Brutal

The news this week is pretty brutal, as we see surveillance agencies, intelligence agencies, corporations, the courts, monied elites, politicians and world organizations continue to play games behind the scenes with our interests, throwing us an occasional bone or shiny object to sate our appetites.

With fewer and fewer consumer protections, with police and military and elected officials in their pockets, with a fourth estate unwilling to muckrake, SHALL WE CALL UPON THE MIGHTY GODS to protect us? The brutal Guitar Gods, that is, showcasing all of the different stylings that keep our species going in the darkest of night.

PLAYLIST
Hall Of The Mountain King – The Who
Allman Brothers – Whipping Post
Fiddle Medley – Bela Fleck Acoustic Trio
Owls – Leo Kottke
Epilogue/Amazing Grace – Phil Keaggy
Fried Neckbones And Home Fries – Santana
Surfing With the Alien – Joe Satriani
Rockabilly World – Stray Cats
No Particular Place To Go – Chuck Berry
Rumble – Link Wray
Me And The Devil Blues – Robert Johnson
Going Down – Freddie King
How Many More Years – B.B. King
Come On (Let The Good Times Roll) – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Freeway Jam – Jeff Beck With The Jan Hammer Group
George Harrison with Eric Clapton – While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Lenny – Stevie Ray Vaughan
Concerto n°6 for violoncello and orchestra in D major III. Allegretto – Andrés Segovia
Hotel California – Gipsy Kings
Mr. Soul – Neil Young
Rock and Roll – Led Zeppelin
Blue Orchid – The White Stripes
Giant Robot – Buckethead
Have A Cigar – Primus

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-06-30: Brutal by The Stranger on Mixcloud

As WIRED points out, the Supreme Court has had a very mixed year, letting stand rulings upholding torture, a $675,000 verdict for file-sharing 30 music tracks, and declining without comment to clarify on what grounds public schools may punish students for their off-campus, online speech.

Here is a summary of key decisions from the court’s 2011-2012 term:

United States v. Jones

In one of the biggest Fourth Amendment cases blending technology and privacy in a decade, the justices ruled unanimously in January that the authorities need a warrant to affix a GPS device to a vehicle to track its every move.

Golan v. Holder

In its biggest copyright decision of the term, the justices ruled 6-2 in January that Congress may take books, musical compositions and other works out of the public domain, where they can be freely used and adapted, and grant them copyright status again.

Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations

The justices last week set aside (.pdf) indecency rulings against Fox and ABC for airing fleeting expletives and nudity on the public airwaves, but declined to rule on the constitutionality of decency standards for broadcast television and radio.

United States v. Alvarez

The justices ruled (.pdf) 6-3 Thursday that a 2006 law making it a federal criminal offense to lie about being decorated for military service was an unconstitutional

Here is a summary of important cases the justices agreed to review at its next term, beginning this fall:

Clapper v. Amnesty International

The high court in May agreed to decide whether to halt a legal challenge to a once-secret warrantless surveillance program targeting Americans’ communications that Congress eventually legalized in 2008.

The announcement is a win for the Obama administration, which like its predecessor, argues that government wiretapping programs can’t be challenged in court.

Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons

The top court in April agreed to decide the global reach of U.S. copyright law, in a case testing whether an overseas purchaser of a copyrighted work may resell it in the United States without the copyright holder’s permission.

The case concerns the “first-sale” doctrine. allows the purchaser of any copyrighted work to re-sell or use the work in many ways without the copyright holder’s permission. That’s why used bookstores, libraries, GameStop, video rental stores and even eBay are all legal.

Florida v. Jardines

The court agreed in January to decide for the first time whether judges may issue search warrants for private residences when a drug-sniffing dog outside the home reacts as if it smells drugs inside.

The Supreme Court’s narrow decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate as a valid exercise of Congress’ taxing power has reignited a war over whether Democrats broke their pledge not to raise middle-class taxes, and whether they misled the public by insisting the mandate was not a tax during the contentious health care reform debate.

After all, back in September 2009, President Obama insisted to ABC News, “for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. … I absolutely reject that notion.”

We’ve got the most shamefully inhumane yet expensive health care system in the world.

And any efforts to get affordable health care insurance have been challenged by the National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB), a highly partisan front group masquerading as the “nation’s leading small business association,” which pocketed more than $10 million in six figure contributions in 2010 and 2011, with $8.5 million coming from just four contributors. As a non-profit, NFIB is not required to disclose its donors, but it is known that the organization received $3.7 million in 2010 from Karl Rove’s 501(c)(4) political group Crossroads GPS. They oppose the Affordable Care Act in the name of small business, despite there being tax credits that help small business provide insurance for employees.

Ninety percent of its campaign contributions over the past fifteen years have gone to support GOP candidates — and it is safe to say that ninety percent of small business owners are not Republican.  The NFIB’s president, Dan Danner, is a longtime lobbyist who has never been a small businessman.

“Small businesses don’t give multi-million-dollar contributions.”

NFIB Senior Vice President for Federal Policy, Susan Eckerly, waspreviously the director of regulatory policy for the David Koch-founded Citizens for a Sound Economy, which split into Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity. She also previously served on the board of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, where she voiced support for the Cato Institute’s push to repeal the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Community Reinvestment Act.

Another small business association, the Small Business Majority, conducted a poll showing that around half of small-business owners want to preserve the Affordable Care Act, while just 30 percent want to repeal it.

And some conservatives, like Matt Davis, the former spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party, was so upset that the Supreme Court decision that he now wants to know whether an “armed rebellion” will be necessary to overturn the law.

“If government can mandate that I pay for something I don’t want, then what is beyond its power? If the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday paves the way for unprecedented intrusion into personal decisions, then has the Republic all but ceased to exist? If so, then is armed rebellion today justified?

God willing, this oppression will be lifted and America free again before the first shot is fired.”

“You can’t have people walking with lattes and signs and think the object of your opposition is going to take you seriously,” he told Capitol Confidential. “Armed rebellion is the end point of that physical confrontation.”

As for larger, more serious threats to the country, Bernie Sanders writes:

“This recession was caused by the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street. And, what makes people furious is that Wall Street still has not learned its lessons. Instead of investing in the job-creating productive economy providing affordable loans to small and medium-size businesses, the CEOs of the largest financial institutions in this country have created the largest gambling casino in the history of the world.”

AlterNet, meanwhile, describes the particularly brutal brand of aristocrat that has emerged from historical influence, overtaking even those Ivy-league elites that at least had a sense of moral responsibility to the betterment of society.

It used to be that the rich were educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige. But over many decades the  plantation aristocracy of the lowland South has been disseminating their utter lack of civic responsibility, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.

In the old South, the degree of liberty you enjoyed was a direct function of your God-given place in the social hierarchy. The higher your status, the more authority you had, and the more “liberty” you could exercise — which meant, in practical terms, that you had the right to take more “liberties” with the lives, rights and property of other people.

We can understand the traditional Southern antipathy to education, progress, public investment, unionization, equal opportunity, and civil rights. The fervent belief among these elites that they should completely escape any legal or social accountability for any harm they cause. what they’re really demanding is the unquestioned, unrestrained right to turn their fellow citizens into supplicants and subjects.

Torture and extrajudicial killing have been reinstated, with no due process required. The wealthy and powerful are free to abuse employees, break laws, destroy the commons, and crash the economy — without ever being held to account. The rich flaunt their ostentatious wealth without even the pretense of humility, modesty, generosity, or gratitude. The military — always a Southern-dominated institution — sucks down 60% of our federal discretionary spending, and is undergoing a rapid evangelical takeover as well. Our police are being given paramilitary training and powers that are completely out of line with their duty to serve and protect, but much more in keeping with a mission to subdue and suppress. Segregation is increasing everywhere. The rights of women and people of color are under assault. Violence against leaders who agitate for progressive change is up. Racist organizations are undergoing a renaissance nationwide.

We are withdrawing government investments in public education, libraries, infrastructure, health care, and technological innovation — in many areas, to the point where we are falling behind the standards that prevail in every other developed country.

And if it’s not just the greed-obsessed racist plantation mentality they draw from, it’s Mafioso tactics:

The defendants in the case – Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm – worked for GE Capital, the finance arm of General Electric. Along with virtually every major bank and finance company on Wall Street – not just GE, but J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia and more – these three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from “virtually every state, district and territory in the United States,” according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being ­cheated.

USA v. Carollo involved classic cartel activity: not just one corrupt bank, but many, all acting in careful concert against the public interest. In the years since the economic crash of 2008, we’ve seen numerous hints that such orchestrated corruption exists. The collapses of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, for instance, both pointed to coordi­nated attacks by powerful banks and hedge funds determined to speed the demise of those firms. In the bankruptcy of Jefferson County, Alabama, we learned that Goldman Sachs accepted a $3 million bribe from J.P. Morgan Chase to permit Chase to serve as the sole provider of toxic swap deals to the rubes running metropolitan Birmingham – “an open-and-shut case of anti-competitive behavior,” as one former regulator described it.

More recently, a major international investigation has been launched into the manipulation of Libor, the interbank lending index that is used to calculate global interest rates for products worth more than $3 trillion a year. If and when that case is presented to the public at trial – there are several major civil suits in the works here in the States – we may yet find out that the world’s most powerful banks have, for years, been fixing the prices of almost every adjustable-rate vehicle on earth, from mortgages and credit cards to interest-rate swaps and even currencies.

But USA v. Carollo marks the first time we actually got incontrovertible evidence that Wall Street has moved into this cartel-type brand of criminality. It also offered a disgusting glimpse into the enabling and grossly cynical role played by politicians, who took Super Bowl tickets and bribe-stuffed envelopes to look the other way while gangsters raided the public kitty.

Despite the banks getting ultra-cheap loans from the Federal Reserve, they still like to claim that they’re free-market entities, subject to the whims of the invisible hand, and that the government’s meddling can only be destructive. But it’s intellectually dishonest for finance to accuse the government of anything; big banks have their tentacles in every aspect of government—despite right-wing hand-wringing about government bureaucracy, the big banks are often actually the ones coming between you and your money. Who’s really getting rich off federal “welfare”? JP Morgan and Bank of America.

  1. Banks Get Big Contracts for Food Stamps
  2. Banks Make Money Off Unemployment
  3. Banks Prey on Students While Distributing Federal Student Aid Money
  4. Banks Cash in on Your Tax Returns
  5. Banks Profit by Refinancing Your Homes
  6. Banks Profit Off The Very Idea of Another Big Bailout

“JPMorgan receives a government subsidy worth about $14 billion a year, according to research published by the International Monetary Fund and our own analysis of bank balance sheets” to ensure that all the bank’s creditors, not just depositors, are paid in full.

The Federal Reserve Board creates debt and money. Banks have the legal right to lend more than the amount of “dollars” they actually keep in their vaults or at the Fed (their imaginary reserves) – roughly ten times more these days. That’s what the Federal Reserve Board currently allows for transaction accounts of more than $71 million.

The Fed can also decide what interest rate it will demand for the money it lends out.

The banks, of course, make a nice profit on this as “middlemen” between the Fed and the government. Adding a mark-up for their profit, of course.

And the banking industry – especially Wall Street – plays a very powerful and rough political game opposing anything or anyone who tries to “uncorral” the thinking of the public. They have countless bought politicians and an echo chamber of media empires to do so.

Even journalists shouldn’t ‘be nosy’ according to LZ Granderson, CNN columnist and contributor:

Being told that something’s “none of your business” is slowly being characterized as rude, and if such a statement is coming from the government, it seems incriminating.

Times have changed. Yet, not everything is our business. And in the political arena, there are things that should be and need to be kept quiet. . . .

You see, freedom isn’t entirely free.

It also isn’t squeaky clean.

And sometimes the federal government deems it necessary to get its hands a little dirty in the hopes of achieving something we generally accept as good for the country. . . .

And maybe it’s better for us not to be so nosy, not to know everything because, to paraphrase the famous line from the movie “A Few Good Men,” many of us won’t be able to handle the truth.

The NSA won’t share how much of your privacy they’re invading, since that would be an invasion of your privacy. Hell, even your cell phone company won’t share your data with you; just the authorities and third-party advertisers.

ProPublica discovered that there’s one person cell phone companies will not share your location information with: You.

We asked three ProPublica staffers and one friend to request their own geo-location data from the four largest cellphone providers. All four companies refused to provide it.

“Giving customers location data for their wireless phones is not a service we provide.”

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-06-30: Brutal by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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