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My kitchen.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.

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My kitchen.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.

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My kitchen.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.




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News and Opinion



Judge finds for banks, dismisses most claims in Libor lawsuits

(Reuters) - A judge on Friday dismissed a "substantial portion" of claims facing a number of banks in a barrage of lawsuits accusing them of interest-rate rigging.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled for the banks, which include Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and others, of allegedly manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate, commonly known as Libor.

The judge granted the banks' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' federal antitrust claims and partially dismissed their claims of commodities manipulation. She also dismissed racketeering and state-law claims.
[...]
In a 161-page opinion, Buchwald said she recognized her ruling might be "unexpected," since several defendants had paid billions of dollars in penalties to government regulatory agencies.

But she said unlike government agencies, private plaintiffs needed to meet many requirements under the statutes to bring a case.

Former CIA officer speaks out against new clandestine service chief

This week we learned that an undercover CIA officer who signed off on a controversial decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being tortured in 2005 has ascended to the top job within the agency's clandestine service. Now, a former senior CIA officer is speaking out against the newly promoted director for the first time.

"Appointing someone who directly supported the enhanced interrogation program -- as opposed to having been part of the system that engaged in it -- would be a mistake," Glenn Carle, the agency's former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational  threats, told Foreign Policy. "We should repudiate these sorts of practices, whatever the pressures and judgments of the moment were."

NYT.  Premium support = privatization.  There is nothing wrong with the Medicare system.  The underlying obscene health care costs are the problem.  Obliterating the Medicare system itself and pouring federal funds into private insurance companies is a disaster and a complete betrayal.  Medicare has incredibly low overhead costs.  It has huge bargaining power.   It is a wildly popular program.  The greedmongers, inefficiencies and systemic issues in the health industry are the problem, not the Medicare system itself.  It looks like Pres. Obama intends to turn his insurance exchange into the privatized monster that ate Medicare and Medicaid.  "Premium supports" is the buzz phrase. I saw a NYT op-ed on this about a year ago or more.  That trial balloon was skewered in the comments.  But it apparently had no effect on corrupt politicians bent on helping their conservative allies in destroying the New Deal and the Great Society, and the Democratic party along with it.
Talk of Medicare Changes Could Open Way to Budget Pact

To Senator Mark R. Warner of Virginia, a Democrat who has long led a bipartisan group of senators seeking a fiscal deal, such a proposal is the sort of newer idea needed for the parties to stop the “stale arguments” that after three years have turned their budget battling into “World War I trench warfare.”

“You’ve got a whole lot of folks on the Republican side saying, ‘Well, we don’t really like what Ryan has done — premium support — but we want systemic reform,’ ” Mr. Warner said at a round table hosted by Bloomberg News.

Mr. Obama’s openness to Medicare changes seemed to be news to many Republicans, even though he first proposed detailed ideas in 2011. Republicans often accuse the president of opposing changes in entitlement spending while focusing on raising taxes, an attack that ignores his proposals but also reflects how little Mr. Obama has talked about them.

Still, the same hurdle to compromise stands: The president and his party will not support even his Medicare proposals unless Republicans agree to raise taxes on the wealthy and some corporations. Without that trade-off, common ground on Medicare will remain unplowed.

“The president has said this to the Republicans: ‘You want to do entitlement reform? I do, too. I can produce entitlement reform and bring Democrats to the table, because I am a Democratic president. And so I’m ready to sit down with you and work out an approach,’ ” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, a Democratic leader, said at a recent forum hosted by The Wall Street Journal.

James K. Galbraith
The Bad Deal

The debt deal will make things clear. The President is not a progressive – he is not what Americans still call a “liberal.” He is a willful player in an epic drama of faux-politics, an operative for the money power, whose job is to neutralize the left with fear and distraction and then to pivot rightward and deliver a conservative result.

What Barack Obama got from the debt deal was exactly what his sponsors have wanted: a long-term lock-in of domestic spending cuts, and a path toward severe cuts in the core New Deal and Great Society insurance programs – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And, of course, no tax increases at all.

To see the arc of political strategy, recall that from the beginning Obama handed economic policy to retainers recruited from the stables of Robert Rubin. From the beginning, he touted “fiscal responsibility” and played up the (economically non-existent) “problem” of the budget deficit. From the beginning his team sabotaged economic recovery with optimistic forecasts and inadequate programs – in the clear interest of protecting the banking system from reform.

As the presidency moved along, false claims of economic recovery supported a transition toward obsessive focus on debt and deficits, validated by a federal commission and constantly reinforced by a Washington propaganda chorus funded by Peter G. Peterson, for many decades a billionaire campaigner against Social Security and Medicare.

Believe it or not, part of Obama's Bad Deal plan is broad tax reform which includes lowering corporate tax rates.  No, really. And seriously, just toss most of the mainstream media.   They are bought and paid for and the ones that tell the truth are often harassed.  The DoJ is still after James Risen.    Dean Baker:
Profit Share Hits Post-War High and the Post Doesn't Notice
The revised GDP data for the fourth quarter released yesterday showed the profit share of corporate income hitting 25.6 percent. This is the highest since it stood at 25.8 percent in 1951. However if we look at the after-tax share of 19.2 percent, we would have to go back to 20.8 percent share in 1930 to find a higher number, excepting of course the 19.3 percent number hit last year.

To put this in context, the after-tax profit share was just 14.5 percent in Reagan's Morning in America days. The difference would have come to roughly $330 billion last year. To put this in the 10-year budgetary window that is the standard framework in Washington these days, the rise in after-tax corporate profits since the Reagan era can be seen as equivalent to a $5.0 trillion tax on the nation's workers.

Jonathan Turley.
How Nixon Won Watergate

This month, I spoke at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Watergate scandal with some of its survivors at the National Press Club. While much of the discussion looked back at the historic clash with President Nixon, I was struck by a different question: Who actually won? From unilateral military actions to warrantless surveillance that were key parts of the basis for Nixon’s impending impeachment, the painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be.
[...]
Obama has not only openly asserted powers that were the grounds for Nixon’s impeachment, but he has made many love him for it. More than any figure in history, Obama has been a disaster for the U.S. civil liberties movement. By coming out of the Democratic Party and assuming an iconic position, Obama has ripped the movement in half. Many Democrats and progressive activists find themselves unable to oppose Obama for the authoritarian powers he has assumed. It is not simply a case of personality trumping principle; it is a cult of personality.

$3.5 Trillion? The Insanely High Costs of Subsidizing the Fossil Fuel Industry
IMF says global subsidies to fossil fuels amount to $1.9 trillion a year … and that’s probably an underestimate

A new report [PDF] from the International Monetary Fund tries to tally up fossil fuel subsidies around the world and finds that they add up to an eye-popping $1.9 trillion a year. That’s 2.5 percent of global GDP!

Brad Plumer has a typically lucid summary on the report’s conclusions, but I want to dig in a little on one part, because believe it or not, the IMF’s conclusion may be too conservative. The real truth about global fossil fuel subsidies may be more eye-popping yet.

So, where does that $1.9 trillion come from? Around $480 billion of it comes from direct subsidies, i.e., government handing out money. This is what people usually think of when they hear “subsidies.” Contrary to popular opinion, the developed world does very little of this kind of thing. Direct fossil fuel subsidies (“pre-tax” subsidies) are overwhelmingly concentrated in the developing world and mostly devoted to making petro-products affordable for poor people:[...]

Hampshire College • Critical Social Inquiry Lecture • Glenn Greenwald Lecture

Glenn Greenwald spoke on "Endless War, Radical Presidential Power, and a Rotted Political Culture" on March 5, at Hampshire College. Greenwald will spoke briefly, then participated in a roundtable conversation moderated by philosophy and political theory professor Falguni A. Sheth.

Robert Greenwald on The Young Turks on 3/27/13

Robert Greenwald joins Cenk Uygur and the Young Turks in the studio to discuss why religious leaders are joining forces to denounce U.S. Drone Policy

Robert Greenwald and Brave New Foundation have created a new site called warcosts.com.  Will this Easter and Passover season bring a renewal of the anti-war movement?  I hope so. I plan to support their efforts and join in any of their organized events as best I can.  We have needed some new leaders to step forward for a long time now. It's clear that the most prominent leaders from the grassroots left and the progressive blogosphere, with a few exceptions, simply do not care about the wars as long as Obama is at the helm, waging them.  If a Republican takes office next time around, they might suddenly find their anti-war mojo, but they will have absolutely no credibility or ability to lead.  We need new voices, new leaders, new editions of movements that leave the old sell outs behind.
About warcosts.com:
War Costs is the international effort to expose the financial and humane costs of the U.S. military industrial complex. Through full length films, short videos, and social media, we reveal the deep corruption of our political system by the lobbying and campaign spending of the war industry. Which has fractured our foreign policy, and has made our weapons, not our ideals, the most prominent face of America abroad. Our films expose the deep personal costs paid by those who fight wars launched for profit and ideology and the price paid by those with the courage to speak out. Our projects also unveil the massive salaries of each of these superrich CEOs and 'out' them as war profiteers enriching themselves thanks to massive, job-killing military budgets. Through personal stories, we reveal how our military spending priorities have been warped by corporate influence, and the ideological belief of killing our way to security, into a bloated, corrupt budget that spends billions on unneeded weapons and programs.
What Religious Leaders Want to Tell Obama on Easter
Today, Brave New Foundation released a short video documenting religious leaders coming out against the use of Just War Theory to defend President Obama’s drone policy.
[...]
During this time of rebirth and renewal, these religious leaders remind us that we must strongly consider how our government conducts itself on behalf of our nation at home and abroad.
THIS EASTER, RELIGIOUS LEADERS JOIN FORCES TO DENOUNCE U.S. DRONE POLICY

A very good interactive graphical presentation of facts about our drone program and its victims.  I don't see a way to embed, so the link is below.
Out of Sight Out of Mind





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