Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Oligarchy: As American as Poisoned Apple Pie

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Oligarchs are as American as poisoned apple pie. Their wealth and power look mouth-wateringly good, but with every bite, democracy dies.

" . . . in so far as we make (the use of wealth in politics) hard, we are advancing the agenda of democracy and we are decreasing the power of oligarchs," said Jeffrey Winters, author of Oligarchy and professor of politics at Northwestern University, on a recent episode of Occupy Radio.

American oligarchs - wealthy elites who use money to buy power - have been around so long they're almost as traditional as apple pie. They co-opted a people's revolution, gave themselves vast acres of land in the newly formed nation and then pulled off a coup in 1787 that is commonly referred to as the US Constitution.

In the 1770s to '80s, something revolutionary was stirring in the colonies. It wasn't a war. It was a people's movement called democracy. In public meetings and town halls, ordinary citizens were gathering to discuss how to govern themselves. In the Journal of American History, Joyce Appleby wrote:

"Foreign visitors in the 18th century invariably commented on the vitality of public discussions and on the political confidence of ordinary men."

Although these ordinary men did not include African-Americans, women or indigenous tribes, these assemblies were not as divided by wealth and class as were the aristocratic governments of Europe. This gave rise to a culture that was virtually unknown at the time: that of commoners sharing the responsibility of self-government.

Yet, after the war, the revolutionary notion of democracy produced a counter-revolution. Oligarchs of that era found it difficult to conduct business among the 13 sovereign states, each of which was developing its own laws regulating commerce, taxes and tariffs. The first constitution of the United States (the Articles of Confederation) endured for 10 years, starting in 1778, before the oligarchs could find a way around it. Even then, they had to resort to extraordinary means.

In February 1787, George Washington (the richest man in the United States) proposed a convention in May in Philadelphia for the alleged purposes of revising the Articles of Confederation. Upon arrival, however, delegates to the Philadelphia Convention were dismayed to discover that Washington, Madison, Hamilton and others wanted to throw out the old Articles of Confederation. In their place, Hamilton proposed a new, second Constitution of the United States, which included a powerful federal government to rule over the state governments, a president for life, a senate appointed for life, an electoral college that elects the president and an appointed for life Supreme Court with authority over the state courts.

"Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy," Alexander Hamilton is quoted as saying according to the Notes of the Secret Debates of the Federal Convention of 1787 taken by Robert Yates.

Many of the delegates left in protest. Of the 62 delegates appointed, only 39 signed the new Constitution. The Philadelphia Convention, widely heralded today as the birthplace of democracy, was nothing short of an oligarchic coup. Terms for elected officials were a minor concession to the proponents of democracy. The Bill of Rights was tacked on at the insistence of outraged citizens during the process of ratification, but it narrowed the list of protected rights to 10 out of the dozens that were initially proposed.

Today, tourists can visit the sunny, open rooms of Liberty Hall, but in 1787, the Convention took place under strict secrecy. The doors were closed; the windows blacked out and security guards ringed the building. In Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, the rules stated, "That nothing spoken in the House be printed or otherwise published or communicated." James Madison, one of the main recorders, refused to publish his notes until all of the framers were buried in the grave.

If the citizens had known what was transpiring in Philadelphia, an uprising reminiscent of the Battle of Seattle at the 1999 World Trade Organization protests might have ensued. In 1787, citizens of the 13 sovereign states considered the United States of America to be a description of a friendly alliance of nation-states similar to the United Nations. Under the new Constitution, however, the federal government of the United States of America became a new, powerful legal body that wielded supreme authority over the subordinate states.

When they found out, citizens of the day were not amused. Resistance to the new Constitution was widespread. In 1787, Washington wrote, "Commotions of this sort, like snow-balls, gather strength as they roll, if there is no opposition in the way to divide and crumble them." To ensure the states' ratification of the new Constitution, his colleagues Madison and Hamilton rolled out their propaganda machines.

William Grayson of Virginia wrote, "We are now told . . . that we shall have wars and rumors of wars, that every calamity is to attend us, and that we shall be ruined and disunited forever, unless we adopt this constitution . . . and the Carolinians, from the South (mounted on alligators, I presume) are to come and destroy our cornfields, and eat up our little children! . . . These, sir are the mighty dangers which await us if we reject - dangers which are merely imaginary, and ludicrous in the extreme!"

Ultimately, the adoption of the new Constitution came down to money. Like so many of our contemporary issues, the nation divided not down left/right lines, but by monied interests (which supported the new federal government) and popular dissent (which objected to the loss of local power and the rising supremacy of the oligarchs). The Anti-Federalists were out-powered by the media apparatus and political influence of the oligarchs, who convinced commercial interests, small landowners, farmers, merchants and artisans to side with them. After the states ratified the new Constitution, the proponents of the new system embarked on a long-term effort to alter or recreate the state constitutions and legislative structure to reflect the federal government.

Know your history, goes the stern warning. Without knowledge of the past, tyranny in the present continues to oppress us all. To better understand what transpired at Liberty Hall in 1787, imagine that a group of wealthy businessmen came together in secret to draft up a new set of laws and to create a new court system that has authority over the nations of Japan, Australia, Korea, Vietnam, Canada, the United States and more. Then these wealthy elites empower themselves to regulate commerce to their own advantage.

If this sounds uncomfortably familiar, it's because the modern-day Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has engaged in many of the same maneuvers as the 1787 Philadelphia Convention that established the US Constitution. The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a trade deal that is being negotiated in secret. The legislators of the affected nations are not involved - just as the delegates to the Continental Congress were not present at the Philadelphia Convention. The tribunal courts of the proposed TPP would usurp the authority of the courts of the nations, just as the Supreme Court usurped the state courts. Under the TPP, commerce falls under the jurisdiction of the trade agreement board, rather than the individual nation-states. Local laws that violate the TPP would be considered void, just as state laws were nullified if they conflicted with the new, powerful federal government. Just as the TPP was initially being fast-tracked through Congress, so did the framers of the Constitution attempt to ram it through the state ratification process.

Echoes of the past can be heard in the problems of the present. The revolutionary notion of democracy was put on hiatus in 1787 and the coup of the oligarchs continues to this day. Rule of the oligarchs under the empty rhetoric of democracy is so familiar and comfortable that to have millionaires in Congress and a ruling class of wealthy elites seems as American as apple pie. But the poisonous politics of wealth are not the homegrown democracy that was cultivated in the backyards of local communities. They are a tainted substitute peddled by wealthy elites.

Today, oligarchic rule stands poised to kill equality, justice and ordinary citizens. Our grandmothers, all unwittingly, crisscrossed the crust, brushed it with oil and baked it until it was golden. The sweet scent of liberty emits from such well-intentioned efforts, but watch out! Our forks are loaded with false democracy and poisonous apples sold by the oligarchs.

The question is . . . are you going to eat it?

How the War on Workers Is Changing

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The War on Workers is going on a 50-state tour.

Ever since Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 striking air traffic controllers back on August 5, 1981, and appointed labor-hostile Raymond Donovan as the first anti-labor Secretary of Labor in our nation's history, there's been a War on Workers in America.

While worker productivity has skyrocketed since Reagan stepped foot inside the White House, wages have remained stagnant.

And the remnants of Reagan's War on Workers have been so successful - even during Democratic administrations - that it's not just keeping wages flat, it's even starting to erode them.

Since 2000, average worker take-home pay has been on a steady freefall, while pay for executives and CEO's has soared off the charts.

Thus, on the federal level, the War on Workers has been a huge success.

But while the War on Workers has been steadily eating away at the income of working-class Americans, its ultimate goal is to turn America's activist working middle-class into a dispirited, disheartened, and disempowered working poor-class.

To do that, the forces behind the War on Workers have to shift their focus to the state level, and do away with the last remaining state protections for workers.

That's where the Koch Brothers and other conservative political power players come in.

The Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity conservative front group, or AFP, has launched a massive campaign in Detroit, aimed at derailing that city's proposed bankruptcy settlement.

AFP is contacting nearly 90,000 conservatives in Michigan, ironically most of them working-class people who people like the Kochs refer to as "useful idiots."

AFP is urging their army of conservative "useful idiots" to oppose the bankruptcy settlement plan that would use $195 million in state money to help pay back former Detroit city workers the pension benefits that were taken out of their paychecks back in the day, and then stolen by Wall Street banksters in the Great Bush Crash of 2008.

In other words, the Koch Brothers and AFP don't want the Detroit city employees to have pensions for their retirement - after all, they are "evil government employees."

You know, firemen, police, sanitation workers - that sort of thing. And many of them are people of color, which is why trashing largely-black Detroit workers when talking to largely-white northern Michigan "conservative" AFP members isn't even slightly a racist dog-whistle, right?

Geez - "workers" and "Black" - for the conservatives kicking them upside the head is a two-for.

AFP has also threatened to run ads against any Michigan state legislators who vote in favor of the plan.

Outside of Michigan, AFP plans to spend at least $125 million to help conservatives across the country win in November's midterm elections, many of whom are helping to lead the way in the War on Workers.

As Corey Robin points out over at The New York Times, "Midterm elections at the state level can have tremendous consequences, especially for low-wage workers. What you don't know can hurt you — or them."

Back in the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans took over control of the executive and legislative branches in 11 states.

As soon as they stepped in office, those same Republicans, with a little nudging from groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, began introducing bill after bill, which ate way at workers' rights, and gave more power to their employers.

Take Republicans in Wyoming for example.

In 2011, they introduced a bill that would have allowed restaurants to force their servers to pool their tips. The tips would then be redistributed among the non-serving staff.

In most states, tipped workers are paid an hourly wage that is under the minimum wage, because the thinking is that they'll make up the rest of the money with tips. Meanwhile, regular staff members are paid the minimum wage.

But, under the Wyoming legislation, by having servers pool their tips, and redistributing those tips to non-serving staff members, you would avoid having to pay non-serving staff members the minimum wage. The result? More poor working people!

Basically, Republicans in Wyoming wanted employers to be able to take away money that their employees had rightfully earned.

A year earlier in Florida, Republicans tried to pass legislation that would have prevented any "county, municipality, or political subdivision of the state" from passing laws that were designed to cut down on wage theft.

Meanwhile, Indiana, Mississippi, and Florida have all passed laws banning local governments from raising the minimum wage.

And the list goes on.

All across America, conservative lawmakers are doing everything in their power to quash working-class Americans, thus destroying the integrity and vitality of our democracy by turning the middle class into the working poor.

A functioning democracy requires a strong and functioning middle-class.

And despite what conservatives will try to tell you, unrestrained capitalism is not going to get us there, because unrestrained capitalism always produces a working poor-class, and not a strong middle-class.

To get a middle class, you must combine capitalism with government regulation and safety-net programs. It's really just that simple, and history tells the story over and over again.

Instead of following the Kochs like sheep, Michiganders and the rest of us should be working to put back into place the federal and state protections that protected workers for years and thus built America's once-strong middle class.

We need to put back into place laws and policies that balance the powers of employers and employees, and let workers unionize.

Only then will we once again have a strong and flourishing American middle class.

Latest Jobs and Housing Reports Show Americans are Struggling More than Ever

The details in new numbers show worsening inequality—not the recovery politicians tout.

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The latest nationwide jobs and housing statistics released this week suggest that America is no longer a country where—for most people—the future is going to be better than the past.

The percentage of people in most age and education levels in jobs compared to 2008 is down. The number of people holding multiple jobs is up. Average hourly wages have barely grown, compared to 2008. The number of people who are willing to leave their job for a new one is down. All of those trends are in the latest report [3] from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—and there are even more depressing economic signs.

More than one-third of Americans who bought homes are trapped [4] by that debt, according to the real estate data website Zillow.com. Some 9.7 million homes, which is 18.8 percent of U.S. homeowners, owe more than their homes are worth. In another 10 million homes, the buyer’s equity is below 20 percent, which means they can’t sell and buy another home unless they find another way to cover all the transaction costs.

Taken together, the BLS report on the working class and the Zillow report on the middle class suggest that the country, despite virtually every politican’s assertion to the contrary, does not have its best days ahead. It may be that America’s best days—when the promise of hard work and playing by the rules led to economic security—is a thing of the past.

“There’s a recovery for some people, you know, and other people, not so much,” James Carville, the Democratic consultant told [3] The New York Times, soft-pedaling the implication of numbers. Jared Bernstein, a progressive economist who once joined Vice-President Joe Biden’s staff and has since left the White House, said these economic figures show the “inequality problem” is not an abstraction.

Let’s go through them one-by-one, starting with what’s called the “employment to population ratio.” The BLS slices up working people by category: people with a college degree or higher, men age 20 and over, Hispanics, whites, women age 20 and over, people without college degrees, blacks, high school dropouts, and teenagers. Compared with the start of the Recession in December 2007, there are fewer people now working in every single one of those categories. The Times explained [3] what has happened with women:

“Consider women, whose unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent, up almost 2 percentage points from when Mr. Obama took office… Today it is at 5.7 percent, a seemingly shining number for Democrats…

“But while the number of women out of work appears to be much improved, the number of women employed compared with the total female population 55.2 percent, actually worse than it was in October 2010. Progress, in fact, is a mirage, the product of what ecomomists call the disappearing work force: people giving up and dropping out.”

There are other discouraging statistics reflecting the true state of the working and middle-class America in the BLS report. Nearly 6.7 million people said they had multiple jobs in 2010; now that figure is over 7 million. In October 2010, more than 2.57 million people said they could only find part-time work. This April, that figure was 2.62 million. BLS also reported that workers are not as afraid of being fired, as they were during the recession, but are more risk-averse to leaving a job voluntarily to try something else.

Wage stagnation frames this same story another way. When Obama took office in 2009, the average hourly wage was $18.46 an hour. This April, it was $24.31—but, after adjusting that figure for inflation, it’s equal to $20.40 in 2009’s dollars. Compare that to pre-tax income for the top 1 percent, which grew 31 percent in that same time period—from 2009 to this past April.

And there other signs of deepening inequality. Since the recession ended, the gross domestic product has grow 11 percent. Standard & Poor’s 500, a leading stock index, is up 83 percent. Corporate profits are up 53 percent. Yet median household income is down 4 percent.

Numbers can be numbing, but these statistics trace large and troubling trends. For most Americans, the future does not look as good as the past—even if the past was not quite as good as people might recall with nostalgia. That’s quite a paradigm shift, because it puts the country’s mood directly at odds with politicans who are running in 2014 and saying that things are slowly getting better.

They’re not—and other stories on the financial pages say why. The greed of Wall St. investors never stops. Today’s Wall St. Journal has a front-page story [5] on how big investment firms again are buying the "riskiest" corporate junk bonds, which promise to pay interest rates that are on par with what was sold to homeowners as subprime loans at the peak of the housing market bubble.

That trend can only end badly for the non-investing public. Either those corporations selling those bonds will raise prices to pay off investors when they come due, or they will end up going out of business and laying off the people working for those companies.

Whichever way you look at it, the bottom line is that for most Americans, the economic future is not bright 


Links:
[1] http://alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/steven-rosenfeld
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/20/us/politics/economic-recovery-is-leaving-major-democratic-constituencies-behind.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
[4] http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304422704579572261754798636?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection&mg=reno64-wsj
[5] http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304422704579572390216147878?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection&mg=reno64-wsj

The Powerful Forces Shredding Our Constitution

Preface to "The Rise of the American Corporate Security State"

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In the United States today, we have good reason to be afraid. Our democracy and our freedoms are impaired. Many Americans have lost their homes and jobs and will never get them back. Our pensions and our privacy are also gone. Most frightening of all, the Constitution that protected us for more than two hundred years from the tentacles of oppressive government and the stranglehold of private wealth is less respected every day.

After September 11, 2001, our government told us to fear foreign terrorists, so we did. To protect our national security, we submitted to unreasonable searches without protest; we surrendered our freedom of speech and association. At a staggering cost, we financed a permanent, mercenary military to patrol the world.

In September 2008, when the economy froze, the stock exchanges plunged and private firms began shedding jobs by the hundreds of thousands each week. The Treasury Department stepped in and transferred hundreds of billions of dollars in public assets to failing private financial institutions. The subsequent congressional inquiry determined that we were all responsible. We were guilty of irrational exuberance.

But now, taking stock years later, we have to recognize that no foreign terrorist shredded the Constitution. Nor did we, as citizens, bankrupt the nation. Powerful forces inside the country did. And worse than that: they intend to keep doing it. They have yet to be stopped. This is the real reason to be afraid: the rise of the Corporate Security State.

The Constitution gave us three branches of government to ensure that no one small faction could control the state. Each of them is failing us. The agencies of the executive branch appear to be helpless before the rise of the Corporate Security State. According to the attorney general, the Justice Department cannot prosecute corporations that usurp our rights and rob us of economic security, and the Treasury Department is forced to protect these financial forces from the consequences of their own reckless "trades." The president, whoever he happens to be, releases triumphant photographs of himself saluting in a flight suit or watching a live feed of SEAL Team Six killing Osama Bin Laden. He gives speeches about America and its greatness and periodically runs for re-election in what is now a grotesque pageant of clowns.

The Congress is paralyzed by squabbles over the debt, much of it occasioned by endless, off-the-books warfare. In the fall of 2013, the whole thing shuts itself down, along with the rest of the government, for lack of funding, flounders toward the next political showdown, and finally produces a meaningless agreement with itself about the national budget. Increasingly, the American public despises the entire body, and one poll taken during the 2013 government shutdown showed that we preferred cockroaches, zombies, and dog doo to Congress.

The judiciary, which is the last to go, blesses the increasing intrusion of money in politics, and stands down before the revelations of a secret court operating behind a veil of national security.

The Corporate Security State is tipping the balance between the self-interest of a governing corporate elite and the rights of the rest of us to freedom, privacy, safety, and fairness. We can see the power shift manifest in six clear and evolving trends since 2001:

Average citizens are subject to ever-expanding surveillance by the government-corporate complex.

Intelligence agencies, working with private corporations, gather extensive private data on everyone. Outsourced government has created a complex of private national security contractors who capture approximately 70 percent of the bloated national budget for intelligence and surveillance.

Control of information by the government-corporate complex is expanding.

The Obama administration continues to overclassify information. In 2009 and 2010, the number of classification decisions exploded. Among the documents deemed secret is the one setting out the cost of our national surveillance system and its unconstitutional domestic intelligence gathering capabilities. We are obliged to pay for it, but we have no right to know how much it costs or what it does.

The separation of powers established by the Constitution is eroding. Rights guaranteed by constitutional amendments are becoming irrelevant. Reporting a crime may be a crime, and informing the public of the truth is treason.

Since June 2013, we've discovered that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been routinely violating the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights of American citizens. The NSA has been doing this secretly for years, while the Justice Department uses the Espionage Act to prosecute national security whistleblowers as traitors when they try expose it.

The government-corporate surveillance complex is consolidating. What has been a confidential but informal collaboration now seeks to legalize its special status.

Legislation permitting the fluid exchange of information about citizens between the national intelligence apparatus and private financial and infrastructural institutions is moving through the Congress.

Financial reforms enacted after the crisis are inoperable and ineffective because of inadequate investigations and intensive corporate lobbying.

The major financial institutions, well-connected to the Congress, the Treasury Department, and the Justice Department, ensure that key regulations implementing reforms are either unfinished or ineffective.

Systemic corruption and a fundamental conflict of interest are driving us toward the precipice of new economic crises.

After the financial cataclysm of September 2008, the Justice Department's refusal to prosecute senior officials of the corporations that failed due to systemic fraud eliminated any deterrent. The deceptive practices continue, and the next collapse is only a matter of time.

The consequences of these trends and conditions are moving us toward a world like the one portrayed in the dismal post-apocalyptic movies churned out by Hollywood. We are submerged in wars that never end, and the wealth produced by and in the United States skews upward in ever greater concentrations. We await the emergence of the world's first trillionaire and look forward to the fawning portrait of him in a glossy business magazine.

Such a country can only be maintained with greater repression of dissent and suppression of the truth. This is why the government is into deeper and broader surveillance. Instead of funding education and health care, clean air, and water, our taxes are paying for intrusive electronic monitoring - of us.

But the battle for equality and fairness is not yet over. Many of the laws that prohibit surveillance and unreasonable search and seizure are still in place. Although they are under attack, and they erode incrementally if we are not paying attention, we still have recourse to them. And they still protect us from domination by a faction - the danger most dreaded by the framers of the Constitution. We must aggressively defend them, and we must promote peace for the United States and the rest of the world. For the war we think we are fighting abroad is also being waged against us. If we deprive others of their rights in an effort to protect ourselves, step-by-step we forfeit our own rights, too. That's just how it works.

Did the Federal Reserve Launder $141 Billion Dollars Through Belgium to Hide Massive Increase In Quantitative Easing?

Did the Fed Take Drastic and Covert Action to Hide a Large Country Dumping U.S. Bonds?

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That’s what former Assistant Treasury Secretary and Wall Street Journal editor Paul Craig Roberts alleges:

Is the Fed “tapering”? Did the Fed really cut its bond purchases during the three month period November 2013 through January 2014?

***

From November 2013 through January 2014 Belgium with a GDP of $480 billion purchased $141.2 billion of US Treasury bonds. Somehow Belgium came up with enough money to allocate during a 3-month period 29 percent of its annual GDP to the purchase of US Treasury bonds.

Certainly Belgium did not have a budget surplus of $141.2 billion. Was Belgium running a trade surplus during a 3-month period equal to 29 percent of Belgium GDP?

No, Belgium’s trade and current accounts are in deficit.

Did Belgium’s central bank print $141.2 billion worth of euros in order to make the purchase?

No, Belgium is a member of the euro system, and its central bank cannot increase the money supply.

So where did the $141.2 billion come from?

There is only one source. The money came from the US Federal Reserve, and the purchase was laundered through Belgium in order to hide the fact that actual Federal Reserve bond purchases during November 2013 through January 2014 were $112 billion per month.

In other words, during those 3 months there was a sharp rise in bond purchases by the Fed. The Fed’s actual bond purchases for those three months are $27 billion per month above the original $85 billion monthly purchase and $47 billion above the official $65 billion monthly purchase at that time.

***

Why did the Federal Reserve have to purchase so many bonds above the announced amounts and why did the Fed have to launder and hide the purchase?

Some country or countries, unknown at this time, for reasons we do not know dumped $104 billion in Treasuries in one week.

And see this:

America's Homeless: The rise of Tent City, USA

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Formed as an alternative to shelters and street-living, these makeshift communities are often set up off of highways, under bridges and in the woods. Some have "mayors" who determine the rules of the camp and who can and can't join, others are a free-for-all. Some are overflowing with trash, old food, human waste and drug paraphernalia, others are relatively clean and drug-free.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty documented media accounts of tent cities between 2008 and 2013, and estimated that there are more than 100 tent communities in the United States -- and it says the encampments are on the rise.

"[T]here have been increasing reports of homeless encampments emerging in communities across the country, primarily in urban and suburban areas and spanning states as diverse as Hawaii, Alaska, California, and Connecticut," the organization's study states.

Tent cities are most common in areas where shelter space is scarce or housing unaffordable. Yet, many people say they choose to live in a tent even when shelter is an option. And they do so for one big reason: freedom.

Shelters typically have strict rules: many require guests to check in and out at certain times that can conflict with work schedules and they often don't allow couples to stay together. Drug and alcohol use is also prohibited, and some people don't qualify for the subsidies they need to stay in a shelter because of a prior jail time (for certain crimes), or other reasons.

"Shelter is one step away from jail," said Dave, who lived in a tent city in Camden, N.J., that CNNMoney visited.

Another resident of the same camp, Mike, said the only work he has been able to find is part-time road maintenance, which takes place at night. Because the shelters in the area would have required him to be inside by a certain time, like 10 p.m., staying there wasn't an option. Setting up his own tent in the woods gave him the freedom to come and go as he pleased.

Some residents also view tent cities as safer than shelters because they say there's more of a sense of community.

As these encampments continue to spread, public officials are responding in different ways.

The NLCHP found that of the more than 100 camps, only eight were actually considered legal. Ten tent cities weren't officially recognized, but the city or county wasn't doing anything to get rid of them. The vast majority of encampments, however, have been shut down and occupants have been evicted.

One of the most recent evictions took place in Camden, N.J., this week, when the state, county and city joined forces to shut down multiple tent cities and kick out the residents. While the county worked with the occupants to find them somewhere to go, Camden's shelters were already full and many people ended up on the streets.

Instead of evicting people from tent cities, the NLCHP says the root of the issue -- unaffordable housing -- needs to be addressed.

"Encampments and tent cities have emerged as a means of self-help for homeless individuals to survive and find shelter, safety and a sense of community," the report states. "Ultimately, the solution to the proliferation of encampments across the United States is the provision of affordable housing."

Militarist Bunkum

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Did you know that 85 to 90 percent of war’s casualties are non-combatant civilians? That is the conclusion reached by a nine-person research team in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The deaths of soldiers who are fighting the war are a small part of the human and economic cost. Clearly, wars do not protect the lives of civilians. The notion that soldiers are dying for us is false. Non-combatants are the main victims of war.

Keep that in mind for July 4th, which is arriving in six weeks.

July 4th is America’s most important national holiday celebrating American independence from Great Britain. On July 4th, 1776, America’s Founding Fathers declared that the Thirteen Colonies were no longer colonies but an independent country in which the Rights of Englishmen would prevail for all citizens and not only for King George’s administrators. (Actually, the Second Continental Congress voted in favor of independence on July 2, and historians debate whether the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4 or August 2.)

In this American assertion of self-determination citizens of Great Britain were not allowed to vote. Therefore, according to Washington’s position on the votes in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine–the former Russian territories of Donetsk and Luhansk–America’s Declaration of Independence was “illegitimate and illegal.”

On July 4th all across America there will be patriotic speeches about our soldiers who gave their lives for their country. To an informed person these speeches are curious. I am hard pressed to think of any examples of our soldiers giving their lives for our country. US Marine General Smedley Butler had the same problem. He said that his Marines gave their lives for United Fruit Company’s control of Central America. “War is a racket,” said General Butler, pointing out that US participation in World War I produced 21,000 new American millionaires and billionaires.

When General Butler said “war is a racket,” he meant that war is a racket for a few people getting rich on the backs of millions of dead people. According to the article in the American Journal of Public Health, during the 20th century 190 million deaths could be directly and indirectly related to war.

190 million is 60 million more than the entire US population in the year that I was born.

The only war fought on US territory was the war against Southern Secession. In this war Irish immigrants fresh off the boat gave their lives for American Empire. As soon as the South was conquered, the Union forces were set loose on the Plains Indians and destroyed them as well.

Empire over life. That has always been Washington’s guiding principle.

America’s wars have always been fought elsewhere–Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, Philippines, Japan, Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Somalia. Washington even attacks countries with which the US is not at war, such as Pakistan and Yemen, and engages in proxy wars. The article cited above reports: “The United States launched 201 overseas military operations between the end of World War II and 2001, and since then, others, including Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Not a single one of these wars and military operations had anything whatsoever to do with defending the US population from foreign threats.

Not even Japan and Germany posed a threat to the US. Neither country had any prospect of invading the US and neither country had any such war plans.

Let’s assume Japan had conquered China, Burma, and Indonesia. With such a vast territory to occupy, Japan could not have spared a single division with which to invade the US, and, of course, any invasion fleet would never have made it across the Pacific. Just as was the fate of the Japanese fleet at Midway, an invasion fleet would have been sitting ducks for the US Navy.

Assume Germany had extended its conquests over Europe to Great Britain, Russia and North Africa. Germany would have been unable to successfully occupy such a vast territory and could not have spared a single soldier to send to invade America. Even the US superpower was unable to successfully occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, countries with small land areas and populations in comparison.

Except for its wars against the South, the Plains Indians, Haiti, Spain, Panama, Grenada, and Mexico, the US has never won a war. The Southern Confederates, usually outnumbered, often defeated the Union generals. Japan was defeated by its own lack of military resources. Germany was defeated by the Soviet Union. The allied invasion of Normandy did not occur until June 6, 1944, by which time the Red Army had ground up the Wehrmacht.

When the allies landed in Normandy, three-fourths of the German Army was on the Russian front. The allied invasion was greatly helped by Germany’s shortage of fuel for mobilized units. If Hitler had not allowed hubris to lead him into invading the Soviet Union and, instead, just sat on his European conquests, no allied invasion would have been possible. Today Germany would rule all of Europe, including the UK. The US would have no European Empire with which to threaten Russia, China, and the Middle East.

In Korea in the 1950s, General Douglas MacArthur, victorious over Japan, was fought to a standstill by third world China. In Vietnam American technological superiority was defeated by a third world army. The US rolled up mighty Grenada in the 1980s, but lost its proxy war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Is there anyone so foolish as to think that Grenada or the Sandinistas were a threat to the United States, that North Korea or North Vietnam comprised threats to the United States? Yet, the Korean and Vietnam wars were treated as if the fate of the United States hung in the balance. The conflicts produced voluminous dire predictions and strategic debates. The communist threat replaced the Hitler threat. The American Empire was at risk from third world peoples. Dominoes would fall everywhere.

Currently Washington is at work overturning President Reagan’s accomplishment of ending the Cold War. Washington orchestrated a coup that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine and installed a stooge government. Washington’s stooges began issuing threats against Russia and the Russian speaking population in Ukraine. These threats resulted in those parts of Ukraine that were formerly part of Russia declaring their independence. Washington blames Russia, not itself, and is stirring the pot, demonizing Russia and recreating the Cold War with military deployments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe. Washington needs to reinvent the Cold War in order to justify the hundreds of billions of dollars that Washington annually feeds the military/security complex, some of which recycles in political campaign donations. In contrast to Washington’s propaganda, an honest view of the events in Ukraine can be found here: http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

In the United States patriotism and militarism have become synonyms. This July 4th find the courage to remind the militarists that Independence Day celebrates the Declaration of Independence, not the American Empire. The Declaration of Independence was not only a declaration of independence from King George III but also a declaration of independence from unaccountable tyrannical government. The oath of office commits the US officeholder to the defense of the US Constitution from enemies ”foreign and domestic.”

In the 21st century Americans’ worst enemies are not al Qaeda, Iran, Russia, and China. America’s worst enemies are our own presidents who have declared repeatedly that the orchestrated “war on terror” gives them the right to set aside the civil liberties guaranteed to every citizen by the US Constitution. Presidential disrespect for the US Constitution is so extreme that Obama has nominated David Barron to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Barron is the Justice (sic) Department official who wrote the memos fabricating a legal justification for the Office of President to murder US citizens without due process of law. http://www.credomobilize.com/petitions/tell-the-senate-keep-assassination-memo-nominee-david-barron-off-the-federal-bench?akid=10688.1090360.wP_x-8&rd=1&suppress_one_click=true&t=3

Having stripped US citizens of their civil liberties, executive branch agencies are now stocking up vast amounts of ammunition, and the Department of Agriculture has placed an order for submachine guns. The Department for Homeland Security has acquired 2,717 mine-resistant armored personnel carriers. Congress and the media are not interested in why the executive branch is arming itself so heavily against the American people.

During the entirely of the 21st century–indeed, dating from the Clinton regime at the end of the 20th century–the executive branch has declared its independence from law (both domestic and international) and from the Constitution, Congress, and the Judiciary. The executive branch, with the help of the Republican Federalist Society, has established that the office of the executive is a tyranny unaccountable to law, domestic or international, as long as the executive declares a state of war, even a war that is not conducted against another country or countries but a vague, undefined or ill-defined war against a vague stateless enemy such as al Qaeda, with which the US is currently allied against Syria.

Al Qaeda now has a dual role. Al Qaeda is Washington’s agent for overthrowing the elected Assad government in Syria and al Qaeda is the evil force against which US civil liberties must be sacrificed.

The illegitimate power asserted by the Office of the President is not only a threat to every American but also to every living being on planet earth. As the article cited above reports: “Approximately 17,300 nuclear weapons are presently deployed in at least 9 countries, many of which can be launched and reach their targets within 45 minutes.”

It only takes one fool–and Washington has thousands of fools–and all life on earth terminates in 45 minutes. The neoconservative belief that the United States is the exceptional, indispensable country chosen by history to rule the earth is a belief full of the arrogance and hubris that lead to war.

Keep your likely fate in mind as you watch the military bands and marches on July 4th and listen to the hot air of militarism.