Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupying Web Videos

Watch live streaming video from fstv1 at

The Keystone Victory

Victories against climate change have been rare, so it’s vital to recognize them when they happen. The Obama administration’s decision to delay the Keystone XL pipeline is one such victory—arguably the most important achievement in the climate fight in North America in years.

True, the administration’s November 10 statements did not outright kill the 1,700-mile pipeline, which the TransCanada company wants to build to transport highly polluting tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Texas coast. Yes, President Obama or his successor could try to greenlight the project in 2013, when the State Department’s new review of the project is due. But that’s unlikely, as TransCanada’s CEO, Russ Girling, has acknowledged. The project’s contracts require the pipeline to be completed by 2013, or refineries will be free to look elsewhere for supply, which Girling expects they will.

In any case, such caveats mean only that the Keystone victory is not absolute. But when a $7 billion project involving the number-one US trading partner and oil supplier, a project that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only a year ago said she was “inclined” to approve, is very publicly postponed—even as the inspector general of the State Department launches an investigation into cronyism involving a former top aide to Clinton—good luck putting that Humpty Dumpty together again.

The climax of the Keystone campaign came November 6, when some 12,000 activists surrounded the White House (evidently a first) to urge Obama to honor his 2008 campaign pledge to fight climate change. “We want jobs but not as gravediggers for the planet,” Roger Toussaint, head of Local 100 of the Transport Workers of America, told the crowd in one of the strongest green declarations by a US labor leader. (Unfortunately, other elements of organized labor did not play against stereotype; the Building Trades Unions went so far as to team up with the oil industry to launch a “Jobs for the 99” campaign, co-opting Occupy rhetoric for their pro-pipeline propaganda.)

The breadth of the anti-pipeline coalition—indigenous people, progressive labor unions, youth, faith, farmer, community and environmental activists—was just one way this crusade contrasted with previous environmental campaigns. Other key differences: demands were more concrete and more radical. Strategy was set more by grassroots activists than by Beltway insiders. Tactics stressed people power—putting feet on the street, going to jail—over policy papers. The message was comprehensible to ordinary people rather than off-putting. And thanks to the Occupy movement, journalists were primed to pay attention to street protests.

All these factors combined not only to deliver the immediate victory over Keystone but to reanimate a movement that had been reeling after the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 and the defeat of climate legislation on Capitol Hill in 2010. “You need victories to build a movement, and how you win can be as important as what you win,” explained Steve Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, an NGO that punctured the “energy independence” rationale for Keystone by revealing that the oil it transported to Texas would be sold on the world market, not reserved for American gas tanks. Kretzmann added, “For once a big battle coming out of the environmental community was not about an obscure policy proposal, like cap and trade. [The pipeline] was made into a moral issue about what we want the future of our country to be and what we’re willing to do about it. At the White House, I had one seasoned activist tell me, ‘I feel like I finally can crawl out of the fetal position I’ve been in since Copenhagen.’”

As with the Occupiers, establishment voices quickly registered their disapproval—and their political tone-deafness. Some, like Council on Foreign Relations fellow Michael Levi, even suggested that the delay would hurt the climate fight, because Bill McKibben and other climate organizers had muddied their message by taking advantage of the “not in my backyard” sentiments of Midwestern farmers who—oh the horror!—are Republicans. Such NIMBYism, Levi sniffed, could be used to undercut future deployment of wind farms and other clean energy sources.

The truth, as McKibben has said many times, is that he and his colleagues came to the Keystone party fairly late. “The indigenous peoples in Canada have been fighting this from the start, and then folks along the route” got active, McKibben told The Nation. “I joined in this spring, when [NASA scientist James] Hansen made clear the size of the [tar sands] carbon pool. Our role was to take a regional fight and make it national and international, which I think we managed to do.”

And not a moment too soon. One day before Obama’s announcement, the International Energy Agency released its annual report on the “World Energy Outlook.” The IEA is no den of subversives; it’s run by many of the world’s largest oil-consuming nations. Its report warns that without radical changes in the world’s energy infrastructure in the next five years, humans will make climate change irreversible. In this context the defeat of Keystone is exactly the kind of radical change, in infrastructure and activism, that’s needed.

Out of Control Oakland Police Dept

Thursday, November 17, 2011

DOJ Says Lying on the Internet is a Federal Crime

Written by Brian Koenig --  New American
Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is backing a controversial component of an existing computer fraud law that makes it a crime to use a fake name on Facebook or embellish your weight on an online dating profile such as eHarmony. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 25-year-old law that mainly addresses hacking, password trafficking, and computer viruses, should enforce criminal penalties for users who violate websites’ terms of service agreements, alleges the Justice Department.

In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security, federal officials deliberated over cyber threats to the country’s infrastructure and a perplexing interpretation of the law that makes lying on the Internet a crime. During the hearing, titled "Cyber Security: Protecting America’s New Frontier," the DOJ’s deputy computer crime chief Richard Downing addressed Congress, asserting that the CFAA law must allow "prosecutions based upon a violation of terms of service or similar contractual agreement with an employer or provide[r]."

"Businesses should have confidence that they can allow customers to access certain information on the business's servers, such as information about their own orders and customer information, but that customers who intentionally exceed those limitations and obtain access to the business's proprietary information and the information of other customers can be prosecuted," said Downing’s prepared remarks.

This interpretation of the law was applied by the DOJ in 2008 to prosecute Lori Drew, a woman who created a fake MySpace account and cyber attacked a 13-year-old girl who then committed suicide. The department contended that MySpace’s terms of service restricts users from creating fraudulent profiles, so Drew was convicted of violating the CFAA (although her conviction was dismissed in 2009). "It basically leaves it up to a website owner to determine what is a crime," U.S. District Judge George Wu indicated in his 2009 verdict, which acquitted Drew of the charges. "And therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract."

The DOJ justified the move by enforcing a dubious section of the CFAA that was supposedly never intended to be used in that manner, which is a general-purpose prohibition on any computer-related action that "exceeds authorized access" — meaning, a website’s terms of service determines what is "authorized" or not. This is how Downing put it in his testimony:

These are just a few cases, but this tool is used routinely. The plain meaning of the term 'exceeds authorized access,' as used in the CFAA, prohibits insiders from using their otherwise legitimate access to a computer system to engage in improper and often malicious activities. We believe that Congress intended to criminalize such conduct, and we believe that deterring it continues to be important. Because of this, we are highly concerned about the effects of restricting the definition of 'exceeds authorized access' in the CFAA to disallow prosecutions based upon a violation of terms of service or similar contractual agreement with an employer or provider. 
In an August letter to the Senate, the ACLU, FreedomWorks, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Americans for Tax reform, warned that this convoluted interpretation of the law could make ignoring such "terms" a felony. "If a person assumes a fictitious identity at a party, there is no federal crime," the letter read. "Yet if they assume that same identity on a social network that prohibits pseudonyms, there may again be a CFAA violation. This is a gross misuse of the law." Orin Kerr, a former DOJ computer crime prosecutor and now law professor at George Washington University, says the government’s contentions are anemic, as he told CNET prior to the hearing:

The Justice Department claims to have an interest in enforcing Terms of Use and computer use policies under the CFAA, but its examples mostly consist of cases in which the conduct described has already been criminalized by statutes other than the CFAA. Further, my proposed statutory fix… would preserve the government's ability to prosecute the remaining cases DOJ mentions while not raising the civil liberties problems of the current statute.
In combating the statute, Kerr is requesting that Congress follow the Senate Judiciary Committee’s lead, which recently approved an amendment to a pending bill that would narrow the "exceeding authorized access" interpretation of the CFAA. The amendment says the law would "not include access in violation of a contractual obligation or agreement, such as an acceptable use policy or terms of service agreement, with an Internet service provider, Internet website, or non-government employer, if such violation constitutes the sole basis for determining that access to a protected computer is unauthorized." Downing and the DOJ requested that the House not approve the amendment.

However, beyond the devious doings of Facebook users and online dating prowlers are countless other terms of service stipulations that are littered throughout the World Wide Web. For instance, many Internet media outlets disclose various restrictions for users posting comments under articles, blogs, and forums. But how many people read the terms of service under the comments section of a website? What happens if a website’s terms of service contains a clause that prohibits users from posting opposing viewpoints? According to the DOJ, such actions are subject to prosecution.

"Terms of Use can be arbitrary and even nonsensical," said Kerr, relaying the above note.

"Anyone can set up a website and announce whatever Terms of Use they like. Perhaps the Terms of Use will declare that only registered Democrats can visit the website; or only people who have been to Alaska; or only people named "Frank." Under the Justice Department’s interpretation of the statute, all of these Terms of Use can be criminally enforced… I do not see any serious argument why such conduct should be criminal."

Lying on the Internet may be immoral, but should it really be criminalized by law? Moreover, is this the same DOJ headed by Attorney General Eric Holder who's admitted lying about the "Fast and Furious" gunrunning scandal? 

Indeed, the Big Brother police state, which continues to assail Americans’ civil liberties, strikes yet again.

House Republicans say pizza is a vegetable

By David Edwards - RAW STORY
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are fighting an effort by the Obama administration to make federally-subsidized school lunches more healthy.

A January proposal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aimed to limit — but not eliminate — fries and pizza on the lunch menu.

“[S]tarchy vegetables (e.g., white potatoes, corn, lima beans, and green peas) would be limited to 1 cup per week to encourage students to try new vegetables in place of the familiar starchy ones,” the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recommended.

Additionally, the rule would change the way tomato paste is credited, making it more difficult for pizza to be considered a serving of vegetables.

Under pressure from lobbyists and some food companies that sell frozen pizza, salt and potatoes, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee rejected the new rules, painting them as “burdensome and costly regulations.”

In the process, they ignored the advice of retired military leaders who said that status quo school lunches could hurt military readiness.

“We urge you to reject any language … that would weaken the proposed guidelines for school meals or derail the implementation process,” former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh Shelton (Ret.) and more than 100 other retired generals and admirals wrote to Congress.

Mission: Readiness director Amy Dawson, who advocates for healthier school lunches, called the decision a “national disgrace.”

“We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program,” she said.

Margo G. Wootan, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), explained that Congress seemed more concerned about the protecting corporate profits than children’s health.

“At a time when child nutrition and childhood obesity are national health concerns, Congress should be supporting USDA and school efforts to serve healthier school meals, not undermining them,” she observed. “If finalized, this legislation may go down in nutritional history as a bigger blunder than when the Reagan Administration tried (but failed) to credit ketchup as a vegetable in the school lunch program. Pizza should be served with a vegetable, not count as one.”

But it’s not only Republicans that are opposed the Obama administration’s efforts. House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC) has also pledged to vote against the new rules.

“Healthy school lunches are essential for the well being of our children, especially those who depend on school meals for most of their day’s nutrition,” Clyburn said in a statement. “However, I believe that school districts are capable of making responsible choices and providing healthy options for their students.”

Watch this video from WSPA, broadcast Nov. 15, 2011.

Texas Democrats: Tea party ‘hell bent on disenfranchising poor’

By Eric W. Dolan - RAW Story
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Democratic Party of Texas blasted the King Street Patriots, a local tea party group based in Houston, for inviting columnist Matthew Vadum to speak at a fundraising event. Vadum has said that registering poor people to vote was “antisocial and un-American”

Talking Points Memo reported in October 2010 that the Justice Department was investigating the King Street Patriots’ anti-voter fraud campaign — called “True The Vote” — after receiving a number of complaints about voter intimidation in Hispanic and African-American areas.

“It’s fitting that the group whose sole purpose is to harass and intimidate minority voters  would feature a rightwing extremist who thinks poor people shouldn’t be allowed to vote,” said Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie. “But at least the King Street Patriots are finally being honest. This event serves as a gleeful admission from their group that folks who are likely to vote Democratic should be denied their fundamental right to vote.”

“Sadly, this group that’s hell bent on disenfranchising poor-folks and minorities is not an anomaly in today’s Republican Party,” he added. “Rick Perry, the head of the Republican Party in Texas, has taken the lead in disenfranchising Texans. Perry’s redistricting plan was struck down because it violates the Voting Rights Act and his voter suppression legislation has not been pre-cleared because it is designed to keep certain people from voting. The King Street Patriots and Rick Perry are two peas in a pod.”

Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry in May cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the King Street Patriots’ new headquarters and praised their president, Catherine Engelbrecht.

Congressman McGovern Introduces the People's Rights Amendment

‘Corporations Are Not People’ 28th Amendment

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts introduced today a constitutional amendment bill to overturn the US Supreme Court’s January 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and to make clear that corporations are not people with rights under the US Constitution. The introduction of the bill – the “People’s Rights Amendment” -- marks a major breakthrough in the growing movement across the country to end corporate personhood and restore democracy to the people.

“Corporations are not people,” said Congressman McGovern. “They do not breathe. They do not have children. They do not die in war. They are artificial entities which we the people create and, as such, we govern them, not the other way around.”

“The Citizens United ruling,” McGovern continued, “marks the most extreme extension of a corporate rights doctrine which has eroded our First Amendment and our Constitution. Now is the time for a 28th Amendment that lifts up the promise of American self-government: of, for, and by the people.”

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC swept away a century of precedent barring corporate political expenditures and unleashed a torrent of corporate spending in US elections. The ruling applied the doctrine of corporate constitutional rights, a doctrine which corporations have used in recent years to strike down various federal and state laws designed to protect the public interest.

“We are proud to stand with Congressman McGovern at this historic moment,” said John Bonifaz, the co-founder and director of Free Speech For People, a national non-partisan campaign launched on the day of the Citizens United ruling which authored the People’s Rights Amendment and has been mobilizing support throughout the nation for its enactment. “For the first time, the United States Congress now has the opportunity to debate a constitutional amendment bill that raises the fundamental question of whether people or corporations shall govern in America.”

“The nation is ready for this debate,” Bonifaz added, citing public opinion research that Free Speech For People commissioned showing widespread support across the political spectrum for a constitutional amendment like the one Congressman McGovern has introduced. “Americans understand that our democracy is at stake and that we must fight to preserve it. We see Congressman McGovern’s proposed amendment as another important strike on behalf of the 99 percent.”

How The Oligarchy Gets Politicized

The performance of the US economy from the mid-1970s to the present was no match for its relatively robust performance during what  economists call the Golden Age – 1949 to 1973. This was in fact the longest period of sustained growth in US history, when most (white) working people had achieved a degree of material security unknown earlier and unattainable since. But from the late 1960s and through the 1970s economic malaise was increasingly in evidence, signaling worse to come: high rates of both inflation and unemployment  -stagflation- was not supposed to be possible in a Keynesian(1)  world, but there they were, and seemingly intractable. At the same time workers’ productivity declined dramatically. Profit rates fell steadily for more than ten years as revived Japanese and European economic competitors increasingly ate into US manufacturing’s share of both world trade and the domestic market itself.

Corporate and political elites responded with the cold bath treatment. “The standard of living of the average American,” pronounced Fed chairman Paul Volcker on Oct. 17, 1979, “has to decline. I don’t think you can escape that.”  Interest rates went through the roof. Austerity was the order of the day, and it still is.

In 1983 an analysis of US decline and the ensuing rise of Thatcher-Reaganism appeared, in the book Beyond the Waste Land, by three Harvard-based radical economists  - Sam Bowles, David M. Gordon and Thomas Weisskopf. The book received favorable reviews in many mainstream media, including The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. Reviewers included the  distinguished US economists John Kenneth Galbraith, James Tobin and Kenneth Arrow.

The authors argued that a social-political factor of great importance figured crucially in the decline of US hegemony: workers had become more secure and therefore more emboldened by Keynesian New-Deal benefits like Social Security and unemployment insurance, and the labor-friendly social programs of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. 

Labor’s uppityness was especially striking in the 1960s and early 1970s. There was a notable increase in labor actions, from strikes to industrial sabotage. With fewer workers worried about where the next mouthful would come from, we saw an increase in goofing off on the job, tardiness, job-switching, pressure for improved workplace safety measures and demands for higher wages and benefits. The result was a decline in productivity (output per unit of labor input) and a wage-push profit squeeze.

Most importantly, the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society had resulted in a shift in the distribution of national income from capital to labor.

Bowles, Gordon and Weisskopf argued that with effective unions and unprecedented security, labor had achieved a degree of power over capital hitherto unknown. This analysis has been developed more recently by the economists Jonathan Goldstein and David Kotz, who show that every Golden-Age recession was generated by a wage-push profit squeeze in the preceding expansion. According to Bowles, Gordon and Weisskopf, capital did not take this sitting down. Corporate America initiated a counteroffensive which the authors called the Great Repression. Capital’s counterattack, we may say, persists to this day.

Liberal Thinking About the Politics of the Elite
Several of the most prominent liberal reviewers of Beyond the Waste Land were scandalized by the authors’ claim that capital deliberately organized active political resistance to working-class advances. In the New York Times (July 31, 1983) Peter Passell, who at the time wrote about economics for the Times’s editorial page, complained that the book exhibits an “emphasis on conspiracy.” John Kenneth Galbraith was far more insightful and dismissive of mainstream orthodoxy than liberals of a Paul Krugman or Robert Reich kidney. Yet he too could not imagine that the vested interests deliberately muster forces antithetical to working-class interests. In his otherwise generous praise for the book in The New York Review of Books (June 2, 1983) Galbraith registered a “serious complaint about the authors’ position on political power…. They see the present sorry behavior of the economy as the result of a thoughtful and deliberate exercise of corporate power.” Galbraith repudiated the authors’ “conviction that the present disaster is designed – that it reflects in a deliberate way the interest of the corporations. This I do not believe. I would attribute far more to adherence by the corporate world to outdated and irrelevant ideology, and to political leaders, not excluding the president, who do not know what damage they are accomplishing.”

It is as if acknowledging elites’ political activism gives credence to class analysis, which is thought to be too Marxian for our own good. Talk of corporate dominance of the State opens the door to unacceptably subversive reconceptualizations of matters we have been trained to understand in safer, less seditious terms. Seeing a recession as a strike of capital, for example, forces us to make the appropriate readjustments in a range of related economic and political understandings. Indeed, as Galbraith recognized, Beyond the Waste Land requires us to think and to act very differently regarding what political power is all about. It is less unsettling to imagine that “irrelevant ideology” and political ignorance lie at the heart of the current economic debacle, than it is to see the depression as the outcome of a deliberate assault on working people by the oligarchs.

These liberal objections are far less believable now than they were 28 years ago. Elites are not philosophers seeking to be guided by the most intellectually cogent theories. Political power is not about upholding this or that ideology; it is about legislating in this or that group’s interest. Political power is exercised most successfully by those whose interests are most consistently served by the exercise of State power.Cui bono? remains the best test of who matters most to the State managers. The latter govern; the former rule.

By this test only the blind fail to see that Wall Street is now running the show. The blind abound among liberal intellectuals. In his New York Times column on Nov. 23, 2009, Paul Krugman confesses that “It took me a while to puzzle this out. But the concerns Mr. Obama expressed become comprehensible if you suppose that he’s getting his views, directly or indirectly, from Wall Street.” You don’t say.

Krugman’s epiphany was available before Obama was elected. In September 2008, finance capital stepped forward, openly and unabashedly pushed aside its political representatives, and proceeded to dictate policy to the Congress and the White House. Hank Paulson demanded $700 billion for the banksters, with no strings attached: there would be no restrictions on how the handout was spent, no hearings, no Congressional debate, no expert testimony and Paulson was not to be held accountable. Obama suspended his campaign for a day to make phone calls urging Congressional Democrats to obey Paulson’s orders. His top economic advisors, his Treasury Secretary, his Fed chief, turned out to be mostly Wall-Street-linked deregulators. It was more than a year before it dawned on Krugman that Obama might be Charley McCarthy to Wall Street’s Edgar Bergen.

Elite Responses To Crisis
The political activism of the elite is striking in times of crisis, when the latter takes the form either of severe economic contraction or of working-class militancy, or both. Let’s look at the specifics.

The ruling class has attempted directly to address crisis situations in each of the three major economic downturn periods since 1823. I treat  nineteenth century American capitalism (1823-1899) as a single depression period, since over the course of sixty years it featured three steep depressions, 1837-1843, 1873-1878 and 1893-1897. Indeed, the entire period 1823-1898, excluding the Civil War, saw the nation in recession or depression more often than not. The Great Depression of the ‘30s was of course the second such period, and the years from late 2007 to the present constitute the third.

The corporate oligarchy has also responded to the New Deal/Great Society Golden Age as another crisis period, this time of a special kind. In that case the crisis was not perceived by the elite as purely economic, but as political, involving a transfer of both income and power from the wealthiest to the rest. Ruling-class mobilization ensued. The plutocrats openly “put politics in command.” Neoliberalism began to take shape.

After a brief review of the plutocrats’ responses to the depression periods and the Golden Age, I will look more closely at the stretch of time from the mid-1970s to the end of the twentieth century as a prolonged insurgency of the vested interests against regulated and relatively-worker-friendly American capitalism, and as a buildup to the current mess.

We begin with the corporate class’s first modern historical attempt to coordinate its power as a class. This was an effort initially confined to the economic sphere. Once the elite had established a private regime of market collaboration, it became clear that subsequent threats to its interests would require political mobilization. What we face now is a ruling class politically organized as never before, and with a firm grip on State power.

The Nineteenth Century: Depression Paves The Road To Corporate Organization
Railways and steel epitomized the chronic economic instability of nineteenth-century US capitalism. In each case enterprises repeatedly competed their profits away into bankruptcy or receivership. Finance capital responded by pressuring its industrial counterpart to consolidate in order to avert the perpetuation of what was very close to three quarters of a century of sustained slump.

Keynes famously described a clear instance of irrational competition: “Two masses for the dead, two pyramids are better than one; not so two railroads from London to York.” In fact, in Britain and in the US the railroad magnates had repeatedly built two or more railways from A to B, with the predictable consequences: bankruptcies proliferated. By the end of the nineteenth century the giant railway networks were the largest business enterprises in the world, yet by 1900 half of them had gone into receivership.

The financial magnate J.P. Morgan was attuned to the contribution of fratricidal competition to recurring economic downturns and, not incidentally, to the attending threat to bank profits.  He persuaded the biggest railway barons to organize. He had them form “communities of interest” to reduce destructive competition by fixing rates and/or allocating traffic between competing roads. Most of these efforts failed; invariably at least one of the companies would try to take advantage of the others’ compliance by breaking its promise.

Morgan’s response was, in retrospect, epoch-making. He implored his real-economy counterparts to consolidate as a matter of policy. Consolidation, he urged, was the most effective antidote to cutthroat-competition-induced depression and falling bank profits. Concentration was in capital’s best interests. Practicing what he preached, Morgan took control of one sixth of the nation’s largest railroads.

The steel industry exhibited a similar dynamic. The superinnovator Andrew Carnegie introduced productivity-enhancing technological improvements with uncommon frequency. His high rate of capital replacement lowered his unit costs, raised his competitors’ costs and devalorized their obsolete capital, enabling him to price-compete many of them to bankruptcy.

This left bankers like J.P. Morgan with big debtors unable to service their loans. Cutthroat competition was again rightly perceived by Morgan as contrary to the interests of capital.
Carnegie was a special nuisance to Morgan, who repeatedly implored him to slow down his innovations. When Carnegie resisted, Morgan simply bought him out and consolidated the Carnegie Steel Company with some of its weaker competitors. In 1901 Morgan’s steel behemoth became US Steel. This gave precedent and impetus to the oligopolization of major industries that was to become a hallmark of twentieth century capitalism. Cutthroat price competition was replaced with “corespective” competition, effected mainly through advertising, new products, improved technology, and organizational change.

Morgan had become the nation’s first prominent active critic of cutthroat competition. His effort consciously to limit competition was the first historical attempt of a major ruling-class activist deliberately to intervene in the dynamics of the economy in response to viral bankruptcies and depression.

Morgan’s lessons are implicitly subversive. He instructed his industrial brothers that their individual interests are best realized by action in concert. Morgan understood that the most effective agent of capitalist success is not the individual but the class. The same of course applies to anti-capitalist success. This Morgan did not discuss.

Organized capitalism was strikingly different from its nineteenth-century ancestor, with one exception. In both periods economic liberalism persisted; government regulation was almost entirely absent. The absence of regulation was a major factor in precipitating both the Great Depression and the current severe downturn.

The Great Depression: Coup d’Etat as Response to the New Deal’s Politicization of the State
J.P. Morgan’s response to crisis was to recommend to his class brothers a new form of industrial organization. The resulting reconfiguration of the private economy was accomplished with virtually no overt participation by the State, in accord with the prevailing laissez faire ideology. The notion that the State could respond to economic malfunction by active intervention  had not yet entered official thinking.

During the crisis of the 1930s the dominant orthodoxy was severely challenged. Morgan’s precedent for dealing with economic collapse generated by unbridled competition was that the Big Boys could put their own house in order by teaming up. By contrast, 1930s capital was without private, class-grown strategies adequate to the task of getting the Great Depression under control.

The seeds of the Depression had been planted in the 1920s, when the economic scene was strikingly similar to what precipitated the current downturn. Output, investment, productivity and profits rose much faster than wages. Unions were weak and inequality soared  -1928 was the then-record year for income inequality-  and working people relied heavily on debt to finance their purchase of the avalanche of newly available consumer durables. During the latter half of the decade economic growth was driven largely by credit-fueled consumption expenditures.

The unprecedented inequality that emerged from this setup widened the gap between productive capacity and effective demand and caused, beginning in 1926, a marked slowdown in the purchases of the very consumer durables   -radios, refrigeratots, toasters, automobiles-  on whose growth the health of the productive economy had become dependent. The growth rate of  manufacturing declined dramatically, and investment-seeking capital fled to speculative financial markets, ultimately inducing the crash of 1929. Sound familiar?

Reflecting on these realities, the Keynesians surrounding Roosevelt proposed the notion that the economy had reached “maturity” during the end-stage industrialization of the 1920s. All previous expansions out of downturns had been propelled by investment spending on means of production and workplaces; the nation was still industrializing. This time, and for the first time, it was different. Excess capacity abounded at the end of the decade, but not, as in the nineteenth century, as a result of serial bankruptcies. The triple blights of  inequality, over-investment and underconsumption were the culprits. With the basic industrial infrastructure now in place, and productive facilities glaringly superfluous, if the economy was to recover there had to be a resurrection of consumption demand. But the condition of the private economy ruled this out. This is what Keynes understood. His was a prescription for the economic restoration of a mature industrialized economy in the depths of a severe, sustained and self-perpetuating downturn.

The historical stage was now set for the birth of the Keynesian insight that only an agent outside the sphere of the market, and unmotivated by the quest for private profit, can restore a mature capitalist economy in deep depression. Many of FDR’s early “Brain Trust” were solid Keynesians, and the combination of their tutelage with mounting labor militancy convinced the president to initiate a major break with free-market precedent. He initiated a grand plan of public investment and government-provided jobs which not only brought about a reversal of the downward plunge of 1929-1933, but also generated the longest US cyclical expansion recorded up to that time, 1934-1938.

To the business class this seemed an unconscionably revolutionary turn. FDR’s fierce denunciation of the banksters even as he politicized the State in the name of working-class interests was viewed as an unparalleled and horrific development, a popular assault by the State on the power of Big Wealth. The logical response of the business class was not to attempt to reconfigure the private sector as Morgan had done, but to seek to capture the State, which it perceived as a greater threat to its dominance than the Depression itself. Morgan had attended to matters economic. But the emergence of a mature oligopolized form of economic organization required from the superordinates a distinctly political response.

The ruling elite proceeded in 1933 to organize a coup intended to topple the Roosevelt administration and replace it with a government modelled on the policies of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. (A 1934 Congressional committee determined that Prescott Bush, granddad of Dubya, was in communication with Hitler.) The plotters included some of the foremost members of the business class, many of them household names at the time.

Prominent insurgents included Rockefeller, Mellon, Pew, Morgan and Dupont, as well as enterprises like Remington, Anaconda, Bethlehem and Goodyear, and the owners of Bird’s Eye, Maxwell House and Heinz. About twenty four major businessmen and Wall Street financiers planned to assemble a private army of half a million men, composed largely of unemployed veterans. These troops would constitute the armed force behind the coup and defeat any resistance the in-house revolution might generate.

The revolutionaries chose Medal of Honor recipient and Marine Major General Smedley Butler to organize its armed forces. Butler was appalled by the plot and spilled the beans to journalists and to Congress. FDR nipped the thing in the bud.

The attempted coup was a landmark event in US history, baring the soul of America’s standing wealth. (We find no mention of this event in US history textbooks. History unfit to print.) We have no reason to think that these fascist instincts have been expunged from the class character of our rulers. No less important, the scandal alerts us to the elite’s Leninism, its identification of the State as the political prize of prizes, the seat of class power.

Ironically, it was Keynes who put the deliberate capture of the State on postWar capital’s agenda. 1930s Keynesianism saw the State legislating in the interests of working people, and successfully competing in the labor market with private companies. This was an explicitly politicized State functioning, in the eyes of the elite, as the executive committee of the working class.

Big capital learned a lesson of abiding importance: determining State power must be their deliberate and overriding political agenda. Siezing State power by force of arms, they had learned, is easier planned than accomplished. The final years of the Golden Age saw the captains of wealth devising a longer-term political strategy to roll back the New Deal and Great Society, and to set in place arrangements that would preclude their recurrence. This time it was to be a New Deal for capital, a State unabashedly politicized for the class that counts. These were the early formative years of neoliberalism.

The Golden Age Not So Golden For Capital
The Golden Age is distinguished by its remarkable growth rate and the unprecedented material security enjoyed by a good number of workers. But growth rates tell us nothing about how the fruits of growth are distributed. The present moment illustrates this nicely. The economy’s rate of growth has been very slow, while corporate profits and the income of the top .01% have reached record highs. Ring this up to a deliberate, policy-driven transfer of income and wealth from the rest to the richest. Distribution counts a lot for the wealthy. Their political power is a function of their wealth. If wealth and/or income is redistributed to another class, so is power. That goes down badly with rulers.

The New Deal/Great Society period saw increasing redistribution from capital to labor. The share of national income appropriated by the top 1% of households steadily declined during those years. In 1928, the most unequal year to date since 1900, the share of the top 1% stood at more than 23%; by the late 1930s it was down to 16%. It declined to 11-15% in the 1940s, to 9-11% in the 1950s and 1960s, and finally fell to its nadir of 8-9% in the 1970s.

This was the first 50-year redistribution of income from the very richest to the rest in American history. The oligarchs were to take steps to ensure that this would never happen again.

Elites saw redistribution as inherent in any State policy orientation distributing toward working people benefits which the market by itself would not produce. If you give them a little, little by little they’ll want it all. To the boys used to being in charge, Lyndon Johnson seemed to be responding to popular pressure to out-New-Deal the New Deal. The latter had given us Social Security; Johnson expanded the program to include disability payments and more. Johnson and a Democratic Congress passed new or strengthened laws, mainly around consumer and environmental issues, that cut into business profits by forcing corporations to absorb some of the costs they had previously externalized onto the rest of us.

In less than four years Congress enacted the Truth In Lending Act, the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the National Gas Pipeline Safety Act, the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, the Flammable Fabrics Act, the federal Meat Inspection Act and the Child Protection Act. Whew.

Business-government relations had never before seen such an avalanche of legislation limiting the freedom of capital in the interests of working people.

Between 1964 and 1968 Congress passed 226 of 252 worker-friendly bills into law. Federal funds transferred to the poor increased from $9.9 billion in 1960 to $30 billion in 1968. One million workers received job training from these bills and 2 million children were enrolled in pre-school Head Start programs by 1968.

What made all this especially unnerving in the eyes of Big Wealth was that even the Republicans seemed to have swallowed the redistributionist line. Richard Nixon announced in 1971 “I am now a Keynesian in economics” (not “We are all Keynesians now”, as the remark is usually misquoted). Nixon was in fact a bigger domestic non-military spender than Johnson. During his first term in office Congress enacted a major tax reform bill, the Environmental Protection Agency along with four major environmental laws, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

The combination of regulation and redistribution left  the working class as materially secure as it had ever been, and more inclined to feel its oats. When the economy began to approach full employment, toward the peak of a Golden-Age expansion, workers’ slacking off, tardiness, job switching and general militancy increased. The US topped the OECD’s table in strikes per worker in 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1967 and 1970.

This did not go unnoticed by business. Commenting on the causes of the 1970-1971 recession following the long expansion of the 1960s, a front-page Wall Street Journal article (January 26, 1972) noted that:
‘Many manufacturing executives have openly complained in recent years that too much control had passed from management to labor. With sales lagging and competition mounting, they feel safer in attempting to restore what they call “balance”.’
It’s hard to overestimate the impact of  new regulations, redistribution and labor militancy on business. Regulations are a class thing, and we shall see how they inspired the regulated to respond in self-defense as a class. We might begin by contrasting neoliberal anti-Keynesianism with the standard postwar efforts of business to influence government.

To the extent that business sought to mobilize before neoliberalism, its tactics were fragmented and limited in scope. The airline industry would lobby the Civil Aeronautics Board and/or bribe a favorite senator (e.g. Washington state’s Scoop Jackson, the “Senator from Boeing”), steel companies would lean on Congress for protectionist legislation, energy producers got tax breaks from their congressional favorite, and firms would target trade organizations. Much of this was done through personal contacts. Individual firms and specific industries had their own strategies; there was no cross-sectoral means of resistance to threats to business as a whole. But it is the nature of regulations to pose just such threats by affecting many industries at once. It is no surprise, then, that business should respond with a call for a new form of class mobilization, an all-business attempt to secure State power by political means less dramatic, though no less effective, than an out-and-out coup.

The Counterrevolt of Capital: The Legacy of the Powell Memo
Toward the end of the nineteenth century Morgan had urged industrial capital to organize itself within the private sector. During the Great Depression big capital galvanized its energies politically, in a coup attempt to sieze State power. The next major effort by business to coordinate and mobilize itself was also a political action, again aimed at control of the State apparatus, but this time with a strategy of methodical long-term class warfare.
In 1971 future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell distributed among business circles a memo intended to politicize the captains of industry in resistance to the legacy of the New Deal and Great Society. The memo reads like a neoliberal instruction booklet:
“[the]American economic system is under broad attack. Business must learn the lesson…that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination – without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business…. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.”
In their remarkable book Winner-Take-All Politics, political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson describe the organizational counterattack of business as “a domestic version of Shock and Awe.” The accomplishments are impressive:
“The number of corporations with public affairs offices in Washington grew from 100 in 1968 to to over 500 in 1978. In 1971, only 175 firms had registered lobbyists in Washington, but by 1982, nearly 2,500 did. The number of corporate PACs increased from under 300 in 1976 to over 1,200 by the middle of 1980. On every dimension of corporate political activity, the numbers reveal a dramatic rapid mobilization of business resources in the mid-1970s.”
This period also saw the birth of militant mega-organizations representing both big and small business. In 1972 the Business Roundtable was formed, its membership restricted to top corporate CEOs. By 1977 the Roundtable’s membership included the CEOs of 113 of the top Fortune 200 companies. The chairman of both the Roundtable and Exxon in the early Reagan years, Clifton Garvin remarked “The Roundtable tries to work with whichever political party is in power… as a group the Roundtable works with every administration to the degree they let us.”

The Conference Board further sharpened capital’s political focus by gathering leading executive especially well positioned to personally contact key legislators. The Board developed an ingenious agenda: to learn the tactics of public interest groups and organized labor in order to subvert the agenda of those very groups.

The Roundtable and the Board lobbied and established ongoing relationships with Congressional staffs. Organizations representing smaller firms also grew rapidly in the 1970s. With higher unit costs and no oligopoly pricing power to offset the administrative costs of regulation, these firms were highly motivated to mobilize. The Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses doubled their membership, with the now very effective Chamber tripling its budget.

It was during this period that the corporate presence on the Hill became conspicuously ubiquitous. While business had always been disproportionately represented in DC, never before had the chambers of legislation seen such thoroughgoing corporatization.

Corporate strategy was not merely a matter of bribing top politicos. The biggest organizations had learned their lessons well from their antagonists, the public interest groups pressing the popular demand for regulation, and organized labor. The business counterrevolt mimicked the strategies of those groups. Corporate groups used their ample resources, including sophisticated marketing and communications techniques, to organize mass campaigns composed of a heterogenous grouping of shareholders, local companies, employees and mutually dependent firms like retailers and suppliers. Washington would be deluged with phone calls, petitions and letters pushing business interests.

In short order elites surpassed both public-service organizations and organized labor in what they had done best, bottom-up organizing.

Within ten years the corporate takeover was well established. In the 1980s corporate PACs shelled out five times as much money to congressional campaigners as they had put out in the 1970s.

The agenda of the political infrastructure of rallied capital was to undo those policies and State priorities which had generated the redistribution and labor activism limiting the freedom of capital and enhancing the power of workers for almost three decades. In sum, the legacy of the New Deal and Great Society had to be undone. But these were political-economic projects which required ongoing bolstering by the State if they were to be kept effective. Mobilized capital had to capture the State and render it inoperative for proletarian purposes. The State had to be as explicitly reconstituted as a capitalists’ State as the elite perceived it to have been hitherto rigged for workers and against the Big Boys. This required the functional equivalent of a coup.

And a coup there was. Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, wrote in one of the nation’s major weeklies of the “the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy” in “The Quiet Coup”, The Atlantic (May 2009). Johnson made it clear that his use of “coup” was not intended as a rhetorical flourish or a metaphor. Finance capital had effectively privatized the State. Neoliberalism had succeeded not merely in guaranteeing permanently reactionary governments, it had captured the State itself. Previously, a change in government  -e.g. from the Eisenhower to the Kennedy administration- might mean a significant change in domestic policy within the context of an abiding Keynesian State. Neoliberalism has sought to change the fundamental priorities of the State.

Mission Accomplished: The Privatized Neoliberal State
All of the major developed capitalist countries have deindustrialized over the past thirty years. The industrial capacity of the West is overripe, and widget production has accounted for a declining share of total output, total employment and total profits in these once-democracies. FIRE’s shares have correspondingly risen, and its top dogs now rule the roost and call the global shots. This has gone hand in hand with a string of financial crises.(2) This setup requires much more, not less, State implication in economic life.

To bail out or not to bail out – and who is to be rescued at whose expense? How is manufacturing to thrive in the current climate of intensified competition among deindustrialized developed countries, with the emerging markets poised to enter the fray?

The present answers to these questions are clear. The financial elite get everything while manufacturing is “restructured” as a low wage sector targeting the world’s fastest growing markets, which are not to be found in the imperial metropoles. Unemployment rates are to be kept high until the wage level drops low enough to render the US an effective competitor in global markets. None of this could begin to get off the ground without massive State collusion with corporate interests. The financial bailout and Obama’s restructuring of the auto industry are but the most conspicuous of many examples. The new State is to become  -has become?-  a capitalist State not in the trivial sense of the State of a capitalist country, but as a State unambiguously by and for Big Wealth.

Putting the Class Character of the State on the Political Agenda
The government is not the same as the State. The governmental alternatives -Republican or Democrat- within the context of an anti-Keynesian neoliberal State must be so limited as to count as no alternatives at all. That there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the Parties is what we should expect, given the dismantling of the State’s postwar social functions. If the remnants of the New Deal and Great Society are regarded by the State managers as “the old time religion”, as Obama characterized them in The Audacity of Hope, then the policy alternatives must be, from the perspective of working-class interests, piddling, and the pseudo-squabbles between the Parties inconsequential.

The historical unfolding of American capitalism has put the class character of the State squarely on the political agenda. It has been the plutocracy’s top priority for a long time. It is clearer to more Americans than ever that the entire political establishment is unprepared and unwilling to manage the economy and the State in the interests of working people. The ruling-class concerns of the neoliberal State homogenizes policy options and renders standard Party politics otiose and obsolete. An effective Left political program must make available to its constituency a radically revised conception of what it means to do politics. No less important is the forging of a political practice which compellingly incarnates that radical reconception. An independent OWS is just what such a practice would look like in its embryonic stages. Very much hinges on how that movement develops.

(1) References to Keynesian policy require the reminder that Keynes encouraged economic policy far more radical than what the New Deal and Great Society offered. Perhaps the most neglected Keynesian prescription is his insistence that fiscal policy and government employment are not tools confined to recessions. Keynes held that full employment required ongoing targeted government stimulus, even during cyclical upturns.
(2) Savings and loans (early 1980s), Mexican debt crisis (1982), Mexican peso crash (1994, one year after the passage of NAFTA), Asian Financial Crisis (1997), Russian devaluation and default (1998), Argentina’s eebt crisis (2001), Enron (2001), Worldcom (2002), the hi-tech, bubbles of the late 1990s and the present turmoil, unparalleled of its kind in the history of capitalism.

Pictures of Police at Peaceful Protests

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And fuck you if you think the police ever have the right to treat peaceful protesters this way. They'll get you, too, soon enough...--jef

Young Jobseekers Told to Work Without Pay or Lose Unemployment Benefits

(They'll do the same thing here soon enough.--jef)

People taking up work experience places – providing up to 30 hours a week of unpaid labour – face losing benefits if they quit
by Shiv Malik 
Britain's young unemployed are being sent to work for supermarkets and budget stores for up to two months for no pay and no guarantee of a job, the Guardian can reveal.

Under the government's work experience programme young jobseekers are exempted from national minimum wage laws for up to eight weeks and are being offered placements in Tesco, Poundland, Argos, Sainsbury's and a multitude of other big name businesses.

The Department for Work and Pensions says that if jobseekers "express an interest" in an offer of work experience they must continue to work without pay, after a one-week cooling-off period, or face having their benefits docked.

Young people have told the Guardian that they are doing up to 30 hours a week of unpaid labour and have to be available from 9am to 10pm.

In three such cases jobseekers also claim they were not told about the week's cooling-off period, and that once they showed a willingness to take part in the scheme they were told by their case manager they would be stripped of their £53 a week jobseekers allowance (JSA) if they backed out.

Twenty-two-year-old Cait Reilly is currently completing three weeks at Poundland, working five hours a day.

Last week, Reilly, who graduated last year with a BSc in geology from Birmingham University, found herself with five other JSA claimants stacking and cleaning shelves at Poundland in south Birmingham.

Reilly says there are around 15 other staff at the store but unlike them she will receive no remuneration for her work.

"It seems we're being used as some free labour especially in the runup to Christmas," she said.

Reilly says she told her local jobcentre in King's Heath, Birmingham, that she did not need the experience in the store as she had done plenty of prior retail work.

Despite DWP rules, Reilly says she was told by the jobcentre she would lose her benefits if she didn't take the Poundland placement. The DWP says jobseekers should be told about the cooling-off period but was unable to comment on individual cases without being given personal details.

"I was told [the work experience placement] was mandatory after I'd attended the [retail] open day," said Reilly.

She said she felt she had to do it because, "without my JSA, I would literally have nothing".

The work experience programme, which is separate from a multitude of other programmes designed to get people back into work, was advertised in January as voluntary after the time spent volunteering was increased from two to eight weeks.

However, the DWP has clarified that there is a clause which allows jobcentre case workers around the country to force the unemployed into placements.

The DWP say that once people "express an interest" including verbal consent, in doing work experience they will lose their JSA if they pull out after the first week.

One big superstore told the Guardian it thought the entire scheme was voluntary and that people could pull out whenever they wanted without fear of penalty.

Under the scheme, there is no guarantee of a job, only an interview. Multiple jobseekers can work in one store at the same time, cleaning or stacking shelves and competing against each other for a potential paid work on offer.

The DWP has no overall figure for the numbers involved in the scheme so it is not known how many hundreds or thousands of young people are working without pay for months.

But including similar schemes such as "mandatory work activity", sector-based work academies and the work programme, which is mainly run by private companies, the government expect hundreds of thousands of young people to do weeks of unpaid, and forced work experience for big companies.

Figures released on Wednesday reveal that youth unemployment stands at 1.016 million.
As part of her placement Reilly has been given training at another company, which will gives her a City and Guilds qualification in retail.

The DWP says Reilly is likely not to be on the work experience scheme but on another placement called a sector-based work academy, which was announced this October.

The scheme is different from straight work experience in that it has a defined training element, but Reilly says that it was only ever told that she was doing work experience and that her work at King's Heath branch of Poundland has been very unstructured.

"No one really knew what we were supposed to be doing. We were just put on the shop floor and told to tidy shelves," she said.James Rayburn has just spent seven weeks working for Tesco doing, he says, the same work as other paid employees.

He said he had gone to the jobcentre to help him find employment, and the manager there told him that Tesco was looking for staff. "I thought, that's quite handy because I knew a friend who used to work there and it sounds like quiet good fun."

Like Reilly, 21-year-old Rayburn said that he had little instruction from the store in Warfield, Berkshire.

"I didn't actually have much support …They were getting on with their own jobs … they left me to it," he said. "They said, 'Good work today, Joe'. That was it, everyday."

Rayburn, who was also told by his jobcentre he would lose his benefits if he did not work without pay, said he spent almost two months stacking and cleaning shelves and doing night shifts on occasion.

"They said [my JSA] would be cut off if I didn't do it."

Asked if he thought he should have been paid he said: "I reckon they should have paid me … I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco. I had the uniform and I was in the staff canteen. I obviously got access to the food and drinks in the staff canteen … that's what they let you do … but I got nothing else apart from that.

"I was there doing it as if I walked into the store and said, 'Look I'll help.'"

In April, Tesco filed pre-tax profits of £3.5bn.

Like Reilly, Rayburn was not told that he had a week to refuse the placement, and was working in Tesco with two other young unemployed people who did get a job at the end of their placement.

Other large stores including Sainsbury's, Argos and Asda have been confirmed as taking on work experience placements.

Tesco said that in the last two months 150 people had carried out placements at their store. However, Tesco told the Guardian it was under the impression that work experience placements were totally voluntary.

It said they would not be taking on placements during Christmas adding: "These placements are not a substitute for full-time employees."

Poundland also confirmed the practice but said it didn't have exact numbers.

Sainsbury's said: "Following an approach from their local Jobcentre Plus and in the belief that they were doing the right thing, a small number of stores have recruited colleagues under this new initiative.

"We have since reminded our stores that they must continue our normal work placement policy, which means they will take on candidates only when there is a chance of a permanent role at the end of the placement."

Employment minister Chris Grayling has defended the scheme, saying: "Our work experience scheme is proving to be a big success with over half of young people leaving benefits after they have completed their placement. It is not mandatory but once someone agrees to take part we expect them to turn up or they will have their benefits stopped.

"Work experience will give young people a real taste of the work environment and act as a stepping stone into a career. And it's working.

"Jobcentre Plus is working with major multinationals and smaller businesses to offer thousands of opportunities for young people so that they can start to get on the job experience whilst enabling them to keep their benefits."

Sex Scandals & Cover-Ups

Once again, America is being entertained by a series of sex scandals.  One involves the erstwhile corporate showman and Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, and the other is engulfing Penn State’s football-team coaching staff and top university administrators.

The Cain scandal is two-fold: (i) the acts apparently committed on at least four women (the reported “evidence” seems convincing) and (ii) Cain’s confusing attempts to deny what took place that seem to only dig him deeper into the proverbial hole.

The Penn State scandal is also two-fold: (i) the pedophile acts attributed to Jerry Sandusky, a retired assistant football coach, to at least eight of boys (the reported “evidence” seems convincing), and (ii) the university’s attempt to contain the scandal by covering up evidence against the perpetrator that seems to only dig those involved deeper into the proverbial hole.

The final outcomes of both cases are still to be determined.  Stay tuned.

The two episodes are fundamentally different in terms of the sex issues involved, harassment and rape.  Nevertheless, the two episodes share a common attempt to deny, hide or minimize the likely consequences of the alleged actions involved.  And neither involved seems to be getting away with their respective cover-ups.

Equally critical, both episodes point to deeper, more systemic issues of male sexism that all-to-often still continue to go under reported if not excused with a wink-and-a-nod acceptance by those with power and money.

We’ve been here before, many, many times.  Was it just last spring that we were being entertained by the sexting scandals involving Congressmen Anthony Weiner and Chris Lee?  And didn’t Weiner early on play the same fool’s game of denial until he was finally forced to resign?

And who could forget the fun the media had outing John Edwards, Elliot Spitzer and Tiger Woods?   After so many scandals, it’s clear that the cover-up can be more consequential than the act(s) itself.

It’s as if our politicians and athletes (or their coaches) jump headlong into the media spotlight at scheduled intervals.  Suffering their 15 minutes of fame, they add some seasoning to the hard-to-eat reality of daily life.  Stay tuned as further episodes of sex scandal America play themselves out.

* * *
The Cain and the Penn State scandals are still unraveling; their final outcomes yet to be determined.  Most assuredly, they are very different offenses.  One involves individuals; the other involves individuals and an institution.   One involves adults; the other an adult and children.  One involves sexual harassment, with passive coercion and (apparently) no overt violence; Cain seems to have known where to stop.  The other involves the raping of minors; Sandusky could not stop himself from the nonconsensual sexual violation of young boys.

As the old proverb implies, unless you live in a cave you probably know a lot about the sexual misadventures of Cain and at Penn State.  These two stories have become the leitmotif of daily news headlines.  Set against the looming bankruptcies of Greece and Italy (and the possible collapse of the euro), the Obama/Democrats-Tea Party/Republican political duet, the growing Occupy movement, the grinding recession and daily shoot-em-ups that clutter most local news coverage, these sex scandals poke holes in the generally shared belief about “normal” sex in America.

So far, four women have come forward who have apparently suffered sexual harassment at the hands of Herman Cain.  At this time, two of the apparent victims, Karen Kraushaar and Sharon Bialek, have been publicly identified.  Bialek held a formal press conference at which she laid out a highly detailed account of a very uncomfortable evening with this oh-so helpful executive. Kraushaar has acknowledged receiving a payout from Cain’s-then employer, National Restaurant Association, a trade group.  To date, Cain’s reply has been an assertion that he couldn’t remember Ms. Bialek and, in any case, he was a married man who could never do such dastardly deeds.

The Penn State debacle is a crisis playing out in slow motion.   The very Catholic governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, linked the PSU scandal to the pedophilia scandal long engulfing the Catholic Church.  Whereas the Mother Church retreated into centuries-old refusal to hide its culpability, Gov. Corbett seems to be making all of this sad story public, transparent; time will tell if he doesn’t reconfigure truth to serve private interests.

The heart of the crisis is the link between the alleged perpetrator, Sandusky, with the university’s power elite who, for more than a decade, sought to cover up the crimes.  The cornerstone of this elite is PSU’s version of Rin-Tin-Tin, football coach Joe Paterno.  He is a cash cow, the corporatist version of “Greatest Generation” morals, the all-American granddad.  The Penn State football team, popularly know as the Nittany Lions, generates about $50 million annual in revenue to a relatively impoverished sector of central PA.

Debate within the media about Paterno’s culpability has focused on whether simply reporting to his supervisors information about an incident of locker-room pedophilia was sufficient. This is the legal question, one clearly answered in the affirmative, as Paterno did his job and, unfortunately, nothing more. [See grand jury report.]

However, the more fundamental question is whether Paterno had a deeper, moral, responsibility with regard to the unfolding scandal?  He knew, and was intimately associated, with Sandusky, his wife and children for about 40 years!  Sandusky served on the PSU coaching staff for 32 years, retiring at the end of the 1999 season.

The first reported pedophile incident involving Sandusky was made in 1998 after a mother of a young boy raised the issue with the university police, the state’s Department of Public Welfare and the local district attorney’s office.  The DA, Ray Gricar, dropped the investigation; Gricar disappeared in 2005 and has not been seen or heard from since.

Sandusky had been in line to replace Paterno as PSU’s head coach but, in the wake of the ’98 investigation, Paterno dropped the dime on him and he was forced to retire.  One can only wonder if (and, if not, why) Paterno approached Sandusky as a friend, boss, fellow jock and good Christian and asked him what was happening and if he needed help?

This points to the deeper crisis confronting the PSU leadership.  The grand jury report notes that Wendell Courtney, the university’s counsel, had a thorough knowledge of the charges and also served as attorney for Sandusky’s Second Mile charity.  So, what did this model citizen do in the face of this (and surely other) incidents involving Sandusky?  Does his failure to act, if not his apparent role halting a criminal investigation, constitute grounds for disbarment?

* * *
The modern culture industry effectively obliterates meaning and history from the present.  Thus, the sex scandal involving Herman Cain serves the same social function as the latest gossip about Lady Gaga.  Such coverage is interchangeable, equally distracting and titillating.

But sex scandals have a history that illuminates not only a peculiar past, but also the formation of an equally unique present. Scandals mark out the boundaries of acceptable conduct, and especially sexual conduct.

Sex scandals have a peculiar social function that has changed since America’s founding four centuries ago. Since the nation’s founding, sex scandals have been morality tales intended to punish and/or shame the perpetrator.  They are rituals setting the boundaries of acceptable sexual practice.

Public shaming, especially directed toward political and cultural figures, has been a powerful force used to impose and maintain social control.  As evident in the unraveling scandals involving Cain and Sandusky, the scandals point to deeper issues that the media only passingly focuses on.

The Cain scandal, however it plays out for the Republican candidate, raises the deeper specter of sexual harassment widespread in the workplace.  Most disturbing is the business-as-usual policies practiced by the National Restaurant Association to pay-off at least two women who brought charges against Cain.

Who knows how many other women Cain harassed and from whom he bought their silence through “legal” pay-offs?  And if this is but one case in one industry sector, how many more such deals like this one are struck annually or charges simply not reported throughout the country as part of ongoing business-as-usual?

The Sandusky scandal, however it plays out for Penn State and its football team, raises the deeper specter of sexual crimes (e.g., pedophilia, rape) committed within an institutional setting.  One of the most revealing episodes in the sordid story involves the PSU assistant coach Mike McQueary who discovered Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in 2002 and, instead of directly attempted to halt the rape or calling the police, he left the football building and reported the incident to his father who had him meet with Paterno the following morning.

This is the trouble with institutional thinking: personal moral judgment is subordinated to the “good” of the institution, be it football team or local power relations.  Another example of compromised institutional allegiance is evident in the local judge, Leslie Dutchcot, who imposed an unsecured $100,000 bail on Sandusky; Sandusky didn’t have to post any money and walked out of jail. Oh, by the way, the good judge was a volunteer to Sandusky charity, the Next Mile.

Europe Bans X-Ray Body Scanners Used at U.S. Airports

(But they pose no health risk, we were told in the US by the proper authorities...were they dishonest..?--jef)

by Michael Grabell, ProPublica 
The European Union on Monday prohibited the use of X-ray body scanners in European airports, parting ways with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which has deployed hundreds of the scanners as a way to screen millions of airline passengers for explosives hidden under clothing.

The European Commission, which enforces common policies of the EU's 27 member countries, adopted the rule “in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.”

As a ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation detailed earlier this month, X-ray body scanners use ionizing radiation, a form of energy that has been shown to damage DNA and cause cancer. Although the amount of radiation is extremely low several research studies have concluded that a number of cancer cases would result from scanning hundreds of millions of passengers a year.

European countries will be allowed to use an alternative body scanner, on that relies on radio frequency waves, which have not been linked to cancer. The TSA has also deployed hundreds of those machines – known as millimeter-wave scanners – in U.S. airports. But unlike Europe, it has decided to deploy both types of scanners.

The TSA would not comment specifically on the EU’s decision. But in a statement, TSA spokesman Mike McCarthy said, “As one of our many layers of security, TSA deploys the most advanced technology available to provide the best opportunity to detect dangerous items, such as explosives.

“We rigorously test our technology to ensure it meets our high detection and safety standards before it is placed in airports,” he continued. “Since January 2010, advanced imaging technology has detected more than 300 dangerous or illegal items on passengers in U.S. airports nationwide.”

Body scanners have been controversial in the United States since they were first deployed in prisons in the late 1990s and then in airports for tests after 9/11. Most of the controversy has focused on privacy because the machines can produce graphic images. But the manufacturers have since installed privacy filters.

As the TSA began deploying hundreds of body scanners after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009, several scientists began to raise concerns about the health risks of the X-ray scanner, noting that even low levels of radiation would increase the risk of cancer.

As part of our investigation, ProPublica surveyed foreign countries’ security policies and found that only a few nations used the X-ray scanner. The United Kingdom uses them but only for secondary screening, such as when a passenger triggers the metal detector or raises suspicion.

Under the new European Commission policy, the U.K. will be allowed to complete a trial of the X-ray scanners but not to deploy them on a permanent basis when the trial ends, said Helen Kearns, spokeswoman for the European transport commissioner, Siim Kallas.

“These new rules ensure that where this technology is used it will be covered by EU-wide standards on detection capability as well as strict safeguards to protect health and fundamental rights,” Kallas said.

Five-hundred body scanners, split about evenly between the two technologies, are deployed in U.S. airports. The X-ray scanner, or backscatter, which looks like two large blue boxes, is used at major airports, including Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy in New York and Chicago's O’Hare. The millimeter-wave scanner, which looks like a round glass booth, is used in San Francisco, Atlanta and Dallas.

Within three years, the TSA plans to deploy 1,800 backscatter and millimeter-wave scanners, covering nearly every domestic airport security lane. The TSA has not yet released details on the exact breakdown.