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marmar's Journal
marmar's Journal
March 1, 2016

Marjorie Cohn: Occupy Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street Speeches

Occupy Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street Speeches

Posted on Feb 29, 2016
By Marjorie Cohn

Hillary Clinton refuses to make public the transcripts of her speeches to big banks, three of which were worth a total of $675,000 to Goldman Sachs. She says she would release the transcripts “if everybody does it, and that includes Republicans.” After all, she complained, “Why is there one standard for me, and not for everybody else?”

As the New York Times editorial board pointed out, “The only different standard here is the one Mrs. Clinton set for herself, by personally earning $11 million in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 for 51 speeches to banks and other groups and industries.”

Hillary is not running in the primaries against Republicans, who, the Times noted, “make no bones about their commitment to Wall Street deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

She is running against Bernie Sanders, “a decades-long critic of Wall Street excess who is hardly a hot ticket on the industry speaking circuit,” according to the Times.

Why do voters need to know what Hillary told the banks? Because it was Wall Street that was responsible for the 2008 recession, making life worse for most Americans. We need to know what, if anything, she promised these behemoths. .............(more)


March 1, 2016

DC Streetcar begins operations, no Sunday service


After more than a decade of planning, construction and testing, Mayor Muriel Bowser and District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Leif A. Dormsjo announced that the DC Streetcar will open for full passenger service on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 10 am, following a brief ceremony.

“I’m proud to announce that Streetcar is ready for passenger service,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “I want to thank the residents of the H Street and Benning Road communities for their patience during the construction and testing of the system. As a way of saying ‘thank you,’ fares will be free on the system for an initial period of time.”

The opening ceremony took place at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 27 on 13th Street, NE between H Street, NE and Wylie Street, NE (intersection of 13th/H). Members of the public were invited to attend the ceremony.

The DC Streetcar standard hours of operation will be:

Monday-Thursday: 6 am – 12 am
Friday: 6 am – 2 am
Saturday: 8 am – 2 am
Holidays: 8 am – 10 pm

March 1, 2016

Miami’s Epic Condo Boom Turns into Glut

Miami’s Epic Condo Boom Turns into Glut
by Wolf Richter • February 29, 2016

[font color="blue"]Real estate agents see “looming” condo price correction.[/font]

Home prices overall are still rising in Miami and surrounding cities. The median price jumped 11.6% in January from a year ago, to $240,000. But according to real estate broker Redfin: unit sales plunged 11.9% from a year ago. The fourth month in a row of declines.

It wasn’t because the market was low on inventory: after an enormous and ongoing construction boom, 6,000 new listings hit the market in January, based on data on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This pushed inventory up to the highest level recorded in “at least” two years.

This already high number of “new listings” may be under-reporting the true number with a sleight of hand: the number of new condos, according to Redfin, “is difficult to measure and may be much higher than what is recorded in industry data, because developers tend to list only a sample of available units on the MLS.”

And most of these units “come in the form of high-end beachfront condos.”

Given the decline in sales and the rise in inventory (however under-reported), the supply of all homes in the Miami metro area has jumped to 6.9 months, and “the balance of power has shifted into buyers’ favor.” ...........(more)


March 1, 2016

Democracy and Decentralization: UK Labour Leaders Reframe Socialism for the 21st Century

Democracy and Decentralization: UK Labour Leaders Reframe Socialism for the 21st Century

Thursday, 25 February 2016 00:00
By Gar Alperovitz and Joe Guinan, Truthout | Op-Ed

Bernie Sanders has made an unprecedented and extraordinary contribution to the US political landscape this election cycle. Whatever the outcome of the primaries, a whole generation has learned that talking about socialism, explicitly and proudly, is no longer as politically radioactive as once supposed. But can we not expect more from our economic populism than just knitting back together a frayed social safety net, kick-starting the engines of Keynesian demand with ecologically appropriate infrastructure and imposing some long overdue reforms on our largest financial institutions? Might the United States not be ready for a socialism that actually takes the question of "who owns the economy" seriously?

Though perhaps tactically understandable, given his own previous efforts, it's a little surprising that Sanders has not made ownership (and new forms of ownership) more of a theme in his campaign. "I don't believe the government should own the means of production," he emphasized in his major speech on democratic socialism in November 2015, even though elsewhere he has given vociferous support for expanding the scope of the US Postal Service into retail banking. Community development advocates are scratching their heads, wondering why Sanders' longtime support at the municipal and state level for transformative ownership strategies - employee ownership, community land trusts, cooperative low-income housing - haven't shown up on the stump. Hillary Clinton's tepid profit-sharing plan, where businesses could claim a tax credit for 15 percent of the amount of profit they share with their workers, and which grows out of Larry Summers' "inclusive capitalism" framework, at least opens the door to a (very) weak form of ownership.

A look at what's brewing on the other side of the Atlantic gives us some reason to dream a little bigger about what might be possible and also politically viable here, especially given the new direction socialist thought is taking all around the world.

Jeremy Corbyn's insurgent, grassroots-powered win that took the British Labour Party back from neoliberal centrists shares a lot with Sanders' presidential primary campaign. However, Corbyn has tackled the ownership question head-on, coming out strong for a modern approach to public ownership as a basic principle to defend and fight for: "After a generation of forced privatisation and outsourcing of public services, the evidence has built up that handing services over to private companies routinely delivers poorer quality, higher cost, worse terms and conditions for the workforce, less transparency and less say for the public." ..........(more)


February 29, 2016

Henry Giroux on State Terrorism and the Ideological Weapons of Neoliberalism

Henry Giroux on State Terrorism and the Ideological Weapons of Neoliberalism

Sunday, 28 February 2016 00:00
By Leslie Thatcher, Truthout | Interview


Leslie Thatcher: Henry, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about America's Addiction to Terrorism. Could you start our discussion by defining what you mean by "terrorism," "addiction" and "America?"

Henry A. Giroux: When I wrote this book, one of the things I was very concerned about was the way the United States since 9/11 was appropriating the notion of terrorism in a very limited and self-serving, if not dangerous, way. Terrorists were officially defined as people who target and attack Western societies. In this case, a terrorist is an outsider, generally imagined as a Muslim, who poses a threat or commits an act of violence associated with a foreign enemy. What was lost in this definition, one largely reproduced and legitimated in the media, was how the American government used terrorism to extend the power of the state, principally what I call the punishing-surveillance state. As the "war on terror" developed, the very character of American life changed.

The "war on terror" morphed into a war on democracy and civil liberties - functioning largely as an act of domestic terrorism. Under such circumstances, not only has the notion of the future been canceled out, but the very idea of democracy has been fractured. At the same time, the "war on terror" has been used to mobilize a culture of fear in order to accelerate both the militarization of everyday life and further concentrate economic and political power in the hands of the financial elite. As the "war on terror" began to mimic the terroristic practices it claimed it was fighting against, the shadow of an authoritarian state emerged as evidenced in the celebration of spectacles of violence and a hyper-masculinity, the militarization of policing, the attack on the social state, the rise of the surveillance state, unapologetic justifications for state torture, a state-supported assassination list, drone warfare, the war on immigrants, the expansion of the incarceration state and the war on whistleblowers. All this barely touches the growing illegalities that emerged under the banner of the "war on terror." These are some of the overt ways the West manipulates terrorism to extend its power over every aspect of American life. Discourses of terrorism are also used to justify the creation of new markets: the defense industries, the arms industries, private security companies and a range of commanding economic spheres that profit enormously from the "war on terrorism."

The United States is now addicted to violence because the "war on terror" relies on an extreme fear and hatred of those considered enemies. As a result, it feeds the machinery of permanent warfare by constantly inventing a demonized Other. I think basically that terror is now such a central part of the political nervous system in the United States that it's become the major organizing principle of society. The discourse of war, violence and fear now largely mold our conception of ourselves, our relations to others and the larger world. The defining vocabularies of American life undercut the possibility of challenging the assumption that violence is the most important tool for addressing social problems. In this instance, the "war on terrorism" has created a war culture that works through various cultural apparatuses from the schools to the mainstream media to produce what amounts to a society steeped in violence. The United States is a country saturated in the discourse of war and violence, and this is partly evident in the widespread use of metaphors of war, extending from the wars on drugs and crime, to the "war on terror" and the so-called war on Christmas.

The "war on terror" not only transforms politics into a pathology to paraphrase Susan Sontag, but it also serves to up the collective pleasure quotient by making extreme violence enjoyable to watch. Americans appear to indulge obsessively in watching violence. Violence is now the essence of how we solve our problems and how we enjoy our pleasure in the absence of genuine and more ethical pleasures - solidarity, community, compassion - that we'd find in an actual democracy.


Although you address structural violence, regularly, I continue to find that people do not understand what that means. Can you explain structural violence, its impact on all our lives and its relevance to the thesis of this book?

Where structural violence really tends to manifest itself is in the massive reorganization of the basic structures of the welfare state, especially since the late 1970s in the United States. Hence, the attack on social welfare, the dismantling of public goods, the privatization of schools, the rise of the national insecurity state and surveillance, the increasing power of money in driving politics, the increase in poverty and homelessness, and a whole gamut of policies implemented to change the structure of the United States from a social state to a punishing state. These are all structural phenomena. When Trump talks about building a wall to keep out immigrants, that's an infrastructure put in place to support a specific racist ideology.

Structural violence refers to those policies that weaken some institutions (such as public schools) and strengthen others (such as policing). Moreover, the ways in which these structures operate reflect highly racist and class-specific policies - not just the militarization of policing, but also the criminalizing of Black social behaviors. What we see happening in poor cities such as Ferguson, Missouri, all across the United States is not just bad policing, but also the implementation of ideological, political and economic structures and policies designed to exercise a form of state violence. Think about how the police and judicial system in Ferguson basically was used to extort money from its residents by imposing on them daily fines for trivial infractions such as the grass being too high. .............(more)


February 29, 2016

Do We Need a Billionaire Class?

from Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality:

Do We Need a Billionaire Class?
February 21, 2016

With worker-owned co-ops and other forms of democratic enterprise, veteran analyst Gar Alperovitz is helping America see, we can create wealth without creating a super wealthy.

In the struggle against economic inequality, historian and political economist Gar Alperovitz tends to take the long view. That may be at least partly because Alperovitz has been at that struggle for quite a long time.

In the 1960s, for instance, Alperovitz worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his aides to explore the potential of an alternate economic order built upon community-owned enterprise.

Alperovitz has always had a foot in both the activist camp of what could be and the political reality of what we can accomplish right now. His many books have linked those two camps — and punctured the pretenses of those who defend America’s astoundingly unequal distribution of income and wealth.


Too Much: We’ve become so unequal, you’ve also noted, that we’ll never become significantly more equal unless we have a fundamental shift in who controls capital, in who owns wealth. A shift to what?

Alperovitz: Wealth brings power, political power, institutional power. Wealth on its own gives people the capacity, as a friend of mine likes to say, to “rent” politicians and control the political process. Wealth gives the wealthy access — access to political levers that alter the way the economy works.

In all the advanced countries, labor organizations used to provide a counterbalance to this wealth. On the shop floor and in the political system, unions directly challenged capital on wages and the distribution of income.

But in the United States we’ve always had a much weaker labor movement than most other advanced capitalist nations, and today our labor counterweight is disappearing. Increasingly, we have no institutional counter to the political power of capital.

Many activists today think that building a movement will solve this problem. We obviously need a movement. But at the heart of the movement that helped make America more equal in the middle of the 20th century, we also had an institution, labor unions.

Unless you can build both institutions and a political movement, you won’t have the power and wherewithal to really challenge capital. ..............(more)

- See more at: http://toomuchonline.org/do-we-really-need-a-billionaire-class/#sthash.UL8NpuoR.dpuf

February 29, 2016

Chris Hedges: The Graveyard of the Elites

from truthdig:

The Graveyard of the Elites

Posted on Feb 28, 2016
By Chris Hedges

Power elites, blinded by hubris, intoxicated by absolute power, unable to set limits on their exploitation of the underclass, propelled to expand empire beyond its capacity to sustain itself, addicted to hedonism, spectacle and wealth, surrounded by half-witted courtiers—Alan Greenspan, Thomas Friedman, David Brooks and others—who tell them what they want to hear, and enveloped by a false sense of security because of their ability to employ massive state violence, are the last to know their privileged world is imploding.

“History,” the Italian sociologist Vilfredo Pareto wrote, “is the graveyard of aristocracies.”

The carnival of the presidential election is a public display of the deep morbidity and artifice that have gripped American society. Political discourse has been reduced by design to trite patriotic and religious clichés, sentimentality, sanctimonious peons to the American character, a sacralization of militarism, and acerbic, adolescent taunts. Reality has been left behind.

Politicians are little more than brands. They sell skillfully manufactured personalities. These artificial personalities are used to humanize corporate oppression. They cannot—and do not intend to—end the futile and ceaseless wars, dismantle the security and surveillance state, halt the fossil fuel industry’s ecocide, curb the predatory class of bankers and international financers, lift Americans out of poverty or restore democracy. They practice anti-politics, or what Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics.” DeMott defined the term in his book “Junk Politics: The Trashing of the American Mind”:

It’s a politics that personalizes and moralizes issues and interests instead of clarifying them. It’s a politics that maximizes threats from abroad while miniaturizing large, complex problems at home. It’s a politics that, guided by guesses about its own profits and losses, abruptly reverses public stances without explanation, often spectacularly bloating problems previously miniaturized (e.g.: Iraq will be over in days or weeks: Iraq is a project for generations). It’s a politics that takes changelessness as its fundamental cause—changelessness meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that, decade after decade, strengthen existing, interlocking American systems of socioeconomic advantage. And it’s a politics marked not only by impatience (feigned or otherwise) with articulated conflict and by frequent panegyrics on the American citizen’s optimistic spirit and exemplary character, but by mawkish fondness for feel-your-pain gestures and idioms.

He went on: “Great causes—they still exist—nourish themselves on firm, sharp awareness of the substance of injustice. Blunting that awareness is a central project of junk politics.” ...............(more)


February 27, 2016

 This Radical Librarian May Soon Run the World’s Largest Library

from The Nation:

Dr. Carla Hayden will be the first woman and African American to fill the post—unless Senate Republicans stand in her way.

By Zoë Carpenter
February 25, 2016

 President Obama made a historic nomination on Wednesday—not to the Supreme Court but to fill the top post next door at the Library of Congress. If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Carla Hayden would be the first woman, and the first African American, to lead the 214-year-old library. She’s a career librarian, distinguishing her from the scholars that have traditionally been chosen for the post. She’s also a champion of privacy rights, and an outspoken critic of the Patriot Act.

 As president of the American Library Association in 2003 and 2004, Hayden went head to head with then–Attorney General John Ashcroft over the post-9/11 surveillance law. Librarians voiced some of the earliest warnings about its implications for civil liberties, particularly in regards to Section 215—known then as the “library records provision”—which the government later relied on to justify some of the dragnet data collection revealed by Edward Snowden. Ashcroft, attempting to stamp out opposition to the act, accused librarians of “baseless hysteria.” He earned a sharp rebuke from Hayden, who wrote that she was “deeply concerned that the Attorney General would be so openly contemptuous” of librarians. Ashcroft called her to apologize, though he continued to deny that the law was being used to snoop in the stacks.

Hayden advanced the notion of librarians as activists, and of libraries as vital community institutions, not just repositories for books. “We serve the underserved,” she told Ms. magazine in 2003, when the publication named her Woman of the Year. “When libraries fight against the PATRIOT Act, or against [mandatory Internet filters], we’re fighting for the public. Most of the people who use public libraries don’t have the opportunity to buy books at a bookstore or on Amazon.com. What the library does is protect the rights of all people to fully and freely access information and to pursue knowledge, without fear of repercussion.” ..................(more)


February 27, 2016

Now It’s Even Worse Than it Was When Lehman Collapsed, But It’s “Contained”

Now It’s Even Worse Than it Was When Lehman Collapsed, But It’s “Contained”
by Wolf Richter • February 26, 2016

[font color="blue"]“Distress” in Bonds Spirals into Financial Crisis Conditions[/font]

The pile of toxic corporate bonds in the US, euphemistically called “distressed” debt, ballooned 15% in the single month of February to $327.8 billion, up 265% from a year ago, according to S&P Capital IQ. The number of S&P rated US companies with distressed debt rose 9% in February to 353, up 128% from a year ago.

The last time the pile of distressed debt had soared to this level was in November 2008, and the last time the number of distressed issuers had shot up to these levels was in October 2008; Lehman had declared bankruptcy in September.

These “distressed” junk bonds sport yields that are at least 10 percentage points above US Treasury yields, according to S&P Capital IQ’s Distressed Debt Monitor. Put into a chart, the fiasco in terms of dollars (in billions, black line) and number of distressed issuers (purple columns) looks like this:

And so Standard & Poor’s US Distress Ratio for junk bonds soared to 33.9 in February, from 29.6 in January, having increased relentlessly for nine months straight, nearly tripling from a year ago! .............(more)


February 27, 2016

Surviving child may hold a key to unraveling deadly shooting in Mason County (Wash.)

[font size="4"]Five people are dead after a shooting and hourslong standoff near Belfair. “It’s a terrible tragedy,” the Mason County sheriff said. A 12-year-old girl was removed from the scene alive.[/font]

BELFAIR, Mason County — Authorities on Saturday likely will release the identities of four people found dead on a rural property near Belfair, along with the name of the man believed to have shot them before shooting himself in front of deputies Friday afternoon.

Investigators will be conducting interviews and reviewing evidence into the weekend to piece together what happened, Mason County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ryan Spurling said.

Authorities learned of the deaths Friday morning when a man called to say that he had shot two children, a woman and another person.

A SWAT team, deputies and police responded to the property, which is on Northeast Horseshoe Drive, a dirt- and stone-packed road in a rural, wooded area northwest of Belfair, southwest of Bremerton. ....................(more)


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