Archive for the ‘The Class War’ Category
A few years ago a sugar refinery owned by Imperial Sugar of Savannah, Georgia, exploded. Fifteen people were killed and dozens were injured, some severely. The explosion was the direct result of a corporate refusal to obey safety rules designed to avoid just this kind of event. OSHA, over a single 2-year period, hit Imperial Sugar with over 200 Notices of Violation. Corporate management ignored them. After all, we all know OSHA is just a busybody nitpicker that gives corporations a hard time for no reason. They know what they’re doing. They don’t have to listen to some liberal government pinhead whine about how they should have done this irrelevant action instead of that one.
That’s how – and why – 15 people died.
There have been a raft of “investigations”, including one by the district USA Edward Tarver into potential criminal charges. Given the abundant evidence of malfeasance on the part of corporate executives, this should have been a slam dunk. It turned out, though, that corporations can get away with anything in 21st century America, including murder.
The company was the target of investigations by a trio of federal agencies — the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, OSHA and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms — that resulted in findings of dozens of “willful” safety violations and a $6 million fine in 2010 that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said was the largest ever levied to that point.
Only one potential government sanction remained and that was removed Tuesday when U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver announced his office would not seek criminal charges against the company or its executives for the carnage that ensued that night.
“There was insufficient evidence of intentional disregard or plain indifference to the requirements of OSHA’s general housekeeping standards to charge Imperial Sugar with a criminal violation,” Tarver said in a release.
How he reached that conclusion despite the acres of evidence and a whistleblower to the contrary may be explained in the usual way – protection of a local corporate power (and donor?) – but Tarver offers what sounds like a potentially honest alternative reason: the weakness of Congressionally devised labor laws.
Tarver also said the decision not to pursue a prosecution of Imperial or any of its executives was based in the lack of federal criminal laws “specifically addressed to the safety of workers within the sugar industry at the time of the Imperial Sugar explosion.”
It’s an interesting argument though it smacks immediately of buck-passing. It could be true given what conservative governments – Pubs and Dems both – have happily done to de-ball labor laws for the last 40 years. Anybody know?
True or not, the one thing that stands out is that, just like with the bankers who deliberately destroyed our economy to fill their own pockets and did so by breaking so many laws it would take an abacus to count them, after all Imperial’s illegal activities and the 15 people who died as a direct result of their disinterest in keeping them alive, nobody is going to go to jail behind this.
OK, so you probably think that at least if you’re a dedicated cheerleader they won’t throw you under the bus even if you’re not their first priority. But you’re being naive.
Regardless of who wins the presidential election in November or what compromises Congress strikes in the lame-duck session to keep the economy from automatic tax increases and spending cuts, 160 million American wage earners will probably see their tax bills jump after Jan. 1.
That is when the temporary payroll tax holiday ends. Its expiration means less income in families’ pocketbooks — the tax increase would be about $95 billion in 2013 alone — at a time when the economy is little better than it was when the White House reached a deal on the tax break last year.
You don’t matter. The “deficit” they created matters. It’s your job to pay it off. This was never a priority, it was just a temporary gimme for show.
Independent analysts say that the expiration of the tax cut could shave as much as a percentage point off economic output in 2013, and cost the economy as many as one million jobs. That is because the typical American family had $1,000 in additional income from the lower tax.
But there is still little desire to make an extension part of the negotiations that are under way to avert the huge tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts, known as the fiscal cliff, that will start in January without a deal.
Nope. Nobody on either side gives a shit.
Many Republicans vehemently opposed its passage last year, as it would divert money from the Social Security program. Many Democrats fervently supported it last year but show no such enthusiasm now. Nancy Pelosi of California, the top House Democrat, has told reporters she thinks it should expire.
So don’t ever get your hopes up. No matter what happens, you’re never gonna be on anybody’s gift list.
Two hundred-plus years of dangerously liberal thinking have created a good deal of confusion in some weak minds. One of the most damaging of these confusions, one that you may still be harboring without realizing its deep and divisive nature, is the idea that there are such things as “public” facilities. Or, indeed, a “public good”. In fact, the very word “public” arises from a severe misunderstanding of what forms a “society”. Read the rest of this entry »
Of course survival isn’t the only goal, just the first one, and I guess we ought from time to time to be more positive and look at ways of making the New American Oligarchy work for you. It’s not impossible. In fact it’s relatively easy once you can wrap your head around what the New Rules mean. That meaning can be put very simply:
Money is all that matters.
Oh, dear. Well, we knew it was going to take a while for people to start recognizing that the transfer of wealth to the top by the political class was neither an accident nor mere incompetence but a deliberate sell-out masquerading as one, the other, or both. A couple of examples provided by Mark at Norwegianity should suffice to make the point.
Bob Woodward’s Maestro, a history of Alan Greenspan’s regime at the Fed through the turbulent 90′s, was written 10 full years ago, yet reading it today, it is startlingly familiar territory. All the issues, arguments, and solutions which we think are new to the financial market since the collapse were actually rehearsed – over and over again – during various Financial crises while Greenspan was the Fed’s Chair. It’s all there – bailouts, “too big to fail”, threats to the vulnerable global economy, taxpayer rescues – everything except any mention of derivatives.
From the morning in August 1987 when Greenspan chaired his first FOMC meeting (the Fed board’s actual name is, significantly, the Federal Open Market Committee) he seemed to be dealing with one crisis after another. When he took over the economy was in the dumper brought about by the first Bush; when he was finally replaced by Ben Bernanke 3 years ago, he left having watched over the second Bush while he flushed the vibrant Clinton economy down the toilet, an economy that Greenspan – according to himself as reported by Woodward, at least – did a great deal to help create. And in each of those instances – from the savings & loan crisis to the currency crises of Mexico, Asia, and Russia to the LTCM crisis – there was a single cause: exceedingly dangerous financial speculation, not by fly-by-night hucksters and shady traders but by the biggest financial instutions in the world.
Once upon a time a Russian expatriot who hated the Soviets because they destroyed her father’s pharmaceutical business emigrated to the United States and wrote a few books about how wonderful money and the people who make it and spend it are. She postulated a “philosophy” called “Objectivism” that 15 yr-olds with untreatable acne and rich people who fancied themselves Masters of the Universe found fascinating and rewarding. This “philosophy”, by her own definition, was one that was built around the concept of man as a heroic figure as long as he was making a lot of money and a useless wimp who was a boil on the ass of the universe if he wasn’t. Perhaps that explains its appeal to the two groups mentioned above.
Glenn Greenwald takes a shot at one of Rob’s and my personal bugaboos – the cry from Obama and the DLC/BD Caucus of conservative Dems that there’s been too much hyperpartisanship in Washington. Glenn wants to know “What partisanship?”
Where is the evidence of the supposed partisan wrangling that we hear so much about? Just examine the question dispassionately. Look at every major Bush initiative, every controversial signature Bush policy over the last eight years, and one finds virtually nothing but massive bipartisan support for them — the Patriot Act (original enactment and its renewal); the invasion of Afghanistan; the attack on, and ongoing occupation of, Iraq; the Military Commissions Act (authorizing enhanced interrogation techniques, abolishing habeas corpus, and immunizing war criminals); expansions of warrantless eavesdropping and telecom immunity; declaring part of Iran’s government to be “terrorists”; our one-sided policy toward Israel; the $700 billion bailout; The No Child Left Behind Act, “bankruptcy reform,” and on and on.
Most of those were all enacted with virtually unanimous GOP support and substantial, sometimes overwhelming, Democratic support: the very definition of “bipartisanship.” That’s just a fact.
As The Washington Post‘s Dan Froomkin observed at the end of last year: ”Historians looking back on the Bush presidency may well wonder if Congress actually existed.” How much more harmonious — “bipartisan” — can the two parties get?
He’s right, of course, and regular readers will know how worried we’ve been around here about BO’s naive insistence on what he calls “bipartisanship”, which almost always turns out to mean “doing what the the GOP/DLC/BD Conservative Cabal wants done because they refuse to compromise.” There has been hyperpartisanship, alright, but not on a Pub-Dem split. It’s been coming almost exclusively from the Right along a Conservative-Liberal split – the conservatives in both parties scream about how ANYBODY who doesn’t go along is hyperpartisan. Mention a liberal policy like SCHIP or note how the Medicare Advantage program is little more than a give-away to Big Pharma and suddenly you’re a hysterical partisan who refuses to face reality and compromise [translation: surrender].
Over at Suburban Guerrilla Susie is asking if maybe the netroots‘ priorities are all backwards.
For a while now, I’ve had the very strong sense that things have been exactly ass-backwards, upside down in the blogosphere – that the peak of Maslow’s triangle is nowhere near roomy enough to carry the weight of a meaningful movement. And yes, of course telecom immunity is an important issue – but where would you place it on the triangle? Fight first to make sure people are fed, take care of their most basic needs and build the netroots coalition from that.
…See, to me, progressive values have always been about economic and social justice…
I get her point. I even thank her for it. But there’s something she’s not considering.
Yes, the online netroots is to a degree elitist, no question. In order to take part, you need either the money or the time, preferably both. And yes, there are real-world needs (as opposed to virtual world desires) that have actual consequences attached to not meeting them, like starvation or poverty or no education. But beyond all that there is a deadly political situation to be considered – deadly for us, down here in the trenches – which, if it isn’t turned around, will almost certainly wind up killing us and the nation, and the netroots may be (I said may be) our only way to affect that kind of change.
You see, we’re not much for politics down here even though it is politics that determines the economy that feeds and houses us (or not, like the Bush Economy). We’re kinds too busy making ends meet to get organized in our spare time, which we don’t have much of in the first place because either we don’t work at all and have to hustle 24/7 or we work 16 hours a day and take care of the kids at night and spend our weekends (if we don’t have to work overtime for straight pay) cleaning the house, food shopping, cooking, and so on (and on and on and on….).
So we need the netroots. They got the time, energy and money we don’t have to fight the people who are making us miserable, and they’re trying to figure out how to do that. We’ll help when we can but first we have to ensure our own day-to-day survival – you know, those things you were talking about earlier. Besides, the PTB don’t listen to us anyway. We know that. But they do listen to the activists, to the media, and, of course, to that virtual combination of the two, the netroots. Oh, not about everything. But some things, and that’s already more than we could make them do.
See, that’s kinda how it works. The establishment learned a long time ago that if you keep slaves busy and worn out, they’ll be too tired to revolt. And so we are. We have been pushed so far down that we have no energy left for anything but mere sheer survival. We struggle with everyday matters trying to keep our heads above water, which leaves no room for giving the Boss a hard time about – well, about much of anything.
And it’s important to us that we eventually have access to the net. If they shut us off from that, too, we will have lost one of the last tools of non-violent protest available to us. They’ve closed or cut back the libraries, or attached fees to library use that we can’t afford to pay on the meager salaries they give us; they’re taking away analog (over-the-air) tv so we have to buy cable; they’re even trying very hard to make radio a pay service. Short of the local papers, which are as big a joke as local news shows, the best way to find out what’s going on, respond to it, and even organize around it, is the internet. We need it, and right now we need somebody to save it for us.
I didn’t watch the GOP debate last night because there’s no point to it. They’ve established a pattern and it’s always the same: 2 or 3 of them get into a vicious fight over who’s most like a dictator, who’d violate the Constitution the most often, who’d break more laws, who’d give the oligarchs the most tax breaks, who’d torture more innocent people, who’d invade the most Muslim countries, and/or who’d make sure a maximum number of the poor would starve, freeze to death, and end up homeless, roaming the streets.
And just to be sure we’re clear, those aren’t attacks against their opponents. They’re boasting.
For almost 100 years, from the moment the income tax was instituted, conservatives have insisted with increasing hysteria that taxes are what kill the economy. Not taxes on you or me, of course. They’re not much concerned with those, as they’ve proved time and again. No, they’re talking about the taxes on Bidness and the Rich. You know, the “trickle-down” theory, wherein there seems to be a hard-core, faith-based belief that if the rich get richer because they don’t have to pay taxes like the rest of us, why, they’ll “invest” that “extra” money to create more low-paying jobs, and thus a tiny portion of their wealth will “trickle down” to the lower economic strata.
There is zero evidence to suggest, let alone prove, that economies work this way, but that doesn’t stop Grover “The Toad” Norquist’s Bathtub Battalion from claiming otherwise at the tops of their lungs. Our so-called “president”, acting in his capacity as chief mouthpiece and corporate rip-off enabler, was out on the hustings yesterday saying the same old shit, decorated by his usual smirk.
“The message is unmistakable: America’s economy keeps growing, government revenues keep going up, the budget deficit keeps going down — and we’ve done it all without raising your taxes,” Bush said during a speech at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where he introduced two small-business owners, a member of the National Guard and the parents of eight children. He said they all racked up big savings thanks to the tax cuts.
“When you’ve got more money in your pockets to save, spend or invest, this causes the economy to grow,” Bush said, adding that “a growing economy has led to growing tax revenues. Because people are making more money, they’re also paying more taxes.”
Like everything else Bush says (“How do you know when Bush is lying? His lips are moving”), it isn’t true. In point of fact, the economy has been growing at pretty much the same 2-3%/yr pace that it did during the 90′s. There are a couple of big differences, alright, but they’re not in the rate of economic expansion, a fact that even faux-economists at the conservative propaganda unit, The American Enterprise Institute, have been forced to admit.
As predicted by almost everyone, including me, Scooter will not spend a single day in jail.
President Bush commuted the sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby yesterday, sparing Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff 2 1/2 years in prison after a federal appeals court had refused to let Libby remain free while he appeals his conviction for lying to federal investigators.
Bush, who for months had sidestepped calls from conservatives to come to Libby’s aid, broke his silence early yesterday evening, touching off an immediate uproar from Democrats who accused the White House of circumventing the rule of law to protect one of its own.
The president announced his decision in a written statement that laid out the factors he had weighed. Bush said he decided to “respect” the jury’s verdict that Libby was guilty of four felonies for lying about his role in the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity. But the president said Libby’s “exceptional public service” and prior lack of a criminal record led him to conclude that the 30-month sentence handed down by a judge last month was “excessive.”
“Excessive”. For protecting the people who blew an undercover agent’s status and career by lying and destroying evidence, 2 1/2 yrs – out in a year or so on parole – was “excessive”. And this from the man who laughed about signing death sentences in Texas – 152 of them – the leader of a so-called “law-and-order” party.
Zero jail time and two years’ probation for the man who covered up for traitors. I guess we know now that to Bush and the rest of the GOP, “law and order” is just the title of a tv show.
Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University who is an expert on federal criminal sentencing policies, said it is “hypocritical and appalling from a president whose Justice Department is always fighting” attempts by judges and lawmakers to lower the punishment called for under federal sentencing guidelines. Berman said Bush’s message amounted to “My friend Scooter shouldn’t have to serve 30 months in prison because I don’t want him to.”
That about sums it up.
Apparently Georgia wants to be Texas when it grows up. The sequence of events in the Genarlow Wilson travesty gets more nonsensical by the day.
- A Douglas County Superior Court judge throws out Wilson’s sentence and orders him released.
- The State AG, falsely claiming that he has no choice, holds up the release and files an appeal.
- In a transparent bid to lower the level of anger that is aimed at him for this action, he asks for the hearing process to be expedited so it can be held at the earliest possible date. That request is denied.
- A different Douglas County Superior Court judge then cancels the bond hearing altogether because, he says, Georgia law doesn’t allow child molesters out on bail.
Dr. Francys Johnson, the NAACP’s Southeast Regional Director, put it in a nutshell: “The NAACP is convinced that justice has taken a summer vacation in Georgia.”
By the time David Stockman, Reagan’s budget czar, had become disillusioned with supply-side, “trickle-down” economics, the damage had already been done.
The magnitude of the fiscal wreckage and the severity of the economic dangers that resulted are too great to permit such an easy verdict. In the larger scheme of democratic fact and economic reality there lies a harsher judgment. In fact, it was the basic assumptions and fiscal architecture of the Reagan Revolution itself which first introduced the folly that now envelops our economic governance.
The Reagan Revolution was radical, imprudent, and arrogant. It defied the settled consensus of professional politicians and economists on its two central assumptions. It mistakenly presumed that a handful of ideologue were right and all the politicians were wrong about what the American people wanted from government.
File that under “No shit, Sherlock”. I could have told them that. In fact, I did. Anybody could have told them that who wasn’t blinded by the prospect of a trough of money they didn’t have to share with, say, their employees.
Trickle-down was a disaster for everyone in the country except the top 10% of “earners”, seeing as how they made damn sure “trickle” was the operative word. Although the 80′s were a productive and highly profitable time for Wall Street, the rest of us were struggling just to get by. The “trickle” was just that: a mean, tiny drip of the money-pot like a leak in your roof so small you might not notice it for years. The pool stayed at the top, so deep you could have set up a diving board.
The economy – for us ordinary folk, anyway – went so far into the tank after Reagan that Bush I lost his re-election bid due to so many people being out of work and him being so happy about it. They didn’t take kindly to his transparent joy in their financial misery. They threw him out and brought in a Democrat to clean up the mess because Poppy was so “out of touch” (the kindest possible interpretation they could have put on the way he protected the investor class at the expense of the rest of the country).
You’d think conservatives would have learned from all that but apparently not. Read the rest of this entry »