Friday, May 16, 2014

Spying is Meant to Crush Citizens’ Dissent, not Catch Terrorists

 The Big Secret Behind the Spying Program

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While many Americans understand why the NSA is conducting mass surveillance of U.S. citizens, some are still confused about what’s really going on.

In his new book, No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald writes:

The perception that invasive surveillance is confined only to a marginalised and deserving group of those “doing wrong” – the bad people – ensures that the majority acquiesces to the abuse of power or even cheers it on. But that view radically misunderstands what goals drive all institutions of authority. “Doing something wrong” in the eyes of such institutions encompasses far more than illegal acts, violent behaviour and terrorist plots. It typically extends to meaningful dissent and any genuine challenge. It is the nature of authority to equate dissent with wrongdoing, or at least with a threat.

The record is suffused with examples of groups and individuals being placed under government surveillance by virtue of their dissenting views and activism – Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, anti-war activists, environmentalists. In the eyes of the government and J Edgar Hoover’s FBI, they were all “doing something wrong”: political activity that threatened the prevailing order.

The FBI’s domestic counterintelligence programme, Cointelpro, was first exposed by a group of anti-war activists who had become convinced that the anti-war movement had been infiltrated, placed under surveillance and targeted with all sorts of dirty tricks. Lacking documentary evidence to prove it and unsuccessful in convincing journalists to write about their suspicions, they broke into an FBI branch office in Pennsylvania in 1971 and carted off thousands of documents.

Files related to Cointelpro showed how the FBI had targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, black nationalist movements, socialist and communist organizations, anti-war protesters and various rightwing groups. The bureau had infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them.

Those revelations led to the creation of the Senate Church Committee, which concluded: “[Over the course of 15 years] the bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilate operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of first amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.”

These incidents were not aberrations of the era. During the Bush years, for example, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed, as the group put it in 2006, “new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups“. The Pentagon was “keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database”. The evidence shows that assurances that surveillance is only targeted at those who “have done something wrong” should provide little comfort, since a state will reflexively view any challenge to its power as wrongdoing.

The opportunity those in power have to characterise political opponents as “national security threats” or even “terrorists” has repeatedly proven irresistible. In the past decade, the government, in an echo of Hoover’s FBI, has formally so designatedenvironmental activists, broad swaths of anti-government rightwing groups, anti-war activists, and associations organised around Palestinian rights. Some individuals within those broad categories may deserve the designation, but undoubtedly most do not, guilty only of holding opposing political views. Yet such groups are routinely targeted for surveillance by the NSA and its partners.

One document from the Snowden files, dated 3 October 2012, chillingly underscores the point. It revealed that the agency has been monitoring the online activities of individuals it believes express “radical” ideas and who have a “radicalising” influence on others.

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The NSA explicitly states that none of the targeted individuals is a member of a terrorist organisation or involved in any terror plots. Instead, their crime is the views they express, which are deemed “radical“, a term that warrants pervasive surveillance and destructive campaigns to “exploit vulnerabilities”.

Among the information collected about the individuals, at least one of whom is a “US person”, are details of their online sex activities and “online promiscuity” – the porn sites they visit and surreptitious sex chats with women who are not their wives. The agency discusses ways to exploit this information to destroy their reputations and credibility.

The NSA’s treatment of Anonymous, as well as the vague category of people known as “hacktivists”, is especially troubling and extreme. That’s because Anonymous is not actually a structured group but a loosely organised affiliation of people around an idea: someone becomes affiliated with Anonymous by virtue of the positions they hold. Worse still, the category “hacktivists” has no fixed meaning: it can mean the use of programming skills to undermine the security and functioning of the internetbut can also refer to anyone who uses online tools to promote political ideals. That the NSA targets such broad categories of people is tantamount to allowing it to spy on anyone anywhere, including in the US, whose ideas the government finds threatening.


Greenwald told Democracy Now yesterday:

People are aware of J. Edgar Hoover’s abuses. The nature of that series of events is that the United States government looks at people who oppose what they do as being, quote-unquote, “threats.” That’s the nature of power, is to regard anybody who’s a threat to your power as a broad national security threat.

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There has already been reporting that shows that—the document, for example, in the book that shows the NSA plotting about how to use information that it collected against people it considers, quote, “radicalizers.” These are people the NSA itself says are not terrorists, do not belong to terrorist organizations, do not plan terrorist attacks. They simply express ideas the NSA considers radical. The NSA has collected their online sexual activity, chats of a sexual nature that they’ve had, pornographic websites that they visit, and plans, in the document, on how to use this information publicly to destroy the reputations or credibility of those people to render them ineffective as advocates. There are other documents showing the monitoring of who visits the WikiLeaks website and the collection of data that can identify who they are. There’s information about how to use deception to undermine people who are affiliated with the online activism group Anonymous.


Recent stories show that Greenwald is right:

  • In 1972, the CIA Director Relabeled “Dissidents” As “Terrorists” So He Could Continue Spying On Them … And Nothing Has Changed
  • 500 Years of History Shows that Mass Spying Is ALWAYS Aimed at Crushing Dissent
  • “These Programs Were Never About Terrorism: They’re About Economic Spying, Social Control, and Diplomatic Manipulation. They’re About Power”
And it’s not just spying …

The government may treat anyone who challenges its policies as terrorists.  For example:

  • The former head of the NSA and CIA compared privacy advocates to terrorists
  • Peaceful protest may be treated as terrorism by the FBI
  • Questioning war may be considered terrorism
The indefinite detention law may be used against American dissenters. Specifically, the trial judge in the lawsuit challenging the law had asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Chris Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge.

Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead writes:

No matter what the Obama administration may say to the contrary, actions speak louder than words, and history shows that the U.S. government is not averse to locking up its own citizens for its own purposes. What the NDAA does is open the door for the government to detain as a threat to national security anyone viewed as a troublemaker. According to government guidelines for identifying domestic extremists—a word used interchangeably with terrorists, that technically applies to anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in order to criticize the government.


Daniel Ellsberg notes that Obama’s claim of power to indefinitely detain people without charges or access to a lawyer or the courts is a power that even King George – the guy we fought the Revolutionary War against – didn’t claim.  (And former judge and adjunct professor of constitutional law Andrew Napolitano points out that Obama’s claim that he can indefinitely detain prisoners even after they are acquitted of their crimes is a power that even Hitler and Stalin didn’t claim.)

And the former top NSA official who created NSA’s mass surveillance system says, “We are now in a police state“.

The Detroit Model: Permanent Rule by the Banks

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The Michigan legislature is debating a series of bills to impose a financial authority on Detroit that would remain in place long after the city emerges from bankruptcy. An unelected financial “oversight” committee, known as the Michigan Settlement Administration Authority (MSAA), would run the city for two decades, effectively usurping the local government.

When the governor of Michigan installed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr in Detroit last March, it was presented as a temporary measure, lasting 18 months at most. Now, according to the restructuring plan submitted by Orr, a bankruptcy lawyer with close ties to Wall Street, a new body “composed of individuals with recognized financial competence and experience” will have the authority to limit city borrowing and expenditures and tear up labor agreements.

The authority is to be charged with ensuring that the city “continues to implement financial and operational reforms” outlined in the restructuring plan. This includes an effective 30 percent cut in pensions and health care benefits for more than 30,000 current and retired public employees. The “robust governance structure” outlined in Orr’s plan will promote “long-term public confidence in the fiscal health and stability of Detroit, in particular with financial markets.”

It could hardly be stated more clearly: the proposed body will be accountable solely to Wall Street. It will remain in power indefinitely and will not be subject to a popular vote or recall.

The state of Michigan has been at the forefront of establishing anti-democratic forms of rule. Twelve Michigan cities and school districts—all ravaged by decades of deindustrialization, corporate tax cuts and financial manipulation—are currently under the control of emergency managers.

Orr, who has described himself as a “benevolent dictator,” has outlined a plan to attack public employees, override constitutional protections for pensions, and hand over city-owned assets—including the Detroit Institute of Arts and the streetlight, electrical grid, and water and sewerage systems—to private interests and big investors.

What is happening in Detroit is a model for cities and states across the country that are looking to unload pensions to pay off the debts stemming from the financial crisis of 2008 and the years of economic stagnation. “If this city gets it right, it’s going to lay a nice foundation for other cities, other municipalities to go forward,” said, Martha Kopacz, the “turnaround expert” hired by the bankruptcy court to review Detroit’s financial plan.

As Detroit was driven into bankruptcy, the Obama administration explicitly rejected a bailout and opposed all efforts to block the intervention of the courts. The White House has given its full support to the bankruptcy, which it sees as a setting a national precedent for the destruction of the jobs, pensions and health benefits of public employees across the US.

The naked rule of the banks, dispensing with political forms that can in any way be affected by popular pressure, is part of an international process. In country after country, newspaper editorialists, academics and other mouthpieces for the financial aristocracy are echoing the comments of right-wing columnist George Will, who declared last year that “self government has failed” in Detroit.

Instead, they say, what is needed are financial experts and technocrats who will be free to impose unpopular austerity measures without concern that they will be thrown out by voters who do not understand the need for “hard choices.”

In Europe, the so-called “Troika” of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund has brought down elected governments as part of an unrelenting drive to wipe out public-sector jobs, increase the age of retirement, gut health care and pensions, lower minimum wages and introduce “labor flexibility.” This has been accompanied by the banning of strikes and the encouragement of right-wing and fascistic movements to suppress popular opposition.

The banks are imposing a historic reversal in conditions for the working class in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland and other countries, with joblessness, hunger and disease returning to levels not seen since the Great Depression and World War II. Meanwhile, the ruling elites of Europe, with the encouragement of the US, are rearming and preparing for a catastrophic military conflict with Russia.

Behind the collapse of democracy is the immense growth of social inequality and the unprecedented concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny minority of the population. Well aware of the deep working class hostility to its anti-social measures and growing increasingly anxious that the discredited political parties and trade unions will not be able to contain popular resistance much longer, the corporate and financial ruling elite is dispensing with democratic trappings and turning to authoritarian forms of rule.

The Obama administration has overseen a massive expansion of police state measures, including NSA spying, drone assassinations of US citizens, and the frame-up of political dissenters. Its targets have included Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Bradley Manning, as well as anti-NATO protesters in Chicago and Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City.

What is happening in Detroit reveals the social purpose of these measures. Political forms are being restructured in accordance with the reality of social relations, which are characterized by an immense chasm between a super-rich minority and the vast majority of the population.

The pension cuts and other austerity measures included in Orr’s plan of adjustment for Detroit are only the beginning. The Wall Street banks and their political front-men are preparing even deeper attacks in Detroit, as shown by the plans to establish a permanent bankers’ dictatorship. This Detroit precedent will be used to accelerate the social counterrevolution against the working class throughout the US and internationally.

Department of Agriculture buying unknown amount of submachine guns and high-capacity magazines

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The United States Department of Agriculture is probably one of the last federal agencies you’d expect to request a substantial amount, if any, of firearms, but that’s precisely what it did last week.

In a solicitation posted on the government’s Federal Business Opportunities website on May 7, the Agriculture Department requested an unknown number of submachine guns. The department also states it wants to get its hands on weapons with night sights in the front and the rear and magazines with a 30-round capacity.

The solicitation, which also calls for the submachine guns to be lightweight and feature slings, says:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, located in Washington, DC, pursuant to the authority of FAR Part 13, has a requirement for the commerical [sic] acquisition of submachine guns, .40 Cal. S&W, ambidextrous safety, semi-automatic or 2 shot burts [sic] trigger group, Tritium night sights for front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore grip) and scope (top rear), stock-collapsilbe [sic] or folding, magazine - 30 rd. capacity, sling, light weight, and oversized trigger guard for gloved operation.”


Exactly why the USDA wants or needs to acquire multiple submachine guns is unclear, as the solicitation does not go into much detail regarding the purpose. RT attempted to reach both of the individuals listed as contacts on the USDA solicitation to learn more about the request, but was unable to immediately obtain a response from either.

The request has captured the attention of many conservative, pro-gun websites, though, which have raised questions about it.

One possible explanation for the request could be that the weapons would be used by the law enforcement division of the United States Forest Service, which falls under the jurisdiction of the USDA. The Forest Service is not listed specifically in the text of the solicitation – again, nothing is mentioned that could be related to the ultimate purpose of the acquisition – causing some to fret over the possibility that the guns would be used elsewhere.

"[The USDA] will no doubt attempt to justify their purchase of military hardware by explaining that they conduct criminal investigations and may need to do armed raids,” wrote Bob Owens at the website Bearing Arms. “This is part of a trend to arm every branch of federal government, whether the individual agency has a legitimate need for a paramilitary force or not."
There has been concern recently over the purchasing decisions of government agencies, particularly the Department for Homeland Security, which critics have claimed buys excessive amounts of ammunition. A report by the Government Accountability Office in January, however, dismissed such concern, saying ammunition purchases by DHS have actually gone down since 2009.

Meanwhile, earlier this week a journalist at WND made headlines for suggesting the State Department is shopping for large amounts of explosives and detonator devices. Solicitations for explosives were also posted on the FBO website, but when asked to comment on the requests an agency official laughed off the question, saying “I’m not sure what you’re looking for.”

DOJ Says Americans Have No 4th Amendment Protections At All When They Communicate With Foreigners

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We've already questioned if it's really true that the 4th Amendment doesn't apply to foreigners (the Amendment refers to "people" not "citizens"). But in some new filings by the DOJ, the US government appears to take its "no 4th Amendment protections for foreigners" to absurd new levels. It says, quite clearly, that because foreigners have no 4th Amendment protections it means that any Americans lose their 4th Amendment protections when communicating with foreigners. They're using a very twisted understanding of the (already troubling) third party doctrine to do this. As you may recall, after lying to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department said that it would start informing defendants if warrantless collection of information under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) was used in the investigation against them.

Last October, it finally started alerting some defendants, leading courts to halt proceedings and re-evaluate. As two of those cases have moved forward, the DOJ is trying to defend those cases, and one way it's doing so is to flat out say that Americans have no 4th Amendment protections when talking to foreigners.
The Supreme Court has long held that when one person voluntarily discloses information to another, the first person loses any cognizable interest under the Fourth Amendment in what the second person does with the information. . . . For Fourth Amendment purposes, the same principle applies whether the recipient intentionally makes the information public or stores it in a place subject to a government search. Thus, once a non-U.S. person located outside the United States receives information, the sender loses any cognizable Fourth Amendment rights with respect to that information. That is true even if the sender is a U.S. person protected by the Fourth Amendment, because he assumes the risk that the foreign recipient will give the information to others, leave the information freely accessible to others, or that the U.S. government (or a foreign government) will obtain the information.
This argument is questionable on so many levels. First, it's already relying on the questionable third party doctrine, but it seems to go much further, by then arguing that merely providing information to a foreign person means that it's okay for the US government to snoop on it without a warrant. The DOJ further defends this by saying, effectively, that foreign governments might snoop on it as well, so that makes it okay:

Moreover, any expectation of privacy of defendant in his electronic communications with a non-U.S. person overseas is also diminished by the prospect that his foreign correspondent could be a target for surveillance by foreign governments or private entities.
With this, it appears the DOJ is trying to attack the idea of the reasonable expectation of privacy that has been the basis of the 4th Amendment in the US. They're effectively arguing that since foreign governments might look at the info too, you should have no expectation of privacy in any communications with foreigners and thus you've waived all 4th Amendment protections in that content.

That's crazy.

In fact, they flat out admit that they're stripping Americans of any 4th Amendment rights with this claim, noting that communicating with foreigners means you've likely "eliminated" your 4th Amendment protections.

The privacy rights of US persons in international communications are significantly diminished, if not completely eliminated, when those communications have been transmitted to or obtained from non-US persons located outside the United States.
The implications of this argument, if upheld by the court is staggering. It would seem to fly in the face of basic logic and historical 4th Amendment law, all discussing how it's the expectation of privacy that matters. And I'm fairly certain that most of us who regularly communicate with folks outside the US have quite a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications (though, to be fair, I've been much more actively using encryption when talking to people outside the US lately).

As Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU points out, this eviscerates basic Constitutional protections for many Americans:

The government's argument is not simply that the NSA has broad authority to monitor Americans' international communications. The US government is arguing that the NSA's authority is unlimited in this respect. If the government is right, nothing in the Constitution bars the NSA from monitoring a phone call between a journalist in New York City and his source in London. For that matter, nothing bars the NSA from monitoring every call and email between Americans in the United States and their non-American friends, relatives, and colleagues overseas.
In the government's view, there is no need to ask whether the 2008 law violates Americans' privacy rights, because in this context Americans have no rights to be violated.
I'm curious if anyone wants to defend this as a reasonable interpretation of the 4th Amendment, because it seems quite clearly a complete bastardization of what the 4th Amendment says and how courts have interpreted it over the years.

The Corporate Gods of America

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Can anyone doubt that the United States is governed for the corporate good? The lofty concept of ‘for the people’ evaporated into mythical fairy dust generations ago.

In the new millennium, any pretense to serve the people, rather than the corporation, has been swept away; apparently, the elected, so-called representatives, and the corporations who own them, are convinced that the 99% are sufficiently lulled into a somnolent belief that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world, and what’s good for business is good for them. Those with that bizarre belief overlook some very basic and rudimentary facts:

* Safety Laws. Opposed by corporations, lax or non-existent safety laws benefit the corporate bottom line at the expense of the individual. Cramming more workers into a factory may jeopardize their health in a number of ways, but more workers produce more goods, and that’s good for the corporation.

* Pollution Standards. Such standards allow millions of people to live in at least acceptable air quality, and to be comfortable drinking tap water. Yet requiring corporations to reduce the amount of waste they unleash into the air and/or water costs them money, without bringing any financial return. With no return on their investment, corporations oppose such standards.

* A Low Minimum Wage. Keeping the minimum wage low increases corporate profits while keeping countless individuals and families in poverty, another plus for corporations. It enables corporate executives to receive multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses, while their employees can barely afford food, let alone such luxuries as higher education for themselves or their children. Add to the exorbitant cost of a higher education the further disincentive of high-interest student loans, and an uneducated, desperate workforce will be happy to grab any minimum-wage job available, and will be hesitant to demand anything better.

* Off-shoring. The practice of many, if not most, large corporations of sending jobs to nations that pay nearly slave wages, with no safety standards, also helps profiteers, while depriving millions of U.S. citizens of employment. The damage to the health and well-being of the foreign workers is not even a consideration for the corporations whose work they do.

* Destroying or Weakening Unions. For generations, workers united were able to improve their lot through collective bargaining. Now, however, corporations, along with the government officials they have bought and paid for, strive to weaken or destroy unions. In Wisconsin, for example, during the 2012 recall election, about 66% of anti-union Governor Scott Walker’s funding came from out of state, much of it from conservative business groups, including the Koch brothers and Sheldon Anderson. Mr. Walker’s total contributions were $30.5 million. His opponent, Tom Barrett, received about 26% of his $4 million from outside groups.

* Corporate Control of the Media. As recently as 1983, about fifty companies owned 90% of the U.S. media. Today, 90% of the media is owned by only six companies. This means that 232 media executives control what 277,000,000 U.S. citizens see. Why wouldn’t they want the citizens to see only that ‘news’ and ‘information’ that will best enhance shareholder value, and thus, their own salaries?

The Supreme Court has been complicit in all this. Once regarded as the last bastion of Constitutional interpretation, the justices today, and for some time, appear to be hacks, worshipping at the corporate altars they support. In 2010, in Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission, the Court determined that the First Amendment prohibited governmental restrictions on political donations by ‘corporations, associations or labor unions’. This opened the financial floodgates of wealthy businesses to donate unlimited amounts of money to candidates who would support their causes, few of which benefit the average working individual.

Is all this not a major component of fascism? Is not holding corporate goals as the highest god, coupled with a fanatical preoccupation with national security, among the foundational pillars of a fascist state?

Yet nearly all politicians, left, right and center, wrap themselves in the American flag and proclaim the greatness of the U.S. Worse yet, it seems that so many of the citizen-lemmings, when they see the flag, grow teary-eyed and support policies and programs that serve the corporate good at the expense of their own basic needs.

The ‘Occupy’ movement takes a stand against this self-destructive mindset, but any movement depends on publicity, and corporate-owned media will not attend to causes that don’t serve its interests. Social media may be the last tool available, but corporations have not ignored its dollar value, or the potential impact it could have if ‘we the people’ are allowed to control it. Net neutrality, the principle that every website, service and app is treated the same by the Internet service provider, has drawn the attention of those who seek to enrich their own, already-bulging coffers. Under new proposals by the U.S. government, websites would get service dependent on what they are willing to pay for it. Once again, the small, independent entrepreneur is at the mercy of the corporate competitor, and, in most cases, has no chance of success.

So, this is life today in the much-vaunted ‘land of opportunity’. If one is already wealthy, opportunity abounds. However, for the 99% that aren’t, scrambling to make ends meet may be the best one can do.

US Government's New Plan for Internet IDs Has Scary Implications

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While internet activists are distracted with recent attacks on net neutrality, the government is quietly introducing an internet ID program in Pennsylvania and Michigan that — if eventually broadened as intended — would strip internet users of their privacy and rights.

The program, named the “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace,” is starting small, consolidating accounts for public programs like welfare and health services. If the program were to stop at linking government accounts, it probably wouldn’t be such a big deal. The problem, however, is that United States officials are hoping that it’s the first step in a plan to make IDs that would be used uniformly throughout the entire internet.

The government is championing the program as one that promotes “convenience.” Certainly, it would be “convenient” for internet users to have a single log-in and password for every activity on the internet, but it’s far more “convenient” for the government to be able to keep tabs on everything you do, type, search for, view, and purchase with a single account to monitor.

Tech experts fret that a single ID would eliminate the rights of internet users. For example, anonymous commenting, an act protected by the Supreme Court as free speech, would disappear if web surfers were unable to comment anywhere without being logged in to their official, government-issued accounts. Furthermore, any semblance of internet privacy would be obliterated considering how easily people’s activity could be tracked. The decision to initially target people in poverty for this type of system is hardly surprising since they are less likely to take issue with privacy concerns with more pressing matters taking priority in their lives.

The other notion that a single ID would somehow add to cybersecurity seems similarly ludicrous. Anytime large amounts of people’s essential information is stored in a single place, it attracts hackers. Considering the number of major credit card breaches in the past year, it’s not hard to imagine that datacenters housing passwords for all aspects of people’s lives would become prime targets for hackers looking to commit fraud.

The timing of this implementation is even more questionable. Given the public backlash against the NSA, it’s especially strange that the U.S. government is already rolling out a new invasive form of internet surveillance. However, officials insist that Americans will be protected from government intrusion, by giving control of the IDs to corporations outside of the government.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that much more comforting to know that a private tech company like Google or Comcast would have that access to all that information instead. Besides, given the obvious unholy alliance between government and corporations, what’s the difference there anyway?  Precedent has shown us that judges are willing to blindly grant government agencies access to this type of information 99.9% of the time.

How Five American Companies Control What You Think

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Heavy distortions and suppressions of information regarding current Ukrainian events are appearing in US media.

You might wonder how so many different news sources could all completely avoid mentioning that the US government is consciously supporting two radical far-right parties, Svoboda and Right Sector, which are in control of key positions in the coup-installed new ‘government’ of the Ukraine. You might also wonder why almost all the US mass media news sources could conceal – with vague phrases like”the sequence of events is not clear’ and similar techniques – the role of these extremist organization in murdering dozens of unarmed civilians in the past few days in southeastern Ukraine.

The explanation is surprisingly simple: There aren’t numerous US mass media news sources at all; there are just five. Five giant corporations control 90 percent of US mass media. And direct links connect all five of these media conglomerates to the political establishment and the economic and political power-elites of the United States.

These five conglomerates are Time Warner, Disney, Murdochs’ News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS). Their control spans most of the newspapers, magazines, books, radio and TV stations, movie studios, and much of the web news content of the United States. These conglomerates are in large measure responsible for inculcating the social, political, economic, and moral values of both adults and children in the United States.

It was not always like this. Immediately after World War II three out of four US newspapers were independently owned. But the media-control numbers have been shrinking ever since then due to mergers, acquisitions, and other processes. By 1983, 50 corporations controlled 90 percent of US media. But today just five giant conglomerates control 90 percent of what most Americans read, watch, and listen to.

It is notable and should be emphasized that all the five major media conglomerates are corporate members of the Council on Foreign relations. This organization is a US think-tank whose members have been instrumental in formulating US government policies resulting in sanctions, destabilization efforts, and outright military attacks on nations which have never attacked the US.

The Council’s members’ activities helped to promote the Iraq war, the bombings of Serbia and Libya, and the recent overthrow of the elected government of the Ukraine. The promotion of these policies by the media conglomerates which belong to the Council has been key to preparing the American public to accept these policies.

The media conglomerates’ fellow members of the Council on Foreign relations include a large number of large corporations, powerful CEO’s, and present and former government officials. One prominent member is former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose doctrine calling for US control of the Eurasian landmass, which includes Russia and China, is one of the guiding elements in US foreign policy.

It should also be noted that the conglomerates themselves are giant corporations. They are among the largest companies in the world. They contribute to both of America’s big parties, the Republicans and Democrats, while supporting their policies. US media companies have also received from the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations progressively greater media deregulation, which permitted ever greater media ownership concentration, culminating for the first time in allowing all the media in a community or city to be owned by one company.

Pages would be needed to list the thousands of information outlets now controlled by the five conglomerates. A few examples will have to suffice. News Corp owns Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, Barrons weekly, the London times, far Eastern Economic review, the New York Post, and hundreds of other large and small city and community newspapers, magazines, and internet properties.

Time-warner owns Time Magazine, Fortune Magazine, People Magazine, Sports Illustrated, CNN news group, Turner networks and movies, Warner brothers films, DC Comics, Times online systems, and much more.

And Disney is not just about Mickey Mouse Cartoons these days, as it owns ABC Television, magazine publishing business, Disney Films, Lucas Films, and a huge number of other media and entertainment enterprises.

Following the Government Wherever it goes

Now let us perform a thought experiment to see how far the conglomerates can go to support government foreign policies. Imagine that US policy-makers decide a few years from now that the current US-supported and unelected Ukrainian ‘government’ no longer serves their interests.

They might then announce that this government is ‘undemocratic’, ‘is a human rights violator’ or that it is a ‘failed state’ and that ‘there must be ‘regime change’ to ‘protect the Ukrainian people.’

Following suit, the media conglomerates would then ‘sound the alarm.’ They would ‘discover’ the reality – which has existed all along – that “fascist or extreme-right forces are part of the coup-imposed Ukrainian ‘government,” that there is a “history of anti-Semitism,” “murders of ethnic-minorities,” and conclude that the US government is right and a humanitarian intervention to remove the government is required.

Is this scenario an impossible one? Not at all. It is precisely how the repressive and brutal government of Saddam Hussein, to cite just one example, was dealt with. For many years he was praised by US officials as a “stalwart ally” and sent billions of dollars’ worth of military aid – and the media conglomerates went along for the ride.

Then, in the twinkling of an eye he was converted by the US government – and by the media – into a“tyrant,” a “ruthless killer,” a possessor of “weapons of mass destruction” aimed at the US; and a man whose country must be invaded.

Or consider Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan. For years the US government supported them with weapons and training and portrayed them as ‘freedom fighters’ against their secular ‘socialist government’ and the ‘Russian occupation’. The media for the most part went along with this narrative.

But then, after 9/11, in the twinkling of an eye, the fundamentalists became (in the eyes of the government and the conglomerates) ‘medievalists,’ ‘oppressors of women,’ and harborers of ‘terrorism’ who must be eliminated via a US invasion.

Recently, the US government, unable after ten years of military occupation to eliminate the Taliban resistance, has again changed course, and is seeking negotiations with the Taliban to include them in the Afghani government. And again the five conglomerates have also changed course to follow the government.

The best advice for anyone seeking to understand current events is to look at the history and realities behind them, and to look at media not controlled by the five conglomerates. Media – including print, television, and internet – is available in multiple languages including English from Russia, China, India, Pakistan, South Africa, the Middle East, Brazil, and other countries. You can easily find this media by internet search. No doubt all media contains bias; but at least your mind will not be shaped solely by the US narrative.

Cities All Over America Are Becoming Extremely Cruel To The Homeless

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Have you ever given food to a homeless person?  Well, if you do it again in the future it might be a criminal act depending on where you live.  Right now, there are dozens of major U.S. cities that have already passed laws against feeding the homeless.  As you will read about below, in some areas of the country you can actually be fined hundreds of dollars for just trying to give food to a hungry person.  I know that sounds absolutely insane, but this is what America is turning into.  Communities all over the country are attempting to "clean up the streets" by making it virtually illegal to either be homeless or to help those that are homeless.  Instead of spending more money on programs to assist the homeless, local governments are bulldozing tent cities and giving homeless people one way bus tickets out of town.  We are treating some of the most vulnerable members of our society like human garbage, and it is a national disgrace.

What does it say about our country when we can't even give a warm sandwich to a desperately hungry person that is sleeping on the streets?  A retired couple down in Florida named Debbie and Chico Jimenez wanted to do something positive for their community during their retirement years, so they started feeding the homeless in Daytona Beach.  But recently the police decided to crack down on their feeding program and slapped everyone involved with a $373 fine...

For the past year, the Jimenezes have set up shop every Wednesday on Manatee Island in Daytona Beach, Fla., where they feed hot dogs, chicken, pasta salad and other BBQ staples to about 100 homeless people, WFTV reported. Handing out meals is just one aspect of the ministry the two founded, Spreading the Word Without Saying a Word, to help people living in poverty.

But on Wednesday, the Jimenezes said that without warning, they and four other volunteers were accosted by police, fined and told that they could be thrown in jail if they continue their program, according to NBC News.

Each of the six was fined $373 and were given 10 days to either pay up or go to court.

"We’re going to court," Debbie Jimenez, 52, a former auto parts store manager, told NBC News. "The police don’t like it. But how can we turn our backs on the hungry? We can’t."

Don't the police down in Daytona Beach have something better to do with their time?

Sadly, more than 50 major cities have passed laws against feeding the homeless at this point.  It appears that "cleaning up the streets" has become a big point of emphasis all over the nation.

And what the city of Camden, New Jersey just did is even worse than what happened in Daytona Beach.

Camden just bulldozed an entire tent city and dumped all of the belongings of the homeless people living there into the trash...

Hazmat teams showed up at the camps in the early morning to search for syringes. A drug-sniffing dog followed a police officer around the area. And bulldozers tossed trash and discarded belongings into dumpsters before razing the premises.

Over the past few weeks, flyers had warned people in the tent cities that this was going to happen. Yet it still seemed surreal to many of them that their communities were about to be demolished for good.

But for most of the people that were living in that tent city, there is no place else for them to go.  The homeless shelters in the area are at max capacity, and so many of them will end up sleeping in the streets without any shelter at all...

Aaron Howe, the "mayor" of a tent city that had 12 tents the night before eviction day, said he had called every shelter in town and not a single place had room for him and his girlfriend.

"There's no available spots, and the city is saying if we pitch a tent somewhere else they're gonna rip it down," he said. "It's not gonna look good when there's a bunch of homeless on the streets."

Camden has got to be one of the most mismanaged communities in the entire country.  Why is Camden spending time and money bulldozing homeless communities when it has so many other problems?  For much more on the nightmare that Camden has become, please see my previous article entitled "Camden, New Jersey: One Of Hundreds Of U.S. Cities That Are Turning Into Rotting, Decaying Hellholes".

Other big cities that are a little bit more "progressive" are attempting to get rid of their homeless populations by giving them one way tickets out of town.  Some of the major cities that are doing this include San Diego and San Francisco...

When her Greyhound bus pulled into town 6 months ago, Maria Castillo got off with two bags and dream.

"Start over, start a new life," said the 42-year-old.

Castillo had been homeless in San Diego when a social worker offered her a one-way bus ticket to Portland.

"They said come here because all the opportunities in Portland, Oregon," she said.

But Castillo said life isn't much better in her new town. She's still homeless. A Unit 8 investigation found several cities from San Diego to San Francisco are providing one-way bus tickets to the homeless.

As shocking as everything that you just read is, what one lawmaker out in Hawaii is doing tops it all.  In a previous article, I described how a state representative named Tom Brower has actually been using a sledgehammer to destroy shopping carts used by homeless people.  Just check out the following short excerpt from an RT article that was published a few months ago...

In the past two weeks residents in Hawaii noticed what appeared to be a crazed individual carrying a sledgehammer through the streets of Honolulu, a state lawmaker looking to rid the city of homeless people by targeting their belongings.

State Representative Tom Brower (D) is currently dedicated to dealing out his own personal brand of “justice” by seeking out homeless people and destroying their possessions. Brower estimates that he has used the sledgehammer to smash at least 30 shopping carts, rendering them useless by bashing in the front wheels.

“I got tired of telling people I’m trying to pass laws. I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets,” he told Hawaii News Now. “I find abandoned junk, specifically shopping carts, and I remove them.”

Is this how our society is going to treat those that are down on their luck from now on?

Where is the love?

Where is the compassion?

Why can't we seem to be able to take care of these people?

The federal government sure seems to have plenty of money to waste on other things.  For example, it is being reported that workers at an Obamacare processing facility in Missouri are being paid to do nothing but stare at their computers...

Employees at an ObamaCare processing center in Missouri with a contract worth $1.2 billion are reportedly getting paid to do nothing but sit at their computers.

"Their goals are set to process two applications per month and some people are not even able to do that," a whistleblower told KMOV-TV, referring to employees hired to process paper applications for ObamaCare enrollees.

The facility in Wentzville is operated by Serco, a company owned by a British firm that was awarded $1.2 billion in part to hire 1,500 workers to handle paper applications for coverage under the law, according to The Washington Post.

The whistleblower employee told the station that weeks can pass without data entry workers receiving even a single application to process. Employees reportedly spend their days staring at their computers, according to a KMOX-TV report.

So we have millions upon millions of dollars to waste on that, but we can't take care of our homeless population?

And without a doubt, the need to help the homeless is greater than it ever has been before.  Right now, there are 1.2 million public school students in America that are homeless.  That number is an all-time record, and it has grown by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

In addition, there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity.  Even in the midst of this so-called "economic recovery", poverty is absolutely exploding.

And it is going to get a whole lot worse.  This is only just the beginning.

What is going to be needed in the years ahead is a tremendous amount of love and compassion.

But instead, it appears that hearts are becoming colder in America with each passing day.

Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar

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Is the petrodollar monopoly about to be shattered?  When U.S. politicians started slapping economic sanctions on Russia, they probably never even imagined that there might be serious consequences for the United States.  But now the Russian media is reporting that the Russian Ministry of Finance is getting ready to pull the trigger on a "de-dollarization" plan.  For decades, virtually all oil and natural gas around the world has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars.  As I will explain below, this has been a massive advantage for the U.S. economy.  In recent years, there have been rumblings by nations such as Russia and China about the need to change to a new system, but nobody has really had a big reason to upset the status quo.  However, that has now changed.  The struggle over Ukraine has caused Russia to completely reevaluate the financial relationship that it has with the United States.  If it starts trading a lot of oil and natural gas for currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will be a massive blow for the petrodollar, and it could end up dramatically changing the global economic landscape.

The fact that the Russian government has held a meeting to discuss "getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations" should be front page news on every mainstream news website in the United States.  That is how big this is.  But instead, we have heard nothing from the big mainstream news networks about this so far.  Instead, we have only heard about this from Russian news sources such as the Voice of Russia...

Russian press reports that the country's Ministry of Finance is ready to greenlight a plan to radically increase the role of the Russian ruble in export operations while reducing the share of dollar-denominated transactions. Governmental sources believe that the Russian banking sector is "ready to handle the increased number of ruble-denominated transactions".

According to the Prime news agency, on April 24th the government organized a special meeting dedicated to finding a solution for getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations. Top level experts from the energy sector, banks and governmental agencies were summoned and a number of measures were proposed as a response for American sanctions against Russia.

The "de-dollarization meeting" was chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Igor Shuvalov, proving that Moscow is very serious in its intention to stop using the dollar.

So will Russia go through with this?

After all, this wouldn't just be a slap in the face.  This would essentially be like slamming an economic fist into our nose.

You see, Russia is not just a small player when it comes to trading oil and natural gas.  The truth is that Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil in the world.

If Russia starts asking for payment in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will essentially end the monopoly of the petrodollar.

In order to do this, Russia will need trading partners willing to go along.  In the article quoted above, the Voice of Russia listed Iran and China as two nations that would potentially be willing to make the switch...

Of course, the success of Moscow's campaign to switch its trading to rubles or other regional currencies will depend on the willingness of its trading partners to get rid of the dollar. Sources cited by Politonline.ru mentioned two countries who would be willing to support Russia: Iran and China. Given that Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing on May 20, it can be speculated that the gas and oil contracts that are going to be signed between Russia and China will be denominated in rubles and yuan, not dollars.

And the reality of the matter is that China has seemed ready to move away from the U.S. dollar for quite some time.  In a previous article, I included a quote from a French news source that discussed how China's official news agency has even called for a "new international reserve currency... to replace the dominant US dollar"...

For decades the US has benefited to the tune of trillions of dollars-worth of free credit from the greenback's role as the default global reserve unit.

But as the global economy trembled before the prospect of a US default last month, only averted when Washington reached a deal to raise its debt ceiling, China's official Xinhua news agency called for a "de-Americanised" world.

It also urged the creation of a "new international reserve currency... to replace the dominant US dollar".

For much more on what China is thinking, please see my previous article entitled "9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar".

So why is the petrodollar so important?

Well, it creates a tremendous amount of demand for the U.S. dollar all over the globe.  Since everyone has needed it to trade with one another, that has created an endless global appetite for the currency.  That has kept the value of the dollar artificially high, and it has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of super cheap products from other countries.  If other nations stopped using the dollar to trade with one another, the value of the dollar would plummet dramatically and we would have to pay much, much more for the trinkets that we buy at the dollar store and Wal-Mart.

In addition, since the U.S. dollar is essentially the de facto global currency, this has also increased demand for our debt.  Major exporting nations such as China and Saudi Arabia end up with giant piles of our dollars.  Instead of just letting them sit there and do nothing, those nations often reinvest their dollars into securities that can rapidly be changed back into dollars if needed.  One of the most popular ways to do this has been to invest those dollars in U.S. Treasuries.  This has driven down interest rates on U.S. debt over the years and has enabled the U.S. government to borrow trillions upon trillions of dollars for next to nothing.

But if the rest of the world starts moving away from the U.S. dollar, all of this could change.

In order for our current standard of living to continue, it is absolutely imperative that everyone else around the globe continues to use our currency.

So if Russia really does pull the trigger on a "de-dollarization" strategy, that would be huge - especially if the rest of the planet started following their lead.

The U.S. economy is already teetering on the brink of another major downturn, and there are a whole host of indications that big trouble is on the horizon.  For much more on this, please see the article that I posted on Monday entitled "If Economic Cycle Theorists Are Correct, 2015 To 2020 Will Be Pure Hell For The United States".

Just about the last thing that we need right now is for our petrodollar monopoly to be threatened.

It would be nice if things would calm down in Ukraine and the relationship between the United States and Russia could go back to normal.

Sadly, that does not appear likely any time soon.

In fact, the Ukrainian government has already admitted that "we are essentially at war", and on Tuesday six Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in a convoy attack in eastern Ukraine.

The regions in eastern Ukraine that have just declared independence have given the government in Kiev until Wednesday to pull their forces out of eastern Ukraine or else face war.

If a full blown civil war does erupt in Ukraine, it is going to take this crisis to a completely new level.

Unfortunately, most Americans are incredibly apathetic at this point and know very little about what is going on.

But in the end, this could have dramatic implications for all of us.

The Wall Street bonanza

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The US stock market once again set new records on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index both closing at new highs. The S&P 500 broke 1,900 for the first time, up from its low of 683 in March 2009, while the Dow hit 16,715.

Approaching six years since the 2008 crash, the financial markets have not only recovered their losses, they have surged far above their peaks in 2000 and 2008. The enormous redistribution of wealth from the majority of society to the super-rich that has taken place since the 2008 crash is expressed in these figures.

A new financial bubble has been inflated. The growth in stock values is out of joint with the state of the real economy, which has grown by an average of only 1 percent over the past five years, compared with the post-World War II average of 3.3 percent.

While Wall Street celebrates, the economy is gripped by mass unemployment and falling wages. This is reflected in the latest retail sales figures, which barely budged in the first quarter of the year, as cash-strapped consumers reined in their spending. While stock prices have nearly tripled since March 2009, the income for a typical household in the US fell by 8.3 percent between 2007 and 2012.

This divergence is not an accident, but the result of a deliberate policy carried out by the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve Board. Since 2008, the Fed has expanded its balance sheet more than five-fold, closely tracking the surging stock market. The holdings of the central bank have expanded by 13.9 percent per year since the end of 2009, while the Dow Jones Industrial average has risen by 14.1 percent per year in the same period.

The Fed has kept interest rates near zero for nearly six years, a policy without historical precedent. The very fact that the central bank has been ensuring an unlimited flow of virtually free credit to the banks during the entire “recovery” that officially began in June, 2009 demonstrates that this so-called recovery is based not on a real expansion of the productive forces, let alone the living standards of the masses of people, but rather on the plundering of society for the benefit of a parasitic financial elite.

The trillions upon trillions of dollars that the Fed has pumped into the financial markets have not been plowed back into the real economy, but instead have largely flowed into the pockets, bank accounts and stock portfolios of the richest of the rich.

This bonanza for the financial aristocracy has been subsidized by the government, at the expense of the people. A major reason why the stock market continues to rise, despite mounting signs of economic slowdown, is the repeated assurance by Fed Chairperson Janet Yellen that the central bank will keep the benchmark federal funds rate near zero for an indefinite period.

In addition to gambling on cheap money, the record stock market valuations are a reflection of a massive increase in the exploitation of the working class, which, as far as the ruling class is concerned, has only begun. An article in USA Today earlier this month noted the direct correlation between the attack on jobs and wages and the stock market rally.

The greatest rewards go to the most ruthless. The stock prices of the fourteen companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index that cut jobs every year for the past five years have significantly outperformed the share prices of their rivals These include cellphone maker Motorola, office equipment manufacturer Pitney Bowes, grocery store chain Safeway and defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

The article noted: “Shares of these chronic job cutters, on average, are up 18.8 percent over the past 12 months. That tops the 15.5 percent gain by the Standard & Poor’s 500 during the same time period. And over the past five years, the job cutters are beating the market by an even wider margin, gaining an average 269 percent while the S&P 500 is up 103 percent.”

In 2013, for example, Pitney Bowes slashed its workforce by 41 percent. Its stock price soared 73 percent.

Nothing could more clearly sum up the character of the so-called “recovery”—a recovery in stock prices, corporate profits and executive pay based on the destruction of jobs and impoverishment of the working class.

In a recently published book on the 2008 crisis, former treasury secretary in the Obama administration Timothy Geithner asserts, “Nothing we did was out of sympathy for the bankers,” who were simply “collateral beneficiaries.” Precisely the opposite is the case. Since its first day in office, the Obama administration (continuing the policy of its predecessor) has focused its efforts on defending and expanding the wealth of the corporate and financial aristocracy.

Obama’s postelection decision to name Geithner, the then-president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and a central figure in the bailout of Wall Street, to head the Treasury Department already signaled the social and class interests his administration would serve.

Bank bailouts and easy money from the Federal Reserve have had a predictable outcome. Bonus pay for Wall Street executives grew 15 percent in 2013, hitting the highest level since the 2008 financial crash.

On the other side of the social equation, the administration has spearheaded an unprecedented attack on workers’ wages and benefits. In the 2009 restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler, the White House made the imposition of an across-the-board 50 percent wage cut for new employees the condition for providing financial assistance to the automakers. Since 2009, wages in the auto industry have fallen by an average of 10 percent, generating record profits for the auto companies while setting a benchmark for wage cutting throughout the economy.

All the debts accumulated from handing money to the super-rich must be repaid. And they will be, through the cutting of all expenditures that detract from profit, whether for wages, health care, pensions, public education or other essential social services.

The actions of the state and those of Wall Street have gone hand in hand, the former serving as the political organ and representative of the latter.

The obscene spectacle of soaring stock prices and record corporate profits and CEO pay in the midst of growing social misery, poverty and inequality is an unanswerable argument for putting an end to the capitalist system and building a mass socialist movement of the working class.

The US stock market once again set new records on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index both closing at new highs. The S&P 500 broke 1,900 for the first time, up from its low of 683 in March 2009, while the Dow hit 16,715.

Approaching six years since the 2008 crash, the financial markets have not only recovered their losses, they have surged far above their peaks in 2000 and 2008. The enormous redistribution of wealth from the majority of society to the super-rich that has taken place since the 2008 crash is expressed in these figures.

A new financial bubble has been inflated. The growth in stock values is out of joint with the state of the real economy, which has grown by an average of only 1 percent over the past five years, compared with the post-World War II average of 3.3 percent.

While Wall Street celebrates, the economy is gripped by mass unemployment and falling wages. This is reflected in the latest retail sales figures, which barely budged in the first quarter of the year, as cash-strapped consumers reined in their spending. While stock prices have nearly tripled since March 2009, the income for a typical household in the US fell by 8.3 percent between 2007 and 2012.

This divergence is not an accident, but the result of a deliberate policy carried out by the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve Board. Since 2008, the Fed has expanded its balance sheet more than five-fold, closely tracking the surging stock market. The holdings of the central bank have expanded by 13.9 percent per year since the end of 2009, while the Dow Jones Industrial average has risen by 14.1 percent per year in the same period.

The Fed has kept interest rates near zero for nearly six years, a policy without historical precedent. The very fact that the central bank has been ensuring an unlimited flow of virtually free credit to the banks during the entire “recovery” that officially began in June, 2009 demonstrates that this so-called recovery is based not on a real expansion of the productive forces, let alone the living standards of the masses of people, but rather on the plundering of society for the benefit of a parasitic financial elite.

The trillions upon trillions of dollars that the Fed has pumped into the financial markets have not been plowed back into the real economy, but instead have largely flowed into the pockets, bank accounts and stock portfolios of the richest of the rich.

This bonanza for the financial aristocracy has been subsidized by the government, at the expense of the people. A major reason why the stock market continues to rise, despite mounting signs of economic slowdown, is the repeated assurance by Fed Chairperson Janet Yellen that the central bank will keep the benchmark federal funds rate near zero for an indefinite period.

In addition to gambling on cheap money, the record stock market valuations are a reflection of a massive increase in the exploitation of the working class, which, as far as the ruling class is concerned, has only begun. An article in USA Today earlier this month noted the direct correlation between the attack on jobs and wages and the stock market rally.

The greatest rewards go to the most ruthless. The stock prices of the fourteen companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index that cut jobs every year for the past five years have significantly outperformed the share prices of their rivals These include cellphone maker Motorola, office equipment manufacturer Pitney Bowes, grocery store chain Safeway and defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

The article noted: “Shares of these chronic job cutters, on average, are up 18.8 percent over the past 12 months. That tops the 15.5 percent gain by the Standard & Poor’s 500 during the same time period. And over the past five years, the job cutters are beating the market by an even wider margin, gaining an average 269 percent while the S&P 500 is up 103 percent.”

In 2013, for example, Pitney Bowes slashed its workforce by 41 percent. Its stock price soared 73 percent.

Nothing could more clearly sum up the character of the so-called “recovery”—a recovery in stock prices, corporate profits and executive pay based on the destruction of jobs and impoverishment of the working class.

In a recently published book on the 2008 crisis, former treasury secretary in the Obama administration Timothy Geithner asserts, “Nothing we did was out of sympathy for the bankers,” who were simply “collateral beneficiaries.” Precisely the opposite is the case. Since its first day in office, the Obama administration (continuing the policy of its predecessor) has focused its efforts on defending and expanding the wealth of the corporate and financial aristocracy.

Obama’s postelection decision to name Geithner, the then-president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and a central figure in the bailout of Wall Street, to head the Treasury Department already signaled the social and class interests his administration would serve.

Bank bailouts and easy money from the Federal Reserve have had a predictable outcome. Bonus pay for Wall Street executives grew 15 percent in 2013, hitting the highest level since the 2008 financial crash.

On the other side of the social equation, the administration has spearheaded an unprecedented attack on workers’ wages and benefits. In the 2009 restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler, the White House made the imposition of an across-the-board 50 percent wage cut for new employees the condition for providing financial assistance to the automakers. Since 2009, wages in the auto industry have fallen by an average of 10 percent, generating record profits for the auto companies while setting a benchmark for wage cutting throughout the economy.

All the debts accumulated from handing money to the super-rich must be repaid. And they will be, through the cutting of all expenditures that detract from profit, whether for wages, health care, pensions, public education or other essential social services.

The actions of the state and those of Wall Street have gone hand in hand, the former serving as the political organ and representative of the latter.

The obscene spectacle of soaring stock prices and record corporate profits and CEO pay in the midst of growing social misery, poverty and inequality is an unanswerable argument for putting an end to the capitalist system and building a mass movement of the working class.

Devaluing Work and Workers

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The Great Recession leveled a blow to the middle and working classes from which they haven’t yet recovered.

Given that labor’s pay and prestige in America peaked in the 1960s, this isn’t exactly new. Still, it’s time that all our leaders took this challenge more seriously. After all, we don’t just have the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer anymore. The middle is collapsing.

Between 2000 and 2011, the U.S. economy, at least as Wall Street and the federal government measure it, grew nearly 20 percent after adjusting for inflation. Meanwhile, median income in working-age American households sank by 12.4 percent and had dipped below inflation-adjusted 1994 levels, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

What are some of the forces driving the devaluation of work and workers?

For starters, U.S. employers have shipped millions of jobs abroad or replaced them with technology.

Many of the jobs that stayed stateside without being relegated to robots were stripped of labor protections by relocating factory work to non-union states in the South. Public unions everywhere have fallen prey to a concerted Republican attack like the one Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker launched a few years back.

Those are just a few forces behind the shortchanging of America’s workforce.

There’s also the decline of full-time employment and the rise of a gig economy dominated by precarious part-time and temporary jobs.

This goes far beyond the realm of handymen and graphic designers. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, even some city governments are paring back hours for their part-timers to less than 30 each week to dodge the obligation of providing them with health insurance. Three-quarters of college instruction is delivered by part-time staff, many of whom earn a pittance despite skyrocketing tuition costs.

And the minimum wage is too skimpy. The federal rate of $7.25 an hour isn’t enough to keep someone working full-time who has at least one dependent above the poverty line. The $10.10-an-hour fix President Barack Obama favors would mark a step in the right direction and it’s good that many states are doing better than that.

But all American minimum-wage workers deserve a raise of the kind that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has just signed into law.

No one “should play by the rules, work 16-hour days and still be raising their children in poverty,” is how he put it.

Can you guess which kinds of jobs have the best growth potential? Most are low-paid, such as retail clerks, health aides, and food workers. Nurses are the only category with both decent salary and healthy employment prospects, so it’s a shame that so many hospitals are importing theirs from Asia.

Yet another reason for worker (and retiree) impoverishment is the decline in retirement plans. Private and public sector employers alike have long refused to adequately fund the plans they had already negotiated, leading to the collapse of many programs and the retrenchment of others. The golden years have become tarnished, and more retirees are now living with their kids, or vice versa.

What happened? For one thing, employers got better at lobbying against their own current and former workers.

Plus, the propaganda wars against unions and supposed shiftless slackers have succeeded. Profits, not people, have become the centerpiece of American culture. The Republican Party is leading the charge while most of the Democratic Party tags along.

There’s a bit of hope now, with heroic fights to raise the standard and tipped-minimum wages, guarantee a right to paid sick days, strengthen workplace rules, and enforce the right to organize unions.

But aggressively corporate-friendly trade deals, worker-replacing technology, and rampant union-busting are setting up an even bloodier war on labor.