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Weekend Economists Hit the New Year (and it hits back) Goodbye 2013 / Hello 2014!

It's the time of the social calendar, when we kick back, let down our hair (if we have any), and tell the recent past to "get lost" while we look forward to rescue, redemption, and validation in the coming 365.

What will the New Year bring? More than you can stand, so just take it one day at a time, please!

We are featuring Bernie Green and his orchestra. He was MY introduction to jazz, Bernie Green Plays More Than You Can Stand. I may even have the vinyl in my garage, as my inheritance...It will have to get a lot warmer before I go looking for it!


I've just had a brick wall experience in another group...evidently, we have "valid" and "Invalid" news sources....even when you are posting a OPINION COLUMN.

I may, in the fashion of Crocodile Dundee, go walkabout...for 18 months or so. I do not suffer fools. And I think there are too many of them, lately. I cannot imagine what the next election cycle will be like, when this kind of proto-fascist idiocy is already running riot around here.

On the other hand, since the topic was the poisonous effects of Fukushima, I will AGAIN have the dubious pleasure of "I TOLD YOU SO", when "mainstream" MSM ever catches up to those who fixate on something that doesn't involve "twerking" or "number of gullible souls enrolled in rapacious insurance scams by the ACA".

To the New Year, I say:

I love saying I told you so. It's my favorite phrase. But for some reason people don't seem to appreciate it when I say it to them. I haven't figured out why. Anything that gives me that much pleasure must give other people pleasure too, right?


Radiation? In The Western Part of North America All Suffering Mysterious Diseases At the Same Time

Radiation? Seals, Sea Lions, Polar Bears, Bald Eagles, Sea Stars, Turtles, King & Sockeye Salmon, Herring, Anchovies and Sardines In The Western Part of North America All Suffering Mysterious Diseases At the Same Time


Is Fukushima Decimating Wildlife in the Western Portion of North America?

We’ve previous documented that seals, sea lions, polar bears, sea stars, turtles, sockeye salmon, herring, anchovies and sardines on the West Coast of North America are all suffering mysterious diseases … which are killing many.

We’ve asked whether this is related to massive releases of radiation from Fukushima. Update at link.

Sadly, we can now add other wildlife to the list.

EneNews reports:

Los Angeles Times, Dec. 29, 2013: Bald eagles are dying in Utah — 20 in the past few weeks alone — and nobody can figure out why. [...] Many suffered from seizures, head tremors and paralysis [...] Many of the eagles were brought to the mammoth Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah [...] Within 48 hours, most were dead. [...] State wildlife specialists are baffled. For weeks, officials have sent birds for necropsies [...] At first, the agency’s disease scientists guessed the illness could be encephalitis, which is caused by the West Nile virus, but later ruled out that possibility. [...] Officials suggest the die-off is possibly connected to the deaths of thousands of eared grebes that began in Utah in November. [...] Officials still don’t know why the shore birds became sick. [...] Officials at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center have their own theories. Some point to radiation from Japan after the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. [...] A call from Idaho shed new light: A wildlife official said bald eagles there were also getting sick, suggesting the birds were arriving in Utah already in bad health.

Buz Marthaler, Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah co-founder: “It’s just hard to have your national bird in your arms, going through seizures in a way it can’t control — when you can see it’s pain but don’t know what’s happening to it. As a human being, you just have problems with that. And when you lose one, it just grabs your heart. [...] In an average year, we might get one or two, but we’ve received nine so far, and five of those have died. The other four are still in our care. [...] We aren’t ruling out anything.”


Washington Post, Dec. 30, 2013: [...] “This is really concerning to us,” says [Leslie McFarlane, the wildlife disease program coordinator for the state’s Division of Wildlife Resources]. She has been program coordinator for 10 years and describes the recent deaths as “very unusual.” [...] The symptoms noted in the recent spate of deaths—and the broad geographical area in which they have cropped up—are what has officials concerned.

Listen to the public news service report here: LINK AT OP

In a second article, EneNews notes:

Juneau Empire, Dec. 29, 2013: [...] the king [chinook] salmon — has fallen from its throne. [...] Alaska has seen unprecedented declines in recent years [...] scientists like Joe Orsi and Jim Murphy, both fisheries research biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are digging deeper into [...] the cause of the startling downward trend. [...] When asked about the potential impact Fukushima may be having on king salmon stocks in the Gulf of Alaska and elsewhere in the state, Orsi would not comment. “I’ve been told to refer you to the (Environmental Protection Agency),” he said, “Because I’m not an expert on the topic.” Calls and emails to the EPA were not returned in time and digging on the federal agency’s site revealed no current information on radiation from the Fukushima disaster. The last posted monitoring results occurred in June of 2011.

Unfortunately, the American and Japanese governments are doing everything they can to cover up the severity of the Fukushima disaster. Indeed, anytime government or big corporations screw up, the government works to cover it up … instead of actually fixing the problem. And see this AT LINK.

EneNews continues:

Bellingham Herald, Dec. 5, 2013: “[...] we see from test fisheries that the Chinook numbers returning to the Fraser River system were at a record low,” explained Ken Balcomb, executive director and principal investigator for The Center for Research and a science advisor to the whale watch association. [...] [An] alarming decrease of an important identified food resource [...]

Islander Sound, Dec. 25, 2013: [A] dismal return of Chinook salmon to the Fraser River.

Salmon Fishing in British Columbia, Canada: There are two major salmon runs of Chinook that are targeted by anglers; the Fraser river [and] Harrison River.

December 2013: Previously unpublished map from gov’t scientists shows Fukushima plume already at Alaska coast (PHOTO)

November 2013: CBC Headline: Radiation from Fukushima arrives on Alaska coast — University scientists concerned — “Is the food supply safe?… I don’t think anyone can really answer that”

September 2013: US Gov’t: Alaska island “appears to show impacts from Fukushima” — “Significant cesium isotope signature” detected — Scientists anticipate more marine life to be impacted as ocean plume arrives (VIDEO)


Weekend Economists Stamp Out Ignorance December 27-29, 2013

Whose ignorance? Well, mine, for one.

There's a quiet joy spreading the nation, as news of the failure of UPS and FedEx to deliver Xmas on time is contrasted with the US Postal Service's steady, reliable, unionized service. The postal workers came through, just like the unofficial motto says--there's no official motto, but there's an inscription on the James Farley Post Office at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street in New York City that reads:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Here's how the official Web site of the U.S. Postal Service describes the origin of the inscription:

This inscription was supplied by William Mitchell Kendall of the firm of McKim, Mead & White, the architects who designed the New York General Post Office. Kendall said the sentence appears in the works of Herodotus and describes the expedition of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus, about 500 B.C. The Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers, and the sentence describes the fidelity with which their work was done. Professor George H. Palmer of Harvard University supplied the translation, which he considered the most poetical of about seven translations from the Greek.

The James A. Farley Post Office Building is the main post office building in New York City. Its ZIP code designation is 10001, and it is commonly addressed on letters as JAF Station. Built in 1912, the building is famous for bearing the inscription: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." In 1982, the post office was officially designated The James A. Farley Building, as a monument and testament to the political career of the nation's 53rd Postmaster General. The Farley Post Office is home to "Operation Santa", made famous in the classic 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street and it is the inspiration for the post office in Terry Pratchett's Going Postal, with its "Glom of nit" legend.

The Farley Building consists of the old general post office building and its western annex. The Farley building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and occupies two full city blocks, an 8-acre (32,000 m2) footprint straddling the tracks of the Northeast Corridor and the Farley Corridor (sub-district B) in western Midtown Manhattan. The building fronts on the west side of Eighth Avenue, across from Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden. It is located at 421 Eighth Avenue, between 31st Street and 33rd Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan.

The Farley Post Office once held the distinction of being the only Post Office in New York City open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But in 2009, due to the economic downturn, its windows began to close at 10:00 p.m.

This building has a great and unique history.

But, so does the Institution! We shall learn more about the USPS this Weekend, along with the usual economic claptrap...

A Very Adult Social Security Tantrum


... On another, saner planet, you might expect the strategists of a major political party to hear out a proposal to make the most popular spending program of the past century or so available to more people. You’d also think that said strategists would understand, on a purely political calculus, that it’s a good idea to reinforce the honorable Democratic origins of Social Security in the minds of voters who have precious little else to induce them to vote their pocketbooks in coming election cycles. But you would, of course, be wrong. That’s because the Democratic establishment is an all-but wholly owned subsidiary of Washington’s interlocking lobbying, consulting and pundit classes. These operators are devotees of the catechism that entitlement spending simply must be reined in at every conceivable other cost—and that making the difficult, grown-up decision to do just that renders one a Responsible Political Leader with the bona fides to lounge about in David Gregory’s Green Room.

So it was with the brio of genuine Democratic Grown-ups that Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler, respectively the president and senior policy executive for the center-right Democratic think tank Third Way, took to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal to hammer away at the refrain that the principles of economic populism, as embodied in Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s modest plan to increase Social Security benefits to keep better pace with inflation, are simply “disastrous.” Warren would pay for the increase by raising taxes on the wealthy, they wail. Worse, they argue, increasing federal spending on dread “entitlements” would beggar other progressive Democratic causes, like more robust spending on the nation’s aging infrastructure...But wonder of wonders, Cowen and Kessler’s faux-adult posturing—which was but the latest entry in Washington’s never-ending pageant of fiscal-restraint display, from the Gramm-Rudman balanced-budget act of 1985 to 2011’s imbecilic Simpson-Bowles “grand bargain” on spending—was called out with unusual vigor by actual economic populists. Progressives United, the political action committee founded by former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, sent out a heated round of donor appeals, with subject headings like “Who Do These People Think They Are?”—and then supplied the impolitic answer: “Third Way is a corporate-funded ‘Democratic’ organization that took to the Wall Street Journal to attack Elizabeth Warren and progressives for fighting to expand Social Security and make the wealthy pay their fair share.” Warren, for her part, threatened to fully expose the corporate donors behind Third Way via a call for Wall Street titans to disclose their expenditures on think tanks—a proposition that would likely be more than a little embarrassing to the group. As Lee Fang has reported at The Nation, Third Way counts two big-ticket Romney donors on its board, Daniel Loeb and Derek Kaufman, and has contracted out consulting work to the corporate lobbying behemoth Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart, which has a vast range of boodlers on its client roster, from the health-care giant Humana to the PhRMA trade association to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association. It’s a galactic understatement to say that these organizations are none too keen on seeing tax hikes fund a wide swath of income benefits to the nation’s hard-pressed middle and working classes.

It’s too much to hope, of course, that this glimpse into D.C.’s standard-issue policy-racketeering could serve as a teachable moment, driving home for a genuine populist Democratic constituency the disgraceful folly of self-enamored Beltway centrism. That’s particularly regrettable these days, since more impartial assessments of the impact of Great Society liberalism show that its central income guarantees not only remain quite popular politically but have proven quite successful as social policy. This view flies in the face of a whole generation’s worth of Reaganite propaganda seeking to discredit the many vital legacies of the New Deal—but the record, as reported by a team of Columbia University researchers, shows that safety net programs caused the actual rate of poverty in the United States to decrease from 26 percent in 1967 to 12 percent in 2012 and, strikingly, that the expansion of protections like unemployment insurance after the 2008 economic meltdown prevented a significant uptick in poverty despite our job-starved, austerity-addled “recovery.”

Indeed, on closer inspection, the entire centrist Democrat campaign of scaremongering about social spending pales into little more than a pipsqueak’s tantrum. In one bite-sized bit of budget alarmism, Cowen and Kessler complain that in the balmier economic conditions of the 1960s, Washington spent $3 on infrastructure for every dollar it laid out for income benefits like Social Security—and that ratio has now more than reversed, with $5 spent on entitlements for each lousy dollar on infrastructure improvements. But this disparity, which Cowen and Kessler trumpet as a sign of approaching Armageddon, turns out, like so many sky-is-falling spending laments, to be nothing of the sort. The “flipped” ratios here look so startling mainly because two of the main drivers of entitlement spending, Medicare and Medicaid, were not up and running until the late 1960s—i.e. the decade that serves as the baseline of optimal spending comparison for our Third Way shills. The Social Security trust fund, which reliably shows surpluses based on tax receipts and bond revenues, is in precisely no imminent fiscal danger. And Medicare spending, the program most battered by revenue shortfalls, has lately trended below projected outlays by, oh, a half-a-trillion dollars. What’s more, such cost reductions in the program should gain additional momentum as this country finally adopts something like universal health coverage, however slowly and oafishly it elects to do so. In short, the only livelihoods credibly threatened by expanded spending on income supports are those enjoyed by the likes of Cowan, Kessler and other professional alarmists of the punditocracy. They don’t need to worry much, though, by the looks of things. In the recent ballyhooed bipartisan deal on the federal budget, Congress is gearing up to slash some $25 billion in benefits for the long-term unemployed. Call it the Third Way agenda, or the One Percenters’ rule—it’s all just business as usual on Planet Washington.
Chris Lehmann

Chris Lehmann, a contributing editor of In These Times, is an editor of Book Forum and the Baffler and the author of Rich People Things (Haymarket, 2011). He is now working on a book about American religion and the money culture.

Americans Suddenly Discovering How Insurance Works


Did you know that if you never get sick, you'll pay more in premiums than you'll get in benefits? Damn those lucky duckies with cancer!...The only people who come out ahead in dollars and cents on insurance are those people who have had terrible things happen to them. What the rest of us are buying, as any insurance salesman will tell you, is peace of mind....

It's been said to the point of becoming cliche that once Democrats passed significant health-care reform, they'd "own" everything about the American health-care system for good or ill. For some time to come, people will blame Barack Obama for health-care problems he had absolutely nothing to do with. But there's a corollary to that truism we're seeing play out now, which is that what used to be just "a sucky thing that happened to me" or "something about the way insurance works that I don't particularly like"—things that have existed forever—are now changing into issues, matters that become worthy of media attention and are attributed to policy choices, accurately or not. Before now, millions of Americans had health insurance horror stories. But they didn't have an organizing narrative around them, particularly one the news media would use as a reason to tell them.

The latest has to do with the provider networks that insurance companies put together. This is something insurance companies have done for a long time, because it enables them to limit costs. If an insurer has a lot of customers in an area, it can say to doctors, "We'll put you in our provider network, giving you access to all our customers. But we only pay $50 for an office visit. Take it or leave it." An individual doctor might think that it's less than she'd like to be paid, but she needs those patients, so she'll say yes. Or she might decide that she has enough loyal patients to keep her business running, and she wants to charge $100 for an office visit, so she'll say no. So every year, doctors move in and out of those private-provider networks, and the insurers adjust what they pay for various visits and procedures, and inevitably some people find that their old doctor is no longer in their network. Or they change jobs and find the same thing when they get new insurance. And that can be a hassle.

But now they have someone new to blame: not the insurance company that established the network, and not the doctor that chose not to be a part of it, but Barack Obama. It's not just my hassle, it's a national issue. As Politico reported, "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said to reporters on Tuesday that the 'fundamentally flawed' health care law is 'causing people to lose the doctor of their choice.' Chief GOP investigator Darrell Issa has launched a House probe into the doctor claim. And House Republicans have highlighted the physician predicament in their weekly GOP addresses." So to reiterate: Your insurance company set terms for its network that your doctor didn't like. Your doctor decided not to be in that network. And that, of course, is Barack Obama's fault.

Before we move on, there's something we should note. You know who never loses their doctor? People who have single-payer insurance, that's who. If you live in pretty much any other industrialized country in the world, you don't have to worry whether your doctor accepts the national health plan that insures you and everyone else, because every doctor accepts it. Even here in America, there are people who almost never have to worry about losing their doctor: the elderly people who benefit from America's single-payer plan, Medicare. Despite their constant gripes about payment levels, 90 percent of doctors accept Medicare, because there are just too many Medicare patients and doctors don't want to be shut out of that business.


To get back to the place we started, it can seem now that people are saying for the first time, "Wait a minute! Insurance is a raw deal! I mean, Obamacare is a raw deal!" And the media are doing their part by running stories that characterize the side effects of the private insurance market, like limited networks of doctors or the fact that less expensive plans have higher deductibles, as something new that's occurring only because of the Affordable Care Act. But they aren't. If you want to have a system of private health insurers, that's how it has worked in the past, and that's how it will continue to work. If you really want to be free of those problems, you'll have to wait until you're 65 and can join the big-government, socialist plan called Medicare.

Paul Waldman is a contributing editor for the Prospect and the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Scientists Link Spike in Thyroid Disease to Fukushima Disaster


...Well, not only do we know that the radiation has come here and that the greatest amounts were on the West Coast, but we also know in general that the people that are most susceptible to radiation exposure are the very young--the fetus, the infant, and the young child. A dose to an adult would not nearly be as harmful as the same dose to a fetus or a newborn. We also know that the thyroid gland is extremely susceptible to radiation. The thyroid gland is a gland--looks like a butterfly kind of wrapped around the throat. One of the chemicals that's in that radioactive mix is radioactive iodine. And when you ingest iodine, it goes immediately from the stomach to the bloodstream to the thyroid gland, where it attacks and kills cells.

So at the time we started the article, really the only data from 2011 that we had was on newborns with hypothyroidism. Every baby in this state, in this country, every newborn baby is tested for certain diseases, one of which is hypothyroidism. And we looked at California, which, of course, is the most populated state, and we looked at the changes in the rates of hypothyroidism for the nine months after Fukushima compared to the previous year, and we found a 26 percent increase in the rate of hypothyroidism... There are very few other known causes of hypothyroidism other than exposure to radioactive iodine, and the same thing for the thyroid cancer as well, which iodine also raises the risk of, things like diet, you know, not enough iodine, nonradioactive, in the diet. But that doesn't occur in the U.S. It's mostly in Third World countries. Other things, like whether it runs in one's family and so on. As far as a real reason--oh, and history of hypo--of a thyroid disease, which doesn't occur in newborns. They're newborn. Really, this is it....the doses in Japan are hundreds, thousands of times higher than they were on the West Coast. Unfortunately, there have really been no studies in Japan except for one, and that is one that's being done by the Fukushima Medical University. They haven't looked at hypothyroidism, but what they've done is this: they have taken 200,000 children under age 18 who live relatively close to Fukushima, and they tested for two things. The first they tested for was thyroid cancer. And they have found up to 59 children have thyroid cancer. In a normal population, it's very rare in children. In a normal--we would expect one or two. They have 59.

Second thing that they found is they through ultrasound look at the child's thyroid gland for precancerous lumps, you know, what they call cysts and nodules. And so far, 56 percent of children near Fukushima do in fact have a precancerous cyst or a nodule. And every year it gets higher--two years ago, 35 percent, last year 45 percent, this year 56 percent. Pretty soon we're going to find that almost every child in the area has a precancerous growth on their thyroid gland. And that is--to me that is a powerful statement about how dangerous this meltdown has been... Yes, of course the radiation gets diluted. It's most intense closest to Fukushima when it goes into the Pacific Ocean. And as it goes, you know, miles and miles, it gets more diluted. However, it does not mean that that radiation does not pose a health risk. All radiation poses a health risk, even at relatively low doses. And that's what we believe is happening in the West Coast right now, because it keeps coming and coming.

The other thing is that all these statements about the radiation is harmless is premature because the reactors are still not under control. They are still leaking. They are still spewing out these terrible poisons. Even a meltdown like Chernobyl in 1986, which again went around--like Fukushima, went around the globe and caused many, many people to become sick and die, it was over after a few weeks. They were able to dump dirt and sand and salt on the reactor and put a sarcophagus over it. Fukushima is still giving out radiation. It's still not under control. And that's almost three years later. And that--so any statement on health, especially that it doesn't pose risk, is very premature and really a disappointment that any official would say that.


Bush's Foiled NSA Blackmail Scheme


More than a decade ago, President George W. Bush enlisted the National Security Agency in a blackmail scheme to dig up dirt to coerce UN Security Council members to approve his aggressive war against Iraq. But the plot was foiled by a brave British intelligence officer, Katharine Gun, as Dennis J. Bernstein reports.

In early 2003, as the U.S. and British governments were seeking international acquiescence to their aggressive war on Iraq, an unexpected cog throw into the propaganda machine was the disclosure that the National Security Agency was spying on UN Security Council members in search of blackmail material.

The revelation received little attention in the mainstream U.S. news media, which was almost fully onboard the pro-war bandwagon, but the disclosure received wide international attention and stopped the blackmail scheme. U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were forced to abandon a UN resolution and invade Iraq with a ragtag “coalition of the willing.”

Several months later, the identity of the leaker was revealed, a young woman named Katharine Gun who worked as a linguist at the NSA’s UK counterpart, British Government Communications Headquarters. Gun lost her job and was charged under British secrecy laws, but the case was dropped because the court would have required the Blair government to disclose that it also had twisted the arms of legal advisers to extract an opinion endorsing the invasion...

Weekend Economists Deck the Halls Christmas Day 2013

Christmas Eve!

Time to imagine the kind of Christmas you always wanted....

Unemployment at 3%.
Minimum wage of $20
Universal single payer
6 months of paid maternity leave and paternity leave, regardless!
Public State and Federal banks (banking as utility)
Free college for all (minimum GPA standards) with work study
Marginal tax rates of 90% on excess income
Marginal tax rates of 90% on excess inheritances
Distributed renewable energy / public utilities
Peace on Earth, Good Will to All Peoples

One Hundred Years Is Enough: Time to Make the Fed a Public Utility By Ellen Brown


December 23rd, 2013, marks the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve, warranting a review of its performance. Has it achieved the purposes for which it was designed?

The answer depends on whose purposes we are talking about. For the banks, the Fed has served quite well. For the laboring masses whose populist movement prompted it, not much has changed in a century.

Thwarting Populist Demands

The Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1913 in response to a wave of bank crises, which had hit on average every six years over a period of 80 years. The resulting economic depressions triggered a populist movement for monetary reform in the 1890s. Mary Ellen Lease, an early populist leader, said in a fiery speech that could have been written today:

Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. . . . Money rules . . . .Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us. . . .

We want money, land and transportation. We want the abolition of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the government. We want the foreclosure system wiped out.


My Fundie Aunt sends us greetings

To All My Democrat Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2014, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other countries nor the only "America" in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.

To My Republican Friends:
Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!


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