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Category Archives: Public Service

Moyers & Company Program Series On Crony Capitalism ~ How Wall Street and Washington Got Together And Stacked The Deck Against The Rest Of Us.

‘Crony Capitalism’ – A description of capitalist society as being based on the close relationships between businessmen and the state. Instead of success being determined by a free market and the rule of law, the success of a business is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to it by the ruling government in the form of tax breaks, government grants and other incentives.

All text via http://billmoyers.com/

Moyers & Company 101: On Winner Take All Politics – Full Show

In its premiere episode, Moyers & Company dives into one of the most important and controversial issues of our time: How Washington and Big Business colluded to make the super-rich richer and turn their backs on the rest of us.

Bill’s guests – Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, argue that America’s vast inequality is no accident, but in fact has been politically engineered.

How, in a nation as wealthy as America, can the economy simply stop working for people at large, while super-serving those at the very top? Through exhaustive research and analysis, the political scientists Hacker and Pierson — whom Bill regards as the “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson” of economics — detail important truths behind a 30-year economic assault against the middle class.

Who’s the culprit? “American politics did it– far more than we would have believed when we started this research,” Hacker explains. “What government has done and not done, and the politics that produced it, is really at the heart of the rise of an economy that has showered huge riches on the very, very, very well off.”

Bill considers their book the best he’s seen detailing “how politicians rewrote the rules to create a winner-take-all economy that favors the 1% over everyone else, putting our once and future middle class in peril.”

The show includes an essay on how Occupy Wall Street reflects a widespread belief that politics no longer works for ordinary people, including footage we took at the OWS rally from October – December 2011.

Moyers & Company Show 102: On Crony Capitalism – Full Show

This weekend, continuing its sharp multi-episode focus on the intersection of money and politics, Moyers & Company explores the tight connection between Wall Street and the White House with David Stockman – yes, that David Stockman — former budget director for President Reagan.

Now a businessman who says he was “taken to the woodshed” for telling the truth about the administration’s tax policies, Stockman speaks candidly with Bill Moyers about how money dominates politics, distorting free markets and endangering democracy. “As a result,” Stockman says, “we have neither capitalism nor democracy. We have crony capitalism.”

Stockman shares details on how the courtship of politics and high finance have turned our economy into a private club that rewards the super-rich and corporations, leaving average Americans wondering how it could happen and who’s really in charge.

“We now have an entitled class of Wall Street financiers and of corporate CEOs who believe the government is there to do… whatever it takes in order to keep the game going and their stock price moving upward,” Stockman tells Moyers.

Also on the show, Moyers talks with Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter and columnist Gretchen Morgenson on how money and political clout enable industries to escape regulation and enrich executives at the top.

Moyers & Company Show 103: How power and influence helped big banks rewrite the rules of our economy. – Full Show

Big banks are rewriting the rules of our economy to the exclusive benefit of their own bottom line. But how did our political and financial class shift the benefits of the economy to the very top, while saddling us with greater debt and tearing new holes in the safety net? Bill Moyers talks with former Citigroup Chairman John Reed and former Senator Byron Dorgan to explore a momentous instance: how the late-90’s merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group – and a friendly Presidential pen — brought down the Glass-Steagall Act, a crucial firewall between banks and investment firms which had protected consumers from financial calamity since the aftermath of the Great Depression. In effect, says Moyers, they “put the watchdog to sleep.”

There’s no clearer example of the collusion between government and corporate finance than the Citicorp-Travelers merger, which — thanks to the removal of Glass-Steagall — enabled the formation of the financial behemoth known as Citigroup. But even behemoths are vulnerable; when the meltdown hit, the bank cut more than 50,000 jobs, and the taxpayers shelled out more than $45 billion to save it.

Senator Dorgan tells Moyers, “If you were to rank big mistakes in the history of this country, that was one of the bigger ones because it has set back this country in a very significant way.”
Now, John Reed regrets his role in the affair, and says lifting the Glass-Steagall protections was a mistake. Given the 2008 meltdown, he’s surprised Wall Street still has so much power over Washington lawmakers.

“I’m quite surprised the political establishment would listen to groups that have been so discredited,” Reed tells Moyers. “It wasn’t that there was one or two or institutions that, you know, got carried away and did stupid things. It was, we all did…. And then the whole system came down.”

How Wall Street and Washington got together and stacked the deck against the rest of us.

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Investigative Report: How the BP Oil Rig Blowout Happened–Popular Mechanics

Deepwater Horizon burned for a day and a half before sinking in the Gulf of Mexico on April 22.

”…the Horizon disaster resulted from many human and technical failings in a risk-taking corporation that operated in an industry with ineffective regulatory oversight. By the time the blowout came, it was almost inevitable. ‘It’s clear that the problem is not technology, but people,’ says Robert Bea, an engineering professor at the University of California–Berkeley. ‘It was a chain of important errors made by people in critical situations involving complex technological and organization systems.’”

”Oil and gas leases are the federal government’s second largest source of revenue, after income taxes…”

”What unfolded over the next few hours could almost have been written as a treatise in the science of industrial accidents.”

”The offshore rush was on, and nothing was going to stop it. ‘when you think you’ve got a robust system,’ says Henry Petroski, a professor of civil engineering at Duke university, ‘you tend to relax.’”

“How can a device that has 260 failure modes be considered fail-safe?”

“The argument revealed the inherent conflict on the rig. BP, which was paying Transocean $500,000 daily to lease the Horizon, wanted to move as quickly as possible. With its costs covered, Transocean could afford to focus more on safety and well control.”

”In the end, 11 men died…But worst of all, says Ford Brett, president of Oil and Gas Consultants International, the blowout ‘wasn’t an accident in the traditional sense, like when someone just hits your car. It was an accident that was totally preventable.’”

Investigative Report: How the BP Oil Rig Blowout Happened

 
 

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Homeopathy: There’s nothing in it ~ The 10:23 Campaign

Latest News:

The Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland has issued draft guidance for members requiring they inform patients that homeopathy does not work.

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is an unscientific and absurd pseudoscience, yet it persists today as an accepted complementary medicine.

Ask many people what they think homeopathy is, and you’ll be told "it’s herbal medicine" or "it’s all-natural". Few realise that it’s been proven not to work; even fewer know it involves substances so dilute that there’s nothing left in them. Homeopathy takes advantage of this uncertainty to sit alongside real, proven medicines on the shelves of our major pharmacies.

The 10:23 Campaign

The 10:23 Campaign aims to raise awareness about the reality of homeopathy. We will tell you how it can be proven not to work, why homeopaths’ claims are impossible, why you should care.

The campaign is organised by the Merseyside Skeptics Society, a non-profit organisation for the promotion of scientific skepticism. More information about Merseyside Skeptics is available on their website.

At 10:23am on January 30th, more than four hundred homeopathy sceptics nationwide took part in a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’ in protest at Boots’ continued endorsement and sale of homeopathic remedies, and to raise public awareness about the fact that homeopathic remedies have nothing in them.

What’s the Harm?

If there is nothing in it, it can’t do any harm, right? Wrong! Journalist and science-writer Simon Singh tells us why.

An Open Letter to Alliance Boots

Last year, Boots admitted that they don’t believe homeopathy works. They said they stock it because "customers believe it works". Sign our open letter and demand Boots stop lending legitimacy to nonsense.

Hot Comments

People think it works because of where they buy it- Stop lending credibility to homeopathy!

– Bernard Knappenberger, Canada

Download the leaflet

Not everyone uses the internet, so if you can’t send them a link, download and print our flyer. Give it to family, friends – whoever you think may be interested. We’re sure you will come up with some more creative uses too!

Petition the PM

Figures obtained last year by More4 News revealed that the NHS spends around £4 million per year on homeopathy, money which could have paid the salaries of almost 200 nurses!

We would welcome any move to evaluate on a medical basis (as opposed to a political one) the provision of unproven treatments such as homeopathy on the NHS. So if you are able, we think it is important to support this petition, which calls for the government to instruct the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to evaluate whether it is appropriate for the NHS to fund homeopathy.

 
 

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Federation of American Scientists: GAO: White House Erred on Intelligence Oversight

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Via ~ Secrecy News: Secrecy News from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

The Obama Administration presented “several misstatements of law and fact” in its March 15 letter opposing legislation to enhance the role of the Government Accountability Office in intelligence oversight, the head of the GAO said in a letter to congressional intelligence committees yesterday.

The GAO letter (pdf) said that neither the Senate nor the House version of the FY2010 intelligence authorization act would fundamentally alter the status quo with respect to the GAO, as the White House letter (pdf) had indicated, but would simply bolster the oversight authority that the GAO already has, enabling it to overcome the obstacles placed in its way by the executive branch.

“The proposed legislative provisions in essence reaffirm GAO’s existing authority in order to address the lack of cooperation GAO has received from certain elements of the IC [intelligence community] in carrying out work at the specific request of the intelligence committees, and other committees of jurisdiction as defined by the rules of the Senate and House,” wrote Acting Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro in a March 18 letter obtained by Secrecy News.

“GAO acknowledges and does not seek to displace the special relationship between the congressional intelligence committees and the IC,” he wrote.

“However, GAO does not agree with the Administration’s view, originating in a 1988 opinion of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, that the creation of the congressional intelligence oversight structure implicitly exempted reviews of intelligence activities from the scope of GAO’s existing audit authority.”

The executive branch’s interpretation of the law “has resulted in GAO frequently being unable to obtain the access or cooperation necessary to provide useful information to Congress on matters involving the IC,” Mr. Dodaro wrote.

“Even where the matters under evaluation are well outside the scope of traditional intelligence activities… GAO has encountered resistance.”

“While intelligence oversight poses unique challenges, GAO can play an important role in such oversight, and that role is well within our authority and capability,” he wrote.

GAO has no independent stake in intelligence oversight and has plenty of other work to do anyway. The question is whether Congress wants to take advantage of the investigative and analytical resources that GAO has to offer in order to improve intelligence oversight. If it does, then the pending legislation would help to clear away the barriers imposed by the executive branch.

“Should either the Senate or House version of the GAO provision at issue become law,” Mr. Dodaro wrote, “I believe that the reaffirmation of GAO’s authorities would help better position GAO to do the type of work that has been requested of us in the past and to respond to the interests of Congress in this realm in the future.”

 
 

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The Story of Stuff Project

A 20-minute animation of the consumerist society, narrated by Anne Leonard, to view online or download. Includes footnoted script, credits, blog, and resources.

Get the whole story…

Annie managed to fit a whole lot of information in 20 minutes but there’s still so much more! You can read the whole story by picking up a copy at your local bookstore or by pre-ordering online and clicking one of the linked images below. We also encourage you to donate a copy of the book to your local library so that those who can’t purchase the book themselves can still access all the great information in it!

The Story of Stuff Project.

 
 

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Gas Pricing Needs to be set at $7 a Gallon? Possibly…

SINDYA N. BHANOO of the New York Times blog, DotEarth, writes in Fuel Taxes Must Rise, Harvard Researchers Say, that in order to meet the Obama administration’s targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the cost of driving must increase.

This, writes Bhanoo, is according to a forthcoming report by researchers at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs: "Analysis of Policies to Reduce Oil Consumption and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions from the US Transportation Sector."

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the transportation sector 14 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, Americans may have to experience a sobering reality: gas at $7 a gallon. And that increase in price will come in the form of a tax.

In the modeling, it turned out that issuing tax credits could backfire, while taxes on fuel proved beneficial.

“Tax credits don’t address how much people use their cars,” said Ross Morrow, one of the report’s authors. “In reverse, they can make people drive more.”

Researchers said that vehicle miles traveled will increase by more than 30 percent between 2010 and 2030 unless policymakers increase fuel taxes.

Abstract: "Analysis of Policies to Reduce Oil Consumption and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions from the US Transportation Sector."

Even as the US debates an economy-wide CO2 cap-and-trade policy the transportation sector remains a significant oil security and climate change concern. Transportation alone consumes the majority of the US’s imported oil and produces a third of total US Greenhouse-Gas (GHG) emissions. This study examines different sector-specific policy scenarios for reducing GHG emissions and oil consumption in the US transportation sector under economy-wide CO2 prices. The 2009 version of the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) National Energy Modeling System (NEMS), a general equilibrium model of US energy markets, enables quantitative estimates of the impact of economy-wide CO2 prices and various transportation-specific policy options. We analyze fuel taxes, continued increases in fuel economy standards, and purchase tax credits for new vehicle purchases, as well as the impacts of combining these policies. All policy scenarios modeled fail to meet the Obama administration’s goal of reducing GHG emissions 14% below 2005 levels by 2020. Purchase tax credits are expensive and ineffective at reducing emissions, while the largest reductions in GHG emissions result from increasing the cost of driving, thereby damping growth in vehicle miles traveled.

Source:

Morrow, W. Ross, Kelly Sims Gallagher, Gustavo Collantes, and Henry Lee. "Analysis of Policies to Reduce Oil Consumption and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions from the US Transportation Sector." Energy Policy 38, no. 3 (March 2010): 1305-1320.

SINDYA N. BHANOO, New York Times, DotEarth, Fuel Taxes Must Rise, Harvard Researchers Say

 

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Anthem Blue Cross Reaps Record Profits – Sickens Individual Policy Holders With 39% Rate Hikes

Anthem Blue Cross is raising its health insurance rates by nearly 40 percent for many of its approximately 800,000 California customers who buy individual coverage, this while while raking in handsome profits — and is pointing to the rate hike as evidence of why health care reform needs to pass.

In a letter received on February 5, 2010, Anthem Blue Cross states:

anthem_logo Controlling health care costs is important to you, and you can rely on the stability and experience of Anthem Blue Cross to secure the best prices possible for our members. To make sure we can continue to serve your need for health coverage protection, periodically it is necessary to adjust our rates.

Rate change effective March 1, 2010

While we strive to keep costs as low as possible, it is necessary to adjust our rates to cover the escalating cost of health care. As of March 1, 2010 the monthly rate on your PPO Share 1500 will change from $530.00 to $703.00. Anthem Blue Cross will usually adjust rates every 12 months; however, we may adjust more frequently in accordance with the terms of your health benefit plan.

This in spite of Anthem’s parent company, WellPoint Inc., announcing an eightfold increase in profits for the last three months of 2009, bringing its earnings — for just that quarter — to $2.7 billion.

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Posted by on February 8, 2010 in Health, Political, Public Service

 

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