Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover
we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.
AP’s Today in History for May 6th
The hydrogen-filled airship Hindenburg explodes and crashes; Psychologist Sigmund Freud and actor-director Orson Welles born; Roger Bannister is the first athlete to run a mile in fewer than four minutes.
Breakfast Tune The Pogues – The band played waltzing matilda
Something to think about, Breakfast News & Blogs below
ONE OF THE most outrageous acts of Barack Obama’s presidency was his failure to veto the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012.
The fiscal year 2012 NDAA included provisions that appeared to both codify and expand a power the executive branch had previously claimed to possess — namely, the power to hold individuals, including U.S. citizens, in military detention indefinitely — based on the Authorization to Use Military Force passed by Congress three days after 9/11.
The New York Times warned that the bill could “give future presidents the authority to throw American citizens into prison for life without charges or a trial.” Not surprisingly, Obama’s decision generated enormous outcry across the political spectrum, from Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, on the right to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on the left.
However, the NDAA did provide some weak restraints on the executive branch’s ability to use this power. In theory, the NDAA’s provisions only apply to someone involved with the 9/11 attacks or who “substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.”
But now, incredibly enough, a bipartisan group of six lawmakers, led by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., is proposing a new AUMF that would greatly expand who the president can place in indefinite military detention, all in the name of restricting presidential power. If the Corker-Kaine bill becomes law as currently written, any president, including Donald Trump, could plausibly claim extraordinarily broad power to order the military to imprison any U.S. citizen, captured in America or not, and hold them without charges essentially forever.
Spy agency NSA triples collection of U.S. phone records: official report
Dustin Volz, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. National Security Agency collected 534 million records of phone calls and text messages of Americans last year, more than triple gathered in 2016, a U.S. intelligence agency report released on Friday said.
The sharp increase from 151 million occurred during the second full year of a new surveillance system established at the spy agency after U.S. lawmakers passed a law in 2015 that sought to limit its ability to collect such records in bulk.
The spike in collection of call records coincided with an increase reported on Friday across other surveillance methods, raising questions from some privacy advocates who are concerned about potential government overreach and intrusion into the lives of U.S. citizens.
The 2017 call records tally remained far less than an estimated billions of records collected per day under the NSA’s old bulk surveillance system, which was exposed by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.
When the Trump administration announced it would allow states to institute Medicaid work requirements, policy experts warned that it could lead to racial discrimination. A proposal in the Michigan legislature that would exempt some counties from the requirement suggests how this could happen.
In Michigan, as the Detroit Free Press’s Nancy Kaffer noted, state lawmakers are pushing a plan that would require Medicaid recipients (with exceptions for the disabled, elderly, and a few other selected populations) to work or search for work at least 29 hours each week. If they fail to meet the work requirement, they could lose Medicaid coverage for a full year.
But the Michigan plan comes with a twist: People who live in counties with higher unemployment rates — above 8.5 percent — are exempted from the requirement. That is likely to lead in practice, as Kaffer observes, to rural whiter counties, where unemployment is higher, getting a break from these work requirements while urban areas with a higher share of black residents would still be subjected to them. Which means that black Medicaid enrollees would be more likely to lose their health insurance.
Mick Mulvaney’s Wells Fargo Settlement Lets the Bank Decide How Consumers Are Paid Back
David Dayen, The Intercept
THE BILLION-DOLLAR Wells Fargo settlement reached between the bank and the consumer agency now controlled by Trump adviser Mick Mulvaney has been heralded as evidence that the longtime critic of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau might not burn it to the ground after all. But a closer look at the details of that consent decree reveals that it is set up in such a way that will allow Wells Fargo to set the terms by which defrauded customers can be made whole.
Mulvaney, the CFPB acting director, is under fire for suggesting to bank executives that they need to donate to members of Congress to get heard. Sen. Sherrod Brown called for Mulvaney’s resignation on Wednesday for his explicit endorsement of “pay-to-play” politics. “Banks and payday lenders already have armies of lobbyists on their sides – they don’t need one more,” Brown said.
The senator was responding to comments Mulvaney made at the American Bankers Association conference on Tuesday. “We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mulvaney said. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”
Mulvaney’s remarks are especially jarring considering his treatment of victims of abuse at financial institutions’ hands. Compared to past agency settlements, the new Wells Fargo agreement includes a number of hurdles that appear to make it harder for victims of the bank’s misconduct to get their money back.
Teachers to protest at Kentucky Derby, a symbol of state’s inequality
Mike Elk, The Guardian
Teachers’ union activists in a state that saw a dramatic strike last month plan to protest at the running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
After last month’s Kentucky teachers’ strike, the state Republican majority chose to take control of the heavily black Jefferson county public school system, based in the Louisville area. Governor Matt Bevin said it was because of concerns about finances. Union leaders say Bevin is punishing teachers for striking.
“That sure looks like pure retribution to us,” said National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García. “Here you have Kentucky lawmakers angry that those upstart teachers demanded that something better is done for school funding and their students.”
To many activists, the Kentucky Derby and its crowd of dignitaries, including Bevin, represent everything wrong with what some consider still a racially divided, Jim Crow state.
“Kentucky does an extremely poor job of grappling with its history of racism. Symbols like the Kentucky Derby matter,” said Attica Scott, the only black woman in the Kentucky statehouse. For years a union organizer, Scott has helped previous protests at the Derby, for the rights of immigrant workers.
Tax Cuts Still Don’t Seem to Be Helping Workers
Mark Whitehouse, Bloomberg
Have corporate tax cuts made American workers better off, at least in terms of pay? It’s still pretty hard to see in government employment data.
Let’s be clear: It’s still too early to judge the success of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December. The important test will be whether it leads companies to do more investment in coming years, boosting the economy’s longer-term growth potential.
That said, the Trump administration has made a big deal out of the tax reform’s effect on workers’ wages, and companies have played along by citing it in their decisions to give raises. So it’s worth seeing whether this is reflected in the aggregate data.
When I checked a couple months ago, I found pretty much zero evidence that companies were increasing wages any more than they otherwise would have. Now that we have data from two more jobs reports, let’s take another look. Overall, wage gains do not appear to have accelerated. From December through April, average hourly earnings increased at an annualized pace of 2.3 percent, significantly slower than in 2017. Here’s a chart showing the annualized gain for each month:
Also, industries getting bigger tax breaks aren’t giving bigger raises. Two months ago, there was no correlation between the size of tax cuts and wage gains across sectors. Now it’s strongly negative. Companies engaged in wholesale trade reduced wages, even though they’re supposed to save 40 percent during the next decade (according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model). Utilities, among the biggest losers in the tax reform, raised wages at a 6.4 percent annualized rate. Here’s a chart:
- Five Ways Bosses Fight Labor
Rosemary Feurer & Chad Pearson
Something to think about over coffee prozac
Plants ‘talk to’ each other through their roots
Hannah Devlin, The Guardian
Plants use their roots to “listen in” on their neighbours, according to research that adds to evidence that plants have their own unique forms of communication.
The study found that plants in a crowded environment secrete chemicals into the soil that prompt their neighbours to grow more aggressively, presumably to avoid being left in the shade.
“If we have a problem with our neighbours, we can move flat,” said Velemir Ninkovic, an ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala and lead author. “Plants can’t do that. They’ve accepted that and they use signals to avoid competing situations and to prepare for future competition.”
Previously, scientists have shown that when plant leaves are touched as they brush up against the leaves and branches of neighbours they alter their growth strategies. Mature trees have been seen to experience “canopy shyness” and rein in their growth under crowded conditions. Others, take a more combative approach, diverting resources from root growth to expand more rapidly above ground.
The latest study reveals that this behaviour is driven, not just by mechanical cues picked up by leaves, but by chemical secretions in the soil.
The study, published in the journal Plos One, focussed on corn seedlings, which tend to boost growth in a stressed environment. Ninkovic and colleagues simulated the touch of a nearby plant by stroking the leaves for a minute each day using a makeup brush.
When they then removed the plant and placed a new one its growth solution they found that the new plant also diverted its resources to growing more leaves and fewer roots. Seedlings that were planted in growth solution that had previously hosted untouched plants did not show this pattern.
The possibility that plants communicate has surfaced periodically as a crackpot idea – in the 1980s it was suggested that trees send out electrical pulses, called W-waves, when their neighbours were chopped down. However, in recent years, fresh evidence has emerged that plants are constantly sending and receiving signals that scientists are now learning to eavesdrop on. As well as canopy shyness and aggression, plants via thread-like filaments of fungi that connect roots in complex communication networks and are able to detect whether they are surrounded by “strangers” .
‘My whole life has been a lie’: Sweden admits meatballs are Turkish
Jon Henley, The Guardian
Turks have reacted with undisguised glee to what many have described as an official – and certainly long overdue – confession from Stockholm that Sweden’s signature national dish is, in fact, Turkish.
“Those famous Swedish meatballs you get in Ikea are actually Turkish, admits Swedish government,” tweeted TRT World, Turkey’s publicly funded international television news channel.
“Swedish meatballs originally Turkish dish: Swedish government,” said the headline in Hürriyet Daily News, after Sweden’s official national Twitter account, @swedense, came clean last weekend.
“Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century,” the Swedish account revealed abruptly and for no immediately apparent reason. “Let’s stick to the facts!”
Turkey’s Anadolu agency seized the chance to speak to Annie Mattsson, of the literature department at Uppsala University, who confirmed that after losing a key battle against Russia in 1709, Charles and the remnants of his army took refuge in what is now Moldova, then part of the Ottoman empire.
Dubbed “the Lion of the North” in a book by the French writer Voltaire and also known as the “Swedish Meteor” for his early military prowess, Charles, who acceded to the throne in 1697 at the age of 15, had bitten off rather more than he could chew by taking on Russia, and spent the following six years in exile in and around present-day Turkey.
Having acquired a taste for the local cuisine, he returned to Sweden in 1714 with the recipe not just for köfte, the spiced lamb and beef meatballs that in time became the Swedish staple köttbullar, but also for the popular stuffed cabbage dish now known in Sweden as kåldolmar.
Charles, who died in 1718 when he was shot in the head while attacking Danish-occupied Norway, is also considered responsible for importing and popularising the Turkish habit of drinking coffee, which became so widespread in Sweden in the later 18th century that King Gustav III briefly banned it.
In Turkey’s meatball capital, Inegöl, this week, a local chef, İbrahim Veysel, told the Doğan news agency it was an honour that the Turkish dish should have become “an example to different cuisines all over the world”.
Others were less happy. Serdar Çam, president of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, complained that Ikea, which sells 2m meatballs a day in its in-store restaurants, .
Örjan, the forlorn – though presumably tongue-in-cheek – Swede currently curating the country’s @sweden tourism account, rotated every week, lamented that the news had robbed life of its meaning. “My whole life has been a lie,” he tweeted.