Put This Neoliberal Warning Label on Blue Dogs, the GOP and Other Wavering Centrists

10 Ways Right-Wingers Will Try

to Wreck Any Economic Recovery

By Isaiah J. Poole
Beaver County Blue via Blog for Our Future

Dec. 27, 2010 – Conservatives have a legislative agenda for 2011 that will hurt your ability to get or keep a job, your neighborhood’s ability to recover from the recession and this country’s ability to regain its footing in the global economy.

To keep conservatives from enacting policies that will kill a nascent economic recovery, progressives will have to organize against these top 10 economy killers.

1. Repeal of Health-Care Reform

Republicans have placed "repealing Obamacare" at the top of their legislative agenda for 2011. If they succeed, the economy is going to come down with multiple serious illnesses—at least 24, according to a report released this month by Rep. Peter Stark of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Among them: a $143 billion increase in the deficit by losing the savings the reforms created, an increase the number of uninsured by 30 million people, an end to free preventative care services and the loss of the requirement that insurance companies devote the bulk of premium payments to health care costs rather than expensive advertising and executive perks. While a Virginia judge is a conservative hero for blocking health-care reform’s requirement that people buy private insurance, conservatives are silent on the fact that if that requirement goes, the reform’s mandate that insurance companies cover preexisting conditions is unsustainable.

We’ll be back to uncontrolled cost increases in private insurance. But, as the state of our health compared to other leading nations continues to decline, conservatives will at least be able to say that they maintained the United States’ global leadership as the nation that spends the most on health care and gets the least.

2. Diminish the Federal Government’s Ability to Support Job-Creation

Conservatives are poised to execute a strikingly broad assault against federal spending, particularly programs that help jump-start and steer the nation’s job-creation engine. It includes the expected targets—such proven programs as Community Development Block Grants—as well as some new ones, such as the Small Business Administration (there goes all that Republican fealty to "small business") and even the requirement that the Federal Reserve take employment impact into account when it sets monetary policy.

Continue reading Put This Neoliberal Warning Label on Blue Dogs, the GOP and Other Wavering Centrists

The Home Foreclosure Chain of Fraud

Time to Audit the Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit Trusts

L. Randall Wray

By L. Randall Wray

Created 12/23/2010 – 12:43pm

As I have written, when we peel back the layers of the real estate “onion” what we find is layer after layer of fraud. From the mortgage brokers to the appraisers and lenders, from the securitizers to the ratings agencies and accountants, from the trustees to the servicers, and from MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registry System) through to the foreclosures, what we find is a massive criminal conspiracy—probably the worst in human history. I realize that is a harsh claim but I cannot find any other words that fit.

In the old days, we used to hang horse thieves. The justification was that a man’s horse was necessary to his way of life, and in some cases, to his very survival. There can be little doubt that a home is equally important to maintenance of a middle class living standard today for most Americans. There is almost no calamity worse than loss of one’s home. It is the main asset that most Americans hold—essential to the educational success of one’s children, and to a comfortable retirement of our citizens. Americans typically borrow against their home equity to put their kids through college, to ease the financial distress caused by unexpected health care expenses, and to finance other large expenditures. The accumulated equity in the home is the only significant source of wealth for the vast majority of Americans. The home is necessary to one’s continuing connection to the neighborhood, school district, and network of friends. Theft of one’s house today is certainly equivalent to theft of a horse 150 years ago.

And, yet, we are not hanging the thieves who are stealing millions of homes from Americans. The thievery today is orders of magnitude greater than the horse thievery of the distant past. Today’s foreclosure thieves have stolen more property of citizens than all previous thieves combined since the founding of our nation. The only thing that could trump it would be the theft of property and livelihood from our native Americans. To be sure, we have evolved as a nation, and I would not advocate hanging those responsible. But without question they ought to be incarcerated in prison, with long terms and with confiscatory monetary penalties—perhaps 10 years for anyone who helps to improperly foreclose on a homeowner’s property, and $10 million for each case of fraudulent foreclosure. That would provide the proper incentive as well as the proper monetary reward that will be required to get good lawyers to take cases of homeowners who are being illegally thrown out of their homes every minute of every day.

Continue reading The Home Foreclosure Chain of Fraud

Shale Fracking Threatens Water Supply

Midland Hexavalent Chromium Contamination Spreads. Hydraulic Fracture Giant Still Prime Suspect.

Imagine waking up one morning and having no safe water at all. In a recent radio program about Peak Water, Maude Barlow said: The day will come–mark my words–when every single thing we do will be measured against what it does to water. For people in Midland, Texas, that day is here.

Hexavalent Chromium contamination is spreading in the groundwater used by some Midland, Texas residents and environmental investigators say the mounting evidence points to the oil and gas industry. Affected residents say they have proof that hydraulic fracture giant Schlumberger is responsible.

Erin Brockovich was in Midland investigating and her team is still in Midland. (video)

“The only difference between here and Hinkley,” Brockovich said, “is that I saw higher levels here than I saw in Hinkley.”

In 2005, at the urging of Dick Cheney, former Halliburton CEO, Congress exempt hydraulic fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This exemption is commonly known as the Halliburton Loophole because Halliburton earns about 1.5 billion annually from hydraulic fracturing. The exemption allows hydraulic fracture giants like Halliburton and Schlumberger, to keep the chemicals they use secret.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process where 1 to 5 million gallons of potable water, mixed with chemicals and sand are pumped under pressure down the drilling hole to release the gas trapped deep in the earth. According to Victor Carrillo, Railroad Commission of Texas, 90% of all U.S. oil and gas wells undergo hydraulic fracturing to stimulate the production of oil and gas.

Schlumberger denies responsibility and denies use of hexavalent chromium although it is commonly used in hydraulic fracturing compounds. 3M Oil and Gas even offers protective gear (page 5) to protect oil field workers from exposure to hexavalent chromium in hydraulic fracturing fluid.

Bob Bowcock, an environmental engineer investigating the Midland County contamination with Brockovich said, “The culprit is definitely oilfield activity.” In an earlier statement to Big 2 News in Midland, Bowcock said Brockovich investigators have “evidence” that Schlumberger is to blame.

Continue reading Shale Fracking Threatens Water Supply

Male Workers in Trouble: When Clinging to an Old Sanctuary Becomes a Trap


Mancession: Gender, Occupational Segregation,

and the Structural Transformation of Capitalism

Nancy Folbre Interviewed by Paul Jay

Paul Jay: Nancy Folbre, in her blog on the New York Times, wrote the following: "The Great Recession has sometimes been dubbed the Mancession because it drove unemployment among men higher than unemployment among women."  So how is this affecting families?  How is this affecting the future outlook for the population as a whole when it comes to unemployment?  What might be the social consequences of men being more reliant on women for family support? . . .

Nancy Folbre: Male unemployment is significantly higher than female unemployment now.  That’s not terribly surprising — typical in recessions for men to be more affected, because they’re employed in more cyclical industries like manufacturing that go up and down more than other industries.  But –.

Paul Jay: As opposed to service sector, like nurses.

Nancy Folbre: Right.  But the more disturbing trend is a longer-term decline in manufacturing employment.  If you look at the last ten years, even counting the boom years, employment in that sector has declined.  And that’s one of the factors that are driving higher unemployment among men.

Continue reading Male Workers in Trouble: When Clinging to an Old Sanctuary Becomes a Trap

Payroll Tax Holiday Bad Break for Families

Washington December 16, 2010 —Today, U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Judy Chu (D-CA), along with Max Richtman, Executive Vice President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, held a press conference during which they expressed concern over the Senate-passed tax cut deal’s impact on the bedrock of seniors’ retirement: Social Security.  During the press conference, Rep. Doggett announced his plan to present an amendment to the Rules Committee to strike the payroll provision from the tax deal.
“Social Security’s dedicated funding base is jeopardized by this deal in an unprecedented way and there is a grave risk now that the retirement benefits of America’s workers will have to compete with our other priorities for a share of the general budget.  It would result in Social Security being as dependent on annual Congressional action as public television or our National parks,” said Rep. Doggett.

Continue reading Payroll Tax Holiday Bad Break for Families

Ask President Obama to Stop Torturing Whistleblower Bradley Manning

Quantcast Wednesday, Dec 15, 2010 02:15 ET

The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention

The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning's detention 

Reuters/Jonathon Burch/AP/Salon


Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime.  Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months — and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait — under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture.  Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.

Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems.  He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement.  For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell.  Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions.  For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch).  For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs.  Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not “like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,” but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.

In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado:  all without so much as having been convicted of anything.  And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig’s medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.

Continue reading Ask President Obama to Stop Torturing Whistleblower Bradley Manning

Support Georgia Prisoners’ Demand for Humane Conditions

by Randy Shannon

The United States has the largest prison population and the highest rate of imprisonment on Earth. The prison population across the state of Georgia is on strike. The prisoners are remaining in their cells demanding more humane treatment. Given the diverse racial composition and social groups and gangs in the prison, the complete unity of the prisoners across the state system speaks to the seriousness of the conditions.

Please go to this page to sign a petition to the Georgia Department of Corrections to improve conditions there. Below is a video of Elaine Brown, a prisoner support activists discussing the strike and the conditions.