Mar 172012



By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

[…] All the government bailouts succeeded in doing was to make the bank even more prone to catastrophic failure – and now that catastrophe might finally be at hand. Bank of America’s share price has plunged into the single digits, and the bank faces battles in courtrooms all over America to avoid paying back the hundreds of billions it stole from everyone in sight. Its credit rating, already downgraded to a few rungs above junk status, could plummet with the next bad analyst report, causing a frenzied rush to the exits by creditors, investors and stockholders – an institutional run on the bank.

They’re in deep trouble, but they won’t die, because our current president, like the last one, apparently believes it’s better to project a false image of financial soundness than to allow one of our oligarchic banks to collapse under the weight of its own corruption. Last year, the Federal Reserve allowed Bank of America to move a huge portfolio of dangerous bets into a side of the company that happens to be FDIC-insured, putting all of us on the hook for as much as $55 trillion in irresponsible gambles. Then, in February, the Justice Department’s so-called foreclosure settlement, which will supposedly provide $26 billion in relief for ripped-off homeowners, actually rewarded the bank with a legal waiver that will allow it to escape untold billions in lawsuits. And this month the Fed will release the results of its annual stress test, in which the bank will once again be permitted to perpetuate its fiction of solvency by grossly overrating the mountains of toxic loans on its books. At this point, the rescue effort is so sweeping and elaborate that it goes far beyond simply gouging the tax dollars of millions of struggling families, many of whom have already been ripped off by the bank – it’s making the government, and by extension all of us, full-blown accomplices to the fraud.

Anyone who wants to know what the Occupy Wall Street protests are all about need only look at the way Bank of America does business. It comes down to this: These guys are some of the very biggest assholes on Earth. They lie, cheat and steal as reflexively as addicts, they laugh at people who are suffering and don’t have money, they pay themselves huge salaries with money stolen from old people and taxpayers – and on top of it all, they completely suck at banking. And yet the state won’t let them go out of business, no matter how much they deserve it, and it won’t slap them in jail, no matter what crimes they commit. That makes them not bankers or capitalists, but a class of person that was never supposed to exist in America: royalty.

Self-appointed royalty, it’s true – but just as dumb and inbred as the real thing, and every bit as expensive to support. […]




Jon Henley hears from unemployed professionals wondering if there is anything in the country to keep them there

Crushed ambitions

First, two young professionals describe their disheartening circumstances: Ioanna Panagioto is a volunteer at Radiobubble, a community web radio station based in a buzzing cafe where I met a number of activists the other night. She lived in London for five years until 2008, doing an MA in marketing communications and working for Debenhams. “Since coming back to Greece I’ve had two short temporary contracts. I’ve been unemployed since July 2010 and have sent 300 CVs with no luck (including for positions in a warehouse or on a shopfloor). In the meantime I’ve managed to earn some cash by doing random odd jobs, but it’s devastating and disheartening when you’re unemployed because you’re forced to live with your parents, unable to make plans for the future. Having said that, I guess it must have been a shock for my generation – I am 32 – as we were raised with a career mindset, and now since everything has turned upside down we are working merely to survive. I would be lying if I said I am not considering leaving Greece again. Meanwhile, though, I look after the English section of Radiobubble News, which aims to communicate abroad what mainstream media would not cover, or give enough attention to – stories like the police making 60 preventive detentions before the big demonstration last month. We do live blogs on general strikes or demos, weekly news round-ups and breaking news. The live blogs include only verified information reported on twitter with the #rbnews hashtag. We have 25 Radiobubble contributors, and 50 other twitter users whose credibility has been tested. Our live blog on the three days of anti-austerity protests back in February got 15,000 hits, coming mostly from Spain, Italy, France and the UK.”

John Matzavrakos, who was educated in Britain, says young aspiring professionals in Greece – the 24-30 year-old age group, of which he is a part, have watched their futures go up in smoke. “I am 27 years old, and the co-founder of a web services company registered in the Netherlands (it would make more sense to have opened it here in Greece, but with the bureaucracy, red tape and corruption, it couldn’t be done.) This has been a part-time endeavour so far, but since my full-time employer filed for administration and liquidation a couple of months ago, we are planning to turn it into a full-time operation – and migrate in the process. Many of my friends and acquaintances, while young, are relatively successful in their jobs. Most were paid fairly well for Greek pre-crisis standards, at €1,500 a month or thereabouts, as I was before my employer collapsed. However, even those who are still employed would rather take the plunge and get out of here. They know that if their employer “suggests” they accept a €900 or less salary, there won’t be any argument against it. I’m not speaking on behalf of ‘lost students’ or ‘desperate pensioners’. I won’t mince my words here: the category where people I know fit in – aspiring professionals – has absolutely nothing to keep it in Greece. And this is perhaps the greatest tragedy of our times, not whether inflated pensions will be reduced, but this. It’s the crux of the matter.” […]




By Makis Papasimakopoulos, Athens News

The yoghurt kamikazes just don’t seem like letting up, the latest “yoghurted” politician being Zakynthos mayor Stavros Bozikis, on Thursday.

The incident took place at the meeting of the island’s local council, which was attended by a large number of local residents and entrepreneurs.

According to a large number of local businessmen and citizens, the way the council goes about calculating local taxation is wrong and is based on inadequate aerial photographs of the island. The images are being used to define the amount of land each resident owns, but the results continue to contain a large number of miscalculations, leading to over taxation, charged through electricity bills.

A re-establishment of the land calculating method was demanded and with tempers flaring rapidly at the local council, the yoghurting incident was not far behind.

Bozikis, who was also pelted with eggs, did not reply to demands and the situation on the island remains volatile.

The latest “yoghurting” incident is now added to an ever growing list of similar occurrences, as attacks on politicians with dairy products seem to be becoming a protest method of choice for the Greek public. […]




By M31 Moviecrew

Europe is in a continuous state of upheaval. For months now, its credit- and sovereign debt crises have been escalating. A number of hectic European Union (EU) summits have introduced emergency measures to rescue capitalism. Should the­se measures fail, governments and the media assure us, collapse, recession and mass poverty would be the result. This apocalyptic rhetoric paves the way for even more neoliberal reforms whose social impact will be felt for decades to come – if we don‘t resist. Throughout the crisis, we were told that capitalism needed to be reined in, and that banks and corporations would have to carry some of the burden they, too, had created. What is happening now is the exact opposite: The EU, its member states and other European countries are intensifying competition and introducing devastating public austerity programs to secure private profits. In doing so, however, they are reproducing the destructive logic of capitalism. The existence of crises, widespread powerlessness and poverty, contrasted by private, i.e. exclusive wealth, are inherent elements of capitalism. Let’s get organized for a better society!




By jpmassar, Daily Kos

A few weeks ago an intrepid reporter put the pieces together and figured out who most likely tossed the flash bang grenade at Scott Olsen and his rescuers as he lay wounded on the streets of Oakland.

Now another piece of the puzzle has emerged. Mark Martel, Scott Olsen’s attorney, has been reported as stating

Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen was hit in the head with a bean bag round during an Occupy Oakland protest last fall…

…the Oakland Police Department had given him ((Martel)) the information a couple of weeks ago, but had not stated explicitly whether it was an Oakland police officer who fired the round.




By Brian Daly, QMI Agency

MONTREAL – The city’s police chief says cops have to toe the line between protecting freedom of assembly while keeping the public order in cases like Thursday’s protest that turned violent.

The anti-police brutality protest has been held in the city every year since 1997 and has degenerated into violence for several years in a row, including Thursday when hooligans attacked police officers and ordinary citizens while ransacking downtown stores.

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Montreal Police Chief Marc Parent told a news conference on Friday.

“We have to find the right time to intervene. All messages in our democracy have the right to be heard. There are always people who will take advantage of these situations to break, pillage, damage private property and also to damage police equipment.”

Riot police were deployed around downtown prior to the start of a late-afternoon march that included masked members of the anarchist Black Bloc, a group that routinely provokes police in the city and elsewhere.

The crowd swelled to 1,000 people and the rally was declared illegal around 6:30 p.m. […]




By Anthony Gucciardi, Truth Theory

A group of scientists is calling for major federal action in order to deal with the threat posed by Monsanto’s GMO crops, now petitioning the EPA to address the issue head on. The group of 22 academic corn experts are drawing attention to the immense failure of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn, which is developing mutated and resistant insects as a result of its widespread usage. Corn is critical not only as a food staple, but is heavily used in ethanol production, animal feed, and much more. As GM corn becomes the norm, currently taking over 94 percent of the supply, these scientists are seriously concerned about the future of corn production.

Joseph Spencer is one outspoken member of the group, a corn entomologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, part of the University of Illinois. Spencer states that what is happening is no surprise, instead it is something that needs to be addressed. Warning the EPA over the dangers, the experts sent a letter on March 5th to the agency explaining their worries regarding long-term corn production prospects in light of GMO crops failures. Specifically, the experts are worried about the lack of protection presented by GMO crops against rootworms.

The EPA has already acknowledged that Monsanto’s GMO crops are creating resistant rootworms, which are now ravaging the GMO crops as they mutate to the biopesticide used known as Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). The EPA found that the resistant rootworms, which are evolving to resist the insecticide,  are currently found Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska. After the EPA evaluated documented cases of severe crop damage as well as reports from entomologists, the EPA stated “Monsanto’s program for monitoring suspected cases of resistance is ‘inadequate’”. […]




By James Bamford, Wired

The spring air in the small, sand-dusted town has a soft haze to it, and clumps of green-gray sagebrush rustle in the breeze. Bluffdale sits in a bowl-shaped valley in the shadow of Utah’s Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. It’s the heart of Mormon country, where religious pioneers first arrived more than 160 years ago. They came to escape the rest of the world, to understand the mysterious words sent down from their god as revealed on buried golden plates, and to practice what has become known as “the principle,” marriage to multiple wives.

Today Bluffdale is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members. The brethren’s complex includes a chapel, a school, a sports field, and an archive. Membership has doubled since 1978—and the number of plural marriages has tripled—so the sect has recently been looking for ways to purchase more land and expand throughout the town.

But new pioneers have quietly begun moving into the area, secretive outsiders who say little and keep to themselves. Like the pious polygamists, they are focused on deciphering cryptic messages that only they have the power to understand. Just off Beef Hollow Road, less than a mile from brethren headquarters, thousands of hard-hatted construction workers in sweat-soaked T-shirts are laying the groundwork for the newcomers’ own temple and archive, a massive complex so large that it necessitated expanding the town’s boundaries. Once built, it will be more than five times the size of the US Capitol. […]




Anti-union laws are spreading to new states. But do voters know what right-to-work really means? 

By Nicole Pasulka, Mother Jones

On Wednesday the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a right-to-work law, returning the issue to Democratic Gov. John Lynch’s desk for the second time in two years. The bane of organized labor for over half a century, right-to-work laws regained momentum in the United States after Republicans won historically sweeping victories on the state level in the 2010 midterm elections. In February, Indiana became the first state in a decade—and the first Rust Belt state—to enact one of the laws.

Jimmy Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters, has said that right-to-work proponents are waging a “war on workers,” and Martin Luther King Jr. called right-to-work a “false slogan” and said the laws “rob us of our civil rights and job rights.” But proponents of the laws believe they’re necessary for the growth of manufacturing and business that can bolster states’ weak economies. A lack of nationwide right-to-work legislation, they argue, has resulted in “abuses of workers’ human rights and civil liberties.”

So what is a right-to-work law, anyway?

The basics

No American worker can be forced to join a union. But most unions push companies to agree to contracts that require all workers, whether they’re in the union or not, to pay dues to the union for negotiating with management. State right-to-work laws make these sorts of contracts illegal, meaning that workers in unionized businesses can benefit from the terms of a union contract without paying union dues. (Under federal law, unions must represent all workers covered by a contract, even if some of those workers are not members of the union and do not pay for the union’s representation.)

Unions are fighting the expansion of these laws, which currently apply in 23 US states. A coalition of lawmakers, manufacturers, tea partiers, and big conservative think tanks want to see them passed in the rest of the US. […]


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