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Raise the Minimum Wage

Some 47 million Americans live in poverty, and a key reason is the decline of the minimum wage.

MSNBC "Leans Forward" Into Running "Native Ads" Promoting Fracking

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Three years into its "Lean Forward" re-branding campaign, MSNBC has given new meaning to the catchphrase, leaning forward into running branded content promoting hydraulic fracturing ("fracking)

Coal Baron and Major Ken Cuccinelli Campaign Donor Sues Blogger for Defamation, Invasion of Privacy

Robert Murray, owner of the Ohio-based coal giant, Murray Energy Corporationfiled a defamation lawsuit against a prominent liberal blogger and The Huffington Post

Everyone Else Gets Priced Out of the Game

  “Excuse me for interrupting, Congressman, but I thought you might like to know that Theresa has been in the waiting room for almost two hours now, hoping to see you.”

 

“Theresa?”

 

“She’s the new aide in our Scottsville office.”

 

Over 865K Gallons of Fracked Oil Spill in ND, Public In Dark For Days Due to Government Shutdown

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

 Photo Credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Wikimedia Commons

Congress should stop blowing smoke: Weed to the Rescue in Budget Crisis?

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Imagine U.S. House Speaker John Boehner blasted on weed.

Given Boehner’s teary-eyed trait, he’d probably cry uncontrollably when high on pot alternating his crocodile tears with hysterical laughter…perhaps even laughing at some of that dumb shi-tuff he and his GOP colleagues constantly do on Capitol Hill.

Frackademia: The People & Money Behind the EDF Methane Emissions Study

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The long-awaited Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)-sponsored hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") fugitive methane emissions study is finally out. Unfortunately, it's another case of "frackademia" or industry-funded 'science' dressed up to look like objective academic analysis.

Interview: Students, Faculty Protest Presence of David Petraeus at CUNY Honors College

Cross-Posted from FireDogLake

On September 9, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus -- who also formerly headed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) International Security Assistance Force for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and co-wrote the Counterinsurgency Field Manual -- began a new job as an adjunct professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College.

Obama’s Keystone XL Trade-Off: Executive Order Expediting Everything Else

Cross-Posted from Mint Press News

Large segments of the environmental movement declared a win on Jan. 18, 2012, the dawn of an election year in which partisan fervor reigned supreme.

On that day President Barack Obama kicked the can down the road for permitting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline’s northern half until after the then-forthcoming November 2012 presidential election.

"Frackademia" By Law: Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Exposed

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

With the school year starting for many this week, it's another year of academia for professors across the United States - and another year of "frackademia" for an increasingly large swath of "frackademics" under federal law. 

"Frackademia" is best defined as flawed but seemingly legitimate science and economic studies on the controversial oil and gas horizontal drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), but done with industry funding and/or industry-tied academics ("frackademics"). 

Do We Want School or Education?

As our world continues to unravel in response to the impact of our uneconomic activities on ecological systems, it is obviously worth asking searching questions about the nature of modern society. By doing this we can make intelligent decisions about the direction in which we should move as we thoughtfully respond to the interrelated crises we face.

For many people, the central question is this: Will tinkering with human society be enough to get us out of this mess? Many people think not and I am one of them. For the moment, however, rather than focus on the nature of the economy, political systems or other aspects of modern societies, I would like to discuss the issue of education.

Spinning a Popular American Image: John Wayne, the New Economy and the American Male Worker

By John Grant


The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.
-- D.H. Lawrence

 

TPP: The Terrible Plutocratic Plan

By David Swanson

Remarks July 21, 2013 at an Occupy Harrisonburg (Va.) Event. 
Make your voice heard here.

Thanks to Michael Feikema and Doug Hendren for inviting me.  Like most of you I do not spend my life studying trade agreements, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is disturbing enough to make me devote a little time to it, and I hope you will do the same and get your neighbors to do the same and get them to get their friends to do the same -- as soon as possible.

I spend most of my time reading and writing about war and peace.  I'm in the middle of writing a book about the possibility and need to abolish war and militarism.  I hate to take a break from that.  But if we think trade and militarism are separate topics we're fooling ourselves.

Talk Nation Radio: Gar Alperovitz Points to Worker Ownership as Fix for Broken Democracy

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-gar

Gar Alperovitz discusses his new book, What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution.  Alperovitz points to long-term trends in wealth and income inequality, environmental destruction, civil liberties loss, incarceration rates, and others, to argue that ordinary political change is not enough, that systemic changes in the distribution of power are badly needed.  See http://www.garalperovitz.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

The Fourth of July

On this, the anniversary of the  U.S.’s independence from Great Britain, some observations:

Subjugation Theology

  “...the church ought to be a community of liberated people, committed to the liberation of all..

                                                     -   Fr. Bernard Haring

 

Biden/Obama full-court press on Snowden is a bad joke: The Real Traitors to America are in Washington and New York

By Dave Lindorff


It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry as the US goes all out to get its hands on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Banking on Education

Click to Enlarge Image

Democracy for America Infographic

Banking on Education infographic via Democracy for America



It's the Ownership

If you're like me you've read several books that list inspiring examples of worker owned businesses and co-ops, suggesting that expanding on such models might begin to right the wrongs of an incredibly unequal society that is growing even more unequal by the day.

The best such collection I've found is in a new book by Gar Alperovitz called What Then Must We Do?  This book also offers a powerful argument that radical change is needed, albeit an argument with some possible flaws.  First the inspiring examples:

Workers own and run factories in Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington DC, Amarillo, and many other cities.  Labor unions that once opposed worker ownership, including the Steelworkers and several others, now create worker-owned companies.  Forty percent of Americans are members of cooperatives, including credit unions.  People moved hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, from large banks to credit unions and small banks in 2011 and 2012.  (That should continue!)  Then there are community development corporations and land trusts, alive and thriving.  There are even corporations redesigned, and labeled B Corps, chartered under new laws in 12 states to allow them to legally pursue the social good as well as profits. 

Employee stock ownership plans make U.S. workers owners of their businesses in great numbers -- three million more than are members of unions in the private sector.  Federal tax incentives (don't tell Congress!) encourage business owners to sell to their employees.  Worker-owned firms are becoming more common.  They are also more profitable than other similar companies. 

It occurs to me that we need a Union-Label type operation to label and catalog the products of worker-owned companies so that we can put our support there. 

Local governments are investing in local businesses and land development.  A quarter of U.S. electricity comes from publicly owned co-ops.  These power companies are more efficient and tend to be greener.  The model is being followed by public broadband service.  Proposals that meet the textbook definition of socialism are alive and growing in red and blue states alike, and at the local and state levels.

This matters because the national government in the United States is so thoroughly corrupted.  I'm not sure Alperovitz ever directly answers the question of how a national plutocracy will be prevented from halting local and state progress on the ownership question, as it has halted local and state progress on other matters.  If the trend toward democratizing ownership is happening under the radar, how can it possibly be kept there while succeeding on the necessary scale?  If this approach to economic justice is somehow more inherently "American" than other more foreign ideas, how exactly does that protect it?  Weren't family farms and free elections and the Fourth Amendment deemed very American at one point too?  Alperovitz recommends a state-by-state approach to single-payer healthcare, but the refusal of California legislators to enact it has come at the bidding of those in Washington.  None of which is to suggest that Alperovitz is wrong to promote this strategy -- just that it may be very difficult, and some other strategies may help too.

Alperovitz frames his discussion within an understanding of serious systemic failure.  Persistent long-term trends toward income and wealth inequality, monopolized corporate power, mass incarceration, and environmental devastation churn ahead in the face of elections, activism, lobbying, and reform legislation, not to mention flip-flopping between Republican and Democratic so-called "leadership."  Alperovitz paints these as even longer term trends than we often suppose by dismissing the gains of the middle of the 20th century as an aberration produced by the Great Depression and World War II, and as gains that could not have come without a large labor movement -- something he now deems virtually impossible. 

Most activist groups, Alperovitz points out, react to cuts in public services by demanding no cuts.  This is purely defensive.  Alperovitz acknowledges that some also advocate for progressive taxation, but deems this "obviously inadequate" although the obviousness of its inadequacy is not apparent to me, except in the sense that (just like the worker-ownership model) it hasn't succeeded yet on a major scale. Yes, the plutocrats buy the elections.  The system is rigged against tax reform.  But the goal of advancing the taxation (and elimination) of billionaires as power is gradually obtained seems critical.

Alperovitz seems at times to buy into the notion that there just isn't enough money around, even if the billionaires were to be taxed at 90 percent.  But this is wrong, of course.  The nation is rolling in money, and the money is piled up in the hands of several hundred people. 

It's somewhere else as well, somewhere Alperovitz doesn't propose to look for it.  President Obama's proposed budget for 2014 devotes 57% of discretionary spending to an illegal, immoral, counterproductive, and economically destructive operation known as war and preparation for war.  While Alperovitz suggests that World War III could save the U.S. economy (were a new world war possible, which he says it isn't), economists say military spending as it exists does less for the economy than other public spending and even less than tax cuts for working people; that is to say, it is worse than nothing. 

Alperovitz seems unaware that roughly half of military spending is outside the Pentagon, in Homeland Security, in the CIA, in the State Department, in the Energy Department, etc.  So he uses the Pentagon budget alone to argue that military spending is low as a percentage of GDP.  This does not of course make it low in terms of actual dollars or as a percentage of global military spending or as a percentage of public spending in the United States.  Alperovitz believes there's little money for spending on human needs, but seems not to notice where 57% of discretionary spending is going. 

While Alperovitz raises the topic of healthcare because it takes up, he says, 20 percent of GDP, the war machine that swallows 8 or 9 percent of GDP from U.S. government purchases alone (U.S. companies also dominating international weapons sales) gets no consideration.  Leo Tolstoy, from whom the book's title is borrowed, would have noticed the existence of the military industrial complex.  He would have considered the possibility of economic conversion.  Connecticut created a commission this month to pursue conversion from war to peace manufacturing.  I suspect Alperovitz would like that model if he took a look at it. 

So, here's where I come down.  We should be pursuing everything Alperovitz recommends, and then some.  We should create worker ownership, tax the rich, cut the military, invest in our society, and act strategically at the local, state, and national levels.  We should take very seriously long-term structural failures and stop imagining that another election will fix anything by itself.  And we should, as Alperovitz wisely recommends, be preparing the ground for the best possible activism when a moment of greater possibilities arrives, or when we have succeeded in creating it.

Corporate Welfare or Education?

Should a public university be transformed into a corporate welfare project?  That’s the key question surrounding “Tax-Free NY,” a new plan zealously promoted by New York State’s Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo.

Under the provisions of his Tax-Free NY scheme, most of the 64 campuses of the State University of New York (SUNY), some private colleges, and zones adjacent to SUNY campuses would be thrown open to private businesses that would be exempted from state taxes on sales, property, the income of their owners, and the income of their employees for a period of ten years.  According to the governor, this creation of tax-free havens for private, profit-making companies is designed to create economic development and jobs, especially in upstate New York.

Joined by businessmen, politicians, and top SUNY administrators, Cuomo has embarked on a full court press for his plan.  Tax-Free NY, he announced, was “a game-changing initiative that will transform SUNY campuses and university communities across the state.”  Conceding that these tax-free zones wouldn’t work without a dramatic “culture shift” in the SUNY system, Cuomo argued that faculty would have to “get interested and participate in entrepreneurial activities.”  As he declared in mid-May, the situation was “delicate, because academics are academics. . . .  But you can be a great academic and you can be entrepreneurial, and I would argue you’d be a better academic if you were actually entrepreneurial.”

How broke do we have to be to cut military budget?

Source: www.robcouteau.com 

by Lisa Savage and Janet Weil

The omnibus military spending bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)  rolled out of the House Armed Services Committee pulling a trailer load of amendments and barreling down an increasingly potholed road. In the same week as news broke of massive school closings in Chicago and Philadelphia for lack of funding, only two members of the committee, California representatives Jackie Speier and John Garamendi, had the presence of mind to vote “no” on $637.5 billion more for drones, nukes, and missile “defense” in FY2014.

We Are Family

  This one contains a tongue-in-cheek look at the wealthy "decision makers"  who are deciding to "fix the debt" by cutting services to ordinary people rather than take simple steps like closing tax loopholes designed by and for the benefit of the rich, raising the current cut-off level on the Social Security tax, eliminating offshore tax shelters, going after income tax fraud, and raising corporate income taxes, which have plunged over the past few decades.   My apologies to any political figures I may have inadvertently shamed by low-balling their income.  I will gladly make any needed corrections. 

 

Hundreds of Them Living in a Single File Cabinet

 This one takes a look at the offshore tax shelters which corporations use to avoid hundreds of billions of dollars of tax liability, thereby leaving... you and me... to carry the load, while our country sinks deeper into debt.

Sanders Statement on Social Security Trust Fund Report

BURLIGTON, Vt., May 31 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Senate Budget Committee member and founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus, issued the following statement after Social Security trustees today released their annual report on the retirement system’s finances:

“The report from the Social Security trustees confirms what many of us have known, that Social Security is not ‘going broke,’ that it can pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 20 years and that after 2033 there is enough in reserve to pay three-quarters of future benefits.

“Our job now is to make sure Social Security is strong not just for 20 years but for generations to come. The best way to do that is not to cut Social Security cost-of-living adjustments as Republicans and President Obama have proposed, but to do what Obama called for as a candidate in 2008. We must lift the cap on Social Security payroll taxes and make the wealthy contribute the same percentage of their income as other workers. Today, someone making $10 million a year contributes the same amount of money as someone making $113,700. That is absurd.”

To read a fact sheet on the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act (S.500) to apply the payroll tax that most Americans already pay on all of their income to income above $250,000 a year, click here.

To read the bill cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) click here.

 

Forget droning on about changed policies: President Obama will have to Prove He’s a Changed Man

By Dave Lindorff


Some on the left are writing hopefully these days that perhaps President Obama has finally realized he needs to back off on his warlike posture on drones and the War on Terror. They are seeing his talk about scaling back the use of drone killing machines and of reconsidering or “investigating” recent Justice Department attacks on the press and its use of leaks by government whistle-blowers, as a sign that he is perhaps regaining his constitutional senses and perhaps even “moving” to the left to rebuild support he has been losing in droves.

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