If there's one thing that conservatives are highly capable of it's proving over and over and over again that they do not understand even the basics of economic thought.
Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. So when you see something like the current scramble by Republicans to declare their deep concern for America's poor, it's a good sign, indicating a positive change in social norms. Goodbye, sneering at the 47 percent; hello, fake compassion.
And the big new poverty report from the House Budget Committee, led by Representative Paul Ryan, offers additional reasons for optimism. Mr. Ryan used to rely on "scholarship" from places like the Heritage Foundation. Remember when Heritage declared that the Ryan budget would reduce unemployment to a ludicrous 2.8 percent, then tried to cover its tracks? This time, however, Mr. Ryan is citing a lot of actual social science research.
Unfortunately, the research he cites doesn't actually support his assertions. Even more important, his whole premise about why poverty persists is demonstrably wrong.
To understand where the new report is coming from, it helps to recall something Mr. Ryan said two years ago: "We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives." There are actually two assertions here.
First, antipoverty programs breed complacency; that is, they discourage work. Second, complacency -- the failure of the poor to work as much as they should -- is what perpetuates poverty.
The budget committee report is almost entirely concerned with the first assertion. It notes that there has been a large decline in labor force participation, and it claims that antipoverty programs, which reduce the incentive to work, are a major reason for this decline. Then come 200 pages of text and 683 footnotes, designed to create the impression that the scholarly research literature supports the report's claims.
But it doesn't. In some cases, Mr. Ryan and colleagues outright misstate what the research says, drawing outraged protests from a number of prominent scholars about the misrepresentation of their work. More often, however, the report engages in argument by innuendo. It makes an assertion about the bad effects of a program, then mentions a number of studies of that program, and thereby leaves the impression that those studies support its assertion, even though they don't.
What does scholarly research on antipoverty programs actually say? We have quite good evidence on the effects of food stamps and Medicaid, which draw most of Mr. Ryan's ire -- and which his budgets propose slashing drastically. Food stamps, it seems, do lead to a reduction in work and working hours, but the effect is modest. Medicaid has little, if any, effect on work effort.
Over all, here's the verdict of one comprehensive survey: "While there are significant behavioral side effects of many programs, their aggregate impact is very small." In short, Mr. Ryan's poverty report, like his famous budget plan, is a con job.
Now, you can still argue that making antipoverty programs much more generous would indeed reduce the incentive to work. If you look at cross-county comparisons, you find that low-income households in the United States, which does less to help the poor than any other major advanced nation, work much more than their counterparts abroad. So, yes, incentives do have some effect on work effort.
But why, exactly, should that be such a concern? Mr. Ryan would have us believe that the "hammock" created by the social safety net is the reason so many Americans remain trapped in poverty. But the evidence says nothing of the kind.
After all, if generous aid to the poor perpetuates poverty, the United States -- which treats its poor far more harshly than other rich countries, and induces them to work much longer hours -- should lead the West in social mobility, in the fraction of those born poor who work their way up the scale. In fact, it's just the opposite: America has less social mobility than most other advanced countries.
And there's no puzzle why: it's hard for young people to get ahead when they suffer from poor nutrition, inadequate medical care, and lack of access to good education. The antipoverty programs that we have actually do a lot to help people rise. For example, Americans who received early access to food stamps were healthier and more productive in later life than those who didn't. But we don't do enough along these lines.
The reason so many Americans remain trapped in poverty isn't that the government helps them too much; it's that it helps them too little.
Which brings us back to the hypocrisy issue. It is, in a way, nice to see the likes of Mr. Ryan at least talking about the need to help the poor. But somehow their notion of aiding the poor involves slashing benefits while cutting taxes on the rich. Funny how that works.
The fact that Florida's Republican governor and legislature refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare was bad enough. Florida has the second highest number of uninsured people among all the states. About one quarter of Florida's population was uninsured before the health exchange opened in January. That's 3.8 million people. If the state were to expand Medicaid, one million of them would get Medicaid coverage. But it gets worse. Florida isn't just turning away Medicaid expansion money, they've jeopardized existing funding by refusing to comply with federal Medicaid law. The state has decided to impose a limit of six emergency room visits per year to Medicaid patients. The feds say Florida can't do that, Florida says, sure we can. And now they're losing funding.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration is in the midst of an appeal of the federal government's rejection of the six-visit limit. A September hearing is scheduled.
But while the fight has been pending, the state agency went ahead with its plan. [...]
It's unclear yet how much the state could be penalized. CMS says it will initially withhold 10 percent of whatever the state claims for certain administrative costs. That amount will go up 5 percent each quarter while the state remains out of compliance.
The state knew it was out of compliance imposing these limits because when they asked the feds for a waiver to do it, they were turned down. They knew that they could lose funding, and did it anyway. But that, as well as expansion refusal, are just part of the major Medicaid fiasco for Florida. The state has also passed a law back in 2011 that will be implemented in July, and could cost some hospitals in the state hundreds of millions of dollars. The law set up a new distribution system for funding, redistributing federal Medicaid dollars around the state.
Jackson Memorial Hospital is bracing again for big cuts--this time, the result of a new law that will send millions of federal dollars that used to go to Miami-Dade hospitals elsewhere in the state.
When the provision takes effect in July, healthcare systems across Miami-Dade County stand to lose $218 million in Medicaid matching funds, also known as Low Income Pool funds.
Jackson alone will shoulder a $140 million hit.
"That would be fairly catastrophic," Chief Executive Officer Carlos Migoya said. "We're at a point right now where we are fairly efficient. It's not like we have a whole lot of extra fat to cut." [...]
Taken as a group, the state's safety-net hospitals would be the biggest losers, enduring a total $300 million hit.
Of course. Because it's Florida, and the powers that be there just really don't care.
Bill Maher delivered an excellent final New Rule on how some of the 1% are whining about feeling persecuted.
Did you know that during World War II, FDR actually proposed a cap on income that in today's dollars would mean that no person could ever take home more than about $300,000? OK, that is a little low. (audience laughter) But wouldn't it be great if there were Democrats out there like that now, who would say to billionaires, "Oh, you're crying? We'll give you something to cry about. You don't want a minimum wage? How about we not only have a minimum wage, we have a maximum wage?"
That is not a new idea. James Madison, who wrote our Constitution, said, "Government should prevent an immoderate accumulation of riches." Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, they all agreed that too much money in the hands of too few would destroy democracy.
And what is the reality of wealth distribution in the US?
How absurd is this?
US influence helps draft Uganda anti-gay bill
Rachel Maddow shows the connection between American right=wing evangelicals and an extreme anti-gay law newly passed in Uganda.
Anti-gay bills abroad tied to US evangelicals
Jeff Sharlet, contributing editor for Harper's magazine, talks with Rachel Maddow about the role of American evangelicals in drafting anti-gay laws world-wide.
An idea permeates our modern view of relationships: that men and women have always paired off in sexually exclusive relationships. But before the dawn of agriculture, humans may actually have been quite promiscuous. Author Christopher Ryan walks us through the controversial evidence that human beings are sexual omnivores by nature, in hopes that a more nuanced understanding may put an end to discrimination, shame and the kind of unrealistic expectations that kill relationships.
Rome lived upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face. Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor, the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt; and the carts brought out nothing but loads of dung. That was their return cargo.
- The Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade (1871)
There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.
During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War.
As I wrote in The Party is Over, the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected (a goal that voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled states are clearly intended to accomplish). President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets: Because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. Democrats controlling the Senate have responded by weakening the filibuster of nominations, but Republicans are sure to react with other parliamentary delaying tactics. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.
Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented -- at least since the McCarthy era -- witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called "Insider Threat Program"). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions -- with the minor exception of comments from gadfly Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, save a few mavericks such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, are not unduly troubled, either -- even to the extent of permitting seemingly perjured congressional testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.
These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi's regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom's Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country's intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.
by Steven D
Pardon me for the provocative title, but this being the post-racial wonderland of America, where the only racists are minorities and self-hating white liberals (of which I suppose I must count myself as one), but when I saw a story that a white man, and not just an ordinary citizen, but a public official, not only claimed to own a family heirloom fashioned from the skin of a black man lynched in 1896, but also specifically told African American residents of Algood, TN (that is actually the name of the town, I swear on the spirit of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) in order to intimidate a young black man from filing a complaint against the Algood Fire Department because its Deputy Fire Chief had refused to give his mother CPR, which might have saved her life, because she was, well, BLACK!!!! (excuse the all caps, but I find them appropriate in this instance), why, I just had to ask.
Apparently, the answer to my question is a man named "William Sewell,"a long time medical investigator with the Tennessee Department of Health. Here's the rest of the story:
Last summer, Sewell began investigating a case involving the Algood Fire Department in Putnam County.
In an interview with the man who filed the complaint, Shun Mullins, Sewell began telling a graphic story about a black man who was lynched near Baxter, Tennessee, many years ago.
The state claimed Sewell's conduct in that interview could be perceived as a "form of intimidation" toward Mullins.
First, after asking if Mr. Mullins had ever been a guest of the state's penitentiary, he heard Mr. Mullins describe the refusal of The Algood Fire Department to save his mother's life, and then falsified medical reports to cover up that fact, Sewell decided to relate a little of his own family history regarding race relations:
"Mr. Sewell goes into a story about a hanging, that he had been told, about the hanging of a black man," Mullins said. [...]
"They hung him, and they started carving his skin out of his back. It was like he got excited telling this story," Allen remembered.
Judy Mainord said Sewell continued the story by saying, "They lowered the body, and all the white men standing around took turns removing the skin from the black man's back."
The three say Sewell finished with a shocking detail, that he still owned a "strap" of the lynched man's skin, passed down from his grandfather.
Thankfully, even the Great State of Tennessee recognized that this was
William Sewell sat down for an interview with NewsChannel 5 Investigates and said he was not trying to intimidate anyone.
"If they chose to conclude that was an intimidating comment, I'm sorry," Sewell said.
"It was a gruesome story. I got caught up in the moment trying to convince these people that I understood, and I just went too far," Sewell continued.
He said that he was trying to show Mr. Mullins that he understood bias in small towns.
In other words, he's no racist, he's a victim of an unfortunate misunderstanding by the
real racists misguided folks with a darker hued skin tone than his own. Right. And I'm P. Diddy's long lost twin brother. Honest.
By the way, the next time someone brings up the desire to preserve their "southern heritage" by having the "Confederate Flag" (you know the one I mean so no nitpicking please) officially acknowledged by, for example, having it embossed on his or her license plate (which the Georgia Department of Revenue recently agreed to do at the request of the Sons of Confederate Veterans), ask them if preserving the skin of a black man murdered by a mob of white people and passing it down to family members for, oh, I don't know how many generations, is part of that heritage, too. Because for some people we now know that it is.
You don't wake up one day no longer a racist. It takes generations to tear that intuition, that DNA, out of the soul of a people." (Lawrence Lessig)
There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way, and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond.
Before reading Krugman's criticism about the Comcast merger below, check out this article on the rip off US broadband companies are foisting on it's American consumers relative to other world wide service speeds and rates
Last week's big business news was the announcement that Comcast, a gigantic provider of cable TV and high-speed Internet service, has reached a deal to acquire Time Warner, which is merely huge. If regulators approve the deal, Comcast will be an overwhelmingly dominant player in the business, with around 30 million subscribers.
So let me ask two questions about the proposed deal. First, why would we even think about letting it go through? Second, when and why did we stop worrying about monopoly power?
On the first question, broadband Internet and cable TV are already highly concentrated industries, with a handful of corporations accounting for most of the customers. Once upon a time antitrust authorities, looking at this situation, would probably have been trying to cut Comcast down to size. Letting it expand would have been unthinkable.
Comcast's chief executive says not to worry: "It will not reduce competition in any relevant market because our companies do not overlap or compete with each other. In fact, we do not operate in any of the same ZIP codes." This is, however, transparently disingenuous. The big concern about making Comcast even bigger isn't reduced competition for customers in local markets -- for one thing, there's hardly any effective competition at that level anyway. It is that Comcast would have even more power than it already does to dictate terms to the providers of content for its digital pipes -- and that its ability to drive tough deals upstream would make it even harder for potential downstream rivals to challenge its local monopolies.
The point is that Comcast perfectly fits the old notion of monopolists as robber barons, so-called by analogy with medieval warlords who perched in their castles overlooking the Rhine, extracting tolls from all who passed. The Time Warner deal would in effect let Comcast strengthen its fortifications, which has to be a bad idea.
Interestingly, one cliché seems to be missing from the boilerplate arguments being deployed on behalf of this deal: I haven't seen anyone arguing that the deal would promote innovation. Maybe that's because anyone trying to make that argument would be met with snorts of derision. In fact, a number of experts -- like Susan Crawford of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, whose recent book "Captive Audience" bears directly on this case -- have argued that the power of giant telecommunication companies has stifled innovation, putting the United States increasingly behind other advanced countries.
And there are good reasons to believe that this isn't a story about just telecommunications, that monopoly power has become a significant drag on the U.S. economy as a whole.
There used to be a bipartisan consensus in favor of tough antitrust enforcement. During the Reagan years, however, antitrust policy went into eclipse, and ever since measures of monopoly power, like the extent to which sales in any given industry are concentrated in the hands of a few big companies, have been rising fast.
At first, arguments against policing monopoly power pointed to the alleged benefits of mergers in terms of economic efficiency. Later, it became common to assert that the world had changed in ways that made all those old-fashioned concerns about monopoly irrelevant. Aren't we living in an era of global competition? Doesn't the creative destruction of new technology constantly tear down old industry giants and create new ones?
The truth, however, is that many goods and especially services aren't subject to international competition: New Jersey families can't subscribe to Korean broadband. Meanwhile, creative destruction has been oversold: Microsoft may be an empire in decline, but it's still enormously profitable thanks to the monopoly position it established decades ago.
Moreover, there's good reason to believe that monopoly is itself a barrier to innovation. Ms. Crawford argues persuasively that the unchecked power of telecom giants has removed incentives for progress: why upgrade your network or provide better services when your customers have nowhere to go?
And the same phenomenon may be playing an important role in holding back the economy as a whole. One puzzle about recent U.S. experience has been the disconnect between profits and investment. Profits are at a record high as a share of G.D.P., yet corporations aren't reinvesting their returns in their businesses. Instead, they're buying back shares, or accumulating huge piles of cash. This is exactly what you'd expect to see if a lot of those record profits represent monopoly rents.
It's time, in other words, to go back to worrying about monopoly power, which we should have been doing all along. And the first step on the road back from our grand detour on this issue is obvious:
Say no to Comcast.
The story of how abolitionist allies William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown and Angelina Grimke turned a despised fringe movement against chattel slavery into a force that literally changed the nation.
Watch PBS American Experience
On November 29, 1781, the Zong, a slave ship carrying Africans to Jamaica, had a problem. Two months before, in their zeal for profits, the crew of the Zong stuffed the hold of the ship with more Africans than it could carry. By November, malnutrition and disease had taken the lives of seven crew members and almost 60 enslaved Africans.
Luke Collingwood, captain of the Zong, now made what he considered the best decision to stem the losses for his bosses in Liverpool. If he continued sailing, and delivered a pile of corpses to the Kingston docks, the owners had no redress. If, however, the sick Africans were lost at sea, then the shipowners' insurance would cover the loss. Under the "jettison" clause, enslaved persons were considered cargo, and their loss would be covered at £30 per head.
So on November 29, Collingwood did the "logical" thing: he ordered 54 sick Africans dumped overboard. Another 42 perished the next day, and 26 the day after that. 10 Africans voluntarily flung themselves overboard, in an act of defiance against the captain's decision. In all, 122 Africans were thrown overboard.
Yet when the ship owners filed their claim with the insurance company, things went downhill. The insurers disputed the claims of the captain and the owners-largely on the testimony of James Kelsall, First Mate on the Zong. According to the insurance claim, the Africans were thrown overboard "for the safety of the ship," as there wasn't enough water for the cargo and crew to survive the rest of the voyage. But Kelsall-who expressed doubts early on to Collingwood about the scheme-testified that there was plenty of water for the remaining leg of the journey. Indeed, when the Zong reached Jamaica on the 22nd of December, there was 422 gallons of drinking water in the hold.
The case went to court, and the court ruled in favor of Collingwood and the owners. During the appeals process, an ex-slave and author, Olaudah Equiano, brought the case-soon to be known as the "Zong Massacre"-to the attention of Granville Sharp, one of Britain's leading early abolitionists. Sharp immediately became involved in the prosecution of the appeal, even though eminent jurists such as John Lee, Soliciter General for England and Wales, dismissed the affair stating "the case was the same as if horses had been thrown overboard." This time, the court ruled that the ship owners were not eligible for insurance since the water in the hold proved that the cargo was mismanaged.
Sharp and his colleagues tried to press murder charges against Collingwood and the owners, but to no avail. The Solicitor General, John Lee, stated that:
"What is this claim that human people have been thrown overboard? This is a case of chattels or goods. Blacks are goods and property; it is madness to accuse these well-serving honourable men of murder. They acted out of necessity and in the most appropriate manner for the cause. The late Captain Collingwood acted in the interest of his ship to protect the safety of his crew. To question the judgement of an experienced well-travelled captain held in the highest regard is one of folly, especially when talking of slaves. The case is the same as if wood had been thrown overboard."
Lee hoped the matter would rest with his decision. Instead it unleashed a firestorm.
Within a few years of the Zong Massacre, abolitionists Thomas Clarkson and James Ramsay issued pamphlets and essays condemning the conditions of the slave trade. Together with Sharp and Equiano, they would approach a young member of Parliament from Yorkshire, William Wilberforce, to take up the cause of abolition.
Beginning in 1784, Wilberforce would lead a 50-year struggle in Parliament to abolish slavery in the British Empire. The efforts of abolitionists such as these led to the 1807 law abolishing the slave trade. 26 years later, the British Parliament outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire. The British abolition movement inspired similar movements worldwide-including a burgeoning anti-slavery movement across the Atlantic that would lead to civil war and eventual emancipation.
And to think...it was all sparked by insurance fraud.
Hopefully this piggie won't get away.
The highly-anticipated first degree murder trial of Michael Dunn continued this week in Jacksonville, Florida. Faith Jenkins and Michael Skolnik go over the details of the case and why there are comparisons being made to the talk about why there are comparisons being between this case and the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Spies of Mississippi tells the story of a secret spy agency formed by the state of Mississippi to preserve segregation during the 1950s and '60s. The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission evolved from a predominantly public relations agency to a full-fledged spy operation, spying on over 87,000 Americans over the course of a decade. The Commission employed a network of investigators and informants, including African Americans, to help infiltrate some of the largest Black organizations -- NAACP, CORE, and SNCC. They were granted broad powers to investigate private citizens and organizations, keep secret files, make arrests and compel testimony.
The film reveals the full scope and impact of the Commission, including its links to private White supremacist organizations, its ties to investigative agencies in other states, and even a program to bankroll the opposition to civil rights legislation in Washington D.C. Spies of Mississippi tracks the Commission's hidden role in many of the most important chapters of the civil rights movement, including the integration of the University of Mississippi, the trial of Medgar Evers, and the KKK murders of three civil rights workers in 1964.
Watch the clips now and the full movie soon at Independent Lens PBS
from a TruthDig article:
Excellent post, Russ. today we are being blind sided, being told we are number one..righteous and need to enslave the World to our policies. the fact is America is now beilng said is the Worlds biggest threat to peace.
Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball
Capitalism is dead, but we still dance with the corpse
By Joe Bageant
Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico
As an Anglo European white guy from a very long line of white guys, I want to thank all the brown, black, yellow and red people for a marvelous three-century joy ride. During the past 300 years of the industrial age, as Europeans, and later as Americans, we have managed to consume infinitely more than we ever produced, thanks to colonialism, crooked deals with despotic potentates and good old gunboats and grapeshot. Yes, we have lived, and still live, extravagant lifestyles far above the rest of you. And so, my sincere thanks to all of you folks around the world working in sweatshops, or living on two bucks a day, even though you sit on vast oil deposits. And to those outside my window here in Mexico this morning, the two guys pruning the retired gringo's hedges with what look like pocket knives, I say, keep up the good work. It's the world's cheap labor guys like you -- the black, brown and yellow folks who take it up the shorts -- who make capitalism look like it actually works. So keep on humping. Remember: We've got predator drones.
After twelve generations of lavish living at the expense of the rest of the world, it is understandable that citizens of the so-called developed countries have come to consider it quite normal. In fact, Americans expect it to become plusher in the future, increasingly chocked with techno gadgetry, whiz bang processed foodstuffs, automobiles, entertainments, inordinately large living spaces -- forever.
We've had plenty of encouragement, especially in recent times. Before our hyper monetized economy metastasized, things such as housing values went through the sky, and the cost of basics, food etc. went through the basement floor, compared to the rest of the world. The game got so cheap and fast that relative fundamental value went right out the window and hasn't been seen since. For example, it would be very difficult to make Americans understand that a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs have more inherent value than an iPhone. Yet, at ground zero of human species economics, where the only currency is the calorie, that is still true.
Such is the triumph of the money economy that nothing can be valued by any other measure, despite that nobody knows what money is worth at all these days. This is due in part to the international finance jerk-off, in which the world's governments print truckloads of worthless money, so they can loan it out. The idea here is that incoming repayment in some other, more valuable, currency will cover their own bad paper. In turn, the debtor nations print their own bogus money to repay the loans. So you have institutions loaning money they do not have to institutions unable to repay the loans. All this is based on the bullshit theory that tangible wealth is being created by the world's financial institutions, through interest on the debt. Money making money.
As my friend, physicist and political activist George Salzman writes,
"Everyone in these 'professional' institutions dealing in money lives a fundamentally dishonest life. Never mind 'regulating' interest rates," he says. "We must do away with interest, with the very idea of 'money making money'. We must recognize that what is termed 'Western Civilization' is in fact an anti-civilization, a global social structure of death and destruction. However, the charade of ever-increasing debt can be kept up only as long as the public remains ignorant. Once ecological limits have been reached the capitalist political game is up."
By David Sirota
"Cognitive dissonance" is the clinical term used to describe stress that arises from holding contradictory beliefs. In politics, this term is a misnomer, because while many lawmakers, operatives and activists present oxymoronic views, many of them don't appear to feel any stress about that. When it comes to budgetary matters, such a lack of remorse translates into something even worse than cognitive dissonance--something more akin to pathology. It is what I've previously called Selective Deficit Disorder--and it was hard to miss in the last few weeks.
In Washington, for instance, the disorder was on prominent display in Congress's new farm bill. Citing deficit concerns, House Republicans crafted the bill to include an $8 billion cut to the federal food stamp program. Yet, the same bill increased massive subsidies that disproportionately benefit wealthy farmers and agribusinesses. In all, the conservative American Enterprise Institute reports that under the bill, annual subsidies could increase by up to $15 billion.
In this textbook episode of Selective Deficit Disorder, deficits were cited as a reason to slash a program that serves low-income Americans. However, those same deficits were suddenly ignored when it came to handing over billions to a corporate special interest.
In state capitals, Selective Deficit Disorder is similarly distorting debates over public workers' pensions. As a new analysis from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First documented this week, 10 states have pled poverty to justify draconian cuts to retiree benefits. But, as the report notes, in those same states "the total annual cost of corporate subsidies, tax breaks and loopholes exceeds the total current annual pension costs." In other words, deficits are being used as a rationale to eviscerate a program that benefits middle-class workers, yet those deficits are somehow no barrier to subsidy programs that primarily benefit the corporate class.
Even the sports world is plagued by Selective Deficit Disorder. For proof of that, consider the politics swirling around last week's Super Bowl in the New York City region.
There, New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo just put forward an austerity budget that many school officials say will result in big cuts to academic programs and teaching staff. This followed his earlier insistence "that government must be more efficient and cut the cost of the bureaucracy." Yet, the same governor spent $5 million of taxpayer resources on Super Bowl promotions and parties. That included a taxpayer-financed party for more than 3,500 members of the media.
On the other side of the Hudson River, the contrast was even more pronounced. In the name of fiscal responsibility, Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., has cut the pensions of New Jersey's public employees and reduced education funding. Yet, he had his state cough up almost $18 million to subsidize the big game. That was in addition to the $400 million the New York Times noted New Jersey taxpayers spent to improve the Meadowlands. It was also on top of the special property tax breaks New Jersey gave the NFL.
Once again, the politicians asked their constituents to simultaneously believe there is no money to meet basic needs, but there is plenty of money to subsidize corporate profits.
Though these three examples of Selective Deficit Disorder differ from one another, the common thread tying them together is cash. Indeed, in each episode, deficits were cited as a reason to stiff a middle-class constituency, but they were never mentioned when appeasing the demands of a wealthy constituency.
That double standard reflects how modern politics is not really a battle between Democrats and Republicans. It is a battle between those with lots of money and those with comparatively less. The persistence of Selective Deficit Disorder proves that the former are winning.
But wait, there's more!
This is a crucial move to protect open access of the internet and not allow service providers to determine what content gets favored or not.
by Keith Wagstaff
Democrats in Congress have introduced a bill that would restore Net neutrality regulations, less than a month after a court decision struck them down.
"It basically says, 'Remember the court decision from a couple of weeks ago? Forget about that,'" John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Internet freedom advocacy group Public Knowledge, told NBC News. "Right now there are no rules in place. This is basically saying, while the FCC is making up its mind, the previous rules are in place."
Reps. Anna Eshoo and Henry Waxman, both D-Calif., introduced the Open Internet Preservation Act in the House, while Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
"The Internet is an engine of economic growth because it has always been an open platform for competition and innovation," Waxman (pictured above) said in a statement. "Our bill very simply ensures that consumers can continue to access the content and applications of their choosing online."
If passed, the legislation would require that broadband providers treat all Internet traffic equally. That is how it worked before Jan. 14, when a U.S. appeals court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission couldn't impose Net neutrality regulations because it classified broadband providers more like Google than a telephone or power company.
That created fears among Internet activists that companies like Verizon and AT&T could charge some sites more for faster access -- a fear shared by companies like YouTube and Netflix, which together account for more than half of downstream Internet traffic in the United States.
Despite the fact that no companies have announced plans to institute a tiered pricing system, Democrats in the House and Senate claimed in a statement that the bill is necessary to prevent "broadband providers from discriminating against or even blocking online content."
The bill has a chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate. It's odds look worse in the House, where Republicans hold a 241-194 advantage. That means it could simply be a move by Democrats to put pressure on the FCC to act more quickly.
"I wouldn't count on it passing," Bergmayer said. "It's still an important bill. It sends a message.
Imagine if you could surf Facebook ... from the Middle Ages. Well, it may not be as far off as it sounds. In a fun and interesting talk, researcher and engineer Frederic Kaplan shows off the Venice Time Machine, a project to digitize 80 kilometers of books to create a historical and geographical simulation of Venice across 1000 years.
Is there an equation for intelligence? Yes. It's F = T ∇ Sτ. In a fascinating and informative talk, physicist and computer scientist Alex Wissner-Gross explains what in the world that means
I,__________________, being of sound mind and body, do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means.
Under no circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of pinhead politicians who couldn't pass ninth grade biology if their lives depended on it, or lawyers/doctors interested in simply running up the bills.
If a reasonable amount of time passes and I fail to ask for at least one of the following:
Glass of wine
Chicken fried steak
Cup of tea
It should be presumed that I won't ever get better. When such a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my appointed person and attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes, let the 'fat lady sing,' and call it a day!
hat tip to John De Silveira
If the Alberta tarsands oil comes fully on line with the Keystone pipeline project given the green light, the climate change game is over.
By Ryan Koronowski
The State Department released its final supplemental environmental impact statement on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on Friday. Critics and supporters of the pipeline alike have awaited the report, ever since President Obama last year singled out carbon pollution as a parameter in Keystone's national interest calculation.
The newly-released report admits to the obvious: that "the total direct and indirect emissions" of the project "would contribute to cumulative global GHG emissions." But in its final analysis, it says the proposed pipeline is "unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas," and does not look at the overall greenhouse gas emissions of the tar sands oil that would flow through it.
The pipeline's prospects remain a mystery, much like they were when the draft environmental impact statement was released last year: it still says that the pipeline is not a big deal, will not appreciably increase carbon pollution, and will not have a significant environmental impact. But the report does not consider a scenario in which smaller amounts of tar sands oils are extracted, transported, and consumed. Every single scenario measured in it assumes that a Keystone XL-sized amount of tar sands oil will get burned.
But there are seven important facts that the state department's survey left out:
1. Keystone XL, Not Rail, Is the Only Feasible Option</h3>
The final EIS says that "rail will likely be able to accommodate new production if new pipelines are delayed or not constructed." This argument is also put forward by supporters, and essentially says that if the tar sands oil will not be exported via this pipeline, it will just be shipped away via railway -- meaning approval of the project will not result in significant carbon pollution increases. Yet an analysis by Reuters' Patrick Rucker found that rail transport is too expensive and just is not feasible. Industry officials we very skeptical about adopting crude-by-rail as an alternative, meaning that oil companies with a stake in the dirty tar sands deposits see Keystone XL as essential to getting that oil to market.
2. KXL's 'Alternative,' Shipping Oil by Pipeline or Rail, Is Dangerous
Alberta's oil pipeline network has experienced 28,666 crude oil spills in the last 37 years according to a recent investigation by Global News. Spills like this have led to hugely damaging environmental disasters. Pipelines already carrying heavy crude oil from Canada have caused spills that have emptied neighborhoods like Mayflower, Arkansas. Shipping crude oil by rail is not just unfeasible and expensive -- it's also incredibly dangerous. Forty-seven people died and the center of the town of Lac Mégantic, Quebec was destroyed when an oil train came loose and ignited in a huge fireball last summer. In November, an 80-car train carrying oil derailed and exploded in Alabama. In December, a crude oil train derailed and exploded in North Dakota. A crude oil train derailed on a bridge in Philadelphia earlier this month.
3. KXL's Tar Sands Oil Is Really Dirty
The problem with extracting and burning tar sands oil is that it is the dirtiest type of liquid fuel on the planet. It's hugely energy-intensive to get out of the ground, and one of the big byproducts is something called "petcoke" -- a coal-like, high-sulfur, high-carbon solid that burns dirtier than coal. It also tends to get stored in huge piles that can release huge, dirty dust clouds on unsuspecting residents. More tar sands from Keystone XL would mean more petcoke. It is also a big project -- if completed the pipeline would carry and emit 181 million metric tons of CO2 every year. That's more than 37.7 million cars or 51 coal plants.
4. Oil From KXL Is Not Guaranteed to Stay In America
During a Congressional hearing in 2012, then-Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) asked Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada's pipeline head if the company would support legislation requiring Canadian oil and refined byproducts to be sold only in the U.S. "so that this country realizes all of the energy security benefits your company and others have promised?" Mr. Poirbaix said, "no, I can't do that."
5. The Pipeline Could Increase Oil Spills
So if large amounts of the Canadian tar sands oil product goes to foreign markets, this would do little for any concept of American energy security. What Americans would have to deal with are spills and leaks, which are already getting a preview with the already-constructed southern leg of the pipeline. As that leg was being built, TransCanada had to excavate and fix over 125 dents and sags, and fears from locals in Texas have led to the formation of a sort of "giant neighborhood watch" to monitor for leaks.
6. Gas Prices Will Rise Thanks To Keystone XL
A report last year from Consumer Watchdog found that if Keystone XL was approved, American consumers, especially in the Midwest, would see higher gas prices to the tune of $3-4 billion per year. The construction of the pipeline would mean much of of the oil would likely be sent down to refineries in Texas, bypassing the Midwest and reducing supply. This would mean that local gas prices would rise by 20-40 cents in the region, and a few cents nationally.
7. 'Keystone XL Will Have Permanent Impacts on Wildlife'
The Interior Department sent a letter to the State Department following the last DEIS that explained how the pipeline would have "permanent impacts on wildlife" and seriously affect National Park Service lands and Historic Trails. The main concerns detailed by Interior include light and noise pollution in , and particularly how a spill in any of the areas that drain into two nationally-managed rivers. Even though they changed the old route a couple years ago to try to fix this, a spill could threaten the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies 83 percent of Nebraska's irrigation water.
This report does not mean that the the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline has final approval. A State Department official told the Washington Post Thursday night that the report "is not a decision, but another step in the process prescribed by the Executive Order."
With the release of State's final environmental report, the clock is about to start running on a 30-day public comment period -- and 90 days during which federal agencies can weigh in. The public comment period runs from February 5th to March 7th, while the agencies have 60 days more. Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier this month, "my hope is that before long that analysis will be available, and then my work begins." After those 90 days, it will be up to President Obama.
If the assumptions about how much carbon emissions will be emitted by pipeline, rail, or tanker are truly the baseline (the so-called "business-as-usual" scenario), the Administration's international commitments will become unrealistic and unattainable.
Proud To Be
Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress writes:
The NCAI ad is a forceful and often beautiful reminder that Native Americans aren't a monolithic community. That's a term that subsumes hundreds of specific identities, a huge range of cultural and artistic practices-and yes, as the ad doesn't neglect to leave out-specific sets of social and political issues.
"Native American" may be a blanket identity category, but it's one that invites curiosity, asking hearers to consider what came before the political and territorial consolidation of the United States, and the fact that American identity is rich and multifaceted, rather than a single way of being. "[R--skins]" is both a slur, and a term that invites the listener to skip over the work of thinking about what it means. "[R--skin]" reduces Native Americans to simply the color of their skin, and to the attributes we associate with football (a practice that's also a product of a very specific marketing history, as my colleague Travis Waldron reported in his epic look at the fight against the Washington football team's name): physical strength, maybe speed, and not much else. Not only is that kind of thinking profoundly lazy and racially reductive, it's a tragedy both for the people who are subjected to it, and the people who deny themselves the experience of more of the world by practicing it.
There are two Americas. In one, bankers get golden parachutes, insider traders return to society as well-paid consultants, and influence is for sale. In the other, opportunity is scarce and forgiveness scarcer, jail awaits those caught possessing recreational drugs, and cries for help are ignored. Society preaches forgiveness for the rich and retribution for the poor. Entrenched inequality and its companion, poverty, are the dark side of the American dream for a citizenry united by name, but not by rules.
Is the divide fair, the result of natural winners and losers, or is it built into the system? We know that inequality is bad for the rich as well as the poor, and that more equal countries are healthier and happier, but this knowledge won't bring change by itself. What can be done when those with the power to change the divide are those that benefit most from it? As long as the more equal won't let go, the less equal will suffer.
From his journalist days on the crime beat through to his work on shows like The Wire and Treme, David Simon has brought the divide between these two America's to life like no other. Simon looks at the oppressed, the victims of manmade disasters such as the war on drugs through to natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina, and forces us to ask whether the fictional stories he shows us on screen are any less real than the theatre of compassion we see on the news from the very same people who have the power to treat all citizens equally but choose not to.
David Simon is a journalist, author, and television writer/producer best known as the creator and showrunner of HBO series The Wire and Treme. He spent twelve years on the crime beat for the Baltimore Sun. He also worked on the adaptations of his books Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood for NBC and HBO respectively.
Truly a great actor and one of my all time favorites.
Born in Fairport, New York, the versatile actor was accomplished in both theater and on the big screen. He earned three Tony nominations, three supporting actor Academy Award nominations (including 2012's "The Master"), and won a best actor Oscar for 2005's "Capote." He was most recently seen as Plutarch Heavensbee in the "Hunger Games" sequel "Catching Fire."
Hoffman was not a traditional-looking leading man, but carried a twinkle in his eye and a gravitas to his manner and voice that made him a formidable presence on the screen, whether as the charismatic cult leader in "Master," a beleaguered priest in 2008's "Doubt" or the suspicious playboy in 1999's "The Talented Mr. Ripley." He rarely took television roles, but got one of his earliest breaks on "Law & Order" as a punk who commits sexual assault, in 1991.
Hoffman's three Tony nominations came from his work on three Broadway plays: two for best leading actor in "True West" in 2000 and "Death of a Salesman" in 2012; and one for best featured actor in "Long Day's Journey into Night" in 2003.
Hoffman had a son and two daughters with his longtime partner, Mimi O'Donnell.
An orangutan was reading the bible and Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
A man saw him and asked him why he was reading those two books.
He replied, "I'm trying to figure out if I'm my brother's keeper or my keeper's brother."