Tag Archives: corporate greed

The “Right to Work” for Lower Wages and Less Representation in Michigan

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

The moneyed elites *ahem* engines of the economy are finally seeing success in Michigan, as a union-busting law effecting millions of workers is passed, kneecapping the fund-raising for union organizations by dividing workers against each other (Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks has a very thorough and accurate rundown). This is a boon to the “burden shifting” robber baron industrialists, as union membership in Michigan was finally starting to rise again, after a steady decline since 2007.

Contrary to all the paid advertising, several myths persist about how unions work. Nobody is ‘forced’ to pay union membership in Michigan. The law states they are only required to do so when the union provides a service such as contract negotiation and representation, but the new law would allow anyone to receive those services without contributing into the workers’ collective funds. Once again, the “Right to Work” has been misleadingly named and propagandized, and has also convinced some conservative workers that their hard-won unions are taking their dues and using them for some leftist political agenda. In fact, collected dues do not go towards political contributions, but on operational and legal expenses, while political money is fundraised voluntarily and separately. As stated, union membership is not a requirement to work, the only ‘choice’ or ‘right’ involved here is whether or not to accept benefits without paying for them, a practice that (as per the designs of the Paymasters) will drain resources and weaken or destroy any worker power.

Even more revealing is the brazen anti-worker language employed by objective Fox journalists, Liberals Unitereports (via I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists):

On Monday, Fox News host Gregg Jarrett said that a woman who thought Michigan’s new “right-to-work” law was unfair could “go get a job elsewhere” if she did not like it.

Fox News host Martha MacCallum mentioned an earlier Fox News broadcast had featured a woman angry that the proposed anti-union law would allow workers to unfairly receive benefits who did not pay union dues.

“One woman, in a soundbite we had earlier, said ‘I don’t want to work with somebody who doesn’t have to pay what I have to pay.’ That is part of the outrage there,” MacCallum told co-host Jarrett.

“Then she doesn’t have to work. I mean, if she doesn’t like that, she can go get a job elsewhere, I suppose,” Jarrett responded. “But the point here is, it seems anathema to democracy to force somebody to join a union, to force somebody as a condition of having a job to join a union.”

The Tragicomedy of Paul Ryan

It’s not as if this is the guy that Mitt Romney would have ideally wanted to pick in his perfect campaign. But being compared to a still unpopular Bush administration was not something that Romney, or any Republican, could avoid (though one, you would think, they may have anticipated). Many of the Romney campaign’s moves seemed less calculated than they did desperate. The awkward posturing, self-inflicted wounds, easily avoidable controversies and smug demeanor were all part of his disconnected and (tax) sheltered reality, to be sure, but a healthy dose of media portrayal and recent memory made the Republican’s hill a  very steep one, indeed.

And Paul Ryan was a risky move, while described as a young hot shot intellectual of the right, his reminiscences of Ayn Rand, austerity, entitlement cutting, and hatred of our traditional social safety net ran the risk of alienating 50+ voters and certainly any remaining Republican moderates. Ah, but those businessmen love risks.

Some called it a safe bet, as the campaign and party shifted to energize their base with an inoffensive white male.

Romney’s capitulation to the Republican Party’s conservative, plutocratic base is now complete. It will be Ryan’s ideas that Romney will be under enormous pressure to pursue and implement as president, and his brand of conservatism that Romney is expected to emulate.

John McCain went on to describe the pick as “bold”, though he probably wasn’t the best to take VP advice from. While less radical than Sarah Palin (or at least, radical in other, less obvious, ways), it seemed to be a repeat of 2008. A relative party moderate feints to the right to pick up those far-right votes, hoping to rebrand after the convention and nearer the debates as a centrist-populist. But Paul Ryan had even more going for him than the confounding Palin; he was already a favorite of the right-wing, and he would go on to fire up the rallies.

That weekend:

Opening rallies were packed, Romney now has even more money, media attention, and a change of tone. Romney gains the full Koch election infrastructure, and Ryan’s base-motivation of The Conservative tribe ( group loyalty and identification is more important among conservatives than not among liberals).

Would the choice resonate? This could be a make-or-break opportunity for the rising star. Ryan was one of the favorites long before the decision, as a concerted pressure campaign by prominent conservatives and grass-roots activists specifically wanted him on the ticket. It’s possible, though anything is in that nasty business, that he’ll emerge a top-tier contender for the 2016 nomination.

He had certainly shined in the House, which dominated the GOP’s thinking as much as the GOP dominates the House. Their screaming, obstructionism, hypocrisy, dogma and pork threatened anything resembling progressive action from the Democrats, and Ryan’s proposed budget in particular bore the standards of “Republican othodoxy” going at least as far back as Reagan.

In true Randian fashion, Ryan’s budget…

 …phases out the Earned Income Tax Credit that keeps millions of American families above the poverty line and cuts funding for children’s healthcare in half. The Children’s Health Insurance Program would be abolished, and millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven’t since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn’t have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.

It was described by economists as the least serious budget plan, which doesn’t bring the budget into balance for decades.

Note: Reagan-era Republicans were more in favor of the social safety net, before decades of racial and class division were sown from the top. Pew Research Center, in 1987, found that 62 percent of Republicans said “the government should take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” but that number has now dropped to just 40 percent ( PDF)

Ryan, a good little corpo-fascist, would shift social benefits previously guaranteed by the federal government away to voucherized plans. Medical care historically grows at much faster rates than the economy, meaning that the indexed vouchers would fall short of the needs and demands of seniors. The plan is to save the government money, while shifting costs back to seniors and undermine the original goals of Medicare. All the while, the medical, pharmaceutical and insurance companies reap the rewards.

From AddictingInfo.org:

The Congressional Budget Office projects that Ryan’s plan would raise seniors’ out-of-pocket expenses by $6,500 per year.

Ryan’s plan assumes an efficiently working free market, and that considerations for medical needs would be the same as other fiscal concerns; they’re not, and people who are sick and dying want a solution that works, not what’s the most low-cost. It’s a captive market, unless you’re willing to die.

Nothing in the Ryan budget tackles costs on the other side, and why would they? That isn’t in the interests of his paymasters an uninhibited and open free-market.

Starting in 2020, Social Security benefits for new retirees would be cut, the eligibility age would gradually be raised and the program would be partially privatized, a huge boon for the private sector. Payouts would “be more uncertain, despite the guarantee, because returns on stocks and corporate bonds are risky.”

Ryan had referred to Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme”. And while Social Security is not going broke (both sides often start debating having accepted this false premise), Republican strategies just haven’t worked. Voters rejected a privatization scheme when George W. Bush pushed one because it makes the system far less stable, exposing retirement savings to the volatility of the markets, and disproportionately helps the wealthy.

The Tax Policy Center (no friend of the Romney/Ryan camp), had already found that Ryan’s budget would give people that make more than $1 million a year an additional $265,000 tax cut, on average, on top of the $129,000 cut they get from the budget’s extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Predictably, Ryan, like Romney,  could not identify a single loophole they’d close that could generate some of the revenue to make up for the revenue losses from tax cuts on the wealthy (nearly to 25 percent, by nearly 15 percent from current law). That’s over a quarter-million dollars for the top 1 percent; by half a million dollars for people earning over $1 million, and by $1.7 million for the top 0.1 percent. And by also eliminating the capital gains tax, Romney’s tax rate in one year would be just 0.82 percent under Ryan’s proposal.

Audiences have booed Ryan for the unfair distribution:

Ryan’s Blueprint was modified into Romney’s, failing to raise revenues, shifting costs to state and municipal governments (which would, no doubt, raise their own taxes to meet the increased demand, effectively laundering tax increases so Romney/Ryan wouldn’t get blamed for them).

The Economic Policy Institute estimated his plan would suck demand out of the economy and “reduce employment by 1.3 million jobs in fiscal 2013 and 2.8 million jobs in fiscal 2014, relative to current budget policies.”

According to analysis from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 62 percent of Ryan’s cuts come from food stamps, Medicaid and a handful of other programs aimed at helping the most vulnerable in society.  a significant portion of the rest of his cuts come from education, both K-12 and higher ed. would also slash funding for Pell Grants, and There are other cutsas well to higher education and financial aid.

And without military cuts (spurned by both Romney and Ryan), equivalent cuts would have to be made to transportation, science, education, environmental protection, and domestic efforts.

The toxicity of the Ryan budget has been tested (on a small-scale, granted) before, and the results weren’t good.

Paul Ryan’s austerity seemed aimed at the middle and lower classes, his plan would end the Earned Income Tax Credit, once expanded by Reagan, which millions of parents count on. His policies, like many neoconservatives, would send us sliding back into a Recession or Depression just as in 1937-’38, and how the beloved Reagan administration cut the unemployment rate almost in half.

But Paul Ryan, pawn of the moneyed Koch Brothers’ political enterprise (GOP™), extremist, and poser, had attended biannual conservative strategy sessions with big donors. His special events with the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and the Wall Street-backed Club for Growth, among other groups, made him a savory VP pick for the “outsider” Romney.

His toxic stances and outright lies would go on to hurt his image, in the short electoral if not long term. Lying about his requests of stimulus money, requests for earmarks at the same time that he insisted he was against earmarks, all the while steering money to campaign donors.

The Huffington Post reported:

“…in at least two instances involving the Department of Transportation, Ryan has pushed the interests of companies whose members have given him campaign donations.” PPG Industries, which contributed almost $7,000 to his campaign, and the National Auto Dealers Association, which had given him $68,500.

Paul Ryan had voted for TARP, the Wall Street bailout. He got out the Republican vote for TARP as well. But it was unregulated money Paul Ryan imagines flowing into the financial sector’s coffers, Ryan voted against the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the major financial regulatory response to the crisis. (It might be worth noting that Public Citizen did an analysis that found that House members who voted for TARP and against Dodd-Frank, a club Paul Ryan belongs to and consists mostly of Republicans, received three times as much campaign money from the financial industry as those that voted the opposite; in 2010, with a haul of at least $531,500 for the year).

Ryan voted to scrap the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and replace it with a plan proposed by the Chamber of Commerce, those fair and unbiased privateers. But he hasn’t offered anything specific on derivatives, consumer financial protection, insurance, securitization, ratings agencies, and the shadow-banking industry more broadly.

An immediate scandal broke by the Richmonder blog:

Paul Ryan had lined his pockets from information he had obtained from a now-legendary meeting that took place on September 18, 2008. On that day, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson broke the news to congressional leaders that they would have to approve a bailout to avert a complete meltdown of the financial system.  Ryan had sold the stocks of several major banks that day, while purchasing – surprise! – stock in Paulson’s old firm Goldman Sachs.

Money and politics expert Thomas Ferguson, who has written extensively on the bailout, explained, “Ryan did own some index-based securities, but they stand out in the summaries. They are different from the many trades Ryan was making in individual stocks. It is perfectly obvious that he sold shares in Wachovia, Citigroup and J. P. Morgan on September 18 and he bought shares in Paulson’s old firm, Goldman Sachs, on the same day. If these were index trades, what’s on the form is nonsense.”

And wasn’t this delightfully Republican: Paul Ryan and his wife own shares in oil and gas companies that benefit from tax breaks for Big Oil, and Ryan supports $40 billion in subsides for big oil. In fact, his behavior was not atypical of his fellow legislators. According to AlterNet:

…in-depth research undertaken in 2004 considered to be the baseline work in the field revealed that from 1993-1998, US senators were beating the market by 12 percentage points a year on average. Corporate insiders only beat the market by a measly 5 percent. Typical households, in contrast, underperformed by 1.4 percent.

And though the story was quickly swept under the rug in the news cycle, all of this combined to taint the frame of Paul Ryan, the conservative mathermatical wizzerd. But he wasn’t a sorcelator, he was just another acolyte. Doing “math as a Republican to make himself feel better.” A true believer’s true believer, a Koch Republican, an economic anti-populist of the highest order. An anti-tax, anti-spending purist worshiping at the altar of Ayn Rand and whatever Christ condones rampant greed.

ThinkProgress explain that the philosophy Ayn Rand laid out in her novels and essays was, “a frightful concoction of hyper-egotism, power-worship and anarcho-capitalism. She opposed all forms of welfare, unemployment insurance, support for the poor and middle-class, regulation of industry and government provision for roads or other infrastructure. She also insisted that law enforcement, defense and the courts were the only appropriate arenas for government, and that all taxation should be purely voluntary. Her view of economics starkly divided the world into a contest between ‘moochers’ and ‘producers,’ with the small group making up the latter generally composed of the spectacularly wealthy, the successful, and the titans of industry.”

Her psychopathy would go on to inspire Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, Glenn Beck, and devotee Alan Greenspan.

Ryan tried to disavow Rand’s philosophy to Catholics and moderates, but he had already been recently caught on record proselytizing that Rand “makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism.” On another occasion, he said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand…. I try to make my interns read it.” And even if he did distance himself from her Virtues of Selfishness, it served to brand him as a flip flopper. A source of great struggle for the inveterate poseur.

He was long ago hewn to the party’s socially radical far-right, having supported a federal ban on abortion even in the case of rape and incest, and in 1999, voted to ban gay couples from adopting children in the District of Columbia.

Ryan co-sponsored legislation to declare that “each human life begins with fertilization,” Ryan has also voted against letting U.S. troops and their families get abortions at military health centers abroad, and to rescind abortion coverage under the federal employee health plan.

He consistently voted against funding women’s health programs, would defund Planned Parenthood and rescind all dollars for family planning grants under Title X (which already cannot be used for abortion).

He voted in 2004 and 2006 for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He also voted against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” as well as hate-crime legislation.

Ryan appeared to agree with Todd Akin about rape, pregnancy and abortion.

True to form, Paul Ryan towed the party line against the President based on pure spite, malevolence and revenge tactics. Ryan attacked Prsident Obama’s stimulus program, but in 2002 supported President George W. Bush’s proposed stimulus spending “to create jobs and help the unemployed,”

During the campaign, Paul Ryan would go on to slam President Obama for adopting Medicare cuts that, until a week before his speech at his alma mater Miami University in Ohio, were openly supported by Ryan himself. He then claimed he actually opposed the cuts before he embraced them (a disastrously Kerry-esque flip-flop). Support for the Romney’s pledge to reverse the cuts would have further complicated the math for both candidates’ repeated vows to rapidly close the deficit. Ryan has consistently opposed measures to crack down on China’s currency manipulation practices, but accused the President of the same. He would go on to lie about Obamacare, even the parts that Romney/Ryan supported. Most erringly, Ryan slammed the President for the closure of an auto plant that closed in late 2008 under George W. Bush. His ‘Oops’ moment may have cost him big.

People began to see him as a shameless opportunist, even hawkishly claiming his sole foreign policy success was that he had ‘voted to send men to war’. For though his family had made its fortune in government contracts for public works, the young Paul Ryan has made his career out of railing against ‘The Public.’

Polls very quickly began to find that a larger swath of Americans were unsettled by Rep. Ryan, or his Medicare plan.  Americans opposed it by a margin of 49 to 34 percent. That’s the same margin as independent voters. Nearly half of Americans said Ryan was a “fair” or “poor” choice for V.P., while just 28 percent said he was an “excellent” or “good” pick.

Criticisms abounded from both left and right almost immediately. He was a “conservative policy scammer” according to economist Paul Krugman.

Republican strategists are privately fretting about the choice. “There are a lot of races that are close to the line we’re not going to win now because they’re going to battle out who’s going to kill grandma first … It could put the Senate out of reach. In the House it puts a bunch of races in play that would have otherwise been safe,” one unnamed Republican strategist told the Hill. “Very not helpful down ballot — very,” an unnamed strategist told Politico.  “This is the day the music died,” another unnamed operative, who is working for a 2012 candidate, added. Yet another told Politico, “The good news is that this ticket now has a vision. The bad news is that vision is basically just a chart of numbers used to justify policies that are extremely unpopular.”

Even Newt Gingrich famously said: “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

Politico summed up their findings:

“In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.”

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate had some choice words:

“He voted for the Patriot Act, he voted for the National Defense Appropriation Act, he voted to ban online poker, he’s proposing a budget that gets balanced in thirty years. He is anything but a libertarian, anything but.”

“Somewhere in hell, Ayn Rand is cackling with glee,” Democratic strategist Paul Begala wrote.

Faith in Public Life, a strategy center for religious groups, opposed Ryan’s budget and Catholic groups claimed the militantly atheist Rand led Ryan to abandon his own faith with a budget that hurts the needy. Ryan was personally harassed by a Catholic protestor last year asking him to denounce Rand’s views and embrace the Bible.

USA Today-Gallup poll showed “Americans rating [Ryan’s] selection more unfavorably than any pick since at least 2000.” Forty-six percent of poll respondents in 2008 rated their initial reaction to Palin “excellent or pretty good.” For Ryan, the number is just 39 percent.

Disastrous news for a floundering party and campaign that picked the Wiz Kid, the Wonk, the Boy Wonder to improve polls. Instead, only 48 percent of voters polled by Gallup described him as “qualified” to be president, besting only Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin.

The powerful swing state voters who ultimately decided the election didn’t need more reasons to reject the Romney train, but Ryan was just that. Unmarried women shifted 10 points toward Obama, along with the Rising American Electorate (net 3-point shift), and independents (net 9-point shift). Even conservatives were swayed, shifting a net 13 points toward Obama.

And though he certainly did help fundraising, it seemed in the end that fundraising was a wash. The country was largely purple, with the populous cities (and thus electoral votes) a deep blue. Paul Ryan may have “brought vision” to the Romney team, but his clear vision was encrusted with cataracts, blinding him and his cohorts to the needs of real Americans. He would go on to do his best fumbling through the many fallacies of Republican dogma, balancing Randian and fundamentalist Christian philosophy, reconciling both corporate and populist messages, and navigating the hazardous differences of his own and Mitt Romney’s obscured policy vision.

The ticket became what they ultimately wanted, a base-energized ‘clear choice’ to Obama, whom they wanted to vote out “above all else.” Americans recognized this clear choice between visions, and chose accordingly. It can be presented no differently now, it should be spun as nothing less than the gold they thought it was mere weeks ago.

But by a long shot, we haven’t seen nor heard the last of extremists like Paul Ryan. Not only was he re-elected handily despite being a no-show in his Wisconsin seat race, there is now an empty field of view to 2016, and somebody ‘immensely proud‘ of his vice-presidential bid could claim some serious chops. Would it be disastrous or calculated? Much of that may depend on how the next four years go, how obstructionist the Republicans may continue to be (or how successful such attempts may be), how much he may appear to be a ‘loser’ after four years, and if or how the GOP retools away from the dangerous scam they have running on the American people. A scam with Paul Ryan’s smiling punim and Mitt Romney’s off-putting grin. A scam the American people recognized and all-too-willingly rejected.

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

Dangerous Yahoos

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – The Marimba Belles
Planet of Lost Souls – Thomas Dolby
Transparencias – M.I.A.
Vassarlean – Charles Mingus
The Insidious Revenge Of Ultima Thule Part One – Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic
Rhubarb – Aphex Twin
Ladino Song – Oi Va Voi
Ravendhi – Cirque Du Soleil
Mamelukki & Musta Leski – Alamaailman Vasarat
Pull Jabal Pull – JJ Johnson
Memory Band – Rotary Connection
Shapes Of Things – David Bowie
Mars, The Bringer of War – Isao Tomita
Kula Bocca Says So – The Residents
Glue – 5uu’s
Expectativa – Asfalto
The Fish [Shindleria Praematurus] – Yes
C’est La Vie Qui Les A Menés Là! – Magma
Cryogenese Les Portes Du Futur – Art Zoyd
Awake – Mungal with Nitin Sahwney
Sound Music – DJ Babu
My God – Jethro Tull

Despite all the ridiculous fearmongering and conspiracymongering, our government continues to prove itself to be remedial and stunted in so many ways.

The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it…. (and is) announcing additional personnel changes today.

Either way, it seems that Romney and Obama are no different on the severe issues. Either way we end up with the same old game.

Via the blackagendareport.com:

1. 40 year war on drugs must continue, and even mention of the prison state is unthinkable

2. No minimum wage increases for you, no right to form a union, no right to negotiate or strike if you already have a union, and no enforcement or reform of existing labor laws.

3. No Medicare For All. Forget about it eliminating the Medicare age requirement so that all Americans would qualify.

4. Immigrants must be jailed and deported in record numbers.

5. FCC should not and must not regulate telecoms to ensure that poor and rural communities have access to internet, or to guarantee network neutrality.

6. Oil and energy companies, and other mega-polluters must be freed to drill offshore almost everywhere

7. US Presidents can kidnap citizens of their own or any nation on earth from anyplace on the planet for torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial or murder them and neighboring family and bystanders at will.

8. Africa should be militarized, destabilized, plundered and where necessary, invaded by proxy armies like those of Rwanda, Ethiopia, Burundi or Kenya, or directly by Western air and ground forces, as in Libya.

9. Palestinians should be occupied, Iran should be starved and threatened from all sides, Black and brown babies and their parents, relatives and neighbors should be bombed with drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia

The “militants” targeted by the United States are often just military-aged men who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Obama’s kill list–his program of extrajudicial killings, directed at American citizens suspected of terrorism—is an affront to the values of the Constitution, and a huge blemish on his record. The same goes for his failure to prosecute Bush-era tortue abuses, as well as his zeal for whistleblower prosecutions. And it’s certainly not helping our image in the region.

10. Banksters and Wall Street speculators deserve their bailouts and protection from criminal liability, but underwater and foreclosed homeowners deserve nothing.

11.  Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. (because NAFTA was so great)

12. Climate change treaties and negotiations that might lead to them should be avoided at all costs.

13. Medicare, Medicaid and social security are “entitlements” that need to be cut to relieve what they call “the deficit.”

14. any sort of WPA-style program to put millions of people back to work.

In fact, despite his promises to the contrary, Obama’s administration has been one of the least transparent in history, with 19 out of 20 cabinet-level agencies failing to follow the requirements of the FOIA. And those drone strikes can be a mere mistaken identity or accidental button-pushing away.

“I remember cuing up a US Predator strike before deciding the computer screen wasn’t depicting a Taliban insurgent burying an improvised explosive device in the road; rather, a child playing in the dirt.” –James Jeffrey 

The National Constitution Center has found that one-third of the United States actually “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” about the future of their privacy given the very real possibility of rampant drone use in the US in the coming years.

These drones, btw, are one of the main reasons we’re so disliked in the middle east, despite any claims that it was some shoddy video, and regardless of Romney’s crass politicizing. As always, these issues are more complicated than that, (free speech included).

We now know that a concerted terrorist attack was at work, not just some street riots, and not some simplistic, xenophobic, bigoted, jingoist rhetoric generalizing the people in the region:

“WHY DO THEY HATE US?” “WHY ARE THEY SO EASILY OFFENDED”

There are many real reasons, from our decades of bad foreign policy, equation with Israel’s racist neoconservative regime, Drone strikes, economic inequity, wars, Global food prices… Not to mention the anti-Islam ads by our own moronic politicians, and the ghastly actions of a few servicemen.

Israeli leaders keep pushing for war, Obama threatens the Iranian president, Romney lusts even harder for bombs over the middle east, and racist campaigns to dehumanize Palestinians have come to America.

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” – Pamela Geller, American Freedom Defense Initiative (hate group)

Oh, and if you try to cover or take down those racist sentiments, you’re arrested for vandalism.

The elections are a joke, with both candidates running further right than the electorate, and the liar Romney now more unpopular than Bush.

It’s no wonder the GOP has to resort to conspiracy theory, dangerous assertionsthe blame game, and outright lies to explain why they’re losing, and why they’re so unpopular.

Fact: when you use ‘unskewed’ numbers to look at NET job growth in America, Obama has created more jobs. Americans are feeling better about the state of the U.S. economy, and may not even be focusing on those monthly jobs reports as much as Fox News wants them to.

Let’s face it, whether the Republicans win or lose, they’re still losers. And most of the politicians, no matter their party affiliation, are fiscal and moral hypocrites.

Americans hold our system of government up as a model for other nations, but we show contempt for it at home.

A shadowy money explosion controls all of this theatre, with a sort of short-sighted conspiracy that doesn’t account for the dangerous and catastrophic complexities of real geopolitics. Most of the money is going to the most austere conservatives and greedy corpofascists, and the rest can just take over our democracy on the state and local levels. Income inequality in the United States is worse today than it was back in 1774. And the thinking that engineers this system is dogmatic and self-interested.

Can the ideology of capitalism bend to a stronger ideology of justice and love? -Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winner

These money-grubbers will steal our election if we’re not vigilant.

They will mobilize against the people if we do not stand up and block them.

Spying on Muslims and Fabricating the Results, Targeting Activists (NYPD has been targeting anybody who tries to hold them accountable), Police Brutality, Constant Intrusion and Surveillance (Domain Awareness System, (DAS) created by the NYPD in partnership with Microsoft),  Numbers Game of their Quotas (against minorities for minor offenses, tickets, small amounts of drug), Cover-Ups (The Blue Shield of Silence), botched or destroyed various pieces of evidence throughout investigations…

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ‘private army’ has been increasingly unleashed to beat, arrest, imprison, and broadly suppress OWS, targeted arrests of specific organizers as well as random street ‘snatch and release’ intimidation tactics.

They’re dangerous, and they’re mad. Somebody please stop them.

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

The Creeps

Tonight is bone-chillingly eerie in the Mission District, and diaphanous fingers of fog encircle the Bay Area, and in the nation and around the world notorious creeps keep their eyes on us from their platforms of power. On a dark Friday the 13th, we stare right back and hum merrily.

PLAYLIST
The Hall Of The Mountain Grill – Hawkwind
The Chill Of Death – Charles Mingus
The Devil’s Trill Sonata (With Piano) – Itzhak Perlman
Spooky Girlfriend – Elvis Costello
They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead – Sufjan Stevens
Djed – Tortoise
Fear – David Byrne
Fire Down Below – Nick Cave
Lovefingers – Silver Apples
Everyone Is Afraid Of Clowns – Kumquat
Safety Is The Cootie Wootie (Pt. 1-3) – The Residents
Rusty Metal – Aphex Twin
The Sheltering Sky – King Crimson
Third From The Sun – Chrome
Earth People Dr. Octagon
The Boogie Monster – Gnarls Barkley
Earth Died Screaming – Tom Waits

The first creep of the evening is presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

“Mitt Romney wants you to show your papers. But he won’t show us his.” Joe Biden

And Romney’s support for voter suppression laws disrespects the NAACP’s entire legacy. The only glimmer of hope is in the fact that Romney’s policies are so vague that they do not seem overly destructive… yet.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board tore into Romney last week for trying to “play it safe and coast to the White House by saying the economy stinks and it’s Mr. Obama’s fault,” arguing instead that Romney needs to offer “some understanding of why the President’s policies aren’t working and how Mr. Romney’s policies will do better.”

Romney hasn’t identified a loophole he’d close, any specific federal programs he’d slash, how he would reduce the deficit, or been clear on his tax returns or full history at Bain.

His entire platform can be summed up as schoolyard name-calling.

No you’re the “outsourcer-in-chief.”

The Washington Post reports that Bain Capital invested in companies that were “pioneers” in outsourcing and offshoring, but Mitt Romney would rather shift blame, race-bait, and proclaim his opponent to be glue while he, himself, acts as rubber. On the health-care tax, layoffs… he even criticizes Obama for not taking a clear stand on the issues, while doing exactly that (much to the chagrin of his own party).

“Unlike President Obama, you don’t have to wait until after the election to find out what I believe in — or what my plans are,” Romney said in April.

So while being funded by the creepy Koch brothers, Mitt continues to get more radically right-wing and creepy himself. Granted, he was always creepy, going so far as to impersonate a police officer and pull over his friends while they were on dates.

So while the GOP notion of a small business encompasses “fabulously rich so-called small business owners like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton,” the Congressional Budget Office just released a very thorough update of their high quality household income series, adding data through 2009:

When it comes to federal taxation, there is just no case in the data to be made in any way, shape or form that we Americans are overtaxed. Not middle income, not high income—not the overall average. Not relative to other countries (figure 4 here), and not relative to our historical rates back to 1979.

By the end of the series, the average US household was paying 17.4% of their income in federal taxes, compared to 22% in 1979. The main culprit is the income tax; all the others in the figure stay relatively constant.

The bottom slide shows a long downward trend in the effective rate paid by the top 1% starting in the mid-1990s, and particularly large cyclical effects at the end of the series for middle and low-income households. At their peak average income in 2007 ($1.9 million), had the top 1% paid taxes at their mid-90s effective rate (35%) instead of their 2007 rate (28%), their tax liability would have been $134,000 higher.

The next creep on the list is Barack Obama, who defies states’ rights and individual civil liberties by crushing Medical Marijuana dispensaries, despite having partaken in them in the past himself.

Now, Barack Obama has quietly signed his name to an Executive Order allowing the White House to control all private communications in the country in the name of national security.

“Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions:

“The Federal Government must have the ability to communicate at all times and under all circumstances to carry out its most critical and time sensitive missions,” the president begins the order. “Survivable, resilient, enduring and effective communications, both domestic and international, are essential to enable the executive branch to communicate within itself and with: the legislative and judicial branches; State, local, territorial and tribal governments; private sector entities; and the public, allies and other nations.”

“Such communications must be possible under all circumstances to ensure national security, effectively manage emergencies and improve national resilience.”

Later the president explains that such could be done by establishing a“joint industry-Government center that is capable of assisting in the initiation, coordination, restoration and reconstitution of NS/EP [national security and emergency preparedness] communications services or facilities under all conditions of emerging threats, crisis or emergency,” calling from agents with the Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon, Federal Communications Commission and other government divisions to ensure that his new executive order can be implemented.

“Infrastructure includes wireline, wireless, satellite, cable, and broadcasting, and provides the transport networks that support the Internet and other key information systems,” suggesting that the president has indeed effectively just allowed himself to control the country’s Internet access. “The authority to seize private facilities when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications.”

The Pentagon is even considering awarding a Distinguished Warfare Medal to drone pilots who work on military bases often far removed from the battlefield, claiming it takes bravery to fly a U.A.V.” — unmanned aerial vehicle — “particularly when you’re called upon to take someone’s life

“Whatever one thinks of the justifiability of drone attacks, it’s one of the least “brave” or courageous modes of warfare ever invented. It’s one thing to call it just, but to pretend it’s “brave” is Orwellian in the extreme. Indeed, the whole point of it is to allow large numbers of human beings to be killed without the slightest physical risk to those doing the killing. Killing while sheltering yourself from all risk is the definitional opposite of bravery.” ~Glenn Greenwald

And as In These Times reports:

Reasonable minds can differ as to whether a person who commits a heinous crime deserves to die, but no one can dispute that rulers given extraordinary powers—such as the power to decide who lives and who dies—will sooner or later abuse those powers.

In contrast, support for the death penalty here in the U.S. is declining, with five states voting to abolish it in recent years. Americans have come to accept that the state can’t be trusted with the machinery of death. So why do we trust our elected officials to assassinate terrorists on foreign soil, where they act as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner?

Our government says that its drone strikes are only rarely killing civilians. But we the people cannot evaluate this claim because the Obama administration has classified all the evidence, only releasing information at its own discretion. As David Sirota recently noted, Congress is focused not on overseeing the assassination program, but on punishing those who leaked it to the press. The Obama administration is aggressively prosecuting the whistleblowers who reveal information about the disreputable acts it wants kept secret.

The New York Times reports that Pakistan and Yemen are becoming less stable and more hostile to the United States. The Washington Post reports that in Yemen, videos of dead children and furious tribesmen holding up American missile parts have flooded YouTube, breeding anger at the United States and sympathy for al Qaeda. The fact that the drone war keeps expanding—from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia to the Philippines—also suggests that the strikes are not “crippling al Qaeda,” as we are told.

In a functioning representative democracy, these issues would be investigated and debated. Such an investigation would be useful to the American people who pay for these wars. But it would not be useful to the military-industrial complex, which wants to see the drone war expanded, not curtailed.

All in the name of the corporate war machines filling Congress’ coffers and politicians’ pockets. The black budget is booming. And psychotic bank CEOs and conservative corpo-fascists are taking over every branch and party in government, including once-libertarian think tanks. The rich get richer and the evil go even more psychopathic, and now there’s scientific evidence to back it up.

Earlier this year, [psychologist Paul] Piff, who is 30, published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that made him semi-famous. Titled “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” it showed through quizzes, online games, questionnaires, in-lab manipulations, and field studies that living high on the socioeconomic ladder can make people less ethical, more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people. It can make them more likely, as Piff demonstrated in one of his experiments, to take candy from a bowl of sweets designated for children.

Over and over, [professor Kathleen] Vohs has found that money can make people antisocial. She primes subjects by seating them near a screen-saver showing currency floating like fish in a tank or [showing them] words like ‘bill’, ‘check’, or ‘cash’. Then she tests their sensitivity to other people. In her Science article, Vohs showed that money-primed subjects gave less time to a colleague in need of assistance and less money to a hypothetical charity. When asked to pull up a chair so a stranger might join a meeting, money-primed subjects placed the chair at a greater distance from themselves than those in a control group. Vohs even found that money-primed people described feeling less emotional and physical pain: They can keep their hand under burning-hot water longer and feel less emotional distress when excluded from a ball-tossing game.

No better example of this can be seen than the massive scandal of all scandals, the interest-rate fixing Libor case.

We trust that the banking system is setting today’s rate based on its best guess about the future worth of the money. And we assume that guess is based on the cumulative market predictions of countless lenders and borrowers all over the world about the future supply and demand.

But suppose our assumption is wrong. Suppose the bankers are manipulating the interest rate so they can place bets with the money you lend or repay them – bets that will pay off big for them because they have inside information on what the market is really predicting, which they’re not sharing with you.

That would be a mammoth violation of public trust. And it would amount to a rip-off of almost cosmic proportion – trillions of dollars that you and I and other average people would otherwise have received or saved on our lending and borrowing that have been going instead to the bankers. It would make the other abuses of trust we’ve witnessed look like child’s play by comparison.

Sad to say, there’s reason to believe this has been going on, or something very much like it. This is what the emerging scandal over “Libor” (short for “London interbank offered rate”) is all about.

Robert Diamond, Jr., the former Barclays CEO who was forced to resign, said the emails made him “physically ill” – perhaps because they so patently reveal the corruption.)

But Wall Street has almost surely been involved in the same practice, including the usual suspects — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America – because every major bank participates in setting the Libor rate, and Barclays couldn’t have rigged it without their witting involvement.

In fact, Barclays’s defense has been that every major bank was fixing Libor in the same way, and for the same reason. And Barclays is “cooperating” (i.e., giving damning evidence about other big banks) with the Justice Department and other regulators in order to avoid steeper penalties or criminal prosecutions, so the fireworks have just begun.

During questioning by British politicians over his role in the ongoing Libor-fixing scandal, the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor Paul Tucker admitted Monday that he couldn’t be sure that regulators had put an end to private sector manipulation of the key interest rate.

This is not to say that the charges that Barclays (and possibly many other banks) have been improperly influencing Libor — the London interbank offered rate — are unimportant. Libor is supposed to represent the cost at which banks are able to borrow money from other banks. As such, it is the linchpin of a vast galaxy of interest rates — globally, the price of around $350 trillion worth of home mortgages, car loans and credit card interest rates rises and falls according to the daily fluctuations of Libor. It’s bad and depressing news to learn that the big banks have been intentionally lying about what they think it costs them to borrow money, motivated either to boost their day-to-day trading profits or simply to represent that their bank’s bottom line is healthier than the true numbers would indicate.

Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are expressing dismay. On Monday, San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank president John Williams acknowledged, reported Reuters, that Barclays’ behavior had eroded confidence in the integrity of the banking system. Which is bad news, he said, because “trust is absolutely critical to conduct any type of business.”

Robert Reich wonders whether “the unfolding Libor scandal will provide enough ammunition and energy to finally get the job [of breaking up the big banks] done.”

At Slate, Mathew Yglesias believes that the new revelations “should destroy the credibility of banks once and for all.”

On Monday, the Hill reported that the House of Representatives is expected to approve legislation that would end the requirement that bank ATMs include a physical sign warning that fees might be charged for bank withdrawals. Banking lobbyists claim that the change in the law is necessary because people are physically removing the signs and then “frivolously” suing the banks for not providing the legally mandated warning. the real motivation is obviously to boost fee income.

One of Mitt Romney’s biggest campaign finance “bundlers” is a lobbyist for Barclays — and before the scandal blew up, Romney was scheduled to attend a London fundraiser hosted by the (now-resigned) Barclays CEO Bob Diamond.

The rate of a loan consists of adding the “risk-free” rate to a risk-premium. If either the risk-free rate or risk-premium goes up, then the price of a loan goes up. If you are a particularly risky borrower, you will pay more for a loan. This is because your risk-premium, compared to other borrowers, is higher, and that is added into your loan rate. If the risk-free rate is 3 percent and your risk of not paying back a mortgage requires a 2 percent premium, then your mortgage rate is 5 percent. If your risk of not paying back unsecured debt on a credit card requires an 8 percent premium, then your interest rate on your credit card is 11 percent.

More complicated models include more types of risk-premia and other things, but this basic approach is how financial markets work. They all need a measure of what money costs independent of the risks associated with any specific loan. As a result, all the most complicated models have this “risk-free” rate at their core.

Now think of some of the scandals and controversies over recent loan pricing. Here’s a great Washington Post piece by Ylan Mui on African American homeowners scarred by the subprime implosion. There are cases where people with the same risk profiles were given different interest rates. Here’s a report from EPI by Algernon Austinarguing that African Americans and Latinos with the same credit risks as whites were charged a higher total interest rate for mortgages even though the risk-free rate and their risk-premium rate should have been the same. The data implies that an additional, illegitimate “+ race” was added to the equation above.

The reason it matters is because that tactic can’t work forever. You can manipulate prices and juke government stress tests and otherwise lie to make people believe your bank’s balance-sheet is healthier than it is, but eventually that system is going to collapse. And, crucially, if the primary objective is “delay,” then when the crisis actually hits, it hits in an overwhelming way with no plausible way to fairly allocate losses or take other actions. Take Lehman Bros as an example!

After Lehman Brothers went bust, banks started submitting “fake” numbers for fear that “real” numbers would make them look bad. Apparently everyone was doing it. Recently, the scandal caught up with British giant Barclays, which was forced to pay a fine for its misdeeds. Many more banks will be found out for manipulating LIBOR interest rates before this is over.

JPMorgan Chase admits that a trading goof earlier this year has helped earn the country’s biggest bank $5.8 billion in losses — nearly triple the original estimate.

Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan, announced that billions of insured deposits at his bank had been invested in high risk derivatives and had sustained at least a $2 billion loss. The Department of Justice and FBI have commenced investigations.

Now it has emerged that not only was Dimon conflicted in his role on the New York Fed but the President and CEO of the New York Fed had an equally dubious conflict of interest,  paying_$190,000_annually_to_the spouse_of_bank’s_top_regulator!

And so while our beautiful nation may be put up for sale to the highest bidder, The Pew Economic Mobility Project has been tracking the economic status of thousands of families since 1968 — the data covered in the current report is through 2009. As Catherine Rampell summarized in the New York Times:

The median person in the poorest quintile has a family net worth that is 63 percent less than that of his counterpart a generation ago: $2,748, versus $7,439…

The median family in the top socioeconomic class today (i.e., the family at the 90th percentile) is worth $629,853, compared to $495,510 in the last generation. That’s a 27 percent increase in the size of the median fortune in the top income stratum.

If you’re scoring at home: Rich: richer; Poor: poorer.

Meanwhile, the police are outright lying about the full list of terrorists they say have “attempted to kill New Yorkers in 14 different plots.” Law enforcement is engaging in massive phone surveillance to the tune of 1.3 million requests for mobile phone data, revealing all manner of shadowy secrets. The corporations comply, with Verizon aiming for the right to edit your personal internet access in the name of “editorial discretion.” 

Add in a mega stun gun, police boots kicking down the doors of protestors, and prisoners on mind-altering drugs, and you’ve got one creepy show!

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-07-14: The Creeps by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Everybody’s High on Education

As student loans officially increase to around 511% (nearing $1 trillion), as one of the largest for-profit educational chains (and an alma mater of yours truly) faces federal fraud charges, as students and unemployed all over the country vehemently protest large greedy corporations, and as loan corporations bloat an already non-sustainable bubble of debt with their record greed, the taut material holding this battered industry together catches by each thread and shreds slowly under the weight.

These are actually actionable viable threats to a system arterially hardened by its own butter-soaked gluttony. After bearing witness to our recent economic hubris relating to real estate, home mortgages, and big bank credit swaps, and thanks to books like Alan Collinge’s Student Loan Scam and documentaries like “Default: The Student Loan Documentary“, the population at large is becoming more and more aware of the corruption and predatory practices rife in the higher-educational system.

College rates are still on the rise, but not for long as related findings reveal that graduation rates are stagnant, the job market abysmal and placement through the school is laughable. Add in the amount that students and parents have to nearly immediately start paying back, which may last a lifetime, and it begs some serious questions of consumer rights.

When will college go on sale? And though I’m not talking about a (unnecessarily) controversial voucher system, it doesn’t take an analyst to realize that eventually the jig will be up, or at the very least this non-sustainable bubble will burst as the list of those who cannot afford higher education grows to encompass not only underprivileged lower-class, but the once-spoiled now-neglected middle class. The ones whose votes are actually not discounted or tampered with, and more importantly, whose main democratic voice is heard by the spending power of their wallets in our commercial machine. If you silence their credit limits, we most certainly will see even more industries topple and threaten to destroy the rich, shit trickling downhill as it has with so many economies already.

The sale(s) to which I refer would and should be consumer driven demand for basic necessities and, eventually as the middle class grows, extra related frivolities. A series of coupons and discount cards adding bulk value to the college credit system, and a downgrading of the overinflated price per credits, books, materials, etc. It may seem like some cheesy CVS/Safeway, bullshit, and may raise eyebrows to the legitimacy of the school’s accreditation at first, but in the face of dire financial ruin, who would fault them?

The government would have to dish out less, something that big money interested conservatives would be more than happy to hear (though I argue that much more money should be spent preparing an engineering and technologically savvy work force for this new century we’ve stumbled into). The students would have to dish out less, and though they’d still be in the same position as before, a little lateral flexibility would stimulate college spending both socially and academically. Granted a fair amount would squander the difference in savings on flash-in-the-pan adventures fit for fraternity fraternizing, but many may be able to save and put away to be better prepared for the harsh life after the college experience that had been keeping them in their adolescence. The percentage of this, I’d venture to guess, is no different than the squanderers and savers in the general populace.

Learn more about the college and student loan industry, and you begin to be really sick at the schemes intended to put students in ridiculous amounts of unforgivable (even under bankruptcy) debt, and keep as many as possible near or at default. But now with a discounted system, students at least have some gap between the deathly workhouses of indebted indentured servitude. And a consumer-rights-driven movement of demand would engender a mentality of paranoia for corrupt corporate conniving, so perhaps there’s less harm of fraud.

Only the school is losing some money, as the initial discounters. But they’ve shown they prefer quantity of low-income students to anything else, and as any student of economic history may point out, while Henry Ford was not the nicest person, his stroke of brilliance was to pay his auto workers more all over the country, effectively building a new middle class with an infusion of cash so that not merely the stingy upper .1% would be prospective customers.
The only ones who would ‘lose’ would be the massively wealthy and powerful loan companies, who have tripled their profits despite the economic crash and downturn. The risky loans, the odds and interest growing larger by default, and captive market require these greed machines to drive prices up into an untenable bubble. Which is why you can be sure it doesn’t happen.
But as with many industries, technology, information, and interconnectedness obliterate the vacuum, granting the consumer more choice, better deals, flexibility, and direct service and products from their vendor. And though the constant interstitial intervention of the government will remain, newer online markets of education and lower university operating costs may eventually see the end of the financial middlemen.

Protesting is great. But historically, boycotts work better than protest alone. Either way, something’s gotta give.