Daily Archive: 09/17/2013

Sep 17 2013

#OWS 732 Days Later: We’re Still Here

OWS Bull photo imagesqtbnANd9GcQOzemvfxReNGeLrgsmE_zpsb44350c5.jpg On September 17, 2011, a leaderless resistance group took over a small public park in the heart of the financial district of New York City. Fed up with the dominance of the financial industry in politics and the direction of the economy, the groups message took hold spreading from city to city and around the world. The message was heard, “We are the 99%

We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.

That message change the conversation in the media and in the caverns of government. It brought together people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. Yes, Tea Party Republicans and left wing disenfranchised Democrats stood together on economic and social issues, disgusted with undue influence of corporations on government, particularly from the financial services sector and the unequal wealth distribution in the US. Thus began the Occupy Wall Street movement, 732 days ago.  

For two months, the group camped in Zuccotti Park, renaming it Liberty Park, meeting publicly using a unique human microphone when they were denied a permit for the use of “amplified sound,” including electric bullhorns, providing information, building the People’s Library, providing medical care, as well as, feeding the protestors, visitors and the homeless who flocked to the park. The spontaneous marches and demonstrations brought support and opposition. Much of the opposition from the corporate industry whose crimes and undue influence in government were coming under the public microscope

On November 15, 2011, shortly after midnight and a one hour notice to leave, the New York City Police Department raided the Zuccotti Park encampment, destroying private property and arresting over 200 occupiers, including journalists.

Occupy may not be as noticeable as it was back then but the movement is still a force with Occupy the SEC, focused on advancing lawsuits to push federal agencies to engage in more regulation of Wall Street and Occupy Our Homes which is engaged in direct action to protect homes from being improperly foreclosed by banks and have pressed the Justice Department to prosecute Wall Street executives.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Occupy Sandy sprang from the rubble and misery to aid the stranded poor and working in NYC’s housing projects and neighborhoods that were forgotten by Mayor Bloomberg and his band of bureaucrats who were focused on getting their Wall St. cronies back in business. They were vital in saving lives of the sick and elderly stranding in high rises providing note books of information of those in need to Doctors Without Borders in their first mission in the United States. Occupy Sandy operated in all five boroughs and New Jersey with over 70,000 volunteers with just a Tweet and they are still there assisting with rebuilding and helping those still in need.

Occupy is here to stay. We are the voices of the 99% and we will be heard. The revolution continues worldwide.

Sep 17 2013

The Demographics Unit

NYPD Undercover Spying Unit Revealed As Extensive, Far-Reaching

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Democracy Now: With CIA Help, New York Police Secretly Monitored Mosques, Muslim Communities Post-9/11

8/25/11

Democracy Now: Spying on Campus: New York Police Caught Monitoring Muslim Student Groups Throughout Northeast

2/21/12

Democracy Now: From Mosques to Soccer Leagues: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spy Unit Targeting Muslims, Activists

9/17/13

Sep 17 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Rebecca Solnit: Thoughts for the Second Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street

I would have liked to know what the drummer hoped and what she expected. We’ll never know why she decided to take a drum to the central markets of Paris on October 5, 1789, and why, that day, the tinder was so ready to catch fire and a drumbeat was one of the sparks. [..]

Such transformative moments have happened in many times and many places — sometimes as celebratory revolution, sometimes as terrible calamity, sometimes as both, and they are sometimes reenacted as festivals and carnivals. In these moments, the old order is shattered, governments and elites tremble, and in that rupture civil society is born — or reborn.

In the new space that appears, however briefly, the old rules no longer apply. New rules may be written or a counterrevolution may be launched to take back the city or the society, but the moment that counts, the moment never to forget, is the one where civil society is its own rule, taking care of the needy, discussing what is necessary and desirable, improvising the terms of an ideal society for a day, a month, the 10-week duration of the Paris Commune of 1871, or the several weeks’ encampment and several-month aftermath of Occupy Oakland, proudly proclaimed on banners as the Oakland Commune.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Memo to Washington: The Occupy Movement Is Very Much Alive

September 17 marks the second anniversary of the Occupy movement. When that movement is mentioned at all in Washington, which is rarely, the tone is dismissive. It didn’t have coherent goals, someone will say. It needed an electoral strategy, somebody else will add. No wonder it didn’t last.

That’s getting it backwards. The Occupy movement wasn’t the foundation for change, it was the reflection of a deeper desire for it. It was the effect, not the cause, and it won’t disappear because of wishful thinking.

Occupy was the product of a deep-seated yearning for economic justice, equality of opportunity, and a return to the kind of economy that lifted people out of poverty and spawned a large and prosperous middle class. It was the fruit of widespread and intense anger at Wall Street and Corporate America, and against those in the political class who helped them hijack the economy. Those sentiments are very much alive in the American political process.

If you don’t believe that, just ask Larry Summers.

(emphasis mine)

Chris Hedges: The Dead Rhetoric of War

The intoxication of war, fueled by the euphoric nationalism that swept through the country like a plague following the attacks of 9/11, is a spent force in the United States. The high-blown rhetoric of patriotism and national destiny, of the sacred duty to reshape the world through violence, to liberate the enslaved and implant democracy in the Middle East, has finally been exposed as empty and meaningless. The war machine has tried all the old tricks. It trotted out the requisite footage of atrocities. It issued the histrionic warnings that the evil dictator will turn his weapons of mass destruction against us if we do not bomb and “degrade” his military. It appealed to the nation’s noble sacrifice in World War II, with the Secretary of State John Kerry calling the present situation a “Munich moment.” But none of it worked. It was only an offhand remark by Kerry that opened the door to a Russian initiative, providing the Obama administration a swift exit from its mindless bellicosity and what would have been a humiliating domestic defeat. Twelve long years of fruitless war in Afghanistan and another 10 in Iraq have left the public wary of the lies of politicians, sick of the endless violence of empire and unwilling to continue to pump trillions of dollars into a war machine that has made a small cabal of defense contractors and arms manufacturers such as Raytheon and Halliburton huge profits while we are economically and politically hollowed out from the inside. The party is over.

Chris Weigant: Summers Out

This isn’t a changing-of-the-seasons article, it is in fact an article marking the withdrawal of Larry Summers for nomination to the head job at the Federal Reserve. I suppose I could have made it both, but then I would have had to title it “Summer’s Out: Summers Out” which somehow just seems even more confusing. All kidding aside, though; liberals, lefties, progressives, and populists alike are heaving a giant sigh of relief at this news. Larry Summers has now realized he very well could lose a Senate confirmation vote and so he decided instead to take his name out of consideration for the appointment.

Two recent “anniversary” news stories seem particularly relevant here. The first is the five-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a giant trigger for the financial meltdown on Wall Street and all that followed. The second is the two-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.

Robert McChesney and John Nichols: Dollarocracy: How Big Money Undermines Our Democracy

And how we can take it back

We’ve found through our experience that timid supplications for justice will not solve the problem,” declared the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967 as he announced the civil rights movement’s pivot toward the economic justice message of the Poor People’s Campaign. “We’ve got to massively confront the power structure.” [..]

The United States has experienced fundamental changes that are dramatically detrimental to democracy. Voters’ ability to define political discourse has been so diminished that even decisive election results like Barack Obama’s in 2012 have little impact. That’s because powerful interests-freed to, in effect, buy elections, unhindered by downsized and diffused media that must rely on revenue from campaign ads-now set the rules of engagement. Those interests so dominate politics that the squabbling of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, is a sideshow to the great theater of plutocracy and plunder. This is not democracy. This is dollarocracy.

Robert Reich: The Myth of the ‘Free Market’ and How to Make the Economy Work for Us

One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the Right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the “free market” is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government. So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity — to make the economy work for us — are unwarranted constraints on the market’s freedom, and will inevitably go wrong.

By this view, if some people aren’t paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren’t worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they’ll earn next month or next week, that’s too bad; it’s just the outcome of the market.

According to this logic, government shouldn’t intrude through minimum wages, high taxes on top earners, public spending to get people back to work, regulations on business, or anything else, because the “free market” knows best.

Sep 17 2013

Long Term Paybacks

A long time ago, after an incident that had left me particularly furious with a disagreeable colleague, a friend told me to be patient eventually this person would fall on his own petard. After all, it wasn’t the short term paybacks that one needs to worry about, its the long term paybacks that get them in the end. And so it was, some years later, my nemesis got too arrogant, made some foolhardy decisions and was forced to retire in disgrace. I had long since moved on another path that was ultimately more satisfying but when I heard the story of his fall I had to wryly smile.

Over the weekend, after some weeks of speculation about who would succeed Ben Bernanke as chair of the Federal Reserve, President Barack Obama’s rumored favorite, his former chief economics adviser, Larry Summers, withdrew his name from consideration. Mr. Summers had come under fire from the progressive left for his Chicago School economic policies and his past history as President Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary. It was during Summer tenure as Treasury head that Glass-Steagal was repealed leading to the current economic mess. Add to that his misogynistic attitude and the rise of one of the women to whom he was so dismissive and you have the recipe for the down fall of one of the most “dickish” (Charlie Pierce’s term) personalities in government.

Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post Ryan Grim summarized Larry’s fall from grace:

A progressive-populist coalition fueled by women’s groups and high-end donors was responsible for undoing President Barack Obama’s bid to install Larry Summers as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. [..]

The five opposing senators were a combination of traditional progressives — Merkley, Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) — and prairie populists — Jon Tester (Mont.) and, according to three Senate Democratic sources, Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.). Tester’s opposition was reported Friday by Reuters; Heitkamp’s intention was not previously public. [..]

Meanwhile, a coalition of progressive groups — which included UltraViolet and the National Organization for Women, two powerful women’s groups — teamed with the big donors and grassroots advocacy groups to pressure Banking Committee members and other Senate Democrats. ..]  The donors, who were mostly women, had [concerns that ranged from populist to feminist. [..]

Merkley, according to another aide, spoke to Democratic senators on the committee during caucus meetings on Tuesday and Thursday, and made Summers’ closeness to Wall Street and prior support for deregulation the key element of his pitch. He homed in on Summers’ backing for the Glass-Steagall repeal, which allowed banks to grow much larger and take on more risk. He also highlighted Summers’ opposition to regulating derivatives in a battle with then-Commodity Futures Trading Commission head Brooksley Born. Summers took both positions as treasury secretary during the Clinton administration. To make the point that Summers had not revised his approach, Merkley noted his intense behind-the-scenes opposition to the Volcker Rule, an attempt to reinstate some of Glass-Steagall’s restrictions that was added to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law by Merkley and Brown. [..]

Summers had also opposed naming Warren to permanently head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a decision that came back to haunt him, as Warren instead ran for the Senate and won a spot on the Banking Committee, where she has now helped tank Summers’ shot at the Fed chairmanship.

Essentially, Larry Summers was the author of his own demise. As Charlie Pierce observes:

The fact is that Senator Professor Warren was one of the driving forces behind a genuine populist uprising of liberal Democratic senators — and Jon Tester, too — and that uprising has kicked Larry Summers to the curb. She has quietly carved out a leadership role in the one area in which she is an acknowledged expert. (What she will do if it ever comes to a vote on making war in Syria is anybody’s guess.) Quite simply, she is doing what she said she would do when she was running for the Senate. She has enough allies to get done a lot of what she wants to get done. Anything this president — or his successor — wants to do as far as national economic policy now has to go through her, and through the coalition to which she belongs. I still don’t think the president will nominate Janet Yellin — He’s got his back up about it now — but whoever he does nominate is going to have to have a chat with the nice professor in the glasses who’s got just a few questions she’d like to ask.

I’m sure there are a lot of women, from Brooksley Born to Christina Romer, wryly smiling. Long term paybacks can be very satisfying.

Sep 17 2013

On This Day In History September 17

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September is the 260th day of the year (261st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 105 days remaining until the end of the year.

On September 17, 1787, the Constitution was signed. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution–the Bill of Rights–and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791. In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rhode Island, which opposed federal control of currency and was critical of compromise on the issue of slavery, resisted ratifying the Constitution until the U.S. government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island voted by two votes to ratify the document, and the last of the original 13 colonies joined the United States. Today, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world.

Sep 17 2013

No, Mr. President, the Economy Is Not Improving

President Barack Obama briefly addressed the country on the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the start of the financial crisis that would see the middle class loose most of its wealth. The president rightfully chastised the obstruction on congress, blasting the Republican threats to shut down the government unless the he agrees to de-fund the Affordable Care Act and he patted himself on the back for how far the economy has come in the last five years.

In his speech the president paints a glowing picture of the economy and his accomplishments:

And so those are the stories that guided everything we’ve done. It’s what those earliest days of the crisis caused us to act so quickly through the Recovery Act to arrest the downward spiral and put a floor under the fall. We put people to work, repairing roads and bridges, to keep teachers in our classrooms, our first responders on the streets. We helped responsible homeowners modify their mortgages so that more of them could keep their homes. We helped jump-start the flow of credit to help more small businesses keep their doors open. We saved the American auto industry.

And as we worked to stabilize the economy and get it growing and creating jobs again, we also started pushing back against the trends that have been battering the middle class for decades, so we took on a broken health care system, we invested in new American technologies to end our addiction to foreign oil, we put in place tough new rules on big banks, rules that we need to finalize before the end of the year, by the way, to make sure that the job is done, and we put in new protections that crack down on the worst practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies.

We also changed a tax code that was too skewed in favor of the wealthiest Americans. We locked in tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans. We asked those at the top to pay a little bit more.

So if you add it all up, over the last three-and-a-half years, our businesses have added 7.5 million new jobs. The unemployment rate has come down. Our housing market is healing. Our financial system is safer. We sell more goods made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.

However, his rosy view of the current state of the economy isn’t shared by the 99% who are still struggling with low wage jobs, unemployment, and a housing crisis that is still looming.

The president’s speech makes one wonder who is advising this man and what economy was Obama talking about? Then one remembers that it was his best buddy Larry Summers and the Chicago School of Rubinite cohorts, as The Guardian‘s economics editor Heidi Moore notes in her column. Ms. Moore writes that is time to “end the delusion that this White House has done even a fraction of what it should to help the economy” and concludes that the president has had some poor economic advice:

The president’s economic initiatives – food stamps, manufacturing, infrastructure, raising the debt ceiling, appointing a new chairman of the Federal Reserve – have mostly ended in either neglect or shambles. After five years, the Obama Administration’s stated intentions to improve the fortunes of the middle class, boost manufacturing, reduce income inequality, and promote the recovery of the economy have come up severely short. [..]

Here’s the litany of failure: the president has not pushed through any major stimulus bill since 2009, and most of that was pork-barrel junk. Manufacturing is weak and weakening; the employment gap between the rich and the poor is the widest on record; the economic recovery is actually more like an extended stagnation with 12 million people unemployed; the housing “recovery” will be stalled as long as incomes are low and house prices are high; and quantitative easing as a stimulus, while a heroic independent effort by the Federal Reserve, is past its due date and is no longer improving the country’s fortunes beyond the stock market.

Shall we continue? We don’t have a food stamp bill even though 49 million Americans lack regular access to food. Goldman Sachs analysts have said the sequester is taking a toll on stubbornly growing unemployment: “since sequestration took effect in March, federal job losses have been somewhat more pronounced,” they wrote last week; and another debt ceiling controversy – the third of Obama’s presidency – looms in only a few weeks with the potential to hurt what meager economic growth we can still cling to.

The economy for the vast majority of people and small businesses is not going well and won’t improve in the neat future. One of the people that Pres, Obama has ignored is Pres. Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary and economics professor that the University of California, Robert Reich. Prof. Reich sat down with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman to discuss the current state of the economy since the fall of Lehman Brothers.



Transcript can be read here

Meanwhile, the president is living in a bubble. Let’s hope his bubble bursts before ours does and he starts to really do something about it.