Tag Archives: civil rights

Morton County Sheriff’s Department Misinformation in DAPL Protests

Top law enforcement officials working on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners‘ Dakota Access Pipeline have been lying. The DAPL protest has been growing steadily for months, with more media attention garnered by the day, so the vested interests in the oil industry and police see a need to regain control of the narrative.

via Prolific

This is how law enforcement propagandizes. Small lies all amounting to large ones, using language that minimizes or completely dismisses the concerns of a movement while at the same time depicting them as a radical fringe. They spin these mistruths despite the fact that anyone watching footage and reading reports of police using tear gas grenades, military tactical gear and vehicles, sound cannons, rubber bullets and hypothermia-inducing water hoses in -5 °C weather against the peaceful Standing Rock activists, can plainly see who is on the right and wrong side of history. Police have already arrested almost 575 people since this began last September, so many that North Dakota courts are not equipped to handle them all.

About a thousand law enforcement officers are on hand to intimidate the activists. However, two police departments have left citing public outcry, personal and ethical concerns, and many more around the country are refusing to send backup. Those are the honest cops you hear about, or at least seem reasonably concerned with listening to the civil society that they’ve sworn to serve.

Noted scumbag Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, then lied about veterans traveling to North Dakota to support the Water Protectors:

It is wrong. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support that claim, and all he can cite is “very concerning intel”, which to skeptical people amounts to “bupkis” or “pulled straight out of our asses.”

The intention for this is obvious: demonize the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies as aggressive (when the police in every video have been the aggressors), fearmonger the group as radicals using terroristic tactics (these are Native Americans striving to protect their land and water), and imply the volunteer veterans are stupid pawns, so it deflates the actual story that thousands of proud American veterans have had enough and are standing up to injustice.

It’s a pretty insulting, infantilizing view of veterans, who have been planning to join the protest for months now as any of use reading the news knows. The police leadership in particular is setting up this divisive, violent, deceptive rhetoric to later justify any deadly actions on their part.

It’s always important to ask questions at times like these, especially of biased authority figures who often go unquestioned during press briefings; Which is more likely, that the multitude of protestors would all get a false story together and agreed upon in interviews and social media, or that a couple top cops in a literal spin room would misrepresent the facts? Why exactly are our civil servants so zealously defending private oil interests over the interests of average working people? Why would the DAPL protestors arm veterans, knowing it only plays into what the militarized forces there want? Why would they even need to arm veterans, who most likely have access to their own weapons are are intelligent and autonomous individuals who can make their own choices? How does one even intentionally trigger PTSD on such a large scale? Seems like a fundamental (or even intentional) misunderstanding of how that disorder works. Or maybe he thinks that our veterans are all stupid babies who can be easily manipulated into supporting someone else’s cause without a capacity for critical thinking on their own? Surely no American veteran would support this ridiculous little movement without some sort of brain damage, AMIRIGHT??

Disgusting.

Sad Tomorrow

More conspiracy theoriesfear-mongering, and casual lying as election day nears, both parties move further to the radical right using their false morality tale as a pisspoor excuse for their illegitimate behavior.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-10-13: Sad Tomorrow by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Sounds Incorporated
I Wanna Know – The Du-Droppers
el quinto reqimiento-los cuatro generales-viva la quince brigad – charlie haden
Maybe Tomorrow – Jackson 5
Sad Tommorow (Original Single Version) – Marvin Gaye
Fat City Strut – Mandrill
The Gumbo Variations – Frank Zappa
Astronomy Domine – Pink Floyd
Devil’s Answer – Atomic Rooster
The Real Thing – Russell Morris
Pinball Wizard – The Who
Le Rafiot – Maneige
Forgotten Worlds – Klaxons
My People – Erykah Badu
Bright Lights Bigger City – Cee Lo Green
The Gentle Rain – (RJD2 Remix)
Paid In Full – Eric B And Rakim
Evil Paradise – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
“Wheels That Go” – Raymond Scott
Argument – Monty Python

Look, I know I’ve focused a lot on politics in this… *ahem* election year. While both sides argue over who loves Israel and hates Iran more, a false debt crisis, raking in more money, benefitting the super-rich, escalating extrajudicial drone attacks, continuously kill civilians, ignore climate change, advocate job-killing free trade agreements, grow our domestic surveillance state and unmatched prison population… well, let’s just say that I do think it’s important to think critically about, just as with any story about people in power.

But I promise, if there is a 2013: a return to the weird. Though it all seems pretty fuckin’ weird to me.

And talking about the rich’s class war on us isn’t political… It’s survival.

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Under the Influence

The world is going out of it’s damn mind. We’ll let the music explore each fucked up mindset, as we fall under the influence of politics, madness, intoxicants, and (as always) lack of sleep.

A mind is a wonderful to waste.

PLAYLIST
Hall Of The Mountain King – Self Diagnosis
Blinded By The Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
Morning Meditation – Ali Akbar Khan
I’m So Tired – The Beatles
Sunday Morning Coming Down – Johnny Cash
Lost in the Ozone – Commander Cody
Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) – Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
The Transmigration of Hop Heads – Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
Reclaim Your Mind – Cosmic Gnostic and the Astral Travelers
Becoming Insane – Infected Mushroom
Anxiety – Astor Piazzolla and the Kronos Quartet
Where Is My Mind – The Pixies
Think I Lost My Headache – Queens of the Stone Age
I Almost Lost My Mind – Zalman Yanovsky
Stoned Guitar – Human Instinct
Stairway To Heaven – London Philharmonic Orchestra
7 Days Drunk – The Adventures Of Robert Savage
Slow Down – Ozzy Osbourne
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
Drinking – They Might Be Giants
I’d Rather Have a Bottle in Front of Me (Than a Frontal Lobotomy) – Randy Hanzlick
They’re Coming To Take Me Away! – Napoleon XIV

Mitt Romney this week showed what a great world leader he would be by insulting our greatest allies, inflaming tensions in the Middle East and desecrating holy ground. His travels, however, were not in vain. He was able to pander to a religious population (Jews, but really the evangelical Christians at home) with his meritocratic clout and raise money from the LIBOR-scammer elites by promising even more deregulation!

“I’d like to get rid of Dodd Frank” ~Mitt Money Romney

Romney hailed the Israel’s health care system for holding down costs and broadening coverage more effectively than the U.S., though Israel contains costs by adopting a very centralized, government-run health care system that conservatives in this country equate with European-style socialism.

One of his top advisors also caused a stir by seeming to say that Romney would back an Israeli strike against Iran, but they seemed to realize that tough talk does not equal foreign policy credibility. His real gaffe was in implying that the downtrodden Palestinian people have chosen to be there, or that their “culture” proves that they deserve to be under the boot-heels of the Israelis.

Mitt Romney boldly declared that Israel’s economic superiority over the Palestinians was due to its culture… which seemed to imply that he believes that Palestinians are just sort of naturally inclined to live under military occupation. (This didn’t seem to bug that many Israelis, even though it does suggest that he believes they are … innately good with money, let’s say.)

Romney believes, in other words, that Palestinians just don’t value freedom enough to get it for themselves. The territory is under a decades-long military occupation and residents face restrictions on movement and trade.

“During my recent trip to Israel, I had suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity, and that the significant disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards was powerfully influenced by it,” Romney wrote in the National Review. “In some quarters, that comment became the subject of controversy. But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture?

He directly compared the per capita GDP of Israel and the Palestinian territories and attributed Israel’s comparative strength to “culture” and the “hand of providence.” He implied that the Palestinian territories are socialist, which isn’t true, and a quick look at wikipedia shows that their economy was growing by leaps and bounds between the 60’s and 80’s, and has been slowing with the West Bank occupation and oppression, Israeli “security measures” and rising unemployment (surely a ‘choice’ as it is here in America).

“I have just returned from a trip abroad. I visited three lands — Israel, Poland, and Great Britain — which are defined by their respective struggles for freedom. I met with some of the greatest heroes of those struggles.”

“I realize that there will be some in the Fourth Estate, or whichever estate, who are far more interested in finding something to write about that is unrelated to the economy, to geopolitics, to the threat of war, to the reality of conflict in Afghanistan today, to a nuclearization of Iran,” Romney said.

But the radicalization of right-wing America is only going to hurt Romney, and others, in the long run. Gingrich was successful in ousting many moderates in the 90’s, but many old and new are leaving in disgust, or sticking around just to badmouth the extremism rife in their own party.

“For a long time, words like ‘compromise’ have been like dirty words. I always believed that the art of being a legislator is finding common ground.” ~Republican Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette 

But speaking of compromise, it takes many Democrats as well as Republicans to push through the Bush tax rate on those making more than $200,000 annually.

  • Jason Altmire (Pennsylvania)
  • John Barrow (Georgia)
  • Dan Boren (Oklahoma)
  • Ben Chandler (Kentucky)
  • Jim Cooper (Tennessee)
  • Jim Costa (California)
  • Henry Cuellar (Texas)
  • Joe Donnelly (Indiana)
  • Larry Kissell (North Carolina)
  • Jim Matheson (Utah)
  • Mike McIntyre (North Carolina)
  • Jerry McNerney (California)
  • Bill Owens (New York)
  • Collin Peterson (Minnesota)
  • Mike Ross (Arkansas)
  • Kurt Schrader (Oregon)
  • Heath Shuler (North Carolina)
  • Mike Thompson (California)
  • Tim Walz (Minnesota)

When it comes to taxes, we may see an unfair tax code get even worse. This is far more important issue than whether Mitt Romney paid his taxes, or other secrets from his returns. His tax plan would be a boon for the wealthy, but a tax hike for 95% of Americans, according to a new nonpartisan study by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.

And though the Romney team have called the group a bunch of liberals (they hailed them in the past as “objective, third-party analysis” when the findings benefitted them), he couldn’t dispel any of their specific claims. Even more damning for himself is the revenue neutrality, or Romney’s own non-commitment to specifying the tax loopholes or breaks he’d close, probably because he wouldn’t close any (he has suggested that he would only look to breaks that benefit the wealthy).

“Even if tax expenditures are eliminated in a way designed to make the resulting tax system as progressive as possible, there would still be a shift in the tax burden of roughly $86 billion from those making over $200,000 to those making less than that amount,” the report reads.

“Americans making over $1 million would see an increase in after-tax income of 4.1 percent (an $87,000 tax cut), those making between $500,000 and $1 million would see an increase of 3.2 percent (a $17,000 tax cut), and those making between $200,000 and $500,000 would see an increase of 0.8 percent (a $1,800 tax cut).”

As for the other 95% of Americans? Not so much. The average tax increase needed to pay for the elite’s gains would be $500 per household.

Obama was quick to jump on this opportunity (the opportunistic bastard):

“He’s not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit, he’s not asking you to pay more to invest in our children’s education or rebuild our roads or put more folks back to work,” Obama said. “He’s asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut.”

Romney claimed that the report is “biased” as it fails to take into account the explosion of economic growth that would theoretically occur in the future under a potential Romney’s administration.

Apparently anticipating this criticism, the Tax Policy Center decided to humor them by including an alternate (reality) analysis in its study in which it assumed that Romney turns out to be correct and his tax proposals produce unexpected floods of new revenue. However, even that generous concession didn’t change its analysis.

“Although reasonable models would show that these tax changes would have little effect on growth, we show that even with implausibly large growth effects, revenue neutrality would still require large reductions in tax expenditures and would likely result in a net tax increase for lower- and middle-income households and tax cuts for high-income households,” the study concluded.

In other words: How will he PAY for these cuts!? Perhaps Romney would be a good little engine of the economy and make up the difference out of his own offshore accounts.

As the richest of the rich, or .001%, or fewer than 10 million people, have used secret tax shelters around the world to hide anywhere from $21-32 trillion, or more, since they shutter around various accounts and are nigh-untrackable (according to the Tax Justice Network). An amount equal to the US and Japanese economies.

At a low 3%, this is anywhere between $190-250 billion in tax revenue —which is about twice the amount OECD countries spend on development assistance. That’s just income taxes. Capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and other taxes would bring in even more.

In order to save a few bucks on taxes, they essentially put themselves in the same category as copyright trolls and drug lords. They hide funds in the Cayman Islands, Singapore, Switzerland, as well as “virtual” havens, “nominal, hyper-portable, multi-jurisdictional, often quite temporary locations of networks of legal and quasi-legal entities and arrangements” facilitated by too-big-to-fail Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Credit Suisse (the top three), with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan Chase all in the top ten of “key enablers of the global tax injustice system.”

The lost tax revenue from offshore tax shelters, they note, “is large enough to make a significant difference to all of our conventional measures of inequality. Since most of the missing financial wealth belongs to a tiny elite, the impact is staggering.”

Many Americans are already misinformed about our level of inequality—but this report confirms that even supposed experts were wildly underestimating the problem. The developing world, for example, has $4 trillion in debt, but their own elites have stores $10 trillion offshore. “That means this is really a tax justice problem, not simply a ‘debt’ problem.” Those debts fall on the shoulders of the everyday working people of those countries, those who can’t take advantage of sophisticated tax shelters.

Of course, this is merely yet another lie spun by the conservative media:

  1. Higher taxes on the rich will hurt small businesses and discourage job creators

A recent Treasury analysis found that only  2.5% of small businesses  would face higher taxes from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

Over 90% of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), the stock market, real estate, and personal business accounts Angel investing (capital provided by affluent individuals for business start-ups) accounted for less than 1% of the investable assets  of high net worth individuals in North America in 2011.  The Mendelsohn Affluent Survey  agreed that the very rich spend less than two percent of their money on new business startups.

Even the Wall Street Journal noted that the extra wealth created by the Bush tax cuts led to the “worst track record for jobs in recorded history.”

2. Individual initiative is all you need for success.

If anything, it’s harder than ever today to ascend through the ranks on one’s own. As summarized in the  Pew research report  “Pursuing the American Dream,” only 4% of those starting out in the bottom quintile make it to the top quintile as adults

3. A booming stock market is good for all of us

But as the market rises, most Americans are getting a smaller slice of the pie. But the richest 10% of Americans  own over 80%  of the stock market. Thanks in good part to a meager 15% capital gains tax, the  richest 400 taxpayers DOUBLED their income and nearly HALVED their tax rates in just seven years (2001-2007). And the stock market scamming grows faster than our GDP.

The truth has a nasty habit of coming to the surface, as the Koch brothers-funded climate scientist Richard Muller discovered:

“Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

“Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. Our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent.”

“The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does.”

But good old-fashioned fear-mongering always seems to work. The FBI cast anarchists and activists as terrorists and criminals, even as they violate their constitutional due process by targeting them based on politics *ahem* “criminal evidence” such as black clothing, anarchist literature, and placard signs, flags and… flag-making materials. Essentially, a fishing expedition.

“It’s related to political opposition, it’s related to political dissent,” says Dennison Williams. “They’re trying to create a wedge within people who are resistors… They’re specifically pursuing anarchists.”

Political supporters calling themselves the “Committee Against Political Repression” have already set up a website to post information about the case and take donations to the legal fund: NoPoliticalRepression.wordpress.com with a “solidarity statement” from numerous activist groups condemning the “series of coordinated raids.”

Likewise, we should FEAR the cybercrime which costs us $1 trillion a year, according to Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and oversees U.S. Cyber Command, which is causing “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” He must not have read the other articles that we have.

But the source of his numbers remains a mystery. The trillion-dollar estimate was first published in a news release that McAfee issued to announce the report; the number does not appear in the report itself.

McAfee’s trillion-dollar estimate is questioned even by the three independent researchers from Purdue University whom McAfee credits with analyzing the raw data from which the estimate was derived. “I was really kind of appalled when the number came out in news reports, the trillion dollars, because that was just way, way large,” said Eugene Spafford, a computer science professor at Purdue.

Of the 17 other researchers and contributors, Ross Anderson, a security engineering professor at University of Cambridge, said that he did not know about the $1 trillion estimate before it was announced. “I would have objected at the time had I known about it,” he said. “The intellectual quality of this ($1 trillion number) is below abysmal.”

When asked about the reporting, politicians simply repeat the number as if it were gospel. Then again, lawmakers don’t know shit. They don’t even know what the fuck all those drones are doing up there. The NYPD is going to start tracking and surveilling people all over the city with help from Microsoft as part of their “domestic awareness system”. The FBI will be ramping up their Next Generation Identification (NGI) Facial Recognition Program in 2014, containing at least 12 million “searchable frontal photos.”

“Facial recognition takes the risks inherent in other biometrics to a new level . . . [it] allows for covert, remote, and mass capture and identification of images, and the photos that may end up in a database include not just a person’s face but also what she is wearing, what she might be carrying, and who she is associated with.” ~EFF testimony at the Senate Subcommittee hearing on facial recognition

All this authoritarian technology is frightening enough, but even if we manage to stave off the worst implications of a technological takeover, we still face existential threats to our identity, autonomy, anonymity and individuality as we enmesh and embed with out digital devices.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-08-04: Under the Influence by The Stranger onMixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Bat-Fan

The night is dark over Gotham San Francisco, and crusaders of all variety battle the ne’er-do-wells wreaking crime, injustice, corruption, greed, and violence. Who are the real villains and heroes, and how can we stop them (short of donning a cowl and tights)? Well, bat-jazz, the batusi, and bat-dancing couldn’t hurt.

Read this if you think I am politicizing the Batman. He is far too complex for our feeble, mild-mannered minds to analyze his politics, philosophy, psychology, or sexuality.

Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Duke Ellington
Batman The Animated Series Theme – Danny Elfman
Birth of the Batman – Shirley Walker
Flee For Your Life! – Nelson Riddle
Batman Blues – Nelson Riddle
Again – Lionel Newman
Plaisir D’Amour – Giovanni Martini
Robin’s Theme – Sun Ra
The Joker Is Wild – Jan & Dean
Batman Theme – Link Wray
Batman Riddles The Riddler! – or – (Hi Diddle Riddle) – Nelson Riddle
Batman – Lee Hazlewood
The Penguin The Marketts
Robin (Pt. 1-2) – The Revengers
The Cat Woman – The Marketts
Gotham City – Nelson Riddle
Catwoman’s Revenge – Power Records
Birth of the Penguin – Danny Elfman
Batman and the Joker Duel – Shirley Walker
Lasiurus – Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard
The Batman Theme II – Andy Strumer
Genetic Theft – Jon Button/Michael McCuistion
Batdance – Prince
I Wupped Batman’s Ass – Wesley Willis
Watch The World Burn – Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard
Gotham’s Reckoning – Hans Zimmer
Why So Serious? – Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard
The Fire Rises – Hans Zimmer
Batman’s Destiny – Shirley Walker
Total Paranoia – Serj Tankian
Batman Theme – Neil Hefti

On Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone’s first $250,000 in income.

The legislation prevailed 51-48 — a vote that signals Democrats would ultimately be willing to allow tax cuts for high-income earners to expire at the end of the year. Although Republicans ended their filibuster, they voted against the measure, with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Jim Webb (D-VA) voting with them.

The GOP is standing in the way of middle-income tax cuts until wealthy Americans get a tax cut too. They’re working to keep much of America poor and unemployed.

Though research shows that unemployment and underemployment may lead to depression, suicide, crime and even violence.

Research shows that spells of unemployment for a young person often damage the person’s happiness and health for many years to come. The California unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation.

But global reports of the connection between mental health and employment prospects are showing us that young people often suffer from feelings of self-loathing, failure, panic, and a whole range of mental health problems during times of high joblessness.

recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that “youth unemployment is associated with an increased vulnerability to psychiatric disorder.” Unemployment, the study found, can also influence the course of pre-existing disorders. For young people facing a tough job market, the chances of tragedies increase: suicide rates spike, as does the incidence of violence. Budget cuts, shredded safety nets, and flawed health insurance make finding help more and more difficult for those who are suffering distress.

And much to our dismay, we find that we are not only living in a classist America, but a very much still racist America as well.

Romney’s strategy has incorporated racial and cultural cues, both subtle and blatant, as a means of deflection from the Obama campaign’s relentless offensive based on questions about Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital,

In short, the theme boiled down to this: remind those core voters that the stakes in this election include another four years with a black guy in the White House — Casting Obama as “other”, “foreign” or un-American.

The poll, conducted by Langer Research, found that among the non-black adults it surveyed, 62 percent “think blacks in their community don’t experience racial discrimination (a view at odds with what most blacks themselves report) Those same voters think African-Americans have an equal shot at success, and 59 percent expressed a preference for Romney in the presidential race. 19 percent of non-black respondents said they did not believe that blacks “tried as hard as people of other races to get ahead” and favored Romney 54 percent.

Non-black registered voters who think blacks do experience discrimination in the respondents’ own communities were far more likely to name Obama as their candidate, 56-37 percent.

Romney’s most recent spate of race plays began with his visit to the NAACP convention, where he dangled some bait asserted himself as the best candidate “for African American families,” Romney was clearly playing to the the white Republican base, whose leaders often express purported knowledge of what’s best for black people, and repeating the “free stuff” line, similar to Gingrich’s  “food stamp president.”

Romney surrogate John Sununu asserted that Obama was somehow foreign, having been partly raised in Indonesia, and then in [foreign?] Hawaii, where Sununu characterized him as “smoking something.” “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” He apologized, but the whole thing was a distraction from Romney’s remarks: ” [Obama’s] course is extraordinarily foreign.”

This is all while Florida Gov. Rick Scott is purging ‘certain people’ from his state’s voter rolls, with some claims up to 87 percent so far have been people of color.

“Florida is a state with a history of disenfranchising blacks.”

Every Republican supports these racist manipulations, it seems, except for Florida’s former Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, who blew the lid off what he claims was a systemic effort to suppress the black vote. In a 630-page deposition recorded over two days in late May, Greer, who is on trial for corruption charges, unloaded a litany of charges against the “whack-a-do, right-wing crazies” in his party, including the effort to suppress the black vote.

In the deposition, released to the press yesterday, Greer mentioned a December 2009 meeting with party officials. “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting,” he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He also said party officials discussed how “minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party,” according to the AP.

All despite the fact that no one can find reports of in-person voter fraud, the entire claimed purpose of the purges in the first place.

At a time when vast, disproportionate majorities of busts for small crimes (like personal pot possession) are dealt out to non-whites (despite white kids smoking most of the pot) in almost every major city, the Republican leadership is openly searching for new ways to disenfranchise minorities and their vote.

In the state’s notoriously botched 2000 election, the state sent a list of 50,000 alleged ex-felons to the counties, instructing them to purge those names from their rolls. But it turned out that list included 20,000 innocent people, 54 percent of whom were black, the magazine reported. Just 15 percent of the state’s population is black.

They’ve already used their scams to ensure that black Americans suffer more economic inequality and less mobility.

From 2005 to 2009, black wealth declined by 53 percent, African-American wealth was wiped out by the Great Recession, making it a tremendously destructive event for economic mobility among black families.

The African-American joblessness rate  surged to 14.4 percent in June, and shows no signs of going down.

And the class war rages on and on.

James Henry, a former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has conducted groundbreaking new research for the Tax Justice Network campaign group – sifting through data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and private sector analysts to construct an alarming picture that shows capital flooding out of countries across the world and disappearing into the cracks in the financial system.

“These estimates reveal a staggering failure,” says John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. “Inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people. This new data shows the exact opposite has happened: for three decades extraordinary wealth has been cascading into the offshore accounts of a tiny number of super-rich.”

The world’s super-rich have taken advantage of lax tax rules to siphon off at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32tn, from their home countries and hide it abroad – a sum larger than the entire American economy.

All the more reason to see Mitt Romney’s tax returns. Who, by the way, spent his week raising even more foreign money, including two with bankers and lobbyists involved in the expanding Libor rate-fixing scandal. He’s worth about $200 million, and if elected, would be among the richest presidents ever to occupy the White House, topping both the Roosevelts and the Bushes , who were no slouches. In fact, he’s wealthier than the last eight presidents combined.

And remember, Ann Romney’s pet horse gets a $77,000 tax credit  when your kid gets $1,000.

Meanwhile… those few U.S. Representatives we like actually built enough momentum to pass Ron Paul’s bill to subject the Fed’s monetary policy to audits by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan and independent congressional agency. As Dennis Kucinich, one of 89 Democrats to vote for the bill, put it: “It’s time that we stood up to the Federal Reserve that right now acts like some kind of high, exalted priesthood, unaccountable to democracy.” While the leadership of both parties fight against it.

This same left-right coalition, led by Paul and joined by liberal Democrats such as Alan Grayson, that succeeded in enacting an Audit the Fed bill back in 2010. Even though that 2010 bill was substantially weakened by the same forces that oppose the bill now — the Fed, the White House, and party leadership — that audit, once completed, “revealed 16 trillion dollars in secret bank bailouts and has raised more questions about the quasi-private agency’s opaque operations” and independently showed that the Fed ignored rules to aid the largest banks.

This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.” ~Bernie Sanders

In other words, the system is rigged in favor of the largest banks and their elites, so they play by their own set of rules to the disfavor of the taxpayers who funded their bailout. The incentives are to cheat, and cheating is profitable because there are no consequences.

The oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or—here’s a classic Kremlin bailout technique—the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk—at least until the riots grow too large.

Despite what they’d like to convince us (and themselves), wealthy individuals and corporations need the help of government more than anybody:

“I owe the public nothing.” ~J. P. Morgan

  • The U.S. government will be spending $55 billion on Homeland Security next year, in addition to $673 billion for the military. The police, emergency services, and National Guard are trained to focus on crimes against wealth. (In cities, business interests keep police focused on the homeless and unemployed, and on drug users. Wealthy Americans rest better at night knowing that the police are “stopping and frisking” in the streets of the poor).
  • The wealthiest Americans are the main beneficiaries of tax laws, property rights, zoning rules, patent and copyright provisions, trade pacts, antitrust legislation, and contract regulations.
  • Their companies benefit, despite any publicly voiced objections to regulatory agencies, from SBA and SEC guidelines that generally favor business, and from FDA and USDA quality control measures that minimize consumer complaints and product recalls.
  • The growing numbers of financial industry executives have profited from 30 years of deregulation, most notably the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Lobbying by the financial industry has prolonged the absurdity of a zero sales tax on financial transactions.
  • Federal judicial law protects our biggest companies from foreign infringement. The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership would put governments around the world at the mercy of corporate decision-makers.
  • And did you know? Private jets use 16 percent of air traffic control resources while paying only 3% of the bill.

The traditional image of ‘welfare’ pales in comparison to corporate welfare and millionaire welfare. Whereas over 90% of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families goes to the elderly, the disabled, or working households, most of the annual $1.3 trillion in “tax expenditures” (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, and loopholes) goes to the top quintile of taxpayers. One estimate is $250 billion a year just to the richest 1%. The most profitable corporations get the biggest subsidies. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, 280 profitable Fortune 500 companies, which together paid only half of the maximum 35 percent corporate tax rate, received $223 billion in tax subsidies. SEC documents show that Exxon paid 2% in U.S. federal taxes from 2008 to 2010, Chevron 4.8%. As if to double up on the insult, the petroleum industry readily takes public money for oil spills. Cleanups cost much more than the fines imposed on the companies. Government costs can run into the billions, or even tens of billions, of dollars.

All we can really hope for is that the rich will turn on each other, and since everyone was doing it, start to dime on each other in the wake of the Barclay’s LIBOR fraud.

The other banks still under investigation have, according to a Reuters report, strongly considered all jumping into the pool at the same time and trying for a group settlement with regulators. The regulators like the idea because it will involve a great big number and a big list of names. The banks are warming to the idea because the big list of names means no one firm gets the Barclays treatment. In other words, settle quick and hope no one digs too much into how much criminal activity each member of La Familia is responsible for.

But if the (mostly) uninvolved Goldman takes the law into their own hands with suits against the firms responsible, some serious shit is going to get stirred. Since nobody will actually go to jail for widespread fraud and conspiracy, perhaps they will just sue themselves into oblivion.

And as our democracy is threatened by the suppression of journalism (which wasn’t really doing much of it’s job anyway), the buying of America by the psychopathic 1%, and spying on nearly every single American, perhaps it’s time for a Constitutional Amendment to rescue us!

Facing more Conservative Judicial Activism, it will probably be difficult to undo the damage of legalized political bribery under Citizen’s United. Corporations are not granted regular human and citizen rights, but more rights than the rest of us.

Many of our constitutional amendments were passed in reaction to ideal-driven justices serving the enemies of social justice and liberty, and most have been franchise-expanding and democracy-reinforcing provisions that strengthen the progress of what Lincoln called “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Now, our government even admits that it’s violating our civil rights.

The U.S. government violated the American people’s rights to privacy protected under the Fourth Amendment at least once under FISA. A letter received from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that the government has been abusing its new surveillance powers. It was admitted by the Director of National Intelligence that the U.S. has been making “unreasonable searches and surveillances.”

Cell phone records show at least 1.3 million government requests for customer data last year, ranging from subscriber identifying information to call detail records, geolocation tracking, text messages, and full-blown wiretaps. And this is probably an understatement, since they are pulling data from cell phone towers used by everyone, and neither corporation nor government agency is deleting information in a timely manner.

“Domestically, they’re pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you’re doing. So the government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it’s a very dangerous process.”

~former NSA Technical Director William Binney

Our Congress is having difficulty finding the details, and apparently even other judges are in the dark concerning the secret court orders allowing surveillance. And Department of Homeland Security Sec. Napolitano wants more drones in your backyard!

And the NYPD probably breaks international law in their quest to surveil, suppress, assault and otherwise over-police the Occupy protestors.

The report, which chronicles events from late September 2011 up to July of 2012, extensively documents numerous ways in which the NYPD acted with excessive force, attempted to intimidate and harass members of the press and expelled activists from public space due to the content of their speech. This resulted in at least 85 instances of police arrests of journalists, 130 incidents of violence committed against Occupy activists, including punching, over-hand swinging of batons, and “intentionally applying very hard force to the broken clavicle of a handcuffed and compliant individual.”

The executive summary states, in plain language:

“The abusive practices documented in this report violate international law and suppress and chill protest rights, not only by undermining individual liberty, but also by causing both minor and serious physical injuries, inhibiting collective debate and the capacity to effectively press for social and economic change, and making people afraid to attend otherwise peaceful assemblies.”

“The evidence strongly suggests that police use of force was unnecessary and disproportionate, in violation of international law.”

Even doing art in chalk on the sidewalk is a misdemeanor offense… if you’re an activist, that is. Yeah, this isn’t political targeting at all.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-07-28: Bat-Fan! by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

“Tune in next week: same bat-time, same bat-channel!”

Solemnity

Now the politicians are giving us a moment of solemnity in the wake of tragedy, but will soon be bombarding us with sensational media bias, political opportunism, conspiracy theories, and reactionary reactions that astound me. Let’s try to remain undistracted, as many others are the victims of institutionalized violence every day. While I flip the news on its head, I’ll hope to inoculate you with the dissent of the street and classic hip-hop.

PLAYLIST
The Kind – Delinquent Habits
World Peace – KRS-One
Live at The Knitting Factory – Mr. Dibbs
Aspiring Sociopath – Atmosphere
The Sounds of Science – Beastie Boys
Astronomy (8th Light) – Black Star
Bonus Instrumentals – Awol One & Fat Jack
Downtime – Z-Trip
Artichristo – Dälek
Galaktika – MC Solaar
Cosmic Assassins – DJ QBert
Imagine – Cosmic and Optimus Rhymes
Babies With Guns – Aesop Rock
Potholderz (feat. Count Bass D) – MF DOOM
Skit 2 – DANGERDOOM
In-Flux – DJ Shadow
The Dark Side – US3
Electric Relaxation – A Tribe Called Quest
Cosmic Cleavage (feat. Awol One) – Busdriver
Spaces (feat. Quasimoto) – King Britt
Underground – Necro
Speechless – Jedi Mind Tricks
Looking For The Perfect Beat – Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force
Black Ego – Digable Planets
Corey’s Interlude – Felt (Murs and Slug)
Master Teacher – Erykah Badu

The military is admitting that Iran can’t fire their missiles, and certainly couldn’t reach us, perhaps a sign that the hawkish fervor has passed. Lawsuits threaten their militarized agenda of systemic, robotic murder, as survivors of those targeted without due process seek justice. Even whistleblowers are learning to fight back, with fired members of Academi (nee Blackwater) looking for their day in open court. This is bad news for the elites, considering Blackwater raked in millions of taxpayer dollars illegally.

Unfortunately, whistleblowers like Bradley Manning languish in prison, awaiting his kangaroo court, with his defense attorney astounded that terrorists fare better in American court than a US soldier is, and even a UN torture expert is banned from testifying, despite finding Manning’s deplorable conditions to be inhumane.

Maybe all this conservatism just keeps us happier?

In a 2006 Pew Survey, 47 percent of conservative Republicans said they were “very happy,” compared with just 28 percent of liberal Democrats. Reasons included a higher tendency towards marriage and religion, more dependence on the authoritarian orders of their ‘betters,’ less worry for the plights and injustices of others… It has been found that radicals, confident in their twisted worldview, are very happy, despite also often being angry. Perhaps ignorance is bliss.

But just because one group is happy, doesn’t mean they’re right. And it doesn’t make them smarter. In fact, the more educated Republicans or conservatives are, the wronger their claims of the science are. Those who say they know more about global warming are shown to be more in denial, and often more sure of themselves as well—and are confident they don’t need any more information on the issue. Tea Party members appear to be the worst of all.

With that in mind, Fox News dedicated two hours of programming, 42 segments, to the out-of-context Obama line, “you didn’t build that.”

Romney had to Frankenstein the quote, which is seen in it’s entirety here:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a GREAT TEACHER somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

Romney should know better, since this is exactly what happened with his, “I like being able to fire people” line.

Rush Limbaugh has told his audience that this means Obama hates America. In his version of America, only the rich are worth a damn. And apparently, expressing the opinion that the value of the economy is something that is created together is enough to hate America

The rich are, as people at the Mitt Romney fundraiser put it, “the engine of the economy” who all the other people “rely” on for their survival.

Well of course, the rich see themselves as ubermensch “job creators” in Ayn Rand’s psychotic philosophy. (Rand admired child murderer William Hickman’s quote “What is good for me is right,” as “The best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I have heard,” she wrote.)

[Conservative] policies include no hint that the economy is stuck due to inadequate demand or the weak purchasing power of the middle and working classes and the delinking of wages and productivity. There’s no mention of the need to expand education and infrastructure to create the economy of the 21st century. There’s absolutely no sense that the economy encourages the most innovative or entrepreneurial when there is full employment and a portable social safety net that provides economic security. And it is light-years away from the observation that society is a system of cooperation in which the value in the economy is created together.

Despite some multimillionaires knowing that the system has helped them get where they are, like author Stephen King or CEO of Wind River Systems Jerry Fiddle, hypocritical conservatives decry the welfare state while benefitting themselves, and offering few viable, cheaper, more efficient alternatives

And the plans they do have a social net seem to benefit the rich, multinational corporations, who are recovering nicely anyway

Bush’s “ownership society” was as much a political failure as his faith-based initiative. His second-term push for the partial privatization of Social Security, a longtime goal of libertarians and Wall Street interests salivating at the prospect of the diversion of Social Security payroll taxes into the stock market casino, was so unpopular with Republican as well as Democratic voters that a Republican-controlled Congress never even brought the proposal to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote.

Ironically, the one great victory of the libertarian attempt to voucherize the welfare state is the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare. Its models were the conservative Heritage Foundation plan of the 1990s and Mitt Romney’s “Romneycare” in Massachusetts. Combining a mandate to buy private health insurance with means-tested subsidies, Obamacare, in effect, rejects the progressive alternative of universal public social insurance and replaces one conservative welfare state approach (employer-based benefits) with another conservative approach (Friedmanite welfare vouchers).

The GOP doesn’t even want you to know where all that corporate money comes from or is going, in the name of “free speech.”

Employees of Goldman Sachs Group alone have given almost $1 million to Romney Victory, a joint fundraising committee, over the past three months. Hedge fund guru Paul Singer’s company gave $818,000 to the fund, while Romney’s former company Bain Capital gave $802,000, and its sister Bain & Company gave $175,000.

Victims of Bain’s offshoring practices are pleading with Romney for help, a cool move considering that (regardless of when he actually left the company), “he designed the business model for that company.” Production associate Tom Gaulrapp says, “Venture capitalism, where they’re out for every last dollar, no matter what … that’s the attitude they still have.”

Progressives, of course, are asking the Romney campaign for more transparency in his tax history, as Democracy for America, MoveOn and DailyKos plan to deliver 224,000 signatures.

Even Republicans in his own party are theorizing that there’s something in Romney’s hidden records that may hurt him:

 “His personal finances, the way he does things, his record, are fair game.” ~Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)

“If there’s nothing there, there’s no ‘there’ there, don’t create a there,” ~Michael Steele

“The cost of not releasing the returns are clear. Therefore, he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.” ~conservative columnist George Will, on ABC’s “This Week.”

“There’s obviously something there, because if there was nothing there, he would say, ‘Have at it,’” Dowd said. “So there’s obviously something there that compromises what he said in the past about something.” ~Republican strategist Matthew Dowd

But on Wednesday night, the DNC apologized for two web videos it launched earlier in the day featuring a dressage horse, after Ann Romney complained to ABC News. She said training show horses is “part of her therapy for multiple sclerosis.” No wonder the horse gets a $77,000 tax credit. No wonder Ann Romney thinks “you people” have seen enough of their tax records.

O BTW, speaking of taxes, Americans favor President Obama’s plan to let the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000 expire at the end of the year by a 2-to-1 margin over over Republicans’ plan to preserve the tax cuts for all income brackets.

Even 55 percent of Republicans believe raising taxes on higher incomes “would either make the system more fair or have no impact.” Republican lawmakers have said they will block Democrats’ attempt to extend the tax cuts on income below $250,000, demanding that the upper-income cuts be extended too.

The Republican Party has stymied economic growth in many ways, in their efforts to make Obama look bad and benefit their rich buddies in the process. They’ve filibustered the American Jobs Act and killed jobs bills that the American public supports, they stonewalling monetary stimulus, they threaten a debt default to hold the country hostage to their idealogical whims, and cut discretionary spending in the debt ceiling deal and budget deals. They have lost America billions of dollars for the sake of power, greed, and vanity.

So while they appear unwilling to generate any revenue for the country, Republicans also spread false and dangerous myths about spending, keeping us austerely in our Recession longer than necessary.

Via Salon:

  • Spending Myth 1:  Today’s deficits have taken us to a historically unprecedented, economically catastrophic place.

This myth has had the effect of binding the hands of elected officials and policymakers at every level of government. It has also emboldened those who claim that we must cut government spending as quickly, as radically, as deeply as possible.

In fact, we’ve been here before.  In 2009, the federal budget deficit was a whopping 10.1% of the American economy, and back in 1943, in the midst of World War II, it was three times that — 30.3%. This fiscal year the deficit will total around 7.6%. Yes, that is big. But in the Congressional Budget Office’s grimmest projections, that figure will fall to 6.3% next year, and 5.8% in fiscal 2014. In 1983, under President Reagan, the deficit hit 6% of the economy, and by 1998, that had turned into a surplus. So, while projected deficits remain large, they’re neither historically unprecedented nor insurmountable.

More important still, the size of the deficit is no sign that lawmakers should make immediate deep cuts in spending. In fact, history tells us that such reductions are guaranteed to harm, if not cripple, an economy still teetering at the edge of recession.

  • Spending Myth 2: Military and other national security spending have already taken their lumps and future budget-cutting efforts will have to take aim at domestic programs instead.

The very idea that military spending has already been deeply cut in service to deficit reduction is not only false, but in the realm of fantasy.  The real story: Despite headlines about “slashed” Pentagon spending and “doomsday” plans for more, no actual cuts to the defense budget have yet taken place. In fact, since 2001, to quote former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, defense spending has grown like a “gusher.”  The Department of Defense base budget nearly doubled in the space of a decade. Now, the Pentagon is likely to face an exceedingly modest 2.5% budget cut in fiscal 2013, “paring” its budget down to a mere $525 billion – with possible additional cuts shaving off another $55 billion next year if Congress allows the Budget Control Act, a.k.a. “sequestration,” to take effect.

  • Spending Myth 3: Government health-insurance programs are more costly than private insurance.

Health spending is indeed growing faster than any other part of the federal budget. It’s gone from a measly 7% in 1976 to nearly a quarter today — and that’s truly a cause for concern. But health care costs, public and private, have been on the rise across the developed world for decades. And cost growth in government programs like Medicare has actually been slower than in private health insurance. That’s because the federal government has important advantages over private insurance companies when it comes to health care.

  • Spending Myth 4: The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — will bankrupt the federal government while levying the biggest tax in U.S. history.

Wrong again. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this health-reform legislation will reduce budget deficits by $119 billion between now and 2019.  And only around 1% of American households will end up paying a penalty for lacking health insurance.

In fact, Rush Limbaugh think the poor aren’t suffering enough.

Now, more than ever, we need government to step up and address our problems.

via Next New Deal:

New insider trading convictions, most recently of the widely respected Goldman Sachs director Rajan Gupta, show how rampant trading on insider information really is. The $6 billion losses at JPMorgan Chase by a department that was supposed to neutralize risk showed that trading risk is too profitable to be foregone voluntarily.

Some may not realize that Barclays, which agreed to pay a $450 million fine, signed a Statement of Facts that admitted its traders rigged this key rate to make profits on positions, and collaborated with bankers/traders at other banks. Now we find outthat Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, while president of the New York Fed, was worried and even wrote British regulators about this. That’s nice. But why didn’t government — and Tim Geithner himself — actually do something about it?

The myths of austerity economics are paralyzing the government and keeping the nation from getting its house in order.

And via Big Think, on the science of economic inequity:

For Raghuram Rajan, a professor of finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, two facts stand out. “First, overall demand for goods and services is much weaker, both in Europe and the United States, than it was in the go-go years before the recession. Second, most of the economic gains in the US in recent years have gone to the rich, while the middle class has fallen behind in relative terms.” As the middle class no longer suited the expansion of businesses, demand associated with a consumption-based economy plummeted.

Unions are weakened, we have more debt than ever, are wages are being kept down, housing rates are falling, and the big boys are even gaming the basic interest rates that determine everything else!

“The key to recovery, then, is to tax the rich, increase transfers, and restore worker incomes by enhancing union bargaining power and raising minimum wages,” says Rajan. While it won’t be easy or quick, “the US should focus on helping to tailor the education and skills of the people being left behind to the available jobs.”

CEO pay crept up another 5 percent last year, once again far outstripping wage gains for middle-class workers.

via Alternet:

As it turned out, after conducting seven experiments they found that the narrow pursuit of self-interest at the top of the economic heap leads our elites to behave like complete dirtbags. As Bloomberg summarized, the researchers found that the richest among us “were more likely to break the law while driving, take candy from children, lie in negotiation, cheat to raise their odds of winning a prize and endorse unethical behavior at work.”

“It’s not that the rich are innately bad, but as you rise in the ranks — whether as a person or a nonhuman primate — you become more self-focused,” Paul Piff, the lead author of the study, told Bloomberg. It is their lust for wealth, paired with a lack of empathy for others – their disregard for the consequences of their actions on the “little people” – that makes them, at times, appear to simply be evil.

And it certainly helps explain why they didn’t think twice about the individual and institutional investors they ripped off: millions of ordinary people with credit cards, auto and home loans and other lines of credit.

As many as 20 other megabanks  are under investigation, including Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, UBS,  HSBC, and JPMorgan Chase. As one MIT authority on finance told CNN, “This dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scams in the history of markets.”

Many Wall St. executives openly claim that wrongdoing is necessary! Via Yahoo! News:

A quarter of Wall Street executives see wrongdoing as a key to success, according to a survey by whistleblower law firm Labaton Sucharow released on Tuesday. In a survey of 500 senior executives in the United States and the UK, 26 percent of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, while 24 percent said they believed financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful.

16 percent of respondents said they would commit insider trading if they could get away with it, according to Labaton Sucharow. And 30 percent said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law.

And those same banks that extended risky credit to families that couldn’t afford it in order to package their toxic debt as part of their scam, now won’t grant any to people who need it to genuinely survive and keep their homes.

Wall Street banks have hollowed out our communities with fraudulently sold mortgages and illegal foreclosures and settled the crimes for pennies on the dollar.  They’ve set back property records to the early 1900s, skipping the recording of deeds in county registry offices and using their own front called MERS.  They lobbied to kill fixed pension plans and then shaved a decade of growth off our 401(K)s with exorbitant fees, rigged research and trading for the house.

So when the Supreme Court announced it would not reconsider Citizens United, right-wing partisans were crowing about the advantage they now own, an advantage not due to ideas or personalities but to the sheer force of money.

On the one hand, conservatives declare that corporations and the super-rich can spend all they want on exercising their First Amendment rights, but on the other, they demand to keep it secret so the rest of us can’t exercise our First Amendment rights to fight back. Have you ever heard of anything more cowardly?

This is all a sham for invalidating democracy in the name of democracy. It’s the trick authoritarians always use to hide their real intentions, which in this case is absolute power over our public life and institutions: the privatization of everything.

It’s not just that the corporations have taken control over our government. It’s also that they’ve taken control over — and put serious limits on — our choices regarding what we buy, where we work, how we live, and what rights we have.

25% of groceries are bought from the elites, WalMart in this country, and The Walmart Heirs Now Have As Much Wealth As The Bottom 40 Percent Of Americans. Just like in the Soviet Union classism (which we are rapidly approaching):

  • Education is based on testing, not on teaching.
  • Our food supply is dominated by Soviet-style government-mandated (but privately run) monoculture.
  • Our voting system is increasingly restricted to people who are acceptable to the party hierarchy, just as the Soviet system limited Communist Party membership to a small percentage of the population (and corporate-owned machines count our votes).
  • Our increasingly privatized and militarized law enforcement is starting to owe a lot to the brutal Soviet policing style, too. We have gulags now — and the corporations are running them, too.
  • Pseudo-science like Lysenkoism is taking hold, with science denial in the face of facts threatening our future regarding economics and climate change.
  • The Kafkan runaround we get trying to reason with our elected officials, police and corporate overlords to get consumer rights or protection.
  • We are being spied on by government agencies, who admit “on at least one occasion,” collecting intelligence was “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
  • Our government is even spying on its own scientists, with journalists, businessmen and other citizens caught in the net.

This kind of faceless, brutally inhuman bureaucracy used to be the stuff of totalitarian nightmares. Now, it’s everyday reality for tens of millions of American homeowners.

Within the next year or two, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will instantly know everything about your body, clothes, and luggage with a new portable laser-based molecular scanner fired from 164 feet (50 meters) away. From traces of drugs or gun powder on your clothes to what you had for breakfast to the adrenaline level in your body.

Once the government is able to monitor everything we do and say, we will be unable to fight back.

The Surveillance State hovers over any attacks that meaningfully challenge state-appropriated power. It doesn’t just hover over it. It impedes it, it deters it and kills it. That’s its intent. It does that by design.

And so, understanding what the Surveillance State, how it operates — most importantly, figuring out how to challenge it and undermine it, and subvert it — really is, I think, an absolute prerequisite to any sort of meaningful activism, to developing strategies and tactics for how to challenge state and corporate power…

~Glen Greenwald, Salon

Luckily, Americans aren’t buying it.

A United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll found that 63% of those polled believed government and businesses should not be allowed to share information because it would hurt privacy and civil liberties.

In fact, the United Technologies/National Journal poll found that Americans were concerned about cybersecurity—67% of those surveyed were worried about the country’s computer networks—but that didn’t translate into support for proposals that could undermine online privacy rights.

Stay vigilant. The news is pretty somber.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-07-21: Solemnity by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

“why so serious?”

Fusion

Tonight a fusion of world events, geopolitics and international genres!

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – The Marimba Belles
So What – Miles Davis (Miles From India Tribute)
The Shadow World – Sun Ra
A Minha Menina -Os Mutantes
Zana – Toquinho
Call Any Vegetable Suite -Frank Zappa & The Mothers
This Is An Artistic Statement (Part I) – The Beat Of The Earth
Love Is Like A Bottle Of Gin – The Magnetic Fields
Chilly Winds Don’t Blow – Nina Simone
Everything – Radio Citizen feat. Bajka
Sax Quartet – Seatbelts
Star Vader – Guitar Vader
Jardin Chinois – Cirque Du Soleil
La Petite Fille de la Mer – Vangelis
Storm – Parov Stelar
In-Flux – DJ Shadow
The Lighthouse – Amon Tobin
Scratch Bass – Lamb
Track 24 – Z-Trip
A Sunday Mystery – RjD2
Midnight Lullaby – Tom Waits
Niltrous Burn Out 2012 – Man… Or Astroman?

Many Republicans who voted for contempt against Eric Holder in his ‘Fast and the Furious’ operation, subscribe to a conspiracy theory holding that the administration tried to boost the number of weapons going to Mexico in order to increase support for gun regulations that have never been introduced.

This does not make sense.

Aside from the fact that Mr. Holder had no direct influence over the operation (something that he could, theoretically, actually be criticized for by sane individuals), President Obama hasn’t so much as breathed a word of gun control speak in the general direction of the ten-foot pole not even touching the issue. But then again, these are the same reactionary citizens who have no problem bordering on treasonous remarks when it benefits their fancy little Tea Party.

“To resist by all means that are right in the eyes of God is not rebellion or insurrection, it is patriotic resistance to invasion.”

-Roy Nicholson, Chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party

In light of the open suggestions of armed revolt, Glenn Greenwald at Salon wonders:

Does President Obama have the power to order Nicholson assassinated without charges or trial? Should he have this right? What’s the principled distinction that makes assassinating Awlaki acceptable but not Nicholson? The most likely answer is that Awlaki was in Yemen while Nicholson is in the U.S., but that’s just a pragmatic difference, one that cannot make any legal or Constitutional difference: American citizens don’t renounce their Constitutional protections against the U.S. Government when they leave the country. If the President has the legal authority to assassinate U.S. citizens without charges on the ground that they are allegedly plotting against the U.S. when they’re on foreign soil, then shouldn’t the President have this same right for citizens on American soil? Think Progress celebrates the Awlaki assassination as an Obama “success”; would they do the same if the President ordered Nicholson assassinated without charges?

I could, in the ‘I’m Rubber-You’re-Glue’ vein, introduce some conspiracies of my own… Such as the theory that Mitt Romney is covering up federal felonies related to his contradicting claims made to SEC officials. Romney owned a Bermuda-based company for over 15 years which suggests that without further disclosure it may be impossible to tell his actual hidden wealth. Or point out how Bain Capital to invest in a medical-waste disposal company that disposed of aborted fetuses. And:

“In 1991, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited its Arkansas operation for 11 workplace safety violations. The facility had not provided employees with sufficient protective gear, and it had kept body parts, fetuses, and dead experimental animals in unmarked storage containers, placing workers at risk.

And though Romney and others are making this merely a “referendum on Obama”, and spreading lies about the tax impact of his healthcare plan, when you compare the projected revenue effect of the individual mandate to the actual revenue effects of other, actually large tax increases, their claims becomeslaughable. The mandate is tiny by comparison.

And most American’s actually support the provisions in ‘Obamacare’:

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found Americans split down the middle, with 41 percent approving of the law, and 40 percent saying they didn’t like it. But then Kaiser asked about 12 specific provisions in the legislation, and found that, on average, 63 percent of respondents approved of the nuts and bolts of Obamacare. Of the 12 measures they tested, only one – the controversial mandate to carry health insurance or pay a penalty – received the approval of less than half of Americans (35 percent).

Or consider this divide: while only 12 percent of Republicans had a positive view of the law overall, 47 percent, on average, viewed its specifics favorably.

What most folks don’t know about the law (or have been outright lied to), is that most Americans will be getting subsidy checks, including tax credits for small businesses that offer employee coverage, advanceable tax credits for citizens, the richest Americans paying a fair amount that they can comfortably afford, insurers actually required to spend money on their customers, and larger companies (with 50 or more full-time workers) will have to pay penalties if they don’t provide coverage.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, just 1 percent of the population will pay the mandate penalty, which maxes out at 1 percent of one’s income, and the law will reduce the projected deficit by $210 billion over the next decade.

The bill provides maternity care, mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment, pediatric care, ambulance rides and hospitalization, and new dollars for community health centers.

Yes, the old systems are starting to decay, and will all hopefully be replaced with reasonable solutions. As Chris Hedges writes at Truthdig:

“Civilizations in the final stages of decay are dominated by elites out of touch with reality. … This failure to impose limits cannibalizes natural resources and human communities. This time, the difference is that when we go the whole planet will go with us.”

The Rockerfellers and the Rothschilds are merging their interests, as are the Koch Brothers and Casino mogul Sheldon Adelsonpledging $10 million to their conservative 2012 efforts. And even those that take the fall for massive investment failures and fraud (covering for the super-rich elites) face no jail time and will not have any money clawed back.

This is the most important rule of finance: It really doesn’t matter how badly you screw up; if you’re an important enough person you will never face any real negative consequences, besides a bit of bad press. The best managers know how to delegate large-scale theft and fraud.

So even though Barclay’s has agreed to pay fines related to their price-fixing scamwe won’t be seeing any of that money. There were also huge bid-rigging settlements for Chase, UBS, Bank of America, GE and Wachovia.

Our only slim hope is that they’ll take themselves out, though this is grisly and unjust. Is the 1% going to leap at this as an example of their first casualty in the Class War we nefarious “poors” are waging against them?

Corporate profits are at an all-time high; wages (as a percent of the economy) are at an all-time low, often at or just above the poverty level.

“One reason companies are so profitable is that they’re paying employees less than they ever have as a share of GDP. And that, in turn, is one reason the economy is so weak: Those ‘wages’ are other companies’ revenue,” Henry Blodget, Business Insider. And high unemployment makes workers willing to accept those poverty wages.

Right-wingers from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul have used high unemployment as an opportunity to call for eliminating the minimum wage entirely, letting companies decide just how little they think their workers are worth. Companies love to claim that if they’re forced to pay more, they’ll have to eliminate jobs, but these numbers show that actually, they’re able to keep wages low and refuse to hire, And the rich are getting ever richer.

Politicians proclaim that they feel your pain while announcing budget cuts that freeze salaries, lay off workers and force more work onto those who remain. CEOs use that same language when explaining why they simply can’t create jobs. Morgan Stanley’s CEO, James Gorman blamed the lousy economy when asked why he hadn’t created the jobs his company had promised the city in exchange for massive tax breaks.

That’s what rich corporations are able to buy with their record profits: politicians who turn around and hand them even more money, in the form of tax breaks that hollow out city and state budgets and force even more austerity and even more social service cuts that fall on the backs of the same underpaid workers.

Corporate taxes are at a 40-year low, with an effective tax rate paid of 12.1 percent. That’s what you can buy when you’d rather pay politicians than your workers.

The Center for American Progress found in a study that as union membership decreases, so does the so-called middle class’s share of national income. The middle class has long served as a buffer between those at the top and those at the bottom. As long as the majority of Americans were comfortable, had decent jobs and pensions, and could send their kids to school, the wealthy could stay wealthy and the poor were pretty much just ignored. And that middle class was built through decades of union agitation, not just for higher wages and health care benefits, but for the eight-hour day, for the weekend, and for safety in the workplace and some job security.

But now the middle class has been hollowed out, many of their jobs being outsourced or automated into nonexistence in the name of profits. Increasingly, there are the super-super-rich, and there are the rest of us.

The far right frames these issues as moral ones, and so should we.

The basic idea behind democracy in America is the idea that citizens care about each other; that they act socially as well as individually to cash out that care, and they try to do as well as they can in doing that both for themselves and for others. They do this by having the government create what we call “the public.” The public provision of things; things for everybody – roads, bridges, sewers, public education and public health, like the Centers for Disease Control. Clean air, clean water, the provision of energy, communications and so on. These are all the sorts of things that you can’t live a life without. A private life or a private enterprise. Every business depends on all of these things. The private depends on the public. That is a moral issue. That is how we care about each other.

Now many are claiming that the toxic economic philosophy of austerity for the poor, deregulated greed and risk-taking for the rich, and blind obedience to authoritarianism, has become it’s own religion (and a very anti-Christian one at that).

“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad – or an economist.” ~Kenneth Boulding

“Neoclassical economics has become a religion. Because it has a mathematical veneer, and I emphasize the word veneer, they actually believe it’s true. Once you believe something is true, you’re locked into its way of thinking unless there’s something that can break in from the outside and destroy that confidence.” ~Economics professor Steve Keen

“The arguments of economists legitimate social and economic arrangements by providing these arrangements with quasi-religious justification. Economists are thus doing theology while for the most part unaware of that fact.” ~Paul Heyne

Paul Krugman also has some very reasonable choice words on the virtue of selfishness.

But the systems of power continue to peddle and perpetuate their scam of ‘hard work in America.’

Since the 1970s, America’s annual working hours have been steadily increasing. At the same time, middle-class wages have stagnated or declined. Despite this, Americans work more hours than any other Western nation, says Boston University professor Ellen Shell. , and this is bad for the economy and bad for our mental and physical well-being. “…we must push hard against our current practice of celebrating overwork and treat it as the scam it has become,” she says, referring to how the wages of the upper-class have boomed in the last decade.

We’re headed back to the robber baron era, the Gilded Age, and in many ways may already be there.

We have the highest level of income inequality in 90 years, both private and public sector unions are under a concerted attack, and federal and state governments intend to cut deficits by slashing services to the poor. Unregulated corporate greed has historically created economic collapses that the public then has to pay for. Unions are being stamped out, elections are being openly bought and sold, the Supreme Court is heavily partisan towards the financial industry, civil liberties are being violated and protestors shot, votes are being discounted, and minority groups beaten and subjugated.

NYPD is now operating in cahoots with the CIA, using its resources as a vast domestic spy network engaged in surveillance, mapping and infiltration,  stretching from the heart of New York City to the border of Canada—by way of Connecticut, New Jersey and Long Island. Treating basic acts of daily living as potential crimes, disregarding privacy and the freedom of speech and religion. Mild-mannered Muslim citizens, students, cab drivers, business owners, vendros are all fair game, with every minute detail of their lives being recorded. How long before the eyes of scrutiny are turned on the rest of us?

There’s a rich history in this country of suppressing dissent and stripping away civil rights; the WWI Red Scare and “Prostitution” roundups, the Depression-era Bonus Army attack, WWII internment, and most notably, the surveillance and operations against left-leaning political groups in the 1960s (COINTELPRO) and the lawless indefinite detention post 9/11 to today. Anarchists, communists, labor organizers, civil rights organizations and various ethnic groups were all monitored by a succession of “Red Squads.”

Mass arrests accompanied the Republican conventions held in New York in 2004, when 900 people were busted, and in St. Paul in 2008 when 300 were detained, including 30 journalists. In the recent NATO summit held in Chicago at which approximately 70 people were busted over two days, including three for “terrorism.”

Increasingly, steps are being taken to prevent us from making real change.

What’s needed, for starters, is a unified progressive identity, a concerted effort to institutionalize coordination, a common infrastructure capable of formulating clear policy objectives and strategic messages, and a commitment to creating a powerful, unified movement beyond isolated campaigns. a new American Dream, a New Progressive Movement.

“America needs a different story. . . . So let me say what I think up front: The leaders and thinkers and activists who honestly tell that story and speak passionately of the moral and religious values it puts in play will be the first political generation since the New Deal to win power back for the people.”

~Bill Moyers

We need ideas for dethroning GDP, transcending consumerism, transforming corporations, revitalizing communities, building a different system for money and finance, and more.

Yes Magazine illustrates a vision of America the possible, a manifesto on the “new economy.” The following transformations hold the key to moving to a new political economy. Consider each as a transition from today to tomorrow.

  • Economic growth: from growth fetish to post-growth society, from mere GDP growth to growth in human welfare and democratically determined priorities.
  • The market: from near laissez-faire to powerful market governance in the public interest.
  • The corporation: from shareholder primacy to stakeholder primacy, from one ownership and motivation model to new business models and the democratization of capital.
  • Money and finance: from Wall Street to Main Street, from money created through bank debt to money created by government.
  • Social conditions: from economic insecurity to security, from vast inequities to fundamental fairness.
    Indicators: from GDP (“grossly distorted picture”) to accurate measures of social and environmental health and quality of life.
  • Consumerism: from consumerism and affluenza to sufficiency and mindful consumption, from more to enough.
  • Communities: from runaway enterprise and throwaway communities to vital local economies, from social rootlessness to rootedness and solidarity.
  • Dominant cultural values: from having to being, from getting to giving, from richer to better, from separate to connected, from apart from nature to part of nature, from transcendent to interdependent, from today to tomorrow.
  • Politics: from weak democracy to strong, from creeping corporatocracy and plutocracy to true popular sovereignty.
  • Foreign policy and the military: from American exceptionalism to America as a normal nation, from hard power to soft, from military prowess to real security.

There’s work to be done together. But there’s democracy in the air.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-07-07: Fusion by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Cool Dark Rock

06-09-12

I wanted to play something cool, something a little dark, and something that rocks tonight. Perhaps I was inspired by the politicians in the news, and all the pernicious trash that seems to be poking out from every cool, dark rock around.

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – Sounds Incorporated
I´ve Loved You – The Music Machine
Instrumental Duet – Bela Fleck
Ray Gun Suitcase – Pere Ubu
The Darker Days Of Me & Him – PJ Harvey
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – Elvis Costello
I Wanna Rule The World – 10cc
2/1 – Brian Eno
All The Trees Of The Field Will Clap Their Hands – Sufjan Stevens
She Is Staggering – Polaris
Fools – The Dodos
Change My Life – Spoon
Rumble – Link Wray
Baby, Please Don’t Go – Them
Bloodstains (Darkness Version) – Agent Orange
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Red Right Hand – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Guitar Solo 6 from ‘Dead Man’ – Neil Young
Bad Trip – Bo Diddley
Insanity Creeping – The Flow
Castles Made Of Sand – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Sittin’ On Top Of The World – Howlin’ Wolf
Free Ride – The Illinois Speed Press
Overture – The Collectors
White Room – Cream
When I Was Young – Eric Burdon & The Animals
Cool It Down – The Velvet Underground
Évasion de Julien – Miles Davis
The Old Revolution – Leonard Cohen

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-06-09: Cool Dark Rock by The Stranger on Mixcloud

Even though Money Romney is trying to distract you from his social issues, he and his champagne campaign neglect the American voter’s intellect by implying that social issues and economic issues are not intertwined.

“Mitt Romney is pro-life,” senior campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said. “He’ll govern as a pro-life president, but you’re going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people’s attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election.”

via In These Times:

But the distinction between “economic” issues and “social” ones is inherently false, particularly as it pertains to reproductive choice. The economy isn’t separate from issues of choice, nor is it separate from any issue we might refer to as a “woman’s issue.” (Which, one hopes, extends beyond the simple matter of whether to have a baby.)

An economic downturn can alter the course of even a planned pregnancy. Since the recession, more people have been demanding contraceptive services, and more of them have been seeking abortions.

Poor women are more likely to terminate unintended pregnancies than their more well-to-do counterparts,” explains one study.” As more women and families fall below the poverty line and are otherwise constrained by financial circumstances, abortion rates can be expected to rise.”

Economic violence is real violence. It impacts people. It changes lives. And it’s what conservative fiscal policies enact. Cutting social programs such as domestic violence shelters (which are actually needed more often during times of economic strain), denying necessary insurance coverage for reasons of personal religious belief, or attacking institutions like Planned Parenthood that provide affordable reproductive health care, doesn’t strengthen the economy in any way. What it does is penalize the poor, making them less able to access contraception, and more likely, if they are pregnant, to need the abortions that Romney, as a potential “pro-life President,” would claim to abhor.

But as we’ve seen, Romney likes to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to court both Santorum-covered Bible Belters and critical-thinking independent moderates (some might point out that these are mutually exclusive). He wants to put aside social issues in favor of economic ones, but can’t seem to defend himself on either. He wants to get credit for good business sense running a private equity firm and earning capital gains, but can’t withstand criticism about his affluent, privileged status, low effective tax rate, or corporate-raiding, job-cutting image. He wants to claim that his programs as governor or Massachusetts created jobs, but that Obamacare (modeled on his own Romneycare) destroys jobs. It’s all a classic case of projection.

via TPM:

On Sunday, the campaign defended the former Massachusetts governor’s jobs record, arguing that the state’s 47th in job creation ignores the improvement made between the beginning and end of Romney term. But when it comes to attacking President Obama’s jobs record, the Romney campaign doesn’t always apply the same standard.

For example, the campaign’s press secretary Andrea Saul sang a different tune last month:

“President Obama hasn’t created a net single new job … Since he started his presidency, he has not created any jobs. Not when you look at the full picture of the economy.”

It’s a fine line for the campaign to walk, as it simultaneously uses averages and “net” jobs numbers to insist that Obama’s jobs record is sub-par. Romney adviser Kerry Healey said “Averages are an unfair measure of a chief executive’s record.”

And surely the Obama administration gets none of that benefit of the doubt, despite the bleeding having stopped, and some minor-if-not-exactly-celebratory progress being made, all despite the best efforts of the Republican party. Many are now charging economic sabotage at the hands of the GOP.

“I don’t have any doubt at this point — the Republicans are clearly rooting for recession as hard as they can,” said veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who believes the Obama campaign should aggressively make the argument. “People need to know what’s happening and there’s nothing wrong with explaining it. Republicans’ actions give more and more credibility to [the notion], and if independent voters become convinced of it they’ll be furious.”

Lately the charge has taken on a new vigor, from progressive commentary to the highest echelons of the Democratic totem pole. Obama’s senior campaign adviser David Axelrod last Sunday said Republicans have been “high-fiving each other on days when there is bad news.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Tuesday pointedly accused House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) of seeking to sabotage the economy for partisan gain.

Survey data from late last year suggest the public can be sold.

Proponents have pointed to the broader GOP lock-step opposition to Obama’s agenda, to Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) “Waterloo” remark and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s infamous 2010 quote, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Economics writers also question why Republicans have turned sharply against deficit spending to boost the economy since Obama took office, after having historically supported the concept while in power. Last year’s self-inflicted debt ceiling near-crisis shook confidence in Congress’s ability to carry out its most basic functions, and Republicans are signaling a return to the same brinkmanship as early as later this year.

But of course, despite all their madness, some Republicans are going off-message (or: ‘Gone Clinton‘) on the economy.

Conservative Utah Republican Liljenquist voiced support for the Glass-Steagell bank regulation. Liljenquist said he is a “huge Mitt Romney supporter” and vowed that he would “use every ounce of my training at Bain Consulting and in the private sector to dive into the financial issues of our time.”

“When you take the downside of that behavior away, then people engage in riskier and riskier and riskier behavior,” he said. “And that’s what happened with Wall Street. They got away from all good lending practices, they got away from all rationality, they leveraged themselves up 42 to 1 on the dollar thinking, you know what, if this goes south, we’ll get ours and everything will be fine.”

And the former (conservative) justice who led the dissent says he’s increasingly convinced that Citizen’s United won’t stand the test of time.

In a speech at the University of Arkansas, retired Justice John Paul Stevens argued that events since the decision “provide a basis to expect that the Court already has had second thoughts about the breadth of the reasoning” and will likely return to its 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

Stevens noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion did not explicitly address the possibility that the decision could open up the floodgates for foreign entities to bankroll U.S. elections. It’s a notion that President Obama warned of in his 2010 State of the Union.

When the justices carve out exceptions, argued Stevens, they will “create a crack in the foundation of the Citizens United majority opinion.”

“[T]he Court must then explain its abandonment of, or at least qualify its reliance upon, proposition that the identity of the speaker is an impermissible basis for regulating campaign speech,” Stevens said. “It will be necessary to explain why the First Amendment provides greater protection to the campaign speech of some non-voters than to that of other non-voters.”

“I think it necessarily follows that such speech made or financed by the terrorist organization itself would receive no constitutional protection,”  If foreign entities are barred from bankrolling U.S. elections, then the court is conceding that “the identity of some speakers may provide a legally acceptable basis for restricting speech.” Not only would that require the court to explicitly explain why corporations meet the standard (Stevens argues they shouldn’t because they can’t vote), it would also bring into question the blurring of lines between issue advocacy and campaign speech in Citizens United.

In other words, politics has changed fundamentally: the old style bosses are out and a new style media system driven in. Politics is now a business with advertising specialists, market researchers and pollsters all fostering polarization and continuing crisis so that their counsel will be solicited more often. Increasingly, political campaigns are run like military commands with centralized top-down direction, defensive and offensive strategies and tactics as well as psychological warfare.

Campaign gurus are well schooled in the techniques of perception management. This same techniques are also used to sell war, concrete proposals and results are less important than perception and image. Politics is now a growing industry with money and politics more joined at the hip than ever and an interest in keeping the big money flowing into its bank account.

This has been a slow and nefarious evolution going back to Reagan, or even Nixon. As economist Paul Krugman points out, as America may be entering another Depression, it’s time to stimulate, not enact austerity (which will wreak havoc in Europe), or ‘Keynesian economics.’ And historically, conservatives like Reagan have been all-too-happy to spend on big government, when they control the White House, of course. Now they are using the crisis to their benefit.

“After there was a recession under Ronald Reagan, government employment went way up. It went up after the recessions under the first George Bush and the second George Bush,” Obama said last month on the campaign trail. “So each time there was a recession with a Republican president, we compensated by making sure that government didn’t see a drastic reduction in employment. The only time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under me.”

More broadly, federal spending growth under Obama has been remarkably low by historical standards. The pressure from the GOP and D.C. political elites, who have been hostile to Keynesian economics in recent years, has put the administration in a tough spot.

Reagan, not Obama, was the big spender. While there was a brief burst of government spending early in the Obama administration — mainly for emergency aid programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps — that burst is long past. Indeed, at this point, government spending is falling fast, with real per capita spending falling over the past year at a rate not seen since the demobilization that followed the Korean War.

Here’s the truth. America has a huge budget deficit hanging over our heads. America is currently suffering from a classic case of debt deflation. This is exactly the situation in which government spending should temporarily rise to offset the slump in private spending and give the private sector time to repair its finances.

If the rich don’t pay their fair share, the rest of us have to pay higher taxes — or do without vital public services like Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, food stamps, child nutrition, federal aid to education, and more.

Republicans say we shouldn’t raise taxes on the rich when the economy is still in the dumps. This is a variation on their old discredited trickle-down economic theories. The fact is, the rich already spend as much as they’re going to spend. Raising their taxes a bit won’t deter them from buying, and therefore won’t hurt the economy.

In reality, Romney and the GOP are pushing an agenda that has nothing whatever to do with reducing the budget deficit. If they were serious about deficit reduction they wouldn’t demand tax cuts for the very wealthy.

We should have learned by now. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 were supposed to be temporary. Even so, they blew a huge hole in the budget deficit. Millionaires received a tax cut that’s averaged $123,000 a year, while the median-wage worker’s tax cut has amounted to no more than a few hundreds dollars a year. Bush promised the tax cuts would more than pay for themselves in terms of their alleged positive impact on the economy. The record shows they didn’t.

Romney and the Republicans are pushing a reverse-Robin Hood plan that takes from the middle class and the poor while rewarding the rich.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Romney’s tax plan would boost the incomes of people earning more than $1 million a year by an average of $295,874 annually.

Meanwhile, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Romney’s plan would throw ten million low-income people off the benefits rolls for food stamps or cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or both. “These cuts would primarily affect very low-income families with children, seniors and people with disabilities,” the Center concludes.

Americans still hate the rich, according to yet another poll. Pew’s major Trends in American Values poll shows class resentments bridging the partisan divide:“Majorities in all educational and income groups agree that ‘today it’s really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer.’ In the current survey, 76% of the public agrees with this statement, about the same as the 74% that agreed in 1987.”

Even the moderate pundit crowd’s beloved independents agree: Our ruling classes are worthless parasites. A mere 22 percent of “swing voters” “admire the rich.” (How many Romney supporters “admire the rich,” you ask? Thirty-eight percent. No one likes rich people.)

via Joseph Stiglitz:

Inequality in America has been widening for dec­ades. Warren Buffett put it well, “There’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years and my class has won.” The rich do not exist in a vacuum. They need a functioning society around them to sustain their position. Widely unequal societies do not function efficiently and their economies are neither stable nor sustainable. There comes a point when inequality spirals into economic dysfunction for the whole society, and even the rich pay a steep price.

When one interest group holds too much power, it succeeds in getting policies that help itself in the short term at the expense of the rest of society in the long time.

Periods in which the broadest cross sections of Americans have reported higher net incomes – when inequality has been reduced, partly as a result of progressive taxation – have been the periods in which the U.S. economy has grown the fastest. It is no accident that the current recession, like the Great Depression, was preceded by large increases in inequality. When too much money is concentrated at the top of society, spending by the average American is necessarily reduced – Moving money from the bottom to the top lowers consumption because higher-income individuals consume, as a fraction of their income, less than lower-income individuals do.

The relationship is straightforward and ironclad: as more money becomes concentrated at the top, demand goes into a decline.

In a society in which inequality is widening, fairness is not just about wages and income, or wealth. It’s a far more generalized perception. Do I seem to have a stake in the direction society is going, or not? Do I share in the benefits of collective action, or not? If the answer is a loud “no,” then brace for a decline in motivation whose repercussions will be felt economically and in all aspects of civic life.

There is no good reason why the 1 percent, with their good educations, their ranks of advisers, and their much-vaunted business acumen, should be so misinformed. The 1 percent in generations past often knew better. They knew that there would be no top of the pyramid if there wasn’t a solid base – that their own position was precarious if society itself was unsound. Henry Ford, not remembered as one of history’s softies, understood that the best thing he could do for himself and his company was to pay his workers a decent wage, because he wanted them to work hard and he wanted them to be able to buy his cars. Franklin D. Roosevelt, a purebred patrician, understood that the only way to save an essentially capitalist America was not only to spread the wealth, through taxation and social programs, but to put restraints on capitalism itself, through regulation. Roosevelt and the economist John Maynard Keynes, while reviled by the capitalists, succeeded in saving capitalism from the capitalists.

According to Politico.com, the so-called “mega-donors,” unleashed by Citizens United and pouring boundless big bucks into this year’s political campaigns, are upset that their massive contributions are being exposed to public view, ignoring the right of every one of us to know who is giving money to candidates — and the opportunity to try to figure out why.

“Quit picking on us” is part of Politico‘s headline. Their article says that the mega-donors’ “six- and seven-figure contributions have… bought them nothing but grief.”

Wall Street titans have been whining for a couple of years now about the horror of people in politics criticizing ineffective banking regulations and the favorable tax treatment so many wealthy people receive… America’s barons feel assaulted, victimized, wounded, even!

Frank VanderSloot and his wealthy pals went ballistic and cried intimidation. “You go back to the Dark Ages,” VanderSloot said, “when they put these people in the stocks or whatever they did, or publicly humiliated them as a deterrent to everybody else — watch this — watch what we do to the guy who did this.”

Conservatives described the Obama ranking of Romney contributors as an “enemies list,” conjuring images of Nixonian wiretaps and punitive tax audits.

“Most of the megadonors backing [Romney’s] candidacy are elderly billionaires,” Tim Dickinson writes in Rolling Stone. “Their median age is 66, and their median wealth is $1 billion. Each is looking for a payoff that will benefit his business interests, and they will all profit from Romney’s pledge to eliminate inheritance taxes, extend the Bush tax cuts for the superwealthy — and then slash the top tax rate by another 20 percent.” As at least one of them has said, they view these cash infusions as an “investment,” plain and simple.

Not that Democrats are pure of heart and innocent. In fact, Adam Bonica, an associate political science professor at Stanford has put together a database indicating that since 1979, 377 members of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans have given almost half a billion dollars to candidates of both parties, most of it in the last decade. The median contribution was $355,100 each.

And this, via Salon:

The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality has put together a new package of easy-to-digest “educational materials on trends in inequality.”

The slides now available at www.inequality.com are divided into 14 categories: debt, education, employment, family, gender, health, immigration, income, mobility, politics, poverty, race, violent crime, and wealth.

If you are poor, you are more likely to be in debt and have health problems, and less likely to get a quality education or have your priorities reflected in politics. Of course, that’s always been true, not just in the U.S., but everywhere.

What’s alarming is how, as the wealthiest Americans get a bigger and bigger share of the income pie, U.S. society is stratifying in dangerous, self-reinforcing directions.

For example, in 1972, families in the top income quintile spent an average of $3,536 annually on “enrichment expenditures” to “supplement their children’s opportunities to learn and develop.” The bottom quintile spent $835. Twenty-five years later, spending by the top quintile had more than doubled, to $8,872, while spending by the bottom quintile had only risen by about 50 percent, to $1,315, and had hardly budged at all since the early 1980s.

This may partially explain why college completion rates for richer Americans have risen faster than for poorer Americans.

Over the same time period in which the private sector unionization rate for men fell from 35 percent to 10 percent, the average CEO went from earning 25 times as much as the average worker in compensation to 262 times as much.

“Researchers who study mobility have consistently found that there is less mobility in the United States than in most other European and English speaking countries.”

So there’s the American Dream for you.

http://www.rt.com/s/swf/player5.4.swf

via In These Times (which I recommend all of you immediately subscribe to)

When a democracy functions properly, media revelations of executive branch misconduct typically result in an investigation by the legislative branch. Watergate epitomized this healthy dynamic— So when the New York Times this week ran the headline “Senate Will Investigate National Security Leaks About Terrorism ‘Kill List,’” it was a frightening sign that something has gone horribly wrong since the Woodward-and-Bernstein days.

Last week, the Times published an expose detailing how President Obama personally orders the execution of American citizens and foreigners that he labels “terrorists.” According to theTimes, this program deems “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants”; allows the president to be judge, jury and executioner; and operates wholly outside of the law. Indeed, the Times reports that the administration justifies such dictatorial power by insisting that the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process can now “be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.”

However, the memo laying out this utterly preposterous legal theory is secret—and, of course, hasn’t been ratified by any court.

As the Times noted in that subsequent follow-up story, Congress is focused not on shutting down—or even overseeing—the assassination program. It is instead focused on making sure those who blew the whistle on it are punished. Why? Because that will ensure that other such unauthorized programs can continue. As Sen. John McCain (R) made clear, he wants revelations of illegal activity halted and possibly prosecuted specifically because “such disclosures can only undermine similar ongoing or future operations.”

Rather than celebrating the heroes who expose wrongdoing and then stopping the illegal acts, the government is shooting the messengers in order to let the crimes continue.

That’s why this war on whistleblowers is not just some theoretical problem only for academics to debate or for foreigners to worry about. It represents a genuine domestic threat to democracy itself. If through our silence and complacency we allow that threat to expand, we shouldn’t be surprised when more of us are in the government’s crosshairs.

And if war-crime whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, or the countless others to be named are brought up on trumped up conspiracy, espionage, aiding the enemy, or treason charges, the penalties could be death.

In February, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that after the U.S. kills people with drones in Pakistan, it then targets for death those who show up at the scene to rescue the survivors and retrieve the bodies, as well as those who gather to mourn the dead at funerals: “the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals.” As The New York Times summarized those findings: “at least 50 civilians had been killed in follow-up strikes after they rushed to help those hit by a drone-fired missile” while “the bureau counted more than 20 other civilians killed in strikes on funerals.”

This repellent practice continues. Over the last three days, the U.S. has launched three separate drone strikes in Pakistan: one on each day. As The Guardian reports, the U.S. has killed between 20 and 30 people in these strikes, the last of which, early this morning, killed between 8 and 15. It was the second strike, on Sunday, thattargeted mourners gathered to grieve those killed in the first strike:

At the time of the attack, suspected militants had gathered to offer condolences to the brother of a militant commander killed during another US unmanned drone attack on Saturday. The brother was one of those who died in the Sunday morning attack. The Pakistani officials said two of the dead were foreigners and the rest were Pakistani.

Note that there is no suggestion, even from the “officials” on which these media reports (as usual) rely, that the dead man was a Terrorist or even a “militant.” He was simply receiving condolences for his dead brother. But pursuant to the standardsembraced by President Obama, the brother — without knowing anything about him — is inherently deemed a “combatant” and therefore a legitimate target for death solely by virtue of being a “military-age male in a strike zone.”

Although as the New York Times points out, two-thirds of the most frightening post-9/11 plans for attacks on American soil were stings orchestrated by government agents. Typically, a bumbling, gullible, down on their luck “potential terrorist” with no history of violence is coaxed into some sort of involvement and then arrested, followed by news media trumpeting the “narrowly foiled plot”:

The United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years — or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol hatched in Massachusetts.

But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects naïvely played their parts until they were arrested.

Typically, the stings initially target suspects for pure speech — comments to an informer outside a mosque, angry postings on Web sites, e-mails with radicals overseas — then woo them into relationships with informers, who are often convicted felons working in exchange for leniency, or with F.B.I. agents posing as members of Al Qaeda or other groups.

Some targets have previous involvement in more than idle talk. But others seem ambivalent, incompetent and adrift, like hapless wannabes looking for a cause that the informer or undercover agent skillfully helps them find.

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~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net