* CHILD HOMELESSNESS UP 33% IN 3 YEARS
By Marisol Bello, USA Today
One in 45 children in the USA — 1.6 million children — were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.
The numbers represent a 33% increase from 2007, when there were 1.2 million homeless children, according to a report the center is releasing Tuesday.
“This is an absurdly high number,” says Ellen Bassuk, president of the center. “What we have new in 2010 is the effects of a man-made disaster caused by the economic recession. … We are seeing extreme budget cuts, foreclosures and a lack of affordable housing.” […]
* CONFESSIONS OF A CHILD JANITOR
By Tina Dupuy, tinadupuy.com
My first job was cleaning the group home I lived in. True story. I participated in the Summer Youth Employment Program part of the Job Training Partnership Act passed during Reagan’s first term. It was a War on Poverty federal program considered to be an economic stimulus and a way to keep teenagers off the streets. I was in foster care and had just barely turned 14; I went to a few seminars on job skills and was given a job “super cleaning” for minimum wage ($4.25). I pulled in about $75 a week…before taxes.
I learned two things at that job: one, horizontal blinds are a malevolent plague on society; and two, Republicans don’t care about people who work.
No, Republicans, in general, and disgraced former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, specifically, concern themselves with their fickle “job creators” not the staple of the American economy: job workers.
The overpaid, overfed, and over-hyped Gingrich said to an audience at a Nationwide Insurance luncheon earlier this month, “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, so they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday.”
Gingrich is willfully ignorant of the fact you can work and still be “really poor” in this country. You can show up every Monday and do your job faithfully and STILL not make a living. If you work full-time at the federal minimum wage you’ll pull in $15,000 a year before taxes (and yes, they do take social security, state and federal taxes out of those paychecks). Add children to the equation and it’s worse than the working poor – it’s the working impoverished.
Now 49 million Americans live in poverty – with 2.6 million falling into the category last year. That’s 16 percent of Americans. There are more Americans living in poverty than there are Canadians on the planet.
Gingrich is trying to equate poverty with a moral shortcoming. It’s a warped offshoot of the prosperity gospel – riches are a sign of god’s love – poverty is a sign of his indifference. […]
* EUROPE’S AUSTERITY ZEAL RISKS ANOTHER RECESSION
By Carmel Crimmins and Gavin Jones, Common Dreams
Europe’s “no pain no gain” attitude to solving its sovereign crisis risks exacerbating the bloc’s problems, choking off the very growth needed to raise the money to pay down the debt.
From Athens to Dublin, and almost everywhere in between, administrations are imposing wave after wave of spending cuts and tax increases to persuade investors they are serious about improving their public finances and persuade them to start buying euro zone sovereign debt again.
The austerity zeal risks tipping the continent back into recession and a downward spiral of austerity as pitiful growth prospects undermine budgetary targets and ramp up debt burdens, meaning further austerity is required.
“The expansionary fiscal contraction story says that you cut, you show you are serious about cutting and then the confidence fairy will come along and she will start pulling in private investment,” said Stephen Kinsella, professor of economics at the University of Limerick.
“The expansionary fiscal contraction story is a lie. You don’t cut your way to growth.” […]
* BILL ALLOWING FOR INDEFINITE MILITARY DETENTION OF AMERICANS PASSES HOUSE
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now
House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a sweeping $662 billion military spending bill that would allow for indefinite detentions of Americans by the U.S. military. The bill has been widely criticized by several top Obama administration officials, human rights groups and many Tea Party Republicans. According to the Associated Press, the current legislation would deny some suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens seized within the nation’s borders, of the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention. President Obama had threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill which would have required all terrorism suspects be held and tried by the military. The military spending bill also imposes tough new sanctions on Iran.
* LEGISLATING TYRANNY IN AMERICA
By Stephen Lendman, OpEdNews
Obama won’t prosecute CIA torturers, Wall Street crooks, other corporate criminals, lawless war profiteers, or other venal high-level civilian or government officials.
Instead, expect him to sign into law (or at least tacitly approve) indefinite military detentions of US citizens allegedly associated with terrorist groups, with or without corroborating evidence.
Post-9/11, US freedoms and other democratic values dramatically eroded. Enactment of police state provisions in the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act comes closer to ending them entirely.
On December 5, the ACLU headlined, “Indefinite Detention, Endless Worldwide War and the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” saying:
Enactment of this measure will authorize “the military to pick up and imprison people, including US citizens, without charging them or putting them on trial.”
Secretly with no hearings, both Houses are rushing to complete a “joint version” before leaving for Christmas break. “Fundamental American values and freedoms are on the line.” Given the stakes, they’re perilously hanging by a thread.
On December 13, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged Obama to veto NDAA in its present form. Otherwise, he’ll “be responsible for signing into law one of the greatest expansions of executive power in our nation’s history, allowing the government to lock up citizens and non-citizens without the right to fair trials.”
Indefinite detentions violate core democratic freedoms, including fundamental Bill of Rights ones already gravely eroded.
On November 27, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2524, declaring December 15 Bill of Rights Day to commemorate its 150th 1791 ratification.
At the time, he hailed “America(‘s) charter of personal liberty and human dignity,” including “freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the free right to petition the Government for redress of grievances.”
Although American freedom then was far less than he claimed, today it hangs by a thread and may pass entirely any time for any reason.
In response to global imperial wars, corporate favoritism, unbridled private sector criminality, and political corruption at the highest levels, causing economic crisis conditions at home, thousands began protesting nationwide for social justice.
In response, militarized police confront them violently as NDAA heads for enactment to stop anyone from challenging US hegemony and corporate power by throwing them indefinitely in military dungeons to rot.
Equity and justice are fast eroding entirely to advance America’s imperium. On May 26, the House passed HR 1540, 322 – 96. Doing so took a giant step toward abolishing freedom entirely.
On December 1, the Senate’s S. 1867 followed suit, 93 to 7. Both versions assure no one anywhere is now safe, including law-abiding US citizens. […]
* THE INDEFINITE DETENTION BILL DOES APPLY TO AMERICA CITIZENS ON U.S. SOIL
By Washington’s Blog
Yes, the Indefinite Detention Bill DOES Apply to American Citizens
Even at this 11th hour – when all of our liberties and freedom are about to go down the drain – many people still don’t understand that the indefinite detention bill passed by Congress allows indefinite detention of Americans on American soil.
The bill is confusing. As Wired noted on December 1st:
It’s confusing, because two different sections of the bill seem to contradict each other, but in the judgment of the University of Texas’ Robert Chesney — a nonpartisan authority on military detention — “U.S. citizens are included in the grant of detention authority.”
A retired admiral, Judge Advocate General and Dean Emeritus of the University of New Hampshire School of Law also says that it applies to American citizens on American soil.
The ACLU notes:
Don’t be confused by anyone claiming that the indefinite detention legislation does not apply to American citizens. It does. There is an exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032 of the bill), but no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial (section 1031 of the bill). So, the result is that, under the bill, the military has the power to indefinitely imprison American citizens, but it does not have to use its power unless ordered to do so.
But you don’t have to believe us. Instead, read what one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Lindsey Graham said about it on the Senate floor: “1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”
Another sponsor of the bill – Senator Levin – has also repeatedly said that the bill applies to American citizens on American soil, citing the Supreme Court case of Hamdi which ruled that American citizens can be treated as enemy combatants:
“The Supreme Court has recently ruled there is no bar to the United States holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant,” said Levin. “This is the Supreme Court speaking.“
Levin again stressed recently that the bill applies to American citizens, and said that it was president Obama who requested that it do so: […]
* BLACKWATER MERCENARIES TO RETURN TO IRAQ
With the US pulling out troops from Iraq this month, Washington plans to send Blackwater mercenaries to the Middle Eastern country under the new brand of ACADEMI.
New York-based USTC Holdings, the investment group that bought ex-Blackwater firm, Xe Services, in December 2010, announced on Monday ACADEMI as the new name for Blackwater/ Xe Services, AFP reported.
The development came as US President Barack Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss the next phase of the relations between the two countries after withdrawal of US soldiers.
“We have had a year of extraordinary changes that have resulted in a new, better company,” ACADEMI president and chief executive Ted Wright said in a statement.
In an interview published on Monday, Wright said he would like to take ACADEMI’s business back to Iraq and went on to say that the firm had hired an external company to help it apply for an operating license in the country.
“I think eventually, we’re going to get a license; we’re going to do business in Iraq,” he said.
Blackwater adopted the name Xe Services after Iraqi authorities announced in 2009 that they would not renew the security firm’s contract because of a deadly incident in 2007 in which guards protecting a US diplomatic convoy opened fire in a busy district in the capital Baghdad killing 17 civilians.
Iraqi officials could not sue the Blackwater mercenaries as they had immunity from local prosecution and were not subjected to any Iraqi laws.
The US State Department had reportedly announced in August 2010 that the Pentagon would replace American troops in Iraq with private mercenaries, who call themselves private security firms or security contractors, on grounds of ensuring the security in the war-torn country.
The deployment of ACADEMI mercenaries is likely to cause outrage in Iraq where its predecessor Blackwater Worldwide mercenaries could kill civilians with impunity during their time in Iraq.
Iraqis will also take it as America’s unwillingness to end the occupation of their country where since 2003 the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation caused one million deaths, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored. […]
* HOW MF GLOBAL COLLAPSED BY OVER HYPOTHECATING AND WHO IS NEXT?
By Sam Chee Kong, Market Oracle
Another month another new implosion. Europe really seems to be stuck in a financial black hole, unable to free itself out of it. Before we even have time to digest all those exotic treasury products like CDO,CDS,MBS, ALT-A, Sub-Prime, Swaps and , now there is this new toy called ‘Hypothecation’.
What is Hypothecation ?
Hypothecation is the practice where a borrower pledges collateral to secure a debt. The borrower retains ownership of the collateral, but it is “hypothetically” controlled by the creditor in that he has the right to seize possession if the borrower defaults. A common example occurs when a consumer enters into a mortgage agreement, in which the consumer’s house becomes collateral until the mortgage loan is paid off.
The detailed practice and rules regulating hypothecation vary depending on
context and on the jurisdiction where it takes place. In the US, the legal right for
the creditor to take ownership of the collateral if the debtor defaults is classified
as a lien.
Re-hypothecation is a practice that occurs principally in the financial markets, where a bank or other broker-dealer reuses the collateral pledged by its clients as collateral for its own borrowing or in a process call Churning.
In the US, re-hypothecation is capped at 140% but in Europe it is unlimited or up to the imagination of the borrower. What does it mean when it is capped at 140%?
Under the U.S. Federal Reserve Board’s Regulation T and SEC Rule 15c3-3, a prime broker may re-hypothecate assets to the value of 140% of the client’s liability to the prime broker. For example, assume a customer has deposited $500 in securities and has a debt deficit of $200, resulting in net equity of $300. The broker-dealer can re-hypothecate up to $280 (140 per cent. x $200) of these assets.
But in the UK, there is absolutely no statutory limit on the amount that can be re-hypothecated. In fact, brokers are free to re-hypothecate all and even more than the assets deposited by clients. Instead it is up to clients to negotiate a limit or prohibition on re-hypothecation. On the above example a UK broker could, and frequently would, re-hypothecate 100% of the pledged securities ($500).
Hypothecation is similar to a Margin Lending Account with no limit. To illustrate, our normal Margin Lending Account will only lend as much as the securities or cash that is deposited. How much to lend is up to the discretion of the Broker’s Risk Management Department. If you are having just cash then you may get leveraged up to 200%. But if you are pledging securities then the amount to be leveraged depends on the value and risk factor associated with the securities, normally less than 100%.
For simplicity, say MF Global purchased $5 million of Irish bonds. It would then use these same Irish bonds as collateral for a loan of €5 million (or thereabouts) under the repo with an obligation to repurchase the bonds at the end of the repo. When the Irish bonds matured it would be due to receive €5 million – a sum which it would use to pay off the repo at the end of the transaction. […]
* AL FRANKEN SHREDS THE REPUBLICAN ECONOMIC THEORY
Senator Al Franken, speaking to AFL-CIO on Monday, points out the glaringly contradictory schools of thought that define the Republican economic theory:
“So the idea that those at the very top, who now are richer than anybody has ever been; we now have people who are richer than any people have ever been in the history of the world; why they can’t pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes in crazy. Those of us in the Senate who are Democrats, we talk to people who are rich. I don’t know any of them I meet who don’t say ‘I’m willing to pay higher taxes’. I know the Republicans go to these same fundraisers and hear different things from their people, and I respect that.”
Franken goes on:
“But there is no evidence that that works. In 1993, when we had something called the Deficit Reduction Package, President Clinton said, ‘let’s raise the top two levels’ [a 2% tax increase for the top earning 1% of Americans]. Every Republican voted against it, every single one. It passed by one vote in the House and one vote in the Senate. Every Republican, well not every Republican, but every Republican who said anything said this will cause a recession.”
After taking a jab at Newt Gingrich, who said this would be the “Democrat recession”, Franken continues:
“It worked. We had the longest period of uninterrupted expansion of our economy in our history when we increased the marginal rate on the people at the top. So it worked. And not only that, but it turned a record deficit into a record surplus, which he took from one Bush, a record deficit, and turned it over to the next Bush, a record surplus.”
And then it gets interesting:
“Five days after George W. Bush became president, Alan Greenspan testified to the Senate Budget Committee, and said ‘we are in danger of paying off our national debt too fast. We have a projected $5 trillion surplus going into the next ten years and we very well may pay off the debt too fast, the federal government is in danger of having too much money.’ He said, what would happen as a result of that is, we will have to take our excess money and invest it into private equities and that could disrupt the market.”
“Now I don’t get their economic theories. If you cut taxes it will automatically raise revenues. They always say that, you hear it all the time. Watch Fox sometimes, ‘every time we’ve cut taxes we’ve doubled revenues.’ That’s Sean Hannity, he says it everyday, just google it.”
Here comes the contradiction:
“Then they also tell us ‘you have to cut taxes so the government doesn’t have too much money to spend’. Reagan said it in 1981, ‘you can tell your kids all you want, not to fritter away their allowance, but the only way to do it is to cut their allowance’. He said this, you can look it up. So in other words, his thing was, you’ve got to cut taxes so you cut the revenue so their not going to spend the money. So understand, their theory is based on two mutually exclusive contradictory theories.”
So does cutting taxes double revenues or decrease them? Which is it? Franken explains:
“Every time you cut taxes, you increase revenues. And every time you cut taxes, you decrease revenues. That’s fun to hear. And then Bush of course came in and said, ‘we’re in danger of having too much money, and it’s your money so let’s cut taxes, because it’s your money. And we’re running a surplus, let’s cut taxes’.
So we cut taxes because we had “too much money”, because the economy was good. But what did Bush do when the economy soured?
“Then as soon as we started losing jobs and we’re in a recession, Bush said, ‘well we’re in a recession, we need to cut taxes because the economy’s bad.’ So in addition to ‘every time you cut taxes you increase revenue’ and ‘every time you cut taxes you decrease revenue’, there was also, ‘every time the economy’s doing well you have to cut taxes’, and ‘every time the economy is doing bad you have to cut taxes.’”
Are you starting to get the point? Because Franken has more: […]
* WHO’S REALLY COMMITTING VOTER FRAUD? VIDEO
By Paul Canning
The conviction of a Republican operative has thrown the spotlight onto who is really committing voter fraud in the US.
Right-wing news outlets have been claiming for years that liberal groups such as ACORN are behind ‘massive’ voter fraud operations. Despite investigations by the Justice Department only showing a tiny number of proven cases (86) over the past decade, Republican legislators in twelve states have passed legislation, on the basis of supposed fraud, restricting voting.
Paul Schurick, an aide to former Maryland Republican Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was convicted last week of attempted voter suppression.
During the 2006 gubernatorial election, Schurick tried to use robocalls to suppress the black vote. 112,000 voters were called a few hours before polls had closed in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. The recorded message told African American residents to “relax” because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had already won the race.
Wrote York Van Nixon III:
The conviction … reminds those old enough to remember [of] the days when African Americans were required to count the number of jelly beans in a jar before they were given a ballot.
The Washington Post’s Robert McCartney points out that this was not a minor official — Schurick was Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign manager in the 2010 race and had been his communications director for the four years that he was governor.
Will Crossly, Director of Voter Protection for the Democratic National Committee, told MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton that the Schurick case was not an isolated example of Republican voter suppression:
“Oh, there’s no question, we saw other efforts in 2010″ he said. “We’ve seen the misinformation campaigns. We’ve also seen voter caging, a process in which they send out post cards to people. If you don’t return the postcard, then they question your residency and add you to a list when you show up at the polls, question whether or not you’re actually qualified to vote. That happened in 1982 in New Jersey. We’ve seen it in Louisiana, 1987. We’ve seen it 1990 in North Carolina. We prosecuted 2004 in Ohio as well as in 2008 in the state of Michigan.”
“They created these lists from people’s names who had been placed on foreclosure and challenged their residency. We went to court over that as well. and so the important thing, we want voters to know that we were watching in the past this verdict today and will continue to watch in the future for these kinds of activities.”
Democrats claim that there is a coordinated voter suppression effort behind the state laws. They point to the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council – funded in part by David and Charles Koch. Last week they held hearings in Congress. […]
* THE SLICK SHTICK OF AMERICANS ELECT
By Justin Elliot, Salon
There’s an increasing amount of buzz around Americans Elect, a peculiar Internet-based effort to shake up presidential politics. But dig a bit beneath the surface and there’s reason to be deeply skeptical of the endeavor.
The basic pitch of Americans Elect goes like this: We’ll go through the expensive and time-consuming process of getting ballot access in all 50 states. Then we’ll hold an online convention in June in which any registered voter can participate. Participants will nominate a presidential ticket including one Democrat and one Republican who will then enter the general election fray.
Here’s what the group is not so upfront about: It’s fueled by millions of dollars of secret money, there is a group of wealthy, well-connected board members who have control over Americans Elect’s nominating process, and the group has myriad links to Wall Street.
Americans Elect has been getting periodic bursts of support from prominent commentators.
“What Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life — remove the barriers to real competition, flatten the incumbents and let the people in,” wrote Thomas Friedman in July.
And in a Huffington Post column this week titled “2012: The year of the Independent?” Jon Huntsman bundler Lynn Forester de Rothschild hailed the group for offering a “revolutionary new way to nominate a bipartisan ticket to occupy the White House.” Rothschild is also on the group’s board.
There is little doubt that these kinds of hosannas will intensify as the election heats up. Americans Elect’s brand of third way-ism tends to be irresistible to newspaper editorial boards. So here are some facts about the group to keep in mind. […]
* DEMOCRACY BURNING: THREE FOUNDING OWS MEMBERS TALK ABOUT OUR BROKEN SYSTEM AND HOW TO FIX IT
By Lila York, OpEdNews
Interview with OWS charter members Lex Rendon, Ryan Hoffman and Jesse LaGreca on current inequities, strategies for restoring democracy, and their hopes for a new nation built on equal justice for all.
I keep hoping to see news of Occupiers running for office in 2012 – one name on a ballot I could trust as incorruptible and not owned by some corporation. No such news yet, but it is still early in the game. The change sweeping the nation may yet find a political footing. I asked members of Occupy Wall Street to talk about fixing our broken system and their vision for the country. What follows is my interview with Lex Rendon, Ryan Hoffman and Jesse LaGreca, three founding members of OWS who demonstrate a profound understanding of history, government, and the mechanisms for creating a democratic society.
LY: What do you want government to look like?
Lex: We want to see a government free of corporate money. And that will take a regime change. The two-party system needs to go. OWS is an experiment in a new form of democracy, based on community.
Ryan: W e need a government that does not enforce the law selectively, based on wealth status. Adam Smith argued against laissez-faire polices, and for big government standing up to big business. But it is not about big versus small government – it is about good versus bad government.
Jesse: I want the government the Founding Fathers intended us to have. But crony capitalism has created distortions, and millions now feel disenfranchised. Who controls government – the people or the special interests? There is a vast disconnect between Congress and the people. Military contractors want certain bills passed to fund war and we end up with an ever-expanding war budget. We need to get the money out of the process.
LY: Lex and Ryan, you were involved in the process of writing the Declaration of the Occupation. It struck me that that document bears a striking resemblance to the Green Party platform, and to some extent the Libertarian party platform. The Greens have made important strides in Germany, and they are international, on every continent, Because of that, they have the unique ability to represent a global revolutionary spring. OWS grew up without funding, and it seems, although it has never been done, that a political campaign could be run the same way – using the internet and social media – with the follow-on that the mainstream media would at some point have to acknowledge it. So I wonder if any Occupy members are interested in running for office next year for congressional seats and seats in state legislatures. Are any of your members considering it?
Lex: Several people are considering it. Some here are finding that they have a knack for politics and natural leadership abilities. A group here wants to come to consensus on backing a [presidential] candidate, but there are many others who do not support that idea at the moment. […]
* OCCUPY WALL STREET: THE ‘SQUIDDING’ OF GOLDMAN SACHS
By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
I almost shed tears of pride this morning when I read this hilarious passage in the Daily News:
Earlier Monday, about 300 protesters in squid costumes surged outside the offices of Goldman Sachs investment bank shouting, “We fry calamari!” and “Everyone pays their tax – everyone but Goldman, Sachs!”
I wish someone had called me – I would have loved to have attended this “Let’s Go Squidding” expedition. Folks, if you do this again, please let me know, and I promise to put some serious man-hours into designing a squid costume. As it is, I’d like to see in person some of the ones that turned out yesterday, especially that giant papier-mâché-looking thing I seem to see in the News photo. Whoever made that thing, if you’re out there, please contact me.
In all seriousness, I commend these protesters and hope no harm came of those arrests. Goldman continues to be a natural and appropriate target of protester anger and if OWS actions continue to mock the bank and make sport of them, it might help the public learn more about how these state-dependent banks operate and why they need to be reined in, if not broken up altogether.
A perfect if small case in point, courtesy of Zero Hedge.
Last week, Goldman upgraded European bank stocks, raising their rating from Underweight to Neutral. As ZH pointed out, “Goldman has just started selling European bank stocks to its clients, whom it is telling to buy European bank stocks.” Seeing this last week, ZH instantly and correctly concluded that Goldman was attempting to unload crappy assets on clients, and immediately advised its readers to interpret Goldman’s recommendation in the opposite direction.
In other words: if Goldman says a stock is good, you should immediately conclude that the bank actually thinks the stock is shit and is merely trying to unload it on suckers. Anyway, a few days later, ZH reported:
Sure enough, European bank stocks are down 3.84% today alone… […]