INDEX (full text of stories follow Democracy Now headlines)
Published: June 25, 2011
A 30-year war for energy preeminence? You wouldn’t wish it even on a desperate planet. But that’s where we’re headed and there’s no turning back.
From 1618 to 1648, Europe was engulfed in a series of intensely brutal conflicts known collectively as the Thirty Years’ War. It was, in part, a struggle between an imperial system of governance and the emerging nation-state. Indeed, many historians believe that the modern international system of nation-states was crystallized in the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which finally ended the fighting.
Think of us today as embarking on a new Thirty Years’ War. It may not result in as much bloodshed as that of the 1600s, though bloodshed there will be, but it will prove no less momentous for the future of the planet. Over the coming decades, we will be embroiled at a global level in a succeed-or-perish contest among the major forms of energy, the corporations which supply them, and the countries that run on them. The question will be: Which will dominate the world’s energy supply in the second half of the twenty-first century? The winners will determine how — and how badly — we live, work, and play in those not-so-distant decades, and will profit enormously as a result. The losers will be cast aside and dismembered…..
By MAUREEN DOWD
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
HE was born this way.
Not bisexual. Not even bipartisan. Just binary.
Our president likes to be on both sides at once.
In Afghanistan, he wants to go but he wants to stay. He’s surging and withdrawing simultaneously. He’s leaving fewer troops than are needed for a counterinsurgency strategy and more troops than are needed for a counterterrorism strategy — and he seems to want both strategies at the same time. Our work is done but we have to still be there. Our work isn’t done but we can go.
On Libya, President Obama wants to lead from behind. He’s engaging in hostilities against Qaddafi while telling Congress he’s not engaging in hostilities against Qaddafi.
On the budget, he wants to cut spending and increase spending. On the environment, he wants to increase energy production but is reluctant to drill. On health care, he wants to get everybody covered but will not press for a universal system. On Wall Street, he assails fat cats, but at cocktail parties, he wants to collect some of their fat for his campaign.
On politics, he likes to be friends with the other side but bash ’em at the same time. For others, bipartisanship means transcending their own prior political identities. For President Obama, it means that he participates in all political identities. He does not seem deeply affiliated with any side except his own.
He was elected on the idea of bold change, but now — except for the capture of Osama and his drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen — he plays it safe. He shirks politics as usual but gets all twisted up in politics.
The man who was able to beat the Clintons in 2008 because the country wanted a break from Clintonian euphemism and casuistry is now breaking creative new ground in euphemism and casuistry.
Obama is “evolving” on the issue of gay marriage, which, as any girl will tell you, is the first sign of a commitment-phobe.
Maybe, given all his economic and war woes as he heads into 2012, Obama fears the disapproval of the homophobic elements within his own party. But he has tried to explain his reluctance on gay marriage as an expression of his Christianity, even though he rarely goes to church and is the picture of a secular humanist.
While picking up more than three-quarters of a million dollars from 600 guests at a gay and lesbian fund-raising gala in Manhattan on Thursday night, the president declared, “I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” even as he held to his position that the issue should be left to the states to decide.
He’s not as bad as New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who gave another grumpy interview on Thursday, this time to The National Catholic Register, asserting: “You think it’s going to stop with this? You think now bigamists are going to want their rights to marry? You think somebody that wants to marry his sister is going to now say, ‘I have a right’? I mean, it’s the same principle, isn’t it?”
The archbishop concluded: “Next thing you know, they’re going to say there’s four outs to every inning of baseball. This is crazy.” (He’s beginning to sound like Justice Scalia.)
Still, Obama’s reluctance to come out for gay marriage seems hugely and willfully inconsistent with what we know about his progressive worldview. And it is odd that the first black president is letting Andrew Cuomo, who pushed through a gay-marriage bill in Albany on Friday night, go down in history as the leader on the front lines of the civil rights issue of our time.
But for the president, “the fierce urgency of now” applies only to getting checks from the gay community, not getting up to speed with all the Americans who think it’s time for gay marriage.
As with “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” Obama is not leading the public, he’s following. And worse, the young, hip black president who was swept in on a gust of change, audacity and hope is lagging behind a couple of old, white conservatives — Dick Cheney and Ted Olson.
As a community organizer, Obama developed impressive empathetic gifts. But now he is misusing them. It’s not enough to understand how everybody in the room thinks. You have to decide which ones in the room are right, and stand with them. A leader is not a mediator or an umpire or a convener or a facilitator.
Sometimes, as Chris Christie put it, “the president has got to show up.”
With each equivocation, the man in the Oval Office shields his identity and cloaks who the real Barack Obama is.
He should draw inspiration from the gay community: one thing gays have to do, after all, is declare who they are at all costs.
The increasing fusion of news and entertainment and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind.
from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by firstname.lastname@example.org (As’ad AbuKhalil)
from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs
When Democrats gained control of Congress in 2008, it seemed possible the Employee Free Choice Act could pass. Labor and its allies in Congress worked hard to overcome the objections of some Democrats, like Blanche Lincoln, the no longer Senator from Wal-Mart, I mean Arkansas, who thought the law would give to much power to workers in the workplace.
Republican controlled Fox News demoagogued the issue, claiming that worker democracy in the workplace wasn’t really democracy. They implied that boss-acracy was real democracy.
Anyway, the law couldn’t’ get passed filibuster, though it passed by a wide margin in the House.
Without a doubt, President Obama, who campaigned on its passage, would have signed it into law.
The NLRB, after being mired for most of the President’s term in purgatory due to the fact that Republicans in the Senate have used archaic – and ironically undemocratic – procedures to block appointments by the President to the NLRB, got rolling again when the President recess appointed the vacancies.
This past week NLRB put forward some rules change proposals that would in some important ways work toward evening out the playing field. Here’s some commentary by Jared Bernstein, former VP Biden adviser:
Something kind of progressive just happened that you might have missed: The National Labor Relations Board proposed a new idea to help level the playing field for workers who want to organize a union.
A little background: under current law, once 50% of employees petition for union representation, the employer can voluntarily choose to waive a secret ballot election and recognize the union. However, employers typically take advantage of their right to call for a secret ballot election.
That’s where the problems can start. Some employers use this time between the initial petition and the election to sway workers against joining the union. That’s perfectly legal, but the structure of labor law gives employers far more access to and leverage over their workers than the union.
For example, employers can require attendance at anti-union meetings, one-on-one sessions between workers and their immediate supervisors who stress anti-union messages, subtle offers of promotion and demotion (e.g., a move to a less desirable shift), and intensive, explicit surveillance to see if workers are talking to union organizers.
Some of these tactics border on the illegal: the majority of unfair labor practice cases brought to the NLRB occurs during elections. It is also worth noting that a highly visible consultancy practice has arisen to support employers that want to block the union and it’s not uncommon for these consultants to offer a money-back guarantee. Getting these anti-union operations in place takes time, which is probably why win rates for the union are significantly and negatively correlated with time between petition and election.
This picture is familiar to us all. So what is the NLRB doing about it? Here’s what Bernstein says:
These developments were the rationale for the Employee Free Choice Act, which gets around the problem described above by allowing petitioning workers, not the employer, to decide whether to hold a secret ballot or to just have workers sign a card if they want to organize (“card check”).
That legislation ain’t going anywhere. But the NLRB, the overseer of union elections, proposed a variety of ways to shorten the time between the initial petition and the election – the average now is about 60 days – mainly by streamlining procedures and preventing litigation from grinding things to a halt. Shortening this time span would add some balance to the system.
When the proposals were announced the AFL-CIO responded thusly:
Although we are still reviewing the proposed new changes from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), they appear to represent a common sense approach to clean up an outdated system and help ensure that working women and men can make their own choice about whether to form a union.
When workers want to vote on a union, they should get a fair chance to vote. That’s a basic right. But our current system has become a broken, bureaucratic maze that stalls and stymies workers’ choices. And that diminishes the voice of working people, creates imbalance in our economy and shrinks the middle class.
With the proposal of these new standards, the Board is taking a modest step to remove roadblocks and reduce unnecessary and costly litigation—and that’s good news for employers as well as employees. The proposed rule does not address many of the fundamental problems with our labor laws, but it will help bring critically needed fairness and balance to this part of the process.
Unfortunately, in today’s poisonous political environment, any action by the Board may unleash a torrent of attacks from politicians and ideologues opposed to any protection of workers’ rights. We call on leaders from both sides of the aisle to defend the independence of the NLRB. Political interference with any independent agency sets a dangerous precedent that should not be tolerated.
In addition to these rules changes, the Department of Labor recently announced it is toughening rules on consultants mainly used by business to run anti-union campaigns in the workplace.
So, simply put, the NLRB, an independent federal agency run by Obama recess appointees, in conjunction with the administration itself are are trying to level the playing field for workers to join or organize labor union, to collectively bargain with employers to improve their living standards, and to increase democracy and civic participation – all of which could mean greater organization and greater power for working-class people in a society dominated by the rich and the corporate.
These new rules are important elements of the EFCA, but because these changes about to go into effect are made at the executive branch level and not by Congress, they can always be changed with a single stroke of the pen. Indeed, if a Republican wins the White House you better believe they will be. I think the implications of that fact are obvious.
from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Chris in Paris
Coincidence between the rapid increase of diabetes and the “discount” pharmaceutical prices? Sounds pretty sleazy.
The number of adults with diabetes in the world has more than doubled since 1980, a study in the Lancet says.
Researchers from Imperial College London and Harvard University in the US analysed data from 2.7m people across the world, using statistical techniques to project a worldwide figure.
They claim the total number of people with diabetes – which can be fatal – has risen from 153m to 347m.
And here’s what Wal-Mart and K-Mart have done:
The study also showed that Wal-Mart has raised prices for the 10 most-prescribed diabetes treatments by 32 percent between 2008 and 2010, compared with an average industry-wide increase of 21 percent, which includes chain drugstores, mail-order firms and independent pharmacies.
Kmart, a unit of Sears Holding Corp, raised its prices by 35 percent over the same two-year period, according to the study.
The Wall Street Journal reported the other day (here it is, but it’s behind a paywall) that as of his last disclosure form, House Republican leader Eric Cantor owned shares in a mutual fund that is short long-dated U.S. Treasury bonds. He is, in other words, betting that interest rates will rise, and hoping to make money off the fall in prices that would cause. (For my ancient primer on why bond prices fall when interest rates rise, see here.)
Cantor is in a position to help the U.S. default on its debts by blocking an increase in the debt ceiling. That would be very good for a short Treasury trade—rates would spike and prices would plummet. Even stoking the fear that that might happen could cause milder panics. Is this legal? Is anyone else doing this? Is the Republican flirtation with default a form of talking their and their donors’ book?
Note: following the WSJ story, I wrongly called Cantor the “whip” at first. He’s the majority leader.
Forgot to include that quote from J.P. Morgan, explaining why he didn’t short stock (who knows if he really did?): “Don’t sell short the United States of America.” Eric Cantor evidently disagrees.
from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report
Angry parents held a hundreds-strong march in Japan’s Fukushima city June 26 to demand greater protection for their children from radiation more than three months after the start of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years in the northern prefecture. The parents won a victory last month, when a protest campaign pressured the government to lower the limit for radiation exposure for children at schools, and to offer money for schools to remove topsoil in playgrounds with too much radiation. But also June 26, government officials met with local residents in a televised meeting at Saga, on Kyushu island, to try to convince them that it is safe to restart the prefecture’s Genkai nuclear power plant. Since the Fukushima disaster, 35 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors have been temporarily shut down. (Reuters, AFP, June 26; Asahi Shimbun, June 14)