PND Commentary

Inside the happiness racket

May 22, 2015
posted by

In These Times In These Times
by Joanna Scutts  

"'Are you happy?' It's a question that stops us in our tracks. Happy how? Other emotions leave us in no doubt: Anger, embarrassment, excitement and disappointment consume us. But happiness is elusive -- even in the Declaration of Independence we're granted not the thing itself, but the pursuit of it) and if we capture it, that's supposed to be the end of the story: happily ever after. We're also told, just as firmly, that it is not for sale. And yet, as evinced in William Davies's astute and far-reaching study of modern happiness, The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being, this elusive state is now a major preoccupation of the powerful." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/ma3cqar  

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The uses and abuses of GDP

May 22, 2015
posted by

Reuters Reuters
by Edward Hadas  

"Gross Domestic Product can be a good tool to help central bankers, corporate leaders and investors. But it should be kept in its proper place. The basic idea behind this measure is stupidly simple. Add up all purchases of goods and services that are not going to be resold in a national economy over a fixed period. That sum provides a straightforward and intuitive measure of the size of an economy. Changes in the sum are good indicators of where the economy is going. The simple, stupid idea is useless without some complicated intelligence. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis needs more than 400 pages to outline the necessary heroic assumptions and dubious approximations which go into the calculation." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/m5xrw6z  

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The left matters — now, more than ever

May 22, 2015
posted by

Richard Eskow Our Future Blog
by Richard Eskow  

"Some leading Democrats seem to have a love-hate relationship with the left. Sure, progressives seem to have more influence than ever in the party this year, at least rhetorically. But it doesn’t look like the friction will be going away any time soon. President Obama has been escalating his war of words with Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] and her allies, reigniting a burning resentment he last let slip in 2010. Hillary Clinton has adopted more progressive rhetoric, but her unwillingness to fight for specific policies has left activists frustrated. Clearly, the left matters. Why, then, is it so difficult for progressives to get a seat at the table?" (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mxmcqvt  

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The agony of medical bills

May 22, 2015
posted by

The Atlantic The Atlantic
by Olga Khazan  

"It shouldn't take a Harvard expert in health policy to understand a doctor's bill. But sometimes, it does." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/m9p5656  

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Is NSA’s dragnet surveillance program in its final hours?

May 22, 2015
posted by

The Nation The Nation
by Zoe Carpenter  

"Congress is up against a tight deadline to extend or reform Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision that the government claims authorizes the National Security Agency’s phone data program, before it sunsets on June 1. Naturally, the legislature is in a state of disarray. The House has already passed the USA Freedom Act, which would put modest limits on the intelligence agency for the first time in decades. Now the Senate is under pressure to act before lawmakers leave for recess Thursday afternoon. If they do nothing, Section 215 will expire hours before they return to Washington, imperiling not only the phone records program but whatever other still-secret intelligence gathering activities the government conducts under the statute." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/lhwfn5t  

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If Obama really wants to close Guantanamo …

May 22, 2015
posted by

Reuters Reuters
by Daphne Eviatar  

"When President Barack Obama announced his intention to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center on his second day in office, he sounded serious. He was flanked by more than a dozen retired military leaders, who’d all urged him to close the facility because it had become a virtual recruitment tool for terrorists and a stain on the United States’ reputation for upholding human rights and the rule of law. Obama also had the support of national-security experts across the political spectrum when he signed his historic executive order. More than six years later, the U.S. facility in Cuba is still open. The primary reason is that ever since the president made it a priority to close Guantanamo, congressional Republicans made it a priority to keep it open. They’ve even stepped up their efforts while writing the annual defense authorization bill this year." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/k96qkwt  

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NSA reform bill has gaping holes

May 22, 2015
posted by

USA Today USA Today
by Anthony D. Romero & Matt Kibbe  

"Earlier this month, a federal appeals court took a close look at the National Security Agency's collection and data-mining of Americans' phone records and concluded that the program was unlawful. Rather than stop it, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit noted that Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision the NSA relies on for the program, would sunset on June 1. So the court decided to let Congress determine whether Section 215 should die, be revised, or extended without alteration." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/letzu9l  

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Iraq debate

May 22, 2015
posted by

The Cagle Post
by Mike Luckovich  

Cartoon. (05/19/15)

http://www.cagle.com/2015/05/iraq-debate/  

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Sowing the GM seeds of depopulation?

May 21, 2015
posted by

CounterPunch CounterPunch
by Colin Todhunter  

"There is a growing fear that eugenics is being used to get rid of sections of the world population that are 'surplus to requirements.' And it is a legitimate fear, not least because there is a sordid history of forced/covert sterilizations carried out on those deemed 'undesirable' or 'surplus to requirements,' which reflects the concerns of eugenicists who have operated at the highest levels of policy making. From early 20th century 'philanthropists' and the Nazis to the nascent genetics movement and rich elites, by one means or another ridding the planet of the great unwanted masses has always been fairly high on the 'to do' list ..." (05/21/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mqdaznu  

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How austerity killed the humanities

May 21, 2015
posted by

In These Times In These Times
by Andrew Hartman  

"In the 1980s and 1990s, debates over the humanities were a major component of American political discourse. On the one side were conservative traditionalists who believed that all American college students should read the Western Canon (the greatest books of the Western mind since Aristotle) as a foundation for democratic living. On the other side were academic multiculturalists who believed that a humanities education should be more comprehensive and should thus include texts authored by minority, female, and non-western writers." [editor's note: Interesting debate, but kind of pranged by the fact that at no time in the period under discussion has anything even remotely resembling "austerity" been on the government spending table, let alone actually implemented - TLK] (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/ljhjtfm  

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Grand theft automated

May 21, 2015
posted by

The American Prospect The American Prospect
by Robert Kuttner  

"The day after the New York Times published its stunning two-part expose of labor conditions in New York City's nail salons, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, nobody's idea of a radical, discovered that he was sitting on power that he didn't know he had. Cuomo ordered a crackdown against a broad pattern of thefts of wages that were hidden in plain view, had he bothered to look. Cuomo's new efforts will collaborate with an enforcement initiative by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, two officials who don't like each other and seldom work together." (05/18/15)

http://prospect.org/article/grand-theft-automated  

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McDonald’s workers protest share buyback scheme

May 21, 2015
posted by

Dave Johnson Our Future Blog
by Dave Johnson  

"In April we saw the largest-ever strike against the fast-food industry. There were walkouts in 236 cities, including strikes and protests in 40 countries. Now on Wednesday we will see the largest-ever workers’ protests at the McDonald’s shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois. Workers will be protesting the stock manipulation scheme that McDonald’s’ executives are using to loot the company at the expense of its employees. It used to be illegal for a company to manipulate its stock price. Now it’s common. Instead of using profits to invest in the future, companies are paying ridiculously low wages, downsizing, outsourcing, offshoring, cutting R&D, deferring maintenance and improvements, and borrowing money and using the proceeds to purchase their own stock. Guess who gets rich when their stock goes up." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/l7adlas  

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Bad intelligence

May 21, 2015
posted by

The Cagle Post
by Pat Bagley  

Cartoon. (05/19/15)

http://www.cagle.com/2015/05/bad-intelligence/  

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Singling out Stephanopoulos misses the point

May 21, 2015
posted by

USA Today USA Today
by Kirsten Powers  

"ABC News' chief anchor George Stephanopoulos has been embroiled in a scandal after he failed to disclose $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation before grilling Peter Schweizer, the author of a book critical of the foundation. The former Clinton aide accused the author of having a 'partisan interest' in writing the book due in part to his four month stint as a George W. Bush speech writer. This is an open-and-shut case: Stephanopoulos should never have conducted this interview without revealing his connection to the foundation. But does anyone actually believe that had he not made the donations, the interview would have gone differently?" (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/m3rpwp8  

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That’s billion, with a bee: Measuring the massive cost of hive collapse

May 20, 2015
posted by

Reuters Reuters
by Amy Tennery  

"In farming, technology will only take you so far. GPS can help drive automated harvesters around the fields, satellites help to ensure the right crops get planted at the right time. But if you want your crops to grow, you’ll have to rely on something a little more old-fashioned: honey bees. And they’re dying in enormous numbers. The makers of insecticides containing neonics, Bayer and Syngenta chief among them, have a lot to lose if regulatory bodies end up siding with the environmentalists. More than 90 percent of the corn in the U.S. is treated with neonics." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/muheeve  

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Banking left: How the center moved after the financial crisis

May 20, 2015
posted by

The New Republic The New Republic
by Danny Vinik  

"In July 1998, Larry Summers appeared before a Senate committee to argue that a financial product, called an over-the-counter (OTC) derivative, did not need to be regulated. He said that there were only two potential reasons for financial regulation -- 'to protect retail investors from unscrupulous traders' and 'to guard against manipulation in markets' -- neither of which, Summers concluded, were applicable to OTC derivatives. Summers, who served as Treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001, eventually won the battle over derivatives regulation. Those derivatives, of course, were at the heart of the 2007/2008 financial crisis." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/ll4lj8g  

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Liberty or authority? A useful political spectrum

May 20, 2015
posted by

David S. D'Amato Center for a Stateless Society
by David S D'Amato  

"Conservatism and libertarianism don't belong together. Even in cases where conservatives are using the same rhetoric as libertarians, they too often don't mean anything like what we mean; their 'free market' is an apologetic for the economic status quo and global corporatism, their 'equality before the law' is reserved only for traditionally privileged in-groups (think of the debate on same-sex marriage), their 'limited government' would still retain a massive military-industrial complex and national security apparatus, their 'individual rights' extend only up until you want to smoke a joint or end a pregnancy. Romantically turned backward to some imagined time of American freedom, conservatives may at times seem libertarian, but their position is essentially traditionalist." (05/19/15)

http://c4ss.org/content/37795  

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The lesser of two evils is still evil

May 20, 2015
posted by

CounterPunch CounterPunch
by John Halle  

"For a decade and half, the spoiler factor has been a third rail of progressive politics. Some of those who have raised the issue are genuinely concerned with the prospect of a third party candidate enabling a far right victory. But others are Democratic Party hacks who, in Matt Taibbi's phrase 'would triangulate their own mothers' to maintain their lock on power. Spoiling for them is a bad faith exercise in maintaining electoral politics as a bipartisan gated community from which left, populist candidates are excluded. Fortunately, there are signs that its effects are beginning to wear off." (05/20/15)

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/20/notes-on-spoiling/  

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There’s still time to prosecute the torturers

May 20, 2015
posted by

Antiwar.com Antiwar.com
by John Kiriakou  

"After I blew the whistle on the CIA's torture program in 2007, the fallout for me was brutal. To make a long story short, I served nearly two years in federal prison and then endured a few more months of house arrest. What happened to the torture program? Nothing." (05/20/15)

http://tinyurl.com/luha7xp  

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Beyond rehabilitation

May 20, 2015
posted by

Unqualified Offerings
by Thoreau  

"Ever since GOP candidates started getting the 'Knowing what we know now ...' question about Iraq, I've started seeing little rumblings of a narrative where Bush The Lesser was a victim of bad intelligence from the CIA. Fortunately, TAC, among others, is doing yeoman's work in responding to that absurd narrative. Nonetheless, I fear that the story will not end here. I am not comfortable making any predictions about who will win either party's nomination next year, but at least one party (and maybe both) will likely have ample reason to push a narrative of 'The problem is that we didn't know ...'" (05/19/15)

http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2015/05/19/18670  

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the end of innocence

May 20, 2015
posted by

The Nation The Nation
by Debbie Nathan  

"In the days when Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s jury was deliberating about whether to sentence him to life in prison or death, I thought often about members of his legal team who'd worked behind the scenes: the 'mitigation specialists.' I'm a colleague of these people -- I belong to a small group of journalists who supplement our income with freelance 'mitigation' work. That means we do a special type of investigation for death-penalty cases. Our clients are accused and often, like Tsarnaev, already convicted. The prosecution paints them to the courtroom and press as monsters." (05/18/15)

http://tinyurl.com/me6vv6w  

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A short tale of two central banks & (roughly) one inflation rate

May 20, 2015
posted by

Reuters Reuters
by Ross Finley  

"Euro zone inflation rose to zero in April from -0.1 percent and in Britain it fell to -0.1 percent from zero, the first negative reading since the 1960s. No matter what differences may exist between these two economies, and no matter how clear that inflation will soon rise because of oil prices and a lower base from which to compare any future change, nobody can dispute that is pretty much the same inflation rate. Both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England are struggling to get inflation back up to 2 percent, which they target over a longer horizon." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mvenqj7  

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Politicians love ribbon-cutting

May 20, 2015
posted by

USA Today USA Today
by Randal O'Toole  

"While we hear a lot about crumbling infrastructure, some of our infrastructure is actually in great shape. A close look reveals that the infrastructure that is in best condition is funded by user fees, while infrastructure that is crumbling is funded by tax dollars. This is because politicians prefer ribbons, not brooms. Ribbon-cutting projects provide more photo opportunities than do ongoing maintenance projects. And politicians make matters worse by favoring big, glitzy new projects over low-key ones that can do more at a far lower cost." (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/l7fvxaq  

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A Robin Hood tax [sic] to pay for college for all

May 20, 2015
posted by

Our Future Blog
by Emily Foster  

"In Norway, students go to college tuition-free. In Denmark, students are even paid to go to higher education. In the U.S., college students currently face more than $1.2 trillion of education debt. If the United States wants to boost its middle class and rebuild its economy, this is something that needs to change. Sen. Bernie Sanders [I-VT] understands this dilemma. Sanders met with supporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill today and introduced two bills to address it: his College for All Act and a Robin Hood Tax." [editor's note: If that label were aimed at anyone else, I might object to the comparison, but since it targets a societal segment that should mostly be doing time at this stage ... not so much - SAT] (05/19/15)

http://tinyurl.com/mmkjteg  

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How the bank[st]ers destroyed the dream

May 20, 2015
posted by

The American Prospect The American Prospect
by Peter Dreier  

"Between 2006 and 2012, housing prices nationwide fell by a third. Americans lost about $7 trillion in household wealth as a result of the real estate crash. Six million families lost their homes to foreclosure and short sales. ... In Other People’s Houses: How Decades of Bailouts, Captive Regulators, and Toxic Bankers Made Home Mortgages a Thrilling Business, Jennifer Taub explains how they got away with it and how this house of cards came crashing down. She names names—of greedy bankers, sleazy mortgage lenders, compliant politicians, indifferent government regulators, and occasional heroes who fought for stronger government oversight of banks and tougher consumer protections." (05/15/15)

http://prospect.org/article/how-bankers-destroyed-dream  

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