Under the Reading Lamp — March 7, 2012

ANALYSIS: The End of Health Insurance as We Know It?
Wendell Potter, News Report:
Bertolini ticked off a number of reasons why providing basic health insurance to Americans was no longer viable — changes in demographics and the economy and, of course, health care reform at both the state and federal levels. What he did not say was that the standard operating practices of the industry were simply not sustainable and actually contributed more to the demise of the business model than any external factors.
HR 347 & S 1794 aka The ‘Trespass Bill’ of 2011 Criminalizes Protest…
Jeanine Molloff, Op-Ed:
“The legislators responsible for bringing this legislative excrement to life are Representative Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) in the House of Representatives and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.) leading the Senate version. The ‘Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011’ sounds more like an appropriations bill authorizing monies for federal grounds landscaping. This bill potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S.–a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.”
Nurses Fight for a Dose of Tax JusticeNurses for Tax Justice photo by SJSEEM
Sarah Anderson, News Analysis:
National Nurses United (NNU), a union representing registered nurses, is a major, visible force in the growing movements challenging corporate power. One of their key demands is a financial transaction tax: a small fee on each trade of stocks, derivatives, bonds, and other financial instruments, which could generate massive revenues while discouraging high-frequency speculative trading.
99% Spring April 9-15
Dave Johnson, Video Compilation:
“Action Coming — Spread The Word! This is a Big Deal, just look at end of this post for the list of organizations that are signed on to this so far – and more coming. April 9-15, 2012, the 99% Spring: 100,000 Americans will train for non-violent direct action. Sign up. And spread it around. This spring, the 99% Spring.We will gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to train ourselves in non-violent action and join together in the work of reclaiming our country. History is calling; it’s time to step up.”
Jim Hightower | Woody at 100
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “In these times of tinkle-down economics — with the money powers thinking that they’re the top dogs and that the rest of us are just a bunch of fire hydrants — we need for the hard-hitting (yet uplifting) musical stories, social commentaries and inspired lyrical populism of Woody Guthrie. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of this legendary grassroots troubadour, who came out of the Oklahoma dust bowl to rally America’s “just plain folks” to fight back against the elites who were knocking them down.”
Obama Releases Housing Plan to Help Military Veterans Who Were Victims of Illegal Foreclosures
Travis Waldron, News Report:
Obama’s plan seeks to remedy those problems by providing relief to members who sold their homes at a loss due to a permanent change in station, and provides $10 billion from mortgage services to bolster the Veterans Housing Benefits Program. It also draws on the recent mortgage fraud settlement between the government and major lenders to force banks to compensate service-members who were improperly foreclosed upon by paying lost equity, plus interest, and $116,785.
State Investigators, Workers Cite Labor Abuses in Warehouse EmpireLilly Fowler, News Analysis: “As a warehouse worker in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, the nation’s biggest distribution hub for consumer goods, Jorge Soto handles shipments for retail giant Walmart every day. But Soto, who works for a subcontractor, claims that, along with routine jobs such as unloading trucks, he also has been ordered to perform an illegal task: falsifying employees’ time sheets to cheat them out of getting the minimum wage.”
Limbaugh Launched 46 Personal Attacks on Fluke; He Apologized for Two Words
Research:
“Rush Limbaugh has ‘sincerely apologize[d]’ for using the words ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ to describe Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke on two separate days and claimed that he ‘did not mean a personal attack’ on her. These statements fail to account for the other 44 times that Limbaugh personally insulted Fluke over the course of three days. Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, much of her testimony was about women who take birth control for medical reasons.”
Monsanto’s Roundup Shown to be Ravaging Butterfly PopulationMike Barrett, News Report: A 2011 study published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity found that increasing acreage of genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans is heavily contributing to the decline in monarch butterfly populations within North America. Milkweed, a plant butterflies rely on for habitat and food, is being destroyed by the heavy use of glyphosate-based pesticides and Roundup Ready crops. Over the past 17 years, the monarch butterfly population in central Mexico has declined, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010.
Dean Baker | Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Bowles-Simpson Commission ReportDean Baker, Op-Ed: “Parents often find it useful to tell their children about non-existent creatures to instill habits of good behavior. It seems that many political leaders are going the same route. How else can one explain the repeated references to the Bowles-Simpson commission report and its advice to the country on how to reduce the deficit? The point here is a simple one: there was no Bowles-Simpson commission report. There was no document that commanded the necessary majority of commission members to be adopted as an official report.”
The True Cost of Tar Sands
Joe Romm, Video Report:
“What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDxVictoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project — and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat. This powerful talk is for anyone who thinks the tar sands are just another source of oil — and that the only source of greenhouse gases from the tar sands come from burning gas and oil.”
The Best Reason for the Very Rich to be Paying A Lot More in Taxes
Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed:
“The super-rich like to believe their own initiative and creativity have been the primary drivers of growth in technology and science and business and medicine. Some innovative business leaders deserve credit for putting the pieces together on specific initiatives. But the pieces themselves were put together over many years by thousands of less conspicuous people.”
Where are the Progressive Christians?
Dekker Dreyer, Op-Ed:
“Where are the left-wing Christian voices in American politics? The rise of Rick Santorum to a contender position in the GOP primary race, alongside the current debate over contraception has shown proof positive that Christian conservative politics are near the height of their power in guiding the national conversation. This month, while questioning President Obama’s Christianity, Bill O’Reilly said, “A Christian wouldn’t be telling other Christians that you have to put your belief system aside and do what the government tells you as far as birth control or anything else.”
The ‘All Natural’ Scam: How to Shop Healthy For You and Your Family
Andre Evans, News Analysis:
“How do you make an educated food purchase that will protect you and your family from harmful yet common food contaminants? You must be privy to the subtleties. Many people today accept ‘all natural’ as a stamp of integrity for their food. FDA regulations, however, make the guidelines for authenticity rather lenient, and capitalize on the unawareness of the average buyer with strong advertising.”
How to Fund an American Police State
Stephan Salisbury, Op-Ed:
“Government budgets at every level now include allocations aimed at fighting an ephemeral “War on Terror” in the United States. A vast surveillance and military buildup has taken place nationwide to conduct a pseudo-war against what can be imagined, not what we actually face. The costs of this effort, started by the Bush administration and promoted faithfully by the Obama administration, have been, and continue to be, virtually incalculable. In the process, public service and the public imagination have been weaponized.”
Greg Palast | BP Settlement Sells Out Victims
Greg Palast, Op-Ed: And here’s the sick, sick part. This is exactly the same thing BP did in the Exxon Valdez case. It was BP, not Exxon, that was responsible for stopping the spread of oil in Alaska in 1989. In Alaska, decades ago, BP told federal regulators it would have oil spill “boom” (the rubber that corrals the spreading stuff) ready to roll out if a tanker hit. When the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef, BP’s promised equipment wasn’t there: BP had lied.
BP Settlement Leaves Most Complex Claims Unresolved
Abrahm Lustgarten, News Report:
The payout agreed to Friday is BP’s best estimate of what it will cost to meet outstanding claims, but is not capped and could wind up being higher. As of now, though, the amount is significantly less than many had expected and does not appear to require BP to spend any money that it had not already agreed to pay. The settlement will come out of a $20 billion fund set aside in June 2010 by BP at the behest of President Obama to cover claims from disaster victims.
The Right-Wing Effort to Smear Obama and Liberals as ‘Anti-Israel’
Ben Adler, Op-Ed:
On Sunday ECI released a thirty-minute Web video intended to build a case that Obama has not been a loyal friend to Israel. Its documentation takes the same approach as the ads. They quote partisans leveling criticisms against Obama rather than offering strong independent evidence. They ask what Obama’s real approach to Israel has been and then answer with a long quote from Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the very conservative Hoover Institution.
Anthony Gucciardi | Genetically Modified Food Labeling Initiative Gains Momentum
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report:
Advocates have repeatedly demonstrated their resistance to GMOs, with more than 500 activist groups banding together over the Just Label It campaign. One petition to the FDA, filed by the Center for Food Safety, called upon the agency to require labels for GMO-containing foods. Shockingly, the petition received 85,000 signatures in support. The number marked the most ever for a federal food petition.Deadline Today to tell Congress to Label GMOs! http://t.co/4e0oPCxl
Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have BothD
ave Johnson, Op-Ed:
Recent stories about the conditions of Apple’s contractors in China have opened many people’s eyes about where our jobs, factories, industries and economy have been going, and why. The stories exposed that workers live 6-to-12-to-a-room in dormitories, get rousted at midnight to work surprise 12-hour shifts, get paid very little, use toxic chemicals, suffer extreme pollution of the environment, etc. Is this “trade?” Or is it something else?
America the Possible: A Manifesto
Gus Speth, Op-Ed:
We work the media and other channels to raise public awareness of our issue, and try to shift public understanding and discourse in our favor. We lobby Congress, the current administration, and government agencies with well-crafted and sensible proposals. When necessary, we go to court. With modest resources, we devote what we can to the electoral process and to candidates for public office. And we hope somehow that lightning will strike and events will move in our favor.
What If Corporations Couldn’t Use Our Commons for Free?Invest in Sharing PhotoA cushion of reliable income is a wonderful thing. It can help pay for basic necessities. It can be saved for rainy days or used to pursue happiness on sunny days. It can encourage people to take entrepreneurial risks, care for friends, or volunteer for community service. Conversely, the absence of reliable income is a terrible thing. It heightens anxiety and fear. It diminishes our ability to cope with crises and transitions. It traps many families on the knife’s edge of poverty, and makes it harder for poor people to rise.
The Opposite of Snobbery
David Sirota, Op-Ed:
N+1 magazine notes that since the late 1970s, when Santorum was enjoying his taxpayer-subsidized higher education, “the price of tuition at U.S. colleges has increased over 900 percent.” In 2011, that meant the average total cost of a year at a public university was $21,477, up 5.4 percent in just 12 months. Thanks to cuts to programs that make college and vocational education more affordable — cuts Santorum supported in Congress

Under the Reading Lamp — 1/22/2012


Does US Senate Commit Treason with NDAA Bill?

Jeanine Molloff, Op-Ed: “December 1st, 2011, the US Senate accomplished the unthinkable–with the nearly unanimous passage of the National Defense Authorization Bill of 2012–they committed treason. Written and planned in secret by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the newly minted NDAA contains three sections which collectively sanctions indefinite detention of alleged terrorists or ‘terrorist sympathizers’–anywhere in the world including the US– and designates the military the duty to arrest, imprison and interrogate without benefit of counsel,’ accused civilians here on Main Street.”


After ‘Citizens United’: The Attack of the Super PACs

John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney, Op-Ed: “Citizens United’s easing of restrictions on corporate and individual spending, especially by organizations not under the control of candidates, has led to the proliferation of “Super PACs.” These shadowy groups do not have to abide by the $2,500 limit on donations to actual campaigns, and they can easily avoid rules for reporting sources of contributions. For instance, Super PACs have established nonprofit arms that are permitted to shield contributors’ identities as long as they spend no more than 50 percent of their money on electoral politics.”


Corporate Rule Is Not Inevitable

Sarah van Gelder, Op-Ed: “You may remember that there was a time when apartheid in South Africa seemed unstoppable. Sure, there were international boycotts of South African businesses, banks, and tourist attractions. There were heroic activists in South Africa, who were going to prison and even dying for freedom. But the conventional wisdom remained that these were principled gestures with little chance of upending the entrenched system of white rule. ‘Be patient,’ activists were told. ‘Don’t expect too much against powerful interests with a lot of money invested in the status quo.’”


A Credit Union to Bail out People, Not Big Banks

Judith Scherr, News Report: The Occupy Movement condemns the banks’ role in predatory lending and the foreclosure crisis, the high-interest student loans they say enriches the bankers and impoverishes college students, bank investments in private prisons and more. But protesting isn’t enough for Occupy San Francisco activist Brian McKeown. He says a bank should be a transparent institution whose mission is to help people. And so, with like-minded partners, McKeown is putting together a plan for the People’s Reserve Credit Union (PRCU).


Boehner Threatens to Hold Payroll Tax Holiday Hostage to Approval of Keystone XL

Zack Ford, Video Report: On Fox News Sunday this morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told Chris Wallace that “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure the Keystone Pipeline is approved.” When Wallace pressed him whether Republican leadership would make the pipeline a condition for extending the payroll tax holiday, Boehner admitted, “We may,” adding (several times) that “All options are on the table.” Proponents of the pipeline have dwarfed opponents in lobbying spending, inflated the actual effect it will have on job creation, and spread various myths designed tocircumvent its environmental impact.


Bernie Sanders: We Must Stop This Corporate Takeover of American Democracy

Bernie Sanders, Op-Ed: “Two years ago, the United States supreme court betrayed our Constitution and those who fought to ensure that its protections are enjoyed equally by all persons regardless of religion, race or gender by engaging in an unabashed power-grab on behalf of corporate America. In its now infamous decision in the Citizens United case, five justices declared that corporations must be treated as if they are actual people under the Constitution when it comes to spending money to influence our elections, allowing them for the first time to draw on the corporate checkbook – in any amount and at any time – to run ads explicitly for or against specific candidates.”


How the Republicans on the FEC Are Making Citizens United Even Worse

Josh Israel, News Analysis: “Three Republican appointees to the Federal Election Commission may be as responsible as anyone for the lack of transparency of post-Citizens United political spending. Two years ago, when the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling, one bright spot was that the majority explicitly endorsed the constitutionality and necessity of disclosure rules that inform voters who paid for the political ads they see. ‘Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations,’ they affirmed.”


The Green Economy, Boon or Menace?

Emilio Godoy, News Report: In its study “Who Will Control the Green Economy?”, published Dec. 15, 2011, the ETC Group argues that the development of a green economy will primarily benefit large corporations, unless changes are made to the current models of production and consumption of goods and services and international governance. It reveals that large transnational corporations in the energy, pharmaceutical, food and chemical industries are already forming alliances to exploit biomass and grab control of natural resources like land and water.


Christopher Petrella | Death, Taxes, and Alcatraz

Christopher Petrella, Op-Ed: “Please allow me to introduce some figures that I believe will convincingly demonstrate the scope and depth of our predicament. Although the United States represents less than 5% of the world’s population, we harbor over 25% of those incarcerated. In fact, we’ve incarcerated more people in absolute terms than China, whose population is four times the larger. Despite these sobering figures, few thinkers, however—even those of avowedly ‘progressive’ persuasion— have sharply critiqued the well-worn diptych of ‘crime and punishment.’”


Bad Bankers, Bad Fraud Deals, And The President’s ‘Great Gatsby’ Problem

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “Investigate the Banks!” Today a coalition of progressive groups handed in a petition with more than 360,000 signatures that demanded exactly that. It calls on the Obama administration to stop pushing a cushy fraud settlement for bankers, to pursue a fair deal for shafted homeowners, and to let criminal investigations against Wall Street crooks proceed. Yet White House officials are still aggressively pushing the very same cushy deal on foreclosure fraud that inspired the petition.


How Payday Lenders Make Billions By Fleecing Americans In Poverty

Tanya Somanader, News Report: “As a growing number of Americans slip out of the middle-class into economic insecurity, they are increasingly vulnerable to predatory lending schemes like the payday loan. Each year, about 12 million Americans incur long-term debt by taking out a short-term loan that’s intended to cover a borrowers’ expenses until they receive their next paycheck. Payday lending takes ‘unfair advantage of lower-income borrowers,’ with most taking out nine repeat loans per year with an interest rate as high as 400 percent.”


Robert Reich | Amend 2012

Robert Reich, Video Presentation: Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, the same big corporations and billionaires that destroyed our economy and caused millions of us to lose our jobs and homes, are spending obscene amounts to drown out our voices in elections and take over our government. But together, “We the People” can set things right. Stand with Robert Reich and join the movement for a constitutional amendment today.


Kucinich Announces Constitutional Amendment to Publicly Finance Federal Elections

Dennis Kucinich, Op-Ed: On the eve of the second anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United, which opened the floodgate of unlimited, shadowy corporate spending in public elections, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced H. J. Res. 100, a constitutional amendment to rescue American democracy from corporate money’s corrupting influence.

January 20, 2012: Move to Amend Occupies the Courts!


Inspired by our friends at Occupy Wall Street, and Dr. Cornel West, Move To Amend is planning bold action to mark the second anniversary of the infamous Citizens United v. FEC decision!

Occupy the Courts will be a one day occupation of Federal courthouses across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday January 20, 2012.

Move to Amend volunteers across the USA will lead the charge on the judiciary which created — and continues to expand — corporate personhood rights.

Americans across the country are on the march, and they are marching OUR way. They carry signs that say, “Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT Speech!” And they are chanting those truths at the top of their lungs! The time has come to make these truths evident to the courts.

Join “Move to Amend” Friday, January 20, 2012 at a Federal Court building near you!

Thom Hartmann vs. Brad Smith – Occupy Citizen’s United!

Brad Smith, Center for Competitive Politics, joins Thom Hartmann. Shortly – the nation will mark 2 years since the Supreme Court gave corporations the right to buy our elections. So why would a conservative law professor think this is a good thing? I’ll ask Brad Smith, former FEC Chairman. Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson warned us about a too-powerful Judiciary – saying it would place the nation under “despotism” and oligarchy” – concluding that the only “safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society” are with the people. Time to exercise that power – go to movetoamend.org. 

Mr. Smith is another one of the right wing who believes Corporations are “people.”

Heller’s High Water Getting Deeper

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2011
Contact: Zach Hudson, Comm. Dir., NSDP
(702) 737-8683

You’re Not Fooling Anybody, Dean! 

Heller Cynically Granted Another Vote on Exact Same Failed Medicare Slashing Tax Bill To Distract From Vote Today to Kill Middle-Class Tax Cut In Order To Protect Wall Street Millionaires

Same Heller Bill Went Down in Humiliating Defeat Last Week 20-78…But He Gets a Do Over In Attempt To Pull Wool Over Nevadans’ Eyes

Las Vegas, NV – Panic much?  In a blatant effort to give Heller political cover to vote today to raise taxes on Nevada’s middle class in order to protect Wall Street millionaires, Washington Republican Senate leadership granted Heller a do-over on his Medicare slashing tax bill from last week that went down in a humiliating defeat.  You know, the one that got a resounding 20 votes in the Senate.

Has something changed?  No. It went down in flames just like the first one.

But he hopes it will stop Nevadans from paying attention to his upcoming vote later today on the compromise Senate bill that extends the middle-class payroll tax cut for 1.2 million Nevadans by in part rolling back special tax breaks for Wall Street millionaires.

“Sorry, Senator.  You’re not fooling anybody,” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson. “This is nothing more than a political stunt vote to distract Nevadans from his vote today to raise taxes on Nevada’s middle class in order to protect Wall Street millionaires.  Nevadans know they have a clear choice between Shelley Berkley’s commitment to creating jobs and cutting taxes for the middle class, and Dean Heller who continues to throw the middle class under the bus to protect Wall Street billionaires.”

Background:

Heller Voted Against A Proposal To Extend The Payroll Tax Cut By Asking Millionaires And Billionaires To Pay More. In December 2011 Dean Heller voted against a motion to proceed to the consideration of S. 1917, the Middle Class Tax Cut Act of 2011. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the bill would have paid for and extended “a 50-percent reduction of the payroll tax for all workers and employers, on the first $5 million of their payroll…with one of the Republicans’ least-favorite trade-offs: a millionaire’s surtax.” [S. 1917, Vote #219, 12/1/11; Las Vegas Sun, 11/30/11]

Failure To Extend Payroll Tax Cut Would Add An Additional $1,066 Per Year Burden To The Average Nevada Household. In November 2011 the Las Vegas Sun wrote, “Democratic leaders spent the first part of this week warning Republicans that failing to extend the payroll tax cuts Congress approved last year would create a troubling economic setback, to the tune of $1,066 per year for the average Nevada household.” [Las Vegas Sun, 11/30/11]

Heller’s Failed Payroll Tax Extension Plan To Force Medicare Recipients To Pay More, While Holding Millionaires And Billionaires Harmless, Only Received 20 Votes.

Heller’s Payroll Tax Plan Would Increase Medicare Premiums For Nevadans Making Over $85,000. In December 2011 the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote, “In reality, however, the bulk of the [Republican] plan’s entitlement savings — roughly $8 billion of the $9 billion — would come from a different provision that Senate Republican leaders haven’t highlighted, which would increase Medicare premiums in 2020 and 2021 for beneficiaries with incomes that are high but far below $1 million. This provision affects beneficiaries with incomes starting at $85,000 for single individuals and $170,000 for couples.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 12/2/11]

Associated Press: Heller’s Bill “Bombed,” With “More Than Two Dozen Republicans Voting 78-20 Against The Measure.” [Associated Press, 12/6/11]

26 Out Of 47 Senate Republicans Voted Against Heller and GOP’s Alternative Bill, Including Key Members Of Leadership. In December 2011 POLITICO wrote, “Not only did 26 out of the 47 Republicans in the Senate vote ‘no’ Thursday night on a GOP version of the bill, McConnell’s top lieutenants bailed on him, including Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, along with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and John Thune (R-S.D.) — all members of leadership.” [POLITICO, 12/2/11]