You are browsing the archive for 2013 November 02.

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Lies, Nonsense and Totally Off-the-Wall Behavior — 10 Doozies from the Nutty Right Wing This Week

November 2, 2013 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

Atheists can't serve the hungry and the devil has been very, very busy.

Some really crazy things came out of the mouths of the frothing right wing this week – 

1. Suzanne Somers is still an idiot, and the WSJ prints her error-ridden Obamacare hitjob anyway.

While Thighmaster spokeswoman Suzanne Somers has matured since her hit TV show days, her plumpers and politics have pretty much ossified. Her enlightened take on the Affordable Care Act appeared in the Wall Street Journal this week, concluding that it’s “a greater Ponzi scheme than that pulled off by Bernie Madoff.” She wrote 535 hysterical words, in which Lenin came up in addition to Madoff, on the topic of this dreaded “socialized medicine.” By the next day, the Journal had published nearly a fifth as many words in corrections.

But it did not correct the “Ponzi scheme” assertion, which was based on flimsy anecdotes about relatives who had bad experiences with Canadian doctors, and how Somers is hearing on the news that everyone’s premium is doubling and tripling. (Any guesses as to which so-called news channel she watches?)

This piece of rocket science appeared in WSJ’s “The Experts” section, which bills itself as “an exclusive group of industry, academic and cultural thought leaders who weigh in on the latest debates.”

This will definitely be our go-to section for expert analysis henceforth.

2. John Stossel: Women, aka hypochondriacs, should pay more for health insurance.

Fox libertarian spokes-moustache John Stossel became rather mentally unbalanced about the fairness of the Affordable Care Act this week. It’s not fair, he whined, that under the law, men have to pay as much for health insurance as women because “Women go to the doctor much more often than men! Maybe they’re smarter or maybe they’re hypochondriacs. They live longer. Who knows?”

The point is, they’re women, dammit.

Another thing that has Stossel and a number of Republicans really irked is that men have to help pay for pregnancy and maternity coverage, when men can’t even get pregnant. It’s so unfair!

Look, everyone knows that women get pregnant all by themselves, and it’s their fault they got themselves into this …read more


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An Unusual Hero: Warren Pepicelli and the Challenge of Union Transformation

November 2, 2013 in Blogs

By Bill Fletcher, Jr., AlterNet

Pepicelli has successfully navigated stormy seas in a union from another era, taking on the challenges of building a new U.S. labor movement in the 21st century.

What I call the “Pepicelli Dilemma” confronts all union leaders who consciously recognize the limitations of existing trade unionism and want to break out of the paradigm, yet feel—and frequently are—constrained by major forces ranging from the existing base of the union, expectations of the current members, the challenge of new organizing, to the chasm that seems to exist between the union movement on the one hand, and the millions of non-union workers desperately seeking economic justice, on the other.

To the credit of Warren Pepicelli, manager of the New England Joint Board of the labor union UNITE HERE,  he and his team do not fear looking into the face of the Gorgon.  The New England Joint Board (NEJB) of the merged International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers and Connecticut Textile Council (the three of which having been components of the union known as UNITE) found itself in a very unusual setting when their parent union—UNITE—merged with the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Employees (HERE).  Over the years Pepicelli has successfully navigated stormy seas in a union essentially from another era into a position where it is directly taking on the challenges associated with the building of a new labor movement in the 21st century USA.  He and his team have been trying to come to grips with tough questions such as the relationship between building a labor union and building a workers’ movement; what is his role as the leader of the New England Joint Board; how should he, as a result, utilize his time; and, what are the actual steps that need to be identified in order to conclude that one is actually engaged in a process of internal transformation, or as my late friend and the great labor leader Jerry Tucker would say, a process of “labor reformation”?

The first thing that struck me when I met UNITE HERE New England Joint Board Manager Warren Pepicelli was …read more


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How We Have Ended Up Paying for 1 Percenters Beach Vacation Homes

November 2, 2013 in Blogs

By David Dayen,

It's time for the wealthy with vacation homes and valuable shoreline land to pay their own way — and not rely on us.

Last May, when conservatives still pretended to love cutting the deficit and liberals still pretended to want to combat climate change, a broad bipartisan coalition passed a sweeping flood insurance reform bill – by a 402-18 count in the House – designed to align the costs of insuring homes in flood zones with the realities of increased storm frequency.

But yesterday, Rep. Maxine Waters – the lead author of the law – stood with several of her colleagues and proudly introduced a bill that would stall the implementation by up to four years, delaying any increase in flood insurance premiums until 2017. It’s difficult to argue that homeowners in flood zones alone should have to bear the burden of massive rate increases. But shrinking from the real costs from climate change and delaying them, rather than facing up to how it will affect every aspect of our economy, is a testament to a political class that is simply not equipped to deal with the consequences of a warming planet.

The National Flood Insurance Program, designed in 1968 to provide mandatory federal insurance to Americans living in coastal areas, has been hemorrhaging money after years of extreme weather. The NFIP, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is meant to be self-supporting through premiums, relieving the pressure on disaster relief funding. But the NFIP borrowed $19 billion from the Treasury in 2005, after damages from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. According to experts, its deficit after payouts from Superstorm Sandy approaches $28 billion.

The Biggert-Waters reform legislation, named for former Republican Rep. Judy Biggert and current Democrat Waters, was uncontroversial when it was introduced in 2012. It passed the House easily, and was eventually incorporated into a larger transportation bill that sailed through Congress. Biggert-Waters forced the creation of new FEMA maps to determine who needed flood insurance. It also allowed higher annual premium increases – to 20 percent from 10 percent – so premiums could gradually come more in …read more


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Rip-Off: How Private-Sector Health Costs Are Killing the American Dream

November 2, 2013 in Blogs

By Joshua Holland, Moyers & Company

If we paid the same amount for health care per person as other wealthy countries do, we’d have a balanced budget now and surpluses projected for the future.

Part one of this series, “The High Cost of Low Taxes,” noted that while Americans enjoy a tax burden lower than that of other wealthy countries, we also pay four times as much as they do, on average, for out-of-pocket “social costs” in the private sector – on health care, retirement security, disability and unemployment insurance, and the rest of the safety net. When you add up what we pay in taxes and what we pay out of pocket, the US spends about the same amount on social costs overall as some of the most generous, heavily taxed social democracies, but we get a far less secure safety net in return.

The federal government doesn’t have a deficit problem. Its fiscal issues are entirely related to the bloated cost of American health care. If we paid the same amount for health care per person as people do in other wealthy countries with longer average life expectancies, we’d have a balanced budget now and surpluses projected for the future.

But those are just numbers on a spreadsheet. Fran and Randy Malott understand those costs more viscerally. The Whittier, Calif., couple aren’t living the American dream right now. They haven’t for a while. They were slammed when Wall Street’s house of cards came tumbling down, and now they’re feeling the squeeze of the Great American Rip-off.

Fran lost her job as a customer service representative in 2009, at the height of the Great Recession. “A lot of companies are getting rid of customer service these days,” explains Randy. He lost his job managing a temp agency a year or so later. The Malotts are two of what Paul Krugman called “the forgotten millions” – the long-term unemployed who face unique barriers to reentering the workforce, including discrimination by potential employers just because they’ve been out of work for an extended period. “And our age doesn’t help either,” says Randy. He’s 59 and she’s 60. “There …read more


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The Revolution of the Mind is Underway

November 2, 2013 in Blogs

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, AlterNet

Revolutionary changes that once seemed impossible can suddenly become possible.

Chris Hedges has an important essay in Truthdig this week, Our Invisible Revolution.  Essentially he describes a revolution of the mind in which people’s consciousness are raised as they become aware of the inability of the current governmental and economic systems to respond to the needs of people and the planet. When this is understood, then the revolutionary changes that seemed impossible become possible. Hedges writes:

“As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it.”

People realize that the institutions don’t work because they are experiencing the consequences.

This week was the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and the recovery effort, Occupy Sandy. Occupy Sandy is still active because people on the New York and New Jersey coastlines continue to suffer from the effects of that storm. To mark the occasion, people from those areas brought a human “wave of change” to city hall in New York and held a march they called “Turn the Tide.” Protesters are demanding that five priorities be met: good jobs, affordable housing, sustainable energy, community engagement and strong healthcare.

One year later, Sandy demonstrates the dysfunction of government to address both the people’s needs and climate change. As Naomi Klein wrote this week in How Science Is Telling Us All To Revolt, “there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed; which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.”

Within the current rules, big business continues to build pipelines, even when experts say there is a 90% probability of leaks, and …read more


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Rankings That Rankle

November 2, 2013 in Economics

By Steve H. Hanke

Steve H. Hanke

The World Bank has been producing its annual “Doing Business” report since 2004 and its 2014 edition ranking Hong Kong second out of 189 economies surveyed, in contrast to mainland China’s score of 96, hardly seems controversial.

Its rankings of 10 factors reflecting the ease with which entrepreneurs and businesses may conduct economic activity in a given economy offer an unbiased way of looking at business.

After all, with so much unreliable data coming out of official government statistics offices these days, it would appear to be a useful tool — not only for businesses, but for governments as well. Indeed, since 2005, a total of 1,940 reforms have been implemented by countries to improve their rankings.

As it turns out, however, a few countries (specifically those with low rankings) are none too happy about the report.

While some world leaders have viewed their countries’ relatively low rankings as a challenge to institute economic reform, other countries — most notably China — have been pressuring the World Bank to scrap the rankings and weaken the analysis to the point of irrelevance.

Indeed, under pressure from China and others, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim commissioned a panel to “study” the Doing Business rankings and present recommendations for “improvement”. Not surprisingly, the commission recommended doing away with the actual ordinal rankings, and switching to a less embarrassing evaluation of each country.

The panel’s recommendations are nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to gut the report. Stripping the ordinal rankings and “reforming” the report’s methodology would have the effect of completely destroying its credibility and usefulness as a policy tool.

Fortunately, the Doing Business report has one very important ally — Kim himself. A campaign to save the report has also been mounted by the report’s co-founder, former World Bank group vice-president Michael Klein.

These World Bank insiders recognise a simple fact — one which many businessmen, politicians, civil servants and economists, like myself, have long understood. The Doing Business report represents one of the few uniform, objective metrics available for measuring the progress of economic reform efforts over time.

Objective metrics like Doing Business are important, because as the late professor Oskar Morgenstern documented in his classic, “On the Accuracy of Economic Observations”, the incompetence and wilful trickery of many governments often render official data less than reliable.

The solution to this problem is to develop unbiased statistics, using objective data. And, while official, macro-level data like GDP …read more

Source: OP-EDS