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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Christian Dominionist politicians creating conditions for a slow-coup to take over Federal courts

Learn more about "Right-Wing" Christians, Capitalism and Fascism [link]

"Why the Christian Right Believes It Has Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Impose Its Radical Worldview on America"
2013-11-26 by CJ Werleman from "AlterNet" [http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-christian-right-thinks-they-have-once-decade-opportunity-impose-their-radical-worldview]:
Elections have consequences. The Senate Democrats’ detonation of the “nuclear option” has dramatically raised the stakes for secular progressives in 2014, because if there are two issues that juice the Christian Right the most, it’s women’s reproductive rights and judicial activism. On the latter, the Religious Right senses a once-in-a-decade opportunity to impose its radical worldview on America.
Last week, the Senate voted 52-48 to eliminate the ability of the minority party in the Senate to filibuster executive branch nominees and any judgeship below the Supreme Court by changing the requirements for passage to a simple majority vote. It was a historic move made because there was no other alternative, given the GOP’s unprecedented abuse of the filibuster. In the history of the United States, 168 presidential nominees have been filibustered. Half occurred under all presidents from Washington through to Bush. Remarkably, the other half has taken place under just one president: Obama.
Why such aggressive judicial obstructionism by the GOP?
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. writes, “This era’s conservatives will use any means at their disposal to win control of the courts. Their goal is to do all they can to limit Congress’s ability to enact social reforms.” 
The Christian Right, which is the GOP’s most reliable and agitated voting bloc, is obsessed with the courts, and the Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit is the nation’s second most important judicial body, which is why Republicans “gave the game away when all but a few of them opposed Obama’s three most recent appointments.”
Now that Democrats were forced into limiting the filibuster, the Christian Right has its incentive to mobilize for 2014. A simple majority control of the Senate gives it an opportunity to pack the courts with judges straight out of the Justice Scalia mold, who once said that separation of church and state would come under scrutiny under a Supreme Court with a Scalia majority. If the Christian Right sweeps Republicans to control the Senate in next year’s midterms, the anti-secularists will take a big step forward toward their stated ideological goals.
The recent Values Voter Summit demonstrated that the likely 2016 GOP frontrunners have a base wish to transform America’s secular state into a tyrannical theocracy — a nirvana absent gays, liberals, immigrants, Muslims and science books. The right-wing media elites are already doing their bit to gin up the far right’s judicial activists with Rush Limbaugh comparing filibuster reform to rape.
Truth in Action Ministries recently released a film titled Freedom on Trial, which features Robert Bork, the failed Reagan Supreme Court nominee, Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, and Heritage Foundation vice president Genevieve Wood. The general theme of the documentary is that Christianity is under attack thanks to liberal "activist judges." Bork warns that courts are “teaching the people that religion is evil,” while another conservative attorney claims decisions that go against the Ten Commandments will “destroy the country.”
President Obama’s judicial nominees were being filibustered because they threaten to alter the circuit court’s philosophical balance. The Republican Party has again demonstrated that nullification and obstruction are ready-made weapons to ensure the courts remain dominated by conservatives.
Cass R. Sunstein, author of Radicals in Robes: Why Extreme Right-Wing Courts are Bad for America, writes, “Our courts now represents the most extreme elements of the Republican Party. These reformers include a number of federal judges—radicals in robes, fundamentalists on the bench….some of these judges do not hesitate to depart radically from longstanding understandings of constitutional meaning.” Political analyst James Fallows writes, “Add that to the simply unprecedented abuse of the filibuster in the years since the Democrats won control of the Senate and then took the White House, you have what we’d identify as a kind of long-term coup if we saw it happening anywhere else.”
The end of the filibuster threatens the far right’s stranglehold on our courts. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell warned, “The solution to this problem is at the ballot box. We look forward to having a great election in November 2014.” John McCain warned, “Democrats will regret this.”
For Republicans to take back the Senate, they’ll need to win six seats. Given Democrats will need to defend 21 seats, compared to just 14 for the GOP, and that seven of those 21 Democratic seats are in states that lean Republican, expect the Christian Right to be the party’s primary water carrier in the midterms.
Former Speaker Tip O’Neill liked to say that all politics is local. He was wrong. It’s tribal. The detonation of the nuclear option ensures the always-mobilized theological tribe will turn out in high numbers in 2014. This means America’s secular state will remain in the balance should the secular left tribe do no better than its impotency in 2010.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Christian Monopolists and Fascism

Learn more about Christian Dominionism [link]
* (2013-11) Christian Dominionist politicians creating conditions for a slow-coup to take over Federal courts [link]
* Five Christian Fascists campaigning for election to the Federal Congress (2014) [link]
* Christian Cultural Dominance, an examination [link]
* Dominionist Case Study: Venice United Methodist Church [link]

Predatory Christians hide behind their ideology of the "Prosperity Gospel" that claims the rich are most favored by "God", which is the foundation of Christian Dominionism. Predators do not feel guilt, or shame, and being a Christian Pastor does not change a predator...

"A disturbing look at the theological roots of Senator Ted Cruz: Christian Dominionism"
2013-10-01 by Morgan Guyton, Associate Pastor, Burke United Methodist Church, posted at "Huffington Post" [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/morgan-guyton/the-theology-of-governmen_b_4020537.html]:
On the eve of our government shutdown, I wanted to do some research into the theological roots of Senator Ted Cruz, the standard-bearer of the Tea Party Republicans behind the shutdown. I'm interested in understanding what account of Christianity creates the "no compromise" crusade that the Tea Party has become known for. It turns out that Ted's father, Rafael Cruz, is a pastor with Texas charismatic ministry Purifying Fire International [purifyingfire.org/ministries.htm] who has been campaigning against Obamacare the last several months. He has a distinct theological vision for what America is supposed to look like: Christian dominionism.
[ ... ] The theological ethos of Rafael Cruz's vision is in Christian dominionism; he talks about preaching a "message of dominion" that all Christians have received an "anointing as kings." I watched a sermon he preached on August 26, 2012 at the New Beginnings megachurch in Irving, Texas, led by Christian Zionist charismatic pastor Larry Huch [http://www.newbeginnings.org/]. Huch incidentally had a very interesting prophecy to share when he introduced Cruz to preach: [begin sermon excerpt]
We've been doing this series here that God laid on my heart: Getting to the top and staying there. A message for us as individuals, the kingdom of God, but also for America. It's not enough to get there. We need to stay there. It's not a coincidence that in a few weeks, we go into what's called in the Bible Rosh Hashanad ... It will be the beginning of the spiritual year 2012. The number 12 means divine government. That God will begin to rule and reign. Not Wall Street, not Washington, God's people and His kingdom will begin to rule and reign. I know that's why God got Rafael's son elected, Ted Cruz the next senator.
But here's the exciting thing... The rabbinical teaching is... that in a few weeks begins that year 2012 and that this will begin what we call the end-time transfer of wealth. And that when these Gentiles begin to receive this blessing, they will never go back financially through the valley again. They will grow and grow and grow. It's said this way: that God is looking at the church and everyone in it and deciding in the next three and a half years who will be his bankers. And the ones that say here I am Lord, you can trust me, we will become so blessed that we will usher in the coming of the messiah.
Priests were anointed primarily to minister the glory of God. They were anointed to pray for the people, to offer sacrifices, to care for the temple, to be God's representatives before the people... Kings were anointed to take dominion. Kings were anointed to go to war, win the war, and bring the spoils of war to priests so the work of the kingdom of God could be accomplished. The king needed the blessing of the priest in order to be successful in battle... The priest also needed for the king to be successful in battle because the priest needed the spoils of war in order to repair the temple, in order to carry out the ministry that God had entrusted him.
Our churches unfortunately are very focused on only one of these anointings and that is on the priestly anointing... Those of you who think you don't have the anointing to teach the word of God, to be teaching Sunday school, you're second class citizens. And so you begin to lead frustrated lives... The majority of you... your anointing... is an anointing as king. God has given you an anointing to go to the battlefield. And what's the battlefield? The marketplace. To go to the marketplace and occupy the land. To go to the marketplace and take dominion.
[end sermon excerpt]
[ ... ] So to pull all this logic together, God anoints priests to work in the church directly and kings to go out into the marketplace to conquer, plunder, and bring back the spoils to the church. The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian "kings" who will accomplish the "end time transfer of wealth." Then "God's bankers" will usher in the "coming of the messiah." The government is being shut down so that God's bankers can bring Jesus back.

"The Gospel of Selfishness in American Christianity: How the philosophers of selfishness came to use Christianity as their cover story"
2013-11-14 by Amanda Marcotte from "AlterNet" [http://www.alternet.org/belief/gospel-selfishness-american-christianity]:
Anyone who has worked in the restaurant business will be happy to tell you that waiters always fight each other to avoid working Sunday lunch shift. Not because they want to sleep in, but because it’s a widespread belief that the post-church crowd is loud, demanding and unwilling to tip appropriately. In the food service industry, “Christian” is synonymous with “selfish.”
Unfair stereotype? Probably. Big groups, regardless of affiliation, tend to tip poorly. More to the point, waiters probably remember the bad Christian tippers more because the hypocrisy is so stunning. The image of a man piously preening about what a good Christian he is in church only to turn around and refuse the basic act of decency that is paying someone what you owe them perfectly symbolizes a lurking suspicion in American culture that the harder someone thumps the Bible, the more selfish and downright sadistic a person he is. And that perception—that showy piety generally goes hand in hand with very un-Christ-like behavior—is not an urban myth at all. On the contrary, it’s the daily reality of American culture and politics.
Bill Maher recently had a rant on his show that went viral addressing this very issue, bad tippers who leave sermons or notes scolding waiters instead of paying them what they’re owed. His larger point is a much more important one: It’s absolutely disgusting how the politicians who make the biggest show of how much they love Jesus would be the first in line to bash him if he returned with a message of clothing the naked and feeding the poor. The Jesus of the Bible multiplied the loaves and fishes. His loudest followers these day gripe about feeding people, claiming it creates a “culture of dependency.” They may even comb through the Bible to take quotes out of context to justify their selfishness toward the poor, as Rep. Steven Fincher did [http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/09/05/fincher_governmnet_printing_press.html] when he claimed the Bible says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” The fact that those jobs are unavailable didn’t give him a moment’s pause when suggesting this very un-Christ-like plan to his fellow Americans.
There are plenty of progressive Christians who genuinely try to live out Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself, described in the Bible as the root of Jesus’ entire philosophy. That said, statistics bear out the sense that people who are more invested in being perceived as pious also embrace the most selfish policies. Self-identified conservatives and Republicans claim go to church regularly at twice the rate of self-identified liberals [http://www.gallup.com/poll/141044/americans-church-attendance-inches-2010.aspx]. People who go to church more than once a week are far more conservative than the rest of the population [http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-06-02-religion-gap_x.htm]. Indeed, the research suggests how often you report being in the pews is the most reliable indicator of how you’re going to vote. (Though it may not be a reliable indicator of how often you actually go to church. In the grand tradition of showy piety, people who claim to be avid church-goers often lie about it to pollsters [http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_hidden_brain/2010/12/walking_santa_talking_christ.html].)
The attempts to reconcile the correlation between displays of piety and support for selfish policies get complex on the right, with conservatives often arguing that hating your neighbor at the voting booth doesn’t count because church charities supposedly make up for it. (They don’t [http://news.yahoo.com/snap-cuts-hit-today-food-banks-cant-difference-193917999.html].) In reality, the relationship between Christian piety and support for selfish policies is fairly straightforward. It’s not that being Christian makes you conservative. It’s that being conservative makes being a loud and pious Christian extremely attractive.
Without Christianity, the underlying mean-spiritedness of conservative policies is simply easier to spot. Without religion, you’re stuck making libertarian-style arguments that sound like things cackling movie villains would say, like Ayn Rand saying civilization should reject “the morality of altruism.” Since Christianity teaches altruism and generosity, it provides excellent cover for people who want to be selfish, a sheep’s clothing made of Jesus to cover up the child-starving wolf beneath. Since Christians are “supposed” to be good people, people who really aren’t good are lining up to borrow that reputation to advance their agenda.
The fact that conservatism causes obnoxious Christian piety in American culture is most obvious when looking at some of the theological developments that have accrued since the philosophers of selfishness decided to use Christianity as their cover story. The “prosperity gospel” that has developed in recent years is a classic example.
The prosperity gospel teaches, to be blunt, that you can tell how much God favors you by how rich you are [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/opinions/outlook/worst-ideas/prosperity-gospel.html]. While some on the Christian right reject this idea as a tad crude, it’s still wildly popular and its adherents, like Oral Roberts, are some of the major architects and organizers for the Christian right. It’s a perfect example of how conservative ideology leads to pious Christianity. People want to believe that the rich are better than everyone else and the poor don’t deserve squat, so they find a way to blame God for it rather than own their own greed and selfishness.
Pope Francis may be entirely sincere when he says he wants Catholic clergy to deemphasize the right-wing political pandering in favor of highlighting values that are more in line with liberalism, such as compassion and generosity to the poor, but the odds are slim of this message making inroads with church leaders in the United States. The church needs conservatives who need to believe they’re good and holy people despite their selfish beliefs. Without them, who will show up and tithe? Liberals? Most of them are sleeping in on Sundays, secure that their commitment to social justice makes them good people regardless of how visibly pious they are.
The fact of the matter is that the purposes religion serves in America are shrinking in number. Our cultural identity is increasingly shaped by pop culture, not faith or ethnic identity. Our holidays are more about shopping and having a chance to catch up with far-flung family these days, not showing devotion to a deity. Spiritual needs are often addressed through modern means like psychotherapy and self-help. People build communities through hobbies and interests more than through faith communities bound by geography, ethnicity and family.
Increasingly, the only thing religion has left to justify itself is that it provides cover for people who want to have bigoted, selfish beliefs but want to believe they are good people anyway. As these social trends continue, we can expect the alignment between public piety and grotesquely selfish political beliefs to get worse, not better.

Why fascist Christians endorse war and the murder of millions of civilians, even Christians of other sects:
Originally posted by Gill to “Without Religion” page at Facebook.com as a mobile upload [https://www.facebook.com/pages/Without-Religion/134712950033206] [www.facebook.com/134712950033206/photos/a.200161846821649.1073741826.134712950033206/253600691477764/?type=1]:
He posted this on his own page as his status. He didn't count on my friend Martin screenshotting before he banned him. He quickly deleted the status after realising how awful he just showed himself to be. That's why this image needs to be shared as much as possible. He has denied it. Saying he would never say such a thing. Therefore he's now saying if god told him to kill his children he would go against his will. Making Ray Comfort a hypocrite. He would go against the instructions of the god he preaches about so passionately lol. As I have spread this screenshot around, many atheists have contacted Ray Comfort. He typically denied he said this. Strangely enough the page he used to deny it, is the same page the original child rapist status came from. So it is not a fake. It's his genuine page. The one I've even spoken to him on before. This will not end here, this image needs to keep being shared in as many places as possible. Everyone needs to see what this scumbag and many theists like him are capable of. Religion is very obviously dangerous. ~Gill

War against Dissent by private clandestine services

"Corporate Espionage and the Secret War Against Citizen Activism: From infiltration to spying to mass hacking, new report exposes corporate espionage against social justice organizations"
2013-11-21 by Sarah Lazare from "Common Dreams" [https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/11/21-3‎]:
Walmart is one of many corporations confirmed to have conducted espionage against non-profit organizations (Photo: Reuters)

A chilling report released Wednesday unveils the well-funded and shadowy world of corporate espionage of social justice organizations, through infiltration, intrusion, spying, wiretaps and more.
According to the study by the Center for Corporate Policy—a project of the Ralph Nader-affiliated Essential Action, today's 'Pinkerton Thugs' are staffed by former law enforcement, CIA, NSA, FBI and military employees, funded by some of the biggest-name corporations in the world, and backed by highly-secretive investigative firms that operate as spy agencies for the private sector.
Titled Spooky Business [http://www.corporatepolicy.org/spookybusiness.pdf], the 53-page study pieces together nearly 20 years of information exposing this hidden wing of the private sector, which its author Gary Ruskin says "is just the tip of the iceberg." While targets run the gamut, from anti-war to workers' rights groups to environmental organizations, they appear to have one thing in common: they are perceived as a threat to the corporate bottom-line.
"The key finding of the report is that corporations are conducting espionage against nonprofit organizations," said Ruskin in an interview with Common Dreams. "This is entirely veiled in secrecy and is a threat to an active citizenry, democracy, and the right to privacy."
Numerous case studies show that multinational corporations, trade associations and big banks have attempted to or actively conducted acts of espionage. This includes (but is not limited to) the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON.
A report summary states [http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/11/21-2], "The most prevalent tactic appears to be infiltration by posing a volunteer or journalist, to obtain information from a nonprofit. But corporations have been linked to many other human, physical and electronic espionage tactics against nonprofits."
Numerous case studies provide snapshots of corporate espionage:
* Throughout the 1990s, Greenpeace organized a campaign against chlorine use in the manufacturing of paper. In response, Dow hired private firms that dug through Greenpeace's trash and recycling to access internal documents; posed as volunteers to spy on the office; conducted wiretap surveillance of the Greenpeace office; and stole confidential information from the organization.
* In 2010, journalist Mary Cuddehe revealed that the private investigative firm Kroll had attempted to recruit her to pose as a journalist while actually spying for Chevron in Ecuador. At the time, the massive oil company was fighting a multi-billion dollar fine for an oil spill around oil around Lago Agrio, Ecuador.
* In 2006, Walmart sent an employee to infiltrate and secretly wire a meeting of Up Against the Wal in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
* In 2011, French utility Électricité de France was charged $2 million for hacking into the computer network of the French Greenpeace chapter.

Ruskin says that the fragmentary evidence available suggests that over the past two decades, there has been an escalation of corporate espionage. "Yet the entire subject is still largely hidden by corporations and subcontractors," he said. "You can talk about the tip of the iceberg, but what's happening in the iceberg itself is a lot harder to say."
Yet, intelligence experts suggest the world of corporate espionage is vast. "The private sector has virtually all the same techniques as the government,” said Jack Devine, a 32-year veteran of the CIA, and former acting director of its foreign operations, interviewed for the report.
"It's wrong that corporations can spy with near impunity," said Ruskin. "People don't lose right to privacy because they disagree with policies of corporations."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fascist Democrat Party legislator in the State of Hawaii begins campaign to physically assault Homeless people

"State Rep. Uses Sledgehammer To Destroy Homeless People’s Possessions"
2013-11-19 by Scott Keyes [http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/11/19/2966371/hawaii-homeless-smash/]:
Much like Batkid, Hawaii has found its own superhero. Except that instead of protecting the powerless from harm, he roams the streets with a sledgehammer and looks for homeless people in order to literally smash their possessions.
Remarkably, this vigilante isn’t just some random Hawaiian, but five-term State Rep. Tom Brower (D).
Noting that he’s “disgusted” with homeless people, Brower told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about his own personal brand of “justice”: “If I see shopping carts that I can’t identify, I will destroy them so they can’t be pushed on the streets.” Brower has waged this campaign for two weeks, estimating that he’s smashed about 30 shopping carts in the process.
“I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets,” he explained to Hawaii News Now as he showed off his property destruction skills while sporting an Armani Exchange hat [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pf31XDSSx74]:
Uncontent to just destroy homeless people’s items, Brower is also on a mission to wake those he finds sleeping and tell them to sleep somewhere else. “If someone is sleeping at night on the bus stop, I don’t do anything, but if they are sleeping during the day, I’ll walk up and say, ‘Get your ass moving,’” he said.
It’s no stretch to assume that if Brower were found roaming middle-class neighborhoods and smashing items in people’s homes, he would find himself both out of office and behind bars. But segments of society view homeless people as less important and undeserving of the dignity of having their possessions kept safe.
One homeless person in Honolulu, Edward Ferreira, witnessed Brower in action. “To see someone banging on stuff like that, it was very scary for me,” he told Hawaii News Now.
Without a home, homeless people often have nowhere to store their possessions. A shopping cart can be very useful in both its storage space and mobility. Some localities, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and others have tried to address this problem by offering free storage space to homeless people.
Hawaii, on the other hand, is garnering a reputation for a less-than-compassionate approach to its homeless population, and it’s not just because of Brower. It’s got the highest rate of homelessness in the country, but rather than build more shelters or offer more services for the poor, lawmakers approved $100,000 over the next two years to offer one-way flights off the islands to any of the state’s estimated 17,000 homeless persons.

"Lawmaker hammers home his homeless solution" 
2013-11-18 by Jim Mendoza [http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/24003737/lawmaker-hammers-home-his-homeless-solution]:
WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) -
State Rep. Tom Brower has taken a sledgehammer and a novel approach to Hawaii's homeless problem.
"I got tired of telling people I'm trying to pass laws. I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets," he said.
In his spare time he scours streets and parks in his district, looking for shopping carts homeless use to store and move their belongings. He returns good ones to stores and destroys others with his sledgehammer.
"I find abandoned junk, specifically shopping carts, and I remove them. I also create a situation where those carts can't be pushed around the city. I think it's a good thing," he said.
The executive director of Mental Health America of Hawaii thinks otherwise.
"His message to the public is that it's okay to commit acts of violence against homeless people, against vulnerable people. It's okay for vigilante justice," Marya Grambs said.
Others call Brower's method extreme and potentially dangerous.
"There are some people who are not that stable and maybe drug-affected that could really react to him," said Connie Mitchell of the Institute for Human Services.
But Waikiki Neighborhood Board chairman Robert Finley thinks Brower's actions may spur merchants who've lost shopping carts to do something about it.
"It might get these owners to say, 'Hey! This has got to stop, and I'm going to start filing police complaints,'" he said.
When Hawaii News Now followed Brower through Ala Moana Brach Park, we saw him try to explain to a homeless man why he was destroying a cart "To see someone banging on stuff like that, it was very scary for me," Edward Ferreira said.
"I don't want to be threatening to anybody," Brower said. "I think it's threatening to steal things and then walk around with them like it's their own."
Brower said he has yet to take a cart from a homeless person who's pushing it, but that may be coming. He supports other efforts to remove abandoned property. The sledgehammer approach is his way of pitching in.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dept. of Defense fradulantly gives away money with no oversight

"Unaccounted Pentagon money 'gone into contractors pockets'"

2013-11-19 from "Press TV" [http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/11/19/335511/pentagon-money-is-in-contractors-pockets/]:

Former Pentagon official Michael Maloof says the unaccounted $8.5-trillion-dollar money by the US Department of Defense has gone into “the pockets of contractors.”
“The money has evaporated or it’s gone into the pockets of contractors,” Maloof said in a phone interview with Press TV on Tuesday.
“A lot of money of course went to wars and each of which cost 2 to 3 trillion by themselves and then when you do so-called reconstruction, the pay-offs that go on down the line, all that is off the table and it’s never accounted for. It’s off the books,” he added.
A new investigation revealed that the US Department of Defense has failed to account for $8.5 trillion dollars of taxpayer money Congress has allocated toward the Pentagon since 1996.
The report by Reuters found that military agencies failed to supply a clear monthly account of the money they spent.
“I think eight trillion is probably conservative,” Maloof said. “The amount of waste is just horrendous. It’s incalculable in many respects and you never see a true figure.”
The former Pentagon official said the new finding would have a long-term impact on the Pentagon.
“It’s also having a long-term impact on what our readiness is going to be for any potential, other conflicts, hopefully that won’t be any more for a very very long time,” he said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to comment for the Reuters’ article.
In an August message to the Defense Department, Hagel said: “The Department of Defense is the only federal agency that has not produced audit-ready financial statements, which are required by law. That's unacceptable.”

"Pentagon forged financial documents amid failure to manage budget – investigation"
2013-11-18 from "Russia Today" [http://rt.com/usa/pentagon-numbers-doctored-treasury-922/]:
A new report has revealed the Pentagon to be fundamentally incapable of managing its own books, with money and supplies unaccounted for and doctored ledgers masking billions of dollars of wasted spending.
 An investigation by Reuters found that since 1996, the $8.5 trillion dollars of taxpayer money that Congress has allocated towards the US Department of Defense has never been accounted for.
 According to those responsible for inserting the numbers into the books at the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), military agencies failed to supply a clear monthly account of the money they spent. In a flurry of activity, DFAS would contact the appropriate personnel in order to record accurate data, but many numbers remained a mystery.
 At this point, employees would be ordered to enter fake numbers, or “plugs,” that would match up accordingly with what the Treasury department expected to see.
“A lot of times there were issues of numbers being inaccurate," said former DFAS employee Linda Woodford to Reuters. "We didn't have the detail...for a lot of it."
 While plugging the books was standard procedure at DFAS, Reuters’ investigation determined that of the $565 billion Congress budgeted for the Pentagon in 2012, it is “impossible to determine” how much of that money was spent the way it was intended to be.
 The Pentagon’s inability to track its own needs has resulted in the purchase of unnecessary supplies and the storage of other items far past their expiration date. More than half a trillion dollars in unaudited contracts with private companies have been collected - and how much of that money has resulted in delivered goods and services remains unclear.
 It’s not just the nation’s budgets that suffer from these failures, though. Between 2003 and 2011, the Army lost track of nearly $6 billion in supplies, the end result being that some units failed to receive the equipment necessary for proper training regimens. According to a 2012 report by the Pentagon inspector general, these units “may experience equipment shortages that could hinder their ability to train soldiers and respond to emergencies.”
 Since the Department of Defense is the only federal agency that has yet to submit its records for proper auditing, Congress passed legislation in 2009 that required it to be ready to do so by 2017. Part of the books are scheduled for audits in 2014, but due to the agency’s reliance on thousands of different accounting systems – many of which were developed back in the 1970s – it is expected to miss the deadlines.
"There are thousands and thousands of systems," former Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England said to Reuters. "I'm not sure anybody knows how many systems there are."
"It's like if every electrical socket in the Pentagon had a different shape and voltage," added an unnamed former defense official.
 The Pentagon’s problems are compounded by the fact that it has spent tens of billions of dollars trying to upgrade its systems with little to show for it. The Air Force began implementing a new, billion-dollar tracking system in 2005 only to find it inoperable during test runs in 2012. A statement released by the Air Force said an additional $1.1 billion would be necessary to get the program up and running by 2020.
 Similar situations occurred in other departments, where many of the new systems either failed to work properly or were simply scrapped altogether.
 Although Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would not comment on the situation, in August 2013 he released a video to the Pentagon in which he said, “The Department of Defense is the only federal agency that has not produced audit-ready financial statements, which are required by law. That's unacceptable."
 Some lawmakers have also begun to lose patience. Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have introduced legislation that would limit funding for new programs and prohibit the purchase of new information technology if the Pentagon is not ready for audits by 2017. It would also bar the Defense Department from acquiring new IT which takes more than three years to implement.
"The Pentagon can't manage what it can't measure, and Congress can't effectively perform its constitutional oversight role if it doesn't know how the Pentagon is spending taxpayer dollars," Coburn said in an email response to Reuters. "Until the Pentagon produces a viable financial audit, it won't be able to effectively prioritize its spending, and it will continue to violate the Constitution and put our national security at risk."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Private companies using Public Schools to, literally, "dumb down" the workforce

"America's dumbest idea: creating a multiple-choice test generation; Standardized testing means more rote memorization and less time for creativity. Students aren't prepared for college and life" 
2013-11-12 by Erika L Sánchez from "theguardian.com" [http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/12/schools-standardized-testing-fail-students]:
A few years ago, I met with my former high school social studies teacher to catch up over drinks. "Miss F" was one of my favorite teachers and we hadn't seen each other in about 12 years. As we reminisced about our field trips, my other classmates, and my hilariously unfortunate fashion choices, she revealed to me that she and many of my former high school teachers refer to that time as "the golden era". I was shocked. How could it be that the school district had become worse since I graduated?
My high school, which is located in a working class Latino suburb bordering Chicago, was overpopulated, underfunded, and in my opinion, incredibly stifling. Needless to say, I resented going there. I felt we were disenfranchised and were not given the same opportunities that affluent schools provided their students.
I should have realized how lucky I really was when I was in college, however. Unlike many of my classmates, I cranked out papers with little difficulty because I knew how to synthesize information and formulate an argument. Writing a thesis statement was a freaking breeze. But at the time I had no idea that these skills were a luxury.
It wasn't until I reunited with my teacher that I realized I actually received a decent education compared to many students today. I had several talented and passionate teachers who had not been entirely bogged down by a bunch of inane educational requirements. No Child Left Behind hadn't completely ruined our already failing education system. My teachers taught me how to analyze and question texts and write thesis statements. I was taught the symbolism of the Mississippi River in Huckleberry Finn. I was taken on after school field trips to movies, poetry readings, and plays. Some of them even encouraged me to question authority. If it weren't for some of these teachers, I never would have become a writer.
But that has all changed now. According to my teacher, budget cuts have made field trips nearly impossible. Not only that, teachers are now so bogged down by administrative nonsense and standardized testing requirements, that it's very difficult to teach children anything but the rote memorization of information. I hear complaints like these all the time from my friends and family members who are teachers. While they are passionate about what they do, they are not given the agency or resources to flourish and engage their students in higher levels of discourse.
One of my family members is a teacher at our former high school and he is frequently exasperated by the efforts devoted to standardized testing. He says: "With so much riding on these exams, schools try to get kids enthused by even having test pep-rallies, assemblies, and programs to promote test-taking strategies and to underscore the tests' importance. This is how the love of learning is being cultivated? This is how we encourage intellectual curiosity?"
No Child Left Behind, which was passed in 2001, mandated that states use test scores to determine whether schools were succeeding or failing. Unfortunately, this emphasis on testing had dire consequences. Even initial supporters, such as Diane Ravitch, an education historian and former assistant secretary of education in George Bush senior's administration, realized how detrimental these measures were. She wrote in a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed [http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704869304575109443305343962]: "Accountability turned into a nightmare for American schools, producing graduates who were drilled regularly on the basic skills but were often ignorant about almost everything else … This was not my vision of good education."
And Ravitch doesn't believe that Common Core is the solution to this crisis in education either. Now all states must adopt Common Core or similar standards approved by state higher education officials if they want to receive federal waivers from No Child Left Behind. Ravitch feels that these new standards are being imposed on children with little evidence of how they will affect students, teachers, or schools [http://dianeravitch.net/2013/02/26/why-i-cannot-support-the-common-core-standards/].
"I only see it getting worse", says one of my friends, a fourth grade teacher in Chicago. "Common Core standards have been added to our Illinois testing now, which are much, much more challenging standards. This means learning a whole new test for the teachers and students." Not only are these requirements causing a lot of stress, she says that the materials for the tests are also very expensive. A report from Truthout has outlined Common Core's various corporate connections [http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/18442-flow-chart-exposes-common-cores-myriad-corporate-connections]. Clearly the objective is profit, not a rigorous and nuanced education that will benefit students in the long run.
Why does our education system insist on these kinds of methods when they're clearly not working? Why not emulate Finland, a country with no standardized tests and whose teachers assign less homework and encourage creativity? Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world in the last few years [http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/].
Whether it be No Child Left Behind or Common Core, the problem lies in manufactured learning. In teaching English at the university level, I have noticed that students are often ill prepared for the demands of higher education. Students who are used to multiple choice tests lack the skills and the confidence to formulate their own complex opinions and interpretations. It is irresponsible to have these students graduate without the proper skills to succeed.
Rigid curriculums that focus on right and wrong answers teach children to see the world in binaries. These methods don't encourage creativity or innovation. I fear that our deeply flawed education system will produce generations of people who lack critical thinking skills. How can students be expected to become highly skilled or passionate about anything when they're asked to simply regurgitate information? What kind of choices will they make in their adult lives when they have never been taught how to look at the nuances and complexities of situations? Who will have the tools to question authority? Who will question the status quo? How will we compete with other countries when our younger generations have not been encouraged to develop their inquisitiveness and engage with the world?
I fear that our system is failing children by encouraging them to be mindless consumers. High tests scores do not make someone well-educated or well-rounded and memorizing facts does not equal intelligence. Public education should not be a commodity, but a foundation for children to at least have the possibility of succeeding in the world.

Private CEOs’ exorbitant salaries paid for by the Taxpayers

"Excessive CEO Pay Subsidized by American Taxpayers; Highest-Earning CEOs Get Tax-Deductible Compensation Thanks to Loophole, Public Citizen Report Shows"   
2013-11-12 from "Public Citizen" [http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/11/12-3]:
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.
The report is available at [http://www.citizen.org/ceo-pay-tax-loophole-report].
Tax loopholes that enable corporations to deduct CEO pay in excess of $1 million could be costing American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a report released today by Public Citizen.    
In 2012, the 20 highest paid CEOs were paid base salaries totaling $28 million but received performance-based compensation totaling $738 million, Public Citizen discovered. For executive pay above $1 million, publicly traded companies may deduct only that which is based on performance or other incentives. If these companies paid the statutory 35 percent corporate income tax rate, their use of the performance-based compensation loophole for just those 20 CEOs cost American taxpayers $235 million.    
“Especially during a long-term recession giving rise to major cuts in public services, and after American taxpayers bailed out Wall Street to the tune of trillions of dollars, it’s unconscionable that we continue to subsidize CEOs’ exorbitant salaries,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.    
In 1993, when the CEO-to-median worker pay ratio was about 200-to-1, section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code was amended to limit publicly traded corporations from deducting more than $1 million in compensation. However, this amendment included a loophole that allowed corporations to continue to deduct certain types of executive pay. This loophole exempted compensation that is “payable solely on account of the attainment of one or more performance goals.”    
After these changes took effect, corporations increased the use of performance-based pay, which remained tax deductible beyond the $1 million limit, assuming certain conditions are met.    
Worse still, “performance-based” incentives sometimes only require achievement of routine goals or are arbitrary. For example, Robert A. Kotick, the CEO of Blizzard Activision Inc., could collect a cash bonus equal to 200 percent of his base salary if the company achieved only 75 percent of its target operating income.    
There is a clear solution. Public Citizen urges Congress to pass S. 1476, the Stop Subsidizing Multi-Million Dollar Corporate Bonuses Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). This bill would eliminate the tax exemption of commission-based pay, expand the universe of companies are covered by the provisions of 162(m), and – most important – eliminate the performance-based compensation exemption to the $1 million deductibility cap.    

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Defend the School Bus 5! (Boston)

Nov 9 Solidarity Day 
Hands Off the School Bus Union 5!ALL OUT! NOV. 9 SOLIDARITY DAY with BOSTON SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS – VEOLIA HAS FIRED TWO MORE UNION LEADERS – Recording Secretary Andre Francois and 3 time President Garry Murchison — AS WELL AS UNJUSTLY DISCIPLINING 864 OTHER DRIVERS

Gather at corner of Dorchester Ave. & Hoyt St. – Outside Veolia Corporation
Labor and the Community: Let’s Unite to drive Union Busting Out of Boston!
Join “Solidarity Day” with the “Boston School Bus Union 5” and Local 8751
Can’t come to Boston? Plan a solidarity action at a Veolia operation near you, and email your plans to [schoolbus5@teamsolidarity.org].
Send a solidarity letter on your organization’s stationery to [schoolbus5@teamsolidarity.org].
 For nearly 40 years, the Boston School Bus Drivers, hard working women and men from our communities , have proudly provided safe, on time, professional service to the students and parents. They are parents and grandparents of students themselves.  The overwhelming majority are from Boston’s communities of color, African American, Latin@ and immigrants from Haiti, Cape Verde and Vietnam.  This Union worked hard against Company/City racism and to assure that the workforce reflects the diversity of Boston. USW Local 8751 has an exemplary record of fighting and winning some of the best wages, benefits, and dignified working conditions for its members, as well as providing rock solid advocacy.
Equally important is the fact that throughout it’s over 38 year history Local 8751 has stood in solidarity with Labor and Community struggles for Justice throughout the City, the region, the nation and the globe.  They have marched, rallied, picketed in support of NYC School bus workers, Verizon telephone workers, postal workers, Teamster dispatchers, Union Painters, Columbian Coke-a-Cola workers, and in virtually every labor struggle of import since the union’s formation. They aided workers to organize into unions from Eastern Bus to Boston taxi drivers and Hotel workers.  From day one, the union has fought alongside the community for Equal, Quality Education and against efforts to re-segregate the schools. The bus drivers stood firm in fighting against school closings and cutbacks and for Safety for the Children.  The Union busters think they can destroy this union.  WE WON’T LET THEM!
On June 18, 2013 Veolia, a global corporate giant known for anti-people, anti-union practices, signed an agreement to honor USW 8751’s contract. Since July 1, they have illegally violated nearly every section and sought to overturn 35 years of collective bargaining progress. There are massive and chronic payroll shortages; overcrowded and untimely routes which sacrifice safe, on time transportation; across the board failure to provide correct benefits; and a general refusal to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract. Nearly 100 individual and class action grievances have been filed. In early September, the Union filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board.  Still this arrogant company refused to honor the contract.
On Oct 8, the drivers reported to work and requested a meeting with Veolia to demand that Veolia honor their contract. This was a protected, unfair labor practice activity.  Despite the fact that Veolia’s top brass and the top officers of BPS were in the yards from 4:30 AM on, the company refused.  Instead, at 11:00 am Veolia initiated an illegal Lock Out of the drivers, a violation of the contract and federal law. There never was a wild-cat strike on Oct 8, nor any threat of one since.  The fear mongering, phony panic forced upon Boston’s parents, orchestrated by the Mayor and BPS, is irresponsible and designed to drive a wedge between the union and the community.  They will fail.
On Oct. 9, Veolia suspended Vice President, Pension Administrator and key benefits advocate Steven Gillis and Chair of the Grievance Committee and local founder Stevan Kirschbaum.  Within days, they also suspended Recording Secretary and Chief Steward Andre Francois; 3 time former Local President and Steward Garry Murchison; and Steward and Local founding member Richard Lynch.  The discriminatory targeting of these particular leaders represents a calculated effort on the part of Veolia and Mayor Menino to break the organizational backbone and infrastructure of the union.  On November 1, Gillis and Kirschbaum were fired.
For decades this union has stood with us, Labor and the Community.  Now it is time for us to stand with them!  An Injury to One is and Injury to all!
* All out for Solidarity Day Nov. 9th.
* Say NO to Veolia/City Union busting. 
* Hands off the 5!
* Reinstate Gillis and Kirschbaum immediately!
Go to bostonschoolbus5.org for updates and information.
For more information: [tinyurl.com/kyo9hys]

How you can support the Boston School Bus Union 5:
1. Contact: Veolia General Manager Alex Roman III: 617-780-4840; alexander.roman@veoliatransdev.com
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino: 617.635.4500, mayor@cityofboston.gov, Fax 617.635.2851
and John McDonough, Interim Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools 617-635-9050, superintendent@bostonpublicschools.org, fax 617-635-9059.
Tell them “Honor the School Bus Drivers Contract! Hand off Local 8751 leaders!” Send copies to the Committee to Defend the School Bus Union 5  at schoolbus5@teamsolidarity.org
2. Hold a solidarity activity, if possible at a Veolia location near you, or. Come to the Boston SOLIDARITY DAY Rally outside Veolia’s corporate offices on November 9, 1 PM, Dorchester Ave and Hoyt St., Dorchester, MA
3. Send solidarity letters and resolutions to the Committee to Defend the School Bus Union 5 at [schoolbus5@teamsolidarity.org].
4. Send your endorsement of the Committee to Defend the School Bus Union 5 to [schoolbus5@teamsolidarity.org].
5.  Donate to the support fund. (account being set up.. Go to bostonschoolbus5.org or find Team Solidarity on facebook at [tinyurl.com/d5tntcg] for more info)

National Day of Solidarity on Saturday, Nov. 9th
Call to action from the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal [www.laboractionmumia.org]:
* Defend Fired Unionists Who Supported Mumia!
* All Out! Defend Fired Unionists Who Supported Mumia!
* Hands Off the School Bus Union 5!
* An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!
The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal urges you to come out to defend union school bus drivers who were fired by a union-busting transnational corporation for legally protesting unfair labor practices in Boston.
These firings took place on the very day (November 1st) of a scheduled showing of the documentary, "Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary," which the school bus drivers' union had helped to organize and promote!
A National Day of Solidarity with the five fired (one suspended) drivers, and with all Boston school bus drivers, has been organized for this Saturday, the 9th of November 2013. Protests are being held at offices of Veolia, the corporation responsible for these union-busting attacks.
* Boston action [https://www.facebook.com/pages/Team-Solidarity-the-Voice-of-United-School-Bus-Union-Workers/300080180003514]
* Oakland action: [https://www.facebook.com/events/418384614951137/]
Comment from Tova Fry of Richmond, CA: Two more of the five were fired today, totaling four fired and one suspended! All out Saturday, 11/9, at 3pm at Veolia's 1720 Broadway, Oakland office to support the Boston School Bus 5 National Day of solidarity with the five and all the Boston school bus drivers. See below for one small example of how this union organizes solidarity.

"Boston Strong?"
2013-11-06 by Stephen Vittoria [http://www.mumia-themovie.com/blog.html]:
"Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary" Director Stephen Vittoria comments on Boston premiere and School Bus 5
Rather than stand behind the dedicated men and women of Steelworkers Local 8751 – the Boston School Bus Drivers Union – the Mayor of Boston, along with the notorious transnational union-busting corporation Veolia, helped to orchestrate the demolition of union leadership, further weakening the rights of rank and file members. It was union busting at its worst and it’s become an all-too common practice in America as we watch corporations line up at their gluttonous trough while unions suffer.
In early October when drivers participated in a legal protest of Veolia’s unjust labor practices, Veolia illegally reached out to the Boston cops who were more than happy to forcibly remove the drivers. Veolia then illegally locked the gates to the bus holding lot and refused to allow the drivers back to work. Veolia and their partner in crime, Mayor Thomas Menino, then zeroed in on the five union leaders for termination. (The same Thomas Menino who when asked how he would handle the situation in Detroit said he would blow up the city and start over. Boston strong, eh?)
In a show of solidarity, union workers throughout Boston (and throughout the U.S., Latin America, South America, and elsewhere) have stepped up to support their brothers and sisters as they fight another corrupt machine for their rights.
On Friday, November 1, “Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary” was scheduled to screen in Boston. The Boston premiere of the film at Hibernian Hall was organized and sponsored by the Boston School Bus Union and the Women’s Fightback Network. At 10am that morning, the leadership of the union was fired by Veolia.
This was the environment and atmosphere that surrounded the film’s premiere. Some folks may have folded but not these courageous people. Instead of wallowing in the fact that they were under attack, their livelihood in jeopardy, the five leaders – backed by the solidarity of the rank and file – used the evening and the remarkable story of Mumia Abu-Jamal as a rallying point. They embraced Mumia’s struggle as their own – and in fact it is. The fight for justice – be it legal justice, rights in the workplace, education, healthcare, fair housing, and so forth is all the same struggle against corruption, oppression, and the chains of capitalism.
Late that evening after the Boston premiere, I received an email from Steve Gillis, one of the organizers (and now one of the School Bus Union 5) and he reported that three hundred people packed the hall and celebrated the life and revolutionary times of Mumia. In part, his email reported:
“You should know that your film reached deep into Boston's most oppressed communities last night, and that it did what only truly great film can do, provide a centerpiece and catalyst for new thought and vision about a better world, and how to move forward toward that goal.”
Steve’s note to me meant a great deal. It’s why filmmakers should make documentaries – that moment when you realize your work touched a nerve and offered some truth, some hope, and some inspiration to others.
Also, our thanks to Steve Gillis, Chuck Turner, Andre Francois, and Monica Moorehead, who all spoke at the event – their longtime support of Mumia Abu-Jamal and his struggle for freedom inspires me.

Stop the Terminations of the "School Bus Union 5"!2013-10-28 message Team Solidarity [schoolbus5@teamsolidarity.org]
All Out! Emergency Rally!
Stand with the Boston School Bus Drivers!
Rally:  Monday, Oct. 28th
1:30 PM – on.
(Come immediately after work.  The Rally will last and grow into the evening.)
Veolia Transportation general offices [35 Freeport Way, Dorchester]
(one block from Dorchester Ave. off Freeport St., behind the school bus yard)
Stand in Solidarity with USW Local 8751, the Boston School Bus Drivers’ Union, in its struggle to stop the union-busting corporation Veolia Transportation in its illegal attack on the union’s members, leadership and contract.
On Monday, Oct. 28th, Veolia has planned a disciplinary hearing, threatening to terminate 5 of USW Local 8751’s elected officers.   Join the protest at Veolia in Dorchester from 1:30 PM on.  If you’re working, come immediately after work to demand, “Veolia:  Hands Off the School Bus Union 5!” - Grievance Chair Steve Kirschbaum, Recording Secretary Andre Francois, Vice President Steve Gillis, Steward Garry Murchison and Steward Rick Lynch.
Since day one of taking over the Boston school bus management contract on July 1, 2013, Veolia has committed numerous Unfair Labor Practices, violated nearly every term and condition of the drivers’ employment contract, and engaged in actions designed to steal literally millions of dollars from drivers’ paychecks.  In the process, Veolia has sacrificed student safety on the altar of profit, among other things creating routes designed by GPS-based software that result in massive lateness to school and to home, and refusing to pay drivers for all their time worked.
On October 8th, when drivers engaged in a legally protected protest of Veolia’s unfair labor practices, Veolia wrongly called the police and forcibly removed the drivers, illegally locking the gates and refusing to let the drivers back in to work.  Boston Mayor Menino and Veolia then targeted 5 officers of Local 8751 for termination, which disciplinary hearing is scheduled for Monday, October 28th.
Boston School Bus Drivers Union Local 8751 exemplifies what a labor union should be.  Not only has its members been successful in winning living wages, benefits and unprecedented contract language, This local is willing to extend real solidarity to other workers whenever possible. This union has fought racism, sexism, anti-gay bigotry, every war since the 1970's and practiced solidarity with all workers struggles inside and outside of union organizations.
This union-busting action by Veolia Transportation is outrageous.  Solidarity is not a crime.  Standing up with the members’ for their rights is not a crime.  All of labor needs to stand up and say, “We will join ranks to ensure that Veolia’s crime will not succeed, in Boston or any of its world-wide operations.”
Veolia:  “Hands Off the Boston School Bus Union 5!”
Stop the attacks on USW Local 8751!

Veolia, a militant privatizer and supporter of human rights abuse worldwide, target labor union organizers in Boston

Defend the School Bus 5! [http://bostonschoolbus5.org], Victims of Veolia's campaign against Labor Rights!
More info here [link].

"Local Palestine BDS group declares major victory; Background on BDS victory in Sonoma County re; Veolia Corporation"
2013-10-01 press release for "North Coast Coalition for Palestine (NCCP)" [http://nccpal.org/veolia/] :
Media contact: Lois Pearlman [lois5@sonic.neat] [707-869-0266] [707-494-9127].
The Santa Rosa-based North Coast Coalition for Palestine (NCCP) is celebrating a major victory today: the French-owned multinational corporation Veolia has sold all of its bus lines linking Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
For the past two years we have been asking our Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to open the bidding for its bus service rather than extending its contract with Veolia. NCCP has argued that the county deserves a local company that would keep profits and decision-making in the community, and one that does not violate international law by servicing illegal settlements.
But this is not only a victory for us, outside Sonoma County Veolia has been a major target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, including in the Sacramento Valley, where Veolia withdrew its bid to run the wastewater system after the Davis Committee of Palestinian Rights protested before the district board.
However, the sale of Veolia’s contract to run the Israeli bus lines is only a partial victory. The company still runs a light rail system that provides rapid transit to illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem. It also operates Tovlan landfill in the occupied Jordan Valley, which receives recycling from Israel and illegal Israeli settlements and Ayalon sewage treatment plant that collects wastewater from the illegal settlement of Modi’in.
So, we are continuing our campaign to open the transit system bidding in 2014 as a nonviolent protest against the occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government, and because it’s time to find a local company to do the job. And, our ultimate goal, is to make Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions as successful in ending the occupation of Palestine as it was in bringing South African apartheid to a halt.
For more detailed information I have included the press release from Who Profits, an Israeli organization that verified the sale of the Veolia bus contracts in Jerusalem. Please feel free to contact me for more information about our local campaign, and for interviews with members of NCCP.
"Veolia, feeling pressure, launches attack on Israel boycott movement"
2013-09-29 by Adri Nieuwhof:
Last year, the US North Coast Coalition for Palestine [http://nccpal.org/veolia/] started a campaign to exclude the multinational transport and municipal services firm Veolia from a public transit contract in Sonoma County, California.
Alan Moldawer, executive vice-president of Veolia Transportation US, wrote a letter to the county’s local government, the Board of Supervisors, in response to the campaign. The Electronic Intifada obtained a copy of the letter in which Moldawer claims that his purpose is “to update you on Veolia Transportation’s parent company’s sale of its bus business in Israel.”
In the 13 September letter, Moldawer launches a shameless and unfounded attack on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and one of its founders Omar Barghouti.
This is perhaps a sign of Veolia’s sensitivity to the growing power of a movement whose aim is to hold Israel and the companies that profit from its violations of Palestinian rights to account.
In the letter, Moldawer accuses “BDS” of “fueling a petition to ‘dump Veolia’ with false allegations about Veolia Transportation’s parent company’s services in Israel.”
However, the BDS movement has a track record of carefully researching the role of companies in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, including when companies announce that they have withdrawn from such activities.
Alerted by Moldawer’s letter to Sonoma County, activists also found the announcement of Veolia’s withdrawal from all Israeli bus lines on Veolia Israel’s website.
The box at the top left of the webpage reads in Hebrew: “Connex transportation Israel that is also known as Veolia Transportation has been sold to the company Afikim.”
Occupation watchdog Who Profits found confirmation of the sale in the Israeli companies’ registrar. Veolia had already terminated its operations in the Modi’in bus lines in August.
The three remaining bus lines that run on occupied Palestinian land have now been sold as part of the deal with Afikim.

False accusations -
Moldawer falsely claims that “BDS is fostered by the longstanding international boycott efforts of the League of Arab States against Israel.”
In fact, the global BDS movement developed in response to a call issued independently by 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005 — decades after the Arab League’s now largely defunct commercial boycott — to achieve an end to occupation, equal rights for Palestinians, and recognition of the Palestinian right of return, as required by international law [http://www.bdsmovement.net/call].
The call for BDS ends when these violations of Palestinian political, human and legal rights come to an end and the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination is respected.
The BDS movement aims to hold Israel and other actors including governments around the world accountable for their role in Israel’s violations of international law.
Moldawer’s claim that “BDS is pursuing its goal of demonizing Israel and companies that do business with Israel” is therefore misplaced, although no company should be proud to profit from occupation, colonial exploitation and apartheid.
During the 1970s and 1980s, a global movement emerged to urge divestment, sanctions and boycotts of companies that were complicit in and profited from apartheid in South Africa.
While some might have called that “demonizing” South Africa or the companies that profited from its racist system, this movement was, like the present BDS movement, a non-violent, morally consistent effort whose objective is to end oppression.

Twisting Barghouti’s words -
Moldawer does not shy away from a dishonest attack on Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the BDS movement, by falsely attributing statements to him. Moldawer states that Barghouti describes the BDS movement as committed to the “euthanization of Israel.”
In response to Veolia’s claim, Barghouti wrote me that he never said such a thing about the BDS movement, “not even remotely.” Barghouti says that Veolia misrepresented a phrase from a 2004 article he wrote on The Electronic Intifada about the one-state solution [http://electronicintifada.net/content/relative-humanity-fundamental-obstacle-one-state-solution-historic-palestine-12/4939]. This was before the BDS movement was even born.
In the article Barghouti argues that Zionism is an obstacle to the birth of a single democratic state with equal rights for all. He notes: "The current phase has all the emblematic properties of what may be considered the final chapter of the Zionist project. We are witnessing the rapid demise of Zionism, and nothing can be done to save it, for Zionism is intent on killing itself. I, for one, support euthanasia."
As the article elaborates, and as Barghouti explained to me in an email: “I would welcome the self-destruction of Zionism as a political movement to open the way for the Palestinian people to realize our right to self determination and for all to live in equality without anyone oppressing anyone. The BDS movement has absolutely nothing to do with my personal views on this or on the one-state issue as the movement has always remained absolutely neutral on the question of one-state vs. two-states, insisting that no matter what the political solution is it must address the three basic rights of the Palestinian people, in accordance to international law.”
Anyone familiar with Barghouti’s many articles and public speeches — including a recent one in Oslo — knows that he has always been consistent in supporting equal rights for all in the context of a non-racist, decolonized political outcome, to which, he believes Zionism is a major obstacle.

Attacking BDS -
Moldawer wrote that Veolia has “no political agenda.”
However, his attack on the BDS movement and Omar Barghouti clearly follows the hasbara – propaganda – logic of the Israeli government.
In July, my colleague Ben White wrote about a new action plan to fight Palestine solidarity activism and BDS campaigns, which was developed under the auspices of the Israeli foreign ministry. The plan includes that nations, foundations and other funders supporting BDS should be “named and shamed.”
It also calls for BDS efforts toward multinational corporations to be investigated.
Slide from Veolia Transportation US presentation at Sonoma County hearing in July 2012 attempts to smear activists by association with The Electronic Intifada.

This is moreover not the first time that Moldawer has attacked the BDS movement. In July 2012, Moldawer represented Veolia Transportation US at a hearing of the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights that was considering Veolia’s exclusion from the transit contract.
Anna Baltzer reported [http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=3459] for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation about Moldawer’s “classic Hasbara talking points.” He asserted that because North Coast Coalition for Palestine supported the BDS movement and had a link to The Electronic Intifada (EI) on its website, “it therefore supported violence and destruction, citing a past EI article [http://electronicintifada.net/content/how-obsession-nonviolence-harms-palestinian-cause/11482] that they alleged supported violence.”
Baltzer rightfully concluded that Moldawer had used a guilty-by-association accusation which was based on a false claim.

Still profiting from crime -
Meanwhile, despite the sale of the bus lines, Veolia continues to profit from occupation. Moldawer confirms in his letter that Veolia Transportation US’s parent company Transdev will continue to operate the Jerusalem light rail and that the company owns five percent of the project.
Transdev is the result of a merger between Veolia Transportation and Transdev. The French parent companies Veolia Environnement and Caisse des Dépôts Développement each own half of the shares of Transdev.
The Jerusalem light rail is a component of the “Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan” sponsored by the Israeli government and the Jerusalem occupation municipality. The light rail was designed to serve the needs of Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Veolia and the French multinational Alstom are involved in the first line of the light rail which connects western Jerusalem with illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, around eastern Jerusalem.
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Israel’s annexation of eastern Jerusalem are illegal under international law [http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/ny-times-correction-israeli-settlements-gets-facts-wrong]. Veolia, therefore, remains implicated in maintaining – and providing services to — Israel’s illegal settlements, occupation and annexation of Palestinian land.
Veolia also remains involved in the Tovlan landfill in the occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley where waste is dumped from Israeli recycling factories and illegal settlements. Who Profits found that the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection could not substantiate Veolia’s claim that it had sold the Tovlan landfill.
Veolia continues to provide services to the illegal settlement of Modi’in Illit, according to Veolia Water Israel’s website. Modi’in Illit is situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, in the occupied West Bank.
Despite Veolia’s misrepresentations, it is clear the company is starting to feel the heat and the BDS movement will continue to hold governments and companies accountable for their role in Israel’s violations of the rights of the Palestinian people.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Anti-Fascism: Rank-and-File Reformers Oust 'In Bed' Rhode Island Teamsters

2013-11-07 by Jane Slaughter from "Labor Notes" [http://labornotes.org/2013/11/rank-and-file-reformers-oust-bed-rhode-island-teamsters]:
Teamster rank and filers in Rhode Island were voted into office by members fed up with the old leaders they said were corrupt. Some signs from the slate's picnic are in Portuguese because of the immigrant population at the local's largest employer, Rhode Island Hospital. Photo: United Action [http://251ua.com/].

Rhode Island Hospital worker Nick Williams was so angry that his new supervisor was his union business agent’s brother that he came home from work and Googled “Teamsters 251 sucks.” And that was the turning point that led to rank-and-file Teamsters taking over the local that covers all of Rhode Island. Williams had found the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) website run by two 251 rank-and-filers. On October 31 all 10 candidates on their slate, United Action, were elected, with about 53 percent of the vote. They won despite an entrenched leadership group that had been in office since 1993—and despite threats by a Teamsters International vice president who said on YouTube, “They need to be punished.”
The 5,200 members of Local 251 work at dozens of employers, but more than 2,000 of them are the non-nursing staff at Rhode Island Hospital. At the local’s second-largest employer, UPS, two drivers had toiled for years, opposing bad contracts, organizing members to turn down excessive overtime, and running, unsuccessfully, on a partial slate in 2007.
But the two drivers, Matt Taibi and Matt Maini, hadn't cracked the hospital. Until Williams joined their team. Williams describes the state of the union at the hospital as “in bed with management.” Business agents would, with the collusion of managers, create well-paid jobs for their friends—sometimes even “no-show” jobs whose duties did not include reporting for work. When the contract was near expiration, and its last and largest raise was due, BA’s would simply sign away the raise with a Memorandum of Agreement that members weren’t allowed to see, in violation of the Teamsters constitution.
Maini said the hospital had fired more than 400 workers in two years—and the union always advised members who were up for termination to resign. “Everyone knew someone who got screwed by the BA,” Williams said. “The hospital had essentially been taken for granted by the local for 20 years,” said Taibi, who will be the union’s new top officer, secretary-treasurer, come January 1.

The person who’d originally brought the union to the hospital, back in 1993, was Paul Santos, who worked in the shipping department. Santos had been a steward but resigned, disillusioned. Most people at the hospital saw him as the person they trusted most on union questions. Sandra Cabral, who works with medical records, says she “never cared for the union because I felt I was paying monthly for favoritism.”
In January this year she was approached by a co-worker about TDU. She was interested off the bat, but “when she told me Paul was involved, I said I’m going to check this out.” After Santos joined the dissidents, TDU grew from 10 members in the local to 100. Santos will be Local 251 president. Early this year, the TDUers collected signatures for three bylaw changes. They wanted elected stewards, rather than appointed; elected rank-and-file members on negotiating committees; and any increase in officers’ salaries to be voted on by the membership.
Secretary-Treasurer Joe Bairos enjoyed combined salaries of $187,999 last year, from the local, the New England Joint Council, and the international union, as well as a car and an expense account. The January and February union meetings saw 600-700 people come to debate the bylaws—up from a usual attendance of 80 or so. More than 800 came to the March meeting, and had to vote in shifts, chanting about solidarity and democracy in the parking lot. Because the incumbents mobilized, too, the bylaw changes won a majority but not the required two-thirds.

The next phase of the United Action campaign, with Williams as manager, brought 300-500 members to a meatball dinner, a comedy night fundraiser, a picnic. Williams says that when they’d go to neglected companies to campaign, the members would be hostile, thinking they were from the union.
“But when they heard what we had to say, out of 130 in that barn, we got 100 for our email list,” he said. The insurgents had the advantage of help from a TDU staffer on campaign strategy and logistics and from a TDU attorney who more than once backed the incumbents down from illegal actions.
After they take office the new officers will cut their salaries to free up $250,000 a year for member education and training, Taibi said. They will reintroduce the bylaw changes and plan an aggressive contract campaign at Rhode Island Hospital next year. Cabral, soon to be recording secretary, is in charge of setting up a women’s committee. She says she wants to see hospital housekeepers—mostly women—receive equal pay with the men in environmental services.
At UPS, where 10- to 12-hour days are the norm for drivers, Matt Maini, the new BA, will organize members to enforce their contractual right to work only 9.5. Maini has back surgery to show for his long days and 21 years at UPS. “If you’d asked me 15 years ago, I'd say this would never happen,” he said. “But we decided we were going to dedicate our lives to making this a real union for the members.”

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Navy's Culture of Corruption

Like any mercenary military, the USA armed forces' motivation is to increase economic prosperity, freedom, and liberty for the capitalists whom they protect, especially themselves. This ideology guiding the USA armed forces is the foundation for a pervasive culture of capitalist corruption, an example of which is provided here.

"Bribery case reverberates across Navy with arrests"
2013-11-05 by Julie Watson from "AP" newswire [http://news.yahoo.com/bribery-case-reverberates-across-navy-arrests-182929355.html]:
SAN DIEGO (AP) — It started with an invitation to the Broadway production of "The Lion King" in Tokyo for the Navy commander, his wife and their children.
In the end, the Malaysian defense contractor known in military circles as "Fat Leonard" would use prostitutes, plane tickets and other bribes to hook the U.S. Naval officer into a scheme that overbilled the Pentagon by millions, investigators say in court papers.
The accusations unfolding in a federal court case in San Diego signal serious national security breaches and corruption, setting off high-level meetings at the Pentagon with the threat that more people, including those of higher ranks, could be swept up as the investigation continues. A hearing Nov. 8 could set a trial date.
According to the court documents, Navy commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz passed confidential information on ship routes to Leonard Francis' Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA.
Misiewicz and Francis moved Navy vessels like chess pieces, diverting aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships to Asian ports with lax oversight where Francis could inflate costs, the criminal complaint alleges. The firm overcharged the Navy millions for fuel, food and other services it provided, and invented tariffs by using phony port authorities, prosecutors say.
"It's pretty big when you have one person who can dictate where ships are going to go and being influenced by a contractor," said retired Rear Adm. Terry McKnight, who has no direct knowledge of the investigation. "A lot of people are saying, 'How could this happen?'"
So far, authorities have arrested Misiewicz; Francis; the general manager of global government contracts for Francis' company, Alex Wisidagama; and a senior Navy investigator, John Beliveau II.
Beliveau is accused of keeping Francis abreast of the probe and advising him on how to respond in exchange for such things as luxury trips and prostitution services. All have pleaded not guilty. Defense attorneys declined to comment.
Senior Navy officials said they believe more people likely will be implicated in the scheme, but it's too early to tell how many or how high this will go in the naval ranks. Other unnamed Navy personnel are mentioned in court documents as getting gifts from Francis.
Francis is legendary in military circles in that part of the world, said McKnight, who does not know him personally. He is known for extravagance. His 70,000-square-foot bungalow in an upscale Singapore neighborhood has drawn spectators yearly since 2007 to its lavish, outdoor Christmas decorations, which The Straits Times described as rivaling the island city-state's main shopping street with replicas of snowmen, lighted towering trees, and Chinese and Japanese ornaments.
"He's a larger-than-life figure," McKnight said. "You talk to any captain on any ship that has sailed in the Pacific and they will know exactly who he is."
Navy spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents initiated their probe in 2010. He declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation.
The same year, Misiewicz caught the world's attention when he made an emotional return as a U.S. Naval commander to his native Cambodia, where he had been rescued as a child from the violence of the Khmer Rouge and adopted by an American woman. His homecoming was widely covered by international media.
Meanwhile, Francis was recruiting him for his scheme, according to court documents.
Misiewicz's family went to a "Lion King production" in Tokyo with a company employee, and Misiewicz later was offered prostitution services, according to the criminal complaint. Within months, the Navy commander was providing Francis ship movement schedules for the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and other ships, the prosecution alleges.
Court documents say the manager wrote to Francis shortly afterward, saying: "We got him!! :)"
Misiewicz would refer to Francis as "Big Brother" or "Big Bro" in emails from a personal account, while Francis would call him "Little Brother" or "Little Bro," according to the complaint.
The company bilked the Navy out of $10 million in just one year in Thailand alone, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said.
In December 2011, the two exchanged emails about the schedule of the USS Blue Ridge, investigators say. According to court documents, Francis wrote Misiewicz: "Bro, Slide a Bali visit in after Jakarta, and Dili Timor after Bali."
The complaint alleges Misiewicz followed through on the demands: In October 2012, the USS George Washington was scheduled to visit Singapore and instead was redirected by the Navy to Port Klang, Malaysia, one of Francis' preferred ports where his company submitted fake contractor bids.
After Francis offered Misiewicz five tickets to a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand in 2012, Francis wrote: "Don't chicken out bro we need u with us on the front lines," according to court documents.
The federal government has suspended its contracts with Francis.
The defendants face up to five years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Private Bureaucracies use Federal Government to protect holdings, enact profitable policies, despite economic crisis

"The great austerity shell game; Here's how the capitalist scam works: let government borrow for crisis bailouts, then insist cuts pay for them. Guess who loses" 
2013-11-04 by Richard Wolff from "theguardian.com" [http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/04/great-austerity-shell-game]:
Center-right governments in Britain and Germany do it. So do the center-left governments in France and Italy. Obama and the Republicans do it, too. They all impose "austerity" programs on their economies as necessary to exit the crisis afflicting them all since 2007. Politicians and economists impose austerity now much as doctors once stuck mustard plasters on the skins of the sick.
Austerity policies presume that the chief economic problems today are government budget deficits that increase national debts. Austerity policies solve those problems mainly by cutting government spending, and secondarily, by limited tax increases. Reducing expenditures while raising revenues does cut governments' deficits and their needs to borrow.
National debts grow less or drop depending on how much each government's expenditures decrease and its taxes increase. Obama's austerity policies during 2013 started 1 January, when he raised payroll taxes on everyone's annual incomes up to $113,700. Then, on 1 March, the "sequester" lowered federal expenditures. Thus, 2013's US deficit will drop sharply from 2012's.
Obama will likely impose more austerity: cutting social security and Medicare benefits to compromise with Republicans. Similarly, European governments maintain their "austerity" programs. Even France's government, officially "anti-austerity" and "socialist", has a new budget with typical austerity cuts in social expenditures.
The accumulated evidence shows that austerity programs usually make economic downturns worse. Why, then, do they remain the preferred policy for most capitalist governments?
When capitalist economies crash, most capitalists request – and governments provide – credit market bailouts and economic stimuli. However, corporations and the rich oppose new taxes on them to pay for stimulus and bailout programs. They insist, instead, that governments should borrow the necessary funds. Since 2007, capitalist governments everywhere borrowed massively for those costly programs. They thus ran large budget deficits and their national debts soared.
Heavy borrowing was thus capitalists' preferred first policy to deal with their system's latest crisis. It served them well.
Borrowing paid for government rescues of banks, other financial companies, and selected other major corporations. Borrowing enabled stimulus expenditures that revived demand for goods and services. Borrowing enabled government outlays on unemployment compensation, food stamps, and other offsets to crisis-induced suffering.
In these ways, borrowing helped reduce the criticism, resentment, anger, and anti-system tendencies among those fired from jobs, evicted from homes, deprived of job security and benefits, etc. Government borrowing had these positive results for capitalists – while saving them from paying taxes to get those results.
Nor is that all. Corporations and the rich used the money they saved by keeping governments from taxing them to provide the huge loans governments therefore needed. Middle- and lower-income people could lend little if anything to their governments. Corporations and the rich, in effect, substituted loans to the government instead of paying more in taxes. For those loans, governments must pay interest and eventually repay them.
Government borrowing rewards corporations and the rich quite nicely. It amounts to a very sweet deal for capitalists.
Yet, that sweet deal raises a new problem. Where will governments find funds, first, to pay interest on all the borrowing, and second, to pay back the lenders? Corporations and the rich worry that they might still be taxed to provide those funds. They are determined to avoid such taxes – just as they avoided being taxed to pay for stimulus and bailout programs in the first place.
Austerity is thus capitalists' preferred second policy, a second way to avoid higher taxes as governments struggle with economic crises. Corporations and the rich promote austerity by loudly insisting that today's key economic problems are not unemployment, lost job security and benefits, home foreclosures, and record-breaking inequalities of income and wealth. Rather, the key problems are government deficits and rising national debt. They must be cut.
To do that, taxes should be raised modestly or not at all (to avoid "hurting" the economy). The key solution is thus to cut government outlays on jobs, social benefits, and providing social services. Money saved by those cuts should be used instead to pay interest on the national debt and reduce it.
Capitalism's way of dealing with its recurring crises is thus a remarkable two-step hustle. In step one, massive borrowing funds stimulus and bailout programs. In step two, austerity pays for the borrowing.
This hustle shifts most of the costs of capitalist crises onto the backs of middle- and lower-income people. The shift occurs through the higher unemployment, lower wages, and reduced government services achieved by austerity programs. It occurs as well in the sustained minimization of tax increases – especially on corporations and the rich.
With few exceptions, major political parties everywhere have imposed capitalism's two-step hustle. Only when mass opposition from middle- and lower-income people is sufficiently organized to possibly threaten capitalism itself do capitalists waver and split over borrowing and austerity. Some capitalists then collaborate with that opposition to support "New Deals", instead of austerity.
Even then, once past the immediate crisis, capitalists revert to their preferred policies of borrowing and austerity. US history from 1929 to the present teaches that lesson well.
Capitalists know their system is unstable. They have never yet prevented recurring crises. They rely instead on policies to "manage" them. The two-step hustle – borrowing for stimulus and bailouts and then austerity – usually does the job. Keynesians promote the borrowing and then seem surprised, even outraged, when austerity follows.
Corporations and the rich should not have escaped taxation in the first place because they helped to cause the crisis; they enriched themselves the most in the decades before the crisis; and they can best afford to pay to overcome the crisis. Had they been taxed to pay for stimulus and bailout, no need would have arisen for borrowing or austerity.
Taxing corporations and the rich would have consequences too, but they would generate far fewer social costs and fall mostly on those best able to cope with them.
But any organized opposition strong enough to make corporations and the rich pay for capitalism's crises would likely also question capitalism itself. Emerging from nearly six years of crisis, the question "can't we do better than capitalism?" pushes forward, demanding discussion, debate, and democratic decision.

"US Republicans make the poor pay to balance the budget; The impetus to cut food stamps is ideological not fiscal, and low-wages mean work provides no guarantee against hunger"
2013-11-03 by Gary Younge from "The Guardian" [http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/04/us-republicans-make-poor-pay-budget]:
During a discussion at the University of Michigan in 2010, the billionaire vice-chairman of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway firm, Charles Munger, was asked whether the government should have bailed out homeowners rather than banks. "You've got it exactly wrong," he said. "There's danger in just shovelling out money to people who say, 'My life is a little harder than it used to be.' At a certain place you've got to say to the people, 'Suck it in and cope, buddy. Suck it in and cope.'"
But banks, he insisted, need our help. It turns out that moral hazard – the notion that those who know the costs of their failure will be borne by others will become increasingly reckless – only really applies to the working poor.
"You should thank God" for bank bailouts, Munger told his audience. "Now, if you talk about bailouts for everybody else, there comes a place where if you just start bailing out all the individuals instead of telling them to adapt, the culture dies."
In the five years since the financial crisis took hold, people have been sucking it in by the lungful and discovering how pitiful a coping strategy that is. In Michigan, the state where Munger spoke, black male life expectancy is lower than male life expectancy in Uzbekistan; in Detroit, the closest big city, black infant mortality is on a par with Syria (before the war).
As such, the crisis accelerated an already heinous trend of growing inequalities. Over a period of 18 years, America's white working class – particularly women – have started dying younger. "Absent a war, genocide, pandemic, or massive governmental collapse, drops in life expectancy are rare," wrote Monica Potts in the American Prospect last month. But this was a war on the poor. "Lack of access to education, medical care, good wages and healthy food isn't just leaving the worst-off Americans behind. It's killing them."
This particular crisis, however, has also accentuated the contradictions between the claims long made for neoliberalism and the system's ability to deliver on them. The "culture" of capitalism, to which Munger referred, did not die but thrived precisely because it was not forced to adapt, while working people – who kept it afloat through their taxes and now through cuts in public spending – struggle to survive. Given the broad framing of economic struggles in the west exacerbated by the crisis, this reality is neither new nor specific to the US. "Over the past 30 years the workers' take from the pie has shrunk across the globe," explains an editorial in the latest Economist. "The scale and breadth of this squeeze are striking … When growth is sluggish … workers are getting a smaller morsel of a smaller slice of a slow-growing pie."
A few days before the bailout was passed, I quoted Lenin in these pages. He once argued: "The capitalists can always buy themselves out of any crises, as long as they make the workers pay." What has been striking, particularly recently, has been the brazen and callous nature in which these payments have been extorted.
Last Friday, 47 million Americans had their food stamp benefits cut. These provide assistance to those who lack sufficient money to feed themselves and their families. Individuals lose $11 (£7) a month while a family of four will lose $36. That will save the public purse precious little – bombing Syria would have been far more costly – but will mean a great deal to those affected. "Before the cut, it was kind of an assumption you were going to the food bank anyway," Lance Worth, of Washington state, told the Bellingham Herald. "I guess I'm just going to go $20 hungrier – aren't I?"
The cut marks the lapse in stimulus package ushered in four years ago. But while the recession is officially over, the poverty it engendered remains. Government figures show one in seven Americans is food insecure. According to Gallup, in August, one in five said they have, at times during the last year, lacked money to buy food that they or their families needed. Both figures are roughly the same as when Obama was elected. This negligence will now be compounded by mendacity. Republicans propose further swingeing cuts to the food-stamp programme; Democrats suggest smaller cuts. The question is not whether the vulnerable will be hammered, but by how much.
The impetus behind these cuts are not fiscal but ideological. Republicans, in particular, claim the poor have it too easy. "We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency," claimed former Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. "That drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives."
The notion that food "drains the will" while hunger motivates the ambitious would have more currency – not much, but more – if the right wasn't simultaneously doing its utmost to drive down wages to a level where work provides no guarantee against hunger. In last week's paper for the Economic Policy Institute, Gordon Lafer, an associate professor at the University of Oregon, revealed the degree to which conservatives have been driving down wages, benefits and protections at a local level after their victory at the 2010 midterms.
He writes: "Four states passed laws restricting the minimum wage, four lifted restrictions on child labour, and 16 imposed new limits on benefits for the unemployed. With the support of the corporate lobbies, states also passed laws stripping workers of overtime rights, repealing or restricting rights to sick leave, and making it harder to sue one's employer for race or sex discrimination."
That's why 40% of households on food stamps have at least one person working. And the states most aggressive in pursuing these policies, Lafer points out, had some of the smallest budget deficits in the country.
Immediately after Obama's election in 2008, his chief of staff to be, Rahm Emanuel, said: "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before." The crisis didn't go to waste. But it is the right that has seized the opportunity. Not content with balancing the budget on the bellies of the hungry, it is also fattening the coffers of the wealthy on the backs of the poor.