The Big Squeeze: How Americans Are Being Crushed by Financial Insecurity and Doubt

From Alternet:

Americans are living lives of lowered expectation and intensified financial uncertainty.

By David Rosen
May 19, 2011

The Great Recession officially started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. It was the gravest financial crisis the nation has faced since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Sadly, most Americans have yet to recover.

It fostered what many call the “new normal,” the unspoken sense that America is stuck if not in decline. This new sensibility bears profound consequences; foremost is the recognition that Americans are living lives of lowered expectation and intensified financial uncertainty.

The “American Century” is over. The great historical phase of America’s domestic prosperity and global hegemony is withering. In the decades following the Second World War, American capitalism fashioned the postmodern, and increasingly globalized, world order. In the process, it abandoned America and the American people.

We first witnessed the transfer of jobs overseas, rationalized as “throwaway” or low-skilled jobs. Then came the growing dependency of foreign borrowing, rationalized by the U.S.’s ostensible credit worthiness. Now, America’s great corporations, like GE and GM, are earning more overseas than at home, accompanied by generous domestic tax breaks. More disturbing, the U.S. military-industrial-political establishment repeatedly embarks on doomed “great war” campaigns that rob the nation of its young, its wealth and its ideals.

Domestically, over the last three decades the rich have systematically expropriated the middle-class’s sizable and hard-earned wealth. It has been the most massive transfer of wealth in the nation’s history, with the gravest consequences. It has been a period of legalized robbery.

The decades following WWII witnessed the middle-class accumulating significant wealth as measured in the pride of home ownership, the glamour of a new car, the accomplishment of sending one’s kid to college, the security of good health and assured retirement. It was a period marked by the narrowest income gap separating the rich and the poor in the nation’s history. It fostered the great social, legal, technological and cultural movements that distinguish the post-war era — civil rights, Roe v. Wade, a man on the moon and the counterculture.

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This Is What A Police State Looks Like

From Common Dreams:

by Rania Khalek
Published on Saturday, May 21, 2011 by

The late Chalmers Johnson often reminded us that “A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can’t be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled, lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship.” His warning rings more true by the day, as Americans watch the erosion of their civil liberties accelerate in conjunction with the expansion of the US Empire.

When viewed through the lens of Johnson’s profound insights, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Kentucky v. King makes perfect sense. On May 13, in a lopsided 8-1 ruling, the Court upheld the warrantless search of a Kentucky man’s apartment after police smelled marijuana and feared those inside were destroying evidence, essentially granting police officers increased power to enter the homes of citizens without a warrant.

Under the Fourth Amendment, police are barred from entering a home without first obtaining a warrant, which can only be issued by a judge upon probable cause. The only exception is when the circumstances qualify as “exigent,” meaning there is imminent risk of death or serious injury, danger that evidence will be immediately destroyed, or that a suspect will escape. However, exigent circumstances cannot be created by the police.

In this case, the police followed a suspected drug dealer into an apartment complex and after losing track of him, smelled marijuana coming from one of the apartments. After banging on the door and announcing themselves, the police heard noises that they interpreted as the destruction of evidence. Rather than first obtaining a warrant, they kicked down the door and arrested the man inside, who was caught flushing marijuana down the toilet.

The Kentucky Supreme Court had overturned the man’s conviction and ruled that exigent circumstances did not apply because the behavior of the police is what prompted the destruction of evidence. Tragically, an overwhelming majority of the Supreme Court upheld the Conviction. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that citizens are not required to grant police officers permission to enter their homes after hearing a knock, but if there is no response and the officers hear noise that suggests evidence is being destroyed, they are justified in breaking in.

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Spanish protesters cheer for ‘world revolution’ as ban on demonstration takes effect

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, May 20th, 2011

MADRID — Thousands of protesters in Madrid furious over soaring unemployment staged a silent protest and then erupted in cheers of joy as a 48-hour ban on their demonstration took effect on Saturday.

“Now we are all illegal” and “the people united will never be defeated,” were among the chants of the protesters who crammed Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square and spilled onto side streets.

The protesters held a minute’s silence, their hands in the air and some with tape over their mouths, just before midnight on Friday, when campaigning officially ended for Sunday’s regional and municipal elections.

The crowd then cheered as the clock in the square, the main site of New Year festivities in Madrid, chimed midnight and a ban on the protest became effective.

“From Tahrir to Madrid to the world, world revolution,” said one of the placards, referring to Tahrir Square in Cairo which was the focal point of the Egyptian revolution earlier this year.

Some 19,000 people took part, according to a calculation by the Lynce organisation which estimates crowd numbers and released by the Spanish national news agency Efe.

Thousands of people have massed in city centres across the country in an swelling movement that began May 15, the biggest spontaneous protests since the property bubble exploded in 2008 and plunged Spain into a recession from which it only emerged this year.

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Bailout Protests Spread: People In Spain Are Chanting “We Want To Be Icelanders!”

From Business Insider:

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
May 20, 2011

A protest movement that started in Spain has now spread to Italy. The Spanish government has banned protests, but that has only encouraged more protests.

I picked the story up two days ago in Protests Mount in Spain; Sovereign Debt Crisis to Follow

Acting on a tip, the New York Times picked up the story a day later in Protesters Rally in Madrid Despite Ban.

Spain’s Icelandic revolt

Protests in Iceland helped bring down the Icelandic government and stopped the bailouts of banks at the expense of Icelandic taxpayers. Can the same thing happen in Spain?

Please consider Spain’s Icelandic revolt

After passively submitting to the crisis, young Spaniards have finally taken to the street. Breaking out on the eve of municipal elections, the protests of recent days have been inspired by those in Iceland that led to the fall of the government in Reykjavik.

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Spain Protests Rock Nation, Tens Of Thousands Fill The Cities Over Joblessness

From The Huffington Post:

By Tracy Rucinski and Fiona Ortiz
May 21, 2011

MADRID – Tens of thousands of Spaniards angry over joblessness protested for a sixth day on Friday in cities all over the country, and the government looked unlikely to enforce a ban on the demonstrations, fearing clashes.

Dubbed “los indignados” (the indignant), tens of thousands of protesters have filled the main squares of Spain’s cities for six days, in a wave of outrage over economic stagnation and government austerity marking a shift after years of patience.

The electoral board ruled on Thursday that protests would be illegal on Saturday, the eve of elections when Spaniards will choose 8,116 city councils and 13 out of 17 regional governments.

But Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has failed to contain the highest unemployment in the European Union, at 21.3 percent, said he may not enforce the ban.

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How corruption, cuts and despair drove Spain’s protesters on to the streets

From The Guardian UK:

Young protesters in Madrid and beyond have many different demands, but they are united in opposing the government

Giles Tremlett in Madrid, Saturday 21 May 2011 12.59 BST

The arrival of the table, a battered piece of Formica bashed on top of four rough, oversized legs, raised a cry of joy. Never mind that anyone on a normal chair would barely be able to see over the top – here was another small triumph of the new Spanish revolution, the gathering of angry Spaniards of all colours, ages and persuasions that is sweeping across the country and beyond its borders.

The table that arrived in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square was part of the swirl of creative chaos, naive enthusiasm and pent-up frustration that has transformed it into a makeshift camp for thousand of protesters who call themselves los indignados, the indignant ones.

Tents and mattresses, armchairs and sofas, a canteen, portable toilets and solar panels have sprung up in a remarkable display of organisational prowess. And the mass of people jostling around, each pursuing their own dream or demand, or just watching others doing the same, seemed more like something transported from the Arab spring in north Africa than from Europe.

As the protests continued to swell on Friday, with 60,000 people defying authorities to obey the campaign’s “Take over the square!” slogan in dozens of Spanish cities, and with copycat demonstrations across Europe, the question was whether this was the new May 1968 – a youth-led popular revolt against an establishment deemed to have failed an entire generation.

Esther Gutiérrez, an elfin 26-year-old, wandered through the crowd with a battered shopping cart full of fruit. “We’ve got so much food we don’t know what to do with it. People just bring it to us for free and it’s wonderful stuff,” she said. “We want real democracy. Not just freedom for bankers. You’re not from the Spanish press, are you? We don’t speak to them.”

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My weekly Zinnea Jones Fix

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Conn. House passes gender identity bill

From My San Antonio:

SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press
Thursday, May 19, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The House of Representatives approved legislation late Thursday that provides protections from gender identity discrimination under Connecticut law.

The bill would include “gender identity or expression” as a protected characteristic along with race, national origin, sex and other attributes under current state law. It now moves to the Senate for further action.

State lawmakers voted 77 to 62 in favor of the bill, following five hours of debate that touched on such issues as employment law and whether pedophiles might be encouraged to misuse the law to track down young girls in women’s restrooms.

Proponents said the legal protections are needed to help a small group of people who’ve experienced discrimination regarding employment and housing matters.

“It is a reality, and there are members of our community who face this crisis in their own lives and all we’re doing tonight is saying that it’s not our place as a society to discriminate against those people. It’s not our place as a majority of the population to decide that they are not entitled to the same rights and privileges that the rest of us enjoy,” said House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden.

But much of the debate focused on the potential for people to abuse the legislation.

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30% of Girls’ Clothing Is Sexualized in Major Sales Trend

From Yahoo News:

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer,
LiveScience.comFri May 20

Almost a third of girls’ clothing for sale at 15 major retailers has sexualizing characteristics, a new study finds, a trend that psychologists say can encourage girls to view themselves as sex objects at an early age.

The majority of sexualized clothes also had childlike characteristics, such as polka dots, the research found. Nonetheless, adults in the study rated these childish but sexualizing clothes as just as sexy as clothes with only sexualizing features.

“Even though parents might see them as more acceptable [than purely sexy clothes], I’m not sure they’re perceived that differently,” study researcher Sarah Murnen, a social psychologist at Kenyon College in Ohio, said of the clothes that mixed sexuality and girlishness.

The sexy-clothes trend

Handwringing over the sexualization of young girls is a common theme both in the media and in the mall. In 2007, Wal-Mart pulled a pair of girls’ underwear with the words “Who needs credit cards … ” on the front and “when you have Santa” on the back from the shelves after parental outcry. Those extreme cases get people’s ire up, said Sharon Lamb, a professor of mental health at the University of Massachusetts in Boston who was not involved in the research. But the trend is more insidious than single cases make it out to be, Lamb told LiveScience. [10 Surprising Sex Statistics]

“It’s not just this most outrageous thing,” said Lamb, author of “Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). “It’s a lot of subtle little things, too.”


In the newly published study, Murnen and her colleagues went through the children’s offerings of 15 national retailers, from high-end stores such as Neiman Marcus to inexpensive stores such as Kmart and Target. All of the clothes were sized and marketed for toddlers to pre-teen children. The researchers asked independent adult raters to judge 5,666 clothing items for whether they revealed or emphasized a sexualized body part such as the chest or buttocks and whether they had sexy characteristics such as slinky material, leopard print, or sexualized writing. The raters also looked for childlike characteristics such as frills or butterflies.

Of all clothing items, 31 percent had sexualizing features, the researchers found. Most of these, about 86 percent, had childlike characteristics combined with sexy characteristics. Abercrombie Kids was the worst offender, with 72 percent of clothes featuring a sexualizing aspect. Neiman Marcus boasted about 38 percent sexualized clothing.

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N.Y. Sen. Wants to Void Marriages

From The Advocate:

By Julie Bolcer
Posted on May 20, 2011 10:25:00 AM ET

New York state senator Martin Golden introduced a bill Thursday that would invalidate same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, which have been recognized since 2008.

Senator Golden, a Republican from Brooklyn, introduced the bill with co-sponsors senator Thomas Libous, who is the deputy Republican majority leader, and senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., a Democrat and outspoken gay rights foe. The legislation has almost no chance of moving, but the main intent of the longtime marriage equality opponent appears to be symbolic.

“I am sending the message that there is some normalcy in this great state when it comes to the principled idea that marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Golden, according to the New York Daily News.

When former governor David Paterson issued the executive order to recognize same-sex marriages from elsewhere, Golden unsuccessfully tried to challenge the order in court. In 2005, the former police officer turned state senator objected to advertisements for the Showtime series The L Word on bus shelters in his Bay Ridge district.

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Widow’s death benefit battle back in court

From Houston ABC:

Kevin Quinn
Friday, May 20, 2011

WHARTON, TX (KTRK) — Nearly a year after the death of Wharton firefighter Thomas Araguz, III, questions remain about who is eligible to receive the survivor’s benefits. The reason? Araguz’s second wife is transsexual, and his first wife claims that means their marriage was never legal.

In the balance is about $600,000 in benefits from the death of firefighter Thomas Araguz. For most of the day, Nikki Araguz sat in court listening to attorneys argue whether the state of Texas legally considers her a man or a woman.

She said, “I’m embracing what’s going on and hoping for a positive outcome today.”

It’s been nearly a year since Thomas died fighting a fire at a Wharton egg farm. He is survived by his widow Nikki and his two children. His ex-wife, Heather Delgato is suing to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in death benefits for the children, alleging that under Texas law, Nikki’s marriage to Thomas is void because she was born a man and Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Delgato’s attorney Edward Burwell said, “To find that the marriage between Nikki Araguz and Thomas Araguz is void as a matter of law, and basically because it is void it doesn’t exist, it never existed and it’s a legal impossibility in the state of Texas.”

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Alan Grayson: Republicans Show True Colors About Medicare

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‘Rapture’ apocalypse prediction sparks atheist reaction

From BBC:

20 May 2011

US atheists are to hold parties in response to an evangelical broadcaster’s prediction that Saturday will be “judgement day”.

The Rapture After Party in North Carolina – “the best damned party in NC” – is among the planned events.

Harold Camping, 89, predicts that Jesus Christ will return to earth on Saturday and true believers will be swept up, or “raptured”, to heaven.

He has used broadcasts and billboards to publicise his ideas.

He says biblical texts indicate that a giant earthquake on Saturday will mark the start of the world’s destruction, and that by 21 October all non-believers will be dead.

Mr Camping has predicted an apocalypse once before, in 1994, though followers now say that only referred to an intermediary stage.

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Sexual Assaults on Hotel Staff a Known Hotel Workplace Hazard

The New York Times euphemised and expurgated the above headline to:  “Sexual Affronts a Known Hotel Hazard”.

Wee live in a world where the corporations and bosses expect every worker to accept any indignity or insult from any customer with a smile and suck up any pain caused by that indignity without protest or complaint.

Sexual abuse by superiors is to be expected in a work climate where insecurity is used to keep the wage demands of workers low.

The core philosophy of the new “Service Economy” is that if you are not a boss then you are a peon, a servant a slave to the customer who is always right, even when they are abusive.

From The New York Times:

Published: May 20, 2011

A lot of people were shocked by the charges that the head of the International Monetary Fund sexually assaulted a hotel housekeeper in New York last weekend.

But housekeepers and hotel security experts say that housekeepers have long had to deal with various sexual affronts from male guests, including explicit comments, groping, guests who expose themselves and even attempted rape.


Zemina Cuturic, a refugee from Bosnia who works at the Tremont Chicago Hotel, said she remained frightened whenever she had to clean Room 410 because of what happened there a year ago. She was vacuuming, she said, and the guest, who had left the room minutes earlier, suddenly reappeared and “reached to try to kiss me behind my ear.”

“I dropped my vacuum, and then he grabbed my body at the waist, and he was holding me close,” Ms. Cuturic recalled. She persuaded the guest to let her go, and she fled. “It was very scary,” she said. Ms. Cuturic reported the incident to hotel management, but decided against going to the police. “I was kind of scared that he’d come back the next day if I did,” she said.

A Tremont official said the hotel, part of the Starwood chain, has a full-time security guard whose only job is to watch over the housekeeping staff. In the incident that Ms. Cuturic described, the official said that management confronted the man and insisted that he leave the hotel.

Housekeepers, nearly all of whom are women, talk of guests who offer them $100 or $200 for sex, apparently thinking that the maids, often low-paid immigrants, are desperate to earn more money. Some women complain of episodes in which they were bending over to, say, clean a bathtub, and a guest sneaked up and stuck his hand up their skirt.

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Rapture Bunnies Prophesy Gigantic Fail

When will these religious fools start to realize that “faith” is just another word for stupidity.  There is no god, no heaven, no hell.  the bible and Koran are just mythology no different from the stories about Jupiter, Zeus, Thor and Inanna…

Mythology and nothing more.

We are all Africans because that is where we originated via evolution.

It makes more sense to worship the sun or the laws of physics than the Bible.

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