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
Advertisements

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.”

Under The Reading Lamp — 10/28/2010


Bank Transfer Day: A Guide to Closing Your Account
News Analysis: “The description and goal of Bank Transfer Day is straightforward: If you currently have checking and savings accounts (deposit accounts) with a big bank, the organizers encourage you to remove all of your funds, close your accounts, and place your money in a new deposit account with a not-for-profit credit union. The organizers ask that you do this by November 5. And since November 5 is a Saturday, you should definitely do it before November 5 since many big banks aren’t open on weekends.”


Goldman Sachs v. Occupy Wall Street
Video Report: “A controversy in the banking community has arisen around the Occupy Wall Street movement. Greg Palast investigates the story behind Goldman Sachs’ recent decision to pull out of a fundraiser for the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union in New York City after it learned the event was honoring the protesters at Occupy Wall Street. The investment bank withdrew its name from the fundraiser and also canceled a $5,000 pledge. Was the $5,000 a Goldman Sachs donation or actually American taxpayer bailout money Goldman set aside for community banks?”


GOP Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans Would Benefit The Rich
Steven Thomma, News Analysis: “The flat tax — so called because it offers one flat rate for taxpayers in all income groups while taking away many or all deductions — would simplify taxes. It also would almost certainly give big tax cuts to wealthy Americans. Republicans believe that cutting taxes, especially on the wealthy, helps to spur investment, economic growth and hiring.”


Should Minimum Wage Earners Pay a Tax Rate 460 Times Higher than Millionaires?
Kyle Linzer, Special Feature: The question of the supposed simplicity and fairness of a flat tax keeps popping up every few years in political debate, most recently with the 9-9-9 plan of Herman Cain. I just wanted to look at what this kind of flat tax would look like for people across the income range to see how fair and simple it would be. One question needs to be addressed before we can begin to look at real numbers.


Robert Reich | Wall Street is Still Out of Control
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “Next week President Obama travels to Wall Street where he’ll demand – in light of the Street’s continuing antics since the bailout, as well as its role in watering-down the Volcker rule – that the Glass-Steagall Act be resurrected and big banks be broken up. I’m kidding. But it would be a smart move — politically and economically.”


What’s Happened to the Big Players in the Financial Crisis
Braden Goyette, News Investigation: “Mortgage lenders contributed to the financial crisis by issuing or underwriting loans to people who would have a difficult time paying them back, inflating a housing bubble that was bound to pop. Lax regulation allowed banks to stretch their mortgage lending standards and use aggressive tactics to rope borrowers into complex mortgages that were more expensive than they first appeared.”


Flanders on Ed Schultz on Oakland Crack Down
Laura Flanders, Video Report: Whose servants? Whose safety? Whose space? The extreme violence of the Oakland police underscores the critical questions the Occupy movement is raising. Just what is the place of the public in the privatized state? Good for Ed Schultz, alone in prime time, for leading with this story Wednesday night.


Jim Hightower: “We the People,” Not “We the Corporations”
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “A year from now, Americans will be caught in an unprecedented blizzard of presidential campaign ads. We’ll be blinded by the whiteout and buried in the storm’s negativity. For the first time ever, most of this ad blizzard will not come from the candidates, but from ads secretly funded by huge corporations. This is because a five-man cabal on the Supreme Court issued an edict last year that perverts nature itself.”


Rick Perry Outlines Flat Tax, Social Security Proposals
Adam Beam, News Report: “The optional flat tax is the centerpiece of a broad economic initiative that includes Social Security and Medicare changes, spending cuts, freezing pending federal regulations and other steps aimed at bolstering the economy and balancing the federal budget by 2020. Perry described it as a ‘bold reform needed to jolt this economy out its doldrums.’ The flat tax would offer a major break for America’s wealthiest taxpayers by enabling them to move from the current top bracket of 35 percent into the 20 percent bracket.”


Perry: “I Don’t Care” Whether My Tax Plan Gives Breaks to the Rich
Pat Garofalo, News Analysis: “Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) today became the latest GOP presidential hopeful to release a tax plan, as he tries to catch up in the polls, some of which even have him trailing former Speaker Newt Gingrich and libertarian favorite Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). The plan, as Perry has been explaining, revolves around a 20 percent flat tax. Former pizza magnate Herman Cain and former Govs. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Jon Huntsman (R-UT) have all laid out tax plans that give huge tax breaks to the wealthy.”


Who Are these Occupy Protesters, and What Do They Want?
Lois Beckett, News Analysis: “At first glance, the synchronized protests that took place in more than 900 cities around the globe on Oct. 15 seemed to indicate that Occupy Wall Street had achieved a kind of worldwide resonance. But the truth is more complex. Many of the protests elsewhere grew out of movements that pre-date Occupy Wall Street and out of frustrations that, though similar in some ways, are also specific to their countries. Here’s a look at the origins, demands and affects of five of these global protests, as well as the criticism they’ve faced.”


Glen Greenwald: Immunity and Impunity in Elite America
Glenn Greenwald, Op-Ed: “As intense protests spawned by Occupy Wall Street continue to grow, it is worth asking: Why now? The answer is not obvious. After all, severe income and wealth inequality have long plagued the United States. In fact, it could reasonably be claimed that this form of inequality is part of the design of the American founding — indeed, an integral part of it. Many Americans who once accepted or even cheered such inequality now see the gains of the richest as ill-gotten, as undeserved, as cheating.”


Dean Baker: The Military Spending Fairy
Dean Baker, Op-Ed: “Faced with the prospect of cuts to the Defense Department’s budget, the defense industry is pushing the story of the military spending fairy on members of Congress. They are telling them that these cuts will lead to the loss of more than 1 million jobs over the next decade. Believers in the military spending fairy say things like “the government can’t create jobs,” but also think that military spending creates jobs.”


Obama Housing Plan Gets Faint Praise
Ben Hallman, News Report: “Obama’s new housing initiative, announced Monday in Las Vegas, may not be as bold as some had hoped, but it offers some underwater homeowners the possibility of relief. A week earlier at the Venetian casino, the leading Republican candidates said that the government should get out of the way and let the market sort out the foreclosure mess. The president’s plan will loosen restrictions on the Home Affordability Refinance Program (HARP), which was created especially for homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth.”


Occupy Wall Street, 1979
John Cavanaugh and Robin Broad, New Analysis: “Thirty-two years ago, the two of us and 1,043 other protesters were arrested for what one would now call “occupying” Wall Street. It was October 29, 1979, the 50th anniversary of the Wall Street crash that ushered in the Great Depression. We two were then graduate students at Princeton, and we had trained for weeks as part of an “affinity group” of about a dozen people prepared to commit acts of civil disobedience to prevent what we saw as a greater evil.”


Robert Reich | Why We Shouldn’t be Selling the Right to Live in America
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “America is having a fire sale. Why not sell wealthy foreigners the right to live here, too? That’s the notion behind a bill introduced last week by Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Democrat Senator Charles Schumer of New York: Stoke demand for American homes by allowing foreign nationals to buy them. In return, give foreigners the right to live here (although not work here).”


A Fire Sale for Arsonists: The “Revised” Bank Mortgage Settlement Still Stinks
Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “Let’s imagine that the Mayor, the DA, and the Chief of Police said they’ve come up with a great “settlement”: The arsonists will pay a small fine, and they’ll never be prosecuted for arson. Plus, if they’re asked very nicely, they’ll also agree to provide a little help to 27 out of the 1,000 families they made homeless – although they’d control the ‘help’ process and the town might wind up footing the bill anyway.”


Recalling the Lost Paradise of Budget Surpluses
Froma Harrop, Op-Ed: “Hard to believe, but once upon a time, economists worried that the U.S. government would pay off all its debt. Also hard to believe, once upon a time was only 11 years ago. President Clinton had bequeathed his successor budget surpluses “as far as the eye could see.” He wanted some of them used to speed up repayment of the remaining $3.6 trillion still owed the public in Treasury bonds. He said it could all be paid off by 2013.”


Alan Grayson Gets It …

Maybe you’ve seen the Bill Maher segment yet with former Congressman Alan Grayson. 414,028 people already had when I watched it.

Week before last, Alan Grayson appeared on HBO, on Real Time with Bill Maher. The subject was Occupy Wall Street. Bill’s guests mocked the Occupy Wall Street protesters, complaining they didn’t know what the protest was all about.

Grayson had a different point of view:

Grayson: “Let me tell what they’re talking about. They’re complaining about the fact that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago, and nobody’s been held responsible for that. Not a single person has been indicted or convicted, for destroying twenty percent of our national net worth, accumulated over two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that Wall Street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and the other party caters to them as well. That’s the truth of the matter, as you [Bill] have said before. And . . . .”

P.J. O’Rourke: “Get the man a bongo drum, they’ve found their spokesman!”

Grayson: “If I . . .”

P.J. O’Rourke: “Get your shoes off, get a bongo drum, forget where to go to the bathroom, and it’s yours.”

Grayson: “If I am the spokesman for all the people who think we should NOT have 24 million people in this country who can’t find a full-time job; that we should NOT have 50 million people who can’t see a doctor when they’re sick; that we should NOT have 47 million people of this country who need government help to feed themselves; and that we should NOT have 15 million families who owe more on their mortgage than the value of home, OK, I’ll be that spokesman.”

The moment was electric. Bill Maher looked at the audience and said, “look, they’re standing!” It was the first standing ovation for a guest in the 10-year history of the show.

And why? Because in less than a minute, Alan Grayson articulated what so many observers had been groping for, since the Occupy Wall Street movement started: the sense of what’s gone wrong, and the urgent need to do something about it.

  1. Wall Street has created and perpetuated a system of enormous inequality.
  2. That system caused The Crash, and no one has been punished for it.
  3. Wall Street perpetuates that system through iron control of our political process.
  4. The result is pervasive suffering: joblessness, homelessness, illness, poverty and even hunger.

Alan Grayson has the insight and the courage to say that.

And that’s why that short video clip from Bill Maher’s show has been passed round and round. Last week, it was the fifth most-watched news video in the world. All the different versions that have been posted on YouTube are approaching 500,000 views, with more on Facebook.

The breakdown is 4098 “likes,” and 68 “dislikes.” Which proves that we really are “the 99%.” Or at least 98.4%.

Zeitgeist. n. The spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation.

There, in a few sentences, Alan Grayson captured the spirit of our time: the urgent sense that the system is broken; that people are suffering; and that we have to face the real problems in our lives, attack them, and defeat them.

November 5th is Bank Transfer Day

First, the banks held the nation hostage as they held onto capital, refused to loan money to small business owners, refused to allow homeowners to equitably refinance their homes, fraudulently robo-signed documentation and foreclosed on millions of homeowners — all while receiving a bailout from the US Government (that would be us) and interest-free loans the federal reserve.  Now, it appears they want to step up their hostage-taking another notch or two by not just refusing to allow ordinary Americans to close their banking accounts with them, but by having them arrested by attempting to do so.

Folks … it’s time to move your money out of the big banks (Citigroup, Chase, Bank of America, etc.) and move it to an unaffiliated local bank or credit union.  If you consider yourself one of the 99%, and if you have your money in one of these mega-banks, OWS (Occupy Wall Street) protesters are asking you to stand with them and transfer you money out of these megabanks on or before November 5th.

Together we can ensure that corrupt crony-capitalist banking institutions will ALWAYS remember the 5th of November! If the 99% removes our funds from major banking institutions to non-profit credit unions on or by this date, we will send a clear message to the 1% that conscious consumers won’t support companies with unethical business practices.

Did you know you don’t even have to go to your bank to transfer your money.  All you need to do is go to your new bank or credit union and do an electronic transfer of funds and closure of the old account.  I learned I could do that years ago whilst in the U.S. Navy.  I’d leave my funds intact in the old account and when I got to my new duty station, I’d set up a new account and give them permission to electronically transfer the funds from my old account to my new account in their bank.  So, if you’re afraid you also might get arrested in the process of doing as those in the following YouTube videos did, just let your new bank do all the work for you.  I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to have the new business.