Sunday, July 31, 2016

Paul Krugman: Money: The Brave New Uncertainty of Mervyn King

The Bank of England, founded in 1694, isn’t the oldest central bank in the world, an honor that belongs to Sweden’s Riksbank, founded a quarter-century earlier. But the “Old Lady of Threadneedle Street” arguably invented the art of central banking—the visible hand, operating through the money supply, lending policies, and more—that all modern economies, no matter how much they may talk about free markets, rely on to provide monetary and financial stability.

These days, of course, the pound sterling is much less widely used than the dollar, the euro, or even the yen or the yuan, and the Bank of England is correspondingly overshadowed in many ways by its much younger counterparts abroad. Yet the bank still punches above its weight in troubled times. In part that’s because London remains a great financial center. But it’s also thanks to the Bank of England’s intellectual adventurousness.

Dean Baker: Paul Ryan's Calls for Eliminating Almost the Entire Federal Government

No, that is not some new concession that the Speaker made to appease Donald Trump, this is his budget wonkiness. According to the analysis of Ryan's budget by the Congressional Budget Office, he would reduce the non-Social Security, non-Medicare portion of the federal budget, shrinking it to 3.5 percent of GDP by 2050 (page 16).

This number is roughly equal to current spending on the military. Ryan has indicated that he does not want to see the military budget cut to any substantial degree. That leaves no money for the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, The Justice Department, infrastructure spending or anything else. Following Ryan's plan, in 35 years we would have nothing left over after paying for the military.

Proposed Bill Would Prevent Your Employer From Accessing Your Birth Control Schedule

Employers are using third-party companies to mine data about their workers' personal health issues.

By Michael Arria

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene is proposing legislation that would prevent companies from accessing their employees' birth control details.

The Birth Control Privacy Act (H.R. 5746), which was introduced with over 40 cosponsors, takes aim at workplace wellness programs that might access private information regarding women's contraception decisions. The legislation would prohibit such programs from sharing personally identifiable information with employers about their workers' birth-control use.

Why Google DeepMind wants your medical records

Google's DeepMind has moved on from playing Go to more serious matters - attempting to solve some of the world's biggest health problems.

Google's DeepMind has moved on from playing Go to more serious matters - attempting to solve some of the world's biggest health problems.

Google's DeepMind has moved on from playing Go to more serious matters - attempting to solve some of the world's biggest health problems.

But less so by privacy groups and some patients, who have been surprised and concerned that their data - in some cases not anonymised - can be shared with the tech giant's AI division.

Paul Krugman: The GOP’s Original Sin

Norm Ornstein has a piece in Vox laying out, once again, his (and Mann’s) thesis that the GOP went off the rails, becoming a radical party with little regard for truth, a long time ago. He’s right, of course; I’ve been saying much the same thing since the early 2000s, notably in the introduction to my book The Great Unraveling.

My reward, by the way, was to be labeled “shrill”; and at the risk — actually not the risk, the certainty — of sounding whiny, I’m still generally treated as having overstepped the boundaries even though everything I said back then is now becoming more or less conventional wisdom.

Here's Why Viking Economics Are Superior

The Nordic model assumes a rested worker is a productive worker.

By George Lakey

A few years ago, I sat in a living room in the Norwegian town of Skien, surrounded by relatives. As a young man I’d married an international student from Norway, and her family had adopted me. Whenever I was back in Norway, we’d get together for pastries and coffee. I’d lived in Oslo more than half a century ago, but I’d come back many times. Gathered in the living room that day were relatives of a variety of ages and occupations: teacher, industrial worker, owner of a garden center, social worker, organic farmer, middle manager in a business.

As we talked about this and that, one of the cousins mentioned that she’d just heard about the results of an experiment for shortening the workweek. She told us with some excitement that the study measured people’s productivity when their workweek was shortened from forty to thirty hours. The researchers found that the workers got more work done.

Five Conspirators in the Eradication of the Middle Class


Their unspoken goal is a two-class nation, with a heavily armed security force to quell resistance from the more outspoken members of the lower class. It may be somewhat of an unwitting goal, since narcissistic wealth-takers, as they build their fortunes, tend to lose their ability to empathize with others.

Barack Obama said, "We are not as divided as we seem." But those are just feel-good words. A middle class still exists, but in weakened form, as many families from the once-dominant mainstream of society continue to move up or down, mostly down. The conspirators in the breakdown of the middle class have complementary roles that allow them to divide the country as they perpetuate the myth of prosperity for all.

Paul Krugman: Bull Market Blues

Like most economists, I don’t usually have much to say about stocks. Stocks are even more susceptible than other markets to popular delusions and the madness of crowds, and stock prices generally have a lot less to do with the state of the economy or its future prospects than many people believe. As the economist Paul Samuelson put it, “Wall Street indexes predicted nine out of the last five recessions.”

Still, we shouldn’t completely ignore stock prices. The fact that the major averages have lately been hitting new highs — the Dow has risen 177 percent from its low point in March 2009 — is newsworthy and noteworthy. What are those Wall Street indexes telling us?

What Really Happened in Syria

Exclusive: The U.S. government blames the Syrian civil war almost entirely on Bashar al-Assad – and some progressives have bought into that propaganda narrative – but there is another side of the story, as Daniel Lazare describes.

By Daniel Lazare

How did Syria get so ugly so fast? This is a question that could just as well be asked of Libya, Egypt or Yemen, all of which saw stirring democratic revolts during the so-called Arab Spring only to descend into religious bigotry, civil war or military dictatorship.

But it is especially urgent with regard to Syria, a great bleeding wound on the edge of Europe that, over the last five years, has seen as many as 470,000 deaths, generated some 4.8 million refugees, and sent out waves of terrorism that are destabilizing politics from Eastern Europe to the U.S. Not since Yugoslavia has a country collapsed more completely or calamitously.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Citigroup Has More Derivatives than 4,701 U.S. Banks Combined; After Blowing Itself Up With Derivatives in 2008

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), as of March 31, 2016, there were 6,122 FDIC insured financial institutions in the United States. Of those 6,122 commercial banks and savings associations, 4,701 did not hold any derivatives. To put that another way, 77 percent of all U.S. banks found zero reason to engage in high-risk derivative trading.

Citigroup, however, the bank that spectacularly blew itself up with toxic derivatives and subprime debt in 2008, became a 99-cent stock during the crisis, and received the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. financial history despite being insolvent at the time, today holds more derivatives than 4,701 other banks combined which are backstopped by the taxpayer.

Richard Eskow: Eric Holder’s Justice

Eric Holder certainly has changed since his days at Columbia University. According to the New York Times, “as a boyish-looking freshman” he “was recruited by upperclassmen to help take over the R.O.T.C. office,” which they claimed as “a student center named for Malcolm X.” Actions like that, and heroes like Malcolm X, reflected the idealism that many of us shared in those days.

As attorney general, Holder chose not to prosecute banking giant HSBC for laundering Mexican drug cartel money. Holder, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, and other Obama Justice Department officials showed similar favoritism to other big banks.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lynn Parramore: How MBA Programs Drive Inequality

Business school students are taught to extract resources instead of creating value.

Over the last several decades, American business executives have made decisions that have exacerbated the inequality that chokes prosperity for the country. They have misallocated resources and they have awarded themselves mind-boggling compensation packages while workers have suffered stagnant wages and increasing job insecurity. The stats are shocking: In 1965, a typical CEO took in about 20 times what an average employee earned, while the latest figures from the AFL-CIO put current CEO pay at 373 times what the average worker makes. (Amazingly, according to a forthcoming paper for the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) by Matt Hopkins and William Lazonick, even that ratio is grossly underestimated because it is based on grant-date fair value estimates of what stock options and stock awards might be worth, rather than how much CEOs actually take home when they exercise stock options and when stock awards vest).

The Media Against Jeremy Corbyn

The British media has launched an unprecedented campaign of disinformation against Jeremy Corbyn.

by Ronan Burtenshaw

The British media has never had much time for Jeremy Corbyn.

Within a week of his election as Labour Party leader in September, it was engaging in a campaign the Media Reform Coalition characterized as an attempt to “systematically undermine” his position. In an avalanche of negative coverage 60 percent of all articles which appeared in the mainstream press about Corbyn were negative with only 13 percent positive. The newsroom, ostensibly the objective arm of the media, had an even worse record: 62 percent negative with only 9 percent positive.

This sustained attack had itself followed a month of wildly misleading headlines about Corbyn and his policies in these same outlets. Concerns about sexual assaults on public transport were construed as campaigning for women-only trains. Advocacy for Keynesian fiscal and monetary policies was presented as a plan to “turn Britain into Zimbabwe.” An appeal to reconsider the foreign policy approach of the last decade was presented as an association with Putin’s Russia.

Leaked Document Reveals Alarming New Environmental Threats of TTIP

By Sierra Club

This morning, as the most recent round of trade negotiations between the U.S. and European Union (EU) began in Brussels, the Guardian reported a leaked document from the EU that reveals its intentions to include new, dangerous language in the proposed energy chapter of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

A Sierra Club analysis of the leaked TTIP proposal finds that it would:

• Require the U.S. and the EU "to eliminate all existing restrictions on the export of natural gas in trade between" the two parties;

Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn Keep Confounding the Elite

Sanders and Corbyn have rekindled the mass desire for a functioning democracy.

By Paul Rosenberg / Salon

Comparisons between Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are nothing new. Both are idiosyncratic, outsider social democrats—“grumpy old socialists” some say—who’ve risen to prominence representing popular views abandoned by elites, particularly elites of the institutional center-left parties in each of their countries. Both were seen as fringe candidates when they first stepped forward last year and elites just can’t wait to re-marginalize them again—but that may not be so easy, both because of who they are and because of what they represent.

Comparisons first kicked into gear when Corbyn won election as Labour leader, naturally gaining Sanders’ congratulation, though naysayers were commonplace, even then. Then, when Sanders won the New Hampshire primary, comparisons intensified—their supporters, for one thing, were strikingly similar.

Paul Krugman: Cheap Money Talks

What with everything else going on, from Trump to Brexit to the horror in Dallas, it’s hard to focus on developments in financial markets — especially because we’re not facing any immediate crisis. But extraordinary things have been happening lately, especially in bond markets. And because money still makes the world go ’round, attention must be paid to what the markets are trying to tell us.

Specifically, there has been an extraordinary plunge in long-term interest rates. Late last year the yield on 10-year U.S. government bonds was around 2.3 percent, already historically low; on Friday it was just 1.36 percent. German bonds, the safe asset of the eurozone, are yielding minus — that’s right, minus — 0.19 percent. Basically, investors are willing to offer governments money for nothing, or less than nothing. What does it mean?

Paul Krugman: All the Nominee’s Enablers

A couple of weeks ago Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, sort of laid out both a health care plan and a tax plan. I say sort of, because there weren’t enough details in either case to do any kind of quantitative analysis. But it was clear that Mr. Ryan’s latest proposals had the same general shape as every other proposal he’s released: huge tax cuts for the wealthy combined with savage but smaller cuts in aid to the poor, and the claim that all of this would somehow reduce the budget deficit thanks to unspecified additional measures.

Given everything else that’s going on, this latest installment of Ryanomics attracted little attention. One group that did notice, however, was Fix the Debt, a nonpartisan deficit-scold group that used to have substantial influence in Washington.

Paul Krugman: Trump, Trade and Workers

Donald Trump gave a speech on economic policy last week. Just about every factual assertion he made was wrong, but I’m not going to do a line-by-line critique. What I want to do, instead, is talk about the general thrust: the candidate’s claim to be on the side of American workers.

Of course, that’s what they all say. But Trumponomics goes beyond the usual Republican assertions that cutting taxes on corporations and the rich, ending environmental regulation and so on will conjure up the magic of the marketplace and make everyone prosper. It also involves posing as a populist, claiming that getting tough on foreigners and ripping up our trade agreements will bring back the well-paying jobs America has lost.

Truth is in danger as new techniques used to stop journalists covering the news


London, UK (July 11, 2016). The truth is being suppressed across the world using a variety of methods, according to a special report in the 250th issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Physical violence is not the only method being used to stop news being published, says editor Rachael Jolley in the Danger in Truth: Truth in Danger report. As well as kidnapping and murders, financial pressure and defamation legislation is being used, the report reveals.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Why Clinton and Trump backers don't mix

Michigan State University

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Living around people with opposing political viewpoints affects your ability to form close relationships and accept other perspectives - and may even change your personality, finds a national study led by a Michigan State University scholar.

The findings also could help explain why so many Americans are moving to areas that suit them politically, further segregating the nation into "red" and "blue" states, said William Chopik, MSU assistant professor of psychology.

Anti-TPP Amendment Fails at Heated Dem Platform Meeting

by Nika Knight, staff writer

When Democratic Party platform committee members arrived at the committee's final session in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday morning, 700,000 signed petitions against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement had been delivered there to meet them.

"We want unity, but we want it real. We do not want it on the backs of working people," said Dr. Cornel West, who was selected to serve on the committee by Bernie Sanders. "We want opposition to the TPP in this platform."

Yet despite such passionate arguments and widespread public opposition to the deal, the committee voted down an amendment that would have opposed a Senate vote on the agreement.

Vanishing Act: Why Insects Are Declining and Why It Matters

nsect populations are declining dramatically in many parts of the world, recent studies show. Researchers say various factors, from monoculture farming to habitat loss, are to blame for the plight of insects, which are essential to agriculture and ecosystems.

by christian schwägerl

Every spring since 1989, entomologists have set up tents in the meadows and woodlands of the Orbroicher Bruch nature reserve and 87 other areas in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The tents act as insect traps and enable the scientists to calculate how many bugs live in an area over a full summer period. Recently, researchers presented the results of their work to parliamentarians from the German Bundestag, and the findings were alarming: The average biomass of insects caught between May and October has steadily decreased from 1.6 kilograms (3.5 pounds) per trap in 1989 to just 300 grams (10.6 ounces) in 2014.

"The decline is dramatic and depressing and it affects all kinds of insects, including butterflies, wild bees, and hoverflies," says Martin Sorg, an entomologist from the Krefeld Entomological Association involved in running the monitoring project.

Atoning for Washington’s ‘Mass Kidnapping’ in the Indian Ocean

The U.S. and UK governments forcibly expelled an entire population of islanders to make way for a military base. It's time to let them come home.

By David Vine

One week after British voters decided to exit the European Union, the UK Supreme Court was set to decide the fate of a small group of British citizens who had no such vote when the UK and U.S. governments forced the people to exit their homeland beginning in the late 1960s.

Known as the Chagossians, these little known refugees have long been denied the kind of democratic rights exercised in the Brexit referendum. Instead, Britain and the United States forcibly removed the Chagossians from their homes during the construction of the U.S. military base on the isolated Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. Over nearly 50 years, the base has become a multi-billion-dollar installation, playing key roles in the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the same period, the people have lived in impoverished exile, mostly on the western Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles.


Tens of thousands of people every year are sent to jail based on the results of a $2 roadside drug test. Widespread evidence shows that these tests routinely produce false positives. Why are police departments and prosecutors still using them?

by Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders, ProPublica

Amy Albritton can’t remember if her boyfriend signaled when he changed lanes late that August afternoon in 2010. But suddenly the lights on the Houston Police patrol car were flashing behind them, and Anthony Wilson was navigating Albritton’s white Chrysler Concorde to a stop in a strip-mall parking lot. It was an especially unwelcome hassle. Wilson was in Houston to see about an oil-rig job; Albritton, volunteering her car, had come along for what she imagined would be a vacation of sorts. She managed an apartment complex back in Monroe, La., and the younger of her two sons — Landon, 16, who had been disabled from birth by cerebral palsy — was with his father for the week. After five hours of driving through the monotony of flat woodland, the couple had checked into a motel, carted their luggage to the room and returned to the car, too hungry to rest but too drained to seek out anything more than fast food. Now two officers stepped out of their patrol car and approached.

Albritton, 43, had dressed up for the trip — black blouse, turquoise necklace, small silver hoop earrings glinting through her shoulder-length blond hair. Wilson, 28, was more casually dressed, in a white T-shirt and jeans, and wore a strained expression that worried Albritton. One officer asked him for his license and registration. Wilson said he didn’t have a license. The car’s registration showed that it belonged to Albritton.

We Don't Need Trump or Brexit to Reject the Credo of Neoliberal Market Inevitability

By Michael Meurer, Truthout | Op-Ed

In the wake of the June 23 Brexit vote, global media have bristled with headlines declaring the Leave victory to be the latest sign of a historic rejection of "globalization" by working-class voters on both sides of the Atlantic. While there is an element of truth in this analysis, it misses the deeper historical currents coursing beneath the dramatic headlines. If our politics seem disordered at the moment, the blame lies not with globalization alone but with the "There Is No Alternative" (TINA) philosophy of neoliberal market inevitability that has driven it for nearly four decades.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher introduced the TINA acronym to the world in a 1980 policy speech that proclaimed "There Is No Alternative" to a global neoliberal capitalist order. Thatcher's vision for this new order was predicated on the market-as-god economic philosophy she had distilled from the work of Austrian School economists such as Friedrich Hayek and her own fundamentalist Christian worldview. Western political life today has devolved into a series of increasingly desperate and inchoate reactions against a sense of fatal historical entrapment originally encoded in Thatcher's TINA credo of capitalist inevitability. If this historical undercurrent is ignored, populist revolt will not produce much-needed democratic reform. It will instead be exploited by fascistic nationalist demagogues and turned into a dangerous search for political scapegoats.

Let’s be honest, Bernie and Hillary don’t represent the same class.

Devin Reynolds

We traditionally think of the Republican/Democrat divide in terms of the “ruling class” and the “working class,” or “the 1% v. the 99%.” Democrats are thought to faithfully represent the interests of the working class. The Republicans, carrying the torch for the richest of the rich, manage to stay competitive by dubiously securing votes from the working class. They do this by exploiting the economic ignorance and racial prejudices of low information working class voters. While there is a significant amount of truth to this model’s description of Republicans, there is a wrinkle to the makeup of the Democratic Party that this model neglects to mention.

This wrinkle is the fact that the “99%” actually has multiple classes within it. The main division is between the “upper middle” class and various “lower” classes. At about 10–15% of the population, the upper middle class is made up of doctors, lawyers, university professors, various skilled professionals, and owners of successful local businesses around the country. These people don’t need universal hearth care, they just need their excellent employer provided health care to have its cost increases managed and they need to not be dropped from health care rolls for preexisting conditions. Their kids don’t need tuition free college, they just need manageable interest rates for their financial aid. They get generous amounts of paid vacation, they don’t need it provided on a mandatory basis. The Democratic Party, in all its incrementalism, tweaking the status quo with modest policy adjustments, represents this class.

Elizabeth Warren’s recent brilliant speech on what ails the US economy just might ‘change the election’

Don Hazen, AlterNet

In the Sanders/Clinton battle for the presidential nomination, Elizabeth Warren stayed on the perimeter. She wasn’t quiet, that’s for sure. But she was the only woman in the Senate not to endorse Hillary, no doubt frustrating many women. She didn’t endorse Bernie, either, making many in the Bern crowd angry. She was threading the needle, as few can do. Warren has now embraced Hillary, which seems appropriate, and is campaigning aggressively with her. This is accompanied by considerable speculation about whether Hillary has the vision, and perhaps the chutzpah, to step out of her cautiousness and tap Warren to be her vice-president. And Warren has been the chief Twitter thorn in Trump’s side—an important job these days. But beyond the presidential maneuvering, Warren is articulating a brilliant (if not obvious) critique of what ails our economy, and it is not just the banks. As Paul Glastris wrote in the Washington Monthly, Warren has:
“…. extended her critique to the entire economy, noting that, as a result of three decades of weakened federal antitrust regulation, virtually every industrial sector today—from airlines to telecom to agriculture to retail to social media—is under the control of a handful of oligopolistic corporations. This widespread consolidation is ‘hiding in plain sight all across the American economy,’ she said, and ‘threatens our markets, threatens our economy, and threatens our democracy.'”

Let's make retirement great again – by bringing back a pension system

As Americans look to build their future on 401k plans, they find themselves perched atop nest eggs that are far too small

Suzanne McGee

Here’s a thought about how to make America great again: bring back pensions.

If Donald Trump really is intent on turning back the clock to the glory days of an America before globalization knocked the stuffing out of the US manufacturing sector, why stop at trade?

Part of what is making all but the wealthiest Americans feel so economically vulnerable today isn’t just that incomes have been eviscerated. It’s the fact that when we retire, those of us without pensions – a growing proportion, especially if we’re not public sector employees or union employees – are perched atop very, very tiny nest eggs.

Last year’s report from the nonpartisan US government accountability office (GAO) reminded us of the perils. Half of all households headed by Americans 55 and older had no retirement savings at all. While some long-term savers may have retirement accounts with as much as $251,600, Fidelity reported that the average amount in a 401k – the replacements to pensions that companies began rolling out during the 1980s – was little more than a third of that amount.

The First Post-Middle-Class Election

The politics of downward mobility and racial diversity have eroded the center, pushing Democrats to the left and Republicans toward an authoritarian right.

By Harold Meyerson

Two years ago, a pollster for Democratic candidates told me he’d begun advising his clients to cease emphasizing “the middle class” when speaking of those Americans whose interests they were defending. Many Americans who once thought of themselves as middle-class, he argued, no longer did.

Last year, a Pew Research Center survey confirmed those Americans’ assessment. The share of income going to middle-class Americans declined from 62 percent in 1970 to 43 percent in 2014, while the share going to upper-income households rose from 29 percent to 49 percent.

Who Are All These Trump Supporters?

At the candidate’s rallies, a new understanding of America emerges.

By George Saunders

He Appears

Trump is wearing the red baseball cap, or not. From this distance, he is strangely handsome, well proportioned, puts you in mind of a sea captain: Alan Hale from “Gilligan’s Island,” say, had Hale been slimmer, richer, more self-confident. We are afforded a side view of a head of silver-yellow hair and a hawklike orange-red face, the cheeks of which, if stared at steadily enough, will seem, through some optical illusion, to glow orange-redder at moments when the crowd is especially pleased. If you’ve ever, watching “The Apprentice,” entertained fantasies of how you might fare in the boardroom (the Donald, recognizing your excellent qualities with his professional businessman’s acumen, does not fire you but, on the contrary, pulls you aside to assign you some important non-TV, real-world mission), you may, for a brief, embarrassing instant, as he scans the crowd, expect him to recognize you.

He is blessing us here in San Jose, California, with his celebrity, promising never to disappoint us, letting us in on the latest bit of inside-baseball campaign strategy: “Lyin’ Ted” is no longer to be Lyin’ Ted; henceforth he will be just “Ted.” Hillary, however, shall be “Lyin’ Crooked.” And, by the way, Hillary has to go to jail. The statute of limitations is five years, and if he gets elected in November, well . . . The crowd sends forth a coarse blood roar. “She’s guilty as hell,” he snarls.

Despite What Media Says, TPP Isn’t About Free Trade — It’s About Protecting Corporate Profits

Zaid Jilani

The news media and advocates of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement have repeatedly described opponents of the deal as “protectionist” or opposed to trade itself.

For instance, after Donald Trump pressed Hillary Clinton to swear off passage of the deal, the New York Times reported that Trump was embracing “nationalistic anti-trade policies.” The Wall Street Journal said Trump expressed “protectionist views.” President Obama warned that you can’t withdraw “from trade deals” and focus “solely on your local market.”

But opposition to the TPP is not accurately described as opposition to all trade, or even to free trade.

David Graeber: The elites hate Momentum and the Corbynites - and I’ll tell you why

The movement that backed the Labour leader challenges MPs and journalists alike – because it’s about grassroots democracy

s the rolling catastrophe of what’s already being called the “chicken coup” against the Labour leadership winds down, pretty much all the commentary has focused on the personal qualities, real or imagined, of the principal players.

Yet such an approach misses out on almost everything that’s really at stake here. The real battle is not over the personality of one man, or even a couple of hundred politicians. If the opposition to Jeremy Corbyn for the past nine months has been so fierce, and so bitter, it is because his existence as head of a major political party is an assault on the very notion that politics should be primarily about the personal qualities of politicians. It’s an attempt to change the rules of the game, and those who object most violently to the Labour leadership are precisely those who would lose the most personal power were it to be successful: sitting politicians and political commentators.

The Busted Theory of ‘Broken Windows’ Still Has Media Defenders

By Josmar Trujillo

For the better part of two years, New York City tabloids have been hyping up a return to the “bad old days” in the city. Front-page stories about homeless people and street performers dirtying up the gains of a city that has become impossibly safe alluded to a turn away from the policing method that supposedly saved the city: the Broken Windows theory. This followed years of political and media support for this so-called “quality-of-life” policing style, which held that strong enforcement against low-level infractions and “disorder” lowered violent crime as well. Broken Windows enjoyed, for many years, a reputation as public safety gospel and the miracle solution to New York’s crime-ridden past.

But now a report by the New York Police Department’s inspector general’s office has undermined the premise of the city’s famed crime-fighting philosophy, widely embraced throughout the country. The report found that over an eight-year period, low-level enforcement had had no bearing on felony crimes. Media reported as if the agency’s findings were a bombshell, despite the fact that they mirrored years of academic research that long ago had said the Broken Windows theory didn’t work.

Sanders Supporters: Check Out This Amazing Piece of American History for a Path You Might Take

A "no" vote for corporate farms may have implications for those trying to make the DNC platform more progressive.

By David Morris

On June 14, North Dakotans voted to overrule their government’s decision to allow corporate ownership of farms. That they had the power to do so was a result of a political revolution that occurred almost exactly a century before, a revolution that may hold lessons for those like Bernie Sanders’ supporters who seek to establish a bottom-up political movement in the face of hostile political parties today.

Here’s the story. In the early 1900s North Dakota was effectively an economic colony of Minneapolis/Saint Paul. A Saint Paul-based railroad tycoon controlled its freight prices. Minnesota companies owned many of the grain elevators that sat next to the rail lines and often cheated farmers by giving their wheat a lower grade than deserved. Since the flour mills were in Minneapolis, shipping costs reduced the price wheat farmers received. Minneapolis banks held farmers’ mortgages and their operating loans to farmers carried a higher interest than they charged at home.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Sam Pizzigati: Philadelphia’s Forgotten Spirit of 1776

Later this summer, just a few weeks after this year’s Fourth of July celebrations, Democrats will be gathering in Philadelphia to make some presidential nomination history.

Democrats — small-d variety — gathered in Philadelphia soon after the original Fourth of July, too. Those democrats, all Pennsylvanians, also had some history to make. In September 1776, they would go on to adopt their new nation’s most egalitarian state constitution.

Before the Revolution, only men of property in Pennsylvania could vote and hold office. The new state constitution, notes historian Clement Fatovic in his recently published “America’s Founding and the Struggle over Economic Inequality,” totally removed property qualifications for voting and office-holding.

Economic Theorists: The High Priests of Capitalism

By Richard D. Wolff, Truthout | Op-Ed

People have always chosen among different co-existing economic theories to understand the world and to act within it. Who chooses which theory, consciously or not, shapes world history. Disagreements over Brexit emerged partly from different ways of understanding the British economy and its relation to Europe. Donald Trump's support grows partly out of economic theories different from those used by supporters of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. The last century's global politics swirled around quite different theories of the difference between capitalism and socialism. Political struggles often reflect clashing economic theories and political strategies often include making one theory dominant and marginalizing or silencing others.

To appreciate the economic theory choices confronting the capitalist world and global politics today, it helps to see how parallel choices shaped pre-capitalist economies. For example, wherever the chattel-slave economic system has existed (alone or together with other systems), people constructed theories about why the slave system existed, how it worked, etc. The same is true for all other economic systems (feudal, capitalist, etc.). Every system always included those who loved and evaluated it highly and those who hated and opposed it, as well people positioned in between. Individuals' evaluations were typically consistent with their explanations. People chose among theories that either extolled the system's virtues or criticized its flaws and faults, or positioned itself somewhere in between. In short, the line between evaluation and theory has always been -- and is today -- fuzzy and porous. Those who insist that their evaluations and theories do not shape one another usually blur that line the most.

Dean Baker: Neil Irwin Is Far Too Generous to Economists: They Only Care About Efficiency When the Policy Redistributes Income Upward

Neil Irwin raises the question of whether economists have been too single-minded in pushing efficiency, while ignoring issues of distribution. This is way way too generous to economists. In fact, economists have been totally happy to ignore efficiency considerations when the inefficiencies redistribute income upward. This situation pops up all the time.

As I frequently point out in comments here and elsewhere, we protect doctors, dentists and other highly paid professionals from competition with their lower paid counterparts in the developing world or even other wealthy countries. We have maintained these protections even while our trade negotiators did everything they could to make steel workers and textile workers compete against their low-paid counterparts in Mexico, China, and other developing countries.

The History of Privatization

How an Ideological and Political Attack on Government Became a Corporate Grab for Gold

Donald Cohen

The post-WWII era was a tough time for conservative economists, academics, intellectuals, and business leaders. Social Security, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Securities and Exchange Act, and other New Deal programs represented a dangerous expansion of government’s role in the economy and society – nothing short of a frontal assault on freedom and the beginnings of socialism in the U.S.

Today, after 50 years of attack on government, privatization is a standard conservative response to tight public budgets, a key pillar of attacks on government, and a lucrative market opportunity for domestic and global corporations. Large corporations operate virtually every type of public service including prisons, welfare systems, infrastructure, water and sewer, trash, and schools.

Mixed Bag Platform Draft Sets Stage for Fight at DNC Convention

Final Democratic Party platform draft contains wins on minimum wage and death penalty, losses on TPP and fracking

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The final draft of the Democratic Party's 2016 platform, released Friday, calls for an end to the death penalty, a $15 minimum wage, the establishment of a postal banking system, broad marijuana law reform, and elimination of tax breaks for Big Oil—all victories for Bernie Sanders and his supporters—but fails to include key concessions on trade, Israel-Palestine, or fracking.

Indeed, not only does the document (pdf) fail to endorse a national fracking ban, as climate activists and Sanders are demanding, but "the platform puts the party on record in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and the goal of '100 percent clean electricity,'" writes David Weigel for the Washington Post. "That plan and that goal assume that fracking will continue."

Matt Taibbi: In Response to Trump, Another Dangerous Movement Appears

Fears of demagoguery are provoking a frightening swing in the other direction

The "too much democracy" train rolls on.

Last week's Brexit vote prompted pundits and social media mavens to wonder aloud if allowing dumb people to vote is a good thing.

Now, the cover story in The Atlantic magazine features the most aggressive offering yet in an alarming series of intellectual-class jeremiads against the dangers of democracy.

Federal Judge Blocks All of Mississippi’s Vicious Anti-LGBTQ Law From Taking Effect

By Mark Joseph Stern

Anti-LGBTQ activists just suffered their worst defeat since the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision—a rout so stinging and decisive that it calls into question the viability of their entire strategy post-Obergefell.

That drubbing came in the form of an astonishing 60-page opinion by U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves blocking every single part of Mississippi’s sweeping, vicious anti-LGBTQ segregation law from taking effect. The law, HB 1523, granted special protections to three religious beliefs: Those who oppose same-sex marriage; those who oppose sex outside of marriage; and those who dislike trans and gender-nonconforming people. Starting July 1, HB 1523 would have allowed religious landlords to evict gay and trans renters; permitted religious employers to fire workers for being LGBTQ; granted state and private adoption agencies the right to turn away same-sex couples; allowed private businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ people; given doctors a right to refuse to treat LGBTQ people in most circumstances; and permitted clerks to refuse to marry same-sex couples.

Report: A host of common chemicals endanger child brain development

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- In a new report, dozens of scientists, health practitioners and children's health advocates are calling for renewed attention to the growing evidence that many common and widely available chemicals endanger neurodevelopment in fetuses and children of all ages.

The chemicals that are of most concern include lead and mercury; organophosphate pesticides used in agriculture and home gardens; phthalates, found in pharmaceuticals, plastics and personal care products; flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers; and air pollutants produced by the combustion of wood and fossil fuels, said University of Illinois comparative biosciences professor Susan Schantz, one of dozens of individual signatories to the consensus statement.

Thomas Frank: The Influence of Influence: On Worshipping Money in Washington, D.C.

A closer look at the influential, the influencers, and those looking—for the right price—to be influenced in the nation's capital

Although it’s difficult to remember those days eight years ago when Democrats seemed to represent something idealistic and hopeful and brave, let’s take a moment and try to recall the stand Barack Obama once took against lobbyists. Those were the days when the nation was learning that George W. Bush’s Washington was, essentially, just a big playground for those lobbyists and that every government operation had been opened to the power of money. Righteous disgust filled the air. “Special interests” were much denounced. And a certain inspiring senator from Illinois promised that, should he be elected president, his administration would contain no lobbyists at all. The revolving door between government and K Street, he assured us, would turn no more.

Instead, the nation got a lesson in all the other ways that “special interests” can get what they want -- like simple class solidarity between the Ivy Leaguers who advise the president and the Ivy Leaguers who sell derivative securities to unsuspecting foreigners. As that inspiring young president filled his administration with Wall Street personnel, we learned that the revolving door still works, even if the people passing through it aren’t registered lobbyists.

The GOP’s War on Voting Is Working

 Wisconsin and Minnesota are case studies in the difference between Republican and Democratic rule.

By Ari Berman

On April 5, the day of Wisconsin’s presidential primary, Anita Johnson picked up Dennis Hatten at his new apartment in West Milwaukee and took him to the polls. “We’re going to complete your journey and make sure you vote today,” Johnson told him.

 Simply being able to vote in Wisconsin was no small feat for Hatten, a 53-year-old former Marine. He’d met Johnson, a 70-year-old Wisconsin coordinator for VoteRiders, in August 2015, as the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Hatten was living in temporary housing for homeless veterans across the street from Milwaukee’s VA hospital. Wisconsin’s strict new voter-ID law would be going into effect in 2016, and Johnson was part of the effort to help 300,000 registered voters without an acceptable government-issued ID obtain one—9 percent of the electorate.

Bernie-backed progressive Zephyr Teachout wins New York Democratic primary

Sarah K. Burris

Progressive Zephyr Teachout scored a major victory for the progressive wing of the Democratic primary in New York’s 19th Congressional District, Tuesday night. This pits her against John Faso, a Republican former state assemblyman, on the November ballot.

“I am running for Congress to break down those doors in Washington, D.C. The doors that are keeping the people of America — the real people, the citizens of America — locked out,” Teachout said in an email to supporters after the win had been announced. “I’ve been fighting well-paid lobbyists on behalf of working families my entire life. I will fight until we win — for the people of NY 19. For the American people.”

Bernie Sanders: Democrats Need to Wake Up

Surprise, surprise. Workers in Britain, many of whom have seen a decline in their standard of living while the very rich in their country have become much richer, have turned their backs on the European Union and a globalized economy that is failing them and their children.

And it’s not just the British who are suffering. That increasingly globalized economy, established and maintained by the world’s economic elite, is failing people everywhere. Incredibly, the wealthiest 62 people on this planet own as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population — around 3.6 billion people. The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the whole of the bottom 99 percent. The very, very rich enjoy unimaginable luxury while billions of people endure abject poverty, unemployment, and inadequate health care, education, housing and drinking water.

The Age of Disintegration

Neoliberalism, Interventionism, the Resource Curse, and a Fragmenting World

By Patrick Cockburn

We live in an age of disintegration. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Across the vast swath of territory between Pakistan and Nigeria, there are at least seven ongoing wars -- in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and South Sudan. These conflicts are extraordinarily destructive. They are tearing apart the countries in which they are taking place in ways that make it doubtful they will ever recover. Cities like Aleppo in Syria, Ramadi in Iraq, Taiz in Yemen, and Benghazi in Libya have been partly or entirely reduced to ruins. There are also at least three other serious insurgencies: in southeast Turkey, where Kurdish guerrillas are fighting the Turkish army, in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula where a little-reported but ferocious guerrilla conflict is underway, and in northeast Nigeria and neighboring countries where Boko Haram continues to launch murderous attacks.

All of these have a number of things in common: they are endless and seem never to produce definitive winners or losers. (Afghanistan has effectively been at war since 1979, Somalia since 1991.) They involve the destruction or dismemberment of unified nations, their de facto partition amid mass population movements and upheavals -- well publicized in the case of Syria and Iraq, less so in places like South Sudan where more than 2.4 million people have been displaced in recent years.

10 Things You Should Know About What It's Really Like to Be Homeless

Separating truth from fiction.

By Evelyn Nieves

On Monday afternoon, as Patty L., a 33-year-old native San Franciscan currently living in a tent, began describing the casual hate tossed her way every day, a 30-ish, chubby white man in an Izod polo and khaki shorts walked by.

“Um,” he said scornfully. “Can I get through?”

Patty was leaning against a building, visiting two friends who live in a tent on a corner across the street from a trendy rock climbing gym. At least five feet of pavement separated Patty and the tent, which sits in the Mission District, a Latino/working-class/artists’ enclave transforming into the fastest-gentrifying neighborhood in the country.

Trading Places: Neocons and Cockroaches

Exclusive: Neocons want a new Cold War – all the better to pick the U.S. taxpayers’ pockets – but this reckless talk and war profiteering could spark a nuclear war and leave the world to the cockroaches, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

If the human species extinguishes itself in a flash of thermonuclear craziness and the surviving cockroaches later develop the intellect to assess why humans committed this mass suicide, the cockroach historians may conclude that it was our failure to hold the neoconservatives accountable in the first two decades of the Twenty-first Century that led to our demise.

After the disastrous U.S.-led invasion of Iraq – an aggressive war justified under false premises – there rightly should have been a mass purging of the people responsible for the death, destruction and lies. Instead the culprits were largely left in place, indeed they were allowed to consolidate their control of the major Western news media and the foreign-policy establishments of the United States and its key allies.

Inside Charles Koch's Plot to Hijack Universities Across America and Spread His Radical 'Free-Market' Propaganda

With his grants, Koch is installing libertarian-minded economics professors at hundreds of universities.

By Alex Kotch

The public is starting to catch up with the reality that Charles Koch is not only a major spender on building his own ideological institutions. Over the past decade, Koch has funded colleges and universities to bend them in his direction, often funding “free-market” academic centers. Mostly through his personal foundation, Koch gave $108 million to 366 colleges and universities from 2005 to 2014 and still more since then: for example, $10 million for George Mason University’s School of Law, which will be renamed after late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; $2 million to Western Carolina University to establish a free-market center; and over $4.1 million approved for future payment to several schools according to the foundation’s 2014 990 tax form.

Some of these grants come with strings attached. At Florida State University, the initial memorandum of understanding between the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) and the school’s economics department gave the foundation control over hiring decisions and the curriculum.

An Increase in the Minimum Wage Strengthens the Economy for All

The following is a Truthout interview with David Rolf, union organizer and author of The Fight for $15.

By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview

Mark Karlin: How does the nationwide Fight for $15 as a minimum wage represent the importance of grassroots activity and tenacity in achieving social and economic justice goals, particularly in terms of advocates taking the lead in compelling politicians to take action?

David Rolf: November 2012 marked the beginning of a new movement of underpaid workers in a particularly infamous industry -- fast food. New York Communities for Change and SEIU, along with a host of other community, civil rights, labor, and religious organizations, supported some two hundred workers in walking off the job. Two hundred is a tiny number in a city of 8 million people, but still newsworthy because it was the first labor protest by fast-food workers within living memory. Then, in the summer of 2013, with support from SEIU and union workers in other industries, the first coordinated national fast-food strikes ignited in cities all around the country: Seattle, New York, St. Louis, Detroit, Harrisburg, Milwaukee, Chicago, Flint, Kansas City -- 60 cities in all. Over the next two years after the 2013 strikes, a broader call for $15 emerged, as fast food and other low-wage workers protested in hundreds of cities around the globe.