Friday, November 11, 2011

From Penn State to Europe, Pro-Rape Forces Regroup After Week Of Setbacks

It was a tough week for the pro-rape forces. Child-raping former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was dragged off in shackles Saturday, and his enablers were fired Wednesday. Voters in Mississippi Tuesday turned back a law banning abortions for rape victims. Even environmental rape was dealt a blow when the media reported the U.S. government had known all along that thrusting long, hard probes into mother earth and spewing disgusting fluids into her caused earthquakes, like the ones that rattled Oklahoma last weekend.

Even jovial GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain was coming under fire just for inappropriately groping some women and making a few disgusting personal suggestions.

In Pennsylvania's formerly Happy Valley college football enclave, a grand jury found in excruciating detail that Sandusky was a serial rapist who'd violated numerous young boys over decades. Aside from his eight Pennsylvania victims, Texas authorities revealed they were investigating allegations Sandusky sexually assaulted another victim while he and the Penn State Nittany Lions football team were at the 1999 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

In Mississippi, voters rejected Amendment 26, which would have effectively banned all abortions in the state, including for cases of rape or incest. Right-wing activists had sought to define a fertilized egg as a person, forcing women to bear the children of rapists.

As earthquakes rumbled across Oklahoma, media reports revealed the U.S. Army and the U.S. Geological Survey had long ago concluded that injecting water into deep underground rock formations caused earthquakes.

The U.S. Army's Rocky Mountain Arsenal tried in the 1960s to get rid of liquid waste by injecting it deep into the ground. From 1962 to 1966, the RMA injected salty waste water containing metals, chlorides and organic waste into a 12,000-foot-deep well, but discontinued the practice because they discovered it was causing earthquakes.

"Injection had been discontinued at the site in the previous year once the link between the fluid injection and the earlier series of earthquakes was established," stated the 1990 Earthquake Hazard Associated with Deep Well Injection - A Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The magnitudes 5.6 and 4.7 earthquakes in Oklahoma last weekend set off a new flurry of speculation that hydrofracking for gas and oil was causing earthquakes in that state. Oklahoma averaged about 50 earthquakes a year until a couple years ago. Gas and oil moguls began widespread hydrofracking in the state, and, in 2010, Oklahoma experienced 1,047 earthquakes.

By Wednesday night, the pro-rape forces had had enough of the persecution onslaught. It was getting so a multi-millionaire pizza mogul couldn't grope women and say filthy things to them without some sort of backlash.

Thus, on Wednesday night, as multi-millionaire pizza mogul and GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain was harassed with yet another question about his harassing women, the pro-rape empire struck back.

In a scene reminiscent of GOP audience members jeering health care access at the September CNN/Tea Party debate, the pro-rape, pro-harassment audience, apparently fed up with the relentless assaults on their God-given right to defile and subjugate all around them, broke into a cascade of boos and catcalls when CNBC debate moderator Maria Bartiromo broached the subject of Cain's grabby-handed, potty-mouthed conduct.

"Why should the American people hire a president if they feel there are character issues?" Bartiromo asked, and the audience howled and screamed in protest. The audience let it be known that if anyone on the right wanted to grab someone's genitals and make lewd suggestions, his or her victim had better like it.

Cain, who'd been accused of sexually harassing at least four women, and had paid undisclosed settlements to several of them, brashly retorted, "The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion." Or, tried at all.

Rival presidential candidate Mitt Romney had Cain's back, as the jeering audience tried to shout down moderator John Harwood's question to him about whether he would have fired Cain for his conduct.

"Would you keep Herman Cain as a CEO knowing what you know?" Harwood asked Romney.

"Herman Cain is the person to respond to these questions," Romney replied, in the Mormon mogul-turned-politico's best impression of a Roman Catholic archbishop.

With "Tora! Tora! Tora!" apparently flashing across the pro-rape com net, hordes of rabid pro-rape partisans roared onto the streets of College Station, PA, battling police, tearing down light poles, and overturning vehicles.

They were enraged that Penn State's Board of Trustees had fired university president Graham Spanier and, especially, football head coach Joe Paterno for covering up and enabling Sandusky's serial child rapes. Paterno, a football coaching legend, had in 2002 brushed off then 28-year-old graduate assistant Mike McQueary when he said he'd seen Sandusky in the school football facility raping a child. Instead of reporting the alleged crime to police as required by law, Paterno pawned McQueary off on the school's athletic director.

The grand jury indicted Athletic Director Tim Curley and school business and finance VP Gary Schultz on obstruction and perjury charges.

The imperious 'JoePa' had turned back school officials' 2004 plea that he retire, and had declared he would finish out the current football season, warning the Board of Trustees not to "spend a single minute" considering his removal.

A crowd of apparently pro-rape partisans rallied outside Paterno's home. Videos showed Paterno leading them in a call-and-response, "We are: Penn State!" chant, as most viewers mentally filled the blank following "we are" with terms other than the name of a school.

Displaying utter contempt for the children who'd been Sandusky's and Paterno's victims, the mob then tore through town, throwing rocks at police, overturning a TV van, and tearing down light poles.

"I think the point people are trying to make is the media is responsible for JoePa going down," said Penn State student Mike Clark, making the point that raping children and covering up the rape so you could rape more children was a-okay with Mike.

"We got rowdy. We got maced," Jeff Heim told the New York Times. "But make no mistake, the board started this riot by firing our coach. They tarnished a legend," he said. Apparently to Jeff, raping children and sitting idly by while your friends raped children weren't reputation-tarnishing acts.

Zealots eager to force women to bear rapists' children regrouped as well. Opponents of Mississippi's Amendment 26 "lied to voters and they said lies often enough that they persuaded voters," complained Keith Mason, president of  Personhood USA, an organization apparently dedicated to forcing women to bear the children of persons who were hoodlums. "The people here in Mississippi are mad, and they are ready to come back and do it again," he said, threatening serial action.

Zealots in Florida gussied up their proposed state constitutional amendment to ban abortions for rape victims with the title 'Florida ProLife Personhood.'

"We're continuing on," Personhood Florida ringleader Rev. Bryan Longworth said. "Obviously, the defeat in Mississippi means we have to work all the more harder." As did the Mississippi measure, the Florida measure would define a fertilized egg as a person, clearing the way for rapists to procreate. Supporters aimed for a 2014 vote.

By week's end, pro-rape forces had regained the initiative worldwide. Financial markets in Europe, Asia and the United States rallied Friday on news that Italy and Greece had dumped their political leaders and had voted to mollify bankers and financiers by adopting the most draconian austerity measures yet.

Nothing buoyed the pro-rape crowd more than seeing the rich rape whole countries.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Occupy Oakland's Seaport Shutdown Makes Case For Industrial Action

Oakland, California, San Francisco's grittier East Bay neighbor, Wednesday briefly became the epicenter of the global 99% Occupy Movement when tens of thousands of activists, students, teachers, working class laborers, and middle class families marched through downtown streets, rallied before megabank branches, and shut down the night shift at the nation's fifth busiest seaport.

Showing solidarity with Seattle longshore workers who were in a labor dispute, some 10,000 peaceful protesters blocked access to the Port of Oakland, and its giant cranes ground to a halt. A long line of semi tractor-trailers queuing to pick up containers bearing the outflow of globalization idled outside the sprawling facility. Some honked their horns in support of the protesters.

"Maritime operations are effectively shut down," Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin told KTVU News at the height of the demonstration.

Longshore workers at the container facility had not called a strike themselves, but had warned they would not cross a well-organized community picket line.

Most of the crowd dispersed after 11 p.m., and by Thursday afternoon, the port was back in action.

The General Strike Occupy Oakland organizers called in response to the October 25 police beat-down that sent Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen to Highland Hospital with a fractured skull showed protest demonstrations in the U.S. could draw the numbers seen in more activist Europe. While police estimates claimed the crowds numbered around 4,500, reputable media counts ranged nearer 10,000, with some estimates as high as 100,000.

More importantly, shutting down the Port of Oakland revealed the demonstrations had some muscle. The model could prove useful in getting the haughty one-percenters' attention. Large numbers of fed-up masses marching on major industrial operations could be the best way to storm the plutocrats' ivory towers.

General strikes of yore staged by the nascent labor movements of another era helped usher in America's greatest period of prosperity, and won for Americans a social contract today's one-percenter plutocrats have eagerly broken. Industrial actions could again address economic imbalances and injustices reminiscent of the 1930s.

Just as labor shut down seaports and factories in the past, today's 99% could march on the core institutions that propel the global economy. Far more effective than chanting in front of a local bank branch, mass demonstrations aimed at ports, transportation and energy infrastructure would deliver protest to the doorstep of the plutocrats' most vital engines.

In Europe, protesters have shut down major highways and blocked access to nuclear plants. Railway strikes were common occurrences.

In America in the first decades of the twenty-first century, the lifeblood of the global plutocracy was the titanic fossil fuel industry.

The beating heart of this beast was in south Texas. A shockingly small handful of massive refinery complexes formed the vital core of a fossil fuel processing empire strung along the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christie to the Louisiana bayous.

Fully 40% of America's oil refining capacity resided in the giant refineries arrayed along a swath of south Texas and Louisiana. Half of that refining capacity was clustered around Houston, Texas City, Baytown, Port Arthur, and Beaumont. Within an hour-and-a-half drive. Traffic permitting.

The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserves resided nearby. Pipelines for gas and oil criss-crossed the region. Fort Hood, America's premiere Army base, wasn't in Texas for the weather.

Moreover, as the Northeast and West Coast were also home to sizable chunks of America's refining capacity, the refineries in and around Houston represented much of the gasoline, diesel, kerosene and jet fuel needed to negotiate a wide swath of the middle of the country.

Industrial action in this beating heart of global plutocracy would shake ivory towers from Houston to New York to London to Beijing. Industrial action in the core of America's energy infrastructure would force capitalism itself to stare mortality in the face. Thousands of feet tramping toward the gates of those giant refineries and gas distribution heads would be walking over globalizations' grave.

Angry masses bearing down on those refineries would be marching on the heart of global economic life. Townsfolk storming the castle with pitchforks and torches. Well, perhaps not with torches. Torches didn't mix well with facilities so catastrophically inflammable workers were barred from wearing steel-toed boots. Refineries didn't prohibit cigarette smoking because the proprietors were obsessed with lung disease.

The traditional accessory for pitchforks notwithstanding, masses bearing down on the refineries would give the local constabulary, to say nothing of security authorities all along the food chain, headaches no one could use. In an increasingly flattening world featuring increasingly asymmetrical warfare challenges, those security authorities already had enough to fret over in a neighborhood where a handful of dedicated partisans with, say, a half-dozen ordinary infantry mortars, and, say, a half-dozen ordinary pickup trucks with sand-filled inflatable kiddie wading pools in their beds for firing platforms could give money moguls in corner offices from Boston to Bangkok the worst day of their lives.

While angry townsfolk mightn't march with torches, and candlelight vigils were probably off the table as well, law enforcement's options would likewise be limited.

Tear gas would be a no-no. Flash-bang grenades were absolutely out of the question. Probably, use of any sort of gunpowder-driven weapon system would be strongly frowned upon.

Scott Olsen might have been better off picketing Exxon Mobil's Baytown refinery than Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza.

The refineries in Texas and Louisiana were the critical blocks at the bottom of the global financial jenga pile, the aces at the base of the multinational house of economic cards. Huge refineries were spread all along the region, but many of the biggest were clustered around Houston:
  • Baytown Refinery (Exxon Mobile), 560,000 bbl/day capacity
  • Beaumont Refinery (Exxon Mobile), 348,000 bbl/day.
  • Houston Refinery (Lyondell), 270,000 bbl/day.
  • Houston Refinery (Valero), 83,000 bbl/day.
  • Independent Refinery (Stratnor), Houston, 100,000 bbl/day.
  • Sweeney Refinery (Conoco Phillips), 229,000 bbl/day
  • Texas City Refinery (BP), 460,000 bbl/day.
  • Texas City Refinery (Marathon Oil), 72,000 bbl/day.
  • Texas City Refinery (Valero)  210,000 bbl/day.
  • Deer Park Refinery (Shell Oil), 334,000 bbl/day.
  • Pasadena Refinery (Petrobras), 100,000 bbl/day.
  • Port Arthur Refinery (Total), 174,000 bbl/day.
  • Port Arthur Refinery (Motiva), 285,000 bbl/day.
  • Port Arthur Refinery (Valero), 325,000 bbl/day.
The fourteen refineries clustered around Houston and Port Arthur accounted for 3.5 million of the United States' 17.6 million barrel-per-day refining capacity. That was 20% of America's total capacity.

Fortunately for the plutocrats and oligarchs, the heart of the fossil fuel beast beat in the reddest center of Redsylvania, among folks who figured Rick Perry and George W. Bush were the best possible choices for chief executives in all creation. Thus, the ivory towers would remain safe and inviolate forever and ever.

Or not.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wall St. Protesters Re-Occupy Oakland, But Empire Strikes Back Daily Nearby

Tents and protesters had reclaimed Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza, the site of Tuesday's police tear-gas attack that left Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen bloodied and focused international attention on Occupy Wall Street's Northern California franchise.

Nearby, at the Port of Oakland's massive container facility, giant container ships disgorged the outflow of globalization. The ships that sailed into San Francisco Bay and awaited their turn at Oakland's container port daily added to the economic imbalances the Occupy movement decried.

Manufactured goods from Asia. Produce from South America. Tax-free profits for multinationals.

The American economy's dire straits put thousands of fed-up protesters on the streets. In cities and towns across America, Occupiers protesting economic injustice camped out in mini-Hoovervilles. In Oakland, phalanxes of armored riot police from several agencies Tuesday zealously tore into a peaceful demonstration as the whole world watched on social media.

Under calmer conditions, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan attempted Thursday night to address the crowd that had reclaimed Frank Ogawa Plaza, and was booed off the stage as she queued for the microphone.

In a video Quan posted on her Facebook page, she said Tuesday's crackdown "was not what anyone hoped for, ultimately it was my responsibility, and I apologize for what happened." Quan had been on a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. when police barricaded the streets, cleared the Oakland encampment, and launched a barrage of tear gas into a crowd of a thousand demonstrators who had marched from the downtown library.

Ex-Marine and Iraq War veteran Olsen was struck in the head. As a group of protesters gathered around him to render aid, an additional device lobbed from the assembled law enforcement ranks landed among the clustered protesters, and burst next to Olsen, a KTVU news video revealed. Olsen suffered a fractured skull.

"I shared my outrage and grave concern about the police brutality in Oakland directly with the Mayor," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said in a statement issued Thursday. "My thoughts go out to the injured and especially Scott Olsen." Lee's office stated the Congressmember had offered assistance to Olsen's family.

The 24-year old veteran, who'd served two tours in Iraq and was a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Friday remained in Oakland Highland Hospital's intensive care ward. His condition was upgraded to fair, although he might require surgery to relieve swelling to his brain.

Across the bay in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee, eager to avoid the public relations black eye Quan suffered, postponed plans to clear Occupy SF's Justin Herman Plaza camp.

Rumors of San Francisco's impending police crackdown Wednesday night only bolstered the Occupiers' ranks with several hundred reinforcements, including city Supervisors David Chiu and John Avalos, and State Senator Leland Yee. All three were Lee's rivals in the upcoming Nov. 8 mayoral election.

By Thursday morning, the ragtag assemblage of core Occupy SF stalwarts and indigenous homeless camped at Justin Herman Plaza had swelled to 50 tents and 300 protesters, as office workers and tourists joined partisan activists.

With Lee promising "dialoguing" with Occupy SF representatives, the sort of heavy-handed police crackdown seen in Oakland appeared unlikely at least until after Nov. 8.

Like a parade of gigantic hobby horses, enormous cranes lined San Francisco Bay at Oakland. Huge container ships piled with cargo containers sailed through the Golden Gate bearing the outflow of Asia's manufacturing juggernaut, as well as components from Europe and produce from South America. Globalization that was sold as a boon for American exports proved only to be a boon for the transnational plutocrats who'd lobbied for globalization.

In the end, the only thing America exported was jobs. And waste paper, which was America's biggest export product to China.

Instead of creating jobs in America, tax and economic policies coddling the wealthy and their multinational corporations only encouraged offshoring and outsourcing. Low taxes incentivized gratuitous profiteering, so instead of selling American products overseas, companies shuttered American factories and opted for cheap foreign labor. Cheap foreign labor and lax foreign regulation fattened bottom lines with profits that could be skimmed off without a progressive tax penalty.

Companies could slash manufacturing costs while charging the same prices for their products, and the tax structure enabled the rich to pocket the difference.

American labor suffered. Foreign labor, automation, mergers, and layoffs idled millions. Money flowed from labor to capital. The American economy collapsed.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce loved it, and their recent open letter outlining their jobs plan asked Congress and the President to get them more of the same.

The ultimatum big corporations' and their Congressional Republicans now delivered to America was: If America wanted more jobs, America had to suspend all business and industry regulations, lavish the rich with more tax breaks and subsidies, and hand over all the money set aside for pensions, Social Security and Medicare.

Baring that, the multinationals and their Republican allies would keep strangling America, and anyone who stood in the way would get his skull cracked like Scott Olsen.

Oakland police continued to insist they didn't use flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, or bean bags Tuesday night but hedged that officers from several other agencies had been present. A spent bean bag projectile was reportedly recovered near the spot Olsen had been injured. Oakland police claimed demonstrators "began throwing paint or other hazardous material at the officers who deployed tear gas as a defense tactic."

Rep. Lee countered, "The reaction was not appropriate. These are peaceful protesters who have a right to petition their government."

Scott Olsen's petition was rejected with a blast to the head.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Khadafy Killing a 'Good Thing' in an Age of 'Good Things'

They killed Khadafy.

By now, everyone knew what there was to know. Deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy was killed Thursday in his hometown of Sirte after a NATO airstrike busted up a convoy of vehicles, and rebel fighters found the bedraggled tyrant hiding in a drainage pipe. The wounded Khadafy was dragged from the pipe, and, apparently, an 18-year-old rebel fighter saved Libyan taxpayers the cost of a showy show trial.

Khadafy was the poster child among blood-thirsty dictators, and no one beyond the blood-thirsty dictator fan club shed any tears.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj of the Libyan military counsel proclaimed, "we have done a great job to liberate all the country."

The world's leaders chimed in.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, "The disappearance of Moammar Khadafy is a major step in the struggle led for the last eight months by the Libyan people..."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "This day draws a line beneath the Khadafy regime: it is an important day for the Libyans."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, "The death of Moammar Khadafy is an historic moment for the people of Libya."

In the U.S., bickering legislators found themselves grudgingly in agreement.

"The passing of Moammar Khadafy from this earth is definitely not a bad thing," said Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (DE).

"Khadafy being gone is a good thing," said Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (MO).

Even Martha Stewart would likely arrange a couple of doilies around the tyrant's bloodied corpse and pronounce it "a Good Thing."

There was no doubting Khadafy'd been a baaad man, and that he'd been, in the parlance of the Wild Old West, someone who'd "needed killin.'"

And yet, and yet...

They killed Saddam Hussein, and everyone agreed it was a good thing.

They killed Osama bin Laden, and everyone cheered.

They killed Anwar Al-Awlaki, and everyone more of less nodded in assent.

Certainly, some very bad people had gotten their comeuppance of late. Their just desserts. Paid the piper. Had their dogma run over by their karma.

Certainly President Barack Obama had gotten to step repeatedly up to a podium to tell the White House press corp that yet another enemy of freedom, democracy and goodness had bitten the dust.

And yet, and yet...

Of course, this was the way it was supposed to be. Harry killed Lord You-Know-Who. 007 killed Goldfinger. Darth Vader redeemed himself by killing the Emperor. The 47 Ronin acquitted themselves by killing the evil Lord. Countless square-jawed Sheriffs gunned down countless black-hatted villains at innumerable high noons on innumerable dusty Main Streets.

And yet, and yet...

When did civilization devolve to the point where its only victories consisted of killing someone? When had the payoff for all the hope and struggle and toil and sacrifice become reduced to a bullet through someone's brain? When was it that the only tickmarks goodness and decency and democracy dropped into the "Win" column began coming from gunning someone down or blowing someone up?

It wasn't so much that killing Khadafy wasn't the best thing since killing bin Laden, but that it was the only good thing since killing bin Laden. It wasn't so much that killing Khadafy wasn't a good thing, but that killing some bad guy had become the only good thing anybody managed to accomplish in a very, very long while.

Couldn't anybody other than the Avenging Angel please make a play?

Couldn't the Angel of Mercy break a tackle and dance into the end zone for six? Couldn't Charity step to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and crank a three-run jack to send the fans home happy? Couldn't Kindness sink a three-pointer at the buzzer and draw the foul to put the home team over the top?

Couldn't faith, or hope, or temperance, or diligence, or patience, or humility bend that last-second kick into the back of the net as the play-by-play announcer ecstatically screamed, "Goooooooooooooal?"

While the world celebrated this good thing, it seemed incapable of creating jobs for people who needed them, or nursing the sick and injured, or caring for aging parents and grandparents. While the world did its touchdown dance and spiked the football over yet another bloody corpse, it seemed incapable of cleaning up its rivers and lakes and oceans, or clearing its air, or reversing global climate change, or even agreeing such problems existed.

When the good folks of eighteenth century France set up Dr. Guillotines' amazing slicing, dicing, person-o-matic in the Place de la Revolution and began dragging powdered aristocrats to the National Razor to take a foot off the top, the crowd agreed it was a very good thing. They whacked Louis XVI, and Collenot d'Angremont. They whacked Marie Antoinette. Maximilien Robespierre and the Revolutionary Tribunal figured it was all good and whacked aristos and collaborators and crooks left and right. There seemed to be no end to good things.

And yet, and yet...

Somewhere between the time they whacked Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins and Robespierre himself; sometime between the rise of an obscure army officer named Napoleon and a genocidal war in Spain; at some point between Austerlitz and a miserable, freezing retreat from Russia and the maelstrom of Waterloo, it ceased being a good thing.

Killing Khadafy was a good thing, everyone agreed. Killing Hussein was a good thing, most everyone agreed. Killing bin Laden was a good thing, most everyone west of Islamabad agreed. Killing Al-Awlaki was a good thing, many people more or less agreed.

Thanks to modern technology, there was no need to trek to a guillotine for a good thing, as good things could be administered remotely. Unmanned drones fired over-the-horizon smart missiles. Snipers blew people up from a mile away. Rockets and RPGs and IEDs all administered someone's idea of a good thing.

There was no end to the number of good things that could be done, and no end to the number of folks who figured they knew a good thing when they saw one.

Someone posted a $75,000 inducement on the internet figuring that murdering Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL) was a good thing. Last month, someone, the same or otherwise, offered $100,000 for killing President George W. Bush. Or Donald Rumsfeld. Or Dick Cheney. Or any U.S. Senator, Congressmember, or their family members.

The FBI was investigating similar threats against Obama and other lawmakers. A lot of people seemed to have their own ideas about which things might be good.

It was a time when anger and disenfranchisement had spilled onto the streets of cities and towns around the world. It was a Time for Outrage!, declared revered diplomat and World War II French Resistance fighter Stephane Hessel.

It was a time that threatened to be full of good things.

And everyone knew how regrettable too much of a good thing could be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Despite 'Occupy' Protests, GOP Schemes Tax Cuts for Rich, Tax Hikes on All Others

Despite thousands of Americans in hundreds of American cities protesting economic injustice, Republicans continued to scheme new ways of lavishing themselves and their wealthy cronies with even more and bigger tax breaks while brutalizing everyone else.

Despite Americans Occupying Wall Street, LA, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Des Moines, Denver, Orlando, Richmond, Oakland, San Diego, Austin, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Philly, Seattle, Madison, Atlanta, Phoenix, Tucson, Baltimore, Tulsa, Louisville, New Orleans and points in between, Republicans continued to plan new ways to soak the poor and middle classes to keep the champagne flowing and the private dancers dancing in so many corporate suites.

Flat Tax. 9-9-9 Tax. Fair Tax. Despite poll after poll confirming more than six in ten Americans wanted to raise taxes on the rich, close budget deficits, and shore up Social Security and Medicare, Republicans continued to figure out new schemes to lower taxes on the rich, soak the poor and middle classes, and plunder and dismantle Social Security and Medicare.

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee even wanted to eliminate completely taxes U.S. corporations paid on overseas profits.

While poll after poll found Americans were fed up with the tax and fiscal polices that had concentrated 84% of America's wealth into the hands of 20% of America's wealthiest, Republicans schemed to transfer even more wealth to their rich cronies. While protests and marches and rallies across the nation decried economic injustice, Republicans schemed to pilfer the few sheckles the poor and middle classes had left to them.

GOP presidential hopeful and ex-pizza mogul Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan dumped the nation's tax code and replaced it with an across-the-board 9% income tax, 9% business tax, and 9% national sales tax. The independant Tax Policy Center found Cain's scheme would hike taxes on families making $10,000-$20,000 a year a mind-numbling 950%.

"It's very, very regressive compared to the current system, and that's largely because we're exempting capital gains, and we're taxing your spending with the sales tax," said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. 'Regressive' meant it bitch-slapped the less well off.

Families making $10,000-$20,000 a year would suffer a $2,700 tax hike. Households making $40,000-$50,000 would suffer a $4,400 tax hike.

84% of Americans would suffer higher taxes under 9-9-9.

There were no bonus points for figuring out who made up the 16% that got a great big tax cut, with their marginal rate slashed from 35% to 9%, and their capital gains taxes eliminated altogether. But some of them were doubtless pizza godfathers.

Marginal GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman's tax plan schemed to coddle his rich buddies with a plan that eliminated all deductions and slashed rates to 8%, 14% and 23%.  Like Cain's plan, Huntsman's scheme would deep-six the mortgage-interest deduction vital to middle-class homeowners, as well as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Then, having thus raised taxes on most everyone, Huntsman wanted to funnel the money to his rich pals and big corporations by slashing corporate taxes and taxes on dividends and capital gains.

Which was, of course, a typical Republican view of reforming the tax code.

Floundering GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry Wednesday resurrected an old Republican favorite, the Flat Tax. He told a Republican gathering he intended to announce his scheme next week. Former minor GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes, who in 1996 ran unsuccessfully on a national flat tax with no deductions, recently joined Perry's brain trust.

"I am going to give the American people a huge big old helping of unbridled truth," Perry drawled to demonstrate his folksiness. "That we can't continue to spend what we are spending, that we can't avoid entitlement reform because we are afraid of the third rail of politics."

In other words, Perry was committed to dismantling Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to fund more tax cuts to his rich cronies. In other words, Perry's flat tax was going to slash taxes for the rich and mega-corporations, and abandon the American people to poverty and destitution without retirement pensions or health care.

In other words, another typical Republican view of reforming the tax code.

Already, Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) disgraced 2012 Budget plan had tried to cut corporate taxes from 35% to 25%, dismantle Medicare, and force future seniors to buy pricey private insurance policies with scant 'premium support' the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office revealed wouldn't cover a third of health care costs. Of course, the rich loved the idea, as they coveted the tax break and the discount off the Cadillac health insurance policies they were buying anyway.

Senate Republicans already demonstrated their utter disdain for 99% of the American people by nixing President Barack Obama's popular jobs legislation, voting down an extension of Obama's middle class payroll tax holiday and rejecting a 5.6% surtax on millionaires and billionaires.

Instead, Republicans advocated replacing income tax with a national sales tax, which they considered a "Fair Tax" because it hit the poor and middle classes hard, while allowing the ultra-wealthy to skate on billions in ill-gotten gains. Instead, Republicans schemed to impose a flat tax or 9-9-9 scam to further coddle billionaires and further oppress the 99%.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) was even leading an effort to eliminate altogether taxes corporations paid on overseas profits.

"We also need to move, I think, to a territorial tax system so we can compete around the world," Camp said in June about his plot to join Japan and Great Britain in not taxing profits their corporations earned overseas.

In the words of Lenny Bruce, "What mean 'we,' Kimosabe?"

General Electric already managed to avoid paying any taxes on $14.2 billion in profits by juggling their books to emphasize overseas profits. As U.S. law currently stood, corporations owed taxes on profits they made anywhere they operated, but were allowed to delay paying taxes on overseas profits until they brought those monies into the U.S.

Camp and Republicans on his committee wanted to change the law so U.S. corporations would never be taxed on overseas profits.

Never mind that it was American taxpayers who'd provided the seed money and the subsidies and the research grants and the infrastructure and the support of the world's biggest economy that enabled those corporations to exist in the first place. Never mind that it was American schools and American innovation and American cops and American firefighters that created and grew and kept secure those corporations to begin with. Never mind it was American military might that made the world safe for capitalism.

Camp and Cain and Huntsman and Perry wanted to throw America under the bus to coddle their plutocrat masters. It was easy to imagine Camp and Cain and Huntsman and Perry and all the Republicans as a human centipede eagerly attaching themselves to corporate excess.

Monday, October 17, 2011

One Month In, Media, Pols Still Don't Get Occupy Wall Street Protests

Flip any TV onto any one of the sixteen gazillion channels of its banal, mindless offerings, and you'll see the one percenters. There'll be one percenters pretending they're cops. There'll be one percenters pretending they're nerds, even if they're the best-looking nerds anyone's ever seen. There'll be one percenters pretending they're sex-crazed suburbanites, all nipped and tucked and botoxed and collagen-injected and personally-trained into that creepy faux-thirty look so prevalent at Republican conventions.

There'll even be one percenters pretending they're journalists.

The mass media, lamestream and otherwise, were of, for, and by one percenters. The mass media's banal, mindless content, lamestream and otherwise, was created by one percenters, green-lighted by boardrooms filled with one percenters, produced by one percenters, and featured photogenic one percenters hawking some other one percenters' goods and services. And, it was all dedicated to generating bottom lines that tickled one percenter fancies.

Most everyone you'd see, or hear, or read about or hear about in the mass media were one percenters. Performers, politicians, and pundits; newsreaders and novelists; even carpenters and cooks were one percenters. Utility infielders for Major League Baseball teams were one percenters.

Little wonder the one percenters' mass media were baffled by the Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread across the nation and the world, and marked their first full month with their biggest demonstrations yet in the capitols of Europe last weekend.

NBC News anchor Lester Holt Sunday acknowledged the Occupy Wall Street movement had galvanized thousands, but wondered, "toward what end?"

"It's not a middle class uprising," one well-heeled bank exec whined to the New York Times. "It's fringe groups. It's people who have time to do this," he said, likely unable to comprehend that 'middle class' didn't mean folks making only five or ten mil a year.

"For the most part, there just doesn't seem to be a coherent message," Tea Party Sen. Pat Toomey (R-FL) derided the movement Monday on Pennsylvania radio station WKOK.

"I am not sure this movement is going to last if it doesn't have some reasonably clear and cogent purpose and message and so far I haven't seen that," Toomey snorted dismissively.

The few 99 percenters anyone ever saw on the one percenters' mass media were usually being subjected to some sort of degrading hazing ritual to win the kind of prizes one percenters understood: money; notoriety; a brand new car!

The few 99 percenters anyone ever saw on the one percenters' mass media were being made to shed weight, or complete humiliating tasks, or sing or dance or otherwise win the approval of one percenters to be granted some cash reward, or a makeover, or, most splendid of all, admission to the ranks of the one percenters themselves.

The only other 99 percenters anyone ever saw on the one percenter's mass media were wearing orange jumpsuits doing perpwalks.

Thus, it was no surprise that Holt and Toomey and Wall Street Financiers were plaintively asking, "What did the Occupiers want?"

Did they want a break on student loans? Did they want a makeover? Did they want a free trip to a Super Bowl party with Deion Sanders and Britney Spears? Did they want a brand new car?

What did Occupiers out in the streets of more than a hundred American cities and in the capitols of Europe demonstrating against economic injustice want? What could scruffy young people and laid-off web designers and grannies on Social Security marching and carrying signs decrying economic injustice possibly desire? What could a global backlash against economic injustice possibly be demanding?

What did the thousands gathered in New York and Tucson and Orlando protesting economic injustice want? What could countless marches and rallies in Phoenix and Sacramento and Richmond and Los Angeles and Chicago and countless other American cities denouncing economic injustice hope to accomplish? What could the massive demonstrations in London and Rome raging against economic injustice possibly have in mind?

A month into the protest, and the one percenters still didn't get it. A month of rallies and marches and demonstrations, and, with all their money, the one percenters still couldn't buy a vowel to get a clue. A month of outrage and exuberance spilling onto the streets of the world, and you still had to go full-on Charlie Sheen to get through: Duh, an end to economic injustice!

The Holts and the Toomeys and the Wall Street tycoons and all the one percenter mass media moguls couldn't imagine that the 99% wanted to stop the one percenters treating the entire planet as a plutocratic one percenter fiefdom. The Holts and the Toomeys and the tycoons and the moguls couldn't get that the 99% were fed up with one percenters preening and pontificating and plundering and pilfering and pillaging and polluting as though hitting the blind-luck, talent-and-brains-and-hard-work-had-nothing-to-do-with-it fame and fortune lottery somehow entitled them to wreck a whole civilization and demean an entire human species and degrade a whole planetary ecosystem so they could wallow in unlimited gold-plated, private jetting, ice sculpture-festooned decadence twenty-four-seven-three-sixty-five-except-in-leap-years-when-it's-three-sixty-six.

The one percenters couldn't rub their brain cells together and figure out the Occupiers didn't give a fig about a makeover, or a Super Bowl party with Deion and Britney, or a brand new car.

The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where everyone - everyone, not just one in twenty-seven million with a chance to win - could find meaningful work that was valued and respected, and provided a decent, dignified life, with promise for the future and a chance for their kids to get on, and the chance to put aside a little - a little - for a comfortable retirement. The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where everyone could get decent health care, and a decent education, and live in a decent home that wasn't underwater because so many right-wing opportunists in so many rip-off financial services institutions sliced and diced and repackaged so much debt until it all collapsed, then came and demanded mo' money, mo' money, mo' money to do it all over again.

The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where all the tax and economic policies and banking and financial rules and regs didn't concentrate 84% of America's wealth into the hands of 20% of the wealthiest. The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where all that wealth wasn't concentrated into so few hands, giving the rich free reign to bludgeon everyone and everything with the blunt instrument of lobbyists and lawyers and bought-and-paid-for politicians to make sure the champagne kept flowing and the private jets kept jetting and Deion and Britney kept grinning and grinding in some luxury suite at the Super Bowl.

"Some of them are pretty radical," Toomey complained about Occupiers. To vilify and demean, he said, "You see the occasional sign that says 'Karl Marx was right.'"

"Karl Marx had it right," Nouriel 'Dr. Doom' Roubini, the New York University economist who'd accurately predicted the 2008 financial meltdown recently told the Wall Street Journal. "At some point, capitalism can self-destroy itself. That's because you can't keep on shifting income from labor to capital without not having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand."

If Marx and Roubini were too radical for Toomey, Marriner Eccles, Chair of the Federal Reserve Board from 1932-1948, said:
"A mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption. Mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth....Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But, by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants."
By the time Eccles stepped down from the Board in 1948, massive government spending on an alphabet soup of Roosevelt Administration stimulus programs and exponentially more massive government spending on thousands of ships, tens of thousands of tanks, hundreds of thousands of aircraft and artillery pieces, millions of trucks and rifles and machine guns and uniforms and boots and shovels and flashlights and bandoliers and bandages during World War II had finally jump-started the greatest economic expansion in history.

The period after World War II saw the greatest growth in middle class prosperity ever. Abroad, the U.S. government funded the rebuilding of Europe and Japan. At home, the U.S. government funded the education of an entire generation of Americans with the G.I. Bill, as well as the building of the Interstate Freeway System, dams, bridges, schools, libraries and even a few rocket ships to the moon.

There was just one little thing about taxes. Throughout that period of unprecedented growth, the top income tax rate never dipped below 70%.

Then, the money moguls and oil barons and corporate tycoons decided taxpayers should stop funding a decent life for the 99%, and start funding a spectacular life for the one percenters. To that end, they promised everyone that slashing taxes for corporations and the rich would make everything much, much, much better.

They didn't mention it would only make things better for themselves, and much, much worse for everyone else.

What the 99% wanted wasn't a makeover, unless it was the making over an entire dysfunctional global economic and financial system that concentrated wealth from the many to the few. What the 99% wanted wasn't a brand new car, unless it was part of a decent life with a good job, and a secure future, and universally accessible health care, and a dignified retirement.

What the 99% wanted was a world remade for the benefit of everyone, not just for the greedy, narcissistic few who gloated over their power and taunted and cheered for the deaths of those who couldn't afford health insurance.

If the one percenters ever figured that out, they could send it gift-wrapped to the 99% at that Super Bowl party with Deion and Britney. If, as was much more likely, the one percenters never figured it out, the 99% would just have to crash that party.

And that was what the 99% wanted.