Archive for December 10, 2010

Fair – World’s Largest Arms Dealer Strains to Stop Arms Flow

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From Fair:

World’s Largest Arms Dealer Strains to Stop Arms Flow

12/07/2010 by Jim Naureckas

One gets the impression, reading the New York Times‘ coverage of the WikiLeaks cables, that the paper is particularly interested in documents that portray the State Department in a good light, struggling to do good in a world that continually resists its efforts. Take today’s front-page piece (12/7/10), “America Prods and Protests But Can’t Halt Arms Trade.”

The piece, by Michael Gordon and Andrew Lehren, details “the United States’ efforts to prevent buildups of arms…in some of the world’s tensest regions.” The piece does include an acknowledgment that “the United States is the world’s largest arms supplier, and with Russia, dominates trade in the developing world”; the U.S. is, in fact, the seller in 40 percent of global arms deals, and delivers arms to some of the most repressive and war-torn countries in the world (Extra!, 5/10).  Gordon and Lehren go on to note, “Its role as a purveyor of weapons to certain allies–including Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states–has drawn criticism that it has fueled an arms race.”

But aside from these two sentences of context, the rest of the article overwhelmingly presents the contradictory case that, as the Times‘ Web headline has it, the “U.S. Strains to Stop Arms Flow.”

Fair – A Benefit for Half of America–but Mostly the Top 0.2 Percent

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From Fair:

A Benefit for Half of America–but Mostly the Top 0.2 Percent

12/08/2010 by Jim Naureckas

CNBC‘s Erin Burnett discussing the tax deal on the Today show yesterday (12/7/10): “With capital gains and dividend taxes staying low, the half of Americans that own stocks get a benefit there as well.”

Oh, really? Here’s some figures from the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (1/30/06):

Over half–54 percent–of all capital gains and dividend income flows to the 0.2 percent of households with annual incomes over $1 million. More than three-quarters–78 percent–of this income goes to those households with income over $200,000, which account for about 3 percent of all households.

In contrast, only 11 percent of capital gains and dividend income goes to the 86 percent of households with incomes of less than $100,000. Only 4 percent of this income flows to the 64 percent of households that have income of less than $50,000.

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Former Nixon Speech Writer Tells the Middle Class They’d Better be Ready to Take Their Medicine

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Bill Clinton Pimps for Obama’s Tax Cut Deal

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Democracy Now! Headlines for 12/10/2010

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Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: Julian Assange is Not a Terrorist

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Rep. Grayson: More Tax Cuts For The Rich Equals More Lean Years Ahead

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Sanders Filibuster Begins…

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Aid for Seniors Blocked by Filibuster

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Climate Progress – NASA: Hottest November on record, 2010 likely hottest year on record globally — despite deepest solar minimum in a century

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From Climate Progress:

NASA: Hottest November on record, 2010 likely hottest year on record globally — despite deepest solar minimum in a century

In U.S., heat records far exceed cold for 10th consecutive month

December 10, 2010

NASA released its monthly global temperature data, revealing November was easily the hottest in the temperature record.  The “meteorological year” — December to November — was also the hottest on record.  Calendar year 2010 appears poised to be the hottest on record.

These records are especially impressive because we’re in the middle of a strong La Niña, which would normally cool off temperatures for a few months (relatively speaking), and we’ve been in “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century.”  It’s just hard to stop the march of manmade global warming, other than by sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that is.

As for the U.S., Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate analyzed the data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) for his post, “November Temperature Extremes: Heat Records Far Exceed Cold For 10th Consecutive Month,” which notes:

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Columbia Journalism Review

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From Columbia Journalism Review:

NYT’s Anti-Bond Market Piece: Did you know there’s a fight to the death going on in Europe? The Times covered it this week under the headline “Central Bank and Financiers Fight Over Fate of the Euro,” and that’s the clear theme. But CJR‘s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, says that blaming speculators for anything going on in Europe is lazy and unproven.

Rattner Ratted Out:
Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum says The New York Times fronted an excellent story on the Steven Rattner scandal. If you wondered why Andrew Cuomo, New York’s attorney general and governor-elect, is pursuing Rattner so fervently,  now you know, thanks to Louise Story and Michael Barbaro.

Unconvincing Outlier:
Salmon says much of the commentary on extending unemployment insurance adds up to something reasonably clear: unemployment insurance isn’t just about fairness, it’s also extremely effective as stimulus. Any side effect that encourages people to stay unemployed is, in comparison, modest. Which is why it’s very odd to find Kelly Evans, in The Wall Street Journal, writing the exact opposite.

Sorkin Comes Around: Chittum says there was a tough column in The New York Times early this week on how the feds’ are going after the minnows and avoiding the sharks over the financial crisis. That the piece comes from Andrew Ross Sorkin, who’s about as inside as they come on Wall Street (for better or for worse),  is significant.

DealBook Drumbeat: And Chittum asks: Is that the sound of a drumbeat coming out of Sorkin’s DealBook? On the heels of Sorkin’s column, a new DealBook columnist, ProPublica’s excellent Jesse Eisinger, asks where the prosecutions are.

What Crackdown?: Boy, the Obama administration’s slapdash PR effort to show it’s cracking down on financial fraud sure looks to be failing—and getting some serious blowback. Chittum says it gets even better (and by better, he means worse): Bloomberg’s Jonathan Weil comes along this week with an outstanding column further showing that the feds “crackdown” on fraud is itself bogus.

Out of Turn:
In Audit Notes, Chittum points out that New York’s Lieutenant Governor, Richard Ravitch, went off the reservation in a speech, reported by Bloomberg, criticizing the state’s cash cow, Wall Street.

William K. Black – The Effort to Claim That Economists Support Obama’s Capitulation on Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From The Huffington Post:

The Effort to Claim That Economists Support Obama’s Capitulation on Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

By William K. Black

You know the administration is desperate when it creates a web page citing economists who support its capitulation on taxes.

The web page cites the support of five economists. Peter Cardillo, the Bank of America, Greg Mankiw, and Wells Fargo (are the second through fifth economists on Obama’s list). Who are these supporters and why is the administration proud of their support? Cardillo is an economist for an investment firm, Avalon Partners. Avalon’s web site states that it specializes in “wealth management” for “affluent investors…to meet the unique needs of high net worth individuals….” Yes, the wealthiest one-hundredth of one percent of Americans — the truly, uniquely needy.

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Sahil Kapur – GOP Speaker-elect Boehner hires lobbyist as policy director

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From The Raw Story:

GOP Speaker-elect Boehner hires lobbyist as policy director

By Sahil Kapur

Friday, December 10th, 2010 — 8:51 am

He ‘reflects the will of the people we serve’

House Republican leader John Boehner has tapped a top medical industry lobbyist to be his policy director when he takes the reins as speaker in January.

The lobbyist, Brett Loper, is the senior executive vice president of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, a pharmaceutical and health products industry, which lobbied in opposition to Democrats’ health care reform legislation.

“I’m very pleased Brett will be joining our team,” Boehner said Thursday in a statement, according to Politico. “There are few people who are better equipped to help our new majority change the way the House works and advance a new governing agenda that reflects the will of the people we serve.”

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The Independent – Blair recalled to face further questions on build-up to Iraq war

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From The Independent:

Blair recalled to face further questions on build-up to Iraq war

By Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor

Tony Blair is to be recalled before the Iraq Inquiry to answer questions over whether he pressured his Attorney General to change his advice on the legality of the war.

The former prime minister will face a second session before the Chilcot inquiry in the new year – a year after he refused to express regrets over leading Britain to war in 2003. His statement provoked fury in the hearing, with members of the audience calling him a “liar” and a “murderer”.

The decision to summon him back will be a blow to Mr Blair, who had hoped his previous six-hour appearance would defuse the continuing controversy over the war.

But it is evidence that the Chilcot team believes there are still significant gaps to be filled as they try to piece together a full picture of the build-up to war. They are preparing to question him over suggestions that he put pressure on Lord Goldsmith, who was then the Attorney General, to alter his advice on the legality of the war. The lawyer’s change of heart just before the planned invasion gave a green light for British troops to join the US-led military action.

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Bolivian Pres. Evo Morales at Cancún Climate Summit: WikiLeaks Cables Reveal “Diplomacy of Empire”

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Media Matters – The Big Picture: December 10, 2010

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Guardian’s John Vidal: If Climate Talks Collapse “You Could Argue that America Has Done Very Well”

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Kevin G. Hall – Remember $4 Gasoline? Oil Speculators Are Back

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From Truthout:

Remember $4 Gasoline? Oil Speculators Are Back
Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers: “Despite weak demand in the U.S. and Europe, oil prices climbed this week to near $90 a barrel and gasoline prices have passed $3 a gallon on the West Coast and parts of the Northeast. Why? If demand is down and supplies are plentiful – and they are – why would prices be going up?”
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Michael Parenti – Money Is Still the Name of the Game

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From Common Dreams:

Money Is Still the Name of the Game

by Michael Parenti

For years certain pundits and political scientists have insisted that money is not all that important in winning elections. Large sums expended on campaigns glean only an extra percentage point or two in votes, we are told, and often the candidate who spends the most ends up losing anyway.

“Other Variables”

In 2010 Republican candidate Meg Whitman smothered the California gubernatorial contest with $142 million of her own money but still lost to Jerry Brown who spent a mere $24 million, along with another $27 million or so put up by independent groups. Such results are seized upon by those who argue that money does not guarantee victory. They insist that other variables — such as party affiliation, incumbency, candidate’s image, and key issues — may be the deciding factors.

True, but we should remember that these “other variables” themselves are most likely to gather form and substance within a well-financed campaign. Feeding on large sums, a candidate can promote his image in a highly favorable light and advertise (or bury) the issues as best suit him, all the while casting mean shadows upon his financially weaker opponent.

Getting back to California’s Meg and Jerry show: candidates who win while spending less than their opponents, as Jerry Brown did, still usually have to spend quite a lot, about $50 million in his case. While never a surefire guarantor of victory, a large war chest — even if not the largest — is usually a necessary condition. In sum, money may not guarantee victory, but a serious lack of it almost always guarantees defeat.

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Robert Reich – Why the Tax Deal Confirms the Republican Worldview

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From Robert Reich:

Why the Tax Deal Confirms the Republican Worldview

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Apart from its extraordinary cost and regressive tilt, the tax deal negotiated between the President and the Republicans has another fatal flaw.

It confirms the Republican worldview.

Americans want to know what happened to the economy and how to fix it. At least Republicans have a story – the same one they’ve been flogging for thirty years. The bad economy is big government’s fault and the solution is to shrink government.

Here’s the real story. For three decades, an increasing share of the benefits of economic growth have gone to the top 1 percent. Thirty years ago, the top got 9 percent of total income. Not they take in almost a quarter. Meanwhile, the earnings of the typical worker have barely budged.

The vast middle class no longer has the purchasing power to keep the economy going. (The rich spend a much lower portion of their incomes.) The crisis was averted before now only because middle-class families found ways to keep spending more than they took in – by women going into paid work, by working longer hours, and finally by using their homes as collateral to borrow. But when the housing bubble burst, the game was up.

The solution is to reorganize the economy so the benefits of growth are more widely shared. Exempt the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes, and apply payroll taxes to incomes over $250,000. Extend Medicare to all. Extend the Earned Income Tax Credit all the way up through families earning $50,000. Make higher education free to families that now can’t afford it. Rehire teachers. Repair and rebuild our infrastructure. Create a new WPA to put the unemployed back to work.

Pay for this by raising marginal income taxes on millionaires (under Eisenhower, the highest marginal rate was 91 percent, and the economy flourished). A millionaire marginal tax of 70 percent would eliminate the nation’s future budget deficit. In addition, impose a small tax on all financial transactions (even a tiny one — one half of one percent — would bring in $200 billion a year, enough to rehire every teacher who’s been laid off as well as provide universal pre-school for all toddlers). Promote unions for low-wage workers.

But here’s the obstacle. As income and wealth have risen to the top, so has political power. Money is being used to bribe politicians and fill the airwaves with misleading ads that block all of this.

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Dr. Strangelove; Part 1 of 10

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment
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Marian Wang – Cheat Sheet: Where the Fed’s Trillions Went

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From ProPublica:

Cheat Sheet: Where the Fed’s Trillions Went

by Marian Wang

A provision in the financial reform law forced the Federal Reserve to disclose the details of the trillions it lent out at the height of the recent financial crisis.

You can see the data from some of the Fed’s emergency lending programs in our interactive. In all, there were 11 programs—a mess of confusing acronyms like AMLF, TALF, PDCF, CPFF and so on —but generally speaking, they were designed to stabilize the economy by enabling financial firms to keep many forms of lending going at a time when credit was hard to come by. Here’s a rundown of what’s come to light from this data so far.

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Columbia Journalism Review

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Fox reports, Fox decides: An internal Fox News memo leaked to Media Matters shows the conservative news network reminding employees to shape their language in ways that would undermine the Democratic argument for health reform. Joel Meares reports.

Crowd power in MinnesotaLauren Kirchner reports on how Jeff Severns Guntzel, proprietor of MinnPost’s The Intelligencer blog, employs his readers to help locate stories hidden in vast reams of data and information.

Off the Hamster Wheel: Two years after the site’s launch, Global Post is changing the way it does business in order to produce fewer stories, but stories with more impact. A nonprofit arm to fund special projects is part of the plan. Lauren Kirchner interviews Executive Editor Charles Sennott.

Social Security, Real People: In the seventh of her series, Social Security in the Heartland—an effort to see how changes and reforms in the system might affect ordinary Americans, and to try to get the press to do more of that too—Trudy Lieberman interviews Judy Love of Champagne-Urbana, who has thoughts about what raising the retirement would do to women like her.