Tag Archives: 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.”

Confusion

obama 2 cropNow that we’ve disentangled the quantum data, my mind has been struggling to reassemble and compartmentalize the various strings from that theory. Or perhaps it’s just my political junkie nature which is causing me to shake and tremble so violently from the confusing current events and media spin?

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-12-01: Confusion by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Christian Elsässer
What Difference a Day Makes – Dinah Washington
Confusion – Fela Kuti
Who Do You Love – Bo Diddley
Time Is Marching – John Lee Hooker
A Foggy Day – Billie Holiday
In A Silent Way / Shhh Peaceful / It’s About That Time (Bill Laswell Mix) – Miles Davis
Il Ricordo Di Serena – Riz Ortolani
Neurotico – Sergio Mendes
Inutil Paisagem (Useless Landscape) 3’11 – Antonio Carlos Jobim
Cubano Chant – Art Blakey
Mara-Jat’s Love – Alberto Baldan Bembo
Machine Gun – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Nautilus (Rob Swift Scratch Remix) – Bob James
Look To The Sun – Guru
Bridge on the Ninth Dimension – Sun Ra
I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know – Blood, Sweat & Tears
Whole Lotta Love – Ike & Tina Turner
The Thrill is Gone – Chet Baker
A Very Precious Time – Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jack

A look at the electoral map reveals that America isn’t mostly red or blue, but largely purple. Something that we’ve known for some time on this show, and will continue to represent going forward. After all, if you’re going to drink somebody’s Kool-Aid, purple is the best flavor.

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American voters rejected voter id, racist rhetoric, class war politics, and saw that Obama’s efforts to stimulate the economy were working (slowly) and needed more time to honestly kick off.

We must avoid a false “centrism” that has been pulled to the right along with the other loud loonies, and dispel with notions of compromise that are actually false dilemmas.

As Bill Maher put it, “There’s no third term, Mr. President, so you may as well throw caution to the wind, ’cause it’s not like we’re using it to produce energy.” Because “if not now, when?”

Americans aren’t stupid. And we know what to expect. A national CNN/ORC poll found that the expectations for Congress in the budget showdown are low, with two-thirds of respondents saying they expect lawmakers to act like ”spoiled children,” not “responsible adults,” during the negotiations.

77 percent of those surveyed also said they believe they would be personally impacted if the country is allowed to go off the “fiscal cliff” – but if that happens, 45 percent said they would blame Congressional Republicans, as opposed to 34 percent who would blame Obama.

AlterNet covers the various social programs that are being threatened by our esteemed leaders:

  • Medicaid ( $258 billion ): Though Obama has largely targeted providers for potential Medicaid cuts, Republicans want beneficiaries to fork over more. In which case, says Kogan, patients might be forced to make copayments, or program costs may be shifted to the states, which could decide to scale back coverage.
  • Food Stamps ( $78 billion in 2011) : The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program serves about 45 million people . It is not part of discretionary spending, but Ellen Nissenbaum, senior vice president for government affairs at CBPP, toldThe Nation it faces a real prospect of being cut in negotiations.
  • Supplemental Security Income ( $47 billion ): Social Security itself is mostly off the table, but Supplemental Security Income for the blind, elderly, and disabled, is likely to take a hit
  • Pell Grants ( $36 billion ): These need-based grants help some 10 million low-income students afford college.
  • Title 1 Education Grants
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance
  • Job Training
  • Head Start
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • Community Health Centers
  • Women, Infants and Children ($8.9 million in 2011): The Department of Agriculture’s WIC programhelps low-income moms and babies get access to supplemental nutrition and health care referrals. WIC has about 9 million participants , most of whom are kids.

The entire debate is stupid. Obama won the election based (partly) on promises raise taxes on the extremely wealthy, but Republicans would rather hock damaging “entitlement reform” than raise taxes one penny. In other words, “asking old people to work longer and accept less in return.”

Cutting (or “reforming”) Medicare in response to a pseudo-crisis invented by Congress would be an effective way to prove that liberal conspiracists are correct when they claim that all deficit hysteria is merely an excuse to roll back social insurance programs.

Any “serious” and “responsible” discussion must love austerity and upward-redistribution. Any precondition for cooperation is for Democrats to support Bush-era tax rates (which we are still in, btw)!

According to the conventional wisdom, any grand bargain should be modeled on plans like the Bowles-Simpson plan or the Rivlin-Domenici plan — financing lower tax rates on the rich by closing tax loopholes and cutting Social Security and Medicare. Social Security does not and cannot add to the deficit, and both programs only need minor tweaks, but are overall sustainable for decades.

But there is no evidence that the low tax rates on the wealthy encourage them to spend or invest, no evidence that higher tax rates would deter the spending and investment that they might otherwise do.

Via The Next New Deal:

The Simpson-Bowles budget balancing plan seems to have become the common-sense standard for dealing with America’s future budget deficits. this move toward the right is dangerous to the future of the nation and essentially cruel—far more dangerous than the level of the deficit over the next 15 years. The commission proposed cuts in Social Security benefits of 15 percent for medium earners, for example. The right-wing Heritage Foundation spawned many of their ideas, and any progressive notions like those of Paul Volcker or Warren Buffett, seem to be watered down or cut out or ignored.

But these lies that the rich promote growth and that America can’t afford the Social Security that we’ve already been paying into are repeated often enough that they become ‘Beltway wisdom’. But no amount of repetition will turn them into facts.

The United States needs a middle-class welfare state that is bigger, not smaller. It’s the restricted, elitist private welfare state that needs to be cut, not the universal public social insurance system. Most industrial nations do not rely as heavily on private over public programs as we do here (retirement security and health care are prime examples). Deficit hawks would make cuts to stingy social security benefits, leaving the poor, the old, and the laborers to the mercy of their employer’s fickle pension programs, 401Ks and IRAs.

George Bush failed to privatize our social programs due to public outrage and popular outcry, but the con artists are still trying to take what little pittance is left form the elderly, compelling them to gamble their savings in the private markets and mutual funds.

Their objective is to compel Americans to try to make up the losses in public benefits by gambling more with their savings in mutual funds, from which hefty profits will be skimmed by overpaid money managers. Meanwhile, unscrupulous money managers capture many of the returns from private investments for themselves via deceptive fees. Wall Street wants to charge fees on as much of our programs as it can.

Furthermore, there is no looming crisis of debt or deficits, such that sacrifices in general are necessary. None. Not in the short run – as almost everyone agrees.  But also: not in the long run.  What we have are computer projections, based on arbitrary – and suspicious – assumptions. CBO has adjusted its interest rate forecast, and even under its “alternative fiscal scenario” the debt/GDP ratio now stabilizes after a few years.

There is no looming crisis of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, such that these programs must be reformed?  There just isn’t!  Social insurance programs are not businesses. They are not required to make a profit; they need not be funded from any particular stream of tax revenues over any particular time.  Reasonable control of health care costs – public and private – is necessary and also sufficient to keep the costs of Medicare and Medicaid within bounds, but none of our politicians are speaking about this.

They are more concerned about military sequestration, even though Pentagon spending is already set to decline as we adjust our military programs to our national security needs.

Social Security doesn’t add a penny to the debt and should not be part of any deficit reduction talks.” ~Sen. Dick Durbin

“cutting Social Security and Medicare for the sake of an arbitrary and needless budgetary reduction of $4 trillion and as a “solution” to an entirely contrived fiscal crisis is bad policy. It is bad economic policy and worse social policy. And for Democrats, it is dumb politics. If Republicans want to be the ones to attack America’s two most valued social programs, Obama should let them go right ahead—until they march off their own fiscal cliff.” ~Rob Kuttner

Medicare and Medicaid aren’t “chief drivers of the deficit”; Bush tax cuts and two unfunded wars are. The best solution to deficits is to let all the Bush tax cuts lapse and not cut spending at all, while taxing capital gains and dividends as regular income. This would raise some $2 trillion, which the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities argues would be enough deficit reduction to stabilize the national debt.

Instead we have dishonest actors who would gladly lead us over their own constructed “cliff” rather than lead to real solutions, avert mythical problems as opposed to real ones.

Even ignoring that it was entirely invented, the “fiscal cliff” is not even a cliff. All of the tax and spending cuts “scheduled” to take effect Dec. 31 will take effect gradually, and can be reversed by Congress.

Why try to make a deal with this Congress, anyway, when the next one will have more Democrats, and most important, more liberals, on both the House and the Senate side?

The Brookings Institution held panels on the future budget, and in general, centrists on those panels agreed that spending as a percent of GDP should be 23 to 25 percent 20 years from now. He thinks the Simpson-Bowles plan is simply wrong for America. In truth, Social Security is inadequate today, and Medicaid tragically so.

All this while a few of the country’s wealthiest and most patriotic billionaires are calling to for more taxes on themselves.

“Let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if – gasp – capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities.” ~Billionaire investor Warren Buffett

But most of the rich feel so entitled, they claim that anything that hurts them will also hurt the economy. They are essentially threatening ‘a knife to the throat of America’s frail recovery.’

Via In These Times:

The GOP sore losers have America up against a wall. Republicans don’t care that the majority of the country voted for a candidate who promised to raise taxes on the rich. Republicans don’t care that an even larger majority—60 percent—told election day pollsters they wanted those taxes raised. Republicans don’t care about majority-rule democracy at all. They’re demanding ransom—extension of tax cuts for the rich. If Americans don’t submit, Republicans will slash the nation’s economy.

The party that lost the Presidency, lost seats in the House and lost seats in the Senate is willing to take down the economy, to eviscerate programs like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration rather than require the entitled rich pull their weight as citizens of the country that enabled them to live lives of unprecedented luxury.

Romney and the GOP said that Obama bought his votes with promises of gifts, but THEY don’t think they were buying the votes of the rich with their promise to add another 20 percent break on top of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest.

That’s because they believe they’re entitled. They derisively refer to the social safety net programs that prevent the nation’s poor and elderly from being reduced to eating cat food as “entitlements.” But it’s the entitled rich—Romney, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson and their ilk—who demand that America give them “stuff” like tax breaks for sending jobs overseas, like tax loopholes for hoarding their assets in the Caymans, like government-paid roads and sewers and rail lines to their businesses.

The CEOs, calling themselves the “Fix the Debt” coalition, claim they’ll pay a secret amount more in taxes if the 99 percent suffers cuts to its social safety net and endures slashed government programs, just accepts cat food as its meat course.

They’ve proposed extending the tax cuts for the 98 percent right now. The richest two percent would benefit from these breaks as well, receiving them on the first $250,000 of their earnings. Everybody gets something. This proposal passed the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Republican-controlled House refuses to even vote on it.

That gap between America’s high-income and middle-income households, after all, has been growing almost as fast as the gap between rich and poor.

A new income inequality study from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute has found that in the three-year span from 2008 through 2010, in 15 different states, our most affluent 20 percent averaged over eight times the income of our poorest 20 percent. Back in the late 1970s, the new Pulling Apart points out, not one single state had a top-to-bottom ratio that ran over eight times.

In all 50 states, the gap between top 20 and middle 20 percent has widened “significantly.” The gap between middle 20 percent and top 5 percent has widened even more. By almost five times in the largest states.

Plus, these Census surveys do not even take into account income from capital gains. 87 percent of all capital gains “will go to families in the top 5 percent of the U.S. income distribution.”

Rising inequality, they contend, “adversely affects our economy and political system.” They eat away at our social cohesion. Deeply unequal societies just don’t work together in a democracy. The rich in these societies live apart, in their own private universes.

Here are some other numbers the conservative rich would rather have ignored, distorted or fudged:

  1. Only FOUR OUT OF 150 countries have more wealth inequality than us.
  2. Only THREE PERCENT of the very rich are entrepreneurs: According to both Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff, over 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate. Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds.
  3. An amount equal to ONE-HALF the GDP is held untaxed overseas by rich Americans.
  4. Corporations stopped paying HALF OF THEIR TAXES after the recession: After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, corporations have paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes.
  5. Just TEN Americans made a total of FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS in one year.
  6. Tax deductions for the rich could pay off 100 PERCENT of the deficit.
  7. The average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 IN NET WORTH.
  8. Elderly and disabled food stamp recipients get $4.30 A DAY FOR FOOD.
  9. Young adults have lost TWO-THIRDS OF THEIR NET WORTH since 1984.
  10. The American public paid about FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS to bail out the banks.

We have the radical right to thank for much of this. There will always be those in the GOP, or proudly to its right, who will protest any policy movement toward the center as an abandonment of conservative principles.

You are allowed to believe whatever you want in America, but remember that false beliefs ultimately lead to suffering.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-12-01: Confusion by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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.

Ayn Rand vs. the Natural Evolution of Human Altruism

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

The natural history of mankind’s development seems to differ greatly with the psychopathic philosophy of Ayn Rand, a ‘virtue of selfishness’ in which her heroes, such as John Galt, strive for their individual supremacy and autonomy over a collective view of public good. The fact that anthropological evidence refutes her premises would hardly have deterred Rand, who referred to the “primordial savages” of the world, “unable to conceive of individual rights.” As if the rights of individuals are mutually exclusive from such goals as sharing, or showing compassion, working in tandem or exercising a collective group intelligence (with a social awareness) to meet goals.

Indeed, Ayn Rand framed her moral arguments as if the individualists were the persecuted minority, using drastic examples like Stalinist Russia to make her invective criticisms of much more centrist or moderate positions, while ignoring the rich history of robber barons, feudal states and serfdoms. Unfortunately for her, it is not only history, philosophy, culture and economics that have shown her to be wrong, but science as well.

 writes in Slate:

Christopher Boehm has been studying the interplay between the desires of an individual and that of the larger group for more than 40 years. Currently the director of the Jane Goodall Research Center and professor of anthropology and biological sciences at the University of Southern California, he has conducted fieldwork with both human and nonhuman primates and has published more than 60 scholarly articles and books on the problem of altruism. In his newest book, Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame, Boehm synthesizes this research to address the question of why, out of all the social primates, are humans so altruistic?

“There are two ways of trying to create a good life,” Boehm states. “One is by punishing evil, and the other is by actively promoting virtue.” Boehm’s theory of social selection does both. The term altruism can be defined as extra-familial generosity (as opposed to nepotism among relatives). Boehm thinks the evolution of human altruism can be understood by studying the moral rules of hunter-gatherer societies. He and a research assistant have recently gone through thousands of pages of anthropological field reports on the 150 hunter-gatherer societies around the world that he calls “Late-Pleistocene Appropriate” (LPA), or those societies that continue to live as our ancestors once did. By coding the reports for categories of social behavior such as aid to nonrelatives, group shaming, or the execution of social deviants, Boehm is able to determine how common those behaviors are.

What he has found is in direct opposition to Ayn Rand’s selfish ideal. For example, in 100 percent of LPA societies—ranging from the Andaman Islanders of the Indian Ocean archipelago to the Inuit of Northern Alaska—generosity or altruism is always favored toward relatives and nonrelatives alike, with sharing and cooperation being the most cited moral values. Of course, this does not mean that everyone in these societies always follow these values. In 100 percent of LPA societies there was at least one incidence of theft or murder, 80 percent had a case in which someone refused to share, and in 30 percent of societies someone tried to cheat the group (as in the case of Cephu).

What makes these violations of moral rules so instructive is how societies choose to deal with them. Ultimately, it all comes down to gossip. More than tool-making, art, or even language, gossip is a human universal that is a defining feature of our species (though this could change if we ever learn to translate the complex communication system in whales or dolphins). Gossip is intimately connected with the moral rules of a given society, and individuals gain or lose prestige in their group depending on how well they follow these rules. This formation of group opinion is something to be feared, particularly in small rural communities where ostracism or expulsion could mean death. “Public opinion, facilitated by gossiping, always guides the band’s decision process,” Boehm writes, “and fear of gossip all by itself serves as a preemptive social deterrent because most people are so sensitive about their reputations.” A good reputation enhances the prestige of those individuals who engage in altruistic behavior, while marginalizing those with a bad reputation. Since prestige is intimately involved with how desirable a person is to the opposite sex, gossip serves as a positive selection pressure for enhancing traits associated with altruism. That is, being good can get you laid, and this will perpetuate your altruistic genes (or, at least, those genes that allow you to resist cheating other members of your group).

Sometimes gossip is not enough to reduce or eliminate antisocial behavior. In Boehm’s analysis of LPA societies, public opinion and spatial distancing were the most common responses to misbehavior (100 percent of the societies coded). But other tactics included permanent expulsion (40 percent), group shaming (60 percent), group-sponsored execution (70 percent), or nonlethal physical punishment (90 percent). In the case of expulsion or execution, the result over time would be that traits promoting antisocial behavior would be reduced in the populations. In other words, the effect of social selection would be that altruists would have higher overall fitness and out-reproduce free riders. The biological basis for morality in our species could therefore result from these positive and negative pressures carried out generation after generation among our Pleistocene ancestors. Who is John Galt? He refused to participate in society and no one has seen him since.

And it seems that altruistic humankind are not the only primates offended by cheating; earlier this month we saw how Capuchin monkeys respond to unequal pay. So while I’m not advocating public executions or exile, perhaps we should utilize more gossip, bad publicity and group shaming against the ruling elite classes who for far too long have existed in a bubble of their ‘virtuous selfishness.’

Reaching Out Right

There are many things keeping the underemployed and oppressed people of both left and right at polar ends of the spectrum. Radicalizing extremist movements, manipulative systems of power and hard fought biases prevent the largest, most powerful populist movement in American History from emerging and meeting on the ground between their silos.

 It seems a little dismissive and condescending to assume that low-income, working class white America votes against its self interests. Democrats have done almost as much harm to the poor over the decades as Republicans have, and offer few strong, progressive solutions. Both sides understand that change is needed, but disagree on the details. The minds of those on the right are as complex as someone with any other ideological stance, and to think otherwise reveals a disturbingly close-minded bias. As for the conservative bias, however, research indicates a predisposition to obey authoritarian social orders and subtle cues.

Researcher Chris Mooney calls them “authoritarians,” those who are particularly allergic to uncertainty and fiercely refuse to modify their beliefs in response to new evidence. They “extol traditional values, are very conventional, submit to established leaders, and don’t seem to care much about dissent or civil liberties.”

Science is discovering that the brains of those who rely on belief and intuition shift away from analytical and critical thinking, and vice-versa. All it takes is a little movement over time towards the science-based facts, to being a more “open personality” than a close one, and people will begin to work with one another. There are always those out there who, deep down, value individual liberty more than conformity.
This may even result in conservatives seeming happier, by large. They may be unburdened with the worries of the social contract, and cheerfully resolute in their locked-in worldview. But it can also result in a nasty case of cognitive dissonance, since so many facts about the economy, business ethics, science and education are in direct opposition to the deceptive claims of the GOP leadership. When faced with such facts, research indicates that believers become more entrenched in their position, as all humans are wired to do. In fact, as conservatives get more educated or “informed” on an issue such as global warming, they end up more disconnected from the facts. While most people do not get their news from anywhere at all, repeated studies show that those that get theirs from FOX News are consistently the least well-informed.

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read then newspaper, you’re misinformed.” ~Mark Twain

The echo chamber of Big Conservative Media, and the center-right media bent on protecting the status quo of inequality, “frames” every argument in moral terms that benefit their side, of course. Their twisting of quotes, research, statistics and rhetoric have resulted in millions of Americans distrusting science, medicine, and even critical-thinking itself. Contrived controversies obscure the actual state of humanity’s knowledge at this point in history. Analytical people are all ignorantly cast as atheists, who are now the most hated subgroup in the country. (Interestingly, testing shows that those “primed” with reminders of America’s secular authority and history are less likely to distrust atheists).
False dichotomies have forced the conservative mind further to the right, as moderates were slowly ousted during the Gingrich era (and again today), and replaced by the fundamentalists who worship selfishness instead of a more morally responsible individualism. To get an idea of this devolution, one need only read the harshest words of William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater, then compare them to the most reactionary accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, to the radical activism of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, to the angry language of the Tea Party. (For a thorough shock to the system, read some Abraham Lincoln for comparison).
“When you say “radical right” today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.”
~Barry Goldwater
Much of this extremism was introduced so slowly that people did not even notice they were caving into it, like the fabled frog in the pot of boiling water. Things that would have been ghastly yesteryear are commonly accepted “best practices” today; spying on all domestic communications, suspending habeas corpus and due process, corporate bribery, assassinations and torture.
The social contract fails when the masses are enslaved and subjugated by a select, powerful few. This classist bias has existed since the beginning of our history, but so has the gradual, progressive march away from restrictive, totalitarian systems.
Ayn Rand’s psychotic philosophy has been shown to be a disaster. The super-rich prove to us that they cannot be trusted again and again. Trickle-down economics was a failed experiment for a long time, but it continues now as a virulent lie. Milton Friedman’s unregulated ‘free market’ principles have become religious tenets, both in their fundamentalist tone and faith-based refutation of facts. Many have suggested that the primary role of neoliberalism was as an ideological cover for capital accumulation by multinational corporations.

“The laws of commerce are the laws of Nature, and therefore the laws of God.” ~Edmund Burke

Their wealth is essentially no better than hoarding, and their risky banking as dangerous as drunk driving. Conservative think tanks have been corrupting data with bias, slowly overtaking think tanks, and lobbied for less regulation than we’ve had in 30 years.
The history of our Protestant work ethic has written these ideas into our culture, so we are painfully susceptible to being manipulated by them.

“At the unconscious level, Americans believe that good people succeed, that success is bestowed upon you by God, your success demonstrates that God loves you.”

~Clotaire Rapaille, author “The Culture Code”

Now, the dystopian visions of Upton Sinclair’s It Can’t Happen Here are coming true, with the rise of corpofascism helped along by right-wing activist courts, bought legislators, unleashed lobbying, propaganda, disenfranchising voters and silencing dissent. The rich are not particularly smarter, (though they can afford higher education without incurring crippling debt). Nor do they create more jobs, as corporations are always looking to downsize, outsource, automate or maximize profits by destroying the middle class. Consumerism has been shown, in fact, to be a driver of antisocial behavior, and the percentage of psychopaths in finance may be higher than the percentage of the general population.
The powers that have been growing have successfully engineered a false moral argument that all taxes are immoral, and that the rich are the infallible engines of the economy, when any reasonable mind knows that some taxation is needed to maintain and  grow an infrastructure as large as the United States, and that no group is without faults. The rich are all too quick to remind the populace that the working class are not the producers or job creators, and may even be leeches of the system. All in the hopes that the people will forget that we are The Public, the working class, the constituency, the consumers, and the voters of the United States of America.

“Democrats have moved to the right, and the Right has moved into a mental hospital!” ~Bill Maher

American democracy needs two strong, solid political parties, but currently one of the parties is just a mess – incapable of making coherent policy when it’s in office, and dangerously obstructionist when it’s out of office. It has also has the effect of energizing sovereign citizens, secessionists and white nationalists.

Though American democracy needs two strong political parties, one is just a dangerous, incoherent mess, and neither the president nor the voters are likely to change this. It will probably take interests within the party who are worried that the crazy will impede their ability to get things done, that will push to end it.

We’ve seen a little bit of this already. During the healthcare debate, many normally Republican-leaning groups chose to work with the Obama administration and cut their best deal, rather than sticking with the rejectionist GOP. Several companies quit the conservative state lobbying organization ALEC when it became controversial by lobbying for ideological and partisan goals. On the national security side, a break has emerged between the Department of Defense and movement conservatives; both conservatives who care about national security and (on some issues) businesses might choose to stick with the Pentagon. And it’s not quite the same thing, but there’s been a small but steady stream of defectors from the movement.

Many in the Republican party (or conservative or libertarian or center-right independents), are not happy about the destructive course the party is on.
Rep. Alan SimpsonFormer Chairman Jim GreerReagan-appointed Judge Richard PosnerFreshman Republican Richard Hannah, and others have decried the co-opting of their political philosophy by scheming conspirators. Though they are discounted as ‘moderates’ (as if it were an insult) or ‘RINOs’ (Republicans in Name Only). This fracturing creates opportunities for reform.
There have to be ways to amicably bring people in the Red States to a more rational and reasonable mindset, where even if real progress does not take hold, at least they won’t be working against the development of a civilized human race. A way for conscionable and socially-responsible citizens to declare, “Not in My Back Yard!”
There is even a small conservative town in Texas where the city’s mayor, police force and Tea Party movement support their local Occupy protestors.
Even within the Catholic church there are progressive elements and stirrings. Attacking religion is ignorant and counterproductive anyway.
The trends also show us some hope. For even though polls shoe that about 40 percent of Americans believe that God created the Earth less than 10,000 years ago, secularism is on the rise in America. The Millenials (the ‘digital native’ youth on the cusp of adulthood), are more science-minded and skeptical than ever before:

Polls and surveys, like this one from Pew or this one from the Center for American Progress, have helped paint a picture of the Millennials. They’re the most ethnically diverse generation in American history: just under 60% are white, a record low. They’re also one of the most politically progressive generations in decades: they voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by a 2-to-1 margin and opposed the Iraq war by 77% to 21%. They’re disinclined to prolong the culture wars: for the most part, they’re comfortable with gay marriage, immigration, racial and gender equality. They tend to marry later in life, to be highly educated,politically engaged and technologically savvy, and to place a high value on leisure and civic engagement. And they’re the least religious generation of Americans ever;  the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans now exceeds 1 in 4 among the Millennials, a record high.

Millenials also exhibit a new phenomenon, they are getting less religious as they get older. Most importantly, by 2020, the Millennials will represent almost 40% of all American voters.
Other trends in America include the record low approval ratings of government (where conservatives have always led the way) and distrust of organized religion.
But this should not just be a waiting game. Nor should it be a zero-sum game. There are many social issues that, we must all agree, will not be solved with consensuses reached, and will remain for each side to argue and debate for decades. But on many issues, we do agree, and are both amenable to compromise in the light of the truth and moral reality. A plurality of Americans support a tax hike on the rich, for example.

Most Americans oppose the Citizen’s United decision, and do not consider corporations to be people.

We agree on our rights and liberties being protected and protecting the constitution. We recognize the importance of community, family, social responsibility, the need for transparency and accountability in our leaders and the powerful, and the consequences of not planning for the future. We believe in freedom of speech, freedom from religious oppression, guarding against unreasonable searches and seizures, and supporting our patriots. Very few on the right are criticizing Obama for his murder of citizens without due process, violations of human rights, and suppression of the freedom of press. Instead, rabid demagogues condemn the president for wanting to take away guns, institute Maoist socialism, and kill babies, (none of which have come to pass).

 There are Ron Paulites who can be won over, libertarians who can be de-brainwshed, and Tea Partiers to be deprogrammed. The moderates must reclaim and recover the Republican party from the hawkish, neoconservative elites.
But there are many who refuse to let help each other to help each other. They cannot be reached, defying all reason and ethical pleadings for compromise. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” only works when the other party doesn’t also believe that “you’re either with us or against us.”
As for the stubborn power-mad elements within the GOP, it will be a slow, building process. Taking a cue from the very rise of the ‘New Right’, it will be a war by inches, death by a thousand cuts.
They have turned ‘liberal’ into a bad word, and shamelessly attempt to do the same to ‘progressive’. We can turn their own conservative tactics against them: projection (the ‘I-am-rubber-you-are-glue’ now employed by Romney), false polemics, shouting down opponents with ‘Gish Gallop‘ and sound bites, “framing” or changing the conversation, picking subjects made to look ridiculous, and perhaps even dirt-dishing perfected by the likes of Karl Rove. If facts and figures will not convince them, use their own tactics to steamroll over them, not on their terms, but on their own turf.
All while building a new progressive movement with the trust-busting powers to make Theodore Roosevelt proud. We can construct a new economy movement of worker-owned co-ops, small local banks and credit unions, “responsible banking” ordinances, and consumer protection laws. We can endeavor to put worker, consumer, environmental, or community representatives of “stakeholder” groups on corporate boards. In other words, democratizing the American infrastructure.

Other models fit into what author Marjorie Kelly calls the “generative economy”–efforts that inherently nurture the community and respect the natural environment.

We must wage a media war on all fronts, with “new” media transforming our world and providing key tools that help organize revolts and even revolutions. We must present literature, research, and viable solutions in every medium in order to influence the mainstream, open dialogues with other political camps and change the national conversation.

People of any ideology will be able to see that the lower classes (anything below rich or super-rich or ‘filthy stinking’ rich), that we are being branded as corporate slaves, cyber-terrorists, dissidents or ‘dead weight’ for simply living free as we always have, and exercising what were once inalienable rights.

The solutions and actions are many, and need not come from one camp, or one level of expertise, or mandate. We can utilize social justice hacks as readily as pranks and culture jamming, hard-boiled citizen journalism and activism as well as street art and theatre. Create apps that bring more into the fold. Create freeform political ads (endorsed by neither candidate) informing the electorate that they are being manipulated. We need flyers, mailers, transmission interrupts, piracy, co-sponsored DJ events, town hall meetings, flashmobs and boycotts! It may take decades. But despite where we may disagree on those one or two issues, despite what the elites try to peddle us, we are all in this together.

Machinations


The world trembles as it is eaten by the different engines of war machines, political machines, corporate machines and… y’know… actual machines.

With an appropriately science-fiction-themed playlist culled from the halls of io9, we explore our fantastical present and technologically-foreboding future, as we try to build better laws of robotics against their hungry machinations.

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Erasure
Tunnel Of Light – Ayreon
The Battle of Evermore – Led Zeppelin
Movements Of A Visionary – Tangerine Dream
The Fish [Shindleria Praematurus] – Yes
The Supernatural Anaesthetist – Genesis
Surfing with the Alien – Joe Satriani
Engines of Difference – Man… or Astro-man?
Rusty Metal – Aphex Twin
Into The Void – Black Sabbath
Veteran of the Psychic Wars – Blue Öyster Cult
When The Machines Rock – Tubeway Army
celestial annihilation – unkle
The Sprawl – Sonic Youth
Sirius – Alan Parsons Project
Supernova – Mike Oldfield
Supernova at the end of the Universe – The Orb
La Via Della Droga – Goblin
Cats on Mars (DMX Krew Remix) – Gabriela Robin
Strict Machine – Goldfrapp
Elektrobank – The Chemical Brothers
3000 – Dr. Octagon
Positive Contact – Deltron
Mira et Ten – Alain Goraguer
Space is the Place – Sun Ra

The judicial decision to closed-circuit broadcast the arraignment of the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks and four other Guantanamo Bay prisoners is a strange step in favor of transparency. Strange during an era where Bradley Manning, the brave United States Army private and whistleblower who leaked evidence of war crimes, is tried without cameras with an inordinate amount of the kangaroo military court drama playing out behind the scenes. Still, the machines of war and the military-industrial complex are finding some minor ways of being progressive, that is, not backsliding into an authoritarian state.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to announce that questionable interrogation techniques used by the CIA have not resulted in any noteworthy victories in the war on terror.

Committee investigators believe the collected evidence does not substantiate claims by some Bush supporters that the harsh interrogations led to counter-terrorism coups, people close to the inquiry told Reuters. The investigators went through millions of pages presented to the Committee by the CIA. The documents recorded daily operations, including how and when controversial techniques were performed.

Republicans withdrew from the commission, presumably so that they wouldn’t be put into a position where they look foolish in their continued support of obvious falsities, or otherwise claim to find the committee itself invalid in order to support obvious falsities.

I mean, one side supports torture and the other doesn’t! If you believe anything at all from what movies have taught you, you know who the bad guys are.

The former CIA officer who ordered the destruction of videotaped interrogations which showed the torture of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri in a secret CIA prison in Thailand in 2002, says he did so because he worried about the global repercussions if the footage leaked out and wanted to get “rid of some ugly visuals.”Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the CIA’s once-secret interrogation and detention program writes critically of President Obama’s counterterrorism policies and complains openly about the president’s public criticism of Bush’s torture policies.

“I cannot tell you how disgusted my former colleagues and I felt to hear ourselves labeled ‘torturers’ by the president of the United States,” Rodriguez writes in his book, which the Associated Press previewed in a new report.

However, the post-Wikileaks, post-“don’t-ask-don’t-tell” military is changing.

In a big reversal, the Army has issued a stern new set of guidelines to doctors tasked with diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among returning soldiers. Stop spending so much time trying to spot patients who are faking symptoms, formerly identified as “malingerers”, the new guidelines instruct. Chances are, they’re actually ailing. Astutely, the report actually follows the science, and declares that poor test results ‘does not equate to malingering.’”

This is an era of increased scrutiny by groups like the ACLU claiming that the FBI “has improperly targeted American Muslims and Americans of Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian descent, and their religious, community, cultural, and student organizations, and that it has violated the Privacy Act by recording and disseminating as intelligence, information about these innocent Americans’ First Amendment-protected speech and activities.” And increased sensitivity since Danger Room’s investigation of anti-Islam material in the FBI’s counterterrorism training last September:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday ordered the entire U.S. military to scour its training material to ensure it doesn’t contain anti-Islamic content, Danger Room has learned. The order came after the Pentagon suspended a course for senior officers that was found to contain derogatory material about Islam.

The extraordinary order by General Martin Dempsey, the highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. armed forces, was prompted by content in a course titled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism” that was presented as an elective at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. The course instructed captains, commanders, lieutenant colonels and colonels from across all four armed services that “Islam had already declared war on the West,” said Lt. Gen. George Flynn, Dempsey’s deputy for training and education.

It was inflammatory,” Flynn told Danger Room on Tuesday. “That is not how we view this problem or the challenges we have in the world today.”

But the ‘industrial’ component of the ‘military-industrial complex’, like its other corporate counterparts, seems defiant of reform. This week, the three military contractors that do the most business with the Pentagon announced their quarterly war profits for 2012. Their war profits continue to grow while they push Washington, D.C. to protect their budgets at the expense of the rest of us.

Here’s the breakdown so far for this year:

I don’t want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster.” –President Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 22, 1940.

Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the Nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and their countrymen mouldering the dust.”  –President Abraham Lincoln.

Additionally, we here in the states are trying to defend ourselves from a virulent, vitriolic culture war that the 1% began waging years ago under the radar. Confessed conspirators, crooks and liars like Rupert Murdoch try to sell us lines of horseshit, dividing us up to make us easer to conquer. But there is a turning back from hate and division.

Against Violent Extremism (AVE) is an online platform (sure to be dubbed a “Facebook for terrorists”) where former extremists (known as “formers”) and survivors of attacks can share their experiences, with the view to help other individuals leave or avoid falling into violent extremist groups. If they can rehabilitate their hateful mindsets and enter a social support structure with victims on the far other side, what does that say for liberals and conservatives in America (which hopefully we can agree are not as divided yet).

But Big Religion is pushing for (and getting) wasteful government spending, with taxpayer-funded crisis pregnancy centers using religion to oppose abortion, and many of them only hire Christians. In 2010, Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center was awarded a $34,000 “capacity building” grant as part of President Obama’s stimulus bill. Last year, the nonprofit National Fatherhood Initiative, with “support from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance,” awarded the center $25,000 for capacity building.

It’s easy to understand why so many default to the right in their culture war. The constant barrage by conservative mainstream media, the desire to be on the winning side… and the brain itself.

A recent study by Scot Eidelman, a psychologist at the University of Arkansas, and colleagues published online in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that one of those energy-saving shortcuts our brains utilize may have us defaulting to more conservative ideology when we don’t have the resources to think through a situation.

Another big study shows that religious belief (intuitive thinking) and analytical thinking are two different operating processes in the brain, with one effectively overriding the other.

Will Gervais asked 93 university students to rate their own belief in God and other supernatural agents such as angels. Then, several weeks later, they underwent “priming” for analytical thinking – they were asked to unscramble sentences that included words such as “ponder” and “rational”, read text written in hard-to-read fonts, or even just look at a picture of Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker.

Controls were given less analytically charged tasks: looking at Myron’s Discobolus, or The Discus Thrower, unscrambling sentences containing words such as “shoes”, or read text written in easy-to-read fonts. Norenzayan and Gervais then asked the students to again rate their supernatural beliefs. The students who had been exposed to analytical priming consistently downgraded their belief in the supernatural, regardless of their previous degree of belief. This was also true of 148 adults tested online.

The simplest way to explain these effects, the team conclude, is that intuitive thinking leads to belief and analytical thinking suppresses or overrides this process. That gives analytical thinking a causal role in disbelief.

And a look at the conservative comments in online forums and youtube display a severe lack of critical thinking. They actually criticize liberals for supporting teachers? They also argue that the government is “giving too much to the little people and making the middle men pay for it!” But where do you think the middle is sliding? Up? We’re all going to be the little people before too long when GOP austerity is implemented (like the European heathens they emulate). Radically conservative moves that, until recently, President Obama has been all-too-willing to support.

Now President Obama will have to win back the young voters, minorities and independents he’s alienated by capitulating to the radical far right.

Up for grabs is the white working class, which constitutes a key segment of the electorate, especially in the important Midwestern states that are likely to decide what now looks like a close race. Romney’s anti-union rhetoric and what pollster Stanley Greenberg calls the “collapsing Republican brand” – may open the white working-class door slightly to Obama.

American workers’ pragmatic progressivism shows through in other polls: three-fourths of white workers want government to reduce inequality, and 55 percent are concerned that not everyone gets an equal chance in life, for example.

While the Obama campaign has attacked the Republican “war on women,” it has not targeted as explicitly the GOP “war on workers.”

The promise of economic fairness and solidarity that could win over many white workers holds broad voter appeal. It also offers the potential of healing some of the divisions of the working class that are among the main barriers to a more progressive politics in America.

And though the musicians, actors, artists and other types are struggling (employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show just how badly the press and media have missed the story), the regime is still trying to sell us on the idea of elitist Hollywood types who are fabulous successful. Wall Street and the Auto Industry got taxpayer bailouts, but they are still victims in the eyes of our lawmakers, while low-income workers, and that includes the creatives, are seeing jobs in their fields fall.

Jobs in graphic design, photographic services, architectural services all peaked before the market crash and and fell, 19.8 percent over four years for graphic design, 25.6 percent over seven years for photography and a brutal 29.8 percent, for architecture, over just three years. “Theater, dance and other performing arts companies” – this includes everything from Celine Dion’s Vegas shows to groups that put on Pinter plays – down 21.9 percent over five years.

But it’s easier to dehumanize and demonize them if they are the ‘other’. Those filthy liberals, those West Coast elites. Those red states, those backwater reactionaries.

Watching events play out during the protest on April 24 at the San Francisco Wells Fargo helps elucidate. The big bank, and the police outside, took the unprecedented step of locking more than 100 of its shareholders out of its annual meeting – a meeting they had every legal right to attend. The shareholders’ demands were simple: they called for a moratorium on foreclosures, principle reduction for homeowners who are deep under water and the end of the bank’s predatory lending. They also called on the bank to divest its 7 percent stake in the GEO Group – one of the nation’s largest private prison corporations.

Organizers said that some shareholders – not affiliated with the protests – continued to be let in, a move organizers said was illegal.

But one woman who got in reported that the room was largely empty, and another said that many of those in attendance were Wells Fargo employees. The woman also said that as soon as one of the community shareholders attempted to speak, they were immediately threatened with arrest and removed from the building.

And as survivors of the Oakland raids noted, to see who was looking for a riot, look at who dressed up all prepared for a riot. Now Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan has announced a series of reforms in his department’s crowd-management policies in the wake of criticism of how it has responded to Occupy Oakland protests that began last October.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has showed her contempt for the people, both in action and in word. And in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee is launching an ad campaign to discourage contributions to panhandlanders, essentially treating them as inhuman eyesores with a message of “Don’t Feed the Homeless.”  Instead of tackling out-of-control rent prices and supporting drug rehabilitation, Edwin Lee would rather continue to feed the overweight rich.

So just look at what happens to people in the U.S. if they challenge government actions in any meaningful way — if they engage in any meaningful dissent. Warrantless surveillance, harassment, arrest, strip searching… it seems that every day now more of our civil liberties are being stripped from us.

A Manhattan judge ruled that writer, Occupy Wall Street participant and prankster Malcolm Harris will not be able to block a subpoena on his Twitter account, including “any and all user information including email addresses” tied to it because, according to the judge, our tweets are not ours at all, and that Harris has no legal standing of right to privacy.

“Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”

–William Binney

“Th[e National Security Agency’s] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.“ –Frank Church

We are being pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed and numbered by the machines.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-04-28: Machinations by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Will the Student Debt Movement Legitimize Occupy?

The mainstreamies out there are pretty occupied (pun intended) with working more hours for less pay, mortgage foreclosures and a host of other pressures. But for my money, the predatory lending practices, price hikes and unfair or outright fraudulent policies regarding payment, interest, or consolidation will bring Real America closer to realizing the progressive changes we need for the middle class to survive and the country to thrive.

It is the aspiration of nearly everyone, regardless of race, religion, politics, or creed, to attain higher education. It helps us expand and diversify our minds, meet new and interesting people, live free and wildly independent, study under the tutelage of wizened mentors, access courses, books and topics they otherwise may not have the opportunity to experience. People of any age go to school to grow philosophically, gain skills, learn seemingly secret or arcane knowledge, or, as the marketing departments tell us, to get better jobs and make more money.

Of course, it doesn’t really work that way, with an American workforce still in the shitter, skilled jobs scarce and a growing economic class of people below the rising line of college affordability. Parents and guardians, also burdened with co-signed loans, want what is best for their younger generations, but are crippled by Draconian corporations. A feedback loop of greed has been created by big education dealers like EDMC, usurious loan companies like Sallie Mae, and the collections agencies that sometimes fall under their own banner (not exactly a conflict for Sallie Mae, but a matter of compounding debt and problems for the indebted). If one were to be thoroughly conspiracy-minded, it wouldn’t take much to add a dystopian vision of private industry fueled by underpaid workers (a la Foxconn) enslaved by the debt of their overpriced and now apparently useless education, the return of debtor’s prisons in a private prison industry!

But enough slippery slope arguments, for the tamer future reality is nearly as frightening. No massive conspiracy, but hundreds of small ones perpetrated by the psychopathic CEOs at the top tiers of the power structures in this country, with no regard for the populace “below them” or indeed the very future of the country, the planet, or our species. This is what Occupy is all about, but this message hasn’t entirely translated to the mainstream America who gets their news from Fox, or more likely, doesn’t care to get the news at all.

You will undoubtedly see people criticize any progressive movement on the left, and decry any debt absolution, industry regulation, activism or protest movement as leftist propaganda and overreaching government attacking poor, defenseless billionaires such as Albert Lord, CEO of Sallie Mae. For every true story told at occupystudentdebt.com, one could likely find a snide youtube comment tearing them down. There will always be reactionary bullies and their herds of sheep. A perfectly natural (and primitively primate) revulsion of the youthful vigor for liberty.

Fortunately, the facts are overhwhelming, as student loan debt in America tops $1 trillion, some are seeing their loans triple due to interest, face ridiculous fees, with no way to negotiate, no bankruptcy protection, and no regulation. Since 1980, average tuition for a 4-year college education has increased an astounding 827%. Since 1999, average student loan debt has increased by a shameful 511%. Student debt collectors are incentivized to violate federal aid laws, and even Obama (who topped the list of those fighting for student debt reform) and the Department of Education rely on debt collectors profiting from student debt. And Republicans are again trying to double the interest rates for student loans. Which is really the overreaching government action?

If it looks like a bubble and acts like a bubble…

Unfortunately, as we have seen with issue after issue, facts do not necessarily sway voters. We need to reframe the issues, changing perceptions and public opinion, alter the very conversation in this country of where the money is going and why the prices are fixed as they are.

The student loan corporation heads (like all the clueless and insulated rich) must have received quite a shock upon realizing that the protest movement of their victims is coincidentally somehow both young and educated.

But once the bubble of student loan debt bursts, and make no mistake, it will, Americans will watch as the same drama plays out again with corporate bailouts and vulture capitalism that nearly wrecked us so recently.

Prices for education will not drop (they haven’t for homes), as the economy takes another hit unemployment will rise with no regard to the educated, skilled, or fealty to young innovators, things we once valued and prized in this country. Even the parents and grandparents will take up their torches and pitchforks if and when the shit makes such total abstract art of the fan. The first economic shitstorm of mortgage usury took everyone by surprise, and an unaware America could be fed nonsense and propaganda contrary to the facts or their better interests. But as George W. Bush once stated in his American dialect, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” Years later, Americans are more skeptical of rushing off to foreign wars in Iran or Syria, compared to our gullibility in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re more savvy if we’ve lived through it once before in recent memory.

There are other options, of course, than utter collapse. Floating Universities and Open Education Resources are becoming more popular online for a fraction of the cost of similar coursework and lectures. Certain degrees in technology are being offered by once-exclusive institutions at affordable rates (even cheap as free), and tuition can be pre-paid or locked-in early to save money. Blogging itself is increasingly being seen as a scholarly activity. Some incentives exist to get courses for cheaper, though overall, scholarships and federal grants for financial aid are diminishing, and even community college costs are rising. And despite their innovation and necessity, let us not allow such cost-saving measures deter us from fixing the regulatory holes hemorrhaging the system.

A current bill is being proposed by Rep. Hansen Clarke, who might lose his seat due to Republican redistricting, the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 (H.R. 4170), that would give those Americans a way out debt by letting them pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years. America is slipping behind with every year in education! We all need to educate ourselves, get informed, and act! Sign a petition, write your congressmen, or march in the streets if you can, to occupy our very right to be educated.

In the end, if worst comes to worst, they may not even call it Occupy, and they may not consider it ‘legitimized.’ But the looming financial hubris cannot be sustained, and unregulated will come to a point where no American can ignore it.