Aw, ya selfish greedy bastards ya

‘They Profit, You Pay': Activists Slam Nuclear Industry as Fukushima Remains Too Hot to Enter…


Fukushima Anniversary Protest in Tokyo: Greenpeace activists wearing “nuclear scream” masks demonstrate in front of the Japanese parliament (Noriko Hayashi / Greenpeace)

From GREENPEACE
Common Drems

At disaster-stricken Japanese plant and worldwide, the nuclear industry must be held accountable, says Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists protest with English, Japanese and German banners in front of the European Hitachi headquarters in Duisburg,The six reactors of the Fukushima nuclear plant are built by Hitachi, GE and Toshiba (Bernd Arnold / Greenpeace)With the two year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster quickly approaching, environmental activists from Greenpeace launched a worldwide campaign Thursday calling for the international community to hold the nuclear industry accountable for past and present nuclear catastrophes.

Meanwhile, from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant today, Julian Ryall of the Telegraph reports that radiation levels within half of the reactor units are still far too high for people to enter, let alone efficiently “decommission” them, two years after the disaster began.

According to Ryall, scientists still do not have a grasp on the conditions of the reactor cores in three of the six units at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. They cannot enter the structures to investigate and are confined to using remote-controlled vehicles to get inside the “tangle of wires, pipes and rubble

Thanks, Big Boxes: You destroy our town and take all our money so underpaid chain store serfs can save five bucks on a toaster-oven…


b

From JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER

Last week, extreme right-wing, hyper-patriot blogger and “Christian Reconstructionist” Gary North published a piece that bounced around the Web titled “James Howard Kunstler: Foul-Mouthed Apologist for the Good Old Boys.” Gary North was inflamed because I had put out a recent blog inveighing against the chain-store rape of local economies from sea to shining sea. North wrote:

Consider his [JHK's] most recent screed. It begins with an attack on the most successful

Outlawing Billionaires…


nb

From THOM HARTMANN
nobillionaires.com

It’s time we as a nation have a serious discussion about outlawing billionaires.

2012 was one heck of a year for the billionaires. The 100 richest people in the world got $241 billion wealthier this year bringing their total net worth to $1.9 trillion. These 100 people have more combined wealth than the entire GDP of nations like Italy, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Australia, and about 170 other nations.

Billionaires exclusive to the United States also had a field day. As the annual Forbes 400 list of 2012 showed, America’s richest billionaires saw their wealth increase by $200 billion last year bringing their total net worth to $1.7 trillion.

At the same time, the United States economy, which is staring down a year of impending austerity, is stagnating. Despite moderate employment and GDP growth, 49 million Americans are still in poverty. Also, 46 million Americans are on food stamps because they don’t have enough money to feed their families. The economic situation in Europe continues to deteriorate. And even emerging markets in Asia are slowing down.

So if it were true that the world’s economies rely on their super-rich to do well, as today’s oligarch-inspired, right-wing economics argues, then why are world’s “austerity” economies doing so poorly?

It’s because billionaires are not job creators, they are somewhere between symbiotes and parasites. That’s not meant as a personal insult

How the rich and greedy stole the American dream all for themselves…


From DAN FROOMKIN

Who stole the American Dream? The short answer to the question in the title of Hedrick Smith’s new book is: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wal-Mart.

But the longer answer is one heck of a story, told by one of the great journalists of our time.

In his sweeping, authoritative examination of the last four decades of the American economic experience, Smith describes the long, relentless decline of the middle class — a decline that was not by accident, but by design.

He dates it back to a private memo — in effect, a political call to arms — issued to the nation’s business leaders in 1971 by Lewis F. Powell, Jr., a corporate attorney soon to become a Supreme Court justice. From that point forward, Smith writes, corporate America threw off any sense of restraint or social obligation and instead unstintingly leveraged its money and political power to pursue its own interests.

The result was nothing less than a shift in gravity. Starting in the early 1970s, every major economic trend — increased productivity, globalization, tax law overhauls, and the phasing out of pensions in favor of 401(k)s — produced the same result: The benefits fell upward.

Smith, a 1970 Nieman Fellow, is at his very best as he examines, one by one, the key economic shifts of the last 40 years and shows that in each case the money flowed to the very richest Americans, particularly those on Wall Street, while impoverishing the middle class.

Nowhere was that more blatantly the case than in the housing sector. We are all well aware of how the bursting of the housing bubble has left many middle-class Americans without the nest egg they were counting on for their retirement.

The Myth of the Self-Made Man Justifies Economic Parasites…


From GEORGE MONBIOT
The Guardian

We could call it Romnesia: the ability of the very rich to forget the context in which they made their money. To forget their education, inheritance, family networks, contacts and introductions. To forget the workers whose labour enriched them. To forget the infrastructure and security, the educated workforce, the contracts, subsidies and bail-outs the government provided.

Every political system requires a justifying myth. The Soviet Union had Alexey Stakhanov, the miner reputed to have extracted 100 tonnes of coal in six hours. The United States had Richard Hunter, the hero of Horatio Alger’s rags-to-riches tales(1).

Both stories contained a germ of truth. Stakhanov worked hard for a cause in which he believed, but his remarkable output was probably faked(2). When Alger wrote his novels, some poor people had become very rich in the United States. But the further from its ideals (productivity in the Soviet Union’s case, opportunity in the US) a system strays, the more fervently its justifying myths are propounded.

As the developed nations succumb to extreme inequality and social immobility, the myth of the self-made man becomes ever more potent. It is used to justify its polar opposite: an unassailable rent-seeking class, deploying its inherited money to finance the seizure of other people’s wealth.

The crudest exponent of Romnesia is the Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart. “There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire,” she insists. “If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain; do something to make more money yourselves

More Ugly Privitizing…


From PAUL KRUGMAN
NYT

Prisons, Privatization, Patronage

Over the past few days, The New York Times has published several terrifying reports about New Jersey’s system of halfway houses — privately run adjuncts to the regular system of prisons. The series is a model of investigative reporting, which everyone should read. But it should also be seen in context. The horrors described are part of a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded.

First of all, about those halfway houses: In 2010, Chris Christie, the state’s governor — who has close personal ties to Community Education Centers, the largest operator of these facilities, and who once worked as a lobbyist for the firm — described the company’s operations as “representing the very best of the human spirit.” But The Times’s reports instead portray something closer to hell on earth — an understaffed, poorly run system, with a demoralized work force, from which the most dangerous individuals often escape to wreak havoc, while relatively mild offenders face terror and abuse at the hands of other inmates.

It’s a terrible story. But, as I said, you really need to see it in the broader context of a nationwide drive on the part of America’s right to privatize government functions, very much including the operation of prisons. What’s behind this drive?

You might be tempted to say that it reflects conservative belief in the magic of the marketplace, in the superiority of free-market competition over government planning. And that’s certainly the way right-wing politicians like to frame the issue.

How lyin’ smilin’ Romney destroyed thousands of jobs and lives and stole his millions from common people…


From ROMNEY ECONOMICS

“I never thought of what I do for a living as job creation. … The primary goal of private equity is to create wealth for your investors.” –Marc B. Walpow, former managing partner at Bain Capital

With Dade Behring, Mitt Romney and his investors took over a healthy company and loaded it with debt. Rather than sell the company, they then had Dade take out even more loans to buy out their shares, driving the company into bankruptcy. Nearly 3,000 workers lost their jobs, while Romney and his partners made more than $250 million in profit.

Kansas City’s GST Steel was a successful company that had been making steel rods for 105 years when Mitt Romney and his partners took control in 1993. They cut corners and extracted profit from the business at every turn, placing it deeply in debt. When the company eventually declared bankruptcy, workers were denied their full pensions and health insurance, and the federal government was forced to step in and bail out the pension fund.

In the late 1980s, Mitt Romney and his partners bought up hundreds of successful small clothing stores and combined them to form Stage Stores. Romney and his team loaded up the company with debt, and then, when the company was at its height, sold nearly all their shares at an enormous profit. In less than three years, the stock had collapsed and Stage was forced to declare bankruptcy.
~~

The Koch Brothers are the Poster Boys for the 1%…


From ROLLING STONE

If the Koch brothers didn’t exist, the left would have to invent them. They’re the plutocrats from central casting – oil-and-gas billionaires ready to buy any congressman, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape, or shirk any (tax) burden to push their free-market religion and pump up their profits.

But no need to invent – Charles and David Koch are the real deal. Over the past 30-some years, they’ve poured more than 100 million dollars into a sprawling network of foundations, think tanks, front groups, advocacy organizations, lobbyists and GOP lawmakers, all to the glory of their hard-core libertarian agenda. They don’t oppose big government so much as government – taxes, environmental protections, safety-net programs, public education: the whole bit. (By all accounts, the Kochs are true believers; they really buy that road-to-serfdom stuff about the the holiness of free markets. Still, you can’t help but notice how neatly their philosophy lines up with their business interests.) They like to think of elected politicians as merely “actors playing out a script,” and themselves as supplying “the themes and words for the scripts. Imagine Karl Rove’s strategic cunning, crossed with Ron Paul’s screw-the-poor ideology, and hooked up to Warren Buffett’s checking account, and you’re halfway there.

For years, the brothers shunned the spotlight. David Koch used to joke that the family business, the Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries – with annual profits estimated at $100 billion, it’s the second-biggest private firm in America – was “the largest company you’ve never heard of.” But when Barack Obama became president, the Kochs, like a lot of right-wingers, flipped out. They threw their weight behind a stealth campaign to turn back the president’s “socialist” agenda: They were early backers, some say puppet masters, of the Tea Party movement, and when the tea-infused GOP retook the House

All this general bullshit started with Reagan…


This story is part of Dissent magazine’s special issue on Workers in the Age of Austerity

Alan Greenspan described the 1981 destruction of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization as “perhaps most important” of all of Reagan’s domestic undertakings. The defeat of PATCO during the first summer of the Reagan administration “gave weight to the legal right of private employers, previously not fully exercised, to use their own discretion to both hire and discharge workers.” With employers’ “freedom to fire” renewed, entrepreneurial initiative could once again be unleashed. Reagan’s action thus inaugurated a miraculous era of “low unemployment and low inflation.” If we substitute Greenspan’s phrase “freedom to fire” with “break unions, strip them of the right to strike, redistribute wealth upward, and create massive economic insecurity,” then we have a story that is similarly satisfying to the Left. Indeed, the PATCO strike has become the pivotal event—both symbolically and substantively—in almost everyone’s understanding of the massive realignment of class power in the United States in the last few decades.

The PATCO strike may be the watershed moment in the consolidation of the post-New Deal order, but it has also become a bloated political symbol. Fortunately, Joseph McCartin gracefully moves the union and its famous strike from myth to complex historical analysis in his new book Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, The Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America. McCartin’s assessment captures the very real importance of the strike coolly, without reading too much into it: “No strike in American history unfolded more visibly before the eyes

Stockman: ‘When the real margin call in the great beyond arrives, the carnage will be unimaginable’…


From BERNARD CONDON
Associated Press

He was an architect of one of the biggest tax cuts in U.S. history. He spent much of his career after politics using borrowed money to take over companies. He targeted the riskiest ones that most investors shunned — car-parts makers, textile mills.

That is one image of David Stockman, the former White House budget director who, after resigning in protest over deficit spending, made a fortune in corporate buyouts.

But spend time with him and you discover this former wunderkind of the Reagan revolution is many other things now — an advocate for higher taxes, a critic of the work that made him rich and a scared investor who doesn’t own a single stock for fear of another financial crisis.

Stockman suggests you’d be a fool to hold anything but cash now, and maybe a few bars of gold. He thinks the Federal Reserve’s efforts to ease the pain from the collapse of our “national leveraged buyout” — his term for decades of reckless, debt-fueled spending by government, families and companies — is pumping stock and bond markets to dangerous heights…

Complete article here
~
See also Kuntzler: Reality Check

…Our reality-based assignment is the intelligent management of contraction. We don’t want this assignment. We’d prefer to think that things are still going in the other direction, the direction of more, more, more. But they’re not. Whether we like it or not, they’re going in the direction of less, less, less. Granted, this is not an easy thing to contend with, but it is the hand that circumstance has dealt us. Nobody else is to blame for it…
~~

Growth is over. Time to move on…


From RICHARD HEINBERG
Thanks to Bob Banner
~

…but we’re exceptional…
~

From PAUL KINGSNORTH
Orion Magazine

Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist

…We are not environmentalists now because we have an emotional reaction to the wild world. Most of us wouldn’t even know where to find it. We are environmentalists now in order to promote something called “sustainability.” What does this curious, plastic word mean? It does not mean defending the nonhuman world from the ever-expanding empire of Homo sapiens sapiens, though some of its adherents like to pretend it does, even to themselves. It means sustaining human civilization at the comfort level that the world’s rich people—us—feel is their right, without destroying the “natural capital” or the “resource base” that is needed to do so.

It is, in other words, an entirely human-centered piece of politicking, disguised as concern for “the planet.” In a very short time—just over a decade—this worldview has become all-pervasive. It is voiced by the president of the USA and the president of Anglo-Dutch Shell and many people in between. The success of environmentalism has been total—at the price of its soul…

Original article here
~~

Four sleezy ways Big Pharma pushes drugs…


From ALTERNET

Big Pharma uses ads that sow hypochondria, raise health fears and sell diseases to adults and their children.

It’s no secret that advertising works. Big Pharma wouldn’t spend over $4 billion a year on direct-to-consumer advertising if it didn’t mean massive profits.

What is more unknown is why drug ads that sow hypochondria, raise health fears and “sell” diseases are often the most common–and effective–even when the drugs themselves are of questionable safety.

The nation’s fourth most frequent drug ads in 2009 for were Cymbalta, making Eli Lilly $3.1 billion in one year, despite the antidepressant’s links to liver problems and suicide. Pfizer spent $157 million advertising Lyrica for fibromyalgia in 2009, despite the seizure pill’s links to life-threatening allergic reactions. The same year, it spent $107 million advertising the antidepressant Pristiq, even though it also had links to liver problems.

So, how does Pharma dupe us into using unsafe drugs? Today’s drug ads, targeted directly to consumers since 1999, seem like they sell diseases and often cast women, children, the elderly and mentally ill in a bad light. But a quick look at ads before direct-to-consumer advertising (DTC) in medical journals shows that drug ads have always done so. It’s just that patients didn’t used to see them.

Here are some of Pharma’s most offensive ad campaigns, then and now.

1. You’re Sicker Than You Think

When psychiatric drugs first became popular for use in the general population, in the late 1960s

Walmart has done more than any other company to undermine the American middle class and force an ever-growing share of the population into working poverty


From STACY MITCHELL
Institute of Local Self-Reliance

The main way the Waltons got their wealth is by squeezing workers at every point along Walmart’s supply chain.

The Waltons currently own 49 percent of Walmart stock. The six Waltons, heirs to Walmart founder Sam Walton, not only have a net worth equal to the combined wealth of the bottom 30 percent of Americans, as we learned last week from University of California economist Sylvia Allegretto, but they also own and control nearly half of Walmart, the world’s largest corporation.

That’s an astounding fact. Last year, Walmart had sales of $422 billion and generated $16 billion in profits. That’s quite a cash stream for a single family to be able to dip into, year after year.

While one could argue that other wealthy corporate founders made their money by producing something that benefited society as whole — the founders of Google, Apple, and Microsoft, for example, introduced products that fueled the creation of many new businesses and jobs — that’s not the case with the Waltons.

Social Security in trouble? Billionaire BS…


From BERNIE SANDERS: “What the Koch brothers want to do is destroy Social Security because Social Security is a federal government program that has been enormously successful. The Koch brothers are funding think tanks and other organizations which are spreading an enormous amount of disinformation about Social Security.”
~~

Medicare going bankrupt? More Billionaire BS…


From JARED BERSTEIN

When you criticize the Republican’s plan for Medicare privatization, their kneejerk comeback is to claim that Medicare is going bankrupt. They’ve got to break it to fix it.

It’s a misleading non sequitur that should not go unchallenged.

U.S. has a debt problem? Even More Billionaire BS…


From DEMOCRACY NOW

Sally Kohn: “Don’t believe the hype about U.S. Debt… U.S. Debt is a good idea!”

JUAN GONZALEZ: Vice President Joe Biden met with congressional negotiators last Thursday to discuss ways to curb the federal deficit and permit new borrowing

The Real Cost of Private Insurance vs. Medicare


From digby

And Medicare takes care of the very sickest people in our country.

Krugman:

If Medicare costs had risen as fast as private insurance premiums, it would cost around 40 percent more than it does. If private insurers had done as well as Medicare at controlling costs, insurance would be a lot cheaper.

It’s a mystery why anyone claims that shifting more people into private insurance is a good idea. Actually, no, it isn’t a mystery; it’s an outrage.

Imagine if people over 50 had been allowed to buy into Medicare as was proposed during the Health Care debate. They would have been paying into the system as they already are and also paying for their current insurance. And they would have been getting their care from the less costly system at a time when they are starting to have health problems.

In fact, imagine if everyone were in the less costly system.
~~

How Financial Oligarchy Replaces Democracy, and How to Stop it


A World at Financial War

By MICHAEL HUDSON
Counterpunch

[Thanks to The Automatic Earth: Perhaps when you look at the ways in which the ECB and IMF are planning to drain and sell off Greece, you shouldn't just shudder, you should also realize that that gravy train will one day make a full stop in your country, city, community, load up all the goodies and leave with them. And why? Because you let them... We've handed the financial elites absolute powers over our economies, and thereby our lives and well being, as well as our childrens' futures. We’ll have to wrestle it back from their cold dead hands. And that's not going to be an easy one...]

[To really understand what is going on in world economics, this is well worth the time. -DS]

[...] The crisis for Greece – as for Iceland, Ireland and debt-plagued economies capped by the United States – is occurring as bank lobbyists demand that “taxpayers” pay for the bailouts of bad speculations and government debts stemming largely from tax cuts for the rich and for real estate, shifting the fiscal burden as well as the debt burden onto labor and industry. The financial sector’s growing power to achieve this tax favoritism is crippling economies, driving them further into reliance on yet more debt financing to remain solvent. Aid is conditional

General Smedley Butler: War is a racket


From GENERAL SMEDLEY BUTLER (1933)
Thanks to Dan Hamburg

War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits

Privatization: The Road to Hell


From JIM HIGHTOWER
Truthout

Billionaires are different from you and me, for obvious reasons, including the fact that they buy much pricier baubles than we do.

A sleek car costing $100,000? Why, for them, that’s just an easy impulse purchase. A few million bucks for a Matisse original? Go ahead — it’ll liven up the hallway. How about throwing a fat wad of cash at a university to get an academic chair named for you? Sure, it’s all part of the fun of living in BillionaireLand.

Then there is the top crust of the upper-crust — such megalomaniacal megabillionaires as the Koch brothers. Using money from their industrial conglomerate, their foundation and their personal fortunes, these two far-out, laissez-faire extremists are literally buying public policy. Their purchases of everything from politicians to the tea party help them push the privatization of all things public and the elimination of pesky regulations and taxes that crimp their style.

Privatize Public Services? Just Another Stupid Scam…


From ELLEN J. DANNIN
Professor of Law

White Paper On Privatization

Here are some impacts the Cornell University Hebdon Report found that result from privatization:

  • diminished quality and access to services
  • lower employee morale, productivity and training
  • worker exploitation through lower wages and benefits
  • increased discrimination against minorities and women
  • loss of government control and sovereignty
  • lost constitutional and other legal rights
  • decreased efficiency as a result of difficulty monitoring and administrating contracts
  • loss of accountability and control
  • lost infrastructure
  • increased corruption, bribery, kickbacks, bid-rigging, campaign donations, low-ball bids, and contractor bankruptcy

Social Security: Their numbers are bullshit, they’ll steal us blind, please pass this on!


From MANNY GOLDSTEIN
Democratic Underground

OK, by now we all know that the Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted in 26 years, and only a portion of benefits will be paid after that. Actually, that “known fact” is pure BS, a product of cooked numbers. What they aren’t telling you is that this projection assumes that over the next 75 years, the US economy will grow at a far lower rate than it has in the past. (They weren’t expecting us to check the calculations, were they?)

Since 1960, US GDP growth has averaged 3.2%. Even in the decade before the 2007 crash, which included a recession and jobless recovery, GDP growth averaged about 3.0%. However, in creating its publicized projection, the Obama administration assumes that the future US economy will grow at a rate of about 2.1%, much lower even than the 2.9% rate in 2010, which most of us would agree was a tough year for our economy. Even in this very pessimistic projection, Social Security is still able to pay more than 75% of promised benefits after 27 years. (Note that we need about 2.5% growth just to break even with our increasing population.)

And what if the economy stays the same as in 2010, and we continue to lurch forward at 2010’s 2.9% growth rate? The same projection showed that at a 2.9% rate, the Trust fund would remain flush with cash as far as they projected (75 years).

So, unless the US economy is about to get even worse than today and stay that way, Social Security should pay full benefits for our lifetimes and beyond.

If you believe otherwise, then the bad guys have already won: they now have a pretext for stealing you blind

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