Saturday, August 20, 2011

Putin Calls US 'Parasite' as Russia Gobbles Its Debt

Alena Chechel, Scott Rose and Jack Jordan, Bloomberg
Excerpt: "Russia, the world's largest energy producer, has boosted its holdings of US debt by more than 1,600 percent since September 2006, according to US Treasury Department data. Russia used surging commodity prices to build the world's third-largest reserves pile, boosted in part by return on Treasuries."

Perry Dumber Than Bush

Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast
Tomasky writes: "Nearly every day has brought forth a new gem. On Thursday, he told a New Hampshire school-age child that he's 'not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely' how old the Earth is. He preceded these with a remark about Barack Obama not being respected by the military. And, of course, there was the infamous statement that Ben Bernanke would be committing 'treason' by priming the economy. Not bad - nail the black guy and the Jew in your very first week on the trail."

FOCUS: Does Rick Perry Have a Porn Problem?

Justin Elliott, Salon
Justin Elliott reports: "Here's an interesting tidbit from Rick Perry's past to keep an eye on. In the mid-1990s, the presidential candidate owned stock in a video rental store chain whose hardcore porn offerings drew the ire of conservative groups. Ironically, it was the social conservative crusaders at the American Family Association - the very group that helped organize Perry's stadium prayer rally this month - who spent years on an anti-porn campaign targeting the company."

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Probing Obama Birth Certificate 'Evidence'

A conservative website claimed Thursday that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has promised to investigate President Barack Obama's eligibility to run for re-election.

According to WorldNetDaily,about 325 so-called birthers gathered Wednesday night to sign a petition alleging that Obama planned to use a fake birth certificate to run for office in 2012.

Jerome Corsi, author of, Where's the Birth Certificate? reportedly presented Arpaio with the petition during a one-hour meeting Thursday.

"Arpaio told the tea party leaders the complaint is within his jurisdiction, and he will be forced to investigate," WND wrote. "He said he expects political pressure, but he pointed out that as the chief law enforcement officer of Maricopa County, he's taken an oath to respond to citizens who approach him about enforcing the law."

But in a statement

Friday, Arpaio had a slightly different version of events.

"What I have agreed to do, contrary to some published media reports, is simply look at the evidence these people have assembled and examine whether it is within my jurisdiction to investigate the document's authenticity," Arpaio said.

It's Not Just News Corp: Why Telecommunications Companies in the US May Be Spying on You Every Day

There is reason to believe that the media we've entrusted to investigate abuses of privacy are part of the cover up.
August 18, 2011

When Guardian reporter, Nick Davies, broke the story that Rupert Murdoch's News of the World had been hacking British citizens' voicemail messages, including those of a murdered teenager, there was a public outcry. Unfortunately, this is the tip of a glacial iceberg that has the potential to bring down a lot more than the News of the World.

Last year, without due public debate and input, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Justice Department approved a merger between Comcast and NBC Universal that gave the Internet cable giant control over the programming of NBC news. At the same time, pursuant to the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act, Comcast as well as all other telecommunication companies are required to cooperate with the Federal government in providing the facility for government to search through all electronic communications sent down their pipes.

So presently, the government, with the help of Comcast and other telecommunication companies, can hack everyone's phone and email conversations. Here also lies a new 21st century media model: a telecom company that owns and operates the infrastructure for the digital transmission of news and information; simultaneously owns the newsroom; and uses it infrastructure to assist the government in mass, warrantless surveillance of all American citizens.

Major Backlash at Right-Wing Ohio Governor Has Him Scrambling for 'Compromise' With Progressives

Recall victories in Wisconsin and plummeting approval ratings have John Kasich scared--and now he wants to make a deal with labor and progressive groups.
August 19, 2011

It turns out that wholesale attacks on workers' rights aren't nearly as popular in a rough economy as conservative governors thought.

The latest one to realize he's overstepped his bounds and offer “compromise”? Ohio governor John Kasich.

Kasich, elected in 2010 with just 49 percent of the vote, pushed through an attack on public workers similar to the one Wisconsin's Scott Walker championed. Senate Bill 5 (SB5) was passed and signed into law in March, and eliminated most collective bargaining for state workers, as well as increased the amount of money they had to pay for their pensions and made it harder for unions to collect dues.

It spawned mass protests that might have been overshadowed in the public imagination by the sheer size of the Madison resistance. But progressives sat up and took notice when Ohio activists, led by the coalition group We Are Ohio, collected 1.3 million signatures on a petition to allow Ohioans to vote on the bill themselves, putting it on the ballot in November's election. Ohio's "Citizen Veto" is an unusual law; it gave activists 90 days to collect a minimum of 231,149 signatures to stop the bill going into effect until the voters have a chance to decide. The results were so outstanding—more than five times the required number of signatures--that the group and 6,000 supporters held a parade through the city of Columbus to deliver the signatures to the secretary of state's office.


A Radical New Definition of Addiction Creates a Big Storm

A sweeping new definition of addiction stakes out controversial positions that many, including the powerful psychiatric lobby, are likely to argue with.
August 18, 2011

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If you think addiction is all about booze, drugs, sex, gambling, food and other irresistible vices, think again. And if you believe that a person has a choice whether or not to indulge in an addictive behavior, get over it. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) blew the whistle on these deeply held notions with its official release of a new document defining addiction as a chronic neurological disorder involving many brain functions, most notably a devastating imbalance in the so-called reward circuitry. This fundamental impairment in the experience of pleasure literally compels the addict to chase the chemical highs produced by substances like drugs and alcohol and obsessive behaviors like sex, food and gambling.

The definition, a result of a four-year process involving more than 80 leading experts in addiction and neurology, emphasizes that addiction is a primary illness—in other words, it’s not caused by mental health issues such as mood or personality disorders, putting to rest the popular notion that addictive behaviors are a form of "self-medication" to, say, ease the pain of depression or anxiety.

Indeed, the new neurologically focused definition debunks, in whole or in part, a host of common conceptions about addiction. Addiction, the statement declares, is a “bio-psycho-socio-spiritual” illness characterized by (a) damaged decision-making (affecting learning, perception, and judgment) and by (b) persistent risk and/or recurrence of relapse; the unambiguous implications are that (a) addicts have no control over their addictive behaviors and (b) total abstinence is, for some addicts, an unrealistic goal of effective treatment.

The bad behaviors themselves are all symptoms of addiction, not the disease itself. "The state of addiction is not the same as the state of intoxication," the ASAM takes pains to point out. Far from being evidence of a failure of will or morality, the behaviors are the addict's attempt to resolve the general "dysfunctional emotional state" that develops in tandem with the disease. In other words, conscious choice plays little or no role in the actual state of addiction; as a result, a person cannot choose not to be addicted. The most an addict can do is choose not to use the substance or engage in the behavior that reinforces the entire self-destructive reward-circuitry loop.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Anti-Choice Plot to Lure Desperate Women to Christian Pregnancy Centers

Many crisis pregnancy centers are converting into limited-service medical clinics. With Planned Parenthood under attack, will they be more of a draw for women?
August 18, 2011

There are between 2,500 and 4,000 crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) operating in the US, all devoted to preventing the women who walk through their doors from getting abortions (meanwhile fewer than 2,000 clinics offer abortion). Some of these anti-abortion centers are part of massive evangelical Christian ministries, some are standalones, and others are attached to individual Catholic churches, whose priests sometimes bless the centers' ultrasound machines to power them with extra holiness for their main task: convincing a woman who may want to have an abortion to have a baby instead. Thanks to George W. Bush's breezy hand-outs of public money to Christian abstinence programs, many of these religious, anti-choice centers got millions in federal funding in the 2000s.

Many centers don't look too different from regular women's health clinics, and that's the whole point. If a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy walks into a CPC assuming it's a women's health clinic and not a front in the abortion wars, she's more likely to believe what they tell her there: like when a staffer says that abortion causes breast cancer (not according to actual studies), or that she might bleed to death on the table (so unlikely it's close to impossible), or that she can't have an abortion if she lacks legal residency (blatantly false), or any number of misleading and manipulative tactics documented in investigations of CPCs over the years. (In one case, a volunteer handed an undercover investigator a model of a 12-week-old fetus to "show her boyfriend.") (See the 2004 Waxman report [PDF] and the results of an undercover investigation by NARAL Pro-choice Maryland Fund [PDF].)

Not all CPCs misinform women about their intentions or wave plastic fetuses in their faces. Some are clear about their anti-abortion stance and a lot offer services helpful to children after they've exited the womb, like child care and parental education, which is not something that can be said for most of the players in the anti-choice movement.

Still, multiple investigations have revealed that CPCs use a wide variety of tactics to lure pregnant women in order to scare, guilt and manipulate them into carrying their pregnancies to term. Some advertise in the same part of the Yellow Pages as abortion providers. Many are situated right next to Planned Parenthood clinics. A representative of the National Abortion Federation told AlterNet a member clinic reported that volunteers from a neighboring CPC have intercepted women headed into the clinic and steered them into the CPC instead.


Shock Doctrine in Practice: The Connection Between Nighttime Robbery In the Streets and Daytime Robbery By Elites

When you rob people of what little they have, in order to protect the interests of those who have more than anyone deserves, you should expect resistance.
August 17, 2011

The following article first appeared on the Web site of The Nation.

I keep hearing comparisons between the London riots and riots in other European cities—window smashing in Athens or car bonfires in Paris. And there are parallels, to be sure: a spark set by police violence, a generation that feels forgotten.

But those events were marked by mass destruction; the looting was minor. There have, however, been other mass lootings in recent years, and perhaps we should talk about them too. There was Baghdad in the aftermath of the US invasion—a frenzy of arson and looting that emptied libraries and museums. The factories got hit too. In 2004 I visited one that used to make refrigerators. Its workers had stripped it of everything valuable, then torched it so thoroughly that the warehouse was a sculpture of buckled sheet metal.

Back then the people on cable news thought looting was highly political. They said this is what happens when a regime has no legitimacy in the eyes of the people. After watching for so long as Saddam and his sons helped themselves to whatever and whomever they wanted, many regular Iraqis felt they had earned the right to take a few things for themselves. But London isn’t Baghdad, and British Prime Minister David Cameron is hardly Saddam, so surely there is nothing to learn there.

How about a democratic example then? Argentina, circa 2001. The economy was in freefall and thousands of people living in rough neighborhoods (which had been thriving manufacturing zones before the neoliberal era) stormed foreign-owned superstores. They came out pushing shopping carts overflowing with the goods they could no longer afford—clothes, electronics, meat. The government called a “state of siege” to restore order; the people didn’t like that and overthrew the government.

Argentina’s mass looting was called El Saqueo—the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country’s elites had done by selling off the country’s national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatization deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centers would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge.


The Handmaid's Tale

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel, a work of science fiction or speculative fiction,[1] written by Canadian author Margaret Atwood[2][3] and first published by McClelland and Stewart in 1985. Set in the near future, in a totalitarian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government, The Handmaid's Tale explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain agency. The novel was inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, which is a series of connected stories ("The Merchant's Tale", "The Parson's Tale", etc.).[4]

The Handmaid's Tale won the 1985 Governor General's Award and the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987, and it was nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award, the 1986 Booker Prize, and the 1987 Prometheus Award. It has been adapted for the cinema, radio, opera, and stage.

The Handmaid's Tale is set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead, a country formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America. It was founded by a racist, male chauvinist, nativist, theocratic-organized military coup as an ideologically driven response to the pervasive ecological, physical and social degradation of the country.

Beginning with a staged terrorist attack (blamed on Islamic extremist terrorists) that kills the President and most of Congress, a movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launched a revolution and suspended the United States Constitution under the pretext of restoring order.

Taking advantage of electronic banking, they were quickly able to freeze the assets of all women and other "undesirables" in the country, stripping them of their rights. The new theocratic military dictatorship, styled "The Republic of Gilead", moved quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsorily Christian regime of Old Testament-inspired social and religious orthodoxy among its newly created social classes.


Meet the Christian Dominionist 'Prayer Warriors' Who Have Chosen Rick Perry as Their Vehicle to Power

The New Apostolic Reformation seeks dominion over society and government -- and it looks like Perry is their chosen candidate.
August 15, 2011

A version of this piece appeared on Talk to Action.

Since he announced his candidacy on Saturday, Texas Governor Rick Perry has been hailed as the great GOP hope of 2012. Perry's entry into the chaotic Republican primary race has excited the establishment in part because he does not have Michele Bachmann's reputation for religious zealotry, yet can likely count on the support of the Religious Right.

Another advantage for Perry is support from an extensive 50-state “prayer warrior” network, organized by the New Apostolic Reformation. A religious-political movement whose leaders call themselves apostles and prophets, NAR shares its agenda for control of society and government with other “dominionists,” but has a distinctly different theology than other groups in the Religious Right. They have their roots in Pentecostalism (though their theology has been denounced as a heresy by Pentecostal denominations in the past). The movement is controversial, even inside conservative evangelical circles. Nevertheless, Perry took the gamble that NAR could help him win the primaries, a testament to the power of the apostles’ 50-state prayer warrior network.

Why the Mainstream Media Are Clueless About the Religious Right

"Wifely Submission? Really Michele Bachmann? Houston... We have a Problem!"

Though it has shaped American politics for the last 40 years, the religious right still baffles reporters.
August 16, 2011

Every four years, just as a presidential campaign kicks up, legions of media types who make their living outside the right-wing echo chamber emerge as a militia of Margaret Meads, descending on flyover country, trying to make sense of that exotic phenomenon, the religious right. In the end, those who actually get it are few.

From the attitudes shown by media toward the religious right, you'd never know that more than one-quarter of the U.S. population identify as evangelicals, according to a 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and among white self-identified evangelicals, 62 percent told Pew in 2006 that they believe the Bible to be the literal word of God.


Debt, Debt, Debt: 90% of Americans Experience Income Decline As Wealth Gets Sucked Back Into Top .1% -- Debt Explodes As We Try to Make Ends Meet

Americans have made up for the decline in income by taking on large amounts of debt.
August 14, 2011

The cuts in taxes for the mega-wealthy have led to record wealth inequality and resulted in a huge national deficit. Meanwhile, to make up for the deficit created in part by tax giveaways to one-tenth of one percent of the population, Democrats and Republicans are committed to making draconian budget cuts to vital social services, which target the poor, middle class, elderly and sick, while handing out billions more in corporate welfare annually. (Inequality = Debt = Austerity)

Just as the government has done, to make up for tax revenue lost to the mega-wealthy, Americans have made up for the decline in income by taking on large amounts of debt as well. (Inequality = Debt)


Thursday, August 18, 2011

These are the prospects the Tea Party is selling!

They just said on the news that the world economy is tanking. My conjecture is that this is exactly what austerity measures -- accepted by a host of foreign nations -- do. This is because the removal of money from circulation among the masses, is relentless, both by the government and by the wealthy whose businesses are designed to accumulate it. If measures are not taken, to prevent or slow the accumulation of wealth by large corps, coupled with the gov't collecting taxes and reducing spending. Well, in the end it's a formula
for economic stagnation or worse.

Yesterday they said on the news that during the last market drop, some 40 billion dollars were withdrawn from mutual fund accounts. So, one is left to wonder who withdrew that money. Was it a handful of money managers -- 100,000, or less, of them drawing some 4,000,000 or more apiece? Or 4 million, or more, smaller investors drawing some 10,000 apiece to make ends meet? Drawing sums to keep their businesses running, stave off foreclosure or otherwise
pay down debt. Or simply a "flight to safety".

Either way, if it was "little people", the economy should see some kind of "bounce" over the next few weeks, if they're paying expenses with this money. Of course any bounce will be short lived. Businesses live on a constant stream of cash flows. If their products aren't moving and profitably so, then staying in business simply fritters away capital that would be needed, if and when their prospects improve. If the business isn't paying the interest on it's loans from profits, then it's got to engage cost cutting, to stay afloat. That means cutting staff and hoarding capital, with which to meet their loan payments.

Only the gov't does not have to produce anything, in exchange for the money it collects! It's "liabilities" are the responsibilities that governing entails. If it also cuts costs, then expect it to also shed its attention to its responsibilities. Assuming governance is needed by a nation, to manage it's affairs, then predictably the nation will suffer ever more greatly, as gov't cuts it's spending. Meanwhile, how does the gov't meet it's own interest payments, when the economy isn't producing the taxable incomes needed?
The answer is: Inflation! It simply prints up the money it needs, without the income to "cover". The expansion of the money supply, in this way, reduces the value of the currency. Meanwhile the twin uncertainties of inflation and/or higher interest rate expectations, leaves businesses in a quandry as to which way to turn next.

The sum of it all is that the middle class, becomes cash strapped, and can then, no longer support the mass buying routines that keep companies afloat and profitable. Unlike in earlier times, most of today's products, involve the product of several suppliers. These suppliers, in their turn, depend on sales to many companies in order to remain profitable. Thus, most companies cannot survive with just a handful of wealthy customers to serve. When they go out of business, in spite of the fact that they have a few customers willing to pay higher prices, the supply chain breaks and several other companies, find themselves unable to complete the production of their own products. This turns into a "cascade" of businesses either failing or closing down for lack of parts and supplies.

So, even for the wealthy this has dire consequences, as even they cannot get
the goods or services they want or need. People dropping out of the utilities grids, for example, causes food service businesses to pay more for their utilities. The loss of laundry services or glassware factories, puts the favorite 'watering holes" of the wealthy out of business. Soon they have no
where to gather in pleasant, well attended surroundings. What good is living in a "gated community" if you have to make your own glassware, fire your own chinaware, weave your own cloth etc., on and on? You might just as well be living among the "unwashed", for all the work you'll be required to do for yourself, even though you have the money to pay others to do your work, you will find few people who are capable. And less equipment that can be run by hand for low volume output. Worse, in the end you're talking of turning your gated community or mansion into a factory of sorts. Gone will be the fashion and glitteratti you once knew. It will not return for many decades to come.

This is more than reason enough to try to preserve the pillars of the currently
in place economic cooperative that are the nations (and global) complex modern
supply chains. If they break down, it will probably take a century to reconstitute them. During which time everyone, rich and poor, will have to work very hard indeed, to meet their everyday and sundry needs.

How very 18th Century of this "Tea Party"!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Issues Emerge for News Corp. in Britain

Chief executive of News Corporation Europe and Asia, James Murdoch, arrives at News International headquarters in London on July 19.


LONDON—New evidence given to Parliament by former News Corp. executives and legal advisers undercut the company's account of phone hacking at its News of the World tabloid and contradicted News Corp.'s longstanding assertion that it had conducted a thorough internal investigation.

The new documents sharply escalated the battle unfolding between News Corp. and a cast of combatants including a former law firm, a disgraced reporter and several former high-ranking executives.

The evidence shows how a once tight-knit group of News Corp. executives and advisers have begun trading blame over responsibility for the now-defunct tabloid's sins. The debate is likely to drag on for months.

With the new evidence in hand, the U.K. Parliament select committee probing the matter said Tuesday it would call four former News Corp. officials for questioning in September. It also indicated that top executive James Murdoch may be recalled for oral testimony again.

One damaging document is a March 2007 letter from Clive Goodman, the former News of the World reporter who pleaded guilty to phone-hacking charges and went to jail in 2007. In that letter, sent by Mr. Goodman to Daniel Cloke, then head of human resources at News International, the company's U.K. newspaper unit, Mr. Goodman said he was wrongfully fired because he wasn't alone: phone hacking was "widely discussed" in the paper's newsroom, practiced by others and approved by editors.

Mr. Goodman, who sent the letter to News International as part of an appeal against his firing, also said the paper's top editor and lawyer had promised him his job back if he didn't implicate anyone else at the tabloid when pleading guilty.


Glenn Beck Prays For Fox News, Laughs About Sean Hoare's Death

Yep, it appears on Huffington post too.

Glenn Beck laughed about the death of a whistleblower involved in the phone hacking scandal and asked listeners to "pray" that Fox News was not involved in the crisis.

On his Tuesday show, Beck joked about the death of Sean Hoare, who was the first journalist to go on the record about the phone-hacking crisis at the News of the World in a 2010 New York Times article. Hoare was found dead in his London home on Monday. Beck said he loved the story of the death.


No.1 hit: Obama, The Musical

This has been an absolute hit around here, so we present it to those of you who might have missed it.

This is AWESOME. Comedic actor Ronnie Butlercreated this musical short that is one part political and one part Gilbert and Sullivan.

Not only are we impressed with the production value, but the song is very clever, too, addressing everything from Obama's problems with being a true reformer to Sarah Palin to his smoking habit. It's a lot of fun.

And it's about time somebody started poking fun at Obama in a way that's funny, but not racist or hateful. There's been too much of that out there. Tea Party, we're looking at you! No president should have a "get of out of jail free card" for political satire, but there's a way to do it and this is how it's done!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Truth About al Qaeda

John Mueller, Foreign Affairs
Summary: "New information discovered in Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan suggests that the United States has been vastly overstating al Qaeda's power for a full decade. The group appears to have spent more time dodging drone strikes and complaining about money than trying to get an atomic bomb."

FOCUS: Bachmann-Perry Overdrive

Michelle Goldberg, The Daily Beast
Goldberg writes: "In many ways, Dominionism is more a political phenomenon than a theological one. It cuts across Christian denominations, from stern, austere sects to the signs-and-wonders culture of modern megachurches. Think of it like political Islamism, which shapes the activism of a number of antagonistic fundamentalist movements, from Sunni Wahabis in the Arab world to Shiite fundamentalists in Iran."

Teacher in Texas suspended for being "an atheist and a liberal"

One of my favorite websites is Pharyngula, part of Scienceblogs. Author PZ Myers is the blogger, and one of the areas he concentrates on is evolution vs creationism, and other educational issues. This particular entry, with mega comments is about a teacher in Texas who has been suspended (indefinitely) who several parents have accused of being an "atheist" and want removed from the school.

Here is a link to the blog and comments--you will find some of the comments really quite droll, and definitely a better time had by all over what some of the racists and nitwit parents might have engaged in.

On edit: other sites are adding information on this story as well. Here is another article on the subject:


The Official Wal-Martian Song

A little levity here enjoy (lol):

Charles and David Koch Revealed: Game Changers

June 7 (Bloomberg) -- "Bloomberg Game Changers" profiles Charles and David Koch, brothers who built a multimillion-dollar fortune running Koch Industries Inc. This program includes interviews with John Damgard, David Koch's high school classmate, Ed Clark, the 1980 Libertarian Party presidential candidate who chose David as his running mate and John Farrell, senior reporter at the Center for Public Integrity. (Source: Bloomberg)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich By WARREN E. BUFFETT


OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

GOP Presidential Candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann Mad That Poor People Don't Pay More Taxes

Far-right Republicans are annoyed that many Americans don’t make enough money to be eligible to pay income taxes.
August 14, 2011

When Texas Gov. Rick Perry kicked off his Republican presidential campaign Saturday, his speech buried the needle on the Cliche-O-Meter, offering up one generic, predictable GOP theme after another. There was, however, one line in particular that stood out as interesting.

“We’re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax. And you know the liberals out there are saying that we need to pay more.”

In this context, “we” refers to Perry and everyone who shares his worldview.

The oddity, of course, is that the governor seems to be arguing that Americans don’t pay enough in income taxes. Or more accurately, it’s unjust that more Americans aren’t paying income taxes.

This is an increasingly popular argument in right-wing circles — Michele Bachmann, one of Perry’s presidential rivals, has pushed the same line — thought it’s entirely counter-intuitive. The argument isn’t even subtle: far-right Republicans are annoyed that most Americans don’t make enough money to be eligible to pay income taxes, so they believe it’s important to get more of these lower- and middle-income Americans paying more to the government.

In case anyone’s forgotten, the relevant details matters here: millions of Americans may be exempt from income taxes, but they still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes.

It’s not as if these folks are getting away with something — the existing tax structure leaves them out of the income tax system because they don’t make enough money to qualify.

Perry considers this an “injustice,” one which he apparently intends to fix, and which he feels strongly enough about to include in his closely-watched kick-off speech.

This should make for quite a 2012 debate, shouldn’t it? Some of the most far-right candidates wants Americans with less to pay more in taxes. Seriously.


Is Bank of America Headed Toward Collapse?

As David Dayen at FireDogLake noted, the suit alleges that Countrywide sold what amounted to non-mortgage-backed securities to those investors. It reads:

“These provisions are central to any mortgage securitization, but they are now vitally important to trust investors in light of the housing market collapse. Any action to foreclose requires proof of ownership of the mortgage. This must be demonstrated by actual possession of the note and mortgage, together with proof of any chain of assignments leading to the alleged ownership. Moreover, complete mortgage files give borrowers assurance that their properties are properly foreclosed upon. The failure to properly transfer possession of complete mortgage files has hindered numerous foreclosure proceedings and resulted in fraudulent activities including, for example, 'robo-signing.' These fraudulent activities have burdened borrowers as well as the courts with flawed foreclosure proceedings.”


Mainstream Economist: Marx Was Right. Capitalism May Be Destroying Itself

Nouriel Roubini is a mainstream economist who teaches at New York University and may be best known as one of the early predictors of the '08 crash.

He is no Marxist.

But today, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Roubini admitted that Marx was right about Capitalism and raised the possibility that Capitalism is destroying itself in the way Marx outlined more than a century and a half ago.

I've produced a rough transcript (Roubini's accent gives me some trouble) of the critical portion of this very interesting interview. I urge you to read each word carefully at least once, if not twice.

WSJ: So you painted a bleak picture of sub-par economic growth going forward, with an increased risk of another recession in the near future. That sounds awful. What can government and what can businesses do to get the economy going again or is it just sit and wait and gut it out?

Roubini: Businesses are not doing anything. They're not actually helping. All this risk made them more nervous. There's a value in waiting. They claim they're doing cutbacks because there's excess capacity and not adding workers because there's not enough final demand, but there's a paradox, a Catch-22. If you're not hiring workers, there's not enough labor income, enough consumer confidence, enough consumption, not enough final demand. In the last two or three years, we've actually had a worsening because we've had a massive redistribution of income from labor to capital, from wages to profits, and the inequality of income has increased and the marginal propensity to spend of a household is greater than the marginal propensity of a firm because they have a greater propensity to save, that is firms compared to households. So the redistribution of income and wealth makes the problem of inadequate aggregate demand even worse.

Karl Marx had it right. At some point, Capitalism can destroy itself. You cannot keep on shifting income from labor to Capital without having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. That's what has happened. We thought that markets worked. They're not working. The individual can be rational. The firm, to survive and thrive, can push labor costs more and more down, but labor costs are someone else's income and consumption. That's why it's a self-destructive process.

The full interview is here.

The portion where Roubini talks about Marx and excess capacity is here.

Why Is Sean Hannity So Mad You're Having Sex? 5 Ways Conservatives Attack Sexual Freedom

Conservatives' attacks on sexuality have grown more radical, in the past year alone.
August 14, 2011

The hard right turn taken by the conservative movement in the past couple of years has meant a rapid increase in conservatives taking unpopular stances: opposing Social Security and Medicare, pushing for a default on government debt, and various austerity measures sure to protect the rich while plunging the rest of the country into economic darkness. But they haven’t just embraced wildly unpopular views on economic issues, but also on social issues, especially when it comes to sexual freedom.

Traditionally, conservatives have kept their attacks on sexual freedom limited to areas where they know they can gin up more controversy, such as gay rights and abortion. They had a larger anti-sex agenda, but knew it would be hard to sell to the public at large, and so merely chewed on the corners of sexual liberation. But something about the election of Obama caused a synapse to blow in the right-wing brain, and the attacks on sexual liberation have expanded beyond gay rights and abortion. Now conservatives are attacking sexual freedom on many fronts: abortion, access to contraception, and freedom to be sexual without being assaulted for it, freedom to be sexual no matter your race or class.

Here’s five ways conservative attacks on sexuality have grown more radical in the past year alone:

Rick Perry's Campaign Strategy? Distorting His Abysmal Economic Record

Get ready for a boat-load of spin.
August 14, 2011

Rick Perry's strategy for winning the GOP nomination – and then the White House – is simple: he'll try to get there by wildly distorting his abysmal economic record as governor of Texas beyond all recognition. The spin started even before he announced his candidacy on Saturday, when right-wing blogger Erick Erickson introduced him as the governor who had created 40 percent of all the new jobs in the U.S. since the “recovery” began. During the announcement, Perry went on to talk about “jobs” 11 more times.

Rick Perry can't tell the truth about his economic record. That's because, more than any other single factor, he has immigration to thank for those numbers – most of it from Mexico, and a large share of it unauthorized. You can't win the Republican nomination by bragging about being one of the states that has seen the biggest rise in Mexican immigrants during your tenure, and even if you could, it's not an economic model for the country as a whole as Mexican immigration has now slowed to a trickle.

Americans Don't Realize Just How Badly We're Getting Screwed by the Top 0.1 Percent Hoarding the Country's Wealth

With an unprecedented sum of wealth, tens of trillions of dollars, held within the top one-tenth of one percent of the US population, we now have the most severe inequality of wealth in US history. Not even the robber barons of the Gilded Age were as greedy as the modern-day economic elite.

As American philosopher John Dewey said, “There is no such thing as the liberty or effective power of an individual, group, or class, except in relation to the liberties, the effective powers, of other individuals, groups or classes.”

In my report, The Economic Elite vs. the People,
I reported on the strategic withholding of wealth from 99 percent of the US population over the past generation. Since the mid-1970s, worker production and wealth creation has exploded. As the statistics throughout this report prove, the dramatic increase in wealth has been almost entirely absorbed by the economic top one-tenth of one percent of the population, with most of it going to the top one-hundredth of one percent.

If you are wondering why a critical mass of people desperately struggling to make ends meet are still not fighting back with overwhelming force and running the mega-wealthy aristocrats out of town, let’s consider two significant factors:


Texas Governor Rick Perry Promotes Theocracy

He uses his bully pulpit to Praise the Lord and denounce "ungodly secularists." His speeches are designed to give the most reticent Baptist minister a raging spiritual hard-on. His public remarks are peppered with Christ this, Jesus that, and Washed in the Blood of the Lamb - and there's always a prodigious dose of Old Testament condemnation thrown in for good measure. Like every other evangelical with a taste for Rapture, Gov. Rick Perry wears his religion on his sleeve and is dismissive of constituents who refuse to worship "correctly." Texans (and particularly gay and lesbian Texans) who disagree with his fundamentalist views should move elsewhere, Perry says. And the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment? Not worth the parchment it's written on.
Now this Bible-quoting, gun-toting secessionist who can't take a breath without invoking the Holy Spirit has announced that there should be MORE religion in government, not less.

The governor works tirelessly to indoctrinate the state's youngsters into his narrow Christianist ideology. Under Rick Perry's rule, Texas educators have become virtually indistinguishable from Sunday School teachers. In pursuing his goal to keep students ignorant of earth sciences and vital health issues (like AIDS prevention), Perry just tapped another of his Creationist/Diversity Denier cronies to head the Texas Board of Education. Rackjite dissects the governor's latest appointment, a fundie automaton named Gail Lowe: She rejects the science of Global Warming and Climate Change, she will not tolerate gay friendly books in public school libraries and of course she not only believes that the Earth is 6000 years old and men live in gigantic fishes at the bottom of the sea, but wants to teach that to children in Texas Public Schools... This (appointment) keeps the board unchanged with 7 to 9 of the 15 votes being evangelical fundamentalist Creationists deciding what Texas children read and learn. (At this very moment our Texas teachers are being trained by "religious scholars" on how to best implement a state law signed by Perry that mandates the study of Scripture in high school classroms.)
From The Guv's self-righteous lips: "Faith is both a private thing and a very public thing for me - private in the sense that every morning I get up and read a little Scripture. You'll appreciate that I get a daily Scripture lesson off the Internet... The Scripture talks about praying incessantly. It's not out of the ordinary for me to have a word of prayer in the midst of a meeting." ("'Scuse me, sir, did you hear what we just said about the teen pregnancy rate in Texas?" "Shhh. Quiet. The governor is worshipping God.")
There's a reason why progressives here refer to Rick Perry as the Taliban in a Ten-Gallon Hat. It's because if he had his druthers, the King James would overrule the Constitution and we'd all be forced to swallow his noxious religious beliefs. As a proud liberal Texan, I'd sooner dine on cow patties.
Found Here

Drug trafficking for 'justice' in Mexico

Drug trafficking for 'justice' in Mexico

A Mexican drug cartel named after a medieval order of knights is winning favour among the community where it works, in the state of Michoacan.

The Knights of Templar say they are fighting a war against injustice and poverty, and they have a reputation much stronger than local police.

Meanwhile, they traffic drugs and create harsh and violent punishments for those the organisation deems to be bad for the community.

Al Jazeera's Monica Villamizar reports from the city of Apatzingan in Mexico's Michoacan province.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chris Matthews Needs to Take a Look in the Mirror if He Wants to Know Why We're Not Seeing Union Protests on TV

Chris Matthews has been on somewhat of a roll over the last week or so, asking why the labor unions in the United States aren't taking a page from these astroturf tea partiers and showing up in Washington D.C. to protest on the weekends and send President Obama a message that they're concerned about jobs and getting our economy back on the right track.

On this Thursday's edition of Hardball, The Nation's John Nichols pushed back at Matthews assertion that there aren't union members out there hitting the streets and protesting and talked about what's been going on in Wisconsin for months on end now. What he did not really respond to is why we're not seeing massive numbers of protesters in our nation's Capitol. Nor did he ask Chris Matthews why our national media has largely been ignoring the protests that have been going on in Wisconsin and across the country and in our Capitol for weeks and months on end now.

I wish Nichols had asked Chris Matthews why, when unions and other liberal groups have held rallies in D.C., they've been either largely or completely ignored by our national media. The AFL-CIO just held a rally to protest Wal-Mart last week in D.C. in conjunction with some other groups. Did we hear any of these pundits on cable television talking about it? Of course not. But if twenty of these astroturf "tea party" members show up somewhere, we've got at times more from the media showing up to cover the events than we've got protesters.


They have no idea what they’re doing

Journalistic standards and modern political norms place some restrictions on what a reporter can and will say in a news article. It’s what too often leads to unhelpful he-said-she-said reporting (“Eric Cantor today said two plus two equals five; Democrats and mathematicians disagreed”).

But the New York Times’ Jackie Calmes has a terrific piece in which she comes very close— as close as is possible in our contemporary media construct — to simply drawing the public a picture the country urgently needs to see, but usually doesn’t. In a measured tone, the NYT article effectively makes clear that when it comes to economic policy, Republicans plainly have no idea what they’re talking about.


Keeping a Curious Bush Secret

Exclusive: One of the strange mysteries from the Reagan-Bush era is where did George H.W. Bush go on one Sunday in October 1980 when some witnesses placed him meeting with Iranians in Paris. More than three decades later, Bush’s supposed alibi remains a state secret, Robert Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

More than three decades ago, on Oct. 19, 1980, then-Republican vice presidential candidate George H.W. Bush supposedly took an afternoon trip to visit a family friend in Washington, an alibi that could prove he could not have traveled secretly to Paris for treacherous meetings with Iranians.

But Bush’s White House in 1992 – and his presidential library now – have refused to release the name of this alibi witness or even the address where Bush allegedly went. The insistence on keeping this secret has just been reaffirmed by Debra Steidel Wall, deputy archivist of the United States.

So, rather than release what theoretically should be a fact the Bush Family would want out – proof that the elder George Bush did not engage in secret talks with Iranians behind President Jimmy Carter’s back regarding 52 Americans then being held hostage in Iran – the U.S. government is saying that only a costly federal court lawsuit can dislodge this historical detail.

Or, perhaps the reason that this secret has been so zealously guarded for so long is that Bush never took the afternoon trip, that it was just part of a cover story to conceal his mission to Paris, and that the host — if questioned — would discredit Bush’s alibi .

Whatever the truth, as long as the Bushes and the government prevent the corroboration of his purported afternoon visit, it remains impossible to disprove contrary evidence that Bush did sneak off for the alleged Paris meeting and simply arranged with friends in the Secret Service to concoct an alibi.

Rick Perry's Army of God

By Forrest Wilder, The Texas Observer

13 August 11

A little-known movement of radical Christians and self-proclaimed prophets wants to infiltrate government, and Rick Perry might be their man.

n September 28, 2009, at 1:40 p.m., God's messengers visited Rick Perry.

On this day, the Lord's messengers arrived in the form of two Texas pastors, Tom Schlueter of Arlington and Bob Long of San Marcos, who called on Perry in the governor's office inside the state Capitol. Schlueter and Long both oversee small congregations, but they are more than just pastors. They consider themselves modern-day apostles and prophets, blessed with the same gifts as Old Testament prophets or New Testament apostles.

The pastors told Perry of God's grand plan for Texas. A chain of powerful prophecies had proclaimed that Texas was "The Prophet State," anointed by God to lead the United States into revival and Godly government. And the governor would have a special role.

The day before the meeting, Schlueter had received a prophetic message from Chuck Pierce, an influential prophet from Denton, Texas. God had apparently commanded Schlueter - through Pierce - to "pray by lifting the hand of the one I show you that is in the place of civil rule."

Gov. Perry, it seemed.