Lynne Stuart Parramore

Meet The Billionaires Who Pillage Under the Shield of Philanthropy

America’s parasitical oligarchs are masters of public relations. One of their favorite tactics is to masquerade as defenders of the common folk while neatly arranging things behind the scenes so that they can continue to plunder unimpeded. Perhaps nowhere is this sleight of hand displayed so artfully as it is at a particular high-profile charity with the nerve to bill itself as itself as “New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization.” British novelist Anthony Trollope once wrote, “I have sometimes thought that there is no being so venomous, so bloodthirsty as a professed philanthropist.” Meet the benevolent patrons of the Robin Hood Foundation.

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Leo Gerard

Oil Corporations Scheme to Export America’s Security

Oil honchos and their legion of lobbyists petitioned Congress last week to pad corporate profits at the expense of American energy independence and national security. And Republicans on a Senate committee voted to comply. On the demand of oilmen, the committee agreed to end America’s 40-year ban on exporting crude. They did it because oil corporations think they can make a couple more bucks on each barrel by selling American crude on the international market. Never mind that America doesn’t produce sufficient crude to meet its needs and still imports 44 percent of what is refined in the United States.  Never mind that exporting American crude makes the United States more dependent on belligerent Russia and hostile Arab nations.

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Bill Scher

Obama’s Climate Plan: Is It Good Enough?

From the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency, his approach to climate policy has divided the environmentalist community. The “cap-and-trade” bill that he championed, but never received a vote in the Senate, was lauded by some groups as essential and others as weakened by compromise to fossil fuel interests. Some appreciate that he’s regulating fracking, others are critical that he won’t move to ban it. Some are impressed that he’s protected 260 million acres of public lands and waters, others are livid that he’s expanding oil drilling into the Arctic and on other federal lands. Similar fault lines are emerging in response to his Clean Power Plan, the EPA rule designed to cut carbon emissions from power plants 32 percent relative to their 2005 level by 2030.

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Cormac Close

Puerto Rico’s Creditors in Denial and Its People in the Crosshairs

On June 28, the Governor of Puerto Rico told the world that the island’s debts are not payable. “It’s not politics” he told the New York Times, “It’s math.” Like many impoverished debtors, Puerto Rico chose to live beyond its means not because of greed but because it lacked the means to survive. After years of economic decline following military base closures, a financial crisis and a collapse in manufacturing, running large deficits was what the island had to do to prevent further unemployment, poverty and emigration. A slow deterioration of the island’s credit rating has forced the government to balance its budget, raising taxes and cutting spending on an island where there has been chronic double-digit unemployment and half the population lives in poverty.

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Robert Reich

The Revolt Against the Ruling Class

“He can’t possibly win the nomination,” is the phrase heard most often when Washington insiders mention either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. Yet as enthusiasm for the bombastic billionaire and the socialist senior continues to build within each party, the political establishment is mystified. Political insiders don’t see that the biggest political phenomenon in America today is a revolt against the “ruling class” of insiders that have dominated Washington for more than three decades. In two very different ways, Trump and Sanders are agents of this revolt. I’ll explain the two ways in a moment. Don’t confuse this for the public’s typical attraction to candidates posing as political outsiders who’ll clean up the mess, even when they’re really insiders who contributed to the mess.

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Dave Johnson

Why the TPP Trade Talks Stalled, and What We’ll Have to Watch For Next

The latest round of negotiations to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement ended without a deal being completed. The negotiators will try again as soon as the end of August. TPP is the largest “trade” agreement in history, covering 40 percent of the world’s economy. It will “write the rules for doing business in the 21st Century,” covering everything from patents to Internet rules to labor standards to whether countries are allowed to write laws and make regulations that might limit what corporations do. The agreement is being negotiated entirely in secret, largely by former (and, they hope, future) corporate representatives; with other “stakeholders” like consumer, labor, health, faith, environmental, LGBT, human rights and other non-corporate groups kept away from the process.

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Sam Pizzigati

How Our Inequality Is Corrupting ‘Success’

“Taking from the successful people to provide for those that aren’t isn’t the solution,” as White House hopeful Jeb Bush pronounced this past spring. “The solution is, How do you build capacity so people can achieve earned success?” The core assumption behind this Bush pronouncement: Wealth equals success. Those who hold great wealth have achieved great success. A claim this sweeping raises, of course, all sorts of philosophical questions. Economists and sociologists can’t really help us much with the answers. So I went to someone who could: Elizabeth Anderson, the chair of the philosophy department at the University of Michigan. The Harvard-trained Anderson may be perfectly positioned for helping us understand how wealth and inequality intersect with notions of success.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Will Black Lives Matter At the Republican Presidential Debate?

This weekend gave us another one of those every-four-year stories about this presidential election being the one in which the Republican Party finally breaks through and wins more than a one-in-10 share of the black vote. The latest version of this story came from The Washington Post, which wrote that “heading into an election without Obama at the top of the ticket, many Republicans say they are positioned to make inroads with black voters.” But that hardy perennial is reappearing at a time when a new generation of activists have sharpened what it should take to earn the vote of African Americans, and once again Republican candidates are showing themselves incapable of rising to the challenge.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: The Lion King

A beloved lion named Cecil was lured out of his sanctuary in Zimbabwe, and killed by an American hunter. The world mourned, and wingnuts roared that the lion’s death drew attention away from their scam to bring down Planned Parenthood. Image via Vince O’Sullivan @ Flickr. Walter Palmer, an American dentist from Minnesota, paid $54,000 for the chance to hunt a lion. Cecil was shot and wounded with an arrow from Palmer’s crossbow, and tracked for nearly two days before being shot, killed, skinned, and beheaded. Cecil’s carcass was left to rot. His six cubs will most likely be killed by the next lion who takes over the pride, to encourage the females to mate with him. Meanwhile, Palmer — who claimed he didn’t know the hunt was illegal, and sent a letter of apology to his patients — found himself the most hated man on the internet this week.

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Isaiah J. Poole

56 Organizations Unite In Opposition To Schumer Corporate Tax Plan

A broad coalition of progressive organizations is pushing back against the lawmaker in line to be the next Senate Democratic leader and a plan he has endorsed to overhaul the corporate tax rules. The Campaign for America’s Future joined 55 other organizations in endorsing a letter to members of the Senate authored by Americans for Tax Fairness outlining objections to the tax reform framework offered by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “While it is just a framework with many details yet to be filled in, the proposal appears to fail two principles of corporate tax reform,” the letter said.

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Dave Johnson

Tobacco “Carve-Out” Dispute Tells Us What We Need To Know About TPP

Administration officials are desperately trying to wrap-up Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in the next few days or so. If they can get it done right now, it enables a timeline for pushing it through Congress by the end of the year — before the public can rally opposition, and before the Presidential campaign season could bring heightened attention to the deal. One key sticking point in the negotiations is a proposed “carve-out” to prevent tobacco companies from being able to sue governments and block anti-smoking regulations. The tobacco companies are trying to block this carve-out because it “sets a bad precedent” of allowing governments to protect their citizens. This sounds astonishing, but it’s for real. Read on.

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Dave Johnson

Right-Wing Shutdown of Ex-Im Bank Already Threatening to Kill Jobs

Conservatives deride using government to help American companies export their goods as “picking winners and losers,” even when the winners are American exporters and workers. So Republicans have closed the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, hopefully temporarily. The Ex-Im Bank provides financing guarantees to customers of American exporters if they cannot obtain financing elsewhere. This helps American companies make the sale. Since congressional Republicans allowed the bank’s authority to expire earlier this month, credit insurance that customers of U.S. exporters had depended on for a purchase is not coming through. Bids have to be cancelled or rewritten. Somewhere around 3,000 smaller U.S. exporters who relied on the bank are feeling the heat.

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Emily Foster

Bernie Sanders Tackles Immigration and Race

After more than 100,000 people on Wednesday evening participated in over 3,500 organizational meetings to rally support and hear the message of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator today appeared before a Hispanic business association to talk about the thorny issues of immigration and race. Sanders has drawn larger audiences than any of the other candidates in the presidential race, but some critics say he struggles when confronted with issues about race. He took the opportunity to improve his image and clarify his views at a press conference hosted by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. Sanders was interviewed by the organization’s CEO Javier Palomarez about the senator’s views on socialism, equal pay, trade, financial institutions, the environment, racism, and immigration.

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Terrance Heath

Medicare at 50: Successful, Popular, and Threatened By Conservatives

Today is Medicare’s 50th birthday. It’s improved the lives of millions of Americans, and it can as much for even more people. That’s why Republicans have never stopped trying to end it. Fifty years ago today, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare amendment under Title XVIII of the Social Security Act, guaranteeing health insurance to Americans 65 and older, regardless of income or medical history. Republicans like former senator Tom Coburn believe America was better off before Medicare. In 2011, then Sen. Coburm (R-Okla.) said: “You can’t tell me the system is better now than it was before Medicare,” he said. Coburn agreed that some people received poor care — or no care — before Medicare was enacted in the 1960s, but said communities worked together to make sure most people received needed medical attention.

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Jeff Bryant

We Won’t Get Great Teachers By Treating Them Badly

An article by Alia Wong for The Atlantic this week caused quite a stir by pointing to a recent survey of teachers that found one of the main stresses they have during their busy days is getting a potty break. Wong looked at results from a poll about the work conditions of teachers conducted by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association, a grassroots teacher-led movement resisting current education policies. She found lots of interesting findings on the “everyday stressors” teachers face in the workplace, including time pressure, student discipline problems, and mandated curricula.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Congress’ Transportation Stall Is Our Chance to Mobilize

The Senate was expected today to vote for a three-month extension of surface transportation programs that the House approved on Wednesday, after also approving by a vote of 65-34 the six-year bill the Senate had hoped to pass this week. The six-year bill now awaits action in the House before an October 29 deadline. There will be the usual hand-wringing about Congress being unable to pass relatively uncontroversial bring-home-the-bacon legislation, but this time short-term congressional paralysis offers the chance to prevent a long-term disaster. The six-year bill that the Senate considered is actually only funded for three years, and then only with the help of a cobbled-together series of marginal revenue raisers to complement dwindling revenues from the federal gasoline tax dedicated to roads, bridges and public transit.

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Donald Kaul

Creeping Out of the Foxhole

At long last Republican presidential hopefuls crept out of their foxholes, where they’d been cowering and maintaining radio silence, to attack Donald Trump. With one or two exceptions, the field went AWOL as Trump trashed immigrants, calling them drug runners and rapists. But as soon as Trump said “I like people who weren’t captured,” suggesting that Senator John McCain was less than a hero, they pounced. Senator Lindsey Graham fumed that Trump’s had “crossed a line.” Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush condemned his “slanderous attacks.” Former Texas Governor Rick Perry called on Trump to exit the race altogether. How noble of them. Of course, it helped having some truth on their side. As a Navy pilot, McCain was shot down and wounded during a bombing mission in the Vietnam War.

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Terrance Heath

Sandra Bland, My Father, and Me

When I heard of Sandra Bland’s death in a Texas jail, after a traffic stop on a dusty road in Waller County, Texas, I thought of the time my father gave me The Talk that generations of African-American parents have had with their children. My father’s father had it with him, and I’ve already had it with my oldest son. It bears repeating, because it still means the difference between life and death for our children. Teach Your Children Since the first “20 and odd” Africans arrived as slaves in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, African-American parents have lived with the knowledge that when our children go out into the world, structural and institutional racism can threaten their very lives. We know that the rules we teach and repeat over and over again may not save them.

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Dave Johnson

What Happened To Rex Henry In A Philadelphia, Mississippi Jail Cell?

Rexdale Wayne Henry, a Mississippi Choctaw Native American activist, was arrested on July 9 for failing to pay an old traffic fine. He was found dead in his Philadelphia, Mississippi jail cell on July 14. What happened? Sources say Rex Henry was running for tribal council, trying to get casino money used for things like schools, housing, elder care, language revitalization, and jobs training. There is little information available on Henry’s death and any resulting investigation. There is not much information available. Here is a roundup. WTOK.com, July 14, “Jail Death Under Investigation”: An inmate was found dead at the Neshoba County Jail Tuesday morning. Authorities say 53-year-old Rexdale Henry of Philadelphia was found by officers just after 10 a.m. He was last seen alive around 9:30.

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Dave Johnson

Did Obama Administration Downplay Malaysia Slavery To Grease Trade Deal?

“Pope Francis says when the economy controls politics both lose … When economics takes over we tolerate anything for the sake of the dollar.”– Sister Simone Campbell Cheap labor is the whole point of our corporate-rigged, NAFTA-style trade agreements. Companies get to move jobs, factories, even entire industries out of the U.S. to countries where people are exploited, the environment is not protected and “costs” like human safety are kept low. But even so … tolerating slavery? Flat-out slavery? Really? Unfortunately, it looks like that’s what is happening with fast-track trade promotion authority, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Obama administration. Malaysia Reclassified A few weeks ago Wall Street and the giant, multinational corporations got their way and pushed “fast track” through the Congress.

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