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Friday, December 31, 2010

Thom Hartmann: Degradation of U.S. News Keeps Americans in the Dark, Threatens Democracy

Visit Projectcensored.org

Brave New Films Rethink Afghanistan: Get the Truth Out


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Join New Year's Day One-Hour Peaceful Collective Cyber-Campaign for Net Neutrality

By Joan Brunwasser (about the author)    
December 30, 2010

My guest today is Elliot D. Cohen, medical ethicist and political analyst. Welcome to OpEdNews, Elliot. You recently wrote an article Help Stop Destruction of the Free Internet Now . What's going on with Net Neutrality these days? I thought we were safe on that issue. Didn't Obama campaign strongly on that issue?

 It's very good to be here today, Joan. First let me say a bit about net neutrality and why it's so important. Net neutrality means that everyone has an equal voice on the Internet so that service providers, ISPs, such as Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, can't control what content passes through the pipes to the user. Net neutrality is what we now have. Even a small website operator as well as a major network news organization like MSNBC can have an equal voice on the Internet. This is what makes the Net such an incredibly free and democratic forum for the delivery of news and information.

And yes, Obama strongly expressed support for maintaining Net neutrality, but words are not the same thing as laws, and now the Obama FCC has passed new rules that have the outward appearance of preserving Net neutrality, but they are just smoke and mirrors, which cater to the giant ISPs and have no legal teeth. What I mean is that, while they "encourage" ISPs not to tamper with content, they are not legally enforceable. Consequently, these companies are now poised to dismantle the free and democratic architecture of the Internet. Unless people get to together on this and put their foot down,now, all of us are going to soon be paying higher rates for access to information and getting a lot less of it!

So, that sounds like very bad news. Because the FCC has passed new rules purporting to protect us, has the average net user been lulled into thinking everything's hunky dory? What is the point of passing rules that can't be enforced? And how do we make people understand that we're at great risk from Comcast and their ilk?

Unfortunately, the average person is not fully aware of the situation because the mainstream media is not covering Net neutrality in sufficient detail. Users who surf some of the more progressive websites have more of a sense of the issues, but the average person is not likely to even know about the new FCC rules. This is why the message has to get out and spread virally across the Net and get out into the mainstream.

And this is why I have a campaign to let everyone know about the situation and to take a stance. I am asking all Internet users to go offline between 2 and 3 PM Eastern Standard Time [12pm-1pm MST] on New Year's Day to express one unified voice against the creation of a pay-for-priority Internet system, the abolition of a flat fee for Internet access, and any attempt by ISPs to block, censor, or otherwise discriminate against legal content. Even one hour will cost advertisers big money, and it will send a message to the big telecoms like Comcast that we the people are madder than hell and that we won't tolerate it.  

Continue reading here.

Tax Cuts for Super Wealthy and Corporations Cause Increase in Jobs in China

 Guest Commentary
Submitted by BuzzFlash
Wed, 12/29/2010

In a December "Seasons Greetings"  email letter to their American membership, US-China Chamber of Commerce (USCCC) Executive Director Siva Yam outlined his group's goals for the coming year that promotes an aggressive agenda to continue the corporate emigration of American jobs to the Chinese homeland.

The letter states that for 2011, a major initiative will be to open a fulltime office in Detroit. This would be an effort to move American auto components manufacturing to Chinese factories.  Also, "USCCC will expand its activities geographically with a focus on the south in the U.S. and second- and third-tier cities in China."

The US-China Chamber of Commerce is not to be confused with the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, even though they have similar sounding names and many parallel goals. The Washington group has been heavily involved in political efforts on behalf of mostly Republicans and lobbying that also promotes Chinese interests.

The Chicago-based USCCC gives day-to-day support for American corporations to help them speed their way in setting up shop in China. As Yam writes in the letter, in 2011, they "will be more involved directly in business transactions between the U.S. and China.  Whenever we travel to China, we will strive to meet with our members and attend their meetings whenever possible.  The travel itinerary will be available on our website www.usccc.org, blog, and other social networking tools."  In addition, they will share with their members "new opportunities on the horizon."

Yam's holiday message from the USCCC did not thank US consumers for their support of the Chinese economy by their purchases of Chinese-made products during the holiday season. He should have.

Continue reading here. 

GOP Plan to Force State Bankruptcies Would Break Public Employee Contracts

The Coming War over the Constitution

By Robert Parry
Consortium News
December 30, 2010

Despite a few victories in the lame-duck session of Congress, Democrats and progressives should be under no illusion about the new flood of know-nothingism that is about to inundate the United States in the guise of a return to “first principles” and a deep respect for the U.S. Constitution.

The same right-wingers who happily accepted George W. Bush’s shift toward a police state – his claims of limitless executive power, warrantless wiretaps, repudiation of habeas corpus, redefining cruel and unusual punishment, suppression of dissent, creation of massive databases on citizens, arbitrary no-fly lists, and endless overseas wars – have now reinvented themselves as brave protectors of American liberty.

Indeed, the Tea Party crowd so loves the Constitution that the new Republican House majority will take the apparently unprecedented step of reading the document aloud at the start of the new congressional session, presumably including the part about enslaved African-Americans being counted as three-fifths of a white person for purposes of congressional representation.

One also has to wonder if these “constitutionalists” will mumble over the preamble’s assertion that a key purpose of the Constitution is to “promote the general Welfare.” And what to do with Section Eight of Article One, which gives Congress the power to levy taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce among the states, and “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”?

Continue reading here.

Whistleblower Protections Halted by Tyranny of One

By Joan Brunwasser (about the author)      
December 29, 2010

26Dems Editorial Comment: S. 372 was defeated by a secret hold, a tactic that allows a Senator to misappropriate power without being held publicly accountable. Senators McCaskill (D) of Missouri and Grassley (R) of Iowa introduced legislation to ban secret holds, but the bill went down to defeat because of a secret hold.

Shanna Devine is the Legislative Campaign Coordinator at GAP [the Government Accountability Project]. Welcome to OpEdNews, Shanna. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act failed to pass in the lame duck House session just concluded. Boy, that's disappointing: to you, the crew, who worked your tails off to get this passed, and to all of us who are worse off without the legislation. Take a minute, Shanna, and break this down for us. Why is whistleblower protection important in the first place? Why is S. 372's defeat so bad all around, regardless of one's politics?

Whistleblower protection is a cornerstone of our nation's security, because whistleblowers are the eyes and ears to abuses of power that betray the public trust. If they are not empowered to disclose wrongdoing, the pubic at large remains vulnerable to unchecked abuses of power, gross mismanagement, waste, fraud, and public safety threats. Often whistleblowers do come forward, at great personal cost, because they feel the stakes are too great to remain silent observers. Take for example sweetheart contracts that have interfered with the shipment of lifesaving military equipment, to contaminated beef used for children's fast food burgers, to illegal domestic surveillance under the guise of national security, without whistleblowers the public would remain unaware and vulnerable to these types of abuses that affect our daily lives. Public safety and taxpayer protection are bipartisan issues, which is why this reform has champions across the ideological spectrum; from Goldwater republicans to liberal democrats, everyone except the wrongdoer sees the benefits of strong whistleblower rights.

S. 372 would have strengthened protections so that federal whistleblowers would have a fighting chance to defend themselves against retaliation. Unfortunately current law, the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), remains a would-be whistleblowers best excuse to turn a blind eye to government abuse. The law has been gutted over the years through judicial activism to eliminate coverage under the most frequent scenarios: Currently, you are not eligible for federal whistleblower protection if : you are not the first person who discloses given misconduct; you make a disclosure to your co-worker; you make a disclosure to your supervisor; you disclose the consequences of a policy decision; and the kicker: if you blow the whistle while carrying out your job duties.

S. 372 would have overhauled these judicially created loopholes, so that the law can protect federal whistleblowers as intended. It also would have
  • Offered Title 5 employees access to jury trials to challenge major disciplinary actions (for the first time in history)
  • Ended the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals monopoly on appellate review
  • Expanded whistleblower protection coverage to 40,000 TSA baggage screeners
  • Created protections for scientific freedom
  • Codified and provided a remedy for the anti-gag statute
  • Barred a Patriot Act hybrid secrecy category that overrides federal whistleblower rights
  • Protect more than just the "first person" who discloses given misconduct
  • Barred Critical Infrastructure Information -- a hybrid secrecy category created by the Patriot Act -- from overriding WPA free speech rights.
  • Provided government contractors the right to make classified whistleblowing disclosures to Congress
  • Provided the Office of Special Counsel with authority to file friend of the court briefs in court to support employees appealing MSPB rulingsAnd here is the rest of it.
 For the rest of the interview continue reading here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Consumer Agency Is Frightfully Necessary -- And Late

By Elizabeth Warren, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Huffington Post

December 29, 2010 05:40 PM

No one has missed the headlines: Haphazard and possibly illegal practices at mortgage-servicing companies have called into question home foreclosures across the nation.

The latest disclosures are deeply troubling, but they should not come as a big surprise. For years, both individual homeowners and consumer advocates sounded alarms that foreclosure processes were riddled with problems.

While federal and state investigators are still examining exactly what has gone wrong and why, two things are clear.

First, several financial services companies have already admitted that they used "robo-signers," false declarations, and other workarounds to cut corners, creating a legal nightmare that will waste time and money that could have been better spent to help this economy recover. Mortgage lenders will spend millions of dollars retracing their steps, often with the same result that families who cannot pay will lose their homes.

Second, this mess might well have been avoided if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had been in place just a few years ago.

Continue reading here.

2011 Will Bring More de Facto Decriminalization of Elite Financial Fraud

By William Black
Assoc. Professor, Univ. of Missouri, Kansas City; Sr. regulator during S&L debacle
Huffington Post
December 28, 2010

The role of the criminal justice system with regard to financial fraud by elite bankers in 2011 is likely to reprise its role last decade -- de facto decriminalization. The Galleon investigation of insider trading at hedge funds will take much of the FBI's and the Department of Justice's (DOJ) focus.

The state attorneys general investigations of foreclosure fraud do focus on the major players such as the Bank of America (BoA), but they are unlikely to lead to criminal liability for any senior bank officials. It is most likely that they will lead to financial settlements that include new funding for loan modifications.

The FBI and the DOJ remain unlikely to prosecute the elite bank officers that ran the enormous "accounting control frauds" that drove the financial crisis. While over 1000 elites were convicted of felonies arising from the savings and loan (S&L) debacle, there are no convictions of controlling officers of the large nonprime lenders. The only indictment of controlling officers of a far smaller nonprime lender arose not from an investigation of the nonprime loans but rather from the lender's alleged efforts to defraud the federal government's TARP bailout program.

What has gone so catastrophically wrong with DOJ, and why has it continued so long? The fundamental flaw is that DOJ's senior leadership cannot conceive of elite bankers as criminals.And here is the rest of it.

Continue reading here.

Obama's Fear of the Reagan Narrative

By Robert Parry
Consortium News
December 28, 2010

At a closed-door White House meeting this month, President Barack Obama justified his repeated concessions to the Right as necessitated by its success over three decades in selling Ronald Reagan’s anti-government message to broad sectors of the American public.

The National Journal reported that Obama met with liberal economists Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Alan Blinder and Robert Reich on Dec. 7, just hours before a press conference at which the President criticized his liberal “base” for taking “sanctimonious” and “purist” positions rather than making the compromises required to help Americans in the real world.

In both venues, Obama defended his deal with Republicans on extending George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich as necessary to gain Republican support for extended unemployment benefits and for tax breaks to boost the economy and help working- and middle-class Americans.

However, at the earlier White House meeting, Obama told the economists that he felt handcuffed by the Right’s ability to rally Americans on behalf of Reagan’s “government-is-the-problem” message. "It was hard to change the narrative after 30 years” of Republican repetition about the evils of big government, one participant quoted Obama as saying.

 “He seemed to be looking for a way to reassure the base” about where his heart really was on these questions, said the participant who spoke anonymously. “Or maybe it was just to reassure himself.”

Continue reading here.

Papantonio: "Nothing Patriotic About U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Corporate America"

Ring of Fire Host Mike Papantonio tells Ed Show guest host Cenk Uygur how Corporate America is holding Obama hostage.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Ten Ways The Right Will Wreck The Recovery

By Isaiah J. Poole
Campaign For America's Future
December 27, 2010

Conservatives have a legislative agenda for 2011 that will hurt your ability to get or keep a job, your neighborhood's ability to recover from the recession and this country's ability to regain its footing in the global economy.
To keep conservatives from enacting policies that will kill a nascent economic recovery, progressives will have to organize against these top 10 economy killers.

1. Repeal of health-care reform.
Republicans have placed "repealing Obamacare" at the top of their legislative agenda for 2011. If they succeed, the economy is going to come down with multiple serious illnesses—at least 24, according to a report released this month by Rep. Peter Stark of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Among them: a $143 billion increase in the deficit by losing the savings the reforms created, an increase the number of uninsured by 30 million people, an end to free preventative care services and the loss of the requirement that insurance companies devote the bulk of premium payments to health care costs rather than expensive advertising and executive perks. While a Virginia judge is a conservative hero for blocking health-care reform's requirement that people buy private insurance, conservatives are silent on the fact that if that requirement goes, the reform's mandate that insurance companies cover preexisting conditions is unsustainable.

We'll be back to uncontrolled cost increases in private insurance. But, as the state of our health compared to other leading nations continues to decline, conservatives will at least be able to say that they maintained the United States' global leadership as the nation that spends the most on health care and gets the least.

2. Diminish the federal government's ability to support job-creation.
Conservatives are poised to execute a strikingly broad assault against federal s[p]ending, particularly programs that help jump-start and steer the nation's job-creation engine. It includes the expected targets—such proven programs as Community Development Block Grants—as well as some new ones, such as the Small Business Administration (there goes all that Republican fealty to "small business") and even the requirement that the Federal Reserve take employment impact into account when it sets monetary policy.

That latest addition to the target list goes after the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment law, named after Rep. Augustus Hawkins, an early leader of the Congressional Black Caucus in the 1970s, and Sen. Hubert Humphrey. The law was passed in reaction to the Nixon-Ford inflation-fighting era, when the Fed ratcheted up interest rates to cool the economy, without regard to unemployment rates that were then approaching the scandalous levels of 9 percent. The right never liked this bill, but now with the election of people such as Rand Paul in the Senate and cheerleading from The Wall Street Journal editorial page, repeal has moved from right-wing think-tank wish lists to serious legislative agenda item.

Since the right can't complain about inflation—there is none—the enemy is "quantitative easing," the Fed's bid to pour liquidity into the economy in hopes that fuels investment and jobs. Take away quantitative easing and there's literally nothing left in the economic policy playbook to keep the economy from slipping back into recession.

Continue reading here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Humbug Express

New York Times
Published: December 23, 2010

Hey, has anyone noticed that “A Christmas Carol” is a dangerous leftist tract?

I mean, consider the scene, early in the book, where Ebenezer Scrooge rightly refuses to contribute to a poverty relief fund. “I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing,” he declares. Oh, wait. That wasn’t Scrooge. That was Newt Gingrich — last week. What Scrooge actually says is, “Are there no prisons?” But it’s pretty much the same thing.

Anyway, instead of praising Scrooge for his principled stand against the welfare state, Charles Dickens makes him out to be some kind of bad guy. How leftist is that?

As you can see, the fundamental issues of public policy haven’t changed since Victorian times. Still, some things are different. In particular, the production of humbug — which was still a somewhat amateurish craft when Dickens wrote — has now become a systematic, even industrial, process.

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

MSNBC: Bilk of America: Arizona, Nevada sue Bank of America

Countdown exposes Real Reason Behind Sen. Coburn's Opposition to 9-11 Responders Bill

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Republicans Lauded 9/11 Responders, Now Abandoning Them

Senate Democrats

Neglected by press, Senate Dems use YouTube to batter GOP over 9/11 health bill

By David Edwards
Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Democrats in the Senate want to know why Republicans aren't standing behind the heroes of 9/11.

A new YouTube video released by Senate Democrats reminds viewers that Republicans, who have supported 9/11 first responders in years past, are blocking legislation that would help them now.

All but one of the 42 Republican senators stood together last week to wage a successful filibuster against the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. The bill would provide $7 billion in benefits to workers that responded to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Many of those workers are now experiencing health problems such as cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.

Continue reading here.

The Real News: Foreclosures on People Who Never Missed a Payment

Monday, December 20, 2010

Germany's Economy Shows Government "Interference" Works

by: Dave Johnson
Campaign for America's Future
Wednesday 15 December 2010

Can we compete with China's wages? Does government interference and regulation hold us back? Are our unions keeping us from being competitive? Do we need to lower our standard of living in a race to the bottom? You might be surprised to learn that Germany pays higher wages, has strong unions, has much more government involvement and is doing better as a result. Conclusion: our wages, unions and government are not the problem, they are the solution.

In July I wrote about something Harold Meyerson wrote about Germany and China and manufacturing and recession.

"Germany is NOT a low-wage country. But they weathered the recession. They value manufacturing and have national policies to bolster their manufacturers."

Today I want to write about something Harold Meyerson wrote about Germany and manufacturing and the recession. In Save the economy by keeping jobs at home, Meyerson writes,

"Hourly manufacturing compensation (wages plus benefits) was $48 in Germany in 2008 - the most recent year surveyed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics - while it was $32 in the United States."

Yet Germany is an export giant, while we are the colossus of imports.

Continue reading here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekly Address: National Security Over Politics on START

The Bipartisanship Racket

By Frank Rich
New York Times
December 18, 2010

JEEZ, can’t we all just get along? Can’t we be civilized? Can’t we reach across the aisle, find common ground and get things done? Can’t we have a new Morning in America as clubby and chipper as MSNBC’s daily gabfest, “Morning Joe”?

This is actually the manifesto of the new political organization called No Labels. It’s no surprise that its official debut last week prompted derisive laughter from all labels across the political spectrum, not to mention Gawker, which deemed it “the most boring political movement of all time.” But attention must be paid. In its patronizing desire to instruct us on what is wrong with our politics, No Labels ends up being a damning indictment of just how alarmingly out of touch the mainstream political-media elite remains with the grievances that have driven Americans to cynicism and despair in the 21st century’s Gilded Age.

Although No Labels sounds like a progressive high school’s Model U.N., its heavy hitters are serious adults — or at least white male adults. Among the 16 billed speakers at last week’s official launch in New York, there were three women and no blacks, notwithstanding an excruciating No Labels “anthem” contributed by the Senegalese-American rapper Akon. (Do find on YouTube.) The marquee names on hand included Michael Bloomberg; Senate Democrats (Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, the incoming Joe Manchin of West Virginia); moderate Republicans drummed out of office by the Tea Party (Charlie Crist, Mike Castle); and no fewer than four MSNBC talking heads. Despite Bloomberg’s denials, some persist in speculating that No Labels is a stalking horse for a quixotic 2012 presidential run. At the very least the organization is a promotional hobby horse for MSNBC.

Continue reading here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why Government is More Afraid of Debt than Depression

 The Real News


Michael Hudson is President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971). ISLET engages in research regarding domestic and international finance, national income and balance-sheet accounting with regard to real estate, and the economic history of the ancient Near East. Michael acts as an economic advisor to governments worldwide including Iceland, Latvia and China on finance and tax law.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why the ‘Lazy Jobless’ Myth Persists

By David Sirota
Dec 16, 2010

During the recent fight over extending unemployment benefits, conservatives trotted out the shibboleth that says the program fosters sloth. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., for instance, said added unemployment benefits mean people are “encouraged not to go look for work.” Columnist Pat Buchanan said expanding these benefits means “more people will hold off going back looking for a job.” And Fox News’ Charles Payne applauded the effort to deny future unemployment checks because he said it would compel layabouts “to get off the sofa.”

The thesis undergirding all the rhetoric was summed up by conservative commentator Ben Stein, who insisted that “the people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.”

The idea is that unemployment has nothing to do with structural economic forces or rigged public policies and everything to do with individual motivation. Yes, we’re asked to believe that the 15 million jobless Americans are all George Costanzas—parasitic loafers occasionally pretending to seek work as latex salesmen, but really just aiming to decompress on a refrigerator-equipped recliner during a lifelong Summer of George.

Of course, this story line makes no sense. From liberal Paul Krugman to archconservative Alan Greenspan, economists agree that joblessness is not caused by unemployment benefits. With five applicants for every job opening, the overarching problem is a lack of available positions—not a dearth of personal initiative.

Why, then, is the myth so resonant that polls now show more than a third of America opposes extending unemployment benefits? Part of it is the sheer ignorance that naturally festers in a country of cable-TV junkies. But three more subtle forces are also at work. 

Continue Reading here.

Republicans Launch Phony War on Public Employees

By Jon Perr
Crooks and Liars 
December 15, 2010 11:00 AM

Credit: Economic Policy Institute

Click to Enlarge

Move over, welfare queens, IRS agents and trial lawyers. The Republican Party has a new bogeyman: the public employee. With a sluggish U.S. economy, cash-strapped states and under-funded pension programs, Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin and other leading lights of the GOP are scape-goating government workers and their unions for the nation's woes. Of course, there's only one problem with Rush Limbaugh's claim that public sector employees are "freeloaders" and the charge from Indiana Governor and GOP White House hopeful Mitch Daniels that they are a "new privileged class in America."

Like so much other conservative mythmaking, it's simply not true.

But that didn't stop outgoing Minnesota Governor and 2012 Republican presidential contender Tim Pawlenty this week from pretending otherwise. In a Monday Wall Street Journal op-ed titled "Government Unions vs. Taxpayers," Governor Pawlenty echoed half-term Governor Sarah Palin by targeting "unionized public employees [who] are making more money, receiving more generous benefits, and enjoying greater job security than the working families forced to pay for it with ever-higher taxes, deficits and debt."

How did this happen? Very quietly. The rise of government unions has been like a silent coup, an inside job engineered by self-interested politicians and fueled by campaign contributions.

Pawlenty repeated his charge to Fox News on Monday:

"You have public employees making more than their private-sector counterparts. They used to be under-benefited and underpaid. Now they're both over-benefited and overpaid...it needs to stop."

Sadly for would-be President Pawlenty, the charge - whether at the federal, state or local level - is false.

That's the conclusion of a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute. Just one of many recent analyses debunking Republican charges about government workers and their unions, EPI found that "on average, state and local government workers are compensated 3.75% less than workers in the private sector." (See the table above for details.) The report by Labor and Employment Relations Professor Jeffrey Keefe of Rutgers University revealed that public employees are undercompensated compared to similarly skilled private sector counterparts:

Continue reading here.

Rethink Afghanistan: December Review Can't Hide the Failure of the Afghanistan War

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Democracy Now: "The Worse Off You Are, Your Taxes Increase": Journalist David Cay Johnston Slams Obama-GOP Tax Deal

Democracy Now

The U.S. Senate is on the verge of approving President Obama’s controversial tax deal with Republicans. Under the deal, Obama agreed to extend the Bush-era tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and reduce the estate tax in return for a 13-month extension of jobless benefits and a handful of tax credits for low- and moderate-income Americans. We speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, author of Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill). 

Study: FOX Viewers Significantly More Misinformed

News Corpse / By Mark Howard
December 15, 2010 

Study Confirms That Fox News Makes You Stupid

A new survey of American voters shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources.

Yet another study has been released proving that watching Fox News is detrimental to your intelligence. World Public Opinion, a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, conducted a survey of American voters that shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources. What’s more, the study shows that greater exposure to Fox News increases misinformation.

So the more you watch, the less you know. Or to be precise, the more you think you know that is actually false. This study corroborates a previous PIPA study that focused on the Iraq war with similar results. And there was an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that demonstrated the break with reality on the part of Fox viewers with regard to health care. The body of evidence that Fox News is nothing but a propaganda machine dedicated to lies is growing by the day.

In eight of the nine questions below, Fox News placed first in the percentage of those who were misinformed (they placed second in the question on TARP). That’s a pretty high batting average for journalistic fraud. Here is a list of what Fox News viewers believe that just aint so:

91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)

Continue reading here.

Rick Scott's School Plan for Scoundrels

By Stephanie Mencimer
Mother Jones
Wed Dec. 15, 2010 3:00 AM PST

The Florida governor-elect's proposal to overhaul the state education system is a fraudster's dream.

Conservatives have been plotting for years to blow up the public school system. Now, Florida's incoming governor Rick Scott is poised to light the fuse.

During his campaign, Scott pledged to overhaul the state's schools while simultaneously reducing school property taxes by $1.4 billion. How to accomplish both? Privatization, of course. His plan, which promotes online schooling along with other educational options, may actually pave the way for the elimination of such pesky budget busters as buses, cafeterias, teachers, and, well, school facilities themselves.

According to various news reports, Scott is cooking up an education proposal that would expand an existing voucher program designed for low-income and disabled kids, opening it to all students. The result would be that instead of public school funds filtering through the unionized public bureaucracy, it would go with the students, who could use the money to enroll in the school of their choice—public, private, charter, or virtual. If parents are wealthy enough to pay for their child's education with their own funds, they can use the voucher money for laptops or school supplies, or even sock it away in a college fund. The proposed voucher amount, about $5500, is only 85 percent of the annual cost of educating a child in Florida.

Continue reading here. 

Jan Brewer Medicaid Cuts Have Arizona Governor Under Fire

By Nick Wing
The Huffington Post  
Posted: 12-15-10 10:22 AM

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) commented recently on the cuts to her state's Health Care Cost Containment System, which have imperiled the lives of some patients in need of an organ transplant. Brewer said that people branding the cuts as a real-life incarnation of "death panels" should be asking the federal government to send more money -- a perhaps surprising position from someone who continues to oppose the federal health care reform legislation passed earlier this year.

Brewer has declined to hold a special session to reinstate the funds, a refusal that leaves some patients' lives hanging in the balance.

Britain's Channel 4 reports on a recent encounter with Gov. Brewer regarding the matter:

"How many people have to die before you are prepared to reverse your decision on the transplant operations?" seemed like the obvious question.
She said she thought that was unfair and started to explain how dire the state's financial situation is. If people are so worried about the transplant patients then they should ask the federal government in Washington to send us more money, she said. But she would not explain to me, or to any Democrats in the state capitol, what she has done with the nearly $200 million she was already given in 'stimulus funds' to spend on anything she liked.
A report from the Arizona Republic last week provides some insight in to what Brewer has spent most of that stimulus money on.

WATCH VIDEO: "Death by Budget Cuts" UK Channel 4

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Incoming House Finance Chair: Regulators exist to ‘serve the banks,’

By Sahil Kapur
Monday, December 13th, 2010 -- 3:25 pm

 Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus, the incoming chairman of the House banking committee, suggested Congress and federal regulators should play a subservient role with banks.

"In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks," Bachus told The Birmingham News in an interview.

The Republican leadership last week designated Bachus the next chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, which is tasked with overseeing banks, financial markets, housing and consumer credit.

Democrats characterized the remark as a Freudian slip, nicknaming the Alabaman "Big Bank Bachus" and claiming the new Republican-controlled House will put the interests of financial institutions ahead of the American public.

Continue reading here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Raising cap on social security tax best way to fix shortfall

By John S. Irons
Economic Policy Institute
June 17, 2009

26 Dems Editorial Note: Dr. Irons, Director of the Economic Policy Institute provided written testimony to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, June 17, 2009

Thank you Chairman Kohl, Ranking Member Martinez, and other members of the committee for inviting me to testify today.

The Social Security system has been the bedrock of retirement security for Americans for over half a century. Over the years, the system has evolved in response to changing conditions. As is well known, program outlays are expected to outpace revenue so that the system faces a shortfall over the next 75 years. Responsible stewardship of the program would necessitate making feasible adjustments to move us towards sustainability.

Long-run balance within the system can be achieved in one or a combination of three ways: by reducing total benefits, by increasing payroll tax revenue currently dedicated to Social Security, or by transferring general revenue to Social Security.

My testimony today will focus on the second of these options - that is, increasing payroll tax revenue. Specifically, I want to suggest that any policy to increase overall revenue through the payroll tax should include an increase in the cap on earnings subject to the tax.

As you know, Social Security taxes are levied on earnings up to a maximum level that is adjusted each year to keep pace with average wages. In 2009, this payroll tax cap is set at $106,800 dollars, and roughly 6 percent of the population has earnings above the cap.

Due to growing income inequality, the share of earnings above the cap has risen from 10 percent in 1982 to over 16 percent in 2006. This is because incomes have grown strongly at the top while middle incomes have stagnated.

This trend is expected to continue, meaning that a growing share of earnings will remain outside the tax base.  
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

How the Right Shapes US 'Reality'

By Lawrence Davidson
Consortium News
December 11, 2010

Consortium News Editor’s Note: In modern American politics, the Right and the neoconservatives have invested heavily in -- and proven to be very adept at -- shaping how large segments of the population understand reality, a concept sometimes called “perception management.”

This sophisticated propaganda now influences everything from why Americans distrust global-warming science to when they go to war, as professor Lawrence Davidson describes in this guest essay:

There is a postmodern position that states "reality is a social construct." In other words, individuals and groups have their own realities and, according to the postmodernists, one reality is as true as another.

Certainly there is more than one way to interpret things. It is because individuals see the world differently and, at least in the American cultural milieu, have such trouble reconciling those views, that U.S. divorce rates run at about 50 percent.

Then there is the inescapable fact that nation states and rival ethnic communities periodically slaughter each other (and persistently try to repress one another) in an effort to disprove the postmodernist assertion that all realities are equal.

Thus we see the competition among groups to assert the reality of the powerful as triumphantly more real than the reality of all rivals.

It is hard to argue with the notion that there are many social, cultural and political "constructs," each a product of its place and time. However, the notion that all realities are equal can quickly take us into a kind of theater of the absurd.

If you want to see what this looks like just take a close look at present-day American politics.

Take the issue of climate change. John Shimkus is a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Illinois. He is presently campaigning for the chairmanship of the House Committee for Energy and Commerce.

Last year, during a congressional hearing, he asserted that there is no need to be concerned about global warming because after the biblical flood God promised Noah that he would "never again ... curse the ground because of man."

Shimkus sees this as "the infallible word of God, and that is the way it’s going to be for his creation."

Well, this is an opinion for sure, but it is also John Shimkus’s "reality." As such is it the equal to the reality posited by the present scientific consultants of the Environmental Protection Agency?

Continue reading here.

Losing Our Moral Compass in Pursuit of Profit, Efficiency

by Caroline Arnold
Published on Sunday, December 12, 2010 by the Record Courier (Ohio) & republished by

Recently, on a cold morning with a little snow fooling around in the bright air, I was chilled by this sentence in an AP news story:

"The idea isn't to just raise revenue, economists say, but finally to turn Americans into frugal health-care consumers by having them face the full costs of their medical decisions ("Tax Break on Employer Health Plans Targeted" Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, AP 11/29/10)

Oh, of course -- all Americans should face the full costs of their decisions to have broken bones, heart attacks, or sick children, right?

Even more chilling to me were the underlying assumptions that economists/technocrats decide what's best for everyone, and that it's just as important -- if not more important -- to turn Americans into tame consumers for the private sector as it is to raise revenues for the common good.

This led me to some further, chillier assumptions:

  • democracy and politics are messy and unmanageable and must be replaced by the disciplined professionalism of scientists, technicians and economists.
  • ordinary citizens lack the ability to deal with the "real world" of money, brokerage, extraction of natural resources,wars, weapons and political power, and must be kept out of decisions about them or even knowing about them. 
  • our most important moral obligation to our children is to not leave them any debts.
  • to be secure we must pre-emptively kill terrorists, would-be terrorists, might-be terrorists, geriatric terrorists, stone-throwing juvenile terrorists.....
  • the economically sound is the morally right.

In his recent book "The Logic of Discipline", Alasdair Roberts proposes that democracy has been undermined by financial liberalization, free trade and a globalized economy. Technicians, economists and managers, he observes, are very skeptical of the ability of democracy to make "the right decisions" for financial stability and security, and they doubt that ordinary politicians and voters are ‘disciplined' enough to make sensible policy decisions.

Before joining Senator John Glenn's Washington staff in 1985, Caroline Arnold (csarnold@neo.rr.com) was a teacher, founded a small business, and served three terms on the Kent (OH) Board of Education. In retirement she sits on the boards of Kent Social Services and Family & Community Services in Portage County and is principal cellist of the Stow Symphony.
Continue reading here. 

Confronting the Myths About Tenure and Teachers' Unions

by Ellen Dannin
t r u t h o u t 
Saturday 11 December 2010

Current American education policy is built on these assumptions: The quality of American education has plummeted because our schools are filled with teachers who can't teach. Teachers' unions and contracts tie the hands of school administrators. And teachers' unions protect bad teachers. Here are a few reasons why these conclusions are leading our educational system in a bad direction.

First, these policies ignore the effects of poverty on educational outcomes. Given the increasing number of children growing up in poverty, we ignore its effects at our peril.

I know something about poverty and its effects because I grew up in an impoverished, single-parent home and attended a low-quality school through eighth grade. Despite those beginnings, I graduated from one of the top US law schools and am now a law professor. If I could make it, then poverty must not matter, right?

But not all poverty is the same. My mother had a nursing degree and our home was filled with books. We lived in rural, small-town poverty near my farmer grandparents, who made certain we had good-quality food. Crime in our area was almost nonexistent. I am white, and my family has spoken standard English for generations. And there wasn't much of a gap between the poorest and the richest in that area.

Compare my experience with a school I saw as part of a San Diego School District oversight team. The home language of 82 percent of the students at the school was not English, and 29 different languages were spoken in those homes. Most students qualified for free breakfasts and lunches. Many had had no formal education when they enrolled. The teachers there worked cooperatively to develop curricula to address the challenges they faced.  

Continue reading here. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why Bill Clinton's Favorable View of Obama's Tax Deal Should Be Disregarded

By Robert Reich,Fmr. Secretary of Labor; Professor at Berkeley; Author, Aftershock: 'The Next Economy and America's Future'
Huffington Post
Posted: December 11, 2010 02:06 PM

Bill Clinton seems the perfect validator for Barack Obama -- which is why the president is utilizing the former president for selling his tax deal. After all, the economy boomed when Clinton was president and 22 million net new jobs were created. From a more narrow political perspective -- and this is important to Democrats in Washington -- Bill Clinton was reelected, even though he lost both houses of Congress in the 1994 midterms.

But the analogy falls apart as soon as you realize Clinton's economy was vastly different from Obama's. The recession Clinton inherited was relatively small, and caused by the Fed raising interest rates too high to ward off inflation. So it could be reversed by the Fed lowering interest rates -- as the Fed did in 1994. By 1995, the so-called "jobless recovery" had morphed into a full-blown jobs recovery. By 1996, at pollster Dick Morris's urging, Clinton could proclaim to the American people "you've never had it so good, and you ain't seen nothing yet."

The Great Recession has been far larger, caused not by the Fed raising interest rates but by the bursting of a giant housing bubble. In 2008, the biggest asset of most middle-class people, upon which they borrowed and that they assumed would be their nest eggs for retirement, collapsed. Housing prices continue to fall in most parts of the country. The Fed has lowered interest rates all it can, and unemployment remains sky high.

Bill Clinton presided over an economic boom engineered by Fed chair Alan Greenspan, who felt confident he could drop interest rates far lower than anyone expected without risking inflation. The result was 4 percent unemployment in many parts of America, as well as the best jobs recovery in history.

The price Greenspan exacted from Clinton -- and a resurgent Republican congress demanded -- was a balanced budget. As a result, Clinton had to give up much of his "investment agenda" in education, infrastructure, and other long-neglected means of building the productivity of average working Americans. The economy enjoyed a huge cyclical recovery.

Robert Reich is the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Fuiture  and Reason, Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America now in bookstores. This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org. 

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What Elizabeth Edwards Did for the Antiwar Movement

Published on Wednesday, December 8, 2010
by John Nichols
The Nation

Elizabeth Edwards was a distinct political figure—the wife of a vice-presidential nominee and leading presidential contender who was consistently willing to stake out more dynamic and detailed positions than her husband. She was, for instance, dramatically more supportive of gay rights than John Edwards—so much so that when the former senator was asked about the issue during 2008 presidential debates he ended up having to explain why he had not yet "evolved" toward Elizabeth's more enlightened stances in favor of same-sex marriage and rescinding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

I always enjoyed interviewing Elizabeth more than John because Elizabeth, who has died at age 61 after a long battle with cancer, was so much more likely to say something that mattered. And where Elizabeth Edwards said the most that mattered during the time of her greatest political prominence was in her embrace of the anti-war movement at a point when her husband and other leading Democrats remained troublingly tentative.

Always more deeply and specifically critical of the Iraq War, Elizabeth Edwards played an essential role in moving her husband toward a more aggressively anti-war position as he prepared for his 2008 presidential run. But it was not just John Edwards that Elizabeth moved. With a specific act in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential contest, the wife of the Democratic party's vice presidential candidate in that race gave a sort of official blessing to a more militant—and meaningful—anti-war activism.

In the summer of 2005—long before John Edwards apologized for his 2002 vote to authorize President Bush to take the country to war in Iraq—Elizabeth Edwards expressed support for Cindy Sheehan, as the mother of slain soldier Casey Sheehan was emerging as the face of a noisier, more unapologetic and more uncompromising antiwar movement.

Continue reading here.

Ex-Intelligence Officers, Others See Plusses in WikiLeaks Disclosures

News Release
Institute for Public Accuracy
December 7, 2010

The following statement was released today, signed by Daniel Ellsberg, Frank Grevil, Katharine Gun, David MacMichael, Ray McGovern, Craig Murray, Coleen Rowley and Larry Wilkerson; all are associated with Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.

WikiLeaks has teased the genie of transparency out of a very opaque bottle, and powerful forces in America, who thrive on secrecy, are trying desperately to stuff the genie back in. The people listed below this release would be pleased to shed light on these exciting new developments.

How far down the U.S. has slid can be seen, ironically enough, in a recent commentary in Pravda (that's right, Russia's Pravda): "What WikiLeaks has done is make people understand why so many Americans are politically apathetic ... After all, the evils committed by those in power can be suffocating, and the sense of powerlessness that erupts can be paralyzing, especially when ... government evildoers almost always get away with their crimes. ..."

So shame on Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and all those who spew platitudes about integrity, justice and accountability while allowing war criminals and torturers to walk freely upon the earth. ... the American people should be outraged that their government has transformed a nation with a reputation for freedom, justice, tolerance and respect for human rights into a backwater that revels in its criminality, cover-ups, injustices and hypocrisies.

Odd, isn't it, that it takes a Pravda commentator to drive home the point that the Obama administration is on the wrong side of history. Most of our own media are demanding that WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange be hunted down -- with some of the more bloodthirsty politicians calling for his murder. The corporate-and-government dominated media are apprehensive over the challenge that WikiLeaks presents. Perhaps deep down they know, as Dickens put it, "There is nothing so strong ... as the simple truth."

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sorry, We Spent Your Unemployment Insurance on the Afghan Ambassador's Trump Tower Condo

By Robert Greenwald
Filmmaker, Brave New Films
Huffington Post
Dec. 1, 2010

While unemployment insurance payments are running out for millions of Americans who lost jobs due to no fault of their own, the Afghan ambassador to the UN is living in a $4.2 million Manhattan condo on our dime.
While Americans are standing in line for the local food pantry, we're paying for this guy's mahogany kitchen cabinets.

It's outrageous, and it shows the warped priorities in Washington, D.C. Are our politicians really so out of touch that they don't realize how angry this kind of thing makes us? In case you folks inside the Beltway haven't noticed, we're falling apart out here. The last thing we need to be funding is this guy's access to "private Pilates and massage rooms." But hey, if we're going to be blowing taxpayer money on massages, I know several million people who could use a neck rub.


Continue reading here.

It's Time To Save The Democrats From Themselves -- And All Of Us From Deficit Extremism

By Richard (RJ) Eskow
Campaign for America's Future
November 30, 2010 - 8:58pm ET
It's come to this: At a strange and bitter press conference this afternoon (where they even accused their opponents of "racism"), the co-chairs of the Presidential Deficit Commission laid out a proposal that literally meets the dictionary definition of extremism. They've apparently rewritten the Executive Order creating their Commission, too, so if enough Commission members back their proposal it could become law. That would spell long-term defeat for the Democratic Party. More importantly, it would create misery for generations to come.

The only four people who can prevent this disaster are the four Democratic members of the Deficit Commission who have yet to stake a clear position on this proposal: Sen. Kent Conrad, Sen. Max Baucus, Sen. Dick Durbin, and Rep. Xavier Becerra. They need to hear from intelligent, sober-minded people who will encourage them to take a brave stand against these destructive ideas. (Their phone numbers are below.)
ex·trem·ist (x-strmst): n. One who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm, especially in politics. [1]

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson are pushing ideas that lie well outside the norms that have governed mainstream politics for the last 75 years. Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed a Social Security advisory council back in 1959, for example, which disproved many of the talking points Bowles and Simpson are still using today.

That hasn't stopped them. And if their positions are out of step with political orthodoxy, they're even further out of step with public opinion. They want to cut Social Security to decrease the deficit - a move that's even opposed by most Tea Partiers. Washington ireporters and politicians get upset when anybody but one of them uses the word "extremist." But what's a better word?
When you're too right-wing for the Tea Party, it's official: You're an extremist.

As we reported elsewhere, 67% of the public opposes Social Security cuts. 69% are against raising the retirement age. 79% are against cutting Medicare. How many of these ideas are likely to be in the Simpson/Bowles proposal?

All of them.

And it gets worse - much worse. Simpson and Bowles kept repeating a new slogan for tax expenditures - "tax earmarks" - for the deductions familiar to most Americans. That term sounds like it was dreamed up by the same Pete Peterson consultant who came up with the tin-eared "Owe No" slogan, but the co-chairs repeated it as if it were the Lord's Prayer. "Senate earmarks only cost $16 billion a year," they said, "but 'tax earmarks' cost $1.1 trillion." They hinted strongly that they intended to recommend ending all tax expenditures.

What would that mean? Ending the mortgage interest credit would push millions more struggling homeowners underwater, triggering another wave of foreclosures. Ending the child tax credit would push many families with children deeper into a financial quagmire. Ending the employer tax credit for health benefits would erode or completely end health benefits for 144 million Americans who are insured through their employer today (a number that has already been dropping rapidly).
Millions of lost jobs, millions of lost votes

The EPI had already estimated that the co-chairs' proposal could cost 4 million jobs - and that was before the "tax earmark" routine. It's no wonder that some Republicans, who have been chafing at the bit to do these things for ages, are egging on Obama and Senate Democrats to embrace their proposal. They would get policies their party financiers have craved for decades - and Democrats would take the fall.

These Republicans are like schoolkids urging the unpopular nerd to break the principal's window. They'll hear the satisfying sound of breaking glass, and they'll get rid of a a pesky kid they didn't want hanging around anyway.

ex·tremism: n. Any political theory favoring immoderate, uncompromising policies. [2]

Ideas aren't bad just because they're outside the political mainstream. All of the principles we hold dear as a nation probably were, at one time or another. But one of the striking things about this afternoon's press conference was the vitriol and contempt that Simpson and Bowles slung at anyone who dares to react to their ideas with anything other than enthusiasm or submission. Dissent from their radical orthodoxy, as they presented it today, was an impermissible position that could only come from the basest of motives: "The far left and the far right have hired auditoriums to terrorize their minions," said Simpson. (They often use false equivalence - pretending that conservatives are as outraged as progressives - to mask their positions.)

Who's terrorizing who? The deficits are a "cancer," they said. They'll bring on a collapse that will come "all of a sudden" and "without warning." "The era of deficit denial is over," Smpson bragged - before adding, bizarrely, that their opponents were guilty of "racism" (no explanation was given) and were spreading "emotion, guilt, and fear."

Failing up?

Among other things, this press conference was an admission of failure. As Atrios pointed out, the Executive Order creating their commission gave them clear direction: " 14 out of 18 votes (are) needed to report recommendations, and recommendations must be reported to Congress by December 1, 2010. " The co-chairs made it clear they don't expect to win 14 votes and announced they would miss the date by which "recommendations must be reported."

But rules are apparently for the little people. They're forging ahead anyway, planning to submit a report that's missed their deadline and failed to win enough votes for passage. The fact that their "report" isn't an official report anymore, combined with their "immoderate, uncompromising" policy position, should be the end of the story. But we can't be sure. President Obama's wage freeze for Federal workers was an ill-advised nod to deficit hysteria, and an overly compliant Harry Reid told Bowles and Simpson that a vote on their proposed bill was possible next year. Those are warning signs that the Democrats may be preparing to do themselves - and everybody else - lasting harm.

The last line of defense

That's where the rest of us come in.

Simpson and Bowles will use every vote they get as an affirmation that the Senate must vote on their extreme legislative draft. If it passes in the right-leaning Senate, the Boehner Congress could be a shoo-in. And the President cannot be counted upon to veto such a bill. These four Democrats are the last line of defense. They need to be reminded that there are better ways to manage the country's finances (the Citizens' Commission report on Jobs, Deficits, and America's Economic Future is a great place to start.) They need to hear from thoughtful, rational citizens who can explain the serious flaws in the Simpson-Bowles proposal. In other words, they need to hear from you.

So why not call them? Sen. Conrad's office number is (202) 224-2043. Sen. Baucus can be reached at (2020) 224-2651. Sen. Durbin's number is (202) 224-2152. Rep. Becerra is at (202) 225-6235. Be respectful. They're undoubtedly under extreme political pressure. Please call them. Let them know that if they resist this rush to fiscal extremism, millions of grateful Americans will have their back.
[1] The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
[2] WordNet 3.0 © 2003-2008 Princeton University, Farlex Inc
This post was produced as part of the Strengthen Social Security campaign.