Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

On the Wrong Side of Globalization

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ in the Opinion section of the New York Times

 

Trade agreements are a subject that can cause the eyes to glaze over, but we should all be paying attention. Right now, there are trade proposals in the works that threaten to put most Americans on the wrong side of globalization.

The conflicting views about the agreements are actually tearing at the fabric of the Democratic Party, though you wouldn’t know it from President Obama’s rhetoric. In his State of the Union address, for example, he blandly referred to “new trade partnerships” that would “create more jobs.” Most immediately at issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which would bring together 12 countries along the Pacific Rim in what would be the largest free trade area in the world.

Negotiations for the TPP began in 2010, for the purpose, according to the United States Trade Representative, of increasing trade and investment, through lowering tariffs and other trade barriers among participating countries. But the TPP negotiations have been taking place in secret, forcing us to rely on leaked drafts to guess at the proposed provisions. At the same time, Congress introduced a bill this year that would grant the White House filibuster-proof fast-track authority, under which Congress simply approves or rejects whatever trade agreement is put before it, without revisions or amendments.

Controversy has erupted, and justifiably so. Based on the leaks — and the history of arrangements in past trade pacts — it is easy to infer the shape of the whole TPP, and it doesn’t look good. There is a real risk that it will benefit the wealthiest sliver of the American and global elite at the expense of everyone else. The fact that such a plan is under consideration at all is testament to how deeply inequality reverberates through our economic policies.

Worse, agreements like the TPP are only one aspect of a larger problem: our gross mismanagement of globalization.

Let’s tackle the history first. In general, trade deals today are markedly different from those made in the decades following World War II, when negotiations focused on lowering tariffs. As tariffs came down on all sides, trade expanded, and each country could develop the sectors in which it had strengths and as a result, standards of living would rise. Some jobs would be lost, but new jobs would be created.

Today, the purpose of trade agreements is different. Tariffs around the world are already low. The focus has shifted to “nontariff barriers,” and the most important of these — for the corporate interests pushing agreements — are regulations. Huge multinational corporations complain that inconsistent regulations make business costly. But most of the regulations, even if they are imperfect, are there for a reason: to protect workers, consumers, the economy and the environment.

What’s more, those regulations were often put in place by governments responding to the democratic demands of their citizens. Trade agreements’ new boosters euphemistically claim that they are simply after regulatory harmonization, a clean-sounding phrase that implies an innocent plan to promote efficiency. One could, of course, get regulatory harmonization by strengthening regulations to the highest standards everywhere. But when corporations call for harmonization, what they really mean is a race to the bottom.

– More…

 

Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?

Monday, March 17th, 2014

“With the enemy’s approach to Moscow, the Moscovites’ view of their situation did not grow more serious but on the contrary became even more frivolous, as always happens with people who see a great danger approaching.

At the approach of danger there are always two voices that speak with equal power in the human soul: one very reasonably tells a man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of escaping it; the other, still more reasonably, says that it is too depressing and painful to think of the danger, since it is not in man’s power to foresee everything and avert the general course of events, and it is therefore better to disregard what is painful till it comes, and to think about what is pleasant.”

– Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace

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Natural and social scientists develop new model of how ‘perfect storm’ of crises could unravel global system

A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand years.”

Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with “Elites” based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:

“… accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels.”

The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:

“Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.”

Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from “increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput,” despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions “closely reflecting the reality of the world today… we find that collapse is difficult to avoid.” In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:

“…. appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature.”

Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that “with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites.”

In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners”, allowing them to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.” The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how “historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases).”

Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:

“While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory ‘so far’ in support of doing nothing.”

However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:

“Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.”

The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business – and consumers – to recognise that ‘business as usual’ cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.

Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies – by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance – have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a ‘perfect storm’ within about fifteen years. But these ‘business as usual’ forecasts could be very conservative.

– To the original article:  ➡

 

Right to refuse access by mining companies voted down in Senate

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

– This in from Australia which appears to be the U.S.’s little brother clone in the South Pacific.  

– There, the corporations, through influence on government, are slowly gaining their will in all things – just as we’ve seen for some time now in the U.S.

– dennis

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A bill to give farmers and others the right to veto entry onto their properties by mining, oil and gas companies has been voted down in the Senate.

Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters introduced the ‘Landholders Right to refuse (Gas and Coal) Bill 2013’, which was defeated 44 to 9.

The bill also called for the Federal Government to buy back farms that have coal seam gas and coal mines on them.

Senator Waters says moves to protect prime agricultural land in Queensland and so-called critical industry clusters in New South Wales have failed to protect farmers.

“We saw an awful lot of promises on this issue before those respective parties were elected that they would act on this issue,” she said.

“What’s been produced just under-delivers in the extreme.

“Queensland made these promises years ago, and still haven’t even delivered. It’s still in bill format.

“The New South Wales ultimate protections that were passed actually have so many holes in them it’s almost like they’re a coal seam gas well themselves.”

Senator Waters says the bill was to redress the lack of right of farmers and others.

“Currently landholders across the country, in most instances, don’t have the right to say no to mining and coal seam gas companies that want to come onto their property.

“They only have the right to negotiate the compensation amount that they get.

– More…

 

Robert Reich: Where is the angry middle-class revolution?

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Our incomes are shrinking while the 1 percent profits. Change will only happen when the middle class gets mad

by Robert Reich on Salon

People ask me all the time why we don’t have a revolution in America, or at least a major wave of reform similar to that of the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society.

Middle incomes are sinking, the ranks of the poor are swelling, almost all the economic gains are going to the top, and big money is corrupting our democracy. So why isn’t there more of a ruckus?

The answer is complex, but three reasons stand out.

First, the working class is paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has.

In earlier decades, the working class fomented reform. The labor movement led the charge for a minimum wage, 40-hour workweek, unemployment insurance, and Social Security.

No longer. Working people don’t dare. The share of working-age Americans holding jobs is now lower than at any time in the last three decades and 76 percent of them are living paycheck to paycheck.

No one has any job security. The last thing they want to do is make a fuss and risk losing the little they have.

Besides, their major means of organizing and protecting themselves — labor unions — have been decimated. Four decades ago more than a third of private-sector workers were unionized. Now, fewer than 7 percent belong to a union.

Second, students don’t dare rock the boat.

In prior decades students were a major force for social change. They played an active role in the Civil Rights movement, the Free Speech movement, and against the Vietnam War.

But today’s students don’t want to make a ruckus. They’re laden with debt. Since 1999, student debt has increased more than 500 percent, yet the average starting salary for graduates has dropped 10 percent, adjusted for inflation. Student debts can’t be cancelled in bankruptcy. A default brings penalties and ruins a credit rating.

To make matters worse, the job market for new graduates remains lousy. Which is why record numbers are still living at home.

Reformers and revolutionaries don’t look forward to living with mom and dad or worrying about credit ratings and job recommendations.

Third and finally, the American public has become so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible.



When asked if they believe government will do the right thing most of the time, fewer than 20 percent of Americans agree. Fifty years ago, when that question was first asked on standard surveys, more than 75 percent agreed.

It’s hard to get people worked up to change society or even to change a few laws when they don’t believe government can possibly work.

You’d have to posit a giant conspiracy in order to believe all this was the doing of the forces in America most resistant to positive social change.

It’s possible. of course, that rightwing Republicans, corporate executives, and Wall Street moguls intentionally cut jobs and wages in order to cow average workers, buried students under so much debt they’d never take to the streets, and made most Americans so cynical about government they wouldn’t even try for change.

But it’s more likely they merely allowed all this to unfold, like a giant wet blanket over the outrage and indignation most Americans feel but don’t express.

Change is coming anyway. We cannot abide an ever-greater share of the nation’s income and wealth going to the top while median household incomes continue too drop, one out of five of our children living in dire poverty, and big money taking over our democracy.

At some point, working people, students, and the broad public will have had enough. They will reclaim our economy and our democracy. This has been the central lesson of American history.

Reform is less risky than revolution, but the longer we wait the more likely it will be the latter.

– to the original article:

 

An insider’s story of the global attack on climate science

Friday, January 24th, 2014

An epic saga of secretly funded climate denial and harassment of scientists.

A recent headline—”Failed doubters trust leaves taxpayers six-figure loss“—marked the end of a four-year epic saga of secretly funded climate denial, the harassment of scientists, and a tying-up of valuable government resources in New Zealand.

It’s likely to be a familiar story to my scientist colleagues in Australia, the UK, the US, and elsewhere around the world.

But if you’re not a scientist and are genuinely trying to work out who to believe when it comes to climate change, then it’s a story you need to hear, too. Because while the New Zealand fight over climate data appears to finally be over, it’s part of a much larger, ongoing war against evidence-based science.

From number crunching to controversy

In 1981, as part of my PhD work, I produced a seven-station New Zealand temperature series known as 7SS to monitor historic temperature trends and variations from Auckland to as far south as Dunedin in southern New Zealand.

A decade later, while at the NZ Meteorological Service in 1991-92, I revised the 7SS using a newhomogenization approach to make New Zealand’s temperature records more accurate, such as adjusting for when temperature gauges were moved to new sites. For example, in 1928, Wellington’s temperature gauge was relocated from an inner suburb near sea level up into the hills at Kelburn, where—due to its higher, cooler location—it recorded much cooler temperatures for the city than before.

With statistical analysis, we could work out how much Wellington’s temperature has really gone up or down since the city’s temperature records began back in 1862 and how much of that change was simply due to the gauge being moved uphill. (You can read more about re-examining NZ temperatureshere.)

So far, so uncontroversial.

But in 2008, while I was working for a NZ government-owned research organization—the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)—we updated the 7SS. And we found that at those seven stations across the country, from Auckland down to Dunedin, there was a warming trend of 0.91ºC (1.63ºF) between 1909 and 2008.

Soon after that, things started to get heated.

The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, linked to a global climate change denial group, theInternational Climate Science Coalition, began to question the adjustments I had made to the 7SS.

Rather than ever contacting me to ask for an explanation of the science, as I’ve tried to briefly cover above, the Coalition appeared determined to find a conspiracy.

“Shonky” claims

The attack on the science was led by then MP for the free market ACT New Zealand party, Rodney Hide, who claimed in the NZ Parliament in February 2010:

NIWA’s raw data for their official temperature graph shows no warming. But NIWA shifted the bulk of the temperature record pre-1950 downwards and the bulk of the data post-1950 upwards to produce a sharply rising trend… NIWA’s entire argument for warming was a result of adjustments to data which can’t be justified or checked. It’s shonky.

Hide’s attack continued for 18 months, with more than 80 parliamentary questions being put to NIWA between February 2010 and July 2011, all of which required NIWA input for the answers.

The science minister asked NIWA to reexamine the temperature records, which required several months of science time. In December 2010, the results were in. After the methodology was reviewed and endorsed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, it was found that at the seven stations from Auckland to Dunedin, there was a warming trend of 0.91°C between 1909 and 2008.

That is, the same result as before.

But before NIWA even had time to produce that report, a new line of attack had been launched.

Off to court

In July 2010, a statement of claim against NIWA was filed in the High Court of New Zealand under the guise of a new charitable trust: the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust (NZCSET). Its trustees were all members of the NZ Climate Science Coalition.

The NZCSET challenged the decision of NIWA to publish the adjusted 7SS, claiming that the “unscientific” methods used created an unrealistic indication of climate warming.

The trust ignored the evidence in the Meteorological Service report I first authored, which stated that a particular adjustment methodology had been used. The trust incorrectly claimed this methodology should have been used but wasn’t.

 

Enlarge / The New Zealand weather wars in the news.
The New Zealand Herald

In July 2011, the trust produced a document that attempted to reproduce the Meteorological Service adjustments, but it failed to do so, instead making lots of errors.

 

On September 7, 2012, High Court Justice Geoffrey Venning delivered a 49-page ruling, finding that the NZCSET had not succeeded in any of its challenges against NIWA.

The judge was particularly critical about retired journalist and NZCSET trustee Terry Dunleavy’slack of scientific expertise.

Justice Venning described some of the trust’s evidence as tediously lengthy and said, “It is particularly unsuited to a satisfactory resolution of a difference of opinion on scientific matters.”

Taxpayers left to foot the bill

After an appeal that was withdrawn at the last minute, late last year the NZCSET was ordered to pay NIWA NZ$89,000 (US$74,000) in costs from the original case, plus further costs from the appeal.

But just this month, we have learned that the people behind the NZCSET have sent it into liquidation as they cannot afford the fees, leaving the New Zealand taxpayer at a substantial, six-figure loss.

Commenting on the lost time and money involved with the case, NIWA Chief Executive John Morgan said, “On the surface, it looks like the trust was purely for the purpose of taking action, which is not what one would consider the normal use of a charitable trust.”

This has been an insidious saga. The trust aggressively attacked the scientists instead of engaging with them to understand the technical issues, they ignored evidence that didn’t suit their case, and they regularly misrepresented NIWA statements by taking them out of context.

Yet their attack has now been repeatedly rejected in Parliament, by scientists, and by the courts.

The end result of the antics by a few individuals and the trust is probably going to be a six-figure bill for New Zealanders to pay.

My former colleagues have had valuable weeks tied up in defending against these manufactured allegations. That’s time that could have profitably been used further investigating what is happening with our climate.

But there is a bigger picture here, too.

Merchants of doubt

Doubt-mongering is an old strategy. It is a strategy that has been pursued before to combat the ideas that cigarette smoking is harmful to your health, and it has been assiduously followed by climate deniers for the past 20 years.

One of the best-known international proponents of such strategies is US think tank the Heartland Institute.

Enlarge / The first in a planned series of anti-global warming billboards in the US, comparing “climate alarmists” with terrorists and mass murderers. The campaign was canned after a backlash.
The Heartland Institute

Just to be clear: there is no evidence that the Heartland Institute helped fund the NZ court challenge. In 2012, one of the trustees who brought the action against NIWA said that Heartland had not donated anything to the case.

However, Heartland is known to have been active in NZ in the past, providing funding to the NZ Climate Science Coalition and a related International Coalition, as well as financially backing prominent climate “skeptic” campaigns in Australia.

 

Enlarge / An extract from a 1999 letter from the Heartland Institute to tobacco company Philip Morris.
University of California, San Francisco, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library

The Heartland Institute also has a long record ofworking with tobacco companies, as the letter on the right illustrates. (You can read that letter and other industry documents in full here. Meanwhile, Heartland’s reply to critics of its tobacco and fossil fuel campaigns is here.)

 

Earlier this month, the news broke that major tobacco companies will finally admit that they “deliberately deceived the American public,” in “corrective statements” that would run on prime-time TV, in newspapers, and even on cigarette packs.

It has taken a 15-year court battle with the US government to reach this point, and it shows that evidence can trump doubt-mongering in the long run.

A similar day may come for those who actively work to cast doubt on climate science.The Conversation

This story originally appeared on The Conversation.

– My source:  

– Research Thanks to Alan T.

 

David Simon: ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

The creator of The Wire, David Simon, delivered an impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at theFestival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, and how capitalism has lost sight of its social compact. This is an edited extract

America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.

There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west. I don’t think it’s unique to America.

I think we’ve perfected a lot of the tragedy and we’re getting there faster than a lot of other places that may be a little more reasoned, but my dangerous idea kind of involves this fellow who got left by the wayside in the 20th century and seemed to be almost the butt end of the joke of the 20th century; a fellow named Karl Marx.

I’m not a Marxist in the sense that I don’t think Marxism has a very specific clinical answer to what ails us economically. I think Marx was a much better diagnostician than he was a clinician. He was good at figuring out what was wrong or what could be wrong with capitalism if it wasn’t attended to and much less credible when it comes to how you might solve that.

You know if you’ve read Capital or if you’ve got the Cliff Notes, you know that his imaginings of how classical Marxism – of how his logic would work when applied – kind of devolve into such nonsense as the withering away of the state and platitudes like that. But he was really sharp about what goes wrong when capital wins unequivocally, when it gets everything it asks for.

That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.

We understand profit. In my country we measure things by profit. We listen to the Wall Street analysts. They tell us what we’re supposed to do every quarter. The quarterly report is God. Turn to face God. Turn to face Mecca, you know. Did you make your number? Did you not make your number? Do you want your bonus? Do you not want your bonus?

And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.

Capitalism stomped the hell out of Marxism by the end of the 20th century and was predominant in all respects, but the great irony of it is that the only thing that actually works is not ideological, it is impure, has elements of both arguments and never actually achieves any kind of partisan or philosophical perfection.

It’s pragmatic, it includes the best aspects of socialistic thought and of free-market capitalism and it works because we don’t let it work entirely. And that’s a hard idea to think – that there isn’t one single silver bullet that gets us out of the mess we’ve dug for ourselves. But man, we’ve dug a mess.

After the second world war, the west emerged with the American economy coming out of its wartime extravagance, emerging as the best product. It was the best product. It worked the best. It was demonstrating its might not only in terms of what it did during the war but in terms of just how facile it was in creating mass wealth.

Plus, it provided a lot more freedom and was doing the one thing that guaranteed that the 20th century was going to be – and forgive the jingoistic sound of this – the American century.

It took a working class that had no discretionary income at the beginning of the century, which was working on subsistence wages. It turned it into a consumer class that not only had money to buy all the stuff that they needed to live but enough to buy a bunch of shit that they wanted but didn’t need, and that was the engine that drove us.

It wasn’t just that we could supply stuff, or that we had the factories or know-how or capital, it was that we created our own demand and started exporting that demand throughout the west. And the standard of living made it possible to manufacture stuff at an incredible rate and sell it.

And how did we do that? We did that by not giving in to either side. That was the new deal. That was the great society. That was all of that argument about collective bargaining and union wages and it was an argument that meant neither side gets to win.

Labour doesn’t get to win all its arguments, capital doesn’t get to. But it’s in the tension, it’s in the actual fight between the two, that capitalism actually becomes functional, that it becomes something that every stratum in society has a stake in, that they all share.

The unions actually mattered. The unions were part of the equation. It didn’t matter that they won all the time, it didn’t matter that they lost all the time, it just mattered that they had to win some of the time and they had to put up a fight and they had to argue for the demand and the equation and for the idea that workers were not worth less, they were worth more.

Ultimately we abandoned that and believed in the idea of trickle-down and the idea of the market economy and the market knows best, to the point where now libertarianism in my country is actually being taken seriously as an intelligent mode of political thought. It’s astonishing to me. But it is. People are saying I don’t need anything but my own ability to earn a profit. I’m not connected to society. I don’t care how the road got built, I don’t care where the firefighter comes from, I don’t care who educates the kids other than my kids. I am me. It’s the triumph of the self. I am me, hear me roar.

That we’ve gotten to this point is astonishing to me because basically in winning its victory, in seeing that Wall come down and seeing the former Stalinist state’s journey towards our way of thinking in terms of markets or being vulnerable, you would have thought that we would have learned what works. Instead we’ve descended into what can only be described as greed. This is just greed. This is an inability to see that we’re all connected, that the idea of two Americas is implausible, or two Australias, or two Spains or two Frances.

Societies are exactly what they sound like. If everybody is invested and if everyone just believes that they have “some”, it doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to get the same amount. It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be people who are the venture capitalists who stand to make the most. It’s not each according to their needs or anything that is purely Marxist, but it is that everybody feels as if, if the society succeeds, I succeed, I don’t get left behind. And there isn’t a society in the west now, right now, that is able to sustain that for all of its population.

And so in my country you’re seeing a horror show. You’re seeing a retrenchment in terms of family income, you’re seeing the abandonment of basic services, such as public education, functional public education. You’re seeing the underclass hunted through an alleged war on dangerous drugs that is in fact merely a war on the poor and has turned us into the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind, in terms of the sheer numbers of people we’ve put in American prisons and the percentage of Americans we put into prisons. No other country on the face of the Earth jails people at the number and rate that we are.

We have become something other than what we claim for the American dream and all because of our inability to basically share, to even contemplate a socialist impulse.

Socialism is a dirty word in my country. I have to give that disclaimer at the beginning of every speech, “Oh by the way I’m not a Marxist you know”. I lived through the 20th century. I don’t believe that a state-run economy can be as viable as market capitalism in producing mass wealth. I don’t.

I’m utterly committed to the idea that capitalism has to be the way we generate mass wealth in the coming century. That argument’s over. But the idea that it’s not going to be married to a social compact, that how you distribute the benefits of capitalism isn’t going to include everyone in the society to a reasonable extent, that’s astonishing to me.

And so capitalism is about to seize defeat from the jaws of victory all by its own hand. That’s the astonishing end of this story, unless we reverse course. Unless we take into consideration, if not the remedies of Marx then the diagnosis, because he saw what would happen if capital triumphed unequivocally, if it got everything it wanted.

And one of the things that capital would want unequivocally and for certain is the diminishment of labour. They would want labour to be diminished because labour’s a cost. And if labour is diminished, let’s translate that: in human terms, it means human beings are worth less.

From this moment forward unless we reverse course, the average human being is worth less on planet Earth. Unless we take stock of the fact that maybe socialism and the socialist impulse has to be addressed again; it has to be married as it was married in the 1930s, the 1940s and even into the 1950s, to the engine that is capitalism.

Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.

The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It’s a juvenile notion and it’s still being argued in my country passionately and we’re going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I’m astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?

If you watched the debacle that was, and is, the fight over something as basic as public health policy in my country over the last couple of years, imagine the ineffectiveness that Americans are going to offer the world when it comes to something really complicated like global warming. We can’t even get healthcare for our citizens on a basic level. And the argument comes down to: “Goddamn this socialist president. Does he think I’m going to pay to keep other people healthy? It’s socialism, motherfucker.”

What do you think group health insurance is? You know you ask these guys, “Do you have group health insurance where you …?” “Oh yeah, I get …” you know, “my law firm …” So when you get sick you’re able to afford the treatment.

The treatment comes because you have enough people in your law firm so you’re able to get health insurance enough for them to stay healthy. So the actuarial tables work and all of you, when you do get sick, are able to have the resources there to get better because you’re relying on the idea of the group. Yeah. And they nod their heads, and you go “Brother, that’s socialism. You know it is.”

And … you know when you say, OK, we’re going to do what we’re doing for your law firm but we’re going to do it for 300 million Americans and we’re going to make it affordable for everybody that way. And yes, it means that you’re going to be paying for the other guys in the society, the same way you pay for the other guys in the law firm … Their eyes glaze. You know they don’t want to hear it. It’s too much. Too much to contemplate the idea that the whole country might be actually connected.

So I’m astonished that at this late date I’m standing here and saying we might want to go back for this guy Marx that we were laughing at, if not for his prescriptions, then at least for his depiction of what is possible if you don’t mitigate the authority of capitalism, if you don’t embrace some other values for human endeavour.

And that’s what The Wire was about basically, it was about people who were worth less and who were no longer necessary, as maybe 10 or 15% of my country is no longer necessary to the operation of the economy. It was about them trying to solve, for lack of a better term, an existential crisis. In their irrelevance, their economic irrelevance, they were nonetheless still on the ground occupying this place called Baltimore and they were going to have to endure somehow.

That’s the great horror show. What are we going to do with all these people that we’ve managed to marginalise? It was kind of interesting when it was only race, when you could do this on the basis of people’s racial fears and it was just the black and brown people in American cities who had the higher rates of unemployment and the higher rates of addiction and were marginalised and had the shitty school systems and the lack of opportunity.

And kind of interesting in this last recession to see the economy shrug and start to throw white middle-class people into the same boat, so that they became vulnerable to the drug war, say from methamphetamine, or they became unable to qualify for college loans. And all of a sudden a certain faith in the economic engine and the economic authority of Wall Street and market logic started to fall away from people. And they realised it’s not just about race, it’s about something even more terrifying. It’s about class. Are you at the top of the wave or are you at the bottom?

So how does it get better? In 1932, it got better because they dealt the cards again and there was a communal logic that said nobody’s going to get left behind. We’re going to figure this out. We’re going to get the banks open. From the depths of that depression a social compact was made between worker, between labour and capital that actually allowed people to have some hope.

We’re either going to do that in some practical way when things get bad enough or we’re going to keep going the way we’re going, at which point there’s going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody’s going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there’s always the brick. I hope we go for the first option but I’m losing faith.

The other thing that was there in 1932 that isn’t there now is that some element of the popular will could be expressed through the electoral process in my country.

The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what’s a good idea or what’s not, or what’s valued and what’s not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans.

Right now capital has effectively purchased the government, and you witnessed it again with the healthcare debacle in terms of the $450m that was heaved into Congress, the most broken part of my government, in order that the popular will never actually emerged in any of that legislative process.

So I don’t know what we do if we can’t actually control the representative government that we claim will manifest the popular will. Even if we all start having the same sentiments that I’m arguing for now, I’m not sure we can effect them any more in the same way that we could at the rise of the Great Depression, so maybe it will be the brick. But I hope not.

David Simon is an American author and journalist and was the executive producer of The Wire. This is an edited extract of a talk delivered at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney.

 

– To the original Article:  

– research thanks to Gus H.

 

“Managing Transparency”

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

By George Monbiot of the UK’s Guardian – 2 December 2013

Politicians and officials are desperately seeking to justify their transatlantic assault on democracy.

Panic spreads through the European Commission like ferrets in a rabbit warren. Its plans to create a single market incorporating Europe and the United States, progressing so nicely when hardly anyone knew, have been blown wide open. All over Europe people are asking why this is happening; why we were not consulted; for whom it is being done.

They have good reason to ask. The Commission insists that its Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership should include a toxic mechanism called investor-state dispute settlement. Where this has been forced into other trade agreements, it has allowed big corporations to sue governments before secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers, which bypass domestic courts and override the will of parliaments(1).

This mechanism could threaten almost any means by which governments might seek to defend their citizens or protect the natural world. Already it is being used by mining companies to sue governments trying to keep them out of protected areas(2,3); by banks fighting financial regulation(4); by a nuclear company contesting Germany’s decision to switch off atomic power(5). After a big political fight we’ve now been promised plain packaging for cigarettes. But it could be nixed by an offshore arbitration panel. The tobacco company Philip Morris is currently suing Australia through the same mechanism in another treaty(6).

No longer able to keep this process quiet, the European Commission has instead devised a strategy for lying to us. A few days ago an internal document was leaked(7). This reveals that a “dedicated communications operation” is being “coordinated across the Commission”. It involves, to use the EC’s chilling phrase, the “management of stakeholders, social media and transparency.” Managing transparency should be adopted as its motto.

The message is that the trade deal is about “delivering growth and jobs” and will not “undermine regulation and existing levels of protection in areas like health, safety and the environment”. Just one problem: it’s not true.

From the outset, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has been driven by corporations and their lobby groups, who boast of being able to “co-write” it(8,9). Persistant digging by the Corporate Europe Observatory reveals that the commission has held eight meetings on the issue with civil society groups, and 119 with corporations and their lobby groups(10). Unlike the civil society meetings, these have taken place behind closed doors and have not been disclosed online.

Though the Commission now tells the public that it will protect “the state’s right to regulate”(11), this isn’t the message the corporations have been hearing. In an interview last week, Stuart Eizenstat, co-chair of the Transatlantic Business Council, instrumental in driving the process, was asked whether companies whose products had been banned by regulators would be able to sue(12). Yes. “If a suit like that was brought and was successful, it would mean that the country banning the product would have to pay compensation to the industry involved or let the product in.” Would that apply to the European ban on chicken carcasses washed with chlorine, a controversial practice permitted in the US? “That’s one example where it might.”

What the Commission and its member governments fail to explain is why we need offshore arbitration at all. It insists that domestic courts “might be biased or lack independence”(13), but which courts is it talking about? It won’t say. Last month, while trying to defend the treaty, the British minister Kenneth Clarke said something revealing:

“Investor protection is a standard part of free-trade agreements – it was designed to support businesses investing in countries where the rule of law is unpredictable, to say the least.”(14) So what is it doing in an EU-US deal? Why are we using measures designed to protect corporate interests in failed states in countries with a functioning judicial system? Perhaps it’s because functioning courts are less useful to corporations than opaque and injust arbitration by corporate lawyers.

As for the Commission’s claim that the trade deal will produce growth and jobs, this is also likely to be false. Barack Obama promised that the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement would increase US exports by $10bn. They immediately fell by $3.5bn(15). The 70,000 jobs it would deliver? Er, 40,000 were lost. Bill Clinton promised that the North American Free Trade Agreement would create 200,000 new jobs for the US; 680,000 went down the pan(16,17). As the commentator Glyn Moody says, “the benefits are slight and illusory, while the risks are very real.”(18)

So where are our elected representatives? Fast asleep. Labour MEPs, now frantically trying to keep investor-state dispute mechanisms out of the agreement, are the  exception(19); the rest are in Neverland. The LibDem MEP Sir Graham Watson wrote in his newsletter, before dismissing the idea, “I am told that columnists on The Guardian and The Independent claim it will hugely advantage US multinational companies to the detriment of Europe.”(20) We said no such thing, as he would know had he read the articles, rather than idiotically relying on hearsay. The treaty is likely to advantage the corporations of both the US and the EU, while disadvantaging their people. It presents a danger to democracy and public protection throughout the trading area.

Caroline Lucas, one of the few MPs who remains interested in the sovereignty of parliament, has published an early day motion on the issue(21). It has so far been signed by only seven MPs. For the government, Kenneth Clarke argues that to ignore the potential economic gains of the trade agreement “in favour of blowing up a controversy around one small part of the negotiations, known as investor protection, seems to me positively Scrooge-like.”(22)

Quite right too. Overriding our laws, stripping away our rights, making parliament redundant: these are trivial and irrelevant beside the issue of how much money could be made. Don’t worry your little heads about it.

– To the original Article:  

– Research thanks to Piers L.

 

 

LOBBYISTS FOR THE HAVENS: ICIJ’S GUIDE TO THE OFFSHORE SYSTEM’S DEFENDERS

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

– I’ve been following ICIJ’s work (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) since they broke their big story revealing the names of many of the rich and famous who hide their money in off-shore tax havens.

– And, while I don’t like taxes anymore than the next fellow, I applaud what they are doing.  

– If taxes must be paid, then the burden on all of us is lessened if everyone pays their fair share.

– The issue of what we are paying our taxes for is, however, a very different question.  I.e., are we paying our taxes to fund subsidies for the oil industry or for foreign wars?  Or, are we paying for services that improve the quality of life for everyone in our society.  Services like roads, food inspections and public schools.

– Here, ICIJ reveals who is defending the off-shore tax havens.  And how indirectly structured those defenses are.  The people funding the defense efforts don’t want to be seen as defending the havens.  So, they setup and quietly fund the defensive organizations while remaining quietly in the background.

– I say turn over all the rocks and let’s see what scuttles away in the light of day.  To see whatsort of creature causes all of us to have to pay more taxes to make up for their lost contributions.   And the irony is that most of the folks and companies doing this are not in any way stretched thin.   The vast majority of them posses wealth that most of us can only dream about.

– dennis

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Across the world, tax havens are under attack. Leading global organizations like the G20 and OECD have put cracking down on offshore tax avoidance at the top of their agendas. Ambitious plans for automatic sharing of tax data between countries are in the works.

But as ICIJ noted this week, reports of the demise of offshore tax havens have often been greatly exaggerated. Highly touted clampdowns in 2000 and 2009 yielded few results. In the last five years, two French presidents have vowed to wipe tax havens off the map entirely, but so far no one has come close to dealing a coup de grâce.

The resilience of offshore tax havens is not merely a result of clever financial tricks. Offshore havens and tax avoidance have influential defenders who have lobbied hard to maintain the status quo. Many of the world’s biggest corporations, accounting firms and law firms are pushing back against the latest efforts to curb the use of offshore.

Much of the lobbying is not done by corporations themselves, but by little-known business associations that represent them. Google, General Electric and Mitsubishi may be household names, but the U.S. Council for International Business and Japan Foreign Trade Council draw little attention from the public. “They want to have these arguments made on their behalf by others, because they have been in the spotlight and under fire for these things,” Nicholas Shaxson, the author of Treasure Islands, a book critical of offshore secrecy, said of the corporations that belong to these lobby groups.

ICIJ has consulted experts, reviewed media coverage and examined the comments made on proposed offshore reforms by the OECD in order to identify the groups that are standing in the way of the current round of offshore financial reforms. This roundup is far from complete, and we will update it based on news developments and suggestions from our readers.

Here is our rundown of six of the groups resisting reforms to offshore finance:

 – To read more:  

 

AND NOW THE REST OF THE STORY ABOUT OBAMACARE

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

ObamaCare – we’ve all been hearing a lot of ‘bad’ news about it (and all that bad news is well funded and backed by the very people (read big business) who stand to lose money if people in the U.S. actually got a better deal on healthcare).

– Well, here’s the other side of the story that you WON’T find on the big U.S. networks (controlled as they are by big business).  

– Thanks to my friend, Ron, at the Sky Valley Chronicle in the U.S. for writing this.

-dennis

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Just a few facts the nightly news left out

You would think that after the past few weeks watching the mainstream/lamestream nightly TV news shows and reading some newspapers that the screw ups with the rollout of the national website for the Affordable Health care Act (e.g. Obamacare) was of world importance.

Something right up there with global terrorism and young guys walking into schools, malls and airports with AK-47’s and commencing target practice.

Night after night (as modern Europe watches this surrealistic circus show and shakes its collective head in disbelief) Americans have been treated to lead stories about how horrible this terrible thing is/was/will forever be.

The screw up, we are led to believe is on the same par with the United States invading the wrong country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with the 911 terrorist attacks.

To find out how much that little number has cost you so far in your “hard earned tax dollars” and how much is still being rung up on the national credit card each second of every day, check here .

Makes the health care web site screw up look like a Pee Wee Herman movie by comparison.

And when it comes to right wing leaning media like Fox News, this government screw up is the equivalent of the end of Western Civilization.

According to Fox News there are as we speak roving bands of wild eyed, blood drooling socialists going house to house strangling with their bare hands women and children and little old grandmas.

And as they squeeze the last living breath out of them, the murdering socialists (who are probably atheists as well) look their victims straight in the eye and scream, “Obamacare sent us! And we’re gonna kill ya all!”

The world has come to an end. The sky is falling. Fade to black.

But is it possible, just barely possible that a few things are being left out of that story?

Let us look and see, shall we?

AND NOW, THE REST OF THE STORY

There is a woman most of you have probably never heard of as her story was one of many like it that perhaps never made it as a lead story on the nightly Big Three network news or at Fox News of late.

Her name is Lela Petersen and she is the owner of a small store called “Anything And Everything” in Flagler, Colorado.

She is one of millions of small business people across America that the GOP is always so concerned about. The GOP is forever saying this and that will “harm small business people.”

So the GOP will probably love this story because Ms. Petersen and her hubbie can now look forward to a retirement thanks to Obamacare.

You see, under the current spiffy “free market” health care “system” Petersen, 57 and her husband Mike, 60, have been stuck with God awful expensive health insurance.

The HMO policy they’ve had since 1992 is now costing $1,950 per month, just for the two of them. It is, and has been, eating them alive financially.

Lela told a reporter for National Public Radio (NPR), “When you pay $1,950 for insurance you might as well forget retirement. There’s just no way.”

Five years ago she was looking at early retirement but never in her wildest dreams did she imagine health insurance costing as much as the rest of her bills combined.

For Lela that free market health care boogie wasn’t working very well. But thanks to America’s new Affordable Care Act ,Lela expects her insurance bill will be cut by more than half in January

In case you didn’t catch that as the nightly news did not: a MORE than a 50% reduction in her family’s cost for insurance.

At the start of October she checked out Colorado’s insurance exchange and found the exact same policy from the same insurer for only $832 a month. “It’s dropping us down about $1,100 a month. We can retire. We can go fishing. We can actually see a future,” Petersen told NPR.

Here is what made the difference. Becoming part of an insurance “pool” created by the act helped Petersen reduce her cost. The federal law also forbids insurance companies from charging more for pre-existing conditions. That saved her a ton of dough and then federal tax credits brought the cost down even further.

Now, there are millions of small business people across this country who are in exactly the same boat as Lela was/is. See the significance?

MILLIONS.

Does it strike you as odd these stories weren’t part of the bombastic news coverage of late?

And according to NPR’s coverage, “The Affordable Care Act will bring big changes for a lot of people,especially those who want to retire before they’re eligible for Medicare.

A 2012 survey by Employee Benefit Research Institute found 53 percent of workers polled planned to stay in their jobs longer than they wanted to, so they could keep health insurance through their employer.”

Read more about Lela’s new lifeline to a retirement here .

THE HORROR STORIES OF OBAMACARE

Would it surprise you to know that some journalists have followed up on some of these horror stories of late about Obamacare that have been carried on the TV news and right wing media sites and found that…well, they only told part of the story?

A recent post on CNN noted, “Here are just some of the mythical stories journalists have helped dispel and the lessons we can learn from them about the reality of the Affordable Care Act.”

Among the stories was one about Deborah Cavallaro who “was making the rounds on television complaining about how her current insurance plan was canceled under Obamacare.”

So a Washington Post columnist named Michael Hiltzik talked to her. He found out her current plan cost $293 per month but had a deductible of $5,000 per year and out-of-pocket annual limits of $8,500. Also, the current plan covered just two doctor’s visits per year.

But in the California insurance exchange (that ol’ debil Obamacare) which Hiltzik helped Cavallaro check, she could get a “silver” plan for $333 per month — $40 more than she’s currently paying.

But the kicker is this: the new plan has only a $2,000 deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses at $6,350. Plus all doctor visits would be covered. Hiltzik writes, “Is that better than her current plan? Yes, by a mile.”

So the real story here is this: the tootie-fruitie fruit loop Cavallaro was suckering TV shows into letting her slobber all over the tube an untrue sob story about how Obamacare was hurting her – because she didn’t have brains enough to check things out herself – when the reality is Obamacare is saving her little tooshie money and getting her better health coverage to boot.

Or how about a woman named Dianne Barrette?

She shows up on a CBS News (that bastion of news credibility) report in which she bitched and moaned that her $54-per-month insurance plan had been “canceled” under Obamacare.

Then a woman named Nancy Metcalf at Consumer Reports looks into Barrette’s sob story and found that her current policy was a “textbook example of a junk plan that isn’t real health insurance at all.”

“According to Metcalf, if Barrette had ever tried to use her insurance for anything more than a sporadic doctor’s visit, “she would have ended up with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical debt,” according to the CNN report.

Do you still trust CBS News, the fabled “news” network “that Murrow built”?

Metcalf also found that Barrett’s plan, for instance, only pays for hospitalization in cases of “complications of pregnancy.”

“Instead, Metcalf found that Barrette could get a “silver” plan in the state insurance exchange for $165 per month that would actually cover Barrette in the case of any sort of serious or even moderate illness. Which is the very definition of insurance, isn’t it?,” says the CNN report.

Editor’s Note 11/9/13: A few days after this story was published, CBS News was forced to make a very public and embarrassing retraction of an “exclusive” news story it broadcast on the CBS news magazine show “Sixty Minutes,” about ten days ago as of this writing.

Why did the network have to retract it? Because much like the Dianne Barrette incident noted in this story that left egg on their newsie faces, the great journalists at CBS simply took somebody’s word for something without thoroughly checking that somebody out.

For the sordid truth about how CBS checks its sources go here .

Or how about this item from the same CNN report:

“According to a report by Dylan Scott at Talking Points Memo, a Seattle woman named Donna received a cancellation letter from her insurance company regarding her current plan. The letter steered Donna and her family into a more expensive option and said, “If you’re happy with this plan, do nothing.”

The letter made no mention of the Washington State insurance exchange, where Donna could find plenty of other more affordable choices, because the company wanted a convenient excuse to jack up Donna’s rates.

Had Donna “done nothing,” she would have ended up spending about $1,000 more per month on insurance than the cost of insurance she ultimately chose through the Obamacare exchange. In fact, the practice of trying to mislead customers has become so widespread that Washington state regulators issued a consumer alert to customers.”

You can find more such stories in that CNN report here .

Reuters ran a story recently about Mark Sullivan, a 31-year-old Texan who says he managed to sign up for coverage on the screwed up Obamacare website HealthCare.gov, and he says his new policy will save him enough money that he’ll l be able to start a new web-based business.

“A lot of reporters want to talk about the problems with the website,” Sullivan told Reuters. “I can understand that focus, but a lot are missing the bigger story” that many people in Obamacare will save money on their insurance.

Ah yes, the bigger story. What we called “the rest of the story” at the start of this piece.

Here is another part of that rest of the story. You’ve heard complaints from some people that their insurance companies are jacking up their rates or canceling their policies and blaming it on the Affordable Care Act?

The fact of the matter is insurance companies can do whatever they want in regards to raising your rates at the moment because the part of the Affordable Health Care Act that protects you from things like that will not come into fruition until 2014.

At that time the law will protect you from your rates being raised arbitrarily by an insurance industry that is not exactly known for looking out for consumers. (Look up the fun health insurance industry practice known as “rescission” – for years an industry secret – for an eye opener about this industry).

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: NOT A CURE ALL FOR A LONG SCREWED UP “THING”

And finally, it is good to remember that the Affordable Care Act does not fix every little thing that is wrong with a long screwed up, long out of control patchwork health insurance/health care thing (it’s not really a “system”) in this country. Far from it.

The Affordable Care Act is, after all, a huge compromise and one that was painfully made to satisfy Republicans and hard core conservatives who wanted nothing whatsoever done to fix America’s out of control health care nightmare, ergo their never ending false tales of “socialized medicine” and “death panels.”

You see by keeping the health insurance nightmare as it was, some people made a fortune off the misery of others.

Those people and corporations who made a fortune then spent lavishly on the campaigns of lawmakers who would in turn fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo — and make sure that millions of Americans never got access to affordable health insurance, even though they desperately needed it.

America is the only modern nation in the world where we make health care a game of winners and losers.

When all those European nations looked around at how to construct a health care/health insurance package for their citizens, it is telling that not one of them chose the system of winners and losers that was made famous in America

Not one.

Some think that if sensible minds had prevailed Democrats would have disregarded the GOP assault on health care reform and, when they had the votes in both houses, pushed through a simple, single payer system much like they have in Europe and that alone might have ended a good portion of the nightmare of health insurance in this country.

But even though it is a vast compromise, the Affordable health Care Act does make a huge difference in terms of offering better coverage to far more people and particularly women — such as eliminating co-pays for cancer screenings, adding in additional detection and prevention services such as mammograms and providing guaranteed treatment to women with preexisting conditions.

Many consider the Affordable Health Care Act as simply a first step, one of many, toward reforming health care in America so that it works for everyone — not just the rich, not just those who can afford it or have it supplied to them by an employer.

And in terms of women, over 45 million women have already taken advantage of the services provided to them since Obamacare was signed into law.

And for those who truly have lost a good health insurance plan they wanted to keep and will need to spend a bit more money due to requirements of the Affordable health Care Act – and there are some in that boat – President Obama has apologized that people are, “Finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me… we’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them, and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”

“We didn’t do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law,” Obama told NBC News.

THE LOWDOWN

Most people buying insurance through the state run health exchanges will be eligible for federal subsidies in the form of tax credits.

Taking into account these subsidies, the administration has said a family of four with an income of $50,000 will generally be able to buy a silver-level plan for $282 a month, while a 27-year-old with income of $25,000 will be able to get such coverage for $145 a month.

The government says in Washington State for example, 758,004 people (91%) of Washington’s uninsured and eligible population may qualify for lower costs on coverage in the Marketplace, including through Medicaid.

Here in Washington State the insurance-exchange marketplace went online October 1st as theWashington HealthPlanFinder which is designed to be a one-stop shopping site to help and guide those that need affordable insurance but are not covered by a health plan where they work.

RATES

A chart produced by the New York Times on costs of the plans, state by state, shows a 27-year old individual who makes $45,960 a year in Iowa will be able to afford to buy a quality health insurance plan for $189 a month and a family of four in the same state that has an annual income of $50,000 a year and getting subsidies will be able to cover the entire family with health insurance for $282 a month.

That state by state chart can be found here .

However there are some exchanges across the country that won’t be fully operational for weeks and in some cases months.

Any insurance coverage that is purchased through the exchanges won’t actually take effect until January 1, 2014 when the health care law starts requiring most Americans to have insurance or pay a tax penalty.

To be covered starting Jan. 1st, people need to sign up for coverage through the exchanges by Dec. 15th.

The first open enrollment period runs from Oct. 1 to March 31.

Gary Cohen, Director of the federal Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight said premiums will be generally lower in states with strong competition in their insurance markets.

In the 36 states where the federal government has primary responsibility for the exchanges Cohen said people will be able to choose from an average of 53 health plans.

More on how the new health care exchanges operate can be found here .

The Seattle Times has a comprehensive “users guide” to the changes that are going into effect today that you’ll find here .

– To the original story:

 

‘Uncomfortable’ climates to devastate cities within a decade, study says

Monday, November 4th, 2013

– This is what John Roach of NBC News has to say on October 9th, 2013

– But this has all been coming, writ large, for a long time.  

-It’s been coming since:

Lyndon Johnson discussed the CO2 we were putting into the atmosphere in 1965.

Since the Club of Rome discussions and their paper on “The Limits to Growth” in 1972.

Since the World Scientists issued their warning to Humanity in 1992.

– But it is only just now beginning to reach the evening news as plausible news.  

– We have just a few greedy, self-centered people and corporations to thank for the fact that their misinformation has been instrumental in delaying humanities waking up on these threats until it is virtually too late.  

Most recently, Naomi Oreskes showed us this in her book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

– Some of us remember how Mussolini ended up.   I wonder, when the damages are finally appreciated, if these folks may fare the same.   I won’t cry any crocodile tears for them; that’s for sure.  

-By their actions many, many millions will die, cities and nations will fall, species innumerable will go extinct and most of our descendants will have less than optimal lives to look forward to; if they manage to live through the changes that are coming.

– dennis

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Lesser daysThe world is hurtling toward a stark future where the web of life unravels, human cultures are uprooted, and millions of species go extinct, according to a new study. This doomsday scenario isn’t far off, either: It may start within a decade in parts of Indonesia, and begin playing out over most of the world — including cities across the United States — by mid-century.

What’s more, even a serious effort to stabilize spiraling greenhouse gas emissions will only stave off these changes until around 2069, notes the study from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, published online Wednesday in the journal Nature. The authors warn that the time is now to prepare for a world where even the coldest of years will be warmer than the hottest years of the past century and a half.

“We are used to the climate that we live in. With this climate change, what is going to happen is we’re going to be moving outside this comfort zone,” biologist Camilo Mora, the study’s lead author, told NBC News. “It is going to be uncomfortable for us as humans and it will be very uncomfortable for species as well.”

– To Read More of this article:  

– Still with the doubts, Sweetpea?   Then please read this: