Nov 012011



By Glenn Greenwald

… For the moment, I want to make this point: as I’ve focused on these protests, there is one passage that I’ve repeatedly thought about from this genuinely important May, 2009 article in The Atlantic by Simon Johnson, the former chief economist of the IMF. That article is entitled “The Quiet Coup” — referring to the oligarchy that Johnson argues has replaced American democracy — and, as his primary evidence, Johnson describes how America’s reaction to the 2008 financial crisis was virtually indistinguishable from those he witnessed first-hand in corrupt, “emerging market” oligarchies of the past when they faced severe financial distress:

Typically, these countries are in a desperate economic situation for one simple reason—the powerful elites within them overreached in good times and took too many risks. Emerging-market governments and their private-sector allies commonly form a tight-knit—and, most of the time, genteel—oligarchy, running the country rather like a profit-seeking company in which they are the controlling shareholders. . . .

Squeezing the oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among emerging-market governments. Quite the contrary: at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or—here’s a classic Kremlin bailout technique—the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk—at least until the riots grow too large. . . .

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets) . . . .But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

It’s those two observations in bold that have been at the forefront of my thoughts about the Occupy movement: that oligarchs in a corrupted society will be free from any meaningful checks from the government they own and control, and will continue to pilfer from the rest of the society until resulting social unrest on the part of ordinary citizens becomes too disruptive and threatening to their interests. Put another way, an oligarchical class that operates without any fear in its collective heart of the citizenry will continue to assemble and protect its ill-gotten gains without limits. That is why this protest movement is so vital — so indispensable — because it is precisely that fear in the hearts and minds of the elite classes that has been so destructively lacking. …




By Tony Pugh, McClcatchy Newspapers

As copycat Occupy Wall Street encampments around the country confront the inevitable legal tangles that come with a nationwide sit-in style protest, a growing army of First Amendment-loving lawyers is shepherding the demonstrators through the legal system at no charge.

Growing numbers of protesters are being arrested for trespassing, failure to disperse and disobeying a lawful order, as city after city confronts the question of whether individual rights to free speech and assembly include the right to camp out on public property.

The resulting legal skirmishes have spurred the largest mobilization of pro bono protest attorneys since the anti-war movement of the 1960s and ’70s.

“It’s probably bigger than the anti-war movement, because there are so many simultaneous demonstrations. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Carol Sobel, co-chair of the Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild. …


NOTE: 99GetSmart ♥ NLG! There are no words of gratitude strong enough to express how much we greatly appreciate your tireless efforts to keep Americans out of harms way. You are all American Heroes! Thank you NLG!



By Barbara Schenider Reilly

… The ride to Central Booking in the paddywagon was an ominous beginning. Either New York’s potholes are beyond repair or the shock absorbers of that car were non-existent. With our wrists handcuffed behind our back, there was no way to hold on to anything as we were thrown off our seats into the air during that ride in hell. After hours of “booking procedures” — standing in line, being handcuffed, getting uncuffed, backpacks, wallets, phones and any other object, even a single tissue, taken from us, our names shouted as we were inspected and lined up spread-eagled across a wall – we were finally led into three cells, allowed for the first time to sit down. It was early evening by now but we were not allowed an extra piece of clothing for the cold, just a T-shirt or whatever first layer of clothing we wore.

During an inordinately lengthy fingerprinting procedure, with the male officers operating the machines and the female officers locking and unlocking our cells as we were called out one by one, it sometimes seemed the police outnumbered us. But still, it took what seemed like hours.

Barely back in our cells, we were taken out again, handcuffed again, this time with a chain between our cuffs, and led “upstairs.” But there had been some mistake. A female officer told “our” officer that, no, she couldn’t process us. Some paperwork was missing, some order, some stamp. Time to cuff us again and go down the stairs back into our cells. How many more instances of handcuffing, uncuffing, leading us up and down stairs and long hallways, waiting, returning, repeating what seemed nonsensical procedures and reversals then followed I do not know and did not count. But a deep sense of disorganization, competence fighting incompetence, if not chaos, reigned. It seemed as if, in the name of bureaucratic rules and regulations, in the name of “security,” we were witnessing a dysfunctional institution and people not used to daylight shining in; people generally accountable to no one but themselves. …




By Eclair, Firedoglake

One hundred ten policemen, count ‘em, most outfitted in riot-gear-lite, batons at the ready,  lined up along downtown Denver’s Broadway, facing the dozen tents that OccupyDenver had erected during the afternoon of 29 October.  A dozen tents, a couple of hundred unarmed protesters, and Deidre and me.   She is armed with a camera and me, with a notebook and pen.

It’s about 5 PM and we had just finished talking with Congressman Ed Perlmutter up on the 16th Street Mall.  (See my earlier Diary:  Overwhelming Police Force at Occupy Denver.)   He had strongly suggested that we  avoid Civic Center Park due to the heavy police presence after an earlier confrontation in which police used pepper spray, rubber bullets and batons against the protesters.  We had looked at each other and said, “Let’s go down there.” …




By Ryan Singel

After Scott Olsen, a two-tour Iraq war veteran, suffered a skull fracture Tuesday when police shot Occupy Oakland protestors with rubber bullets and threw flash bang and tear gas grenades at them, you might think that the Justice Department would investigate.

After all, the Justice Department has the power and responsibility to investigate state and local police violations of Americans’ constitutional rights.

Sorry, Scott Olsen. Sorry, Occupy. No such luck.

The Obama Justice Department has not opened an investigation, spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa told Wired.

That’s despite Oakland having a long history of abusing protestors. Just last month, a federal judge hinted that he would take over the department for failing to rein in rogue policing practices identified in a consent decree from 2003 that the department has failed to obey. The National Lawyers Guild contends police violated that order again Tuesday.

Oakland’s paramilitary response was no accident.

Oakland assembled a small army of police decked out in paramilitary gear, comprised of officers from 18 California police units. Their task was to evict the protestors from what’s been one of the most organized Occupy events in the country, because the city said the protest site was dirty. …

… When Egypt teargassed and beat protestors in Tahrir Square, the world, including the Obama administration, howled in outrage.

But when police did the same to Americans in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Obama administration said nothing.

It’s clear that while there is no honor in hurting unarmed civilians, there’s no punishment for it, either. …




By Tyler Durden

… The sad truth of just how low Wall Street has fallen comes to us courtesy of the New York Times:

Federal regulators have discovered that hundreds of millions of dollars in customer money have gone missing from MF Global in recent days, prompting an investigation into the company’s operations as it filed for bankruptcy on Monday, according to several people briefed on the matter.

The revelation of the missing money scuttled an 11th hour deal for MF Global to sell a major part of itself to a rival brokerage firm. MF Global, the powerhouse commodities brokerage run by Jon S. Corzine, had staked its survival on completing the deal.

As for the details:

What began as nearly $1 billion missing had dropped to less than $700 million by late Monday. It is unclear where the money went, and some money is expected to trickle in over the coming days as the firm sorts through the bankruptcy process, the people said.

But regulators are examining whether MF Global diverted some customer money to support its own trades as the firm teetered on the brink of collapse. If that was the case, it could violate a fundamental tenet of Wall Street regulation: Customers’ money must be kept separate from company money. …




By Paul Singer and Jennifer Yachnin

Members of Congress had a collective net worth of more than $2 billion in 2010, a nearly 25 percent increase over the 2008 total, according to a Roll Call analysis of Members’ financial disclosure forms.

Nearly 90 percent of that increase is concentrated in the 50 richest Members of Congress.

Two years ago, Roll Call found that the minimum net worth of House Members was slightly more than $1 billion; Senators had a combined minimum worth of $651 million for a Congressional total of $1.65 billion. Roll Call calculates minimum net worth by adding the minimum values of all reported assets and subtracting the minimum values of all reported liabilities.

According to financial disclosure forms filed by Members of Congress this year, the minimum net worth in the House has jumped to $1.26 billion, and Senate net worth has climbed to at least $784 million, for a Congressional total of $2.04 billion.

These wealth totals vastly underestimate the actual net worth of Members of Congress because they are based on an accounting system that does not include homes and other non-income-generating property, which is likely to tally hundreds of millions of uncounted dollars. In addition, Roll Call’s tally is based on the minimum values of assets reported by Members on their annual financial disclosure forms; the true values of those assets may be much higher. …




By Digby

I can hardly believe that gazillionaire Mayor Bloomberg would have the nerve to host an exclusive dinner for the financial, corporate and political elite to persuade them to slash the social safety net. It’s almost beyond belief. But he did.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will host an intimate dinner at Gracie Mansion on Sunday night that brings together a bipartisan group of senators, Xerox chief executive Ursula Burns and other business and labor leaders to discuss how to pave the way for the Super Committee to “go big” and cut $4 trillion in federal spending, according to a source familiar with the dinner.

The Washington contingent includes Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Warner and Republican Sens. Bob Corker, and Saxby Chambliss, among others. The meeting will be a much smaller, more strategic affair — 10 to 20 people — than a similar dinner Warner threw at his home in September, which had a guest list of 60.

Sunday’s dinner is another in a series of conversations that lawmakers, policy makers and business and labor leaders have been having since last summer to make a business case for big cuts in spending. A number of senators and business groups, including the Business Roundtable and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, having been urging the Super Committee to cut more than the $1.5 trillion it is charged with finding.

It’s mind-boggling I know. But they really don’t seem to have the vaguest clue what’s going on. …


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