Nov 022011



By Adam Gabbatt in Oakland

Oakland police are to be the subject of a formal investigation after Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen suffered a fractured skull at an Occupy Oakland protest last week.

Oakland’s Citizens’ Police Review Board is launching the investigation after it received a complaint on Friday. Police in Oakland are bracing themselves for a general strike on Wednesday, which has been announced by the city’s Occupy movement and is expected to cause disruption across the city.

Olsen, 24, was seriously injured after being hit on the head by a police projectile. He is still in hospital and unable to talk, communicating only through short written messages.

A source at the review board said the investigation will begin in the next few days, and is expected to last “several months”.

“We’re reviewing the information we have at the moment,” the source told the Guardian.

The board received the complaint from a member of the public. The complaint “relates specifically to Scott Olsen”, and was not filed by a member of Olsen’s family.

An investigator has yet to be assigned to the case, but will be “within the next few days”, the source said. …




By Manissa McCleave Maharawal, AlterNet

… These are our, Occupy Wall Street’s, experiments in democracy. They are our experiments in a new form of power. Last Sunday I facilitated the largest meeting I have ever facilitated, a 100 person meeting of the Person of Color working group and it was really tough work to make sure that the process of this meeting went smoothly. I know I alienated someone when I told them not to speak out of turn. I know I was personally frustrated that the meeting ran an hour over. I found out how really really hard it is to say to people: “You’ve spoken a lot, let’s hear a voice we haven’t heard yet this meeting” but while I was saying these things I was also imagining how my classes in graduate school would look if I could say these sorts of things to the many men who monopolize them, how different my work meetings would feel if there was this sort of awareness.

And so Occupy Wall Street has been having growing pains in the past week. There were fears that not being able to work with the community board about the drumming would shut down the whole thing. There was a divisive and hard spokes-council decision that we made on Friday night. A decision in which we could not reach consensus and instead had to vote on using a modified 9/10 consensus model.

The creation of a spokes-council is a move away from making all of our decisions at the nightly General Assemblies. Instead there will also be a spokes-council where “clusters” of people from the various working groups (of which there are now upwards of 50, encompassing everything from “sustainability” to “media” to “education and empowerment”) will meet together every day and connect with each other and make day to day decisions.

Here any large decisions, financial or about the movement, would still go to the open and large General Assembly meetings and the spokes-council would take on the more day to day aspects of governing, running and decision making. This was a hard decision because many many people were worried about a spokes-council creating a de-facto power structure, creating a hierarchy of decision making or creating more bureaucracy. I understood these concerns– a spokes-council can look a lot like the sort of representative governing that we are trying to move away from, but also from working in the movement I think we need a better way to communicate across working groups and a better way to make day-to-day decisions. To put it simply: 300 people at the General Assembly do not need to make a decision about whether or not the comfort working group should buy recycled plastic trash bags or not.

I also think that a spokes-council structure, in which working groups meet together every day and discuss issues, is also a great way to communicate across working groups that issues of racism, patriarchy, oppression and inclusivity are not just something for the people of color working group (and women and people of color themselves) to take on but for all working groups to be thinking about. So I was in support of the spokes-council. …




By Michael Snyder, Business Insider

… Here are the statistics to prove it:

•    83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.

•    61 percent of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.

•    66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.

•    36 percent of Americans say that they don’t contribute anything to retirement savings.

•    A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.

•    24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.

•    Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.

•    Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.

•    For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.

•    In 1950, the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.

•    As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.

•    The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

•    Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.

•    In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.

•    The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America’s corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.

•    In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.

•    More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.

•    or the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.

•    This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.

•    Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 – the highest rate in 20 years.

•    Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.

•    The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income. …

READ @’s-the-stats-to-prove-it-520657.html?tickers=%5EDJI%2C%5EGSPC%2CSPY%2CMCD%2CWMT%2CXRT%2CDIA



By Steve Benen, Washington Monthly

Members of the so-called super-committee got together for another chat yesterday, and heard plenty of suggestions from the likes of Alan Simpson, Pete Domenici, and Alice Rivlin, all of whom offered similar, center-right advice.

Of particular interest, though, was Erskine Bowles’ support for raising the Medicare eligibility age, which he believes would save billions.

In case anyone, including policymakers on the Hill, need a reminder, this is a very bad idea. Phil Longman addressed this in his piece for the print edition of the Washington Monthly.

Raising the Medicare retirement age to 67, a move favored by deficit hawks in both parties, might at first seem to be a reasonable adjustment. Since we are all living much longer, the idea goes, we can afford to wait longer to become entitled to Medicare. But the premise is false. For fully half of the U.S. population (specifically the poor and working-class Americans with earnings at or below the median), life expectancy at 65 is virtually unchanged since the 1970s. In many parts of the country, including much the South, life expectancy at birth for black males is not yet even 65, and in some places it is as low as 59.

As with plans to voucherize Medicare, the primary effect of increasing the age of Medicare eligibility would be to shift costs onto needy individuals, while also leading to worse health outcomes. Nor, in the grander scheme of things, would the proposal save the government much money, since most Medicare spending is concentrated on people well over the age of 67, and many of the people who would be cut from the Medicare rolls would wind up on Medicaid or qualifying for other means-tested government subsidies. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if the proposal were fully in effect in 2014 it would generate only about $5.7 billion in net federal savings but would impose twice as much cost ($11.4 billion) on individuals, employers, and states.

Similarly, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tackled this over the summer, as did Paul Krugman, who described the proposal as “a terrible idea.” …




By Zaid Jilani, Truthout

One of the overarching themes of the 99 Percent Movement is that our democracy is too corrupted by corporate special interests. This corruption was worsened last year by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed for huge new unregulated flows of corporate political spending.

Yesterday, six Democratic senators — Tom Udall (NM), Michael Bennett (CO), Tom Harkin (IA), Dick Durbin (IL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Jeff Merkeley (OR) — introduced a constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn the Citizens United case and restore the ability of Congress to properly regulate the campaign finance system.

The amendment as filed resolves that both Congress and individual states shall have the power to regulate both the amount of contributions made directly to candidates for elected office and “the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.”

“By limiting the influence of big money in politics, elections can be more about the voters and their voices, not big money donors and their deep pockets,” said Harkin of the amendment. “We need to have a campaign finance structure that limits the influence of the special interests and restores confidence in our democracy. This amendment goes to the heart of that effort.” …




By Rachel Donadio and Niki Kitsantonis

… The big fear is that a decisive turn against the bailout package in Greece could undermine European efforts to enforce deep budget cuts in other heavily indebted European countries, especially Italy, which is mired in its own political crisis and has a far larger economy and much more debt than Greece.

Political analysts and several advisers to Mr. Papandreou said the prime minister had decided to announce a popular referendum on Monday night as his last best hope to shore up his eroded political standing. They said he wanted to put Greece’s fate back in the hands of the Greek people and to force his many opponents — both inside his government and in the opposition — to coalesce around the idea that what is at stake is Greece’s membership in the euro zone.

Mr. Papandreou wanted Greek voters “to take a position, to see the choice before us in its starkness, hoping they will back the lesser of two evils, instead of letting irate reactions in the streets dominate the debate,” said one adviser to the prime minister.

But on Tuesday, it appeared that his move may have backfired. One lawmaker in his governing coalition left the Socialist Party to become an independent, another said she would not vote confidence in the government unless the prime minister formed a coalition government, and an additional six leading Socialists wrote a letter calling on Mr. Papandreou to resign and to schedule early elections for a new government with greater political legitimacy. Together, the developments made it doubtful whether his government would survive a confidence vote, because the loss of even two supporters threatened his parliamentary majority.

Meanwhile, the center-right opposition New Democracy Party on Tuesday stepped up its calls for early elections. Its leader, Mr. Samaras, has opposed most of the austerity measures the government accepted in exchange for foreign financial aid. Mr. Samaras has said that if he were in power, he would try to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s arrangement with its main foreign lenders, known as the troika: the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

“Mr. Papandreou, in his effort to save himself, has presented a divisive and extortionate dilemma,” Mr. Samaras said on Tuesday. “New Democracy is determined to avert, at all costs, such reckless adventurism.”…




By Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

Here’s a cleaned-up version of a conversation I just had about Greece’s sudden U-turn on the rescue deal negotiated just last week. Enjoy.

Are the Greeks crazy?

No, they’re just at the end of their tether. Europe is asking them to adopt more austerity than they’re willing to bear.

OK, but they’re spending too much money. Surely they know they have to cut back?

Sure, but the deals on offer are pretty unattractive. Europe wants to forgive half of Greece’s debt and put them on a brutal austerity plan. The problem is that this is unrealistic. Greece would be broke even if all its debt were forgiven, and if their economy tanks they’ll be even broker.

But that’s the prospect they’re being offered: a little bit of debt forgiveness and a lot of austerity.

Well, them’s the breaks.

But it puts Greece into a death spiral. They can’t pay their debts, so they cut back, which hurts their economy, which makes them even broker, so they cut back some more, rinse and repeat. There’s virtually no hope that they’ll recover anytime in the near future. It’s just endless pain. What they need is total debt forgiveness and lots of aid going forward. …




By Farron Cousins

On Monday, a bluff surrounding a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based power plant collapsed, sending a cascade of debris and coal ash waste from the power plant into Lake Michigan. No injuries were reported by We Energies, the company who owns the power plant, but the environmental assessment will likely be less optimistic. We Energies, a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE: WEC), has confirmed that the debris that made it into the river likely contained coal ash.

As of Monday afternoon, a “fuel sheen” appeared on the surface of Lake Michigan as a result of the bluff collapse. Cleanup crews from Clean Harbor were contracted by We Energies to help contain the spread of the sheen, and will be deploying about 1,500 feet of boom to help contain the waste on the surface. Shortly after the accident, residents living up to a mile away from the site along the lake were already reporting debris washing onshore.

As we have reported extensively in the past, coal ash contains countless toxic substances, including mercury, hexavalent chromium, arsenic, and cadmium. It has also been reported to be more radioactive as nuclear waste. In spite of these findings, the EPA has yet to issue any firm stance on whether or not coal ash will be regulated as a “toxic waste,” partly due to the fact that the coal industry has unleashed a cadre of lobbyists to Washington to fight to protect their coal ash interests.

The EPA’s delay in issuing a ruling on coal ash has allowed the Republican-controlled Congress to gain the upper hand on the issue. In early fall 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would prohibit the EPA from regulating coal ash, and preventing them from classifying the substance as “hazardous.” Instead of EPA regulations, the bill would allow states to issue their own standards on coal ash and prevent any federal standards.

The House legislation was put forward by Republican West Virginia Congressman David McKinley, who has received more than $275,000 from the mining industry during his four years in Congress, making them his highest single donor industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. …


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