Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Grateful Dead 12-31-87 Oakland Coliseum Oakland CA

Legalize Or Lose 2012 (The Marijuana Debate) Going Viral Now!

Home Depot Founder: Pope Francis’ Criticism Of Capitalism Will Scare Away Rich People

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/12/31/3108901/wealthy-popes-criticism-hurdle/

By Jeff Spross
December 31, 2013

Ken Langone, the billionaire founder of Home Depot, is worried Pope Francis’ recent criticism of the wealthy and capitalism will be a “hurdle” for rich donors.

Langone is heading up an effort to raise $180 million for the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, and told CNBC that at at least one potential seven-figure donor was “concerned” about the Pope’s remarks. He’s apparently brought the issue up more than once with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York: “I’ve told the cardinal, ‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country,’” Langone said, adding that “you get more with honey than with vinegar.” 

Neither Langone nor Dolan, who appeared on the network separately, revealed the identity of the donor in question.The statements that have them worried came from Evangelii Gaudium, the first major written statement of Francis’ papacy:
Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor…
Dolan said he assured Langone that “the pope loves poor people” and “also loves rich people,” and that the donor had misunderstood Francis’ message. Langone himself suggested the pope’s view of capitalism has been skewed by his experiences in Argentina, arguing there’s a “vast difference” between that experience “and how we are in America.”

But this misses the point. As Elizabeth Stoker points out, the Pope’s point is fundamentally theological, not political, and thus policy differences between capitalism in Argentina and in American are irrelevant. Blind defense of free market capitalism “compromises fellowship between people by perpetuating the wedge of inequality” — and as of 2011, the United States was even more economically unequal than Egypt.

The idea that possessing significant wealth inherently makes it harder to behave morally is a bedrock part of Christian ethical thought. In a well-known passage from the New Testament, a rich man asks Christ what he must do to fully follow God’s law. When Christ responds “sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor,” the man walks away dejected, prompting Christ to observe that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Glenn Greenwald: The NSA Can 'Literally Watch Every Keystroke You Make'

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/glenn-greenwald-nsa-can-literally-watch-every-keystroke-you-make

'TAO is basically a unit that is designed to cultivate the most advanced hacking operations and skills of any unit, any entity on the Earth.'

By Amy Goodman December 30, 2013

NSAs goal is elimination of privacy worldwide - Greenwald to EU (FULL SPEECH)

Monday, December 30, 2013

If memory serves: The 1 percent laughs last, as Wall Street wins again

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/29/if_memory_swerves_the_1_percent_laughs_last_as_wall_street_wins_again/

Five years after wrecking our economy, the big banks are back. Here's why we need real government regulations

Sunday, Dec 29, 2013

September 15 marked five years since the beginning of the economic slump that defines the world we live in. Disaster was in the air already by that day in 2008: real-estate values had been falling for some time, Bear Stearns and several big commercial banks had failed, and the government had taken over the mortgage insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac the previous week. But that Monday morning in September was when the larger economy went over a cliff — after Lehman Brothers, the nation’s fourth largest investment bank, finally succumbed to the effects of the noxious securities on which it had gorged itself for years.

Later that day, in a climate of almost complete panic, Merrill Lynch — the nation’s third-largest investment bank, which had fed at the same trough — managed to find shelter in the arms of Bank of America. By the next day, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department announced that they were saving AIG, the mammoth insurance company that had transformed itself into a stealth hedge fund. As for actual hedge funds, more than 700 of them collapsed in the subsequent four months. And Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the last two investment-banking leviathans, desperately registered themselves as “bank holding companies” and threw themselves upon the mercy of the all-forgiving Fed.

It was the unavoidable explosion after decades of deregulation and willful blindness. A kind of waste product had been deliberately moved through the bowels of a hundred shady mortgage outfits. It was then gilded by delusional ratings agencies and sold to the world by the most respected names in finance. Bribery and deceit and crazy incentives had been the laxatives that pushed this product down the pipe; money and bonhomie and reassuring economic theory had been the sedatives that put the regulators to sleep.

The industry would supervise itself, we were told — and we believed it. Instead our economic order turned out to be wobbly, even rotten. The great banks looked insolvent. The great capitalists looked like criminals.

Then came a second outrage to rival the first. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who had been effectively promoted to king by a frantic George W. Bush, demanded and received $700 billion from Congress to resuscitate the banks run by his former colleagues on Wall Street. There was a class of businesses, we learned, that could not be allowed to fail, no matter what kinds of suicide missions they undertook; and there was a class of people who could not be held responsible for their deeds, no matter how they beggared the world or deceived their marks. That this class’s chosen public persona was one of churlish, sniggering contempt for the non-crooks who were now required to rescue them only compounded the shock.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/29/if_memory_swerves_the_1_percent_laughs_last_as_wall_street_wins_again/

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What America Would Look Like If Libertarians Got Their Way

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/what-america-would-look-if-libertarians-got-their-way

What if you cut all benefits? What if all of public life were a giant competition? What libertarianism would look like in real life.

By RJ Eskow December 25, 2013

These four libertarian/conservative dystopias are offered, as Rod Serling used to say in "The Twilight Zone," "for your consideration." 

The “Libertarian/Conservative”

I’ve qualified my previous writings on libertarianism with disclaimers explaining that I’m addressing a specific, popular subset of libertarian thought. But I’ve still run afoul of dozens of people who say, “I’m a libertarian and I don’t think those things.” I’ve still received comments like those from David Brin, who correctly notes that I’m not addressing libertarians like Friedrich Hayek in my criticism.
True. But Hayek ain’t in the saddle these days. Ayn Rand is leading the posse, to the extent any intellectual figure is. But I'll put my disclaimer upfront this time: I acknowledge that, as libertarian-friendly writer John Danaher puts it, “’libertarianism’ has come to denote a broad, often fractious, group of political theories.” 

I suppose it’s only fitting that a philosophy celebrating competing markets would, to a certain extent, be a set of competing markets itself.   

But it seems even clearer that a “libertarian” in today’s political environment is almost always someone who ascribes to certain core philosophies: He abhors government, hates taxation, and is hostile to collective action on behalf of the less fortunate. Name any prominent modern libertarian—Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, Ron Paul, Peter Thiel, Rand Paul—and they are likely to fit this description. 

These figures represent a singular and increasingly dominant libertarian vision. To avoid future confusion, I'll give their brand of thought an admittedly imperfect name: “libertarian/conservative.” It is that vision, and their future, which I address here—and it's a frightening future. 

1. What if you cut all benefits?

You’ve heard it from Sen. Rand Paul and other conservatives this winter: unemployment benefits increase unemployment. It’s an enormously destructive idea, though absurd on its face. It's like the argument that hospitals create sick people; after all, there are so many of them there. 

We usually consider such thinking "primitive" in modern societies. 

Capitalism, Ecology and the Official Invisibility of Women

From Truth Out:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/20849-capitalism-ecology-and-the-official-invisibility-of-women

By Chris WilliamsSunday, 29 December 2013

When it comes to the world economy, what you "see" is not usually what you get - especially when it comes to gender. Capitalism has fueled a world in which women are rendered invisible and saddled with the majority of labor. They are responsible for two-thirds of all working hours, produce 50 percent to 90 percent of the world's food  and 100 percent of the world's children. Yet, for all this, they receive only 10 percent of the world's income and own less than 1 percent of the world's property. As a result, women make up 70 percent of the world's poor. 

Moreover, gender violence is more of a threat to women's health than the sum of traffic accidents and malaria. Often, when women are "seen," they are seen as simply bodies, to be manipulated in ways that lead to profit. In a very real sense, as people, women are invisible.

Stephen Lewis, the former UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, wrote in his 2006 book, Race Against Time, that the World Bank, the UN and other international organizations repeatedly emphasize the need for greater and more effective action to counter gender inequality to achieve sustainability and other economic goals - but continue to work contrary to that type of action. Lewis wrote, "There is no greater emblem of international hypocrisy than the promise of women's rights." 

More recently, Elizabeth Arend, programs coordinator at Gender Action, has documented the "alarming gap" between the World Bank's "rhetoric and reality." Apart from ignoring issues of unequal access to land, credit, technical inputs, education, decision-making power and the extra demands of child care and other domestic commitments, "the bank's declining support for rural agriculture disproportionately harms poor women, who constitute the majority of small-scale farmers and play a critical role in growing, processing and preparing food."

Continue reading at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/20849-capitalism-ecology-and-the-official-invisibility-of-women

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pope’s ‘liberal’ views on capitalism freaking out conservative Catholics in Congress

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/26/popes-liberal-views-on-capitalism-freaking-out-conservative-catholics-in-congress/

By Travis Gettys
Thursday, December 26, 2013

Catholic Republican lawmakers are rattled by Pope Francis, whose recent comments have shaken up assumptions about their church and its relationship to their political party.

While church leaders have for years challenged the Republican Party on some social issues, including the death penalty and immigration, conservatives have generally marginalized their concerns as insignificant or irrelevant.

But the new pontiff has attracted too much attention with his call to focus less on divisive social issues and more on helping the poor and vulnerable.

Pope Francis has drawn sharp criticism from the hugely influential Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives for his remarks on the unrestrained free market and “trickle-down” economics, which he dismissed na├»ve and unsupported by the facts Limbaugh branded those statements as “pure Marxism,” but Sarah Palin was less harsh, admitting only that the pope’s statements sounded liberal to her, and her former 2008 running mate offered mixed reviews.

“His economic perspective I’m not particularly enamored with, but his advocacy for the poor, his lifestyle example, his more modern outlook on social issues — I’ve been very impressed,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) attended Catholic school as a youngster and graduated from Notre Dame’s law school, said he found the pope’s reference to “trickle-down economic” demeaning and off-putting, but he said the pontiff’s message should be considered in context.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/26/popes-liberal-views-on-capitalism-freaking-out-conservative-catholics-in-congress/

Your Terrifying Retirement Future: Why Millions Risk Sliding Into Poverty As They Age

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/maya-rockeymoore-racism-and-sexism-retirement-fiscal-policy

Low wages, low or no savings, and low Social Security benefits. The future is not bright, especially for women and minorities.

By Steven Rosenfeld December 23, 2013

(Editor’s note: This AlterNet interview is part of our expanded focus on modernizing Social Security, which, to us means increasing benefits where needed and ensuring its long-term funding. Dr. Maya Rockeymoore is a longtime advocate for racial justice. She is chair of the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare and president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions. She spoke to AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld about how America’s retirement crisis affects communties of color and women.)

AlterNet: There’s a lot about America’s growing retirement security crisis that’s not fully appreciated by the public, especially when it comes to the harmful impacts on communities of color and women. Tell us how unless we as a country have an honest discussion about this, and expand Social Security, that tens of millions of people will literally slide into poverty as they age. 

Maya Rockeymoore: There is no way we cannot have this discussion given the nation’s changing demographics. The rising majority will be primarily Asian-American, African-American and Latino-American. The fact of the matter is those people are already here. Of all the babies born today, a majority are children of color. By 2019, a majority of all children under the age of 18 will be from these racial and ethnic, quote-unquote, minority groups. And by the by 2043, the nation will be majority minority. 

The benefit cuts that austerity proponents are talking about today will be fully shouldered, if they ever were to pass, by a nation that looks very different than it does today. And so when you’re talking about cutting Social Security now, most proposals are not talking about cutting it for current retirees. They’re talking about implementing changes that would affect today’s youth. You should understand that you are primarily cutting benefits for a generation of young people who the odds are stacked against them having any type of retirement security. 

AlterNet: And that’s on top of what’s shaping up as a retirement crisis for baby boomers. 

Maya Rockeymoore: We’re already a nation experiencing a retirement crisis. The private sector mostly does not have defined benefit pensions anymore. And 401Ks have been a failure. What many people fail to appreciate is that communities of color have less access to retirement savings vehicles on the job than do white Americans. And unfortunately, even when they do have access, they are either more likely not to take advantage of it, or more likely to take loans out of it. So what we have is a population, that by virtue of their inconsistent relationship with the labor market, which is rooted in historical inequities, are already disadvantaged when it comes to retirement security. 

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/maya-rockeymoore-racism-and-sexism-retirement-fiscal-policy

Billion-Dollar Climate Change Denial Network Exposed

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How America abandoned its “undeserving” poor

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/21/how_america_abandoned_its_undeserving_poor/

With poverty on the rise in the late 1970s, Reagan conservatives waged war on the needy — and won

Saturday, Dec 21, 2013

After the mid-1970s progress against poverty stalled. The 1973 oil crisis ushered in an era of growing inequality interrupted only briefly by the years of prosperity during the 1990s. Productivity increased, but, for the first time in American history, its gains were not shared by ordinary workers, whose real incomes declined even as the wealth of the rich soared. Poverty concentrated as never before in inner city districts scarred by chronic joblessness and racial segregation. America led western democracies in the proportion of its children living in poverty. It led the world in rates of incarceration. Trade union membership plummeted under an assault by big business abetted by the federal government. Policy responded by allowing the real value of the minimum wage, welfare benefits, and other social protections to erode. The dominant interpretation of America’s troubles blamed the War on Poverty and Great Society and constructed a rationale for responding to misery by retrenching on social spending. A bipartisan consensus emerged for solving the nation’s social and economic problems through a war on dependence, the devolution of authority, and the redesign of public policy along market models.

Urban Transformation

The years after the mid-1970s witnessed a confrontation between massive urban structural transformation and rightward moving social policy that registered in a reconfigured and intensified American poverty in the nation’s cities. It is no easy task to define an American city in the early twenty-first century. Fast-growing cities in the post-war Sun Belt differ dramatically from the old cities of the Northeast and Midwest as any drive through, for example, Los Angeles and Philadelphia makes clear. Nonetheless, all the nation’s central cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas experienced transformations of economy, demography, and space that resulted in urban forms without precedent in history. These transformations hold profound implications for poverty as both fact and idea, and they underscore the need to understand poverty as a problem of place as well as persons. A long tradition of social criticism—from nineteenth-century advocates of slum clearance through the “Chicago school” of the 1920s to the most cutting-edge urban theory of the twenty-first century—presents poverty as a problem of place. In one version, which has dominated discussions, conditions in places—most notably, substandard housing—produce, reinforce, or augment poverty. In an alternate version, poverty is a product of place itself, reproduced independent of the individuals who pass through it. Both versions help explain the link between poverty and the multisided transformation of metropolitan America.

The first transformation was economic: the death of the great industrial city that flourished from the late nineteenth century until the end of World War II. The decimation of manufacturing evident in Rust Belt cities resulted from both the growth of foreign industries, notably electronics and automobiles, and the corporate search for cheaper labor. Cities with economic sectors other than manufacturing (such as banking, commerce, medicine, government, and education) withstood deindustrialization most successfully. Those with no alternatives collapsed, while others struggled with mixed success. Some cities such as Las Vegas built economies on entertainment, hospitality, and retirement. With manufacturing withered, anchor institutions, “eds and meds,” increasingly sustained the economies of cities lucky enough to house them; they became, in fact, the principal employers. In the late twentieth century, in the nation’s twenty largest cities, “eds and meds” provided almost 35 percent of jobs. As services replaced manufacturing everywhere, office towers emerged as the late twentieth century’s urban factories. Services include a huge array of activities and jobs, from the production of financial services to restaurants, from high paid professional work to unskilled jobs delivering pizza or cleaning offices. Reflecting this division, economic inequality within cities increased, accentuating both wealth and poverty.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/21/how_america_abandoned_its_undeserving_poor/

Elizabeth Warren Comes Down Hard Against Keystone XL Pipeline While Hillary Clinton's Allies Push It Ahead

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/environment/elizabeth-warren-comes-down-hard-against-global-warming-separates-herself-hillary

Warren stands up to a project that could enrich the Koch brothers by tens of billions.

By Eric Zuesse December 21, 2013

On Friday, December 20, Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren finally separated herself clearly from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, regarding the issue of climate change and global warming. 

TransCanada Corporation wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline to carry oil from Alberta Canada's tar sands to two refineries owned by Koch Industries near the Texas Gulf Coast, for export to Europe. Hillary Clinton has helped to make that happen, while Elizabeth Warren has now taken the opposite side. 

Secretary of State Clinton, whose friend and former staffer Paul Elliot is a lobbyist for TransCanada, had worked behind the scenes to ease the way for commercial exploitation of this, the world's highest-carbon-emitting oil,  53% of which is owned by America's Koch brothers. (Koch Industries owns 63% of the tar sands, and the Koch brothers own 86% of Koch Industries; Elaine Marshall, who is the widow of the son of the deceased Koch partner J. Howard Marshall, owns the remaining 14% of Koch Industries.) 

David Goldwyn, who was former Secretary Clinton's Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, is yet another  lobbyist for TransCanada. So, TransCanada has two of Hillary Clinton's friends working for it. Elliot and Goldwyn worked with Clinton's people to guide them on selecting a petroleum industry contractor (not an environmental firm or governmental agency) to prepare the required environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline. 

Secretary Clinton's State Department allowed the environmental impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline to be performed by a petroleum industry contractor that was chosen by the company that was proposing to build and own the pipeline, TransCanada. That contractor had no climatologist, and the resulting report failed even at its basic job of estimating the number of degrees by which the Earth's climate would be additionally heated if the pipeline is built and operated. Its report ignored that question and instead evaluated the impact that climate change would have on the pipeline, which was estimated to be none. 

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/environment/elizabeth-warren-comes-down-hard-against-global-warming-separates-herself-hillary

iPads for Newborns? Marketing Tablets for Babies 'Horrifies' Parents, Experts

Apple is like a nasty cancer.  A blot upon humanity.

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/24-4

It's Christmas Eve in the Digital Age, but for those concerned about the growing amount of screen time that teenagers and young children—even infants—are now experiencing, the holiday gift-giving season may become an increasingly "horrifying" affair.

As the rise of technology dovetails with the multi-billion dollar toy and media industries, children are now growing up in a digital environment that may seem harmless to some but could be dramatically harming key components of their physical, mental and emotional growth at one of the most precious and fragile stages of human development.

The New York Times reports on Tuesday:
A recent survey of 1,000 parents with children between 2 and 10 found that more than half planned to buy a tech item for their children this holiday season. About two-thirds of those planned to give a tablet or smartphone, according to the survey, which was taken for PBS Kids, the brand of the public broadcasting network aimed at young children.

“Smarter Giving With Apps!” shouted the December cover of Manhattan Family, a monthly publication geared to families with young children. The article, written by a kindergarten teacher, noted that “traditional gifts, like clothes and toys” can be costly “and not always what children are wishing for.” Apps, on the other hand, she wrote, are cost-effective, educational and fun — the perfect gift.

But are they the perfect gift? Hardly, say experts.

In fact, child development researchers and doctors are increasingly alarmed by the growing amount of screen time that children—especially those under the age of two—are receiving or being allowed.

In October, as Common Dreams reported, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued an updated version of their media usage guidelines for young children and warned parents that adolescents should have no more than 1 to 2 hours of screen time per day and that children under the age of two should have none whatsoever.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/24-4

Unemployment Benefits Can Be 'The Difference Between Making It And Not Making It'

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/24/unemployment-benefits_n_4495341.html

PHOENIXVILLE, Pa. -- Charlie Walker was working from home one day last January when he got a call from his manager, who had already assembled several other senior employees in his office.
"I can't remember exactly how he said it -- change of business conditions or whatever else -- long story short: you're out of here," Walker, 55, said in an interview. He'd worked for the business-to-business publisher for 11 years. "Everyone else was in the office because they were able to pull them in. I got laid off by phone."

He didn't know how to react. His 6-year-old daughter, Emmalee, had been playing with dolls on the floor of their two-story home in this Philadelphia suburb while her father got fired. 

"I hang up the phone and I look at her and say -- she doesn't know these things -- and I said, 'I just lost my job,'" he said. He immediately wished he hadn't burdened his daughter. 

The next thing he did was call his wife, Andrea, so they could begin downscaling their lifestyle. No more restaurants, no new winter coat, no more zero balance on the credit cards. Since then, between her job with a local government agency that serves senior citizens and his roughly $300 per week in unemployment benefits, they've been able to juggle their expenses. 

"The unemployment wasn't that much, but it made the difference," Andrea Walker said.
The benefits are at an end. Congress skipped town for the holidays without reauthorizing federal unemployment insurance, which is available to workers after they use up the usual six months of benefits provided by states -- which Charlie Walker has done. Next Saturday, he will be among more than 1 million workers whose federal benefits prematurely expire. 

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/24/unemployment-benefits_n_4495341.html

5 Ways the Christian Right Perverts Religion to Push Inhumane, Unfettered Capitalism

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/5-ways-christian-right-perverts-religion-push-inhumane-unfettered-capitalism

The Christian right works hard to craft theological arguments to support corporate policies.

By Amanda Marcotte December 18, 2013 

The classic understanding of the relationship between social and economic conservatives is simple: Social conservatives are often understood as dupes who let their obsession with controlling other people’s sex lives convince them to vote Republican, often against their own economic interest. This was what President Obama was getting at when he said that working-class whites who vote Republican “cling to guns or religion.” 

There’s some truth to that, but if you start to dig a little deeper, it turns out that the Christian right doesn’t just bait believers into voting against their economic interests. On the contrary, the Christian right works fairly hard at trying to create theological arguments to support economic policies Republicans champion, such as slashing the social safety net or allowing unfettered capitalism to rapidly expand income inequality and environmental damage. 

Here are the various ways Christian right leaders glaze over the Jesus of the Bible and push their followers to worship one who looks a little more like a Nazarene Ayn Rand. 

1) Arguing that Jesus was a capitalist. By and large, the “loaves and fishes” man portrayed in the New Testament can in no honest way be reconciled with the aggressively capitalist attitude of modern Republicans, which holds that profit should never be constrained by concerns such as human rights and basic dignity for all. So conservatives are usually just elusive on the subject. However , Pope Francis’s recent comments regarding the excesses of capitalism have created some pushback on the right. 

The favorite argument is that the Pope just doesn’t understand Christianity, which is totally pro-capitalist, no matter how excessive it gets. Ramesh Ponnuru blithely suggested that the Pope’s remarks show that the Pope just doesn’t understand “markets could instead enable a creative form of community” and that more “evangelizing still needs to be done” to convince the Pope that real Christians should embrace capitalism. Never mind that Pope Francis is from Argentina, where the “creative form of community” brought on by an eagerly capitalist, anti-socialist government was expressed through the creative disappearance of people whose left-wing politics were a threat to the capitalist community.   

Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will 'break economies'

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/dec/23/british-petroleum-geologist-peak-oil-break-economy-recession

Industry expert warns of grim future of 'recession' driven 'resource wars' at University College London lecture

Posted by Monday 23 December

A former British Petroleum (BP) geologist has warned that the age of cheap oil is long gone, bringing with it the danger of "continuous recession" and increased risk of conflict and hunger. 

At a lecture on 'Geohazards' earlier this month as part of the postgraduate Natural Hazards for Insurers course at University College London (UCL), Dr. Richard G. Miller, who worked for BP from 1985 before retiring in 2008, said that official data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), US Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), among other sources, showed that conventional oil had most likely peaked around 2008.

Dr. Miller critiqued the official industry line that global reserves will last 53 years at current rates of consumption, pointing out that "peaking is the result of declining production rates, not declining reserves." Despite new discoveries and increasing reliance on unconventional oil and gas, 37 countries are already post-peak, and global oil production is declining at about 4.1% per year, or 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) per year:
"We need new production equal to a new Saudi Arabia every 3 to 4 years to maintain and grow supply... New discoveries have not matched consumption since 1986. We are drawing down on our reserves, even though reserves are apparently climbing every year. Reserves are growing due to better technology in old fields, raising the amount we can recover – but production is still falling at 4.1% p.a. [per annum]."
Dr. Miller, who prepared annual in-house projections of future oil supply for BP from 2000 to 2007, refers to this as the "ATM problem" – "more money, but still limited daily withdrawals." As a consequence: "Production of conventional liquid oil has been flat since 2008. Growth in liquid supply since then has been largely of natural gas liquids [NGL]- ethane, propane, butane, pentane - and oil-sand bitumen."

Dr. Miller is co-editor of a special edition of the prestigious journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, published this month on the future of oil supply. In an introductory paper co-authored with Dr. Steve R. Sorrel, co-director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex in Brighton, they argue that among oil industry experts "there is a growing consensus that the era of cheap oil has passed and that we are entering a new and very different phase." They endorse the conservative conclusions of an extensive earlier study by the government-funded UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC):

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/dec/23/british-petroleum-geologist-peak-oil-break-economy-recession

The Meaning of a Decent Society

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/70492038666

By Robert Reich
Thursday, December 19, 2013

It’s the season to show concern for the less fortunate among us. We should also be concerned about the widening gap between the most fortunate and everyone else.

Although it’s still possible to win the lottery (your chance of winning $648 million in the recent Mega Millions sweepstakes was one in 259 million), the biggest lottery of all is what family we’re born into. Our life chances are now determined to an unprecedented degree by the wealth of our parents.

That’s not always been the case. The faith that anyone could move from rags to riches – with enough guts and gumption, hard work and nose to the grindstone – was once at the core of the American Dream.

And equal opportunity was the heart of the American creed. Although imperfectly achieved, that ideal eventually propelled us to overcome legalized segregation by race, and to guarantee civil rights. It fueled efforts to improve all our schools and widen access to higher education. It pushed the nation to help the unemployed, raise the minimum wage, and provide pathways to good jobs. Much of this was financed by taxes on the most fortunate.

But for more than three decades we’ve been going backwards. It’s far more difficult today for a child from a poor family to become a middle-class or wealthy adult. Or even for a middle-class child to become wealthy.

The major reason is widening inequality. The longer the ladder, the harder the climb. America is now more unequal that it’s been for eighty or more years, with the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of all developed nations. Equal opportunity has become a pipe dream.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/70492038666

The Mask You Live In - Trailer

Protesters smash Google bus window amid more eviction protests

From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/20/protesters-smash-google-bus-window-amid-more-eviction-protests/

By Pando Daily
Friday, December 20, 2013

On December 20, 2013

Tensions between Bay Area activists and tech institutions ratcheted up this morning when protestors attacked a Google bus in West Oakland, smashing the bus’s rear window while Google employees were inside. Local news organization KQED reports that Google has confirmed the attack.
One Google employee took to Twitter to post evidence of the encounter. A picture shows protestors standing in front of the bus holding a sign that says, “Fuck Off Google.”
Protestors published a colorful account of the incident on local forum IndyBay.org: “[A] person appeared from behind the bus and quickly smashed the whole of the rear window, making glass rain down on the street. Cold air blew inside the bus and the blockaders with their banners departed. The kind young man left the bus and outside someone threw fliers with a smiley face logo and the message ‘disrupt google’ into the air.”

Two blockades of tech company buses were planned this morning, one in San Francisco and the other in West Oakland. The San Francisco group was organized by a loose coalition of housing activists, including representatives from Eviction Free SF, Our Mission No Eviction, and Just Cause. For the SF protest, roughly 100 people showed up and blocked an Apple bus for 30 minutes.

The spokesperson for the San Francisco group, Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, claims the two protests were not connected. “I have no idea who is organizing the West Oakland protest,” she says. “We just heard a rumor it was happening a few days ago and thought it was perfect timing since the same pressures are happening on both sides of the bay.”

Based on the activists’ account themselves, it appears the rowdier West Oakland protest was a smaller group. The IndyBay.org account said:

Just Another Front Yard Garden Fighting City Hall

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/17

Florida couple told to uproot her vegetables, but now she's fighting back

Jon Queally

It happened in Quebec, we watched it play out in Orlando, and now in the town of Miami Shores, Florida a retired architect named Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom are fighting city officials who said they couldn't grow vegetables in their own front yard.

  As she explained to NPR in a radio segment that aired Monday, Ricketts planted her vegetables in the front yard because it faces south—"that's where the sun is." But now, even though she gardens "for the food and for the peace it brings her," city officials told her she had to uproot the veggies and remove the garden.

As Greg Allen reported for All Things Considered:
There are lots of things planted in Ricketts' front yard: a pomegranate tree, a blueberry bush, papaya, strawberries, pineapples, flowers and green plants.

But noticeably absent is anything considered by Miami Shores to be a vegetable. That's because earlier this year, after tending her garden for 17 years with nothing from the neighbors but compliments, Ricketts was ordered to dig up her veggies.

She says she was surprised several months ago when a zoning inspector stopped by.
"He told me I was not allowed to have vegetables in the front yard," she says.
Though Hermine and Tom fought the order all the way to the town's zoning board, the board chairman refused the appeal and Ricketts ultimately complied by removing the offending plants in her front yard.

The battle, however, was not over as the couple tapped the national advocacy group Institute for Justice who agreed to take on the case.

And Ari Bargill, a lawyer now representing Ricketts as she contests the city rules, told NPR that the ban against front yard vegetable gardening is an affront to other guaranteed property rights.

As he explained to NPR, Miami Shores must have a very good reason to restrict what individuals can do in their own yard, "and that is not the case with a ban on vegetables."

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/17

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Suzy Bogguss

Let's protect the future of caterpillars, caribou & mankind

Labor Productivity Growing At Rapid Clip, But Workers Won’t See Much Benefit

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/12/17/3075421/labor-productivity-2013/#

By Aviva Shen
on December 17, 2013

American workers increased their productivity over the summer at the fastest pace since 2009, according to new data released by the Labor Department. Higher productivity is generally welcomed by analysts as an indicator of strong economic growth, but may not translate into much benefit for workers.

Though workers produced more per hour over the third quarter of 2013, their hourly wages haven’t quite kept up. Theoretically, increased productivity means businesses can pay workers more without triggering inflation. However, this logic has failed to play out in real life, as wages have stagnated even as worker productivity soared over the past decade. Productivity rose even faster after the 2008 recession due to massive layoffs that allowed businesses to reduce their labor costs while remaining workers increased their output. Workers’ share of the economy, meanwhile, dropped to record lows during this period. 

Boosted productivity, then, has largely benefited businesses, not workers. Businesses’ labor costs dropped in the third quarter, suggesting little movement in terms of wages or new hiring. Some companies have touted draconian efficiency schemes to reduce labor costs, paying employees minimum wage while literally counting the seconds it takes a worker to complete a task. As labor expenses drop, corporate profits are sky-high.

Though productivity has risen, the quality of work has declined. Low-wage, part-time jobs in the retail and service sectors have made up the bulk of job growth since the recession. Though these low wages help businesses reduce their labor costs, taxpayers usually pick up the slack; workers are increasingly turning to public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid to make ends meet.

Even with low labor costs, many businesses are fighting a minimum wage increase that could lessen the persistent gap between productivity and compensation. Studies show that the minimum wage, if it had kept pace with productivity gains over the past 30 years, would have been $21.72 last year — a far cry from President Obama’s recent proposal of $10.

Precarious Democracy

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/16005/precarious_democracy/

A political agenda for the precarious class.

BY Joel Bleifuss December 17, 2013

In our January 2014 issue, In These Times explores how life has become increasingly precarious for the many Americans who lack job security—a trend that is the predictable result of the ongoing disempowerment of the American worker.

But it is not only the corporate system that is impoverishing our citizens. Millions of Americans face a precarious financial future, thanks to the democratic institutions that are meant to represent them.
Seniors who rely on Social Security are beset by D.C. budget-cutters bent on reducing cost-of-living increases. The poor go hungry in the wake of congressional cuts to food stamps. Retirees in the public sector face uncertain futures as state and local governments turn away from their pension obligations.

As college costs rise, recent graduates, temping for dollars, struggle to pay record-setting student loans.

The list could go on and on.

It’s not that the United States, one of the richest countries on earth, lacks the resources to remedy the situation. The problem is how our nation’s immense wealth is distributed—or, more accurately, how it is maldistributed to the very few. The figures are stark: In 2010, the richest 1 percent of Americans owned 35 percent of the nation’s privately held wealth, and the next 19 percent owned 54 percent. The remaining 80 percent of Americans held only 11 percent of the wealth.

In a speech on Dec. 4, 2013, President Obama decried “an economy that’s become profoundly unequal” with the end result being that “a family in the top 1 percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family.”

There are remedies. National and state laws mandating more progressive taxation could transfer some of the wealth held by the top 1 percent into public coffers, where it could be allocated to alleviate the precarious existence of Americans.

Will that happen? Fat chance.

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/16005/precarious_democracy/

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pope on Christmas: A Christian that shows off is a pagan

BREAKING: New Mexico Supreme Court Declares Statewide Marriage Equality

From The Advocate:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2013/12/19/breaking-new-mexico-supreme-court-declares-statewide-marriage

New Mexico becomes the 17th state to enact marriage equality, with a unanimous decision by the state's highest court.

BY Sunnivie Brydum December 19 2013

In a landmark decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court declared that marriage rights must be extended to same-sex couples throughout the state. 

The state's highest court unanimously ruled that denying committed same-sex couples the right to marry violated the Equal Protection clause of the New Mexico constitution. 

"We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law," reads the ruling.

The court rejected the argument presented by marriage equality opponents that the state had a legitimate governmental interest in "responsible procreation and childrearing," declaring that supposed interest "is not reflected in the history of the development of New Mexico's marriage laws. Procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law, as evidenced by the fact that the aged, the infertile, and those who choose not to have children are not precluded from marrying. In addition, New Mexico law recognizes the right of same-gender couples to raise children."

The unanimous decision orders all county clerks in the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and also confirms the legal validity of the unions of same-sex couples who married in New Mexico prior to today's decision, after officials in several counties began issuing marriage licenses to them. 

“This truly is a historic and joyful day for New Mexico, said Laura Schauer Ives, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, one of the groups that represented the six same-sex couples in the case before the court, along with the national ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “As a state, we have always strived to treat all families with dignity and respect, and today’s decision allowing loving, committed same sex couples to marry continues that tradition. The more than 1,000 same-sex couples who have already married in New Mexico can now rest certain knowing their marriages will be recognized and respected by our state.”

Added NCLR legal director Shannon Minter: “Today’s decision by the  New Mexico Supreme Court is a powerful affirmation that same-sex couples are equal members of New Mexico’s diverse culture and must be given the same legal protections and respect as other families. With this ruling, New Mexico joins 16 other states, the District of Columbia, and at least eight Native American tribes that permit same-sex couples to marry. This is an important day, not only for New Mexico, but for the entire country.”

New Study: 97% of All Chicken Breasts Contain Harmful Bacteria

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/food/new-study-97-all-chicken-breasts-contain-harmful-bacteria

Consumer Reports shines a sickening light on America's most popular meat.

By Rod Bastanmehr December 19, 2013

A new Consumer Reports study finds a disturbingly high statistic: 97% of the chicken breasts CR tested were found to harbor bacteria that could make you sick. That's just three percent shy of all the chicken.

The report analyzed more than 300 raw chicken breasts purchased at stores across the U.S., and found potentially harmful bacteria lurking in almost all of the it. The staggering statistic also included organic brands, so foodies beware: a revised label and trendy buzzword does not a safe poultry make. The numbers came to light during an intensive investigation after the October news of a national salmonella outbreak linked to three Foster Farms chicken plants, which soon yielded troubling results for more than just the one company’s chicken product. In the case of the Foster Farms outbreak, nearly 390 people were infected, with 40% of them hospitalized in critical condition—double the percentage historically linked to salmonella outbreaks.  

The news marks a particularly dark turn in what is widely considered America’s most popular meat. Consumer Reports estimates that Americans buy an average of 83 pounds of chicken per capita annually. Each year, nearly 2 million Americans fight antibiotic-resistant infection, with 23,000 succumbing to the virus. As a result, many are calling for the Food and Drug Administration to release new guidelines addressing antibiotic overuse in livestock.  

The Consumer Reports test found bacteria in chicken purchased in markets in 26 states across the country. Additionally, the report found that almost none of the major brands were free of bacteria, more than half were tainted with fecal contaminants, about half of the samples tested positive for at least one multi-drug-resistant bacterium, and of the 65% of samples that tested positive for E. coli, nearly 18% featured particularly vicious strands of the disease that are known to heighten the probability of urinary-tract infection substantially higher. 

While cooking chicken at specific temperatures does tend to kill bacteria if heat reaches at least 165 degrees fahrenheit, the temperature may not be enough to eliminate risk of exposure, as bugs and disease may linger elsewhere on kitchen surfaces, faucets and utensils. Even worse, contaminated chicken can affect people not buying chicken when it lingers on shopping carts at the grocery stores.
Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/food/new-study-97-all-chicken-breasts-contain-harmful-bacteria

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When Happiness Died in America...

Jamie Dimon’s perp walk: Why it could be this year’s Christmas miracle

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/18/jamie_dimons_perp_walk_why_it_could_be_this_years_christmas_miracle/

JPMorgan's CEO just violated a federal statute carrying a prison sentence. But will the punishment fit the crime?

Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013

The crowd waited impatiently outside 270 Park Avenue, corporate headquarters of JPMorgan Chase. Photographers readied their cameras. Then, the murmuring grew into a low roar. There was CEO Jamie Dimon, accompanied by two FBI agents. His hands were tied behind his back, held together by handcuffs. As flashbulbs popped, the agents guided Dimon into an awaiting vehicle, and drove off to take him into police custody.

Christmas miracle? It doesn’t have to be. Even putting aside the rap sheet of crimes committed by JPMorgan Chase over the past several years for which its CEO can be said to be ultimately responsible, just a week ago, Jamie Dimon explicitly violated a federal statute that carries a prison sentence. That he’s a free man today, with no fear of prosecution, doesn’t only speak to our two-tiered system of justice in America. It should color our perceptions of new rules and regulations that supposedly “get tough” on the financial industry, as we recognize that any law is only as strong as the individuals who enforce them.

The law in question that Jamie Dimon violated, by his own admission, can be found in Section 906 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In the aftermath of the 2001 financial crisis, when corporations like Enron and WorldCom melted down in accounting scandals, Congress passed and George W. Bush signed Sarbanes-Oxley, meant to reform corporate accounting and protect investors through additional disclosures.

Section 906 forces corporate CEOs and CFOs (chief financial officers) to add a written certification to every periodic financial statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In this certification, the CEO and CFO must personally attest that the documents submitted to the SEC are accurate, as well as that the corporation has adequate internal controls. That phrase “internal controls” has a very specific meaning, covering the accuracy of all financial reporting, proper risk management, and compliance with all applicable regulations. Under Section 906, if the CEO or CFO knowingly or willfully make false certifications – i.e., if they know the SEC filing contains inaccurate information, or that the company’s internal controls are inadequate – they face fines of up to $5 million, and imprisonment of up to 20 years.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/18/jamie_dimons_perp_walk_why_it_could_be_this_years_christmas_miracle/