While the mass delusional media fixates on the "Breaking News" that Barack Obama has caved to the Blowhard Donald Trump and finally released his long-form birth certificate, an important news item that went largely unnoticed was the DOJ dropping its case against the lawyer who publicly admitted leaking information about President George W. Bush’s top-secret warrantless wiretapping program "Stellar Wind" to The New York Times.
The decision not to prosecute former Justice Department lawyer Thomas Tamm means it is unlikely that anyone will ever be charged for the disclosures that led to the Times’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story in December 2005 revealing that, after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush ordered the interception of certain phone calls and email messages without a warrant — a move many lawyers contend violated the 1978 law governing intelligence-related wiretaps. Prosecutors also appear to have lost interest in Russell Tice, a former NSA official who also publicly acknowledged being a source for the Times on the warrantless wiretapping story.
The Justice Department refused to say whether it stands by a May 2004 legal opinion that concluded surveillance programs in effect at the time were lawful. An early version of the surveillance program produced a heated conflict between top Justice Department officials and the Bush White House in 2004. Deputy Attorney General James Comey concluded that an aspect of the program was illegal and refused to reauthorize it. Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, went to the bedside of ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Ashcroft to override Comey's decision. The showdown led Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Office of Legal Counsel chief Jack Goldsmith to threaten to resign.
The not-so-stellar right-wing blowhard efforts to out the president and the not-so-stellar wind "patriotic'" illegal efforts to spy on US were exposed for what we thought they were: tall tales told by useful idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, sigint-fyi-ing everything (see Isikoff’s excellent story)
An article in The Nation reveals one practical implication of the Citizens United ruling, which granted free speech rights to corporations and made it perfectly legal for companies such as Koch Industries to intimidate their workers into voting a certain way. Koch Free Speech
On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.
The Nation obtained the Koch Industries election packet for Washington State—which included a cover letter from its president and COO, David Robertson; a list of Koch-endorsed state and federal candidates; and an issue of the company newsletter, Discovery, full of alarmist right-wing propaganda.
Legal experts interviewed for this story called the blatant corporate politicking highly unusual, although no longer skirting the edge of legality, thanks to last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which granted free speech rights to big corporations. Before Citizens United, federal election law allowed a company like Koch Industries to talk to officers and shareholders about whom to vote for, but not to talk with employees about whom to vote for. The Scalia Court's Citizens United decision knocked down those regulations.
An effective way for the middle class in Wisconsin and other states besieged by the Koch Brothers anti-union war to send a message that they are not just in Kansas: Boycott The Kochs
PAPER: Koch Industries is the parent company of Georgia-Pacific.
BOYCOTT: Quilted Northern® paper towels, Angel Soft, Soft ‘n Gentle, and Quilted Northern.
BUY: Scott, Charmin (Proctor & Gamble), Cottonelle (Kimberly-Clark)
BOYCOTT: Brawny and Mardis Gras, Vanity Fair, Dixie, Sparkle, and Zee.
BUY: Hefty (Pactiv Corp) and Solo (Solo Cup Inc.).
BOYCOTT Chevron, Union, Union 76
BOYCOTT Lycra (Spandex). Somerelle bedding, Thermolite fabrics (used in cold weather wear), Coolmax fabrics (athletic wear.
HOME BUILDING MATERIALS:
BOYCOTT drywall, decking, plywood and plaster name brands ToughArmor, Dense Armor, Flexrock, Densglass, G/P Industrial plasters (this is used by a lot of crafters), FiberStrong, Blue Ribbon, Broadspan, and FireDefender.
Carpet: BOYCOTT Stainmaster
If there was any doubt about the country's descent into madness, this should end it: a poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit:
A quarter of all Americans incorrectly think President Obama was not born in the United States, according to a new CBS News/ New York Times poll. ("incorrectly" had to included just in case the other 75 percent had any doubts)
Among Republicans, 45 percent believe he was born in another country, as do 45 percent of Tea Party supporters, the poll shows.
Since the start of Mr. Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, rumors have existed that he was born outside of the United States. The "birther" myth has steadily persisted through Mr. Obama's presidency, in spite of overwhelming evidence he was born in the United States -- including his 1961 birth announcement, printed in two Hawaii newspapers.
Good thing for the GOP there isn't a sanity test requirement to be allowed to vote.
People, stop. The rest of the world already thinks you're nuts. You don't have to remove all doubt.
As Robert Koch, the German scientist who identified the bacteria that causes anthrax discovered, If you want to find the truth you have to dig deep:
"The Investigative Summary (pdf) published by the FBI in closing the Amerithrax investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001 is curiously silent on the presence of a second species of bacteria found in the New York Post and Brokaw letters.
"If the FBI could have identified the strain of B. subtilis detected in the attack letters as available to (Bruce) Ivins, that finding would have played a prominent role in the Investigative Summary.
Even though Ivins can’t be linked to the particular B. subtilis strain used, there is a documented case of B. subtilis being used as a B. anthracis simulant at another facility where we already know that much of the material that went into RMR-1029 was produced. Recall from this diary that I analyzed the available information about the amount of B. anthracis used in the attacks and found it highly unlikely that Ivins could have cultured the large amount of spores used in the attacks with the equipment and time he had available. Much of the material in RMR-1029 was produced at Dugway."
This is a (1997) recording: tombstone agency
Tombstone is an aviation informal term that notes the flying public's safety is often improved only after somebody has died, which points out a fatal defect. Strictly speaking, tombstone mentality decisions are examples where there is no incentive for an economic actor to be a 'first mover' and promote safety.
Koch Industries and its subsidiaries — Georgia-Pacific, Invista, Flint Hills Resources, Koch Carbon, Koch Nitrogen - are working on measures that would strip the EPA of the power to regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act, citing a vast conspiracy on global warming alarmism.
“Why are such unproven or false claims promoted?” the Koch Brothers company newsletter, Discovery, asked in an article on global warming entitled, Blowing Smoke.” “Scientists have perverted the peer review process, doing everything possible to prevent opinions contrary to the alarmist view from being heard,” the article said.
Who are these evil scientists that are "doing everything possible to prevent opinions contrary to the alarmist view from being heard?"
If you Google "global warming conspiracy," you'll get over five million hits.
If these diabolical scientists are as incompetent in their efforts to prevent contrary opinions, then their global warming science may be just as questionable. So who is blowing smoke?
William R.L. Anderegg, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University, and his fellow authors compiled another entry of 1,372 climate researchers. The new research supports the idea that the vast majority of the world’s active climate scientists accept the evidence for global warming as well as the case that human activities are the principal cause of it. For example, of the top 50 climate researchers identified by the study (as ranked by the number of papers they had published), only 2 percent fell into the camp of climate dissenters. Of the top 200 researchers, only 2.5 percent fell into the dissenter camp. That is consistent with past work, including opinion polls, suggesting that 97 to 98 percent of working climate scientists accept the evidence for human-induced climate change. The study demonstrates that most of the scientists who have been publicly identified as climate skeptics are not actively publishing in the field. And the handful who are tend to have a slim track record, with about half as many papers published as the scientists who accept the mainstream view.
“We show that the expertise and prominence, two integral components of overall expert credibility, of climate researchers convinced by the evidence” of human-induced climate change “vastly overshadows that of the climate change skeptics and contrarians,” Mr. Anderegg and the other authors write in their paper.
The climate dissenters have long complained that global-warming science is an echo chamber in which, they contend, it is hard to get published if one does not accept the conventional wisdom that humans are heating up the planet. So they argue that it is circular reasoning to claim a broad scientific consensus based on publication track records.
Here's a typical Kochsucker "rationale" for the global warming conspiracy theory:
"The media bombards us with doom & gloom predictions from pseudoscientists who want their 15 minutes in the spotlight and a big government grant to study how far the sky is falling. Then, colleges are leaned on by political interests and parents (that watch news reports) that are concerned about the environment to put environmental classes into their lineup. Which wouldn't be bad if science was actually employed, but passion & politics are often the forces that are employed in such classes. This isn't the first time that the sensationalistic media, corrupt politicians, and non-climatoligists have worried about the Earth's climate. Thirty years ago, we were destined to live in an a frozen tundra environment in the coming millenium. Anyone remember the early 90's when they said that temperatures in the first decade of the 2000's would be 10 degrees higher worldwide than in the 90's? Good thing a few of the more informed scientists have seen global warming for what it is: something that should be investigated (but not grossly overstated), and not at the expense of human progress.
Don't take the word of a "supposed" expert until you investigate both sides of the argument, and make an informed decision, instead of letting a newspaper, tv reporter, or a political interest group make your decision for you.
"Investigate both sides." Boy, that is rich. Perhaps the writer, who appears to be a paid troll for the Kochs, means we should listen to "objective" voices of members of the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee — many of whom had received campaign contributions from Koch employees and PACs last fall — who voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Their action has been endorsed by Speaker John Boehner and Republican House leaders.
Where there's smoke: When lawmakers in Washington and states like California sought to address global warming by requiring the use of low carbon fuels, Koch Industries responded. Koch lobbyists listed the legislation as a lobbying priority on Capitol Hill. And in California, where a wide-ranging series of measures to slow climate change were launched by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Koch joined the fight to defeat them. A Koch subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources, burned a million dollars in support of Proposition 23, an unsuccessful attempt funded by Koch and other energy companies last year to stall implementation of the low-carbon standards and other remedial climate measures in California.
LIAR, SKILLIAR, YOUR PANTS ARE ON FIRE
So who are the global warming conspirators blowing smoke?
Anyone who knows how difficult it is to keep a secret among three men - particularly if they are married - knows how absurd is the idea of a worldwide secret conspiracy consciously controlling all mankind by its financial power. But then there are only two Koch brothers...
Who says things go better with Koch?
Union supporters and Democrats in Wisconsin dealt a blow to the evil Koch Brothers and their mini-Mouse-olini Scott Walker's efforts to diminish collective bargaining rights at the ballot box on Tuesday. The angry middle class voters MAY have voted out a State Supreme Court justice in a race with an opponent who is much less well known. And voters rejected a Republican lawmaker for Milwaukee County executive — yet another contest that had been transformed, at least by some infuriated voters, into a referendum over the state’s new Republican leadership.
Despite Barack Obama’s apathetic efforts to turn off Democratic voters, Wisconsin Democrats trumpeted the outcome as the beginning of the end of the reign of Republicans who support the rich at the expense of the middle class.
“What the vote showed is that people really woke up to Walker’s agenda,” State Senator Chris Larson, a Democrat, said on Wednesday. “And I’d say they’re only getting warmed up.”
And that means a new level of uncertainty and volatility here, as state political leaders brace for highly unusual efforts to recall 16 state legislators over their roles in the fight over cuts to collective bargaining. That uncertainty will also mean presidential hopefuls will have a more difficult time gauging their odds next year in Wisconsin. And as Wisconsin goes...
Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice....we won't be fooled again?
by Joseph Stiglitz: No April fool
It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.
Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.
Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this.
First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy. This new inequality goes on to create new distortions, undermining efficiency even further. To give just one example, far too many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy.
Third, and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.
None of this should come as a surprise—it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.
Economists, the professional fools, are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America. The ordinary dynamics of supply and demand have certainly played a role: laborsaving technologies have reduced the demand for many “good” middle-class, blue-collar jobs. Globalization has created a worldwide marketplace, pitting expensive unskilled workers in America against cheap unskilled workers overseas. Social changes have also played a role—for instance, the decline of unions, which once represented a third of American workers and now represent about 12 percent.
But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way. The most obvious example involves tax policy. Lowering tax rates on capital gains, which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride. Monopolies and near monopolies have always been a source of economic power—from John D. Rockefeller at the beginning of the last century to Bill Gates at the end. Lax enforcement of anti-trust laws, especially during Republican administrations, has been a godsend to the top 1 percent. Much of today’s inequality is due to manipulation of the financial system, enabled by changes in the rules that have been bought and paid for by the financial industry itself—one of its best investments ever. The government lent money to financial institutions at close to 0 percent interest and provided generous bailouts on favorable terms when all else failed. Regulators turned a blind eye to a lack of transparency and to conflicts of interest.
When you look at the sheer volume of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent in this country, it’s tempting to see our growing inequality as a quintessentially American achievement—we started way behind the pack, but now we’re doing inequality on a world-class level. And it looks as if we’ll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing. Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s—a scandal whose dimensions, by today’s standards, seem almost quaint—the banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. “I certainly hope so,” he replied. The Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United case, has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending. The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.
America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way. There is, for one thing, a well-documented lifestyle effect—people outside the top 1 percent increasingly live beyond their means. Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real. Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that. Foreign policy, by definition, is about the balancing of national interests and national resources. With the top 1 percent in charge, and paying no price, the notion of balance and restraint goes out the window. There is no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractors stand only to gain. The rules of economic globalization are likewise designed to benefit the rich: they encourage competition among countries for business, which drives down taxes on corporations, weakens health and environmental protections, and undermines what used to be viewed as the “core” labor rights, which include the right to collective bargaining. Imagine what the world might look like if the rules were designed instead to encourage competition among countries for workers. Governments would compete in providing economic security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, good education, and a clean environment—things workers care about. But the top 1 percent don’t need to care.
Or, more accurately, they think they don’t. Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe. The cards are stacked against them. It is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity that has given rise to the conflagrations in the Middle East: rising food prices and growing and persistent youth unemployment simply served as kindling. With youth unemployment in America at around 20 percent (and in some locations, and among some socio-demographic groups, at twice that); with one out of six Americans desiring a full-time job not able to get one; with one out of seven Americans on food stamps (and about the same number suffering from “food insecurity”)—given all this, there is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted “trickling down” from the top 1 percent to everyone else. All of this is having the predictable effect of creating alienation—voter turnout among those in their 20s in the last election stood at 21 percent, comparable to the unemployment rate.
In recent weeks we have watched people taking to the streets by the millions to protest political, economic, and social conditions in the oppressive societies they inhabit. Governments have been toppled in Egypt and Tunisia. Protests have erupted in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain. The ruling families elsewhere in the region look on nervously from their air-conditioned penthouses—will they be next? They are right to worry. These are societies where a minuscule fraction of the population—less than 1 percent—controls the lion’s share of the wealth; where wealth is a main determinant of power; where entrenched corruption of one sort or another is a way of life; and where the wealthiest often stand actively in the way of policies that would improve life for people in general.
As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places.
Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.
The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.
They are on the same ship of fools.