Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Chicago mulls 'universal basic income' testing, 'direct cash transfers to people'

The Windy City may soon experiment with giving its citizens cash windfalls via a universal basic income pilot program.

Chicago alderman Ameya Pawar appears to be well on his way to convincing colleagues to test his UBI program for 1,000 families.

"UBI could be an incredible benefit for people who are working and are having a tough time making ends meet or putting food on the table at the end of the month. It's time to start thinking about direct cash transfers to people so that they can start making plans about how they're going to get by."

Mr. Pawar's bill would also implement a process known as "Smoothing" for families taking part in the Earned Income Tax Credit program; they would be paid monthly instead of annually.

"Our hope, that I know will be born out in this pilot, is that it will show that when we smooth out the EITC, and we provide a monthly basic income to 1,000 families, that they will be able to plan for expenses, they can make decisions about savings, they can make decisions about investing, they could make decisions about how they could deal with a financial emergency, just like all families do," Mr. Pawar said.

Not mentioned by the official was how the debt-ridden city would pay for an expansion of such a program.

"Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown said the city's total pension debt now stands at $28 billion, down from $31 billion a year ago, thanks to the state legislation," the Chicago Sun-Times reported July 11.


Internal FBI employee survey shows plummeting faith in bureau leadership

An annual survey of FBI employees found a sharp decline in confidence in bureau leadership amid a series of scandals, results published Sunday indicate.

Although pride in working at the FBI remained about the same, faith in the "Honesty and integrity" of senior executives plummeted - going from an average employee rating of more than four out of five in 2017 to 3.5 out of five this year at the FBI's 56 field offices.

Workers at FBI headquarters in Washington reported a slightly less dramatic erosion of faith in leaders' honesty.

The survey data was collected in February and March amid significant internal uncertainty about the fate of top leaders including then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and FBI agent Peter Strzok.

Strzok, the former deputy assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division, helped lead investigations of Hillary Clinton's private email server and possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia.

McCabe was fired in March after the Justice Department's inspector general found he lied to FBI agents and former FBI Director James Comey about authorizing a leak about the FBI's Clinton Foundation investigation.

The survey suggests an even sharper erosion of faith in the FBI's director, currently Christopher Wray, who took office last year after Comey was fired by President Trump for alleged wrongdoing during the Clinton emails investigation.


Facebook removes page inciting violence against Republicans after lawmaker's appeal

Facebook on Tuesday removed a page for inciting violence against Republicans after Rep. Matt Gaetz brought it up in a hearing.

Gaetz said his office previously brought the page to Facebook's attention and the social media giant dismissed concerns.

During the hearing, the Florida Republican highlighted content posted on a page titled "Milkshakes against the Republican Party" that called for "Crazed shooters" to target the GOP's congressional baseball team and attack the NRA. Gaetz noted the social media platform previously said the page didn't meet its criteria for removal when his office contacted them about the posts.

"I am glad Facebook swiftly removed this offensive page; while I unconditionally support the First Amendment, inciting violence against others due to their political affiliation is not Constitutionally-protected speech," Gaetz said in a statement.

"While removing this page was a small step forward to making Facebook a safer place, bigger questions remain."

Republicans argue that Facebook is biased against conservative content.

"This distinction is not merely academic, as they are governed by different laws and different rules. If Facebook claims to be a neutral forum, it cannot continue to limit conservative content; if Facebook claims to be a publisher, it will lose its legal 'immunity' under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act," he continued.


Diplomacy 101 Versus Politics Writ Small

The high professional quality of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin's performance at their Monday press conference in Helsinki contrasts sharply with the obloquy by which the bipartisan U.S. ruling class showcases its willful incompetence.

For the sake of peace and adjustment of differences where those exist and adjustment is possible, Trump is willing to pay a political cost to improve those relations.

Trump, leaving no doubt that America's commitment to Israel's security is absolute, faced Putin with the choice of partnering with America in restraining Iran or of being drawn into an Israeli-American war against an Iran with whose forces Russia's are interwoven.

Putin, for his part, seemed to concur with Trump's priority.

The Associated Press reporter demanded that Trump state whether he believes the opinions of U.S. intelligence leaders or those of Putin.

Said Trump emphatically, those making the accusations against Russia have refused to let the server be examined by U.S. intelligence or by any independent experts.

So are the ruling class representatives who have redoubled their animus against Trump.


Ocasio-Cortez Credits Prosperity Under Capitalism to 'Course of Human Evolution'

Self-declared Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated Rep. Joe Crowley in a congressional primary last month, said Friday that material gains under capitalism were the result of "Human evolution."

Hoover asked about the future of capitalism and pointed out that it's the economic system that has brought the most people out of poverty, but Ocasio-Cortez attributed modern prosperity to humanity's natural growth.

"So I would hope that the most recent economic system, our current economic system, is the one that is most beneficial for everyday people."

"We're starting to see that the people who create value in society are not experiencing any portion of the value that they are creating. So I do think that, absolutely, capitalism was the most efficient and best economy, perhaps, for the time that it was at, perhaps. But as we evolve, as automation begins to take out extremely large industries, we have to say that we aren't going to throw those people away," she said.

"Ultimately we are marching towards progress on this issue. I do think that we are going to see an evolution in our economic system of an unprecedented degree. And it's hard to say what direction that that takes," she said.

Hoover pressed on whether she though capitalism would be the dominant system in the future, and Ocasio-Cortez said, "It's absolutely a question."

Ocasio-Cortez has struggled to differentiate between the socialist system and her democratic socialist views since she gained instant notoriety for her victory over Crowley.


The uninformed economic views of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in 2 charts


The Myth of Scandinavian Socialism


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about the 'occupation of Palestine' but she doesn't know what that means

On the PBS show "Firing Line," Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the rising socialist star of the Democratic party, tried to talk about Israel.

Host Margaret Hoover, who had served in the George W. Bush White House, asked Ocasio-Cortez about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ocasio-Cortez mentioned the "Occupation of Palestine." For most people who use that phrase, it refers to the creation and ongoing existence of the state of Israel, which they argue has deprived Palestinians of their homeland.

The Democratic Socialists of America, of which Cortez is a card-carrying member and whose ranks have swelled after the 2016 election, passed a resolution in 2017 supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, known as BDS. BDS has been criticized, including by Democrats and other people on the left, for its lack of clarity on support for a two-state solution and thus the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, an unrealistic approach to the "Right to return," lack of support from the Palestinian Authority, and ongoing embitterment of the already tense conflict, among other issues.

Ocasio-Cortez, who, in the same interview claimed to support a two-state solution before referring to the entire conflict as the "Occupation of Palestine," clearly has a lot of reading to do before jumping into Washington and national television.

Their star doesn't seem ready for the national stage.

On key issues, she doesn't even seem to know what she believes.


"Mass Hysteria"

About what? About Russian interference in our elections.

U.S. intelligence officials are concerned about what Donald Trump might be revealing to the Russian leader, the way he revealed classified information to the Russian foreign minister when he met privately with him in the Oval Office at the beginning of his term.

Sending lethal arms to Ukraine, bordering Russia, is a really serious adverse action against the interest of the Russian government.

So is expelling Russian diplomats and imposing serious sanctions on oligarchs that are close to the Putin regime.

GLENN GREENWALD: That's because the reality is-and I don't know if Donald Trump knows this or doesn't know this, has stumbled into the truth or what-but the reality is that what the Russians did in 2016 is absolutely not aberrational or unusual in any way.

The United States interferes in Russian politics, and they interfere in their cyber systems, and they invade their email systems, and they invade all kinds of communications all the time.

Even if the Russians did everything that Robert Mueller claims in that indictment that they did, in the scheme of what the U.S. and the Russians do to one another and other countries, I think to say that this is somehow something that we should treat as a grave threat, that should mean that we don't talk to them or that we treat them as an enemy, is really irrational and really quite dangerous.