Jeff Faux: Lower Everyone's Wages and Living Standard

William Greider calls a "really important book" that tells the "astonishing story of how class works." Calls for a bipartisan "Grand Bargain" on taxes and spending for the next decade ring out daily, if not hourly, from the politicians and pundits who dominate our political media. But the national discourse is silent on the tacit agreement both parties have already made on the future that lies ahead for the majority of working Americans: A dramatic drop in their living standards! The United States can no longer satisfy the three great dreams that have driven most of its domestic politics since the end of World War II. The multinational corporate class's of limitless profits, the military industrial complex's dream of global hegemony, and the dream of the people for rising incomes and expanding opportunities. One out of three? Certainly. Two out of three? Maybe. All three? NO! So far, Corporate America gets priority boarding in the economic lifeboat, with the safest seats reserved for Wall Street. Four years after the crash, the financial sector remains heavily subsidized with cheap federal loans that it uses to buy higher yielding bonds, speculate in exotic IOU's and pay outrageous salaries to those on top. Larger than ever, they are more "too big to fail." As a result, Wall Street continues to divert the nation's capital away from investment in sustainable high quality jobs in America. Next in line is the Pentagon, and its vast network of corporate contractors, members of Congress with military facilities in their districts, and media propagandists for he empire. The administration, along with some libertarian Republicans, insist that military spending will not be spared in the coming era of austerity, and has proposed modest cuts over the next decade!

Dave Lindorff: We Can't Afford Accidents in the Persian Gulf

Things are getting out of hand in the Persian Gulf. The murderous cannon firing by nervous and trigger happy Navy personnel on the supply ship USS Rappahannock off the coast of Dubai earlier this week, which killed an Indian fisherman and wounded three of his companions as they motored past the US vessel, shows how easily a deadly and hard to stop new war in the Gulf region, this time between the US and Iran, could start. This time it was a fishing boat carrying Indians from Tamil Nadu state. Next time, however, it could as easily be an Iranian patrol boat, or even just an Iranian fishing boat that gets shot up or sunk by nervous US sailors. If that happens, then what? Would Iran and its military sit tight and accept such an act, as the country did when the US shot down a civilian Iranian airliner in 1988? Maybe, and maybe not! I suppose if the US were to shoot up an Iranian civilian vessel, and then apologized adequately, there might be no consequences, but then, the record suggests that the US doesn't have an easy time apologizing for such atrocities. Look at what it took to get a US apology for the murderous actions, in broad daylight on a crowded street, of CIA contract worker Raymond Davis in Pakistan. He slaughtered two young Pakistanis with gunshots to the back and execution shots to the head, and his later arrest by Pakistani police led to the running down and killing of another innocent Pakistani man by other CIA officers racing to rescue Davis in their SUV. Only months later, when he was facing trial on murder charges, did the US stop demanding his release and finally, finally apologize and pay a death compensation payment to the families of those killed!

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts: War On All Fronts!

Washington's three front war: Syria, Lebanon, Iran in the Middle East, China in the Far East, Russia in Europe: The Russian government has finally caught on that its political opposition is being financed by the US taxpayer funded National Endowment for Democracy and other CIA/State Department fronts in an attempt to subvert the Russian government and install an American puppet state in the geographically largest country on earth, the one country with a nuclear arsenal sufficient to deter Washington's aggression. Just as earlier this year Egypt expelled hundreds of people associated with foreign funded non governmental organizations (NGOs) for instilling dissent and meddling in domestic policies, the Russian Duma (parliament) has just passed a law that Putin is expected to sign, that requires political organizations that receive foreign funding to register as foreign agents. The law is based on the US law requiring the registration of foreign agents. Much of the Russian political opposition consists of foreign paid agents, and once the law passes, leading elements of the Russian political opposition will have to sign in with the Russian Ministry of Justice as foreign agents of Washington. The Itar-Tass News Agency reported on July 3 that there are about 1,000 organizations in Russia that are funded from abroad and engaged in political activity. Try to imagine the outcry if the Russians were funding 1,000 organizations in the US engaged in an effort to turn America into a Russian puppet state: In the US the Russians would find a lot of competition from Israel! The Washington funded Russian political opposition masquerades behind human rights and says it works to open Russia. What the disloyal and treasonous Washington funded Russian political opposition means by open Russia is to open Russia for brainwashing by Western propaganda.    


Pam Martens: How the High Wizards of Finance Gutted Our Schools and Cities

Wall Street banks have hollowed out our communities with fraudulently sold mortgages and illegal foreclosures, and settled the crimes for pennies on the dollar. They've set back property records to the early 1900s, skipping the recording of deeds in county registry offices, and using their own front called MERS. They lobbied to kill fixed pension plans and then shaved a decade of growth off our 401(K)s with exorbitant fees, rigged research and trading for the house. When much of Wall Street collapsed in 2008, as a direct result of their corrupt business model, their pals in Washington used the public purse to resuscitate the same corrupt financial model, allowing even greater depositor concentration at JP Morgan and Bank of America through acquisitions of crippled firms. And now, Wall Street may get away with the biggest heist of the public purse in the history of the world. You know it's an unprecedented crime when the conservative Economist magazine sums up the situation with a one word headline: "Banksters." It has been widely reported that Libor, the interest rate benchmark that was rigged by a banking cartel, impacted $10 trillion in consumer loans. Libor stands for London Interbank Offered Rate, and is supposed to be a reliable reflection of the rate at which banks are lending to each other. Based on the average of that rate, after highs and lows are discarded, the Libor index is used as a key index for setting loan rates around the world, including adjustable rate mortgages, credit card payments and student loans here in the US. But what's missing from the debate are the most diabolical parts of the scam: How a rigged Libor rate was used to defraud municipalities across America, inflate bank stock prices, and potentially rig futures markets around the world. 

Tom Burghardt: Spying on Americans through Cellphones!

What most Americans are blissfully unaware of is the fact that they carry in their pockets what have been described as near perfect spy devices - their cellphones. When Congress passed the FISA Amendment Act (FAA) in 2008, a privacy killing law that gutted First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections for Americans, while granting immunity to giant telecoms that assisted the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrant-less wiretapping programs, we were assured that the government "does not spy" on our communications. Yet scarcely a year after FAA was signed into law by President Bush, The New York Times revealed that under "Hope and change" huckster Barack Obama, NSA continued the previous regime's illegal practices, intercepting "private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress lat year." The wholesale vacuuming up of private communications by the sprawling Pentagon bureaucracy were described by unnamed "senior officials" as the "over-collection" of domestic communications of Americans" in other words, a mere technical "glitch" in an otherwise "balanced" program. But what most Americans are blissfully unaware of is the fact that they carry in their pockets what have been described as near perfect spy devices: their cellphones. Earlier this week, The New York Times disclosed that "cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigations."     

Ben Schreiner: On the Verge of An All Out War? Massive Military Build Up.

The familiar menace of US war drums have resumed at a fevered pitch, as Iran finds itself once again firmly within the Pentagons cross hairs. According to multiple reports, the US is currently in the midst of a massive military build up in the Persian Gulf on a scale not seen in the region since prior to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. The military surge reportedly includes an influx of air and naval forces, ground troops, and even sea drones. Lest one forgets, the US already has two aircraft carriers and their accompanying striker groups in the region. A growing sense of Iran war fever can also be seen mounting in Washington. For instance, in an effort to foil ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1 -the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, a bipartisan group of 44 US Senators recently sent a letter to President Obama urging the administration to focus on significantly increasing the pressure on the Iranian government through sanctions, and making clear that a credible military option exists. Such hawkish posturing occurs despite the fact that the US intelligence community finds no evidence that Iran has decided to pursue a nuclear weapon, the ostensible reason behind Western sanctions and threats of attack. Moreover, as an April Pentagon report states, Iran's military doctrine remains one of self defense, committed to slow an invasion, and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities. Compare this to the US military doctrine rife with notions of global power projection, and one sees where the credible threat lies. The nuclear issue, though, is but a pretext used to veil US imperial designs in the region. 


The Economist: Syria's Crisis - Damascus Attacked!

Syria's regime is looking increasingly wobbly. State television says a bomb attack on a security building in the capital, Damascus, this morning killed the defense minister, Dawood Rajiha, senior military aide Hassan Turkomani, and Asef Shawkat, perhaps the regime's main security man and brother in law to President Bashar Assad. A rebel offensive on the city has led to fierce clashes over the past three days, and this latest attack has dealt a blow to the regime's morale. Lightly armed opposition fighters have shown surprising resilience against the government's better equipped army in the Damascene districts of Midan and Qaboon, bringing the fight right to the seat of power. Today's blast appears to have hit the coterie of security men that has been directing the crackdown in Syria that has left at least 16,000 dead since March last year. Other security officials, including the national security chief and the interior minister, are reported to have been injured. Both the Free Syrian Army and an Islamist opposition group have claimed responsibility for the bombing. Some in the capital say the attacker may have been an insider, turning on other members of the regime. Many residents are worried about the likely response from the government, which has put on a show of bravado. It quickly brought in tanks and helicopters to respond to the recent fighting in the capital, sending civilians fleeing. Residents say elite troops have been moved into the city center to guard the television station and government buildings.   

The Economist: Czechs Close To Compensating Churches

More than two decades after the end of Communism, Czechs are close to compensating churches for properties seized during the four decades of Communist rule. A long awaited restitution bill cleared the parliament's lower house after a lengthy debate in the wee hours of July 14th, but it still faces an uphill battle. Under the terms of the deal between religious groups and parties of the center right ruling coalition, churches would receive property, mostly land, worth 75 billion Czech koruna, or about half the property nationalized by the Communists. The churches would be required to prove that they owned the property on February 25, 1948, the day of the Communist putsch. In addition, churches would receive financial compensation for the property that could not be returned, including the land or forests owned by third parties, worth 59 billion koruna, which will be paid over 30 years. The country's strongest faith, the Catholic Church, would receive 80%, the largest chunk. The state would also phase out by 2030 the financing of religious groups, including paying the clergy's salaries. The restitution plan is the third such bill to reach the parliament since the 1989 Velvet Revolution. It comes long after the newly democratic state returned private property and, in most instances, years after other ex-Communist countries settled the matter. According to Jakub Kriz, a law lecturer at the Prague based CEVRO academy who took part in drafting a failed restitution bill under Mirek Topolanek's cabinet. Previous attempts at settling the matter were either half-hearted or lacked parliamentary support. "This is the first government that is serious about it, and has a majority," said Kriz.  

Eric Draitser: Mali, Al Qaeda, and the US Neo-Colonial Agenda

Recent developments in Mali illustrate both the way in which the United States and its Western allies directly project military and political power, as well as the ole of terrorism as a necessary pretext for imperialist, neo-colonial domination. Beginning with the establishment of AFRICOM US Africa Command) in 2007, incorporating the war in Libya and the military coup detat in Mali, and up to todays consolidation of power by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), it has become clear that the United States has managed to successfully destabilize West Africa and achieve many of its long term strategic objectives in the region. While the Western media portrays the situation in West Africa as an unintended consequence of the imperialist aggression against Libya, the incontrovertible fact that the United States has, for years, attempted to expand its control of the region, has been made all the more apparent by the current instability and the decisive action that it necessitates. The spread of AQIM, which has now consolidated control over the vast swath of land in the Sahel region, rather conveniently provides the US with the crucial cover it needs to expand its military presence. Since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, Mali has been embroiled in a fierce civil war that has torn the country apart. The Tuareg fighters, who had fought on the side of Gaddafi and the Green Resistance, began to return home armed, battle-hardened, and bearing a grudge. This was, understandably, a recipe for war in Mali, where the central government was seen as little more than a US puppet regime, touting democracy as it bowed to US military and corporate interests. The rebels began waging war against Bamako in hopes of creating their own independent state of Azawad in Northern Mali, a goal which has been stifled since Mali gained its own independence in 1960.


Fred Cederholm: What are Ron Paul, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney Planning?

I've been thinking about preparations. Actually, I've been thinking the conventions, election 2012, Obama, Romney, Paul, tax returns, birth certificates, Bain Capital, and the veeps, the political party's conventions are almost upon us. The campaigns have been running for just over two years, but it seems far longer. Will the two major parties be ready to put on "the show of shows" and announce their standard bearers for the election of 2012? We may think we have a handle on who will be the candidates, but I am hardly certain the choices are as unanimous as the elephant and the mule. You see, election 2012 has endured an awfully long battle to what British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli dubbed the top of "the greasy pole." Now the main stream media has focused on what they believe to be the two front runners: The current President Barack Obama and contender Willard "Mitt" Romney. For months they have ignored the candidacy of Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who I might point out, has been collecting delegates for the convention since the first primaries and caucuses. Only the alternative media websites have been chronicling the epic odyssey of candidate Paul. He has an army of loyal followers and contributors, who have vowed to fight to the bitter end. The GOP has a tangled spaghetti plate of rules and procedures which govern, and I use that term loosely, and they are still in effect. These are the legacy of messy past campaign cycles and were never cleaned up. I suspect this will prove to be a major OOOOPS in Tampa Bay. If they can call for a vote on just Paul's candidacy via a "rules of the house" maneuver, all binding commitments to specific candidates "kinda sorta" evaporate and the delegates can vote their conscience - what a novel concept in the political world!     

Bill Moyers: Sheila Bair on Keeping Banks Honest

Welcome, Every day brings another reminder of the awful unfairness that besets our country. Here's the latest that leaped out at me: "Rolling Stone's" report on "The Fallen", the sharp, sudden decline of America's middle class. In it Jeff Tietz describes a handful of everyday people made homeless, now living out of their cars in church parking lots in southern California. Once upon a time, one of them, Janie Adkins, had a plant nursery business in Utah that grossed $300,000 annually, but two years after the financial meltdown in 2008, sales had dropped by half, and the value of her land even more. She tried to refinance, but four banks turned her down flat - four banks. Makes you wonder about all those big time bankers at the other side of the scale, the ones who came running to the government and taxpayers for bailouts worth hundreds of billions of dollars, then scooped up big bonuses and perks for themselves, and went back to business as usual. And what a business! You've surely been hearing about the newest scandal in banking, centering on Barclay's Bank in London and something called "Libor." That stands for London Interbank Offered Rate, and it involves a group of bankers who set a daily interest rate, affecting trillions of dollars of transactions around the world. Your home mortgage, your college debt, your credit card fees, these could have been affected by Libor. It turns out some of those insiders were manipulating the index for their own gain, to make their bank look better off during the financial crisis, to lower their borrowing cost and raise their profits. Picking our pockets, lining theirs. "The Economist" magazine describes it as "the rotten heart of finance." Here are some of the emails that have come to light: One banker in on the fix writes another,"Dude, I owe you big time! Come over one day after work, and I'm opening a bottle of Bollinger."

Michel Chossudovsky: The Global Economic Crisis!

This important collection provides the reader with "a most comprehensive analysis of the various facets, especially the financial, social and military ramifications from an outstanding list of world class social thinkers. The complex causes, as well as the devastating consequences of the economic crisis are carefully scrutinized with contributions from Ellen Brown, Tom Burghardt, Michel Chossudovsky, Richard C Cooke, John Bellamy Foster, Michael Hudson, Tanya Carlina Hsu, Fred Magdoff, Andrew Gavin Marshall, James Petras, Peter Phillips, Peter Dale Scott, Bill Van Auken, Claudia von Werlhof and Mike Whitney. Despite the diversity of viewpoints and perspectives presented within this volume, all of the contributors ultimately come to the same conclusion: Humanity is at the crossroads of the most serious economic and social crisis in modern history. The book takes the reader through the corridors of the Federal Reserve, into the plush corporate boardrooms on Wall Street, where far reaching financial transactions are routinely undertaken. We bring to the attention of our readers some of the highlights of this important collection with selected excerpts from the various chapters: In all major regions of the world, the economic recession is deep seated, resulting in mass unemployment, the collapse of state social programs and the impoverishment of millions of people. The economic crisis is accompanied by a worldwide process of militarization, a "war without borders" led by the United States of America and its NATO allies. The conduct of the Pentagons "long war" is intimately related to the restructuring of the global economy. The meltdown of financial markets in 2008-2009, was the result of institionalized fraud and financial manipulation. The "bank bailouts" were implemented on the instructions of Wall Street, leading to the largest transfer of money wealth in recorded history, while simultaneously creating an insurmountable public debt.


Lynn Parramore: Pain and Bondage in the American Workplace

When harmful beliefs plague a population, you can bet that the 1% is benefiting. This article is part of a new series, "Capitalism Unmasked," edited by Lynn Parramore and produced in partnership with author Douglas Smith to expose the myths and lies of unbridled capitalism and show the way to a better future. If the ghost of Ayn Rand were to suddenly manifest in your local bookstore, the Dominatrix of Capitalism would certainly get a thrill thumbing through the pages of EL James' blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey. Rand, whose own novels bristle with sadomasochist sexy-time and praise for the male hero's pursuit of domination, would instantly approve of Christian Grey, the handsome young billionaire CEO who bends the universe to his will. Ingenue Anastasia Steele stumbles literally into his world, when she trips into his sleek Seattle office for an interview for the college paper. When she calls him a "control freak," the god-like tycoon purrs as if he has received a compliment. "Oh, I exercise control in all things, Miss Steele,' he says without a trace of humor in his smile. 'I employ over forty thousand people. That gives me a certain responsibility, power, if you will." She will. Quivering with trepidation, Anastasia signs a contract to become Christian's submissive sex partner. Reeled in by his fantastic wealth, panty-sopping charm, and less than convincing promise that the exchange will be to her ultimate benefit, she surrenders herself to his arbitrary rules on what to eat, what to wear, and above all, how to please him sexually. Which frequently involves getting handcuffed and spanked. "Discipline," as Christian likes to say. 

Soren Dreier: Drone Wars: The Bravery of Being Out of Range

The Pentagon is considering awarding a Distinguished Warfare Medal to drone pilots who work on military bases, often far removed from the battlefield. Army Institute of Heraldry chief Charles Mugno said most combat decorations requite "boots on the ground" in a combat zone, but he noted that "emerging technologies" such as drones and cyber combat missions are now handled by troops far removed from combat. The Pentagon has not formally endorsed the medal, but Mugno's institute has completed six alternate designs for commission approval. The proposed medal would rank between the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier's Medal for exceptional conduct outside a combat zone. So medals would be awarded for sitting safely ensconced in a bunker on US soil, and launching bombs with a video joystick at human beings thousands of miles away. Justifying drone warfare requires pretending that the act entails some sort of bravery, so the US military is increasingly taking steps to create the facade of warrior courage for drone pilots: The Air Force has been working to bridge the divide between these two groups of fliers. First off, drone operators are called pilots, and they wear the same green flight suits as fighter pilots, even though they never get in a plane. Their operating stations look like dashboards in a cockpit, and drone pilots themselves are propagating boasts of their own bravery more and more: Luther Trey Turner III, a retired colonel who flew combat missions during the gulf war before he switched to flying Predators in 2003, said that he doesn't view his combat experience flying drones as "valorous." "My understanding of the term is that you are faced with danger, and when I am sitting in a ground-control station thousands of miles away from the battlefield, that's just not the case."

PRESSTV: Israeli Ground Forces Cross Into Lebanon!

Israeli soldiers have once again crossed into Lebanon in clear violation of the country's sovereignty and a UN Security Council resolution. The incident occurred on Wednesday when an Israeli foot patrol of 11 crossed an electric fence in southern Lebanon, the Lebanese News Agency reported on Wednesday. They reportedly proceeded close to the Wazzani River, and stayed at the river's eastern bank for several hours before withdrawing. The violation of Lebanon's territorial waters and border by the Israeli military occurs on an almost daily basis. Israel has also been violating Lebanon's airspace on an almost daily basis, under the pretext of carrying out surveillance operations. Lebanon has repeatedly condemned the violation of its skies as a breach of the country's sovereignty. In 2004, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1559, reaffirming its call for the strict respect of Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence. Lebanon pursues Iran diplomats: 10 Israeli jets violate Lebanese airspace. Man booked for sneaking arms to Syria.


Sarah Jaffe: Rush Limbaugh Thinks the Unemployed Need to Suffer!

When official unemployment's been over 8 percent for over three years, it can be hard to keep focused on the crisis. The endless repetition of jobs statistics can become numbing. But the people struggling every day with the realities of joblessness don't need the reminder: They're living the crisis, day in and day out. So imagine how they felt when Rush Limbaugh, self-proclaimed patron saint of the everyday Joe who's being kept down by the Man, never mind that in his casethe Man is represented by liberals, who might want you know, create jobs or raise the minimum wage declared this week: "The sad truth is that employment is not pivotal. No job, no employment, no pain. For a whole heck of a lot of people whose expectations for themselves are not very high. There are no jobs, and yet they're still eating. I'm telling you, there's a new reality out there, because it's not resulting in that much pain, not nearly as much as it used to be. The so-called victims of the unemployment circumstance are not suffering as unemployed people in the past did." We are supposed to be cheered, I suppose, that Limbaugh says,"Not that I want them to!" Because, of course, Rush wouldn't actually be wishing suffering on those people, whose expectations for themselves are not very high. Where did all this come from? Limbaugh's warning Mitt Romney that he won't be able to win the election on jobs by continuing to point out the high unemployment rate, and not because Romney's personal record is one of slashing and burning jobs, wherever he went. No, Limbaugh thinks that unemployment is still high because those unemployed folks are being coddled with food stamps and unemployment checks.   

Robert Parry: Bohemian Grove and Reagan's 'Treason'. "

In 1992, the protectors of Ronald Reagan's legacy and George H W Bush's presidency were in a bind. They had gained the upper hand in shutting down an investigation into allegations that Reagan and Bush had gone behind President Jimmy Carter's back in 1980 to undermine his negotiations to free 52 Americans held by Iranian radicals, but then one of their crucial alibis collapsed. In a stranger than fiction moment, these protectors turned to the exclusive Bohemian Grove, the target of a new round of Occupy protests this weekend, as a location for cobbling together a replacement alibi, thus sparing the Establishment the unpleasantness of a thorough investigation into what had the appearance of "treason" by the widely admired Reagan and Bush Sr. Official Washington had thought questions about the so-called "October Surprise" of 1980 had been put to rest in November 1991, when the neoconservative New Republic and the pro-establishment Newsweek splashed debunking articles on their covers. Both magazines claimed that an alleged meeting between Reagan's campaign chief William Casey and Iranians could not have happened because Casey had an alibi. Instead of meeting with Iranians in Madrid on Monday, July 28, as Iranian businessman and CIA operative Jamshid Hashemi had indicated, Casey was at a historical conference in London, his presence established by attendance records, the magazine said. Gloating that they had proven once and for all that the October Surprise suspicions were "a myth," The New Republic and Newsweek mocked any remaining doubters as "conspiracy theorists." The impact of the magazine stories, and their ridiculing tone, could not be overstated. Ted Koppel's ABC News "Night-line program, which had aired an interview with Hashemi about the Madrid meeting, was humiliated. The producer who had brought Hashemi for the interview was soon out of a job.   

Prof. John Kozy: Governments Exist to Further the Interests of "Favored Groups"

Governments have never existed to solve problems domestic or international. Governments and their institutions exist merely to further and secure the interests of favored groups, but We the People are never the favored group. Paul Krugman recently wrote that The fact is that the Fed, like the European Central Bank, like the US Congress, like the government of Germany, has decided that avoiding economic disaster is somebody else's responsibility. None of this should be happening. As in 1931, Western nations have the resources they need to avoid catastrophe, and indeed to restore prosperity , and we have the added advantage of knowing much more than our great-grandparents did about how depressions happen, and how to end them. But knowledge and resources do no good, if those who possess them refuse to use them. And that's what seems to be happening. The fundamentals of the world economy aren't, in themselves, all that scary. Its the almost universal abdication of responsibility that fills me, and many other economists, with a growing sense of dread. Krugman and most other Americans are fond of blaming social problems on the personal failings of individuals rather than on the systemic failings of institutions. It is people borrowing more than they can afford, rather than banks lending too loosely, or consumers saving too little, rather than businesses paying too little to enable consumers to save, that causes all of the problems. But borrowing and lending and saving and income are not independent variables. People are persons with personal failures, but banks are institutions with systemic failures, and the systemic failures can entice people to engage in activities that may look like personal failures but are not.  


Gar Alperovitz: How The Big Banks Run the World.

The recent Public Banking conference held in Philadelphia offered a message that is at once so simple, but also so bold, it is hard for most Americans to pause long enough to understand how profoundly their thinking had been corralled by the masters of finance, in ways far, far, far more insidious and powerful than even the latest financial crisis suggests. To understand what has happened, however, you first have to take a minute to shake a few cobwebs out of your brain about "money", and how it is created and by whom and for whose benefit. Money is "created"? Yes, obviously so, or did you imagine there is some fixed pile of "money" some place that exists once and for all and for all times? Think about it: If that were true, it would be impossible for the economy ever to change and grow. If the "money supply" were not increased over time, the original economy of, say, 1776, which served about 2.5 million Americans, would still define the amount of "money" we would have to work with today. And yes, going back further, if money were not increased, the amount that existed even in a far smaller economy prior to 1776 would be all there was and is, even down to today. Once you realize money must be and is regularly created and expanded, then the interesting questions begin to occur, like "How is it done? and Who benefits from it?" Step One: Most people think of money as something real, something that is kind of like gold or silver, or anything that has intrinsic value. Allowing for a very, very few minor exceptions, that is simply not what money is: Money in the real world is a piece of paper, or electronic version of the same, that is a promissory note, a promise to pay you, that legally must be accepted by anyone to whom it is given to settle a debt. 

Ian Murphy: The 9 Most Loathsome Lobbyists in Washington

Tis the bleak post-Citizens United season in America: Money equals speech, and corporations, super PACs, and an egregiously wealthy minority have the biggest mouths in the land, but the oligarchs' work is never done. After the elections are bought, it's back to the business of business and, presumably, consuming yacht loads of caviar and foie gras. Maximum profit demands that figh powered lobbyists grease the wheels of legislation or grind them to a shrieking halt, whichever yields the highest return. For your entertainment, below is a list of some of the most depraved lobbyists money can buy: Chris Dodd: The former Connecticut Senator, and internationally renowned eyebrow haver, isn't the most prodigious scum in the Beltway swamp, but he may be the most hypocritical. When asked in 2010 what would follow his thirty year legislative career, which ended amid financial scandal, Dodd bluntly said, "No lobbying, no lobbying." He then promptly became, as the Hill put it, "Hollywood's leading man in Washington, taking the most prestigious job on K Street," as chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. The gig comes with a $1.2 million annual salary, and complimentary tickets to the Academy Awards: Dodd's most public, and ultimately ill fated advocacy was in pushing two potentially disastrous bills: The Stop Online Piracy Act, and its Senate counterpart, Protect IP Act, both of which would have given the federal government the right to shut down any website that was merely being accused of copyright infringement. The bills were shelved indefinitely after a massive online protest in which thousands of sites went voluntarily dark for a day. Dodd ironically called the blackout an "irresponsible abuse of power." So it's OK for the Feds to make your site go black, but it's not OK for you to do it yourself. 

Kourosh Ziabari: Opposition to Iran War Gaining Momentum

While Israeli leaders have historically demonstrated that they are insane and reckless enough to commit such a malicious and lethal blunder as launching a military strike on Iran, the international opposition to war against Iran is progressively gaining momentum. Several prominent academicians, peace activists, artists, journalists and even Nobel Prize laureates have stood shoulder to shoulder with the international organizations to voice their dismay and alarm at the renewed war rhetoric of Israel against Iran and its possible plans for launching a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities following the unsuccessful conclusion of nuclear talks between Iran and the representatives of six world powers in Moscow. Israel has perpetually been at the forefront of defying Iran's peaceful nuclear program, while according to the Federation of American Scientists, possesses up to 200 nuclear warheads itself. So far, the UN nuclear watchdog has failed to present hard evidence proving that Iran's nuclear program has deviated toward military purposes. However, under the pressure of Israel, the United States and their European cronies, the United Nations Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran and the EU has recently implemented its comprehensive oil embargo against Iran, on which its member states had reached an agreement in January this year. In dealing with Iran's nuclear program, threats of military operation and economic sanctions have been the two sides of the same coin for the US, Israel and EU. From one hand, they impose hard-hitting sanctions to derail Iran's economy, create instability in the country and sow the seeds of discord and disagreement between the people and the government, and from the other hand, they vehemently talk of a possible military expedition so as to demoralize the country's statesmen, forcing them into giving up the nuclear program, and also make other political and economic concessions.