Since Christmas is coming, and The Stranger has plans to talk to Santa this month, it only seems fitting to compile a list of those who have been very naughty on a societal level, to save old Saint Nick the burdensome time involved. After all, he’ll need that extra time to shovel massive amounts of coal (which Mitt Romney would actually love). Beyond these ne’er-do-wells, we’ll take a look at some of the toys and gadgets that humanity are using both as tools for good and instruments of evil.
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Funk United
Why Don’t You Take Us – Sky King
Peace And Love (Movement I-V) – Mandrill
Garden Of Paradise – Steve Hillage
Dream Weaver – Gary Wright
Dreams/Comrades – Stark Reality
Smokey Joe The Dreamer – Bullet
Dream Sequence – Amon Tobin
In-flux – DJ Shadow
When Happening – Bleubird
Bill Murray – Gorillaz
Devoted Bone Dance – Faust
The Grid – Philip Glass
Silver – Bonobo
In The Music (w/Malik B.) – The Roots
Il Ponte Di Corde – Ennio Morricone
Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) – Nancy Sinatra
The poll finds that 53 percent say Republicans in Congress would be blamed, while 27 percent say President Obama would be to blame, down from 29 percent last time.
Of course, the fake fiscal cliff ignores other, very real cliffs in this country: The child poverty cliff. Education. The Baby-boomer healthcare cliff. The environment.
And that naughty GOP stands obstinate against raising taxes on the wealthy, but is planning to raise taxes on the wretched middle classes, cutting the spending that helps them and throwing them over the cliff. They are a group of despicable tax extremists, with a full quarter of registered Republicans in the country say they want to secede from the United States , Public Policy Polling (PPP) reports. The polling company posted a Twitter message yesterday that read: “25% of Republicans want their state to secede on account of Obama’s reelection.”
49% of GOP voters nationally say they think that ACORN stole the election for President Obama. We found that 52% of Republicans thought that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama, so this is a modest decline, but perhaps smaller than might have been expected given that ACORN doesn’t exist anymore.
This week they turned against their own Bob Dole to challenge a Civil Rights bill, and fought against the UN’s disability rights rules (which had no enforcement, anyway) based on their outmoded and baseless conspiracy theories:
- UN Disability Treaty ‘Undermines American Sovereignty’
- Agenda 21
- UN Arms Trade Treaty
- Reparations for Climate Change
Our only hope now is that the GOP will purge the most awful in their party, in hopes that Santa Claus will spare them.
The courts aren’t much better, granting more power to corporations over actual individual humans, far beyond the U.S. Supreme Court 2010 Citizens United ruling.
- Secret Courts For Consumer Products
- Corporate Religious Freedom
- Employment-Employee Arbitration Denied a Day In Court
- Patent Rulings Also Extending Corporate Clout
So these giant financial fictions have been using every tool at their disposal to hollow out America and put us on the verge of DEBTPOCALYPSE! Can we really blame our judges and politicians for merely being tools?
40 years of austerity politics have hollowed out the heartland, as financial wizards of Wall Street gobbled up ever more of the nation’s resources.
The financial services industry alone takes as much as $635 billion from the real economy annually, a ‘creative extraction‘ for financial services they call “capital intermediation pipeline”. But the advancement of technology and quantitative analysis should have made the process less expensive. But they have not. Capital intermediation is now more costly than it was in the days of JP Morgan (adjusted for inflation).
New research points out that capital intermediation costs have been rising since 1980, coincident with the beginning of three and a half decades of deregulation. The average financial sector share of the GDP over the 20 years prior to 1980 (4.2 percent), the current financial sector share of GDP, 8.3 percent, means that the amount of GDP represented by the financial sector is $635 billion higher each year than it would be based on its GDP share before the Great Deregulation Experiment began.
Capital intermediation is the process through which the economy determines which productive activities, if any, will be implemented. It is how the supply of jobs for the American public is replenished and preserved. A broad and diverse supply of new jobs better assures that income and wealth will be fairly and evenly distributed. The public bears the cost of the value extracted by the financial sector by exploiting distortions in this critically important process, distortions that it often creates to generate higher profits.
In short, it’s as if there were a tax on the non-financial portions of the economy that redistributes wealth to the financial sector.
Financial markets work efficiently when prices are transparent and fairly reflect fundamental value. Consumers cannot know which ones to trust, and which ones to bust. Corporations have been on a record-shattering crime spree;
- Wells Fargo paid a $175 million settlement after the feds caught its brokers systematically pushing minority customers into mortgages with higher rates and fees, even though they posed the same credit risks as whites. One study found that Wells Fargo charged Hispanics $2,000 more in what the Justice Department called a “racial surtax.” The bank docked blacks nearly $3,000 extra
And while this massive civil rights fraud was perpetrated against 30,000 customers, the settlement amounted to just .011 percent of the San Francisco bank’s annual income.
- U.S. Bank also swindled its customers. Instead of logging debit card purchases in the order they were made, the bank rearranged them from highest amount to lowest, the better to artificially stick customers with overdraft fees. U.S. Bank paid $55 million to settle a class action suit in July. It was the 13th major bank caught running this scam.
- American Express. It promised $300 to anyone who signed up for its Blue Sky card, then decided it would be way better to just stiff them. The company was also caught charging illegal late fees and discriminating against older applicants.
- Bank of America was caught illegally foreclosing on the homes of active-duty soldiers. Visa and MasterCard were charged with fixing the prices they charged merchants to process credit card payments. Morgan Stanley colluded to drive up New York electricity prices. And in the most depraved case of all, Morgan Stanley was even sued for allegedly swindling Irish nuns in an investment deal.
Yet not a single boss went to jail.
This is the new Mafioso, with Senators and judges in their pockets. Most never see a day in court, or settle for just a fraction of what they’ve stolen. Many deny any wrongdoing and still see their wealth and stock prices rise. They also unleash far more damage on the world stage than any Mafia don.
They’re hitting the media echo chamber they own and love, both Republicans and Democrats, to advocate the shredding of the social safety net that Americans need and love. They want to bleed every last drop from us.
The group includes Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, Honeywell’s David Cote, Aetna’s Mark Bertolini, Delta Airlines’ Richard Anderson, Boeing’s W. James McNerney, and over 100 other influential business honchos and their supporters.
These CEOs talk about shared sacrifice, but it seems that they don’t intend to share anything but your retirement money with their wealthy friends.
- Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, Goldman, Sachs & Co.
- Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO, General Electric Company
- Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co
- Carly Fiorina, David Cote The CEO of Honeywell International, David Siegel (Westgate resorts), John Metz…
Others destroy jobs rather than give back, dishonestly claiming that they can ‘fix the debt’ by slashing their own taxes:
- Randall Stephenson, AT&T
Average effective federal corporate income tax rate, 2009-2011: 6.3%
U.S. job layoffs since 2007: 54,000
- Lowell McAdam, Verizon
Average effective federal corporate income tax rate, 2009-2011: -3.3%
U.S. job layoffs since 2007: 30,000
- David Cote, Honeywell
Average effective federal corporate income tax rate, 2009-2011: -14.8%
U.S. job layoffs since 2007: 4,000
- Kenneth Frazier, Merck
Average effective federal corporate income tax rate, 2009-2011: 13.2%
U.S. job layoffs since 2007: 13,000
- Terry Lundgren, Macy’s
Average effective federal corporate income tax rate, 2009-2011: 20.7%
U.S. job layoffs since 2007: 7,000
And let’s not forget the Koch Brothers and their insidiously well-funded ALEC, and the many shills of phony “public servants” they’ve paid for:
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced that he would sign so-called “right to work” legislation designed to gut union membership in the auto capital of the world. He’s funded by the Koch brothers, and the legislation is typically, from ALEC.
The Capitol bldg in Michigan was chaotic as police peppersprayed protesters and locked down the building, forcing Democrats to seek a court order to get the doors open again. “It’s not only anti-worker, its anti-democratic,”
Right to work bills prohibit unions from requiring all members to pay dues. The laws make it much harder for unions to organize and exist. They have long been used in the South to push down wages and weaken worker movements. The Michigan bill will apply to both public and private sector unions.
At a time when working families are struggling, the Michigan GOP decided it was a fine time to push for a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions, while at the same time kneecapping their chief opponents in the political arena — organized workers.
But there has to be some ways to stop the bleeding caused by psychopathic plutocrats and their corporate fraud, rogue traders, rate fixing, and money laundering.
The Rich Don’t Always Win explores a host of these proposals.
Leverage the power of the public purse against excessive corporate executive pay. Congress couldn’t directly set limits on private corporate executive pay, yesterday’s progressives understood. But Congress could impose limits indirectly by denying federal government contracts and subsidies to corporations that lavished rewards on top executives.
In 1933, then-senator and later Supreme Court justice Hugo Black won congressional approval for legislation that denied federal air- and ocean-mail contracts to companies that paid their execs over $17,500, about $300,000 in today’s dollars.
But the New Deal never fully embraced the Hugo Black perspective. We could now, by denying federal contracts and tax breaks to any companies that pay their CEOs over 25 times what their workers are making.
Give Americans a safe alternative to private banks. For Louis Brandeis, a reform giant who also became a Supreme Court justice, prohibiting financial institutions from speculating with the savings of average Americans always remained a top priority.
In the early 1930s, Brandeis advocated the expansion of postal savings banks, a system — in effect since 1911 — that paid 2 percent interest on modest savings accounts maintained with the post office. That expansion never took place, and postal savings banks withered away.
Tax undistributed corporate profits. America’s biggest corporations are currently sitting on stashes of cash that have hit mega-billion levels.
Cap income at America’s economic summit. In 1942, in the midst of a war-time fiscal squeeze, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed a 100 percent tax on all individual income over $25,000, the equivalent of about $355,000 today.
Congress didn’t go along. But lawmakers did set the top tax rate at 94 percent on income over $200,000, and federal income tax top rates hovered around 90 percent for most of the next two decades, years of unprecedented prosperity.
We could, for instance, set the entry threshold for a new 90 percent top rate as a multiple of our nation’s minimum wage. The higher the minimum wage, the higher the threshold, the softer the total tax bite out of the nation’s highest incomes.
Our nation’s wealthiest and most powerful, under this approach, would suddenly have a vested interest in enhancing the well-being of our poorest and weakest.
Even former NY Gov Eliot Spitzer is advocating a tax on the trades made by the financial industries: A tax of less than half a percent on every $100 of stock sales or sales of other financial instruments including bonds, derivatives, and options. The tax could raise anywhere from $170 billion to $350 billion per year depending how it was applied.
The real way to Fix the Debt: End Corporate Entitlements and Demand Big Business Pays Its Fair Share.
The plutocrats are indeed a little worried in their towers; after spending millions to defeat Elizabeth Warren, she was elected anyway and will serve on the Senate’s Banking Committee, where she will have “influence over regulators and the industry that non-panel members don’t enjoy.”
She has built her career on being a progressive who fights against banks and big money. Warren was attacked during the election by the likes of the US Chamber of Commerce, who called her a “threat to free enterprise.” I, for one, would welcome that hatred.
In other good news, the Defense Department has begun planning for the roughly $500 billion in major cuts to their spending. Just the thing the doctor ordered for the debt and deficit, considering that our militarization accounts for the majority of our budget.
Of course, extrajudicial imprisonment and indefinite detention for Americans are still very much in the power of said military, what with the doubling down of the NDAA by traitors like Dianne Feinstein.
And Bradley Manning, who testified that he thought he would “die in custody“, serves as a canary to the sort of brutal treatment we all could face for standing up for our rights, our conscience, or against war crimes.
“Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched in our nation’s history as a disgraceful moment in time… Not only was it stupid and counterproductive – it was criminal,” ~Manning’s defense attorney David Combs said in his first-ever public appearance regarding US v. Manning.
Newly released records of drone licenses reveal extensive domestic surveillance within the continental United States.
These records, received as a result of EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), come from state and local law enforcement agencies, universities and—for the first time—three branches of the U.S. military: the Air Force, Marine Corps, and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).
Air Force’s drone operators sometimes practice surveillance missions by tracking civilian cars along the highways.
Local police, military, even the corporations fused together to target American civilians.
Your email, saved messages, phone records, location data, IP addresses, text messages, cloud data, social media information, all of it has become available to law enforcement without a warrant. There are countless ways that the police can spy on you now without a warrant, and the cops can pull some pretty outrageous stunts and get away with them:
- The NYPD’s Demographics Unit has engaged in a massive surveillance program of Warrantless home surveillance, Infiltration, informants and monitoring similar to the COINTELPRO against activists in the 1960s.
- Preemptive visits and harassment. One of the favorite tactics of police departments is targeting activists a day before a large event, even extrajudicial preemptive arrests.
- Creating call logs from stolen phones. If you lose your phone in NYC and report it to the police, they’ll help you find it. So far, so good. Where the agreement turns pear-shaped, however, is what they do with your call logs. The NYPD subpoenas your call log from the day it was stolen onward, under the logic that the records could help find your phone, adding your information to a database called the Enterprise Case Management System, and the numbers are hyperlinked for cross-referencing. The call logs, all obtained without a court order and often without the victim’s permission or knowledge, could “conceivably be used for any investigative purpose,”
- Stop and frisk.
- Operation Pipeline.
- Police dogs with the “Clever Hans effect”
- Surveillance drones.
- For-profit Prisons.
- School-to-prison pipelines.
- Scary capabilities to track you wherever you’re driving.
But, as with any technology, it can be used for good as well as evil. Mother Jones lists a few ways that drones, for instance, may be co-opted by the forces of productivity, science, and justice:
- Farming: The Japanese have used robo-crop-dusters for decades, monitor the growth of crops, And with the shortage of skilled ag pilots, drones could very well swoop in.
- Chasing storms
- Catching poachers: The WWF just won a $5 million Google grant to implement a drone-based poacher surveillance system in Asia and Africa.
- Watching the environment: The scientists who came up with the WWF drones have already used them to monitor orangutans and deforestation in Indonesia. The US Geological Survey also has a whole office devoted to drone projects.
- Going into the danger zone: In the first weeks after the Fukushima nuclear disaster
- Protecting human rights: On the flip side, some activists have suggested drones can be used to monitor human rights violations. The cofounders of the Genocide Intervention Network have argued that drones should be used by human rights organizations to document violence in Syria, where the government has tried to silence journalists with targeted killings.
- Journalism: *Ulp* Is this another form of automation that may put me out of a job?
If you’re likewise afraid of being replaced, consider the future of replacing your own parts with cybernetics. The world’s largest brain simulation is underway, with 2.5 million simulated neurons:
With 2.5 million simulated neurons, a team of researchers at the University of Waterloo have claimed the world’s largest functioning model of the brain. Called Spaun (short for Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network), the model “captures biological details of each neuron, including which neurotransmitters are used, how voltages are generated in the cell, and how they communicate. Spaun uses this network of neurons to process visual images to control an arm that draws Spaun’s answers to perceptual, cognitive and motor tasks.”