Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012-02-29 "Allow Failure To Fail: Bank of America teetering on the edge of collapse" by Matt Taibbi of Occupy Wall Street

There are two things every American needs to know about Bank of America.

The first is that it’s corrupt. This bank has systematically defrauded almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, homeowners, shareholders, depositors, and the state. It is a giant, raging hurricane of theft and fraud, spinning its way through America and leaving a massive trail of wiped-out retirees and foreclosed-upon families in its wake.

The second is that all of us, as taxpayers, are keeping that hurricane raging. Bank of America is not just a private company that systematically steals from American citizens: it’s a de facto ward of the state that depends heavily upon public support to stay in business. In fact, without the continued generosity of us taxpayers, and the extraordinary indulgence of our regulators and elected officials, this company long ago would have been swallowed up by scandal, mismanagement, prosecution and litigation, and gone out of business. It would have been liquidated and its component parts sold off, perhaps into a series of smaller regional businesses that would have more respect for the law, and be more responsive to their customers.

But Bank of America hasn’t gone out of business, for the simple reason that our government has decided to make it the poster child for the “Too Big To Fail” concept. Because it is considered a “systemically important institution” whose collapse would have a major, Lehman-Brothers-style impact on the economy, two consecutive presidential administrations have taken extraordinary measures to keep Bank of America in business, despite a staggering recent legacy of corruption schemes, many of which were simply overlooked by regulators.

This is why the question of whether or not Bank of America should remain on public life support is so critical to all Americans, and not just those millions who have the misfortune to be customers of the bank, or own shares in the firm, or hold mortgages serviced by the company. This gigantic financial institution is the ultimate symbol of a new kind of corruption at the highest levels of American society: a tendency to marry the near-limitless power of the federal government with increasingly concentrated, increasingly unaccountable private financial interests.

The inevitable result of that new form of corruption is this bank, whose continued, state-supported existence should naturally outrage all Americans, be they conservative or progressive.

Conservatives should be outraged by Bank of America because it is perhaps the biggest welfare dependent in American history, with the $45 billion in bailout money and the $118 billion in state guarantees it’s received since 2008 representing just the crest of a veritable mountain of federal bailout support, most of it doled out by the Obama administration.

For instance, with its own credit rating hovering just above junk status, Bank of America has been allowed to borrow tens of billions of dollars against the government’s credit rating using little-known bailout programs with names like the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program. Since the crash of 2008, it’s also borrowed billions if not trillions in emergency, near-zero interest rate loans from the Federal Reserve – it took out $91 million in rolling low-interest financing from the Fed on just one day in January, 2009.

Conservatives believe that a commitment to free market principles and limited government will lead us out of our economic troubles, but Bank of America represents the opposite dynamic: a company that is kept protected from the judgments of the free market, and forces the state to expand to take on its debts.

Last summer, for instance, the Bank – in order to satisfy creditors who were nervous about the enormous quantity of risky assets on its balance sheet – decided to move some $73 trillion (that’s trillion, with a T) in exotic derivative bets from one end of the company into the federally-insured, depository side of the bank.

This move, encouraged by the Obama administration, put the American taxpayer on the hook for an entire generation of irresponsible gambles made by another failed investment firm that should have gone out of business, but was instead acquired by Bank of America with $25 billion in taxpayer help – Merrill Lynch.

When did we make it the job of the taxpayer to buy failed companies, and rescue companies from their own bad decisions? How is that conservative?

Meanwhile, if you’re a progressive, Bank of America is the ultimate symbol of modern predatory capitalism. This company has knowingly sold hundreds of billions of worthless securities to unions and pension funds (New York state filed two different lawsuits against Bank of America and its subsidiaries on behalf of its pension fund, one of which was settled for $624 million) brazenly overcharged its depositors (it was forced to pay customers $410 million in restitution for bogus overdraft charges), and repeatedly lied to its shareholders (most notoriously, it lied about billions in losses on Merrill Lynch’s books before asking shareholders to approve its merger with the firm).

Moreover, Bank of America has ruthlessly preyed upon millions of homeowners, throwing them out on the street on the strength of doctored, “robosigned” paperwork created through brazenly illegal practices they helped pioneer — the firm sped struggling families to foreclosure court using perjured affidavits produced in factory-like fashion by the hundreds or thousands every day, with full knowledge of management.  Through the firm’s improper use of an unaccountable private electronic mortgage registry system called MERS, it also systematically evaded millions of dollars in local fees, forcing some communities to cut services and raise property taxes.

Even when caught and punished for its crimes by the authorities, Bank of America has repeatedly ignored court orders. It was one of five companies identified in two separate investigations earlier this year that were caught continuing the practice of robosigning, even after promising to stop in a legally binding consent decree. Last summer, the state of Nevada sought to terminate a settlement over mortgage abuses it had entered into with Bank of America after it found the company was brazenly violating the agreement, among other things raising payments and interest rates on mortgage customers, despite the fact that the settlement only allowed them to modify loans downward.

Over and over again, we see that leveling fines and punishments at this bank is not enough: it simply ignores them. It is the very definition of an unaccountable corporate villain.

Companies like Bank of America are a direct threat to national security, for many reasons. For one thing, they drive smaller, more honest banks out of business: since the market knows the federal government will never let Bank of America fail, it charges less to lend the bank money. That gives Bank of America, despite its near-junk credit rating, a competitive advantage over a smaller, regional bank that might have a better credit rating, but doesn’t have the implicit support of the federal government.

Worse still, stock market investor dollars that normally would go to more customer-friendly, more creative, and more commercially dependable firms will instead continue to flow to Too-Big-To-Fail behemoths like Bank of America, as buying stock in a company with implicit state support will be considered almost a safe-haven investment, like buying gold or Treasury bills.

This robs more deserving and ingenious entrepreneurs of scarce capital, and also encourages existing companies to pour resources not into better performance and increased productivity, but into lobbying and government influence. The result will be fewer Googles and Apples, more bad banks, and more campaign contributions for politicians.

Moreover, we’ve seen throughout our history that when criminal organizations are not punished, they tend to be encouraged to commit more crimes. Five years from now, our government’s decision to avoid jailing Bank of America executives for their roles in the vast robosigning program may result in a situation where no court document of any kind can be trusted, as companies will realize that it is cheaper and easier to simply invent legal affidavits than to draw them up properly and accurately.

What will your defense be against a future lawsuit for a credit card debt or a foreclosure, when your bank walks into court with a pile of invented documents? Will you wish then that you’d fought harder for Bank of America to be punished now?

And the state’s decision to allow Bank of America to pay a middling, $137 million fine for the rigging of bids for five years of municipal bond issues – a very serious crime that robbed taxpayers of millions in revenue, and incidentally is exactly the sort of thing we used to put mobsters in jail for, when the rigged contracts were for cement instead of bonds – may mean that down the road, all municipal bond issues will be rigged.

In recent years, Too-Big-To-Fail banks like Bank of America and Chase and Wells Fargo have been caught rigging the bids for financial services in dozens of municipalities nationwide. Worse, these same banks have repeatedly been let off the hook by regulators, who rarely seek jail sentences for the offenders, and more often simply apply fractional fines to the companies caught. This behavior, if left unchecked, will ultimately mean that we will all have to pay more for our roads, our traffic lights, our sewers, in fact all public services, as the banker’s secret bonus will soon become an institutionalized part of the invoice. And it’ll be our fault, because we didn’t do anything about it now.

The only way to prevent this kind of slide to total lawlessness is to break this unhealthy relationship between bank and government. It would be a great sign of America’s return to healthier capitalism if we could allow one of the worst of public-private monsters, Bank of America, to sink or swim on its own, in the free market.

We don’t want Bank of America to fail. Our position is, it already is insolvent, and already has failed – and only our tax dollars, and our government’s continued protection, is keeping that failure from becoming more common knowledge. There are many opinions about the nature of modern American capitalism. Some think the system is no longer able to meet the needs of ordinary people and needs to be radically overhauled, while others like it just the way it is.

But one thing that everyone on this spectrum of beliefs can agree upon is that our system doesn’t work when corrupt companies, companies that should fail in the free market, are kept alive by the government. When we allow that, what we get is a system that is neither capitalism nor socialist, but somewhere more miserably in between – a bureaucratic state in which profit is not tied to performance, but political power.

We have to break that cycle, and we can. Even with the enormous levels of state support, Bank of America has been teetering on the edge of collapse for years now. In December of 2011, its share price briefly dipped below $5, a near-fatal event in the firm’s history. The market has reacted violently to bad news about the bank on multiple occasions in the last year – after news of layoffs, after hints that the government might not bail the bank out completely in the event of a collapse, and after significant new lawsuits were filed. Each of these corrections nearly sent the company into a tailspin, but it was always rescued in the end by the widespread belief that Uncle Sam would bail it out in the event of a collapse.

We need to put a dent in that belief. We need to convince politicians and investors alike to allow failure to fail.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012-02-28 "Return of the Speculators: What’s Really Pushing Up the Price of Gas?"

by MIKE WHITNEY [http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/28/whats-really-pushing-up-the-price-of-gas/]:
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com
Is the Fed’s “Easy Money” policy pushing up the price of gas? The editors of the Wall Street Journal seem to think so. Here’s how they summed it up in an article last week:
“Oil is traded in dollars, and its price therefore rises when the value of the dollar falls, all else being equal. The Federal Reserve throughout Mr. Obama’s term has pursued the easiest monetary policy in modern times, expressly to revive the housing market…..
“Oil staged its last price surge along with other commodity prices when the Fed revved up its second burst of “quantitative easing” in 2010-2011. Prices stabilized when QE2 ended. But in recent months the Fed has again signaled its commitment to near-zero interest rates first through 2013, and recently through 2014. Commodity prices, including oil, have since begun another surge, and hedge funds have begun to bet on commodity plays again….(“‘Stupid’ and Oil Prices”, Wall Street Journal)
“Another surge” for commodity prices?
Not exactly. As a whole, commodity prices have remained relatively flat. (Copper, nickel, zinc etc are all up a bit, but not much. No more than 4 per cent for any of them.) It’s only oil that’s skyrocketing. Oil soared to a 10-month high on Friday hitting $109-plus per barrel, up 14 percent in the last month. Prices at the pump have also jumped to nearly $4 per gallon across the country putting more pressure on consumers’ budgets and, once again, raising the prospect of a double dip recession.
The WSJ is correct in saying that quantitative easing (QE2) did push up food and energy prices, but is that really what’s driving oil prices higher today?
Probably not. There are other factors that are likely having a greater impact, like the escalating tension in the Middle East–particularly the supposed threat of a war with Iran. Buyers are rushing to build up their stockpiles before the conflict might begin. Here’s an excerpt from a post at Econbrowser that explains:
“Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst at PFGBest Research in Chicago, offered this interpretation:
“We’re seeing panic buying in Europe and Asia because they’re absolutely convinced that they’re not going to be able to buy Iranian oil or there’s going to be some kind of conflict that disrupts the transport of oil through the Strait of Hormuz…. there is a lot of hoarding in case the worst-case scenario happens. Asian buyers have been buying up West African crude like it’s going out of style.” (“Crude oil and gasoline prices”, James Hamilton, econbrowser)
So, is panic buying driving up the price of gas or does it have more to do with a gradually improving economic picture that’s increasing demand around the world? That seems to be the gist of a report by NPR’s John Ydstie on Thursday’s All Things Considered. Ydstie notes that “for the first time in six decades” the US “has become a net exporter of gasoline. We’re sending more gasoline out than we’re bringing in.” (“What’s Behind The Rise In Gas Prices?”, NPR) And that’s because it’s now cheaper to produce gas in the US than it is in the rest of the world (mainly due to fracking). Unfortunately, cheaper production costs don’t translate into cheaper prices at the pump. Why? Because gas is traded in a global market where prices are set by supply-demand dynamics.
Still, whether China is purchasing more oil or not doesn’t explain the sharp uptick in prices, because there’s no apparent shortage of supply. In fact, according to the EIA, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, inventories are unusually high.
Here’s a clip from their statement: “At 339.1 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are in the upper limit of the average range for this time of year….Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 0.4 million barrels last week and are in the upper limit of the average range.”
So, if there’s no shortage of supply, then Ydstie’s “global market” theory doesn’t make much sense because there’s no pressure on prices. And there’s something else to consider, too, which is that gas consumption in the US has dropped sharply in recent months. In fact, “demand for refined oil products is close to its lowest level in nearly 15 years”. (CNBC) Here’s a clip from a post by Charles Hugh Smith’s titled “Why Is Gasoline Consumption Tanking?” that explains what’s going on:
“Retail gasoline deliveries, already well below 1980 levels, have absolutely fallen off a cliff….the declines in retail gasoline deliveries are mind-boggling….”
“There are no data-supported broad-based drivers for dramatically lower gasoline consumption other than austerity and lower economic activity……What other plausible explanation is there for the decline from 42.4 MGD in July 2011 to 30.9 MGD in November 2011 other than a dramatic decline in discretionary driving? (“Why Is Gasoline Consumption Tanking?”, Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds)
Whatever the reason may be, US drivers have cut back on their gas consumption dramatically which should have a material effect on prices, but it hasn’t. Prices continue to soar, and the soaring prices cannot be explained in terms of the Fed’s easing policy, constriction of supply, refinery closings, or fear of another Middle East war. (The so called “fear premium” should be no more than $10 to $15 per barrel) Investigative journalist Kevin G. Hall explains what is really driving prices in an article for McClatchy titled “Once again, speculators behind sharply rising oil and gasoline prices.” Here’s an excerpt:
“….oil’s price shot up because it trades in financial markets, where Wall Street firms and other big financial players dominate the trading of oil, even though they have no intention of ever taking possession of the oil whose contracts they are trading….
Historically, financial speculators accounted for about 30 percent of oil trading in commodity markets, while producers and end users made up about 70 percent. Today it’s almost the reverse.
A McClatchy review of the latest Commitment of Traders report from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates oil trading, shows that producers and merchants made up just 36 per cent of all contracts traded in the week ending Feb. 14.
That same week, open interest, or the total outstanding oil contracts for next-month delivery of 1,000 barrels of oil (about 42,000 gallons), stood near an all-time high above 1.486 million. Speculators who’ll never take delivery of oil made up 64 per cent of the market…..
Not surprisingly, big Wall Street traders on Tuesday projected oil will rise above $112 a barrel; some such as Swiss giant Vitol even suggested $150-a-barrel oil is coming soon. When they dominate the market, as they do, speculators’ bids can make their prophecies self-fulfilling.
“These people are not there to be heroes. They are there to make money. It’s our fault because we are allowing them to do that,” said Gheit. “Obviously these people are very strong, and the financial lobby is the strongest of any single lobby. I’ve been in this business 30 years, and I can tell you I think this is smoke and mirrors.” (“Once again, speculators behind sharply rising oil and gasoline prices”, Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy News)
Repeat: “Speculators who’ll never take delivery of oil made up 64 percent of the market.” That explains why prices are going up, up, up.

2012-02-28 "Brave New World: No Public Education, No Democracy!"

by SIMONE HARRIS [http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/28/no-public-education-no-democracy/]:
Simone Harris is a high school English teacher, activist, and blogger who writes about the politics of education at theedutalk.blogspot.com.
I teach English at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, California.  I love my school, my amazing colleagues, and the kids who enter my classroom each year.  But I hate what is happening to public education.
From the national to the local level, our public schools are under attack, and that means our students are under attack.  This attack takes more than one form.  The cuts to vital education services are horrifying enough, but they’re only half the picture.  The other half is the violation of our public trust by private interests.
It’s not a pretty sight, but we must look squarely at the vultures of privatization that prey on the damage to our schools, from New York to New Orleans to Wisconsin to California.  Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education in the first Bush administration, refers to the three big education funders, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton Family, as the Billionaire Boys Club in her excellent book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Ravitch has come a long way since her days of working under Bush Sr.  I’ve even heard people refer to her as the Noam Chomsky of education, a sure sign of how far to the right our political culture has drifted.
But we were talking about vultures.  These corporations are poised to supply the artificial heart of learning to a wounded public school system they fully intend to finish off.  But they won’t succeed. No they won’t because our communities are going to fight for our beloved schools, we teachers are going to fight for our students, and our students are going to demand the education they deserve!
There are so many intelligent, talented, compassionate educators who were called to this profession.  Teaching was a calling for me.  I’m in this for the long haul, and by this I mean public education.  I’m going to stand up for the right that all young people have to a quality education.
Education is a right.  Education is a human right; it’s not a humiliating race for basic funding, something the Obama administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan would do well to remember.  Education is indeed a right, and yet did you know there is more segregation in our schools today than at any time since 1968, the year of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination?  The corporate obsession with charter schools and high stakes tests has contributed mightily to this segregation while shamefully distracting us from the poverty and income inequality that go hand in hand with it.
I’m not going to lie down while corporations prey on our students.  I don’t want to see our nation’s young people at the mercy of a Rupert Murdoch or a Michael Milken.  Do you remember Michael Milken, the former felon and Junk Bond King of the eighties?  Michael Milkin is co-founder of K-12 Inc., America’s largest provider of online education for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Do you know what an online school is?  That’s the one that exists inside of a computer.  These days, kids can conduct their entire social lives on a computer and get all their schooling done there too.  They never even have to leave the house.  It’s very compact, very efficient, but there is one missing link: the human link, the spacious beauty of the human bond.
Online or virtual schools typically have high withdrawal rates, and that’s not surprising.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  It must be very tempting to drop out of a “school” when there are no human beings there in person to make you feel connected to a real community, no gym, no playground, no student art on the walls, and no teacher to get to know you, to care, to see who you are and who you might one day become.
The bitter irony is that these online schools are marketed to English learners who need the exact opposite of isolation, who benefit most from cooperative strategies in natural, not virtual, settings.
Or they are preposterously promoted as beneficial to low income students as though it were a good thing to get education at a discount, off the rack. As Diane Ravitch warns of the educational dystopia that is fast gaining on reality, “the poor will get computers and the rich will get computers and teachers.”
The corporate predators also target struggling learners, kids with learning disabilities or emotional problems; in other words, the very kids who need human engagement and interaction the most.  And make no mistake: all kids need it!  One shudders to imagine children as young as five attending a virtual school.  It’s a Brave New World, and I’m not just saying that because I’m an English teacher.
Our district right here in Santa Rosa has just launched an online charter school.  I understand we are paying for it in-house, no involvement from Michael Milkin, not as far as I know, not yet anyway.  But our community needs to ask critical questions about this online school nonetheless, especially when we are told to expect teacher layoffs this March.
According to SRTA President Andy Brennan, the district promised this online venture would be geared toward homeschooled kids but in spite of that claim, they have recruited from our general population.  They forwarded a letter of recruitment to all department chairs in the district and got over 200 applicants.
So why are we diverting precious resources from our actual schools toward this virtual school?  What priorities does this decision reflect?  Who made the decision that an online school was good for our kids?  Were studies consulted, and if so, which ones and with what level of scrutiny? The argument that getting the bulk of one’s education through a computer will give kids marketable technological skills is wholly unconvincing without evidence that students of these virtual schools actually get hired in these fields.  Do the jobs that require these technological skills even exist in the present U.S. economy or have they been outsourced to other countries?
Finally, is it possible that, in our district as in so many others, what is good for our kids once again lost out to the bottom line, the almighty dollar?  These are some of the questions we must ask.
Another question is why we allow Michael Milken, a man who wouldn’t be allowed inside of a real classroom because of his felony conviction, to make a profit off of marketing his online curriculum to kindergartners.
Letting the business world gain control of our public schools has many sad consequences, but there is no question that it is making a few people very rich.  There is a reason that Rupert Murdoch referred to the for-profit K-12 education industry as, and I quote, “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”  I’d like to keep Rupert Murdoch waiting desperately until the end of time.  How about you?
And we can’t forget the Walton Family.  The Walton Family spent $157 million dollars on Ed Reform in 2010 alone and has spent $1 billion to date on pushing charter schools and busting teachers unions.  Do we really want the people behind Walmart to set the education agenda for America?  Something is definitely wrong with this picture.
We hear so much these days about standards in education and holding teachers accountable to the standards.  Ask yourself what the Walmart standard of education might be – You’ve heard of the chain store, so now consider the chain school, all those unique kids across the nation being force-fed one standardized diet of junk learning.  It’s the fast food of education these corporations are pushing.  And when I consider the current and future classes of 40 plus students due to budget cuts, the term “supersize me” takes on a whole new meaning.  Hey, how big can an online class get?  Supersize me.
But these days in education, it’s not fashionable to examine the big picture, to ask too many questions about what students are learning and why we are teaching it to them.  It’s not recommended for the teacher and it’s not prescribed for the student.  Nevertheless, we teachers are not about to give up on critical thinking within or beyond the walls of the classroom.
Here is one critical piece of the big picture: The Walton Family owns more wealth than the bottom 40% of the whole U.S. while one in five kids here live in poverty. There is no question that poverty is a huge factor in the success of students.  It accounts for 60% of student achievement!
Finland, the country whose scores in international test comparisons we’ve been holding up as a model, has high-performing schools in large part because they do things like provide food and free health-care for their students.  And not incidentally, they don’t have standardized tests.  They understand that a quality education emerges from a strong community and a humane society.  Why can’t we figure that out here in the U.S., in the wealthiest country in the world?
So if the Walton family really wants to improve education, then maybe they should start supporting Single Payer Healthcare. Maybe they should launch a massive campaign to end child poverty.  And no education reform effort would be complete without a major challenge to the corporate stranglehold on our system of government.  Come to think of it, these philanthropists, as they like to think of themselves, might want to join the Occupy Movement.  Except they’re the owners of Walmart, a conflict of interest to say the least.
The 1% is hoping that if America continues to blame teachers for everything then they will forget to tax the millionaires.  But we here today can’t afford to forget the real scope of the problem.  So as an English teacher, I decided to end my speech today with a nod to the parts of speech.
We can’t forget that Occupy was a verb before it became a noun.  Whatever you believe about your political identity, your party affiliation, your status in America today, please don’t forget to occupy your conscience, your activism, and your humanity. We need to vote in California to fund public education and other essential human services, and I am giving my support to the Millionaires Tax Initiative supported by the California Federation of Teachers and the California Nurses Association.  But we need to do more than rouse ourselves for intermittent election cycles.  We need to occupy our hearts, our minds, and our capacity for critical thinking.  We can’t go back to sleep.
People everywhere are waking up to the radical threat that corporations pose, to our global economy, to our planet and to our very existence as a species.  And let’s not forget that corporations are a threat to our democracy, to the self-determination of people all over the world.  Without public education, there can be no democracy.
This is why we reject this authoritarian education mandated by an illegitimate corporate power.  We must overthrow the plutocracy!  We must demand our human rights! And we cannot afford to wait timidly for politicians powered by big money to give their lukewarm legislative blessings to our kids’ fundamental human rights.  We the people need to take to the streets to demand those rights, to demand the legislation that is just and fair in the wealthiest country in the world. We are the decision-makers and we are the people!
I would never have become a teacher if I didn’t believe in the power of people to change the world, and especially the power of young people.  Students, I know you can change the world!  You can change the world!  I believe in you.

Monday, February 27, 2012

2012-02-27 "A famous Chicago factory gets Occupied; Workers take over the former Republic Windows and Doors plant celebrated by Michael Moore" by Micah Uetricht
CHICAGO — Leah Fried had seen this movie before.
In fact, she’d appeared in it. Fried is the union representative for workers at the former Republic Windows and Doors plant, site of the 2008 factory occupation in Chicago that captured national attention and appeared in Michael Moore’s ”Capitalism, A Love Story.”
“It feels like déjà vu,” she said on Thursday night, standing at the again-occupied factory’s entrance.
She was in the same doorway she and factory workers had stood in three years earlier, when workers occupied the plant for six days demanding legally owed severance, accrued vacation time, and temporary health benefits. In 2012, the company logo on the door had changed, now reading “Serious Energy,” but the desolate industrial backdrop, the roar of passing semis, the miserable winter weather and the dramatic 1930s-era tactic of physically occupying a factory remained the same.
And, like in 2008, the occupying workers got what they demanded, raising the question of whether similar tactics will spread to other parts of the progressive movement in the near future. Such questions were raised after the Republic occupation, but further radical actions didn’t materialize. Now, however, in the wake of the national political shift engendered by the Occupy movement, the time might be right for progressives to engage in bolder actions.
The 2008 Republic Windows and Doors occupation captured national headlines, as it seemed to be a perfect parable of all that was wrong with the financial crisis: Just a few days after receiving $25 billion in bailout funds from the federal government, Bank of America cut off the company’s credit line, leading Republic’s management to immediately and unceremoniously fire all 250 workers without providing the 60 days’ notice or 60 days’ pay required of them by the federal WARN Act.
Rather than resigning themselves to their fate as a few of the many victims of a devastated economy, workers and their union, the small, fiercely left-wing United Electrical Workers, decided to do something bold: occupy the plant until the company agreed to pay them their severance.
The workers were eventually victorious, convincing Bank of America to reopen Republic’s line of credit so the workers could be paid what they were owed. What’s more, a new company, Serious Energy, bought the factory and pledged to rehire all of the fired workers.
Things looked hopeful for a time. Serious began production with a fraction of the former workforce, hoping that business would soon pick up. But it never did, according to Serious spokesman Michael Kanellos.
“People just aren’t building,” Kanellos says.
The union doesn’t dispute that business was less than stellar. “They were having a hard time getting a foothold in the Chicago market,” Fried acknowledges.
But in a meeting with local management downtown Thursday morning, workers were not told that the factory would be closing soon, the union says; they were told the closure would be effective immediately. When the union said it wanted  time to find a buyer for the factory so workers would not lose their jobs, they say the company refused. (In a statement, Serious said it had not indicated the closure would be immediate.)
When negotiations broke down, workers and union representatives left the downtown offices and headed back to Goose Island to explain to workers, as they had in 2008, the company’s plans — and, as they had in 2008, to put to a vote whether workers wanted to occupy.
Workers voted yes. As the 5 p.m. shift ended, workers stayed in the plant, calling their loved ones and community supporters to explain that they were occupying … again.

“Let the workers eat” -
I arrived at the reoccupied factory around dinnertime Thursday, in time to see three community supporters and Occupy Chicagoans walk through the small crowd of two dozen to the factory door with several boxes of pizza — a recently minted symbol of solidarity in the wake of last year’s Wisconsin capitol occupation that was largely fueled by the stuff — to deliver to the occupying workers.
As they opened the factory door, Chicago Police Department officers posted inside the factory stepped forward to stop them. The crowd wouldn’t take no for answer, and began chanting, “Let the workers eat!”
A brief standoff ensued at the factory’s entrance, the steam from the pizzas rising in the winter air, news cameras rolling behind them. A middle-aged woman leaned in to an officer and stated flatly, “Sir, you don’t want to be on camera denying workers pizza.” Reluctantly, the pies were allowed in.
Fried and workers Armando Robles and Vicente Rangel occasionally came to the door to speak to press and supporters about the progress being made in negotiations with the Serious CEO over the phone.
“We proposed that they give us time to find a buyer,” Fried said, “or even allow the workers to buy this plant and run it as a worker-owned enterprise.”
"We’re just asking for a little time to find a way to save these jobs,” said Rangel.
As word traveled on Twitter and Facebook that the plant was reoccupied, the crowd grew. Members of Occupy Chicago arrived with supplies like food, sleeping bags and tents. Wearing a bright-blue poncho in the freezing winter rain, Andy Manos joked,  “I love that I’m part of a movement that brings their own urban camping equipment.”
Manos, a member of Occupy Chicago’s Labor Outreach Committee and an instructor at DePaul University, said the support for such an occupation was natural, given Occupy’s roots in labor struggles.
“The tactic of occupation is inspired from these kinds of factory occupations,” he stated, referring to the 1930s-era sit-in strikes in places like Flint, Mich.
As the night wore on, the rain picked up, and a crowd of 40 or so hunkered down. Occupiers arrived with sleeping bags, more tents, groceries. Someone arrived with a tray of grilled asparagus and cheesy risotto, leftovers donated to Occupy Chicago after a downtown event. I made myself a plate, considering the irony of dining on such fine cuisine outside of a sit-down strike.
Supporters hung around, making themselves useful when they could. Nick Limbeck, an education graduate student at the University of Chicago, stood under a tent calling through a list of the factory’s mostly Latino workers, encouraging those who had the day off to come to the occupation.
“You’re inside the factory right now?” he said at one point in Spanish, realizing he had called a worker who was already occupying. “Oh, disculpe. Stay strong!”
Fried, Robles and Rangel came out several times, telling supporters that negotiations were starting to wrap up. Around 1 a.m., they emerged to declare victory: The company had agreed to keep the plant open for an additional 90 days.
In 2008, workers occupied for six days before their demands were met; in 2012, the whole process took less than 24 hours.

“We weren’t surprised” -
In 2008, there was talk of the Republic occupation as a harbinger of populist rage to come. A month after big banks were thrown golden life preservers while the rest of the country struggled not to drown, Republic workers created the now-ubiquitous chant “Banks got bailed out — we got sold out.”
The chant captured much of the public’s anger at the injustice of bailouts for Wall Street and misery for Main Street, and conditions seemed ripe for unions and other progressive organizations to up the ante. But no such uptick occurred. In fact, puzzlingly, it was the right that seized the moment and the momentum while progressives were left scratching their collective heads.
In 2012, however, the conversation has shifted again. Whether because of the right’s overreach, the rise of Occupy, or both, struggles like the Serious occupation seem to resonate with the general public. Fried says the existence of a large, easily mobilized Occupy movement made their 2012 action different.
“We weren’t surprised at the crowd of Occupy Chicago folks,” Fried says. “Everybody knew that we would have a warm reception.”
That presence made a crucial difference at the moment Fried thought they would all be arrested by the Chicago police who had entered the factory.
“Just when the police were saying, ‘We’re going to arrest you right now,’ we said, ‘Hold on a second, we’re talking to the CEO in California. Oh, and by the way, there’s a crowd outside, and the media are here.’ It slowed police things down enough to allow negotiations to resume and eventually lead us to a fair resolution.”
It’s that kind of Occupier/union synergy that has caught on in a few locales and has been given partial credit for union victories in places like Washington state, as well as pushing the labor movement more generally to take risks leaders are usually uncomfortable with.
In the case of Serious, Fried says Occupy’s participation changed the tone of negotiations with the company’s management in California. “When they heard that Occupy Chicago had moved in outside their company, they were alarmed,” she says.
Robles agrees. “The company didn’t think we could generate that kind of crowd and attention,” he says.
Occupations failed to spread in the immediate aftermath of Republic, a fact lamented by some progressive observers who had hoped the tactic would catch on like it did in the 1930s.  But examples of bold, successful actions by unions are still few and probably unlikely (UE is not a member of the 57 union-member AFL-CIO, and is to the left of almost every other union in the country), but various Occupy chapters have occupied foreclosed homes in recent months in cities like Minneapolis, Atlanta and Brooklyn, N.Y. And just a few days before the Serious occupation, parents briefly occupied a West Side elementary school slated for “turnaround” by Chicago Public Schools that was strongly supported by Occupy Chicago protesters.
Unions may not be willing to push the envelope the way Serious workers were, but the stage appears to be set for Serious-style occupations to spread to other parts of the progressive movement in a way they couldn’t after Republic. Occupations in 2012 have two crucial pieces that 2009 occupations would have lacked: a new political space opened up in the country that sympathizes with the plight of the ever-more-squeezed 99 percent, and the material support that a fluid but organized movement like Occupy can provide.
Wiping the rain from his face while standing in front of the occupied Serious factory Thursday night, Manos, the Occupy Chicago Labor Outreach Committee member, thought the answer to the question of whether occupations would continue to spread was obvious.
“Well, this is the second occupation in a week here in Chicago,” he laughed. “So it seems like a fair bet that more actions like this will be likely.”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

2012-02-26 "NY mayor defends police" by David Caruso from "Associated Press"
NEW YORK • New York's mayor said his police department will do everything within its power to root out terrorists in the U.S., even if it means sending officers outside the city limits or placing law-abiding Muslims under scrutiny.
"We just cannot let our guard down again," Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned.
The mayor laid out his doctrine for keeping the city safe during his weekly radio show Friday following a week of criticism of a secret police department effort to monitor mosques in several cities and keep files on Muslim student groups at colleges in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and upstate New York.
Several college administrators and politicians have complained that the intelligence-gathering — exposed in a series of stories by The Associated Press — pried too deeply into the lives of innocent people.
With about 1,000 officers dedicated to intelligence and counterterrorism, the New York Police Department has one of the most aggressive domestic intelligence operations in the U.S. Its methods have stirred debate over whether it violated the civil liberties of Muslims.
In perhaps his most vigorous defense yet of some of the NYPD's anti-terrorism efforts, Bloomberg said it is "legal," "appropriate" and "constitutional" for police to keep a close eye on Muslim communities that terrorists might use as a base to strike the city. And he said investigators must pursue "leads and threats wherever they come from," even across state lines.
"It would just be naive to think we should stop following threats when they get to the border," Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg said the NYPD would continue to do "everything that the law permits us to do" to detect terrorists operating in the U.S. before they have a chance to act. He warned of dire consequences if the city fails to detect plots.
"We are not going to repeat the mistakes that we made after the 1993 bombing," he said.
"We cannot slack in our vigilance. The threat was real. The threat is real. The threat is not going away."
Newark Mayor Corey Booker was among several New Jersey officials who said they were surprised and concerned to learn that the NYPD had broadly monitored Muslims and mosques in that state.
Bloomberg acknowledged that Booker himself hadn't been briefed by the NYPD, but said the Newark police department had been informed.
In any case, he said, it is "100 percent legal" for city police officers to operate in other states.
"You have to also remember an awful lot of the 9/11 hijackers stayed in New Jersey for extended periods of time, training, planning their attacks," Bloomberg said.
2012-02-26 "Santorum says he doesn't believe in separation of church and state" by Lee-Anne Goodman from "Associated Press"
WASHINGTON - Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said Sunday that he doesn't believe in the separation of church and state, adding that he was sickened by John F. Kennedy's assurances to Baptist ministers 52 years ago that he would not impose his Catholic faith on them.
"I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," Santorum, a devout Catholic, said in an interview from Michigan on ABC's "This Week."
"The First Amendment means the free exercise of religion and that means bringing people and their faith into the public square."
Santorum's latest foray into the hot-button, faith-based issues that so fire up the party's evangelical base comes as his chief rival for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, begins to pull ahead slightly in the state of Michigan, where he was born and raised.
Both Michigan and Arizona hold their primaries Tuesday.
While Romney's been battling Santorum in Michigan for the past two weeks, polls suggest he's got a comfortable lead in Arizona, a winner-take-all contest in terms of delegate allocation. Michigan's delegates, on the other hand, are rewarded based on results.
The former Massachusetts governor got a boost Sunday from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who endorsed him as "the man that can carry the day" on NBC's "Meet The Press."
"He has that pro-business background, and he has that political history that I think he would serve America the best."
Brewer's endorsement is considered a boon to Romney's insistence that he's the toughest in the Republican field on illegal immigration. Brewer has been a fierce defender of her state's strict immigration policies, and Romney called Arizona a "model" on the issue in the last Republican debate.
Romney is the native son of Michigan, however, where his father served both as governor and a car company executive. A loss there would be regarded as devastating to his campaign.
Nonetheless, both Romney and Santorum have said they opposed the federal government's bailout of the auto industry in the state where millions work for car manufacturers. Romney even penned a New York Times opinion piece four years ago with the headline: "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."
Republican foes have seized upon that headline in advance of a speech by President Barack Obama on Tuesday to the United Auto Workers conference in Washington to celebrate "the rescue of Detroit."
The autoworkers plastered "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" on 26 American-made vehicles at a Romney event in Detroit on Friday.
Beyond Michigan, however, Santorum's startling stances on social issues like birth control and religion are getting the most attention countrywide.
He's been unapologetic about some of his more controversial remarks, even reiterating Sunday his past remarks that Kennedy's 1960 speech in Houston made "me want to throw up."
"To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? What makes me throw up is someone who is now trying to tell people that you will do what the government says," Santorum said.
"That now we're going to turn around and impose our values from the government on people of faith."
America is all about embracing diversity, he added.
"What we saw in Kennedy's speech was just the opposite, and that's what's so upsetting about it," he said.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The plan for a self-sufficient Union of North America continues...
2012-02-25 "Gulf of Mexico Agreement: Increased Oil Cooperation in a Time of War" by Dawn Paley    

The U.S. is about to get a whole lot more involved in extracting Mexican oil, according to an agreement which promises to open up offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf Coast, signed Monday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Mexican counterpart Patricia Espinosa. 
On top of pushing more underwater drilling into an area still recovering from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the deal foreshadows an even closer relationship between foreign oil companies and Mexico’s state owned oil company, Pemex. Though the tone of Monday’s meeting was rosy, the agreement signals increased U.S. involvement in the oil sector of a country at war.
“The government lacks the territorial control to guarantee security, as has been demonstrated in the gas deposits in the Burgos basin, and if federal authorities don’t have the capacity to provide security to companies on land, they will be far less able to do so in the high seas,” wrote Oscar Contreras Nava in the Gaceta, an online paper published out of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.[1]
According to the U.S. State Department, “The Agreement provides a legal framework for possible commercial activities at the maritime boundary and sets clear guidelines for transboundary developments....It establishes incentives for oil and gas companies to voluntarily enter into arrangements to jointly develop any transboundary reservoirs.”[2] The U.S. Department of the Interior notes this underwater area – some of which was previously under a drilling moratorium – contains up to 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas.[3]
Exactly what kind of incentives the Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement will offer to the oil and gas sector is not yet known, as the deal won’t be made public until it is presented to the Mexican senate for approval next week.
“Mrs Clinton also stressed that it would allow US companies to work in partnership with the Mexican state oil company Pemex for the first time,” reported the BBC, suggesting an even cozier relationship between the oil companies of the two nations.[4] 
But it will be far from the first time US companies have worked with Pemex: on the heels of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, the state owned oil company sought international participation in the exploitation of the Burgos basin, located just inland from the Gulf of Mexico. The Burgos basin has since experienced over a decade of activity on the part of U.S. and international oil service companies, including Schlumberger, Halliburton, and Weatherford International. 
The U.S. Geological Survey said in 2003 that Burgos could contain more than six billion barrels of undiscovered oil, and over seven trillion cubic feet of gas.[5] The Burgos basin is centered around Reynosa, Tamaulipas, covering an area about the size of Ireland in a border region that has become one of the most dangerous parts of Mexico. 
Much of the violence in Tamaulipas stems from the 2010 split between the Gulf Cartel and their armed enforcement wing, Los Zetas, as well as the deployment of 8,000 troops throughout the state.[6] Ciudad Mier, which sits atop the Burgos basin, experienced intense, midday gun battles that caused at least 400 families to flee in 2010. 
“In Ciudad Mier, they shot up houses, and criminal groups burned the police station,” said one young man I interviewed last year in Reynosa. “It is a war between them, but unfortunately, we carry it, the people, human beings.” 
Gun battles and kidnappings of oil workers have also forced Pemex to shut down oil production at drilling rigs in the Burgos basin. “Pemex hides cases [of kidnappings], there’s more than 20 people disappeared in our union,” said another man I talked to in Reynosa, who has been working for the company his entire working life. “They just are marked down as missing work,” he said. 
A military base with least 650 soldiers was opened in Ciudad Mier in December of 2011. Theft of petroleum products by organized crime is also a common occurrence. As much as 40 per cent of natural gas condensate production from Burgos is rerouted and stolen. Last spring, Pemex filed a lawsuit in Houston against ten U.S. oil and pipeline companies for collaborating with organized crime to purchase condensate stolen from the Burgos basin in Mexico. 
“The cartels built tunnels and even their own pipelines to facilitate the thefts,” reads the complaint filed by Pemex. “All of the Defendants have participated and profited—knowingly or unwittingly—in the trafficking of stolen condensate in the United States and have thereby encouraged and facilitated the Mexican organized crime groups that stole the condensate,” it states. [7] 
The Burgos basin is just one of the oil and gas rich areas along Mexico’s north border. New discoveries of shale oil, recoverable through a process known as fracking, have recently been announced throughout northeast Mexico, including in the states of Coahuila, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí and Veracruz.[8] These regions have all been militarized as part of war on drugs.
While the agreement signed Monday appears to apply only to companies active offshore, it signals an important step in Mexico-US oil cooperation. The future of Pemex is one of the key issues in federal elections coming up this July. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, who leads in polling, has indicated that if he’s elected, privatizing Pemex will be among his priorities. “We can do what Brazil did for its oil company, not at the beginning but later, if we open shares to the public,” he told Bloomberg News last November.[9] 
The transboundary hydrocarbons agreement was signed in an “informal” meeting of G-20 foreign ministers, which took place in Los Cabos, the southernmost municipality on the Baja peninsula. The meeting was a precursor to the G-20 summit, which will take place in Los Cabos in June.

[1] Contreras Nava, O. “Tendencias: Hay convenio pero no petróleo” Retrieved February 23, 2012 from: http://www.gaceta.mx/noticiasnews.aspx?idnota=42255 
[2] US State Department. “U.S. – Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement.” Retrieved February 21, 2012 from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/02/184235.htm
[3] US Department of Interior. “Sec. Salazar Joins Mexican President Calderon, Sec. Clinton, Mexican Officials to Announce Agreement Providing Access to Nearly 1.5 Million Acres of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.” Retrieved February 21, 2012 from: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Sec-Salazar-Joins-Mexican-President-Calderon-Sec-Clinton-Mexican-Officials-to-Announce-Agreement-Providing-Access-to-Nearly-1-point-5-Million-Acres-of-the-US-Outer-Continental-Shelf.cfm 
[4] BBC News. “US and Mexico agree Gulf of Mexico oil cooperation.” Retrieved February 21, 2012 from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-17108286 
[5] USGS. “Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the Burgos Basin Province, Northeastern Mexico, 2003.” Retrieved February 21, 2012 from: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2004/3007/fs-2004-3007.pdf
[6] Milenio. “Llegan 8 mil soldados a Tamaulipas para reforzar seguridad.” Retrieved February 17, 2012 from: http://www.zocalo.com.mx/seccion/articulo/llegan-8-mil-soldados-a-tamaulipas-para-reforzar-seguridad 
[7] U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. “Pemex Condensate Theft Ring Lawsuit (Complaint).” Retrieved February 24, 2012 from: http://www.archive.org/download/PemexCondensateTheftRingLawsuitcomplaint/PEP.PDF  
[8] Noticias Televisa. “México descubre yacimientos de gas natural en frontera con EU.” Retrieved February 17, 2012 from: http://noticierostelevisa.esmas.com/nacional/355102/mexico-descubre-yacimientos-gas-natural-frontera-con-eu 
[9] Krause-Jackson, F. Cattan, N. “Mexican Presidential Candidate Seeks Private Investment in Oil Industry.” Bloomberg News. Retrieved February 21, 2012 from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-17/pena-nieto-pledges-mexican-oil-opening-calderon-found-elusive.html

Friday, February 24, 2012

2012-02-24 "Number of Children Living Amid Poverty Has Surged This Decade: Study" from "Common Dreams"
Nearly 8 million children in the United States were living in high-poverty areas in 2010—about 1.6 million more than there were just ten years ago—according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private charitable organization whose primary mission is to foster public policies that help meet the needs of vulnerable children and families.
Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), the KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot  shows that about 7.9 million children (roughly 11% of the population) are growing up in areas where at least "30% of residents live below the federal poverty level—about $22,000 per year for a family of four." Those numbers are up from 2000, when data showed 6.3 million kids (9% of the poulation) were living in economically depressed communities, which "often lack access to resources that are critical to healthy growth and development, including quality education, medical care and safe outdoor spaces."
“Kids in these high-poverty areas are at risk for health and developmental challenges in almost every aspect of their lives, from education to their chances for economic success as adults,” said Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and data at the Casey Foundation. “Transforming disadvantaged communities into better places to raise children is vital to ensuring the next generation and their families realize their potential.”
And Speer, speaking with The Nation's Greg Kaufmann [http://www.thenation.com/blog/166435/week-poverty-screwed-unemployed-workers-and-rising-concentrated-poverty], said she finds the new data “particularly disturbing” because the long-term trends have taken such a turn for the worse.
“Poverty is re-concentrating,” Speer told The Nation. “There’s more segregation in terms of income in the US and this can have really bad impacts for kids.”
“Part of what we want to reinforce is the concept that children don’t grow up in isolation,” said Speer. “They are affected by both their family’s resources and also very much impacted by the community in which they live. The community is critically important because it really does for many kids equate to the opportunities that they have access to.”
And Reuters adds [http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/More+kids+living+high+poverty+communities/6202531/story.html]:
[begin excerpt]
The growth, a 25 per cent increase, reverses the trend just a decade ago that saw fewer children living in communities with high poverty rates, according to the non-profit group.
And three-quarters of those children live in such areas despite having at least one parent working, the study showed.
The findings reflect the hit the U.S. economy took during and after the 2007-2009 recession even as signs now point to recovery.
[end excerpt]
According to the ACS, almost all states saw the number of children in high-poverty neighborhoods climb. States with the highest rates were Mississippi (23 percent), New Mexico (20 percent), Louisiana (18 percent), Texas (17 percent) and Arizona (16 percent). Although the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico saw their rates decline over the same period, they continue to have higher rates—32 and 83 percent, respectively—than any state in the country.
The data also highlight the children most likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty. These include youth in the south and southwest, as well as those in urban and rural areas. African-American, American Indian and Latino children are six to nine times more likely to live in high-poverty communities than their white counterparts.

Journalism as an expression of "Terrorism"

USA agencies use terminology such as "low-level" Terrorism when describing journalists who document abuses by the USA against Human Rights.

2012-05-17 "Tracking Journalist Arrests at Occupy Protests Around the Country, Part One" by Josh Stearns [http://storify.com/jcstearns/tracking-journalist-arrests-during-the-occupy-prot]:
I have been tracking, confirming and verifying reports of journalist arrests at Occupy protests all over the country since September. Help me by sending tips and tweets to @jcstearns and tagging reports of press suppression and arrests with #journarrest.
Between September 2011 and the end of April 2012 80 journalists have been arrested in 12 cities around the United States while covering Occupy protests. This number includes an array of people who were documenting and reporting on Occupy events including professional press, freelancers, photographers, independent filmmakers, and citizen journalists. Scroll to the bottom for the most recent updates. For a quick list of arrests and a break down of their affiliation and occupation see this spreadsheet.
For arrests after May 1, 2012, please see Part Two of this tracking effort. [http://storify.com/jcstearns/tracking-journalist-arrests-at-occupy-protests-aro]

2012-02-24 "NYT Lets Unnamed Officials Smear Critics as 'Terrorists'" by Steve Rendall from "Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)" [http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2012/02/24]:
[ ... ]
Earlier this month, in a story (2/6/12 [www.nytimes.com/2012/02/06/world/asia/us-drone-strikes-are-said-to-target-rescuers.html]) about a new Bureau of Investigative Journalism report [www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/02/04/get-the-data-obamas-terror-drones/] about CIA drone strikes targeting rescuers and funerals, the Times granted anonymity to a U.S. official [www.fair.org/blog/2012/02/06/nyt-lets-nameless-official-smear-drone-researchers-as-al-qaeda-fans/] who equated the nonprofit news outlet's researchers with Al-Qaeda sympathizers:
[begin excerpt] 
A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, questioned the report's findings, saying "targeting decisions are the product of intensive intelligence collection and observation." The official added: "One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions--there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al-Qaeda succeed."
[end excerpt]
[ ... ]

"Creating Your Own Context: Dissent and the Politics of Control"

2012-02-24 by ROB URIE [http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/24/dissent-and-the-politics-of-control/]:
Rob Urie is an artist and political economist in New York.
Political strategy in the West operates on contrived dualisms where an “in” group argues of the dangers that an out group poses and the “out” group argues that life under the in group is an ongoing disaster that will only end when the out group replaces the in group in the seat of political power (“change you can believe in”). That this storyline, to the extent that it reflects reality, has correlated with the multi-decade consolidation of power among an economic elite and the related impoverishment of the masses may offer insight helpful for effective dissent.
In response to disillusion over the perceived failure of the worldwide rebellions of 1968, and more broadly with state socialism in Europe following WWII, European philosophers in the 1970s and 1980s developed the idea of the “totalizing narrative,” the all-encompassing explanation of some aspect of the world that subsumes others. The totalizing narrative doesn’t reference an invariant fact of the world argue the philosophers, but is rather a delimited worldview that functions as an instrument of social domination, either hegemonic or explicit.
While originally put forward as broadly anti-ideological, some leading proponents of European postmodernism (Jacques Derrida) back-pedaled in their critique of the left when it became apparent that philosophical deference to small narratives helped feed the Reagan / Thatcher claim that atomistic capitalism avoided grand narratives by providing for individually derived wants. That it took the advertising industry nearly a century to produce these individually derived wants was not entirely unknown in academia.
Capitalism, atomistic or otherwise, is one example of a totalizing narrative in that it posits a human nature in which all actions derive from economic self-interest. In a capitalist economy dissent is put forward as a market failure, a complaint from the losers of a supposed fair game that they (the losers) simply lacked the skill to win. And should the dissenters have a point argue the theorists of capitalism, it would be recognized in the marketplace of ideas and justly rewarded if deemed to have merit.*
By subsuming criticism, totalizing narratives close off the possibility of dissent from outside of the closed system. Dissent either plays by the given rules or it is irrelevant in that there is no discursive context within which it can be understood. An example from recent decades is the charge of “class warfare” made by right-wing politicians that relies on the perception (totalizing narrative) that capitalism is a fair system in which class, to the extent that it might exist, derives from differentiated skills rather than social struggle. The idea of class inferred by the right is extrinsic to the discussion of capitalism because it reflects supposed facts of nature (differentiated skills) rather than the intrinsic facts of capitalism.
The question then is: does dissenting within a context controlled by others, the totalizing narrative (1) grant authority to the idea of control and to those particular people doing the controlling and (2) does doing so undermine the content of the dissent when the content includes a rejection of the politics of hierarchical control, of contrived dualisms? (Is the rejection of hierarchy limited to the complaint of those on the bottom of the existing hierarchy or is rejection from outside of the hierarchical system possible?)
The follow on question for would be dissenters is: do you dissent within the context controlled by those from whom you are dissenting or do you create your own context, even though doing so leaves you outside of the dominant conversation, and therefore outside of the technologies of accepted public discourse (television, mainstream newspapers)?
And so it is with this set of questions that some in the Occupy movement have refused to reduce dissent to the terms provided—to producing a list of demands, to making a set of concrete proposals, to creating a “leadership” structure that resembles hierarchical systems and to modes of action that confine dissent to a set of rules imposed by an external system of social control designed to shut effective dissent down. Is effective dissent even possible within a discursive / political system designed to exclude effective dissent?
What is inferred by recent essays on Occupy, some supportive, others less so, is that dissent is here and always a struggle for political / economic / social control. The absurdly violent and heavy-handed police response to the Occupy movement nationwide is evidence that the plutocrat-state sees only its hierarchical, violent, oppressive, controlling image in dissent. In that view the struggle is always for power and never against power.
With no intended irony, the Western discourse around political violence is that large-scale state violence targeting civilians is morally and politically acceptable but that small-scale non-state violence isn’t. (Should the lie that civilian deaths are accidental in state violence have resonance, please see “war of attrition” with respect to America in Vietnam and Central America). My point here is that the accepted discourse on political violence is self-serving nonsense. To argue within that discourse is to give credence to self-serving nonsense. Any real challenge to the idea of the use of political violence, either pro or con, might be better served by prying the discourse open rather than playing by the existing rules.
With history as a guide, ordinary Americans love unconscionable violence (example: Falluja) when it is committed against “others” and is favorably framed in terms of a cultural / political / economic / religious dualism, an opposition that places them on the inside and that finds its mirror in the very terms of totalizing discourses. Granting sincere aversion to violence on the parts of those advising the Occupy movement, it is primarily the fear of being politically marginalized that leads to the argument that the movement will be harmed by protester violence.
The inference behind this fear is that there exists a large group of people (ordinary Americans) who will both blindly accept the framing of political violence handed them by those they are one day expected to rebel against and who can also be swayed toward supporting the cause of dissent if the dissenters comport themselves according to the rules that place them on the “right” side of a political narrative defined by the plutocrat-state. Life is no doubt difficult, but forgive me if that seems like an impossible balancing act.
The only reason why so-called ordinary Americans might join a rebellion is if they see themselves on the outside of a social order designed for the benefit of others. And creating the conditions of would-be rebellion is the plutocrat-state, not would-be dissenters. Furthermore, while discourse certainly plays a role in how circumstances are perceived, it is the material conditions alone that make an existing order intolerable.
If the long-term unemployed, the outsourced, the imprisoned, the impoverished, the newly homeless, the long term homeless, those who have had their homes stolen by the banks, the discriminated against, the poor, the marginalized, the indebted, those who had their pensions stolen, those who are seeing the social programs that they paid for cut to fund military adventures abroad, those who did the bailing out, those without access to medical care, the polluted, the fracked, the invaded, the economic refugees and so on—if these people don’t perceive a problem then who are we to tell them that there is a problem? And if they do see a problem, are they not potential allies and not mindless pawns to be managed?
Either the material conditions exist for a broad-based rebellion or no rebellion will take place. The plutocrat-state and the institutions of power can be counted on to behave badly whether or not they feel threatened. There is no storyline too implausible for the mainstream media to put forward as fact. So why worry about what they are going to say?
Being clever and being complicit are different things. Again, the question is: how can we be different if we are the same? Only by stepping outside of the totalizing narratives of the plutocrat-state is true dissent possible. And the risk there is of an absence of control. If the goal is simply to exchange chairs, to take power rather than to destroy the very idea of power, then mainstream politics already has a role for you.
With neither romance nor naiveté, the opening that Occupy has provided is to try something different. The moment is likely fleeting. But take it from someone who was there (although a little kid) in 1968—the regrets for not taking it far enough far outweigh any others in my life. The way to fight the death and despair of the plutocrat state is with life, not with competing death and despair.

*After spending a reported $37 million on his most recent re-election campaign, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg justified the eviction of Occupiers from Zuccotti Park with the chide that it was “now time to make their arguments in the marketplace of ideas,” ignoring that his own ideas only made it to the marketplace by way of his self-funded vanity press.

2012-02-24 "Oil Lobby Says Obama’s Call To End Big Oil Handouts Is ‘Discriminatory’"

by Rebecca Leber from "Think Progress" [http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/02/24/432059/oil-lobby-says-obamas-call-to-end-big-oil-handouts-is-discriminatory/]:
The oil lobby American Petroleum Institute weighed in on President Obama’s corporate tax reform that closes an array of tax loopholes, including $4 billion in subsidies for the oil industry. Not surprisingly, API is unhappy. API President Jack Gerard played victim, calling the plan “discriminatory” against an industry that “receives not one subsidy” [http://www.rollcall.com/news/oil_and_gas_industry_pushes_back_on_obama_tax_plan-212595-1.html]:
[begin excerpt]
One day after the Obama administration unveiled a sweeping corporate tax reform plan, the oil and gas industry’s top lobbyist went on the attack against the president’s proposal.
Calling it “discriminatory,” Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said the administration’s outline was more of a “Swiss cheese approach that we’re trying to get rid of in this country.”
[end excerpt]
“The industry receives not one subsidy,” Gerard claimed [http://api.org/News-and-Media/testimony-speeches/2012/Jack-Gerard-press-briefing-teleconference-energy-policy-and-administration.aspx]. “It takes tax deductions the same or similar to what all other American companies get to recover their costs of doing business.”
Here’s a fact for Gerard: tax deductions are subsidies, as API has previously admitted [http://www.api.org/policy/upload/Oil_and_Natural_Gas_Taxes_Subsidies.pdf]. In one API document, the organization discussed “subsidies for alternative fuels” including “preferential tax treatment” [http://www.api.org/~/media/Files/Publications/Catalog/20PES.ashx].
Here’s another fact: the industry receives a whopping $7 billion in tax breaks each year [http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/05/big_oil_tax_breaks.html].
Gerard also claimed big oil pays one of the highest effective tax rates, and yet Exxon Mobil – the most profitable oil company – paid a 17.6 percent federal effective tax, lower than the average American [http://thinkprogress.org/green/2012/01/31/415242/exxonmobil-made-411-billion-in-2011-but-pays-estimated-176-percent-tax-rate/]. The company paid zero taxes to the federal government in 2009. The oil industry is fighting to keep its handouts, despite posting record-breaking profits of $137 billion in 2011 [http://thinkprogress.org/green/2012/02/22/429803/gas-prices-fact-high-gas-prices-mean-big-profits-for-big-oil/].
So far, it seems like it’s American families who are being discriminated against, in favor of Big Oil.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

2012-02-20 "US Running on Myths, Lies, Deceptions and Distractions; Republican Hypocrisy; Democratic Complicity; The Press’s Malfeasance; and Why You Don’t Have a Job and if You Do, Why it Doesn’t Pay Squat" by John Atcheson from "Common Dreams"
John Atcheson's writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, as well as in several wonk journals. He is the author of a fictional Trilogy that centers on climate change. The first book will be available on Amazon in the spring of 2012. Atcheson's book reviews are featured on Climateprogress.org.
The United States is headed for a plutocratic dystopia where a few gated communities sit like islands amidst a sea of bitterness, misery, and want.
Because the country is running on lies, myths, deceptions and distractions. Not surprisingly, they aren’t working very well for us.
Let’s run through a few of the most destructive lies and myths.

1. Corporations and the uber rich are the job creators: Uh, no. Corporations are sitting on over $2 trillion dollars in un-invested profits [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8uf-ZXLABE]. What jobs they are creating are in China and other countries – which, by the way, engaged in huge government funded stimulus programs when the Great Recession first hit. Which brings us to our next myth...
2. Government can’t create jobs: This particular whopper is just plain counterfactual. Obama’s much maligned stimulus program created some 3 million jobs [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-25/obama-s-economic-stimulus-program-created-up-to-3-3-million-jobs-cbo-says.html] and would have created more if he hadn’t caved to Republicans and limited its size and agreed to put 40% of it into unproductive tax cuts [http://www.earth.columbia.edu/sitefiles/file/Sachs%20Writing/2011/HuffPost_2011_RealJobsProgram_09_09_11.pdf]. In short, government does create jobs – no one else can or will when there’s not enough consumer demand to justify corporate expansion. And as long as the middle class’s wealth is getting siphoned off by the 1%, there will not be enough demand.
3. The deficit is our main problem, therefore we need an austerity budget: The story line from deficit hawks is that a deficit will spook bond markets and make it difficult for the US to borrow. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, demand is so high for our bonds, we’re able to borrow at record low interest rates. And while folks are practically lining up to buy our debt instruments, they’re eschewing investments in countries which instituted austerity plans. Yet the Obama Administration continues to join with the Republicans in insane hand wringing over deficits. Yes, we must bring down the deficit eventually, but not in the midst of a jobs crisis. In the long term, there are two ways to cut the deficit: grow our way out of it, or cut spending to the bone, and face a stagnating economy for the foreseeable future. If we’re to avoid the latter, right now we need government investment to stimulate growth.
4. Republicans actually care about deficits: Let’s put a stake in the heart of this one right now. Reagan and the two Bushes created more than 66% of the country's debt -- an amount equal to more than twice as much as all other President's combined (including Obama) [http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/09/20/5145120-chart-national-debt-by-president]. Did you hear any complaints while this record breaking debt was being wracked up? Not a word. Clinton, it’s worth remembering, had a surplus.
5. Republicans favor small government: In fact, the size of government exploded under Reagan and Bush II [http://www.brendagrantland.com/Blog/BlogRepublican.html], and we didn’t hear a peep out of Republicans. In the last thirty years, only Clinton reduced the size of government significantly, and he did so while declaring “the era of big government” to be over. What they really favor is weak government, which brings us to …
6. Regulations stifle the economy; deregulation unleashes economic growth: The fact is, laissez-faire, free market policies have failed miserably every time they’ve been tried. They have a nasty habit of causing grotesque income inequalities, huge market volatility and severe financial collapses. In fact, the Great Recession we are now climbing out of should have been strike 3 for the Free Marketeers. Strike 1 was the Panic of 1893 and the depression which followed it. Strike 2 was the Great Depression of the 30’s. In all three cases, these collapses were preceded by conservative, laissez-faire policies featuring deregulation, low taxes and weak governments.
 Three tries – each resulting in severe income inequality and the catastrophic economic meltdowns they inevitably cause. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this strategy doesn’t work.
7. Climate Change is “just a theory” and we can’t afford to address it: Leaving aside the fact that in the pantheon of science, “theories” are reserved for issues that are about as certain as the scientific method allows, the scientific consensus on global warming is as strong as it gets [http://www.ucsusa.org/ssi/climate-change/scientific-consensus-on.html]. And we know that the costs of not acting to prevent it are going to be far more than the cost of taking action, and it goes up with each year we delay. Thanks to Republican denial, Democratic complicity and press malfeasance, we’re literally sleepwalking into the worst catastrophe the human race has ever faced.
8. Republicans want to protect your freedom. Except when they want to tell you who you can sleep with, who you can marry, whether or not you can use birth control; when and whether you can choose to die; or when they want to tap your phone or detain you without due process, of course.

So why is it that these myths and lies – so easily disproven – persist. Indeed, why have they become conventional wisdom for many Americans, and why do they shape the national debate?
Here’s where the Democrats, distractions and the press’s malfeasance comes in.
Republicans throw up a lot of flack to keep people from focusing on the fact that they’re basically getting screwed by the 1%. Red meat issues like gay marriage, abortion and contraception, family values, and immigration do their part. Bald-faced lies like “Obama apologizes for America,” or he was born in Kenya contribute as well. But it only works because Democrats are too wimpy – or too complicit – to confront this bait-and-switch bullshit.
It doesn’t help that Democrats are feeding at the same corporate trough. No doubt that explains why they act like the class cowards and cringe in the last stall in the bathroom every time one of these faux issues get raised.
But the real culprit is the press – they’ve simply abrogated their responsibility to give people accurate, truthful information. Several weeks ago, New York Times “reader’s representative” Andy Brisbane actually asked readers whether reporters should be concerned with the truth. Honestly. He did.
We are now stuck with a media that puts “balance” or “objectivity” before truth. As Eric Sevareid said: “Our rigid formulae of so-called objectivity … have given the lie the same prominence and impact that truth is given; they have elevated the influence of fools to that of wise men; the ignorant to the level of the learned; the evil to the level of the good.”
This is more true today than it was then. And without a press devoted to honesty and accuracy, our ship of state runs on yarns, myths and the modern day equivalent of “bread and circuses,” and we are at the mercy of the evil, the foolish and the ignorant.
As long as that’s the case, the whims of the 1% will rule and your pay will continue to erode, or your job will exported to China or India or Honduras or anywhere the plutocrats are free to exploit workers and the environment. Or to places like Germany, where they don’t buy into the myths, and an active government role assures high-wage jobs and general prosperity.
At the end of the day, trying to run a country according to the rules of fantasy island isn’t a recipe for success. But it does serve the interests of the 1%.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

2012-02-18 "Canadian Government is 'Muzzling Its Scientists'" from "Common Dreams"
The Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is underway this weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The conservative Canadian government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper came under attack for 'muzzling' Canada's scientists.
A series of speakers at the AAAS meeting told the international science community that climate, environmental and health research that calls government policy into question is routinely suppressed. Prof Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria said, "The only information [the media] are given is that which the government wants, which will then allow a supporting of a particular agenda."
* * *
Pallab Ghosh writing in the BBC [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16861468]:
[begin excerpt]
The Canadian government has been accused of "muzzling" its scientists.
Speakers at a major science meeting being held in Canada said communication of vital research on health and environment issues is being suppressed.
But one Canadian government department approached by the BBC said it held the communication of science as a priority.
Prof Thomas Pedersen, a senior scientist at the University of Victoria, said he believed there was a political motive in some cases.
"The Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) is keen to keep control of the message, I think to ensure that the government won't be embarrassed by scientific findings of its scientists that run counter to sound environmental stewardship," he said.
"I suspect the federal government would prefer that its scientists don't discuss research that points out just how serious the climate change challenge is."
The Canadian government recently withdrew from the Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The allegation of "muzzling" came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.
The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.
Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview.
'Orwellian' approach -
Andrew Weaver, an environmental scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, described the protocol as "Orwellian".
The protocol states: "Just as we have one department we should have one voice. Interviews sometimes present surprises to ministers and senior management. Media relations will work with staff on how best to deal with the call (an interview request from a journalist). This should include asking the programme expert to respond with approved lines."
Professor Weaver said that information is so tightly controlled that the public is "left in the dark".
"The only information they are given is that which the government wants, which will then allow a supporting of a particular agenda," he said.
The leak was obtained and reported three years ago by Margaret Munro, who is a science writer for Postmedia News, based in Vancouver. Speaking at the AAAS meeting, she said its effect was to suppress scientific debate on issues of public interest.
"The more controversial the story, the less likely you are to talk to the scientists. They (government media relations staff) just stonewall. If they don't like the question you don't get an answer."
Ms Munro cited several examples of what she described as the "muzzling" of scientists by the government.
The most notorious case is of that of Dr Kristi Miller, who is head of molecular genetics for the Department for Fisheries and Oceans. Dr Miller had been investigating why salmon populations in western Canada were declining.
The investigation, which was published in one of the leading scientific journals in the world, Science, seemed to suggest that fish might have been exposed to a virus associated with cancer.
The suggestion raised many questions, including whether the virus might have been imported by the local aquaculture industry.
Requests denied -
The journal felt this to be an important study and put out a press release, which it sent out to thousands of journalists across the world. Dr Miller was named as the principal contact.
However, the government declined all requests to interview Dr Miller. It said it was because she was due to give evidence to a judicial inquiry on the issue of falling fish stocks.
According to Ms Munro, because reporters were denied the opportunity to question Dr Miller about her work, important public policy issues went unanswered.
"You have a government that is micromanaging the message, obsessively. The Privy Council Office (which works for the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper) seems to vet everything that goes out to the media," she said.
A spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada told BBC News: "The Department works daily to ensure it provides the public with timely, accurate, objective and complete information about our policies, programs, services and initiatives, in accordance with the Federal Government's Communications Policy.
"In 2011, Fisheries and Oceans publicly issued 286 science advisory reports documenting our research on Canada's fisheries; our scientists respond to approximately 380 science-based media calls every year."
Fisheries and Oceans Canada declined a request by the BBC to interview Kristi Miller for this article. Dr Miller told us she would have been willing to be interviewed had her department given her permission.
The AAAS meeting's discussion on muzzling is organized by freelance science reporter Binh An Vu Van. She says fellow journalists across Canada are finding it "harder and harder" to get access to government scientists.
Ms Vu Van claims that as well as "clear-cut cases of muzzling", such as the one involving Dr Miller, media relations officers use more subtle methods. She said that when she requests an interview, she has to enter into prolonged email correspondence to speak to a scientist she knows is ready and willing to be interviewed, often to be declined or offered another scientist she does not want to interview.
"It's so hard to get hold of scientists that a lot of my colleagues have given up," she explained.
Ms Munro cited another example of research published in another leading scientific journal, Nature, that was published last October.
Journalists were denied access to scientists working for the government agency Health Canada last year, when there was concern about radiation levels reaching the country's western coast from Japan following the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
An international team including several scientists from the government agency, Environment Canada, set out details of a hole that appeared in the ozone layer above the Arctic.
Ms Munro said she had called one of the scientists involved who she had dealt with several times in the past. He agreed to speak to her, but said that he had been told that her request had to be put to government media relations officials in Ottawa.
"So I phoned up Ottawa and they just said no you can't talk to the guy. A couple of weeks later, he was available but by then the story had been done. So they take them out of the news cycle," she said.
Ms Munro also claims that journalists were denied access to scientists working for the government agency Health Canada last year, when there was concern about radiation levels reaching the country's western coast from Japan following the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Ultimately, journalists obtained the information they sought from European agencies.
The Postmedia News journalist obtained documents relating to interview requests using Canada's equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act. She said the documents show interview requests move up what she describes as an "increasingly thick layer of media managers, media strategists, deputy ministers, then go up to the Privy Council Office, which decides 'yes' or 'no'".
"The government has never explained what the process is. They just imposed these changes and they expected us to sit back and take it," she explained.
Professor Andrew Weaver believes that the media protocol is being used by the Canadian government to "instruct scientists to deliver a certain message, thereby taking the heat out of controversial topics".
He added: "You can't have an informed discussion if the science isn't allowed to be communicated. Public relations message number one is that you have to set the conversation. You don't want to have a conversation on someone else's terms. And this is now being applied to science on discussions about oil sands, climate and salmon."
[end excerpt]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The influence of the "Paleo-Conservatives" or "Libertarians" within the Republican Party was made concrete through the "Tea Party" movement and Ron Paul's electoral campaigns.
The direct association between Ron Paul and actual White-Nationalists (Nazis), and the inclusion of White-Nationalists with the Conservative PAC conference of early 2012-02, show how Fascist the Republican has become. Their primary interest is an established system of privatized government with all economic power to a minority of White-American Capitalists...

2012-02-15 "Ron Paul Is Secretly Taking Over The GOP — And It's Driving People Insane" by Grace Wyler
By now, it is clear that the Maine caucuses were a complete mess.
Evidence is mounting that Mitt Romney's 194-vote victory over Ron Paul was prematurely announced, if not totally wrong. Washington County canceled their caucus on Saturday on account of three inches of snow (hardly a blizzard by Maine standards), and other towns that scheduled their caucuses for this week have been left out of the vote count. Now, it looks like caucuses that did take place before Feb. 11 have also been left out of final tally.
As the full extent of the chaos unfolds, sources close to the Paul campaign tell Business Insider that it is looking increasingly like Romney's team might have a hand in denying Paul votes, noting that Romney has some admirably ruthless operatives on his side and a powerful incentive to avoid a fifth caucus loss this month.
According to the Paul campaign, the Maine Republican Party is severely under-reporting Paul's results — and Romney isn't getting the same treatment. For example, nearly all the towns in Waldo County — a Ron Paul stronghold – held their caucuses on Feb. 4, but the state GOP reported no results for those towns. In Waterville, a college town in Central Maine, results were reported but not included in the party vote count. Paul beat Romney 21-5 there, according to the Kennebec County GOP.
"It's too common," senior advisor Doug Wead told Business Insider. "If it was chaos, we would expect strong Romney counties to be unreported, and that's not what's happening."
The Maine Republican Party won't decide which votes it will count until the executive committee meets next month. But Wead points out that even if Mitt Romney holds on to his slim lead, it will be a Pyrrhic victory.
"He will have disenfranchised all of these people," Wead said. "It could be a costly victory — it is a mistake."
The (alleged) bias against Paul may also be the product of an organic opposition to the libertarian Congressman and his army of ardent fans. Paul volunteers tend to be young and relatively new to party politics, and their presence has many state GOP stalwarts feeling territorial.
"People feel threatened — they don't want to see a bunch of kids who may have voted for Barack Obama take over," Wead said. "They feel a sense of ownership over the party — but there has to be an accommodation."
But state party machinations are already starting to backfire. The Paul campaign believes it has won the majority of Maine's delegates — and the perceived election fraud has galvanized Paul supporters to demand their votes be counted in the state's straw poll 'beauty contest.'
Caucus chaos has also proved to be fertile ground for Paul's quiet takeover of the Republican Party. Since 2008, the campaign and Paul's Campaign for Liberty PAC have made a concerted effort to get Paul sympathists involved in the political process. Now, tumult in state party organizations has allowed these supporters to rise up the ranks.
"We like strong party leadership when it comes from us," Paul campaign chair Jesse Benton told Business Insider. "Our people work very hard to make sure that their voice is heard."
The fruits of this labor are evident in Iowa, where Paul's former state campaign co-chair A.J. Spiker was just elected as the new chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. Spiker replaces Matt Strawn, who stepped down over this year's Iowa caucus dustup. In Nevada, the state chair has also resigned over caucus disaster, and several Ron Paul supporters are well-positioned to step up to fill the void. These new leaders not only expand Paul's influence at the state level, but also help protect Paul and his hard-won delegates from state party machinations as the delegate-selection process moves to district and state conventions, and eventually the Republican National Convention this summer.
"We are always trying to bring people into the party," Benton said. "I think that is a very positive thing for Republicans. Ron is the person who can build the Republican base, bring new blood into the party. That's how you build the party."
In Maine, the caucus disaster has made the state GOP prime for a Ron Paul takeover. And that means that Paul's hard-won delegates will be protected as the delegate selection process
"We are taking over the party," Wead told BI. "That's the important thing — and that is what we are doing in Maine."