Thursday, January 19, 2012

the real purpose of this bill is to thwart internal, domestic movements that threaten the corporate state

RT | In the past, journalist Chris Hedges has worked for NPR, The New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor. In his latest endeavor, however, he is teaming up with an unlikely pair: a couple of attorneys that will help him take on the president.

US President Barack Obama is the target of a suit filed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Hedges, and the reasoning seems more than obvious to him. The decision to take the commander-in-chief to court comes as a response to President Obama’s December 31 signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a legislation that allows the US military to detain American citizens indefinitely at off-site torture prisons like Guantanamo Bay.

Obama amended the NDAA with a signing statement on New Year's Eve, insisting that while the Act does indeed give him the power to detain his own citizens indefinitely without charge, that doesn’t mean he will do so. Specifically, Obama wrote that his administration “will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.” Under another piece of legislation, however, the government is being granted the right to suspend citizenship of any American if the Enemy Expatriation Act joins the ranks of the NDAA as an atrocious act approved by the president.

“Once again, you just have to be accused of supporting hostilities which could be defined any way the government sees fit. Then the government can strip your citizenship and apply the indefinite detention section of the NDAA without the benefit of a trial,” journalist Stephen Foster Jr. wrote earlier this month of the Act.

In a blog post published on Monday to, Hedges announces his effort to take Obama to court, and says his team of attorneys will challenge the president over the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force, a provision promised under the NDAA.

In his explanation, Hedges says the signing signals “a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.”

“I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge,” writes Hedges. “I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have ‘disappeared’ into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.”

Like other NDAA opponents, Hedges addresses in his explanation the issue that vague verbiage throughout the legislation creates an almost open-ended scenario for the government to grab anyone in America and put them behind bars. Instead, rather, the legislation leaves American authorities to go after anyone it can use the Act to attack.

As an international correspondent and world-renowned journalist, Hedges has traveled the globe and says he has been put in some hairy situations. Under the NDAA, he says, he might as well be considered a war criminal in the eyes of America.

king of bain

kingofbain | Mitt Romney. Was he a job creator or a corporate raider?

That's the question this film answers.

And it’s not pretty.

Mitt Romney was not a capitalist during his reign at Bain. He was a predatory corporate raider. His firm didn't seek to create value. Instead, like a scavenger, Romney looked for businesses he could pick apart. Indeed, he represented the worst possible kind of predator, operating within the law but well outside the bounds of what most real capitalists consider ethical.

He is exhibit number one the left wants to use in the coming election to give capitalism a bad name.

He and his friends at Bain were bad guys. Any real capitalists should disavow Romney's ‘creative destruction’ model that made him wealthy at the expense of thousands of American jobs.

Mitt Romney and his cronies pioneered ‘deindustrialization,’ a process by which they searched out vulnerable companies, took them over, loaded them with debt, and collected obscene fees while doing so. He sent jobs overseas or killed them altogether, and then picked apart the remains - including pension funds - before the companies went bankrupt.

Some might call that the free market. Most of us think its just plain wrong.

If you wonder why America has lost so many manufacturing jobs overseas, look no further than Mitt Romney – the King of Bain.

Think you know Mitt?

Think again . . .

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

a gut check for many ailments

WSJ | What you think is going on in your head may be caused in part by what's happening in your gut.

A growing body of research shows the gut affects bodily functions far beyond digestion. Studies have shown intriguing links from the gut's health to bone formation, learning and memory and even conditions including Parkinson's disease. Recent research found disruptions to the stomach or intestinal bacteria can prompt depression and anxiety—at least in lab rats.

Better understanding the communication between the gut and the brain could help reveal the causes of and treatments for a range of ailments, and provide diagnostic clues for doctors.

"The gut is important in medical research, not just for problems pertaining to the digestive system but also problems pertaining to the rest of the body," says Pankaj J. Pasricha, chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Stanford University School of Medicine.

The gut—considered as a single digestive organ that includes the esophagus, stomach and intestines—has its own nervous system that allows it to operate independently from the brain.

This enteric nervous system is known among researchers as the "gut brain." It controls organs including the pancreas and gall bladder via nerve connections. Hormones and neurotransmitters generated in the gut interact with organs such as the lungs and heart.

Like the brain and spinal cord, the gut is filled with nerve cells. The small intestine alone has 100 million neurons, roughly equal to the amount found in the spinal cord, says Michael Gershon, a professor at Columbia University.

The vagus nerve, which stretches down from the brainstem, is the main conduit between the brain and gut. But the gut doesn't just take orders from the brain.

"The brain is a CEO that doesn't like to micromanage," says Dr. Gershon. The brain receives much more information from the gut than it sends down, he adds.

Many people with psychiatric and brain conditions also report gastrointestinal issues. New research indicates problems in the gut may cause problems in the brain, just as a mental ailment, such as anxiety, can upset the stomach.

Stanford's Dr. Pasricha and colleagues examined this question in the lab by irritating the stomachs of newborn rats. By the time the animals were eight to 10 weeks old, the physical disturbance had healed, but these animals displayed more depressed and anxious behaviors, such as giving up more quickly in a swimming task, than rats whose stomachs weren't irritated.

Compared to controls, the rats also showed increased sensitivity to stress and produced more of a stress hormone, in a study published in May in a Public Library of Science journal, PLoS One.

Other work, such as that of researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, demonstrated that bacteria in the gut—known as gut flora—play a role in how the body responds to stress. The exact mechanism is unknown, but certain bacteria are thought to facilitate important interactions between the gut and the brain.

fast food - ads vs. reality

alphaila | So, I went to some fast food places (I won’t say “restaurants”, just “places”), and picked up burgers and tacos, so I could compare them with the ads. (I’m always on the hunt for little projects like this. Stoked.) I brought the food home, tossed it into my photography studio, and did ad-style shoots, with pictures of the official ads on my computer next to me, so I could match the lighting and angles.

People around the world know fast food as one of the most reliable distributors of disappointment ever produced by the business world. We know that if we ever feel the need to complain about something, we can just grab a page out of a coupon booklet, adorned in pictures of juicy burgers, go to a fast food place, then have a party. Why, the places themselves usually plaster their walls with pictures of juicy burgers – often hanging right over your table – so you need only open your eyes to find something to compare your food with, while you eat it.

Needless to say, the results of my little project were unsurprising… which shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Rules:
1 – I only care about size. I certainly don’t need my lettuce arranged like the crown on Caesar’s head.
2 – I have to show the most attractive sides of the food, with lighting identical to the ads. Fist tap Dale.

the burger that refused to die...,

windsorstar | Whenever Melanie Hesketh's kids get a hankering for junk food, all she has to do is point to the kitchen counter.

That's where she keeps an unwrapped cheeseburger that celebrates its birthday Thursday, and it looks pretty much the same as the day it came off a McDonald's grill 12 months ago.

Mould, maggots, fungi, bacteria — all have avoided the tempting meal that sits in plain view.

"Obviously it makes me wonder why we choose to eat food like this when even bacteria won't eat it," said Hesketh.

The meat patty has shrunk a bit, but it still looks edible and, with a faint but lingering greasy, leathery odour, she said it "still smells slightly like a burger . . . it hasn't changed much."

As a professional nutritionist at Windsor's Lifetime Wellness Centre, Hesketh was already armed with the education and all the proper facts and information to steer her children — ages 13 and 15 — toward the best food choices.

But what self-respecting teen is going to listen to well-meaning lectures from mom, especially on a product sold by the millions annually?

The Internet and social media are filled with tales of fast-food products made for quick consumption but seemingly immune to the ravages of time, and that's how Hesketh got the idea on how best to educate her own kids.

It's worked marvellously. Despite peer pressure to hang out at the cheap and fast burger chain outlets popular with young people, Hesketh said her oldest son has been back "maybe twice" to McDonald's over the past year.

"It's made him more aware, and he makes better choices, definitely," said Hesketh.

The experience has triggered other healthy changes around the Hesketh household, including the family's decision this year to create a garden and start growing some of their own fresh food.

The tough cheeseburger travels well and Hesketh has brought it to work to show off to those, like her teens, who need visuals for extra convincing.

"It's a great eye opener . . . We use it to educate our patients that what they're putting into their bodies may not be healthy," she said.

"I think most people who see this are swayed," said Michelle Prince, a chiropractor who runs Lifetime Wellness Centre.

Calls Wednesday to McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Ltd. went unanswered, but the world's top-selling burger chain, whose menu is increasingly populated by healthier meal choices, has lashed out before against similar criticism.

"Despite the myths out there, our meat is very real!" the company says on its website, adding McDonald's Canada "uses only 100 per cent Canadian, CFIA-inspected beef."

The patties are "sprinkled with salt and pepper at the restaurant during cooking. That's it. No additives, fillers or binding agents," the website says.

But Hesketh points to the "astronomical" salt content in many fast food products when asked to explain how a burger can last so long and still look so good. A McDonald's cheeseburger weighs in at 115 grams at the time of cooking, but delivers 200 calories and 750 milligrams of sodium.

Meat patty aside, Prince points to the perfectly preserved bun and the slice of cheese as areas of concern.

fast food shrinks the brain?

The Canadian | According to a new study published in the journal Neurology, eating fast food is connected with brain shrinkage that can lead to Alzheimer’s. This study, titled “Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging” is one of the first to look at trans fat blood levels and their effects on the brain.A key ingredient found in most fast food items—the dreaded artery-damaging trans fats—are likely the culprit, says researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, who worked on the study.

Trans fats, which can also be labeled “partially hydrogenated oils” are used to extend the shelf-life, consistency and flavor of highly processed foods such as fast food and processed snack foods. They’re known to increase inflammation, which hardens arteries, affects heart function and increases the risk of heart attack. But the new findings also suggest that the brain may also be at risk of damage from regular exposure to trans fats. In addition to the smaller size, the study participants who had high levels of trans fats in their brain also showed poorer memory, attention, language and processing skills than those who did not have trans fats in the brain.

Conversely, people who consumed diets high in vitamins B, C, D and E and rich in omega fatty acids were reported to have larger brains and showed cognitive abilities that correspond with the brain and its healthy blood vessels. While it’s still not fully understood, the researchers found that the vitamins B, C, D and E worked in synergy affecting the brain in a positive way that helped to boost its volume and performance, and the omega fatty acids were connected with better performing executive function, planning abilities, problem solving and multi-tasking than study participants with low levels of omega fatty acids.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Iran to return US secret drone... as a toy

RT | Reports say the US is to get its top secret surveillance drone back from Iran. The catch is, the device, intercepted in December, has been reduced to 1:80 of its original size and is being marketed as a popular toy.

­Iranian state radio was quoted by Associated Press as saying on Tuesday that the US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone toy models would soon be on sale in Tehran.

They are expected to sell for 70,000 rials – around US$4.

One of the models will even make it to the White House in response to a formal request from Washington last month asking Iran to return the top-secret device.

State radio reports that the model will be of the original aircraft, but one eightieth of the actual size.

The top secret US drone was intercepted over the Iranian town of Kashmar, some 225 kilometers from Iran’s border with Afghanistan, in early December.

Engineers with the Iranian military confirmed they had managed to hijack the system inside the craft with ease and bring it to a safe landing without incident.

Since then, the Obama administration has asked Iran to return the drone, but Tehran has refused, claiming that its incursion into Iranian airspace had rendered it Iran’s property.

Reports also suggest the trophy might be put on public display after a thorough examination, and in a year or two it may be put up for auction.

5th generation fighter planes...,

5th generation fighter planes from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

what war with iran might look like

CNI | Iran is clearly the target of choice, just as it was in 2007. Despite President Barack Obama’s assertion that he would open up avenues to talk to the Iranians, he has failed to do so, he has rejected Iranian initiatives to start a dialogue, and he is showing every sign of unwillingness to negotiate on any level. Congress has even moved to block any contact between American and Iranian diplomats. The sanctions that recently took effect against the Iranian banking system can be construed as an act of war, particularly as Iran has not provided any casus belli. Further sanctions that will restrict energy imports are impending and will bring the country’s economy to a halt. There are already signs that the Iranian government feels itself compelled to demonstrate to its people that it is doing something about the situation. That “something” might well be a confrontation with the U.S. Navy that will have unfortunate results. In light of all that, it might be useful to imagine just how war with Iran could play out if the Iranians don’t roll over and surrender at the first whiff of grapeshot.

It might start with a minor incident, possibly involving an Iranian armed small craft manned by the Revolutionary Guard. Though the Strait of Hormuz is generally considered an international waterway, the Iranians claim that half of the strait is within their territorial waters. Tehran, in response to intensified sanctions, declares that it can determine who can use the strait and says that it will take steps to keep American warships from entering. The frigate USS Ingraham, patrolling off of Bushehr, is confronted by the small craft and ordered to heave to, an order it rejects. The Iranian commander, ignoring instructions to back off when confronted directly by the U.S. Navy, opens fire with rocket-propelled grenades. The frigate’s Phalanx rapid-fire battery immediately responds by blasting the Iranian boat, killing the entire Revolutionary Guard crew, but two American sailors are also killed in the exchange and four are wounded.

Fighters from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis are immediately launched under standing orders, and they devastate the naval base that the Iranian boat departed from. President Obama holds a press conference and calls the incident an act of war and vows to do everything necessary to support U.S. forces in the region, but he stops short of a commitment to stage a full-scale attack on Iran. A hastily called meeting of the U.N. Security Council results in a 17–1 vote urging the United States to exercise restraint, with only Washington voting “no.” In the General Assembly, only the United States, Israel, Micronesia, and Costa Rica support possible military action.

The United States is effectively alone, but Israel takes advantage of the growing war fervor in the United States to launch an attack against Iranian nuclear facilities. The recently completed nuclear reactor at Bushehr is destroyed, killing 13 Russian technicians working on the site, and the aboveground buildings at the Natanz nuclear research facility are leveled. Russian-supplied Iranian air defenses shoot down six Israeli aircraft. Washington receives no prior warning of the Israeli attack, though it does pick up the signal traffic that precedes it and knows something is coming. It makes no effort to stop the Israelis as they fly over undefended Iraqi airspace.

2012 obama bundlers

opensecrets | Bundlers are people with friends in high places who, after bumping against personal contribution limits, turn to those friends, associates, and, well, anyone who's willing to give, and deliver the checks to the candidate in one big "bundle."

Even though these donors direct more money to the candidates than anyone else, disclosure can be spotty, candidates generally release bundlers by ranges of fundraising, indicated in this chart with the "max" and "min" columns, and with the top ranges being simply "$500,000 or more." Together, 357 elites are directing at least $55,900,000 for Obama's re-election efforts -- money that has gone into the coffers of his campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee.

Top Industries of Obama Bundlers
IndustryMin. Raised# of Bundlers
Lawyers/Law Firms$9,900,00078
Securities & Investment$9,400,00062
Business Services$5,950,00031
Real Estate$5,050,00027

Barack Obama's campaign does not release employer or occupation of bundlers. The employers displayed for Obama's bundlers are based on CRP research.

The totals listed in this table are based on CRP research and may not match the contributions visible using our Donor Lookup tool, which searches FEC data based on name and state. Bundlers' names and ranges based on information available on Obama's web site on November 3, 2011. Individual contribution data based on data available from the Federal Election Commission on 11/14/2011.

Monday, January 16, 2012

the promises of a great society shipwrecked off the coast of asia

american-buddha | THIS STORY BEGINS IN VIETNAM, where I had gone as a freelance journalist in the spring of 1966.

Soon the picture became clear. Wherever I went in South Vietnam, from the southern delta to the northern boundary (I corps), U.S. carpet bombing systematically devastated the ancient, village-based rural culture, slaughtering helpless peasants. Time and again, in hospitals and refugee camps, children, barely human in appearance, their flesh having been carved into grotesque forms by napalm, described the "fire bombs" that rained from the sky onto their hamlets.

After a time in the field, I suffered a minor injury in a crash landing near Pleiku caused by ground fire. I returned to Saigon, where I went to a party held by some casual friends. I was tired and upset. For several days in the Central Highlands I had been confronted with one atrocity after another. Because I was far from a battle-hardened correspondent, I wasn't taking it very well. Soon I was approached by a young Vietnamese woman who solicited information from me. Aided by a few drinks, I expressed my disgust with the U.S. involvement in the war. The woman appeared sympathetic. After that evening, I never saw her again.

The next day I was summoned by Navy Commander Madison, the press accrediting officer, who my colleagues advised was an intelligence operative. He commented on my absence from the daily Saigon press briefings (at which the military line was disseminated) and stated that he had received reports of unacceptable remarks made by me. He advised me that my accreditation was going to be revoked.

I returned home and began to prepare articles for publication and testimony to be given before Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's Subcommittee to Investigate Problems Connected with Refugees and Escapees. My article "The Children of Vietnam" was published by Ramparts in January! 1967, during which time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was becoming increasingly concerned over the Johnson administration. s plans to reduce its domestic antipoverty spending in order to channel more funds to the war effort.

Dr. King hadn't yet categorically broken with the White House over the issue, but soon after the Ramparts article appeared he received calls from Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Nation editor Carey McWilliams, Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas, and others, urging him to take a more forceful antiwar stand and, indeed, to even consider running as a third-party presidential candidate in 1968. I would later learn that wiretaps of the conversations in which the candidacy was discussed were relayed to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and, through him, to Lyndon Johnson.

On Saturday, January 14, King flew to Jamaica, where he had planned to work on a book about one of his most ardently held beliefs -- the idea of a guaranteed income for each adult citizen. He was accompanied by his friend and associate Bernard Lee. While having breakfast he began to read the January Ramparts. According to Lee, and also recorded by David Garrow in his historical account, Bearing the Cross [1] Dr. King was galvanized by my account of atrocities against civilians and the accompanying photographs. Although he had spoken out against the war before, he decided then and there to do everything in his power to stop it.

Dr. King's new commitment to oppose the war became his priority. He told black trade unionist Cleveland Robinson and longtime advisor Stanley Levison that he was prepared to break with the Johnson administration regardless of the financial consequences and even the personal peril. [2] He saw, as never before, the necessity of tying together the peace and civil rights movements, and soon became involved in the antiwar effort. He spoke at a forum sponsored by the Nation in Los Angeles on February 25, 1967, joined Benjamin Spock (a proposed running mate in his possible third-party candidacy) in his first anti-war march, through downtown Chicago on March 23, and began to prepare for a major address on the war to be presented at the April 15 Spring Mobilization demonstration in New York.

From the beginning of the year, he began to devote more time to the development of a new coalition. He had come to believe it was time to unite the various progressive, single-issue organizations to form a mighty force, whose power would come from increased numbers and pooled funds. The groups all opposed the war and all wanted equal rights for blacks and other minorities, but their primary concern was eliminating poverty in the wealthiest nation on earth. These common issues formed the basis of the "new politics," and the National Conference for New Politics (NCNP) was established to catalyze a nation- wide effort. I was asked to be its executive director.

Though our emphasis was on grassroots political organizing, our disgust with the "old politics," particularly as practiced by the Johnson administration, compelled the NCNP to consider developing an independent presidential candidacy. To decide on this and adopt a platform, a national convention -- to be attended by delegates from every organization for social change across the land-was scheduled for the 1967 Labor Day weekend at the Palmer House in Chicago.

when he was assassinated, it was national policy of the United States to abolish poverty

MercuryNews | The state of poverty was first officially recognized by the U.S. government in July 1963 -- one month before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his soaring "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In the years that followed, need annexed itself to the national census like some malignant 51st state.

Devised by an economist at the Social Security Administration, the poverty threshold became a way of reckoning the "economic justice" for which King would campaign before he died in 1968. Though his leadership of the civil rights movement is the most memorable aspect of his legacy, King was in Memphis trying to help propel black sanitation workers into the middle class when he was assassinated.

But 44 years later, economic justice remains elusive for many Americans. While poverty gradually declined in the decades since King's death -- 32.4 million Americans lived below the threshold in 1986, the year the King holiday was first celebrated -- the numbers have climbed in recent years as the economy soured.

Today, as the nation celebrates MLK Day for the 27th time, 46.2 million of its people have slid into the misery that King spent his final years fighting, with blacks experiencing the highest rate of any group: 27 percent.

"I'm sure that would cause him anguish," said Taylor Branch, author of "America in the King Years," the Pulitzer Prize-winning trilogy that spans King's transformation from preacher to prophet. "But he never spoke of poverty in purely racial terms. King said poverty is no respecter of persons or race."

King's legacy as civil rights champion was carved in stone again this summer with the dedication of his memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. But for the two generations of Americans that have grown up since his death, King's "Dream" speech has overshadowed his other work. Some fear that much of the economic justice message for which he was martyred has been lost.

"In some ways, things are worse than when Martin was alive," said Clayborne Carson, founding director of the King Institute at Stanford University. "If he was concerned about the distribution of wealth in 1968, the lack of opportunity for poor people and the lack of commitment to eliminating poverty as a social problem at that point, it seems obvious that those issues have become more pressing today."

Even the most notable economic advancement made by black Americans during the past four decades -- the formation of a vast African-American middle class -- has removed what King referred to as "the fierce urgency of now" from the plight of a larger underclass.

"It's true that many black people have moved to the suburbs," Carson said, "but in a sense that has exacerbated the problem. If you went to a King celebration at a large black church and gave one of his anti-poverty talks these days, it would not be well received. His kind of social gospel preaching is just not what works today."

Events such as the annual Freedom Train trip from San Jose to San Francisco -- whose distance matches the historic Selma to Montgomery march King led in Alabama in 1965 -- reinforce his image as a racial leader, which is exactly where the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley thinks it should remain.

"I believe we have to continue to keep his legacy in the forefront, or things could go back to the way they were," said the group's president, Bonita Carter-Cox. "Otherwise, he and other civil rights fighters could have done what they did in vain."

There seems little chance of that. Carson believes not even King -- if he were alive today -- could live up to the "King myth" that conjures up a larger-than-life racial superhero, far removed from the "drum major for justice" celebrated by the King Memorial.

"When he was assassinated, it was national policy of the United States to abolish poverty," Carson said, referring to President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," announced during his 1964 State of the Union speech. "Now if you were a presidential candidate and you proposed that, you would be eliminating yourself from serious consideration. That would be seen as something that's totally unrealistic, utopian."

ponerology of the american dream...,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

election 2012: how rich are these guys?

Money | Mitt Romney

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Total net worth: $85 million to $264 million

With no regular day job, Romney still earns a tidy income in the form of dividends and interest from his investments, and records filed with the Federal Election Commission show that the former Massachusetts governor commands between $20,000 and $68,000 on the speaking circuit.

Much of Romney's wealth is tied up in a blind trust, but some assets remain under his control -- including a few quirky items. For example, the FEC lists between $250,000 and $500,000 in horses, an asset the campaign says belongs to the candidate's wife. He owns another $250,000 to $500,000 in gold.

Romney has degrees from both Harvard Law and Harvard Business School, and had successful careers at the consulting shop Bain & Company and private equity firm Bain Capital before joining the Salt Lake City Olympics effort in 1999.

Jon Huntsman

Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Total net worth: $16 million to $72 million

The 51-year-old former governor spent much of his career in the public sector, but he also found time to work at the family business: Huntsman Corporation.

The candidate's father is one of the richest self-made men in the world, having given away more than $1 billion to fund universities and a cancer research center, among other causes.

Most of the younger Huntsman's assets are tied in some way to the family. He lists a family holding company worth between $5 million and $25 million as an asset.

The Utah native lists a few more conventional assets as well -- including investment funds from Vanguard and Fidelity.

Newt Gingrich

Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Total net worth: $7 million to $31 million

The former house speaker is worth at least $7 million, putting him right in the middle of the 2012 pack.

The bulk of his assets come in the form of a promissory note from the Gingrich Group, LLC to Gingrich Productions, Inc., which are part of the tangled web of businesses the speaker maintains.

Most of the Georgia native's income comes from Gingrich Productions, a Washington-based multimedia company that paid out $2.4 million in disbursements to Gingrich.

Additionally, Gingrich lists between $565,000 and $1,150,000 in liabilities, including a now-closed line of credit at Tiffany and Co.

Barack Obama

Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

Total net worth: $2.8 million to $11.8 million*

While some of his Republican challengers are downright wealthy, President Obama isn't all that far behind.

Obama earns a $400,000 salary as the nation's chief executive, and the Center for Responsive Politics estimates his net worth to be somewhere between $2.8 million and $11.8 million.

Where did the former senator and law professor get that kind of cash? Book sales, mostly.

In 2010, the Obama family reported an adjusted gross income of $1,728,096, down from about $5.5 million in 2009, according to the first couple's tax returns.

His paycheck was much higher in 2009 because his books -- "Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope" were registering strong sales.

The tax returns also show the family donated about 14% of their income to charity in 2010.

Ron Paul

Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Total net worth: $2.4 million to $5.4 million

While nowhere near the poor house, Ron Paul has more modest assets than some of his deep-pocketed rivals.

The Texas congressman also has a personal loan out from the First National Bank of Lake Jackson that totals $250,000 to $500,000 with a 5-year term.

Paul lists a Washington-area condo worth $100,000 to $250,000 as an asset, and has an investment portfolio stuffed full of mining stocks.

For example, the sound-money advocate holds $100,000 to $250,000 in Barrick Gold Corporation and $500,000 to $1,000,000 in Goldcorp Inc., two publicly traded mining companies.

In all, the congressman is invested in more than 20 separate companies that have the words "mining," "mines," "gold" or "silver" in their name.

Rick Santorum

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Total net worth: $1 million to $3 million

One of the poorest 2012 candidates, Rick Santorum is still a millionaire.

Much of the former Pennsylvania senator's money is tied up in rental real estate properties, as well as education and savings plans for his children.

Santorum also has some debt to his name -- including two mortgages for rental properties totaling between $350,000 and $750,000. Those properties, located in State College, Pa., are worth between $500,000 and $1.25 million, according to the FEC filing.

From relatively modest means, Santorum served as a congressman and senator, but has since found more lucrative compensation in the private sector.

Santorum earned $1.3 million in income from January 2010 until August of last year from a variety of jobs, including a gig at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington and as a contributor on Fox News.

Rick Perry

Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

Total net worth: $1 million to $2.5 million

Rick Perry is not exactly poor. But it's all relative. His assets place him at the back of the pack of 2012 candidates.

The governor -- who's still on the job -- collects both a salary and pension from the state of Texas. The salary is $132,995 a year, and he brings in a monthly annuity of $7,698.

In August, Perry revoked his blind trust, giving a look into his portfolio. The candidate is invested in a wide range of companies, including PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Chevron, Cisco and Microsoft.

doing God's work!!!

Before Lloyd Blankfein made this most audacious claim, a google search of the term "doing gods work" would have returned a solid page of jesus-spam. Now, it's nearly all about Goldman Sachs and their psychopath CEO.

inequality now, inequality tomorrow, inequality forever!

NYTimes | Conflict between rich and poor now eclipses racial strain and friction between immigrants and the native-born as the greatest source of tension in American society, according to a survey released Wednesday.

About two-thirds of Americans now believe there are “strong conflicts” between rich and poor in the United States, a survey by the Pew Research Center found, a sign that the message of income inequality brandished by the Occupy Wall Street movement and pressed by Democrats may be seeping into the national consciousness.

The share was the largest since 1992, and represented about a 50 percent increase from the 2009 survey, when immigration was seen as the greatest source of tension. In that survey, 47 percent of those polled said there were strong conflicts between classes.

“Income inequality is no longer just for economists,” said Richard Morin, a senior editor at Pew Social & Demographic Trends, which conducted the latest survey. “It has moved off the business pages into the front page.”

The survey, which polled 2,048 adults from Dec. 6 to 19, found that perception of class conflict surged the most among white people, middle-income earners and independent voters. But it also increased substantially among Republicans, to 55 percent of those polled, up from 38 percent in 2009, even as the party leadership has railed against the concept of class divisions.

The change in perception is the result of a confluence of factors, Mr. Morin said, probably including the Occupy Wall Street movement, which put the issue of undeserved wealth and fairness in American society at the top of the news throughout most of the fall.

Traditionally, class has been less a part of the American political debate than it has been in Europe. Still, the concept has long existed for ordinary Americans.

“Americans have always acknowledged that there are Rockefellers and the lunch-bucket guy,” said Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center, based at the University of Chicago. “But they believe it is not a permanent caste, but a transitory condition. The real game-changer would be if they give up on that.”

constituent representative government...,

msnbc | Just a few days into the new year, and we're already blitzed with wall-to-wall election coverage. But the fun is only just beginning. Before this election year is out, scores of congressional candidates will join the presidential contenders already dominating the airwaves.

If you observe their endless debates and expensive attack ads and get a sense that these candidates are out of touch with many of the pedestrian problems faced by the rest of us -- oh, say like trying to balance a family budget -- it's not just your imagination.

While most Americans saw their incomes and wealth slip in the past several years, the wealth of our reps in Washington, D.C., has grown by leaps and bounds. The key takeaway here: Being a millionaire would make any normal person a One-Percenter, a member of the nation’s wealthiest group. In Congress, it just makes you average.

So rather than a CEO this week -- we’ll get back to them – I’m making Congress my One-Percenter of the Week.

Consider these numbers:

  • Nearly half of the members of Congress are millionaires, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a Washington watchdog.
  • The median net worth of a U.S. senator was $2.63 million in 2010, the most recent year for which financial data are available. That was up 11% from the year before, says CRP.
  • The median estimated net worth for House members was $756,765.
  • The median net worth of House members almost tripled from 1984 and 2009, while the net worth of Americans declined slightly during the same time, according to the Washington Post and the University of Michigan.

"It's no surprise that so many people grumble about lawmakers being out of touch," said Sheila Krumholz, CRP executive director. And it's not only the news of their costly yachts and expensive vacations that rankles.

It's also the sense that our One-Percenter reps in Washington aren't doing enough to help the rest of us, perhaps because they are so distracted by their embarrassingly rancorous bipartisan arguing -- which has earned them their most unfavorable ratings in years.

Bickering over the budget last summer, for example, brought the threat of a U.S. credit rating downgrade, helping to shave billions off our stock holdings in just a few painful weeks.

A recent Congressional Budget Office study found that public policy efforts -- in the tax code and through programs like Medicaid -- now do less to combat income inequality than they did in 1979.

And three years after the worst financial meltdown in decades -- which many blame on lax oversight of the financial sector by Washington -- our economy is improving, but not fast enough to provide jobs for the millions who are unemployed.

It’s not hard, either, to suggest a little bias toward the One Percent, and a bipartisan one. For all the talk about rescinding the portion of the Bush tax cuts that apply to the highest income brackets, they survived two years with a Democratic president and Democratic majority in both houses of Congress as well as the current, divided Congress. And late in 2011, House Republicans took lots of criticism for stalling on a 2% payroll tax that by its nature helped those in the lower brackets more than the One Percent.

So who's richest in Congress?

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., tops the CRP list as the wealthiest of the lot, with an estimated 2010 net worth of $448 million. He's followed by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, with an estimated net worth of $380 million. (For a look at a list from Roll Call and CNBC, read "The 15 richest members of Congress.")

Just how did these reps get so wealthy? Probably not on the $174,000 they make a year, despite the juicy perks like extra pay for senior posts and generous medical and pension benefits. Most likely, they're so much richer than the rest of us simply because campaigning is expensive, so politics naturally attracts wealthy people. Many of them made their riches in real estate, or they got their wealth through inheritances and marriage.

But shrewd stock picking also clearly help. Studies by Alan Ziobrowski at Georgia State University conclude that our reps regularly outperform the markets by large amounts due to the “significant information advantage” they derive from their jobs.

Our reps may actually be a lot wealthier than the numbers provided by CRP suggest, since so much of their wealth goes unreported. The top bracket for assets of spouses is "more than $1 million," which means that family net worth is likely undervalued in many cases. Plus their annual filings exclude the value of government retirement accounts, primary residences and personal property not held for investment -- like artwork and cars.

smells like change?

declineofempire | Writing in Salon, Glenn Greenwald reports on Jack Lew, Hopey-Changey's choice to replace William Daley as his chief of staff. Glenn gives us some background on Daley, who I used to illustrate just how screwed we truly are in my post America's Elites Own You. I believe that was the first post in which I used the classic George Carlin video on the "American Dream"—you've got to be asleep to believe it.

When President Obama last January announced the departure of Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff, many liberals were furious that his replacement was the Midwest Chairman of JP Morgan and Boeing Director William Daley, who was also an opponent of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a critic of Obama’s health care bill as too leftist...

Rachel Maddow harshly condemned the choice ... and sardonically observed: “mmm – a banker and a lobbyist: smells like change.”

I don't have much use for Rachel Maddow, but she got that right. What will Daley do now?

Yesterday, the White House announced Daley’s departure — he will now co-chair Obama’s re-election campaign, which basically means raising huge amounts of money from his Wall Street friends — and unveiled his replacement as Chief of Staff: Jacob "Jack" Lew.

And what about the new guy? What was he doing prior to the financial crisis?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

banks use the ex nihilo political power of money to enslave the world...,

nakedcapitalism | A prisoner kneels before the watchtower in a drawing of Jeremy Bentham’s ‘Panopticon’. The Panopticon was an architectural form that Bentham envisioned for a variety of social institutions. The idea was to have a central platform where an observer could cast their gaze over all the observed, thus making them feel constantly under watch and ensuring, in Bentham’s own words, “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.” Jeremy Bentham is also the father of modern utility theory – a theory often associated with individual liberty, which is actually at heart a blueprint for social control.

It’s not hard to forget just how nonsensical, simplistic and childish the so-called theory of marginal utility is. Personally, I hadn’t encountered it directly for a number of years. But reading a review copy of Steve Keen’s excellent new revised edition of ‘Debunking Economics’ encouraged me to pull out the old Samuelson and Nordhaus textbook once more.

While Keen shows quite clearly in that book that even within its own narrow and absurd definitions the theory is internally inconsistent, I propose here to take a more general look at this intellectual masturbatory appendage that passes for a theory of individual and societal desire – and to try to substantially demonstrate that, far be it from being an expression of individual liberty, it is, in fact, a vision of a controlled and deterministic society, not unlike it’s father Jeremy Bentham’s other invention, the Panopticon.

“But it’s not psychological!”

The theory of marginal utility is, like most concepts in neoclassical microeconomics, quite simple. It begins, also like most concepts in neoclassical microeconomics, with a tautology. The economists claim that people choose that which maximises their pleasure and minimises their displeasure. They refer to this as people ‘optimising their utility’ – ‘utility’ here being this supposedly innate tendency to choose that which satisfies us most.

As any even a half-blind observer will note this is complete claptrap. People often make choices that turn out later not to ‘maximise their satisfaction’ (whatever that crude phrase might mean). Have you ever gone clothes shopping and bought an expensive pair of jeans that you never wore? Well, that’s hardly utility maximising behaviour.

In fact people often make choices that lead to less than satisfactory outcomes. This seems to be by design rather than anything else. If we always made the choices that ensured constant satisfaction we would soon find that we had no motivation to do anything new and would simply sit and stew in our own narrow and static world. That we occasionally make less than satisfactory choices allows us to continue to pursue satisfaction all the more. Nothing would smother our drives, our ambitions and our aspirations quite like a constant state of satiation.

But saying any of this is far too psychological for the average economist. After all, they insist that the theory of utility is not psychological. From Samuelson and Nordhaus’ ‘Economics’ (15th Edition):

But you should definitively resist the idea that utility is a psychological function or feeling that can be observed or measured. Rather, utility is a scientific construct that economists use to understand how rational consumers divide their limited resources among commodities that provide them with satisfaction. (P. 73)

The sheer amount of qualifying statements in those sentences is outstanding. But let us ignore such brazen tautology and meandering qualifying rhetoric for a moment, as there is something far more important and interesting going on here.

Why does Samuelson insist that this is not a psychological ‘function’? After all, we have just shown that the theory of utility contains a strongly psychological dimension in which it gives a very definitive view of human psychology.

This is a classic shunning of intellectual responsibility on the part of Samuelson. He assures us – and with us, himself – that he is not passing psychological judgement. He does this by insisting that we are engaged here in ‘science’ (whatever that means).

Of course, the critical observer can see that this is a strongly psychological argument with absolutely psychological foundations, but Samuelson doesn’t want to know anything about this.

Why? Because that would lead him to be questioned regarding the psychological basis of his assertions and that would cause his neoclassical worldview to crumble, strip him of scientific authority and show him to be doing what he is, in fact, doing; namely, using a scientific ‘style’ to try to convince the reader that the unlikely psychology that he puts forward is in fact objective, scientifically verified reality.

google needs to quit the u.s. chamber of commerce

Googlequitthechamber | Google's unofficial corporate motto is "don't be evil". On many fronts, outlined below, Google's actions have lived up to its rhetoric. But the US Chamber of Commerce's positions on the key issues of the day are in direct conflict with Google's mission and hurt Google users all around the world. Google's membership in the Chamber of Commerce legitimizes the Chamber. If Google's staff and leadership are truly committed to not being evil, they need to end their membership in the US Chamber of Commerce.

Google works to protect the environment
Google founder Sergey Brin has been a major donor to climate causes, including donating $200,000 to a campaign to keep California's stringent global warming emissions cap in place. He also donated $1 million to support the establishment of a renewable energy fund in California.

But Google's commitment to the environment extends beyond one of its founders. Google's headquarters in Mountain View, CA is powered entirely by solar energy, making it one of the world's largest solar-powered complexes. They are even advancing "Google Earth Engine", which allows scientists and developing countries to track activity causing climate change - like deforestation.

Google has entered into Power Purchase Agreements, committing to purchase power from clean energy facilities across the country. Long-term financial agreements with two wind farms in Oklahoma and Iowa are expected to produce 15% of Google's total energy use by next year. Google has touted its formidable investment in clean energy technology as a model for other corporations, challenging other companies to think about long-term benefits once renewable energy prices are competitive with coal.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the biggest obstacles to ending our addiction to fossil fuels and addressing the climate crisis. See more on the Chamber's climate and environmental policies here.