Friday, 28 November 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Eduardo Porter has an interesting discussion of inequality, based in large part on the views of M.I.T. Professor Robert Solow. Solow views it as unlikely that it will be possible politically any time soon to have tax and transfer policies that do much to lesson inequality. However he does hold out the hope that changes in corporate practices could lessen before tax inequality.

This is an extremely important point. There is considerable research showing that CEOs and other top management essentially ripoff shareholders, taking advantage of their insider power to give themselves pay that has little to do with their productivity, measured as the return they give to shareholders. (Lucian Bebchuk has a good summary of the issues.) If shareholders can better gain control of their companies, they might cut pay by 50 percent or more, bringing CEO pay in the United States in line with pay in other wealthy countries.

Nov 13

There Was No Election

By James and Jean Anton, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

There was no election.

Despite the cacophony of the major-media propagandists, liberals and progressives did not take a walloping; and there was no mandate for the lunatic fringe that runs the Republican Party.

Virtually no one voted. Only 21 percent of eligible voters voted in California. Only 33 percent of the eligible voters participated in elections across the country. And everyone agrees: very few Democrats bothered to vote.

Advocates for net neutrality blockaded FCC Chair Tom Wheelers driveway this morning, Monday, November 10, 2014, just as the Chairman was getting into his car. Six people participated in the blockade with a large banner that read “Save the Internet.” They also held signs demanding that Wheeler listen to the people. They chanted “Don’t let the Internet die. Time to reclassify!” and sang “Which side are you on Tom? Are you with the people or with the Telecoms?”

Nov 13

Deep Passion for the Land - in China

By Evaggelos Vallianatos, Truthout | Op-Ed

An American non-profit organization, the Institute for Postmodern Development of China, made possible my attendance at a recent conference in Beijing, China.

The Beijing conference was no typical academic conference full of abstractions and jargon. Instead, it was a continuing Chinese discussion on the values of ecological civilization. Yes, indeed, ecological civilization!

However, these eco-political discussions have been taking place in a city, Beijing, and a country, China, which are the workshops of the world. There's nothing ecological about that.

 

The midterm election was indeed catastrophic for the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. As numerous polling sources predicted, the Democratic Party lost its control of the Senate and the Republican Party gained even more seats in the House of Representatives.

When President Obama announced his plan to delay executive action on immigration, one of his justifications was to save the Senate. Nonetheless, the results of the midterm elections prove that his administration clearly miscalculated the political apparatus. He has run out of excuses for delaying administrative relief, and his inaction exemplifies his blatant abandonment of the immigrant community.

Flawed Energy Department forecast misleads country, Congress on US oil and natural gas

Report from independent analyst who predicted vast Monterey Shale downgrade questions optimistic outlook

A worrisome reliance on the industry’s point of view

A new report from the analyst who predicted the vast downgrade of available oil resources in California’s Monterey Shale [1] calls into question optimistic government forecasts and industry claims about US energy independence and the viability of oil and natural gas exports. Using an exhaustive well-by-well survey of major tight oil and shale gas fields, the report shows that the US Department of Energy (DOE) has produced exaggerated forecasts that are misleading policymakers and the public about America’s long-term energy future.

Washington, DC – As Congress prepares to return to Washington for a post-election “lame duck” session, the FACT Coalition (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) urges it to do the right thing and pass legislation to halt inversions as well as let the most egregious offshore tax extenders remain expired.

The current inversion mania started several months ago when Pfizer announced its intention to buy British drug maker AstraZeneca and relocate its headquarters, if only on paper, to the United Kingdom.  The Treasury Department announced new rules designed to stem the tide of inversions, and have been somewhat successful.  In fact, when the AbbVie-Shire deal was called off, the Treasury rules were cited as the reason why.  However, real reform will not happen without congressional action and that responsibility now falls on our returning lawmakers. 

Oakland, CA – Today, the Oakland Institute (OI), in collaboration with the Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO), released Engineering Ethnic Conflict: The Toll of Ethiopia’s Plantation Development on the Suri People, the latest in its series of comprehensive investigative reports about land grabs and forced evictions in Ethiopia. The report uncovers the truth behind a reported massacre of 30 to 50 Suri people in May 2012 near the 30,000-hectare Malaysian-owned Koka plantation. Based on extensive fieldwork, Engineering Ethnic Conflict reveals the destabilizing effects of foreign investment in Southwestern Ethiopia and examines the role of international aid programs in supporting forced evictions in the country.

“The tragic experiences of the Suri people outlined in this report are just one of many examples of the human rights abuses experienced by pastoralist communities in regions across Ethiopia,” said OI’s Executive Director, Anuradha Mittal. “These incidents are intimately tied to the Ethiopian government’s priorities of leasing land to foreign entities,” she continued.

Washington DC - A year after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines and killed 6,000 people, a religious relief group reports the country spends more on debt payments than it received in disaster aid. Religious, development and environmental groups will meet with World Bank President Jim Kim's office on a Philippine debt-payment moratorium and an audit of the country's total debt. Since the storm displaced 4 million people, the Philippines received approximately $850 million in relief aid and spent more than $6 billion servicing its debt. Some of that debt originated with the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos regime, which stole between $5 and $10 billion from the Filipino people during its two decades in power.

"Without addressing the Philippines' debt, it's hard to rebuild and prepare for future disasters," says Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA. "These kinds of storms will continue in strength and number and resources are needed to protect the country."

New York - An article on the front page of today's New York Times outlines a plan by the de Blasio Administration to end low-level marijuana possession arrests in New York City. According to the article, those found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released. This would be a shift from the current arrest practice, wherein police charge people with a misdemeanor – the person is then handcuffed, taken to the precinct and held for hours, fingerprinted and photographed, and eventually released with a court date and a virtually permanent arrest record. Ending arrests for marijuana possession is a constructive step towards reform, yet many questions and concerns about the new proposal remain.

The new proposal comes on the heels of a recently released report by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which analyzed marijuana arrest and income data. It shows that low-income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates arrests for marijuana possession than do white communities of every class bracket. Most of those arrested are young men of color, even though young white men use marijuana at higher rates. And last month, a federal circuit ruling opened the pathway to commence long-awaited reforms to NYPD's stop and frisk practices.

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Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Eduardo Porter has an interesting discussion of inequality, based in large part on the views of M.I.T. Professor Robert Solow. Solow views it as unlikely that it will be possible politically any time soon to have tax and transfer policies that do much to lesson inequality. However he does hold out the hope that changes in corporate practices could lessen before tax inequality.

This is an extremely important point. There is considerable research showing that CEOs and other top management essentially ripoff shareholders, taking advantage of their insider power to give themselves pay that has little to do with their productivity, measured as the return they give to shareholders. (Lucian Bebchuk has a good summary of the issues.) If shareholders can better gain control of their companies, they might cut pay by 50 percent or more, bringing CEO pay in the United States in line with pay in other wealthy countries.

Nov 13

There Was No Election

By James and Jean Anton, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

There was no election.

Despite the cacophony of the major-media propagandists, liberals and progressives did not take a walloping; and there was no mandate for the lunatic fringe that runs the Republican Party.

Virtually no one voted. Only 21 percent of eligible voters voted in California. Only 33 percent of the eligible voters participated in elections across the country. And everyone agrees: very few Democrats bothered to vote.

Advocates for net neutrality blockaded FCC Chair Tom Wheelers driveway this morning, Monday, November 10, 2014, just as the Chairman was getting into his car. Six people participated in the blockade with a large banner that read “Save the Internet.” They also held signs demanding that Wheeler listen to the people. They chanted “Don’t let the Internet die. Time to reclassify!” and sang “Which side are you on Tom? Are you with the people or with the Telecoms?”

Nov 13

Deep Passion for the Land - in China

By Evaggelos Vallianatos, Truthout | Op-Ed

An American non-profit organization, the Institute for Postmodern Development of China, made possible my attendance at a recent conference in Beijing, China.

The Beijing conference was no typical academic conference full of abstractions and jargon. Instead, it was a continuing Chinese discussion on the values of ecological civilization. Yes, indeed, ecological civilization!

However, these eco-political discussions have been taking place in a city, Beijing, and a country, China, which are the workshops of the world. There's nothing ecological about that.

 

The midterm election was indeed catastrophic for the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. As numerous polling sources predicted, the Democratic Party lost its control of the Senate and the Republican Party gained even more seats in the House of Representatives.

When President Obama announced his plan to delay executive action on immigration, one of his justifications was to save the Senate. Nonetheless, the results of the midterm elections prove that his administration clearly miscalculated the political apparatus. He has run out of excuses for delaying administrative relief, and his inaction exemplifies his blatant abandonment of the immigrant community.

Flawed Energy Department forecast misleads country, Congress on US oil and natural gas

Report from independent analyst who predicted vast Monterey Shale downgrade questions optimistic outlook

A worrisome reliance on the industry’s point of view

A new report from the analyst who predicted the vast downgrade of available oil resources in California’s Monterey Shale [1] calls into question optimistic government forecasts and industry claims about US energy independence and the viability of oil and natural gas exports. Using an exhaustive well-by-well survey of major tight oil and shale gas fields, the report shows that the US Department of Energy (DOE) has produced exaggerated forecasts that are misleading policymakers and the public about America’s long-term energy future.

Washington, DC – As Congress prepares to return to Washington for a post-election “lame duck” session, the FACT Coalition (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) urges it to do the right thing and pass legislation to halt inversions as well as let the most egregious offshore tax extenders remain expired.

The current inversion mania started several months ago when Pfizer announced its intention to buy British drug maker AstraZeneca and relocate its headquarters, if only on paper, to the United Kingdom.  The Treasury Department announced new rules designed to stem the tide of inversions, and have been somewhat successful.  In fact, when the AbbVie-Shire deal was called off, the Treasury rules were cited as the reason why.  However, real reform will not happen without congressional action and that responsibility now falls on our returning lawmakers. 

Oakland, CA – Today, the Oakland Institute (OI), in collaboration with the Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO), released Engineering Ethnic Conflict: The Toll of Ethiopia’s Plantation Development on the Suri People, the latest in its series of comprehensive investigative reports about land grabs and forced evictions in Ethiopia. The report uncovers the truth behind a reported massacre of 30 to 50 Suri people in May 2012 near the 30,000-hectare Malaysian-owned Koka plantation. Based on extensive fieldwork, Engineering Ethnic Conflict reveals the destabilizing effects of foreign investment in Southwestern Ethiopia and examines the role of international aid programs in supporting forced evictions in the country.

“The tragic experiences of the Suri people outlined in this report are just one of many examples of the human rights abuses experienced by pastoralist communities in regions across Ethiopia,” said OI’s Executive Director, Anuradha Mittal. “These incidents are intimately tied to the Ethiopian government’s priorities of leasing land to foreign entities,” she continued.

Washington DC - A year after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines and killed 6,000 people, a religious relief group reports the country spends more on debt payments than it received in disaster aid. Religious, development and environmental groups will meet with World Bank President Jim Kim's office on a Philippine debt-payment moratorium and an audit of the country's total debt. Since the storm displaced 4 million people, the Philippines received approximately $850 million in relief aid and spent more than $6 billion servicing its debt. Some of that debt originated with the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos regime, which stole between $5 and $10 billion from the Filipino people during its two decades in power.

"Without addressing the Philippines' debt, it's hard to rebuild and prepare for future disasters," says Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA. "These kinds of storms will continue in strength and number and resources are needed to protect the country."

New York - An article on the front page of today's New York Times outlines a plan by the de Blasio Administration to end low-level marijuana possession arrests in New York City. According to the article, those found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released. This would be a shift from the current arrest practice, wherein police charge people with a misdemeanor – the person is then handcuffed, taken to the precinct and held for hours, fingerprinted and photographed, and eventually released with a court date and a virtually permanent arrest record. Ending arrests for marijuana possession is a constructive step towards reform, yet many questions and concerns about the new proposal remain.

The new proposal comes on the heels of a recently released report by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which analyzed marijuana arrest and income data. It shows that low-income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates arrests for marijuana possession than do white communities of every class bracket. Most of those arrested are young men of color, even though young white men use marijuana at higher rates. And last month, a federal circuit ruling opened the pathway to commence long-awaited reforms to NYPD's stop and frisk practices.