Thursday, September 13, 2012

More Americans opting out of banking system

By Danielle Douglas, Washington Post
September 12, 2012

In the aftermath of one of the worst recessions in history, more Americans have limited or no interaction with banks, instead relying on check cashers and payday lenders to manage their finances, according to a new federal report.

Not only are these Americans more vulnerable to high fees and interest rates, but they are also cut off from credit to buy a car or a home or pay for college, the report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said.

Released Wednesday, the study found that 821,000 households opted out of the banking system from 2009 to 2011 and that the so-called unbanked population grew to 8.2 percent of U.S. households.

That means that roughly 17 million adults are without a checking or savings account. Another 51 million adults have a bank account, but use pawnshops, payday lenders or rent-to-own services, the FDIC said. This underbanked population has grown from 18.2 percent to 20.1 percent of households nationwide. 

The study also found that one in four households, or 28.3 percent, either had one or no bank account. A third of these households said they do not have enough money to open and fund an account. Minorities, the unemployed, young people and lower-income households are least likely to have accounts.

Stubbornly high unemployment and underemployment have placed millions of Americans in precarious financial positions, leaving them unable to absorb overdraft charges or minimum-balance fees.

In the past year alone, Wells Fargo, Capital One and SunTrust have alerted customers to pending fee hikes on checking accounts or have raised overdraft charges. Banks say service charges are needed to offset the loss of revenue from a cap on debit-card transaction fees imposed by the government.

“Banks need to have pricing and practices that consumers can trust and allow them to build wealth and have economic mobility,” said Deborah Goldstein, chief operating officer at the Center for Responsible Lending. “If the account fees will leave them worse off, then its going to be a challenge for people to use banking services.”
Banks say it is difficult to make money serving lower-income communities because the cost of managing their accounts outweighs the return.

“There has to be a recognition that there are costs to providing accounts and those costs have to be covered,” said Nessa Feddis, vice president and general counsel at the American Bankers Association. She estimated that it costs banks up to $300 a year to maintain a checking account because of expenses such as processing transactions.

National Community Reinvestment Coalition chief executive John Taylor argued that banks could make up some of that cost by the sheer volume of new accounts.

Feddis disagreed. “You can’t take a losing account and make it up in bulk,” she said. “You’re not going to spend money to lose money.”
Without access to traditional banks, Taylor said, Americans are susceptible to abusive practices at non-bank institutions and are likely to remain trapped in a vicious cycle of financial strain.

“A part of changing the condition of unbanked people is keeping them away from predatory lenders who keep them mired in debt,” he said. “One of the reasons you had all of these mortgage companies preying on low-income communities is because there were no options.” 
A report from SNL Financial in April showed that banks have closed dozens of branches in neighborhoods with a median household income of $25,000 or less since 2007, shifting resources to areas where the median income is $100,000 or more.

“The [Community Reinvestment Act] has had a significant impact over the last 30 years, but did not contemplate some of the new abuses that we’re seeing and the way banking has changed,” Goldstein said. “But we’ve now seen financial reform that includes additional consumer protection.”
Congress passed the act in 1977 to address the shortage of credit available to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Consumer advocates, however, say that regulation has fallen short of ensuring that banks offer reasonably priced services.
The newly minted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has jurisdiction over non-bank institutions and plans to weed out predatory practices. The agency reviews compliance with federal consumer financial laws such as the Fair Credit Act. 

In the past year, a quarter of households have used at least one type of alternative financial service, such as a tax refund anticipation loan or money order, the FDIC study found. Some households, 7.5 percent, said they simply did not trust or feel comfortable dealing with banks. Another 6.6 percent said they could not open accounts because they lacked required identification or suffered from poor credit.

A growing number of consumers without bank accounts are turning to prepaid cards, with nearly 18 percent of households, up from 12 percent in 2009, reporting the use of such products.

Feddis of the banking association said prepaid cards are an innovative tool that banks could use to serve lower-income communities without incurring much cost.

“There are fewer ways to access the account, so there are fewer opportunities for fraud, which banks pay a lot to protect against,” she said.

Big Ag Directly Funded Anti-Organics Stanford Study

A study released last week by Stanford scientists, which claims organic foods are no more healthy than non-organic foods, was funded by corporate agriculture and biotechnology giants, according to a new report by the Cornucopia Institute.

 "We were not one bit surprised to find that the agribusiness giant Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural business enterprise, and foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which have deep ties to agricultural chemical and biotechnology corporations like Monsanto the devil, have donated millions to Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute, where some of the scientists who published this study are affiliates and fellows," said Charlotte Vallaeys, Food and Farm Policy Director at the Cornucopia Institute, a non-profit organic farm policy organization.

On September 3, Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute, released the research, garnishing widespread press coverage from corporate news outlets such as the New York Times, Associated Press, and CBS News. As the New York Times reported, the study "concluded that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, which tend to be far less expensive."

However, as Cornucopia points out, a deeper examination of the actual research reveals "glaring errors, both in understanding the important and complex differences between organic and conventional foods and in the researchers’ flawed choice of research methods."

Environmental health advocates such as the Environmental Working Group and Mark Kastel of Cornucopia have been quick to point out the wealth of research ignored in the Stanford report, which reveals the obvious risks involved in producing and consuming non-organics; however, Stanford's spin was quickly and widely accepted by journalists without fact-checking and was rushed to the pages of major news outlets.

Now Cornucopia has revealed that the Stanford researchers have direct ties to big ag players, which stand to profit from an organics smear campaign.

"Make no mistake, the Stanford organics study is a fraud," says Mike Adams of and Anthony Gucciardi of, who discovered the link between the organic study author and Big Tobacco. "To say that conventional foods are safe is like saying that cigarettes are safe. Both can be propagandized with fraudulent science funded by corporate donations to universities, and we’re seeing the same scientist who helped Big Tobacco now helping Big Biotech in their attempt to defraud the public."

"There was just no way that truly independent scientists with the expertise required to adequately answer such an important question would ignore the vast and growing body of scientific literature pointing to serious health risks from eating foods produced with synthetic chemicals," says Vallaeys.

Additionally, the study did, in fact, concede a few positive attributes to organic foods, including the fact that organic produce has fewer pesticide residues; however, such facts were buried in the presentation of the research by the Stanford researchers and public relations staff and were not widely reported by major news sources.

Profiles in Decadent Cowardliness

September 13, 2012
Two Conventions

The Republican and Democratic Conventions are mercifully over but their corrosive impacts on our democracy persist.

First, did you know that taxpayers helped fund these conventions at a level of $100 million for logistics and police sequestrations of demonstrators in Tampa and Charlotte and an additional $18.2 million each for general convention expenses?

The two party duopoly obviously controls the honey pot in Congress. That corporate welfare is what they enacted in spite of the fact that the party’s convention committees are private corporations that should pay for their own big political party and their many smaller social parties with plentiful food and drink. No third party – Green, Libertarian or others – received any taxpayer money for their conventions this year.

Second, the Republican and Democratic Conventions have jettisoned their original purposes which were to resolve the contest for the presidential nomination and work up a platform. Both functions are now decided beforehand, setting the stage for a choreographed theatrical event of political pomposity and braggadocio. On the periphery are the omnipresent corporate lobbyists and their parties of free food and drink.

Did they ask you the taxpayers to foot so much of this bill? Silly question for an oligarchy greased by a plutocracy.

Taking these conventions at face value, one is shocked by how they are scripted right down to every line of every speech vetted by the politicos. Clint Eastwood’s spontaneity that so angered the GOP operatives was the exception.

The Republicans put three themes in just about every speech. Tell your personal story, recount your humble beginnings, and describe how you pulled yourself up by your own bootstraps. Show the people you’re human or at least humanoid, not corporatist. Keep heralding small business so you don’t have to talk about Big Business which has bad vibrations these days around the country. Also, praise, praise, praise Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as family men with family values. Imagine Republicans telling the press that the convention was to “humanize” Romney and give the voters a warm, fuzzy feeling about their candidate so as to forget that his campaign is a clenched-teeth mouthpiece for Big Business.

The Democratic Convention evokes pity. They too had similar scripts at the podium – narrate your humble, hardworking family lines, talk incessantly about jobs so you won’t have to talk about wages. Especially muzzled was the willing Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, who, since 2009, has been given the back of Obama’s hand on “card check organizing rights” and on an inflation-adjusted minimum wage. His staged remarks even withheld any mention of a $10 minimum wage (See H.R. 5901 bill “Catching up with 1968”) and the raiding of worker pensions by corporate raptors.

The repetitive over-wrought praise of “el Presidente” in every speech became mawkish, reminding one of the “politics of personalism,” present in many countries with underdeveloped political institutions. Michelle Obama found no time for mentioning the Obama family and America’s mission to grow and consume nutritious food and keep fit to avoid the ravages of obesity. She was too occupied gushing over her aggressive drone commander’s touching nightly reading of letters from Americans about their problems.

The mass obeisance ended when the commander-in-chief himself sprung onto the stage to speak the language of hope, meanwhile avoiding addressing the number of undesirable conditions that need his attention at this singular opportunity.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, trying to be sympathetic, was looking for some significant specificity:
“What I was mostly looking for were big proposals, big as health care was four years ago. I had spent the three previous days watching more than 80 convention speeches without hearing a single major policy proposal in any of them. I asked governors, mayors and legislators to name a significant law that they’d like to see Obama pass in a second term. Not one could. At its base, this is a party with a protective agenda, not a change agenda…”

Fortifying Brooks’ observation was Obama’s recounting of the differences between the Democrats and Republicans. They are almost all defensive in nature. Defend social security, Medicare, and abortion from the Republican offensive. The Democrats are not on the offensive – getting tough on: corporate crime, consumer gouging, bank abuses, corporate tax avoidance and evasions. They are not on the offensive fighting for worker’s safety and labor rights or minimum wage increases or helping the poor earn more and pay less.

Even when Obama mentioned climate change – a recent no-no in the Democrat’s lexicon – his words were defensive, namely “climate change is not a hoax” he did not elaborate.

This defensive attitude against the cruelest, most ignorant corporate-indentured, anti-worker, war mongering Republican Party in history is also seen in the debates and programs of Democratic Congressional and state candidates.

Being on the offense with an agenda standing for and with the people who economically are being driven, along with their country, into the ground by unpatriotic global corporations and their political minions, should be easy. Unless, that is, the Democrats want to continue dialing for the same corporate campaign dollars.

Playing defense explains why veteran Democrat members of the House of Representatives tell me that the party is going to lose the House again to the likes of John Boehner and Eric Cantor. The Democrats cannot even defend the country from Republicans who think Ronald Reagan was too moderate and unelectable today.

United Police State of AmeriKKKa

Numbers, Analysis Show 30 Years of Failed US Economic Policy

Census numbers show persistent poverty, falling wages, and rising inequality
The latest US Census Bureau numbers on poverty, income inequality, and healthcare, coupled with newly released economic analysis of US public policy reveals the reality and the reasons behind the persistent rut of the poverty-stricken, the working-poor, and the middle class in America.

More than three years after the collapse of the housing bubble, the federal government's bailout of Wall Street, and the start of the Great Recession, the US poverty rate remains persistently high with nearly 1 in 5 Americans living at or below the poverty line, according to new figures released on Wednesday by the US Census Bureau.

In addition, the numbers show rampant joblessness, stagnant or falling wages among workers, household incomes that continue to fall, and an inequality gap that continues to grow.

Meanwhile, the Economic Policy Institute released their annual review of US economic policy which includes a wide variety of data on family incomes, wages, jobs, unemployment, wealth, and poverty that allow for a clear, unbiased understanding of the economy’s effect on the living standards of working Americans.

As the Census reports, "the nation's official poverty rate in 2011 was 15.0 percent, with 46.2 million people in poverty. After three consecutive years of increases, neither the poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty were statistically different from the 2010 estimates."

New data on the continued rise in inequality—where income inequality increased by 1.6 percent between 2010 and 2011—prompted Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, to underscore that the nation's wealthiest should begin to share in the sacrifices that will be needed to correct the economy in the coming years.

"Given the need for substantial sacrifice and the skewing of income gains to those at the top," he said in a statement, "it is difficult to justify extending the rather lavish tax cuts for high-income individuals that policymakers enacted in 2001 and 2003, which average $129,000 a year for people who make over $1 million a year, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center."

The Economic Policy Institute, which on Tuesday released its 12th annual "State of Working America" report, listed the key numbers from the Census report:


  • 15.0%: The share of the population in poverty in 2011
  • 21.9%: The percent of children under 18 in poverty
  • 46.2 million: The number of people in poverty in 2011
  • $22,811: The poverty threshold for a family of four with two children
  • 44.0%: The share of the poor population in “deep poverty,” or below half the poverty line
  • 2.3 million: The number of people unemployment insurance kept out of poverty in 2011
  • 21.4 million: The number of people Social Security kept out of poverty in 2011
  • 5.7 million: How many fewer people would be in poverty if the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit was included in the Census definition of money income
  • 3.9 million: How many fewer people would be in poverty if food stamps (SNAP) were added to money income


  • -1.7%, +5.1%: The change in average household income between 2010 and 2011 for the middle 20 percent, and the top 5 percent, respectively. The disparity means income inequality increased in 2011. 
  • $7,887, -12.4%: The decline in median working-age household income from 2000 to 2011 in level terms and percentage terms, respectively 
  • $6,518, -16.8%: The decline in median African-American household income from 2000 to 2011 in level terms and percentage terms, respectively 
  • $4,695, -10.8%: The decline in median Hispanic household income from 2000 to 2011 in level terms and percentage terms, respectively 
  • $50,622, $48,202:  Median earnings for a man working fulltime, full year in 1973 and 2011, respectively 
  • $28,699, $37,118:  Median earnings for a female working fulltime, full year in 1973 and 2011, respectively
Putting the Census numbers in the context of public policy in their new report, EPI explains how economic policies, including policymakers’ actions and failures to act, have continuously undercut the ability of workers to benefit from economic growth in the United States. Its primary findings include:
  • America’s vast middle class has suffered a “lost decade” and faces the threat of another. The wages of typical Americans, including college graduates, are lower today than they have been in over a decade. Because hourly wages and compensation failed to grow after the 2001 recession, household incomes had declined even before the Great Recession. Furthermore, forecasts of high unemployment for many years ahead suggest that another lost decade for typical American workers and their families, as measured by wages and income, has already begun.
  • Income and wage inequality have risen sharply over the last 30 years. Income inequality has grown sharply since 1979, a fact that is universally recognized by researchers. The trends that have driven this growing inequality in overall incomes are growing concentration of both capital income (the returns to financial assets) and labor income (wages and benefits), as well as a shift from labor income toward capital income.
  • Rising inequality is the major cause of wage stagnation for workers and of the failure of low- and middle-income families to appropriately benefit from growth. The typical worker has not benefited from productivity growth since 1979, though there has been sufficient economic growth to provide a substantial across-the-board increase in living standards. Instead, higher earners have reaped a disproportionate share of wage income, and the top one percent of households have received a disproportionate share of all income growth. Aside from the period of strong growth in the late-1990s, wages for low-and middle-wage workers were stagnant from 1979 to 2007, and incomes for lower- and middle-class households grew slowly.
  • Economic policies caused increased inequality of wages and incomes. Inequality between the very top wage earners and all others grew from 1979 to 2011 except during stock declines, driven by growing executive compensation and an expanded and increasingly highly-paid financial sector. Inequality between the top wage earners and middle-wage earners also grew from 1979 to 2011. A number of policies played a role in this growth, including those that: (1) targeted rates of unemployment too high to provide reliably tight labor markets for low- and middle-wage workers; (2) hastened global integration of the U.S. economy without protecting U.S. workers; (3) failed to manage destructive international trade imbalances; (4) allowed employer practices hostile to unions to flourish; (5) privatized and deregulated industry, including the financial sector; and (6) eroded labor standards. Inequality between middle-wage earners and the lowest wage earners grew only in the 1980s, fueled by the erosion of the purchasing power of the minimum wage and, again, the targeting of rates of unemployment that were too high. Tax and budget policies have compounded the inequalities that have been generated in market-based, pre-tax incomes.
  • Claims that growing inequality has not hurt middle-income families are flawed. Some recent studies have suggested that measures of comprehensive income since 1979 show that middle-income families have seen adequate income growth. Rather, incomes for the middle class have not grown as fast as average incomes, and middle-income growth was much slower between 1979 and 2007 than it was between 1947 and 1979. Furthermore, more than half of the income growth between 1979 and 2007 was made up of government transfers, which reflects the strength of programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not the strength of the labor market. In fact, higher household labor earnings can be traced to increasing work hours, not higher wages. Finally, the data on comprehensive incomes are technically flawed because they count rapidly rising health expenditures made on behalf of households by employers and the government as income, without taking excessive health care inflation into account.
  • Growing income inequality has not been offset by increased mobility. There is no evidence that mobility—changes in economic status from one generation to the next—has increased to offset rising inequality, and some research shows a decline.
  • Inequalities persist by race and gender. Key economic measures, including unemployment, wealth, and poverty (particularly child poverty), continue to show staggering disparities by race and ethnicity. Gender disparities also persist, and while gaps in labor market outcomes have closed in recent decades, a number have done so because men lost ground, not because women gained it.
“The State of Working America, 12th Edition” includes new and compelling data on:
  • the components of the Congressional Budget Office’s “comprehensive income” growth for the middle class (health care insurance, wages, pensions, work hours, government benefits)
  • the growth of capital income by income group and the growing concentration of capital incomes
  • the stagnation of economic mobility
  • the poor performance of the U.S. economy in international rankings of mobility
  • flat or falling wages for college graduates in almost every occupation over the past 10 years
  • wage trends by education, decile, gender, and race/ethnicity
  • the growth of wage inequality for the three key wage gaps: between the top one percent and others, between the top and middle (95/50 wage gap), and between the middle and bottom (50/10 wage gap)
  • the impact of rising health care costs on wage growth and wage inequality
  • the factors driving the gap between productivity and median hourly compensation growth
  • the role of the financial sector and CEO compensation in fueling the top one percent’s income growth
  • the extent to which changes in the labor force participation rate are due to the weak economy or are structural/demographic
  • why current unemployment is cyclical and not structural
  • the decline of median wealth between 1983 and 2010 (while wealth at the top grew strongly)
  • the collapse of wealth in African American and Hispanic households
  • the role of housing equity’s collapse on middle class wealth
  • the increasing concentration of stock ownership
  • the factors driving high poverty and low-end wages
  • the large role income inequality plays in growing poverty (as opposed to demographic factors like family formation)
  • the contribution of longer work hours to low-income families’ income
  • the relatively small role tax and transfer policy plays in reducing poverty in the U.S. in comparison to peer countries
  • high child poverty rates in comparison to peer countries

A Tale of Two Healthcare Plans

by David Cay Johnston
No issue affecting taxes so clearly divides the two parties in the U.S. election as healthcare. The two parties, in their platforms, describe very different approaches to healthcare economics. Both use political plastic surgery to cover up ugly truths.

The stakes are huge. Americans spend $2.64 per person for healthcare for each purchasing power equivalent dollar spent by the 33 other countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD data shows the U.S. spends $8,233 per capita compared with an average of $3,118 in the other 33 countries.

A growing share of federal tax dollars, in direct spending and in tax breaks, is going to U.S. healthcare as the population ages, even though about one in six Americans lacks health insurance.

America‘s healthcare system, more accurately described as a non-system sick care system, totaled 17.6 percent of the economy in 2010, compared to an average of 9.2 percent in the other 33 countries, as the OECD data shows.

In the United States, total public and private cost of healthcare is significantly greater than the total of corporate and individual income taxes, as well as payroll taxes. For each dollar paid in all three of those taxes in 2010, healthcare came to $1.29.

If we just lowered our costs to those of France, which has universal care in what is widely regarded as one of the best systems if not the best, it would save almost as much money as Americans paid in individual income taxes in 2010. The French spend 6 percentage points less of their economy on healthcare. In the United States, the individual income tax in 2010 came to 6.3 percent of the U. S. economy, the lowest since Truman was president.

Take a look at your pay stub to get an idea of the kind of money being spent on a system that fosters bankruptcy, bedevils small business and ranks 31st among the 34 OECD countries in preventing premature death.


The Republicans say the federal government is “structurally and financially broken” and that “three programs - Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – account for over 40 percent of total spending,” which is “harming job creation and growth, (while) projections of future spending growth are nothing short of catastrophic, both economically and socially.”

The Republicans promise to “empower millions of seniors to control their personal healthcare decisions,” a vow immediately followed by a promise to cut federal spending.

The clearest explanation of what that would mean comes from Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee. Before he started obfuscating, Ryan laid out his plans in detail. He boasted that by changing Medicare from a plan that provides treatment for every older American into one that gives seniors a fixed sum to buy their own health insurance, taxpayers would save through 2084 the present equivalent of $4.9 trillion.

What Ryan did not mention is that his plan would also mean $8 of increased private spending by seniors and the disabled for each tax dollar saved.

We know how Ryan’s plan would raise total costs because David Rosnick and Dean Baker, economists at the Center for Economic Policy and Research which promotes government policies that it says would benefit workers and the poor, used the same formula that Ryan (or his staff) applied to the same Congressional Budget Office data, but on private medical care spending. Ryan’s spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Beyond the fact that it makes no sense to spend $8 to save $1, older people do not have the money. A tenth of Americans age 75 and older live below the official poverty line. Another 24 percent have only saved a tad more.

Every indicator shows that Americans have not enough for their old age and that a shrinking number have pensions while the Republicans now in charge of the party want to cut Social Security benefits, if not kill the program.

So why would any Americans under age 55, whose healthcare benefits Ryan wants to cut when they reach 65, think they can afford to spend $8 to save $1? Recently Ryan has softened his plan to let those who wish stay in traditional Medicare. Since anyone not rich who can count would stick with Medicare, Ryan’s promised taxpayer savings would never materialize.

Alan Grayson, the combative one-term Democratic representative from Florida, got it right when he said on the House floor in 2009: “The Republican plan – don’t get sick and if you do get sick die quickly.”

 The Democratic platform calls for universal healthcare. “We will end the outrage of unaffordable, unavailable healthcare,” they say, though after six decades that party promise remains unfulfilled.

President Barack Obama‘s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will enable those with pre-existing conditions and twenty-somethings without work to get health insurance. But the plan does nothing to address the larger economic problem. American healthcare costs too much and needs replacement, not a nip and tuck.

Portugal, with half the income per person as America, provides universal healthcare. Cuba, the CIA tells us, ranks 40th in infant mortality, while the United States is nine steps lower at 49th, an astonishing fact given U.S. spending compared to the poverty induced by Castro’s collectivist economic policies.

Doing worse than Portugal and Cuba is, in my view, not just costly but immoral.

Just as Republicans are trying to limit the franchise, so are they trying to limit who gets healthcare. The Democrats are better only because they recognize that universal care can be cheaper while removing an annoying and costly distraction from business.

Death and taxes will always be with us. What we need is to spend less on taxes while doing the best we can to stave off death.

US House voted 300 to 118 to extend Warrantless Wiretapping 5 More Years

House Set to Vote on Reauthorization of Warrantless Wiretapping

Update: The Washington Post reports that "The House voted 300 to 118 to extend the law for five years. The Senate likely will not take up the bill until after the Nov. 6 election."

The House voted Wednesday on the reauthorizing of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act (FAA), which allowed the government to conduct warrantless wiretapping of Americans.

The ACLU's Michelle Richardson, a FISA expert, writes that the FAA "permits the government to get year-long orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications—including phone calls, emails, and internet records—for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence. The orders need not specify who is going to be spied on or even allege that the targets did anything wrong. The only guarantees that the FAA gives are that no specific American will be targeted for wiretapping and that some (classified) rules about the use of intercepted information will be followed."

"After four years, you’d hope that some basic information or parameters of such a massive spying program would be divulged to the public, or at least your rank-and-file member of Congress, but they haven't," writes Richardson.

US Just Experienced Warmest Year-to-Date Period Ever

Climate change continues to bring weather extremes
Climate change continues to bring extreme, record breaking weather to the U.S., according to the most recent calculations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released Monday.

The contiguous U.S. just experienced the third hottest summer ever. And the year-to-date (Jan. - Aug.) period was also the warmest first 8 months ever recorded for the contiguous U.S.

The summer (June - Aug.) national average was 2.3°F above the 20th century average at 74.4°F, surpassed only by the summers of 2011 and 1936 for warmest summer in recorded history.

For the year-to-date period, the contiguous U.S. was 4.0°F above the 20th century average at 58.7°F, surpassing the previous record for this period set in 2006.

Adding to documentation of the manifestations of climate change, NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI) shows the year-to-date period was also the most extreme on record.  The NOAA describes the CEI as "an index that tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S., was more than one and a half times the average value during summer 2012, and marked the eighth largest USCEI value for the season. Extremes in warm daytime temperatures, warm nighttime temperatures, and extremely dry conditions, according to the Palmer-Drought Severity Index, covered large areas of the nation, contributing to the high USCEI value."

Weather Underground co-founder Dr. Jeff Masters adds that the "CEI was 47% during the year-to-date January - August period. This is the highest value since CEI record-keeping began in 1910, and more than double the average value of 20%. Remarkably, 85% of the contiguous U.S. had maximum temperatures that were in the warmest 10% historically during the first eight months of 2012, and 75% of the U.S. of the U.S. had warm minimum temperatures in the top 10%."

* * *
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NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI) for January - August shows that 2012 had the most extreme first eight months of the year on record, with 47% of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% extreme weather. (credit: Jeff Masters)

Several of the 9-11 Hijack 'suspects' are alive and well

Seven of the WTC Hijackers found alive!

Original Link:

Some of the men the FBI claims hijacked planes on Sept. 11 and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and Stony Creek Township, Pennsylvania are still alive.

No they weren't pulled from the rubble, they were never on the planes.

The FBI press release of September 27th, 2001 containing names, photographs, aliases and other information is seriously flawed. They have used these peoples names and made claims based on the fact they were pilots and other supposedly incriminating evidence and yet they were not involved. Places of birth, birthdays and other personal details were displayed on news throughout the world.

The FBI still lists these men as suspected hijackers who were killed during the terrorist assault, this is absurd. If this is the quality of the evidence they can present it is no wonder the public cannot see the rest.

7 of the 19 believed hijackers named are still alive.

Saeed Alghamdi, Mohand Alshehri, Abdul aziz Alomari, Salem Alhazmi

"It was proved that five of the names included in the FBI list had nothing to do with what happened." - Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told the Arabic Press after meeting with President George W. Bush on Sept. 20th

Saudi officials at the embassy were unable to verify the whereabouts of the fifth accused hijacker, Khalid Al-Mihdhar. However, Arab newspapers say Al-Mihdhar is still alive.

Saeed Alghamdi, Mohand Alshehri, Abdul aziz Alomari and Salem Alhazmi "are not dead and had nothing to do with the heinous terror attacks in New York and Washington." The Saudi Arabian embassy told The Orlando Sentinel.

Saudi officials at the embassy were unable to verify the whereabouts of the fifth accused hijacker, Khalid Al-Mihdhar. However, Arab newspapers say Al-Mihdhar is still alive.

"..there are suggestions that another suspect, Khalid Al Midhar, may also be alive. " - BBC 23rd September 2001

Waleed Alshehri (Flight 11) (Trained Pilot)

A sixth person on the FBI's list, Saudi national Waleed Alshehri, is living in Casablanca, according to an official with the Royal Air Moroc, the Moroccan commercial airline. According to the unnamed official, Alshehri lived in Dayton Beach, Fla., where he took flight training at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Now he works for a Moroccan airline. On Sept. 22, Associated Press reported that Alshehri had spoken to the U.S. embassy in Morocco.

"His photograph was released by the FBI, and has been shown in newspapers and on television around the world. That same Mr Al-Shehri has turned up in Morocco, proving clearly that he was not a member of the suicide attack. " - Daily Trust 24th September 2001

"He was reported to have been in Hollywood, Florida, for a month earlier this year but his father, Ahmed, said that Waleed was alive and well and living in Morocco." - Telegraph

"Another of the men named by the FBI as a hijacker in the suicide attacks on Washington and New York has turned up alive and well." - BBC 23rd September 2001

Abdul aziz Alomari (Flight 11) (Trained Pilot) 2 men with same name cobbled together into terrorist

Omari Number 1
Mr. Al-Omari, a pilot with Saudi Airlines, walked into the US embassy in Jeddah to demand why he was being reported as a dead hijacker in the American media.

"a pilot with Saudi Airlines, was astonished to find himself accused of hijacking � as well as being dead � and has visited the US consulate in Jeddah to demand an explanation." - Independent 17th September 2001

Omari Number 2
" a Saudi man has reported to authorities that he is the real Abdulaziz Alomari, and claims his passport was stolen in 1995 while he studied electrical engineering at the University of Denver. Alomari says he informed police of the theft." - ABC News

"I couldn't believe it when the FBI put me on their list. They gave my name and my date of birth, but I am not a suicide bomber. I am here. I am alive. I have no idea how to fly a plane. I had nothing to do with this." - Telegraph 23rd September 2001

"The name [listed by the FBI] is my name and the birth date is the same as mine, but I am not the one who bombed the World Trade Center in New York," Abdulaziz Alomari told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

"Alomari has since been found in Saudi Arabia and is apparently cleared in the case" - New York Times

"Saudi Embassy officials in Washington have challenged his identity. They say a Saudi electrical engineer named Abdulaziz Alomari had his passport and other papers stolen in 1996 in Denver when he was a student and reported the theft to police there at the time. " - BBC

"The second Abdulaziz Al Omari is a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines" - BBC 23rd September 2001

"Abdel Aziz Al-Omari and Saed Hussein Gharamallah Al-Ghamdi, are well in life, the first in Saudi Arabia and the second in Tunisia for nine months." - Wal Fadjri 21st September 2001 [translate]

Saeed Alghamdi (Flight 93) (Trained Pilot)

"Saeed Alghamdi is one of three hijackers that US officials have said are linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. "- BBC

No BBC! Mr. Al-Ghamdi is still alive and well and at his job for Tunis Air

"I was completely shocked. For the past 10 months I have been based in Tunis with 22 other pilots learning to fly an Airbus 320. The FBI provided no evidence of my presumed involvement in the attacks." - Telegraph 23rd September 2001

"Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, a London-based Arabic daily, says it has interviewed Saeed Alghamdi." - BBC 23rd September 2001

"Abdel Aziz Al-Omari and Saeed Hussein Gharamallah Al-Ghamdi, are well in life, the first in Saudi Arabia and the second in Tunisia for nine months." - Wal Fadjri 21st September 2001 [translate]

"..not dead and had nothing to do with the heinous terror attacks in New York and Washington." - Saudi embassy

Salem Alhazmi (Flight 77)

"Mr Al-Hamzi is 26 and had just returned to work at a petrochemical complex in the industrial eastern city of Yanbou after a holiday in Saudi Arabia when the hijackers struck. He was accused of hijacking the American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon." - Telegraph 23rd September 2001

Ahmed Alnami (Flight 93)

"I'm still alive, as you can see. I was shocked to see my name mentioned by the American Justice Department. I had never even heard of Pennsylvania where the plane I was supposed to have hijacked." He had never lost his passport and found it "very worrying" that his identity appeared to have been "stolen" and published by the FBI without any checks. The FBI had said his "possible residence" was Delray Beach in Florida. " - Telegraph 23rd September 2001

Flight 11 (North Tower)
The BBC has reported that the transcript of a phone call made by Flight Attendant Madeline Amy Sweeney to Boston air traffic controls shows that the flight attendant gave the seat numbers occupied by the hijackers, seat numbers which were NOT the seats of the men the FBI claimed were responsible for the hijacking.

Others accused of being involed

Ameer Bukhari
"Ameer Bukhari died in a small plane crash last year. " - CNN Correction

Adnan Bukhari
"Adnan Bukhari is still in Florida" - CNN Correction

Amer Kamfar
"..that a suspect sought by the FBI, Amer Kamfar, was in fact an alive pilot in Arabia. " - Wal Fadjri 21st September 2001 [translate]

from 2001:

Hijack 'suspects' alive and well

A man called Waleed Al Shehri says he left the US a year ago.

Another of the men named by the FBI as a hijacker in the suicide attacks on Washington and New York has turned up alive and well.

The identities of four of the 19 suspects accused of having carried out the attacks are now in doubt.

Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Centre on 11 September.
His photograph was released, and has since appeared in newspapers and on television around the world.

Hijacking suspects

Flight 175: Marwan Al-Shehhi, Fayez Ahmed, Mohald Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi and Ahmed Alghamdi
Flight 11: Waleed M Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari and Satam Al Suqami
Flight 77: Khalid Al-Midhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaq Alhamzi, Salem Alhamzi and Hani Hanjour
Flight 93: Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Ziad Jarrahi and Saeed Alghamdi
Now he is protesting his innocence from Casablanca, Morocco.

He told journalists there that he had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and Washington, and had been in Morocco when they happened. He has contacted both the Saudi and American authorities, according to Saudi press reports.

He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Daytona Beach in the United States, and is indeed the same Waleed Al Shehri to whom the FBI has been referring.

But, he says, he left the United States in September last year, became a pilot with Saudi Arabian airlines and is currently on a further training course in Morocco.

Mistaken identity

Abdulaziz Al Omari, another of the Flight 11 hijack suspects, has also been quoted in Arab news reports.

Abdelaziz Al Omari
Abdelaziz Al Omari 'lost his passport in Denver'
He says he is an engineer with Saudi Telecoms, and that he lost his passport while studying in Denver.

Another man with exactly the same name surfaced on the pages of the English-language Arab News.

The second Abdulaziz Al Omari is a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines, the report says.

Meanwhile, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, a London-based Arabic daily, says it has interviewed Saeed Alghamdi.
Khalid Al-Midhar
Khalid Al-Midhar may also be a

He was listed by the FBI as a hijacker in the United flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.

And there are suggestions that another suspect, Khalid Al Midhar, may also be alive.

FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged on Thursday that the identity of several of the suicide hijackers is in doubt.

Wall Street set to break spending records this election

By Jennifer Liberto - September, 2012

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- Wall Street is on track to spend more on this election than it ever has during a campaign season.

With two months to go before Nov. 6, Wall Street firms have so far spent $164 million on campaigns and donations to political groups designed to influence the elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That puts the industry on pace to surpass the spending record of $170 million that it set during the 2008 race.

The presidential and congressional elections are expected to be the most expensive on record. The Center expects the final tab to hit $2.5 billion, most of which will be spent on television advertising, campaign infrastructure and staff as well as logistical efforts to help voters get to the polls.

Securities and investment firms are one of the biggest powerhouses aiming to influence the elections, according the Center. Individuals from Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500), Bain Capital and Blackstone Group (BX) have contributed millions of dollars directly to campaigns and through political groups.

The biggest difference between this election and the race in 2008 is that Wall Street is now betting bigger on Republicans. During the last cycle, 57% of individuals from Wall Street gave to Democrats and President Obama. But this year, 60% of Wall Street's contributions went to Republicans.

"We're going to see a lot more [money] from the securities and investment firms going to both members of Congress and presidential candidates," said Bill Allison, editorial director for the Sunlight Foundation, another watchdog group that tracks political influence.

Included in that $164 million is some $50 million which has flowed from the hands of several high-profile hedge fund managers to so-called super PACs, secretive groups that can raise unlimited amounts of cash. More than $40 million of those super PAC dollars went to conservative groups, including some that support Romney.

Donors who have contributed at least a million dollars to super PACs include: John Paulson of Paulson & Co., Robert Mercer of Renaissance Technologies Corp., Julian Robertson of Tiger Management and Paul Singer of Elliott Management.

The fact that Romney is so popular on Wall Street is no surprise, considering his long career in finance, which included creating Bain Capital in 1984. Romney has raised $11.4 million directly from Wall Street donors, according to the Center.

But, Wall Street hasn't entirely forgotten Obama, even though he once criticized Wall Street "fat cats" early in his presidency. Wall Street donors have so far contributed $4.1 million to his efforts to stay in the White House, according to the Center.

Many in the industry are interested in easing or rolling back parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank reforms that added a new layer of regulation to financial markets, Allison said. But Wall Street is also concerned about the eurozone, taxes and the economy.

"They're trying to engender the good will of politicians, and they want someone in the White House who understands their issues," Allison said.

While Wall Street may be a favorite on the fundraising circuit, it's become a political punching bag on campaign television commercials for both parties, according to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks such ads.

Kantar's Elizabeth Wilner said Wall Street is the "bogeyman" of this year's election cycle, just as Big Oil had been during the 2010 election, in the wake of the BP oil spill. She said the green Wall Street sign and the famous golden bull in front of the New York Stock Exchange have become all too common in congressional political ads, as legislators look to blame each other for the economy's current woes.

By contrast, Wilner said, both presidential campaigns have been mostly silent about Wall Street.

"Despite everything we saw from Obama's populist campaign, he goes to New York every once in a while to try and raise money from (Wall Street). So he's not attacking them," Wilner said.

Unlawful Dissent

New Laws Around the Globe Don’t Curb Inequity, They Undercut Social Protests and Gag Free Speech
by BRETT WARNKE - The Nation

Only a month after swearing in, President Obama was given the first “Economic Intelligence Briefing” by his sunny CIA director, Leon Panetta. The goal was to prepare policymakers for the blowback from an electorate reeling from unemployment and looming bank failures. The director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, told a Senate panel the same week, “Our analysis indicates that economic crisis increases the risk of regime-threatening instability if it continues for a cone-or two-year period. Instability can loosen the fragile hold that many developing countries have on law and order.”

As the financial crisis worsened, there were successful revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya—all in part catalyzed by deepening economic troubles—while in Yemen, consistently ranked the poorest country in the Middle East, President Saleh was finally forced out. Meanwhile, protestors in Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, and Lebanon all echoed an economic refrain and were met with varying degrees of severity and compromise by their governments.

Africa and the Gulf were astir and in the months after the initial crisis, it was the developed world that took the lead in scrabbling at the roots of “instability” through new ordinances, laws, fines, and security measures aimed to control and limit dissent.

In the US local and state governments have passed numerous initiatives that limit, in various ways, the ability of people to express dissent. Every high school should know about the famous Alien and Sedition Acts. But the government has gone further since 2001 in using old and new laws in its arsenal of legislation: The Espionage Act, The FISA Amendment Act, The Authorization to Use Military Force Act, The Patriot Act, warrantless surveillance, and the recent NDAA, National Defense Authorization Act. The latter was signed by President Obama who said, “I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.” While the bill was opposed by leaders of the FBI, the CIA, The Director of National Intelligence, and even Obama, it stubbornly survived. The Act declares that “covered persons” who “substantially supported” al-Qaeda or “associated forces” in hostility against the United States can be subject to indefinite detention.

In May, and September 12, 2012, the US District Court Judge Katherine Forrest (an Obama appointee) ruled a section of NDAA unconstitutional, finding that broad and vague language threatened US citizens with military detention for First and Fifth Amendment-protected speech and associations. The House subsequently rejected a (rare) bipartisan amendment to bar the military detention of people apprehended on US soil.

Obama claimed that he would not use the law on American citizens but that was not good enough for Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky and other writers and activists who had filed the lawsuit fighting the NDAA as unconstitutional.

“[NDAA] expands the capacity of the power of the state to define who is a ‘terrorist,’” Hedges argued before Forrest’s decision.  
“Corporate elites understand that economically, things are about to get much worse….they don’t trust the police to protect them. And they want to be able to call in the Army. If this bill goes into law, they will be able to do that.”

At the local level, American activists are experiencing legislative action that gives city governments expanded police power. Jake Olzen, a writer for Waging Non-Violence and a Chicago organizer said, “We’re seeing a trend where there are now laws on the books that–when applied–give the state heavy-handed consequences for basic first amendment activities.”

In 2003 Chicago police had allowed protests against the Iraq war to continue without a permit but arbitrarily decided when protests should end. They made arrests without being clear about when demonstrators should disperse. Consequently, in Feb. 2012, Chicago agreed to pay a $6.2 million settlement to the protestors after a class action lawsuit was filed.

Joe Baker of Occupy Chicago argues that the use of state force has broadened the base of political activists to include the anti-war movement, civil libertarians, labor, immigrant supporters, anti-police brutality and wrongful conviction forces, and even national figures like Jesse Jackson.

“More and more, the government’s use of raids, subpoenas and courts to criminalize political activism and label it as ‘terrorism’ is driving activists away from the Democrats and electoral politics,” Baker said.

After millions were spent on police overreach, Chicago’s leaders did not want to make a similar mistake before last spring’s NATO summit. On Jan. 18, the city council of Chicago prepared for the $60 million gathering by passing an ordinance requiring demonstrators to “supply a description of the size and dimension of any sign, banner or other attention-getting device that is too large to be carried by one person.”

This ordinance expanded the mayor’s power to police protest and was nicknamed “sit down and shut up.” Chicago has also required demonstrators to obtain $1 million insurance coverage to “indemnify the city against any additional or uncovered third party claims against the city arising out of or caused by the parade and agree to reimburse the city” for damages caused by demonstrations. Fines ranged from $200-$1,000 and/or ten days in jail. Local CANG8 (Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda) and Occupy Chicago were then able to organize a mass campaign around civil liberties.

“The move by Emanuel to restrict protest has to be seen within the context of the repression of dissent,” Baker said. “The attacks on Arabs and Muslims over the past decade, the violent repression of the protest at the RNC in 2008, the raids and grand jury repression that my wife and I and 22 other anti-war activists have lived through, and more recently the attacks by local police and the FBI on the Occupy Movement and the anti-NATO protest here in Chicago.” In preparation for NATO’s summit, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy described training 13,000 police officers for “mass arrests.”

Chicago is merely a recent effort; it was Seattle’s past that was prologue. A harsh police reaction to the 35,000 WTO protestors in 1999 resulted in apologies from the police department. But police violence has only escalated since Seattle and its “free speech zones” became the clever still-thriving means to corral and isolate dissent while maintaining a pretense of legitimacy.

Massive summits like these have been a business boon for local economies and politicians who, flushed with funds, then hear ear-kissing arguments from the weapons industry and other obvious beneficiaries of “law and order” policy. Some examples: It cost 98.7 million to “secure” the G20 in Pittsburgh. For the 2002 WEF meeting in New York, $11 million was spent just on police overtime alone. The 2003 IMF/World Bank meeting cost $14 million. And for London 2009 G20, it cost $30 million. An astonishing $1 billion was spent on Toronto’s 2010 G8/G20, half a billion of that for the Canadian Mounted Police. There are other costs, too, not just for weapons and manpower. Keeping the journalists tame and busy inside the pampered convention centers or hotels (rather than on the streets) is pricey, as was a snaking 12 kilometer $12 million fence for the 2007 G8 summit.

Such expenditures could be easily dismissed as a “partisan issue,” the boondoggle of reactionaries. But it was Democrat Bill Clinton who proposed the government earmark of $15 million for the 2000 IMF security costs, funds later spent on a flood of overtime pay for police from cities neighboring Washington. Tampa’s current mayor, also a Democrat, beams like an overfed cat when discussing the $50 million allocated for being the host city of the RNC.

But why so much overwhelming expense and force? The hosts of the 2004 G8 summit in Georgia likely saw the tumult in Seattle five years earlier—with cops clad in body armor and using paramilitary tactics—as far too permissive and hoped to maintain an appearance of absolute order. After accepting $25 million for increased security (smuggled into an Iraq appropriations bill) Governor Perdue declared a state of emergency. Accordingly, Savannah and Brunswick, cities near the site of the summit “looked like military-occupied cities.” Police disguised themselves as protestors while 136 state and local agencies deployed roughly 11,000 patrolmen, security, and military. These agents were given extensive power to stop any protest. Subsequently, the National Lawyers Guild produced a report detailing then Attorney General Ashcroft’s unwillingness to prosecute police brutality or exercise federal prosecutorial oversight of national, systemic police violations of civil rights.

Before protests like these have even begun, police have preemptively confiscated literature, signs, banners, and even the cheeky means of attracting dissent. A 2004 NLG report described how policing tactics during demonstrations include “conducting mass false arrests and detentions; employing pop-up lines; using dangerous rush tactics with police on motorcycle, bicycle, and horseback; and using deadly “less lethal” weapons.”

Even mocking America’s decadent and hypocritical leadership, a political pastime since the Constitutional Convention, is now under assault. While presidential puppets, ludicrous masks, and punchy political art have been a useful agent for translating popular contempt, in 2000 at the Republican national Convention, police raided a trolley barn in Philadelphia and arrested 75 puppet makers. And this month, in preparation for the Tampa Republican National Convention, the police department has gone further by essentially getting the police department to declare puppets illegal in the event zone near downtown.

A proliferation of special ordinances for public spaces—sidewalks and streets—have incrementally limited the already scanty space for assembly. Such rules are swiftly passed on the eve of an event but can result in broad, interminable prohibitions on protected constitutional activity long after the convention balloons drift away. A notable example is the RNC 8 episode. Through the controversial testimony of an informant, eight activists were charged with “conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism” under a never-used Minnesota terrorism law. No terrorism charges stuck.

Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, sees a double standard in treatment for reactionary and activist protestors.

“Something is terribly amiss when you can come to a presidential nominating convention with a pistol under your shirt, but police can detain you for brandishing a puppet,” she wrote in an email.

“When special ordinances are passed, protests should be aware that the rights we’ve long cherished are stripped away with the stroke of a pen,” she wrote. “In the eyes of the police, ordinary objects, such as string or cardboard, are transformed into weapons. Searches no longer require probable cause. Intent can be imputed into the type of juice bottle you’re carrying. Healthy speech becomes a terrorist threat. The right to speech and assembly becomes a parking lot with a time limit. Public spaces become private spaces. One risks bodily injury or arrest merely for daring to occupy public forums and speak out.”

Lamentably, the US is not alone in the curbing and controlling dissent. Conservative forces in other countries have been pushing for stronger state authority in handling organized demonstrations. The Cameron coalition has pushed a “stability” agenda in the wake of the economic crisis that has left the country with its highest unemployment rate since 1994 and a biting austerity budget.

Cameron’s government slashed nearly 80% from higher education transferring costs to students. Consequently, the government found itself rocked by disorder from below. In March 2011, 250,000 people demonstrated in London in a show of public discontent

Police used an obscure law, “The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994” to assume broad powers. The law requires that protestors remove masks and balaclavas or face arrest. It also allows police to stop and search individuals without reasonable suspicion; blacks in England are 29.7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites.

The Anglo-Caribbean writer Darcus Howe told the BBC how his fourteen-year old grandson who was harassed by the police “countless times” as a result of the stop and search law. The parallels between 2011 and a 1981 Brixton upheaval were numerous: a conservative prime minister undertaking brutal cuts, the targeted searches of young black youths, and a fiery community response in the form of violence and looting. During Howe’s interview, a BBC journalist insinuated that Howe was a rioter due to his presence in Brixton’s 1981 demonstrations.

The searches as well as Cameron’s cuts were cited by numerous demonstrators as igniters for the August 2011 riots in London’s Afro-Caribbean communities that put 2,987 protestors in stir and flooded London with over 16,000 police. Thatcher ferociously denounced the 1981 Brixton riots and demonstrations in Liverpool and rejected the link between crime and social conditions, blaming the uprising on the liberalism of the 1960s. “What aggravated the riots into a virtual saturnalia…was the impression given by television that…rioters could enjoy a fiesta of crime, looting and rioting in the guise of social protest,” she wrote in her memoir.

The Thatcher Cabinet even discussed jailing reporters over their coverage of the uprisings. In 2011 when facing similar turmoil as a result of similar policies, Cameron resorted to the Manichean: the city was comprised of “thugs”—those people “with no loyalty to society” who “feel the world owes them something”—and the “law-abiding.” As buildings burned, Cameron offered police arbitrary power. “Whatever tactics the police feel they need to employ, they will have legal backing to do so,” Cameron thundered. “Nothing is off the table.”

Spain’s government has also been challenged by tens of thousands of people in the streets, vast numbers of whom are unemployed youth who’ve joined the ranks of the indignando movement since May 2010. Jorge Diez, the Spanish Minister for Home Affairs, was inspired by protests on March 29th to reform the penal code to criminalize protests that “seriously disturb the public peace,” by labeling protestors involved in such acts as “urban guerillas.” A minimum jail sentence of two years could be imposed on protestors instigating or carrying out violence and “serious disturbances of public order and intent to organize violent demonstrations through means such as social networking” would carry the same penalty as involvement in a criminal organization.

In Chile, Minister of the Interior Rodrigo Hinzpeter has urged Congress to approve a law that seeks harsher punishments for protestors. This has come during repeated flares of student activism in the past year. In August, police in Santiago used water cannons to break up marches by thousands of students protesting inequality associated with school privatizations—75 were arrested and 49 policemen were injured before hundreds of students were evicted from occupied schools.

The new law commonly known as “Hinzpeter Law,” which was approved by committees and will soon be debated in Chile’s Congress calls for 541 days to 3 years of jail time for individuals who are found guilty of doing what the Santiago students did—occupy public and private buildings. It would also exact punishments for disrupting services or traffic.

“The problem with this law is that it does not define disorder,” Amnesty International Chile Executive Director Ana Piquer said. “This means that anyone could be prosecuted, even those who protest peacefully, without guns or violence or any type of disorderly action.”

The controversy has quieted since October 2011 when a draft was made public. Hinzpeter would criminalize occupations of public or privately owned buildings as well as rioting and damage to public infrastructure. It was drafted by former Senator Miguel Otero—a member of the right-wing Renovation Party and current advisor to the country’s Chamber of Commerce—after marches last June resulted in clashes between police and students protesting for free education. Students claim that agent provocateurs and undercover police incited violence during demonstrations.

Most notorious, though, is Russia’s cynical use of state operations to curb dissent amid popular ferment. For ten years Putin’s “managed capitalism” has resulted in standard of living improvements, a GDP grown tenfold, low unemployment, and the resulting rewards of high oil prices. But political discontent among the country’s middle class has intensified. The state media is seen as Putin’s mouthpiece and 58 attacks were reported on journalists in 2010 alone. The iron limits of protest were best exemplified in the Pussy Riot sentencing, in which 3 members of a feminist punk band convicted of “hooliganism” after performing a protest song in a church. They received a two year prison sentence in a penal colony. Earlier, in 2007 Putin signed an “anti-extremism” law allowing for internet censorship and in 2009 five journalists were killed as a result of their efforts, one on July 13 in Siberia.

To counteract organized dissent, the Duma passed a new law raising fines for participating in unsanctioned protest. The fine is what an average Russian earns in one year, roughly $9,000. Putin signed the act increasing fines on June 8th, agreeing that the new law would protect the motherland from “radicalism.” Internally, the counterstroke has reached deeper than at any point since the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Access to websites of at least three media outlets that criticize Putin were blocked or disrupted on June 12 by hacker attacks while Moscow, a city that requires a permit for “legal” gatherings, often unleashes police to bust up protests.

Even in Canada, ranked sixth best place in the world to live, the state has clamped down on demonstration. In a furious torrent this May, over 100,000 students poured into the streets after an 80% increase in the cost of college tuition. The National Assembly of Quebec passed a special “emergency law,” Bill 78, which activists consider a violation of freedoms of speech, assembly, and movement. This was undertaken three days after riot squads deployed tear gas and arrested several people on May 15. And while this law expires July 1, 2013, Section 16 requires organizers of protests involving 50 or more people to notify police about the protest at least eight hours in advance. Section 25 states that fines can be issued between $1,000 to $125,000.

The new bill has been criticized both in and outside Canada.

“Moves to restrict freedom of assembly in many parts of the world are alarming,” said Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “In the context of student protests, I am disappointed by the new legislation passed in Quebec that restricts their rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly.”

In May, hundreds of lawyers took to the streets to denounce the law as extreme. And a spokesman for the largest student association, CLASSE, denounced the school legislation: “The bill that the government is proposing to table is an anti-union law, it is authoritarian, repressive and breaks the students’ right to strike…This is a government that prefers to hit…its youth, ridicule its youth rather than listen to them.” In fact, students were told that “all necessary force” would be used to keep classes running as well as a legal injunction (submitted by students who wished to return to class) to violate the strike.

As the party conventions undertake the predictable nominating process and feathery rhetoric the real news will come from the streets and how its occupants are treated. Tampa expected nearly 15,000 protestors and has increased security, even buying armored vehicles, tactical weapons, and police bikes for rapid deployment. It should be remembered that it was in Tampa, during a 2001 pro-Bush rally at Legends Field, that two grandmothers and another protester were arrested for holding up small, handwritten protests signs outside a “protest zone.”

The methods of democratic dissent are under well-funded assault through effective and adaptable tactics around the globe. Luis Fernandez, author of Policing Dissent, sees no slowing of growing police power in the US either. “The police tend to adapt quickly,” he said in an interview. “As guardians of the public order, they are paid to figure out how to respond to civil disturbance. Social movements, meanwhile, are more glacial in developing new strategies.”

There is swelling evidence of these strategies in the headlines: unwarranted incursions into Muslim neighborhoods, the near militarization of protest sites, and recent revelations by William Binney, a retired NSA spook turned whistleblower, of a deepening apparatus of warrantless domestic spying. In our time, not some Conrad novel, police are pro-actively infiltrating social movements—change-agents from the republic’s founding—and are attempting to subvert and dismember them. Citizens around the world will need to consider the results of future “instability,” not just from the incompetence and greed of elites who invoke the dreaded word to reinforce their authority. They will need to consider the unintended instability fomented by the costs of police encroachment upon dissent, legislating away the polite fiction of their inalienable rights, and the price of state neglect for society’s multiplying vulnerable. If power yields nothing without a demand, the last decade stands as a bleak warning for those with claims to be heard.

Myths About Job Creation and the Private Sector

The issue of unemployment and underemployment loomed above the hype of both the Republican and Democratic Party conventions with the cold stare of a harsh judge. Many promises and dubious claims were made from the respective party podiums, but no real solutions were put forward.

Despite the antagonistic posturing between Obama and Romney, both stand by the “free market” commandment that it is the business of the private sector to create jobs, not the government. That is, the effects of the Great Recession will not be reversed until the big business owners invest in job creating ventures that they can make a profit from. In order to encourage them to make these investments it is necessary to fatten their financial reserves with bail outs, low interest loans, minuscule tax rates, and so on.

In short, the policies emanating from the belief that the private sector will rescue workers from the jobs crisis are variations of the discredited trickle down theory where the wealth built up at the top through government funded corporate welfare will somehow find its way into the pockets of working Americans.

Romney is an unapologetic supporter of this discredited scheme. While candidate Obama criticizes such an approach in order to get votes, nevertheless, as President, this has been the guiding philosophy of his actions. He has provided trillions of dollars in bailouts and loans to Wall Street, declared himself open to cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, supported the privatization of public schools through the “Race to the Top” program of charter schools, extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and the list goes on.

What have been the results? Ninety three percent of the economic growth that has occurred since the economic crisis went into the pockets of the top 1%.[i] Big business is sitting on $2 trillion in profits without reinvesting them.[ii] Side by side with this enrichment, high unemployment and underemployment persist and 58 percent of new jobs pay under $13.83 per hour.[iii]

The private sector is not coming to the economy’s rescue. Rather, those in the private sector are taking advantage of the crisis to enrich themselves at the expense of workers. Neither Romney or Obama are proposing an alternative course, only variations of the same failed approach.

The private sector did eventually help to lead the nation out of the deep recessions of the 1970s and 1980s. However, the Great Recession is much more profoundly structural in its nature. Conditions are worse today, and policies that depend on the private sector to create good jobs will only exacerbate the fundamental problems that led to the Great Recession and allow its results to continue to devastate the lives of tens of millions.

One difference is that today wealth is vastly more concentrated into fewer hands. The top richest 400 individuals have more net worth than the bottom 60 percent of all Americans.[iv] Six members of the Walton family behind Walmart have, by themselves, as much wealth as the bottom 150 million.[v]

These few are the most powerful owners of the private sector. This elite’s outlook is far removed from that of the majority. Because they are so powerful, they own a good part of both political parties. And because they are sitting on such vast financial reserves, they are less inclined to risk it on investments that provide jobs.

Their top goal is to generate as much short-term profit as possible for themselves. The long-term effects of how they do this are of no concern to them. If they can make more through destructive trickery rather than putting people to work making commodities, all the better.

The opportunities for such trickery have grown in parallel with the rapid expansion of the financial sector over the last thirty years. This is indicated by the fact that trade in U.S. equity (stock) markets grew from $1.671 trillion, or 13.1 percent of the US GDP in 1970, to $14.222 trillion, or 144.9 percent of the US GDP in 2000.[vi]

Profit has increasingly been made through financial schemes rather than production and trade. The problem developing out of this is not only a minimalization of job creating investment, it turns the economic system into a giant casino for the mega rich at the cost to society as a whole.

It was the growth of financial speculation that led to economic bubbles, particularly in housing, which helped make the collapse of 2008 so deep and lasting. The destructive possibilities of the financial sector’s activities continue unchecked. The banks have lobbied tenaciously to prevent any restrictive regulation. In fact, just last month the Securities and Exchange Commission abandoned efforts to tighten regulations on money market funds. All those who follow the financial sector agree that nothing substantial has been done to prevent a monumental financial disaster that will require an even bigger bailout than before.

Even more alarming has been the growth in derivatives trading. Paul Wilmott, an economic quantitative analyst, has estimated that the total amount of derivatives being played in the markets is $1.2 trillion — 20 times the amount of money currently in the global economy. Despite the enormous risk the exposure to such debt puts the economy in, financiers continue to realize more short-term profit through these investments than job creating production in manufacturing.

The main players in the private sector are not interested in job creating investment. The reality is that workers are too broke to buy much, therefore demand is too weak for big business to realize profits by making more goods. Better from the big business elite’s perspective to hoard trillions and invest in financial speculation, though it puts the world economy in peril.

In contrast to the claims of both Obama and Romney — and both of them know better — the private sector will not create the jobs necessary to lift workers out of the Great Recession. No matter how many incentives big business is showered with, there will not be enough to overcome the limits the profit motive places on investment, given the concentration of wealth, growth in financial speculation, and the lack of demand resulting from workers’ impoverishment.

The private sector is the problem, not the solution for the jobs crisis. It will take investment in the public sector to create full employment and lift up the economy. This investment can be funded by taxing corporations to the point where our nation is facing surpluses rather than deficits. Owners of immense wealth have for too long been let off the hook from paying their fair share.

There is no shortage of work that desperately needs to be done. Industries need to be retooled to reverse climate change. Our infrastructure needs to be maintained and, in many cases, rebuilt. Public education needs to be improved and expanded rather than privatized. Social services and health care need to be made available for everyone who needs them.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the opposite of the approach of both presidential candidates and their corporate funded parties. Workers need to wrest control of the economy from the 1% by building a politically independent mass social movement to place our needs, such as a federal jobs program to create full employment, on the front stage.

All progressive changes that have benefited the vast majority have been the result of such struggles. Our salvation from the Great Recession lies in forging the necessary grass roots/workers unity to rediscover our power to set the political agenda.
[i] “The Rich Get Richer” by Steven Rattner
[ii] “US firms hoarding $2 trillion” by John Aidan Byrne
[iii] “The low-wage jobs explosion” by Tami Luhby
[iv] “Michael Moore says 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans” by Politifact
[v] “Wal-Mart Heiress’s Art Museum a Moral Blight” by Jeffery Goldberg
[vi] “Financialization” Wikipedia