Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
May 16, 2013 BORDC
Over the next several weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Comprehensive Immigration Reform (S744), which would include a mandatory E-Verify system. E-Verify is an internet-based program accessed by employers when processing new hires. It compares information from an Employee’s Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to data from U.S. government records. The potential for E-Verify to become compulsory is quite controversial for several reasons – namely its disregard for personal privacy, the unnecessary obstacles it imposes to employment, and the fundamental change that it would signify in the relationship between U.S. government and U.S. citizen.
While allegedly created to target undocumented individuals, E-Verify would negatively affect documented U.S. citizens as well. Every job applicant would have to face an E-Verify background check, and unless the system is 100% accurate 100% of the time, these background checks will become a nightmare. Chris Calabrese, Senior Legislative Counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union explains:
When you make a giant list of everybody who’s able to work in the United States, that list has to be completely accurate, because if there are mistakes in it, the result is those mistakes – those mistaken people can’t work.
These citizens will be required to petition the government to correct the mistake, creating a bureaucratic nightmare that will likely stall their job hunting process by weeks (if not longer). Calabrese calls this the “prove yourself to work” system that will hurt ordinary citizens. This signifies a fundamental shift in relationship between government and populace – no longer are we innocent until proven guilty. We are now guilty until proven worthy of a job. Gone will be the days of applying for a job, waiting on a quick background check, and becoming employed – now all citizens will have to wait for I-9s to be verified against a massive list of personal information housed by the government.
Beyond undue obstacles to employment lies an even more frightening truth about E-Verify: the invasion of privacy. Shahid Buttar wrote in a previous article that Comprehensive Immigration Reform would likely become a Trojan Horse for larger government surveillance, and E-Verify is just one manifestation of that government surveillance. Involving the government in something as routine as application for employment unnecessarily involves political bureaucracy in one’s personal life. More disconcerting, though, is the fact that so much personal information would be available from a single database – a dream for identity thieves.
E-Verify is but one example of how the new programs proposed in Comprehensive Immigration Reform would affect all U.S. citizens, not merely a small percentage of undocumented individuals. Like Next Generation Initiative (NGI), which would track individuals from city to city, scan not just fingerprints but irises and scars to help track and identify individuals, E-Verify signifies a broadening state of surveillance. In an article about NGI’s expansion of biometric databases, Alternet wrote, “Advancements in the collection of biometric data are double-edged: there’s the treat of a massive government surveillance infrastructure working too well – e.g., surveillance state – and there are concerns about its weaknesses, especially in keeping data secure.” The same can be said for E-Verify; it would likely be the gateway to a growing surveillance state, and the information stored within E-Verify would be susceptible to hacking. While this country is in dire need of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, we must be wary of “enforcement-first” immigration policies like NGI and E-Verify, which will only infringe on the rights of American citizens.
Maybe this all seems self-evident to me because I worked with the CETA program in 1974 etc and saw many who had convinced themselves that sitting on the corner was what they wanted to do, instead sign up for subsidized training for real jobs that had a future. (Most had to sit on a waiting list for 6 months, then show up daily for another 6 months of training before job placement. And they did it.)
The Economist May 12th 2012 Hope springs a trap
An absence of optimism plays a large role in keeping people trapped in poverty
THE idea that an infusion of hope can make a big difference to the lives of wretchedly poor people sounds like something dreamed up by a well-meaning activist or a tub-thumping politician. Yet this was the central thrust of a lecture at Harvard University on May 3rd by Esther Duflo, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology known for her data-driven analysis of poverty. Ms Duflo argued that the effects of some anti-poverty programmes go beyond the direct impact of the resources they provide. These programmes also make it possible for the very poor to hope for more than mere survival.
She and her colleagues evaluated a programme in the Indian state of West Bengal, where Bandhan, an Indian microfinance institution, worked with people who lived in extreme penury. They were reckoned to be unable to handle the demands of repaying a loan. Instead, Bandhan gave each of them a small productive asset—a cow, a couple of goats or some chickens. It also provided a small stipend to reduce the temptation to eat or sell the asset immediately, as well as weekly training sessions to teach them how to tend to animals and manage their households. Bandhan hoped that there would be a small increase in income from selling the products of the farm animals provided, and that people would become more adept at managing their own finances.
The results were far more dramatic. Well after the financial help and hand-holding had stopped, the families of those who had been randomly chosen for the Bandhan programme were eating 15% more, earning 20% more each month and skipping fewer meals than people in a comparison group. They were also saving a lot. The effects were so large and persistent that they could not be attributed to the direct effects of the grants: people could not have sold enough milk, eggs or meat to explain the income gains. Nor were they simply selling the assets (although some did).
Ron Paul is the only Presidential candidate in recent memory to speak up for freedom and the Constitution. Below Turley lists the incredible and increasing powers of the Executive to ignore the Bill of Rights, due process and the rule of law. These Stasi-like and draconian powers will not go unused.
Meanwhile we have two political parties united in their support of Corporate domination and citizen submission. Clearly only those who bow to these powers are (usually) allowed to run.
Jonathan Turley January 15, 2012
Below is today’s column in the Sunday Washington Post. The column addresses how the continued rollbacks on civil liberties in the United States conflicts with the view of the country as the land of the free. If we are going to adopt Chinese legal principles, we should at least have the integrity to adopt one Chinese proverb: “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.” We seem as a country to be in denial as to the implications of these laws and policies. Whether we are viewed as a free country with authoritarian inclinations or an authoritarian nation with free aspirations (or some other hybrid definition), we are clearly not what we once were.
Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.
Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own — the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?
While each new national security power Washington has embraced was controversial when enacted, they are often discussed in isolation. But they don’t operate in isolation. They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian. Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of “free,” but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.
These countries also have constitutions that purport to guarantee freedoms and rights. But their governments have broad discretion in denying those rights and few real avenues for challenges by citizens — precisely the problem with the new laws in this country.
The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company……..read entire article
Welcome to the end of a great democratic experiment.
“Krugman Calls Obama’s ‘Surrender’ a ‘Catastrophe on Multiple Levels’“ — Here’s one way to feel worse about the debt ceiling deal announced by the president Sunday night: Read Paul Krugman’s column. The Nobel Prize-winning economist is about as harsh in his assessment of the deal as can be, saying it “will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.”
Rasmus: The $1 Trillion Debt Deal Today’s Boehner-Reid final agreement effectively drops explicit cuts in Defense, another Republican position all along.
ROBERT BOROSAGE: Capitulation
President Obama’s surrender
By Andrew Leonard
A bad weekend for the White House: The Tea Party wins, Democrats lose, and the carnage will be even worse next year
Democratic politics in a nutshell
By Glenn Greenwald
Report: Dems don’t worry about angry liberals — they’ll just scare them into submission with pictures of Bachmann
Arthur Silber: The Priorities of the Damned
I’ll use a blunt and, I fervently hope, unsettling comparison. All of these repellent people have decided to rape “ordinary” Americans until they’re dead. They’re only debating who gets to rape them next. And what these human slugs know but will never acknowledge, and what they hope you won’t notice, is that they can’t even get it up anymore.
It goes to show just how dysfunctional our government has become to ordinary Americans. Despite the fact that millions of us are still out of work because of the greed and excess of the last thirty years and resulting crashed economy, politicians cannot focus on real problems.
But what if President Barack Obama never intended to fight for jobs or justice? What if he believes the nonsense about Wall Street being “job creators” instead of economic vampires? What if Cornel West finally got it right? What if Black Agenda Report has been right all along? What if Barack Obama is a Reagan Democrat in every meaningful way, right down to a fanatical belief in trickle down economics? What if the president counts on corporate media and his army of careerists and sycophants to shut down and cover up cracks in the Obama consensus through which reality might leak? What if Obama is not weak, or timid, or vacillating or waiting for us to “make him do it”? What if what we’ve seen is all there is, all there ever was? The truth is that Barack Obama’s actions are entirely rational, understandable and even predictable if you suppose him to have been a vicious, vacuous and cynical right wing operative from the very beginning.
By Robert Reich The deal’s spending cuts increase the odds of a double-dip recession and strengthens the political hand of the radical right.
Four Ways the Deal Hurts You
|“1. You’ll be less likely to find a job if you’re looking. If you’ve got a job, you’re less likely to earn more
money–and more likely to lose it … 2. Your housing value is likely to suffer … 3. Your old age just got scarier …
4. Your tax bill is likely to go way up.”
Senator Bernie Sanders interview about the debt debacle:
Over Bernie’s strong opposition, Congress approved and President Obama signed a deficit-reduction deal that slashes programs for working families without asking the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations to pay a nickel more. “This country needs deficit reduction, but we need to do it in a way that is fair and which will result in economic growth and job creation. This proposal does neither,” the senator said. In a Senate speech and a flurry of television interviews, Bernie called the deal “extremely unfair,” “immoral” and “grotesque.”
Post Carbon Institute June, 2011
Last weekend, the New York Times published a series of articles that — through leaks from EIA officials and natural gas industry insiders — corroborated the findings of our landmark report, Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?: Don’t believe the hype about plentiful U.S. natural gas supplies.
Of course, the controversy over natural gas is far from over, and PCI continues to provide energy realism and literacy to the debate. This week, PCI Fellow David Hughes published an analysis of two contradictory studies assessing the greenhouse gas emissions of shale gas vs. coal. The conclusion? Shale gas is worse for the climate over a 30-50 year timeframe.
From hot air to deflating (economic) balloons… We were blown away to receive nearly 600 orders in the span of 12 hours for Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg’s newest book, The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. In the video above, Richard Heinberg, author of “The Party’s Over” and leading peak oil educator, talks about the future of our ‘growth’ society.
Veteran world watcher Lester Brown sounds dire warning of spreading political unrest, conflicts, and deepening division between rich and poor as food prices soar and supply falls further and further behind rising demand, but does not point to obvious solution Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
June 14, 2011 The Institute of Science in Society
Soaring food prices and political unrest
Soaring food prices were a major trigger for the riots that has destabilized North Africa and the Middle East beginning December 2010 in Tunisia. Political unrest has since engulfed Algeria, Egypt, Jordon, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and spread to Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, and beyond [1-4]. Latin America is said to be at risk , and even Britain, if food prices continue to rise . The UN Food Price Index has been hovering above 231 points since the start of 2011, and hit its all-time high of 238 points in February. The May 2011 average was 232 points, 37 percent higher than a year ago .
Richard Ferguson, global head of agriculture at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank specializing in emerging markets, told The Guardian newspaper in the UK  that the problems were likely to spread. “Food prices are absolutely core to a lot of these disturbances. If you are 25 years old, with no access to education, no income and live in a politically repressed environment, you are going to be pretty angry when the price of food goes up the way it is.” It acted “as a catalyst” for political unrest, when added to other ills such as a lack of democracy.
“Scarcity is the new norm”
Food has quickly become the hidden driver of world politics , says Lester Brown, venerated veteran world-watcher, who also predicts that crises like these are going to become increasingly common. “Scarcity is the new norm.”
Historically, price spikes tended to be almost exclusively due to bad weather such as monsoon failure, drought, heat wave, etc., but today, they are driven by trends of both increasing demand and decreasing ability to supply. With a rapidly expanding global population demanding to be fed, crop-withering temperatures and exhausted aquifers are making it difficult to increase production. Moreover, the world is losing its ability to soften the blow of shortages. USA, the world’s largest grain producer, was able to rescue shortages with its grain surpluses in the past, or bring idle croplands into cultivation. “We can’t do that anymore; the safety cushion is gone.”
That’s why “the food crisis of 2011 is for real”, Brown warns, and why it may bring yet more bread riots and political revolutions. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, may not be the end, but the beginning.
Brown does not mention the huge speculation on agricultural commodities in the world financial markets that not only drives up prices but increases volatility, making it much more difficult for farmers and consumers to cope (see  Financing World Hunger, SiS 46). Olivier de Shutter, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, has referred to the 2007-2008 crisis as a “price-crisis” not a “food-crisis”, precipitated by speculation and not linked to insufficient food being produced, at least not yet, as Brown elaborates.