* NYPD ARRESTS OPERATORS OF OCCUPY WALL STREET LIVESTREAM
By Stephen D. Foster Jr., Addicting Information
In the absence of traditional media coverage that Tea Party protests enjoyed, the Occupy movement has been largely ignored and has had to rely on cell phone footage and livestream internet feeds to show the American public what’s been happening.
Global Revolution is considered to be the most important channel covering Occupy Wall Street, broadcasting live feeds of the protests all around the world. So when protesters tell police that the world is watching as the officers beat and pepper spray innocent Americans, they mean it. So it was shocking when Global Revolution ceased their livestream of Occupy protests against the National Defense Authorization Act in New York, and switched to Occupy Maui in Hawaii.
That’s because the NYPD ambushed the operators of the feed in the studio and arrested them. On Tuesday, police raided the building where Global Revolution was broadcasting from and took key operators into custody, including Vlad Teichberg, an operator named Spike, and four or five other volunteers. Vlad and Spike maintained the livestream feed.
Police raided the Bushwick studio after ordering everyone to vacate the premises because the space supposedly is “imminently perilous to life.” The livestream is now down for the time being.
Clearly, Wall Street is paying the NYPD and the mainstream media very well to silence the protests. Police have made every effort to violently end the Occupy movement. They’ve beaten and pepper sprayed protesters. They’ve fired rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds. They’ve even tried to end live web coverage of the protests and now they’re arresting the operators of these feeds. The NYPD has violated just about every civil right guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Maybe it’s time for the entire mass of protesters to occupy the headquarters of the NYPD, because the police are just as corrupt as Wall Street.
* AT WALL STREET PROTESTS, CLASH OF REPORTING AND POLICING
By Michael Powell, NYTimes
In late November, the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, ordered every precinct in his domain to read a statement. Officers, the commissioner said, must “respect the public’s right to know about these events and the media’s right of access to report.”
Any officer who “unreasonably interferes” with reporters or blocks photographers will be subject to disciplinary actions.
These are fine words. Of course, his words followed on the heels of a few days in mid-November when the police arrested, punched, kicked and used metal barriers to ram reporters and photographers covering the Occupy Wall Street protests.
And recent events suggest that the commissioner should speak more loudly. Ryan Devereaux, a reporter, serves as Exhibit 1A that all is not well.
On Dec. 17, Mr. Devereaux covered a demonstration at Duarte Square on Canal Street for “Democracy Now!,” a news program carried on 1,000 stations. Ragamuffin demonstrators surged and the police pushed back. A linebacker-size officer grabbed the collar of Mr. Devereaux, who wore an ID identifying him as a reporter. The cop jammed a fist into his throat, turning Mr. Devereaux into a de facto battering ram to push back protesters.
“I yelled, ‘I’m a journalist!’ and he kept shoving his fist and yelling to his men, ‘Push, boys!’ ”
Eventually, with curses and threats to arrest Mr. Devereaux, the officer relaxed his grip.
You don’t have to take his word. An Associated Press photograph shows this uniformed fellow grinding a meat-hook fist into the larynx of Mr. Devereaux, who is about 5 feet 5 inches. A video, easily found online, shows an officer blocking a photographer for The New York Times at the World Financial Center, jumping to put his face in front of the camera as demonstrators are arrested in the background. […]
* CHIEF JUSTICE DRAWS GUFFAWS WITH HIS CLAIM THAT FEDERAL COURTS OPERATE HONESTLY
Posted by legalschnauzer, legalschnauzer.com
John Roberts, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, says in a year-end report that he has “complete confidence” that federal judges behave in an ethical fashion. One prominent legal journalist calls the Roberts report a “whitewash.” We would call it a sign that Roberts is living on Fantasy Island. More importantly, it’s a sign that oversight is needed in courts because judges clearly cannot be trusted to police themselves.
Roberts’ report comes at the end of a year marked by questions about the ethical standards that apply to federal judges, including those on the nation’s highest court. Critics have argued that at least two justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan, have conflicts that should force them to step down from hearing any constitutional challenges to President Obama’s health-care law. But we’ve seen no sign that either justice will recuse him or herself– and in our current system, such decisions are left up to the judge.
Questions related to Obamacare only skim the surface of ethical problems with the federal judiciary. We have shown that Bush-era political prosecutions, such as those involving former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and Mississippi attorney Paul Minor, were enabled by numerous unlawful rulings from federal trial-court judges. We also have shown that federal appellate judges unlawfully upheld those rulings, apparently more interested in protecting their judicial brethren than in ensuring that the law is applied correctly and fairly.
In my own legal world, 2011 was filled with examples of federal district judges ruling contrary to law on matters that are clear and simple–and with judges from the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta mostly upholding findings that are contrary to long-standing precedent. In the first few months of 2012, I will be presenting ample evidence from my own legal battles that show our federal courts are infested with corruption.
A key issue in my experience has been discovery. Specifically, federal judges have repeatedly allowed opposing parties to get away with not turning over relevant documents in discovery–or in one case, a federal judge actually ruled on summary judgment when no discovery had been conducted in the case at all. That simply cannot be done under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but an 83-year-old Reagan appointee did it anyway. We encourage you to stay tuned in 2012 for indisputable evidence that our federal courts are a cesspool.
So how does John Roberts reach his conclusion that all is hunky-dory in our federal courts? Answer: He’s trying to protect his turf, and he isn’t interested in making sure courts actually serve the public and uphold the law. Andrew Kreig, a journalist, lawyer, and director of the D.C.-based Justice Integrity Project, puts it in stark terms:
The federal courts function honestly, according to the annual report on the federal judiciary that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued Dec. 31 in the middle of the New Year’s holiday weekend. Noting at the outset the disgrace that bribery brought to baseball in 1919, Roberts said the federal judiciary needs no reforms because its members seek to address their duties in an ethical manner. Roberts said he had “complete confidence” in the integrity of judges, including his colleagues on the Supreme Court. As chief justice, Roberts presides over both the nine-member Supreme Court and the administrative office of the federal judiciary. His report focused heavily on the need for public confidence in the judiciary. But he recommended nothing more than what he called continued self-discipline by judges.
“Whitewash” is the most obvious description of the Roberts report by those of us documenting flagrant abuses of the public interest by judges. Our Justice Integrity Project, among many others, has documented judges who have been enriched or otherwise co-opted by benefactors and political allies, while protected by cronies and toadies.
Kreig even hints that Roberts released his report late on New Year’s Eve so that it would largely slip under the radar of the mainstream media:
The Roberts report was released at 6 p.m. Saturday night on Dec. 31, thus guaranteeing minimal attention from the public aside from those reporters provided advance copies
What does it tell us that John Roberts has confidence in the system he oversees? Absolutely nothing, of course. Roberts’ confidence in the system is not the issue. The issue is this: Should the American public have confidence in the federal judiciary? The answer is no.
What might make a difference? Kreig offers a suggestion:
Reform is simple: Oversight hearings by the House Judiciary Committee, with aggressive investigation by the FBI of corruption complaints against dishonest federal judges, whether high or low, Democrat or Republican. Little scrutiny exists currently except for the most obvious crimes. […]
* WHO WASTED $13 MILLION ON OCCUPY PROTESTS?
By Aaron Cynic and Natalie W., Z Magazine
According to an Associated Press article in the Chicago Tribune (November 23): “During the first two months of the nationwide Occupy protests, the movement that is demanding more out of the wealthiest Americans cost local taxpayers at least $13 million in police overtime and other municipal services. The heaviest financial burden has fallen on law enforcement agencies tasked with monitoring marches and evicting protesters from outdoor camps. And the steepest costs by far piled up in New York City and Oakland, California where police clashed with protesters on several occasions.”
At present, estimates from various cities across North America have highlighted various operational costs of policing Occupy movements in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. According to officials surveyed by the Associated Press, Occupy Wall Street has cost New York City a reported $7 million, Occupy Oakland $2.4 million, Occupy Portland at least $785,000. Those numbers continue to grow as cities deploy riot police to raid or destroy various Occupy encampments.
Some may argue that the nationwide Occupy movements waste taxpayer money by tying up police resources in attempts to assemble in public spaces. The argument is flawed. City administrations make the choice to spend money on policing Occupy protests
The mass arrests at peaceful demonstrations prove how removed the government is from the needs of its people and how determined it is to silence or ignore the very people it has been created to protect. Taxpayers are all paying money into and for a corrupt system that is persecuting its own people and denying their first amendment rights. Theoretically, the 99 percent are paying, through taxes, the police and the mayor to represent us and our interests and betterment. What we support with our beliefs, words, and dollars should not be a shoeshine for the boot-heel crushing our throat.
Occupy Chicago has been a peaceful assemblage for over two months. Rallies, general assembly, workgroup meetings, and other democratic actions rarely require a police presence. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Chief McCarthy have chosen to assign one. The mayor’s office and the Chicago Police department chose to utilize taxpayer dollars to persecute those taxpayers who are attempting to redesign the status quo.
In Chicago and across the nation, mayors and their subordinates chose to burn taxpayer dollars and to silence workers, students, mothers, children, and fathers who speak out in defense of themselves and others. The status quo spends our money to zip tie and cram us in the back of police cars. In the case of many cities, they smash us with truncheons, spray us with chemical agents, fire tear gas canisters into our bodies, break our bones, and torment us. […]
* SEVEN YEARS AFTER SIEGES, FALLUJAH STRUGGLES
By Dahr Jamail, Aljazeera
Fallujah, Iraq – Fallujah still bears the scars of war; skeletons continue to be pulled from the rubble of bombed buildings, and, worse, rates of birth defects and childhood malformations have skyrocketed.
There is evidence of reconstruction, but shortages of electricity and clean water remain prevalent. The overall mood in the city is one of anger, hopelessness, and fear.
In April and November of 2004, the United States military launched two massive military sieges against the city of Fallujah, located 60km west of Baghdad, due to on-going resistance there against the occupation.
Doctors at Fallujah General Hospital told Al Jazeera in 2004 that 736 Iraqis had been killed during the April siege. They said approximately 60 per cent of the victims were women, children, and elderly, and told of medical personnel being fired on by US forces while trying to evacuate the wounded.
By the end of nearly three weeks of heavy bombings and a ground invasion in the November siege, more than 1,000 Iraqis were killed, according to Fallujah doctors. […]
* PAST LINGERS FOR COMPANY FORMERLY CALLED BLACKWATER
By Bill Sizemore, The Virginian-Pilot
As it goes about the complicated task of putting its past behind it, the Moyock, N.C.-based company once known as Blackwater is going through some lean times.
Nevertheless, its reach has never been wider. Its workers have deployed to more than a dozen countries around the world, many of them hot spots of civil unrest.
That should be no cause for alarm, the current owners say, because the old company is no more. Blackwater – some of whose security operatives were accused of killing civilians in war zones, and several of whose top executives face felony firearms charges – is dead and buried, a stake plunged into its heart.
It is a new company with new leadership now, they say, one dedicated to playing by the rules.
To drive the point home, last month the company unveiled its second rebranding since 2009, dumping the name Xe, successor to Blackwater, in favor of the studious-sounding Academi.
The urgency of outrunning the Blackwater legacy is apparent in recent revenue numbers.
The company lost one of its most lucrative jobs – guarding U.S. diplomats in Iraq – in 2009 when it was barred from the country by the Iraqi government, incensed over a 2007 shooting incident in Baghdad in which 17 civilians were killed. Four ex-Blackwater guards face federal manslaughter charges in the case.
The loss of that work is reflected in a Virginian-Pilot analysis of the company’s publicly identifiable federal contracts in an online database.
Those contracts, which form the bulk of the company’s revenue, dropped to about $160 million in 2011, a seven-year low.
Even though the United States has pulled its troops out of Iraq, there’s still a big market there for private security contractors. Ted Wright, Academi’s president and chief executive officer, has told interviewers the company wants to get back into the country.
Academi’s other big cash cow, Afghanistan, is still going strong for now. The company has banked more than $1 billion for its work there since 2002 – roughly the same amount it collected over five years in Iraq.
The future there is uncertain, however. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, blaming foreign security companies for inciting instability in the war-weary nation, has said he plans to ban them all. He recently extended the deadline for their departure from March 2012 to September 2013.
Academi is prepared for that eventuality, Wright said in an interview. As U.S. military operations abroad wind down, the company is shifting its primary focus from security to training.
“As the situation in Afghanistan changes from private security companies to Afghans doing that for themselves, what they’re going to need is our training services,” Wright said. “So I think that fits inside of our strategy extremely well.”
In the past six months, the company has won contracts – mostly for training – in a variety of other countries on three continents where security concerns loom large:
– Algeria, Tunisia and Bahrain, predominantly Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East that have seen demonstrations and rioting during the “Arab spring” uprisings over the past year.
– Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, former Soviet republics in central Asia, also predominantly Muslim, that have seen nationwide protests and armed conflict between government and militant forces.
– Mexico, a major source of illegal narcotics where powerful drug-trafficking organizations have engaged in bloody feuding, resulting in tens of thousands of homicides.
Some of the contracts were awarded by the State Department, a longtime Blackwater client. Others came from the Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office, an obscure agency in the Defense Department whose stated mission is to deter and disrupt drug-trafficking operations that support terrorist activities.
Blackwater was one of five prime contractors awarded five-year contracts by the agency in 2007 worth up to $15 billion. A 2009 audit of that award by the Defense Department’s inspector general found mismanagement and potential violations of federal appropriations law valued at more than $20 million.
In November, the agency announced a new round of bidding for $3 billion in follow-on contracts. […]
* MORE ICELANDIC BANKERS ARRESTED
Iceland’s special prosecutor into the banking crisis has confirmed that raids have taken place today and that arrests have been made. The Central Bank of Iceland is among the institutions under investigation.
Special Prosecutor, Olafur Thor Hauksson told Visir.is that house searches are taking place in at least three places today as part of investigations into the central bank, MP Bank and Straumur Bank.
Stefan Johann Stefansson at the central bank confirmed that agents were in the building conducting searches; and it has also been confirmed that searches are underway at MP Bank and ALMC (formerly Straumur).
An ALMC spokesman said that the premises are indeed being searched and that the bank’s staff members are doing their best to help.
In other news, four people have so far been arrested today in connection with the special prosecutor’s investigation into Landsbanki.
One of the arrested parties is Jon Thorsteinn Oddleifsson, former Landsbanki treasury boss; and it is not yet known who the other three are.
According to Visir.is sources, the arrests concern a brand new section of the wider case against the bank and are not directly connected to searches and arrests made last week.
* 30 STATISTICS THAT SHOW THAT THE MIDDLE CLASS IS DYING RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES AS WE ENTER 2012
By Michael Snyder, Zero Hedge
[…] America as a whole is getting poorer as a nation, and as this happens wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated at the very top of the income scale. This is not how capitalism is supposed to work, and it is not good for America.
When the cost of the basic things that we need – housing, food, gas, electricity – go up faster than our incomes do, that means that we are getting poorer.
Sadly, if you look at the long-term numbers, some very clear negative trends emerge….
-The number of good jobs continues to decrease.
-The rate of inflation continues to outpace the rate that our wages are going up.
-American consumers are going into almost unbelievable amounts of debt.
-The number of Americans that are considered to be “poor” continues to grow.
-The number of Americans that are forced to turn to the government for financial assistance continues to go up.
After you read the information below, it should become abundantly clear that the U.S. middle class is in a whole heap of trouble.
The following are 30 statistics that show that the middle class is dying right in front of our eyes as we enter 2012….
#4 Since the year 2000, the United States has lost 10% of its middle class jobs. In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.
#6 According to that same article in the New York Times, 34 percent of all elderly Americans are living in poverty or “near poverty”, and 39 percent of all children in America are living in poverty or “near poverty”.
#7 In 1984, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older was 10 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger. Today, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older is 47 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger.
#10 Many formerly great manufacturing cities are turning into ghost towns. Since 1950, the population of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has declined by more than 50 percent. In Dayton, Ohio 18.9 percent of all houses now stand empty.
#15 According to U.S. Representative Betty Sutton, America has lost an average of 15 manufacturing facilities a day over the last 10 years. During 2010 it got even worse. Last year, an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day shut down in the United States.
#18 Food prices continue to rise at a very brisk pace. The price of beef is up9.8% over the past year, the price of eggs is up 10.2% over the past year and the price of potatoes is up 12% over the past year.
#22 If the number of Americans considered to be “looking for work” was the same today as it was back in 2007, the “official” unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11 percent.
#23 According to the Student Loan Debt Clock, total student loan debt in the United States will surpass the 1 trillion dollar mark at some point in 2012. Most of that debt is owed by members of the middle class.
* WHY SPAIN’S NEW GOVERNMENT IS DRINKING AUSTERITY KOOL-AID AND HOW THIS THREATENS THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
By Marshall Auerback, AlterNet
|Spain’s new government said late last month that this year’s budget deficit would be much larger than expected and announced a slew of surprise tax hikes and wage freezes that could drag the country back to the center of the eurozone debt crisis. The government plans to enact public spending cuts of 8.9 billion euros ($11.5 billion) and tax hikes aimed at bringing in an additional 6 billion euros a year to tackle the shortfall. Given what has happened to Greece, and now Italy, it is almost certain that this will have the opposite impact of that which the Spanish government wants: there will be HIGHER public deficits at the end of the day, as the cuts curtail economic growth even further.Self-inflicted Catastrophe
Spanish employment fell by a whopping 72,075 in November, which came on the heels of an even bigger 82,944 decline in October. The Spanish employment data is really terrible. To get a feel for these numbers, you have to realize that Spain’s employment is about one-eighth that of the U.S. We are talking about employment declines in the last two months that would correspond to monthly declines of more than 600,000 if it were the U.S. economy. In the prior three months Spain’s employment declines corresponded to the equivalent of almost 300,000 job declines a month in the U.S. Would anyone doubt that the U.S. was in a deep recession if it reported such horrible employment data? Of course not.
The eurozone, indeed, the entire global economy, continues to experience a self-inflicted catastrophe, largely because of dangerously destructive myths about fiscal policy. In spite of the shrill rhetoric of the fiscal austerity brigades, the evidence in Europe continues to mount that a nation cannot have a fiscal contraction expansion when all other spending is flat or going backwards. Unless you want an economic disaster.
Let’s look at some macroeconomic issues in a simplified form:
1. In any given country, how many sectors are there that can spend? Answer: three.
2. What are they? Answer: The foreign sector, the private domestic sector, and government sector.
3. What happens if firms in the private domestic sector cannot sell their goods and services because people can’t afford to buy them? Answer: They lay off workers and refuse to spend on new equipment, etc.
4. What happens if income in the local economy is lost to the foreign sector – that is, is not recycled back into domestic demand? Answer: Drain on growth, fewer exports, more imports.
5. If the economy is looking bad, what happens to private domestic sector households? They will not spend.
6. If the foreign sector isn’t spending on a country, and the domestic sector isn’t spending, either, then the economy will ground to halt unless the one remaining sector fills the breach: the government sector. This is true, regardless of what the anti-government mythologists from Germany, the University of Chicago, and others, argue to the contrary.
Free Market ‘Miracles’ are a Myth
This is particularly true in a situation when an economy is suffering from the after-effects of a PRIVATE SECTOR debt bubble. And let’s set aside this nonsense about the miracles of “letting the ‘free’ markets work. The notorious ‘Invisible Hand’ –that mythical self-regulating aspect of the market–turns out to look like 1995-2000 with all that wonderful allocation of capital to tech and telecom, or perhaps more along the lines of 2000-6, with the brilliant decisions made by hundreds and thousands of equity investors, bank loan officers, and credit analysts made regarding real estate allocations (of which Spain was a notable example). Doesn’t work too well in reality — and ordinary people are left holding the bag.
It’s time to wake up. Market allocation of investment has proven just plain idiotic too many times over the past two decades (plus) for anyone to believe such neoliberal fibs, except maybe the wettest behind the ears on Wall Street. The markets so glorified by free market fundamentalists are presently optimally designed to breed nonsense asset bubbles that make financiers as much money as they can before it all falls down. Everyone knows this. We’ve seen it in the deregulation of the financial sector, the failure of regulative oversight of real estate markets (including allowing private citizens to fund mortgages in foreign currencies), a bias towards budget austerity (under the European Union’s Stability and Growth Pact) which meant that growth had to rely largely on private credit expansion – etc.
The behavior of governments leading up to the global financial crisis was based on exactly the same logic that is driving the fiscal austerity: that free markets are best and government should have as small a footprint as possible. This game is over, except, it appears, in the minds of Europe’s policy making elites, which continue to champion this form of economic Kool-Aid. […]
* IT’S THE INEQUALITY, STUPID
Eleven charts that explain what’s wrong with America
By Dan Gilson and Carolyn Perot, Mother Jones