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

Friday, September 28, 2012

2012-09-28 "Shadowy Money From U.S. Chamber of Commerce Pours Into Nine California Congressional Races; Trade Organization Injects $3.3 Million Into Races for U.S. House of Representatives"

 from "Public Citizen" [http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2012/09/28-12]:
 Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.
---
WASHINGTON - September 28 - With its latest injection of money into congressional races in California, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is once again trying to ensure that the next Congress does the bidding of Big Business, not the people, according to U.S. Chamber Watch, a project that tracks the activities of the U.S. Chamber and is run by the advocacy group Public Citizen.
The Chamber is spending $3.3 million on nine U.S. House of Representatives races, the National Journal reports. The bulk of the ads will run between now and Oct. 7, although some reportedly will run later. California residents should prepare to have their airwaves inundated with the Chamber’s attack ads. But those residents should not expect to know which companies financed those TV ads, said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.
Empowered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a ruling that allows corporations to spend unlimited sums to influence elections, the Chamber plans to spend $100 million in this year’s elections.
While the Chamber would like to be seen as the national representative of small business, it is in fact the leading mouthpiece for large corporations. Responding to the desires of its secret funders, the Chamber speaks for Wall Street, not Main Street, Weissman said.
“As the funnel for corporate Dark Money, the Chamber is trying to buy elections, plain and simple. Refusing to reveal its giant multinational corporate funders, the Chamber hopes that it can blanket the airwaves and deliver victories to Big Business,” Weissman said.
The Chamber refuses to disclose its donors. The organization’s president and CEO Tom Donohue claims that any disclosure would lead to “intimidation” of corporate backers. The Chamber has been a leading opponent of legislative and other proposals that would force disclosure of funders of trade associations and other organizations that engage in electioneering.
The New York Times reported in 2010 that half the Chamber’s $140 million in 2008 contributions came from just 45 companies.
U.S. Chamber Watch supports the Securities and Exchange Commission requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their spending, so that citizens will know which huge corporations are funding the attack ads of entities like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Click here for more information on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its political activity.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

2012-09-27 "Tragedy of US police training by Israeli companies"

by Gordon Duff from "Veterans Today", with material from "Press TV"
[http://www.veteranstoday.com/2012/09/27/press-tv-tragedy-of-us-police-training-by-israeli-companies/]:
During the Bush administration, Israeli-American dual citizen and Director of Homeland Security Chertoff mandated that American police forces be trained by Israeli groups in crowd control, counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering.
Since that time, shootings of unarmed civilians has gone up 500%, attacks on legal political protests by police have become a scandal and huge stockpiles of ammunition and military heavy weaponry have been distributed to law enforcement groups in every region of America, both local and federally controlled.
Additionally, Army Chief of Staff General Odierno has offered the use of the US Army, an offer published in the Council on Foreign Relations journal, Foreign Affairs, to suppress political dissent by force, a violation of his oath of office and, quite literally, an act of conspiracy against the sovereignty of the US and State governments.
The current problem with law enforcement and the diminishment of legal rights of Americans is now at levels that cannot be ignored any longer.  It has become obvious to an ever increasing number of Americans that something is in the works, perhaps a political coup or a military take-over.
Years ago such things were done behind closed doors, now it seems it can be done in the open, just like shooting down presidents, killing senators in plane crashes or blowing up office buildings.
Instability in the United States is very real.  With Mitt Romney planning a new war while cutting taxes for the rich, one in four Americans is suffering from malnutrition and one in five children live with constant hunger in a nation that spends billions of dollars to subsidize and store excess food.
There is now a legitimate concern that armed law enforcement officers, numbering over 800,000, with constables and auxiliaries taking that number over 1 million, foreign led criminal organizations may systematically be gaining control of America in a form of “rot from within.”
It doesn’t take a genius to track down the money behind half of America’s politicians to their source, bank fraud, narcotics, gun running, medical scams and the oil monopoly.  This is the new organized crime.
What had once been police is how a “hodge-podge” thousands of agencies, each one falling like dominoes, unable to resist offers of advanced military weapons, offers of “informal discretionary funding” (bribes) and quickly degenerating into an army of occupation.
Key to this has been Israeli training, sending into America so-called experts who have long operated in an environment where killing civilians under cover of a rigged racist system of government has been official policy for over six decades.
Israel’s militarized police are trained to violate human rights on a daily basis.  116 UN resolutions have been filed and passed by majority vote by the General Assembly citing them with apartheid and genocide, exactly the description of America that Mitt Romney and his friends are offering America.

POLICE KILLINGS -
In my own town recently, a police officer shot and killed an Iraq War veteran while the man was asleep.  The officer had been called to the home because the family was concerned about their son who was having trouble adjusting.
They let the officer in the house, and rather than waking the sleeping veteran, the officer simply emptied his pistol into the man’s body.
I just did a Google search of the phrase:  “police shoot unarmed man” and got 1,610,000 results.
Either we talk about little else or this seems to happen a lot.
In almost every case, the officers responsible for these killings are trained in the Israeli martial art of Krav Fit, contracts pushed by the Department of Homeland Security.
Israeli groups train in crowd control, use of military weapons and armoured vehicles against America’s “Occupy dissidents,” the poor, the homeless, mental patients and veterans, so far.
When the amount of ammunition is counted up and the military firepower estimated, the list may well expand to “anyone not willing to submit to live as human slaves.”

KILLINGS ALWAYS COVERED UP -
The death toll is never counted but is currently in the hundreds, perhaps thousands.  Police are never properly investigated, never called to account, just as with the IDF team that ended their standoff with 22 year old American waif, Rachel Corrie, who was crushed TWICE by a “free” Caterpillar bulldozer, a gift from the American people, donated to be used to crush the homes of Palestinians.
In this incident, Corrie was protecting 6 small children.  An Israeli court found the only way Corrie could be dealt with, by an entire platoon of IDF Commandos, was to drive over her with a bulldozer.  This was considered a legal use of force against an American citizen.
And Israel wonders why tens of millions of Americans suspect them for plotting 9/11?

HOUSTON WHEELCHAIR KILLING -
This police incident was a classic.  The victim was living in a group home for the mentally ill.  He was in a wheelchair having lost an arm and leg some time before in a rail accident.
Two Israeli trained Houston Police were sent.  The spokesman for the Houston Police, Jodi Siva, claimed the man “cornered” one of the police officers and threatened him with an object.
Both officers had completed Krav Fit martial arts training from their Israeli instructors at a cost of thousands of dollars a day.
There is, within this tragedy an aspect of absurdity.  Other than guns and watching sports, martial arts is one of the biggest forms of recreation in the United States.  I began formal training at 8 and continued as a trainer or in competition well into my 50s.
Of course all US Marines have advanced martial arts training as with Army Rangers, Special Forces, SEALS, specialized units of the Air Force and about 4 million civilians who hold “black belt” or above level training.
There are two initial issues here, one, of course, is turning to what may officially be the least athletic nation on earth, Israel, for training in an area of athletic prowess, sort of a “coals to Newcastle” type of thing.
Israel is not Okinawa or Korea.  If I want violin or chess lessons, Israel will be among my first 100 choices.
The second, of course, is that the whole thing is a “con” in the first place, the only time a police officer in Houston was involved in a potential terror plot, he mistakenly killed a CIA agent.  This is quite an interesting story from May 2008:
Federal sources close to this case have told me CIA Agent Roland Carnaby had proof a “suitcase nuke” had arrived inside the U.S. from Israel on Tuesday. He was chasing the device and the Israelis who had it.
As local law enforcement was called-in, for some unknown reason cops allegedly began chasing the CIA Agent instead of the Israelis and ultimately shot the CIA Agent dead!
The Houston wheelchair shooting is a classic.  We have two armed police officers, highly trained in the mysterious martial arts of Israel, we have a subject in a wheel chair with one arm and one leg and in his hand is a ballpoint pen.
The officers, of course, had batons, tasers, and were wearing body armour.
A more likely scenario, one with a typical Israeli aspect to it, would have had the second officer simply take the handles of the wheel chair, run it out into the street and under a passing bus or perhaps a bulldozer of one could be arranged.
The victim had committed no crime, had no warrants but was suspected of “causing a disturbance.”  Group homes, such as this one, are seldom staffed with competent professional personnel and are generally a method of bilking government programs out of money while commonly physically and emotionally abusing residents.
Personnel working in “group homes” typically have, themselves, criminal records.  This is the average qualification in the United States for taking care of the old, the helpless and the infirm.
The officer who killed the unidentified man is named Matthew Jacob Marin.  He has been placed on a 3 day administrative leave.
This is his second killing in the past few years.
In August, a Jeffrey T. Johnson, a legitimate armed suspect, was shot and killed by two New York police officers, also trained by Israeli companies.
The officers were 8 feet from Johnson when he drew his weapon.  They then opened fire, hitting Johnson but also hitting 9 other people in the area, spraying bullets everywhere.
The incident began when Johnson shot and killed his Israeli employer who had recently ended his employment for reasons Johnson had found “unsatisfactory.”
New York police who cornered Johnson, who was armed with a Spanish made Star .380 7 shot pistol with 2 rounds remaining in the magazine, then opened fire, hitting Johnson then “accidentally” shooting 9 others, some as far “off line” as 120 degrees.
Was the Israeli training team brought in there from the Haifa School for the Blind?
Two days ago, an 83 year old crime victim, Delma Tower of Lynchburg, Virginia was killed by police for “failing to obey orders.”  The 83 year old was fleeing armed intruders who had broken into her home, she was barefoot, wearing a night dress and was not wearing either her glasses or hearing aid.
Police were unable to discern a half-naked 83 year old woman who was nearly blind from the two large male armed intruders, who of course escaped while the victim of the crime, while is so often the case, died in a hail of police gunfire.   Each month, the National Rifle Association prints a magazine read by millions of Americans.  This organization, one that works closely with police and is associated with the Romney campaign, lauds civilians who use their right to bear arms and reports carefully selected stories where civilians making use of their constitutional rights, but are not killed by police who mistake them for criminals.
I could list a hundred, a thousand such shootings.  Sometimes weapons are found at the scene, sometimes those killed have criminal records, and incidents like this have a long history.
What has changed today is that those killed are simply gunned down, no weapon mysteriously dropped by the police, victims are often aged, sometimes even financially well off, there seems to be an agenda that, more than anything else, resembles terrorism, the random killing of any American anywhere, anytime and under any circumstances by police who are unable to explain what they do.
Moreover, nobody ever seriously questions anything that police do.
It is almost as though a mass psychosis has taken over American law enforcement, every face a potential “bin Laden,” every minor confrontation solved only with volleys of gunfire.
The only common factor in so many of these incidents is the Israeli training, teaching American police to mimic Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people.  It seems American police have caught Israel’s national obsession of fearfulness and feigned victimization.

2012-09-27 "US Designates Wikileaks "Enemy of the State"; Documents show US policy puts media outlet in same legal category as violent terrorist groups"

from "Common Dreams" [http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/09/27]:
Military documents (pdf) obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and posted online by Wikileaks show that the US government has designated the whistleblower website and its founder Julian Assange as "enemies of the state"—the same legal category as Al Qaeda and other foreign military adversaries.
As the Sydney Morning Herald reports [http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/us-calls-assange-enemy-of-state-20120927-26m7s.html]:
[begin excerpt]
The documents, some originally classified "Secret/NoForn" - not releasable to non-US nationals - record a probe by the air force's Office of Special Investigations into a cyber systems analyst based in Britain who allegedly expressed support for WikiLeaks and attended pro-Assange demonstrations in London.
The counter-intelligence investigation focused on whether the analyst, who had a top-secret security clearance and access to the US military's Secret Internet Protocol Router network, had disclosed classified or sensitive information to WikiLeaks supporters, described as an "anti-US and/or anti-military group".
The suspected offence was "communicating with the enemy, 104-D", an article in the US Uniform Code of Military Justice that prohibits military personnel from "communicating, corresponding or holding intercourse with the enemy".
[end excerpt]
Mr Assange's US attorney, Michael Ratner, told the Herald that designating WikiLeaks an "enemy" would have serious implications for the WikiLeaks publisher if his fears of being extradited to the US were realized.
Mr Ratner stipulated that under US law it would most likely have been considered criminal for the US Air Force analyst to communicate classified material to journalists and publishers, but those journalists and publishers would not have been considered the enemy or prosecuted.
"However, in the FOI documents there is no allegation of any actual communication for publication that would aid an enemy of the United States such as al-Qaeda, nor are there allegations that WikiLeaks published such information," he said.
"Almost the entire set of documents is concerned with the analyst's communications with people close to and supporters of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, with the worry that she would disclose classified documents to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
"It appears that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the 'enemy'. An enemy is dealt with under the laws of war, which could include killing, capturing, detaining without trial, etc."
The revelations contained in the documents led the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald to ask [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/27/wikileaks-investigation-enemy]: "How could leaking to WikiLeaks possibly constitute the crime of 'communicating with the enemy'? Who exactly is the 'enemy'?"
Answering his own question, Greenwald argues there are two equally disturbing possibilities:
[begin excerpt]
The first possibility is the one suggested by today's Sydney Morning Herald article on these documents [http://m.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/us-calls-assange-enemy-of-state-20120927-26m7s.html] (as well as by WikiLeaks itself): that the US military now formally characterizes WikiLeaks and Assange as an "enemy", the same designation it gives to groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban. This would not be the first time such sentiments were expressed by the US military: recall that one of the earliest leaks from the then-largely-unknown group was a secret report prepared back in 2008 by the US Army which, as the New York Times put it [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/us/18wiki.html], included WikiLeaks on the Pentagon's "list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States" and then plotted how to destroy it [http://www.salon.com/2010/03/27/wikileaks/].
But it's the second possibility that seems to me to be the far more likely one: namely, that the US government, as part of Obama's unprecedented war on whistleblowers, has now fully embraced the pernicious theory that any leaks of classified information can constitute the crime of "aiding the enemy" or "communicating with the enemy" by virtue of the fact that, indirectly, "the enemy" will - like everyone else in the world - ultimately learn of what is disclosed.
[end excerpt]
Greenwald concludes by articulating what he sees as the inherent irony of the ongoing Wikileaks saga and what it says about the Obama administration's inconsistent stance on freedoms of the press and expression.
[begin excerpt]
The real "enemies" of American "society" are not those who seek to inform the American people about the bad acts engaged in by their government in secret [http://www.salon.com/2010/12/24/wikileaks_23/]. As Democrats once recognized prior to the age of Obama [http://www.salon.com/2012/04/10/the_liberal_betrayal_of_bradley_manning/] - in the age of Daniel Ellsberg [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/16/daniel-ellsberg-wikileaks_n_797801.html] - people who do that are more aptly referred to as "heroes" [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/14/bradley-manning-deserves-a-medal]. The actual "enemies" are those who abuse secrecy powers to conceal government actions and to threaten with life imprisonment or even execution those who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing.













Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"7 Examples of a “Police State,” and How They Are Appearing in the U.S."

2012-09-26 by Will Potter [http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/police-state/6401/]:
(Video showing the incident photographed here available from KATU.com)


“Has the United States become a police state?”
That’s the stark question I was asked at the beginning of a recent radio interview.
Framing the current political climate in these terms is quite blunt, and can be jarring to some people because it automatically conjures images of, for example, Nazi Germany. That’s clearly different than what is occurring right now in the United States. So  how do we conceptualize the current state of government repression, and how do we put it in a historical context?

Is this a police state? If not, what is it?
The image that most people hold of a “police state” is a representation of extreme power dynamics, and repressive tactics to maintain them, at specific points of history. The current political climate in the United States is unique in many ways, and distinct from those eras. However, it shares core attributes that we generally associate with a “police state”:

1. Raids, harassment, and intimidation of dissidents by police
When FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force agents raided multiple activist homes in the Northwest recently, they were in search of “anti-government or anarchist literature.” [http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/fbi-raid-anarchist-literature-portland-seattle/6267/]

2. Militarization of domestic law enforcement
As Arthur Rizer wrote for The Atlantic [http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/11/how-the-war-on-terror-has-militarized-the-police/248047/]: In an effort to remedy their relative inadequacy in dealing with terrorism on U.S. soil, police forces throughout the country have purchased military equipment, adopted military training, and sought to inculcate a “soldier’s mentality” among their ranks.

3. Disproportionate prison sentences for political activists
The reason Marie Mason, who destroyed property, received a prison sentence twice as long as racists, who harmed human beings, is because of her politics [http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/marie-mason-sentenced/1023/].
Likewise Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in prison for non-violent disrupting an illegal oil and gas lease auction because he cost corporations thousands of dollars [http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/tim-dechristopher-sentenced-environmental-movement-response/5042/].

4. Creation of new laws for people because of their political beliefs
The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was created solely to prosecute activists who threaten the “loss of profits” for corporations [http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/animal-enterprise-terrorism-act-lawsuit-ccr/5397/].
And now 10 states have considered “Ag Gag” bills that go so far as to criminalize non-violent undercover investigations. The new bills have passed in two states, Utah and Iowa.

5. Creation of special prison units
In addition to Guantanamo Bay, which Obama has refused to close, there are now two experimental prison units on U.S. soil for “domestic terrorists.” These Communications Management Units are for political prisoners that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons describes as having “inspirational significance.” [http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/cmu-proposal-domestic-guantanamo/2660/]

6. Pervasive use of surveillance
Spy drones are being used by domestic law enforcement for surveillance, artificial intelligence, and monitoring social movements (here’s a great overview from Salon [http://www.salon.com/2011/12/06/nprs_domestic_drone_commercial/singleton/]).
Recently, Tampa police wanted to use them against RNC protesters [http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/baybuzz/content/no-drones-after-all-tampas-republican-national-convention].
This is in addition to widespread surveillance measures such as TrapWire [http://rt.com/usa/news/stratfor-trapwire-abraxas-wikileaks-313/].

7. Criminalization of ideology
In my opinion this is the hallmark of any police state: the targets of the state have little to do with criminal activity, and everything to do with their perceived subversive ideology.
For example, consider these FBI “domestic terrorism” training documents which say that anarchists are “criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities.” [http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/fbi-domestic-terrorism-training-anarchists-eco/6199/]

There is no “tipping point”
A final, more nebulous characteristic of a police state is the extent to which all of the tactics above take place. It’s a question of degree and intensity, and some would argue that, even though these tactics are occurring with increasing frequency, they are not at the level that would merit this kind of “police state” language. I think that’s completely reasonable.
But no matter how you feel about the characterization of what is occurring right now, the most important point is this: if we’re not a police state already, we are marching closer and closer every day.
In the following interview, I try to dispel some of the myths about police states and how they are created, including the flawed idea of a “tipping point” leading up to extreme states of repression.
Listen to the full interview here (starting at 55:43) [http://occupymediapodcast.com/webpage/has-the-u-s-become-a-police-state-on-occupy-radio] or download it from iTunes (it’s the 8/23/12 show) [http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/occupy-media/id517340370#]

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

USA kills up to 50 civilians for every 'terrorist' in Afghanistan

2012-09-25 "America's deadly double tap drone attacks are 'killing 49 people for every known terrorist in Pakistan'; Study found war against violent Islamists has become increasingly deadly; Researchers blame common tactic now being used – the 'double-tap' strike; Drone strikes condemned for their ineffectiveness in targeting militants" by Leon Watson from "Daily Mail" newspaper of England
[http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2208307/Americas-deadly-double-tap-drone-attacks-killing-49-people-known-terrorist-Pakistan.html]:
Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report claimed today.
The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorised by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’.
And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.
The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.
Today campaigners savaged the use of drones, claiming that they were destroying a way of life.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the charity Reprieve which helped interview people for the report, said: ‘This shows that drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorised by the constant threat of death from the skies. ‘
There have been at least 345 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan in the past eight years.
'These strikes are becoming much more common,' Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who represents victims of drone strikes, told The Independent.
'In the past it used to be a one-off, every now and then. Now almost every other attack is a double tap. There is no justification for it.'
The study is the product of nine months' research and more than 130 interviews, it is one of the most exhaustive attempts by academics to understand – and evaluate – Washington's drone wars.
Despite assurances the attacks are 'surgical', researchers found barely two per cent of their victims are known militants and that the idea that the strikes make the world a safer place for the U.S. is 'ambiguous at best'.
Researchers added that traumatic effects of the strikes go far beyond fatalities, psychologically battering a population which lives under the daily threat of annihilation from the air, and ruining the local economy.
They conclude by calling on Washington completely to reassess its drone-strike programme or risk alienating the very people they hope to win over.
They also observe that the strikes set worrying precedents for extra-judicial killings at a time when many nations are building up their unmanned weapon arsenals.
The Obama administration is unlikely to heed their demands given the zeal with which America has expanded its drone programme over the past two years.
Washington says the drone program is vital to combating militants that threaten the U.S. and who use Pakistan's tribal regions as a safe haven.
The number of attacks have fallen since a Nato strike in 2011 killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and strained U.S.-Pakistan relations.
Pakistan wants the drone strikes stopped - or it wants to control the drones directly - something the U.S. refuses.
Reapers and Predators are now active over the skies of Somalia and Yemen as well as Pakistan and - less covertly - Afghanistan.
But campaigners like Mr Akbar hope the Stanford/New York University research may start to make an impact on the American public.
'It's an important piece of work,' he told The Independent. 'No one in the U.S. wants to listen to a Pakistani lawyer saying these strikes are wrong. But they might listen to American academics.'
Today, Pakistani intelligence officials revealed a pair of missiles fired from an unmanned American spy aircraft slammed into a militant hideout in northwestern Pakistan last night.
The two officials said missiles from the drone aircraft hit the village of Dawar Musaki in the North Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan to the west.
Some of the dead were believed to be foreign fighters but the officials did not know how many or where they were from.
The Monday strike was the second in three days. On Saturday a U.S. drone fired two missiles at a vehicle in northwest Pakistan, killing four suspected militants.
That attack took place in the village of Mohammed Khel, also in North Waziristan.
North Waziristan is the last tribal region in which the Pakistan military has not launched an operation against militants, although the U.S. has been continually pushing for such a move.
The Pakistanis contend that their military is already overstretched fighting operations in other areas but many in the U.S. believe they are reluctant to carry out an operation because of their longstanding ties to some of the militants operating there such as the Haqqani network.

VOICES FROM THE DRONE ZONE

Sadaullah Khan, a 15-year-old who lost both legs in a drone strike, says that before his injury, 'I used to go to school…I thought I would become a doctor. After the drone strikes, I stopped going to school.'

Noor Behram, a journalist: 'Once there has been a drone strike, people have gone in for rescue missions, and five or ten minutes after the drone attack, they attack the rescuers who are there.'

Taxi driver: 'Whether we are driving a car, or we are working on a farm, or we are sitting at home playing cards – no matter what we are doing we are always thinking the drone will strike us. So we are scared to do anything, no matter what.'

Safdar Dawar, President of the Tribal Union of Journalists: 'If I am walking in the market, I have this fear that maybe the person walking next to me is going to be a target of the drone. If I’m shopping, I’m really careful and scared. If I’m standing on the road and there is a car parked next to me, I never know if that is going to be the target. Maybe they will target the car in front of me or behind me. Even in mosques, if we’re praying, we’re worried that maybe one person who is standing with us praying is wanted. So, wherever we are, we have this fear of drones.'

Resident from the Manzar Khel area: 'Now (they have) even targeted funerals…they have targeted people sitting together, so people are scared of everything'

Monday, September 24, 2012

Anti-Fascism: 2012-09-24 "The Southern Workers Assembly: An Historic Step Forward!"

 message from "EMERGENCY LABOR NETWORK (Jobs * Social Security * Labor Rights * Medicare and Medicaid * Peace and Justice) [emergencylabor@aol.com] [www.laborfightback.org]:
On Labor Day, 2012, 300 trade unionists, workers and community activists packed the Wedgewood Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, to participate in the Southern Workers Assembly. The purpose of this gathering was to promote organizing the South, repealing anti-labor legislation, and strengthening the fight against racism.
By all accounts, this was an historic gathering and attendees left it united and in high spirits. The event received wide media coverage.
Below are the opening remarks by Saladin Muhammad, Coordinator of the Southern Workers Assembly, recently retired International Representative for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, and member of Black Workers for Justice.
 For more information write emergencylabor@aol.com or P.O. Box 21004, Cleveland, OH 44121 or call 216-736-4715 or visit our website at www.laborfightback.org. Donations gratefully accepted. Please make checks payable to the ELN and mail to the above P.O. Box.
*  *  *  *  *

Southern Workers Assembly: A Call to Action for Workers to Organize Labor in the South!

Why are we here? And what is our charge as Southern workers? Are we here mainly as a form of protest against the failed policies of the Democratic Party regarding worker rights? Both parties have failed the working class in this regard and more.
The Southern Workers Assembly is a call to action by rank-and-file workers to unite, organize the South and speak in our own name. Southern workers cannot wait for the Democratic Party, and certainly not the Republican Party, to enact some progressive labor laws before we can begin a serious effort to organize ourselves into a labor movement. Unfortunately, this has been a serious error on the part of the U.S. labor movement for too many years.
During the 1950s and '60s, the power of an organized and united labor movement in the South was needed to help fight against the racist system of Jim Crow, which greatly divided and created deep wounds and lasting scars within the working class that capital will always try to exploit. This is why a social movement is needed to organize labor and the working class in the South. We want the Southern Workers Assembly to be a launching pad that begins a process of building a South-wide social movement to organize labor.
In an economy and society where having a job is a requirement for providing ourselves and families with the basic necessities of life, worker rights become human rights. Thus a social movement to organize labor in the South must become a major part of the human rights movement, and must be organized with the same energy and sacrifice of the civil rights movement that helped to bring about some progressive reforms for Black and working people.
However, a human rights labor movement must also be a transformative movement that seeks to reorganize the economic, social and political relationships that determine the value of labor, the distribution of the wealth created by labor and technology, and that protects the lives of the people and sustainability of the planet. Capitalist globalization and its impact require that our labor movement have a basic vision of transformation as we organize to build power.
History has also shown that the failure of the U.S. national labor movement to make a concerted and coordinated effort to organize labor in the South has been a major factor allowing the most conservative political base within the U.S. from being effectively challenged by the organized power of Southern workers.
This has affected the class consciousness and confidence of Southern workers about our power to challenge corporate power, which clearly dominates and dictates the decisions and policies of the state and local governments throughout the South.
Corporate power has not only super-exploited the labor of Southern workers, it is also responsible for the underdevelopment and negative environmental impact on many working class communities, especially African American, Latino, Native American and poor white, because of the billions in incentives and tax breaks that were diverted from community development and given to the corporations to locate in the South.
The massive disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina in parts of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005 is an example of what happens when corporate wants are prioritized over the infrastructure and human needs of the people.
Now that the South has reemerged as a major region in the global economy, where U.S. manufacturing, foreign direct investment and finance capital is becoming concentrated --  a Wall Street South -- the South will be a major force in the shaping of U.S. labor and social policies. Efforts to pass anti-immigration laws are developing rapidly in the South, to create another source of super-exploitation that is based on the race and ethnicity of the working class.
The U.S. prison industrial complex, in addition to jailing mainly the unemployed from the Black and Latino working class communities, provides super-exploited labor for major corporations. This is largely why there have been Draconian laws such as 3-strikes, you're out, and crime bills enacted over the past 20 years by both Democratic and Republican administrations. The so-called "legal status" and stigma permanently branding the formerly incarcerated forces many to have to work for little or nothing, if they can get hired at all. This is a major reason forcing many back into crime and the high rates of recidivism.
Dividing the working class and the oppressed peoples in every way possible is the main strategy of corporate power. The U.S. labor movement must not see the independent worker-led organizations and initiatives of the oppressed peoples as something that divides the working class. They exist to take up the struggles against the special forms of oppression and exploitation that impact our lives, and that have not been taken up effectively within and by many of the trade unions.
The struggle to respect the right of these organizations to exist as part of the labor movement -- while they are also leading the fight for self-determination as oppressed peoples -- must be a main aspect of the struggle against racism to be waged within the U.S. labor movement and the working class, if we are to build a powerful and transformative labor movement inside the U.S.
Of the 100 million people living in the South, the largest region of the U.S., African American and Latino together make up close to 40%. Fifty-seven percent, or more than 20 million Black people, and 40%, or more than 18 million Latinos, live in the South. Black and Brown unity is therefore critical to forging and anchoring the unity of a strong Southern labor and working class movement.
Having pointed out the weaknesses of the U.S. labor movement in failing to organize the South, and the role of the South today in the global economy, it is important to make clear that this in no way is meant to suggest that workers in the South have not been organizing and resisting. Your presence at the Southern Workers Assembly is a testament that we are organizing and fighting.
However, our organizing and campaigns have been mainly local and unconnected to a broader framework that projects a South-wide movement. This has made it difficult to develop and promote a workers' fight-back climate, and has weakened and discouraged sustained efforts to organize unions in the South.
There will be many challenges in building this movement that we must educate and prepare ourselves for. The crisis impacting labor over the past 30 years from the restructuring and globalization of the economy, and the attacks on unions resulting in a loss of membership by many, has led to an unhealthy competition between unions, which have divided the working class by fights over union jurisdictions, raiding and splits in federations and national unions.
A Southern labor movement must build structures that unite workers within the same sectors, regardless of the national unions or organizations they are affiliated with, to democratically work out an independent plan for concentration and organizing within those sectors. It is from this base of organizing that we must win the support from national and international unions for organizing labor in the South.
Organizing in the South greatly needs the support of a strong rank-and-file movement within the national unions who work to build support from their local and national unions for the development and sustaining of a Southern Labor Alliance, including actions of national labor solidarity as we saw with the Charleston, South Carolina dockworkers' struggle and the Wisconsin public sector struggle that closed down the state's capital. Organizing the South must become a clarion call for the U.S. labor movement to go on the offensive.
We want to leave this Southern Workers Assembly with some basic framework in place that allows us to move to the next step in holding meetings to begin to map out a plan for forming a Southern Labor Alliance and launching a social movement campaign to organize the South.
Let's get to work here today in our brief period at the Southern Workers Assembly.
Onward toward a Southern Labor Alliance!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

'Banned in Vermont' book banned in Vermont libraries

2012-09-22 comment by Rose Marie Jackowski posted at [http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/09/21-1]:
I wrote a book, titled BANNED IN VERMONT. Then donated copies to the public tax supported library. The library banned the book, in violation of the First Amendment. Maybe someday the First Amendment will be restored in Vermont, but I'm not holding my breath........

2011-04-08 "Banned in Vermont: Interview with advocacy journalist and author Rosemarie Jackowski" by Mickey Z.
[http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/04/banned-in-vermont/]:
I’ve known radical grandma Rosemarie Jackowski (RMJ) for several years now and even interviewed her in 2005 about her arrest and court case [http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_mickey_z_051026__silence_is_the_grea.htm]. In light of her unique story and her tireless commitment to justice, I (and others) have encouraged her to write a book for years. Well, I’m happy to say, RMJ has delivered as only she can with Banned in Vermont.
A wide ranging collection of essays, memoirs, and more, Banned in Vermont shines a light on topics the US justice (sic) system, wartime propaganda, feminism, capital punishment, GMOs, and so much more—all fulfilling the book’s cover promise: “unedited, uncensored, unpretentious, unabashed.”
The following is a conversation I recently had with Rosemarie Jackowski:

Mickey Z: Why did you write this book?
Rosemarie Jackowski: My main purpose was to chip away at some of the misinformation out there. Not only in Vermont, but across the US. For example, many people believe that protesting, or as I prefer to think about it, resistance to the government, is a fun filled, rowdy experience reminiscent of images of the ’60s. Protests now are different. Much more serious. Right now there are many peace advocates in prison. Recently those who protested at the US School of the Assassins at Fort Benning were convicted. Usually those who are prisoners because of acts of conscience get very little news coverage. They are in reality secret political prisoners. Bradley Manning is a political prisoner—one of the few who has attracted any media attention.

MZ: With all the ground you cover in Banned in Vermont, is there anything you left out?
RMJ: Thanks for that question. There are many little secrets hidden in the book. One of them I will leave to the reader’s imagination. It concerns testimony during the sentencing hearing. I refer to this statement on page 20: “…Seems like we were at an impasse.” Imagine being the judge who had to impose my sentence. By this time, the war had become very unpopular. I, on the other hand, was receiving a lot of public support. The press dubbed me ‘The Vermont Peace Grandma’. I had no prior record and even the prosecution admitted that my act of conscience had good intent. It was clear from testimony that my motivation was a love of children and an abhorrence to violence and war. It does appear that I had secured the moral high ground. I expressed my willingness to go to prison. It almost made me feel sorry for the judge who would have to impose a sentence. The undisclosed secret in the book that the reader will have to decide is: Was this checkmating of the system a result of my well thought out legal strategy, or was I just lucky in having the events unfold this way?
Also, left out of the book was an irrelevant bit of legal trivia. During part of this long process, I had two cases before the Vermont Supreme Court and no lawyer. I don’t think that happens very often, if ever.

MZ: What would you like readers to experience while reading your book?
RMJ: I hope that readers will experience humor, joy, and sometimes sadness—which can sometimes inspire one to action. One of the most important messages of the book is something that I sprinkled on every page that I could. That is the Madeleine Albright admission that the USA killed 500,000+ Iraqi children and she thought that the price was worth it. I remember seeing that interview with Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes way back in 1996. My immediate reaction was, ‘finally’. Now the sleeping US conscience would be awakened. I was wrong. The lack of empathy for victims of US foreign policy is mindboggling. How can that be explained?
One other important message in the book concerns the Black Budget. I pose the question: Has every election since 1947 been illegal? The Black Budget was authorized in 1947. How can those elections be legal if no informed votes were cast? If you can’t follow the money, you can’t know what your secret government is doing. Too many believe that if all uniformed members of the military were brought home, the killing would end. It is clear that more have died because of actions of the State Dept., CIA, private contractors, etc. etc, etc. In actuality, the uniformed military is only the tip of the iceberg. The real danger is with the secret US forces.

MZ: Should we expect another book from you soon?
RMJ: Not on my very old computer. Unfortunately, writing does not pay. Most authors that I know, even the really great ones, are struggling. I expect to make less than zero money on this book.

MZ: In light of the current rhetoric, do you feel there’s any “hope”?
RMJ: Not until US citizens change. That will require a change in almost everything—from the way US history is taught in schools, to the way information is disseminated to the general public. Just last night, I was talking with a friend who is a high-ranking administrator in the educational system. He has a copy of my book and said that there was a good chance that it would be banned in school libraries. On the other hand, I have already been invited to speak to a college class.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2012-09-19 "The Radical Rich: Moving From Romney to Re-Occupy"

by Richard (RJ) Eskow [http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2012093818/radical-rich-romney-re-occupy]:
Two recent movements have transformed the political landscape. The Occupy movement literally operates in the light of day. The other movement operates in secrecy, with money as its "speech" rather than ... well, you know, speech.
The Romney video offers us a rare glimpse of the other movement [http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/mother-jones-releases-complete-video-of-romney-at-private-fund-raiser/]. This movement of the extremely rich is ruthless, radical, and full of rage. And it's on the rise.
If you're not scared, you're not paying attention.

The Revolutionary -
Sure, it was stupid for Mitt Romney to insult the non-Federal-tax paying "47 percent" on that video, especially since so many of them are Republican voters [http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/how-do-the-47-vote/]. But it was only "stupid" in traditional political terms. For a radical – and make no mistake, Romney is a radical – those rules don't apply.
The bile flows out of this unscripted Romney. He says of his father, the governor, presidential candidate and car company CEO: "Had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this." This kind of resentment, as absurd as it is, is a very real emotion for the Radical Rich.
The words seem to sting his lips when he says "they believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, that they are entitled – to health care, to food, to housing, you name it. That's an entitlement."
Feast your eyes on the articulated rage of the Radical Rich. Romney and his audience are genuinely angry at people who "don't pay taxes" – although almost all of the "47 percent" do, counting payroll and sales taxes. That doesn't matter. The Radical Rich consider all of them – the disabled, the elderly, poor people, veterans – the Other.
From Savanarola to Sarah Palin, from Robespierre to Romney, the psychology never changes: You're either one of us or one of them.

Private Equity Party People -
In his attempt to defend Romney, David Brooks suggested he was a "fundamentally decent" person who only expresses contempt for so many of this country's citizens because it appeals to his audience [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/opinion/brooks-thurston-howell-romney.html].
The only thing that may be less "decent" than hating entire groups of people is pretending to hate them for your own purposes. But this incident reveals something even more important than Romney's weakness of character, which is:
That's what appeals to Romney' audience.
The guests had gathered at the home of Mark Leder, a private equity manager whose business practices are as exploitative and job-killing as Bain Capital's. Leder's post-divorce antics earned him the nickname "private equity party boy" [http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/wp/2012/09/17/major-romney-fundraiser-hosted-event-leaked-by-mother-jones/] and headlines like "Nude frolic in tycoon's pool." [http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/nude_frolic_in_tycoon_pool_S8t8KXKG1IeGFSDtN6Xm9M]
Romney and the others keep their clothes on, in case you were wondering, so the video's work-safe.
But that doesn't mean they're not enjoying life. They've acquired a level of wealth, power and luxury which ancient pharaohs and kings could never imagine: Their private jets will take them anywhere on the planet at a few minutes' notice. Rulers of nations flatter and court them. They even seem to be above the law. None of them will ever know hunger, or financial fear, or be denied medical care because they can't pay for it.
And yet they're filled with resentment.
Their voices are heard over the the constant clinking of silver forks on fine china. As the night wore on a man at that table undoubtedly loosened his expensive belt – lizard-skin, perhaps, or calfskin – because he'd eaten too much. A slightly tipsy woman left lipstick prints – a Shiseido lacquered rouge perhaps, in a shade like "Savage," "Nymph," or "Nocturne" (Mark would like that) – on a half-empty glass of very fine wine.
And yet, beneath the warmth of the meal and the glow of the wine, they were burning with rage.

Meet The Radicals -
They're probably just a small subset of high-earning Americans. But these resentment-fueled party people are a new force in politics, made even more powerful by growing wealth inequity and Citizens United. They are the Radical Rich.

How radical are they?
Romney and his party are already pursuing their radical policies: A dismantling of most government programs, including a self-funded program like Social Security and vitally needed ones like Medicaid, Federal disaster relief, education ... even law enforcement and storm warning systems to reduce deaths and property damage.
The country they seek is radically different from the one we all grew up in, or even the troubled one we live in today. It's a nation without a social safety net, with hungry and ill people in the streets, without free and fair elections, without basic legal protections for consumers or the environment – a United States unlike anything we've seen in our lifetime.

How angry are they?
Their resentment is as great as their wealth. It seemed like an unfortunate slip from an unpleasant individual when another hedge funder, Steve Schwarzman, compared the loss of his tax breaks to Hitler's invasion of Poland. But we now know that this sense of outrage is shared by many, if not most, of his peers: Hedge funder Daniel S. Loeb. The unnamed CEOs of Fareed Zakaria's acquaintance. Scandal-ridden bank CEO Jamie Dimon.
You'd think they'd be kissing the ground Barack Obama walks on, given their embarrassment – or what should be an "embarrassment" – of riches.

But they're enraged. Why?
Insatiable
Because it isn't enough.
At no time in modern history has the top 1 percent – or the top 0.1 percent, or the top 0.01 percent – owned more of our wealth or paid less in taxes.
But it isn't enough.
The Wall Street executives who broke laws weren't indicted, and those who ruined their own businesses were saved – their wealth and incomes protected – by the very people who are being financially destroyed by their actions.
It isn't enough.
Our government relaxed the regulations, razed the rules, and leveled the laws so they could ruin both the economy and the Gulf of Mexico, and has left us vulnerable to their ongoing predations.
It isn't enough.

What do they want?
They want more – more tax breaks, more protection from the law.
And they want adoration. From the looks of it, nothing short of an Roman Imperial cult – complete with their apotheosis as state deities upon their death – would satisfy them. Obama's corporate-friendly policies, which have protected their wealth and protected them from judgement, aren't enough. They want him to pledge his fealty on the White House steps – or they'll destroy him.
Not every wealthy person is radical, of course. It seems as if a rich person's level of bitterness and rage is directly proportional to the undeservedness of their riches: Hedge fund managers who exploited the rules are the angriest, while authentically talented business people, artists or genuinely "job-creating" entrepreneurs seem to be the least angry.
Could it be guilt, and a not entirely unreasonable feeling of low self-worth, turned outward? Whatever's behind it, a Molotov cocktail of wealthy rage has exploded.

Asymmetrical Warfare -
David Frum, a conservative and former George W. Bush speechwriter, gets it. Frum writes [http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-romney-47-percent-david-frum-20120919,0,2666239.story] that "what makes it all both so heart-rending and so outrageous is that all this is occurring at a time when economically disadvantaged Americans have never been so demoralized and passive, never exerted less political clout. No Coxey's army is marching on Washington, no sit-down strikes are paralyzing factories, no squatters are moving onto farmer's fields."
Beautifully said. Frum's batting average dips slightly as he continues: "Occupy Wall Street immediately fizzled, there is no protest party of the political left."
Occupy didn't "fizzle." It attracted massive support almost overnight. Within weeks it had dramatically transformed the national conversation. Democrats from the president on down were forced to address issues of economic injustice, at least rhetorically, instead of negotiating destructive (and pro-wealthy) austerity deals with the Republican counterparts.
But the powers arrayed against Occupy – in the media, in politics, and elsewhere – combined with the winter winds to force it into hibernation.
Frum's absolutely right, however, when he says there's "no protest party of the political left" – although I'd drop the word "protest" and make it simply a party, one that can win rather than just siphon off votes. That won't happen without a mass movement.
That's why it's time to re-Occupy our country. In fact, maybe it should've been called "Re-Occupy" all along. It was, and it remains, a re-occupation – of our privatized public spaces and our privatized political discourse. Occupy, or something like it, is the only force that has a chance against the power of the Radical Rich.

Closing the Deal -
Mitt can't close the deal. He's tanking like Facebook's IPO. Why? Because he's one of the Radical Rich, and he can't control his rage any more than Steve Scharzman can.
The executives I used to know would have laughed off Obama's populist rhetoric as long as the cash kept pouring in. But the new crowd doesn't just want an unfair and ill-gotten share of the nation's wealth. They want it paid as tribute.
This didn't happen by accident. The Radical Rich have, in David Frum's words, been "scammed" by political operators playing off their emotions. In the old days demagogues would work a mob into a frenzy until it was ready to burn down Parliament. Nowadays you can work a billionaire or two into a frenzy and buy Parliament instead. That's much more efficient – and a lot less messy.
And yet, even with all their resources at his disposal, Mitt can't close the deal. He can't hide his radicalism long enough.
Next time it'll be uglier. They may not even try to close the deal. They might just take it. That's why we need a new movement.
What would a revived Occupy movement – a "Re-Occupy movement" – look like? That topic should dominate the conversation on the American left. This election and the events that follow it should be viewed through the lens of long-term independent activism, with political office only one tool among many.
Romney articulated both his own emotions and those of his crowd when he said of the American majority, "The things that animate us aren't the things that animate them." Well, right back at ya, pal.
That's why it's time to Re-Occupy the country – now, before it's too late.

2012-09-19 "Rich getting richer: Richest 400 Americans’ net worth jumps 13%"

by Dan Burns from "Reuters" newswire:
The net worth of the richest Americans grew by 13 per cent in the past year to $1.7-trillion (U.S.), Forbes magazine said on Wednesday, and a familiar cast of characters once again populated the top of the magazine’s annual list of the U.S. uber-elite, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison and the Koch brothers.
The average net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans rose to a record $4.2-billion, the magazine said.
Collectively, this group’s net worth is the equivalent of one-eighth of the entire U.S. economy, which stood at $13.56-trillion in real terms according to the latest government data. But the 13 per cent growth in the wealth of the richest Americans far outpaced that of the economy overall, helping widen the chasm between rich and poor.
Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft Corp., topped the list for the 19th year in a row with $66-billion, up $7-billion from a year earlier.
Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of insurance conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc, stood second with $46-billion, followed by Larry Ellison, head of software maker Oracle Corp, with $41-billion; and the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who run the energy and chemicals conglomerate that bears their name, Koch Industries, were tied for fourth with $31-billion, Forbes said.
The ranks of the top five were unchanged from a year earlier.
Two notable names dropped from the top 10, however. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, also active in conservative political causes, fell to the 12 spot from No. 8 last year, and financier George Soros dropped five spots to No. 12 from the No. 7 position one year ago.
The disappointing stock market debut of Facebook Inc also took a toll on the fortune of its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. His net worth fell by nearly half to $9.4-billion, and he slid to the No. 36 slot from No. 14 a year ago, Forbes said.

The top 10:
1. Bill Gates: $66-billion
2. Warren Buffett: $46-billion
3. Larry Ellison: $41-billion
4. Charles Koch: $31-billion
4. David Koch: $31-billion
6. Christy Walton & family: $27.9-billion
7. Jim Walton: $26.8-billion
8. Alice Walton: $26.3-billion
9. S. Robson Walton: $26.1-billion
10. Michael Bloomberg: $25-billion

"'Born on Third Base': How the Wealthy Inherit the Earth; The real story told by the Forbes 400 is about privilege and the growing inequality in both wealth and opportunity"

2012-09-19 "'Born on Third Base': How the Wealthy Inherit the Earth; The real story told by the Forbes 400 is about privilege and the growing inequality in both wealth and opportunity" by Common Dreams
[http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/09/19-7]:
Check out the 'Born on Third Base' tumblr page [http://bornonthirdbase.tumblr.com/], where some of the Forbes 400 make the All-Star Team. Read the full report here [http://faireconomy.org/press_room/2012/report_says_forbes_400_misleads_about_wealth_and_opportunity].
---
Just twelve of the Forbes 400 for 2012. (AP Photo/Forbes, Michael Prince)


Gushing over the wild financial wealth of individuals, The Forbes 400: The Richest People In America In 2012 [http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/list/], released today online and heading to newstands nationwide, pays homage to the clich├ęd platitude that America is the land of opportunity for hard-working, gutsy entrepreneurs and great wealth is merely evidence of great accomplishment.
Unfortunately, according to a new report by Massachusetts-based United for a Fair Economy [http://faireconomy.org/], the Forbes 400 does not tell the whole story of wealth in America. In fact, the authors of the report argue, the list of the country's richest people tells the story of a nation where being born into wealth or inheriting great sums from a departed spouse are by far the most common paths to financial fortune.
Taking a close look at last year's list of wealthiest people, the UFE discovered that roughly 40% of the individuals who appeared on the 2011 Forbes list received a "significant economic advantage in their lives by inheriting a sizeable asset from a spouse or family member." Strikingly, more than 20% received sufficient wealth to make the list from this inheritance alone.
Timed to coincide with this year's list from Forbes, the UFE report, Born on Third Base: What the Forbes 400 Really Says About Economic Equality and Opportunity in America (http://faireconomy.org/sites/default/files/BornOnThirdBase2012.pdf), seeks to show that the highly-touted list actually misleads about the sources of wealth and opportunity for many of those who appear on it.
"Each story calculatedly glamorizes the myth of the 'self-made man' while minimizing the many other factors that enable wealth, such as tax policies, other government policies that favor the wealthy, and the importance of being born to the right family, gender and race."
Forbes claims that their list of the 400 richest people is 'the definitive scorecard of wealth' in the United States, but UFE rebuffs that assertion, saying that the narrative of wealth and achievement pushed by Forbes ignores the other side of the coin— namely, that the opportunity to build wealth is not equally or broadly shared in contempory society.
According to the report:
* The net worth of the Forbes 400 grew fifteen-fold between the launch of the list in 1982 and 2011, while wealth stagnated for the average U.S. household.
* The racial wealth divide is starkly apparent from the overwhelming whiteness of the list. The 2011 Forbes 400 had only one African American member.
* Women accounted for just 10% of the 2011 list, and of the women on the list nearly 90% inherited their fortunes.
In addition, the report points out that (and the new 2012 list from Forbes shows continuation of this trend [http://finance.yahoo.com/news/gates-buffett-again-top-forbes-151625210.html]) the rich in 2011 got richer as the poor got poorer. The growing wealth inequality, the report says, is not due to any inherent brilliance or dynamism of the wealthy, but because of carefully crafted policy and legislative reforms enacted by government at the behest of the these same individuals.
Two examples cited by the report which directly impact the ability of the rich to retain and pass along their enormous assets:
* Tax rates on capital gains have been slashed, which especially benefits members of the Forbes list. The richest 0.1% receive half of all net increases in capital gains.
* Drastic cuts to the federal estate tax passed in the Bush tax cuts and the 2010 Obama tax deal allow the Forbes 400 to pass on more of their massive fortunes to their heirs, contributing to the growth of inequality and entrenching a class of super-wealthy heirs.
For its part, and despite the critical tone of the report, United for a Fair Economy says its efforts are not an attempt to "shame or belittle wealth or success."
"Instead," the authors maintain, "we aim to ask why certain representative individuals are on the list in order to reach a better understanding of wealth in the US. Such questions should lead to an important conversation about economic mobility, as well as the rules and loopholes that allow people to create wealth in the first place."
---
2012-09-20 comment by Matthew Heins: The richest 400 IN THIS COUNTRY alone have a combined $1,700,000,000,000, and the "poorest" has $1,100,000,000. According to wiki, the current requested budget deficit is $901,000,000,000.
This means that if we had their wealth at our disposal, we could meet the shortfall, and still leave $799,000,000,000 to them. This breaks down to $1,997,500,000 each.
I don't know about you, but I think they could get by just fine on that, and get a priceless lesson in sharing to boot. ;)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Opposition to Entergy's plan to murder the People of Vermont with unsafe nuclear power plants

2012-09-18 "Members of Shut It Down arrested occupying conference room" report from "Shut It Down Affinity Group"
[http://www.nukeresister.org/2012/09/18/members-of-shut-it-down-arrested-occupying-conference-room/]:
Parading through a conference room: unidentified man, Paki Wieland, Frances Crowe, Ellen Graves, Susan Lantz and Hattie Nestel (in masks) – photo by Marcia Gagliardi

After a United States Chamber of Commerce announcement on September 11 that it had joined Entergy’s lawsuit to oppose State of Vermont legislation to shut down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, the Shut It Down Affinity Group visited the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce on September 12 to determine its relationship with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The Shut It Down group deplores U.S. Chamber support of Entergy.
Later, eleven Shut It Downers were arrested by Vernon police at the Entergy Vermont Yankee Governor Hunt House conference center in Vernon after the women entered through an unlocked door. They paraded silently in death masks through halls and a conference room where three men were meeting.
Greg Lesch, office and information technology manager of the Brattleboro Chamber, told the women that the Brattleboro Chamber is not affiliated with the U.S. Chamber. He said the Brattleboro Chamber is a member of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
Priscilla Lynch of the Shut It Down group telephoned the Vermont Chamber from the Brattleboro offices and learned that the Vermont Chamber is a member of the U.S. Chamber and that Entergy is a member of the Vermont Chamber through the Brattleboro Chamber.
In Vernon, police coordinated by Sergeant Bruce Gauld charged the women for trespass at the Entergy conference center (which rumor held was a new headquarters for Entergy in Vermont). Entergy nuclear in Vermont has offices at 185 Old Ferry Road in Brattleboro and is the first item that comes up on a Google search for Entergy members of the Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce.
Arrested were Linda Pon Owens of Brattleboro; Priscilla Lynch of Conway; Frances Crowe, Nancy First, Connie Harvard, Susan Lantz, and Paki Wieland of Northampton; Anneke Corbett of Florence; Marcia Gagliardi and Hattie Nestel of Athol; Ellen Graves of West Springfield.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Republican Party's fascist Mitt Romney declares intention to destroy the lives of almost half of USA Citizens

2012-09-17 "Secretly filmed video of Mitt Romney, apparently at fundraiser, reveals unguarded views" by Matt Viser from "Boston Globe"
[http://www.boston.com/politicalintelligence/2012/09/17/secretly-filmed-video-mitt-romney-apparently-fundraiser-reveals-unguarded-views/F1tFkynHSafrct2VcdCElL/story.html]:
WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney, during a private fundraiser captured on video, told a group of donors in much blunter terms than he does publicly how he feels about the election. He joked about his wealth, and quipped that he would have a better shot at victory if he were Latino.
But the most striking portion of the video -- clips of which were apparently taken surreptitiously earlier this year, began surfacing online in recent weeks, and appeared in more depth this afternoon on the website of Mother Jones -- shows Romney talking in disparaging ways about nearly half of the electorate.
Romney dismisses supporters of President Obama as people who are so dependent on government for their existence that they will support the president no matter what.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” he said, over sounds of waiters pouring drinks and clearing plates. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”
“My job is is not to worry about those people,” he added. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, immediately took issue with that comment.
“It’s shocking that a candidate for president of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims,’ entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their lives,” Messina said in a statment. “It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”
In response to a request for comment about the video, Gail Gitcho, Romney’s campaign communications director, issued the following statement: “Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney’s plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.”
Few of the other clips are damning in and of themselves – and some showcase him talking more comfortably than he does in staged settings -- but they play into some of the images people may already have of Romney as an out-of-touch politician. The video is reminiscent of Obama’s comment in 2008 that people “cling to guns or religion,” and it is a reminder that few moments in a politician’s life are private.
“My dad…was born in Mexico,” Romney said in one clip. “Had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this…I mean, I say that jokingly. But it would be helpful to be Latino.”
He noted that the campaign was limiting the activity of his wife (“We use Ann sparingly right now, so that people don’t get tired of her”) and that he had decided to turn down an appearance on Saturday Night Live (because, he said, it “has the potential of looking slapstick and not presidential.”)
Romney also spoke of his wealth, claiming that he is a self-made millionaire.
“I have inherited nothing,” he said. “There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”
Although Romney made almost all of his fortune himself, his family provided a strong safety net, sometimes more. His parents gave him money to buy his first home, and Ann Romney once explained that neither she nor her husband worked while at Brigham Young University, because Romney “had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time.”
The Globe on Saturday reported on one of the clips, in which Romney talks about touring a factory in China when he was at Bain Capital, as part of a story about Romney’s investments in China. That 2-minute clip showed Romney describing some of the spartan working conditions at a company Bain officials were planning to buy. Romney said the women were packed into dormitories, 12 per room in bunk beds, and only earned a “pittance.”
Other small snippets of the fundraisers were uploaded to YouTube several weeks ago by a user with the pseudonym “Anne Onymous.”
The magazine Mother Jones obtained a complete video of the fundraiser, and posted several fuller clips from it on Monday afternoon. To protect its source, the magazine was not identifying the date or location of the event, but said it occurred after Romney had clinched the Republican nomination.
The video was shot from one of the tables at a fundraiser, with candles visible and clinking silverware in the background. Romney can be seen in the background, and his voice is heard clearly throughout the video.
At one point during the fundraiser, Romney said that although women are “open” to supporting his campaign, they were having a much harder time with Hispanic voters.
“If the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting block has in the past, why, we’re in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation,” Romney said.
When asked how they could help Romney, the candidate replied, “Frankly, what I need you to do is to raise millions of dollars.”
Romney said during the fundraiser that he wasn’t being harder in attacking Obama because his campaign thought doing so would alienate independent voters who voted for Obama in 2008.
“Those people that we have to get, they want to believe they did the right thing, but he just wasn’t up to the task,” Romney said. “They love the phrase that he’s ‘over his head.’ ”
“What he’s going to do, by the way, is try and vilify me as someone who’s been successful, or who’s, you know, closed businesses or laid people off, and is an evil bad guy,” Romney added. “And that may work.”
Romney also said that he didn’t think the election would be decided on substantive issues.
“We have a website that lays out white papers on a whole series of issues that I care about,” he said. “I have to tell you, I don’t think this will have a significant impact on my electability. I wish it did. I think our ads will have a much bigger impact. I think the debates will have a big impact.”
“In a setting like this, a highly intellectual subject—discussion on a whole series of important topics typically doesn’t win elections,” he added.

2012-09-17 "The Banker Who'd Cut Social Security and Medicare - and May Become Treasury Secretary"

[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/this-wall-street-banker-w_b_1892253.html]:
Pollsters keep telling us that the public wants action on jobs, a higher tax rate for millionaires, and protection for Social Security and Medicare. Our best economists keep reminding us that job creation should be government's top priority.
So why is the Administration talking about replacing Treasury Secretary Geither with a wealthy banker who wants to cut Social Security and Medicare, would lower taxes on his fellow rich people, and is trying to impose European-style job-destroying austerity on this country?

The Balloon -
There was some consternation when the Administration floated a trial balloon which was prominently picked up by the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, whose headline asked "Will Erskine Bowles be our next Treasury Secretary? [http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/10/will-erskine-bowles-be-our-next-treasury-secretary/]"
Klein wrote that "as of today, I'm ready to name a frontrunner, at least if Barack Obama is re-elected: Erskine Bowles." He also notes that Paul Ryan called Bowles "my favorite Democrat."
It's true that a Bowles nomination would, as Klein says, "ensure a smooth confirmation." So would the nomination of Grover Norquist. There are reasonable compromises to be made in the name of governance. And there are those that aren't.

The Candidate -
Paul Ryan's affection is understandable. And it's reciprocated. Bowles said of Ryan: "I think he's smart. I think he's intellectually curious. I think he is honest, straightforward and sincere."
Their mutual regard is perhaps reinforced by the fact that Bowles co-authored a "Ryan-lite" personal austerity proposal with conservative Republican Alan Simpson, a former Senator, which would cut Social Security and Medicare benefits while simultaneously lowering tax rates for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations.
Before entering public life Bowles was a banker with Morgan Stanley. He now serves on Morgan Stanley's board, and has done so through a series of that bank's legal issues. As Dean Baker notes [http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/cepr-blog/the-erskine-bowles-stock-index], Bowles was also on the General Motors Board "from June of 2005 until it went into bankruptcy in the spring of 2009," and "joined the board of Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street investment bank, near the peak of the housing bubble in December of 2005."
Bowles is also on the Board of Facebook, whose IPO has been the subject of controversy and scandal. (Baker offers a fun, interactive graph of the economic performance of the companies on whose boards Bowles has served. It isn't pretty.)

The Pitchman -
Bill Clinton, among others, has delivered one sales pitch after another for the Simpson/Bowles plan. He put one in his speech to the Democratic National Convention. I wonder if attendees understood what he was selling, or whether Democratic leaders noted that some of Clinton's best-received lines were these:
"Now, I think this plan is way better than Governor Romney's plan. First, the Romney plan failed the first test of fiscal responsibility. The numbers just don't add up. (Laughter, applause.)"
The Simpson/Bowles numbers don't add up, either -- partly because they offer various options and exchange them at will, and partly because they set target goals but never explain how they plan to achieve them. Clinton: "I mean, consider this. What would you do if you had this problem? Somebody says, oh, we've got a big debt problem. We've got to reduce the debt. So what's the first thing you say we're going to do? Well, to reduce the debt, we're going to have another $5 trillion in tax cuts heavily weighted to upper-income people. So we'll make the debt hole bigger before we start to get out of it."
The baseline Simpson/Bowles proposal reduces the tax rate for millionaires and billionaires, which is already at a historical low of 35 percent, to 27 percent. And it cuts the corporate tax rate, too.
"Now, when you say, what are you going to do about this $5 trillion you just added on? They say, oh, we'll make it up by eliminating loopholes in the tax code. So then you ask, well, which loopholes, and how much? You know what they say? See me about that after the election. (Laughter.) I'm not making it up. That's their position. See me about that after the election."
It is funny, until you realize that's Bowles' and Simpson's position too -- and that Bowles might be our next Treasury Secretary.

The Plan -
The Simpson/Bowles proposal is often marketed -- falsely -- as the product of their deadlocked and failed Presidential Deficit Commission. It claims to be "centrist" because it offers unspecified tax increases as well as cuts -- probably by decimating the middle class by eliminating tax deductions for employer health care, dependent children, and home mortgage interest. It also claims "bipartisanship" because Bowles the banker is also Democratic Party insider.
The "Simpson Bowles" austerity cuts to U.S. government spending closely resemble the cuts that have devastated the economies of Europe and Great Britain. Their plan would also cut Medicare and Social Security benefits -- while providing drastically lower tax rates for billionaires and millionaires.
When you look at it carefully, Simpson/Bowles only differs from the radical right-wing Republican budget in a few areas, the most important of which is this: While the Republican plan calls for no tax increases at all, the Simpson/Bowles plan says it would offset its billionaire tax cuts. But since they also lower tax rates for billionaires, millionaires and corporations, they're left to rely like Romney on unspecified loopholes, or "tax expenditures," which could eviscerate the tax deductions that help the middle class get health insurance and pay their mortgages.

The Voters -
Washington insiders scoff at anybody who dares question the sanctity of the "Simpson Bowles" concept. But once you leave Washington, that includes pretty much everybody. About 96 percent of the country's voters reject their emphasis on deficits as our top priority, according to recent polling. The same poll showed that 37 percent of those polled considered "the economy and jobs" their top priority. That's nearly ten times as many people.
That tracks closely with other poll results which showed that seventy percent of Americans were either "very uncomfortable" or "somewhat uncomfortable" with the Simpso/ Bowles plan when it was released.
Meanwhile polls show that Medicare is a key issue in three battleground states, with Paul Ryan's unpopular plan giving Democrats a decided edge on that issue. The selection of Bowles would damage that advantage if it was announced before the election, and would create a sense of betrayal if announced afterwards.
That particular form of right-wing wealth redistribution is what allows Simpson, Bowles, their funders and supporters to keep bragging that their plan is "brave." If they were really brave they'd admit that they're offering a right-wing austerity plan, not a "nonpartisan" solution to a long-term issue that's receiving attention that should be focused on today's jobs crisis.

The Job -
What does the Treasury Secretary do? She or he is, among other things, the country's Chief Financial Officer or CFO. (That makes the past performance of Bowles' companies more than just a game.) The Treasury Department website says that "The Secretary of the Treasury is the principal economic advisor to the President and plays a critical role in policy-making by bringing an economic and government financial policy perspective to issues facing the government ... (and) is responsible for formulating and recommending domestic and international financial, economic, and tax policy... the formulation of broad fiscal policies that have general significance for the economy, and managing the public debt."
The website adds: "The Chief Financial Officer of the government ... serves as Chairman Pro Tempore of the President's Economic Policy Council, Chairman of the Boards and Managing Trustee of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds" -- uh-oh! -- "and as U.S. Governor of the International Monetary Fund" as well as other multilateral institutions.
The Treasury Secretary also controls the Emergency Economic Stabilization Fund - better known as "TARP." Should a banker run TARP?
Among its many fines and violations, Morgan Stanley recently signed a Consent Order with the Federal Reserve regarding its "pattern of misconduct and negligence in residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing.""
If a national tragedy occurs, the Treasury Secretary of the United States is fifth in the line of Presidential succession.

"65 Years of Tax Cuts for the Wealthy Created Record 'Inequality' Not 'Prosperity,' says Report"

2012-09-17 "65 Years of Tax Cuts for the Wealthy Created Record 'Inequality' Not 'Prosperity,' says Report" by "Common Dreams"
[http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/09/17-4]:
 Members and supporters of Welfare Rights Committee stand in front of banner at 2010 "tax the rich" protest in Minnesota . (Fight Back! News/Kim DeFranco)

A new study [http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/PDF/0915taxesandeconomy.pdf] by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, which reviewed nearly 65 years of US tax policy and its impact on the overall economy, has found that though cutting the effective tax rate for the nation's wealthiest is a great way to increase undesireable economic inequality, it does not—as Republican rhetoric so frequently claims—do anything to boost employment or fuel economic growth.
The report, Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945, found that "the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution."
As TalkingPointsMemo's Sahil Kapur reports, the study's findings "are pertinent to a central debate in the presidential election, wherein President Obama is pushing to end the Bush-era tax cuts on high incomes, while his Republican challenger Mitt Romney insists on cutting rates across the board 20 percent below current policy."
"Democrats contrast the tax hikes of the 1990s and ensuing economic growth with the tax cuts of the 2000s and relatively meager gains that followed," writes Kapur, while GOP operatives "argue that the recovery is weak because the economy remains shackled by regulatory and tax burdens."
Pat Garofalo, at Think Progress, adds [http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/09/17/857861/study-tax-cuts-rich-no-growth/]:
[begin excerpt]
[The CRS report] jibes with other recent studies that show little relationship between the top tax rate and economic growth. A new analysis by Owen M. Zidar, a former staff economist on President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a graduate student at California-Berkeley, found that “a one percent of GDP tax cut for the bottom 90% results in 2.7 percentage points of GDP growth over a two-year period. The corresponding estimate for the top 10% is 0.13 percentage points and is insignificant statistically [http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/09/12/840641/tax-cuts-rich-economic-growth/].” GDP growth, business investment, and a host of other economic indicators were all stronger during the 1990s, after taxes were raised on the rich, than during the supply-side eras of Presidents George W. Bush and Reagan [http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/08/02/627731/charts-supply-side-growth/].
[end excerpt]

Friday, September 14, 2012

2012-09-14 "Protesters Interrupt Paul Ryan Speech: ‘Corporations Are Not People!’"

by Common Dreams [http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/09/14-8]:
As GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan gave a speech at the Value Voters Summit on Friday, two protesters consecutively interrupted the representative, yelling 'Corporations are not people!'
Both of the protesters were dragged out of the building by security.
"Corporations are not people!” the first protester yelled at the beginning of Ryan's speech.
The crowd began chanting "U.S.A., U.S.A." in response to the attempted interruption.

Moments later another protester broke out also yelling “Corporations are not people! Corporations are not people!” before being thrown out of the gathering.
“Thank you so much,” Ryan repeated in denial. “I appreciate your support. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.”
The Values Voter Summit is a yearly event organized by conservative groups, which "regularly push false and demeaning smears about gays and lesbians, Muslim-Americans and others," according to People for the American Way. "These groups also push extreme anti-woman policies, including defending Rep. Todd Akin after his "legitimate rape" comments."
Last week, a coalition of human rights groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), People for the American Way Foundation (PFAWF), the Human Rights Campaign, among others, urged Ryan and other elected officials not to speak at the yearly summit.
The Family Research Council and the American Family Association both co-sponsor the yearly summit and have been known for their extreme far-right positions.
“The Family Research Council and the American Family Association are not mainstream groups,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “The FRC frequently and falsely links homosexuality to pedophilia. The AFA has claimed that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust. Both have defended laws at home and abroad that criminalize homosexuality. These are not innocent differences of opinion; they are full-scale efforts to smear and denigrate LGBT Americans."
“What’s more, these groups back extreme anti-woman policies, and were among the first to jump to the defense of Rep. Todd Akin’s outrageous 'legitimate rape' comments," continued Keegan.
“By speaking at the Values Voter Summit, Paul Ryan sends a clear message: a Romney-Ryan administration has decided to embrace the entrenched bigotry advocated by the farthest of the far right.”