Nov 062011



By J.A. Myerson, Truthout

Rachel Schragis is a 25-year-old New York City-based artist, educator and activist who created a flow-chart visualization of the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City. Since the image was posted on Facebook, comments began pouring in and the image was disseminated widely, not only among Schragis’ friends, but eventually by complete strangers.

It was featured on the Al Jazeera blog and several art blogs the next day. Occupy Wall Street’s Internet Working Group put it on the New York City General Assembly web site. Occupations and individuals all over the country have requested paper copies. There are now, two weeks after the image’s completion, plans for four different kinds of print distribution.

Writes Schragis:

“This image is profoundly not a solution: to either the injustices we face or my own (infinitely smaller) creative concerns. It is a statement of the problem, and its material being does not reflect the world we want: to start, it is drawn with (toxic) sharpies and distributed through the (unsustainably powered) internet. And the reality it states, let us not forget, is pretty bleak. I dream about making spaces that inspire justice –  not just collections of words that show what’s wrong. And isn’t this really what OWS is about, at its core? Believing that if we start by stating the problems correctly, a better world than we can currently envision is possible. Demanding that we dream up that world, and build that dream. ” …




By The Real News

EuroNews: If the euro crisis is not going away, nor are the “indignados” or “occupy” protests




By Dylan Ratigan

… Most people believe in common sense, that if you give someone money, or spend money on someone’s behalf, you will have influence over them. Excessive influence over a politician leads to corruption. Yet the Supreme Court doesn’t see it this way. How did the Court come to have such odd ideas on corruption?

This goes back to the subtlety of money in our politics, and in particular, the purchase of ideas. In the 1970s, a think tank called the John Olin Foundation began promoting something called law and economics, a school of thought started at the University of Chicago that linked the incentive-based thinking of economics to legal rule-making. At the time, the ideas that led to the massive deregulatory impulses of the next three decades were first taking shape; the law and economics school was simply the legal offshoot of this well-funded pro-corporate trend. This new legal theory asserted that traditional legal concepts like equity and fairness were not as important as efficiency and incentives. And it expanded its influence quickly over law schools and courts very quickly through, well, gobs of money. According to conservative journalist John Miller, “the foundation sank more than $68 million into law and economics, and because of this it had a big impact on legal scholarship, the training of lawyers, and judicial behavior.”

Over the next four decades, the Supreme Court, and the judiciary in general, became far more amenable to analyses that left out concepts like fairness. And this was not simply due to the conservatives on the courts, though they led the charge. The Supreme Court helped get rid of usury caps for credit cards, and then struck down state laws capping penalty fees. These two significant decisions – the Marquette decision in 1978 and Smiley v. Citibank in 1996 – were unanimous. Bankruptcy filings have naturally spiraled upwards. It wasn’t just Congress, the regulators, or the President that deregulated our financial system, it was the Supreme Court as well. And if you want to know why bankers haven’t been prosecuted for the financial crisis, well just before the crisis, the court upheld a ruling that investment bankers who knowingly structured sham transactions they knew would be used to falsify Enron’s financial statements hadn’t committed fraud. Last year, the court ruled for Enron ex-CEO Jeff Skilling.

Today, this concept is so embedded in the judiciary that imposing rules to allow shareholders power over corporate management is now being struck down on the grounds that it would prevent “efficiency, competition, and capital formation.” Law schools now churn out lawyers who understand and believe in law and economics, who can be the Supreme Court clerks and legal functionaries to embed these arguments in every nook and cranny of our legal system. Questions of justice are now becoming questions of how to make the law serve the interests of corporations, rather than fundamental issues of liberty. Powerful groups like investment bankers and CEOs can commit unethical acts with no consequence, but more than one in every hundred American men is now incarcerated, most for low level petty violations.

Some people chalk up the Court’s problems to a conservative influence on the judiciary. These people point to both Justice Sam Alito and Justice John Roberts, who both argued they would treasure Court precedent during their nomination hearings. It would be hard to find a more outrageous case of not following precedent than Citizens United; corporate money had been restricted for a century. Even more egregious is the case of Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife took $680,000 of money from the conservative Heritage Foundation, even as he did not disclose the money as required by law on his Federal disclosure forms. Thomas has also helped raise money for the Heritage Foundation. As businessman and ethical advocate Landon Rowland observed, the greatly admired scholar Alexis de Tocqueville distinguished America from corrupt European states by its willingness to subject “the state and its rulers to ordinary courts and the common law.” This is no longer the case if a Supreme Court Justice can receive family income from a conservative ideological institution, break the law and not disclose it, and then rule on issues on which that institution has weighed in. …




By Washington’s Blog

Video Emerges of Oakland Police Attacking Army Ranger

Video has emerged of a portion of the confrontation between Oakland Police and Army Ranger Kayvan Sabeghi which ended with a ruptured spleen, internal bleeding and multiple other injuries.

Sabeghi is an entrepreneur … he owns a local brewery (hardly the type to riot).

He was acting totally peacefully, and he told the police he was a veteran.

Here is the must-watch video of a portion of the incident (it shows police surrounding Sabeghi and dogpiling on him, but it doesn’t show the baton strikes which ruptured his spleen). …




By Paul Krugman

Deadbeat Rep. Joe Walsh, Who Owes $100k In Child Support, Receives ‘Pro-Family’ Award From Family Research Council.

Now that’s real hypocrisy — and if the past is any indication, it won’t matter at all for Rep. Walsh’s career.

There’s a big difference between the left and the right in such matters, one that I don’t fully understand, although I’m trying. Here’s how it goes: if a liberal politician is caught behaving badly — enriching himself while preaching the need to help the poor, or just in general showing himself less than admirable by having an affair, visiting call girls, whatever — his career is over.

But if a conservative politician who preaches stern traditional morality is caught engaging in actions that are at odds with what he preaches — buying sex, taking wide stances in restrooms, or, in this case, stiffing his family even while preaching family values — he may well ride right through the scandal. Witness what’s going on now with Herman Cain.

How can this be? Here’s what I understand: on the right, “moral values” are considered to be, literally, God-given principles. And a politician is well-regarded for advocating those values, no matter what he does personally. Instead of his personal behavior devaluing his political position, his political position excuses his personal behavior; a philandering politician who preaches the sacred bond of marriage is considered a good man because of what he says, no matter what he does.

And I sort of understand the logic of that position; if the cause is what matters, the flaws of those who serve that cause can be overlooked. …




By Nick Turse

The drummers drummed. The guitarists strummed. And the hearty souls building a new society in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park traded in their tarps for tents as the temperature dropped. All the while, Officer Guzman stood watch.

But there was something special about Officer Guzman. He wasn’t one of the 25 police officers I counted standing on the perimeter of Liberty Square that first wintery day. He wasn’t one of dozens more shooting the breeze with their partners inside a police van or sitting alone in a cruiser texting. Officer Guzman spent the day suspended in the air, two stories up, at the corner of Trinity Place and Liberty Street, inside a little metal box that goes by the name Sky Watch.

For the initiated, Sky Watch is like one of those mechanical forest walkers from the Star Wars movies without the lasers or the walking. Imagine an 7-foot by 6-foot metal box, with blacked out windows on its four sides, bristling with cameras, spotlights, and a small spinning anemometer (to calculate wind speed), atop spindly hydraulic legs that allow it to sit on the ground or rise up two stories. Inside that climate-controlled cube is a control panel with switches to turn on the lights, a joystick to raise and lower the unit, and various other remote controls that Officer Guzman or someone like him can use to direct the cameras and watch their feeds on video screens (while they are recorded on multiple digital video recorders).

Also used by the U.S. military, from Marines in the tiny African nation of Djibouti to sailors at a Navy base in the United Arab Emirates, as well as police departments all around the U.S., the 8,000-plus pound Panopticon-like structure — originally used by hunters to shoot quarry from overhead — has become a favorite of those who are partial to coercive surveillance. As the company that makes them puts it, Sky Watch provides “the vantage point necessary for law enforcement officials to deploy their forces to the greatest effectiveness while simultaneously acting providing [sic] a continuous crime deterrent.” …




By Barry Ritholtz

… One group has been especially vocal about shaping a new narrative of the credit crisis and economic collapse: those whose bad judgment and failed philosophy helped cause the crisis.

Rather than admit the error of their ways — Repent! — these people are engaged in an active campaign to rewrite history. They are not, of course, exonerated in doing so. And beyond that, they damage the process of repairing what was broken. They muddy the waters when it comes to holding guilty parties responsible. They prevent measures from being put into place to prevent another crisis.

Here is the surprising takeaway: They are winning. Thanks to the endless repetition of the Big Lie.

A Big Lie is so colossal that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. There are many examples: Claims that Earth is not warming, or that evolution is not the best thesis we have for how humans developed. Those opposed to stimulus spending have gone so far as to claim that the infrastructure of the United States is just fine, Grade A (not D, as the we discussed last month), and needs little repair.

Wall Street has its own version: Its Big Lie is that banks and investment houses are merely victims of the crash. You see, the entire boom and bust was caused by misguided government policies. It was not irresponsible lending or derivative or excess leverage or misguided compensation packages, but rather long-standing housing policies that were at fault.

Indeed, the arguments these folks make fail to withstand even casual scrutiny. But that has not stopped people who should know better from repeating them.

The Big Lie made a surprise appearance Tuesday when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, responding to a question about Occupy Wall Street, stunned observers by exonerating Wall Street: “It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp.”

What made his comments so stunning is that he built Bloomberg Data Services on the notion that data are what matter most to investors. The terminals are found on nearly 400,000 trading desks around the world, at a cost of $1,500 a month. (Do the math — that’s over half a billion dollars a month.) Perhaps the fact that Wall Street was the source of his vast wealth biased him. But the key principle of the business that made the mayor a billionaire is that fund managers, economists, researchers and traders should ignore the squishy narrative and, instead, focus on facts. Yet he ignored his own principles to repeat statements he should have known were false. …




By Ilargi, The Automatic Earth

… Who gets saved when the banks are bailed out? You? That’s what you’re made to believe (and it works like magic so far), that your fate depends on that of the banks. Or is it maybe the 1% that gets the loot? As in they get saved while you get shaved.

Why are we saving those banks? Why is that good for us? What makes it such a great idea for most people to pay more for bailing out banks than they have in deposits at those same banks? And when will they actually be saved, if ever? How many more rounds of bailouts will that take? And who will have any money left after it’s all done? Certainly not those who have no deposits left, or at least less then they owe in bailout funds. …


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