Aw, ya selfish greedy bastards ya

Democratic Party Reverses 2008 Restrictions on Lobbying and Corporate Influence…

 

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From Shadowproof

 With former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set to have a fundraiser with a lobbyist for the NRA, the topic of money and politics has come back to center stage. Clinton has tried to use Senator Bernie Sander’s positions on gun control to paint herself as more progressive, despite in 2008 using then-Senator Barack Obama’s positions on gun control to show him to be too progressive.

But Clinton is not the only one revising 2008 positions. The Democratic National Committee announced it will be reversing restrictions introduced by presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 that banned donations from federal lobbyists and political action committees. Hope and change (back).

Of course, to say “announced” is not accurate. The lifting of the restrictions on lobbyists and corporate PACs was, according to The Washington Post, “quietly introduced at some point during the past couple of months.” The DNC has reportedly already named a finance director for PAC donations and lobbyists have already been solicited to make party contributions.

Is this the most transparent party in American history?

Fukushima — Japan Prime Minister: ‘If you love your country, let nuclear go.’

 

radiation“Radiation” by Ivan Khomenko aka IvanKhomenko / Hamen

From The Ecologist

‘One quarter of the country’s population would have had to flee if all the fuel had escaped at Fukushima. We came that close. If 50 million people had had to evacuate Japan, as a state our very survival would have been questioned.’

Nuclear power is a uniquely hazardous technology that can destroy entire nations, Japan’s prime minister at the time of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has warned British MPs. The lessons from such catastrophes must be heeded in other countries that believe that nuclear fission can be harnessed safely, writes Linda Pentz Gunter – or they, and the world, will reap the whirlwind.

It’s widely agreed here in the rapidly Disuniting States of America that the most notorious of the Republican presidential candidates have not only abandoned, but torn up the rulebook of acceptable behavior. Lies, taunts, profanities all have become the norm.

But what if one of those candidates promised, if elected, to risk the death or permanent exile of a quarter of the country’s population? That would surely evoke the well-used slur of the Right: ‘unpatriotic!’

And insane, you say. Except that being certifiably unhinged doesn’t seem to be a disqualifying factor in US presidential campaigns these days. Still: purposely putting your electorate at risk when other choices are open to you certainly smacks of treachery.

The Cruelties of Capitalism…

 

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From This Can’t Be Happening

London – The many criticisms of capitalism leveled over a century ago by Karl Marx, the co-author of the Communist Manifesto, may prove to be more right than wrong.

Evidence both anecdotal and empirical of many of Marx’s observations abounds across London, the city where the German-born Marx, who held a doctorate in philosophy, lived for three decades before his death in 1883.

Income inequity – an element of the capitalism Marx criticized – is at historic high in Britain as in the US.

The richest ten percent in Britain live 100 times better off than the poorest, according to a report published last year in the Guardian newspaper.

In London, the richest capital city in Europe, 41 percent of children live in poverty, according to statistics listed in a Museum of London exhibit.

That Guardian report placed average household wealth for Britain’s top ten percent at the equivalent of $1.3-million-U.S. dollars compared to the equivalent of $13,531 for Britain’s poorest.

Marx stated that the accumulation of wealth “at one pole is, therefore, at the same time, accumulation of misery.”

A Privatization Horror Story…

Governor Rick Scott speaking at CPAC FL in Orlando, Florida.

From Thom Hartmann
TruthOut

Conservatives and libertarians have been saying for a long time that if we just get rid of government and replace it with the private sector, everything will run a whole lot better.

The idea is that since the main goal of all private corporations is to make money, they’ll be much more willing than the government is to cut costs and eliminate waste.

The result, conservatives and libertarians say, will be more efficient, responsible and responsive services.

That’s the theory, at least.

The GOP Death Panel…

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From THOM HARTMANN

The death panels are real and they’ve been found! Back in 2009 when the healthcare debate was at its most crazy, Republicans warned us that once Obamacare was passed, government officials would get to ration health care, and as a result, have control over the life and death of millions of Americans. They called the group of bureaucrats who supposedly got to make these decisions “death panels.”

The idea of death panels had actually been swirling around the right wing media echo chamber for a while, but it really crossed over into the mainstream when Sarah Palin talked about it in an August, 2009 Facebook note. Palin said that if the healthcare bill became law, people like her disabled son would “have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats [could] decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care.”

Banks Are Obsolete: The Entire Parasitic Sector Should Be Eliminated…


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From Charles Hugh Smith

Replace parasitic middleman Banks, Wall Street and the Federal Reserve with democratic Credit Unions and our beloved Post Office, and save $1.25 trillion a year…

Technology has leapfrogged the banking sector, rendering it as obsolete as buggy whips. So why are we devoting 9% of our economy to an obsolete parasite?Financial sector profits now total a staggering 4.5% of GDP (gross domestic product), while the expenses generated by financial churning account for another 4.5% of the economy.

Software and existing non-Wall Street/too-big-to-fail institutions could replace the entire Wall Street/banking sector and drop costs to .5% of GDP, saving us 8+% of our GDP ($1.25 trillion) that is currently siphoned off by parasitic middlemen. The banking sector is Exhibit A in the Middleman-Skimming Economy (February 11, 2014).

The pull of habit and propaganda is so strong that most people haven’t even recognized that software and the Web can replace the entire financial/banking sector for a fraction of the cost of the current parasitic system,

5 billionaire authoritarians who are making life miserable for ordinary Americans…


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From Salon

Here is how it works these days: You start hearing about a big, national problem and then it becomes a drumbeat. First there are a few articles and columns mentioning that such-and-such is a problem. Then a number of articles appear, then a “study” from a “think tank” confirms the problem and sounds the alarm about how terrible it is, and then just as the issue seems to be the only thing you are hearing about a solution is presented. Of course, the solution always involves taking something away from you and giving it to some company or industry standing in front of a billionaire or three. The right question to start asking when you hear about these “problems” is which billionaire is driving this.

Here are five-plus examples of billionaires who use their money to try to get us to think what they want us to think in order to enact a right-wing economic agenda.

1) Pete Peterson’s deficit/debt scare campaign and his ongoing effort to gut Social Security and other entitlements.Leading every list of billionaires pushing an issue is billionaire Pete Peterson and his forever war on government doing things to make our lives better, especially Social Security. Peterson leads the list because of reports of his pledge to spend $1 billion on his pet issue.

Have you ever heard anywhere that the budget deficit and national debt are a problem?

Monopoly Capitalism’s Poster Children…


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From Michael Hudson
Thanks to Todd Walton

G: Professor, we’re based here in Ireland which is a country, as we both know, currently in economic ruin at the moment. Unemployment is at 14%, graduate unemployment is probably double that. Where did it all go wrong for Ireland?

Prof. H: Your unemployment is intentional policy by the Irish leadership, of both parties. None of this unemployment is necessary. It doesn’t have to be this way. The government was suckered in to paying the debts for its corrupt bankers.
The problem is that even when you Irish did – as you should have done – and voted out the party in power, the incoming party has the same policy as the former one. It’s much like the United States, where we voted out Republican George Bush, and then got an even more Republican Democrat – Barack Obama. They all promise change, and then follow the financial sector’s directions.

So the underlying problem is that there is no body of theory or policy in Ireland to show that there is an alternative to this unemployment. There’s a belief, a Thatcherite belief that There Is No Alternative, and of course there is an alternative! You shouldn’t have paid uninsured bank depositors and bondholders, and you should not have to pay the European Central Bank, the I.M.F. or the other parties that misinformed you by telling your leaders

The Great American Class War: Plutocracy vs. Democracy…


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From BILL MOYERS
Truthout

I met Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in 1987 when I was creating a series for public television called In Search of the Constitution, celebrating the bicentennial of our founding document.  By then, he had served on the court longer than any of his colleagues and had written close to 500 majority opinions, many of them addressing fundamental questions of equality, voting rights, school segregation, and — in New York Times v. Sullivan in particular — the defense of a free press.

Those decisions brought a storm of protest from across the country.  He claimed that he never took personally the resentment and anger directed at him.  He did, however, subsequently reveal that his own mother told him she had always liked his opinions when he was on the New Jersey court, but wondered now that he was on the Supreme Court, “Why can’t you do it the same way?” His answer: “We have to discharge our responsibility to enforce the rights in favor of minorities, whatever the majority reaction may be.”

Although a liberal, he worried about the looming size of government. When he mentioned that modern science might be creating “a Frankenstein,” I asked, “How so?”  He looked around his chambers and replied, “The very conversation we’re now having can be overheard. Science has done things that, as I understand it, makes it possible through these drapes and those windows to get something in here that takes down what we’re talking about.”

That was long before the era of cyberspace and the maximum surveillance state that grows topsy-turvy with every administration.  How I wish he were here now — and still on the Court!

12 Corporate Espionage Tactics Used Against Leading Progressive Groups, Activists and Whistleblowers…


 From AlterNet

Corporate spies for Dow, Kraft and others have tried to discredit, shame and infiltrate civic groups using an array of dirty tricks.

Posing as volunteers. Stealing documents. Dumpster diving. Planting electronic bugs. Hacking computers. Tapping phones and voicemail. Planting false information. Trailing family members. Threatening reporters. Hiring cops, CIA officers and combat veterans to do all these dirty deeds—and counting on little pushback from law enforcement, mainstream media or Congress.

These are some of the ways that many of America’s largest corporations have spied on nonprofits for years, according to a detailed new report from the Center for Corporate Policy tracing decades of corporate espionage where tactics developed for American intelligence agencies have been imported by a long list of corporate giants for use against progressives.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BEA, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON have all been linked to espionage against non-profit organizations, activists and whistleblowers,” the report said, noting that its targets are “environmental, anti-war, public-interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms-control groups.”

“There’s so many different tactics,” said Gary Ruskin, the center’s director and the report’s author. “It’s so important to talk about the effects on our democracy and privacy.

Let’s Get This Class War Started…


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From CHRIS HEDGES
Truthdig

“The rich are different from us,” F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have remarked to Ernest Hemingway, to which Hemingway allegedly replied, “Yes, they have more money.”

The exchange, although it never actually took place, sums up a wisdom Fitzgerald had that eluded Hemingway. The rich are different. The cocoon of wealth and privilege permits the rich to turn those around them into compliant workers, hangers-on, servants, flatterers and sycophants. Wealth breeds, as Fitzgerald illustrated in “The Great Gatsby” and his short story “The Rich Boy,” a class of people for whom human beings are disposable commodities. Colleagues, associates, employees, kitchen staff, servants, gardeners, tutors, personal trainers, even friends and family, bend to the whims of the wealthy or disappear. Once oligarchs achieve unchecked economic and political power, as they have in the United States, the citizens too become disposable.

The public face of the oligarchic class bears little resemblance to the private face. I, like Fitzgerald, was thrown into the embrace of the upper crust when young. I was shipped off as a scholarship student at the age of 10 to an exclusive New England boarding school. I had classmates whose fathers

Obamacare website woes: another sign of out-of-control private contractors…


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From The Guardian

The Obama team outsourced Healthcare.gov to big corporations that rang up large bills without delivering what they promised

Whatever the ultimate benefits of Obamacare, it’s clear that the rollout of its $400m registration system and website has been a disaster. Healthcare.gov was unusable for millions who visited the site on launch day earlier this month, and the glitches reportedly continue. What went wrong?

Of course, the Obama administration is to blame for the botched rollout, but there are other culprits getting less attention – namely, global tech conglomerate CGI, which was responsible for the bulk of the execution, and in general the ability of big corporations to get massive taxpayer-funded contracts without enough accountability.

Government outsourcing to private contractors has exploded in the past few decades. Taxpayers funnel hundreds of billions of dollars a year into the chosen companies’ pockets, about $80bn of which goes to tech companies. We’ve reached a stage of knee-jerk outsourcing of everything from intelligence and military work to burger flipping in federal building cafeterias, and it’s damaging in multiple levels.

‘A Corporate Trojan Horse’: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws…


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From DEMOCRACY NOW
Thanks to Rosalind Peterson

As the federal government shutdown continues, Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Asia for secret talks on a sweeping new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is often referred to by critics as “NAFTA on steroids,” and would establish a free trade zone that would stretch from Vietnam to Chile, encompassing 800 million people — about a third of world trade and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. While the text of the treaty has been largely negotiated behind closed doors and, until June, kept secret from Congress, more than 600 corporate advisers reportedly have access to the measure, including employees of Halliburton and Monsanto. “This is not mainly about trade,” says Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “It is a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade.

Tomorrow Is D-Day for the Totally Superfluous Health Insurers: The Beginning of Disintermediation…


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From WENDELL POTTER
HuffPost

I’ve often said that the Affordable Care Act is the end of the beginning of reform. Starting tomorrow, October 1, 2013, that law will signify the beginning of the end of the health insurance industry as we know it.

As I’ve noted previously, my former CEO at Cigna said at a leadership retreat that what kept him up at night was the fear that big health insurance corporations might someday be viewed as unnecessary middlemen, that their “value proposition” would come under scrutiny and found to be wanting. That insurance companies would, to use his term, be disintermediated.

That day has arrived.

Most of the attention this week will be focused on the glitches that will inevitably occur when the switch is flipped and the long-awaited health insurance marketplaces (also called exchanges) finally go live.

Yes, there will be technological snafus, just as there will be some people upset to find that the relatively cheap policies they have now will be unavailable next year because they don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s standards. As of January 1, 2014, the law outlaws policies pretty much guaranteeing that people will be underinsured if they get sick or injured — underinsured because those policies have inadequate benefits and outrageously high deductibles.

So expect to hear plenty of squawking, especially from those who have made a career out of opposing “Obamacare.” But before long, the snafus will be resolved and people will realize that the newly available coverage in the marketplaces will provide better protection and actually cost them less after the tax credits and subsidies are factored in.

The Dirty F@#*ing Hippies Were Right!


[Repost: This gives me both deep sorrow, and a great, sustainable joy! Living here among the last outposts in Ecotopia, we should always celebrate our fun-loving creativity, foresight, and wisdom, and never, never, never let down the good fight. -DS]

It’s hard to believe but there is still a lot of hippie hating going on. It can even be found here at daily kos from time to time. How ignorant or brainwashed does one have to be to rail against those who tried to save us from the fate that bedevils us now? If we’d heeded their cries for sanity and change we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in. Not saying it would be utopia but it wouldn’t be the hell on earth the establishment conservatives have created for us.

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people Sharing all the world.

John Lennon – Imagine

The hippies were powerful proponents of universal brotherhood, peace, love, tolerance, understanding and ecological stewardship. They tried to change our culture and point out that it was superficial, mean, hateful, wasteful, rapacious, violent, greedy, selfish and unsustainable.

And that, I think, was the handle – that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark – that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

Hunter S. Thompson

If the hippies and their message had prevailed we wouldn’t be pouring trillions of dollars into stupid and immoral wars of choice.

‘The Republicans in Congress are poisoning Obamacare, then trying to claim it’s sick…’


THE PRESIDENT: Look, part of the reason I need your help to make this law work is because there are so many people out there working to make it fail. One of the biggest newspapers in the country recently published an editorial I thought was pretty good. They said, the Republicans in Congress are poisoning Obamacare, then trying to claim it’s sick. (Laughter.) That’s exactly what’s been happening.

I mean, they have tried to put up every conceivable roadblock. They cut funding for efforts to educate people about what’s in the law. Some of them said if their constituents called them, we won’t even try to explain to them what’s in the law. They actually opened up an investigation into people who try to help churches and charities understand how to help people sign up for the law.

Some of the tea party’s biggest donors — some of the wealthiest men in America — are funding a cynical ad campaign trying to convince young people not to buy health care at all. I mean, think about it. These are billionaires several times over. You know they’ve got good health care.

AUDIENCE: Right! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: But they are actually spending money on television, trying to convince young people that if you’ve got the choice between getting affordable health care or going without health care, you should choose not having any health care. Now, do you think if you get sick or you get hurt, and you get stuck with a massive bill, these same folks, they’re going to help you out?

Exposing America’s Outsourcing Giants…


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From OUTSOURCING AMERICA EXPOSED

When Wall Street collapsed the economy in 2008, one company eager to buy public assets from cash-strapped governments proclaimed, “Desperate governments are our best customer!” Across the country, for-profit companies are engaged in a hostile takeover of our schools, roads, prisons, drinking water, and even government itself. CMD’s “Outsourcing America Exposed” project will give taxpayers the tools they need to identify these privatizers and profiteers, their eye-popping salaries, the “fine print follies” contained in their contracts that put taxpayers on the hook — even for work not done — and how taxpayers can take back control of public assets and public services.

Outsourcing Company Sodexo

For our first profile of America’s big 12 outsourcing firms, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) focuses on Sodexo, a multinational company based in France that provides food services to schools, college campuses, the U.S. military, and other government entities across the United States. With about $8.8 billion in annual revenues from operations in North America, Sodexo is a primary driver of outsourcing of food services in America.

But Sodexo has taken the low road to profitability.

Privatization debacle costs taxpayers, harms workers…


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From SFGate

In their obsession with privatization as the cure-all for government and bureaucratic inefficiencies, Big Business and its political allies continue to beguile the American public with promises that this is the way to save tax dollars, provide better services or products and, in some cases, create jobs.

But taxpayers, Congress and the Obama administration would be wise to do more than beware of these pledges; they should take a look at what happens when private corporations become government contractors. Unencumbered by scrutiny and driven by self-interest and short-term profit, they flout the nation’s fair-employment laws and dodge accountability.

A case in point: Several years ago, the U.S. Department of Energy put management of our nuclear weapons research and development labs out for bid. Against the advice of many, DOE awarded the contract for both labs (Lawrence Livermore in the Bay Area and Los Alamos in New Mexico) to a single private partnership comprising the University of California Regents, Bechtel Corp.

Defending the Public From Greed…


FDR’s classic 1932 campaign speech

A month before the 1932 election, Franklin Roosevelt traveled to Portland, Oregon to deliver a speech about government and governance. Some 80 years later, his talk, given in the depths of the Depression to a nation that had yet to accept government as a key player, remains one of the clearest and most accessible explications of the relationship between the public and the private.

FDR specifically addressed the relationship of government to electric utilities but one could easily translate the theory and principles he proposes to today’s banks, or cable companies or airlines.

In the decade before FDR’s visit to Portland the electricity sector had undergone a sea change. Power companies that once served neighborhoods now served cities and even states. The era of competition when Chicago had 29 electric companies

Action Alert: Monopolistic Too-Big-to-Fail Banks Try to Crush Credit Unions as Competition by Removing Tax Exemption…


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From MARK KARLIN
Truthout
Thanks to Janie Sheppard

[When the Big Banks took our economy down the tubes, we switched our bank accounts to Credit Unions in droves. Now they are pissed and want to snuff out the competition, which are democratic cooperatives. We won’t let them. Here’s what we can do: Don’t Tax My Credit Union -DS]

Given the steady growth of consumers turning to responsive credit unions for their banking, the oligopolistic banks that brought you the crash of the American economy – and made you lend them money to survive – are now trying to crush credit unions.

The vehicle being used by the large financial institutions — many of whom are still engaged in risky and unethical if not illegal actions – to remove credit unions as competition is to get their pawns in DC to pass legislation that will remove their tax exemption.

According to a July 6 LA Times article:

Inequality Was Created…



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Bernanke’s Neofeudal Rentier Economy…


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From CHARLES HUGH SMITH
oftwominds

The Fed has directly created a neofeudal rentier economy and society.

Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke is a Reverse Robin Hood, robbing from the lower 95% and giving to the financier class. The Real Reverse Robin Hood: Ben Bernanke and his Merry Band of Thieves (August 31, 2012).

It’s worth understanding the mechanisms of this wealth transfer: in essence, the Fed extends low-cost credit (i.e. “free money”) to the financier class which then uses this free money to buy rentier assets, that is, assets that generate economic rents for the owners, who add no value and create no wealth.

This is of course the neofeudal model: the financial aristocracy in the manor house own the rentier assets and the debt-serfs toil away to pay the rents and taxes. The financier class (i.e. those that benefit from the financialization of the economy) are as unproductive

Why Bankers Rule the World… It’s the Interest, Stupid!


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From Adbusters

In the 2012 edition of Occupy Money, released in the first week of November last year, Professor Margrit Kennedy writes that a stunning 35% to 40% of everything we buy goes to interest. This interest goes to bankers, financiers, and bondholders, who take a 35% to 40% cut of our GDP.

That helps explain how wealth is systematically transferred from Main Street to Wall Street. The rich get progressively richer at the expense of the poor, not just because of “Wall Street greed” but because of the inexorable mathematics of our private banking system.

This hidden tribute to the banks will come as a surprise to most people, who think that if they pay their credit card bills on time and don’t take out loans, they aren’t paying interest. This, says Dr. Kennedy, is not true.

Tradesmen, suppliers, wholesalers and retailers all along the chain of production rely on credit to pay their bills. They must pay for labor and materials before they have a product to sell and before the end buyer pays for the product 90 days later. Each supplier in the chain adds interest to its production costs, which are passed on to the ultimate consumer. Dr. Kennedy cites interest charges ranging

The Treason of the Intellectuals…


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From CHRIS HEDGES
Truthdig

The rewriting of history by the power elite was painfully evident as the nation marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Some claimed they had opposed the war when they had not. Others among “Bush’s useful idiots” argued that they had merely acted in good faith on the information available; if they had known then what they know now, they assured us, they would have acted differently. This, of course, is false. The war boosters, especially the “liberal hawks”—who included Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Al Franken and John Kerry, along with academics, writers and journalists such as Bill Keller, Michael Ignatieff, Nicholas Kristof, David Remnick, Fareed Zakaria, Michael Walzer, Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, George Packer, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Kanan Makiya and the late Christopher Hitchens—did what they always have done: engage in acts of self-preservation. To oppose the war would have been a career killer. And they knew it.

These apologists, however, acted not only as cheerleaders for war; in most cases they ridiculed and attempted to discredit anyone who questioned the call to invade Iraq.

The Deeper Meanings of Cyprus…


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From CHARLES HUGH SMITH

The deposit-confiscation “bailout” of Cyprus reveals much about the Eurozone’s fundamental neocolonial, neofeudal structure.

At long last, Europe’s flimsy facades of State sovereignty, democracy and free-market capitalism have collapsed, and we see the real machinery laid bare: the Eurozone’s political-financial Aristocracy will stripmine every nation’s citizenry to preserve their power and protect the banks and bondholders from absorbing losses.

The deposit-confiscation “bailout” of Cyprus confirms the Eurozone’s fundamental neocolonial, neofeudal structure and the region’s political surrender to financialization.

The E.U., Neofeudalism and the Neocolonial-Financialization Model (May 24, 2012)

Let’s list what Cyprus reveals about the true state of financial-political power in Europe:

‘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…


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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…


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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
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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.”
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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.