Nov 092011



By Citizens for a Legitimate Government

The only thing we have left is our labor. That is what we must withold.

The debt “super committee” makes its budget recommendations on Wednesday, November 23rd, the day before Thanksgiving.

We know that the recommendations will include deep cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

We know that the Republicans in the Senate and House will overwhelmingly approve of the austerity package that is sure to come from the super committee’s recommendations.

We also know that the Democrats will by and large fold and accept the austerity package.

We know that Obama will approve of the budget recommendations. (Otherwise, he would have invoked the 14th Amendment and lifted the debt ceiling.)

Likewise, we know that as of November 23rd, ironically the day before Thanksgiving, the austerity package will be forthcoming and that the vast majority will now pay an additional price for the criminality of the corporate, military and financial oligarchy.

The vast majority will not have the corporate, military and financial oligarchy to thank on Thanksgiving.

Instead, the vast majority is being attacked by the corporate, military and financial oligarchy and its representatives in the White House and both houses of Congress. We are being forced to pay for the failures of the capitalist class and the precariousness of the profit system.

We are no longer represented by the U.S. government. Instead, the government is an instrument of the capitalist class and this class has nothing but its own interests at heart. This class will continue to force its will upon us. The two political parties are simply two levers by which this capitalist class controls the political processes in the U.S.

The only thing we have left is our consent to work. The only thing we have left is our labor. This is what we must withhold.

Likewise, Citizens for Legitimate Government is calling for a General Strike to begin at 7 AM EST on Monday, November 28th, 2011!*

Extend your Thanksgiving weekend by refusing the austerity measures to be imposed on the vast majority by the corporate, military and financial oligarchy!

General Strike, Monday, November 28, 2011! 




By OccupyWallSt

On November 23rd, the Congressional Deficit Reduction Super-Committee will meet to decide on whether or not to keep Obama’s extension to the Bush tax-cuts – which only benefit the richest 1% of Americans in any kind of significant way. Luckily, a group of OWS’ers are embarking on a two-week march from Liberty Plaza to the Whitehouse to let the committee know what the 99% think about these cuts. Join the march to make sure these tax cuts for the richest 1% of Americans are allowed to die!

More information:

The 20 mile a day/2 week march from Liberty Square to DC is set to leave this Wednesday, November 9 at noon. On Wednesday we’ll be leaving Liberty Square and marching to the New York Waterway/Hudson River Ferry and onward to Elizabeth, NJ. This is our first stop. Everyone is welcome to join this two week march. If you’d like to participate, but can’t commit for two weeks you’re welcome to join us for the day or help send us off! …




By Dave Johnson, Campaign for America’s Future

Our captured government won’t do its job. It doesn’t keep Wall Street and banks and giant corporations from ripping us off and doesn’t prosecute them after they do. It doesn’t stop polluters – even as the effects of climate change increase. It doesn’t enforce employment and labor laws, so all of us who work fall further and further behind. It doesn’t take care of those in need even as more and more of us are in greater and greater need. It just helps the connected rich get richer. So people finally got fed up, and started “occupying.” Now the occupy movement is spreading to more and more cities, growing with more and more people, and expanding people’s understanding of the power that comes from speaking out.

It started with Occupy Wall Street, people rising up over the greed and inequality, the1% vs 99%. Labor joined, adding their voice and grievances. Veterans, teachers and others are showing up in greater and greater numbers now. Others are joining. Now it’s everywhere: Hundreds of towns like Occupy Orlando and Chicago and Portland and Nashville and Asheville and Oakland and even little towns like Redwood City.

People are getting arrested as the powers-that-be react to the spreading and growing crowds. According to Chris Bowers at Daily Kos,

Arrests in Chicago, New York City, Fresno, Eureka, Denver, Portland, Boston, Seattle, Oakland, Ashville, Riverside and more cities over the weekend has brought the total number of arrests of Occupy protesters over 3,350.

Globalization Of Protest

The world feels the effect of their common wealth draining to shock-doctrine attacks from the 1%. Economist Joseph Stiglitz writes at Al Jazeera that in reaction to this we are seeing The globalisation of protest,

The protest movement that began in Tunisia in January, subsequently spreading to Egypt and then to Spain, has now become global – with the protests engulfing Wall Street and cities across America. Globalisation and modern technology now enables social movements to transcend borders as rapidly as ideas can.

And social protest has found fertile ground everywhere: A sense that the “system” has failed, and the conviction that even in a democracy, the electoral process will not set things right – at least not without strong pressure from the street.

Stiglitz writes that arond the world these protesters are sounding an alarm:

They are right that something is wrong about our “system”. Around the world, we have underutilised resources – people who want to work, machines that lie idle, buildings that are empty – and huge unmet needs: Fighting poverty, promoting development, and retrofitting the economy for global warming, to name just a few. In America, after more than seven million home foreclosures in recent years, we have empty homes and homeless people.

The protesters have been criticised for not having an agenda. But this misses the point of protest movements. They are an expression of frustration with the electoral process. They are an alarm.

… On one level, today’s protesters are asking for little: A chance to use their skills, the right to decent work at decent pay, a fairer economy and society. Their hope is evolutionary, not revolutionary. But, on another level, they are asking for a great deal: A democracy where people, not dollars, matter, and a market economy that delivers on what it is supposed to do. …




By Julie Carr Smyth, AP

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state’s new collective bargaining law was defeated Tuesday after an expensive union-backed campaign that pitted firefighters, police officers and teachers against the Republican establishment.

In a political blow to GOP Gov. John Kasich, voters handily rejected the law, which would have limited the bargaining abilities of 350,000 unionized public workers. With nearly 95 percent of the votes counted late Tuesday, about 61 percent were to reject the law.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, among the many union leaders who hailed the outcome, said victory was achieved among Democrats and Republicans in urban and rural counties.

“Ohio sent a message to every politician out there: Go in and make war on your employees rather than make jobs with your employees, and you do so at your own peril,” he said. …

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By Steven Benen

Going into Election Day 2011, the conventional wisdom said that voters would offer some clues about prevailing political attitudes and what’s to come in 2012. As the dust settles on last night’s results, if the conventional wisdom is right, Republican optimism about next year is badly misplaced.

From coast to coast, Democrats and progressive goals not only won, but in most instances, won big. Some of the highlights:


Despite the aggressive efforts of the Republican Party, Gov. John Kasich, and anti-labor forces, voters easily overturned restrictions on collective bargaining. With nearly every precinct reporting, Issue 2 got crushed, 61% to 39%, handing unions a major victory with national implications.


In a terrific surprise, voters soundly rejected the proposed “Personhood” amendment that would have banned abortions, birth control, in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research, and treatment of ectopic pregnancies. Opponents of the right-wing effort appear to have won about 57% of the vote.


Republicans recently ended Election Day voter registration. Yesterday, voters brought it back, 61% to 39%.

Republicans did not end the day completely empty handed. Phil Bryant (R) was elected governor in Mississippi, and it looks like the GOP gained just enough seats to split Virginia’s state Senate, though Republicans came up short of their goal of reclaiming a majority.

But the good news for the right was easily overwhelmed by good news for the left. In Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) cruised to an easy victory and Dems won nearly every statewide race; in Arizona, Democrats successfully recalled radical state Senate President Russell Pearce (R); Dems won a key state Senate special election in Iowa and will maintain control of the chamber; voters ignored Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) efforts in New Jersey and kept Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature; and voters in Michigan recalled a far-right Republican state representative, the first-ever successful recall in state history.




By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project


These last few years, I’ve had to get a lot more careful about how I spend my paycheck. Everyone has. Like I’m eating out less often, holding back on expenses I don’t really need, saving for my kid’s college.

I’m getting more responsible, taking control of how I spend.

But one thing I can’t control is that every month a big chunk of my paycheck goes off to the government.

It’s not the most fun part of my budget, but I believe in paying taxes.

Not just because it’s the law but because that’s how
I invest in a better future that I can’t afford to build on my own.

You know that future we all want and nearly every candidate promises us — great schools, a healthy environment, clean energy, good jobs.

But a funny thing happens to our money on its way to that better future. It seems to disappear.

And by the time we get around to investing in it, all we hear is, “sorry, not this year, we’re broke.”

In fact, we’re so broke, they say, that we have no choice but to slide backwards, cutting things that made this country great — like schools and the EPA , maybe even Social Security and Medicare.

Wait a minute. Broke? I’m sending in my share of hard-earned cash every month and so are you!

Now, what we’ve got to work with shrinks a lot thanks to corporate tax loopholes and unprecedented tax breaks for the richest 1%.

But even after those, we’ve still got over a trillion dollars.

So if we’re broke, what’s happening to all that money?
I decided to look into it and it turns out this whole “broke” story hides a much bigger story — a story of some really dumb choices being made for us — but that actually work against us. The good news is that these are choices, and we can make different ones.

So, where is all that money going? …




By Brian Beutler, TPM

… The Super Committee exists because of Congressional Republicans’ decision to hold the nation’s debt ceiling hostage — a bid to force Democrats to agree to major budget cuts. In the end, they got half of what they wanted up front, but punted the second half — cuts to big-ticket items like Medicare and Social Security — to a new joint select committee on deficit reduction: Six Democrats, six Republicans, a bare majority of whom have the power to expedite a vote on a major package of spending cuts, savings, and tax increases through the Congress. No filibusters, no amendments, no typical legislative muss and fuss.

Hanging over the committee’s head is a Sword of Damocles — an enforcement mechanism that kicks in automatically if the panel gridlocks, the full Congress rejects their proposal, or President Obama vetoes it. Republicans refused to allow tax increases in this penalty. So instead it includes cuts to programs near and dear to Republican hearts — including $600 billion in across-the-board, automatic cuts to defense and security programs, and hundreds of billions more in cuts to Medicare providers, for a 10-year total of $1.2 trillion starting in January, 2013.

That’s driven a wedge between the faction of the GOP that cares most about maintaining high levels of defense spending, and the larger faction that has committed to never, ever vote for a net tax increase. Democrats on the committee have agreed in principle to billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other safety net programs — but only if the GOP breaks its anti-tax orthodoxy and puts significant new tax receipts on the table.

It’s a quandary for the GOP — one that threatens to rip the conservative coalition asunder. Republican hawks have even proposed dismantling the defense portion of the trigger if the committee fails — but they would need bipartisan backing and President Obama’s support, the combination of which seems extremely unlikely. …




By George Monibot, Guardian UK

Our common treasury in the last 30 years has been captured by industrial psychopaths. That’s why we’re nearly bankrupt

If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire. The claims that the ultra-rich 1% make for themselves – that they are possessed of unique intelligence or creativity or drive – are examples of the self-attribution fallacy. This means crediting yourself with outcomes for which you weren’t responsible. Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes.

The findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize, are devastating to the beliefs that financial high-fliers entertain about themselves. He discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. For example, he studied the results achieved by 25 wealth advisers across eight years. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero. “The results resembled what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill.” Those who received the biggest bonuses had simply got lucky.

Such results have been widely replicated. They show that traders and fund managers throughout Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. When Kahneman tried to point this out, they blanked him. “The illusion of skill … is deeply ingrained in their culture.”

So much for the financial sector and its super-educated analysts. As for other kinds of business, you tell me. Is your boss possessed of judgment, vision and management skills superior to those of anyone else in the firm, or did he or she get there through bluff, bullshit and bullying?

In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses’s scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.

The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.

In their book Snakes in Suits, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare point out that as the old corporate bureaucracies have been replaced by flexible, ever-changing structures, and as team players are deemed less valuable than competitive risk-takers, psychopathic traits are more likely to be selected and rewarded. Reading their work, it seems to me that if you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family, you’re likely to go to prison. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family, you’re likely to go to business school. …




By Greg Palast, In These Times

Here’s what we’re told:

Greece’s economy blew apart because a bunch of olive-spitting, ouzo-guzzling, lazy-ass Greeks refuse to put in a full day’s work, retire while they’re still teenagers, pocket pensions fit for a pasha; and they’ve gone on a social-services spending spree using borrowed money. Now that the bill has come due and the Greeks have to pay with higher taxes and cuts in their big fat welfare state, they run riot, screaming in the streets, busting windows and burning banks.

I don’t buy it.  I don’t buy it because of the document in my hand marked, “RESTRICTED DISTRIBUTION.”

I’ll cut to the indictment:  Greece is a crime scene.  The people are victims of a fraud, a scam, a hustle and a flim-flam.   And––cover the children’s ears when I say this––a bank named Goldman Sachs is holding the smoking gun.


This is an adaptation of an excerpt from Vultures’ Picnic, Greg Palast’s new book, out next week, an investigator’s pursuit of petroleum pigs, power pirates and high-finance fraudsters. Read the first chapter or just get the book here.


In 2002, Goldman Sachs secretly bought up €2.3 billion in Greek government debt, converted it all into yen and dollars, then immediately sold it back to Greece.

Goldman took a huge loss on the trade.

Is Goldman that stupid?

Goldman is stupid—like a fox. The deal was a con, with Goldman making up a phony-baloney exchange rate for the transaction.   Why?

Goldman had cut a secret deal with the Greek government in power then.  Their game:  to conceal a massive budget deficit.  Goldman’s fake loss was the Greek government’s fake gain.

Goldman would get repayment of its “loss” from the government at loan-shark rates.

The point is, through this crazy and costly legerdemain, Greece’s right-wing free-market government was able to pretend its deficits never exceeded 3 percent of GDP.

Cool. Fraudulent but cool.

But flim-flam isn’t cheap these days: On top of murderous interest payments, Goldman charged the Greeks over a quarter billion dollars in fees.

When the new Socialist government of George Papandreou came into office, they opened up the books and Goldman’s bats flew out.  Investors’ went berserk, demanding monster interest rates to lend more money to roll over this debt.

Greece’s panicked bondholders rushed to buy insurance against the nation going bankrupt.  The price of the bond-bust insurance, called a credit default swap (or CDS), also shot through the roof.  Who made a big pile selling the CDS insurance?  Goldman.

And those rotting bags of CDS’s sold by Goldman and others? Didn’t they know they were handing their customers gold-painted turds?

That’s Goldman’s specialty.  In 2007, at the same time banks were selling suspect CDS’s and CDOs (packaged sub-prime mortgage securities), Goldman held a “net short” position against these securities. That is, Goldman was betting their financial “products” would end up in the toilet. Goldman picked up another half a billion dollars on their “net short” scam.

But, instead of cuffing Goldman’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein and parading him in a cage through the streets of Athens, we have the victims of the frauds, the Greek people, blamed.  Blamed and soaked for the cost of it.  The “spread” on Greek bonds (the term used for the risk premium paid on Greece’s corrupted debt) has now risen to — get ready for this––$14,000 per family per year.




By Dave Gilson, Mother Jones

What if members of Congress were seated not by party but according to the industries which gave them the most money over their entire careers?

Finance, insurance, and real estate 57

Lawyers and lobbyists 25

Health  5

Agribusiness  3

Labor  2

Energy and natural resources  2

Miscellaneous business  2

Communications and electronics  1




By Ed Pilkington, Guardian NY

The secretive oil billionaires the Koch brothers are close to launching a nationwide database connecting millions of Americans who share their anti-government and libertarian views, a move that will further enhance the tycoons’ political influence and that could prove significant in next year’s presidential election.

The database will give concrete form to the vast network of alliances that David and Charles Koch have cultivated over the past 20 years on the right of US politics. The brothers, whose personal wealth has been put at $25bn each, were a major force behind the creation of the tea party movement and enjoy close ties to leading conservative politicians, financiers, business people, media figures and US supreme court judges.

The voter file was set up by the Kochs 18 months ago with $2.5m of their seed money, and is being developed by a hand-picked team of the brothers’ advisers. It has been given the name Themis, after the Greek goddess who imposes divine order on human affairs.

In classic Koch style, the project is being conducted in great secrecy. Karl Crow, a Washington-based lawyer and Koch adviser who is leading the development, did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did media representatives for Koch Industries, the brothers’ global energy company based in Wichita, Kansas.

But a member of a Koch affiliate organisation who is a specialist in the political uses of new technology and who is familiar with Themis said the project was in the final preparatory stages. Asking not to be named, he said: “They are doing a lot of analysis and testing. Finally they’re getting Themis off the ground.”

The database will bring together information from a plethora of right-wing groups, tea party organisations and conservative-leaning thinktanks. Each one has valuable data on their membership – including personal email addresses and phone numbers, as well as more general information useful to political campaign strategists such as occupation, income bracket and so on.

By pooling the information, the hope is to create a data resource that is far more potent than the sum of its parts. Themis will in effect become an electoral roll of right-wing America, allowing the Koch brothers to further enhance their power base in a way that is sympathetic to, but wholly independent of, the Republican party.

“This will take time to fully realise, but it has the potential to become a very powerful tool in 2012 and beyond,” said the new technology specialist.

Themis has been modelled in part on the scheme created by the left after the defeat of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Catalyst, a voter list that shared data on supporters of progressive groups and campaigns, was an important part of the process that saw the Democratic party pick itself off the floor and refocus its electoral energies, helping to propel Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.

Josh Hendler, who until earlier this year was the Democratic National Committee’s director of technology in charge of the party’s voter files, believes Themis could do for the Kochs what Catalyst helped do for the Democrats.

“This increases the Koch brothers’ reach. It will allow them to become even greater co-ordinators than they are already – with this resource they become a natural centre of gravity for conservatives,” Hendler said.

Though Charles, 75, and his younger brother David, 71, are very rarely seen or heard in public, their political importance in the US is hard to exaggerate. They have been steadily investing their wealth in projects designed to drive the country ever more to the right – they have backed the tea parties, funded incubators of radical conservative ideology such as the Mercatus Center at the George Mason University and hosted twice-yearly gatherings of some of the richest and most powerful figures in the country.

“What makes them unique is that they are not just campaign contributors; they are a vast political network in their own right,” said Mary Boyle of the watchdog group, Common Cause. …




By TechDirt

Back in April of this year, the Russian government put out a tender:

Last week, Roskomnadzor, Russian Federal Service for Telecoms Supervision, announced a public tender for developing Internet monitoring system. According to the tender, the budget for such system is 15 million rubles (about $530,000) and the job applications should be submitted by April 15, 2011. The system needs to be developed by August 15, 2011 and the testing period should end on December 15, 2011.

The stated purpose of the monitoring system was quite specific:

The major target of the monitoring, at least according to the Russian officials, is not traditional media websites or blogs, but comments at the online media outlets (it is important to note that the monitoring system is intended to be used for the content of the sites officially registered as online mass media).

Here’s what it would be searching for:

Michail Vorobiev, an assistant to the head of Roskomnadzor, told [ru] Russian information agency RIA Novosti that the system’s purpose was to discover content recognized by the Russian law as illegal. Such system will be based on two elements: a storage that would contain illegal materials (some sort of “thesaurus of illegal keywords”) and the search system that will scan through the online space and compare the online text with the illegal content in the storage.

The description of the tender is a long and openly published document [ru], so what exactly the system should look for is not a secret. The number and the nature of goals that the search robot should achieve are surprising. It goes ways beyond incitement of national hatred or appeals to violence. In includes not only terrorism, appeals to actions that threaten constitutional order, materials that disclose classified security information, propaganda of drugs and pornography, but also false information about federal and regional officials, as well as content that threatens the freedom and secrecy of choice during elections. Another interesting goal is to discover content with hidden embedded components that seek to influence subconsciousness. If it’s not enough, the program would monitor not only textual, but also visual content (photos and videos).

It’s hard to see how a system costing just half-a-million dollars could achieve all that. And as Russian commentators have pointed out, allowing just a few months for the development and testing is equally suspicious:

For instance, Maksim Salomatin from says [ru] that the fact that participants of the tender should finish the work on the system in impossible 3 months means that, probably, Roskomnadzor has in mind some particular organization that has already worked on this program.

In other words, perhaps the whole tendering process was a formality, and things had already been moving forward on this front in the background for some time. Support for that theory comes from the fact that despite the “impossible 3 months” of development, the system will indeed be rolled out next month:

Roskomnadzor, Russian telecommunications control body, will launch content monitoring system in December 2011, reports [ru]. The system ordered in March, 2011 (see GV analysis here) is now in pre-release condition. Its documented abilities allow the monitoring of up to 5 mln keywords published at the websites registered as online mass media outlets. It will also monitor user comments. The experts fear that the scale of monitoring will extend to non-registered blogs and sites. …


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