Sunday, April 24, 2016

Glenn Greenwald: To See the Real Story in Brazil, Look at Who Is Being Installed as President — and Finance Chiefs

It’s not easy for outsiders to sort through all the competing claims about Brazil’s political crisis and the ongoing effort to oust its president, Dilma Rousseff, who won re-election a mere 18 months ago with 54 million votes. But the most important means for understanding the truly anti-democratic nature of what’s taking place is to look at the person whom Brazilian oligarchs and their media organs are trying to install as president: the corruption-tainted, deeply unpopular, oligarch-serving Vice President Michel Temer (above). Doing so shines a bright light on what’s really going on, and why the world should be deeply disturbed.

The New York Times’s Brazil bureau chief, Simon Romero, interviewed Temer this week, and this is how his excellent article begins:
RIO DE JANEIRO — One recent poll found that only 2 percent of Brazilians would vote for him. He is under scrutiny over testimony linking him to a colossal graft scandal. And a high court justice ruled that Congress should consider impeachment proceedings against him.

Paul Krugman: In Hamilton’s Debt

The Treasury Department picked an interesting moment to announce a revision in its plans to change the faces on America’s money. Plans to boot Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill in favor of a woman have been shelved. Instead, Harriet Tubman — one of the most heroic figures in the history of our nation, or any nation — will move onto the face of the $20 bill.

She will replace Andrew Jackson, a populist who campaigned against elites but was also, unfortunately, very much a racist, arguably an advocate of what we would nowadays call white supremacy. Hmm. Does that make you think about any currently prominent political figures?

But let me leave the $20 bill alone and talk about how glad I am to see Hamilton retain his well-deserved honor. And I’m not alone among economists in my admiration for our first Treasury secretary. In fact, Stephen S. Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong have an excellent new book, “Concrete Economics,” arguing that Hamilton was the true father of the American economy.

What Is Shadow Lobbying? How Influence Peddlers Shape Policy in the Dark

By Libby Watson, Sunlight Foundation | News Analysis

Earlier this year, we asked you to help us find out which Democratic superdelegates are also lobbyists. We didn't want to limit it to just registered lobbyists, because there's an increasing number of people in Washington who do what most of us would think of as lobbying activity, but avoid registering -- known as "shadow lobbyists." But that left us, and our readers, with some questions: What exactly is a shadow lobbyist? How do they avoid registering? How did we get here?

What Is Shadow Lobbying?

Shadow lobbying refers to someone who performs advocacy to influence public policy, like meeting legislators or their staff, without registering as a lobbyist -- and it's a big problem for anyone who cares about transparency in Washington. (For further reading on this topic, you can't do better than to read Lee Fang's 2014 investigation of shadow lobbying at The Nation.)

Why Haven’t Bankers Been Punished? Just Read These Insider SEC Emails

Right after the financial crisis, an SEC lawyer fought a lonely struggle to get his agency to crackdown harder on Goldman bankers. He lost.

by Jesse Eisinger

This story was co-published with The New Yorker. It is not subject to our Creative Commons license.

In the late summer of 2009, lawyers at the Securities and Exchange Commission were preparing to bring charges in what they expected would be their first big crackdown coming out of the financial crisis. The investigators had been looking into Goldman Sachs’ mortgage-securities business, and were preparing to take on the bank over a complex deal, known as Abacus, that it had arranged with a hedge fund. They believed that Goldman had committed securities violations in developing Abacus, and were ready to charge the firm.

James Kidney, a longtime SEC lawyer, was assigned to take the completed investigation and bring the case to trial. Right away, something seemed amiss. He thought that the staff had assembled enough evidence to support charging individuals. At the very least, he felt, the agency should continue to investigate more senior executives at Goldman and John Paulson & Co., the hedge fund run by John Paulson that made about a billion dollars from the Abacus deal. In his view, the SEC staff was more worried about the effect the case would have on Wall Street executives, a fear that deepened when he read an email from Reid Muoio, the head of the SEC’s team looking into complex mortgage securities. Muoio, who had worked at the agency for years, told colleagues that he had seen the “devasting [sic] impact our little ol’ civil actions reap on real people more often than I care to remember. It is the least favorite part of the job. Most of our civil defendants are good people who have done one bad thing.” This attitude agitated Kidney, and he felt that it held his agency back from pursuing the people who made the decisions that led to the financial collapse.

Absurd Latest Idea to Stop Paid Family Leave: Pregnancy IRAs

IRAs didn't adequately replace pensions either

By Alex Rowell, Brendan Duke / Talk Poverty

Eighty-seven percent of workers lack paid family leave, including the vast majority of low-income workers. Fortunately, some conservatives have offered a bold new solution: pregnancy IRAs.

That’s right. In an apparent attempt to cement the United States’ status as the last industrialized nation on Earth without paid family leave, the Independent Women’s Forum proposed a system of Personal Care Accounts (PCAs) in which workers would save for their own paid leave based on the same 401(k) model that has left millions at risk of an insecure retirement.

David Dayen: Bill That Obama Extolled Is Leading to Pension Cuts for Retirees

One of the many obscure provisions jammed into a last-minute budget bill in 2014 endorsed and signed by President Obama is leading to what would be the first cuts in earned pension benefits to current retirees in over 40 years.

The Washington Post reports that the Treasury Department is on the verge of approving an application from the Central States Pension Fund – a plan that covers Teamster truckers in several states – to cut worker pensions by an average of 23 percent, and even more for younger retirees. Over 250,000 truckers and their families would be affected. Workers over 75, or those who have acquired a disability, would be exempt from the changes.

Dave Johnson: Panama Trade Agreement: Was Tax Evasion The Point All Along?

The Bush administration negotiated the Panama free trade agreement without addressing Panama’s bank and corporate secrecy. Panama has little to “trade” with the U.S., so maybe leaving secrecy out of the agreement wasn’t an accident; it was the point. It provided a stamp of legitimacy and protections for “investors” moving their money to Panama.

Panama Trade Agreement

The Panama–United States Trade Promotion Agreement, negotiated by the Bush administration, was finalized by the Obama administration and went into effect in 2012. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) website promotes the agreement as removing “barriers to U.S. services, including financial services.” It removed some duties and tariffs on U.S. exports and phased out others, like agricultural goods and technology products. It provided “protections” for U.S. “investors.”

Harriet Tubman: Former slave who risked all to save others

Sometime in mid-October 1849, Harriet Tubman crossed the invisible line that borders the state of Pennsylvania.

Tubman, a slave and later prominent abolitionist who has been chosen as the face of the new $20 bill, had escaped a plantation and was partway through a near-90 mile journey from Maryland to Philadelphia, and from bondage to freedom.

She left the plantation, in Dorchester County, Maryland, in September and travelled by night. Her exact route is unknown, but she probably walked along the Choptank river and journeyed through Delaware, guided by the North Star.

Exclusive Interview: Seymour Hersh Dishes on Saudi Oil Money Bribes and the Killing of Osama Bin Laden

A wide-ranging interview tied to his new book, "The Killing of Osama Bin Laden."

By Ken Klippenstein / AlterNet

Seymour Hersh is an American investigative journalist who is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for his article exposing the My Lai massacre by the U.S. military in Vietnam. More recently, he exposed the U.S. government’s abuse of detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison facility.

Hersh's new book, The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, is a corrective to the official account of the war on terror. Drawing from accounts of a number of high-level military officials, Hersh challenges a number of commonly accepted narratives: that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the Sarin gas attack in Ghouta; that the Pakistani government didn’t know Bin Laden was in the country; that the late ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in a solely diplomatic capacity; and that Assad did not want to give up his chemical weapons until the U.S. called on him to do so.

Nomi Prins: Doing God’s Work – Why Bernie Matters for New York, America, and the World

I sure wish Bernie had won New York...-Dictynna

In the wake of the financial crisis, defending his firm against the wrath of public opinion in November 2009, Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, infamously quipped he was just "doing God's work.” The Lloyd Blankfein I knew when I was a managing director at Goldman Sachs was no comedian. The risk that the current construction of Wall Street banks still imposes upon the general economy is no joke.

Enter Bernie Sanders, the Brooklyn-born presidential contender that has never been paid to perform for Goldman. His message to break up the big banks into less complex components has been ripped apart as single-issue politics, naïve, out of touch with the reality of how things get done. This, from former New York Senator, Hillary Clinton, whose senatorial term covered the entire financial crisis build-up period. Especially for New Yorkers – this IS the most critical issue to consider on Tuesday.

Consuming too much fructose during pregnancy raises the child's risk for heart disease

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

The negative health effects of consuming large amounts of fructose could impact several generations, according to researchers at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

The UTMB study found that when pregnant mice only drink water sweetened with fructose, a common sweetener in foods and beverages, their offspring have several more risk factors for heart disease, compared with mice who only drank water throughout pregnancy. These findings were recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Climate Change Has All But Destroyed Great Barrier Reef, Study Confirms

More than 90 percent of world's largest living ecosystem has been hit by "severe" coral bleaching

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

More than 90 percent of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is suffering some level of coral bleaching and will likely never return to its original state, a new study from the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies released Tuesday confirms.

"We've never seen anything like this scale of bleaching before," said Terry Hughes, director of the research council. "In the northern Great Barrier Reef, it's like 10 cyclones have come ashore all at once."

David Dayen: The Fed needs a revolution: Why America’s central bank is failing — and how we can make it work for us

A bold new plan with links to the Sanders campaign has proposed taking the Federal Reserve, at long last, public

One reality hanging over the presidential election and our politics in general is this: No matter what terrific plan a politician has for creating jobs and boosting wages, it must contend with the Federal Reserve’s ability to unilaterally counteract it. If the Fed decides higher wages risk inflation, they can raise interest rates and deliberately strangle economic growth, reversing the wage effect. Why come up with ways to grow the economy, then, if the Fed will react by intentionally slowing it?

The reason the Fed operates as a wet blanket on the economy has to do with who really controls the institution. If the desires of bankers and the rich outweigh the desires of laborers, then their fear of inflation (which cuts into their profits) will always take precedence over full employment. Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke unwittingly gave a perfect example of that yesterday. Talking about how the Fed could institute “helicopter drops” of money to supplement federal spending and jump-start the economy, he stated from the outset, “no responsible government would ever literally drop money from the sky.” Who sets the boundaries of what’s “responsible” matters a great deal here.

Matt Taibbi: Why Is the Obama Administration Trying to Keep 11,000 Documents Sealed?

The "most transparent administration in history" has spent years trying to hide embarrassing financial secrets from the public

It's not quite the Panama papers, but one hell of a big pile of carefully guarded secrets may soon be made public.

For years now, the federal government has been quietly fighting to keep a lid on an 11,000-document cache of government communications relating to financial policy. The sheer breadth of the effort to keep this material secret may not have a precedent in modern presidential times.

What ancient Roman history and ‘elite overproduction’ tell us about near-future doom

Ned Resnikoff

The Roman Republic was decaying long before Julius Caesar marched on the city in 49 B.C. and toppled it for good. One of the pivotal moments in that decay came just three decades earlier, during the brief dictatorship of Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix.

Comparisons between 21st century America and the late republic are a bit of a cliché, and frequently overwrought. But there's one choice Sulla made that has a direct parallel in modern politics.

Although Sulla ruled as dictator for just one year before retiring into private life, he achieved quite a bit. Not only did he butcher thousands of potential rivals, he also instituted sweeping reforms, some of which contributed to the republic's eventual demise. For example, Sulla doubled the size of the Senate, from about 300 men to roughly 600. As Cambridge classics scholar Mary Beard detailed in her recent book "SPQR," this had the side effect of burdening Rome's political system with a bigger elite than it could possibly handle.

Paul Krugman: Robber Baron Recessions

When Verizon workers went on strike last week, they were mainly protesting efforts to outsource work to low-wage, non-union contractors. But they were also angry about the company’s unwillingness to invest in its own business. In particular, Verizon has shown a remarkable lack of interest in expanding its Fios high-speed Internet network, despite strong demand.

But why doesn’t Verizon want to invest? Probably because it doesn’t have to: many customers have no place else to go, so the company can treat its broadband business as a cash cow, with no need to spend money on providing better service (or, speaking from personal experience, on maintaining existing service).

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Did The Administration Offer New Balance A Big Contract For TPP Silence?

Dave Johnson

Last year President Obama went to Nike headquarters to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But Nike doesn’t make shoes in the US, and TPP would force companies like New Balance to stop making shoes here. New Balance kept quiet about this, but now says the administration offered the company a big contract in exchange for its silence. New Balance is talking now, because the contract never came through.

A Contract In Exchange For Silence?

The Bangor Daily News has a big story this week, “New Balance claims Defense Department strung it along on military sneaker contract”:
New Balance officials say they’ve broken their silence over the Trans-Pacific Partnership because the Obama administration has failed to offer the company a chance for a contract to sell sneakers to the military.

How Plutocrats Cripple the IRS

You pay more because elites use their influence to pay less.

By Martin Lobel

For every dollar appropriated to the Internal Revenue Service, the public collects more than $4 in taxes. Nonetheless, Congress has cut the IRS appropriations by $1.2 billion since 2010 while expanding the service’s administrative burdens by giving it responsibility for enforcing laws extraneous to tax collection, such as the Affordable Care Act. The IRS is also responsible for administering innumerable socioeconomic incentives in the tax code, including tax preferences for health care, retirement, social welfare, education, energy, housing, and economic stimulation, none of which are related to the IRS’s primary function of raising revenue—all with reduced funding.

Plutocrats, the richest 0.1 percent of Americans, get the most benefit from a weakened IRS. Because they have the money, the lawyers, the lobbyists, the accountants, and the secret campaign funds, they are able to ensure that the IRS won’t have the resources to effectively collect the money they owe to it. Plutocrats do this by devising tax shelters too complex for the IRS to challenge at an acceptable cost, and by having allies in Congress who intimidate the IRS from issuing tough regulations and who cut IRS funding to prevent adequate enforcement. (The top 0.1 percent consists of 115,000 individuals and families with an average income of $9.44 million. 40.8 percent of the top 0.1 percent are executives, managers, or supervisors of non-finance firms, and 18.4 percent are in the financial professions.)

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?

George Monbiot

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

Recyclable, sugar-derived foam -- a renewable alternative to traditional polyurethanes?

American Chemical Society

Polyurethanes in products from cushy sofas to stretchy spandex have made sitting, sleeping and walking more comfortable. But once they have served their purpose, most of the non-degradable materials pile up in landfills. Now scientists report in the journal ACS Macro Letters a potential way to reduce future waste: a chemically recyclable foam made using a new sugar-derived material.

Why World Leaders Are Terrified of Water Shortages

From Yemen to Syria to Arizona, droughts are a growing threat.s

—By Nathan Halverson

Secret conversations between American diplomats show how a growing water crisis in the Middle East destabilized the region, helping spark civil wars in Syria and Yemen, and how those water shortages are spreading to the United States.

Classified US cables reviewed by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting show a mounting concern by global political and business leaders that water shortages could spark unrest across the world, with dire consequences.

'I am on the Kill List'

"Singling out people to assassinate, and killing nine of our innocent children for each person they target, is a crime of unspeakable proportions."

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer

"Stop trying to kill me."

That's the message a man from Waziristan, Pakistan's border area with Afghanistan, has brought to the UK this week, saying that the U.S. has targeted him for death by placing him on the so-called kill list.

In an op-ed published Tuesday at the Independent, tribal elder Malik Jalal explains he's in England "because I decided that if Westerners wanted to kill me without bothering to come to speak with me first, perhaps I should come to speak to them instead. I'll tell my story so that you can judge for yourselves whether I am the kind of person you want to be murdered."

Rising CO2 levels reduce protein in crucial pollen source for bees

Purdue University

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have reduced protein in goldenrod pollen, a key late-season food source for North American bees, a Purdue University study shows.

Researchers found that the overall protein concentration of goldenrod pollen fell about one-third from the onset of the Industrial Revolution to the beginning of the 21st century.

Strengthening the EITC for Childless Workers Would Promote Work and Reduce Poverty

Improvement Targeted at Lone Group Taxed into Poverty

BY Chuck Marr, Chye-Ching Huang, Cecile Murray, and Arloc Sherman

Working childless adults[2] are the lone group that the federal tax code taxes into or deeper into poverty, largely because they are also the only group largely excluded from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For low-income working families with children, the EITC encourages and rewards work and offsets federal payroll and income taxes. The EITC for childless adults, by contrast, is so small that it effectively does none of those things. The federal tax code taxes about 7.5 million childless adults into or deeper into poverty. Today, the federal tax code taxes about 7.5 million childless adults aged 21 through 66 into or deeper into poverty.

Consider, for example, a 21-year-old just starting out in the workforce and making poverty-level wages of about $12,500 for manual labor. This worker has $956 in payroll taxes deducted from his paycheck and pays $214 in federal income taxes. Because the worker receives zero EITC (childless workers under age 25 are ineligible), he is taxed $1,170 into poverty — that is, the taxes leave him $1,170 below the poverty line. A 30-year-old woman making the same low wages in a retail store owes the same taxes, and she does qualify for an EITC (she is age 25 or older), but her credit is only $184 — with the result that she, too, is taxed into poverty.

Southern California's reduction in smog linked to major improvement in children's health

Bronchitic symptoms on the decline as pollution levels drop in Los Angeles region over the past two decades. #CleanAir

University of Southern California

A USC study that tracked Southern California children over a 20-year period has found they now have significantly fewer respiratory symptoms as a result of improved air quality.

The finding expands on the landmark USC Children's Health Study, which a year ago reported that kids' lungs had grown stronger over the past 20 years as pollution levels in the Los Angeles Basin declined. In the current study, USC researchers examined a health issue that makes many parents anxious while pulling at their pocketbooks: bronchitic symptoms that could land otherwise healthy children in a doctor's office or hospital.

How Wall Street Wounded Denver’s Public Schools

“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” - Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

by Matt Stannard

If you think Alice inhabited a world of twisted logic and contradictory truths, you should see the world of corporate crony capitalism. Let me tell you how a state awash in extra money is watching its largest school district die due to lack of funds. Alice’s story begins in a rabbit hole. Denver’s story begins on Wall Street.

Unlike many states, Colorado’s economy is strong these days. The state will add over 65,000 jobs this year. New businesses are forming, and existing businesses are doing pretty well. Colorado’s recreational marijuana revenue is also paying huge dividends back to the state, money that will be used to finance education and other public services.

How a US president and JP Morgan made Panama: and turned it into a tax haven

In 1903 the US bullied Colombia into giving up the province that became Panama. The plan was to create a nation to serve the interests of Wall Street

Ed Vulliamy

This goes back a long way. The Panamanian state was originally created to function on behalf of the rich and self-seeking of this world – or rather their antecedents in America – when the 20th century was barely born.

Panama was created by the United States for purely selfish commercial reasons, right on that historical hinge between the imminent demise of Britain as the great global empire, and the rise of the new American imperium.

The writer Ken Silverstein put it with estimable simplicity in an article for Vice magazine two years ago: “In 1903, the administration of Theodore Roosevelt created the country after bullying Colombia into handing over what was then the province of Panama. Roosevelt acted at the behest of various banking groups, among them JP Morgan & Co, which was appointed as the country’s ‘fiscal agent’ in charge of managing $10m in aid that the US had rushed down to the new nation.”

Pro-TPP Op-Eds Remarkably Similar to Drafts by Foreign Government Lobbyists

Lee Fang

OPINION COLUMNS PUBLISHED in California newspapers over the last year in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership use language nearly identical to drafts written and distributed by public relations professionals who were retained by the Japanese government to build U.S. support for the controversial trade agreement.

Take this column by former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who now serves as the president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, in the San Diego Union-Tribune, titled: “Trans-Pacific trade pact benefits San Diego.”

Paul Krugman: Snoopy the Destroyer

Has Snoopy just doomed us to another severe financial crisis? Unfortunately, that’s a real possibility, thanks to a bad judicial ruling that threatens a key part of financial reform.

Some background: When catastrophe struck the troubled U.S. financial system in September 2008, the proximate cause was the looming collapse of three companies — none of which were banks in the normal sense of the word, that is, institutions that take deposits and lend them out. One of them was, of course, Lehman Brothers; the other two were The Reserve, a moneymarket fund, and American International Group, or A.I.G, an insurance company.

How Not to Audit the Pentagon

Five Decades Later, the Military Waste Machine Is Running Full Speed Ahead

By William D. Hartung

From spending $150 million on private villas for a handful of personnel in Afghanistan to blowing $2.7 billion on an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work, the latest revelations of waste at the Pentagon are just the most recent howlers in a long line of similar stories stretching back at least five decades. Other hot-off-the-presses examples would include the Army’s purchase of helicopter gears worth $500 each for $8,000 each and the accumulation of billions of dollars' worth of weapons components that will never be used. And then there’s the one that would have to be everyone’s favorite Pentagon waste story: the spending of $50,000 to investigate the bomb-detecting capabilities of African elephants. (And here’s a shock: they didn’t turn out to be that great!) The elephant research, of course, represents chump change in the Pentagon’s wastage sweepstakes and in the context of its $600-billion-plus budget, but think of it as indicative of the absurd lengths the Department of Defense will go to when what’s at stake is throwing away taxpayer dollars.

Keep in mind that the above examples are just the tip of the tip of a titanic iceberg of military waste. In a recent report I did for the Center for International Policy, I identified 27 recent examples of such wasteful spending totaling over $33 billion. And that was no more than a sampling of everyday life in the twenty-first-century world of the Pentagon.

New Report Details Big Oil's $500 Million Annual Climate Obstructionism

'While the world came together in Paris to embrace climate action in 2015, Exxon was doubling down with Big Tobacco tactics and obstruction'

by Nika Knight, staff writer

The dark channels through which corporations influence legislation are notoriously hard to trace, but a new detailed report estimates that the world's largest fossil fuel companies are spending upwards of $500 million per year to obstruct climate laws.

Published Thursday by the UK-based non-profit InfluenceMap, the report (pdf) looked at two fossil fuel giants (ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell) and three trade lobbying groups, discovering that all together the five companies spend $114 million dollars a year to defeat climate change legislation.

Getting Over Our ‘Amnesia’ About The Value Of An Activist Government

Isaiah J. Poole

This time of year, a whole lot of Americans are feeling taxed enough already.

But the astonishing momentum of Bernie Sanders’s presidential candidacy reveals something else: Millions of taxpayers are willing to entertain the idea that some of us aren’t taxed enough, and that the rest of us are being hurt as a result.

Sanders has propelled his race against Hillary Clinton on a platform that would ramp up government investment — in infrastructure, education, health care, research, and social services — while boosting taxes on the wealthiest Americans and big business to cover the cost.

The Disaster of Richard Nixon

Robert G. Kaiser

In the course of his twenty-eight years in politics and twenty more in active retirement, Richard M. Nixon uttered a great many dubious propositions. None was less accurate than the words he spoke on November 7, 1962—the day after he lost the governorship of California to Edmund S. Brown, two years after losing the presidency to John F. Kennedy: “Just think of how much you’re going to be missing,” he told reporters gathered for what he billed as his last press conference. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”

A flawed prognostication. The critics who first found fault with Nixon’s 1946 red-baiting campaign against Democratic congressman Jerry Voorhis of California have been disparaging him ever since. Reading these books twenty-one years after his death, one realizes that finding fault with Nixon still has a future. It may never end. Thanks to his gross abuses of presidential power symbolized by the Watergate scandal and to his own decision to record the details of his presidency on tape, Nixon seems destined to remain an object of fascination, amazement, scorn, and disgust for as long as historians pay attention to the American presidency. When the subject matter is their foreign policy, Nixon’s sidekick, Henry A. Kissinger, will be right there beside him.

Dean Baker: DC Press Corps Spins Itself Silly Over Sanders’ Specifics

The Washington press corps has gone into one of its great feeding frenzies over Bernie Sanders’ interview with New York Daily News. Sanders avoided specific answers to many of the questions posed, which the DC gang are convinced shows a lack of the knowledge necessary to be president.

Among the frenzied were the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza, The Atlantic‘s David Graham and Vanity Fair‘s Tina Nguyen, with CNN‘s Dylan Byers telling about it all. Having read the transcript of the interview, I would say that I certainly would have liked to see more specificity in Sanders’ answers, but I’m an economist. And some of the complaints are just silly.

EXCLUSIVE: Melissa Harris-Perry Interviews Anita Hill, 25 Years Later

Melissa Harris-Perry

In 1991 America bore witness to arguably the most spectacular modern confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice. Law professor Anita Hill was dragged from relative obscurity to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee as it considered President George H. W. Bush’s nominee, Clarence Thomas. Facing probing and often explicit questions, Hill testified that she was repeatedly the subject of unwanted sexual advances by Thomas during years of working with him in government positions.

An Army of Ocean Farmers: On the Frontlines of the Blue-Green Economic Revolution

By Bren Smith

I’m a fisherman who dropped out of high school in 1986 at the age of 14. Over my lifetime, I’ve spent many nights in jail. I’m an epileptic. I’m asthmatic. I don’t even know how to swim. This is my story. It’s a story of ecological redemption.

I was born and raised in Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, a little fishing village with 14 salt-box houses painted in greens, blues and reds so that fishermen could find their way home in the fog. At age 14 I left school and headed out to sea. I fished the Georges Banks and the Grand Banks for tuna and lobster, then headed to the Bering Sea, where I fished cod and crab. The trouble was I was working at the height of the industrialization of food. We were tearing up entire ecosystems with our trawls, chasing fish further and further out to sea into illegal waters. I personally have thrown tens of thousands of pounds of by-catch back into the sea.

How Big Telecom Gets Away With Rewriting America's Laws

Written by Jason Koebler Staff Writer

A telecom-funded policy paper slamming local government-owned broadband networks published Wednesday is masquerading as a serious “economic analysis,” but is yet another example of the dominant players in telecom manipulating the political system to suit their interests.

In the last couple years, there’s been a strong push by local municipalities to provide Gigabit fiber internet connections for their residents, whether that means incentivizing a company like Google to come to their city, partnering with a startup ISP, or building the entire network by themselves using taxpayer money. The “municipal-owned” broadband networks are the ones taken on by The Impact of Government-Owned Broadband Networks on Private Investment and Consumer Welfare, and are, at least in theory, the ones that present the biggest threat to existing ISPs.

The Problem With Hillary Clinton Isn’t Just Her Corporate Cash. It’s Her Corporate Worldview.

 Clinton is uniquely unsuited to the epic task of confronting the fossil-fuel companies that profit from climate change.

By Naomi Klein

 There aren’t a lot of certainties left in the US presidential race, but here’s one thing about which we can be absolutely sure: The Clinton camp really doesn’t like talking about fossil-fuel money. Last week, when a young Greenpeace campaigner challenged Hillary Clinton about taking money from fossil-fuel companies, the candidate accused the Bernie Sanders campaign of “lying” and declared herself “so sick” of it. As the exchange went viral, a succession of high-powered Clinton supporters pronounced that there was nothing to see here and that everyone should move along.

 The very suggestion that taking this money could impact Clinton’s actions is “baseless and should stop,” according to California Senator Barbara Boxer. It’s “flat-out false,” “inappropriate,” and doesn’t “hold water,” declared New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman went so far as to issue “guidelines for good and bad behavior” for the Sanders camp. The first guideline? Cut out the “innuendo suggesting, without evidence, that Clinton is corrupt.”

Lessons of the Panama Papers: Yes, the rich are different from us — they stole our money

A vast web of lies and corruption protecting the super-rich is revealed -- and it's only the tip of an evil iceberg

Andrew O'Hehir

F. Scott Fitzgerald apparently never told his Parisian drinking buddy Ernest Hemingway, “Ernie, the rich are different from us,” only to be rebuffed by the legendary comeback, “Yes, they have more money.” Like so many famous anecdotes, that one was cooked up years after the fact (probably by Fitzgerald’s posthumous editor, the literary critic Edmund Wilson). One reason that apocryphal exchange possesses such enduring cultural resonance is that both observations are true, and what sounds like a contradiction is not a contradiction after all.

What have we learned so far from the Panama Papers, the largest volume of leaked documents in history, which have begun to peel the lid off a vast web of global greed, deception and iniquity among the highest level of the moneyed classes? For starters, they should serve to remind us how different the very rich are from the rest of us. Yes, it starts with the fact that they have more money, but it doesn’t end there. How did they get all that money, and what are they doing with it? Why do they have so much more money than the rest of us — unimaginably more, and on an unprecedented scale? Why do they seem so perpetually unsatisfied with their wealth, and so desperate to nurture it, shield it and multiply it? To quote someone else who confronted a society of immense injustice and economic inequality, a few years before Scott and Ernie’s imaginary Left Bank conversation: What is to be done?

Monsanto's Willing Executioners

By JP Sottile, Truthout | News Analysis

Is Monsanto "evil"?

Just pop that question into Google and you'll find out quickly why Monsanto ranks near the top of every "most hated company" list. And ask any news editor ... the name "Monsanto" is guaranteed clickbait that reels in readers by the bushel.

It's probably why you are reading this right now.

Perhaps you, like many anti-GMO farmers, environmental watchdogs and consumer advocates, see Monsanto as the embodiment of everything that's wrong with corporate America. Its name is synonymous with unbridled greed, indifference to the environment, bipartisan cronyism and a demonstrated willingness to steamroll the little guy.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

North Carolina’s Terrible Anti-LGBT Law Is Even Worse than We Thought

The problem goes way beyond bathrooms.

By Nina Martin, ProPublica

When North Carolina lawmakers passed what is widely viewed as the most sweeping anti-LGBT law in the country, supporters said it was needed to fend off a potential wave of local laws like the transgender-friendly bathroom ordinance adopted by the city of Charlotte. Opponents have called the new law a "hostile takeover of human rights."

But all the attention on who can use toilets and locker rooms has overshadowed what employment rights advocates say is an even more expansive change made by the law—one that could affect all workers in North Carolina, not just those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

As has been widely reported, the North Carolina legislature rushed last month to pass HB 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which requires transgender people (and everyone else) to use public restrooms according to the biological sex on their birth certificate. It also bars local governments from passing ordinances like Charlotte’s.

Businesses opposing N.C.'s HB2 helped elect legislators behind it



Since the hurried passage of North Carolina's HB2 last month in a special legislative session, numerous businesses have publicly spoken out against the law, which bars transgender individuals from using public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity and blocks local governments from enacting their own nondiscrimination and minimum wage ordinances.

Over 120 companies including Dow Chemical, Red Hat, American Airlines, Apple, PayPal, Cisco, IBM and Google have stated their opposition to the law. CEOs of many of these companies sent a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory (R) last week opposing the law.

But many of these same businesses funded two outside political groups that helped elect five of the bill's sponsors, 13 other legislators who voted for it, and McCrory, who immediately signed the measure into law.

There's a Dark Future for America Coming If We Let the Middle Class Disappear

Political democracy and an economic middle class is the natural state of humankind.

By Thom Hartmann

It's no secret that America's middle class is in decline. But while we focus on how that decline started (and who is to blame), we often forget to consider what happens if our middle class is wiped out entirely.

If we don't work to restore the American middle class to the vibrant, robust segment of our nation it once was, we may soon witness the end of small-d democracy as we know it. As history and nature both show us, working for the collective good is essential to a functioning democracy, and the natural outcome of that work is a strong and vibrant middle class.

Paul Krugman: Cities for Everyone

Remember when Ted Cruz tried to take Donald Trump down by accusing him of having “New York values”? It didn’t work, of course, mainly because it addressed the wrong form of hatred. Mr. Cruz was trying to associate his rival with social liberalism — but among Republican voters distaste for, say, gay marriage runs a distant second to racial enmity, which the Trump campaign is catering to quite nicely, thank you.

But there was another reason associating Mr. Trump with New York was ineffective: Old-fashioned anti-urban rants don’t fit with the realities of modern American urbanism. Time was when big cities could be portrayed as arenas of dystopian social collapse, of rampant crime and drug addiction. These days, however, we’re experiencing an urban renaissance. New York, in particular, has arguably never been a more desirable place to live – if you can afford it.

Corey Robin: Agency and Abortion

What Donald Trump can learn from Frederick Douglass.

As a scholar of conservatism, I’m finding this Trump-wants-to-punish-women-who-get-abortions moment fascinating. At its heart, I’ve argued, “conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes.”
It provides the most consistent and profound argument as to why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, why they should not be allowed to govern themselves. . . . Submission is their first duty, agency, the prerogative of the elite.
Though certainly hostile to women’s agency, Trump’s position recognizes it. He’s saying women make the choice to get an abortion, abortion is a crime, so do with women who get an abortion what we do with anyone who commits a crime: hold them accountable, punish them.

This is the Kochs’ right-wing coup: Deny voting rights, flood politics with dark money, capture the courts

The right maintains power with three tricky, connected schemes that have led to rule by a minority, the 1 percent

Michael Keegan

Most people would agree that our democracy is strongest when everyone can participate and every voice is heard. In fact, it’s hard to think of a more fundamental principle. But recent years have seen a steady push to undermine the engagement of everyday Americans in our political system, whether through the enactment of restrictive voting laws or the bulldozing of common-sense limits on big money in elections. Most recently, we’ve seen an attack on the functioning of an entire branch of our democratic system as GOP senators flat-out refuse to fulfill their constitutional duties by considering President Obama’s eminently qualified nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, Judge Merrick Garland.

While voting rights, money in politics and our courts may feel like three separate issues, they are fundamentally related — especially when you take a look at who’s been behind the attacks.

Here's How We Can Break Up the Banks and Avoid Another Economic Disaster

We should think of the financial system as a utility, in the same way that we think of sewage systems and electricity distribution.

By David Shirreff

We need a new model of banking (and to an extent a reworking of the entire financial system), so that it is less likely to need rescue by the taxpayer and is more likely to serve the real economy, not a narrow interest group.

It is understandable that, in the present economic climate, governments are reluctant to do more than tinker with the system for fear of incurring further costs—and the further wrath of the taxpayer.

Foreign Money Is Flowing Into U.S. Elections, Alito’s Lying Lips Notwithstanding

Jon Schwarz

IN HIS 2010 State of the Union address, Barack Obama attacked the then-new Citizens United Supreme Court decision for making it possible for U.S. elections to be bankrolled by “foreign entities.”

Justice Samuel Alito, part of the Citizens United majority, was in the audience, and shook his head and seemed to mouth “not true.”

But a member of the Federal Election Commission sounded the alarm Wednesday, explaining that it is indeed true — and quixotically calling on her chronically deadlocked colleagues to make it stop.

Here's Another Way Politicians Are Screwing You Over

This could get very expensive for some states.

—By Nick Stockton | Thu Mar. 31, 2016 6:00 AM EDT

Let's talk about climate change, for once without politics. Instead, money.

That's right. Forget the red and blue, the heated tempers and rising rhetoric. Instead think about the coal factories that still power much of the country, and who pays for every pound of carbon they add to the atmosphere. Right now, your state is making bets on its future economy, by choosing whether or not to change those factories by acting preemptively on a contested emissions rule.

‘They Want South America Back the Way They Used to Have It’

Janine Jackson interviewed Mark Weisbrot about Argentina’s new government for the May 25, 2016, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

By Janine Jackson

Janine Jackson: Washington Post editorialists, not known for hiding their feelings, heralded Argentina’s election of Mauricio Macri as “a chance to rejoin the Western world” and “a blow to Latin America’s already flagging socialist camp.”

“In a flash, Argentina has become pro-American,” CBS’s 60 Minutes told viewers, and Leslie Stahl shared that watching Macri and his wife play with their daughter, “you can’t help but think of the Kennedys and Camelot.” US corporate media seem to concur: Macri is a pragmatist, and though they aren’t certain he can lift Argentina from what CBS called “a morass of debt, inflation and international isolation,” it’s clear we’re meant to wish him well.

A Bird, A Plane? No, It’s Superdelegates!

The Democratic Party's special class of entitled and unelected VIP delegates helps explain what's wrong with the way we choose our presidential candidates.

By Michael Winship

Last week, our suggestion that Hillary Clinton call for the resignations of her pals Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz got a big response. But a few people misunderstood what we were saying.

Some thought Bill Moyers and I were calling for Clinton herself to step aside (we weren’t). Others thought we somehow believed Clinton actually had the power to fire Emanuel (of course she doesn’t). Wasserman Schultz is a different story; the demand for her resignation as DNC chair grows by the day and Clinton doubtless will have a voice as to whether she stays or goes (on top of which, for the first time since she entered the House of Representatives, Wasserman Schultz’s Florida congressional seat is being challenged in a Democratic primary by attorney and former Bernie Sanders advisor Tim Canova).

Paul Krugman: Learning From Obama

Like many political junkies, I’ve been spending far too much time looking at polls and trying to understand their implications. Can Donald Trump really win his party’s nomination? (Yes.) Can Bernie Sanders? (No.) But the primaries aren’t the only things being polled; we’re still getting updates on President Obama’s overall approval. And something striking has happened on that front.

At the end of 2015 Mr. Obama was still underwater, with significantly more Americans disapproving than approving. Since then, however, his approval has risen sharply while disapproval has plunged. He’s still only in modestly positive territory, but the net movement in polling averages has been about 11 percentage points, which is a lot.

The CIA naked photos scandal is a wake-up call

Guardian revelations about the degrading treatment of prisoners should matter to all Americans. They’re doing this in our name

Trevor Timm

Just as the ugly spectre of torture has reared its head once again in the US presidential race, the Guardian has revealed shocking new details of the US government’s brutality during the Bush era.

As the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman reported today, the CIA took photographs of its prisoners while they were naked, bound and some bruised, just before they were to be shipped off to some of the world’s worst dictators at the time – which included Assad, Mubarak and Gaddafi – for torture. The photos were described by a former US official as “very gruesome”.

The Dark Money of the Koch Brothers Is the Tip of a Fully Integrated Network

By Jane Mayer, Doubleday | Book Excerpt

On January 20, 2009, the eyes of the country were on Washington, where over a million cheering celebrants crowded the National Mall to witness the inauguration of the first African-American president. So many supporters streamed in from all across the nation that for twenty-four hours they nearly doubled Washington's population. Inaugurations are always moving celebrations of the most basic democratic process, the peaceful transfer of power, but this one was especially euphoric. The country's most famous and iconic musicians, from the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, to the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, gave soaring performances to mark the occasion. Celebrities and dignitaries pulled strings to get seats. Excitement was so feverish that the Democratic political consultant James Carville was predicting a long-term political realignment in which the Democrats "will remain in power for the next forty years."

Richard Eskow: Bernie’s Right. Wall Street’s Business Model Really Is Fraud.

“I’ve said if the big banks don’t play by the rules, I will break them up.” Hillary Clinton

Our nation’s largest and most powerful banks have repeatedly engaged in widespread fraud, causing both individual suffering and a recession that millions of Americans are still living through today.

They continued to commit the same frauds after the American people rescued them, and after they promised to stop as part of some major settlement agreements. There’s no reason to believe they’ve stopped today, and every reason to believe they haven’t.

FBI quietly changes its privacy rules for accessing NSA data on Americans

Exclusive: Classified revisions accepted by secret Fisa court affect NSA data involving Americans’ international emails, texts and phone calls

Spencer Ackerman

The FBI has quietly revised its privacy rules for searching data involving Americans’ international communications that was collected by the National Security Agency, US officials have confirmed to the Guardian.

The classified revisions were accepted by the secret US court that governs surveillance, during its annual recertification of the agencies’ broad surveillance powers. The new rules affect a set of powers colloquially known as Section 702, the portion of the law that authorizes the NSA’s sweeping “Prism” program to collect internet data. Section 702 falls under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa), and is a provision set to expire in 2017.

The New Right-Wing War on Food Stamps

Conservatives are blocking access to crucial SNAP benefits, with work requirements and limits on what items people can buy.

By Stephanie Land

My daughter’s eyes still show the effects of all the years we went hungry. When she can’t finish a meal, she looks at me fearfully, worried I’ll get upset because she didn’t eat everything on her plate. For most of her life, until very recently, I didn’t have enough money to buy ample, good-quality food for her. So I gravitated to what I knew for certain she would eat—things like Ritz crackers, plain pancakes, mac and cheese. I felt a biological urge to nourish my kid as best I could, even though I knew that what I could afford to buy wasn’t healthy enough.

My daughter’s eyes still show the effects of all the years we went hungry. When she can’t finish a meal, she looks at me fearfully, worried I’ll get upset because she didn’t eat everything on her plate. For most of her life, until very recently, I didn’t have enough money to buy ample, good-quality food for her. So I gravitated to what I knew for certain she would eat—things like Ritz crackers, plain pancakes, mac and cheese. I felt a biological urge to nourish my kid as best I could, even though I knew that what I could afford to buy wasn’t healthy enough.

In Syria, militias armed by the Pentagon fight those armed by the CIA

By Nabih Bulos, W.J. Hennigan and Brian Bennett

Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, highlighting how little control U.S. intelligence officers and military planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter five-year-old civil war.

The fighting has intensified over the last two months, as CIA-armed units and Pentagon-armed ones have repeatedly shot at each other while maneuvering through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, U.S. officials and rebel leaders have confirmed.

Paul Krugman: Trade, Labor, and Politics

There are a lot of things about the 2016 election that nobody saw coming, and one of them is that international trade policy is likely to be a major issue in the presidential campaign. What’s more, the positions of the parties will be the reverse of what you might have expected: Republicans, who claim to stand for free markets, are likely to nominate a crude protectionist, leaving Democrats, with their skepticism about untrammeled markets, as the de facto defenders of relatively open trade.

But this isn’t as peculiar a development as it seems. Rhetorical claims aside, Republicans have long tended in practice to be more protectionist than Democrats. And there’s a reason for that difference. It’s true that globalization puts downward pressure on the wages of many workers — but progressives can offer a variety of responses to that pressure, whereas on the right, protectionism is all they’ve got.

Republican Lies About Social Security Debunked Again: So Why Does Mainstream Media Keep Repeating Them?

It is not going broke. All GOP alternates are worse.

By Neil H. Buchanan

Republicans have been gunning for Social Security for decades. This is understandable, as an ideological matter, because Social Security’s very existence undermines the anti-government mythology on which the modern conservative movement thrives. The nation’s public retirement system stands as living proof that large government programs can be successful, popular, and extremely efficient.

What can conservative ideologues do when faced with such inconvenient facts? One possibility would be to adapt to reality and move on to a different fight. Instead, Republicans have chosen the path of obfuscation and distortion. Sadly, their long-term disinformation campaign has successfully confused today’s young people, who might actually become so cynical that they could end up agreeing to changes to Social Security that would harm their own interests. In addition, Republicans have succeeded in confusing the press, which now reflexively repeats conservative talking points as if they were facts.

Dean Baker: NYT Promotes Study by Private Pension Company That Says Not to Trust Public Pensions

Reputable newspapers try to avoid the self-serving studies that industry groups put out to try to gain public support for their favored policies. But apparently the New York Times (3/17/16) does not feel bound by such standards. It ran a major news story on a study by Citigroup that was designed to scare people about the state of public pensions and encourage them to trust more of their retirement savings to the financial industry.

Both the article and the study itself seem intended to scare more than inform.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Elizabeth Warren’s Latest Challenge To College Loan Corruption

Jeff Bryant

Folks are disgusted with Donald Trump’s “University” that lured students – “with tantalizing promises of riches,” according to the New York Times – into taking on huge amounts of debt to earn real estate degrees that were “basically worthless,” according to an analysis in Time magazine.

The sordid story has, according to the Times reporter, “taken on surprising potency” in the Republican presidential campaign Trump dominates.

The hope and hype of super delegates

By Ben Adler

Last week, Politico reported on an improbable campaign strategy being laid out by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. His campaign’s hope: that a string of forthcoming primary wins will not only reduce the delegate gap between Sanders and Hillary Clinton but convince the elected officials and party stalwarts known as superdelegates to cast votes for Sanders that will crown him the nominee. (Unlike pledged delegates, whose votes are won in primaries and caucuses, superdelegates can vote for anyone.) “Sanders campaign aides say they’ll be able to keep Clinton from reaching the 2,383 delegate magic number she’d need to clinch the nomination at the convention and, by being close enough, convince the superdelegates to switch, as some did when they changed from Clinton to Barack Obama in 2008,” writes Politico.

Dave Johnson: So MANY Op-Eds Pushing Corporate “Free Trade”

Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s campaign criticisms of our country’s disastrous trade policies are resonating with voters. In response there has been a flurry – a blizzard – of op-eds from noted celebrity, “establishment” pundits, explaining that moving millions of jobs out of the country is good for us because it means lower prices for those who still have paychecks. They sell these lower prices as a “free lunch” that we will never have to pay for.

These opinion pieces present corporate-negotiated trade as an all-or-nothing proposition, as if there were no balanced, fair-trade alternative approaches we could take instead. In these op-eds, proponents of fair-trade agreements are called “anti-trade,” even “anti-commerce.” Many of them not only repeat the same arguments, they actually even use the same words.

Erik Prince in the Hot Seat

Blackwater's Founder Is Under Investigation for Money Laundering, Ties to Chinese Intel, And Brokering Mercenary Services

Matthew Cole, Jeremy Scahill

ERIK PRINCE, founder of the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater and current chairman of Frontier Services Group, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case.

What began as an investigation into Prince’s attempts to sell defense services in Libya and other countries in Africa has widened to a probe of allegations that Prince received assistance from Chinese intelligence to set up an account for his Libya operations through the Bank of China. The Justice Department, which declined to comment for this article, is also seeking to uncover the precise nature of Prince’s relationship with Chinese intelligence.

US election 2016: The 40-year hurt

The London-based American writer and broadcaster Michael Goldfarb is frequently asked on air why this year's US election has turned out to be so unusual, and whether insurgent Republican candidate Donald Trump can really win. He has to give a short answer. The long answer, he argues here, involves going back 40 years.

In late 1986, midway through Ronald Reagan's second term of office, with the twin scourges of Aids and crack racing through American cities and New Deal ideas of economic and social fairness consumed by the Bonfire of the Vanities taking place on Wall Street, Britain's Guardian newspaper ran an editorial that said, "for good or ill, [America] is becoming a much more foreign land".

I had just celebrated my first anniversary as an expat in London and wrote an essay trying to explain what America was like away from the places Guardian readers knew. I described the massive population dislocations that followed the long recession that had begun in the mid-70s. I referenced Springsteen. The piece ran under the headline "Torn in the USA".

The Panama Papers: 'Biggest Leak in History' Exposes Global Web of Corruption

'The story behind the #PanamaPapers?' tweets Edward Snowden. 'Courage is contagious.'

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

An anonymous source, an enormous cache of leaked documents, and a year-long investigative effort by around 400 journalists from more than 100 media organizations in over 80 countries have yielded the Panama Papers, an unprecedented look at how the world's rich and powerful, from political leaders to celebrities to criminals, use tax havens to hide their wealth.

The investigation went live on Sunday afternoon.

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote:
Over a year ago, an anonymous source contacted the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and submitted encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that sells anonymous offshore companies around the world. These shell firms enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady.

There Were Five-Hour Lines to Vote in Arizona Because the Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act

Reducing the number of polling places in Phoenix had catastrophic consequences in the March 22 primary.

By Ari Berman

Aracely Calderon, a naturalized citizen from Guatemala, arrived just before the polls closed at 7 p.m. in downtown Phoenix to vote in Arizona’s primary last night. “When Calderon arrived, the line spanned more than 700 people and almost 4 blocks,” the Arizona Republic reported. She waited in line for five hours, becoming the last voter in the state to cast a ballot at 12:12 a.m. “I’m here to exercise my right to vote,” she said shortly before midnight, explaining why she stayed in line.

But many other Arizonans left the polls in disgust. The lines were so long because election officials in Phoenix’s Maricopa County, the largest in the state, reduced the number of polling places by 70 percent from 2012 to 2016, from 200 to just 60 — one polling place per every 21,000 voters.

Paul Krugman: Crazy About Money

In this year of Trump, the land is loud with the wails of political commentators, rending their garments and crying out, “How can this be happening?” But a few brave souls are willing to whisper the awful truth: Many voters support Donald Trump because they actually agree with his ideas.

This is not, however, a column about Mr. Trump. It is, instead, about Ted Cruz, who has emerged as the favored candidate of the G.O.P. elite now that less disagreeable alternatives have imploded.

After Brussels, Calls to Ditch Europe's Freedoms for Security

Officials claim that open borders and encryption 'are putting the lives of European citizens at risk.'

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Just one day after the coordinated attacks in Brussels, the resounding cry from governments, media, and national security experts is that we need less freedoms and more security.

As they did in the wake of the Paris attacks, countries across the continent rushed to tighten border security in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's bombings, which killed at least 34 people, striking the airport and a metro station.

A message to the elite

Richard Murphy on tax and economics

The FT has reported that:
Donald Trump’s anti-trade stance has been blasted by a pillar of the corporate establishment in an attack reflecting growing alarm in business over the property mogul’s dominance in the Republican presidential race.

Jim McNerney, a former top executive at Boeing, 3M and General Electric, said on Tuesday that Mr Trump’s hostility to international trade posed a serious threat to US prosperity.

In another article the FT has suggested that three commissioned surveys by economic forecasters all showed that it was likely that Brexit would impose considerable costs on the UK.

Common plastics chemical BPA linked to preterm birth

niversity of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

Higher concentrations of the common plastics chemical and environmental pollutant Bisphenol A, or BPA, in a pregnant mother's blood may be a contributing factor in preterm births, according to a new study from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

The new study, led by Ramkumar Menon, assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UTMB, in collaboration with Winthrop University Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Southern California, found that pregnant women with higher levels of BPA in their blood were more likely to deliver their babies early compared with women with lower levels of BPA.

Robert Reich: Why Either Trump’s or Cruz’s Tax Plans Would Be the Largest Redistributions to the Rich in American History

The tax cuts for the rich proposed by the two leading Republican candidates for the presidency—Donald Trump and Ted Cruz—are larger, as a proportion of the government budget and the total economy, than any tax cuts ever before proposed in history.

Trump and Cruz pretend to be opposed to the Republican establishment, but when it comes to taxes they’re seeking exactly what that Republican establishment wants.

Here are 5 things you need to know about their tax plans:

How a Democrat-Led, Education-Focused PAC Channels Out-of-State Dark Money

By Lisa Graves, PR Watch

At first glance, "Democrats for Education Reform" (DFER) may sound like a generic advocacy group, but a closer review of its financial filings and activities shows how it uses local branding to help throw the voice of huge Wall Street players and other corporate interests from out-of-state.

What Is DFER, Really? Hedge Funders for "Education Reform"

DFER is a PAC, a Political Action Committee, which means it can (and does) play a direct role in state and local elections. Public school advocates like Diane Ravitch have been spotlighting concerns about DFER since its beginning.

Because DFER is not a charity, money given to it does not result in a tax write-off but -- if successful in changing laws -- that money could get the hedge funders who back it a return on investment through politicians and policies that redirect tax dollars from truly public schools to "education reforms."

Why we should fear a cashless world

Poor people and small businesses rely on cash. A contactless system will likely entrench poverty and pave the way for terrifying levels of surveillance

Dominic Frisby

The health food chain Tossed has just opened the UK’s first cashless cafe. It’s another step towards the death of cash.

This is nothing new. Money is tech. The casting of coins made shells, whales’ teeth and other such primitive forms of money redundant. The printing press did the same for precious metals: we started using paper notes instead. Electronic banking put paid to the cheque. Contactless payment is now doing the same to cash, which is becoming less and less convenient. In the marketplace convenience usually wins.

That’s fine as long as people are making this choice freely. What concerns me is the unofficial war on cash that is going on, from the suspicion with which you are treated if you ever use large sums of cash to the campaign in Europe to decommission the €500 note. I’m not sure the consequences have been properly considered.

Dean Baker: Magical Thinking: Sanders, Clinton, and the Federal Reserve Board

Arthur Brooks, the President of the American Enterprise Institute and a regular New York Times columnist told readers that he doesn't have access to the Internet. This admission came in the context of a published exchange with Gail Collins, another New York Times columnist.

This fact was revealed in the context of a discussion of the Republican presidential candidates' proposals to have large tax cuts and then make up the lost revenue from waste, fraud, and abuse. Brooks acknowledged this was ridiculous, but then commented:
"The cognitive dissonance isn’t just on the Republican side, however. Sanders proposes showering cash out of helicopters, and as far as I can tell, he is really only proposing higher taxes on the much-regretted billionaires. The truth is that middle-class taxes would have to rise under his spending scenarios."

How the Democratic Party Establishment Suffocates Progressive Change

Thomas Palley

The Democratic Party establishment has recently found itself discomforted by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign to return the party to its modern roots of New Deal social democracy. The establishment’s response has included a complex coupling of elite media and elite economics opinion aimed at promoting an image of Sanders as an unelectable extremist with unrealistic economic policies.

The response provides a case study showing how the party suffocates progressive change. Every progressive knows about the opposition and tactics of the Republican Party. Less understood are the opposition and tactics of the Democratic Party establishment. Speaking metaphorically, that establishment is a far lesser evil, but it may also be a far greater obstacle to progressive change.

Indiana's Anti-Abortion Bill: A Blueprint for Attacks on Rights Nationwide

By Katie Klabusich, Truthout

Indiana residents are calling on their governor to veto a sweeping anti-abortion bill passed earlier this month by the state legislature. Led by the group Indy Feminists, dozens of Indianans delivered a petition addressed to Gov. Mike Pence with over 2,700 signatures (now over 5,500) opposing House Enrolled Act 1337, which would make the Hoosier State just the second to ban abortion for genetic abnormalities and the latest entity to attempt further restrictions on fetal tissue research.

"Indiana has become one of the most dangerous states in which to be pregnant, now more than ever for those who would like to give birth," said Jennifer Kotting, communications director at the National Network of Abortion Funds and a South Bend, Indiana, resident. "In Indiana, you can be jailed for 20 years for having a miscarriage, and now [should Governor Pence sign the bill], if you experience difficulties in your pregnancy, you could also be risking prison, trauma or death."

Elias Esquith: Why Paul Krugman's Attacks on Bernie Sanders Miss the Mark

The NYT pundit can sound like critics of the original progressive movement.

Now that the outcome of the primary seems considerably less up in the air than it did a month ago, the fight Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign inspired between the Democratic Party’s self-styled populists and its wonks — Paul Krugman chief among them — has lost much of its urgency.

But that’s something of a mirage. Regardless of who wins this year’s primary (or the whole presidential campaign itself, for that matter) the fault lines within the Democratic coalition that were exposed during the back-and-forth are not going anywhere. And there’s little reason to suspect that when 2020 (or 2024) rolls around, the same disagreements over tactics and philosophy won’t rise up again.

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: Why We Support Bernie Sanders Over Hillary Clinton for President

Wall Street On Parade’s strong preference for a President Bernie Sanders over a President Hillary Clinton is based on a well-formed belief that the United States will experience another financial crisis on Wall Street within the next few years. That crisis will, in hindsight, be viewed as the direct failure of President Obama to enact meaningful financial reform legislation after the 2008 crash, when he had the will of the people behind him, rather than pandering to his overlords on Wall Street who financed his campaign.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates who has been calling the shots in the Obama administration than the President’s nominees to oversee Wall Street at the U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Treasury Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, and his outrageous refusal for more than five years to even follow his own Dodd-Frank financial reform law and appoint a Vice Chairman for Supervision at the Federal Reserve.

The System Is Rigged Against Regular People

By Michael Winship, Moyers & Company

Few are as qualified to tackle the massive topic of money in politics as Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman. Their new book, Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy (read an excerpt), is a comprehensive and important examination of the many ways our lives are affected by the stranglehold corporations have on our government and society. And it's a look at how we can fight back.

Wendell Potter is senior analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, an ex-newspaperman and a former executive with the health insurance industry who dared to come in from the cold and become one of our most knowledgeable and forthright champions of health care reform. Regulars here at will remember his 2009 appearance on Bill Moyers Journal, when he first told his remarkable story.>

David Dayen: Mysterious, Powerful Lobbying Group Won’t Even Say Who It’s Lobbying For

The Commercial Energy Working Group is one of the many lobbying organizations in Washington. It makes recommendations to federal agencies and tries to sway lawmakers on policies. It engages in the basic political work of making the government friendlier to business.

There’s only one problem: Whom the Commercial Energy Working Group actually represents is a secret.

This violates federal lobbying and ethics laws, according to Public Citizen’s Tyson Slocum, who has urged the House and Senate to investigate the matter. “The Commercial Energy Working Group is one of the most active – and secret – organizations seeking to undermine energy market regulations,” Slocum told The Intercept. “The purpose of my complaint is to force the group to start identifying its membership.”

Frank Rich: There Was no Republican Establishment After All

Can we please retire the notion that Donald Trump is hijacking someone else’s party?

In mid-July of 2015, a month after Donald Trump announced his presidential run, I joined a gaggle of political junkies in a clubby bar four blocks from the White House to hear a legendary campaign strategist expound on the race ahead. Our guest’s long résumé included service to Mitt Romney and two generations of Bushes. Not speaking for attribution, and not having signed on to any 2016 campaign, he could talk freely. The nomination was Jeb Bush’s to lose, he said. Scott Walker, the union-busting Wisconsin governor then considered something of a favorite, had no chance because he was just “too stupid.” And Trump? Please! Trump represented every ugly element that was dragging down the GOP in presidential elections. But our guy wasn’t fazed. The good thing about Trump, he said, is that he would finally “gather together all the people we want to lose” and march them off the Republican reservation — though to what location remained undisclosed.

Paul Krugman: On Invincible Ignorance

Remember Paul Ryan? The speaker of the House used to be a media darling, lionized as the epitome of the Serious, Honest Conservative — never mind those of us who actually looked at the numbers in his budgets and concluded that he was a con man. These days, of course, he is overshadowed by the looming Trumpocalypse.

But while Donald Trump could win the White House — or lose so badly that even our rotten-borough system of congressional districts, which heavily favors the G.O.P., delivers the House to the Democrats — the odds are that come January, Hillary Clinton will be president, and Mr. Ryan still speaker. So I was interested to read what Mr. Ryan said in a recent interview with John Harwood. What has he learned from recent events?

Corporate America Is Just 6 States Short of a Constitutional Convention

If ALEC succeeds in rewriting the constitution to mandate a balanced budget, we’ll be stuck with supply-side economics for at least a generation.

BY Simon Davis-Cohen

In February, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) signed on to a call for a constitutional convention to help defeat “the Washington cartel [that] has put special interest spending ahead of the American people.”

Cruz, along with fellow Republican presidential aspirants Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), has endorsed an old conservative goal of a Constitutional amendment to mandate a balanced federal budget. The idea sounds fanciful, but free-market ideologues associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive group of right-wing legislators and their corporate allies, are close to pulling off a coup that could devastate the economy, which is just emerging from a recession. Their scheme could leave Americans reeling for generations. A balanced budget amendment would prevent the federal government from following the Keynesian strategy of stimulating the economy during an economic depression by increasing the national debt. (Since 1970, the United States has had a balanced budget in only four years: 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.)

David Graeber: Despair Fatigue

How hopelessness grew boring

Is it possible to become bored with hopelessness?

There is reason to believe something like that is beginning to happen in Great Britain. Call it despair fatigue.

For nearly half a century, British culture, particularly on the left, has made an art out of despair. This is the land where “No Future for You” became the motto of a generation, and then another generation, and then another. From the crumbling of its empire, to the crumbling of its industrial cities, to the current crumbling of its welfare state, the country seemed to be exploring every possible permutation of despair: despair as rage, despair as resignation, despair as humor, despair as pride or secret pleasure. It’s almost as if it’s finally run out.

Dean Baker: The Year of the Angry Economists

The economists are really angry this year. They have cause. Leading presidential candidates in both political parties are trashing the trade agreements that many have devoted their careers to promoting. This is not supposed to happen in the United States they know.

Donald Trump has catapulted to the top of the Republican field at least in part on a commitment to renege on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade agreements the United States has signed over the last quarter century. Sen. Bernie Sanders remains a real contender to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in large part because of his consistent record opposing these trade deals.

Dean Baker: How to Fight Poverty Through Full Employment



One of the most effective ways to combat poverty among current and future generations is to maintain a full employment economy. The point should be straightforward: when the labor market is strong, or “tight,” it offers increased employment opportunities for those at the bottom. Disadvantaged workers are not only more likely to find employment in a tight labor market, they are also in a better position to secure higher wages as employers are forced to compete for labor. This can allow millions of workers the opportunity to raise themselves and their families out of poverty.

We got a chance to see this story in practice in the boom of the late 1990s, when the unemployment rate fell to its lowest levels in almost three decades, settling at a year-round average of four percent in 2000, the peak year of the boom. In this period, wages rose rapidly at all points along the income distribution, with workers at the bottom of the ladder actually achieving the largest gains.

It's Not About Trump — Our Political Culture Is Corrupt

The Southern strategy created an us-against-them politics with a perverse idea of morality.

By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

Trumpism was created in the crucible of the “Southern strategy.” We have sown to the wind, reaping the whirlwind.

We can’t isolate Donald Trump and his supporters, because that is a simplification. When you unpack the policies of all of his competitors, most of their disagreement is in tone, not substance. It is not as though they are moderate and he is extreme. Trump is not the problem; it’s all of the xenophobia and racist innuendo and othering of immigrants that is the problem. It is all of the coded language about people who want free stuff, from the Southern-strategy lexicon of Wallace, Nixon, Reagan, and Atwater that has been spewed for years. That is the problem. Add to it the more recent rhetoric that says President Obama is unfit. Long before Trump, all of this rhetoric created a kind of us-against-them mob mentality, which after it is loosed can manifest in the violence that we now see.

Redaction error reveals FBI did target Lavabit to spy on Edward Snowden

Court-ordered release of Lavabit case files finally reveals Snowden was target of action that shuttered secure and private email service

Samuel Gibbs

A redaction oversight by the US government has finally confirmed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s targeting of secure email service Lavabit was used specifically to spy on Edward Snowden.

Ladar Levison, creator of the email service, which was founded on a basis of private communications secured by encryption and had 410,000 users, was served a sealed order in 2013 forcing him to aid the FBI in its surveillance of Snowden.

A Little-Known Way Our Political System Is Rigged to Favor the Establishment

SYou might not have heard of this ridiculous advantage to incumbency.

By Eric Zuesse

Did you know that if a given political party already has an incumbent in a particular political post, it’s standard practice in the United States for a political party to prohibit its voter-list to be purchased by anyone who’s not an incumbent office-holder in that party — including by someone who wishes to challenge or contest within that party the incumbent, in a primary election?

Only incumbents have access to that crucial list — crucial for any candidate in a primary election (unless there is no incumbent who is of that party).

Koch Fronted Regulatory Hit Woman Edges Closer to Seat on SEC

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Democrats sitting on the U.S. Senate Banking Committee at Tuesday’s confirmation hearing to take testimony from President Obama’s two nominees for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must have felt like they were having an out of body experience — listening to the human personification of billionaire Charles Koch’s money aping his Ayn Rand, anti-regulatory double-talk from a witness seat. What had to be particularly nauseating to them was that this nominee was sent to them by President Obama who ran as a Democrat on a platform of hope and change. While the political makeup of the SEC is prescribed by law, so that one of these two nominees had to be a Republican, why pick this particular Republican?

On October 20, 2015, President Obama announced that his nominee to fill a Republican seat on the SEC would be Hester Peirce, a Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Financial Markets Working Group at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. According to SourceWatch, the Mercatus Center “was founded and is funded by the Koch Family Foundations.”