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GISSJan-April2015So put down the Ambien, Prozac, Viagra and crotch-shots on Fox Kool-Aid and turn off the television, because you have just lived through the hottest January through April on record, and it is increasingly likely that 2015 will be the hottest year on record, possibly by a wide margin.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has just predicted a 90 percent chance that the El Niño it declared in March will last through the summer and “a greater than 80 percent chance it will last through 2015.” El Niños generally lead to global temperature records, as the short-term El Niño warming adds to the underlying long-term global warming trend.

And in fact, with April, we have once again broken the record for the hottest 12 months on record: May 2014 – April 2015. The previous record was April 2014 – March 2015, set last month. The record before that was March 2014 – February 2015. And the equally short-lived record before that was February 2014 – January 2015.

As we keep breaking records in 2015, our headlines are going to sound like a … broken record. May has already started out hot, and it is quite likely next month we will report “The Hottest 5-Month Start Of Any Year On Record,” and that June 2014 – May 2015 will become hottest 12 months on record.

You are a clear and present danger to my grandchildren’s future.

Fear me.

Seven years after the financial crisis began, many of the conditions that helped cause the near collapse of the U.S. banking system—and that were used to justify the multi-trillion-dollar U.S. government bailout of mammoth financial institutions—endure, warns a new report from the Corporate Reform Coalition (CRC).

US-FINANCE-BANKING-PROTESTTitled Still Too Big to Fail (pdf), Thursday’s report charges that since the meltdown began in 2008, regulators have failed to make sufficient progress on key components of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, or to boost transparency in political spending.

According to the CRC, which is made up of more than 75 good governance, organized labor, and environmental groups, action on both these fronts is necessary in order to prevent another financial disaster.

“The top six bank holding companies are considerably larger than before, and are still permitted to borrow excessively relative to the assets they hold,” the report states. “They are dangerously interconnected and remain vulnerable to sudden runs, because they borrow billions of dollars from wholesale lenders who can often demand their cash back each and every day.”

It goes on: “Banks can still use taxpayer-backed insured deposits to engage in high-risk derivative transactions here and overseas. Compensation incentives fail to discourage mismanagement and illegality, given that when legal fees, settlements, and fines mount, it is usually the shareholders, not the corporate executives who pay.”

And, the report warns, “[s]hould one of these giant banking firms fail again, it appears that the damage will not be contained.”

“Avoiding another meltdown depends on the will of federal regulators to use the new powers they were granted in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” said Jennifer Taub, author of the report and professor of law at Vermont Law School. “If they behave as if they are beholden to the banks, we will likely face a more severe crisis in the future.”

Taub, also the author of the financial crisis book Other People’s Houses, highlights—”in plain language”—key regulatory reforms necessary to avert another crisis, including:

  • ending bailouts by requiring the largest banks to provide credible “living wills” that show how they can file for bankruptcy or be resolved by the FDIC without triggering a financial crisis;
  • further reducing excessive borrowing by the top six banks;
  • reducing dependence by banks and other financial firms on overnight and other short-term borrowing;
  • prohibiting banks from evading derivatives regulation through use of foreign subsidiaries;
  • improving bankers’ accountability through rules around incentive pay and bonuses;
  • requiring corporate political spending disclosure “so as to begin to deal with the influence peddling that impacts Congress and regulators”

In a statement, Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, lauded that final recommendation. Public Citizen, a CRC member, points out that the report’s call for corporate political spending disclosure adds to increasing pressure on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to act on a 2011 rulemaking petition—which has garnerd 1.2 million signatures in support—calling on the agency to require publicly held companies to disclose political spending.

“More transparency on the part of Wall Street would better serve both our economy and our democracy,” Gilbert said. “Shareholders deserve to know how companies are spending their money to influence financial policy. Without transparency there can be no accountability.”

Given the weather anomalies of the past few years (and the phenomena caused by them, such as wildfires), the methane “time bomb” in the Arctic (also this video), and the fact that the Arctic is our “canary in the coal mine,” one might think that our “leaders” in Washington would be preoccupied with the matter of global warming (or, as some prefer, “climate change”).

there-is-no-planet-B-photo-by-Freya-Schork-2013Especially given that the high degree of interdependence that exists in our society is a “recipe for disaster”:  It means that our society is extremely fragile, and in consequence could easily collapse with a slight “push.”  What’s ironic about that “push” is that although it would come directly from Nature, theultimate responsibility for it would be our own—our burning of fossil fuels, along with our deforestation activities.

Needless to say, our “leaders” are doing “next to nothing” about global warming; in fact, virtually everyone in our society is simply “going about business as usual,” as if nothing of significance is going on “out there.”  In short, our nation seems to be in the grip of nonchalance, and that fact is puzzling.  Or is it?  In point of fact, despite the fact that ours is the most intelligent of species, several factors help explain why we humans—we Americans in particular—are not using that intelligence.

What Is She Doing Right? Wall Street to Punish Dems over Elizabeth Warren

US-FINANCE-BANKING-PROTESTCiting sources familiar with the situation, representatives of some of the nation’s largest banks—including Citigroup, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America—have actively considered putting pressure on the Democratic establishment by making a coordinated threat to withold campaign contributions unless the populist rhetoric coming from Sen. Warren and her colleague from Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown, is toned down.

You know that old canard about banksters leaping to their deaths on Black Tuesday? It’s just that, a canard, history rewrit by those who can get away with it.

They didn’t jump.

The Rude One puts the whole “atheist rape” thing in perspective: A man breaks into Phil Robertson’s house and rapes him after tying up Robertson’s wife, Kay.

darwineatsOver the next few days, the man rapes the shit out of Robertson, again and again, always in front of Kay. When Robertson’s sons try to check on him, the man grabs them and ties them up, using a nail gun to pin their dicks to their chairs. And he rapes Robertson repeatedly, even using various implements to rape him – a duck call, a model duck, a stuffed duck. He just keeps raping Phil Robertson, in the face, in the ass. Sometimes he jacks off on Robertson to mix it up a bit, all while the Duck Dynasty clan watches the rapes and hears their patriarch’s cries and moans and, yes, prayers. Finally, before he sets the house on fire and leaves, the exhausted rapist says something.

Now here in our little parable for the damned, the Rude Pundit is conflicted. He can end it with the man saying one of two things. The man could say, “How come your god didn’t stop this from happening?” But that seems too easy, not enough of a mind-rape, too easily dismissed as the madness of the atheist.

How about: Robertson, smelling gasoline, tearfully asks why this has happened.

And the man says, “Because God told me to.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership Investment Text

wikileaks-tpp-investment-cartoon“After more than five years of negotiations under conditions of extreme secrecy, on March 25, 2015, a leaked copy of the investment chapter for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was posted. Public Citizen has verified that the text is authentic. Trade officials from the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – are in intensive, closed-door negotiations to finish the TPP in the next few months.”The leaked text provides stark warnings about the dangers of ‘trade’ negotiations occurring without press, public or policymaker oversight. It reveals that TPP negotiators already have agreed to many radical terms that would give foreign investors expansive new substantive and procedural rights and privileges not available to domestic firms under domestic law.”

Obama is as guilty as the rest of them.

As part of the Guardian newspaper’s recently launched “keep it in the ground” campaign, Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein appears in a new video on Wednesday in which she argues the current moment is ripe for the world to take advantage of the dramatic drop in global oil prices by kicking the fossil fuel industry “while it’s down.”

Calling on themes from her two most recent books — The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster in 2007 and the more recently published This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate — Klein says the fall in oil prices since last year should be seen as an opportunity for those concerned about both the prevailing economic order and the dangers of climate change. “Let’s turn this shock,” she says in the nearly five-minute video essay, “into the shift we need.”

Could this be the shock that we harness for our big shift?

Her list of demands include: “No drilling in the arctic… No expansion of the tar sands…  more fracking bans like the ones in New York state and Scotland,” and a call to support and broaden the calls for fossil fuel divestment worldwide while ramping up the needed and available solutions to the climate crisis.

“Sometimes capitalism gives us a gift, the sudden drop in oil prices is one.”

Dave Lindorff: With Republicans now in control of both houses of Congress, the current president already on record as supported cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and all signs pointing to the likelihood that the 2016 election could bring us either a neo-liberal or a neo-conservative president, and an increasingly Republican-dominated Congress, it’s time for an aggressive mass movement built around defending and expanding both those critical public funding programs.

US-FINANCE-BANKING-PROTESTThe first step is getting out the truth that Social Security is not broke or doomed, but simply needs to be better funded by ending the free pass given to the wealthy. Simply eliminating the cap on income subject to the FICA tax, currently set at the first $118,500 of earned income, would make the system fully able to pay all promised benefits for the next century or more. Extending the tax to cover unearned income — basically capital gains (a tax that only impacts the wealthy) would allow for an expansion of benefits.

There is today $2.8 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund, a fund that was created by a compromise reform reached by President Ronald Reagan and a Democratic Congress led by House Speaker Tip O’Neill back in 1983. The idea at the time was to have Baby Boomers and their employers pay more into the system ahead of the time they would be retiring, when their numbers would place a burden on current workers (the Boomers’ kids and grandkids), since the system has always since its inception financed current retirees’ benefits through current workers’ FICA payroll tax payments. (The reform also raised the full retirement gradually from 65 to 66 and later to 67 for people born after 1964.)

That advance funding of Boomer retiree benefits is now starting to be tapped but that is what was supposed to happen to it, a point the doom-sayers and political scare-mongers fail to mention. It turns out, though, that the advance funding was not large enough for several reasons. One, very positive, is that people are living longer than projected because of improved nutrition and medical advances. Another is that a series of recessions and market collapses, especially during the “lost decade” of 2000-2010, caused in large part by corrupt investment banks in 2001 and by Wall Street’s mega-banks turned casinos in 2007-9, cut severely into FICA contributions, as well as into workers’ personal savings and net worth.

Right-wing and corporate propaganda to the effect that the Trust Fund is smoke and mirrors or just “IOU” scrips, is absurd…

Read the rest …

Your Bimbo Bottle-Blond Bobble-Head Multi-Millionaire Mainstream Media: Rich people paying rich people to tell middle class people to blame poor people.

Wish I had said that.

That means you Greg Walden, trust-funder punk who’s never done a day’s work in your life and don’t even live in Oregon… you don’t represent Oregon.

The differences between the four budget proposals recently put forth by President Barack Obama, both Republican-majority houses of the U.S. Congress, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus are “stark,” according to a new analysis—while some provisions in the GOP blueprints “completely miss the mark in responding to what Americans say they want.”

gop-humping_nThe National Priorities Project (NPP), a non-profit, non-partisan research organization dedicated to making the federal budget process transparent, released Competing Visions on Friday.

The report compares how each budget proposal responds (or not) to the stated policy priorities of the American people, on key issues including jobs, education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, food assistance, and military spending, as well as proposed strategies for tax reform and deficit reduction.

“Our analysis shows that, in most spending categories, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the president would do the most to address the priorities voiced by the majority of Americans,” said Jasmine Tucker, research analyst for NPP and author of the report. “In some areas, the House and Senate budget proposals completely miss the mark in responding to what Americans say they want.”

For example, on the issue of taxing the wealthy, according to the NPP analysis:

  • 68 percent of Americans think wealthy households don’t pay enough in taxes.
  • The Obama budget proposal raises top capital gains tax rate to 28 percent and closes the “trust fund loophole” that allows heirs to avoid taxation, raising $208 billion over 10 years. Places limits on tax deductions for top income earners and implements the Buffett Rule ensuring a minimum tax rate for the wealthy. Places limits on tax deductions for top income earners and ends the “carried interest” loophole that benefits hedge fund managers to raise $17.6 billion over 10 years.
  • The House budget calls for comprehensive tax reform that would lower tax rates for individuals and families. Closes some special interest tax loopholes but does not specify which ones. Eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax that sets a minimum tax for the wealthy.
  • The Senate budget contains no proposed changes to the status quo.
  • The CPC proposal raises tax rates for richest 2 percent (earning more than $250,000 per year) to Clinton-era levels, and taxes capital gains investment earnings at higher rates, yielding $1.4 trillion in additional revenue over 10 years. Places a cap on the value of itemized deductions that mostly benefit the wealthy (raising $566 billion over 10 years) and limits other tax deductions for top income earners.

Similar discrepancies exist on almost every issue.

As Tucker put it: “The differences between the four budget proposals are stark, and all signs indicate a difficult budget battle ahead as lawmakers try to resolve widely different approaches despite clear public opinion in favor of certain policies.”

While 70 percent of Americans oppose cuts to food stamps, the House and Senate budget plans would both cut the program.

imagesWhile 67 percent say improving the education system in the U.S. should be a top priority for the president and Congress this year, the House and Senate allocate no new funding for education—and in fact the House proposal “freezes the maximum Pell grant award at the same level for the next 10 years, provides financial aid to fewer families, and makes substantial cuts to domestic discretionary spending, including education.”

Overall, the House Republican budget would cut $5 trillion in government spending over the next decade, mostly out of programs that low- and moderate-income Americans need and depend on—and say they support. At the same time, it adds $400 million in defense spending—not in line with public opinion polls—and promises to lower tax rates for wealthy Americans and corporations.

The Senate version follows the same basic outlines.

At a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) alsonoted the divergence between GOP policies and the priorities of the general public.

“[T]he rich get much richer, and the Republicans think they need more help,” he said. “The middle class and working families of this country become poorer, and the Republicans think we need to cut programs they desperately need. Frankly, those may be the priorities of some of my Republican colleagues in this room, but I do not believe that these are the priorities of the American people.”

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