Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

A Different Way of Looking at the Minimum Wage

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post worth reading. From the post:

blog_minimum_vs_median_wage_international

The other chart at the link is also worth checking out.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2016 at 1:14 pm

The US has some catching up to do

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 July 2016 at 7:45 pm

20 lawmakers demand human rights and justice for Palestinian children

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Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton has already stated that she will back Israel no matter what it does, not a good attitude in a US president IMO. The president of the US should have put US interests before the interests of other nations. Brad Parker reports in Salon:

Recently, 20 members of Congress sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to appoint a Special Envoy for Palestinian Youth to collect information necessary to actively promote Palestinian children’s human rights. By standing up for Palestinian children’s rights, these lawmakers are directly challenging the decades-long U.S.-led “peace process” that has consistently demanded peace without justice, enabling and perpetuating an unjust and oppressive military occupation.

The letter, initiated by Rep. Betty McCollum, (D-Minn.),  expresses concern for Palestinian children under 18 years old living “under the constant fear of arrest, detention, and violence at the hands of the Israeli military,” and declares “The situation on the ground is rapidly deteriorating and we must act now.”

Just a few hours after the letter was delivered to President Obama, Israeli forces fired on a civilian car, killing fifteen-year-old Mahmoud Rafat Badran. Mahmoud and his cousins were driving home to the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Tahta around 1:30 a.m. after a night of family fun at a nearby swimming pool when Israeli forces opened fire, according to Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP).

Mahmoud’s death typifies the current situation for Palestinian children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as systemic impunity has enabled Israeli forces increasingly to resort to the use of excessive force without consequence. Since 2014, Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have increasingly targeted Palestinians, including children, with live ammunition to quash protests. DCIP independently verified the deaths of 15 Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces during 2014, and this figure nearly doubled in 2015.

As intensified violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank grinds on, Rep. McCollum and her colleagues declared, “The root cause of [violence] must be examined and understood in which they are taking place.”

When examining root causes of violence, one finds that, as Palestinians enter their 50th year under Israeli military occupation, children now represent 46.2 percent of the 4.68 million Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “This enormous youth cohort represents another generation of Palestinian children growing up under military occupation with very few opportunities to improve their lives,” writes Rep. McCollum.

In October, amid escalating violence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahupromised a “harsh offensive” in response. The results are now disturbingly clear as Mahmoud became the 50th Palestinian child from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip to be killed as a direct result of intensified violence, all except one at the hands of Israeli forces, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Of this number, 37 allegedly carried out stabbing, gun or car ramming attacks against Israeli civilians or soldiers.

While Israeli military authorities reportedly opened an investigation into Mahmoud’s killing, accountability for shootings by Israeli forces is extremely rare. Since 2014, only one incident, the fatal shooting of Nadeem Nawara, 17, in May 2014, has resulted in both an investigation and criminal indictment.

Shockingly, despite repeated allegations of unlawful and extrajudicial killings by Israeli forces, not one Israeli soldier has been charged or convicted of homicide for killing a Palestinian in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since at least 2000, according to data compiled by the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din.

The letter is significant because it asks what many policymakers in the United States avoid at all costs, “Does a life of utter hopelessness and the collective psychological trauma associated with the Palestinian people living for decades under Israeli military occupation directly contribute to violence?” . . .

Continue reading.

Clinton’s unconditional and unquestioning support of Israel’s actions, whatever they are, is disturbing.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 July 2016 at 1:49 pm

Richard Cordray: Blacks Are Trapped in a System of Financial Barricades

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

Richard Cordray and the Federal agency he heads, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), have been in the cross hairs of right wing Republicans and the corporations they front for since the agency opened its doors in 2011 to confront the abuses exposed in the financial crisis of 2008.

The agency’s work to level the playing field for all Americans and stop the vicious wealth transfer system that the deregulation era of the 90s has unleashed on the financially unsophisticated has fueled unprecedented backlash. During the Republican Presidential debate on November 10 of last year, a corporate-funded front group, the American Action Network, with ties to the Koch brothers, repeatedly ran an advertisement portraying the CFPB as a communist group. (See our detailed report here.)

The CFPB presents multiple threats to the financial looters. The CFPB has made it easy for consumers to file complaints; for whistleblowers to come forward; for the public toshare their experiences so that the agency can get an early warning on new financial frauds gathering momentum; and it provides financial education materials to the public covering a broad spectrum. It has also levied hefty fines against wrongdoers and exposed the sordid details of their schemes.

Despite the serial backlash Cordray has faced and the ongoing efforts to strip his agency of its independence, he isn’t backing down. Yesterday, Cordray became something of a whistleblower himself, delivering a speech to the NAACP’s annual convention in Cincinnati and exposing the myriad ways that African Americans are targeted by the institutionalized wealth stripping apparatus that has its entrenched tentacles spread across America. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 July 2016 at 5:20 pm

When Subpoenas Threaten Climate Science

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And despite the title, the threat is to science generally, though this specific case is climate science. Ken Kimmel, president of the Union of Concerned Scientist, writes in the NY Times:

Last week, my organization — the Union of Concerned Scientists — received a subpoena signed by Lamar S. Smith of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The subpoena orders me to hand over correspondence between my staff members and state attorneys general, and between my staff members and environmental organizations and funders. This demand impinges on our group’s constitutional rights, and it would set a terrible precedent affecting many other advocacy groups were we to comply with it.

The subpoena concerns our efforts to inform state attorneys general of our research into Exxon Mobil. Our research details, among other things, how much Exxon Mobil knew about the dangers posed to the planet from carbon emissions from its products at the same time it was spending millions to misinform the public about the science of climate change.

Mr. Smith makes no claim that our organization violated any law or regulation; he simply demands to see our correspondence. This is a deeply troubling request. It is, in effect, a bullying tactic that threatens the work that advocacy groups like mine do under the protection of the First Amendment when we “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Are we to expect a subpoena every time we have a conversation with a public official if some committee chairman dislikes or disagrees with us?

Mr. Smith’s demand also interferes with continuing law enforcement proceedings by New York and Massachusetts state attorneys general who — acting under their own state laws — have commenced investigations into Exxon Mobil’s potentially fraudulent actions. (Mr. Smith has sent similar subpoenas to the other environmental organizations and funders as well as the offices of the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts.)

The controversy began last summer, when our organization published a report documenting deception about climate science by Exxon Mobil, other leading fossil fuel companies and industry trade groups. Since that time, two teams of investigative reporters have uncovered further corroborating evidence that for decades, Exxon Mobil’s own scientists warned the company of the dangers of carbon emissions at the same time the company was aggressively promoting a very different message in public and to its investors about climate science. As a result of these revelations, the state attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts commenced their investigations into Exxon Mobil.

Mr. Smith, joined by members of Congress, claims that our organization, the other groups and the state attorneys general have engaged in a conspiracy to deprive Exxon Mobil of its First Amendment right to debate the science of climate change and to chill the work of scientists. This is simply nonsense. Exxon Mobil’s scientists are not being targeted for investigation, and no one is intimidating them to keep them from performing their work. Instead, the investigations center on whether Exxon Mobil misled the public and its own investors when it publicly disparaged, played down or even dismissed outright the growing evidence (from its own scientists and others) that burning fossil fuels causes irrevocable harm to the planet.

Disseminating false information to help sell a product finds no protection in the First Amendment. Imagine if it did: Tobacco companies could get away with saying cigarettes are safe; car companies could deny manufacturing defects that endanger drivers; and pharmaceutical companies could mislead consumers about the efficacy of drugs — all by cloaking themselves in the First Amendment. Fortunately, courts have repeatedly rejected such arguments.

Beyond its lack of a factual or legal basis, Mr. Smith’s subpoena sets a dangerous precedent because it violates our constitutional rights. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2016 at 5:10 pm

Is Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Legislation a Hoax?

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Wall Street has had outsize influence with President Obama (Eric Holder as Attorney General; Mary Jo White as head of the SEC; and others), with great benefit to Wall Street. Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

The problem with stereotyping Republicans is that when they are screaming from the rooftops about a legitimate fraud, Democrats don’t believe them — even when the evidence is overpowering that they are right.

For years now, Republicans have been screaming that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that was signed into law in 2010 by President Obama is a fraud on the public.

Few have examined Dodd-Frank’s failed promises as carefully as Wall Street On Parade. The legislation promised to rein in derivatives – it didn’t. It promised to end the future need for taxpayer bailouts of too-big-to-fail banks. It didn’t. It promised to institute the Volcker Rule to prevent banks from gambling with insured deposits. It didn’t. It promised to reform the practices of the ratings agencies that played a pivotal role in the 2008 collapse. It didn’t.

Dodd-Frank did two great things: it created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which has played a major role in exposing and disciplining companies that abuse consumers in areas like credit cards, auto loans, student loans, and mortgages. Dodd-Frank also created the Office of Financial Research in the U.S. Treasury Department – which has been sending out regular warnings that Wall Street is still adangerous, toxic brew of interconnectedness while putting a bright light on how the Fed is mismanaging its stress tests of the mega Wall Street banks.

But these two agencies which are valiantly working in the public interest are no match for how Wall Street has been allowed by the Obama administration to game the designed-to-be-gamed provisions of Dodd-Frank.

Take this morning’s news from Bloomberg News. . .

Continue reading.

Note this, later in the column:

Wall Street is clearly counting on their heavy funding of Hillary Clinton’s campaign to put a friendly ear in the Oval Office, and at the Fed, Treasury and SEC,  so it can individually apply for permanent exceptions to these and various other Dodd-Frank rules.

I never once thought those enormous payments to Hillary Clinton were for nothing more than her giving a speech.

By all means, read the whole thing. The Obama Administration has been remarkably considerate of Wall Street.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 July 2016 at 9:43 am

Not snark: David Brooks wrote an interesting column.

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See what you think.

The previous post was written before I read Brooks’s column, but they seem to be on the same wave length.

BTW, it seems perfectly clear that David Brooks, like so many, has been following the James Fallows series on American Futures in his travels across America.

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