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Ralph Lopez's blog
Months after Occupy Wall Street first burst onto the scene, weeks after Scott Olsen was shot in Oakland, and days after Bloomberg revealed that Bank of America, with federal approval, has put the taxpayers on the hook for a possible bailout which, according to financial analyst Avery Goodman, could trigger a chain of events which could result in major devaluation of the dollar, Harvard students last night joined the fray and did so in a big way. The arrival of students at elite universities throws a monkey wrench into the coordinated media campaign to portray protesters as the incapable or lazy who have lost the economic race.
It's real money, especially since "Bank of America Deathwatch" financial pundits have multiplied on the web and it has become a bit of a geek guessing game. When will BoA finally tank? And when it tanks, the question becomes, who will walk away with all their money, and who will be left holding the bag? The deal just snuck through with the Federal Reserve's, and implicitly, Congress's approval insures Wall Street casino gambler's debts by moving them into accounts meant for penny-pinching grandmas.
Citing Bloomberg, financial commentator Avery Goodman tells us:
The media has settled on pushing the "slacker" image for OWS protesters. Excuse me? The truth is exactly the opposite: it is Wall Street and the wealthiest 1% which has not been "making it" to their satisfaction under free market capitalism and now want further hand-outs from the middle-class.
These hand-outs, called bailouts for bankers, may cost middle-class taxpayers up to $23 trillion for incompetent and slovenly business practices, according to Neil Barofsky, former Inspector General for the TARP bailouts and according to Glenn Greenwald one of the most straight-talking men in Washington. This is impressive because Greenwald does not just say this about anyone.
Update note: One of the boys in AYPV has had a family member killed in yesterday's Kabul suicide bombing.
Not many folks know that in Afghanistan right now there is an amazing group of young people who have for nearly two years been trying to build the foundation for peace in Afghanistan, by reaching out across tribal and ethnic lines and promoting the ideas of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers have so far sponsored a half-dozen Global Conference Calls for Peace. Many people from around the world have Skyped in to the youth in Kabul to share messages of peace, love, and hope for a better world. Callers have had remarkable discussions and have been able to ask questions about what it is like for a young person living in the war zone.
One of the fictions now pushed by the Powers That Be who promote divisions is that Occupy Wall Street is somehow the "Tea Party of the left" and somehow fundamentally opposed. This completely forgets that the whole reason the Tea Party took off was outrage over the bail-outs of Wall Street and GM, before the Republican establishment got its hooks in and began steering the conversation to things IT wanted to get rid of to balance the budget, like Medicare and Social Security.
Some of the most active citizen lobbying against the bailouts came from the powerful ALIPAC, the anti-illegal immigration group which was making Republican politicians quiver in their shoes across the country. In its announcement "No More Power and Money for Government Failures! ALIPAC Opposes Wall Street Bail Out" ALIPAC said:
Thank you for your bravery Occupy Oakland.
There is one problem with many of the excellent demands and proposals I have seen floated by those in the OWS movement, from re-instating Glass-Steagall, to ending the Federal Reserve, to enacting a jobs bill. That is, they have little chance of passing in effective form as long as Congress answers to the corporate powers which flood the system with money. If the incentives are skewed, the results will be skewed. Even if the demands are agreed to in principle, politicians beholden to money will constantly be busy finding ingenious and enterprising ways to undermine the intent of the laws.
A recurring theme of Occupy Wall Street is "We are the 99%" but what do they mean by that? Why 99%? The number is based on the well-understood distribution of wealth in America, that is, the ownership of assets.
A brazen reversal of reality has been a hallmark of our politics since Ronald Reagan's "Peace through Strength." For the first time in the Post World War II Era embracing Orwell, or rather that which Orwell warned of, the authoritarian right in America, as distinguished from true small government Goldwater conservatives, did not hesitate to attack opponents or opposing ideas by appropriating their language and turning its meaning on its head. The party which prepared for war in Reagan's unprecedented peacetime build-up was the party that was for peace. Impoverishing the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy was in fact the road to "prosperity." And opponents of the agenda stood for "socialism," even though unprecedented largess in the form of defense dollars was enriching stockholders and CEOs of military contractors with taxpayer money.
Forgive me for being cynical about Washington, the major parties, or anything to do with them right now. Obama just gave a shout-out to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, saying:
"I think people are frustrated, and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works,"
Excuse me, but that's like tossing a match at a house full of kerosene and then saying how much you sympathize with the fire department. The way "our financial system works" is exactly the way people like O'Bailout made it work.
It's not the $700 billion TARP bailout which Barack supported, going as far as issuing a joint statement on September 24, 2008 with John McCain, the Republican nominee, before the vote warning: "The effort to protect the American economy must not fail."
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been stripped of legal immunity for acts of torture against US citizens authorized while he was in office. The 7th Circuit made the ruling in the case of two American contractors who were tortured by the US military in Iraq after uncovering a smuggling ring within an Iraqi security company. The company was under contract to the Department of Defense. The company was assisting Iraqi insurgent groups in the "mass acquisition" of American weapons. The ruling comes as Rumsfeld begins his book tour with a visit to Boston on Monday, September 26, and as new, uncensored photos of Abu Ghraib spark fresh outrage across Internet. Awareness is growing that Bush-era crimes went far beyond mere waterboarding.
As a spate of news reports and a congressional committee warn that depression "looms" in Afghanistan, my question is: how do you tell the difference? Is a "depression" in Afghanistan when 90% of the children are clinically malnourished instead of fifty percent like it is now, or when unemployment among young men is at 80% instead of the present 40-50 percent? Or when only 10 percent of the country has access to clean drinking water instead of the only 20 percent who do today?
Urgent posting on behalf of Kathy Kelly, who is now on the US Boat to Gaza.
June 27, 2011
Last week, newly-arrived in Athens as part of the US Boat to Gaza project, our team of activists gathered for nonviolence training. We are here to sail to Gaza, in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade, in our ship, "The Audacity of Hope." Our team, and nine other ships' crews from countries around the world, want Israel to end its lethal blockade of Gaza by letting our crews through to shore to meet with Gazans. The US ship will bring over 3,000 letters of support to a population suffering its fifth continuous decade of de facto occupation, now in the form of a military blockade controlling Gaza's sea and sky, punctuated by frequent deadly military incursions, that has starved Gaza's economy and people to the exact level of cruelty considered acceptable to the domestic population of our own United States, Israel's staunchest ally.
We kind of take electricity for granted, until you have appendicitis or are having a baby and your doctor is working in the dark, because there is no electricity. Sure, there are generators, but what if there is no fuel for the generators? Not to mention basic medical supplies like disinfectant, clean bandages, and surgical instruments.
JOIN Global Conference Call with Afghan Youth Peace Activists ON NOW (2pm EST) Live Webcast...through 8pm EST
Imagine peace now, reach out to young Afghan peace activists on a global teleconference call right now, let it begin. The possibilities of the Internet for peace and people connecting are amazing. Talk with young, brave people in Afghanistan, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, about what they think of life there, the war, whatever. Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers GLOBAL CONFERENCE CALL ON NOW! Marathon session 8pm EST Sat. until 8pm Sunday.
These thoughtful, polite young people ages 8 through 21 who study Gandhi could be a hope for the world. Please wish them well.
North America Call: (661) 673-8600 & access code: 295191#
24-year-old MIT student David House, friend of PFC Bradley Manning who appeared on MSNBC and revealed to the world that Bradley seemed to be near "catatonic" after being held for nearly a year in a 6 by 12 foot cell for 23 hours a day with almost no human contact, took the Fifth before a federal grand jury yesterday and refused to testify. Manning's treatment has drawn harsh criticism of President Obama, who once said in a press conference that Manning's treatment was "appropriate."
On May 28, Memorial Day weekend 2011, a small flashmob decided to dance at the Jefferson Memorial in celebration of the American First Amendment right to free speech and expression, of which Thomas Jefferson is considered the father. ; This is what happened.
More info: Obama is Worse Than Bush
As President Obama's date for commencing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan approaches, the question becomes will the U.S. once again abandon the Afghan people to their fate. In the aftermath of the Mujaheddin's successful routing of the Soviets in the Nineties, the culmination of Zbigniew Brzezinski's desire to give the Russians "their own Vietnam," a tragedy ensued in which over 2 million Afghans starved or froze to death in the following years, as rival factions fought for power with the majority of the population, as always, caught in the middle. With the economic infrastructure in ruins, there was nothing to build upon, and war became the primary business, with the ability to control a piece of the opium trade a major prize.
Now watch this drive.
Caught on video, after the fundraiser in San Francisco last week when Bradley Manning supporters at a $5,000-a-plate dinner broke out in a song in support of Bradley, then were duly escorted out before dessert. Overlooking entirely the kind of prosecutorial misconduct known as "prejudicial statements," which includes public statements assuming the guilt of an accused which makes it impossible for him to get a fair trial, President Obama makes the interesting claim that we are "a nation of laws." But I don't see Dick Cheney doing time after his office's leak of the identity of a covert agent, Valerie Plame, which really was a crime specifically prohibited by the Covert Agents Identity Act which did real national security damage.
A Review of the case of Private Bradley Manning one year after his arrest.
It is the right of all Americans, and a bedrock principle of our law, that we are to be presumed innocent unless found guilty of a crime. So why, before he has even been tried, has Pfc. Bradley Manning been held in a 6 ft. by 12 ft. cell for nearly a year now, for 23 out of 24 hours each day, in mind-breaking isolation? Pfc. Manning is not allowed to exercise in his cell. He cannot tell if it is night or day outside. He is allowed no radio, clock, or personal items. He takes his meals in his cell alone.
Thank you Rep. Grijalva and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) for submitting the People's Budget. Now, what is it?
It's a lot to go through, but it's important to summarize the main points. Slogging through the slightly wonkish language of CPC's summary the question can be answered in short by answering the question: Who takes the hits?
Both Obama's and Ryan's budgets are most notable for what is NOT on the table. CPC corrects this. The thumbnail version of the CPC budget is:
- Medicare/Medicaide, Social Security, and education do not take the hits
They have almost made a clean getaway, still looking over their shoulders but receding into the distance. Question: how can we cut the debt and balance the budget without cutting a single program or hurting a single person except those who will have plenty left? The genius of the current robbery taking place in Washington as they prepare to slash entitlements as the "big ticket" items on which we are going to have to make "hard choices," is that there is another big ticket item which, along with Pentagon spending and wars, put us here in the first place.
Funny, I don't see anything on "Debt Clock" about this all-time greatest theft in world history, the Wall Street bail-outs, up there with what are often called the "big three" responsible for most government spending: Social Security, Pentagon, and Medicare/Medicaide. Where is "bail-outs?"
You Can Help End the War in Afghanistan, Push it Down to the 'Hood
As congress votes Thursday, March 17th on whether or not to continue military operations in Afghanistan, which in one week costs as much as Wisconsin's entire estimated budget deficit, it is critical to understand why disapproval of having our troops in Afghanistan is at an all-time high, an astonishing two-thirds of Americans, but congress keeps passing the money. The reason is most people in your neighborhood, if you are represented by a Democrat, don't know that he/she keeps voting for it (unless yours is one of a very small number of solid "no" votes listed below.)
You've got to wonder who they are. Even my friends on the right wing of the spectrum, in discussing Bradley Manning, grudgingly admit that he has yet to be convicted of anything and cannot be punished before he is tried. "So try him then put him away, but yea, you are still innocent before found guilty, ok, so what?" -- is a typical small debate victory, before going on to the rest of the work of trying to explain why Bradley Manning is a hero who was doing exactly what, in 2005, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said:
“It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member [in Iraq], if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to try to stop it.”
But online one can get the eerie feeling of a disconnect:
We know this: the optics of modern helicopter gunships are crystal clear at vast distances. The image below is from the attack on men in Baghdad in 2007 at a range of one mile. This is from the video released by Wikileaks which includes an attack on a wounded man crawling on the ground. The distance can be calculated by the known speed of a .30 cannon round and the clocked time between vibrations indicating the commencement of fire, and the rounds striking the men and the ground. At a mile, the helicopter is not much more than a speck in the sky, which explains why the men seem so unconcerned. They probably didn't even see it.
In the "accidental" killing of nine Afghan boys, ages 9 to 15, collecting firewood last week, the range was close enough for a surviving boy to report:
As Obama's crime of the destruction of Bradley Manning continues to unfold before our very eyes, Manning friend David House now tells us that over 8 months in isolation with movement and sleep restrictions placed on him have been having their intended effect. House has told MSNBC that by the end of January Manning appeared "catatonic" and that he had "severe problems communicating," with it having taken House nearly 45 minutes on a recent visit to engage in any meaningful way (video below.) House said Manning's demeanor was as "if he had just woken up and didn't know what was going on around him." Manning was "utterly exhausted physically and mentally...it was difficult to have any kind of social engagement."
"Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortensen has disputed the notion that corruption and insecurity prevent the kind of basic development which would address what is well-known now as the raw fuel for the Afghan insurgency: hunger, starvation, and economic misery which keeps the ranks of the Taliban filled, who courtesy of the American taxpayer as well as the opium trade is able to pay fighters the excellent wage of ten-dollars-a-day. Mortensen says the question is not whether five-dollar-a-day jobs building war-torn infrastructure can be created, which young men would jump at, but whether it is done correctly.
Those Democrats who still support Obama and purport to support Bradley Manning are forgetting one thing: as Commander-in-Chief, Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ultimately determine what charges will be brought, or even who will be prosecuted. That is because in the military, the chain of command is all. If the Commander in Chief tells you, "I need this man to show me where a landing on a beach should be, to save the lives of thousands of men, let him go," you have to let him go.
Make no mistake, if this were the Bush/Rumsfeld Department of Defense trying to execute Manning, we would be surrounding the White House. That's because Bush acted like a commander-in-chief, and it was easy to ascribe the real responsibility. Obama doesn't act like a CINC. But that doesn't mean he isn't one.
Last night, Hillary Clinton had just delivered the line "and then they pulled the plug" during her speech on freedom of expression in Egypt, and smiled slightly, when the two security goons pounced on 71 year-old Ray McGovern, who had been standing with his back turned to her no more than 20 feet away. McGovern was wearing his Veterans for Peace t-shirt in silent protest of the wars, uttering not a single, solitary word. Taken aback by the suddenness and violence of the assault by the two smirking young thugs, one in a uniform, McGovern managed to call out as he was manhandled out of the room: "So this is America?' McGovern was then double-handcuffed, jailed, and left bruised and bloodied from the encounter.
Clinton never broke stride, paused, or even batted an eyelash. Her demeanor was such that she could have been drying her nails.
After all but 67 Democrats voted against the Orwellian "Patriot Act" last Tuesday along with 26 Republicans breaking with the GOP, the principle of no search without a warrant from a judge, citing what you are looking for and probable cause, took a step toward being re-established when extension of the Patriot Act failed. Today the House leadership will be having a do-over, under different rules which will require a simple majority vote. But if the votes cast by anti-Patriot Act Democrats hold and the 67 "Wall of Shame" Democrats are lobbied to switch theirs, the measure passed right after 911 without most members even reading it could go down in a historic defeat.