Daily Archive: 09/12/2013

Sep 12 2013

IRS: Income Gap Greatest Since 1920

A recent analysis of IRS data on income and wealth in the United States found that the gap  between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it’s been since the 1920’s.

The top 1 percent of U.S. earners collected 19.3 percent of household income in 2012, their largest share in Internal Revenue Service figures going back a century.

U.S. income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. But until last year, the top 1 percent’s share of pre-tax income had not yet surpassed the 18.7 percent it reached in 1927, according to an analysis of IRS figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

One of them, Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, said the incomes of the richest Americans might have surged last year in part because they cashed in stock holdings to avoid higher capital gains taxes that took effect in January.

That soaring stock market means nothing to 99% of Americans, it just proves the rich are getting richer.

According to DSWright at the FDL News Desk, we may rapidly be approaching the bursting of another bubble:

But what’s worse is that the 1% hit a consumption limit – they can only buy so many cars, meals, homes – so the only way they can benefit from their wealth is to invest in financial assets which inflates those assets into bubbles. Then the bubbles pop, and in theory, they should eat the losses. But what we all know, or should know by now, is that the 1% refuses to eat the losses and instead use what is left of their wealth to buy favors in Washington to make them whole at your expense. It is a pretty awful system, especially if you are in the 99%.

And now due to the destruction of the labor movement, wages have frozen and even more income from production is going to the top 1% who are re-inflating the financial markets and having a great time doing so as the corporate profits to wages ratio is massive. This while America continues to have record unemployment and underemployment.

The 99% do not have a seat at the economic table as Washington ignores their needs and bends over backwards to help the 1% campaign contributor class. And when you aren’t at the table you are on the menu.

Freelance writer Sasha Abramsky joined Democracy Now! hosts Amy Goodman and Juan González to discuss his new book “The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives.” and ther reocrd breaking income inequality in the US.



Transcript can be read here

Sep 12 2013

Syria: Exceptional Drumming for War

In his speech to the nation on the possible use of military force in Syria, President Barack Obama spent most of the fifteen minutes justifying his banging the drums for war. Describing the images of people dying from exposure to an chemical weapon and citing unconfirmed casualty numbers, was a repulsive ploy to appeal to the emotions of the American people. Bombing and killing more people for humanitarian reasons is an oxymoron.

The president’s speech was a confusing mixture of claims that the action was a matter of national security but a paragraph later stating the opposite as his reason to take the issue to congress. He also made the statement that the US was the “anchor of global security” and looked upon as the enforcer of international agreements but then says “America is not the world’s policeman.” He mentions the danger of al Qaeda gaining strength in the chaos but failed to mention that the US is arming the Syrian rebels many of whom are members of al Qaeda and even more extremist Islamic groups.

After this rambling garbled message, Pres. Obama finally got around to mentioning diplomacy as an option and the Assad government’s offer to surrender its chemical weapons to international control and finally asked congress to table the resolution for the use of force.

However, it seemed as if Mr. Obama was already throwing in the towel on diplomacy through the UN before a resolution is even on the table.

In today’s New York Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin writes an op-ed opposing an American strike against Syria. In his plea for caution, Mr. Putin said he felt the need to speak directly to the “American people and their political leaders” citing “insufficient communication between our societies.” He noted the strong opposition worldwide and the possible consequences from the potential strike.

A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Mr. Putin went on to argue that this fight is not about democracy stating that neither side is a champion for democratic rule and that arming the Syrian rebels is also arming US designated terrorist organizations, Al Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Calling this an internal conflict  and ” one of the bloodiest in the world,” he didn’t mention that Russia was supplying the Syrian government with weapons and would continue to do so.

What have not heard from Mr. Obama, Mr. Putin, pundits or any world leaders is a plea for a cease fire. They all have bemoaned how difficult it will be to secure the stockpile of Syrian weapons during an armed conflict but no one has brokered the idea of a “white flag” while the process is taking place. Of course that would mean the rebels would have to present a unified front and there are few that believe that’s possible. Also no one is asking that the rebel forces surrender whatever chemical weapons they might have simply because the White House and the media is refusing to acknowledge even the idea that they might be in possession of them, as has been revealed by communications from Iran.

America is not a neutral actor in this conflict and neither is Russia. As Mr. Putin noted, “we must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”  Both sides need to own up to reality and stop banging the war drums. They need to learn to stop talking past each other and listen.

Sep 12 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Phyllis Bennis and Jesse Jackson: From War to Peace: Forceful Diplomacy, Not Military Force in Syria

Today we have the possibility to turn the threat of war around. There is renewed hope that the global community can make that turn now, today.

The President’s remarks reflect the extraordinary events unfolding in the last two days that demonstrate that forceful diplomacy – not military force – should guide international efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria. Russia proposed a diplomatic solution to address Syria’s chemical weapons, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem responded, “We fully support Russia’s initiative concerning chemical weapons in Syria, and we are ready to cooperate. As a part of the plan, we intend to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.” This could mean an important strengthening of that vital treaty. [..]

The Russian proposal and these new diplomatic initiatives turn night into mid-day, and we should leave no stone unturned to seize the light.

Robert Reich: Happy Anniversary Lehman Brothers, and What We Haven’t Learned About Wall Street Over the Past Five Years

While attention is focused on Syria, the gambling addiction of Wall Street’s biggest banks is more dangerous than ever.

Five years ago this September, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and the Street hurtled toward the worst financial crisis in eighty years. Yet the biggest Wall Street banks are far larger now than they were then. And the Dodd-Frank rules designed to stop them from betting with the insured deposits of ordinary savers are still on the drawing boards — courtesy of the banks’ lobbying prowess. The so-called Volcker Rule has yet to see the light of day.

To be sure, the banks’ balance sheets are better than they were five years ago. The banks have raised lots of capital and written off many bad loans. (Their risk-weighted capital ratio is now about 60 percent higher than before the crisis.)

But they’re back to too many of their old habits.

New York Times Editorial Board: More Mistakes at the N.S.A.

A fresh trove of previously classified documents released on Tuesday provides further evidence – as if any more were needed – that the National Security Agency has frequently been unable to comprehend, let alone manage, its vast and continuing collection of Americans’ telephone and Internet records. The documents, made available by the agency in response to lawsuits by two advocacy groups, revealed that in 2009 a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court severely reprimanded the agency for violating its own procedures for gathering and analyzing phone records, and then misrepresented those violations to the court. [..]

Senator Leahy is right, particularly given that the intelligence court has no adversarial process and is at the mercy of the government’s competence at ferreting out its own incompetence. As Judge Walton told The Washington Post in August, the court “is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided” to it. President Obama has said he welcomes an open debate on the balance between protecting national security and preserving civil liberties, but how can that debate ever be truly open when the government insists on policing itself and hiding the results?

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Recovery for the Rich, Recession for the Rest

Five years after the financial crisis, it’s become increasingly apparent that the government didn’t rescue “the economy.” It rescued the wealthy, while doing far too little for everyone else.

That didn’t happen by accident. Our government’s response was largely designed by — and for — the wealthiest among us, and it shows. Here’s one highlight from a new analysis: The highest-earning Americans saw their income rise by nearly one-third in a single year, while the needle barely moved for 99 percent of us.

This post-crisis inequality is amplifying an ongoing wealth grab which was already decimating middle-class and lower-income Americans.

Leslie Harris: Ignoring Democracy in the Name of Security

Last week’s revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) is building vulnerabilities and backdoors into the Internet’s core infrastructure is beyond alarming. Ultimately, the NSA has made our country’s critical infrastructure less secure in the name of security, while showing blatant disregard for the democratic process. While the fact that the NSA decrypts encrypted data should not itself be cause for outrage by the American public – cracking codes is the core job of the NSA – its approach is what’s outrageous. [..]

Perhaps we need to have the public debate again about the balance between a secure network and surveillance capacities in light of 9-11 and the new Internet landscape, however the NSA’s actions show they have very little respect for an open, transparent democratic discussion. Congress and President Obama have much work to do to restore the trust of its citizens and the world.

William Pfaff: While Russia Offers Peace, U.S. Grasps at Credibility

President Obama’s speech on Syria on Tuesday evening was a curious affair, a call to go to war that ended by saying: yes, but not now. He might as well have said, “But as for the future, if ignored, I shall do such things as to make the world tremble!” A perfect example of how to say yes and no in the same speech.

Barack Obama should be thanking Vladimir Putin for getting him out of a dilemma that would have ruined his presidency. His attack on Syria, as it was (and is) programmed, and if Congress had voted (or does yet vote) in favor of it, would have been or will be no “shot across the bow.” The plan is to “degrade” Syria’s entire military and supporting infrastructure, so as to tip the civil war’s balance-as Baghdad was “degraded” in 2003. It would make the civil war far worse, with thousands more dead, by triggering a rebel offensive, covertly supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to take Damascus (or its ruins).

Sep 12 2013

On This Day In History September 12

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 12 is the 255th day of the year (256th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 110 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1940, Lascaux cave paintings discovered

Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne département. They contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic  art. These paintings are estimated to be 17,000 years old. They primarily consist of primitive images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. In 1979, Lascaux was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list along with other prehistoric sites in the Vezere valley.

The cave was discovered on September 12, 1940 by four teenagers, Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencas, as well as Marcel’s dog, Robot. The cave complex was opened to the public in 1948. By 1955, the carbon dioxide  produced by 1,200 visitors per day had visibly damaged the paintings. The cave was closed to the public in 1963 in order to preserve the art. After the cave was closed, the paintings were restored to their original state, and were monitored on a daily basis. Rooms in the cave include The Great Hall of the Bulls, the Lateral Passage, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Chamber of Engravings, the Painted Gallery, and the Chamber of Felines.

Lascaux II, a replica of two of the cave halls – the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery – was opened in 1983, 200 meters from the original. Reproductions of other Lascaux artwork can be seen at the Centre of Prehistoric Art at Le Thot, France.