Monthly Archives: January 2012

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Monsanto Embedded in Government

Monsanto Embedded in Government

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Who Pays Taxes?

Richard D. Wolff, Truthout:

“Half of Americans pay no income taxes, while the richest 5 percent of taxpayers pay over half of Washington’s income taxes.” First of all, the vast majority of those Americans who do not pay income taxes do pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. As the Washington Post made clear (September 23, 2011), using data for 2011, of the 46 percent of US households who will not be paying federal income tax for 2011, the vast majority will be paying Social Security and Medicare taxes. The truth is that only 18 percent of US households will pay neither income tax nor Social Security and Medicare taxes. All but 1 percent of those who pay no taxes to Washington are either elderly or else have household incomes under $20,000.

Another such argument runs roughly as follows: “The richest 5 percent of income receivers in the US pay over half of all of Washington’s income tax receipts.” First of all, those same people pay a tiny percentage of Washington’s Social Security and Medicare receipts. That is simply because the richest Americans earn the largest portion of their income from sources other than wages and salaries – such as interest, rents, dividends and capital gains. Incomes from such other sources do not have to pay Social Security or Medicare taxes. Since Washington’s Social Security and Medicare tax receipts are now as large or larger than its individual income tax receipts, any honest assessment of what the richest Americans pay cannot exclude counting Social Security and Medicare taxes paid disproportionately by the bottom 99 percent – just what most of the right-wing analyses routinely do.

One way to cut through the misinformation around taxes created by the right is to see what happened to the distribution of incomes among Americans over recent years. Did the US federal tax system hurt the top 1 percent and help the remaining 99 percent; does it operate “unfairly” as they claim? An answer emerges from the best professional statistical work yet done on the US income distribution: that of Professors Piketty and Saez (widely available on the Internet). Their work covers 1993 to 2007 (before the current crisis hit). They found that the average annual growth in US real incomes over those years was 2.2 percent. In contrast, the real annual income growth of the incomes of the richest 1 percent was 5.9 percent. The real annual income growth of the other 99 percent of the US was 1.3 percent.

The US federal tax system that right wingers portray as unfair and burdensome to the richest Americans allowed them for the last two decades to gather still greater income than everyone else. The US federal tax system enabled greater inequality. And the same results apply to the US distribution of wealth. No wonder the right resents, opposes and seeks to silence those who suggest even modest changes in a tax system so convenient for the richest.

Mario Piperni on Jan Brewer

Shameless Lying Is Putting Money in Jan Brewer’s Purse

January 30, 2012 By

So you take a year to write a book on your heroic life and few people are interested in reading it. It’s at 343,222 on the Amazon ranking and sinking fast. What to do?

Easy. Take a page out of Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer’s playbook and start a confrontation with the President of the United States the next time he comes by for a visit. Make sure photographers get a good pic of you wagging your finger at the President in a manner which suggests he’s getting a well deserved scolding. And should the President not take the bait and instead remains cool and calm, follow Jan’s lead: spin the hell out of the story and tell the world how tense and awful it all was.

If you do all that, here’s what can happen to that book of yours.

…the governor has used her version of the encounter to get plenty of air time, seeing an increase in sales of her book which she has called a “truth telling” tome. Amazon ranked “Scorpions for Breakfast” at No. 7 on its best sellers list on Friday. The day of the event, the book had been at No. 343,222.

It’s that easy.  So go out there and put together that book you’ve always dreamed of writing. Worry little about the writing style and even less about making it truthful. It matters not. Brewer has been going around saying that her dad died fighting Nazis in WWII even though he died from lung cancer in California in 1955. So don’t get caught up in thinking your book has to be factual. It doesn’t. All that counts is that the book makes you look good and everyone else comes off as a putz.

Once the book is published, practice your ‘ooh, the big black man is scaring me’ look in the mirror. Do all that and you’re ready to invite Barack Obama for Sunday brunch and watch your book sales soar.

Flaw in the XL Pipeline

The Pig in the XL Pipeline

Insider reveals concealed “error” in pipeline safety equipment that could blow away the GOP’s XL pipe dream

For Firedoglake

by Greg Palast

“They threatened me. Last night I got a call and they threatened me. If I talked.”

“Pig Man #2,” a pipeline industry insider, had a good reason to be afraid.  He was about to blow the whistle on a fraud, information that could blow away the XL Keystone Pipeline project.

His information: The software for the crucial piece of pipeline safety equipment, the “Smart PIG,” has a flaw known to the industry but concealed from regulators.
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The flaw allows cracks, leaks and corrosion to go undetected — and that saves the industry billions of dollars in pipe replacements.  But there’s a catch. Pipes with cracks and leaks can explode — and kill.

Federal law requires the oil and gas industry to run a PIG, a Pipeline Inspection Gauge, through big oil and gas pipelines.  The robot porker, tethered to a GPS, beeps and boops as it rolls through, electronically squealing when it finds dangers.

But whistleblowers told us at Channel 4 Dispatches (the “60 Minutes” of Britain) that the software is deliberately calibrated to ignore or minimize deadly problems.  They know because they themselves worked on the software design team.

This week, President Obama refused to issue a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, but invited its owner, Trans-Canada, to re-apply.  The GOP has gone wild over Obama’s hesitation, screeching that slowing the Canada-to-Houston pipe for a full safety review is a jobs killer.

But it’s the Pipeline that’s the killer.  Here’s what Pig Man #2 told me, on camera, his face in shadow:

When his team found the life-threatening flaw in the program, they immediately created a software patch to fix it.  But then their supervisor ordered them to bury the fix and conceal the problem.

With the PIG calibrated to the danger sensitivity required by law, oil and gas companies would have to dig up, inspect and replace pipe at a cost of millions per mile.  That’s not what the oil companies wanted from their contractor that designed the PIG program.

The programmers’ bosses took no chances. “We had to sign nondisclosure agreements.” They were required to conceal “any problems of this sort or the nature of the software we worked.”  It could not “be made public at all. Under threat of lawsuit.” Nice.

With the error left in place, he said, “People die.”

Pig Man #2 was shaking a bit when he said it. On September 9, 2010, a gas pipeline exploded, incinerating 13-year-old Janessa Greig, her mom and six others.

A PIG — an honest PIG — would have caught the bad welds in the old pipe.

Trans-Canada says that Keystone XL won’t contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, the Plains states’ crucial water source.  Keystone’s permit application boasts that we can rely on XL’s “full pigging capability.”

Sure.  Last summer, an ExxonMobil pipeline burst and poisoned parts of the Yellowstone River — only months after it had been “pigged.”

The danger of a muzzled PIG goes beyond Keystone XL.  New gas fields opened by hydraulic fracking will require over 100,000 miles of new transmission pipe.

This week, Newt Gingrich called Obama’s temporary block on the XL Pipeline, “stunningly stupid”; and Mitt Romney said Obama’s decision threatened America’s “energy independence.” (Mitt, the oil is from, uh, Canada.)

But the real question is, can we trust these pigs?  And not just the ones in the pipeline.

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Greg Palast, whose reports can be seen on BBC Television Newsnight, is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse.  His latest book, Vultures’ Picnic, includes Palast’s investigation of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, vulture capitalism, and “the pig in the pipeline.”

Ezra Klein on the Myth of American Decline

Robert Kagan is a prominent neoconservative who advised John McCain in the 2008 race and is advising Mitt Romney in 2012. But after publishing a cover story in the New Republic arguing against “the myth of American decline,” he has found himself a new fan: President Obama.

Josh Rogin reports that Obama has been talking Kagan’s article up both in public and in private. In a recent, off-the-record meeting with news anchors, Obama spent more than 10 minutes “going over its arguments paragraph by paragraph, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor confirmed.” National Security Advisor Tom Donilon was dispatched to Charlie Rose to “discuss Kagan’s essay and Obama’s love of it.” So it’s not just the president who likes Kagan’s article. It’s the White House communications team who likes the idea of letting people know the president likes Kagan’s article.

Kagan’s essay isn’t really about “the myth of American decline.” It’s about the myth that America was ever omnipotent. “Every day, it seems, brings more evidence that the time has passed when the United States could lead the world and get others to do its bidding.” Kagan writes. But the reality is that “much of today’s impressions about declining American influence are based on a nostalgic fallacy: that there was once a time when the United States could shape the whole world to suit its desires, and could get other nations to do what it wanted them to do.”

Indeed, Kagan says, American preeminence looks much as it always has: we produce about a quarter of the world’s GDP, the same percentage that we’ve produced for the last four decades, and our military remains vastly larger. Nor has the cost of maintaining that preeminence increased: Both in terms of men and money, our military consumes fewer of our resources than it did throughout most of the 20th Century. That doesn’t empower us to control world events in minute detail. But it makes us very rich, very influential, and very dominant.

The real core of the question of American decline is, however, the continued productive capacity of the American economy. If America’s economy can no longer adapt and grow, our military commitments will quickly become unmanageable, our domestic politics will become volatile, and our position in the world will wane. And as Kagan notes, this is backed up in impressions of American power: In the 1990s, when our economy was booming, commentators spoke of our “unipolar moment” and America’s historically unmatched preeminence. Today, with our economy sagging, those same commentators wonder whether we are entering a permanent decline. So the question, really, is where our economy goes from here.

New economic data suggests there’s reason for optimism: the recession has not permanently derailed our economy. Gross domestic product began falling in the fourth quarter of 2007. And for most of the last four years, real GDP — that is, GDP once you account for inflation — has been lower than it was in late 2007. But according to the newest GDP figures, America turned the corner in the third quarter of 2011: our economy was larger in that quarter than it was before the recession. And, in the fourth quarter of 2011, it was even larger than that. Which is not to deny the terrible toll the recession took on the economy, or its continued aftereffects. But the country’s basic productive capacity has endured, and is even growing.

Further underscoring the case for optimism is the fact that America is much further along in the deleveraging process — which is, essentially, the recovery process from this sort of recession — than competitor countries. Frankly, it would be better for us if other countries were recovering more swiftly, as it would help our exports and reduce financial uncertainty. But insofar as the question is whether America’s economy is recovering comparatively faster than other advanced economies, and thus displaying its tendency to recover from global recessions in a way that makes us relatively stronger than our peers, the numbers are, for now, encouraging.

Andrew Sullivan

Why Are Obama’s Critics So Dumb?

I’ll own that headline for this one. The total invention of Barack X as opposed to Barack Obama is getting worse, not better, as Bill Maher explains in this instant classic:

First off, the head of the RNC, Reince Priebus, just said this about the bitter GOP death-match now in full flood:

In a few months, this is all going to be ancient history and we’re going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is President Obama who’s abandoning the ship here in the United States and is more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president.

So the man handed an economy contracting by an annualized rate of 9 percent, and two failed wars, is now the man who is abandoning ship. Next up:

Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal is under fire after asking Republican House members to pray for President Barack Obama’s death. O’Neal made the request via an email he forwarded to GOP colleagues in the House. In an email sent in December, O’Neal asked his fellow Republicans to pray Psalm 109, which contains the following lines:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

The Secret Service needs to give that man a call. Then he should resign. No public official anywhere should be calling for the death of the first black president.

LUV News

ACTION:  OCCUPY DC UNDER ATTACK

After pressure on the National Park Police by the shockingly unscrupulous Congressman Issa, urging them to crack down on Occupy DC protesters, Occupy camps at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza were warned last night that on or about noon on Monday police will enforce regulations prohibiting camping.

With more than half of winter remaining, survival for protesters will be difficult without shelter, so we believe the true purpose of this crackdown is to destroy the occupation out of establishment fear of an outbreak of democracy.

If the Park Police follow through as they say they will, it will happen in broad daylight, as opposed to the recent string of crackdowns across the nation in the middle of the night, so this one may show up on video, and in pictures.

We’ve seen mention by some activists that they will resist at McPherson Square, and while we support all Occupy groups across the nation and around the world, we did sign on to support the Freedom Plaza group last May when plans for the protest were finalized, so recommend the following:

Activists who are willing are encouraged to show up with a camera and peaceably assemble at Freedom Plaza for a show of strength at noon on Monday.  We do not encourage lawbreaking or resistance, merely physical presence.  If there are enough people standing there, it may influence police to back off, as has happened in other such events across the nation.  Freedom Plaza is about a block away from the central DC Metro station, the best way to get in and out of the city on workdays.

Occupy DC in the nation’s capitol is symbolic of the national democracy movement, but if it is shut down, the protest will continue in other forms, pushed more quickly into the next stage, for which planning has already begun.  LUV News will be in Freedom Plaza on Monday where we hope to see many of our friends who read this.

Mario Piperni on Ricky Righteous

Republicans Preach A “Keep ’em Stupid” Policy

January 27, 2012 By

President Obama at the SOTU.

“Higher education can’t be a luxury — it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford,” Obama said in his speech.

An obvious enough statement, right? Well, not for the buffoons performing in the Republican clown show.

“It’s no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go college,” Santorum said Wednesday in Florida, according to CBS News. “The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America. And it is indoctrination. If it was the other way around, the ACLU would be out there making sure there wasn’t one penny of government dollars going to colleges and universities, right?”

It’s getting too stupid for words. It doesn’t matter what this President says, the wingnuts will find fault with it and turn it into an us-against-them issue. Only a paranoid group of psychopaths obsessed with turning their country into a land of God-fearing, Christian Luddites hoping to go back to a make-believe time when milk and honey flowed from the ground would find fault with a president seeking higher education for all.

But there is a method to their madness. Keeping ’em stupid is just about the only way the right can cling on to a base who has been spoon fed lies and propaganda for the last four decades. If they could find a way to keep these people away from universities of supposed liberal propaganda and instead keep them focused on fair and balanced news sources like Fox, they might just be able to get a bigoted, delusional prick like Rick Santorum elected President some day.

Bartcop Rants Rock

Newt’s fate tied to Obama
The better Newt does, the more Obama wins


Link

Obama’s likelihood of reelection has soared in the last few days to 56.8 percent, the highest since July. This movement correlates with Newt’s increased likelihood of gaining the nomination, now at 29.7 percent. This upward trend also correlates with Romney’s likelihood of winning the presidency if he wins the nomination, now at 44.0, down from about 48 percent. We utilize prediction market data for these likelihoods.

So, Obama was always beating Romney and now he’s beating him even more badly. If Obama wants to be re-elected, the job is his. If he chooses to sit out the race, he could lose it by default.

LUV News: We’re Winning

DIMINISHING FREEDOM ABROAD

Glenn Greenwald this morning undermines the corporate media illusion that we are “spreading freedom,” giving examples of what’s happened in the nations we have invaded.  It is maddening listening to those corporate media put their microphones before, babbling about our spreading of democracy and freedom to justify the carnage.

We get heartbreaking emails at LUV News from people who get tear gassed, pepper sprayed, arrested and thrown in jail for peaceably assembling as the Constitution authorizes a citizen, in attempting to protest inequality.  The worst of them are from people who want to give up, seriously depressed, and we tell them we understand, we feel that way ourselves some days.

Then we remind them that in the first American revolution, at Valley Forge in the winter, Washington’s rag tag army went without shoes, walking barefoot in the snow, a lot of them wounded, told by everyone with any knowledge of military capabilities that they had no chance against the most powerful army on the planet, and the smart thing to do would be to surrender.

One thing we have going for us in this Occupy Valley Forge winter, is the internet, and we are discovering there are people all over the world just like us, and they say they are not going to quit.  If Washington had that, he might have learned that the French were considering joining the fight against their hated British enemies, and victory was not so far away as it seemed.

Every day, even in the mainstream media, there are signs that the Occupy movement is infusing terror into the consciousness of the one percent.  Some of the people we most respect at LUV News have told us they are not going to quit, and that inspires us like nothing else.

But, we are already winning.  This piece from inside the 1% meeting at Davos, tells us that the most powerful people on the planet are considering things they’ve never before considered as the Occupy fire gets hotter under their butts.

No, they are not going to quit as long as they have a canister of pepper spray and a cop willing to do their bidding, and yes, a child still dies of hunger-related causes every five seconds so that billionaires can have a 97th yacht.

But we are winning.  If anybody had asked me if this movement could accomplish this much in so little time, even six months ago, I would have told them they are crazy.  This is a movement that will take time, we are not going to do an action one day and have the ruling Forces of Greed drop to their knees and surrender.

They are psychopaths willing to kill millions of people in wars for profit, willing to pollute the environment for profit, willing to kill their own workers in known unsafe workplaces, kill their own consumers with known unsafe products, no, these bastards will not go quietly.

Meanwhile, we are winning. —Jack