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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 66,837

Journal Archives

TPP Disclosure Shows It Will Kill People and Internet; House Opposition Is Widespread

TPP Disclosure Shows It Will Kill People and Internet; House Opposition Is Widespread

Friday, 15 November 2013 11:27
By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism | Report

We posted on the New York Times news story that opposition in the House to authorization of "fast track" authority to the Administration on its pending Pacific and Atlantic trade deals was stiffening right just before a related story broke: that Wikileaks had disclosed the end of August draft of one of the critical chapters of one of the deals.

We wrote yesterday that this deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership, already looked to be in trouble given both Congressional and foreign opposition. The Administration has conducted the talks with an unheard-of degree of secrecy, with Congressional staffers in most cases denied access to the text and even Congressmen themselves facing unheard-of obstacles (Alan Grayson reported that the US Trade Representative created an absurd six weeks of dubious delays in his case). But perversely, 700 corporate representatives got privileged access so they could influence negotiations. It's not hard to see whose interests are really being served in these deals.

The Wikileaks disclosure could well have struck the fatal blow to this toxic pact. As we'll see below, it may have been dead anyhow. Obama's relationship with his own party is already on the rocks as a result of Obamacare (not just the rollout but the increasing recognition that the program has more fundamental flaws), so he has limited political capital available to whip Democratic Congressmen back into line. The opposition is more deep-seated and broad-based than I had realized (for instance, 18 of the 21 ranking full committee members in the House are against it). So the TPP looked to be on the Syria incursion path.

But it's hard not to believe that the Wikileaks revelations will galvanize opposition among the other prospective members of the pact. It's hard for democratic countries to agree to a deal that has been revealed will kill their citizens in order to enrich America's Big Pharma incumbents. And that statement is not an exaggeration. Wikileaks disclosed the end of August version (apparently two drafts behind current text) of the intellectual property chapter, which includes the section on drugs and surgical procedures. .........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/20064-wikileaks-disclosure-of-trade-deal-chapter-shows-it-will-kill-people-and-internet-house-opposition-is-widespread

How Can the States Provide Fourth Amendment Protection Against the NSA?

How Can the States Provide Fourth Amendment Protection Against the NSA?

Friday, 15 November 2013 11:03
By Michael Boldin, Truthout | Op-Ed

In her 2004 Brooklyn Law Review article, Ann Althouse offered some powerful suggestions on how to resist "anti-terrorism" powers, such as the Patriot Act, and should be seen as a guide to resisting NSA spying:

The fight against terrorism has raised concerns that the federal government has overreached its legitimate power. Concerns about racial profiling, invasions of privacy, unreasonable searches, and infringement on free speech have fueled a political movement, led by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), urging state and local government to adopt resolutions directing their officials not to participate in at least some aspects of the antiterrorism effort.

More on applying this to the NSA in a moment. First, is this legal?

The Doctrine

The ACLU and BORDC resolutions against the Patriot Act (and subsequent ACLU-backed state laws refusing to comply with the 2005 REAL ID Act) were based on a widely accepted legal principle known as the "anticommandeering doctrine."

This means the federal government cannot require a state to carry out federal acts. The federal government can pass a law and try to enforce it, but your state isn't required to help them. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/20010-how-can-the-states-provide-fourth-amendment-protection-against-the-nsa

Professor Richard Wolff: Capitalism as a system seems incapable of solving its unemployment problem

Capitalism and Unemployment

Friday, 15 November 2013 10:25
By Richard D Wolff, Truthout | News Analysis

Capitalism as a system seems incapable of solving its unemployment problem. It keeps generating long-term joblessness, punctuated by spikes of recurring short-term extreme joblessness. The system's leaders cannot solve or overcome the problem. Before the latest capitalist crisis hit in 2007, the unemployment rate was near 5 percent. In 2013, it is near 7.5 percent. That is 50 percent higher despite the last six years of so-called "effective policies to address unemployment."

Capitalism makes employment depend chiefly on capitalists' decisions to undertake production, and those decisions depend on profits. If capitalists expect profits high enough to satisfy them, they hire. If capitalists don't, we get unemployment. Capitalism requires the unemployed, their families and their communities to live with firing decisions made by capitalists even though they are excluded from participating in those decisions. The United States revolted against Britain partly because it rejected being victimized by tax decisions from which it was excluded. Yet employment decisions are at least as important as tax decisions.

Unemployment has three dimensions that often escape public discussion, perhaps because they raise such fundamental questions about the capitalist system. The first dimension concerns the immense losses for society from the kind of unemployment capitalism reproduces and that we suffer today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sum of unemployed people, "marginal" workers (those who stopped looking for work), and involuntarily part-time workers (the "underemployed") is roughly 14 per cent of the labor force. That is 20 million of our fellow citizens. Alongside that statistic, the Federal Reserve reports that 20 percent of our "industrial capacity" (tools, equipment, raw materials, floor space in factories, offices and stores, etc.) is sitting idle, wasted, not being used to produce goods and services. Capitalists make the decisions to not hire those millions of workers and to not buy, lease, or use all that industrial capacity.

Capitalists make those decisions based on what is privately profitable for them, not on what is lost to society. And that loss is huge. A simple calculation based on the numbers above proves the point. We as a nation forego about 15 percent of extra output of goods and services because of unemployed people and idled tools, equipment, etc. That comes to roughly $2 trillion per year. Yes, you read that correctly. We could produce an annual extra output far greater than the government's budget deficit ever was. We could use that extra to reduce global poverty by more than what has been done by all advanced industrial nations for decades. In short, we have taken staggering losses for our planet from being entrapped within an economic system that permits employment decisions to be held hostage to capitalists' profit calculations. ..............................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/20015-capitalism-and-unemployment

Who’s to Blame for ENDA’s Demise?

from In These Times:

Who’s to Blame for ENDA’s Demise?
Democrats and major gay-rights groups haven’t pressed all that hard to end workplace discrimination.

BY Cole Stangler

Last week, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination against LGBT people, by a 64-32 vote. However the legislation looks dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled House, which means that for at least another year, employers in 29 different states can continue to legally harass and fire workers for being gay or transgender.

And so as ENDA goes down in flames once again—and this time around, it’s a particularly weak version of the bill that exempts religious organizations—powerful gay-rights groups and their Democratic allies are predictably blaming the intransigence of House Republicans.

Harry Reid took to the Twittersphere, lambasting John Boehner for his opposition to the bill.

Meanwhile Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin called on Boehner to “stand with the majority of everyday Republican voters and support ENDA.” ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/15880/whos_to_blame_for_endas_demise/

Instructors Often Pressured to Censor Themselves, Says Professor Scolded for ‘Tea Party’ Email

(In These Times) Rachel Slocum was, until recently, not the kind of high-profile academic who typically turns up in news articles. As an assistant professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, her solid career path of teaching and research on urban food systems had a progressive bent that did not stand out too much in the relatively liberal climate of the University of Wisconsin system. And then she sent out an email to a class of online students complaining about how the government shutdown was holding up an assignment requiring access to the then-shuttered Census Bureau website. Folded into the brief memo was a flip negative comment about the Republican Party and the Tea Party.

Within days, the email was seen round the world, ricocheting through the conservative social media sphere as a case study of what commentators perceived as academia’s pervasive liberal bias. National political fallout rained down on the La Crosse campus. Students barraged Chancellor Joe Gow with angry complaints about Slocum's alleged political polemicism, and Gow responded with an announcement to students that sternly disavowed Slocum's “highly partisan” message.

The media frenzy has since died down, but the brouhaha is hardly an isolated one. When a surreptitiously recorded video of snarky anti-GOP comments by Michigan State creative writing professor William Penn was aired on YouTube, administrators suspended him from teaching duties on the grounds that his screed had “negatively affected the learning environment." And earlier this year in New York, a public talk at the City University of New York about the pro-Palestinian boycott against Israel sparked a massive outcry from pro-Israeli activists both on campus and off, which led to faculty being vilified and denounced by local officials, and even threats from one City Councilman to cut the university's funding. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/15878/instructors_forced_censor_themselves_rachel_slocum/

NOT SO FAST! ...... About that Socialist who was thought to have narrowly lost in Seattle......

Seattle City Council candidate Kshama Sawant, a “Socialist Alternative” insurgent, has unseated four-term incumbent Richard Conlin, with the latest batch of mail-in ballots nearly tripling Sawant’s lead to 1,148 votes.

A year ago, Sawant was running against the Legislature’s most powerful Democrat, House Speaker Frank Chopp, charging that the “Democratic Party-majority government” had slashed billions from education programs while bestowing tax exemptions on “rich corporations.”

On Thursday evening, however, the victorious “working class activist” Sawant was headed for a 36th District Democratic fundraiser sponsored by State Sen. Jeanne Kohn-Welles. Sawant’s tireless journalist booster, Stranger news editor Dominic Holden, is appearing on a post-election panel at the event.

The Sawant victory comes exactly 97 years after Seattle voters put their first outspoken radical into office, Seattle School Board member Anna Louise Strong. Strong would write about the Wobblies, oppose U.S. entry into World War I and eventually end her days in China, where she was on friendly terms with Mao Zedong. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2013/11/14/sawant-wins-city-council-seat/

I guess he's a social drinker ................

Florida Man Allegedly Called 911 Because Neighbors Wouldn't Drink With Him

James Collins just wanted to have a drink with his neighbors, but when they declined to imbibe with him, he took matters into his own hands.

Collins, 56, called 911 on Nov. 3 and reported his neighbors' rude behavior to the cops, according to Dumb As A Blog.

Officers from the Fort Pierce, Fla., police department thought they were responding to a domestic disturbance call.

Instead, Collins -- who was celebrating his birthday -- just told them his neighbors were being mean and would not drink with him, according to a report obtained by TCPalm.com. ..........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/14/james-collins_n_4277008.html?utm_hp_ref=weird-news

San Francisco: Rats scatter from Central Subway construction

SAN FRANCISCO -- Any city dweller knows to expect a rat sighting here or there. And in the seven years that Rolando Hernandez has worked at Eur-Asia Motors, a collision repair shop in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood, he's seen his share.

But since construction on the Central Subway tunnel began in June 2012, things have changed. Hernandez, 55, said he's never seen anything quite like this.

Rats have been swarming the empty lot near the freeway off-ramp at Fourth and Bryant streets where he parks his car. They're bold enough to come out in daylight, skittering from the bushes and overgrown ivy that surround a chain-link fence.

"They climb up and down the fence like Spider-Man," Hernandez said. "In the mornings, I come in and the ground is littered with feces. It looks like a carpet, there's just so much of it." ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Rats-scatter-from-Central-Subway-construction-4981540.php

13 Cities Mobilized to Shine a Light on TPP: “Don’t Fast Track a Train Wreck – FLUSH the TPP!”

13 Cities Mobilized to Shine a Light on Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership “Trade” Deal Telling Congress “Don’t Fast Track a Train Wreck – FLUSH the TPP!”

On Tuesday evening citizens in Seattle and 12 other cities appeared on overpasses and roadsides to pull the Trans-Pacific Partnership, aka TPP, out of the shadows and into the light of public scrutiny. From Dallas to DC, San Diego to Seattle, Tucson to Detroit, Baltimore to Bellingham, Spokane to Chicago people took their messages to interstate overpasses, prominent monuments, and busy city streets using coordinated daytime and nighttime, high visibility tactics.

Baltimore, Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles stadium

They deployed giant banners saying No New NAFTA, mobilized LED light panels saying “(thumbs up) Democracy, STOP The TPP,” and projected with spotlights messages like “Don’t Fast Track A Train Wreck.” These coordinated citizen’s actions coincided with ongoing TPP negotiations taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah from November 12-24 and today’s anticipated release by Congressperson Rosa DeLauro and George Miller detailing the growing opposition to “Fast Track” among Congress, and preceded today’s surprise release by Wikileaks of a leaked chapter of the secretive “TPP” agreement.

The TPP has been called NAFTA on steroids, a “Corporate Coup,” and concerned citizens from across the nation are calling on Congress to “Flush It!” and to oppose President Obama’s request to renew “Fast Track” authority to commit our country to this secretive agreement that has less to do with trade, than it does with dismantling any domestic policies that undermine future profits for transnational capital and corporations.

San Diego overpass

Bill Moyer, Executive Director of the Backbone Campaign stated “Only a bought a sold government would sign a treaty that sacrifices our capacity as communities and country to pass laws for workers benefit, and the protection of our communities and our natural resources.” ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.popularresistance.org/flush-the-tpp-visibility-actions-shining-a-light-on-secret-corporate-coup/

Rip-off: High Out-of-Pocket Social Costs are a Stealth Tax on the Middle Class and the Poor

Rip-off: High Out-of-Pocket Social Costs are a Stealth Tax on the Middle Class and the Poor

November 13, 2013
by Joshua Holland

Americans’ heavy reliance on the private sector to provide social goods and services doesn’t only result in us paying a lot and getting a lot less for it, compared to other wealthy countries. It also makes the financing of our entire social welfare system far less fair. It’s a great deal for the wealthiest, and a huge rip-off for the rest of us.

To understand how, we’ll need some background.

A Nasty Little Myth

The most pernicious myth in American politics holds that only around half the population pays taxes. Sean Hannity put it like this: “If half of Americans pay taxes, and the other half are the beneficiaries of the tax that the other half pay, at some point you say, OK, you got a full voting bloc.” In a call to raise taxes on the poor, Sen. Dan Coates (R-IN) said, “I think it’s important that this burden not just fall on 50 percent of the people but falls on all of us in some form.” He added, “Everyone needs to have some skin in the game.”

The narrative is the epitome of cherry-picking. While 43 percent of households won’t need to pay federal income taxes this year, that’s nothing more than a bit of tax trivia. Federal income taxes make up around 40 percent of federal revenues and a quarter of all taxes paid in this country, while payroll taxes – which virtually all working people pay – also make up around 40 percent of federal revenues (in 2011 and 2012, revenue from the payroll tax represented a smaller share due to the temporary tax reduction in effect during those years).

And the irony is that many households pay no income taxes as a result of a policy that conservative politicians have long favored. As David Cay Johnston, author of Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich–and Cheat Everybody Else, told Moyers & Company in October, the situation is primarily due to the child tax credit Republicans put in place in the ’90s. “A married couple with two children does not pay any federal income taxes until they make at least $44,000 a year,” said Johnston. “And with a little bit of tax planning, you could make $70,000 and pay no federal income tax. So the Republicans create this situation where middle-income families with children pay no income tax and then they complain about it.” .......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://billmoyers.com/2013/11/13/rip-off-high-out-of-pocket-social-costs-are-a-stealth-tax-on-the-middle-class-and-the-poor/

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