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DS: Interview with Kissinger

DS: Interview with Kissinger

Henry Kissinger is the most famous and most divisive secretary of state the US has ever had. In an interview, he discusses his new book exploring the crises of our time, from Syria to Ukraine, and the limits of American power. He says he acted in accordance with his convictions in Vietnam.

FA: Executive Disorder

FA: Executive Disorder

Criticism of Obama’s forthcoming executive order has centered around the idea that Obama plans an unconstitutional power grab, but his action is within the bounds of the law because it focuses on changes to the administration’s enforcement priorities. That doesn’t mean that Obama’s executive order deserves no criticism – it will do nothing for the unaccompanied minors and families whose desperate flight to the United States last summer may have finally pushed the White House to act.

TG: Obama’s Free Pass On ISIS War

TG: Obama’s Free Pass On ISIS War

We have entered the fourth official month of the latest war without end in the Middle East, and the Obama administration has suddenly doubled America’s troop presence in Iraq – yet there is no approved declaration of war in sight. The so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels receiving millions in weapons are now being defeated, and those same weapons are ending up in the hands of al-Qaida – yet there is no public sign of dialing back in the fight against the Islamic State.

TWP: Why Taxation Must Go Global

TWP: Why Taxation Must Go Global

We are witnessing profound changes in the way that the world economy works. As a result of the growing pace and intensity of globalization and digitization, more and more economic processes have an international dimension. As a consequence, an increasing number of businesses are adapting their structures to domestic and foreign legal systems and taxation laws. Tax legislation has not kept pace with these developments. The resulting tensions between national fiscal sovereignty and the borderless scope of today’s business activities can be resolved only through international dialogue and uniform global standards.

BI: Watch Elections Like a Pro

BI: Watch Elections Like a Pro

Many races are called as soon as the polls close, but the ones that matter most—that spell the difference between majority and minority status for a political party—usually aren’t. Commentators typically focus on large, well-known counties, overlooking smaller counties that may be more reliable bell-weathers. To test conventional wisdom and to develop a guide for people who don’t analyze politics for a living, we looked at all the contested Senate races this year.

BBC: Judges For Sale?

BBC: Judges For Sale?

Citizen’s United is back in America’s courtrooms. But, this time, the famous US Supreme Court case isn’t facing scrutiny, it’s deciding who’s sitting on the bench in the first place. States pick their judges in a variety of ways. In states where elections are taking place, they are starting to remind voters more of congressional elections, with the same money and harsh rhetoric.

BI: Essays on Character and Opportunity

BI: Essays on Character and Opportunity

Richard Reeves provides an introduction to the Center on Children and Families’ Essay Series on Character and Opportunity: I defy you to find a richer set of writings on the philosophical, empirical and practical issues raised by a focus on character, and in particular its relationship to questions of opportunity. There are enthusiasts for the public endeavor of character cultivation as well as thoughtful skeptics. There are calls, from differing political perspectives, to give at least equal weight to the moral dimensions of character, as well as strong demands to honor individual free will and individual development. Two scholars draw attention to the gendered nature of character formation; others stress the importance of culture, social norms, and the impact of chronic stress in the early years. Construction of a policy agenda for the cultivation of character poses a stark challenge to the partisan culture of contemporary politics, but may also alleviate it, by reinvigorating community life.

WP: Justice for Snowden

WP: Justice for Snowden

It is time for President Obama to offer clemency to Edward Snowden, the courageous U.S. citizen who revealed the Orwellian reach of the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance of Americans. His actions may have broken the law, but his act, as the New York Times editorialized, did the nation “a great service.”

DS: Freedom vs Stability

DS: Freedom vs Stability

There are many reasons to be gratified by the end of a dictatorship. It means that a criminal is no longer in a position of power, and there’s the prospect that democracy could take root in its stead. Some people also believe that anything is better than despotism. But the last decade has shown that there is something worse than dictatorship, worse than the absence of freedom, worse than oppression: civil war and chaos.

NYT: Defying An All-Seeing Eye

NYT: Defying An All-Seeing Eye

“Citizenfour” stands alone in evoking the modern state as an unseen, ubiquitous presence, an abstraction with enormous coercive resources at its disposal. It is everywhere and nowhere, the leviathan whose belly is our native atmosphere. What do we know about what is known about us? Who knows it? Can we trust them? These questions are terrifying, and so is “Citizenfour.”

HP: Obama Urged to Release Torture Report

HP: Obama Urged to Release Torture Report

Twelve Nobel Peace Prize winners penned an open letter to President Barack Obama urging his administration to release a U.S. Senate report on the CIA’s use of torture. The laureates spoke out sharply against any use of torture, but said that the U.S.’ tactics were particularly troubling. Advocates have been urging the White House for months to no avail to make the report public.

DS: The Zombie System

DS: The Zombie System

Six years after the Lehman disaster, the industrialized world is suffering from Japan Syndrome. Growth is minimal, another crash may be brewing and the gulf between rich and poor continues to widen. Can the global economy reinvent itself?

NYT: Nation’s Confidence Ebbs

NYT: Nation’s Confidence Ebbs

In taking office during two overseas wars and the Great Recession, President Obama set out to restore society’s frayed faith in its public institutions, saying that the question was not whether government was too big or small, “but whether it works.” Six years later, Americans seem more dubious than ever that it really does.

WP: Warren’s Powerful Case

WP: Warren’s Powerful Case

Elizabeth Warren is not running for president apparently because everyone assumes the nomination is Clinton’s. But everyone was making that same assumption eight years ago, and we know what happened. If the choice is between inspiration and inevitability, Warren may be forced to change her plans.

TD: The Imperative of Revolt

TD: The Imperative of Revolt

Wolin, who wrote the books “Politics and Vision” and “Democracy Incorporated,” and Saul, who wrote “Voltaire’s Bastards” and “The Unconscious Civilization,” see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power.

TG: The Truth About Evil

TG: The Truth About Evil

Liberal meliorists like to think that human life contains many things that are bad, some of which may never be entirely eliminated; but there is nothing that is intrinsically destructive or malevolent in human beings themselves – nothing, in other words, that corresponds to a traditional idea of evil. But another view is possible, and one that need make no call on theology. What has been described as evil in the past can be understood as a natural tendency to animosity and destruction, co-existing in human beings alongside tendencies to sympathy and cooperation.

TG: Why I Won’t Vote This Year – Or Any Year

TG: Why I Won’t Vote This Year – Or Any Year

Participation in the body politic is widely considered to be both a privilege and an imperative to the enlightened urban citizen. To choose otherwise is quite literally heresy – and heretics by and large have a difficult time of it in society. The platitudes I face as a non-voter are known to everyone, precisely because they are platitudes – People have marched for miles! or Immigrants crossed oceans! Understanding the Soviet Union and North Korea gives a bit of insight into human social psychology. No matter how absurd the state line, a huge majority of the populace can be found to promulgate it. Frankly I am baffled that those of us who were nerds in high school now defer to the winners of popularity contests.

AJA: Europe’s Biggest Disappointment

AJA: Europe’s Biggest Disappointment

It is worth considering how the once giddy European love affair with Obama will come to a close. It might not be in an acrimonious George W. Bush–style divorce, but it is likely to end in disappointment and regret. Poll numbers indicate a status quo Obama presidency. But that is not what Europe expected and not, for that matter, what Obama promised. President Obama may have smoothed US politics’ tone and rhetoric, but, in the end, he played the same game.

DS: The Extremist Trap

DS: The Extremist Trap

Among terrorists’ strategic goals is the unmasking of a state’s alleged evil side, which they purport to be fighting. This is the exactly the trap into which US President George W. Bush and his government stumbled. The US of today is not safer as a result — it is poorer. Liberal America, which was long a beacon for democracies around the world, including Germany’s, no longer exists. It is not a path we should follow.

RE: Unconstitutional Living Wage Law?

RE: Unconstitutional Living Wage Law?

Industry trade groups are now challenging Seattle’s new minimum wage law as unconstitutional. They claim the city’s $15 an hour rate violates the 14th Amendment. Passed just after the Civil War to ensure equal rights for the newly freed slaves, that amendment says no state may “deny to any person . . . the equal protection of the laws.” According to the industry lawsuit, the minimum wage law violates this Equal Protection Clause because it phases in the higher wage at a different schedule for franchised companies than for small local businesses.

RE: Is Civil Society Imperialistic?

RE: Is Civil Society Imperialistic?

The word “imperialism” is still bandied about a good deal. Sometimes its meaning is traditional, Sometimes the meaning is flakier. There’s an entrant in the imperialism lexicon that has picked up a lot of resonance in the past decade and is even becoming a staple in foreign policy discussions. Call it “civil society imperialism.” And the idea behind the term’s rising popularity has spawned lots of big enemies.

BBC: A Republican Senate?

BBC: A Republican Senate?

It’s simple electoral maths that the Republican Party has a good chance to control a majority in the US Senate after November’s mid-term elections. As most experts predict conservatives will easily maintain their edge in the House of Representatives, the “battle for the Senate” has dominated discussion. As election day draws near, however, a quiet debate is simmering over what Republican control of Congress actually would mean.

PS: Selfishness for All?

PS: Selfishness for All?

Ban’s message was simple: Beyond the long-term shared benefits of such action, countries and businesses would benefit in the short term. There are no losers in the fight to mitigate climate change and its consequences and for some the “win-win” character of climate action seems finally to be sinking in. Today’s carbon-intensive businesses may see far more risk than opportunity in climate action. But this view is shortsighted from a financial point of view and neglects the impact of public opinion.

WP: Details About Drones

WP: Details About Drones

The White House is preparing a directive that would require federal agencies to publicly disclose for the first time where they fly drones in the United States and what they do with the torrents of data collected from aerial surveillance. Until now, the armed forces and federal law enforcement agencies have been reflexively secretive about drone flights and even less forthcoming about how often they use the aircraft to conduct domestic surveillance.

RE: Holder Another Brick in the Wall

RE: Holder Another Brick in the Wall

Considered in its totality, Holder’s time as attorney general maintained the Bush administration’s legal philosophy on the largest issues, and in a style that Bush’s attorneys general must have admired. Trained to detect and amplify Washington’s marginal political differences, the press sometimes overlooks the obvious continuity of the permanent government.

WP: Congress Rarely Works Full Week

WP: Congress Rarely Works Full Week

Of the 13,000-plus days since Jan. 1, 1978, both chambers of Congress have been in session at the same time for about 4,700 of them — about a third of the total time and a little fewer than half of all weekdays. The Senate has worked more than the House, having been in session about 42 percent of the time to the House’s 39 percent. A look at the the past 37 years of Congressional activity reveals that your likely stereotypes about the amount of time Congress spends doing the people’s work is probably about right.

RE: 25% of Americans Wish To Secede

RE: 25% of Americans Wish To Secede

For the past few weeks, as Scotland debated the wisdom of independence, Reuters has been asking Americans how they would feel about declaring independence today, not from the United Kingdom, but from the mother country they left England to create. Almost a quarter of those surveyed said they were strongly or provisionally inclined to leave the United States, and take their states with them. The sense of aggrievement is comprehensive, bipartisan, somewhat incoherent, but deeply felt. This should be more than disconcerting; it’s a situation that could get dangerous.

Pew: Wide Differences Over Issues That Matter

Pew: Wide Differences Over Issues That Matter

Republican and Democratic voters are split not only over their candidate preferences, but also about the importance of key issues in the election. The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that terrorism and the economy are top issues for both Republican and Democratic voters, though in both cases they rate as more important for Republicans than Democrats.

HRW: Liberty to Monitor All

HRW: Liberty to Monitor All

How large-scale US surveillance is harming journalism, law, and American democracy. The 120-page report documents how national security journalists and lawyers are adopting elaborate steps or otherwise modifying their practices to keep communications, sources, and other confidential information secure in light of revelations of unprecedented US government surveillance of electronic communications and transactions.

TG: American Fear Mongering Machine

TG: American Fear Mongering Machine

Did you know that the US government’s counterterrorism chief Matthew Olson said that “there’s no credible information” that ISIS is planning an attack on America and that there’s “no indication at this point of a cell of foreign fighters operating in the United States”? Probably not, because as the nation barrels towards yet another war in the Middle East and President Obama addresses the nation on the “offensive phase” of his military plan, mainstream media pundits and the usual uber-hawk politicians are busy trying to out-hyperbole each other over the threat ISIS poses to Americans. Thanks to this wall-to-wall fear mongering, a once war-weary public is now terrified. The administration openly admits it has no idea how long it will take, only that it won’t be quick. “It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years,” John Kerry said. He didn’t add, “it might take another 13”, but he might as well have.

NYT: GOP Candidates Have No Int’l Credentials

NYT: GOP Candidates Have No Int’l Credentials

As President Obama prepares to announce his strategy on Wednesday for combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, there is no shortage of condemnation from Republicans like Mr. Paul, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Jindal, who are considering running for president in 2016. Yet they, like almost every Republican who might try to succeed Mr. Obama, have a common résumé gap: foreign policy experience.

PS: Democracy in the 21st Century

PS: Democracy in the 21st Century

There have to be rules of the game, and these are established through political processes. If we get the rules of the game right, we might be able to restore the rapid and shared economic growth that characterized the middle-class societies of the mid-twentieth century. The main question confronting us today is not really about capital in the twenty-first century. It is about democracy in the twenty-first century.

NYT: Foreign Influence in Think Tanks

NYT: Foreign Influence in Think Tanks

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington and it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom. The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments and have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, perhaps in violation of federal law.

NYT: The New History Wars

NYT: The New History Wars

“College-level work” now requires attention to context, and change over time; includes greater use of primary sources; and reassesses traditional narratives. This is work that requires and builds empathy, an essential aspect of historical thinking. The critics are unhappy, perhaps, that a once comforting story has become, in the hands of scholars, more complex, unsettling, provocative and compelling.

FA: America in Decay

FA: America in Decay

The creation of the U.S. Forest Service at the turn of the twentieth century was the premier example of American state building during the Progressive Era, the prototype of a new model of merit-based bureaucracy. Today, however, many regard the Forest Service as a highly dysfunctional bureaucracy performing an outmoded mission with the wrong tools. The story of the U.S. Forest Service is not an isolated case but representative of a broader trend of political decay.

RE: Fear Not German Hegemony

RE: Fear Not German Hegemony

Angela Merkel is the most important leader in Europe. She tries to duck it by exhibiting a modest demeanor, presenting no charisma, no grand pronouncements, no apparent ambition to stamp her views on history. Germany’s popular, publicly modest chancellor is the de facto leader of a grouping that famously had no number to call when the U.S. president needed to talk to his closest allies. Now it does: it’s Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. She carries much on her back – luckily for the rest of us.

MJ: Six Year Itch Doom for Obama?

MJ: Six Year Itch Doom for Obama?

The theory of the six-year itch is well-known phenomenon: American presidents suffer all too often during their second terms from an onslaught of scandals that hobble their ability to act. if you accept the general proposition that scandals tend to pile up over time, that means you’re likely to have a fairly impotent president by year six. And maybe that means a single six-year term would be for the best. The problem with this is that there’s not much evidence for it.

DS: Danger to Israel Comes from Within

DS: Danger to Israel Comes from Within

Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, but left behind death and destruction. Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz tells SPIEGEL that her country is gripped by fear and is becoming increasingly suspicious of democracy. Eva Illouz was born in Morocco and grew up in Sarcelles, near Paris. She is a professor of sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She researches the relationship between emotions, economy and communication and has written several books including “Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation,” which was published in English last year.

NYT: Repeal Prohibition, Again

NYT: Repeal Prohibition, Again

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

NYT: Making Government Fail Less

NYT: Making Government Fail Less

Most Americans don’t think of their government as particularly successful. Some of this mistrust reflects a healthy skepticism that Americans have always had toward centralized authority. But much of the mistrust really does reflect the federal government’s frequent failures. And yet there is some good news in this area, too – a flowering of experiments to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

FA: The State of the State

FA: The State of the State

In today’s established and emerging democracies, few people regard government as precious. This cynicism has become commonplace and yet it is actually rather odd. It assumes that the public sector will remain immune from the technological advances and forces of globalization that have ripped apart the private sector. It also ignores the lessons of history: government has changed dramatically over the past few centuries, usually because committed people possessed by big ideas have worked hard to change it.

WP: Progressives Turn From Obama to Warren

WP: Progressives Turn From Obama to Warren

Populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren got a rock-star reception during a standing-room-only campaign rally in West Virginia, as hundreds of liberal activists cheered her broadsides against corporate interests. It was the latest in a string of recent Warren appearances where Democratic base voters have embraced her fiery message as an envoy to working-class voters frustrated with both Wall Street and the Obama administration.

BI: Government Failures

BI: Government Failures

In this research paper, Paul C. Light writes that the “first step in preventing future failures is to find a reasonable set of past failures that might yield lessons for repair.” To meet this goal, Light asks four key questions about past federal government failures: (1) where did government fail, (2) why did government fail, (3) who caused the failures, and (4) what can be done to fix the underlying problems?

MIT: Forget the Wisdom of Crowds

MIT: Forget the Wisdom of Crowds

In recent years, researchers have spent a significant amount of time and effort teasing apart the factors that make crowds stupid. It turns out that if a crowd offers a wide range of independent estimates, then it is more likely to be wise. But if members of the crowd are influenced in the same way, for example by each other or by some external factor, then they tend to converge on a biased estimate. In this case, the crowd is likely to be stupid. Separating the more strongly influenced people from the independent thinkers creates two different groups and the group of independent thinkers is more likely to give a wise estimate. The research highlights the way bias can destroy the wisdom of a crowd, how that problem can be solved, but the possibilities for its application in the real world can be a little frightening.

DS: National Security Is US State Religion

DS: National Security Is US State Religion

For more than a year now, the revelations disclosed by former American intelligence worker Edward Snowden have fueled an at times fierce debate over the sense and legality of the NSAs sheer greed for data. Der Spiegel conducted two interviews. The first is with two major critics of the NSA’s work — human rights activist and lawyer Jesselyn Radack, who represents Snowden, and former spy Thomas Drake. The second interview is with John Podesta, a special advisor to United States President Barack Obama.

TN: Obama Keeping Big Coal Alive

TN: Obama Keeping Big Coal Alive

There’s been much to-do in the past month about the “war on coal,” the latest front of which is, supposedly, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule to cut carbon emissions from power plants. What all this “war on coal” talk is missing is the fact that while the Obama administration is taking steps to discourage coal consumption at home, it is tacitly promoting coal exports overseas through a decades-long debacle known as the federal coal leasing program, which has cost taxpayers billions and effectively acted as a subsidy for Big Coal.

NYT: Reining in the Drones

NYT: Reining in the Drones

For all the slick technology, there are grave moral and legal questions going unanswered in the government’s use of armed drones to kill people considered terrorist threats. The problems involving these secretive executions are ably underlined by a bipartisan panel of military and intelligence veterans who warn in a new report that without adequate controls and public accountability, the United States could be on a “slippery slope” into a form of perpetual warfare that invites other nations to follow suit and never explain themselves.

WP: NSA Spying 90% on Ordinary People

WP: NSA Spying 90% on Ordinary People

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. The material, provided by Snowden to The Washington Post spans President Obama’s first term, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.

AJA: Clintons’ Web of Wealth

AJA: Clintons’ Web of Wealth

Given their immense wealth and how they got it — politicized kickbacks from the most powerful political forces in Washington, on Wall Street and around the globe — the Clintons would do well to admit that they are unusually wealthy and stop trying to pass themselves off as ordinary folks. If they don’t, their fate may very well resemble Romney’s.

USNWR: How Google Could End Democracy

USNWR: How Google Could End Democracy

With its virtual monopoly on search, Google has the power to flip the outcomes of close elections easily – and without anyone knowing. Over time, they could change the face of parliaments and congresses worldwide to suit their business needs – keeping regulators at bay, getting favorable tax deals and so on. And because their business is unregulated in most countries at this point, flipping elections in this way would be legal.

TG: UK’s First Secret Court

TG: UK’s First Secret Court

A major terrorism trial is set to be held entirely in secret for the first time in British legal history in an unprecedented departure from the principles of open justice. The unnamed defendants were arrested in a high-profile police operation last year and have been charged with serious terrorism offences.

NYT: Press Freedom Infringed

NYT: Press Freedom Infringed

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal from James Risen, a reporter for The New York Times facing jail for refusing to identify a confidential source. The court’s one-line order gave no reasons but effectively sided with the government in a confrontation between what prosecutors said was an imperative to secure evidence in a national security prosecution and what journalists said was an intolerable infringement of press freedom.

AN: US Surveillance State

AN: US Surveillance State

Policy must assure the security of state authority and concentrations of domestic power, defending them from a frightening enemy: the domestic population. Information about the enemy makes a critical contribution to controlling it. Obama’s contributions have reached unprecedented levels.

AJ: The Information Wars

AJ: The Information Wars

The Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote that in wartime “truth” is the first casualty, an observation that was later repeated by Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, and isolationist US Senator Hiram Johnson in 1917 as the United States entered World War I. Modern governments do indeed like to control information, partly to shape the narrative of their activities to influence world opinion, but mostly for the domestic audience to generate popular support for policies that might otherwise prove unsustainable.

AJA: 21st Century Capitalism Can’t Last

AJA: 21st Century Capitalism Can’t Last

Pitketty’s book presents a simple thesis: Unchecked, capitalism’s natural dynamics lead to an unequal concentration of wealth. This trend is increasing at a rapid rate; absent a wealth-destroying catastrophe such as war or depression or powerful new egalitarian political movements, we can expect that to continue. We’ve stumbled into another Gilded Age. Which leads to the obvious question: What can be done?

FA: Thomas Piketty

FA: Thomas Piketty

“Every now and then, the field of economics produces an important book; this is one of them,” writes Tyler Cowen in his Foreign Affairs review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Justin Vogt, deputy managing editor of Foreign Affairs, recently sat down with Piketty to discuss inequality and his controversial policy proposals.

SC: One Thing to Remember on Earth Day

SC: One Thing to Remember on Earth Day

We cannot succeed if we define ourselves solely by the things that we’re against. We must be just as effective, creative, and tenacious at identifying and establishing the positive solutions we do want to see. If we don’t articulate a vision for a prosperous society powered by clean energy, then the only “optimistic” perspective is to deny reality and bury one’s head in the sand. And that’s a dangerous thing to do when the seas are rising. So here’s what I want everyone to remember this Earth Day: The world is a wonderful place. In just 90 minutes, enough sunlight strikes this planet to provide our planet’s entire energy needs for one year. The contiguous United States has enough potential wind energy to provide all of our nation’s electricity — nine times over. Renewable energy has become economically competitive faster than anyone imagined just a few years ago — in many places it is already beating all fossil fuels and nuclear power on price alone. Got it? Now, make like Muir and spread the word!

TN: Economic and Climate Justice

TN: Economic and Climate Justice

Anyone who is committed to the hard work of bringing deep structural change to our economic, social and political systems is now faced with scientific facts so immediate and so dire as to render a life’s work seemingly futile. The question, then, becomes how to escape that paralyzing sense of futility, and how to accelerate the sort of grassroots democratic mobilization we need if we’re to salvage any hope of a just and stable society.

PS: The Oligarchy Fallacy

PS: The Oligarchy Fallacy

The anti-oligarchy argument claim is that the rich have too much money, which they use to elect politicians who will enact laws that favor their interests. But it seems better to argue about the best policies to improve income distribution efficiently, and to point out which politicians support them. “Yes” to the EITC and pre-school education; “no” to subsidies for oil, agriculture, and mortgage debt.

TDT: The US is an Oligarchy

TDT: The US is an Oligarchy

Report by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern universities suggests that US political system serves special interest organisations, instead of voters. Economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.

RE: US Made Putin Problem Worse

RE: US Made Putin Problem Worse

Years of escalating protests by Putin made it clear he believed the West was surrounding him with hostile neighbors. And for centuries, Russian leaders have viewed a friendly Ukraine as vital to Moscow’s defense. Demonizing Putin reflected the continued failure of American officials to recognize Russia’s power, interest and importance. It is vital for Washington and Moscow to end a destructive pattern of careless American action followed by Russian overreaction.

FPIF: America’s Homegrown Terror

FPIF: America’s Homegrown Terror

The greatest dangers for the United States do not lurk in terrorist cells in the mountains surrounding Kandahar that are planning on assaults on American targets. Rather, our vulnerabilities are homegrown. The United States currently lacks safety protocols and effective inspection regimes for the dangerous materials it has amassed over the last 60 years. Tragically we are cutting back on infrastructure investment at a time we should be increasing it dramatically.

BI: McCutcheon Decision Worse Than It Looks

BI: McCutcheon Decision Worse Than It Looks

The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon is more radical than modest, increasing the political leverage of the wealthy few and moving us further toward an unregulated political marketplace and away from the democratic republic envisioned by the framers.

PS: Why Are Rich Countries Democratic?

PS: Why Are Rich Countries Democratic?

When Adam Smith was 22, he proclaimed “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

AN: UN Says US Cruel and Inhuman

AN: UN Says US Cruel and Inhuman

The U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva on Thursday condemned the United States for criminalizing homelessness, calling it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” that violates international human rights treaty obligations. It also called upon the U.S. government to take corrective action, following a two-day review of U.S. government compliance with a human rights treaty ratified in 1992.

WP: US Drug War

WP: US Drug War

The grieving mother accomplished what would have been inconceivable a few short years ago, much less back when the nation launched its war on drugs: She helped pass a bill, signed by a Republican governor, that lets people get away with using drugs for the sake of saving lives.

TG: Beware Surveillance Reform

TG: Beware Surveillance Reform

Stopping the government from holding onto of all Americans’ phone metadata would undoubtedly be a good thing for American privacy, but if you read between the legislative lines in the recent reform bills, the government might not be curtailing mass surveillance so much as permanently entrenching it in American law.

TG: Reforming the NSA

TG: Reforming the NSA

Ten months after Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting US telephone records in bulk, three sets of proposals have emerged to change the way the agency operates. All would end the data collection program in its current form, but there are crucial differences between the rival plans. We take a look at how the proposals compare.

TD: The Data Snatchers

TD: The Data Snatchers

By 2020 there could be over 30 billion devices connected to the Internet. Once dumb, they will have smartened up thanks to sensors and other technologies embedded in them and, thanks to your machines, your life will quite literally have gone online. Techno-evangelists have a nice catchphrase for this future utopia of machines and the never-ending stream of information, known as Big Data, it produces: the Internet of Things. With the rise of the networked device, what people do in their homes, in their cars, in stores, and within their communities will be monitored and analyzed in ever more intrusive ways by corporations. Yes, imagine it. Welcome to a world where everything you do is collected, stored, analyzed, and, more often than not, packaged and sold to strangers — including government agencies.

AN: 1st Amendment Train Wreck

AN: 1st Amendment Train Wreck

Without protections for new media and nontraditional journalists, the Freedom Flow of Information Act may very well end up doing little more than anointing a new set of gatekeepers—established traditional media organizations who call the shots about what leaks are published and what aren’t, instead of the relatively open social media and blog spheres.

AJA: Failure to Protect

AJA: Failure to Protect

The FISA court and intelligence committees were supposed to be bulwarks against the dangers of secret spying programs but the shortcomings of these institutions are now clear. It’s troubling to think about all the times the CIA interfered with congressional oversight without so much as a public peep from Feinstein or her colleagues.

NC: Power Inequality

NC: Power Inequality

Inequality is endemic to the core structure of an America that operates more as a plutocracy than a democracy. It is an inherent result of the consolidation of a substantial amount of both financial power and political influence in the hands of a few families.

AJA: 21st Century Church Committee

AJA: 21st Century Church Committee

A Church Committee for the 21st century, a special congressional investigatory committee that undertakes a significant and public re-examination of intelligence community practices that affect the rights of Americans and the laws governing those actions, is urgently needed.

PS: A New Progressive Political Economy

PS: A New Progressive Political Economy

The 2008 financial crash revealed major flaws in the neoliberal view of capitalism, and an objective view of the last 35 years shows that the neoliberal model has not performed well relative to the previous 30 years in terms of economic growth, financial stability, and social justice. But a credible progressive alternative has yet to take shape. First, a progressive political economy must be based on a firm belief in capitalism. Second, institutions do not evolve spontaneously, as neoliberals believe. Third the neoliberal view that a country’s economic performance should be assessed solely in terms of GDP growth and freedom must be rejected. Western countries that do not adopt this framework, and instead cling to a neoliberal political economy, will find it increasingly difficult to innovate and grow.

Slate: Anti-Protest Bill

Slate: Anti-Protest Bill

In short, citizen protests puncture the pretty, patriotic illusion of a focus-grouped, Photoshopped media event, and replace it with the gritty patriotic reality of democracy in action. That’s why the teeny cosmetic changes to Section 1752, which purport to be about new kinds of security, are really all about optics.

YCCC: Limiting Global Warming

YCCC: Limiting Global Warming

Yale Project on Climate Change Communication presents their report on Americans’ Actions to Limit Global Warming. The report provides insight into public interest as regards governmental process and political action, and business activities and consumer action. It also sheds light on efforts to achieve greater domestic energy efficiency.

CP: On Academic Labor

CP: On Academic Labor

Noam Chomsky discusses issues related to the breakdown of our educational system, specifically he discusses hiring faculty off the tenure track, how higher education ought to be, “shared governance” and worker control, the alleged need for labor “flexibility”, the purpose of education, and the love of teaching.

WP: Democrats Too Liberal?

WP: Democrats Too Liberal?

The recent polarization of American politics has been far more obvious on the right than the left. The emergence of the tea party movement and its influence in Congress has brought to the fore political values that are more conservative than those of the average voter. But while Republicans have become more conservative, Democrats have grown more liberal.

NC: Creating the World We Want

NC: Creating the World We Want

People often want to know what the movement for social and economic justice wants. Occupy Wall Street issued its Declaration of the Occupation of New York City which laid out a series of grievances. But, in addition to knowing what we oppose, we need to define what we stand for. If we do not like big finance capitalism, what will take the place of the current economy?

NYT: Benefits of a Higher Wage

NYT: Benefits of a Higher Wage

Republicans sputtered with outrage when the Congressional Budget Office said that immigration reform would lower the deficit, strengthen Social Security and speed up economic growth. What Republicans fail to mention is that Tuesday’s report from the budget office, a federal nonpartisan agency, was almost entirely positive about the benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016.

TM: Shadows of Liberty

TM: Shadows of Liberty

Ninety percent of American media is controlled by five big, for-profit-conglomerates, creating a media monopoly of informational and social control never before possible. Shadows of Liberty reveals the hidden machinations of the news media, drawing into focus the vast mechanisms of censorship, cover-ups, and corporate control that have been built up over many decades.

NYT: Ads on Climate Change

NYT: Ads on Climate Change

A billionaire retired investor is forging plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election, seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers.

NYT: Spying on Law Firms

NYT: Spying on Law Firms

An American law firm was monitored while representing a foreign government in trade disputes with the United States. The disclosure is of particular interest because lawyers in the United States with clients overseas have expressed growing concern that their confidential communications could be compromised by such surveillance.

BBC: Crossing the Road Outlawed

BBC: Crossing the Road Outlawed

The idea of being fined for crossing the road at the wrong place can bemuse foreign visitors to the US, where the origins of so-called jaywalking lie in a propaganda campaign by the motor industry in the 1920s. The UK is among those countries where jaywalking is not an offence. But the rate of pedestrian deaths is half that of the US.

TN: Election Reformation

TN: Election Reformation

American presidential election campaigns are absurd. Absurdly expensive. Absurdly long. Absurdly structured. And absurdly narrow in the range of ideas and options offered to a nation with an absurdly low level of voter participation. If ever there was a time to rethink how this country chooses its chief executive, this is it.

PS: Stagnation by Design

PS: Stagnation by Design

The difficulties that we are facing now are not the result of the inexorable laws of economics, to which we simply must adjust, as we would to a natural disaster, like an earthquake or tsunami. They are not even a kind of penance that we have to pay for past sins. Instead, our current difficulties are the result of flawed policies.

TA: The Next New Deal

TA: The Next New Deal

Americans will look back and marvel at what became of our old welfare state–that tangle of inequity and dysfunction once known as federal entitlements. Why did the public tolerate a system that wound up distributing most of its benefits to the well-off? And how did the economy survive its costs? With the vaunted post-Cold War Peace dividend evaporating, the United States found itself unable to invest adequately in either its infrastructure or its children. Eventually people began to talk of another Great Depression, before the coming of the next New Deal. This Atlantic magazine article from 1992 almost could have been written today.

WP: Guilt of the Gilded

WP: Guilt of the Gilded

The president may describe inequality as the result of impersonal forces — globalization, technology. But some senators — Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders — are starting to name names, to show how the rules have been rigged and who did the rigging.

AJA: US Environmental Policy Haze

AJA: US Environmental Policy Haze

Obama mentioned climate change and forcefully called for energy independence, but much of the environmental section of his speech was dedicated to his “all of the above” strategy, which includes big increases to one of the most controversial sources of alternative energy, natural gas.

NYT: Obama Trade Conundrum

NYT: Obama Trade Conundrum

Obama’s desire for fast-track authority on the TPP and other agreements clashes with reducing income inequality. Data on NAFTA poses a significant challenge for President Obama. He said he wants to battle the plague of income inequality and to expand the NAFTA model with TPP, but he cannot have it both ways.

DN: Bill Moyers on Dark Money

DN: Bill Moyers on Dark Money

Legendary broadcaster Bill Moyers discusses his latest investigation, which explores how the influence of large, untraceable political donations known as “dark money” have become the greatest threat to democracy in the United States.

NYT: NSA Targets Children

NYT: NSA Targets Children

The turtle wearing a hat backward, baggy jeans and purple sunglasses looks just like other cartoon characters that marketers use to make products like cereal and toys appealing to children. But the reptile, known as T. Top, who says creating and breaking codes is really “kewl,” is pushing the benefits of the National Security Agency.

NYT: NSA Program is Illegal

NYT: NSA Program is Illegal

The Obama administration has portrayed the NSA’s bulk collection program as useful and lawful but an independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down. The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.”

DS: Germans May Investigate NSA

DS: Germans May Investigate NSA

Germany and the US appear to be edging closer to political confrontation. Germany’s Federal Prosecutor says there is sufficient evidence to open a politically explosive investigation into NSA spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Under German law, the justice minister has the right to order the federal prosecutor to open legal proceedings.

BBC: American Apathy

BBC: American Apathy

American citizens have bought into the notion that the “war on terror” and “Islamic extremism” justify all means. Their acquiescence, if not active tolerance, is what allows Washington to operate above the law, from drones to routinely spying on the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Spanish people, to name but a few of the targets.

NYT: Transparency?

NYT: Transparency?

Withholding the opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel, which provides legal advice to the president and executive agencies, is deeply troubling. The office’s advice often serves as the final word on what the executive branch may legally do, and those who follow that advice are virtually assured that they will not face prosecution.

NC: Monsters of Our Own Creation

NC: Monsters of Our Own Creation

“We know everything but learn nothing” would be an honest slogan for the NSA, CIA and lesser-known spy agencies that specialize in leading us so dangerously astray. For all of their massive intrusion into the personal lives of individuals throughout the world, it is difficult to recall a time when the “intelligence” they collected provided such myopic policy insight.

PS: Financial Regulators’ Mess

PS: Financial Regulators’ Mess

The recent $13 billion settlement between the US Department of Justice and JPMorgan Chase appears significant, but the message is clear: There will be no change to business as usual. JPM has a total balance sheet of around $4 trillion, the penalty is to be paid largely by its shareholders, and $7 billion of the fine is likely to be tax deductible, implying a tax break worth around $2.2 billion.

AN: Economic Exploitation

AN: Economic Exploitation

Reviewing a variety of political systems, Aristotle concluded that democracy was the best – or perhaps the least bad – form of government. But he recognized a flaw: The great mass of the poor could use their voting power to take the property of the rich, which would be unfair. Madison and Aristotle arrived at opposite solutions: Aristotle advised reducing inequality, by what we would regard as welfare state measures. Madison felt that the answer was to reduce democracy.

AN: Major Social Transformation Close

AN: Major Social Transformation Close

Moyer’s work is heartening for social justice activists because it shows how movements grow, recede and change their functions at different stages. By understanding the current stage of development we can better define the work that must be done to achieve success and predict how the power structure and public will react to our actions.

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