In the Belly of the Beast: 3/23/11: Warren Buffet: Wealthiest winning class war in US


The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 110

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Headlines for March 23, 2011

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 110

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

U.S. vs highest-achieving nations in education

By Valerie Strauss

This post was written by Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, where she was founding director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. She now directs the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. A former president of the American Educational Research Association, Darling-Hammond focuses her research, teaching, and policy work on issues of school restructuring, teacher quality and educational equity.

By Linda Darling-Hammond

The first ever International Summit on Teaching, convened last week in New York City, showed perhaps more clearly than ever that the United States has been pursuing an approach to teaching almost diametrically opposed to that pursued by the highest-achieving nations.

In a statement rarely heard these days in the United States, theFinnish Minister of Education launched the first session of last week’s with the words: “We are very proud of our teachers.” Her statement was so appreciative of teachers’ knowledge, skills, and commitment that one of the U.S. participants later confessed that he thought she was the teacher union president, who, it turned out, was sitting beside her agreeing with her account of their jointly-constructed profession.

Warren Buffet: Wealthiest winning class war in US

The real and only class warfare in America is the ultra-rich versus everyone else. And yes, they’re winning in a big way and the Democrats can’t figure out how to even slow it down. Heck, we even have a Democratic president that talks about Reagan as though he was one of the great presidents of the US. MarketWatch:

Yes, “there’s class warfare, all right,” warns Warren Buffett. “But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Yes, the rich are making war against us. And yes, they are winning. Why? Because so many are fighting this new American Civil War between the rich and the rest.

Not just the 16 new GOP governors in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, and across America fighting for new powers. Others include: Chamber of Commerce billionaires, Koch brothers, Forbes 400, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform — which now has 97% of House Republicans and 85% of the GOP Senators signed on his “no new taxes” pledge — the Tea Party and Reaganomics ideologues.

Wake up America. You are under attack. Stop kidding yourself. We are at war. In fact, we have been fighting this Civil War for a generation, since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1981. Recently Buffett renewed the battle cry: The “rich class” is winning this war. Except most Americans still don’t realize they’re losing, don’t see the prize at stake.

The Republican’s Big Lies About Jobs (And Why Obama Must Repudiate Them)

And if all others accepted the lie which the party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became the truth.

– George Orwell, 1984 (published in 1949)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was in town yesterday (specifically, at Stanford’s Hoover Institute where he could surround himself with sympathetic Republicans) to tell this whopper: “Cutting the federal deficit will create jobs.”

It’s not true. Cutting the deficit will creates fewer jobs. Less government spending reduces overall demand. This is particularly worrisome when, as now, consumers and businesses are still holding back. Fewer government workers have paychecks to buy stuff from other Americans, some of whom in turn will lose their jobs without enough customers.

But truth doesn’t seem to matter. Republicans figure if their big lies are repeated often enough, people will start to believe them.

Unless, that is, those big lies are repudiated – and big truths are told in their place.

What worries me almost as much as the Republican’s repeated big lies about jobs is the silence of President Obama and Democratic leaders in the face of them. Obama has the bully pulpit. Republicans don’t. But if he doesn’t use it the Republican’s big lies gain credibility.

Here are some other whoppers being repeated daily:

Cutting taxes on the rich creates jobs.” Nope. Trickle-down economics has been tried for thirty years and hasn’t worked. After George W. Bush cut taxes on the rich, far fewer jobs were created than after Bill Clinton raised them in the 1990s.

To his credit, President Obama argued against Republican demands for extending the Bush tax credit on those making more than a quarter million. But as soon as Republicans pushed back he caved. And the President hasn’t even mentioned that the $61 billion Republicans are demanding in budget cuts this fiscal year is what richer Americans would have paid in taxes had he not caved.

Cutting corporate income taxes creates jobs.” Baloney. American corporations don’t need tax cuts. They’re sitting on over $1.5 trillion of cash right now. They won’t invest it in additional capacity or jobs because they don’t see enough customers out there with enough money in their pockets to buy what the additional capacity would produce.

The President needs to point this out – not just in Washington but across the nation where Republican governors are slashing corporate taxes and simultaneously cutting school budgets. President Obama says he wants to invest in American skills, but many states are doing the opposite. Florida Governor Rick Scott, for example, says his proposed corporate tax cuts “will give Florida a competitive edge in attracting jobs.” They’ll also require education spending be reduced by $3 billion. Florida already ranks near the bottom in per-pupil spending and has one of nation’s lowest graduation rates. If Scott’s tax cuts create jobs, most will pay peanuts.

Cuts in wages and benefits create jobs.” Congressional Republicans and their state counterparts repeat this lie incessantly. It also lies behind corporate America’s incessant demand for wage and benefit concessions – and corporate and state battles against unions. But it’s dead wrong. Meager wages and benefits are reducing the spending power of tens of millions of American workers, which is prolonging the jobs recession.

President Obama and Democratic leaders should be standing up for the wages and benefits of ordinary Americans, standing up for unions, and decrying the lie that wage and benefit concessions are necessary to create jobs. The President should be traveling to the Midwest – taking aim at Republican governors in the heartland who are hell bent on destroying the purchasing power of American workers. But he’s doing nothing of the sort.

Regulations kill jobs.” Congressional Republicans are using this whopper to justify their attempts to defund regulatory agencies. Regulations whose costs to business exceed their benefits to the public are unwarranted, of course, but reasonable regulation is necessary to avoid everything from nuclear meltdowns to oil spills to mine disasters to food contamination – all of which we’ve sadly witnessed. Here again, we’re hearing little from the President or Democratic leaders.

Look, the President can’t be everywhere, doing everything. There’s tumult in the Middle East, we’re suddenly at war in Libya, Japan is struggling with the aftermath of disaster, and surely Latin America is an important trading partner.

But nothing is more central to average Americans than jobs and wages. Unless the President forcefully rebuts Republican’s big lies, they’ll soon become conventional wisdom.

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate David Prosser promises to be a ‘complement’ to the right-wing governor and legislature

We wrote earlier about Supreme Court Justice and candidate David Prosser.

He’s the guy who, in a meeting with other justices called the Chief Justice a “total bitch,” then threatened “I will destroy you … and it won’t be a ground war.” That’s judicial temperament, Republican-style.

Prosser is the next shoe to drop in Wisconsin. He’s the incumbent in a hot April 5 race with JoAnn Kloppenberg for a 10-year seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. More from the Wisconsin Gazette (my emphasis):

The conservative candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court is incumbent Justice David Prosser. He is part of a slim conservative majority on the increasingly contentious high court. Some have raised serious concerns regarding what appears to be an increased level of partisanship from Prosser leading up to this election.

In an early campaign press release, Prosser announced his plan to be a “complement” to the new right-wing Republican state Legislature and governor. … Although some have suggested that the problematic press release simply was a poor choice of words, Prosser went on to immediately court support at a Republican women’s group.

Prosser has been a speaker at right-wing events, where he’s shared the spotlight with some of the most ardent foes of equality. A good example is the Defending the American Dream Summit, which was sponsored by a coalition that reads like a who’s who of right-wing Wisconsin extremist groups, including the Wisconsin Family Council.

No closet case GOP activist there — Prosser is out and proud about being just another Republican hack. If you want more of that good Scott Walker “coup d’état” (Robert Reich’s phrase), vote Prosser — he’s promised to give it to you. Can’t be more clear than that.

As an added bonus, it seems David Prosser is also anti-gay. Who could have guessed that?

[D]uring [Prosser’s previous] tenure [as Republican Assembly member and speaker] Republican Gov. Lee Dreyfus signed into law legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation (1982), making Wisconsin the first state in the nation to pass such a law.

But Prosser was not among the GOP elected officials who supported that law. Instead, he was one of 45 Assembly members who voted against the landmark legislation, which passed on a close vote of 49-45.

What a surprise, a guy who calls a woman a bitch is also a homophobe.

Your turn, Wisconsin. Take the next step. It’s Prosser or Kloppenberg on April 5.

Bring Cairo to Wisconsin. Organize and vote.

A handy list of Koch Industries products

Charles & David Koch, owners of Koch Industries, are responsible for much of the mayhem that Robert Reich called the Republican “coup d’état” in Wisconsin. And the Koch Brothers are big contributors to ALEC, the Republican state-law-writing organization that’s funded mainly by corporations.

So maybe you were curious about Koch Industries. If so, here’s a handy guide:

Koch Industries, (pronounced “coke”), is the largest privately owned company in the United States with 70,000 employees and annual sales of $100 billion in the fiscal year ending December of 2008. [1] … The company operates crude gathering systems and pipelines across North America. One subsidiary processes 800,000 barrels of crude oil daily in its three refineries.

Koch also owns ranches with a total of 15,000 head of cattle in Kansas, Montana and Texas. Though diversified, the company amassed most of its fortune in oil trading and refining. [2]

Their founder, the father of Charles and David, is an interesting fellow:

The company was started in 1927 by Fred Koch, a charter member of the John Birch Society, with an oil delivery business in Texas.

David Koch helped found the Cato Institute in 1977. Cato advances a lot of curious positions, such as Social Security privatization and climate-change denial. Cato funds a large group of like-minded think tanks, and they’re pretty good friends with a guy named “Phillip Morris” — still.

Goal ThermometerKoch Industries acquired Georgia-Pacific in 2005, which it now operates as a subsidiary. You may have heard of them. They make:

  • Georgia-Pacific paper for your printer
  • Brawny paper towels
  • Dixie cups
  • Northern bath tissue
  • Angel Soft bath tissue

And other nice things you may own.

Brawny. Northern. Dixie. Georgia-Pacific. Kind of rolls off the tongue. Nice names to remember.

SourceWatch is an interesting site, isn’t it? (By the way, since the first drive for contributions to the Wisconsin Recall was so successful — thanks, readers! — we’ve decided to continue the campaign. Please contribute if you haven’t already. Again, thanks!)

Fukushima: smoke rises from reactors; Tokyo drinking water contaminated

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

Power was restored to the control room of the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant late March 22, and the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to try to restart the cooling pumps. Engineers are now trying to reactivate monitoring systems, such as those measuring temperatures of the spent fuel rods. At unit No. 4, a construction vehicle designed to pour concrete for high rises is being used to pump water into the reactor building. International Atomic Energy Agency director general, Yukiya Amano, speaking from Vienna, noted “positive developments,” while warning: “The crisis has still not been resolved and the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant remains very serious,” with “high levels” of radiation measured around the plant. (USA TodayNHK WorldNYT, March 22) Hours after the announcement that power had been restored, TEPCO, said black smoke was rising from the No. 3 reactor building. The smoke gradually cleared after about an house, and TEPCO said that the radiation level at plant gate, one kilometer west of the No. 3 reactor, was unchanged at 265.1 micro-sieverts per hour. Gray smoke was seen rising from the same reactor building the previous day. (NHK World, March 23)

read more

Japan’s earthquake may equal cost of four Katrinas

Japan’s GDP and population is also much smaller than the US, so this is going to be a painful period for that country. Bloomberg:

Japan’s government estimated the damage from this month’s record earthquake and tsunami at as much as 25 trillion yen ($309 billion), an amount almost four times the hit imposed by Hurricane Katrina on the U.S.

The destruction will push down gross domestic product by as much as 2.75 trillion yen for the year starting April 1, today’s report showed. The figure, about 0.5 percent of the 530 trillion yen economy, reflects a decline in production from supply disruptions and damage to corporate facilities without taking into account the effects of possible power outages.

The figures are the first gauge of the scale of rebuilding Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government will face after the quake killed more than 9,000 people. Japan may set up a reconstruction agency to oversee the rebuilding effort and the central bank has injected record cash to stabilize financial markets.

Above limit radiation found in Tokyo tap water

The news out of Japan is not getting any better.

Tokyo Water Bureau officials say levels of radioactive iodine in some city tap water is two times the recommended limit for infants.

The officials told reporters Wednesday that a water treatment center in downtown Tokyo that supplies much of the city’s tap water found that some water contained 210 becquerels per liter of iodine 131.

They said the limit for consumption of iodine 131 for infants is 100 becquerels per liter. They recommended that babies not be given tap water, although they said the water is not an immediate health risk for adults.

Troubled nuclear plants repeatedly missed safety checks

One doesn’t even want to think about how poorly the same situation would be handled in the US, where any kind of oversight or regulation is viewed by many in government as evil. Hopefully Washington is using this as an opportunity to do a health check for the US nuclear reactors. The Guardian:

According to documents from Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the company repeatedly missed safety checks over a 10-year period up to two weeks before the 11 March disaster, and allowed uranium fuel rods to pile up inside the 40-year-old facility.

When the plant was struck by a huge earthquake and tsunami, its reactors, designed by US scientists 50 years ago, contained the equivalent of almost six years of highly radioactive uranium fuel produced by the facility, according to a presentation Tepco gave to the International Atomic Energy Agency and later posted on the company’s website.

The revelations will add to pressure on Tepco to explain why, under its cost-cutting chief executive Masataka Shimizu, it opted to save money by storing the spent fuel on site rather than invest in safer storage options.

Obama: no retreat from “clean nuclear power” plans

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

The Fukushima nuclear disaster has not caused the Obama administration to rethink its commitment to “clean nuclear power.” Obama’s 2012 budget calls for an additional $36 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants. “The administration’s energy priorities are based solely on how best to build a 21st century, clean energy economy,” White House spokesman Clark Stevens said in a statement this week. “That policy is not about picking one energy source over another.” Even as his administration has ordered a review of all US reactors, Obama last week called nuclear power an “important part” of his energy agenda.

read more

Russia moves ahead with plans for Belarus nuclear plant

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

Even as the world is gripped by Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Russia announced it will build a reactor in neighboring Belarus—where large areas still remain closed off due to the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. The Russian-designe plant is to be built near Ostrovets, just 50 miles from the capital city of European Union member Lithuania. The deal was announced March 15 at a meeting between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk. Under the agreement, Russia’s state-owned Atomstroyeksport will build the nuclear station, with the first reactor due to come on line in 2016 and as many as four more reactors operational by 2025.

read more

China: no retreat from ambitious nuclear development plans

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

Despite a temporary construction moratorium in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, China is still planning to move ahead with an ambitious thrust of nuclear development—with a new generation of supposedly meltdown-proof reactors. The technology in the works will be the “world’s first high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor,” an official of the Huaneng Nuclear Power Development Co. told Bloomberg. The new Chinese reactor will not depend on external sources for cooling, but will instead use helium, an inert gas, in its cooling system, officials say. The reactor will be built to “withstand temperatures exceeding 1,600 degrees Celsius (2,912 degrees Fahrenheit) for several hundred hours without melting down”, according to the China Business News.

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