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Robert Reich: Why Wall St. Democrats Are Sinking the Party's Chances

December 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

America can’t tackle widening inequality without confronting the power and privilege lying behind it.


In Washington’s coming budget battles, sacred cows like the tax deductions for home mortgage interest and charitable donations are likely to be on the table along with potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

But no one on Capitol Hill believes Wall Street’s beloved carried-interest tax loophole will be touched.

Don’t blame the newly elected Republican Congress.

Democrats didn’t repeal the loophole when they ran both houses of Congress from January 2009 to January 2011. And the reason they didn’t has a direct bearing on the future of the party.

First, let me explain why this loophole is the most flagrant of all giveaways to the super-rich.

Carried interest allows hedge-fund and private-equity managers, as well as many venture capitalists and partners in real estate investment trusts, to treat their take of the profits as capital gains — taxed at maximum rate of 23.8 percent instead of the 39.6 percent maximum applied to ordinary income.

It’s a pure scam. They get the tax break even though they invest other peoples’ money rather than risk their own.

The loophole has no economic justification. As one private-equity manager told me recently, “I can’t defend it. No one can.”

It’s worth about $11 billion a year — more than enough to extend unemployment benefits to every one of America’s nearly 3 million long-term unemployed.

The hedge-fund, private-equity, and other fund managers who receive this $11 billion are some of the richest people in America.Forbes lists 46 billionaires who have derived most of their wealth from managing hedge funds. Mitt Romney used the carried-interest loophole to help limit his effective tax rate in 2011 to 13.9 percent.

So why didn’t Democrats close it when they ran Congress?

Actually, in 2010 House Democrats finally squeaked through a tax plan that did close the carried-interest loophole, but the Democratically-controlled Senate wouldn’t go along.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of those who argued against closing it, said the U.S. “shouldn’t do anything” to “make it easier for capital and ideas to flow to London or anywhere else.” As if Wall Street needed an $11 …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How Working a Full-Time Job at Whole Foods Left Me Broke

December 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Nick Rahaim, Salon

Despite the corporate talk of “team” and “love,” here's what working there was really like.


After years of organizing in secret, building bonds over beer and supporting co-workers when issues have arisen with management, team members at a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco disrupted the normal workday and demanded a $5 an hour pay increase last month. More than 20 employees beckoned store management to the floor and presented a petition signed by more than 50 of the store’s workers calling for more paid time off, better health and retirement benefits as well as steady, consistent schedules.

I worked at Whole Foods in the spring of 2012. As is the typical way of getting to know co-workers, I went out for drinks with a tight-knit group of employees. Conversations went quickly from the getting-to-know-you banter to politics, and it was at the time the Occupy Movement was running out of steam. We exchanged battle stories of political engagement and mused about how best to carry the momentum from Occupy in new directions. I asked about organizing at Whole Foods; a few of my co-workers smirked while others played dumb. A week later I was brought into the fold, and found people had been organizing for more than two years. I was feisty for action, but the others knew better; they were in it for the long haul.

Since workers came out after plotting in the shadows for nearly five years, store managers have reportedly attempted to kill them with kindness, while saying nothing of their demands. On the corporate side, Whole Foods Market announced a pay increase in its San Francisco stores effective Jan. 1, shortly after the Whole Foods Union went public.  The $1.25 increase in the starting wage, from $11.50 to $12.75, sits 50 cents above San Francisco increase in minimum wage that will take effect in May of 2015. Outside of that, both the store and corporate management have refused to publicly address the situation. Workers organizing at Whole Foods claim the announced wage increase four months ahead of schedule was likely in response to their …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Strange Behavior of Cops in Three High-Profile Killings Exposes Their Depraved Attitudes Toward Human Life

December 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Shaun King, DailyKos

Police behavior after the killings of Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner speaks volumes.


When someone is killed, few things tell you more about how the the person who did the killing thinks and feels about the deceased than what they choose to do in the immediate aftermath of the killing itself.

For instance, when Michael Dunn, after shooting and killing teenager Jordan Davis, went back to his hotel room, ordered himself a pizza, fixed a Coke and rum, and went to bed, it gives us a glimpse into the peculiar mindset of the killer—who has since been convicted for his crime.

Scott Peterson, immediately after killing his pregnant wife, Laci, “went fishing,” came back home, took a shower, washed his clothes, and, coincidentally, also ate some pizza. On its face, his behavior was out of the ordinary and we later learned that his “fishing trip” was to dump Laci's body, which later washed ashore in the San Francisco Bay.

In real life, or any every television crime drama told for the past 30 years, what a killer does in the immediate aftermath of the killing is extremely telling. It reveals either concern or callousness, sincere compassion or selfishness, humanity or depravity.

As new and extremely troubling details emerge concerning the moments immediately after the shooting deaths of Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner at the hands of local police, it would only be fair to wonder aloud what we can learn from the actions, or lack thereof, of the officers who killed these unarmed men.

What you will see, in each case, is that the officers demonstrated what can only be called criminal and unethical neglect for human life. 

How Akai Gurley Died

Taking the stairs from the seventh floor all the way to the ground floor of their Brooklyn apartment, Akai and his girlfriend, Melissa Butler, on November 20 were having a normal evening not unlike any other. The lights were a problem in the stairwell, but they knew their way around.

Unbeknownst to Akai and Melissa, two NYPD officers, Peter Liang and Shaun Landau, were one …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why Millions of Christian Evangelicals Oppose Obamacare and Civil Rights

December 8, 2014 in Blogs

By Daniel Silliman, Religion Dispatches

End Times theology is making your health care more expensive.


American evangelicals have been waiting for the world to end for a long time. But that’s not to say they’ve just been sitting around. Apocalypticism has inspired evangelistic crusades, moral reform movements, and generations of political activism.

In his latest book, Matthew Avery Sutton, a professor of history at Washington State University, traces this history of American evangelical apocalypticism from the end of the 19th century to the present day. In the process, he proposes a revised understanding of American evangelicalism, focused on the urgent expectations of the end of human history. If you want to understand modern evangelicalism, Sutton says, you have to understand their End Times theology.

Daniel Silliman spoke with Sutton at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, in Heidelberg, Germany.

Why write about evangelical Christian apocalypticism?

The question that initially sparked this research was why were fundamentalists and their evangelical heirs skeptical of the state? Why were and are they critical of the federal government? I started thinking about this in the context of the health care debates over the last decade. Why were so many Christians so reluctant to support national health care? I could see why they were critical of the Democratic party on gay rights. I could see why they were critical on abortion. What I didn’t understand is why, as a conservative Bible believing Christian, you would be opposed expanding health care.

This book is a very long, 480-page answer to that question.

My argument in a nutshell is that the apocalyptic theology that developed in the 1880s and 1890s led radical evangelicals to the conclusion that all nations are going to concede their power in the End Times to a totalitarian political leader who is going to be the Antichrist. If you believe you’re living in the last days and you believe you’re moving towards that event, you’re going to be very suspicious and skeptical of anything that seems to undermine individual rights and individual liberties, and anything that is going to give more power to the state.

How significant is apocalypticism in the history of American …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why Are CBD-Focused Laws Not Enough?

December 8, 2014 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

December 9, 2014

No

Marijuana’s medical efficacy derives largely from more than 70 unique chemicals – called cannabinoids – that each have important therapeutic properties. Currently, 23 states, one U.S. territory (Guam), and Washington, DC, have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws that provide patients with access to all of marijuana’s beneficial ingredients.

read more

…read more

Source: DRUG POLICY

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Cannabidiol (CBD)

December 8, 2014 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

December 8, 2014

No

Marijuana’s medical efficacy derives largely from more than 70 unique chemicals – called cannabinoids – that each have important therapeutic properties. Currently, 23 states, one U.S. territory (Guam), and Washington, DC, have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws that provide patients with access to all of marijuana’s beneficial ingredients.

read more

…read more

Source: DRUG POLICY

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Can Neocons Learn?

December 8, 2014 in Economics

By Justin Logan

Justin Logan

America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder
By Bret Stephens
Sentinel, 2014, $27.95 263 pages

The Republican Party’s misfortunes in the 2006 and 2008 elections had a lot to do with the unpopularity of neoconservative foreign policy. Yet the GOP’s success in the 2014 midterms has made the party more neoconservative, with Republican hawks taking over major Senate committees and, perversely, a lot of libertarian money helping bring pro-war authoritarians like senator-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas to Washington.

Much of the blame for this lack of accountability belongs to the conservative media and the conservative donor class. While foreign-policy dissidents exist among conservative donors, the issue tends not to be as important to them as it is to the neocons. The wealthy conservative realists refuse to fight on the issue, so the wealthy neoconservatives retain their dominance. Meanwhile, conservative media outlets that produced Iraq war propaganda have generally declined to evaluate or even acknowledge their mistakes. As the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer remarked in 2004, on foreign policy “the Wall Street Journal is like Pravda. You don’t want to underestimate the importance of the Leninist model. They don’t tolerate dissent.”

America in Retreat—the new book from the Journal’s chief foreign affairs writer, Bret Stephens—shows perhaps even less introspection than Pravda did. In one interview promoting the book, Stephens reports ”having thought very seriously about my support for the Iraq War, and I’ve concluded it was still worth supporting.” Even Pravda’s editorial line changed over time.

A prominent hawk’s new book suggests an inability to learn from failure.”

Stephens agreed with the primary justification for invading, Saddam Hussein’s nonconventional weapons programs, which he now concedes didn’t exist. He then laments that a second justification, Bush’s “freedom agenda,” became central. With the rationale he supported gone and the one he now opposes left standing, he still deems the war “a military, moral, and strategic triumph.” We invaded “for our own sake,” he writes, and “the justifications for it were, and remain, abundant.”

Stephens just can’t let it go, pushing forward a gaggle of zombie arguments—He gassed the Kurds at Anfal! Remember Osirak? Even Bill and Hillary Clinton supported the war!—that do nothing to warrant a man-made catastrophe whose central justification he now rejects. The simple and by-now-obvious claim that nothing about the 2003 Hussein regime warranted thousands of American dead and wounded seems to escape him entirely.

But the book’s real trouble …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy

December 8, 2014 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

In domestic policy, libertarians tend to believe in a minimal state endowed with enumerated powers, dedicated to protecting the security and liberty of its citizens but otherwise inclined to leave them alone. The same principles should apply when we turn our attention abroad. Citizens should be free to buy and sell goods and services, study and travel, and otherwise interact with peoples from other lands and places, unencumbered by the intrusions of government.

But peaceful, non-coercive foreign engagement should not be confused with its violent cousin: war. American libertarians have traditionally opposed wars and warfare, even those ostensibly focused on achieving liberal ends. And for good reason. All wars involve killing people and destroying property. Most entail massive encroachments on civil liberties, from warrantless surveillance to conscription. They all impede the free movement of goods, capital, and labor essential to economic prosperity. And all wars contribute to the growth of the state.

An abhorrence of war flows from the classical liberal tradition. Adam Smith taught that “peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice” were the essential ingredients of good government. Other classical liberals, from Richard Cobden and John Stuart Mill to Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek, excoriated war as incompatible with liberty.

War is the largest and most far-reaching of all statist enterprises: an engine of collectivization that undermines private enterprise, raises taxes, destroys wealth, and subjects all aspects of the economy to regimentation and central planning. It also subtly alters the citizens’ view of the state. “War substitutes a herd mentality and blind obedience for the normal propensity to question authority and to demand good and proper reasons for government actions,” writes Ronald Hamowy in The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. He continues, “War promotes collectivism at the expense of individualism, force at the expense of reason, and coarseness at the expense of sensibility. Libertarians regard all of those tendencies with sorrow.”

Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman stated the issue more succinctly. “War is a friend of the state,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle about a year before his death. “In time of war, government will take powers and do things that it would not ordinarily do.”

It is wrong to equate engagement with global military dominance and perpetual warfare.”

The evidence is irrefutable. Throughout human history, government has grown during wartime, rarely surrendering its new powers when the guns fall silent.

Some might claim that a particular threat to freedom …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Not-So-Senseless Violence

December 8, 2014 in Economics

By A. Trevor Thrall

A. Trevor Thrall

President Barack Obama declared the latest beheading by the Islamic State group — this one of American aid worker and former Army Ranger Peter Kassig — an act of “pure evil.” But as ugly as the act was, it was also an action taken with a strategic end in mind. The question we should be asking is: To what end? Why has the Islamic State group pursued a strategy of beheading Westerners, and specifically Americans?

One potential answer is that it wants to create fear. At the international level, the Islamic State group might gain from instilling fear and caution in the minds of Western leaders to discourage them from getting engaged in its fight for control of Iraq and Syria. In this light, the beheadings could be seen as a warning of how badly things will go for the U.S. and its allies if they send ground troops to confront the group.

At the regional level, by beheading Westerners, the Islamic State group is showing other groups that it has the strength and resolve to thwart the Great Satan and to carry out its plans, enhancing both its status and recruiting capability. By extension, terrorism’s fundamental purpose is to control through fear, something that the citizens of Iraq and Syria know all too well. Though its vicious tactics have not garnered much love, the strategy of violence has probably enabled the Islamic State group to exert greater control over its occupied territory than it would otherwise have been able to do.

There’s a logic to the Islamic State group’s horrid beheadings.”

All of that is certainly plausible, but it is also possible that the beheadings reveal a more complicated strategy of baiting the United States into overreaction. What if the Islamic State group wants the United States to get more involved? What if it wants the United States to send more ground troops?

This may sound bizarre on the surface, but it makes sense if we assume that the Islamic State group understands the likely consequences of its strategy. And of all people, its leaders should recall what happened the last time a group started killing Americans. Al-Qaida’s leadership fully expected the U.S. to react to 9/11, even if it did not realize that it would lead to full-scale war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given that the Islamic State group …read more

Source: OP-EDS