Bail-out Bombshell: Fed “Emergency” Bank Rescue Totaled $29 Trillion Over Three Years

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/153462/bail-out_bombshell%3A_fed_%22emergency%22_bank_rescue_totaled_%2429_trillion_over_three_years/

While the 99% suffered hardship, a new study shows that the Fed propped up buddies in the banking industry and a vast shadow banking system far beyond what anyone has guessed.

By J. Andrew Felkerson
December 15, 2011

Speculation about the the Fed’s actions during the financial crisis has made headlines on and off again over the last several years.  The latest drama occurred on November 27 when Bloomberg published an article, “Secret Fed Loans Gave Banks $13 Billion Undisclosed to Congress,” which gives an account of the news agency’s struggle to bring to light the details of the Fed’s emergency programs. Bloomberg throws out some very large numbers, revealing that as of March 2009, the Fed lent, spent, or committed $7.77 trillion worth of aid to the financial system and that banks used the low interest rates charged on these loans to make an estimated $13 billion in income.

On December 6, the Fed struck back, issuing a four page unsigned memo intended to correct recent “egregious errors and mistakes” found in various reports of its emergency lending facilities.  The Fed argues that the “total credit outstanding under liquidity programs was never more than about $1.5 trillion.”  While Bloomberg wasn’t mentioned explicitly in the Fed memo, it was fairly clear to whom the response was directed.  The following day Bloomberg defended its reporting, and the Wall Street Journal’s David Wessel came to the Fed’s defense, characterizing Bloomberg’s methodology as a “great story,” but ultimately not “true.”

All this may sound like controversy, but it’s little more than a tempest in a teacup.

Here’s the hurricane: In reality, no less than $29.616 trillion is the total emergency assistance provided by the Fed to foreign and domestic entities during the Global Financial Crisis. Let’s repeat that: $29 trillion. This astounding number is over twice U.S. gross domestic product, the nominal value of all goods and services produced for the year 2010.  This is the total of the bailout as calculated by Nicola Matthews and myself as part of the Ford Foundation project, A Research And Policy Dialogue Project On Improving Governance Of The Government Safety Net In Financial Crisis.  We will be presenting the results of our analysis in a series of papers published by the Levy Economics Institute, the first of which, “29,000,000,000,000: A Detailed Look at the Fed’s Bailout by Funding Facility and Recipient,” is already available here.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/153462/bail-out_bombshell%3A_fed_%22emergency%22_bank_rescue_totaled_%2429_trillion_over_three_years/

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Bradley Manning: A symbol for lack of government transparency

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Die-In tonight; Tomorrow is International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

From Feministe: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/12/16/die-in-tonight-tomorrow-is-international-day-to-end-violence-against-sex-workers/

by Clarisse Thorn
on 12.16.2011

Reposted with Permission

Tomorrow is the International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers. For some 2011 event locations, click here.

Sex Worker Activists, Allies and You has a bunch of great links and 101 materials about sex workers’ rights.

Here in Chicago, the Sex Workers Outreach Project is holding a Die-In tonight and another event tomorrow at the best feminist site ever, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum:

“STOP SHAMING US TO DEATH”
Die-in Action for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Hosted by: Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Chicago
When: Friday, December 16, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Where: 18th and State Street, in front of the Chicago Police Department in the South Loop
Who: Current & former sex workers, allies, friends, families, and communities.

Join SWOP-Chicago in a die-in action to protest violence committed against sex workers

Chicago — On December 16th, sex workers and their allies in the Chicago area will gather at the Chicago Police Department for a “die-in” action. Participants will fall to the ground “dead” holding signs bearing our messages. Through this action, we hope to raise awareness of the violence committed against sex workers and other marginalized groups. Law enforcement, those whose job it is to “serve and protect,” often either ignores violence committed against these groups, or is a direct perpetrator. IT IS TIME FOR THIS VIOLENCE TO STOP.

This event is part of the annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. On the following day, Saturday, December 17th, sex workers and their allies will gather at vigils around the world to commemorate the annual Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, honoring sex workers who have died at the hands of violent crimes, and declaring an end to all violence against sex workers.

PLEASE JOIN US AT THIS IMPORTANT EVENT! And don’t forget to dress appropriately for the weather conditions!

And here’s the info about the Saturday December 17 event.

Feel free to link to your own posts about sex work, the International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, and relevant events in the comments.

Police Abuse of Sex Workers: A Global Reality, Widely Ignored

From RH Reality Check:    http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2011/12/15/ending-police-abuse-sex-workers

by Chi Mgbako
December 15, 2011

December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

When we think of violence against sex workers, we conjure up images of dangerous clients and serial killers who target prostitutes.  Indeed, the origins of the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers, observed on December 17, lay in the decades-long serial murder of sex workers by the Green River Killer.  While these are heartbreakingly real forms of violence against sex workers, one area that receives scant public attention despite its entrenched global reality is police abuse of sex workers.

The illegal status of sex work in most countries has not eradicated prostitution.  Instead, criminalization has increased sex workers’ vulnerability to human rights abuses and created fertile ground for police exploitation, especially of street-based sex workers.

For example, in South Africa, where sex work has been illegal since the former apartheid regime criminalized it in 1957, police officers often fine sex workers inordinate sums of money and pocket the cash, resulting in a pattern of economic extortion of sex workers by state agents.  For some sex workers, the cost of a police bribe to evade arrest can equal an entire night’s worth of work.  In other instances, police have exhibited shameless levels of exploitation: In one reported example, a police officer in Cape Town demanded a sex worker give him money in lieu of arrest; when the sex worker told him she possessed only a meager 10 South African rand, or the equivalent of $1.25, the police officer even pocketed that pittance.

In addition to economic abuse, police exploitation of sex workers manifests in other disturbing ways.  South African sex workers report that police confiscate condoms to use as evidence of prostitution; demand sexual favors in exchange for release from jail or to avoid arrest; physically assault and rape sex workers; actively encourage or passively condone inmate sexual abuse of transgender female sex workers assigned to male prison cells; and use municipal laws to harass and arrest sex workers even when they’re engaged in activities unrelated to prostitution.  “When you get arrested,” notes one sex worker, “they put you in the bad cells, with wet blankets, no food, no phone calls allowed. And not everything you had with you – money, cell phones, necklace – gets given back.”  Many sex workers get trapped in a cycle of arrests that only serves to drain state resources and further entrench sex workers’ vulnerability.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2011/12/15/ending-police-abuse-sex-workers

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Hubert Sumlin (November 16, 1931 – December 4, 2011)

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Ashley Love Reporting on This Years Golden Globes

From Transforming Media:   http://transformingmedia.blogspot.com/2011/12/glenn-closes-film-albert-nobbs-about.html

By Ashley Love
December 15, 2011

With permission

Glenn Close’s Film ‘Albert Nobbs’ About A Transsexual Man Is Nominated For Golden Globe For Best Supporting Actress Performance by Janet McTreer

The highly moving period drama ‘Albert Nobbs’ follows the story of a man who was born with female anatomy named Albert Nobbs, played by Glennn Close. Nobbs is a male servant who must hide his transsexual condition in order to survive.

Actress Janet McTeer, Close’s costar who also plays a transsexual man, has been nominated for a Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture.

I saw the film and was moved to tears. Some of my tears stemmed from pain I felt for the characters, and some of my tears were stirred by the powerful beauty of humanity that triumphed over fear and violence.

Janet McTeer is very deserving of this award. I will be planning a Golden Globes party just to root for her, stay tuned for the details!

Here’s a touching song from the film’s soundtrack written and performed by a favorite of mne, Sinead O’Conner called ‘Lay Your Head Down’:

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19,000 U.S. Soldiers Raped Every Year! Congresswoman Jackie Speier

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Christopher Hitchens dies aged 62

Erudite and infuriating at times.  Always thought provoking.

Too damn few as outspokenly brilliant and courageous.  I marveled at his writing, his use of language.

Unrepentant in his non-belief, I will remember him through the writings he left.

From The Guardian UK:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/dec/16/christopher-hitchens-dies-aged-62

Celebrated journalist, writer and unshakeable secularist has died from complications of oesophageal cancer


guardian.co.uk
, Friday 16 December 2011

The writer, journalist and contrarian Christopher Hitchens has died at the age of 62 after crossing the border into the “land of malady” on being diagnosed with an oesophageal cancer in June 2010. Vanity Fair, for which he had written since 1992 and was made contributing editor, marked his death in a memorial article posted late on Thursday night.

The reactions to Hitchens’s illness from his intellectual opponents – which ranged from undisguised glee to offers of prayers – testified to his stature as one of the leading voices of secularism since the publication in 2007 of his anti-religious polemic God is Not Great. The reaction from the author himself, who after a lifetime of “burning the candle of both ends” described his illness as “something so predictable and banal that it bores even me”, testified to the sharpness of his wit and the clarity of his thinking under fire, as he dissected the discourse of “struggle” that surrounds cancer, paid tribute to the medical staff who looked after him and resolved to “resist bodily as best I can, even if only passively, and to seek the most advanced advice”.

Born in 1949, Hitchens was sent to boarding school at the age of eight, his mother deciding: “If there is going to be an upper class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it.” This resolution pursued him to his time at Oxford, where he confessed to leading a “double life” as both an “ally of the working class” and as a guest at cocktail parties where he could meet “near-legendary members of the establishment’s firmament on nearly equal terms”.

After he graduated in 1970 with a third-class degree, the doors of Fleet Street opened wide for Hitchens, who followed his friend James Fenton into a job at the New Statesman. He began a lifelong friendship with Martin Amis and quickly gained a reputation as a pugnacious leftwing commentator, excoriating targets such as the Roman Catholic church, the Vietnam war and Henry Kissinger in dazzling essays, news reports and book reviews.

A resolution to spend time at least once a year in “a country less fortunate than [his] own” spurred him to witness the stirrings of revolution in Portugal and Poland, as well as counter-revolution in Argentina. His mother’s death in Athens, killing herself in a suicide pact with her lover, saw him reporting on the overthrow of the Greek junta in 1973.

Continue reading at:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/dec/16/christopher-hitchens-dies-aged-62

VANITY FAIR: Christopher Hitchens’s Ten Commandments

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We Need a World War II Effort to Tackle Global Warming and the Great Recession

From New Deal 2.0 http://www.newdeal20.org/2011/12/12/we-need-a-world-war-ii-effort-to-tackle-global-warming-and-the-great-recession-67070/

by Jon Rynn
Monday, 12/12/2011

If the government doesn’t go bold on the environment, the economy and the earth will continue to suffer.

The news from the world of global warming science is grim. We need to keep the planet from warming by more than 2 degrees centigrade or the climate could become extremely dangerous. To stay below that level would require a drastic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in the next several years. Many commentators, from Al Gore to Thomas Friedman to Lester Brown, have argued that we need a World War II type effort to prevent the worst of global warming. Such an effort would have the bonus effect of reviving the economy. When FDR was confronted with a world war, he converted as much as one third of the economy to that effort, with the federal government in the lead. The result: fascism was defeated along with what was left of the Great Depression. Can we do something similar today?

When World War II started, the federal government converted several industries, including the automobile industry, to make tanks, planes, and other military goods. A planning department was set up, and all resources that were necessary for the war effort were carefully counted and controlled. At the peak of the war, about one third of all output (GDP) in the United States went into the military. One third of today’s economy would be about $5 trillion dollars.

While there is a debate about whether the war actually ended the Great Depression, it certainly finished off the scourge of high unemployment. The construction of new machinery for the factories laid the groundwork for the post-war boom, as well as enlightened policies like the G.I. Bill, which paid for college for returning soldiers and made housing loans available through the government.

Today we have a different problem, but it could become just as deadly as a world war. Modern global civilization will become difficult if not impossible to maintain if the planet overheats, according to a new report. Our society is not designed to deal with increasing sea levels, indefinite droughts in some areas and unpredictable deluges in others, forests destroyed by warm weather pests, dead oceans, and disappearing glaciers that lead to the destruction of many of the world’s most important rivers.

Continue reading at:   http://www.newdeal20.org/2011/12/12/we-need-a-world-war-ii-effort-to-tackle-global-warming-and-the-great-recession-67070/

Class Consciousness Is Back

From In These Times: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/12413/class_consciousness_is_back

Once you notice inequality, you can’t escape the realities of class in America.

BY Susan J. Douglas
December 14, 2011

Multiple times and on multiple days, my local NPR station actually used the “c” word on the air. No, not that “c” word–it was “class.” Yes, that most unmentionable of topics: socio-economic class and how it determines the fate of millions of Americans.

Our vernacular obscures the country’s very real class divisions, with crippling–even lethal–consequences. The term “middle class” is used capaciously in the United States to include almost everyone, while the term “working class” is eschewed (it sounds way too Marxist). Even the “99%” signs and chants of Occupy protesters occlude the multiple and often stark divisions within that 99%.

Class position, of course, affects everything: access to healthcare, education, where you live, what restaurants you eat in, nutrition, careers, income, tax breaks, how much credit costs you, who you marry (and when), who fights and dies for our country, and on and on. But with our media’s national obsessions about gender, race and ethnicity, class may be the most under-covered feature of structural inequality in the country. In November, NPR-affiliate Michigan Radio aired an 11-part series called “Culture of Class,” which rolled back the stone, showing what lurks in America’s cave of inequities.

Let’s start with the legal system. “There, perhaps, is no moment in life when the difference in class is more apparent than when you are accused of a crime,” reporter Lester Graham notes in his piece on class and the courts. If you’re upper-middle class, or even truly middle class, you hire a lawyer, and the richer you are, the more choices you have.

But if you’re a low-income person and are assigned a public defender, you are especially screwed in Michigan: The state ranks 44th in public defense funding. The report also noted that in Detroit, five part-time public defenders handle caseloads up to seven times the national average for full-time public defenders; they get to spend an average of 32 minutes on each case. Graham then put a public face on these statistics: David Tucker, whose public defender was totally unprepared for court. The result? Tucker lost four years of his life in jail before his conviction was finally overturned.

Continue reading at:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/12413/class_consciousness_is_back

U.S. Poverty: Census Finds Nearly Half Of Americans Are Poor Or Low-Income

From Huffington Post:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/census-shows-1-in-2-peopl_1_n_1150128.html

12/15/11

WASHINGTON — Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans – nearly 1 in 2 – have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

“Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too `rich’ to qualify,” said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

“The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal,” he said. “If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years.”

Congressional Republicans and Democrats are sparring over legislation that would renew a Social Security payroll tax cut, part of a year-end political showdown over economic priorities that could also trim unemployment benefits, freeze federal pay and reduce entitlement spending.

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far, citing poor people who live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/census-shows-1-in-2-peopl_1_n_1150128.html

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Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich, The Fall of the “Liberal Elite”

From Tom Dispatch:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175480/tomgram%3A_barbara_ehrenreich_and_john_ehrenreich%2C_the_fall_of_the_%22liberal_elite%22/

Posted by Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich
December 15, 2011

Class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.

– E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class

The “other men” (and of course women) in the current American class alignment are those in the top 1% of the wealth distribution — the bankers, hedge-fund managers, and CEOs targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement. They have been around for a long time in one form or another, but they only began to emerge as a distinct and visible group, informally called the “super-rich,” in recent years.

Extravagant levels of consumption helped draw attention to them: private jets, multiple 50,000 square-foot mansions, $25,000 chocolate desserts embellished with gold dust. But as long as the middle class could still muster the credit for college tuition and occasional home improvements, it seemed churlish to complain. Then came the financial crash of 2007-2008, followed by the Great Recession, and the 1% to whom we had entrusted our pensions, our economy, and our political system stood revealed as a band of feckless, greedy narcissists, and possibly sociopaths.

Still, until a few months ago, the 99% was hardly a group capable of (as Thompson says) articulating “the identity of their interests.” It contained, and still contains, most “ordinary” rich people, along with middle-class professionals, factory workers, truck drivers, and miners, as well as the much poorer people who clean the houses, manicure the fingernails, and maintain the lawns of the affluent.

It was divided not only by these class differences, but most visibly by race and ethnicity — a division that has actually deepened since 2008. African-Americans and Latinos of all income levels disproportionately lost their homes to foreclosure in 2007 and 2008, and then disproportionately lost their jobs in the wave of layoffs that followed.  On the eve of the Occupy movement, the black middle class had been devastated. In fact, the only political movements to have come out of the 99% before Occupy emerged were the Tea Party movement and, on the other side of the political spectrum, the resistance to restrictions on collective bargaining in Wisconsin.

Continue reading at:   http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175480/tomgram%3A_barbara_ehrenreich_and_john_ehrenreich%2C_the_fall_of_the_%22liberal_elite%22/

Americans say Wall St. has too much power, but CEO pay keeps climbing

From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/12/15/americans-say-wall-st-has-too-much-power-but-ceo-pay-keeps-climbing/

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, December 15, 2011

Executive pay in 2010 was up as much as 40 percent in some cases, even as Americans’ approval of mega-corporations on Wall Street plunged to its lowest levels yet, data released this week reveals.

In a study first examined by The Guardian, U.S. executive pay skyrocketed in 2010, up 40 percent. America’s highest paid executive, John Hammergren, CEO of health insurance company McKesson, earned more than $145 million in compensation for a single year’s work.

Corporate governance group GMI Ratings also found that the overall median for executive profits on stock options also rose in 2010, up 70 percent thanks in large part to many corporations seeing sizable profits as the economy recovered from a near dead-stop in 2008.

 In spite of soaring corporate profits and executive pay, hiring has has only seen marginal improvement. Recent government studies place the overall unemployment rate at 8.6 percent, although unemployment claims are at the lowest they’ve been in nearly four years.

Meanwhile, Americans’ opinions of mega-corporations and Wall Street in general could hardly be lower. A survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center found that even among Republicans, often the most pro-business political party in the U.S., a slim majority (53 percent) agree that wealthy people and large corporations have too much power.

Continue reading at:   http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/12/15/americans-say-wall-st-has-too-much-power-but-ceo-pay-keeps-climbing/

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Nearly 1 in 5 Women in U.S. Survey Say They Have Been Sexually Assaulted

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/health/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-report-sexual-assault.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=rape&st=cse#

By
Published: December 14, 2011

An exhaustive government survey of rape and domestic violence released on Wednesday affirmed that sexual violence against women remains endemic in the United States and in some instances may be far more common than previously thought.

Nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner. One in six women have been stalked, according to the report.

“That almost one in five women have been raped in their lifetime is very striking and, I think, will be surprising to a lot of people,” said Linda C. Degutis, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the survey.

“I don’t think we’ve really known that it was this prevalent in the population,” she said.

The study, called the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, was begun in 2010 with the support of the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Defense. The study, a continuing telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 16,507 adults, defines intimate partner and sexual violence broadly.

The surveyors elicited information on types of aggression not previously studied in national surveys, including sexual violence other than rape, psychological aggression, coercion and control of reproductive and sexual health.

They also gathered information about the physical and mental health of violence survivors.

Sexual violence affects women disproportionately, the researchers found. One-third of women said they had been victims of a rape, beating or stalking, or a combination of assaults.

Continue reading at:   http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/health/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-report-sexual-assault.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=rape&st=cse#

Christian Bookstore Stops Selling Bible Because Proceeds Support Cancer Research, Cite Link To Planned Parenthood

From Think Progress:   http://thinkprogress.org/health/2011/12/15/390389/christian-bookstore-stops-selling-bible-because-proceeds-support-cancer-research-cite-link-to-planned-parenthood/

By Tanya Somanader
Dec 15, 2011

LifeWay Christian Bookstoresis “one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services” including church literature, music, video recordings, church supplies, and of course bibles in hopes of “providing biblical solutions for life.” But one Bible didn’t meet their “biblical” standard and was subsequently pulled from the shelves. Why? Because it helped raise money for breast cancer programs.

For every copy of this particular Bible that was sold, $1 dollar from the sale went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, a breast cancer charity well-known for organizing “Race for the Cure.” The foundation, in turn, donates some of its funds to breast cancer health programs sponsored by Planned Parenthood. Because the religious right views Planned Parenthood as the pinnacle of abortion evil, LifeWay immediately said they had “made a mistake” in selling the Bible and pulled it from the shelves:

“When our leadership discovered the overwhelming concern that some of Komen’s affiliates were giving funds to Planned Parenthood, we began the arduous process of withdrawing this Bible from the market,” stated a release by Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay. “Though we have assurances that Komen’s funds are used only for breast cancer screening and awareness, it is not in keeping with LifeWay’s core values to have even an indirect relationship with Planned Parenthood.”

Continue reading at:   http://thinkprogress.org/health/2011/12/15/390389/christian-bookstore-stops-selling-bible-because-proceeds-support-cancer-research-cite-link-to-planned-parenthood/

WE RUN THIS (V2.0) – Anonymous

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Depression and Autocracy From Merkel to Michigan

From The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/blog/165134/depression-and-autocracy-merkel-michigan

Laura Flanders
on December 14, 2011

“Depression and Democracy”—Paul Krugman’s Monday column took on a key topic. Amazingly, having seized the critical question, he let it squirm away. Insurgent neo-Nazi extremists may pose a threat, but right now mainstream governments are doing the real damage to democracy. They are suspending accountability on both sides of the Atlantic, and they’re doing it before our eyes, even to applause, in the name of emergency financial management.

Starting in Europe, Krugman focuses on Hungary’s governing far-right Fidesz party, whose plans, he writes, “amount to the re-establishment of authoritarian rule under a paper-thin veneer of democracy.” The Fidesz sound like a nasty lot, but how authoritarian is last week’s Eurozone deal? Led by Germany, the agreement requires individual nations to shrink pensions, scale back health insurance, cut services, privatize public enterprises and de-unionize public jobs—no matter what their voters say. It’s all so as not to default to the large banks and financial institutions.

Over at Counterpunch, economist Michael Hudson is calling it the “deadly transition from social democracy to oligarchy.” Ulrich Beck, writing in the Guardian, describes it as a power shift that imposes on an entire continent a take-it-or-leave-it “German culture of stability.”

“The basic rules of European democracy are being suspended or even inverted, bypassing parliaments, governments and EU institutions,” wrote Beck shortly before the Deutschmark deal was done. “Multilateralism is turning into unilateralism, equality into hegemony, sovereignty into the deprivation of sovereignty, and recognition into disrespect for the democratic dignity of other nations. Even France, which long dominated European unification, must submit to Berlin’s strictures now that it must fear for its international credit rating.”

European heads of state have already toppled, from Ireland to Portugal, Italy and Greece. No doubt there’s more to come. As far as international credit raters are concerned, it’s end-of-history time: there’s no going back on austerity plans, and there are no alternatives—no matter how poorly they perform.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/165134/depression-and-autocracy-merkel-michigan

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Congressional Tyranny, White House Surrender

From Common Dreams:   http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/15-0

by Ralph Nader
Published on Thursday, December 15, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, something is rotten in the state of Capitol Hill. A majority of Congress is just about to put the finishing touches on an amendment to the military budget authorization legislation that will finish off some critical American rights under our Constitution.

Here is how two retired 4 star marine generals, Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar, described in the New York Times the stripmining of your freedom to resist tyranny in urging a veto by President Obama:

“One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past….

“A second provision would mandate military custody for most terrorism suspects. It would force on the military responsibilities it hasn’t sought”…. “for domestic law enforcement….”

“A third provision would further extend a ban on transfers from Guantanamo, ensuring that this morally and financially expensive symbol of detainee abuse will remain open well into the future.”

All of Obama’s leading military and security officials oppose this codification of the ultimate Big Brother power. Imagine allowing the government to deny people accused of involvement with terrorism (undefined), including U.S. citizens arrested within the United States, the right to a trial by jury. Imagine allowing indefinite imprisonment for those accused without even proffering charges against them. Goodbye 5th and 6th Amendments.

Continue reading at:   http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/15-0

There Goes the Republic

From Truth Dig:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/there_goes_the_republic_20111214/

By Robert Scheer
Posted on Dec 15, 2011

Once again the gods of war have united our Congress like nothing else. Unable to agree on the minimal spending necessary to save our economy, schools, medical system or infrastructure, the cowards who mislead us have retreated to the irrationalities of what George Washington in his farewell address condemned as “pretended patriotism.”

The defense authorization bill that Congress passed and President Obama had threatened to veto will soon become law, a fact that should be met with public outrage. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth, responding to Obama’s craven collapse on the bill’s most controversial provision, said, “By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.” On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney claimed “the most recent changes give the president additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength.”

What rubbish, coming from a president who taught constitutional law. The point is not to hock our civil liberty to the discretion of the president, but rather to guarantee our freedoms even if a Dick Cheney or Newt Gingrich should attain the highest office.

Sadly, this flagrant subversion of the constitutionally guaranteed right to due process of law was opposed in the Senate by only seven senators, including libertarian Republican Rand Paul and progressive Independent Bernie Sanders.

That onerous provision of the defense budget bill, much discussed on the Internet but far less so in the mass media, assumes a permanent war against terrorism that extends the battlefield to our homeland. It reeks of a militarized state that threatens the foundations of our republican form of government.

Continue reading at:   http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/there_goes_the_republic_20111214/

Woman Jailed, Ostracized After Resorting to Self-Administered Abortion: What Is This, Puritan America?

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/153433/woman_jailed%2C_ostracized_after_resorting_to_self-administered_abortion%3A_what_is_this%2C_puritan_america/

When we deprive women of access to abortion, shun them, and even throw them in jail, we as a society become weaker.

By Amanda Marcotte 
December 14, 2011

Jennie McCormack, a resident of Idaho and a mother of three, has spent the past few months of her life in a legal and social situation that calls to mind the trials of Hester Pyrnne, the heroine of The Scarlet LetterAs reported by Nancy Hass of Newsweek, McCormack’s ordeal started when she learned she was pregnant by a man who was doing time for robbery.

Realizing that she couldn’t afford another baby, nor the $500 fee and two trips to get an abortion (because Idaho requires women to wait 24 hours after their first visit to the doctor to “think it over”), McCormack resorted to buying RU-486 from a vendor online. The police eventually arrested McCormack and charged her with an illegal abortion, claiming that she was over Idaho’s legal limit of 20 weeks for an abortion. Since the exact gestational age can’t be determined, charges have been dropped for now, but prosecutors are retaining the right to re-charge McCormack. In the meantime, she’s become a pariah in her community, been fired from her job, and even had to face social workers who are basically denying her aid to care for her children.

Even in super-liberal New York City, a woman is being prosecuted (albeit in a less drastic way) for a self-abortion after the legal limit. The desperate woman, accused of aborting after six months, threw the fetus in a trash can, presumably because she was not aware of her other options for disposing of it.

In the United States, abortion is technically a legal right, but as these cases show, it’s not functionally a right. If abortion were actually a right, women wouldn’t have such a difficult time getting a legal abortion that they resort to drastic measures that land them in jail. These cases demonstrate why abortion needs to be more than a right for those who have the means to jump through all the hoops put in place to keep them from obtaining legal abortions. Making sure women who want abortions can get them in a timely and safe fashion helps more than the women in question. We all do better if women can get the abortions that are supposedly their right.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/153433/woman_jailed%2C_ostracized_after_resorting_to_self-administered_abortion%3A_what_is_this%2C_puritan_america/

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