With the explanation that it had to punish Russia for its war in Ukraine, the west stole over $300 billion of Moscow’s money. With the explanation that 9-11 families deserved compensation, the U.S. stole $7 billion from Afghanistan (oh no, it had nothing to do with revenge for losing the war, how could you even think such a thing?) With the explanation that, well, it just didn’t like Venezuela, the U.K., or rather the Bank of England, stole roughly $2 billion of that country’s gold.
See a pattern? Leave your nation’s money in a western bank, and it might not be yours for very long, especially if you in any way bother western politicos, like having an economic system they disapprove of, or sending them packing when they invade your country, or telling NATO where to get off when it threatens to absorb a neighboring nation and plant missiles there. In this last instance, it would have been far better had Moscow waged economic war on NATO countries, instead of an actual war on Kiev. But as it happened, Ukraine got clobbered militarily and dreadfully, and the west launched an economic blitzkrieg on Moscow, accidentally firing all its financial missiles at itself.
We live in a time when it’s become a boring cliché to say that democracy is under attack. Whether it’s an ultra-reactionary Supreme Court, a nationwide Republican assault on voting rights, a MAGA movement that hopes to put an amoral power addict back in the presidency in 2024, a gathering backlash against women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, or the very structure of an oligarchical, billionaire-dominated political economy, circumstances in the U.S.—and abroad—are hardly encouraging for people who value democracy and human rights. It seems that things get bleaker every year, so much so that it can be difficult to have any hope at all.
There is, however, at least one glimmer of hope for democracy, and it comes from a source that might initially, to many people, seem rather unrelated: a renascent labor movement.
Given that the primary role of unions is to advocate for the interests of their members on the job, one might wonder how they could play an essential part in protecting and revitalizing the very different institution of political democracy. How can organizations with such a particular mission, a seemingly narrow economic one, serve as a buttress for the universal interest of democracy itself? Actually, according to polls, two thirds of Americans approve of labor unions, suggesting they understand what a constructive force unions are. If people knew the real history of organized labor, however, the number would probably be close to 90 percent.
Carbon capture is having a moment, and it’s not hard to see why: As Texas Monthly reports, “According to estimates, the worldwide carbon-capture market is expected to grow from about $2 billion this year to about $7 billion in 2028.”
Last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law devotes billions to advancing the technology, and atmospheric CO2 levels have now reached their highest levels in human history. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling, which limits the federal government’s power to reduce climate pollution, is making techno-fixes all the more appealing, and California’s own climate plan appears poised to lean on carbon capture to reduce emissions in accord with the state’s net zero goal.
There’s just one problem: There is no real evidence that carbon capture can or will do what its optimistic name suggests.
For the first time, a significant loss at the base of the marine food web has been detected. The Scottish research vessel Capepod reported the findings in equatorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s a disturbing discovery, but first a look at the marine food web, starting with the lowest organisms: (1) phytoplankton – plant-like plankton: green algae, diatoms, and dinoflagellates eaten by (2) zooplankton – microorganisms: crustaceans, rotifers, insect larvae and mites eaten by (3) small fish: anchovies, sardines, shrimp, squid, krill eaten by (4) bigger fish: sturgeon, sunfish, sharks, manta rays eaten by (5) mammals: seals, dolphins, polar bears, and last but certainly not least, humans at an increasingly wobbly end of the food chain.
At the bottom of the food web phytoplankton generically serves as the most significant resource of marine life simply because nothing else eats if phytoplankton doesn’t exist. Moreover, phytoplankton performs photosynthesis, converting sunrays to energy, absorbs CO2, and serves as a major source, producing oxygen for the biosphere.
“Plant a tree” seems to be the go-to answer to climate change concerns these days. Booking a rental car online recently, I was asked to check a box to plant a tree to offset my car’s anticipated carbon dioxide emissions. In 2020, the governor of my state, Indiana, launched an initiative to plant a million of them within five years, and the state is a quarter of the way there.
The primary reason for this arboreal zeal is to capitalize on the power of trees to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into wood, safely locking carbon away for decades to centuries.
That’s the theory, anyway.
The problem is that the fate of carbon stored in trees faces many challenges. Heat waves, logging, pests and wildfires can all destroy trees and release that carbon again. And most measurements of the carbon stored in forests’ woody biomass only extend back a few decades.
Over the past decade, I’ve traveled countless times to the desert regions east of San Bernardino in Southern California. In the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park, I’ve been captivated by the desert’s complex and diverse ecosystems — at once beautiful, perilous, fragile, and resilient.
I see constellations at night instead of smog. I’ve summited rock formations that left me breathless and humbled with sweeping views, reminding me to tread lightly on the sacred and ancestral lands of the Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Serrano, and Mojave peoples.
Millions have also shared memorable experiences like these at our long-treasured national parks. But as climate change caused by human activities brings more heat, drought, and fire, it now threatens natural wonders across the country.
The world today is on the verge of a major food emergency, provoked in part by Russia's attack on Ukraine but more broadly by the damage heat from global warming is doing to crops worldwide. This is both a crisis and an opportunity.
Let's start with the basics. Food is the raw material that makes people. More food, more people; less food, fewer people.
This is a basic law of nature. The insect-eating bird population around us, for example, is a fraction today of what it was 20 years ago because its food—the insect population—has been decimated by pesticides and loss of habitat (their food source), over the past few decades.
Pick any species and the law of nature is the same: more food produces population growth while less food shrinks population (often in brutal ways). It's why areas like desert and scrub that produce little food were, over the past millennia, lightly populated, whereas areas rich with food like forests and seacoasts carried large human populations.
Throughout our lifetimes (and the past four centuries) human population has steadily grown because we hadn't yet hit the new ceilings the agricultural and industrial revolutions gave us to produce and distribute food.
Rochester, N.Y. — Lucille Brooks was stunned when she picked up the phone before Christmas two years ago and learned a nursing home was suing her.
“I thought this was crazy,” recalled Brooks, 74, a retiree who lives with her husband in a modest home in the Rochester suburbs. Brooks’ brother had been a resident of the nursing home. But she had no control over his money or authority to make decisions for him. She wondered how she could be on the hook for his nearly $8,000 bill.
Brooks would learn she wasn’t alone. Pursuing unpaid bills, nursing homes across this industrial city have been routinely suing not only residents but their friends and family, a KHN review of court records reveals. The practice has ensnared scores of children, grandchildren, neighbors, and others, many with nearly no financial ties to residents or legal responsibility for their debts.
This summer is set to be among the top 10 hottest on record with heat waves melting roads across Europe, causing thousand-acre fires in Texas and California, scorching people across the globe. Across the country, as temperatures soar, people behind bars describe feeling as if they are melting or being baked alive in units that frequently lack air conditioning or cooling mechanisms.
Temperatures in parts of Texas have soared to over 100 degrees every day for the past week — with no relief in sight. The state has the tenth-highest incarceration rate in the nation, with 840 of every 100,000 people behind bars. While Texas state prisons have air conditioning in their administrative, education and medical areas, nearly 70 percent lack air conditioning in the housing units (which can incarcerate over 120,000 people). According to The Intercept, 9 out of every 10 of the state’s carceral facilities are in places where the heat index reaches over 90 degrees more than 50 days each year.
For months now, President Biden’s ambitious economic and social justice reforms have been whittled down and whittled down again. Each time a major policy package is put together, with hopes that it can pass with only 51 Senate votes via the budget reconciliation process, it ultimately runs afoul of Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
Last week, desperate for concrete policy achievements to lay before voters before the midterm elections, the Democrats settled on a dramatically smaller package of reforms, centered around lowering pharmaceutical drug prices for Medicare consumers, that the two recalcitrant senators appear more willing to sign off on. Then, a few days later, on July 27, after months of obstruction, Senator Manchin announced that he will now support a scaled-down version of Build Back Better that would still include both hundreds of billions of dollars of climate change legislation investments and also the health care package that is near and dear to his heart. Provided that Sinema remains on board — and given her track record this year, that’s by no means a given — and provided that moderate Democrats in the House don’t balk on some of its tax provisions, the Democrats may finally have a narrow window to pass significant climate legislation and health care reforms via the budget reconciliation process, which allows financial packages to pass in the Senate via a simple majority.
Anew ruling on Environment Texas v. ExxonMobil is expected this August. In its second appeal, ExxonMobil is asking the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to restrict the rights citizens have to sue polluters in federal court. One presiding judge, Trump-appointed Federalist Society member Andrew Oldham, agrees.
The largest American oil company has already lost the 12-year-old Clean Air Act citizen lawsuit twice. In 2010, Environment Texas and Sierra Club sued ExxonMobil on behalf of residents of Baytown, Texas, who suffered respiratory and other illnesses as a result of toxic emissions from the company’s Baytown plant, its largest in the world.
In 2017, U.S. District Judge David Hittner ordered the company to pay a $20 million penalty to the U.S. Treasury, the biggest citizen’s suit penalty to date. After the Fifth Circuit overturned that ruling on Exxon’s first appeal, Hittner knocked the penalty down to $14.25 million. Now, ExxonMobil is arguing that Baytown residents have no legal standing to bring the lawsuit to federal court.
One year ago this July, drone whistleblower Daniel Hale stood in front of Judge Liam O’Grady at his sentencing and explained himself. After a lengthy investigation and prosecution, it was finally the day when Hale would find out if he would spend years in prison for doing something he felt morally obligated to do: Tell the truth about the United States’ drone program.
While working as a drone analyst in the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan, he witnessed attacks waged against innocent civilians that, to this day, still haunt him. Those experiences eventually led him to blow the whistle on the drone program. Judge O’Grady said Hale wasn’t being punished for telling the truth, but for stealing government documents that disclose that truth. For that, Hale was subjected to a lengthy investigation and prosecution where he was charged under the Espionage Act, a law that was passed over 100 years ago to deal with spies but has been used to prosecute antiwar dissidents and whistleblowers.
Conservative coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) announced on Wednesday that he has come to an agreement with Democratic leaders for a reconciliation bill with key climate, prescription drug price and tax reforms — with a major caveat to expand oil and gas exploration.
That there are climate provisions at all is an improvement over Manchin’s supposed opposition to any and all climate spending, which aides and staffers thought was his position two weeks ago. But the climate provisions could be severely undercut by new proposals put in on behalf of Manchin to expand oil and gas exploration on public lands.
Rep. Chip Roy’s introduction Friday of a bill to make federal bureaucratic personnel at-will employees further stoked fears that marginalized workers will suffer discriminatory firings under a future Republican administration or even GOP-controlled Congress.
The Public Service Reform Act “will empower federal agencies to swiftly address misconduct and remove underperforming or ill-willed employees, creating a federal workforce focused on service to the American people,” Roy (R-Texas) said in a statement.
The bill “would make all federal bureaucrats at-will employees — just like private sector workers — and claw back the inordinate protections some federal employees grossly abuse,” he added.
The proposed legislation comes a week after reports that aides to former President Donald Trump are working to revive a plan to reclassify federal civil service personnel who worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations as at-will workers subject to easier termination.
As fossil fuel giants this week reported record profits for the second quarter, an analysis out Friday highlighted how eight oil companies have raked in nearly $52 billion over the past three months "while Americans continue to struggle at the pump."
The review by the watchdog group Accountable.US revealed that from April through June, Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Hess Corp, Phillips 66, Shell, and TechnipFMC "saw their profits skyrocket from the same time period last year, with income shooting up 235%."
The analysis also pointed out that leaders at Equinor, Halliburton, Hess Corp, and TechnipFMC have boasted "about excellent quarters while dismissing high prices for consumers."
It may seem hard to believe, but only 15 years ago many of us were talking confidently about “peak oil” — the moment of maximum global oil output after which, with world reserves dwindling, its use would begin an irreversible decline. Then along came hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the very notion of peak oil largely vanished. Instead, some analysts began speaking of “peak oil demand” — a moment, not so far away, when electric vehicle (EV) ownership would be so widespread that the need for petroleum would largely disappear, even if there was still plenty of it to frack or drill. However, in 2020, EVs made up less than 1% of the global light-vehicle fleet and are only expected to reach 20% of the total by 2040. So peak-oil demand remains a distant mirage, leaving us deeply beholden to the tyranny of petroleum, with all its perilous consequences.
For some perspective on this, recall that, in those pre-fracking days at the start of the century, many experts were convinced that world petroleum output would hit a daily peak of perhaps 90 million barrels in 2010, dropping to 70 or 80 million barrels by the end of that decade. In other words, we would have little choice but to begin converting our transportation systems to electricity, pronto. That would have caused a lot of disruption at first, but by now we would be well on our way to a green-energy future, with far less carbon emissions and a slowing pace of global warming.
Keith Macdonald was exposed to high levels of radiation from naturally occurring radioactive materials (“NORM”) in 2000 while working at an oil well in Syria. Since then, cancerous lesions have developed across MacDonald’s body and his son is dead from leukaemia. His life has disintegrated, and in his eyes, fault lies with the third richest company on earth — Royal Dutch Shell.
The story of how MacDonald got here is a tale of adventure and tragedy fit for a Hollywood thriller, only it is real. Even with many unknowns, MacDonald’s case unearths a shocking part of the world’s most powerful industry that somehow has remained hidden for generations.
In 2020, Justin Nobel wrote an article detailing what happened that fateful day, the personal tragedy that ensued, and the steps MacDonald had taken, without success, to hold those responsible accountable. As Nobel’s article is longer than most would read in one sitting, we are republishing it in sections in a four-part series. This article is the second part. You can read Part 1 HERE and Nobel’s full article HERE.
It is difficult to talk about happenings in the world other than the continued, appalling Russian invasion of Ukraine and the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, Chicagoland, and elsewhere. Then, there is the Supreme Court which continues down a judicial road of eroding personal rights and towing the conservative party line. I don’t want to take attention away from those outrages. However, the shadow of one tragedy is not dispelled by the light of another.
I continue to have passion to shed light on and right the wrongs of the Espionage Act and how the United States government is using it to target not only whistleblowers, but also anyone who dares reveal its transgressions and illegalities. I was extremely honored to participate in the Belmarsh Tribunal, which, in addition to calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, also decried the international disgrace that is the potential extradition of Julian Assange. This affront to accountability, press freedom, and freedom of speech is on stage for the entire world to see, yet I wonder who is paying attention.
Julian Assange is an Australian citizen, residing and working in the United Kingdom. In 2006, he founded WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy website that “specializes in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption.” The ongoing detention of Assange involves three states: Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. However, the present uproar — and the crux of this essay — relates more importantly to the imminent extradition case involving the UK and the US.
Since the 2010 WikiLeaks publication of massive classified documents dumped by a US military personnel later known to be Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning), Assange has been in the crosshairs of the US government. Fearing US extradition, he took refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London after granted political asylum in 2012 by then Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa. Changes in the Ecuadorean government (new President Lenin Moreno) prompted his arrest and transfer to Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison in London in 2019 where he has since been detained unjustly. According to a thorough medical assessment, Assange showed symptoms such as “extreme stress, chronic anxiety, and intense psychological trauma” which are “cumulative effects of what can only be described as psychological torture”. Additionally, calls for medical attention concerning his physical ailments have gone unheeded. His mental health has also deteriorated over a long period of solitary confinement.
As U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi departs Friday for an Asian trip that may include a stop in Taiwan, anti-war voices are sounding the alarm over a visit they say would needlessly provoke China during a time of already heightened global tensions from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
CodePink's Marcy Winograd told Common Dreams that "there is no need to be so provocative, to jeopardize U.S. relations with a country of 1.4 billion people, the world's largest exporter, and holder of a trillion dollars in U.S. debt. Surely the speaker has a Zoom account."
In a joint statement with Jim Carpenter, with whom she co-chairs the foreign policy team at Progressive Democrats of America, Winograd noted that "since 1979, the United States—to keep the peace—has recognized the government in Beijing as the only legitimate Chinese government."
A US aircraft carrier and its strike group have returned to the South China Sea after a port call in Singapore, deploying in the disputed region as tensions with China rise over a possible visit to Taiwan by congressional leader Nancy Pelosi.
Officials with the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet confirmed the deployment of the USS Ronald Reagan to the vital trade route but did not comment on questions about tensions over the trip by Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives.
“USS Ronald Reagan and her strike group are underway, operating in the South China Sea following a successful port visit to Singapore,” Commander Hayley Sims said in a statement to Reuters.
Sims added that the Reagan “is continuing normal, scheduled operations as part of her routine patrol in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific”.
When asked for comment, China’s foreign ministry said the US was once again “flexing its muscles” in the South China Sea with the Reagan’s sailing.
In a statement on Monday marking 13 years since the federal minimum wage was last raised, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman challenged his ultra-millionaire Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, to live on $7.25 an hour, which is also the hourly pay floor in Pennsylvania.
"Another year, still no change to our shitty $7.25 an hour minimum wage," said Fetterman, the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor whose populist campaign has attacked Oz as an out-of-touch carpetbagger running to serve the interests of wealthy elites and powerful corporations.
Oz, a former celebrity television personality who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, boasts a net worth of over $100 million.
"My opponent Dr. Oz doesn't care about the people across Pennsylvania who are hurting, and he doesn't even believe that our embarrassingly low minimum wage needs to be increased," Fetterman declared. "So since Dr. Oz, who owns 11 homes around the world including several multimillion-dollar mansions, thinks that our minimum wage is a livable wage, then he should be forced to live on $7.25 an hour so that he can demonstrate to all of us how it's possible."
Liberal comedian Jon Stewart chastised the GOP on Thursday, less than 24 hours after Senate Republicans tanked a bill that would have expanded healthcare access for U.S. military veterans exposed to Agent Orange and toxic burn pits—a move that was made in retaliation for Democrats reviving their reconciliation package following the passage of bipartisan legislation designed to boost domestic semiconductor chip manufacturing.
"Everyone needs to watch this," progressive commentator Krystal Ball tweeted, sharing a clip of Stewart, who has lobbied for improved assistance for veterans harmed by toxins, speaking in Washington, D.C. "Republicans are literally blocking care for veterans poisoned by burn pits as part of their temper tantrum over a deal to tax corporations and create clean energy jobs."
Speaking at a Capitol Hill press conference held in the wake of the GOP's refusal to advance the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, Stewart told the crowd: "I'm used to the hypocrisy... I'm used to the lies... I'm used to the cowardice... I'm used to all of it, but I am not used to the cruelty."
As new government data on Thursday stoked fears of a looming recession—and even led to some claims that the nation is already experiencing one—progressives renewed calls for the Federal Reserve to stop hiking interest rates and policymakers to take on the corporate profiteering driving inflation.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce released gross domestic product (GDP) figures that show two consecutive quarters of negative growth, which prompted some Republican lawmakers—hopeful to regain control of Congress later this year—to declare that "America is in a recession" and it is the Democrats' fault.
While two straight quarters of negative growth is often seen as a signal of recession, it is not that simple. Harvard University economist Jason Furman pointed out on Twitter Thursday there is "well over a 50% chance that Q1 and/or Q2 gets revised to positive."
It’s pretty funny that we continually debate the causes of inequality when we routinely pass bills that redistribute income upward. The semiconductor bill about to be approved by Congress is the latest episode in this absurd charade.
To be clear, the bill does some good things. It has funding both to subsidize manufacturing capacity for semiconductors in the United States and also for further research in developing better chips in the future. Both of these are positive developments even if the benefits of the former are overstated.
It was common in the pandemic days to tout the supply chain problems as evidence that we needed more manufacturing in the United States in a variety of areas. However, that story ignored several factors.
First, the pandemic knocked out many factories in the United States also, it wasn’t just factories in Thailand and China that closed. Second, some of the problems were associated with shortages of truck drivers and other transportation workers and facilities. We need to transport goods made in the United States also, most people can’t just drive to the local furniture factory to pick up a new living room sofa.
In my post-journalism retirement, I drive rideshare in the Southern Indiana college town of Bloomington. Every week features random encounters with about 75 citizens who hail from all walks of local life: people of all colors, races and genders, hourly workers, university professors, probationers, college students, the disabled, addicts, etc.
They don’t all chat; and those who do don’t always follow my leads into politics and society. But enough of the 8,000-plus passengers I’ve driven in four years have gone with me that I can draw some firm conclusions.
First, I can say with 100% certainty that, when conversations do turn political, they all respond with reflexive nods of recognition when I say: “The overriding problem in America today is that all of the resources go to the handful at the top, and the rest of us are left to fight for the scraps.”
Second, they all appreciate former President Jimmy Carter’s 2015 admonition that the United States is not a democracy, but, rather, an “oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” – in other words, a government of, by and for the wealthy elites, a.k.a. a kleptocracy.
I have a brother with chronic schizophrenia. He had his first severe catatonic episode when he was 16 years old and I was 10. Later, he suffered from auditory hallucinations and heard voices saying nasty things to him. I remember my father reassuring him that the voices weren’t real and asking him whether he could ignore them. Sadly, it’s not that simple.
That conversation between my father and brother has been on my mind, as I’ve been experiencing America’s increasingly divided, almost schizoid, version of social discourse. It’s as if this country were suffering from some set of collective auditory hallucinations whose lead feature was nastiness.
Take cover! We’re being threatened by a revived red(dish) menace from a “rogue” Russia! A “Yellow peril” from China! Iran with a nuke! And then there are the alleged threats at home. “Groomers”! MAGA kooks! And on and on.
When Russia bombed the port in Odesa last week, it was not an auspicious beginning to the new deal on grain exports. If anyone believed that this agreement between Moscow and Kyiv would have some positive spillover effect on the war grinding on elsewhere in Ukraine, the Russian military surely destroyed that wishful thinking.
International outcry against the Russian bombing of Odesa—as with its earlier strikes on shopping malls, train stations, and hospitals—has been fierce. “Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of Istanbul agreements is particularly reprehensible & again demonstrates Russia’s total disregard for international law & commitments,” tweeted Josep Borrell Fontelles, who coordinates the European Union’s foreign policy.
Despite Russia’s action, the agreement on grain exports will likely hold. After all, Russia didn’t technically violate the accord. The Kremlin promised only to avoid hitting the ships carrying food to the outside world.
Traditional practices of both preventive and curative health care have existed for thousands of years, and today they are often used in conjunction with modern medicine.
Of the over 476 million indigenous people in the world today; an estimated 42 million live in the Americas. They represent thousands of different cultures and ethnic groups whose survival is due, in part, to the efficacy of their traditional health practices.
Indigenous peoples in this region have, over several centuries, developed a complex series of practices as well as an understanding of the human body. During several trips to the region, I was able to see the use of traditional medicine among the population of the Andean countries.
In the South American Andean countries of Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, traditional medicine still plays a prominent role in the health care of indigenous communities, particularly those in remote rural settings beyond the reach of governmental health services.
Is it just me or does the JCPOA seem to be cursed? Everybody who isn’t Trump or Israel seems to agree that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action known colloquially as the Iran Nuclear Deal was working smashingly before it was unilaterally violated by the prior on behalf of the latter. Every other signatory of that deal and the International Atomic Energy Agency who oversaw it are all in total agreement that Iran was in compliance with what amounted to the most obnoxiously intrusive nuclear inspections regime devised by man or beast, all levied against a nation that even Israeli intelligence admits never appears to have even had a nuclear weapons program to begin with. Joe Biden ran for president and won on a promise to revive the deal and the Mullahs have steadfastly offered to comply as soon as the crippling Trump regime sanctions are lifted. And yet, here we are now, over a fucking year after Biden entered the Oval Office and somehow, we seem farther from the JCPOA than ever before.
A mere month after the medieval anti-abortion ruling by a cabal of right-wing "fanatics and vandals" we still call SCOTUS, its effects are already cataclysmic. At least seven states have passed near-total bans and many more are working on them, some with monstrous features like Indiana's call for abortion-providers to serve up to six years in prison; experts predict a devastating impact on women's education, employment and income; a new study says it could lead to a 21% increase in pregnancy-related deaths. The ruling is viewed as so extreme that even Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly tried to reverse at least parts of it; with his failure, suggests Charlie Pierce, he should just resign: "Your work here is done...You've lost control of your majority (and) it's gone barking mad." With the help, one more time, of unconscionable, ever-complicit Susan Collins.
Having landed in this apocalyptic muck, we welcome Australia's newest Honest Government Ad from the satirical Juice Media, this one ripping "the shitfuckery that is the U.S. Supreme Court." An offshoot of the news site Balloon Juice, the Honest Government Ads are "an indispensable public service for translating the mountains of bullshit coming from our duly elected governments." Focusing on "the shitfuckery of the Australian government," the ads took off during the tenure of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a bumbling "satirist's dream" who, when Australian students went on a climate strike in 2019, called for "more learning in schools and less activism." Amidst raging bushfires with "kids in gas masks, dead animals, dead homes, dead reefs, dead tourism industry," the first ad unveiled, amidst the billowing smoke, Australia's new climate policy: "Get fucken used to it!"
Oligarchs of the dominate economic class in the United States continue to pour billions of dollars into the pockets of politicians. The drift towards oligarchy was propelled in 1976 with the Supreme Court’s Buckley v. Valeo decision. It continued in 1978 with the Bellotti v. Bank of Boston decision and culminated with the dreadful Citizens United v. FEC decision in 2010. Politicians were deemed legally for sale to the highest bidder.
They are now steamrolling toward their economic goals almost unchecked. These goals are to not pay their fair share of taxes, eliminate government regulations that limit their ability to spike profits at the expense of working people and the environment, and to quash labor union organizing. The oligarchs appear to be winning.
Their agenda requires blaming the usual scapegoats for the chronic failures of our economic model. Then it depends on manipulation and deception of basic employment and poverty numbers reported by whatever administration is in power.
Republicans believe their laser focus on inflation in the midterms will override voter anger over the attempted coup, four years of Trumpism, multiple regressive Supreme Court rulings especially on reproductive rights, school shootings and other mass shootings, and GOP state attacks on voting, public education, and LGBTQ+ rights. But only if we, and the Democratic Party leadership, let them get away with it.
To challenge the GOP and corporate media narrative on inflation, start with exposing the underreported causes, identifying those exploiting rising prices, describing why the conservative fix of jacking up interest rates will cause far worse pain for most working people and families, and outline progressive alternatives.
Conventional reporting on the current inflation mostly blames the pandemic, both the 2021 stimulus package and barely explained supply chain issues. Plus, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which led to oil cutoffs, another factor in higher gas prices. However, those prices have been dropping for a month, not that Fox News or Republicans running for office will admit that fact.
Supply chain bottlenecks are largely related to an over reliance on a global network aggravated by pandemic factory shutdowns, notably in tech products like semiconductors. Fewer acknowledge what progressive economist Robert Kuttner calls "the 40-year folly" of excessive outsourcing for cheaper labor overseas, and neoliberal policies of deregulating links in the chain that delay the unloading of goods from ports, and rail and trucking transport that exacerbated Covid disruptions.
In prescribing cures for inflation, economists rely on the diagnosis of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman: inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon—too much money chasing too few goods. But that equation has three variables: too much money (“demand”) chasing (the “velocity” of spending) too few goods (“supply”). And “orthodox” economists, from Lawrence Summers to the Federal Reserve, seem to be focusing only on the “demand” variable.
The Fed’s prescription is to suppress demand (borrowing and spending) by raising interest rates. Summers, a former U.S. Treasury Secretary who presided over the massive post-2008 bank bailouts, is proposing to reduce demand by raising taxes or raising unemployment rates, reducing disposable income and thus people’s ability to spend. But those rather brutal solutions miss the real problem, just as Summers missed the crisis leading up to the 2008-09 crash. As explained in a November 2021 editorial titled “Too Few Goods – The Simple Explanation for October’s Elevated Inflation Rates,” we don’t actually have too much consumer money chasing available goods:
M2 money supply surged [in 2020] as the Fed pumped out liquidity to replace businesses’ lost sales and households’ lost paychecks. But bank reserves account for nearly half of the cumulative increase since 2020 began, and the vast majority seem to be excess reserves sitting on deposit at Federal Reserve banks and not backing loans. Excluding bank reserves, M2 money supply is now growing more slowly than it did for most of 2015 – 2019, when inflation was mostly below the Fed’s 2% y/y target, much to policymakers’ chagrin. Weak lending also suggests money isn’t doing much “chasing,” a notion underscored by the historically low velocity of money. US personal consumption expenditures—the broadest measure of household spending—have already slowed from a reopening resurgence to rates more akin to the pre-pandemic norm and surveys show many households used stimulus money to repay debt or build savings they may not spend at all. It doesn’t look like there is a mountain of household liquidity waiting to do more chasing from here. [Emphasis added.]
Around half of U.S. seniors living alone can't afford their basic necessities, statistics published Monday revealed, underscoring calls for legislation to expand Social Security and lower prescription drug prices.
Fifty-four percent of older U.S. women who live on their own and 45% of older men in the same situation are either impoverished by federal standards or cannot cover their necessary expenses, according to the Elder Index, a project of the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston. For older couples, the figure is 24%.
"The Elder Index confirms what we already knew: The cost of living is just too high for older Americans, and their earned benefits aren't keeping pace with these costs," the Alliance for Retired Americans tweeted in response to the report.
Ramsey Alwin, president and chief executive of the National Council on Aging, told Kaiser Health News (KHN) that the group hopes to promote a robust dialogue about "the true cost of aging in America."
Sometimes the irony of America in the 2020s is just too much. Consider the case of James Murray, the current head of the U.S. Secret Service and a 27-year veteran of the force best known for protecting presidents and their families. Earlier this month, Murray abruptly announced that he's leaving to become the security chief for the parent company of Snapchat, the social media platform that's famous for messages that rapidly disappear.
Let me rephrase this: Murray is leaving for a job at ANOTHER outfit where communications become untraceable not long after they're sent. That's because just days after Murray announced his looming departure, it was revealed that nearly all of the Secret Service's text messages from the critical days of Jan. 5-6, 2021—the pro-Donald Trump insurrection on Capitol Hill—have been permanently deleted. This despite warnings from investigators to preserve all communications.
Look, I know it's now past the point of cliché to keep comparing the momentum-gaining Jan 6 investigation in the House to the 1972-74 Watergate scandal that started 50 long years ago. But as a teen Watergate geek watching today's crisis just as intensely, there is a highly Nixonian feel to the bombshell disclosure of what looks to all the world—despite the agency's protestations—like a massive cover-up. Both scandals started with felonies in plain sight—a campaign bugging operation, an attempted coup—but also provided a key to opening up the much deeper rot infesting the American government.
This article is derived from a speech I made at the July 23rd Peace and Freedom Rally in Kingston New York.
There are some things that I believe to be true about the anarchy that purports to be US foreign policy. First, and most important, I do not believe that any voter cast a ballot for Joe Biden because he or she wanted him to relentlessly pursue a needless conflict with Russia that could easily escalate into a nuclear war with unimaginable consequences for all parties. Biden has recently declared that the US will support Ukraine “until we win” and, as there are already tens of billions of dollars of weapons going to Ukraine plus American “advisers” on the ground, it constitutes a scenario in which American and Russian soldiers will soon likely be shooting at each other. The President of Serbia and columnists like Pat Buchanan and Tulsi Gabbard believe that we are already de facto in World War 3 and one has to wonder how the White House is getting away with ignoring the War Powers mandates in the US Constitution.
Second, I believe that the Russians approached the United States and its allies with some quite reasonable requests regarding their own national security given that a hostile military alliance was about to land on its doorsteps. The issues at stake were fully negotiable but the US refused to budge on anything and Russia felt compelled to take military action. Nevertheless, there is no such thing as a good war. I categorically reject anyone invading anyone else unless there is a dire and immediate threat, but the onus on how the Ukraine situation developed the way it did is on Washington.
The US has one of the most deeply-ingrained nationalistic ideologies of any nation. Accompanying the grand mass hysterias of patriotism and freedom, one of the most pervasive links in the ideological chain that creates the American sense of identity is a belief in “The American Dream”, an imaginary ideal that offers a rags-to-riches path to prosperity. In this mythical universe, all opportunity is equally available to every citizen, in a land where even those with no credentials, education or experience can accumulate untold riches and even rise to become the president of the country. In this context, America is a fantastic utopian myth promoted by the propaganda machine as an idealistic Shangri-la concept of opportunity and hope, where even the most disadvantaged have a fair chance at wealth and fame.
Americans almost universally believe they are unique in this regard, the US virtually defining itself as the land of opportunity, but this has always been a delusion. While it may be true that the US has accumulated comparatively more wealthy individuals than other nations, and which status has been broadcast to the world as evidence of virtue, this is much more an indictment of the predatory and anti-social nature of American-style capitalism than of equity and opportunity. It is true that the uniquely predatory form of American capitalism will create some kinds of opportunities that do not exist in other countries, but we can develop a very strong argument that those kinds should not be permitted to exist. Let’s not erase 2008 from our memories too soon. Moreover, there have been precious few large personal fortunes created in the US that were not accompanied by the commitment of even greater crimes, and the executives of a great many US multinationals from the Rockefeller’s United Fruit Company and Standard Oil to Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart should have faced trial and been executed for crimes against humanity.
If this trailer is an indication — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RDaPV_rJ1Y — we are about to be treated to a fantasy movie release in September in which black female warriors save Africa from being enslaved by the French. The film makers do not realize the irony of the setting, which is Dahomey, a black kingdom that conducted slave wars against other blacks and was the font of the slave trade. Almost every black slave brought to the Caribbean and to the English colonies in North America was a person sold into slavery by the black king of Dahomey. The female warriors in the movie declare that freedom is worth fighting for but in actual fact Dahomey fought to make money by enslaving black Africans.
Today Dahomey is known as Benin. On the beach at Ouidah there is a contemporary monument, the Gate of no Return, commemorating the lives of the Africans captured by the black Kingdom of Dahomey and sold to Arabs and Europeans as slaves or traded for firearms.
What might be the real purpose of this film? Could it be to brew more black hatred of whites and to justify this hatred and spread in into the black American female population, fostering the idea that just as in the movie, they also can violently throw off white oppression?
As I recently wrote, the US no longer has an economy. America is a market for goods produced offshore with foreign labor that US global corporations sell to Americans. The US which once produced its own manufactured goods and food now imports much of it. The result is that fewer and fewer American incomes are based in the production of goods and services consumed by Americans. This is the path of de-industrialization and poverty.
Not only does America no longer have an economy, it no longer seems to have any economic statistics or ones that make much sense. For example, allegedly inflation is at 9 percent annually, but gold and silver prices have fallen, with gold down about $250 an ounce and silver down about $6 an ounce. Percentage wise, these are large declines. Inflation is known to erode the value of paper fiat money, but the US dollar is up against the Euro and other currencies, and inflation is eroding the value of real money–gold and silver.
According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the economy has regained 9 million of the lost lockdown jobs, dropping unemployment to 3.6%. With about 2 job openings for every person seeking a job, we are at full employment. Wages have risen strongly but by less than inflation, so real earnings are declining but corporate profits are high. There are slight decreases in the number of people without health insurance and in the number receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. So there are signs that things are improving.
Doctors are allegedly baffled at what is causing a sudden uptick in what they have dubbed ‘Sudden Adult Death Syndrome’ among adults under the age of 40 over the past year, and are now urging all under 40’s to go and get their heart checked.
But these doctors need not remain “baffled” any longer because we have rock-solid evidence that the Covid-19 vaccine is to blame.
- Official UK Office for National Statistics data shows vaccinated adults aged 18 to 39 have a 92% higher mortality rate (per 100,000) than unvaccinated adults.
- Official Public Health Scotland data reveals there has been a 67% increase compared to the historical average in the number of 15 to 44-year-olds suffering heart attacks, cardiac arrest, myocarditis, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases since this age group was first offered the Covid-19 injection.
- And figures published by NHS England in response to a freedom of information request show that ambulance call-outs for heart illness have doubled among all age groups including the under 30’s since the beginning of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
In 2008, an article touting the benefits of world hunger for creating a cheap, motivated workforce was published on the United Nations’ website. The article resurfaced recently on Twitter and went viral; it was promptly taken down by the U.N. within 24 hours.
The crux of the article is that the elite class has a distinct motivation to not end world hunger, because if everyone is well-nourished, there may be no one willing to provide cheap labour and slave away at some of the most physically demanding and unpleasant jobs on the planet.
While the U.N. claimed the article was satire, its author denied that it was a satirical piece and said it was intended to raise awareness that some people benefit from the existence of hunger in the world.
MARION, Illinois — Daniel Hale, dressed in a khaki uniform, his hair cut short and sporting a long, neatly groomed brown beard, is seated behind a plexiglass screen, speaking into a telephone receiver at the federal prison in Marion, Illinois. I hold a receiver on the other side of the plexiglass and listen as he describes his journey from working for the National Security Agency and the Joint Special Operations Task Force at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to becoming federal prisoner 26069-07.
Hale, a 34-year-old former Air Force signals intelligence analyst, is serving a 45 month prison sentence, following his conviction under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified documents about the U.S. military’s drone assassination program and its high civilian death toll. The documents are believed to be the source material for “The Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, on October 15, 2015.
These documents revealed that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations drone airstrikes killed more than 200 people — of which only 35 were the intended targets. According to the documents, over one five-month period of the operation, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. The civilian dead, usually innocent bystanders, were routinely classified as “enemies killed in action.”
So much economic news (with too much of it mis-reported) that I want to keep you apprised.
Following Thursday’s report by the Commerce Department that the U.S. economy had shrunk for the second quarter in a row, economists in and out of the White House have spent much of the last several days deconstructing the word “recession.”
Are we in one or not? The answer, technically, is no (the independent National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA makes that call), but most Americans feel we’re in one because their paychecks have been shrinking. Employers have raised wages a bit, but the costs of energy, food, and much else have been rising faster.
Prices at the gas pump have drifted down somewhat in the last month but are still eye-popping (here in California, I’m paying over $6 a gallon).
But here’s the thing: Big Oil continues to make gigantic profits — and could easily lower prices at the pump if it wanted but doesn’t want to. Exxon just reported second-quarter profits of $17.9 billion. That’s more than three times what it earned a year ago. Chevron’s profit more than tripled to $11.6 billion.
The two giant American oil companies are not pouring their profits back into energy, green or otherwise. They’re buying back their shares of stock in order to reward investors and executives.
Hawks always say our geopolitical situation resembles that of 1938 so that any call for de-escalation, diplomacy or detente can be portrayed as “appeasement”. It’s never 1919, when the conditions which would give rise to World War Two were put in place, or any of the early 20th century years when the trajectory toward World War One could have easily been turned away from.
Our fetishization of World War Two has eclipsed from memory the fact that it was the single worst thing that ever happened on this planet. The trauma it inflicted upon our species still reverberates through our collective consciousness to this day, and avoiding it would have been objectively good.
Even if we fully espouse all the grandiose ego-stroking Anglo-American narratives about WWII, you don’t want to have a modern Churchill and FDR bravely standing against the forces of evil. What you want is for such a stand to be unnecessary, because the conflict was avoided.
But that’s not how you score political points in Washington and London. That’s not how you pull ratings as a news outlet. That’s not how you sell weapons as an arms manufacturer, and it’s not how you advance hegemonic agendas as an empire. That’s why peace doesn’t get a voice.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: how is Zelensky making time for a Vogue photoshoot amidst his busy schedule of PR appearances for other major western institutions?
I mean this is after all the same Volodymyr Zelensky who has been so busy making video appearances for the Grammy Awards, the Cannes Film Festival, the World Economic Forum and probably the Bilderberg group as well, and having meetings with celebrities like Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, and Bono and the Edge from U2. It’s as busy a PR tour as he could possibly have without having a discussion about the strategic importance of long-range artillery with Elmo on Sesame Street.
Oh yeah, and also isn’t there like a war or something happening in Ukraine? You’d think he’d probably be somewhat busy with that too.
West Prepares to Plunder Post-War Ukraine with Neoliberal Shock Therapy
36 Minutes Video | Jul 30, 2022
Western governments and corporations met in Switzerland to plan harsh neoliberal economic policies to impose on post-war Ukraine, calling to cut labor laws, “open markets,” drop tariffs, deregulate industries, and “sell state-owned enterprises to private investors.”