Feels like a tinder box

Everywhere these days:

SÃO PAULO—The latest in a string of protests against transportation-fare increases turned violent on Thursday, as tensions grow over unemployment and rising inflation in Brazil.

Thousands of protesters gathered in the late afternoon at the Municipal Theater in central São Paulo and marched through the city center. Just after 7 p.m., police began firing tear gas into the crowd, sending protesters running. People screamed “Fascist police!” and threw stones at the police as smoke filled the air.

The demonstration was the fourth since last week in response to a nearly 7% increase in public transport fares in the city to 3.20 reais, or about $1.50.

Earlier in the day, a strike by suburban rail workers had caused confusion in São Paulo, forcing hundreds of thousands of commuters to switch to emergency bus services or use their cars.

A similar demonstration Tuesday, also organized by the group called Movimento Passe Livre, or the free-pass movement, swelled to an estimated 12,000 people and also became violent, with protesters throwing stones and vandalizing buses and subway stations, and military police using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

Elizabeth Warren calls for Trans-Pacific Partnership transparency

This is a truly vile agreement. I dare anyone to read it and stay an Obama booster:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Thursday sent a letter to President Barack Obama’s nominee to head U.S. trade negotiations, expressing concerns about the administration’s lack of transparency in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal being negotiated largely in secret.

Labor unions, public health advocates and environmental groups have long decried so-called free trade policies for undermining important regulations in the pursuit of corporate profits. The letter signals that Warren’s tough stance on bank regulation extends to other major consumer and public interest matters.

What the public does know about the TPP has been learned through leaked documents. According to those documents, the Obama administration is seeking to grant corporations the ability to directly challenge regulations in countries involved in the talks — a political power that was typically reserved for sovereign nations until the 1990s. Obama opposed such policies as a presidential candidate in 2008. The leaked intellectual property chapter of the deal includes provisions that would increase the costs of life-saving medicines in poor countries.

Warren’s letter does not take issue with specific terms of the negotiations, but rather the secrecy surrounding the process. Members of Congress have been allowed to see TPP negotiation texts. Some have said they were insulted by the complex administrative procedures the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, or USTR, imposed to actually access the texts — barriers not imposed on unelected corporate advisers.

Thanks to DUI Attorney Karin Porter.

U.S. Open

I don’t get it. I’m right there with Mark Twain: “Golf is a good walk spoiled. This is such a big deal locally, and everyone is so upset because it was rained out this morning. They’re interviewing people on TV who traveled here from all parts of the country, and I just don’t understand the attraction. I mean, people say baseball is too boring to watch? At least there’s a strategy. Golf doesn’t seem very interesting.

Plus, from years in sales, I associate golf with the good old boys of the sales department, schmoozing and drinking. Maybe it’s a class thing, but I just can’t stand it.

Middle-aged aches and pains

I really fucked up my leg again (slammed my foot into a footstool). I also twisted my knee two weeks ago, and it wasn’t feeling any better. So I went to the physiatrist again today, and we spent about a half hour, just trying to figure out what to do next. “You’re still in pain, which tells me it’s really inflamed,” he said. “Ordinarily, I’d throw a couple of acupuncture needles in there, but since you had such a strong reaction the last time, I’m reluctant to do it.”

We finally decided to do a cortisone shot, since it would at least deal with the pain, and that’s what was making it so hard to walk. (I’d like to be able to get around at Netroots Nation next week. I can dream, can’t I?)

Then he taped up my knee and told me to go home and ice it. Here’s hoping! It’s amazing, how much of middle age is dealing with these little problems. (Which is why they should lower the Medicare age to 50.)

How the few choose inequality for the many

And this is what I mean when I say our politics are now profoundly undemocratic:

The U.S has become a less equal society over the past 30 years, but it didn’t just happen. Inequality in the U.S. happened by design, not by chance. It is the direct result of government policy. David Cay Johnston writes that the top 1 percent had just 10 percent of all reported national income. By 1999 the top 1 percent claimed 20 percent of national income. Since 2000, they have claimed about 1 fifth of national income. During the recovery, from 2009 to 2011, 121 percent of gains in income went to the top 1 percent.

Tax cuts for the wealthy are have driven the wrist in inequality in two ways. The report cited by Johnston and Callahan says that “tax cuts may have led managerial energies to be diverted to increasing their remuneration at the expense of enterprise growth and employment.” That means CEOs are padding their portfolios at the expense of the companies they run. Tax policy not only made the “vulture capitalism” practiced and practically invented by Bain Capital possible, it incentivized and rewarded it.

What we know about tax cuts now is pretty straightforward. Tax cuts of the wealthy won’t stimulate the economy, won’t create jobs, and won’t spread prosperity, because the wealthy don’t spend their tax cuts. Instead, the wealthy save their tax windfalls, to invest when the stock market is booming.

Thus the money represented by tax cuts for the wealthy doesn’t get invested in jobs (outside of Wall Street hedge funds, that is). Much of it gets invested in creating more wealth, detached from actual work.

Besides investing their money in creating more wealth (known as “letting your money make money for you), the wealthy also invest their money in public policies that safeguard and/or further increase their wealth. Callahan writes, “The United States has chosen to become a less equal society over the past generation, and that choice has been made by an electoral and policy system dominated by private money and wealthy interests.”

Go read the rest.

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