Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Obama Doctrine

by David Rohde

When Barack Obama took the oath of office three years ago, no one associated the phrase "targeted killing" with his optimistic young presidency. In his inaugural address, the 47-year-old former constitutional law professor uttered the word "terror" only once. Instead, he promised to use technology to "harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories."

Oddly, technology has enabled Obama to become something few expected: a president who has dramatically expanded the executive branch's ability to wage high-tech clandestine war. With a determination that has surprised many, Obama has embraced the CIA, expanded its powers, and approved more targeted killings than any modern president. Over the last three years, the Obama administration has carried out at least 239 covert drone strikes, more than five times the 44 approved under George W. Bush. And after promising to make counterterrorism operations more transparent and rein in executive power, Obama has arguably done the opposite, maintaining secrecy and expanding presidential authority.

Just as importantly, the administration's excessive use of drone attacks undercuts one of its most laudable policies: a promising new post-9/11 approach to the use of lethal American force, one of multilateralism, transparency, and narrow focus.

Stealing From The Mouth of Public Education to Feed the Prison Industrial Complex

by Adwoa Masozi

We are witnessing a systemic recasting of education priorities that gives official structure and permanence to a preexisting underclass comprised largely of criminalized poor black and brown people.

States across the US are excising billions of dollars from their education budgets as if 22% of the population isn’t functionally illiterate.

According to the NAAL standards of the National Center for Education Statistics 68 million people are reading below basic levels. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that “nearly all states are spending less money (on education) than they spent in 2008 (after inflation), even though the cost of providing services will be higher.” On top of cutting 4 billion dollars from their budget, Texas has also eliminated state funding for pre-K programs that serve around 100,000 mostly at-risk children. North Carolina has cut nearly a half billion dollars from K-12 education resulting in an 80 percent loss for textbook funds and a 5 percent cut in support positions like guidance counselors and social workers among numerous other cuts. Decisions like these leave little reason to wonder why both those states are facing 27% drop out rates.

Closing public schools has so become the rage that the state of California has even produced a best practices guide on how to close and make them fit for turn-around. Why not promote a ‘best practices guide for keeping a school going’ instead? Why make these decisions when we know that a lack of education decreases access to quality (and legitimate) employment opportunities, increases the likelihood of encounters with the criminal (in)justice system, negatively impacts health outcomes, and altogether limits one’s ability to determine her or his own future?

A Nation Divided: Can We Agree On Anything?

by Linton Weeks

Like baseballs in a batting cage, the controversies that divide us just keep on coming. Fast and unpredictable.

Last month it was the flap over the Susan G. Komen foundation and its move to cut financial support of Planned Parenthood. The resulting imbroglio dredged up deeply held convictionsamong Americans about women's health issues and "cause marketing" that, in this case, has resulted in profits for companies promoting breast cancer awareness and research through pink and omnipresent product tie-ins.

This month it's the Girl Scouts. Bob Morris, a state representative in Indiana, has created a kerfuffle by denouncing the Girl Scouts organization for "sexualizing young girls." The campfire-building, cookie-selling sorority, he wrote in a letter to his state Legislature, "has been subverted in the name of liberal progressive politics and the destruction of traditional American family values."

Next month it could be church bells, butterflies or baseball. There's just no telling.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Relentless Force Crippling Our Economy, Dismantling Our Democracy

by Michael Payne

America is in no danger of invasion by any foreign power; no nation would dare to attempt it. But America is in great danger of falling under the control of a relentless force that is threatening it from within. This nation is currently under siege by a powerful entity that has already severely damaged our economy and now has its sights on the dismantling of our democracy.

That relentless force is Corporatism, typically defined as "a system of economic, political, or social organization that involves association of the people of society into corporate groups such as agricultural, business, ethnic or labor on the basis of common interests." That was a description of Corporatism when it existed in a relatively benign state.

That definition has now been updated to: "an association of giant corporations, the wealthiest and most influential Americans, and a large sector of our government." The common goal of these closely connected elements is the control and domination of this nation's agenda and direction.   Let's refer to the leaders of Corporatism as corporatists.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ron Paul Only U.S. Presidential Candidate Warning of Fascist Takeover In America

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

Republican Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate of either party to tell the truth that America is “slipping into a fascist system.”

That is unquestionably the critical issue of the hour for the United States of America and one that Paul’s Republican fellow candidates and their Democratic opponent President Obama choose to ignore.

Hand in hand with this existential crisis is that a nation that goes fascist at home invariably becomes a tyrant abroad. Thus, the Congressman from Galveston is right on the mark when he calls for the predatory U.S. to pull its troops out of the Middle East and Africa and close down its foreign bases. The U.S., indisputably, with its 1,000 military bases at home and a thousand more abroad, is now the most awesome military power ever.

“We’ve slipped away from a true Republic,” Paul told a cheering crowd of followers at a Feb. 18th rally in Kansas City, Mo. “Now we’re slipping into a fascist system where it’s a combination of government and big business and authoritarian rule and the suppression of the individual rights of each and every American citizen.”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Michael Hardt: 'The illusion of the end of politics has distracted us' - video

Exaggerating the focus on sovereignty in the age of terror has caused us to put into the shadows the everyday functioning of power, says the political philosopher Michael Hardt

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Six questions reporters should ask of anyone advocating military action against Iran

by Reza Marashi & Trita Parsi

America is once again drifting toward war. Less than ten years after the U.S. invasion (and subsequent occupation) of Iraq, its myriad lessons seem forgotten. A familiar, toxic mix of sloppy politicians and politicized foreign policy experts is telling the American public that an irrational Iranian regime hell-bent on acquiring and using nuclear weapons poses an imminent threat to its safety -- despite the highest levels of America's national security establishment speaking on the record to the contrary.

The ghosts of America's neoconservative past have successfully shaped the policy around its selling points despite next-to-zero discussion about the consequences of war. Obama administration officials have always been delicate when pushing back against their hawkish counterparts on Iran policy, and election-year considerations have heightened those sensitivities to the point of near-paralysis. Reductionism has focused the debate in America on how the military can stop an Iranian nuclear bomb that is neither in existence nor imminent.

Many Americans who believe this dishonest discourse cannot be blamed for basing their views on the misinformation they receive. A free press that reports with neither passion nor prejudice is part of America's democratic fabric. And yet, we despair about the credulousness of the U.S. media when it comes to this dangerous saber-rattling vis-à-vis Iran. Rather than learning from sins previously committed in the run up to the Iraq war, most media outlets are sticking to the same formula on Iran. To avoid a disastrous repeat, their questions need to recalibrate the frame of the debate to put it in its proper context.

Friday, February 24, 2012

America Is Europe

by David Brooks

We Americans cherish our myths. One myth is that there is more social mobility in the United States than in Europe. That’s false. Another myth is that the government is smaller here than in Europe. That’s largely false, too.

The U.S. does not have a significantly smaller welfare state than the European nations. We’re just better at hiding it. The Europeans provide welfare provisions through direct government payments. We do it through the back door via tax breaks.

For example, in Europe, governments offer health care directly. In the U.S., we give employers a gigantic tax exemption to do the same thing. European governments offer public childcare. In the U.S., we have child tax credits. In Europe, governments subsidize favored industries. We do the same thing by providing special tax deductions and exemptions for everybody from ethanol producers to Nascar track owners.

These tax expenditures are hidden but huge. Budget experts Donald Marron and Eric Toder added up all the spending-like tax preferences and found that, in 2007, they amounted to $600 billion. If you had included those preferences as government spending, then the federal government would have actually been one-fifth larger than it appeared.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Police Brutality, Black America, and the US Occupy Movement

by Solomon Comissiong

The US “Occupy Movement” continues to raise Americans consciousness regarding a number of critical social issues and inequities, including the vast wealth disparity within the so-called “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”.  The US version of the movement began on Wall Street and has now spread throughout numerous cities and towns, gaining momentum with each new participant. Many Americans, young and older, are beginning to shed some of their apathetic clothing, in hopes of tailoring a new garment riddled with threads of social and economic justice. People are indeed seeking a new, more progressive society within a nation (America) drenched in injustice, and inequality. And as these movements begin to foment so does the state sponsored apparatus of repression—the police. Many seasoned and fledgling activists are beginning to get their first unhealthy taste of police brutality and abuse of power. Even privileged college students, such as those at Berkley, are encountering some of the inhumane treatment that is sometimes doled out from the hands of rogue police officers.

Experiencing police brutality and terror is horrifying for anyone, especially those unaccustomed to it. Much of “mainstream” America has expressed distress, disgust, and displeasure with the unsettling images of activists, many of which are white, being sprayed with pepper spray, beat with batons, and bloodied. However, this treatment of human-beings, as barbaric as it is, is merely a sampling of what is done in black and brown communities, day in and day out—year by year!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Uncle Sam Is No Imam

 by Samuel J. Rascoff
Two years ago, John O. Brennan, President Obama’s top adviser on counterterrorism, spoke to members of a Muslim student group in a packed auditorium at the law school where I teach, offering his audience the White House’s position about what jihad does and does not mean. Later that year, on a panel with me in that same auditorium, a commentator, Haroon Moghul, drew attention to efforts by American officials to build global networks of “acceptable” Muslim leaders.

There are other examples like these around the country. The Ohio Department of Public Safety has produced and distributed literature that declares, “When extremists attack and kill in the name of jihad, mainstream Muslims consider such acts as a total deviation from the true religion of Islam.”

Homeland Security officials were signed up for a 2010 conference in which one topic was “Seeking a Counter-Reformation in Islam.” In 2004, an inspector general criticized the Bureau of Prisons because it failed to “examine the doctrinal beliefs of applicants for religious service positions to determine whether those beliefs are inconsistent with B.O.P. security policies.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

American Spring

by Michael Gillespie

After 10 years of war, a massive bail-out of Wall Street, and the worst recession since the Great Depression, Washington has run out of money.  As the pro-Israel lobby’s frantic efforts to foment war with Iran increase, the Obama administration is finally winding down the ill-conceived, immoral, counter-productive, and unsuccessful but hideously destructive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The U.S. military is reducing troop levels, not hiring new recruits.  Unable to find work, many Americans have thrown themselves into an effort re-invent the corrupt system that is failing them.

In a word, Occupy Wall Street was – and is – brilliant.  It has reinvigorated a flagging antiwar movement and rekindled interest in progressive ideas and ideals.  On a conceptual level, with its emphasis on nonviolent protest, direct democracy, and direct action in support of economic justice, honest government, accountability, and an end to oppression, exploitation, and war, OWS has shown itself to be everything that official Washington and Wall Street are not.  Though corporate media outlets were slow to recognize the importance, authenticity, and vigor of the new popular movement, once they did the national security apparatus quickly began to coordinate efforts by municipal, county, and state law enforcement agencies around the nation to stifle OWS dissent.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

If America's future is to be secure, regressing to a religious state is not the answer

by S. Paul Forrest

We will be discussing this and other issues Monday, 02-20-2012. Be sure to tune in to Breaking Taboo, 7:00 PM EST on 

It would seem to any reasonable person watching the drama unfold in the 2012 Presidential race that efforts in our Nation would involve economics, trade and green, sustainable energy initiatives but instead, the focus has been on abortion and contraceptives.  Acting as if the negation of our right to privacy will fix all of America’s woes, the candidates and their constituents at the State level have centered their efforts on this single issue despite the Supreme Court’s decision to protect not only the right to choose on abortion but also the right to utilize birth control.

In listening to the rhetoric of late regarding these freedoms and the desire of some to challenge them, one would be led to believe this issue had never been decided upon  in the past.  As would seem typical of late in America’s selective amnesia surrounding social and political issues, many people have been quick to forget that the highest judicial authority in the nation has already made the decision involving birth control and the right to privacy in this nation.

On June 7, 1965, the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that a "right to privacy" can be found within the U.S. Constitution which includes the use of contraception by married couples. This decision paved the way for Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972, which extended the right to single people. Since the Griswold decision, many rights to choice have emanated from these privacy decisions, including the right to abortion including Roe vs. Wade in 1973. More recently, in the 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court relied upon it to extend privacy rights to gay and lesbians within their homes.

In their continued resistance against many decisions by the Supreme Court combined with the push for autonomy from federal oversight, many States have begun to deny their obligation to protect citizen’s rights to privacy and choice by enacting tougher, anti-abortion laws. Although many States do not directly negate the Court’s decision, they have begun to engineer tactics to make the procedure not only demeaning for the women involved but have also begun to redefine abortion to include even contraceptive products as a form of it.

CIA Drone Strikes Targeting Funerals and Emergency Responders

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

Ignoring the possibility that emergency responders rushing to the aid of Middle East drone-strike victims may be medical personnel, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) operators have also marked them for death.

The CIA has also been targeting the funeral services of the alleged suspects it murders, also killing mourners who often may not be suspects but family and/or friends of the deceased, perhaps including children.

Although President Obama claims the drone strikes in Pakistan have not
caused a "huge number" of civilian casualties, reliable estimates say
the figure has already topped 500, including 60 children. It is a
tragic fact that secondary strikes raining down on funerals have
killed dozens of mourners.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Moochers Against Welfare

by Paul Krugman

First, Atlas shrugged. Then he scratched his head in puzzlement.

Modern Republicans are very, very conservative; you might even (if you were Mitt Romney) say, severely conservative. Political scientists who use Congressional votes to measure such things find that the current G.O.P. majority is the most conservative since 1879, which is as far back as their estimates go.

And what these severe conservatives hate, above all, is reliance on government programs. Rick Santorum declares that President Obama is getting America hooked on “the narcotic of dependency.” Mr. Romney warns that government programs “foster passivity and sloth.” Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, requires that staffers read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” in which heroic capitalists struggle against the “moochers” trying to steal their totally deserved wealth, a struggle the heroes win by withdrawing their productive effort and giving interminable speeches.

Many readers of The Times were, therefore, surprised to learn, from an excellent article published last weekend that the regions of America most hooked on Mr. Santorum’s narcotic — the regions in which government programs account for the largest share of personal income — are precisely the regions electing those severe conservatives. Wasn’t Red America supposed to be the land of traditional values, where people don’t eat Thai food and don’t rely on handouts?

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Destructive Madness of Extremism: First McCarthyism, Then Radical Zionism

by James M. Wall

The right-wing government leaders of the state of Israel, bolstered by their powerful US allies, are trembling with excitement at the prospect of a military attack against Iran.

Everything is in place for Iraq Redux. This time the Extremists are determined to get it right. No ground troops, just highly sophisticated bombing runs that will target nuclear targets in Iran.

The American public is being manipulated by Israel’s Zionist extremists to believe that Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear arms which will be able to “wipe Israel off the map”.

Time to choose up sides, folks: Are you with us or against us?

Republican candidates for president, congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats, with the active encouragement of the always predictable Israel Lobby, are all spoiling for a fight for “our side”.

Why Religion Should Not Dictate Our Politics

by Bill Moyers

Obama's contraception compromise is a rare practical solution to America's perennial church-state tensions.

The president did something agile and wise the other day. And something quite important to the health of our politics. He reached up and snuffed out what some folks wanted to make into a cosmic battle between good and evil. No, said the president, we're not going to turn the argument over contraception into Armageddon, this is an honest difference between Americans, and I'll not see it escalated into a holy war. So instead of the government requiring Catholic hospitals and other faith-based institutions to provide employees with health coverage involving contraceptives, the insurance companies will offer that coverage, and offer it free.

The Catholic bishops had cast the president's intended policy as an infringement on their religious freedom; they hold birth control to be a mortal sin, and were incensed that the government might coerce them to treat it otherwise. The president in effect said: No quarrel there; no one's going to force you to violate your doctrine. But Catholics are also Americans, and if an individual Catholic worker wants coverage, she should have access to it -- just like any other American citizen. Under the new plan, she will. She can go directly to the insurer, and the religious institution is off the hook.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Some Prisoners Being Thrown Into Solitary Confinement For Filing Grievances, The Catholic Worker Reports

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

There are nearly 25,000 inmates being held in solitary confinement in the U.S., some of them put there for filing grievances or lawsuits, “The Catholic Worker” reports.

If you don’t know what solitary can be like, Associate Editor Jim
Reagan of the “Worker” explains it “consists of prisoners being held alone in a cell without, or with restricted, reading material and mail as well as other items,” for at least 22 hours a day “with little orno natural light.”

What’s more, “Visits are severely limited and human contact is
confined behind a barrier.” The impact of this torture (defined as
such by international law) for months or years is that it pretty muchdestroys the human brain.

“Study after study has shown that solitary confinement often produces
psychological symptoms ranging from decreased brain function to severe
depression and hallucinations to vengeful thoughts, self-mutilation
and suicide,” Reagan writes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Imperial Way: American Decline in Perspective

by Noam Chomsky
American Decline in Perspective, Part 2 

Phillip of Macedon
In the years of conscious, self-inflicted decline at home, “losses” continued to mount elsewhere.  In the past decade, for the first time in 500 years, South America has taken successful steps to free itself from western domination, another serious loss. The region has moved towards integration, and has begun to address some of the terrible internal problems of societies ruled by mostly Europeanized elites, tiny islands of extreme wealth in a sea of misery.  They have also rid themselves of all U.S. military bases and of IMF controls.  A newly formed organization, CELAC, includes all countries of the hemisphere apart from the U.S. and Canada.  If it actually functions, that would be another step in American decline, in this case in what has always been regarded as “the backyard.”

Even more serious would be the loss of the MENA countries -- Middle East/North Africa -- which have been regarded by planners since the 1940s as “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” Control of MENA energy reserves would yield “substantial control of the world,” in the words of the influential Roosevelt advisor A.A. Berle.

To be sure, if the projections of a century of U.S. energy independence based on North American energy resources turn out to be realistic, the significance of controlling MENA would decline somewhat, though probably not by much: the main concern has always been control more than access.  However, the likely consequences to the planet’s equilibrium are so ominous that discussion may be largely an academic exercise.

Hegemony and Its Dilemmas

by Noam Chomsky
American Decline in Perspective, Part 1 

Significant anniversaries are solemnly commemorated -- Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, for example.  Others are ignored, and we can often learn valuable lessons from them about what is likely to lie ahead.  Right now, in fact.

At the moment, we are failing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s decision to launch the most destructive and murderous act of aggression of the post-World War II period: the invasion of South Vietnam, later all of Indochina, leaving millions dead and four countries devastated, with casualties still mounting from the long-term effects of drenching South Vietnam with some of the most lethal carcinogens known, undertaken to destroy ground cover and food crops. 

The prime target was South Vietnam.  The aggression later spread to the North, then to the remote peasant society of northern Laos, and finally to rural Cambodia, which was bombed at the stunning level of all allied air operations in the Pacific region during World War II, including the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In this, Henry Kissinger’s orderswere being carried out -- “anything that flies on anything that moves” -- a call for genocide that is rare in the historical record.  Little of this is remembered.  Most was scarcely known beyond narrow circles of activists.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Money Throws Democracy Overboard

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Watching what’s happening to our democracy is like watching the cruise ship Costa Concordia founder and sink slowly into the sea off the coast of Italy, as the passengers, shorn of life vests, scramble for safety as best they can, while the captain trips and falls conveniently into a waiting life boat.

We are drowning here, with gaping holes torn into the hull of the ship of state from charges detonated by the owners and manipulators of capital. Their wealth has become a demonic force in politics. Nothing can stop them. Not the law, which has been written to accommodate them. Not scrutiny -- they have no shame.

Not a decent respect for the welfare of others -- the people without means, their safety net shredded, left helpless before events beyond their control.

The obstacles facing the millennial generation didn’t just happen. Take an economy skewed to the top, low wages and missing jobs, predatory interest rates on college loans: these are politically engineered consequences of government of, by, and for the one percent. So, too, is our tax code the product of money and politics, influence and favoritism, lobbyists and the laws they draft for rented politicians to enact.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Budget 2012: Clean energy and the environment are on the front lines, again

by Jerry Bloom

The 2012 budget war commenced in earnest today as President Obama presented his spending proposal: Once again, clean, renewable energy and environmental sanity are at the heart of the package. The question is, will the GOP once again gut it like a fish and leave it for dead?

Big oil, big breaks
One of the biggest battles of the past few years has been over tax breaks for big oil and big gas. These huge companies have been obscenely profitable over the past few years, but the GOP continues to cling to the idea that they need huge tax incentives or they’ll just lie and down and refuse to drill, baby, drill.

President Obama proposed cutting those breaks last year – at a time when everyone on the GOP was insisting “We’re broke and we can’t afford ANYTHING,” and yet they still managed to preserve this huge boondoggle for their corporate pals.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rick Santorum is an Unproven Theory

Posted by Hunter

S. Paul note: Rarely do I find an article that makes a great point while adding a satirical spin on a ridiculous series of talking points forced upon us all by politicians pretending to be people who care.  This article is brilliant.

I don't believe in Rick Santorum. There, I said it. You can believe whatever you want, but in myhouse, we set our standards a little higher, and that includes having a bit of healthy skepticism when it comes to the mainstream media. They have a clear agenda biased towards making people believe Rick Santorum exists, but I have yet to see a single network, even Fox News, which is usually more careful about these things, even acknowledge that there is controversy over whether or not it is true.

In my house, therefore, we teach the controversy. I make sure my own child knows that Rick Santorum may or may not actually exist—but that he probably doesn't. We considered homeschooling for a while, and still may do it, as we cannot truly be sure our local school will respect our wishes on this matter. I have spoken to the principal and to my child's teacher at some length, and while they assure me that the matter of Rick Santorum existing or not existing has not as of yet come up in her elementary school class, I have been unable to receive a blanket promise that Rick Santorum will never be brought up, in any future junior high or high school political science class, and my queries as to whether they themselves would be willing toteach the controversy were met with rather more skepticism than I would have liked. So that remains to be seen.

The Environment: Corporate America’s Sacrificial Lamb

by S. Paul Forrest

If you missed the show, you can listen to our discussion how the bad habits of a consumption-minded society and the criminal disregard of profit hungry industry are impacting the health of humans, animals and nature are discussed with a hard look at the job versus environment debate. Listen to the show HERE and be sure to tune in weekly to Breaking Taboo, 7:00 PM EST on 

A sacrificial lamb is a metaphorical reference to a person or animal sacrificed (killed or discounted in some way) for the common good. In the human survival sphere of thinking, it is a depletion or negation of an element or organism in the global realm that is considered necessary to support the further existence of the human race. In terms of the environment, it is the purposeful destruction of nature that is deemed necessary for the preservation of the human species through the use and manipulation of its components to ensure survival. The reality is though that this destruction is not necessary for the common good and only serves to further the profit margin of the corporation itself.

The environment is our support system; the provider of our food, our fuel and our very existence. It provides the resources to run our factories, our homes and our businesses. It is the beholder of not only the amenities we need to survive but also the shelter to protect our families. It seems only fitting that some refer to this ecosystem as our Mother Earth. Unfortunately, with the level of destruction incurred by the past and present quest for the resources to support our growing population, we are quickly approaching an environmental tipping point.

The reality of this “necessary” destruction had not been recognized by a large percentage of Americans until British Petroleum drilled a gaping, oil spewing hole in the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. Before then, it was only those black-listed environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace that spoke openly about the ongoing devastations. These groups were of course, quickly discounted as extremists but now, with the growing numbers of those outside the ranks of environmental protection becoming more aware of the issue, the call for tighter corporate restrictions and energy resource responsibility has begun to escalate.

Federal Reserve, national debt nearly defeated during Great Depression; let’s finish this now

by Carl Herman

Monetary reform is a fundamental shift in how America creates money. The shift is from a Robber Baron-era design of banks creating credit to lend to us at interest and ever-increasing debt, to our community (government) creating it for the direct payment of public goods and services. The benefits of monetary reform are full employment as government becomes the employer of last resort for infrastructure investment, the best infrastructure we can envision, and ending national debt forever.

The Great Depression in the US (1929-1941) motivated professional economists to comprehensively and creatively address its causes. Upon consideration of previous US economic depressions in 1837, 1873, and 1893, prominent economists led by Henry Simons at the University of Chicago proposed monetary reform as the nation’s most effective and practical policy response, known as the Chicago Plan (and here).

The Line Between Selfishness and Self-Interest is Aggression

by J.G. Vibes

Bull Market X - John Henne
In the midst of the massive financial heists that we see on Wall Street and the wars of conquest that we see from Washington, it is only natural for us to become dismayed with how some people are hurting and manipulating others for their own personal gain.

We all experience self-interest to a certain degree; this seems to be some natural defense mechanism that keeps our bodies moving. This is nothing for anyone to be ashamed of, and it has nothing to do with the destructive behavior that we are talking about here. However, a line is crossed when someone makes the decision to employ force, fraud, coercion or manipulation to achieve their goals.

This is where it seems that the line between “selfishness” and “self-interest” should be drawn. If someone is not using aggressive, manipulative tactics to meet their needs and achieve their goals, then it is safe to say that no crime is being committed, no harm is being done. Every organization throughout history that has exploited people and made a mess of civilization has relied on violent and deceptive means to carry out this exploitation. Every menacing corporation that we see today has not risen to prominence on account of their contributions to society, but rather their ability to prevent their competitors from succeeding. Likewise, every despot and monarch on the face of the earth has been able to subjugate millions on account of the violence or manipulation that was used by themselves or their ancestors. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

To Date, the Grim Old Party Has Done Nothing but Sell We the People Snake Oil

by S. Paul Forrest

The phrase snake oil is as a derogatory term used to describe quackery; the promotion of fraudulent or unproven medical practices. The expression is also applied metaphorically to any product with questionable and/or unverifiable quality or benefit.  By extension, the term "snake oil salesman" may be applied to someone who sells fraudulent goods or who is a fraud himself.  Given this description and the events surrounding the republican campaign frenzy, it is not difficult to see similarities between the candidates and snake oil salesmen.

The past three years have been more than filled with fraudulent goods and promises. It have been filled with negative rhetoric against our President involving accusations of his not being a citizen; his being a Muslim bowing to Saudi Princes; a Marxist, a Saul Alinski radical and even a man bent on destroying our country.  This hate speech has been so fervently pushed upon us Americans from right wing politicians and their media spokespeople that it has taken on a life of its own. Only time will tell how far these salesmen will be willing to go to sell their snake oil to the unsuspecting voter.

In 2010, their Pledge to America won many State level elections and a majority in the House of Representatives but still, they have done nothing.  They promise to reclaim America with less Government, touting how they will bring jobs; but still, they have done nothing but criticize and defame our President and his fellows.  They promise to bring family values and ethics back to Washington but they have only exacerbated the divide between our legislative bodies and We the People while doing nothing about our troubles.

Those American people who still have their wits about them see it for what it is especially considering that time and time again, the stories have been proven to be exaggerated and in some cases, fabricated and the promises, unfulfilled.  The current ploy by these people to discredit the President in an attempt to win the next election is the best faux ware they have found to sell yet: His War on Religion and our Liberties/Rights "granted by God".  To this end, they have employed their next, best snake oil salesman: Rick Santorum.

Is The USA The Only Nation in the World With Corporate Personhood?

by Rob Kall

It's not surprising to learn that no nation on earth enshrines in its constitution the right of corporate personhood. 

Mila Versteeg, associate law professor at the University of Virginia,  is probably the only person in the world to have read every constitution that has been written since 1946--  constitutions from 186 nations. She's not only read them, she's quantified them, in terms of the rights that they define. That was part of a project she did while at Oxford

That led to the NY Times publishing an article, "We The People" Loses Appeal With People Around the World  based partly on the work of her and her colleague, David Law, professor of Law at Washington University

That NY Times article reported on the finding of Versteeg and Law that, while 30 or more years ago, the US Constitution was highly regarded, things have changed. The Times article cited a journal article remark by Law and Versteeg, "Among the world's democracies," Professors Law and Versteeg concluded, "constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall. Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s."

Why Going 'Back To Normal' Is No Longer An Option for the American Economy -- And Where We're Headed Now

by Sara Robinson

Former IMF chief economist Joseph Stiglitz has a message for everybody who's sitting around waiting for the economy to "get back to normal."

Stop waiting. ‘Cause that train’s gone, and it ain’t coming back. And the sooner we accept that “normal,” as post WWII America knew and loved it, will not be an option in this century, the sooner we’ll get ourselves moving forward on the path toward a new kind of prosperity. The only real question now is: What future awaits us on the other side of the coming shift?

In a don't-miss article in this month’s Vanity Fair, Stiglitz argues that our current economic woes are the result of a deep structural shift in the economy — a once-in-a-lifetime phase change that happens whenever the foundations of an old economic order are disrupted, and a new basis of wealth creation comes forward to take its place. The last time this happened was in the 1920s and 1930s, when a US economy that was built on farm output became the victim of its own success. Advances in farming led to a food glut. As food prices plummeted, farmers had less money to spend. This, in turn, depressed manufacturing and led to job losses in the cities, too. Land values in both places declined, impoverishing families and trapping them in place. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Occupying Corporations: How to Cut Corporate Power

by Bill Quigley

“Corporations are people, my friend.” Mitt Romney at Iowa State Fair.

Corporations are obviously not people.  But Romney is accurate in the sense that corporations have hijacked most of the rights of people while evading the responsibilities. An important part of the social justice agenda is democratizing corporations.  This means we must radically change the laws so people can be in charge of corporations.  We must strip them of corporate personhood and cut them down to size so democracy can work.  People are taking action so democracy can regulate the size, scope and actions of corporations.

One of the most basic roles of society is to protect the people from harm.  The massive size of many international corporations makes democratic control over them nearly impossible.

Corporate crime is widespread.  The New York Times, ProPublica and others have revealed Wall Street giants like JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have been charged with fraud many times only to get off by paying hundreds of millions.  Professors at University of Virginia have documented hundreds of corporations which have been found guilty or pled guilty in federal courts.

Corporate abuse is even more widespread.  For example, Corporate Accountability International named six to its Corporate Hall of Shame, including: Koch Industries for spending over $50 million to fund climate change denial; Monsanto for mass producing cancer causing chemicals; Chevron for dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Ecuadorian Amazon; Exxon Mobil for being the worst polluter; Blackwater (now Xe) for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians and hiring paramilitaries; and Halliburton, the nation’s leading war profiteer.

Why We're All Idiots: Credulity, Framing and the Entrenchment Effect

by Franklin Veaux

The United States is unusual among First World nations in the sense that we only have two political parties.

Well, technically, I suppose we have more, but only two that matter: Democrats and Republicans. They are popularly portrayed in American mass media as "liberals" and "conservatives," though that's not really true; in world terms, they're actually "moderate conservatives" and "reactionaries." A serious liberal political party doesn't exist; when you compare the Democratic and Republican parties, you see a lot of across-the-board agreement on things like drug prohibition (both parties largely agree that recreational drug use should be outlawed), the use of American military might abroad, and so on.

A lot of folks mistakenly believe that this means there's no real differences between the two parties. This is nonsense, of course; there are significant differences, primarily in areas like religion (where the Democrats would, on a European scale, be called "conservatives" and the Republicans would be called "radicalists"); social issues like sex and relationships (where the Democrats tend to be moderates and the Republicans tend to be far right); and economic policy (where Democrats tend to be center-right and Republicans tend to be so far right they can't tie their left shoe).

Wherever you find people talking about politics, you find people calling the members of the opposing side "idiots." Each side believes the other to be made up of morons and fools...and, to be fair, each side is right. We're all idiots, and there are powerful psychological factors that make us idiots.