Monthly Archives: March 2016

5 Ways NOT To “Make America Great Again.” And One Way To Do It

Paul Buchheit | March 28, 2016 | Common Dreams

(Image: Photo detail/Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Image)

Mahatma Gandhi said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.

The visions of “greatness” coming from America’s political and business and military leaders are quite the opposite, with an emphasis on the ‘exceptional’ people who would prefer to have nothing to do with the weaker members of society.

1. Let Government and the Media Ignore 90% of Us

Based on a study of 1,779 policy issues, Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page concluded that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Government doesn’t listen to us, and the mainstream media fails to inform us about matters that might offend their corporate bosses. As Bernie Sanders explained, “The corporate media does everything they can to keep us entertained without addressing the real issues…[Young people] don’t even know that we are the only major country without healthcare for all. They don’t know that in Germany or in Scandinavia college is free…Media is not telling them that…If you talk about the real issues and people get educated on the real issues, you know what happens next? They actually may want to bring about change.”

2. Sell Arms to 96 Countries

As we continue to spend half our discretionary budget on the military, one of five U.S. children live in food insecure households. President Obama said, “They are not very good at feeding their people, but they invest a huge amount in their weapons.” He was talking about North Korea.

It would seem unthinkable, with fears of terrorism and new Middle East wars, to keep shipping arms to half the world, to countries where failed insurgencies leave weapons in the hands of the people who hate us. But according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the USA has sold or donated major arms to at least 96 nations in the past five years. Here again our political leaders ignore us. Most voters favor defense cuts, but most politicians don’t.

Continue reading 5 Ways NOT To “Make America Great Again.” And One Way To Do It

Will Obama and Lame Duck Congress pass TPP Trade Deal?

Bud Meyers / March 26, 2016

Just imagine . . . it’s late at night on Christmas Eve and lightly snowing in Washington DC when President Obama calls for a special midnight session with Congress, while most Americans might be at home sleeping or wrapping presents. The very last thing on their minds was some newfangled international trade agreement. After all, the mainstream media (who’s been busy bombarding them with Holiday commercials for weeks) has hardly even acknowledged that such pending legislation for a trade agreement had even existed.

The last time many Americans had heard any real and meaningful discussion about the TPP trade deal on cable news was when MSNBC (which is owned by Comcast) still had their host Ed Schultz on the air. But the very next day he was fired from MSNBC after having Senator Bernie Sanders appear on his show on July 29, 2015. That was when they had discussed Hillary Clinton’s reluctance to offer a clear and concise opinion on the TPP trade deal. (A month before on June 26, 2016 Comcast executive vice president David Cohen had hosted a $2,700-a-plate fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It’s all a quinky dink, right?)

Here is exactly what Hillary Clinton told Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston in a TV interview on June 16, 2015 about fast-track (TPA), and the program for re-training displaced workers (TAA) and the Asian trade agreement (TPP). Hillary Clinton had only opposed the trade bill if it excluded the funding for re-training displaced workers (TAA). She clearly seemed to support both the TPP trade deal and fast-track, and was only taking a stand on assistance for displaced workers — which, at best, is only a mediocre program that does very little for millions of workers who lose jobs to foreign low-wage countries. Just two days before that interview, she was explaining how Obama should get fast track.

Continue reading Will Obama and Lame Duck Congress pass TPP Trade Deal?

Does The United States Still Exist?

Paul Craig Roberts | March 26, 2016

An address delivered to the Libertarian Party of Florida on March 23, 2016 in Destin, Florida

To answer the question that is the title, we have to know of what the US consists. Is it an ethnic group, a collection of buildings and resources, a land mass with boundaries, or is it the Constitution. Clearly what differentiates the US from other countries is the US Constitution. The Constitution defines us as a people. Without the Constitution we would be a different country. Therefore, to lose the Constitution is to lose the country.

Does the Constitution still exist? Let us examine the document and come to a conclusion.

The Constitution consists of a description of a republic with three independent branches, legislative, executive, and judicial, each with its own powers, and the Bill of Rights incorporated as constitutional amendments. The Bill of Rights describes the civil liberties of citizens that cannot be violated by the government.

Article I of the Constitution describes legislative powers. Article II describes executive powers, and Article III describes the power of the judiciary. For example, Article I, Section 1 gives all legislative powers to Congress. Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power to declare war.

The Bill of Rights protects citizens from the government by making law a shield of the people rather than a weapon in the hands of the government.

The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, the press, and assembly or public protest.

The Second Amendment gives the people the right “to keep and bear arms.”

Continue reading Does The United States Still Exist?

30 Americans die worldwide from Terrorism annually, while 130,000 die by accident

Informed Comment | March 26, 2016

The right wing is carping that President Obama is “downplaying” the dangers of Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) in the wake of the Paris and Brussels attacks on soft targets. But whipping up hysteria about the threat of terrorism is a racket that mainly benefits security firms and arms manufacturers. No one will deny that such attacks are horrible affairs that kill dozens of innocents and everything humanly possible should be done to combat them. But it is also just the case that the attacks are intended to provoke fear, terror, hatred and polarization, so such sentiments should be avoided. And these assaults on soft targets should be seen in some sort of perspective. So let us just consider the leading causes of death in the US (2014), a country of some 318 million, in the context of terrorism (defined as non-state actors using violence against civilians to accomplish a political goal).

1. Heart disease: 611,105

2. Cancer: 584,881

3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205

4. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557

5. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978

6. Alzheimer’s disease: 84,767

7. Diabetes: 75,578

8. Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979

9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112

10. Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149

From 2005 to 2015,

71 Americans were killed on US soil by extremists, of whom

24 were killed by Muslim extremists (white supremacists etc. were more deadly than Muslims).

That is an average of a little over 7 per year.

Continue reading 30 Americans die worldwide from Terrorism annually, while 130,000 die by accident

Bill Black: Democrats Need to Give Up Being Deficit Hawks Even When it Feels Good Politically

Naked Capitalism | March 26, 2016

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

Representative Nancy Pelosi has just written the latest effort by a prominent Democrat to bash Republicans for the high crime of not being financially illiterate.  The Republicans are frequently financially illiterate on budget issues and they bash Democrats for the high crime of not being financially illiterate.  The leaders of both parties share the hypocrisy of bashing the rival party for supporting budgetary stimulus in circumstances in which stimulus is vital.  Particular forms of budgetary stimulus can be simultaneously desirable (relative to austerity) and inferior relative to alternative forms of budgetary stimulus.  The Republican‘s favored form of budgetary stimulus – large tax cuts for the wealthy – is a remarkably inefficient means of providing  stimulus that makes income inequality worse.  Those two points are the correct bases for criticizing their proposed tax cuts.  Far too many Democrats, however, cannot pass up the political opportunity to bash the Republicans for supporting stimulus when further stimulus is vital.  When Democrats like Pelosi launch these myth-based political attacks on Republican stimulus programs they help to enshrine economically illiterate austerity policies that make it even harder for Democrats to make the case for stimulus even when it is essential.

THE long-endangered Republican Deficit Hawk is now extinct.

In December, the Republican Congress passed into law a huge permanent package of tax measures as part of the tax and spending deal. However, Republicans refused to pay for the legislation, thereby adding a thunderous $2 trillion to the deficit over the next two decades, according to an estimate from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget [CRFB].

The title of her article is “Shouldn’t Congress Tell Us How We’ll Pay for Tax Cuts?”  The Republican (and Democratic “blue dog”) “deficit hawks” inflicted great harm on our Nation by preventing the larger stimulus program that would have led to a far quicker and stronger economic recovery.  They used the same rhetoric that Pelosi now uses.  Indeed, Pelosi’s misleading rhetoric about “adding a thunderous $2 trillion to the deficit” (over 20 years) sounds exactly like Donald Trump’s misleading rhetoric in his campaign speeches.

The CRFB is a group composed of extreme deficit hawks extolling “mindful austerity.”  It spawned the notorious Simpson-Bowles group and the even more odious Campaign to Fix the Debt.  Both of these groups were exposed long ago as fronts for Pete Peterson, the Wall Street billionaire who has dedicated his life to destroying the safety net and privatizing Social Security.   The CRFB is “nonpartisan” solely in the sense that it represents the interests of Wall Street CEOs – whose great dream is the hundreds of billions of dollars of additional fees their firms would receive were Social Security to be privatized.  There are, of course, “New Democrats” like the Clintons who have devoted their careers to serving Wall Street.  But Peterson’s front groups need to be described accurately as pro-Wall Street rather than “nonpartisan.”  They exist to spread myths about the supposed virtues of austerity and the supposed depravity of budgetary stimulus – hyper-inflation is always just about to break out (as interest rates and inflation fall).

Continue reading Bill Black: Democrats Need to Give Up Being Deficit Hawks Even When it Feels Good Politically

Mayo rebuffs Iowa Medicaid managed-care contracts

by Tony Leys | March 24, 2016 | Des Moines Register 

Iowans with Medicaid health coverage will not be able to routinely use the Mayo Clinic after the state shifts the $4 billion program to private management next week.

The three managed-care companies that will run Iowa’s Medicaid program told legislators this week they’ve been unable to negotiate contracts with Mayo’s famed hospital system, which is just across the border in Rochester, Minn.

Cheryl Harding, Amerihealth’s top executive in Iowa, told legislators that her managed-care firm has signed contracts with three Mayo-affiliated primary care clinics in Iowa, but not with Mayo’s main medical center in Rochester. The other managed-care companies, UnitedHealth and Amerigroup, also said they have not obtained such contracts.

“The hospitals have notified all of us that they do not wish to be a provider for Iowa Medicaid any longer, which is unfortunate,” Harding said.

Continue reading Mayo rebuffs Iowa Medicaid managed-care contracts

Civilian Control of the Military is Over, Welcome to Civilian Subjugation

Naked Capitalism | March 16, 2016

By Gregory D. Foster, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., a West Point graduate, and a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. Originally published at TomDispatch

Item: Two U.S. Navy patrol boats, with 10 sailors aboard, “stray” into Iranian territorial waters, and are apprehended and held by Iranian revolutionary guards, precipitating a 24-hour international incident involving negotiations at the highest levels of government to secure their release. The Pentagon offers conflicting reports on why this happened: navigational error, mechanical breakdown, fuel depletion — but not intelligence-gathering, intentional provocation, or hormonally induced hot-dogging.

Item: The Pentagon, according to a Reuters exposé, has been consciously and systematically engaged in thwarting White House efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and release cleared detainees. Pentagon officials have repeatedly refused to provide basic documentation to foreign governments willing to take those detainees and have made it increasingly difficult for foreign delegations to visit Guantanamo to assess them. Ninety-one of the 779 detainees held there over the years remain, 34 of whom have been cleared for release.

Item: The Pentagon elects not to reduce General David Petraeus in rank, thereby ensuring that he receives full, four-star retirement pay, after previously being sentenced on misdemeanor charges to two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine for illegally passing highly classified material (a criminal offense) to his mistress (adultery, ordinarily punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and lying to FBI officials (a criminal offense). Meanwhile, Private Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning continues to serve a 35-year prison sentence, having been reduced to the Army’s lowest rank and given a dishonorable discharge for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks that included incriminating on-board videos of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed up to 18 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounded two children, and of a 2009 massacre in Afghanistan in which a B-1 bomber killed as many as 147 civilians, reportedly including some 93 children.

What do these episodes have in common? In their own way, they’re all symptomatic of an enduring crisis in civil-military relations that afflicts the United States.

Hyperbolic though it may sound, it is a crisis, though not like the Flint water crisis, or the international refugee crisis, or the ISIS crisis, or the Zika crisis.  It’s more like the climate crisis, or a lymphoma or termite infestation that destroys from within, unrecognized and unattended.  And yes, it’s an enduring crisis, a state of affairs that has been with us, unbeknownst to the public and barely acknowledged by purported experts on the subject of civil-military relations, for the past two decades or more.

Continue reading Civilian Control of the Military is Over, Welcome to Civilian Subjugation

America to Establishment: Who the hell are you people?

BY DAVID LIGHTMAN | March 24, 2016 | McClatchyDC

Establishment has been defined as Wall Street, D.C., Big Media
Some say Hillary Clinton also fits the definition of establishment
Almost universally, the establishment is seen as incestuous and isolated

The people who spend two bucks for chili at the Courtesy Diner at Laclede Station Road can’t fathom why anyone would pay Hillary Clinton $225,000 to make a speech.

Nor can they understand why the U.S. Senate is taking a 17-day break for Easter after spending much of their time last week fuming over the Supreme Court vacancy. Somehow, people all over America are saying loudly and clearly this election year, Washington and its enablers – the media, the political pros and Wall Street – don’t understand us.

That’s why, all over this slice of middle America, exasperated people got up before dawn on a cold, 37-degree morning recently to spend four hours in a line so long that from its end people couldn’t even see the Peabody Opera House, where they would hear Donald Trump. And it wasn’t just Trump. In the next two days, other folks nearby lined up to hear the outsider talk from Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt.

They share the same grievance. In 2016 America, the deepest divide is not between Democrats and Republicans. It’s not even between conservatives and liberals. It’s between Us and Them – the people versus The Establishment.


In dozens of interviews, in a cross section of the country, the sentiments were the same.

“They’re political bureaucrats who would like to control the people,” said Sandy Garber, a St. Charles real estate agent, when asked to define the establishment.

John Hackmann, a Fairview Heights, Ill., retiree, labeled it a “Washington cartel.”

“They just let the government do whatever they want,” said Jim Walker, an Arnold, Mo., businessman.

Continue reading America to Establishment: Who the hell are you people?

Stiglitz: American Inequality Didn’t Just Happen. It Was Created.

by Joseph Stiglitz | Evonomics

How to keep power at the top of society

American inequality didn’t just happen. It was created. Market forces played a role, but it was not market forces alone. In a sense, that should be obvious: economic laws are universal, but our growing inequality— especially the amounts seized by the upper 1 percent—is a distinctly American “achievement.” That outsize inequality is not predestined offers reason for hope, but in reality it is likely to get worse. The forces that have been at play in creating these outcomes are self-reinforcing.

America’s current level of inequality is unusual. Compared with other countries and compared with what it was in the past even in the United States, it’s unusually large, and it has been increasing unusually fast. It used to be said that watching for changes in inequality was like watching grass grow: it’s hard to see the changes in any short span of time. But that’s not true now.

Addressing inequality is of necessity multifaceted—we have to rein in the excesses at the top, strengthen the middle, and help those at the bottom. Each goal requires a program of its own. But to construct such programs, we have to have a better understanding of what has given rise to each facet of this unusual inequality.

Distinct as the inequality we face today is, inequality itself is not something new. The concentration of economic and political power was in many ways more extreme in the precapitalist societies of the West. At that time, religion both explained and justified the inequality: those at the top of society were there because of divine right. To question that was to question the social order, or even to question God’s will.

Continue reading Stiglitz: American Inequality Didn’t Just Happen. It Was Created.

Can You Figure Out What This Chart Means?

by Mike Whitney | March 23, 2016 | Counterpunch

What do you think this chart means?


(The post-recession economy is worse than we thought, Fortune)

It means the U.S. economy is in the throes of the lousiest recovery since World War 2.

“But how can that be”, you ask? “After all, hasn’t the Fed kept interest rates at zero for seven years while hosing down the entire financial system with more than $4 trillion?

Yep, they sure have, but their so called monetary stimulus has failed to lift the economy out of the doldrums or produce the robust recovery that they promised. Instead, US gross domestic product, (GDP) has been plodding-along at an abysmal 2.2% since 2009, which is far below the 3.6% average of the prior 60 years. Bottom line: There’s no chance the economy is going to break out of its long-term stagnation unless policymakers dramatically change their approach. Here’s a snapshot of the Fed’s handiwork from an article at Fortune Magazine. Take a look:



“As you can see, the revisions generally show a more anemic record of post-recession growth than we thought. From 2011 through last year, the U.S. economy, on average, grew just 2% per year, well below its post-war average of roughly 3% growth.” (The post-recession economy is worse than we thought, Fortune)

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? It’s hard to believe the Fed can dump more than $4 trillion into the financial system and not even hit their 2% inflation target? How is that possible? I thought more money meant more inflation? Was I wrong?

Continue reading Can You Figure Out What This Chart Means?