You are browsing the archive for 2018 September 06.

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Paul Krugman Warns Republicans Will 'Destroy the Legitimacy' of the Supreme Court by Confirming Kavanaugh

September 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“This year we’re talking about the future of the Republic.”

Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Senate hearings are not going smoothly, but most observers think he's destined to get confirmed by the GOP-dominated chamber regardless. And in Paul Krugman's estimation, that result is a serious threat to the legitimacy of one of the country's most central institutions.

“After all, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, we will be trying to navigate a turbulent era in American politics with a Supreme Court in which two seats were effectively stolen,” Krugman writes in a New York Times op-ed. “First Republicans refused even to give President Barack Obama’s nominee so much as a hearing; then they will have filled two positions with nominees chosen by a president who lost the popular vote and eked out an Electoral College win only with aid from a hostile foreign power.”

He fears that once on the court, Kavanaugh and the other justice will “abuse their power.”

It is suspicious, Krugman argues, that the GOP is appearing to rush through the hearings while hiding many of his documents. And the judge's long history as a Republican partisan raises serious questions about his qualifications for the high court.

“If he looks like a right-wing apparatchik and quacks like a right-wing apparatchik, he’s almost surely a right-wing apparatchik. Which brings us to the coming constitutional crises,” Krugman wrote.

Once in power, Kavanaugh could likely become the decisive vote protecting Trump from legal or congressional scrutiny or the tie-breaker in a ruling knocking down a Democratic president's signature initiative.

At one point, Krugman argues that once he's nominated the court may quickly move to find a reason to say Obamacare is unconstitutional. However, this claim seems like a stretch. Chief Justice John Roberts has already once sided with the court's liberals to uphold the law — there's no reason to think he wouldn't do that again after Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Krugman concluded with a plea to the Senate to put a stop to the nomination. With all the clouds surrounding Trump's presidency, the election, and the Supreme Court nomination process, he argued, there's too much at risk.

“A vote for Kavanaugh will be …read more


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Here's Why Twitter Finally Banned Hatemongering Conspiracy Theorist Huckster Alex Jones

September 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

One of the last remaining major tech companies to give Alex Jones space on its platform has finally had enough.

On Thursday afternoon, Twitter announced that it is permanently suspending far-right conspiracy theorist talk radio host Alex Jones, as well as accounts associated with his InfoWars program, from its platform.

Most other big platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Apple, and Spotify, banned Jones last month. Twitter, however, had resisted, prompting Jones to triumphantly declare the social media platform's CEO, Jack Dorsey, a friend in the fight against the “globalists” seeking to impose a one world government.

Dorsey, for his part, tried to justify the decision by claiming Jones had not violated any content policy — which was promptly debunked by a CNN investigation. Jones' videos have frequently included harassment, threats, and denigrations of other people's religion and gender identity. Jones was subsequently suspended for a week over the violations, but not banned outright. And this week, Twitter was further embarrassed by allegations Dorsey himself had intervened to prevent Jones from being banned, a charge Dorsey denies.

The mass purging of Jones' accounts from social media has been a severe blow. Despite his boasts that being “persecuted” would only drive more people to his cause, traffic to the InfoWars site has plummeted since its social media accounts were eliminated.

Jones has become notorious for promoting inflammatory conspiracy theories, delivered daily on his radio show with a characteristic grating scream. He has accused the government …read more


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'You Know Mueller Is Coming': Conservative Author Spits Fire at Anti-Trump Op-Ed Writer

September 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“You know what you're doing in service to Trump is morally indefensible, but you’re trying to 'But Gorsuch!' yourself out of the ethical sewer.”

While reactions to the bombshell New York Times op-ed published Wednesday from a senior administration official denouncing President Donald Trump as “amoral” varied widely, one opinion about the piece was commonly shared across partisan lines: the person should come forward and reveal their identity.

Rick Wilson, a conservative author and frequent critic of Trump, made that argument forcefully in Daily Beast Column Thursday.

Though he mildly lauded the op-ed for speaking the truth, he argued that it is in both the writer's personal interest and in the national interest to abandon anonymity.

“You know what you're doing in service to Trump is morally indefensible, but you’re trying to 'But Gorsuch!' yourself out of the ethical sewer,” Wilson wrote. “That’s so Swamp.”

He continued: “If you argue that you’re doing a great job, I should note that Frederick Fleet, the Titanic’s lookout, did ring the doomed ship’s warning bell and shouted to the bridge, 'Iceberg, right ahead!' After all, only part of the ship hit the iceberg, right?”

Prospects for the president — and anyone who serves him — are only getting worse, Wilson argued:

You know Mueller is coming. You know that November is coming, and in January the Democrats will have subpoena and oversight power in the House. The days when Paul Ryan let Devin Nunes and his clown crew run wild in defense of your boss are soon over. You’ve described Trump’s instability, poor judgment, and amorality yourself. The only easy day was yesterday.

And moreover, Wilson said that it is clear that the anonymous person will eventually be revealed. By coming forward now, they could at least maintain their dignity by speaking out against the president with confidence — and certainly get a book deal in the process. The writer will never get a job in government again, to be sure, but that's a small price to pay for ensuring the national security.

“Run before they catch you,” wrote Wilson. “Tell it all. Save yourself. Save the country.”

<Img …read more


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'You Come Across as a Backstabbing Weasel': Omarosa Spars with Trump-Loving Radio Host in Fiery Interview

September 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The former White House aide's recently released book was highly critical of the president.

Omarosa Manigault Newman’s September 6 radio appearance on “Bernie and Sid in the Morning” (which airs on New York City’s WABC-AM) turned into a heated argument when the former reality TV star expressed her disdain for President Donald Trump.

Newman rose to stardom in the 2000s as a contestant on “The Apprentice,” interacting with the show’s star, Donald Trump, extensively—and in 2017, she became part of his presidential administration. But Newman’s relationship with Trump has turned sour with the publication of her new book “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House” and her assertion that Trump is a racist who has used the n-word often and would like to start a race war in the United States.

Appearing on “Bernie and Sid in the Morning”—hosted by Bernie McGuirk, an ardent Trump supporter, and Sid Rosenberg—Newman had few kind words for Trump. The interview started out on a friendly note but soon turned into a heated argument.

On “Bernie and Sid in the Morning”—where Trump has appeared as a guest—McGuirk has often voiced his support of the president. McGuirk has been critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, describing it as baseless.

On September 6, Newman and the hosts started out discussing an anonymous op-ed that was published in the New York Times on September 5 and was written by an official in the Trump Administration. And Newman speculated that the piece—which painted Trump’s presidency as being in a state of turmoil, disarray and chaos—was written by someone in Vice President Mike Pence’s office.

Newman told McGuirk and Rosenberg, “I would say I could narrow it down to Pence’s office. The writer, if you read the op-ed, is very specific about being a staffer. I believe, having served as an official for the president, I believe it’s a staffer. I don’t believe it is someone who is at the president or vice president’s level. But because of the choice of words, it is very similar to the speaking style and patterns of someone who would work …read more


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Tax-Subsidized Corporations? Tucker Carlson and Bernie Sanders Get It Wrong

September 6, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

It’s remarkable to see a conservative and a democratic socialist
unite in condemning major American companies. Both Senator Bernie
Sanders and Fox News host Tucker Carlson have recently slammed
Amazon, Walmart, Uber, and other large companies for paying workers
and contractors too little. In a withering monologue last week, Carlson
claimed that the companies are all effectively subsidized by the
taxpayer because many of their employees’ incomes are
supplemented by various federal welfare benefits, such as food
stamps. Sanders agrees. Yesterday, he introduced legislation (the
so-called Stop BEZOS Act) to tax large corporations one dollar for
every dollar their workers receive in government food stamps or
health-care benefits.

If nothing else, it is amusing that neither Sanders nor Carlson
fully acknowledges the logical implications of their position. If
Sanders is right that programs such as food stamps modestly
subsidize employers who pay low wages, then his hugely expensive
Medicare-for-all and free-college-tuition proposals would
constitute a massive subsidy to low-wage employers. If
Carlson truly believes that large firms have the power to suppress
wages below competitive rates, then he should support raising the
minimum wage to combat that power — something that he has, in
the past, sensibly advocated against.

Snark aside, the pair are simply wrong on the economics of the
matter, and shortsighted to boot. An employer’s
responsibility is to pay employees for the work they do, not to
ensure that they have some societally agreed-upon level of livable
household income. Indeed, it is a peculiar worldview that suggests
that, when setting wages, a company employing low-skilled workers
should ignore the value of the tasks the employee actually
undertakes for them.

In competitive labor markets, we usually assume that firms pay
workers according to their productivity, the marginal revenue
product of their labor. Market wages are determined by where this
demand interacts with the supply of workers. Firms can’t
underpay workers without losing the best to rivals. Nor can they
routinely pay employees for more than they add to company revenue
without losing capital to rivals at home and abroad and risking
going out of business. There is no evidence that Amazon, Walmart,
or Uber have high-enough degrees of labor-market power that they
are the single hirer of workers in any one geographical area. For
Carlson to imply that their pay rates are evidence purely of
corporate greed is the worst form of populism.

There is a basic conundrum hanging over this debate: In a world
with no minimum-wage laws, no out-of-work benefits, and no in-work
benefits, some workers with low productivity levels would obtain
work but find it difficult to live comfortable lives on market
income. The real questions then are: …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Fake Libertarian Rand Paul Says Trump Should Use 'Lie Detector Tests' to Find Anonymous Op-Ed Writer

September 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The op-ed has clearly spooked Republicans.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has often billed himself as independent from the rest of the Republican Party, portraying himself as adhering to libertarian values that oppose excessive state power and overreach into the lives of the American people. Over the course of the President Donald Trump's, that self-image has been revealed as a mirage.

And on Thursday, Paul made it even more clear that he lacks any kind of adherence to libertarian principles by declaring that Trump, in response to an anonymous New York Times op-ed by a senior official who says he or she works from the inside to oppose the president's worst impulses, should use “lie detector tests” to root out the dissenters within the administration, as journalists Kaitlan Collins and Alex Bolton reported.

Collins says that Paul wants to subject anyone with a security clearance to this ordeal.

Of course, the American Psychological Association strongly disputes the ability of polygraph tests — commonly but erroneously called “lie detectors” — to distinguish truths from deceptions.

And even if they were accurate and reliable, anyone who cares about civil liberties should be deeply disturbed by the suggestion that a president should be able to subject federal employees to such a test on a whim whenever he or she feels remotely threatened. The potential for abuse of such practice is exactly what libertarians are supposed to oppose.

But this is far from the first time Paul has abandoned libertarian principles in order to show his support for Trump. After initially expressing skepticism about the nomination of Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director, to become Secretary of State, he backed down and supported the nominee. He also encouraged Trump to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan merely for being an outspoken critic of the administration.

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Bury McCain's Dangerously Belligerent Foreign Policy

September 6, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

John McCain was a brave man, from his time spent as a POW in
Vietnam to his final battle against cancer. May he rest in

However, his public career warrants a harsher judgment. Indeed,
we should bury his aggressive, militarized foreign policy along
with him. Had he been elected president in 2008 many more Americans
and foreigners likely would have died unnecessarily.

McCain was one of the Senate’s most ferocious advocates of
military intervention, almost irrespective of circumstance.

Over the last quarter century McCain favored aggressive war
against Serbia, an endless democracy crusade in Afghanistan, the
disastrous invasion of Iraq, the equally counterproductive
destruction of Libya, a combat role in Syria’s horrific civil war,
and military aid for Saudi Arabia in its brutal aggression against

McCain was one of the
Senate’s most ferocious advocates of military intervention, almost
irrespective of circumstance.

He recklessly promoted Georgia against Russia in their
short-lived war, advocated striking North Korea militarily, and
sang about bombing Iran in a little ditty set to the Beach Boys’
“Barbara Ann.”

McCain suggested that support for terrorism could justify
attacking Iran, Libya, Syria, and even North Korea. He proposed
creating a “no-fly” zone in Sudan and intervening in Nigeria
against the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram.

Last year he urged the Trump administration to “choose the
Kurds” against Iran and Iraq, since for decades America “has
protected them from attacks, both from within and outside Iraq.”
Ukraine was a disappointment, causing him to lament: “I do not see
a military option and that is tragic.”

His militaristic vision was flawed in multiple ways. First, he
treated war as just another policy option, an answer to any number
of problems from the mundane to the monstrous. He exhibited no
reluctance to visiting death and destruction on other peoples and

In none of the conflicts he backed was the nation’s security
seriously threatened. In most U.S. intervention actually increased
the resulting humanitarian tragedy.

McCain also failed to appreciate the ill consequences of
promiscuous intervention. For instance, the Iraq War predictably
unleashed a virulent insurgency and sectarian conflict.

These, in turn, spawned ISIS, which spread death and failed to
understand that the American people believed wars should have a
point. As Iraq imploded, he advocated years more of combat despite
what he admitted would be the high cost in lives and wealth; he
later urged an occupation of 100 years if necessary.

McCain defined success in Afghanistan and Iraq as “the
establishment of peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic states
that pose no threat to neighbors and contribute to the defeat of

Yet a few locals with AK-47s and IEDs had …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Demystifying India's Economic Transformation

September 6, 2018 in Economics

By Deepak Lal

Deepak Lal

The Billionaire Raj, a new book on India’s
economic transformation by James Crabtree – who was, until
recently, the Mumbai bureau chief for the Financial Times
- is a curate’s egg.

First for the good part.

One of the puzzles of the 1990s moves from planned economies to
market-based economies in China, Russia and India was that the
liberalisation of the numerous economic controls that had damaged
their growth and promoted rent seeking led to even more rabid rent
seeking without damaging growth.

Crabtree describes this new form of cronyism vividly, but he
does not explain why, unlike the old version, it has been
accompanied by high growth rates.

In 2011, just as the previous decade’s growth surge was
coming to an end, I wrote a paper in which I distinguished between
‘monopoly rents’, ‘economic rents’ and
‘composite rents’.

The main economic difference between them is that whereas
‘monopoly rents’ — such as those generated by
licenses and controls — are equivalent to distortionary
taxes-cum-subsidies affecting the marginal decisions of consumers
and producers, which damage economic efficiency, the other types of
rent (like the ‘economic rents’ from land) are like
lump-sum taxes which have only distributive effects without
damaging economic efficiency and therefore growth.

Nevertheless, by the 2010s India’s economic growth started
to decline. This could not have been due to the scams generating
economic or composite rents from land, natural resources like coal
and the spread of mobile technology like 2G. Crabtree’s
contribution, without recognising the above analysis, is to show
that these scams were associated with the financing of these
investments by unsustainable debt.

In “The House of Debt”, the best chapter in the
book, Crabtree shows how the banks nationalised by Indira Gandhi in
the early 1960s became the main instruments financing the
investments generating economic and composite rents.

Many of these turned sour — particularly when it came to
financing infrastructure projects — because they were
private-public partnerships (PPP) whose risks were misaligned.
Private investors bore the initial risks of getting the requisite
licenses. After 2010, with the populist turn in the second
Congress-led coalition, a new “permit raj” based on
environmentalism emerged. The result was stalled investment
projects that added to the non-performing assets of the banks

Most of the loans that soured were rolled over. But there was
limited knowledge of the extent of these NPAs until the new
governor of the central bank Raghuram Rajan got a private agency to
dig into the data and found that the public sector banks had a debt
crisis as bad as China’s. On his initiative, a new bankruptcy
law has been instituted and his successor Urjit Patel is now using
it vigorously to clean up …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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This Could Be the Moment World Governments Chart a Path Toward Tackling Climate Change

September 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Asad Rehman , Meena Raman, Tom Goldtooth, Nnimmo Bassey, Independent Media Institute

It could also be the moment that global leaders condemn millions more to losing their lives and livelihoods.

Killer floods and heat waves have made 2018 another record-setting year as the climate crisis intensifies. The UN climate negotiations in Bangkok (September 4-8), followed by the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco (September 12-14) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, (December) could make 2018 the year that world governments chart a path toward tackling climate change, enhanced ambition and implementation of the Paris Agreement. It could also be the time that global leaders fall dangerously short in reckoning with the climate crisis, condemning millions more to losing their lives and livelihoods.

Despite consensus that climate change is jeopardizing life on Earth, there is a massive chasm between the action needed and what the fossil fuel industry—with governments in the Global North in its pocket—is pushing. If polluting countries and corporations are successful, ineffectual interventions—like carbon markets and geo-engineering—become central to the global response to climate change. The result: soaring emissions, lives lost, hundreds of millions of people displaced and species extinction.

This is the path we are on. We are here because of decades of mass deception and political manipulation by big polluters that has allowed them to undermine international, national and subnational climate policy to guard their profits. This political interference is directly correlated with the emergence of carbon market schemes as a “solution” to today's crisis, despite their consistent failure.

Carbon pricing—putting a price on carbon and regulating it through markets including cap and trade and offsets (i.e., commodifying the air we breathe)—have been pushed by corporations and Global North countries as our fail-safe for the planet.

Carbon markets have not proven to be an effective way to reduce emissions. Instead of the Global North making emission reductions domestically, corporations located in the Global South can sell offset credits to corporations in the north to meet their emissions reduction limits. Human rights and environmental injustices are well-documented by communities who live near these so-called clean development projects in the Global …read more