupted beyond cure.
We sat in a small local theatre this past Saturday with friends to watch the new Michael Moore movie, “Where to Invade Next.” Coming in the midst of the presidential debates where one candidate is running on a platform to make America great again while continually insulting women and minorities and another is promising to reform campaign finance while raking in boatloads of corporate dough, the movie had an extra tug of poignancy.
Posted by Dictynna at 5:56 AM
For most of human history, life-saving drugs were a public good. Now they’re only good for shareholders.By Fran Quigley
Along the path toward the creation of a global capitalist system, some of the most significant steps were taken by the English enclosure movement.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries, the rich and the powerful fenced off commonly held land and transformed it into private property. Land switched from a source of subsistence to a source of profit, and small farmers were relegated to wage laborers. In Das Kapital, Marx described the process by coining the term land-grabbing. To British historian E.P. Thompson, it was “a plain enough case of class robbery.”
Posted by Dictynna at 5:53 AM
Once upon a time, the death of a Supreme Court justice wouldn’t have brought America to the edge of constitutional crisis. But that was a different country, with a very different Republican Party. In today’s America, with today’s G.O.P., the passing of Antonin Scalia has opened the doors to chaos.
In principle, losing a justice should cause at most a mild disturbance in the national scene. After all, the court is supposed to be above politics. So when a vacancy appears, the president should simply nominate, and the Senate approve, someone highly qualified and respected by all.
Posted by Dictynna at 5:46 AM
Americans perceive what has happened to their democratic Republic only dimly, tricked by rightists who call all collective government actions bad and by neoliberals who make “markets” a new-age god. But ex-congressional budget official Mike Lofgren shows how this “Deep State” really works, writes Chuck Spinney.By Chuck Spinney
Just about everyone knows something is dangerously wrong with our nation’s political system. There is a growing awareness that the United States is drifting blindly into a state of greater inequality, stagnation, oligarchy and perpetual war, with a ruling establishment that neither responds to the will of the people nor to the problems our nation faces.
For evidence of this pervasive sense of unease, look no further than the 2016 presidential election, where a bombastic celebrity billionaire and a crusty grandfatherly democratic socialist are claiming the political system is rigged and are driving the scions of the status quo into the rubber room — at least for now.
Posted by Dictynna at 5:42 AM
All over the country, the Kochs and utilities have been blocking solar initiatives — but nowhere more so than in FloridaBy Tim Dickinson
After decades of false starts, solar power in America is finally poised for its breakthrough moment. The price of solar panels has dropped by more than 80 percent since President Obama took office, and the industry is beginning to compete with coal and natural gas on economics alone.
But the birth of Big Solar poses a grave threat to those who profit from burning fossil fuels. And investor-owned utilities, together with Koch-brothers-funded front groups like American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), are mounting a fierce, rear-guard resistance at the state level – pushing rate hikes and punishing fees for homeowners who turn to solar power. Their efforts have darkened green-energy prospects in could-be solar superpowers like Arizona and Nevada. But nowhere has the solar industry been more eclipsed than in Florida, where the utilities' powers of obstruction are unrivaled.
Posted by Dictynna at 5:38 AM
Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign famously focused on “the economy, stupid.” But macroeconomic policy — what to do about recessions — has been largely absent from this year’s election discussion.
Yet economic risks have by no means been banished from the world. And you should be frightened by how little many of the people who would be president have learned from the past eight years.
If you’ve been following the financial news, you know that there’s a lot of market turmoil out there. It’s nothing like 2008, at least so far, but it’s worrisome.
Posted by Dictynna at 5:29 AM
The Democratic party decides its nominee in a massively undemocratic way – and is a ticking time bomb for the party and its voter base if Bernie keeps winningTrevor Timm
Many people on Twitter expressed surprise that Hillary Clinton basically walked away with the same amount of total delegates as Bernie Sanders after the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday night, despite the decisive 20-plus-point rout by Sanders.
It highlights the longstanding but little-discussed “superdelegate” system that could play a huge role in who wins the Democratic nomination this year. It turns out, the Democratic party decides its nominee in a massively undemocratic way – and is a ticking time bomb for the party and its voter base if Sanders keeps winning.
The Democratic party’s nomination will ultimately be decided by more than 4,700 delegates at its nominating convention in the summer. Most of those delegates are allocated based on votes in each state’s primary or caucus. However, the party also assigns what are known as “superdelegates” – 700 or so people who aren’t elected by anyone during the primary process and are free to vote any way they want at the convention. They are made up of members of Congress and members of the Democratic National Committee – which is made up of much of the establishment that Sanders is implicitly running against.
Posted by Dictynna at 5:26 AM
In this excerpt from What Kind of Creatures Are We?, Noam Chomsky discusses the historical embedding of an elite "guardian class" in US society going back to the framers of the Constitution.I mentioned that [John] Dewey and American workers held one version of democracy, with strong libertarian elements. But the dominant version has been a very different one. Its most instructive expression is at the progressive end of the mainstream intellectual spectrum, among good Wilson-FDR-Kennedy liberal intellectuals. Here are a few representative quotes.
The public are "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders [who] must be put in their place." Decisions must be in hands of the "intelligent minority [of] responsible men," who must be protected "from the trampling and roar of the bewildered herd." The herd does have a function. Its task is to lend its weight every few years to a choice among the responsible men, but apart from that its function is to be "spectators, not participants in action." All for their own good. We should not succumb to "democratic dogmatisms about men being the best judges of their own interests." They are not. We are: we, the responsible men. Therefore attitudes and opinions must be shaped and controlled. We must "regiment the minds of men the way an army regiments their bodies." In particular, we must introduce better discipline into the institutions responsible for "the indoctrination of the young." If that is achieved, then it will be possible to avoid such dangerous periods as the 1960s, "the time of troubles" in conventional elite discourse. We will be able to achieve more "moderation in democracy" and return to better days as when "Truman had been able to govern the country with the cooperation of a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers."
Posted by Dictynna at 4:41 AM
The Peter Peterson gang has been hard at work lately trying to get people worried about the budget deficit. After all, with interest payments on the debt as a share of GDP at a post-war low and an interest rate on long-term Treasury bonds of almost 2.0 percent, things look pretty bleak. (That’s sarcasm.)
But the Washington deficit hawks (great name for a NFL team) have never let the real world interfere with their ranting about deficits, which invariably turn to the need to cut Social Security and Medicare. Unfortunately, they are getting some support in this effort from the folks at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Posted by Dictynna at 4:37 AM
Right-wing think tanks are often idea factories whose finished product is the peddling of cruel and soulless public policy papers and positions.
Consider the upcoming implementation of a federal policy that - thanks to the "improving" economy - may cut off food stamps for as many as 1 million people, according to the Associated Press:
Advocates [for the provision of food stamps] say some adults trying to find work face a host of obstacles, including criminal records, disabilities or lack of a driver's license.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:26 AM
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Progressives need to fight back with their own "metanarrative" against the tall tales of the right wing.By Michael Winship
Gather round for the word of the day: metanarrative. Definitions vary but let’s say it’s one big narrative that connects the meaning of events to a belief thought to be an essential truth, the storytelling equivalent of the unified field theory in physics.
Now use it to define what’s being done to America today — our Big Story. Journalist and activist Naomi Klein did just that a couple of weeks ago when she and I talked at Finger Lakes Community College in upstate New York about the Koch brothers’ resistance to the reality of climate change.
Posted by Dictynna at 10:25 AM
NEW YORK – Seven years after the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, the world economy continued to stumble in 2015. According to the United Nations’ report World Economic Situation and Prospects 2016, the average growth rate in developed economies has declined by more than 54% since the crisis. An estimated 44 million people are unemployed in developed countries, about 12 million more than in 2007, while inflation has reached its lowest level since the crisis.
More worryingly, advanced countries’ growth rates have also become more volatile. This is surprising, because, as developed economies with fully open capital accounts, they should have benefited from the free flow of capital and international risk sharing – and thus experienced little macroeconomic volatility. Furthermore, social transfers, including unemployment benefits, should have allowed households to stabilize their consumption.
Posted by Dictynna at 10:21 AM
Steve Eisman, the hedge fund manager of Big Short fame, argued against breaking up the big banks in a NYT column today. His basic argument is that we now have things under control because the regulators have effectively limited the banks’ ability to leverage themselves. He also says that even if we wanted to break up the banks, we don’t know how to do it:
“Furthermore, no advocate of a breakup has come forward with a plan on how to do it. Large banks are global, complex, integrated institutions. Breaking them apart would be incredibly difficult, long and disruptive, and the banks might have to freeze loan growth during the process, slowing our economy even further.”
Posted by Dictynna at 10:15 AM
How, can a geriatric Brooklyn-born Jew who speaks in long, complex sentences, his hands providing the punctuation, draw bigger crowds than Donald Trump, despite claiming a tiny fraction of the mogul's TV news coverage? How could he battle Hillary Clinton to a virtual tie in Iowa, with a good chance of beating her Tuesday in New Hampshire? How could he be closing the gap with her in national polls?
Posted by Dictynna at 10:12 AM
Presidential candidates these days are accustomed to mainstream reporters quizzing them on process and politics, with a typical media scrum filled with questions about the latest polls, repeated demands for a response to the most recent attack from rival campaigns, and sometimes even vapid inquiries about workout routines or favorite foods.
So a group of Quakers has been trying to fill the substance vacuum — by training hundreds of activists to stalk the candidates in early primary states and ask them tough questions on issues ranging from immigrant detention to nuclear weapons to the role of money in politics.
Wealthy Americans are afraid of too much change, the kind that might occur with a Democratic Socialist as president. But it's too late for gradual change. Only a popular uprising against big business greed can restore a semblance of normalcy to our perversely unequal society.
The election should be about the economy—but the economy of average Americans, not of establishment wealth. The election should be about these beaten-down groups of Americans:
Posted by Dictynna at 10:00 AM
Hedge funds and their billionaire managers offer up a powerful symbol of the forces that are driving America’s political and economic inequality. Getting the names and faces of these hedge fund billionaires before the public can help us tell a vivid story of what’s gone wrong with our economy and our politics — and help us build a movement to slice away at that billionaire power.
The “Hedge Clippers” campaign is doing plenty of that slicing. Begun in New York and now active in several other states, the effort is organizing at the state and federal levels around seemingly separate issues that range from school privatization and public sector cutbacks to environmental degradation and the ongoing assault on worker rights.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:56 AM
Resisting the commodification of information is a political struggle, not a technical one.by Rob Hunter
Capital takes. The commodification and exploitation of nature; the enclosure of the intellectual and informational commons in medicine, agriculture, and other areas of technical knowledge; the expropriation of public space to secure profit — all define an economic system supposedly premised on freedom.
Could the world of computing offer an alternative vision? Could it even aid in arresting enclosure’s march?
Software freedom — the core commitment of the free software movement — does represent at least the rudiments of a better system. Resisting and reversing enclosure will not come about through “sustainable growth” or the “sharing economy,” which preserve the logics and structures of the status quo. “Openness,” or the conviction that norms of transparency and publicity will clarify (and thereby equalize) power relations, is also no solution at all.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:45 AM
A report the American Petroleum Institute commissioned in 1982 revealed its knowledge of global warming, predated its campaign to sow doubt.By Neela Banerjee, InsideClimate News
A Columbia University report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute in 1982 cautioned that global warming "can have serious consequences for man's comfort and survival." It is the latest indication that the oil industry learned of the possible threat it posed to the climate far earlier than previously known.
The report, "Climate Models and CO2 Warming, A Selective Review and Summary," was written by Alan Oppenheim and William L. Donn of Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory for API's Climate and Energy task force, said James J. Nelson, the task force's former director. From 1979 to 1983, API and the nation's largest oil companies convened the task force to monitor and share climate research, including their in-house efforts. Exxon ran the most ambitious of the corporate programs, but other oil companies had their own projects, smaller than Exxon's and focused largely on climate modeling.
“Intelligent people know that the empire is on the downhill”: A veteran CIA agent spills the goods on the Deep State and our foreign policy nightmares
After almost 30 years in the CIA, Ray McGovern became a truth-teller. He sits down with Salon for a long debriefingPatrick L. Smith
I first heard Ray McGovern speak on a country road in the New England hills. This was courtesy of the admirably dedicated David Barsamian, who broadcast one of McGovern’s talks on Alternative Radio in late-2013. Reception up here being spotty, I pulled over and sat watching the autumn clouds drift by for the full hour McGovern stood at the podium of a Methodist church in Seattle. I was rapt.
What a lost pleasure it is in our indispensable nation to be in the presence of someone who thinks, acts and speaks out of conscience and conviction. Even better, these were precisely McGovern’s topics that day three years back: The necessity of careful thought, of honoring one’s inner voice, of acting out of an idea of what is right without regard to success or failure, the win-or-lose of life. One way or another, these themes run through everything he has to say, I have since discovered. At an inner-city church in Washington, McGovern teaches a course he calls “The Morality of Whistleblowing.”
Posted by Dictynna at 9:31 AM
By now everyone who follows politics knows about Marco Rubio’s software-glitch performance in Saturday’s Republican debate. (I’d say broken-record performance, but that would be showing my age.) Not only did he respond to a challenge from Chris Christie about his lack of achievements by repeating, verbatim, the same line from his stump speech he had used a moment earlier; when Mr. Christie mocked his canned delivery, he repeated the same line yet again.
In other news, last week — on Groundhog Day, to be precise — Republicans in the House of Representatives cast what everyone knew was a purely symbolic, substance-free vote to repeal Obamacare. It was the 63rd time they’ve done so.
Or What Is It the Scandinavians Have That We Don’t?By Ann Jones
Water drips from a leaky roof. The heat brings on a “moldy, rancid odor.” A child volunteer is tasked with killing giant roaches. Welcome to the Detroit public school system, which, according to a recent New York Times report, is “run down after years of neglect” and “teetering on the edge of financial collapse.” And yet, last Thursday, this was the closest thing to a “good news” story about Michigan on the front page of that newspaper. A companion piece covered the even more dismal “water crisis in the poverty-stricken, black-majority city of Flint,” a penny-pinching state “austerity” measure turned public health emergency that has left children there with elevated levels of lead in their blood, putting them at risk of lifelong adverse health effects.
Some years ago, I faced up to the futility of reporting true things about America’s disastrous wars and so I left Afghanistan for another remote mountainous country far away. It was the polar opposite of Afghanistan: a peaceful, prosperous land where nearly everybody seemed to enjoy a good life, on the job and in the family.
It’s true that they didn’t work much, not by American standards anyway. In the U.S., full-time salaried workers supposedly laboring 40 hours a week actually average 49, with almost 20% clocking more than 60. These people, on the other hand, worked only about 37 hours a week, when they weren’t away on long paid vacations. At the end of the work day, about four in the afternoon (perhaps three in the summer), they had time to enjoy a hike in the forest or a swim with the kids or a beer with friends -- which helps explain why, unlike so many Americans, they are pleased with their jobs.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:21 AM
Robert Reich: A Huge Slice of the Democratic Establishment Wants to Play It Safe at a Time When Millions Are Desperate
"Some establishment Democrats ... have grown comfortable with the way things are. They’d rather not rock the boat they’re safely in."By Robert Reich / Robert Reich's Blog
Instead of “Yes we can,” many Democrats have adopted a new slogan this election year: “We shouldn’t even try.”
We shouldn’t try for single-payer system, they say. We’ll be lucky if we prevent Republicans from repealing Obamacare.
We shouldn’t try for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The best we can do is $12 an hour.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:15 AM
“It’s like you can’t make this stuff up, right? The idea that the Republicans are trying to gut one of the main laws to prevent bank fraud—that’s their response to the 2008 financial crisis.”By George Zornick
ot many politicians will publicly make the case that the Department of Justice is being unduly tough on white-collar financial crimes, but the House of Representatives is set to vote Thursday on a bill that would meaningfully weaken the ability of federal investigators and prosecutors to go after certain cases of corporate malfeasance.
The pleasant-sounding “Financial Institution Customer Protection Act,” written by Missouri Republican representative Blaine Luetkemeyer, would change the federal Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) statutes to remove investigatory power into crimes “affecting” federally insured financial institutions, and reserve it only for crimes “by” and “against” them.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:05 AM
In response, we are seeing endless shots at Sanders’ plans for financial reform, health care reform, and expanding Social Security. Many of these pieces raise perfectly reasonable questions, both about Sanders’ goals and his route for achieving them. But there are also many pieces that just shoot blindly. It seems the view of many in the media is that Sanders is a fringe candidate, so it’s not necessary to treat his positions with the same respect awarded the views of a Hillary Clinton or Marco Rubio.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:55 AM
Sunday, February 7, 2016
Is lignin the crude oil of the future? Maybe so, thanks to the Sun and photocatalysts!
We associate refineries with crude oil and a dense tangle of technical fittings. They may, however, change in the future - if crude oil is replaced by lignin, a product currently treated as industrial waste. The research route leading towards this goal is being paved by new photocatalysts, developed by the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. They allow lignin-based model compounds to be transformed into useful chemical substances, in addition, the reactions take place under conditions that occur in nature.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:20 PM
West Virginia Senate President Bill Cole's spokesman said Monday that Cole "will travel throughout West Virginia and beyond...." to talk about his legislative agenda that limits workers' rights.
And, boy, did he go beyond, according to David Gutman of the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Cole flew to a world far away from West Virginia when he traveled this weekend to the luxurious Esmeralda resort, which describes itself as creating "an atmosphere of luxury and relaxation unmatched" in Palm Springs, California, the winter playground of the rich and powerful like billionaire Charles Koch, who has an estate there.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:16 PM
The voter asked how the candidate would replace the law that might have saved his brother-in-law if it had been in effect earlier. Needless to say, all he got was boilerplate about government regulations and the usual false claims that Obamacare has destroyed “millions of jobs” and caused premiums to “skyrocket.”
Posted by Dictynna at 4:12 PM
More than two million citizens have been Tased by police as Taser stun guns have become one of the preferred less-lethal weapons by police departments across the United States during the past decade. But what does that 50,000-volt shock do to a person's brain?
Despite widespread adoption by law enforcement - stun guns are now used in 17,000 police departments - little is known about exactly how the shocks affect individuals' cognitive functioning, or, more specifically, how receiving an electric shock from a Taser might affect the ability of a suspect to understand and waive their Miranda rights.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:10 PM
Under the agreement, corporations could challenge federal, state and local laws without court oversightEconomic theory holds that removing trade barriers among nations should increase global wealth. But the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership that Congress must soon give a straight up-or-down vote threatens our liberties as Americans and is likely to add almost nothing to U.S. economic growth.
I have been a longtime critic of the agreement, especially since WikiLeaks obtained a draft of its intellectual property provisions, showed a clear bias in favor of corporations.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:07 PM
Congress held its first hearing today on lead poisoning in the water supply of Flint, Michigan. The crisis began after an unelected emergency manager appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder switched the source of Flint’s drinking water to the corrosive Flint River.
Flint’s former emergency manager, Darnell Earley, refused to testify at today’s hearing despite a subpoena from the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. On Tuesday, Earley announced he was resigning from his current position as emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools. One person that will be testifying is Snyder’s handpicked appointee to run the state Department of Environmental Quality, Keith Creagh. According to the Detroit Free Press, Creagh is expected to fault the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for contributing to the Flint crisis, saying it “did not display the sense of urgency that the situation demanded.”
Posted by Dictynna at 4:04 PM
Study analyzes 40 years of science against 4 areas of sustainabilityWashington State University
PULLMAN, Wash.--Washington State University researchers have concluded that feeding a growing global population with sustainability goals in mind is possible. Their review of hundreds of published studies provides evidence that organic farming can produce sufficient yields, be profitable for farmers, protect and improve the environment and be safer for farm workers.
The review study, "Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century," is featured as the cover story for February issue of the journal Nature Plants and was authored by John Reganold, WSU regents professor of soil science and agroecology and doctoral candidate Jonathan Wachter. It is the first such study to analyze 40 years of science comparing organic and conventional agriculture across the four goals of sustainability identified by the National Academy of Sciences: productivity, economics, environment, and community well being.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:00 PM
This new tactic among Rubinite Democrats (Third Way’s funders include hedge fund managers Dan Loeb and Derek Kaufman, and their board features dozens of investment bankers and CEOs) seeks to capitalize on the Democratic base’s passions about the flow of economic growth upward to the 1%. And it will probably fool a few folks in the interim. But nobody is a more dishonest broker for that message than Third Way. Plus, the claim isn’t only ham-handed and ahistorical, it’s factually inaccurate.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:56 PM
In a blog post last week, Krugman told readers:
“As far as I can tell, every serious progressive policy expert on either health care or financial reform who has weighed in on the primary seems to lean Hillary.”While I already had some fun with the idea of Krugman revoking the credentials of everyone who works in these areas who does not back Clinton, the appeal to the authority of the “experts” is more than a bit annoying. The reason is that the “experts” do not have a very good track record of late and still have a long way to go to win back the public’s trust.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:53 PM
Just 7 more states needed to convene meeting for new amendmentsBy Ashley Balcerzak
It’s only a short phrase buried in the U.S. Constitution, but it enables an unprecedented avenue to change the law of the land: If two-thirds of the states demand it, Congress “shall call a convention” for proposing constitutional amendments.
A hopeless pipe dream? Actually, no; the issue is front and center right now. Some 27 states have active calls for a convention on a balanced budget amendment, which would force the federal government to pass budgets that do not enlarge the national debt. This means that theoretically just seven more have to act for a constitutional convention to be called, at least on that subject.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:28 AM
So what’s really at stake in this year’s election? Well, among other things, the fate of the planet.
Last year was the hottest on record, by a wide margin, which should — but won’t — put an end to climate deniers’ claims that global warming has stopped. The truth is that climate change just keeps getting scarier; it is, by far, the most important policy issue facing America and the world. Still, this election wouldn’t have much bearing on the issue if there were no prospect of effective action against the looming catastrophe.
Glenn Greenwald: The “Bernie Bros” Narrative: a Cheap Campaign Tactic Masquerading as Journalism and Social Activism
The concoction of the “Bernie Bro” narrative by pro-Clinton journalists has been a potent political tactic — and a journalistic disgrace. It’s intended to imply two equally false claims: (1) a refusal to march enthusiastically behind the Wall Street-enriched, multiple-war-advocating, despot-embracing Hillary Clinton is explainable not by ideology or political conviction, but largely if not exclusively by sexism: demonstrated by the fact that men, not women, support Sanders (his supporters are “bros”); and (2) Sanders supporters are uniquely abusive and misogynistic in their online behavior. Needless to say, a crucial tactical prong of this innuendo is that any attempt to refute it is itself proof of insensitivity to sexism if not sexism itself (as the accusatory reactions to this article will instantly illustrate).
It’s become such an all-purpose, handy pro-Clinton smear that even consummate, actual “bros” for whom the term was originally coined — straight guys who act with entitlement and aggression, such as Paul Krugman — are now reflexively (and unironically) applying it to anyone who speaks ill of Hillary Clinton, even when they know nothing else about the people they’re smearing, including their gender, age, or sexual orientation. Thus, a male policy analyst who criticized Sanders’ health care plan “is getting the Bernie Bro treatment,” sneered Krugman. Unfortunately for the New York Times Bro, that analyst, Charles Gaba, said in response that he’s “really not comfortable with [Krugman’s] referring to die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters as ‘Bernie Bros'” because it “implies that only college-age men support Sen. Sanders, which obviously isn’t the case.”
Posted by Dictynna at 5:43 AM