2012-11-26: What I’ve Been Reading

Tax Rates For America’s Wealthiest Fell In 2010

Travis Waldron | News Report: Low capital gains rates have helped the wealthy pay lower and lower tax rates even as their incomes have skyrocketed. And while capital gains income makes up almost half of the incomes of the wealthiest Americans, it accounts for 2.2 percent or less for earners under $200,000. Half of all capital gains income goes to just to the richest 0.1 percent of Americans. The capital gains rate has been steadily eroded since President Ronald Reagan taxed such income equal to wages in the 1980s, and the result has been rising income inequality.


Warren Buffett Renews Call For Minimum Tax On The Ultra-Wealthy

Warren Buffett | Op-Ed:  “We need Congress, right now, to enact a minimum tax on high incomes. I would suggest 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultrarich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.

“It’s Mostly Punishment…”

Oded Na’aman | Op-Ed: There’s one area close to Israel and another along the Israeli-Egyptian border… Israel’s sea border is twelve miles out, and Gaza’s is only three. They’ve only got those three miles, and that’s because of one reason, which is that Israel wants its gas, and there’s an offshore drilling rig something like three and a half miles out facing the Gaza Strip, which should be Palestinian, except that it’s ours… the Navy Special Forces unit provides security for the rig.

Marijuana Decriminalization Law Brings Down Juvenile Arrests in California

Susan Ferriss | News Report: Backed by the California District Attorneys Association, the new pot law — passed by state lawmakers — did away with prior requirements that pot offenders be referred to treatment and now allows them to pay a $100 fine akin to that for jaywalking. When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the law, he noted that simple pot possession in California was already “an infraction in everything but name.”

Private, Public, Union, or Management: Who Takes All the Money?

Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed: Corporate executives and financial employees make up just one-half of 1% of the workforce, but with nearly a trillion dollars of annual income (11.3% of $8.12 trillion), they make more than ALL 15 million unionized workers in the United States, and almost as much as ALL 21 million government workers. Much of their income derives from minimally-taxed capital gains. Meanwhile, the great majority of their private company employees toil as food servers, clerks, medical workers, and domestic help at below-average pay.

Working for Change in Higher Education: The Abysmal State of Adjunct Teacher Pay

imageJeff Nall, Toward Freedom | News Analysis: Today, non-tenured, part-time instructors (adjuncts) comprise almost 70-percent of college and university faculties. And these teachers are paid very little.  Adjuncts teaching at the community college and state college level in a state like Florida, for instance, make under $2,000 per class. This means that teaching eight classes a year would yield $16,000 annually for the most highly paid community or state college adjunct. Typically adjuncts have no benefits to speak of. This translates into a growing number of college professors who face severe economic hardship.

Car Companies Are Seeing the Light

104187734Dan Morrell | Slate:  Automakers are experimenting with lightweight bodies and new engines to meet ambitious fuel efficiency standards.  In July 2011, the Obama administration reached an agreement with 13 major automakers—Ford included—along with the UAW and the EPA to dramatically increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards on all cars and light trucks sold in the United States: By 2025, every carmaker’s fleet would have to average 54.5 miles per gallon. It represented a near-doubling of the current standard of 29 miles per gallon—roughly the highway fuel efficiency of a Ford Taurus.

The Total Collapse

I’m retired, so I get the opportunity to do quite a bit of reading.  One of the newsletter’s I subscribe to is “The Total Collapse.”  I find it offers quite a different perspective on foreign policy events than what we hear on the mainstream media channels (regardless of which one you listen to).  Here’s a list of articles from today’s newsletter:

Check out items 7 and 8.  Now that was a surprise this morning.  I thought we were trying to GET OUT of foreign wars!  If there’s truth in those articles, we could find ourselves in yet another never-ending mid-East conflict.  More specifically, it could be the start of yet another war, this time with IRAN.  Take the time and read those two articles.

2012-11-24: What I’ve Been Reading

Ten Numbers the Rich Would Like Fudged — by Paul Buchheit

The numbers reveal the deadening effects of inequality in our country, and confirm that tax avoidance, rather than a lack of middle-class initiative, is the cause.

Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds.

Elites Will Make Gazans of Us All — by Chris Hedges

In the new global landscape, as in Israel’s occupied territories and the United States’ own imperial projects in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, massacres of thousands of defenseless innocents are labeled wars. Resistance is called a provocation, terrorism or a crime against humanity. The rule of law, as well as respect for the most basic civil liberties and the right of self-determination, is a public relations fiction used to placate the consciences of those who live in the zones of privilege. Prisoners are routinely tortured and “disappeared.” The severance of food and medical supplies is an accepted tactic of control. Lies permeate the airwaves. Religious, racial and ethnic groups are demonized. Missiles rain down on concrete hovels, mechanized units fire on unarmed villagers, gunboats pound refugee camps with heavy shells, and the dead, including children, line the corridors of hospitals that lack electricity and medicine.

Stop pretending the US is an uninvolved, helpless party in the Israeli assault on Gaza — by Glenn Greewald

A Palestinian man carries a wounded child in GazaLiterally each day since the latest attacks began, the Obama administration has expressed its unqualified support for Israel’s behavior. Just two days before the latest Israeli air attacks began, Obama told Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas "that his administration opposes a Palestinian bid for non-state membership of the UN". Both the US Senate and House have already passed resolutions unequivocally supporting Israel, thus earning the ultimate DC reward: the head-pat from Aipac, which "praised the extraordinary show of support by the Senate for Israel’s struggle against terrorist attacks on its citizens". More bipartisan Congressional cheerleading is certain to come as the attacks continue, no matter how much more brutal they become.

World Bank Report Warns ‘Catastrophic Consequences’ of Global Warming — by Common Dreams Staff

The World Bank is the latest organization to raise alarm against the undeniable threat of climate change. Launched Monday, ‘Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided‘ (pdf) details the catastrophic consequences, specifically within developing nations, of ignoring the global warming crisis.  The analysis, conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, focuses on a revised point-of-no-return temperature rise of 4°C (7.24°F) by the end of the century, a threshold, according to the report, that will likely "trigger widespread crop failures and malnutrition and dislocate large numbers of people from land inundated by rising seas."

Thousands Surround Obama’s White House: ‘Stop Keystone XL!’ — by Common Dreams Staff

Last Sunday afternoon, thousands of people began a planned march around the White House on Sunday afternoon calling on the Obama Administration to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and keep tar sands crude out of the US.  The demonstration, organized by 350.org, the Sierra Club, and other public interest and environmental groups, followed a “Do the Math” climate event at Washington, DC’s historic Warner Theater earlier in the day.

New Report Ranks States in Efforts to Reduce Oil Addiction — by Common Dreams Staff

There is much work to be done, state by state, in order to wean American off of its fossil fuel addiction; however, there is a noticeable difference in fossil fuel dependence between states that actively produce clean energy initiatives versus states who don’t, according to a new report by Natural Resources Defense Council.  Fighting Oil Addiction: Ranking States’ Gasoline Price Vulnerability and Solutions for Change shows a "wide gulf" between states that promote public transit (bus, shuttles, trains or light rail), smart growth, and fuel efficiency, compared to states that do "little or nothing to expand less oil dependent forms of transportation."

The Endangered Repairman — by Shannon Hayes, Op-Ed

Any electronics: televisions, radios, VCRs, electric fence chargers. Eventually, the repair business fell away. “Factories don’t authorize repair people anymore,” Mr. Kleinberger explained to me over the phone. “It used to be that we’d get trained by the manufacturers to repair and maintain their equipment. Nobody does that anymore. They wanna sell you the next new thing. I can look at your stereo,” he said, “but I can’t make any promises.”

Africa: Calling for a GMO-Free Continent — Busani Bafana

“It is all about market colonization,” Bassey told IPS. “GM crops would neither produce food security nor meet nutrition deficits. The way forward is food sovereignty – Africans must determine what crops are suitable culturally and environmentally. Up to 80 percent of our food needs are met by smallholder farmers. These people need support and inputs for integrated agro-ecological crop management. Africa should ideally be a GMO-free continent.

Run, Jeb, Run! Another Bush, Another Target-Rich Presidential Campaign — by Joe Conason

The Jeb Bush boomlet that fascinated gullible pundits — and tantalized Republicans —  during the dark days of last winter’s presidential primary is undergoing a swift revival. Less than three weeks after the defeat of Mitt Romney, a candidate who proved repellent to minority voters, Republicans are said to be yearning for Jeb, who speaks fluent Spanish and whose wife is from Mexico.  Aside from his need to “restore” his depleted wealth, Jeb’s business dealings may well prove an insurmountable obstacle to a national candidacy, just as Romney’s business career became excess baggage for his presidential campaign. Known today only as another Bush brother, Jeb must be introduced to American voters. And among the first things they are likely to learn about him is the string of borderline business deals that built his original fortune in Florida real estate, which began three decades ago.

“Putting The Nails In The Coffin”: Has Grover Norquist And His Anti-Tax Pledge Reached The End Of The Road?

Yet another prominent Republican has added his name to the list of those for whom the allure of the Grover Norquist “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” has lost its luster.

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) has announced that he will no longer honor his commitment to the Norquist pledge wherein he promised not to raise taxes under any circumstances whatsoever. Appearing on a local Georgia television program, Chambliss said, “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge. If we do it his way then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”

“Opportunity And Equality”: What The “Takers” Really Want — by “my” Keystrokes

The Republican far right has concluded that Mitt Romney’s loss was due in part to his excess moderation, but Romney and the right agree that the blame also rests with the 47 percent of Americans who are “takers,” whom the Democrats wooed with governmental largess. America is no longer dominated by “traditional” small-government Americans, as Bill O’Reilly put it on a glum election night at Fox News. In behind-closed-doors talks to his donors that were recorded (and are likely to remain the only talks of his entire campaign that anyone remembers), Romney concurred.

 

2012-11-23: What I’ve been reading

Mexico Officials: Allowing GM Corn Will Devastate Crops

Lisa Garber, News Report: None of us here likely know who Bill Gates truly is at the end of the day. But let’s be frank: at best, he’s yet another one of the billions funding biotech and Big Ag propaganda. Does he truly believe that genetic modification comes without consequences. At worst, however, Gates, Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow simply do not care that farmers across the world commit suicide in the thousands after going bankrupt thanks to overpriced, ineffective GM seeds.

Go Ahead, Talk Religion and Politics at the Table

Robert Jensen, Op-Ed: It’s difficult not to take disagreements about sexual behavior personally, but we can cultivate the ability to consider not just our own choices but the social consequences. For example, on the contentious subject of pornography, instead of immediately defending or condemning the use of sexual material, we can ask: “What stories about sex and intimacy does pornography tell, and what is the effect of those stories?” That opens up the conversation.

Why So Secretive? The Trans-Pacific Partnership as Global Corporate Coup

Andrew Gavin Marshall, Investigation: Dubbed by many as “NAFTA on steroids” and a “corporate coup,” only two of the TPP’s 26 chapters actually have anything to do with trade. The agreement stipulates that foreign corporations operating in the United States would no longer be subject to domestic U.S. laws regarding protections for the environment, finance or labor rights, and could appeal to an “international tribunal” which would be given the power to overrule American law and impose sanctions on the U.S. for violating the new “rights” of corporations.

Incidents Raise Suspicions on Motive: Killing of Journalists by US Forces a Growing Problem

Dave Lindorff, Op-Ed: The ruthlessness of the slaying of journalists was exposed for all to see when the whistle-blower outfit Wikileaks released the now famous video it obtained from the gunsight camera of a US helicopter, whose crew opened up with machine gun fire on a group of men and two children in a Baghdad square. Two of those killed were cameramen working for Reuters. One of the two was literally hunted down and machine gunned after, already gravely wounded, he tried to crawl away, unarmed, to safety. The crew could be heard laughing as they killed him.

Change? Learn? Compromise? Grow? Not These Republicans

Joe Conason, Op-Ed: Republican leaders also seem inclined to ignore voter sentiment on the issue of taxes, despite majorities of 70 percent or better that agree the rich should pay more (including many voters who identify with the GOP). Rep. Mike Pence, who will become the governor of Indiana next January, told the Republican governors that he remains firmly opposed any tax increase, especially on "those in the best position to put hurting Americans back to work,”

Amy Goodman | In Gaza, It’s the Occupation, Stupid

Amy Goodman, Op-Ed: “The Palestinian people want to be free of the occupation,” award-winning Israeli journalist Gideon Levy summed up this week. It is that simple. This latest Israeli military assault on the people of Gaza is not an isolated event, but part of a 45-year occupation of the sliver of land wedged between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, where 1.6 million people live under a brutal Israeli blockade that denies them most of the basic necessities of life. Without the unwavering bipartisan support of the United States for the Israeli military, the occupation of Palestine could not exist.

10 Things Progressives Can Be Thankful For

News Report: We’re thankful for the advocates who protected our right to vote. The past few years saw a raft of new voter suppression laws and tactics, but most of the worst laws were blocked at least temporarily by the courts or repealed by lawmakers. The challenge going forward will be to maintain these victories as litigation in several of these cases continues and the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge to the Voting Rights Act.

Jim Hightower | Lord Help Us – Bosses Gone Berserk

Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: The sky is falling! The end times are upon us! It’s all over for America! And it’s all because of you execrable voters. This is the wretched wail of a few corporate chieftains who claim to be somewhere between flummoxed and furious that Barack Obama is back in the White House. With his diabolical Obamacare and tax-the-rich attacks on us wealthy job creators, they moan, this president is out to destroy American business. "There’s a tsunami coming," cried one, so we must save ourselves.

Gaza Is A Pawn: Iran Is a Prize

Thomas Magstadt, Op-Ed: “None of the dead was the person the Israeli Defense Force said it was trying to kill when it struck the Dalu family house. It’s not clear that they had anything to do with him.” This is how Amy Davidson writing in the New Yorker describes one incident in the latest war between Israel and Gaza. It is a cliché to call it a tragedy, but what is missing in the reporting and what passes for mainstream “news analysis” is not the tragedy, but the travesty. The story line does not start or end with the status of Gaza or the Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands.

Homeland Security Has Spent $430 Million on Radios Its Employees Don’t Know How to Use

Theodoric Meyer, News Report: Getting the agencies responsible for national security to communicate better was one of the main reasons the Department of Homeland Security was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But according to a recent report from the department’s inspector general, one aspect of this mission remains far from accomplished. DHS has spent $430 million over the past nine years to provide radios tuned to a common, secure channel to 123,000 employees across the country. Problem is, no one seems to know how to use them.

President Obama Reelected – But Where Is the Pathway to Good Jobs?

Amy Dean, Op-Ed: With Barack Obama’s reelection last night, we witnessed the labor movement once again, as in every successful Democratic presidential race in recent decades, saving the president. Its ground troops and financial backing provided the bulwark to shore up Obama’s lead against Romney. By aiding in Obama’s victory, unions helped avert the crisis that the election of Romney/Ryan would have represented—an attack not only on organized labor, but on women’s rights and the whole of the social safety net.