Sunday, March 27, 2016

Matthew Desmond Will Change the Way You Relate to America's Poverty Crisis

Desmond's new book 'Evicted' takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge.

By Eleanor J. Bader / AlterNet

When Harvard sociology professor and 2015 MacArthur award-winner Matthew Desmond was growing up, money was tight. “Sometimes the gas got shut off and Mom cooked dinner on top of our wood-burning stove,” he writes in Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. “She knew how to make do.”

Still, when the family could no longer keep the creditors at bay, the bank foreclosed on Desmond’s childhood home. By that time, he was at Arizona State University on scholarship and recalls feeling simultaneously sad and embarrassed by his family’s predicament.

The VA Isn’t Broken, Yet

Inside the Koch brothers’ campaign to invent a scandal and dismantle the country’s most successful health care system.

By Alicia Mundy

In past presidential primaries, when candidates wanted to win the votes of veterans they would trek to American Legion halls and Veterans of Foreign Wars conventions in far corners of Iowa and New Hampshire. While there’s been a little of that in the current primary contest, a new pattern has emerged, at least on the Republican side.

Over the last year, every major GOP candidate with the exception of Donald Trump has made a pilgrimage to gatherings put on by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), a group that had barely formed during the 2012 primary cycle. Whereas candidates back in the day were under pressure from the old-line veterans’ groups to promise undying support for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its nationwide network of hospitals and clinics, the opposite has been true this season. Candidates at CVA rallies have been competing with each other to badmouth the VA and its allegedly shabby treatment of veterans. And all have pledged fealty to the CVA’s goal of moving as many vets as possible out of the VA into private care. Even Trump is calling for more “choice.”

Charles P. Pierce: It Turns Out the Koch Brothers Took an Interest in the VA Hospital System

I wonder why.

A great number of people out there will tell you that there is nothing that unusual about how the Koch Brothers are slinging around their money in an attempt to refashion government at almost every level to conform to their dystopian concept of civilization. There are even people who will point to their various charitable endeavors as though these were somehow acceptable penance for their unceasing campaign to deform the country into something they can keep in their poolhouse. Then again, there's also someone like Alicia Mundy, who comes along and explains that, yes, the Kochs are every bit the conniving plutocrats that you think they are, and that, yes, they want everything and are half on the way to getting it.

This week's cautionary tale is the Veterans Administration. The Kochs and their operation are after the VA because privatizing everything helps make them more money and they are completely ethics-free with regard to how they go about it.

Chasing Utopia

Worker ownership and cooperatives will not succeed by competing on capitalism’s terms.

by Sam Gindin

This year marks the five-hundredth anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia — the book that introduced the term “utopia” into radical thought during the early days of capitalism. In More’s story, a fictional character matter-of-factly declares, “wherever you have private property and money is the measure of all things, it is hardly ever possible for a commonwealth to be governed justly or happily.”

Half a millennium later, this idea — that private ownership of the means of production is the central barrier to a better world — has much purchase on the Left, with many calling for an economy based on direct worker and community control.

Thomas Frank: Bill Clinton’s odious presidency: Thomas Frank on the real history of the ’90s

Welfare reform. NAFTA. The crime bill. Prisons. Aides wondered if Bill knew who he was. His legacy is sadly clear

Everyone remembers the years of the Bill Clinton presidency as good times. The economy was booming, the stock market was ascending, and the mood was infectious. You felt good about it even if you didn’t own a single share.

And yet: What did Clinton actually do in his eight years on Pennsylvania Avenue? While writing this book, I would periodically ask my liberal friends if they could recall the progressive laws he got passed, the high-minded policies he fought for—you know, the good things Bill Clinton got done while he was president. Why was it, I wondered, that we were supposed to think so highly of him—apart from his obvious personal charm, I mean?

Paul Krugman: Trump Is No Accident

Establishment Republicans who are horrified by the rise of Donald Trump might want to take a minute to remember the glitch heard round the world — the talking point Marco Rubio couldn’t stop repeating in a crucial debate, exposing him to devastating ridicule and sending his campaign into a death spiral.

It went like this: “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.” The clear, if ungrammatical, implication was that all the bad things Republicans claim have happened under President Obama — in particular, America’s allegedly reduced stature in the world — are the result of a deliberate effort to weaken the nation.

Keep Fear Alive

The bald-eagle boondoggle of the terror wars

Kade Crockford

“If you’re submitting budget proposals for a law enforcement agency, for an intelligence agency, you’re not going to submit the proposal that ‘We won the war on terror and everything’s great,’ cuz the first thing that’s gonna happen is your budget’s gonna be cut in half. You know, it’s my opposite of Jesse Jackson’s ‘Keep Hope Alive’—it’s ‘Keep Fear Alive.’ Keep it alive.”
—Thomas Fuentes, former assistant director, FBI Office of International Operations

Can we imagine a free and peaceful country? A civil society that recognizes rights and security as complementary forces, rather than polar opposites? Terrorist attacks frighten us, as they are designed to. But when terrorism strikes the United States, we’re never urged to ponder the most enduring fallout from any such attack: our own government’s prosecution of the Terror Wars.

This failure generates all sorts of accompanying moral confusion. We cast ourselves as good, but our actions show that we are not. We rack up a numbing litany of decidedly uncivil abuses of basic human rights: global kidnapping and torture operations, gulags in which teenagers have grown into adulthood under “indefinite detention,” the overthrow of the Iraqi and Libyan governments, borderless execution-by-drone campaigns, discriminatory domestic police practices, dragnet surveillance, and countless other acts of state impunity.

Blowing the Biggest Political Story of the Last Fifty Years

The shocking story isn't the rise of Donald Trump but how the GOP slowly morphed into a party of hate and obstruction.

By Neal Gabler

Ah, the crescendo of complaint! The Republican establishment and the mainstream media, working hand in hand in their unprecedented, non-stop assault on the “short-fingered vulgarian” named Donald Trump, would have you believe that Trump augurs the destruction of the Republican Party. Former Reagan speechwriter and now Wall Street Journal/CBS pundit Peggy Noonan expressed the general sentiment of both camps when she said on Super Tuesday that “we’re seeing a great political party shatter before our eyes.”

But here is what no one in the GOP establishment wants you to know, and no one in the media wants to admit: Donald Trump isn’t the destruction of the Republican Party; he is the fulfillment of everything the party has been saying and doing for decades. He is just saying it louder and more plainly than his predecessors and intra-party rivals.

How Did This Happen?

Elizabeth Drew

The first half of March 2016 may well go down as the turning point in this election and one of the most consequential periods in the history of nomination politics. It could presage the death of the traditional Republican Party and the birth of a third party. For the Democrats, it may show that the party’s split runs deeper than many have recognized. The events of these weeks may also finally establish that Donald Trump—who won three of four states on Tuesday, March 8—is no passing phenomenon, though Republican elders are still plotting to stop him.

Bernie Sanders’s upset of Hillary Clinton in Michigan Tuesday was another in the ever-growing series of unexpected twists in this election year. Contrary to the wisdom that Sanders couldn’t win an industrial state because Clinton had a lock on African Americans, Clinton won less than two-thirds of Michigan’s black vote—a major difference from her performance in southern states. (On Tuesday, she roundly defeated Sanders in Mississippi.) It turned out that the trade issue had particular salience in Michigan. Throughout his campaign, Sanders had been charging that deals such as NAFTA, negotiated by Bill Clinton’s administration, and the TPP, which Hillary Clinton had been slow to oppose, cost too many workers their jobs. But he gave it new emphasis in Michigan.

Gaius Publius: The Goal of the Neo-Liberal Consensus Is to Manage the Decline

Yves here. I anticipate that readers will debate whether decline is inevitable. My short answer is that with the caliber of leadership we have in the US and abroad, it’s hard to see how we escape it. And we may be too far along a bad trajectory to change course in a big enough way.

But Jospeh Tainter, in his classic study, he Collapse of Complex Societies, had to concede that some societies were able to pull themselves out of a downward path, yet offered no guidance as to why they were different, save that their ruling classes acted to ward it off. Tainter was likely unwilling to examine these cases because he was dogmatic about the cause of collapse: it was the rising cost of complexity, in particular, the increasing cost of energy. He rejected culture as a cause of decline. Yet even if he is correct about how energy needs drive complex societies towards their own demise, that does not obviate the idea that better leadership and/or better social values can enable civilizations to adapt rather than fail.

Thomas Frank: Millions of ordinary Americans support Donald Trump. Here's why

When he isn’t spewing insults, the Republican frontrunner is hammering home a powerful message about free trade and its victims


Let us now address the greatest American mystery at the moment: what motivates the supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump?

I call it a “mystery” because the working-class white people who make up the bulk of Trump’s fan base show up in amazing numbers for the candidate, filling stadiums and airport hangars, but their views, by and large, do not appear in our prestige newspapers. On their opinion pages, these publications take care to represent demographic categories of nearly every kind, but “blue-collar” is one they persistently overlook. The views of working-class people are so foreign to that universe that when New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wanted to “engage” a Trump supporter last week, he made one up, along with this imaginary person’s responses to his questions.

 Congress Is About to Take Food Away From the Poorest People in America

 Between 500,000 and 1 million people nationwide, most of them living in extreme poverty, will soon lose their SNAP benefits.

By Michelle Chen

This April Fools’ Day, Congress will play a cruel trick on the country’s most destitute people: It will make their food disappear. They will lose access to food stamps—not because they’re no longer in need of assistance, but because, in a way, they need it too much.

A twisted legislative quirk embedded in the Clinton-era welfare reform law is timed to go into effect after March 31 in several states, blowing a gaping hole in the already threadbare social safety net.

Surprise! NSA data will soon routinely be used for domestic policing that has nothing to do with terrorism

By Radley Balko

A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:
What does this rule change mean for you? In short, domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages. FBI agents don’t need to have any “national security” related reason to plug your name, email address, phone number, or other “selector” into the NSA’s gargantuan data trove. They can simply poke around in your private information in the course of totally routine investigations. And if they find something that suggests, say, involvement in illegal drug activity, they can send that information to local or state police. That means information the NSA collects for purposes of so-called “national security” will be used by police to lock up ordinary Americans for routine crimes. And we don’t have to guess who’s going to suffer this unconstitutional indignity the most brutally. It’ll be Black, Brown, poor, immigrant, Muslim, and dissident Americans: the same people who are always targeted by law enforcement for extra “special” attention.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

57 different pesticides found in poisoned honeybees

A new method to detect a wide range of pesticides could help save bee populations


Amsterdam, February 10, 2016 - European honeybees are being poisoned with up to 57 different pesticides, according to new research published in the Journal of Chromatography A. A new method for detecting a whole range of pesticides in bees could help unravel the mystery behind the widespread decline of honeybees in recent years, and help develop an approach to saving them.

Honeybees are under threat globally: in the US, dramatic declines in bee populations due to a condition called colony collapse disorder (CCD) continues to put crops at risk an farmers out of business. Several studies have shown a link between pesticide use and bee deaths and the European Union has banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

A Citizen’s Guide to Combating Election Propaganda: Debunking Anti-Welfare Myths

by Anthony DiMaggio

Political and economic elites’ success in manufacturing mass ignorance represents the largest impediment to democratic empowerment today. Stoking fear of and contempt for the “other” – including minorities and the poor, is a common tactic employed in election to gain voter support. So is the stoking of hubris – as seen in the demonization of the poor, and in the rhetorical glorification of those “who work” against those (allegedly) “who don’t.” Unfortunately, countless Americans fall victim to divide and conquer techniques employed by elites. The goal moving forward must be to create a critical citizen consciousness, so the masses don’t simply “accept what they’re told” once every four years by the pretty faces running for office. What follows is a primer for readers to help in their conversations with friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and family, to fight back against the racist, classist propaganda so often employed against disadvantaged groups in the U.S.

Paul Krugman: Trade and Tribulation

Why did Bernie Sanders win a narrow victory in Michigan, when polls showed Hillary Clinton with a huge lead? Nobody really knows, but there’s a lot of speculation that Mr. Sanders may have gained traction by hammering on the evils of trade agreements. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, while directing most of his fire against immigrants, has also been bashing the supposedly unfair trading practices of China and other nations.

So, has the protectionist moment finally arrived? Maybe, maybe not: There are other possible explanations for Michigan, and free-traders have repeatedly cried wolf about protectionist waves that never materialized. Still, this time could be different. And if protectionism really is becoming an important political force, how should reasonable people — economists and others — respond?

Our Democracy Under Serious Attack: We Owe It to Ourselves and Our History to Defend Against the 21st-Century Money Powers

America's long and troubling history of disenfranchisement.

By David Morris / AlterNet

The founding fathers minced no words about their distrust of the masses. Our first president, John Adams warned, “Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy.” Our second president, John Adams, insisted, "Democracy is nothing more than mob rule.” Our third president, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution declared, "Democracy is the most vile form of government.”

In his argument against the direct election of senators, Connecticut’s Roger Sherman advised his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention, "The people should have as little to do as may be about the government. They lack information and are constantly liable to be misled.” They agreed. Senators would be elected by state legislatures. And they created the Electoral College to shield the presidency from a direct vote of the people as well.

How Teach for America Is Covertly Privatizing Public Education

T. Jameson Brewer, co-editor of Teach For America Counter-Narrative: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out, discusses his journey from TFA corp member to outspoken critic.

By Sharmini Peries / The Real News Network

DeRay Mckesson might be a late entry into the Baltimore mayor's race, but his candidacy has brought both national attention and controversy to a field already crowded with nearly a dozen Democrats alone. A Black Lives Matter protester who gained fame and a massive social media following by walking away from a six-figure salary in 2014 to join the Ferguson uprising, Mckesson recently released a 26-page platform which outlined support for a $15 minimum wage, education development, youth development, and reforming the beleaguered Baltimore Police Department. At least on the surface, this sounds progressive. But critics say his involvement with Teach For America hints at another agenda. TFA is a hedge fund-backed nonprofit that gives top college graduates five weeks of training and places them in disinvested public schools around the country. TFA is known for rallying around its alumni, but there are others who paint a different picture. Among those is our next guest, T. Jameson Brewer. He's a Ph.D. candidate of educational policy studies and O'Leary fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He's also the co-editor of Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out, published last year.

The US Economy Has Not Recovered and Will Not Recover

Posted By Paul Craig Roberts

The US economy died when middle class jobs were offshored and when the financial system was deregulated.

Jobs offshoring benefitted Wall Street, corporate executives, and shareholders, because lower labor and compliance costs resulted in higher profits. These profits flowed through to shareholders in the form of capital gains and to executives in the form of “performance bonuses.” Wall Street benefitted from the bull market generated by higher profits.

However, jobs offshoring also offshored US GDP and consumer purchasing power. Despite promises of a “New Economy” and better jobs, the replacement jobs have been increasingly part-time, lowly-paid jobs in domestic services, such as retail clerks, waitresses and bartenders.

The Real Cause of the Flint Crisis

America’s infrastructure was once the envy of the world, but in an era of government-bashing, it has been allowed to crumble.

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

The shocking crisis in Flint—where state cost-cutting mandates led to lead-tainted water that has poisoned thousands of children—has become a metaphor for American political dysfunction. Yet it should also be a reminder of how much Americans’ health and well-being depend on effective public policies. Rather than see Flint as another case of government failure, reinforcing distrust and cynicism, Americans should instead see it as a call to action. Using the power of government, American society once solved problems like those now plaguing Flint and too many other communities. And it could do so again, if it overcame the widespread amnesia about the enormous benefits of active, responsive government.

It’s easy to forget today, but cleaning up municipal water supplies was the greatest public-health triumph of the 20th century. The economists David Cutler and Grant Miller have estimated that approximately half of the dramatic decline in mortality between 1900 and 1936—a period in which life expectancy increased from less than 50 years to more than 60—was due just to improved municipal water systems. The infant mortality rate fell by more than 80 percent. These public health measures helped lay the cornerstone of a capable system of government that could boost America’s rising economy by tackling problems that markets alone would not.

Revealed: The Fossil Fuel Tycoons Trying to Buy the US Election


By Zachary Davies Boren, Energydesk | News Analysis

An elite group of millionaires and billionaires with ties to fossil fuels have spent more than $100 million in this US election cycle, Energydesk can reveal.

A Greenpeace analysis of Federal Election Committee data has turned up 124 'megadonors' who are executives, board members or major investors in the fossil fuel industry - these guys have each given at least $100,000 to Super PACs supporting a political candidate or cause.

Megadonors include the Wilks brothers, a couple of Texas frackers who have given more than $15 million to a Super PAC supporting Ted Cruz for President, and Ken Griffin, a hedge fund manager with an oil-rich investment portfolio who has backed Marco Rubio to the tune of $2.6 million.

'The Brainwashing of My Dad': Documentary Explores the Scary Influence of Right-Wing Media

Filmmaker Jen Senko examines the effect of conservative media through the lens of her own father's radicalization and its impact on her family.

The new documentary The Brainwashing of My Dad explores one of the most bizarre media phenomena in this country: the dangerous power right-wing media can have on everyday people.

As filmmaker Jen Senko tried to understand the transformation of her father from a non-political, life-long Democrat to an angry, right-wing fanatic, she uncovered the forces behind the media that changed him completely: a plan by Roger Ailes under Nixon for a media takeover by the GOP; the Powell Memo urging business leaders to influence institutions of public opinion, especially the universities, the media and the courts; and under Reagan, the dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine.

Sanders is Right, the US Needs a Healthcare System More Like Those in Europe

Ed Dolan

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has reopened the healthcare debate by urging America to adopt a system more like that of other wealthy countries. “The United States is the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people,” he says, “And we end up spending far, far more per capita on health care as do the people of any other country: Canada, U.K., France, whatever.”

Yet, even though he’s right, his healthcare platform is under attack, not just from the right, but also from the left. Here is why I think his critics are wrong.

Why Single Women Frighten the Hell out of the GOP

Rebecca Traister's new book on single women looks at how this growing population is reshaping America.

By Amanda Marcotte / Salon

Author Rebecca Traister’s last book, Big Girls Don’t Cry, took a comprehensive look at how the 2008 elections changed everything for American women. Now she’s back with a similarly pop music-themed title, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, an examination of the role single women have played in American culture, both in our history and in our current times.

Single women are a potent political force in a way they never have been before, making up nearly a quarter of the electorate and leaning to the left of both men and their married counterparts. This, along with a whole host of inchoate fears about what happens when women are left to their own devices without male supervision, has led to a rash of conservative pundits and politicians denouncing the ladies who aren’t married. I interviewed Traister about this moral panic over single women and what it means for the culture at large.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Paul Krugman: When Fallacies Collide

The formal debates among the Republicans who would be president have exceeded all expectations. Even the most hardened cynics couldn’t have imagined that the candidates would sink so low, and stay so focused on personal insults. Yet last week, offstage, there was in effect a real debate about economic policy between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, who is trying to block his nomination.

Unfortunately, both men are talking nonsense. Are you surprised?

Read This Before You Sign Any Contract

 Buried in the legal language of the contracts we all sign for jobs, credit cards, and more are clauses that effectively curtail our constitutional rights.

By Michelle Chen

The hardest won rights are often the easiest to lose, and in the thickets of fine print surrounding every labor contract or credit card bill, all it takes is one careless signature to get roped into a deal with the devil—before you know it, you’ve already compromised your right to a fair trial or to speak out against an abusive boss.

Despite American society’s reputation for litigiousness, there are as many things to sue over as there are ways to escape a lawsuit. In February, a coalition of lawmakers led by Senators Patrick Leahy and Al Franken introduced legislation to strengthen worker and consumer protections against binding arbitration—the obscure legal mechanism through which countless people have accidentally compromised their rights, by ensuring that a prospective future dispute with a company gets tracked into a separate legal system rigged with corporate impunity.

Watch: John Oliver Reveals an Insidious Kind of Corruption Most People Have Never Heard Of

They are called special districts, and they are a special way of picking taxpayers' pockets.

By Alexandra Rosenmann / AlterNet

Special districts are special because they can receive little oversight and can be very easy to create. Sometimes the only people voting for them are two people in the middle of nowhere.

"One of the most interesting ways how special districts are different from any form of government is that they can be created seemingly out of thin air," said "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver. "For instance, in Conroe, Texas, a company was looking to create a new neighborhood on undeveloped land. They wanted to form a special district which could issue bonds. Now to do this, the law required a vote, but remember, no one lived there yet. So what did they do? So guess what they did?"

 Democrats and Republicans Are Quietly Planning a Corporate Giveaway—to the Tune of $400 Billion

 Why isn’t anyone talking about it?

By William Greider

 Young people are the good news of 2016. They see the stressful realities of American life more clearly than their elders and are rallying around the straight talk of Bernie Sanders. Meanwhile, the big hitters back in Washington politics are working on an ugly surprise not just for the kids but for all of us—another monster tax break for US multinational corporations.

 The bad news is that key leaders of the Democratic Party—including the president—are getting on board with Republicans, despite some talk about confronting income inequality. Influential Democrats intend to negotiate with Republican counterparts on the size and terms of post-facto tax “forgiveness” for America’s globalized companies. This is real money they’re talking about—a giveaway of hundreds of billions.

How the FBI Polices Dissent and Why It Matters in the Encryption Debate

By Chip Gibbons, Truthout | News Analysis

With the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) attempting to gain access to the San Bernardino shooter's phone, and in the process create a backdoor into encrypted devices across the world - many in the media have framed the issue as being one of privacy versus security. While there is undoubtedly a compelling privacy issue at stake, many advocates have also pointed to another fundamental right at stake - the right of free expression. The Supreme Court has long noted that privacy is fundamental to free expression. More recently, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression released a report concluding that strong encryption was essential to protect free expression.

When tackling encryption from a free expression standpoint, many advocates have rightfully expressed fear that "authoritarian" governments could use backdoors into encrypted devices to go after journalists, human rights defenders and dissidents. Yet, by placing the threat to free expression mainly on foreign bad actors, the FBI is being let off the hook. It isn't just encryption in the hands of other governments that threatens free expression: The FBI should not be trusted either, as it has a long history of policing dissent.

How Workers Lose in Negotiations

by Carl Finamore

Unlike the ninety percent of American workers who have only their own personal voice to influence their wages, benefits and working conditions, union employees use their collective organization to establish guarantees.

And, union workers come to negotiations very well prepared with lots of economic data, with each contract proposal “costed out,” and with the whole team backed up by a professional staff of legal and industry analysts. So, then, how is it that we still get hammered?

This is how the GOP imploded: The real story behind the conservative crack-up, and the creation of Donald Trump

Donald Trump used right-wing rhetoric to steal the conservative base. But this crack-up has been a long time coming

Heather Cox Richardson

Today’s civil war in the GOP has observers scrambling to make sense of the struggle among the current Republican presidential candidates. Pundits are trying to find the roots of the chaos in President Obama’s 2008 election or in the rise of the Tea Party in 2010. But the current fights are only the fallout from a split that started in the 1930s, cracked open in the 1960s, and was complete in the 1990s.

We cannot understand the present without understanding that earlier rift.

The Republican Party split in two in response to the New Deal. In the 1920s, Republicans had embraced the idea that “the business of America is business,” as President Calvin Coolidge put it. But when the bottom fell out of the American economy, Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt insisted that the government must stop the abuses that had created the crisis. During his administration, Democrats passed laws to regulate business and finance, as well as to protect labor and provide a basic safety net for Americans. But Republicans loathed these policies. They thought that the taxes necessary to support an active government would tie up capital that wealthy men would otherwise use to invest in the economy. They howled that the New Deal threatened freedom, made people dependent on government, ushered in socialism, and launched a class war that would destroy the nation. And voters reelected FDR in 1936 with more than 60% of the vote.

Why the FBI's Spying and Attempt to Subvert the Civil Rights Movement Is a Vital History Lesson for All Activists Today

Young people should understand how COINTELPRO's abuses impact police and race relations today.

By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

This month marks the 45th anniversary of a dramatic moment in U.S. history. On March 8, 1971—while Muhammad Ali was fighting Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden, and as millions sat glued to their TVs watching the bout unfold—a group of peace activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole every document they could find.

Keith Forsyth, one of the people who broke in, explained on Democracy Now!:

I was spending as much time as I could with organizing against the war, but I had become very frustrated with legal protest. The war was escalating and not de-escalating. And I think what really pushed me over the edge was, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia, there were four students killed at Kent State and two more killed at Jackson State. And that really pushed me over the edge, that it was time to do more than just protest.

The Toxic Factors that Give Rise to Right-Wing Populists Like Trump, Berlusconi and Hitler

There's a difference between right-wing populists and conservatives.

By Robert Kuttner

Right-wing populists ascend when three toxic forces converge. First, the economy needs to be really lousy for most citizens. Check.

Second, the political system ceases to be able to solve problems and loses legitimacy with regular people. Check.

Third, some foreign menace causes people to seek shelter in a strongman. Check.

A Chemical Shell Game

How DuPont Concealed the Dangers of the New Teflon Toxin

Sharon Lerner

Mark Strynar and Andrew Lindstrom walked down the muddy bank of the Cape Fear River toward the water, sampling equipment in hand. It was the summer of 2012, and the scientists, who both work for the Environmental Protection Agency, were taking the first steps in what would be more than two years of detective work. The Cape Fear winds its way for over 200 miles through North Carolina before flowing into the Atlantic, but Strynar and Lindstrom were focused on a 20-mile stretch that runs from a boat dock outside Fayetteville south to the little town of Tar Heel. About halfway between the two points, on the western bank of the river, sits a large plant built by DuPont.

Fayetteville Works, as the sprawling site is called, previously manufactured C8, a chemical that DuPont used for more than 50 years to make Teflon and other products. After a massive class-action lawsuit revealed evidence of C8’s links to cancer and other diseases, DuPont agreed in a deal with the EPA to phase out its use of the chemical. But Strynar and Lindstrom were among many scientists who feared that DuPont and the other companies that used C8 might have swapped it out for similar compounds with similar problems. To see if they were right — and whether any of these replacements might have ended up in the river — they took water samples from the Cape Fear, some upstream the plant, others from points below its outflow.

Why Noam Chomsky and Education Activists Are Warning That Obama's Pick for Education Secretary Could Be Disastrous

Prominent defenders of public schools are warning the Senate not to confirm John King.

By Ben Norton

Leading progressive voices are warning that President Obama’s choice for education secretary could be a disaster.

An open letter to the U.S. Senate, published in the Washington Post on Thursday, asks lawmakers to reject the confirmation of John King as the new secretary of education.

King, the acting secretary of education, has a long history of supporting corporate-friendly education reforms, and has pushed for unpopular policies like more standardized testing and Common Core, which critics say are ineffective.

Wall Street’s political shakedown: We’ll stop funding Dems if Elizabeth Warren won’t sit down and shut up

Top banks consider cutting off Dems if the party won't rein in party progressives


If ever you doubted that our obscene campaign finance regime constitutes a form of legalized bribery, consider this: Reuters reports today that officials at top Wall Street banks recently convened to discuss how they could convince Democrats “to soften their party’s tone” toward the financial industry, and among the options now under consideration is halting campaign donations to Senate Democrats unless they rein in progressive populists like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

The banks represented at the Washington meeting included Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, according to the report, and though the idea of withholding campaign contributions did not arise at that gathering, it has since been floated in conversations among representatives from the banks.

How an East Coast Think Tank Is Fueling the Land Transfer Movement

By Lyndsey Gilpin, High Country Newse

Recently, Idaho senators met to vote on a new bill that would let county sheriffs, commissioners, and mayors decide if an area of federal land is at risk of wildfire, and demand that the federal government fix it. If the feds - usually Bureau of Land Management or US Forest Service - don't respond, local officials could coordinate with the state to take legal action.

ut the bill didn't come to a vote - it was met with contention from the Idaho Senate largely because it was aligned with the effort to transfer federal lands to state control. The law is also an example of a larger trend of legislation in Western states being derived from model bills created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC - not to be confused with the Utah-based American Lands Council (ALC) - is a nonprofit organization founded in 1973 by conservative activist Paul Weyrich that works to push principles of free-market enterprise, limited federal control, and more power for state governments. The conservative policy group based in Arlington, Virginia, whose corporate advisory board includes Exxon Mobil and tobacco giant Altria, is funded largely by the Koch family and is becoming increasingly involved in the land transfer movement by providing bill templates, research and public support to Western legislators.

Newly Released People’s Budget Doubles Down On Progressive Policies

Isaiah J. Poole

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has released its People’s Budget for fiscal 2017, featuring a $1 trillion commitment to rebuilding America’s infrastructure that includes billions of dollars to replace water lines in Flint, Mich., and elsewhere.

The budget is projected to create “3.6 million good paying jobs to push our economy back to full employment, which will provide the necessary economic conditions to spur across-the-board wage growth for hardworking Americans.” It would also increase spending in virtually every major domestic program category, including education, housing and antipoverty programs. It would also direct the country to make major strides toward a green energy-based economy to fulfill the commitments the United States made at last year’s Paris climate change accords.

Paul Krugman: Clash of Republican Con Artists

So Republicans are going to nominate a candidate who talks complete nonsense on domestic policy; who believes that foreign policy can be conducted via bullying and belligerence; who cynically exploits racial and ethnic hatred for political gain.

But that was always going to happen, however the primary season turned out. The only news is that the candidate in question is probably going to be Donald Trump. Establishment Republicans denounce Mr. Trump as a fraud, which he is. But is he more fraudulent than the establishment trying to stop him? Not really.

The Retirement Revolution That Failed: Why the 401(k) Isn’t Working

By David Dayen

Across the political spectrum, people warn of a coming time bomb in our retirement system. Many analysts believe the growing population of retirees will overwhelm the Social Security program, and that something must be done to shore up its finances.

However, there’s another slow-moving time bomb out there, and that’s the gradual retirement of workers in an era where 401(k)-style defined-contribution plans have become dominant, replacing defined-benefit pensions. A new study of the state of U.S. retirement shows that this change leaves Americans woefully unprepared for their non-working years, with resources too meager to uphold their standard of living.

‘Generation Screwed’ Gets a Political Organizing Primer, Just in the Nick of Time

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Landing in the midst of the most critical election season since the New Deal era of the 30s, comes a masterpiece of labor history and political strategy from the prolific author, Robert W. McChesney, and John Nichols, the popular national affairs correspondent at The Nation. Both McChesney and Nichols are co-founders of Free Press, a national media reform organization.

Charles P. Pierce: The Poison in Tennessee

It was someone else's problem, as it always is, the way the faceless forces endlessly convince us that it should be, lest we all discover how badly we've been played.

KINGSTON, TENNESSEE—It was a decade or so ago that I stood on this same windy point above the Emory River basin. At the time, the view from this vantage looked very much as though a big chunk of the moon had fallen into the river–a huge gray mountain running toward sheer cliffs on all sides, earth-moving machines strewn like a child's Tonka trucks at all angles along its face. And a guy who was preparing to move away told me about the night he looked out his front window and saw trees marching by his front door.

On the night of December 22, 2008, a Tennessee Valley Authority dike holding back a virtual reservoir of coal ash—what they call "slurry" here—gave way and sent 5.4 million cubic yards of the slurry pouring down into the Emery and Clinch Rivers. On land, the great wave of toxic sludge—mercury, selenium, arsenic and Christ alone knows what else—gouged the landscape, sending trees walking down into the valley and wrecking homes all along the waterfront. Thomas Hendrickson was driving home from working the night shift that night when the police shortstopped him at the bottom of Swan Pond Road. (Swan Pond was, at this point, buried under a gigantic chemistry set.) "I had to take the long way around to get home," Hendrickson said. "That was the way it was for a long time."

Social Security Privatizer Larry Fink of Giant Asset Manager BlackRock is a Clinton Treasury Secretary in Waiting

Posted on March 3, 2016 by Yves Smith

David Dayen at The Intercept has ferreted out that Larry Fink, CEO of the giant asset manager BlackRock, is keen to become Treasury Secretary, and has positioned himself accordingly. He’salready has such a strong influence on Hillary’s Clinton’s thinking to the degree that even Andrew Ross Sorkin has taken note of how she closely she echoes on financial service industry matters: “…“could have been channeling Laurence D. Fink.” This might seem to be a happy coincidence were not it not for the way Fink has curried favor with as having strong ties to Treasury by virtue of having hired former staffers. Per Dayen:
Fink’s most telling hire, however, is Cheryl Mills, arguably Clinton’s most trusted confidante. Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, was deputy White House counsel in the Bill Clinton administration, and is on the board of directors of the Clinton Foundation. Fink hired Mills for the BlackRock board of directors in October 2013, in what observers mused was a ploy to insinuate himself into the Clinton inner circle.

Stiglitz: Anger Over 'Failed Economy' is Shaping US Election

"Americans have seen lots of injustices. I think that has really motivated the anger across the spectrum."

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Inequality is shaping the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as voters disillusioned by the financial crisis and Wall Street greed increasingly turn to populist candidates like Bernie Sanders, who has made economic inequality a central platform of his campaign, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said on Wednesday.

"There are a lot of people that are described as angry and they finally figured out that they’re not doing very well," Bloomberg reports Stiglitz as saying during an event at the Resolution Foundation, a London-based research group. "They’re not doing as well as their parents; some Americans aren’t doing as well as their grandparents."

Agricultural fertilizer could pose risk to human fertility, sheep study finds

University of Nottingham

Eating meat from animals grazed on land treated with commonly-used agricultural fertilisers might have serious implications for pregnant women and the future reproductive health of their unborn children, according to a new study involving sheep.

The study by British and French scientists from the universities of Nottingham, Aberdeen (UK) and Paris-Saclay (France), The James Hutton Institute (Aberdeen) and UMR BDR, INRA, Jouy en Josas (Paris, France) published in the journal Scientific Reports, has shown striking effects of exposure of pregnant ewes - and their female lambs in the womb - to a cocktail of chemical contaminants present in pastures fertilised with human sewage sludge-derived fertiliser.

The FBI Has a New Plan to Spy on High School Students Across the Country

Under new guidelines, Muslim students will be disproportionately targeted – but all young people will be suspect.

By Sarah Lazare

Under new guidelines, the FBI is instructing high schools across the country to report students who criticize government policies and “western corruption” as potential future terrorists, warning that “anarchist extremists” are in the same category as ISIS and young people who are poor, immigrants or travel to “suspicious” countries are more likely to commit horrific violence.

Based on the widely unpopular British “anti-terror” mass surveillance program, the FBI’s "Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools" guidelines, released in January, are almost certainly designed to single out and target Muslim-American communities. However, in its caution to avoid the appearance of discrimination, the agency identifies risk factors that are so broad and vague that virtually any young person could be deemed dangerous and worthy of surveillance, especially if she is socio-economically marginalized or politically outspoken.

Nearly half of American children living near poverty line

National Center for Children in Poverty's Basic Facts about Low-Income Children Report illustrates severity of economic instability and disparity in the US

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

March 2, 2016 (NEW YORK CITY) -- Nearly half of children in the United States live dangerously close to the poverty line, according to new research from the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Basic Facts about Low-Income Children, the center's annual series of profiles on child poverty in America, illustrates the severity of economic instability and poverty conditions faced by more than 31 million children throughout the United States. Using the latest data from the American Community Survey, NCCP researchers found that while the total number of children in the U.S. has remained about the same since 2008, more children today are likely to live in families barely able to afford their most basic needs.

Richard Eskow: New Study Confirms: Private “Trade” Courts Serve the Ultra-Wealthy

A new study confirms what many activists have suspected for a long time: The private courts set up by international “trade” deals heavily favor billionaires and giant corporations, and they do so at the expense of governments and people.

Smaller companies and less-wealthy individuals don’t benefit nearly as much from these private courts as the extremely rich and powerful do. Other interested parties – whether they’re governments, children, working people, or the planet itself – are unable to benefit from these private courts at all.

Remember When Scott Walker's Reforms Were Going to Deliver a Booming Economy?

Submitted by Mary Bottari

A story in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Poverty across Wisconsin reaches highest level in 30 years, caught our eye. It details a new study showing that poverty is growing rapidly in almost half the counties in the state.

"Poverty in Wisconsin hit its highest level in 30 years during the five-year period ending in 2014, even as the nation's economy was recovering from the Great Recession, according to a trend analysis of U.S. census data just released by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers. The number of Wisconsin residents living in poverty averaged 13% across that post-recession time frame--the highest since 1984, according to the analysis by UW-Madison's Applied Population Laboratory. In 1984, the poverty rate peaked at 15.5% as the nation was recovering from a double-dip recession," writes Karen Herzog for the state's largest newspaper.

How Billionaires Use Non-Profits to Bypass Governments and Force Their Agendas on Humanity

As wealth becomes concentrated in fewer hands, so does political and social power via foundations and non-profits.

By Sarah Lazare

As wealth becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the billionaire class is increasingly turning to foundations and non-profits to enact the change they would like to see in the world. Amid the rise of philanthrocapitalism, growing numbers of critics are raising serious questions about whether this outsized influence is doing more harm than good.

In the January issue of the New York Review of Books, veteran journalist Michael Massing noted that, in the past 15 years alone, “the number of foundations with a billion dollars or more in assets has doubled, to more than eighty.” The philanthropic sector in the United States is far more significant than in Europe, fueled in part by generous tax write-offs, which the U.S. public subsidizes to the tune of $40 billion a year.

On The NYT's Sorry Whitewash Of Clinton And Her War On Libya

The New York Times has a two part piece about the U.S. war on Libya and especially Hillary Clinton's role as the then Secretary of State in it. Adhering to the NYT's editorial line, the overall picture of Clinton is painted in sympathetic colors even when it describes the disaster she created.

Overall it is a whitewash of history based on the lies that the "humanitarian intervention" was perceived necessary because Ghaddafi was about to "kill civilians". It is not unexpected that the NYT would write such nonsense. The NYT editors had themselves endorsed the war and the paper lauded the immediate result. It is guilty of inciting the war just as much as Clinton is.

Study identifies racial bias in US court sentencing decisions

University of Sheffield

Petty criminals who are black are more likely to be jailed than their white counterparts and serve longer sentences for low severity crimes, according to new research.

Dr Todd Hartman, from the University of Sheffield's Methods Institute, and Rhys Hester, of the University of Minnesota, explored if, how and when race factors in criminal sentencing by analysing more than 17,000 decisions from South Carolina in the USA.

Why do conservatives keep saying Seattle's minimum wage hike has failed -- without data?

By Michael Hiltzik

Ever since Seattle enacted a measure to raise its minimum wage to a nation-leading $15 an hour, conservatives have been sharpening their pencils to show the raise is a job-killer.

Mike Patton of Forbes broke out of the box early, with a piece on Sept. 28 asserting that "thus far the data doesn’t bode well for supporters of this law." His evidence was an apparent spike in Seattle's unemployment rate after April 1, when the first increase to $11 from the Washington state minimum of $9.47 was implemented.

Dean Baker: We Poisoned Kids in Flint to Keep Their Parents From Having Jobs

We all understand the concept of trade-offs. If we spend more of our paycheck on restaurants, then we will have less money for rent. If we spend more time watching television we will have less time to read or do sports. There will often be similar sorts of trade-offs in public policy decisions. If we spend more money on health care then we will have less money for education or child care.

But trade-offs in public policy decisions don't always work that way. At a time when the economy has large amounts of unemployed workers and idle productive capacity, spending more in one area doesn't have to mean spending less in another. In other words, we can spend more on both health care and education.

Injustice can spread

Researchers at the University of Bonn discover how the chain of unfair behavior can be stopped

University of Bonn

People who feel treated unfairly usually do not direct their anger only towards the perpetrator. They frequently unload their aggressions onto uninvolved outsiders who then in turn behave similarly. How can this chain of unfair behavior be disrupted? A team of researchers under the direction of the University of Bonn discovered that writing a message to the perpetrator is one way to regulate emotions and thereby reassess the situation. The results of the study are now published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Paul Krugman: Planet on the Ballot

We now have a pretty good idea who will be on the ballot in November: Hillary Clinton, almost surely (after the South Carolina blowout, prediction markets give her a 96 percent probability of securing her party’s nomination), and Donald Trump, with high likelihood (currently 80 percent probability on the markets). But even if there’s a stunning upset in what’s left of the primaries, we already know very well what will be at stake — namely, the fate of the planet.

Why do I say this?

The conservative case against expanding Social Security? It was based on a math erro

By Michael Hiltzik

The conservative argument that the retirement crisis is a myth has been based on the notion that Americans actually will have far more in retirement resources than they recognize — particularly that Social Security benefits will amount to a much larger percentage of workers' lifetime income than has been assumed. Ergo, there's no need to expand Social Security to give retirees more.

Now it turns out that this assumption is based on an arithmetic error. On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office, whose extremely generous estimates of the so-called replacement rate from Social Security fueled the conservative position, fessed up. The CBO says it miscalculated the replacement rates in its long-term projection for the program issued in mid-December. It has now reissued the report with corrected figures, showing a "substantially lower" replacement rate for retirees.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The diplomat and the killer: Death squads, dirty war and the untold story of H. Carl Gettinger

In 1980, Salvadoran soldiers raped and murdered four American churchwomen. One man single-handedly cracked the case

On December 1, 1980, two American Catholic churchwomen — an Ursuline nun and a lay missionary — sat down to dinner with Robert White, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. They worked in rural areas ministering to El Salvador’s desperately impoverished peasants, and White admired their commitment and courage. The talk turned to the government’s brutal tactics for fighting the country’s left-wing guerrillas, in a dirty war waged by death squads that dumped bodies in the streets and an army that massacred civilians. The women were alarmed by the incoming Reagan administration’s plans for a closer relationship with the military-led government. Because of a curfew, the women spent the night at the ambassador’s residence. The next day, after breakfast with the ambassador’s wife, they drove to San Salvador’s international airport to pick up two colleagues who were flying back from a conference in Nicaragua. Within hours, all four women would be dead.

The Koch Brothers Are Now Funding The Bundy Land Seizure Agenda

by Jenny Rowland -- Guest Contributor & Matt Lee-Ashley - Guest Contributor

The political network of the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch signaled last week that it is expanding its financial and organizational support for a coalition of anti-government activists and militants who are working to seize and sell America’s national forests, monuments, and other public lands.

The disclosure, made through emails sent by the American Lands Council and Koch-backed group Federalism in Action to their members, comes as the 40-day armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is winding to an end.

David Dayen: Antonin Scalia: The Billion-Dollar Supreme Court Justice

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was worth billions of dollars to corporate America, if a Dow Chemical settlement made public Friday is any indication.

Dow was in the midst of appealing a $1.06 billion class-action antitrust ruling after a jury found that it had conspired with other chemical companies to fix prices for urethane, a material used in furniture and appliances.

How the Powers That Be Maintain the "Deep State": An Interview With Mike Lofgren

By Leslie Thatcher, Truthout | Interview

In The Deep State, author Mike Lofgren, whose 2011 commentary, "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult," remains the most-read article at, connects the dots between apparently disparate aspects of our current dystopia. "The deep state," argues Lofgren is "the red thread" linking the "ideological syndrome" of McMansions; DC's culture of careerist strivers; the financialization, deindustrialization and ultimate mutation of the US economy into "a casino with a tilted wheel"; the burgeoning of government secrecy even as individual privacy has been demolished; the consistency and persistence of unpopular policies regardless of which party wins elections; militarized foreign policy, "defense" and "security" establishments that thrive on failure and enjoy essentially unlimited funding whatever nostrums about the national debt and the necessity for austerity are being peddled for every other function of government; the prevalence of incompetence and ineptitude in government response to crises; unequal justice, including impunity for the wealthy and corporations, a corrupt Supreme Court and a strikingly punitive criminal legal system for ordinary people; legislative gridlock; perpetual war; political extremism and other ruinous epiphenomena.

Who’s regulating for-profit schools? Execs from for-profit colleges

Annie Waldman, Pro Publica

College accreditors have come under scrutiny recently for allowing for-profit schools to collect billions in federal aid despite low graduation and high default rates.

Accreditors are supposed to be watchdogs for college quality. They are not government agencies but colleges need an accreditor’s seal of approval so students can qualify for federal loans.