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Demeter

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Gender: Female
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 01:04 PM
Number of posts: 85,373

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Kevin Drum | No, the Social Security Trust Fund Isn't a Fiction

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/11/no-social-security-trust-fund-isnt-fiction

Charles Krauthammer is upset that Dick Durbin says Social Security is off the table in the fiscal cliff negotiations because it doesn't add to the deficit:

This is absurd. In 2012, Social Security adds $165 billion to the deficit. Democrats pretend that Social Security is covered through 2033 by its trust fund. Except that the trust fund is a fiction, a mere “bookkeeping” device, as the Office of Management and Budget itself has written. The trust fund’s IOUs “do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits.” Future benefits “will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures.”

What Krauthammer means is that as Social Security draws down its trust fund, it sells bonds back to the Treasury. The money it gets for those bonds comes from the general fund, which means that it does indeed have an effect on the deficit. That much is true. But the idea that the trust fund is a "fiction" is absolutely wrong. And since this zombie notion is bound to come up repeatedly over the next few weeks, it's worth explaining why it's wrong. So here it is.

Starting in 1983, the payroll tax was deliberately set higher than it needed to be to cover payments to retirees. For the next 30 years, this extra money was sent to the Treasury, and this windfall allowed income tax rates to be lower than they otherwise would have been. During this period, people who paid payroll taxes suffered from this arrangement, while people who paid income taxes benefited.

Now things have turned around. As the baby boomers have started to retire, payroll taxes are less than they need to be to cover payments to retirees. To make up this shortfall, the Treasury is paying back the money it got over the past 30 years, and this means that income taxes need to be higher than they otherwise would be. For the next few decades, people who pay payroll taxes will benefit from this arrangement, while people who pay income taxes will suffer. If payroll taxpayers and income taxpayers were the same people, none of this would matter. The trust fund really would be a fiction. But they aren't. Payroll taxpayers tend to be the poor and the middle class. Income taxpayers tend to be the upper middle class and the rich. Long story short, for the past 30 years, the poor and the middle class overpaid and the rich benefited. For the next 30 years or so, the rich will overpay and the poor and the middle class will benefit.

The trust fund is the physical embodiment of that deal. It's no surprise that the rich, who didn't object to this arrangement when it was first made, are now having second thoughts. But make no mistake. When wealthy pundits like Krauthammer claim that the trust fund is a fiction, they're trying to renege on a deal halfway through because they don't want to pay back the loans they got. As it happens, I think this was a dumb deal. But that doesn't matter. It's the deal we made, and the poor and the middle class kept up their end of it for 30 years. Now it's time for the rich to keep up their end of the deal. Unless you think that promises are just so much wastepaper, this is the farthest thing imaginable from fiction. It's as real as taxes.

The Permanent Dependency Class

http://www.economicpopulist.org/content/permanent-dependency-class

The recent US presidential election found the Republican Party on the losing end of a political and economic argument. It was Mitt Romney’s contention, both privately and implicitly when he selected Ayn Rand enthusiast Paul Ryan as his running mate, that 47% of the electorate was dependent on government handouts and therefore had no intention of voting for any Republican who threatened to reduce government entitlement spending. Mitt Romney after the election “doubled down” on this statement, insisting that Obama voters were bought off by government largesse.

Romney was defeated handily in the public vote – he achieved, ironically, slightly less than 47.5% of the popular vote – and he was thrashed in the Electoral College vote, which is what really matters. These results are being interpreted by the press and the pundits as a repudiation of Republican policies, and a rebuke to Mitt Romney for his perceived insult to Obama voters that they are lazy and, like parasites, live off the hard work of others.

The problem with this view is that Romney was half-right: there is a dependency class in America, and they do tend to vote Democratic. He was wrong on his interpretation of the motives and work ethic of this dependency class. One man’s handout, after all, can be another man’s means of survival. He was also wrong on his campaign promise to fix this situation by creating millions of jobs so that the moochers and parasites will have no excuse but to find work when the entitlement payouts end. Obama was wrong on this as well; no politician can pretend that they have some magic tool to create millions of jobs and return entitlement payouts to more sustainable levels. Not only is this not possible, but as I will contend here, such thinking makes the problem worse. The dependency class in America is growing, and it is here to stay for many decades into the future. It is a consequence of decades of government and business policies that let such an infra-class arise, and it is a consequence of very long term economic and social forces that operate on a global basis and are beyond the control of any one country. The United States is turning into a third world country, complete with vast pockets of poverty and idleness, and a small elite that dominates wealth and income. A dependency class is a prime feature of third world countries, and the political party which most successfully caters to this dependency class is more than likely to enjoy decades of political power.

The Rise of the Dependency Class

The creation of the dependency class can be linked to the oil price shocks of the early 1970s. Up until this point, real personal income followed an upwards trajectory that was in line with productivity, which implies that labor was benefiting from improvements in productivity as much as corporations were. This link was broken around 1975. Productivity continued on an upwards path, but real personal income began to stagnate.



A MUST READ! MUCH MORE AT LINK

The Government’s Secret Plan to Shut Off Cellphones and the Internet, Explained

http://billmoyers.com/2013/11/27/the-governments-secret-plan-to-shut-off-cellphones-and-the-internet-explained/

MUST READ THE WHOLE THING! HERE'S THAT END...

Critics contend that activating any kind of kill switch will do more harm than good. “I find it hard to imagine why an Internet kill switch would ever be a good idea, short of some science fiction scenario wherein the network comes alive a la Terminator/Skynet,” Feld says. “At this point, so much of our critical infrastructure runs on the Internet that a ‘kill switch’ would do more harm than anything short of a nuclear strike. It would be like cutting off our own head to escape someone pulling our hair.” The same argument applies to smothering cellphone service. “The benefit of people being able to communicate on their cellphones in times of crisis is enormous and cutting that off is in and of itself potentially very dangerous,” argues Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Has the government ever turned off cell phones or the Internet? Yes
— but the only known reports concern cell service. In 2005, shortly after suicide bombers attacked the London tube, federal authorities disabled cell networks in four major New York tunnels. The action was reportedly taken to prevent bomb detonation via cellphone and according to a National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee review, it “was undertaken without prior notice to wireless carriers or the public.” (In an April statement to Mother Jones, Verizon denied have any role in shutting down cell service in New York.) In 2009, during Obama’s inauguration, the feds used devices that blocked cellphones from receiving signals to prevent bomb detonation. In 2011, officials for the San Francisco transit system cut off cellphone service in four Bay Area Rapid Transit stations for several hours to preempt a planned protest over BART police fatally shooting a homeless man.

What are the constitutional problems? Civil liberties advocates argue that kill switches violate the First Amendment and pose a problem because they aren’t subject to rigorous judicial and congressional oversight. “There is no court in the loop at all, at any stage in the SOP 303 process,” according to the Center for Democracy and Technology. ”The executive branch, untethered by the checks and balances of court oversight, clear instruction from Congress, or transparency to the public, is free to act as it will and in secret.” David Jacobs of EPIC says, “Cutting off communications imposes a prior restraint on speech, so the First Amendment imposes the strictest of limitations…We don’t know how DHS thinks the kill switch is consistent with the First Amendment.” He adds, “Such a policy, unbounded by clear rules and oversight, just invites abuse.”

What don’t we know about the kill switch plan? A lot. We don’t know the “series of questions” that help DHS determine whether it should activate a kill switch, how DHS will go about implementing the kill switch, how long a shutdown will last and what the oversight protocols are. For example, Jacobs from EPIC says that, it appears that “DHS wouldn’t have to call up the president to implement this, he would be involved in the same indirect way that he is with all kinds of executive branch actions.” This information was requested in the FOIA lawsuit filed by (EPIC) and could be revealed as early as December. “Hopefully exposure of such a lunatic idea will allow the public to beat some common sense into these agencies,” says Feld.


Dana Liebelson is a reporter in Mother Jones’ Washington bureau.

Someone’s Been Siphoning Data Through a Huge Security Hole in the Internet

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/12/bgp-hijacking-belarus-iceland/



In 2008, two security researchers at the DefCon hacker conference demonstrated a massive security vulnerability in the worldwide internet traffic-routing system — a vulnerability so severe that it could allow intelligence agencies, corporate spies or criminals to intercept massive amounts of data, or even tamper with it on the fly. The traffic hijack, they showed, could be done in such a way that no one would notice because the attackers could simply re-route the traffic to a router they controlled, then forward it to its intended destination once they were done with it, leaving no one the wiser about what had occurred.

Now, five years later, this is exactly what has happened. Earlier this year, researchers say, someone mysteriously hijacked internet traffic headed to government agencies, corporate offices and other recipients in the U.S. and elsewhere and redirected it to Belarus and Iceland, before sending it on its way to its legitimate destinations. They did so repeatedly over several months. But luckily someone did notice. And this may not be the first time it has occurred — just the first time it got caught.

Analysts at Renesys, a network monitoring firm, said that over several months earlier this year someone diverted the traffic using the same vulnerability in the so-called Border Gateway Protocol, or BGP, that the two security researchers demonstrated in 2008. The BGP attack, a version of the classic man-in-the-middle exploit, allows hijackers to fool other routers into re-directing data to a system they control. When they finally send it to its correct destination, neither the sender nor recipient is aware that their data has made an unscheduled stop. The stakes are potentially enormous, since once data is hijacked, the perpetrator can copy and then comb through any unencrypted data freely — reading email and spreadsheets, extracting credit card numbers, and capturing vast amounts of sensitive information. The attackers initiated the hijacks at least 38 times, grabbing traffic from about 1,500 individual IP blocks — sometimes for minutes, other times for days — and they did it in such a way that, researchers say, it couldn’t have been a mistake.

Renesys Senior Analyst Doug Madory says initially he thought the motive was financial, since traffic destined for a large bank got sucked up in the diversion. But then the hijackers began diverting traffic intended for the foreign ministries of several countries he declined to name, as well as a large VoIP provider in the U.S., and ISPs that process the internet communications of thousands of customers. Although the intercepts originated from a number of different systems in Belarus and Iceland, Renesys believes the hijacks are all related, and that the hijackers may have altered the locations to obfuscate their activity.

“What makes a man-in-the-middle routing attack different from a simple route hijack? Simply put, the traffic keeps flowing and everything looks fine to the recipient,…” Renesys wrote in a blog post about the hijacks. “It’s possible to drag specific internet traffic halfway around the world, inspect it, modify it if desired, and send it on its way. Who needs fiberoptic taps?”

MORE THAN YOU CAN STAND ON THE INTERNET AT LINK

Kim Zetter is a senior reporter at Wired covering cybercrime, privacy, security and civil liberties.

The Homeschool Apostates by Kathryn Joyce

http://prospect.org/article/homeschool-apostates

...the emergence of a coalition of young former fundamentalists who are coming out publicly, telling their stories, and challenging the Christian homeschooling movement. The website that linked to Jennifer’s story was Homeschoolers Anonymous, launched in March by two homeschool graduates, Ryan Stollar and Nicholas Ducote. Their goal was to show what goes on behind closed doors in some Christian homeschooling families—to share, as one blogger puts it, “the stories we were never allowed to talk about as children.”

As of October, Homeschoolers Anonymous had published nearly 200 personal accounts and attracted more than 600,000 page views. For those outside the homeschooling movement, and for many inside it, the stories are revelatory and often shocking. The milder ones detail the haphazard education received from parents who, with little state oversight, prioritize obedience and religious training over learning. Some focus on women living under strict patriarchal regimes. Others chronicle appalling abuse that lasted for years.

Growing up in California and Oregon, Stollar wasn’t abused, but he met many other homeschoolers who were. His parents led state homeschooling associations and started a debate club in San Jose. The emphasis on debate in fundamentalist homeschooling was the brainchild of Michael Farris, the founder of Patrick Henry College, and his daughter Christy Shipe. Farris believed debate competitions would create a new generation of culture warriors with the skills to “engage the culture for Christ.” “You teach the kids what to think, you keep them isolated from everyone else, you give them the right answers, and you keep them pure,” Stollar explains. “And now you train them how to argue and speak publicly, so they can go out to do what they’re supposed to do”—spread the faith and promote God’s patriarchy.

As a teenager, Stollar toured the national homeschool debate circuit with a group called Communicators for Christ, sharpening his rhetorical skills and giving speech tutorials. Along the way, he found himself increasingly disturbed by what he saw. He met families that follow the concept of “Quiverfull,” wherein women are submissive to men and forgo contraception to have as many children as God gives them. He encountered entire communities where women wore only denim jumpers for modesty’s sake, where parents burned their daughters’ birth certificates to keep them at home, where teenagers practiced “betrothal,” a kind of arranged marriage. He met homeschooling kids who dealt with the stress by cutting themselves, drinking, or developing eating disorders—the very terrors their parents had fled the public schools to avoid. “Even as a conservative Christian homeschooler,” Stollar says, “I was constantly experiencing culture shock.”...


Coming out of the Unschooling Movement (John Holt, Boston), I knew of this parallel but perverted form of home schooling. There was a lot of discussion of what would happen when those children escaped the indoctrination centers (their parents' homes). I am gratified that the speculation is fulfilled, and appalled that it took so long...Demeter


Weekend Economists Speak Freely December 6-8, 2013



Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.



The Fundamental Freedom, the first article of our Bill of Rights, is the Freedom of Speech.At the time (approx. 1788 to adoption in 1791) Freedom of Speech was a novel idea. The basic intent was that NOBODY in authority: Executive, Legislative, Judicial, or even Religious, could tell you to shut up or you would be fined, imprisoned, tortured, or killed, and/or your family persecuted likewise.

Lately, this Freedom has all but disappeared. It has been nullified by Corporate takeover of the press, endured wholesale ignorance of the Constitution by all branches of government, and cancelled by religious fanaticism which has been emboldened by their examples to put another 2 cents in. Yes, we can bitch on the Internet, in protected areas. Yes, we can try to peaceably assemble, to petition the govt. If you like being a martyr, ala Occupy, Manning, Snowden, etc., that is.

Growing up in the cocoon that our nation wrapped around their post-war Boomer children, I received the false impression that all the "bad stuff" was over, that the bad guys were defeated in WWII, and the US, with the Marshall Plan to rebuild the vanquished former enemies, was a shining example of the New Humans: more virtuous, productive, fair, kind, honest, peace-loving, etc., etc...small d democrats, even if they were Republicans.

But there were cracks in the facade by the 60's: The Free Speech movement, Civil Rights, Women's Liberation, Peace Protests against Vietnam War, which told us that there was some work for the Boomers, too, in refining and reforming and as Lincoln said:



FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO OUR FATHERS BROUGHT FORTH ON THIS CONTINENT A NEW NATION CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY AND DEDICATED TO THE PROPOSITION THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL •

NOW WE ARE ENGAGED IN A GREAT CIVIL WAR TESTING WHETHER THAT NATION OR ANY NATION SO CONCEIVED AND SO DEDICATED CAN LONG ENDURE • WE ARE MET ON A GREAT BATTLEFIELD OF THAT WAR • WE HAVE COME TO DEDICATE A PORTION OF THAT FIELD AS A FINAL RESTING PLACE FOR THOSE WHO HERE GAVE THEIR LIVES THAT THAT NATION MIGHT LIVE • IT IS ALTOGETHER FITTING AND PROPER THAT WE SHOULD DO THIS • BUT IN A LARGER SENSE WE CAN NOT DEDICATE~WE CAN NOT CONSECRATE~WE CAN NOT HALLOW~THIS GROUND • THE BRAVE MEN LIVING AND DEAD WHO STRUGGLED HERE HAVE CONSECRATED IT FAR ABOVE OUR POOR POWER TO ADD OR DETRACT • THE WORLD WILL LITTLE NOTE NOR LONG REMEMBER WHAT WE SAY HERE BUT IT CAN NEVER FORGET WHAT THEY DID HERE • IT IS FOR US THE LIVING RATHER TO BE DEDICATED HERE TO THE UNFINISHED WORK WHICH THEY WHO FOUGHT HERE HAVE THUS FAR SO NOBLY ADVANCED • IT IS RATHER FOR US TO BE HERE DEDICATED TO THE GREAT TASK REMAINING BEFORE US~THAT FROM THESE HONORED DEAD WE TAKE INCREASED DEVOTION TO THAT CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY GAVE THE LAST FULL MEASURE OF DEVOTION~THAT WE HERE HIGHLY RESOLVE THAT THESE DEAD SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN~THAT THIS NATION UNDER GOD SHALL HAVE A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM~AND THAT GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH • as engraved on the Lincoln Memorial


And did that scare the Elite! They slammed down on all the levers they could reach, trying to choke off the People's will to govern themselves.

I thought "1984" was a fable of the defeat of Communism by its inherent contradictions, not the game plan for the fast-coming decade, the rest of our lives and our children's lives. It was delayed a decade because Nixon jumped the gun and Woodward and Bernstein found out...but 1984 came true anyway. Reagan, the Bushes, the Slick Willie, the efforts to lead were both pathetic and laughable and unfortunately, successful in stopping all progress in basic human rights.

There were counterweights to the backlash against the 60's...most of them technology-based. Medicine became more of a science, so that people could actually be cured of more than just broken bones, and immunized against most common infectious diseases. Public health measures and services flourished, for a time. And then, they were cut.

Solar and other renewable energy, conservation, environmental remediation: technology was going to make us leaders of the natural world...just as V-E and V-J Days made us leaders of peace...Well, Reagan shut those down pretty fast. So the Internet sprang up, and flourished. It didn't ding Reagan, who was coated in Teflon anyway, but it sure messed with Shrub! All of a sudden, the Big Lie technique was not working, and the Corporatization of the Mass Media was leaking like a sieve...so the NSA and the militarization of the local Police were the counter-moves (the National Guard had all been sent to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and half a dozen other missions...plus they had lost their authority at Kent State).

I never thought I'd grow up to be a martyr, I sure as hell don't want my children or anyone's children to be martyrs. But FREEDOM ISN'T FREE.

"Freedom Is Not Free" was first coined by retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, Walter Hitchcock, of New Mexico Military Institute. The idiom expresses gratitude for the service of members of the military, implicitly stating that the freedoms enjoyed by many citizens in many democracies are only possible through the voluntary risks taken and sacrifices made by those in military. The saying is often used to convey respect specifically to those who gave their lives in defense of freedom.

"Freedom Is Not Free" is engraved into one wall at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_isn%27t_free


Nowadays, we can't even expect the armies we pay for and/or serve in to respect our freedoms....I call as witness:

1. The ongoing battle with the NSA

2. The ongoing battle with white collar, corporate fraud

3. The battle against whistle-blowers

We have many excellent witnesses to call to the stand:

NELSON MANDELA

MARIO SAVIO

EDWARD SNOWDEN

Shall we begin?


I DIDN'T WANT TO GROW UP TO BE A MARTYR. I DON'T WANT ANYONE'S CHILDREN TO GROW UP TO BE MARTYRS. MARTYRS ARE THE FIRST CLUE THAT POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC OPPRESSION ARE THRIVING.

Helen Mirren Has Tea with Dying Boy After Actual Queen Says No

http://gawker.com/helen-mirren-has-tea-with-dying-boy-after-actual-queen-509157446

Oliver Burton's dying wish was to visit Buckingham Palace and have afternoon tea with the Queen.

Unfortunately, Her Royal Highness was unable to fit the 10-year-old into her busy schedule of waving at crowds from afar — so understudy Dame Helen Mirren stepped in to take her place.

Oliver, who has Down's syndrome, has been battling various forms of cancer almost his entire life, and was recently diagnosed with terminal spine and bone marrow cancer.

But last week, for a brief wondrous afternoon, his troubles took a backseat to a meeting with the One True Queen...Mirren brought Oliver and his family to Gielgud Theatre to see her play the Queen in Peter Morgan's The Audience. Still dressed as the Queen, she then invited Oliver backstage to have tea and cakes (served by footmen!) and meet her corgis. Mirren even took the time to knight Oliver, giving him the official title of Sir.

"She stayed in character for the whole thing. Oliver thought she was the real Queen, and well, that's good enough for us," Oliver's father James Browne is quoted as saying
.

"It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet such a brave young man," Mirren later told The Sun.


6 Signs Our Culture Is Sick With Greed By RJ Eskow

http://www.alternet.org/economy/6-signs-our-culture-sick-greed


The United States of the 1960s was a nation filled with optimism. For many (though definitely not all) Americans it was a time of opportunity. Education was affordable, families could live comfortably on a single adult income, and the country seem to be on an endless upward trajectory of prosperity. We were expanding in every way, so rapidly that only the depths of space seemed able to contain the people we were about to become. The fantasy of wealth seemed somehow different in that context. Today we’re a nation being preached to by “bipartisan” corporate politicians who lecture us on the impossibility of even the selfishness of expecting a livable Social Security income in our old age. Or a living wage in our working years. Or an affordable education, so our children can live a better life economically than we did. Yet we're more infatuated with the fruits of unproductive greed today, it seems, then we were back then. Here are six signs that our culture is sick with greed.

1. There’s still no public shame in profiting off Wall Street fraud.

2. Greedy CEOs still have credibility in the media.

3. Executives are now trained to rip people off.

4. And then there’s Kanye.

5. Insight and spirituality are being commercialized ….

6. … and so is kindness to our fellow human beings.


Soul Sickness

Today there are countless signs that our culture is sick with greed...Today’s national culture of greed is also an expression of pain and fear. It’s more terrifying than ever to try to survive on a middle-class income. Most people live one or two paychecks away from disaster. Very few of us feel that we have any real control over our own fate. The lives of reality show stars and rappers are merely the most obvious of our escapist fantasies.

But as long as we live in a fantasy world, we won’t be working to change the real one. True happiness is found in a life lived with meaning. It’s not just that I can’t afford that car. We can’t afford it. We can’t afford to live in a world where our only aspiration is to accumulate wealth, irrespective of how it’s accumulated, while ignoring the flourishing of the human spirit in its artistic, idealistic and intellectual aspects.

“The love of possessions is a sickness with them,” said Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe. People are losing their lives in the pursuit of wealth and possessions. They’re dying from gunshot wounds and heart attacks, in gang battles and in solitary hospital beds. And it’s getting worse. The symptoms are appearing, not just in ourselves, but in the planet we call home. If we don’t cure it soon, it could prove fatal for all of us.



RJ Eskow is a writer, business person, and songwriter/musician. He has worked as a consultant in public policy, technology, and finance, specializing in healthcare issues.
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