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Crony Capitalism Comes Home


[…] More important, while alarmists seem to think that the movement is a “mob” trying to overthrow capitalism, one can make a case that, on the contrary, it highlights the need to restore basic capitalist principles like accountability.

To put it another way, this is a chance to save capitalism from crony capitalists.

I’m as passionate a believer in capitalism as anyone. My Krzysztofowicz cousins (who didn’t shorten the family name) lived in Poland, and their experience with Communism taught me that the way to raise living standards is capitalism.

But, in recent years, some financiers have chosen to live in a government-backed featherbed. Their platform seems to be socialism for tycoons and capitalism for the rest of us. They’re not evil at all. But when the system allows you more than your fair share, it’s human to grab. That’s what explains featherbedding by both unions and tycoons, and both are impediments to a well-functioning market economy.

When I lived in Asia and covered the financial crisis there in the late 1990s, American government officials spoke scathingly about “crony capitalism” in the region. As Lawrence Summers, then a deputy Treasury secretary, put it in a speech in August 1998: “In Asia, the problems related to ‘crony capitalism’ are at the heart of this crisis, and that is why structural reforms must be a major part” of the International Monetary Fund’s solution.

The American critique of the Asian crisis was correct. The countries involved were nominally capitalist but needed major reforms to create accountability and competitive markets.

Something similar is true today of the United States.

So I’d like to invite the finance ministers of Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia — whom I and other Americans deemed emblems of crony capitalism in the 1990s — to stand up and denounce American crony capitalism today.

Capitalism is so successful an economic system partly because of an internal discipline that allows for loss and even bankruptcy. It’s the possibility of failure that creates the opportunity for triumph. Yet many of America’s major banks are too big to fail, so they can privatize profits while socializing risk.

The upshot is that financial institutions boost leverage in search of supersize profits and bonuses. Banks pretend that risk is eliminated because it’s securitized. Rating agencies accept money to issue an imprimatur that turns out to be meaningless. The system teeters, and then the taxpayer rushes in to bail bankers out. Where’s the accountability?

It’s not just rabble-rousers at Occupy Wall Street who are seeking to put America’s capitalists on a more capitalist footing. “Structural change is necessary,” Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said in an important speech last month that discussed many of these themes. He called for more curbs on big banks, possibly including trimming their size, and he warned that otherwise we’re on a path of “increasingly frequent, complex and dangerous financial breakdowns.”

Likewise, Mohamed El-Erian, another pillar of the financial world who is the chief executive of Pimco, one of the world’s largest money managers, is sympathetic to aspects of the Occupy movement. He told me that the economic system needs to move toward “inclusive capitalism” and embrace broad-based job creation while curbing excessive inequality.

“You cannot be a good house in a rapidly deteriorating neighborhood,” he told me. “The credibility and the fair functioning of the neighborhood matter a great deal. Without that, the integrity of the capitalist system will weaken further.”

Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist, adds that some inequality is necessary to create incentives in a capitalist economy but that “too much inequality can harm the efficient operation of the economy.” In particular, he says, excessive inequality can have two perverse consequences: first, the very wealthy lobby for favors, contracts and bailouts that distort markets; and, second, growing inequality undermines the ability of the poorest to invest in their own education.

“These factors mean that high inequality can generate further high inequality and eventually poor economic growth,” Professor Katz said.

Does that ring a bell?

So, yes, we face a threat to our capitalist system. But it’s not coming from half-naked anarchists manning the barricades at Occupy Wall Street protests. Rather, it comes from pinstriped apologists for a financial system that glides along without enough of the discipline of failure and that produces soaring inequality, socialist bank bailouts and unaccountable executives.

It’s time to take the crony out of capitalism, right here at home.





Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world

New Scientist:

AS PROTESTS against financial power sweep the world this week, science may have confirmed the protesters’ worst fears. An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.

The study’s assumptions have attracted some criticism, but complex systems analysts contacted by New Scientist say it is a unique effort to untangle control in the global economy. Pushing the analysis further, they say, could help to identify ways of making global capitalism more stable.

The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters elsewhere.. But the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world’s transnational corporations (TNCs).

“Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it’s conspiracy theories or free-market,” says James Glattfelder. “Our analysis is reality-based.”

Previous studies have found that a few TNCs own large chunks of the world’s economy, but they included only a limited number of companies and omitted indirect ownerships, so could not say how this affected the global economy – whether it made it more or less stable, for instance.

The Zurich team can. From Orbis 2007, a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide, they pulled out all 43,060 TNCs and the share ownerships linking them. Then they constructed a model of which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company’s operating revenues, to map the structure of economic power.

The work, to be published in PLoS One, revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships (see image). Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What’s more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world’s large blue chip and manufacturing firms – the “real” economy – representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.

When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a “super-entity” of 147 even more tightly knit companies – all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity – that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network,” says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.

John Driffill of the University of London, a macroeconomics expert, says the value of the analysis is not just to see if a small number of people controls the global economy, but rather its insights into economic stability.

Concentration of power is not good or bad in itself, says the Zurich team, but the core’s tight interconnections could be. As the world learned in 2008, such networks are unstable. “If one [company] suffers distress,” says Glattfelder, “this propagates.”

“It’s disconcerting to see how connected things really are,” agrees George Sugihara of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, a complex systems expert who has advised Deutsche Bank.

Yaneer Bar-Yam, head of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), warns that the analysis assumes ownership equates to control, which is not always true. Most company shares are held by fund managers who may or may not control what the companies they part-own actually do. The impact of this on the system’s behaviour, he says, requires more analysis.

Crucially, by identifying the architecture of global economic power, the analysis could help make it more stable. By finding the vulnerable aspects of the system, economists can suggest measures to prevent future collapses spreading through the entire economy. Glattfelder says we may need global anti-trust rules, which now exist only at national level, to limit over-connection among TNCs. Sugihara says the analysis suggests one possible solution: firms should be taxed for excess interconnectivity to discourage this risk.

One thing won’t chime with some of the protesters’ claims: the super-entity is unlikely to be the intentional result of a conspiracy to rule the world. “Such structures are common in nature,” says Sugihara.

Newcomers to any network connect preferentially to highly connected members. TNCs buy shares in each other for business reasons, not for world domination. If connectedness clusters, so does wealth, says Dan Braha of NECSI: in similar models, money flows towards the most highly connected members. The Zurich study, says Sugihara, “is strong evidence that simple rules governing TNCs give rise spontaneously to highly connected groups”. Or as Braha puts it: “The Occupy Wall Street claim that 1 per cent of people have most of the wealth reflects a logical phase of the self-organising economy.”

So, the super-entity may not result from conspiracy. The real question, says the Zurich team, is whether it can exert concerted political power. Driffill feels 147 is too many to sustain collusion. Braha suspects they will compete in the market but act together on common interests. Resisting changes to the network structure may be one such common interest.

When this article was first posted, the comment in the final sentence of the paragraph beginning “Crucially, by identifying the architecture of global economic power…” was misattributed.

The top 50 of the 147 superconnected companies

1. Barclays plc
2. Capital Group Companies Inc
3. FMR Corporation
4. AXA
5. State Street Corporation
6. JP Morgan Chase & Co
7. Legal & General Group plc
8. Vanguard Group Inc
10. Merrill Lynch & Co Inc
11. Wellington Management Co LLP
12. Deutsche Bank AG
13. Franklin Resources Inc
14. Credit Suisse Group
15. Walton Enterprises LLC
16. Bank of New York Mellon Corp
17. Natixis
18. Goldman Sachs Group Inc
19. T Rowe Price Group Inc
20. Legg Mason Inc
21. Morgan Stanley
22. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc
23. Northern Trust Corporation
24. Société Générale
25. Bank of America Corporation
26. Lloyds TSB Group plc
27. Invesco plc
28. Allianz SE 29. TIAA
30. Old Mutual Public Limited Company
31. Aviva plc
32. Schroders plc
33. Dodge & Cox
34. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc*
35. Sun Life Financial Inc
36. Standard Life plc
37. CNCE
38. Nomura Holdings Inc
39. The Depository Trust Company
40. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance
41. ING Groep NV
42. Brandes Investment Partners LP
43. Unicredito Italiano SPA
44. Deposit Insurance Corporation of Japan
45. Vereniging Aegon
46. BNP Paribas
47. Affiliated Managers Group Inc
48. Resona Holdings Inc
49. Capital Group International Inc
50. China Petrochemical Group Company

* Lehman still existed in the 2007 dataset used

Graphic: The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the economy








The Potential Reach Of Obama’s Refinancing Plan

President Obama’s home refinancing plan seeks to let a million or more American homeowners save money on their mortgages, even if those loans are underwater. But the plan announced Monday is not a new idea: A pair of economists at Columbia University — Chris Mayer and Glenn Hubbard — have been proposing a similar measure for years.

The plan addresses an issue that’s been frustrating many homeowners: They see other people refinancing at today’s super-cheap interest rates — down around 4 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate loan — but they can’t qualify for those rates because their house price has fallen.

Under Obama’s plan, homeowners with loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that meet other qualifications could be eligible to refinance their mortgages even if their home is worth less than they owe.

With the president himself announcing the plan it certainly sounds like the day has come when Mayer and Hubbard’s proposal is becoming a reality, but they hope the scope is broad enough to affect a large amount of homeowners.

Mayer hopes the administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the banks will swing for the fences. An existing government refinancing program has reached fewer than one million people and the Federal Housing Finance Agency estimates this new effort might reach double that, perhaps two million people. But Mayer said that many times more Americans really should qualify.

“You could easily see 15 to 20 million mortgages refinanced under this program if this were really aggressively pushed by the lending community,” he said.

The final details of the plan, however, won’t be announced until mid-November.

“This has finally spurred some real action, I hope. But the devil is in the details,” Mayer said. “There’s going to be a lot in the next three weeks that has to happen for this program to go right. It could easily go right but it could easily go off the tracks, too, if we don’t get the details correct.”

Will Lenders Be On Board?

But getting the details correct is a big “if”. The central question is whether this program can be done in a way that makes big mortgage lenders want to actually do these refinancings. Without that, this effort will be pretty insignificant.

Critics of the plan say it might not cost taxpayers money but, they say, it would cost investors money. Some of those include bond funds, pension funds, banks and various investors around the world. Some who own mortgages with interest rates of 7 percent would make less money if those homeowners refinanced into 4 percent loans.

But if the plan does end up working on a large scale, the administration says home-owners on average could save $2,500 a year. Mayer said that means about $50 billion a year nationwide.

“Those kinds of numbers … [are] like a permanent tax cut for a lot of middle class households,” he said.

The biggest requirement for Obama’s proposal is that the loan was backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant government-sponsored mortgage firms. It also requires that the loan was made prior to June 2009, and that the homeowner has kept up the mortgage payments. Tens of millions of Americans fall into that category.

Saving Money On Mortgages

If they could refinance, many people could save a lot of money. And when he spoke to homeowners in Las Vegas on Monday, the president said he wants to let more Americans put that extra money in their pockets.

“So let me just give you an example,” Obama said. “If you’ve got a $250,000 mortgage at 6 percent interest rates but the value of your home has fallen below $200,000, right now you can’t refinance; you’re ineligible. But that’s going to change: If you meet certain requirements you will have the chance to refinance at lower rates.”

The president said the plan is something he can do right now, as part of a series of steps to boost the economy that he can order without congressional approval.

While the Obama administration has thrown its weight behind this plan, at least some Republicans support it too. Mayer’s fellow economist at Columbia, Glen Hubbard, was an adviser in the George W. Bush White House and Hubbard now heads up GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s economic team.

“It looks like a good plan; I’m glad they’re doing it,” Hubbard said.

But Hubbard also has all the same devil-is-in the details qualifiers about whether it will actually work on a large scale.








Observations on Content Removal Requests

  • We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.

Occupy the No-Spin Zone

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate:

[…] What the movement clearly doesn’t want is to have to explain itself through corporate television. To which I answer, Hallelujah. You can’t talk down to a movement that won’t talk back to you. […]

Occupy Wall Street is not a movement without a message. It’s a movement that has wisely shunned the one-note, pre-chewed, simple-minded messaging required for cable television as it now exists. It’s a movement that feels no need to explain anything to the powers that be, although it is deftly changing the way we explain ourselves to one another.

Think, for just a moment, about the irony. We are the most media-saturated 24-hour-cable-soaked culture in the world, and yet around the country, on Facebook and at protests, people are holding up cardboard signs, the way protesters in ancient Sumeria might have done when demonstrating against a rise in the price of figs. And why is that? Because they very wisely don’t trust television cameras and microphones to get it right anymore. Because a media constructed around the illusion of false equivalencies, screaming pundits, and manufactured crises fails to capture who we are and what we value.

For the past several years, while the mainstream media was dutifully reporting on all things Kardashian or (more recently) a wholly manufactured debt-ceiling crisis, ordinary people were losing their health care, their homes, their jobs, and their savings. Those people have taken that narrative to Facebook and Twitter—just as citizens took to those alternative forms of media throughout the Middle East as part of the Arab Spring. And just to be clear: They aren’t holding up signs that say “I want Bill O’Reilly’s stuff.” They aren’t holding up signs that say “I am animated by toxic levels of envy and entitlement.” They are holding up signs that are perfectly and intrinsically clear: They want accountability for the banks that took their money, they want to end corporate control of government. They want their jobs back. They would like to feed their children. They want—wait, no, we want—to be heard by a media that has devoted four mind-numbing years to channeling and interpreting every word uttered by a member of the Palin familywhile ignoring the voices of everyone else.

And there’s this. The mainstream media thrives on simple solutions. It has no idea whatsoever of how to report on a story that isn’t about easy fixes so much as it is about anguished human frustration and fear. The media prides itself on its ability to tell you how to clear your clutter, regrout your shower, or purge your closet of anything that makes you look fat—in 24 minutes or less. It is bound to be flummoxed by a protest that offers up no happy endings. Luckily for us, #OWS doesn’t seem to care.


Mark your calendars: The corporate media died when it announced it was too sophisticated to understand simple declarative sentences. While the mainstream media expresses puzzlement and fear at these incomprehensible “protesters” with their oddly well-worded “signs,” the rest of us see our own concerns reflected back at us and understand perfectly. Turning off mindless programming might be the best thing that ever happens to this polity. Hey, occupiers: You’re the new news. And even better, by refusing to explain yourselves, you’re actually changing what’s reported as news. Because it takes a tremendous mental effort to refuse to see that the rich are getting richer in America while the rest of us are struggling. Maybe the days of explaining the patently obvious to the transparently compromised are finally behind us.

By refusing to take a ragtag, complicated, and leaderless movement seriously, the mainstream media has succeeded only in ensuring its own irrelevance. The rest of America has little trouble understanding that these are ragtag, complicated, and leaderless times. This may not make for great television, but any movement that acknowledges that fact deserves enormous credit.

[ Please read original post for links.]





Washington Post Illustrates Oakland Police Brutality With Cop Petting Kitty


Faced with endless photographic documentation of the insane violence of 500 riot cops against a group of protesters in Oakland, the Washington Post editors proved they are good Kaplan 1% corporate lackeys and choose this picture of … a riot cop petting a kitten. Not just any kitten, though. According to the Washington Post, the shameful excuse for a newspaper in the nation’s capital, it’s a kitten that was cruelly left there by the evil protesters. Hooray for the cops! Protesters hate kittens. […]

Chicano journalist Rubén Salazar was assassinated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with a tear gas canister shot through his skull, back in 1970. He had been told by the cops that his coverage of the anti-war Chicano movement was too sympathetic, and he was killed at point blank range by a sheriff’s deputy who was never prosecuted.[Washington City Paper]












The New Yorker:

When President Obama announced his plan a week and a half ago to send a hundred United States troops to central Africa to aid in the search for Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, the American public was, predictably, a little confused, and Rush Limbaugh was, predictably, a little off his rocker. “Uganda” soon became a trending topic on Twitter, as users informed their followers that the U.S. was “invading” Uganda (in the words of writer and lawyer Elizabeth Wurtzel), or staging a humanitarian intervention on behalf of the L.R.A.’s millions of victims in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Congo. Limbaugh, meanwhile, told his listeners that the President was on a mission to kill African Christians. He said, “Lord’s Resistance Army are Christians. They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan. And Obama has sent troops, United States troops, to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them. So that’s a new war, a hundred troops to wipe out Christians in Sudan, Uganda and—[interruption]—no, I’m not kidding.”

There are people of the Christian faith who live in both Sudan and Uganda—to that extent, Limbaugh was correct. The Lord’s Resistance Army, a ragtag group of machete-wielding, dreadlocked men who abduct children and slice off the limbs of villagers, claims to be Christian; it says it wants Uganda to be ruled by the Ten Commandments. But what really defines it is a prolonged reign of brutality and terrorism. The U.S. troops won’t be in combat, either, as their roles are limited to training and assisting African soldiers in their hunt for the rebels who are rumored to be hiding in the dense forests of the Central African Republic between murderous forays into the Congo and South Sudan—something the U.S. has already unsuccessfully been doing since at least 2009.

I arrived in Uganda in 2006, as the Ugandan government and the L.R.A. were in talks to sign a tentative peace deal after two decades of civil war. At the time, the L.R.A.’s trail of destruction was twisting through the countryside, leaving shell-shocked Ugandans in its wake. Boys and girls, former child soldiers who had escaped or were rescued from the bush, were living in rehabilitation centers, if they were lucky, or trying to readjust to being back at home. In most northern towns, residents with hacked-off noses and ears, missing arms and legs, and giant gashes, burn marks, and scars went about their daily business, the threat of future violence a terrifying physical reminder. The memories of relatives, friends, and neighbors who had been killed or abducted loomed over these towns, long after the rebels left.

A year later, after the deal had been signed, a few L.R.A. representatives and retired rebels showed up in Kampala, the capital, before they kicked off a “peace tour.” Moving in a convoy of sport-utility vehicles, they made pit stops in former L.R.A. killing fields, holding rallies at churches and refugee camps, to the disbelief of war survivors who, incredibly, wanted to offer their forgiveness. After a few weeks, they disappeared and their compatriots showed up some months later in the Congo on another rampage as they massacred entire towns and renewed their kidnappings of women, men, and children. Since that tour, sightings of the L.R.A. in central Africa have become more frequent and horrific; the reasons for their brutality remain mostly unknown.

The U.S. decision to send troops to aid in the fight against the L.R.A. is part of a much larger American entanglement in east Africa. Al-Shabaab, an Islamist terrorist group that is linked to Al Qaeda, is at the center of this web. The Shabaab has seized control of much of southern Somalia. Countries that have sent peacekeepers to the Somali conflict, including Uganda and Kenya, have been the target ofretaliatory Shabaab attacks that have killed dozens of people. Last week, Shabaab militants displayed the bodies of over twenty Burundian peacekeepers, some with their heads cut off, on a dusty Mogadishu street. The American effort to contain what has become the Shabaab has involved conducting air strikes in Somalia andproviding intelligence and support to African peacekeepers.

In Uganda, the mood after Obama’s announcement is again cautiously hopeful, according to reports. I’m reminded of a woman I met during the L.R.A.’s reconciliation tour in the northern town of Gulu, who waited in front of a church one long afternoon to shake the hand of a former rebel who was inside. When the rebel came out of the church and was alerted to the woman, he looked at her face, which was missing its lips and ears, and walked away.






Olbermann Calls On Mayor Of Oakland To Fire Police Chief Or Resign!




After Oakland, some mayors warn they’re near breaking point on Occupy protests 

[…] Here in Oakland, in a scene reminiscent of the antiwar protests of the 1960s, the police filled downtown streets with tear gas late Tuesday to stop throngs of protesters from re-entering a City Hall plaza that had been cleared of their encampment earlier in the day. And those protests, which resulted in more than 100 arrests and at least one life-threatening injury, appeared ready to ignite again on Wednesday night as supporters of the Occupy movement promised to retake the square. Early Wednesday evening, city officials were trying to defuse the situation, opening streets around City Hall, though the encampment site was still fenced off.

But after about an hour of speeches, the crowd removed the fences. The number of protesters swelled to about 3,000 people, but the demonstration remained peaceful. Leaders led a series of call-and-response chants. “Now the whole world is watching Oakland,” was one phrase that was repeated as passing cars honked in approval. That police had gone, compared with a heavy presence the night before.

Across the bay, meanwhile, in the usually liberal environs of San Francisco, city officials there had also seemingly hit their breaking point, warning several hundred protesters that they were in violation of the law by camping at a downtown site after voicing concerns about unhealthy and often squalid conditions in the camp, including garbage, vermin and human waste.

In Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed ordered the police to arrest more than 50 protesters early Wednesday and remove their tents from a downtown park after deciding that the situation had become unsafe, despite originally issuing executive orders to let them camp there overnight.

And like many of his mayoral colleagues nationwide, Mr. Reed openly expressed frustration with the protesters’ methods.

“The attitude I have seen here is not consistent with any civil rights protests I have seen in Atlanta,” Mr. Reed said in an interview, “and certainly not consistent with the most respected forms of civil disobedience.”

Similar confrontations could soon come to pass in other cities, including Providence, R.I., where Mayor Angel Taveras has vowed to seek a court order to remove protesters from Burnside Park, which they have occupied since Oct. 15.

And while other, bigger cities, including New York, Boston and Philadelphia, have taken a more tolerant view of the protests — for now — officials are still grappling with growing concerns about crime, sanitation and homelessness at the encampments. Even in Los Angeles, where the City Council passed a resolution in support of the protesters, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa warned Wednesday that they would not be allowed to remain outside City Hall indefinitely.

Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston, echoed that. “It’s a daily assessment for us,” she said.

More and more, mayors across the country say they have found themselves walking a complex and politically delicate line: simultaneously wanting to respect the right to free speech and assembly, but increasingly concerned that the protests cannot stay orderly and safe.

“We can do lots of different things to help them on our end,” said Mr. Taveras, who estimates that roughly 200 people have camped out in Providence despite a city rule forbidding such behavior. “But we cannot allow an indefinite stay there, and we can’t allow them to continue to violate the law.”

The protests showed little sign of slacking. In Chicago, for example, demonstrators gathered Wednesday outside the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel requesting 24-hour access to Grant Park and demanding that charges be dropped against the more than 300 protesters arrested there in the past weeks.

“He’s denying us our constitutional right to not only free speech, but peaceful continual assembly,” said Andy Manos, 32, one of the protesters.

Even in Democratic Chicago, officials seemed to straining to allow for dissent, while maintaining order. “We’ve been working hard to strike a balance,” said Chris Mather, a spokeswoman for Mr. Emanuel. Ms. Mather added that the mayor’s office had tried to set up meetings with protesters, who themselves said they were trying to find a permanent home for their demonstrations.

Indeed, some city officials said the tensions surrounding the Occupy protests have been increased by the fact that many of the groups involved have few recognized leaders.

“It’s a significant challenge to deal with their decision-making process,” said Richard Negrin, the managing director of Philadelphia, where tents form a protest village outside City Hall.

In Oakland, where one protester — Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran — was in critical condition at a local hospital after being struck in the head with a projectile during the chaotic street battle on Tuesday, city officials defended their actions, saying the police used tear gas after being peltedwith rocks. The police are investigating what happened to Mr. Olsen.

As the protests continued, worries about possible violence percolated.

In Atlanta, Mr. Reed said the last straw came Tuesday, when he said a man with an AK-47 assault rifle joined the protesters in Woodruff Park. On Wednesday, after all protesters who had been arrested were released on bond, some said the man with the assault rifle — who was carrying it legally under Georgia law — was not part of their group and should not have been a factor in shutting them down. “We don’t even know that guy,” said Candi Cunard, 26.

Protest organizers said many of the troublemakers in Oakland and elsewhere were not part of the Occupy movement, but rather were anarchists or others with simply with a taste for mayhem.

“The people throwing things at police and being violent are not part of our ‘99 Percent’ occupation,” said Momo Aleamotua, 19, a student from Oakland. “They’re not us, and they’re not welcome.”

Still, the scenes of tear gas in the streets and provocative graffiti — including one spray-painted message reading “Kill Pigs” in Oakland — have been seized on by some Republicans to try to make the protests a political liability for Democrats.

On Tuesday, for example, the National Republican Senatorial Committee circulated a report that two people living in the Occupy Boston tent with a young child had been arrested for selling heroin, and paired it with comments from Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic contender for Senate from Massachusetts, in which she said that her work as a consumer advocate had helped inspire the Occupy movement.

“She’s not only standing with those breaking the law and being arrested,” the committee’s release read, “She’s actually taking credit for them.”

The fear that the group’s political message was being lost also resonated with Maria Gastelumendi, who runs a sandwich shop in downtown Oakland.

As a small-business owner, Ms. Gastelumendi said she supported the protests — “There’s been no bailout for us” — but worried that things might end badly. “The occupiers were very organized and very committed,” she said. “But there’s other people who are just opportunists.”




Occupy Oakland: Mayor Jean Quan in Big Trouble After Riot

San Francisco Chronicle:

[…]Occupy Oakland is now forever marked by a decision that could cost Oakland Mayor Jean Quan her job. Calling for the use of 500 police officers in a pre-dawn raid Tuesday morning, followed by more tear gas bombs Tuesday night, has thousands of Oaklanders upset with Quan.

A mayoral recall effort led by long-time Oaklander Gene Hazzard, which already picked up steam before Occupy Oakland, gaining more than the requisite number of signatures to be “on,” is was talk around Downtown Oakland as the police action against Occupy Oakland resumed last night.

While Occupy Oakland could have made better efforts to negotiate with the Mayor, this is not only not Mayor Quan’s finest moment, by stark contrast to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums during the Oscar Grant riots, she’s no where to be seen. Jean didn’t even show up to a press conference set last night; Oakland Councilmembers Larry Reid and Ignacio De La Fuente represented Oakland.

As I talked with Ignacio for a video coming later today, Occupy Oakland has placed liberals against liberals. Sanjiv Handa, also in a video coming later today, said it best: “This (the Occupy Oakland people) is Jean’s constituency: single mothers with kids, teachers, educators, all out there..”

And Jean’s arranged for them, veterans too, to be gassed and shot in the face with rubber bullets.


1000K+ protesters march by NYC Hall: “New York Is Oakland! Oakland Is New York!” 

OccupyOakland last night:

Occupy Oakland Rubber Bullet Bruise

NYT: Updates on Occupy Protests Nationwide

1:26 A.M. Protests Weave Around New York, and Back to the Park

In New York, protesters left their base in Zuccotti Park shortly after 9 p.m., to march in solidarity with the Oakland demonstrators in what became a two-hour game of cat and mouse. Police followed the Wall Street protesters as they walked, and sometimes ran, through the Financial District, City Hall, SoHo and the West Village, according to our colleague Colin Moynihan, who was on the scene. About a dozen people were arrested.

At one point, the police stretched an orange across West Street in downtown Manhattan, a tactic they have employed during past demonstrations, sometimes followed by mass arrests. Many of the protesters fled.

Our colleague C.J. Hughes, who was also out reporting, saw several police cars parked along 6th Avenue at Houston street, blocking traffic. Mr. Hughes also reported substantial police presence in Union Square Park.

By 11 p.m., the march was over and many people had returned to Zuccotti Park, where they were greeted by the shouts and cheers of those who had stayed behind.

10:27 P.M. Video of Protesters in New York Marching for Oakland


9:21 P.M. Mayor Says City ‘Supports’ Goals of Occupy Protesters

Our colleague Malia Wollan is reporting from Oakland where city officials just held a news conference.

At the event, Mayor Jean Quan called the city “very progressive,” and said officials supported the goals of the movement.

The acting city police chief, Howard Jordan, also spoke at the news conference. He insisted that no rubber bullets were used on protesters and that the incidents were being investigated.

8:42 P.M. Protesters Allowed Back Into Plaza, But Not Overnight

Law enforcement officials in Oakland are allowing protesters back into Frank Ogawa Plaza, the site of intense clashes between police and demonstrators on Tuesday night, The Associated Press reported. But they will still be prohibited from staying there overnight.

From The A.P.:

Mayor Jean Quan announced the conciliatory gesture Wednesday, hours after officers in riot gear clashed with and fired tear gas at demonstrators who had tried to re-establish the disbanded camp.

Quan says Oakland supports the protesters’ goals, but had to act when a small number of them threw rocks, paint and bottles at the police.

A 24-year-old Iraq War veteran was critically injured by a projectile that struck him in the head during the chaotic conflict Tuesday night.

Police Chief Howard Jordan says an internal review board and local prosecutors have been asked to determine if officers on the scene used excessive force.

On her own Twitter feed, which you can follow here, Ms. Wollan has posted that some protesters have returned to the area armed with gas masks and eye washes in case of a repeat of Tuesday night’s events.

“I’m coming more prepared for the tear gas this time,” Momo Aleamotua, 19, a student from Oakland who was arrested at the protest early Tuesday morning. Mr. Aleamotua said he fashioned a shield out of wood to protect himself, and bought 16 gas masks to distribute to other protesters.



7:47 P.M. Protesters in Oakland Plan to Retake Plaza

Our colleague Malia Wollan is stationed at 14th Street and Broadway in Oakland, on the corner of Frank Ogawa Plaza, where much of Tuesday night’s mayhem took place. She reports that the plaza is barricaded on all sides with metal fences, and that police officers and vehicles are parked inside.

But some protesters have taken to Twitter to say that they plan to “retake” the plaza at 6 p.m. local time. They appear to be spreading the word using the Twitter hashtag #retaketheplaza, Ms. Wollan added, “and many say they intend to do just that.” […]

On her own Twitter feed, which you can follow here, Ms. Wollan has posted that some protesters have returned to the area armed with gas masks and eye washes in case of a repeat of Tuesday night’s events.

“I’m coming more prepared for the tear gas this time,” Momo Aleamotua, 19, a student from Oakland who was arrested at the protest early Tuesday morning. Mr. Aleamotua said he fashioned a shield out of wood to protect himself, and bought 16 gas masks to distribute to other protesters. […]

4:51 P.M. Wounded Oakland Protester Has Fractured Skull

Scott Olsen, 24, an Iraq war veteran, suffered a fractured skull at a protest in Oakland on Tuesday night.

Two veterans groups say that a protester who was badly wounded in Oakland on Tuesday night is a former marine who is now hospitalized with a fractured skull.

According to Iraq Veterans Against the War, the protester, Scott Olsen, is a member of their group who left the Marines in 2010, after serving two tours in Iraq. In a statement, the group’s executive director Jose Vasquez, claimed that Mr. Olsen “sustained a skull fracture after being shot in the head with a police projectile while peacefully participating in an Occupy Oakland march,” on Tuesday night. Mr. Vasquez added that Mr. Olsen, a systems network administrator in Daly City, Calif. “is currently sedated at a local hospital awaiting examination by a neurosurgeon.”

A series of bloody photographs that appear to show Mr. Olsen after he was wounded were posted on the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center’s site, Those images show that Mr. Olsen was wearing a brown military shirt with his last name on the front. Jay Finneburgh, the photographer who shot the images of Mr. Olsen, wrote on Indybay: “This poor guy was right behind me when he was hit in the head with a police projectile. He went down hard and did not get up. The bright light in the second shot is from a flash-bang grenade that went off a few feet from us. He looks like he might be a veteran. he was eventually taken to highland hospital.”

According to Mr. Vasquez, Mr. Olsen is the man being carried away at the end of this video clip, which was shot by a local radio reporter during Tuesday night’s protests.

Aaron Glantz of The Bay Citizen, a news site in California affiliated with The Times, reports:

As of noon Wednesday, Olsen, 24, remained in critical condition at Highland Hospital in Oakland. A handful of friends, many of whom are also veterans of the Iraq war, stood vigil outside the emergency room door.

They said they had been informed by nurses that he was still unconscious. Aaron Hinde, an Iraq war veteran who, like Olsen is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said Olsen was brought to the hospital by “two good Samaritans” around 8pm Tuesday evening and lost consciousness on the way to the hospital.

“I think its terrible for him to go two tours in Iraq and exercise his rights that he fought so hard to defend and get a serious injury like this,” said his roommate Keith Shannon, who served alongside Olsen in the Marines in Iraq.

An Oakland police officer told The Bay Citizen that the police department is investigating a use of force incident that caused serious injuries, but that it may not be O.P.D. who was responsible.

Mr. Olsen was also a member of another group, Veterans For Peace, according to Mike Ferner, that organization’s director. A short time ago, Mr. Ferner wrote in a blog post on the Veterans For Peace Web site, he spoke with another member of the group, Josh Sheperd, who was present at the chaotic protest. Mr. Shepherd — who can be seen in photographs and video of the protest standing between the protesters and police officers in his Navy uniform, holding a white and black flag and a copy of the Constitution — also said that Mr. Olsen “was struck in the head with some sort of projectile,” suffered a skull fracture and is now in “stable but serious” condition at a local hospital.

Mr. Ferner also pointed to this video, shot during the protest, which seems to show, 23 seconds in, a brief glimpse of someone suddenly collapsing to the ground after projectiles were thrown or fired into the crowd of protesters.

As we mentioned in our 2:24 p.m. update, the footage above appears to have been filmed in the same location and just before the video of Mr. Olsen being carried away from the scene, which suggests that it might contain a brief glimpse of the moment he was hit.

The post on the Veterans For Peace site also includes information from Mr. Shepherd on what happened just before Mr. Olsen was injured.

I just got off the phone with V.F.P. Chapter 69 member, Josh Sheperd, who was at 14th and Broadway in Oakland early this morning and witnessed much of what happened.

Josh said that after receiving several text messages with news of the Oakland PD taking down tents and arresting people, he decided to go to downtown Oakland and “see if, as a V.F.P. member, I could help still the anger… to be between the police and the protesters… it seemed unconscionable to me that the police use the cover of darkness like that to do what they were doing.”

He got to the front of the crowd and said he “felt a lot of tension in the air.” Shortly thereafter a barrage of “less than lethal” ordnance, tear gas, bean bags and flash-bangs was fired. He and the people he was with took off, regrouped, marched through part of downtown and returned to 14th and Broadway.

There, he went to the front of the crowd immediately, waving the V.F.P. flag. He said the crowd seemed considerably calmer. “It might be just my impression, but there seemed to be a considerable desire for peace and the crowd expressed that.”

Next, the Oakland PD issued the “you’re going to get arrested if you don’t leave” warning. Shortly after that, Josh said, “People in the rear of the crowd threw eggs at the police and that was the O.P.D.’s cue to fire another barrage.”

In that barrage, V.F.P. and I.V.A.W. member Scott Olsen was struck in the head with some sort of projectile and was severely injured. Josh reports that Scott was admitted to hospital and has a fractured skull. His condition is stable but serious.

3:41 P.M. Detained Protesters Released in Atlanta

All 53 protesters arrested on Wednesday morning in Atlanta were released on bond, our colleague Robbie Brown reports. He adds:

They were charged with violating a city ordinance against being in Woodruff Park after 11 p.m. and have to return to court in March.

The mayor, Kasim Reed, has become a real target of the protesters. They call him “Mayor Greed” and chant “hey hey, ho ho, Mayor Reed has got to go.” They’ve been marching with cardboard signs with the mayor’s phone number on them.

“This is a continuation of the civil rights movement,” said Ron Allen, one of the protest organizers. “Mayor Reed could not even be the mayor of Atlanta if it weren’t for past protests.”

“Mayor Reed has turned into Bull Connor Reed,” he added, invoking one of the villains of the civil rights era. “He is a tool of corporations.”

On Tuesday, a man showed up at the protest with an automatic weapon. Some say it was an AK-47, some say an AKM-14. The mayor said this was a tipping point in his decision to arrest the protesters.

Most protesters say the armed man was not part of the movement. “I’ve been here since Day 1 and I’d never seen him,” said Candi Cunard, 26, an artist. “He’s not with us. It makes us look aggressive. We don’t even know that guy. He could have come in with a specific purpose of giving us a bad name.”

But others defended the armed man. “I understand the concerns that anyone could have with him walking around with an automatic weapon. At the same time, he has the right to do it and it’s legal in the state of Georgia. He’s part of the Occupation,” said Latron Price, 37, president of a civil rights movement, the Joe Beasley Foundation.

Video from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows the arrests being made early on Wednesday.

2:54 P.M. Ahead of Global Protests Saturday, Many Hunker Down

Even as the police moved to clear protesters from central Oakland and Atlanta, hundreds more remained camped in cities from Denver to London.

British protesters, who have vowed to Occupy the London Stock Exchange, have been camped outside the city’s St. Paul’s Cathedral for 11 days, since a global call to protest brought large crowds into the streets of dozens of cities on Oct. 15.

On Wednesday, the Anglican bishop of London, Richard Chartres, told the protesters to go home, The Associated Press reported. He said that while they had had “raised a number of very important questions” it was time “for the protesters to leave, before the camp’s presence threatens to eclipse entirely the issues that it was set up to address.” The protesters have vowed to stay despite the bishop’s suggestion. The group also took issue with a report from The Daily Telegraph which claimed, based on thermal imaging, that 90 percent of their tents were empty.

The A.P. has also produced a round up of other developments at Occupy protests. In Baltimore, protesters were negotiating over terms that would allow them to stay in a downtown plaza, though perhaps as a smaller group; in Albuquerque, the police arrested a dozen people for constructing a campsite at the University of New Mexico; in Denver, protesters returned with blankets and vowed to brave an expected snowfall this week in the same park where the police tore down a camp last week.

Protest organizers are hoping to turn out tens of thousands of people on Saturday in a second day of global demonstrations in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. This latest call for a global day of protest comes the editors ofAdbusters, a Canadian anticorporate magazine which dreamed up the idea of a movement called Occupy Wall Street back and set Sept. 17 as the date for the start of the protest in Lower Manhattan back in July.

As the Lede reported last week, the magazine is attempting to push the “leaderless people-powered movement for democracy” which was “inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and the Spanish acampadas,” toward a concrete goal: demanding the imposition of a so-called Robin Hood tax on financial transactions. In support of that idea, they have called for worldwide protests on Saturday, Oct. 29, days before world leaders gather for the next Group of 20 summit meeting in Cannes, France.

“As the movement matures, let’s consider a response to our critics,” the magazine’s editors wrote in a “tactical briefing”released this month. “Let’s occupy the core of our global system. Let’s dethrone the greed that defines this new century. Let’s work to define our one great demand.”

2:24 P.M. Video Analysis of Projectile Hurled at Oakland Protest

As Adam Gabbat reports for The Guardian, a video analysis by a blogger named Matt Kresling suggests that an explosive projectile tossed at protesters in Oakland from behind police lines on Tuesday night might have been thrown by an officer. Mr. Kresling has slowed down footage originally shot and posted online by KTVU, a Fox news station in Oakland, and added narration to make his case.

Near the end, Mr. Kresling’s edit also includes some of the video discussed in our 1:55 p.m. update, which appears to have been recorded at about the same time as the KTVU footage, from another angle, and shows a man identified as Scott Olsen, an injured veteran, being carried away from the scene.

The KTVU footage and the video of Mr. Olsen shot by Ali Winston, a radio reporter, seem to show different parts of the same incident, from different angles. In both clips, a Walgreens can be seen in the background, as can Joshua Shepherd, a member of the group Veterans for Peace who wore a Navy uniform and held a white flag aloft near the police line as mayhem unfolded around him.

Although Oakland’s police department insisted that its officers did not use stun grenades, activists and journalists have been pouring over video shot on Tuesday night to see if there is any evidence that such munitions were used. Another Guardian journalist, Paul Harris, discovered video posted on YouTube six months ago in which a police officer from a SWAT team demonstrates how such the “less than lethal” munitions are used. The brief clip, which was uploaded by a video blogger in Colorado, gives a good sense of the kind of flash and loud bang stun grenades produce.

Thanks to a reader who pointed out in the comment thread below that KTVU also posted some clear overhead footage of the police firing munitions at protesters, shot from a helicopter.

1:55 P.M. Video From Oakland Shows Wounded Protester

More dramatic video surfaced on Wednesday from the protests in Oakland. Ali Winston, a crime reporter for a local public radio station, KALW, shot three high resolution videos from close to the police barricades where gas billowed.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Winston said the videos were shot at roughly 7:45 p.m. local time at the corner of 14th Street and Broadway, just in front of City Hall. He said that the front line included police officers from nearby jurisdictions who had were there to assist the Oakland police in crowd control.

The sound in the clip below is a frightening mix of booms and squeals as tear gas canisters fly in the air and spin on the ground. “At the beginning of that video, that’s the sound of the gas canister releasing and spinning around,” Mr. Winston said. [Warning: the clip contains some strong language.]

At the end of the video, protesters carry a man — dazed, bleeding from the head and wearing what appeared to be fatigues — away from the police line where the gas was thickest. “We were all coughing up a lung,” Mr. Winston said.

He spoke to another man nearby, who identified himself as a former sailor named Joshua Shepherd and a member of Veterans for Peace. Mr. Shepherd said that the injured man was a former service member named Scott Olsen. Mr. Winston included that information when he posted the clip to YouTube. (The Veterans for Peace Twitter feed includes a link to a photograph of Mr. Shepherd at the scene on Tuesday night, holding the organization’s flag aloft.)

In another clip, Mr. Winston said the click that can be heard “is the sound of nonlethal projectiles.”

At the end of the video, protesters carry a man — dazed, bleeding from the head and wearing what appeared to be fatigues — away from the police line where the gas was thickest. “We were all coughing up a lung,” Mr. Winston said.

He spoke to another man nearby, who identified himself as a former sailor named Joshua Shepherd and a member of Veterans for Peace. Mr. Shepherd said that the injured man was a former service member named Scott Olsen. Mr. Winston included that information when he posted the clip to YouTube. (The Veterans for Peace Twitter feed includes a link to a photograph of Mr. Shepherd at the scene on Tuesday night, holding the organization’s flag aloft.)

In another clip, Mr. Winston said the click that can be heard “is the sound of nonlethal projectiles.”

“I didn’t see the rounds,” he added. “What I do know is that I saw nonlethal projectiles being used and many, many, many, many flash grenades.” As The Lede reported earlier, the Oakland Police Department has denied using flash grenades, saying their non-lethal crowd control methods were limited to tear gas and bean bag rounds.

The police attributed the loud bangs and flashes to protesters with heavy firecrackers. Mr. Winston, who said he had been covering the protests since police moved in to clear an encampment from in front of City Hall early Tuesday morning, said that he had seen a “couple M-80s” explode in the morning, but added: “There were absolutely no firecrackers there last night.”

12:33 P.M. Precedent for Use of Tear Gas by Police in Oakland

Hazy images of scattering crowds and gas-filled Oakland streets may have called to mind scenes from recent protests in Greece and the Middle East. But while rare, the use of tear gas by police departments across the United States is certainly not unheard of.

The Oakland police have used tear gas to disperse large crowds of protesters on at least one other occasion in recent years. In January 2009, the police fired tear gas when a demonstration over the killing by a transit officer of a young man named Oscar Grant turned violent, with some 100 people smashing windows of local businesses and settings cars on fire.

Also in 2009, police in Pittsburgh used tear gas during clashes with anti-globalization protesters at the Group of 20 meeting. A video posted in September 2009 by an account that has also posted videos from the Occupy protests in Boston appeared to show the billowing gas.

The year before, during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, the police fired flash grenades and gas to quell pockets of violent protesters. (Marta Costello, a video blogger, shot raw video of the scene.) The police were later questioned over their tactics, as The Times reported:

Although most of the demonstrations were peaceful, small groups of masked figures smashed windows, attacked a police car and knocked an officer to the ground on the first day of the convention. Ultimately, more than 800 people, including about two dozen credentialed journalists, were arrested. Dozens more were handcuffed and photographed without being accused of any crime. And police officers in some instances used pepper spray, tear gas, bullets made of plastic and foam and flash grenades that exploded with a burst of light and a sharp bang.

The police also frequently use tear gas as a method for driving dangerous subjects out of hiding places, and corrections officers have relied on it to subdue rioting prisoners.

In 2003, the police in El Paso, Texas, used tear gas to control a protest by high school students over a scheduling change after some in the crowd turned violent.

12:18 P.M. An Update on the Arrest of Protesters in Atlanta

Video shot by an activist shows police officers moving in to clear Occupy Atlanta protesters from a park in the city early on Wednesday.

In Atlanta, 53 protesters were arrested as the park they were camping in was cleared by police overnight. Mayor Kasim Reed explained why in a phone interview this morning with our colleague Abby Goodnough. “I made the decision that this protest was not being conducted in a manner that was consistent with the history of Atlanta’s protests,” Mr. Reed said. “Candidly, these individuals were moving toward a more significant event to attract more and more attention. They had misread my desire to give voice to the frustration of people, some of whom have very legitimate concerns, and believed that we would allow lawlessness and anything to happen.”




Woman thanks Occupy MN protesters for winning eviction delay

Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

A St. Louis Park woman credited Occupy Minnesota protesters on Wednesday for winning a two week delay in the eviction from her foreclosed house. The eviction delay also headed off a plan by protestors to march into a U.S. Bank branch and publicly close their accounts.

Speaking at a small rally of about 50 people on the Hennepin County Government Center plaza, Ruth Murman, 47, thanked the demonstrators for keeping her and her 80-year-old father in their home another two weeks and holding off  U.S.  Bank and “the corporate tiger.” […]

The protesters had originally planned to march across the street to US Bank Plaza building at the intersection of 3rd Ave. S. and 5th St. and go up to the skyway level where an organizer said that at least a dozen people planned to withdraw their money and close their bank accounts with U.S. Bank to protest foreclosures and support Murman.

But after the announcement of the demonstration was posted on the Internet, Murman said that US Bank, which had declined to give her an additional two weeks, called her on Tuesday and agreed to her request for a two week delay in evicting her and her 80-year-old father.

Nick Espinosa, a rally organizer, said that after the bank agreed to the delay, the protesters decided not to close their accounts on Wednesday. He said that they will do that, instead, on Nov. 5, as part of a nationwide action where he said protesters will be closing their accounts at some banks in a general protest.

Banks have been targeted by Occupy demonstrators across the country for winning huge bailouts for themselves and for their role in foreclosing on people’s homes.

“We won two weeks for Ruth and her father,” Espinosa told the protesters over a bullhorn on Wednesday. “We are winning,” the demonstrators chanted.

They then marched across the street, and rallied on the sidewalk next to the bank. Then they marched half way around to the other size of the bank building and held another short rally before returning to the Government Center plaza. A large numbers of officers watched from police cars and other vehicles.

Murman said that she ran into financial trouble after the economy soured and her business lost money. She operates a boarding, day care and convalescence center for pets. She stopped making payments on her house, and it was foreclosed on in March and sold to U.S. Bank, she said. She said that the bank had demanded her out out on Oct. 31 and was previous unwilling to let her stay until Nov. 15.

She said she is selling her pet care business and she and her father are moving to the country of Belize in Central America.






OccupyCleveland Wins federal suit, injunction against city curfew, re-establishes right to 24-hour protest. 






Kentucky GOP Poised for 2nd Worst Gubernatorial Showing Since 1870

Political Carnival:

[…] All polling conducted for Kentucky’s gubernatorial election since late July has shown GOP challenger and State Senate President David Williams failing to eclipse the 30 percent mark with one term incumbent Democratic Governor Steve Beshear enjoying a large double-digit advantage and independent Gatewood Galbraith flirting with 10 percent.

Unless Williams gains another 5 to 10 points in the closing days of the campaign, Kentucky Republicans will likely find their party sinking to depths it has rarely seen.

How rare?

A Smart Politics review of Kentucky elections finds the state’s Republican Party is on pace for its second worst showing in a gubernatorial election since 1870 and its fourth worst performance of the 111 presidential, gubernatorial, or U.S. Senate popular vote contests in the Bluegrass State during this 140-year span.




Marco Rubio on national ticket could be risky bet for Republican Party


Republicans who are eager to repair the party’s battered image among Hispanic voters and unseat President Obama next year have long promoted a single-barrel solution to their two-pronged problem: putting Sen. Marco Rubio on the national ticket.

The charismatic Cuban American lawmaker from Florida, the theory goes, could prompt Hispanics to consider supporting the GOP ticket — even after a primary contest in which dust-ups over illegal immigration have left some conservative Hispanics uneasy.

But Rubio’s role in recent controversies, including a dispute with the country’s biggest Spanish-language television network and new revelations that he had mischaracterized his family’s immigrant story, shows that any GOP bet on his national appeal could be risky.

Democrats had already questioned whether a Cuban American who has voiced conservative views on immigration and opposed the historic Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina justice, could appeal to a national Hispanic electorate of which Cubans are just a tiny fraction but have special immigration status. And Rubio’s support in Florida among non-Cuban Hispanics has been far less pronounced than among his fellow Cubans.

That ethnic calculus was further complicated by records, reported by The Washington Post last week, showing that Rubio had incorrectly portrayed his parents as exiles who fled Cuba after the rise of Fidel Castro. In fact, their experience more closely resembles that of millions of non-Cuban immigrants: They entered the United States 21 / 2 years before Castro’s ascent for apparent economic reasons.

Rubio made the exile story a central theme of his political biography,telling one audience during his Senate campaign, “Nothing against immigrants, but my parents are exiles.” A video, apparently produced for the conservative site, shows black-and-white footage of Castro as Rubio speaks.

Even after the new reports of his parents’ entry, Rubio has said he remains the “son of exiles,” saying his parents had hoped to return to the island but did not because of the rise of a communist state.

But in elevating exile roots over the apparent reality of his parents’ more conventional exodus, Rubio risks setting up a tension point with the country’s Hispanic voters — most of whom are Mexican American and have immigrant friends or ancestors who did not have access to the virtually instant legal status now granted to Cubans who make it into the United States.

“If he does take that mantle, there’ll be a lot of clarification that he’ll have to make on a whole lot of issues,” said Lionel Sosa, a longtime GOP strategist.

Hispanic voters are growing in importance and are expected to play a pivotal role in deciding who wins the important presidential battlegrounds of Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Florida. Obama won two-thirds of the Latino vote in 2008, signaling a shift away from the GOP since 2004, when President George W. Bush won about 40 percent — an unusually high showing among Hispanics for a Republican.

GOP strategists see an opening in Obama’s sagging approval ratings and frustration among Latinos over the administration’s stepped-up deportations of illegal immigrants. But they worry that window is closing amid sharp rhetoric in recent weeks from the party’s apparent presidential front-runner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has accused Texas Gov. Rick Perry, his chief rival, of being soft on illegal immigration for his support of in-state college tuition for many immigrant children. Romney used a similar tactic in his 2008 presidential campaign, attacking Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) from the right on immigration.

Adding to those concerns is a Rubio-related standoff between the top Republican candidates and Univision, a Spanish-language TV network based in South Florida whose news programs draw more viewers in many cities than English-language broadcasts.

The candidates are refusing to participate in a potential Univision debate slated for Jan. 29, two days before Florida’s primary, citing a dispute between network executives and Rubio’s office over a July report on the 1987 drug-trafficking arrest of Rubio’s brother-in-law.

Rubio’s office said it was a “tabloid” story and unsuccessfully pushed for Univision executives to kill it. Two months later, a Miami Herald report cited unnamed network staff members and Rubio’s office accusing Univision of a quid pro quo, offering to soften or kill the story in exchange for Rubio agreeing to appear on the network’s Sunday public affairs show “Al Punto.”

Univision denied the charge. But after the report, a group of Rubio allies called on the GOP candidates to boycott the debate. The top candidates agreed, meaning they will be spared a potential grilling on immigration by the network’s high-profile anchor, Jorge Ramos, an advocate for more liberal immigration laws.

But the dispute creates ill will between Rubio, who could become the most powerful Hispanic political figure in the country, and one of the most cherished Hispanic institutions in the United States — and one that happens to be based in his home town.

“One of the big questions of 2012 is whether putting Marco Rubio on the ticket can help the GOP make up lost ground with Latino voters,” said Simon Rosenberg, president of the pro-Democratic group NDN, which analyzes the Hispanic vote. “Despite being Hispanic, looking at his overall record . . . he seems remarkably ill-suited to be the one reaching out to the largely Mexican migrant community in the key battleground states.”

Several Hispanic Republicans and other experts on Latino politics said in interviews that Rubio remains a potent force in the GOP. His presence on the party’s ticket could inspire enough ethnic pride to make up for cultural or policy differences. But they said there is no guarantee.

“He would deliver Florida,” home to the large and typically Republican-leaning Cuban American population, said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a pro-GOP group that is planning to air ads in Western states geared toward Hispanic voters. “In Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, he can have an impact. But can he deliver the Latino vote in those states? No.”

Some Republicans consider Rubio such a promising new star that they funded a poll last month that tested, among other things, the senator’s image among Hispanic voters in key presidential battlegrounds. The survey, by the group Resurgent Republic, found that most Hispanic voters outside Rubio’s home state aren’t familiar enough with him to express a view. But in Florida, it showed mixed results — with Obama viewed slightly more favorably than Rubio among Hispanics and the senator viewed favorably by just 42 percent of non-Cuban Hispanics.

Democrats predict that the numbers for Rubio would drop fast once more voters learned his views. Rubio’s allies say the survey shows that he could boost a party whose support among Latinos is sinking but that could probably win the presidency with just 40 percent of that electorate.

“Most Republican politicians would die for” his favorability rating among non-Cuban Hispanics, said Whit Ayers, the GOP pollster behind the survey, who worked for Rubio’s campaign in 2010.

Rubio has said he does not want to run for vice president. His spokesman, Alex Conant, declined to address that speculation. Instead, he reiterated the senator’s embrace of his heritage and his support for legal immigration.





Right fight: Activists vs. House GOP


House Republicans have a grade for conservative interest groups that apply a litmus test to their every action: F.

The outside groups have become more aggressive and punitive in recent years, and the criteria they use to rate Republicans’ purity are constantly shifting, sometimes within hours or days on the same topic. That’s inspired a fiery backlash from folks who suddenly find themselves branded apostates by organizations they once saw as allies.

Heritage Action for America — the fresh-faced activist attaché of the esteemed Heritage Foundation — is now issuing bad grades when members of Congress fail to co-sponsor a favored bill or don’t sign onto a letter advocating for policies backed by the organization. Those are new standards for lawmakers who are accustomed to being only graded on their actual votes

“I think it’s awful and I think it’s disgusting and I think it’s an example of Republicans eating Republicans,” Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a member of the centrist Tuesday Group, said.

The Heritage Foundation is concerned enough about its standing on the Hill that its president, Ed Feulner, sent a survey to congressional aides Wednesday asking, “what do you think of the Heritage Foundation?”

Grover Norquist, longtime president of the Americans for Tax Reform, has had a handful of Republicans turn against him of late. Several of them feel that Norquist’s famously rigid anti-tax oath has hamstrung Congress by taking options off the table for legislators who fear he will target them if they break what’s known as “Grover’s pledge.” Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who never signed the pledge, castigated Norquist in a recent floor speech, saying he was “out of the mainstream.”

And the fiscally focused Club for Growth, derided by moderates as the “Club for Democratic Growth,” continues to get under the skin of Republicans who believe their party is best served by nominating centrists in swing districts and states by funding the most fiscally conservative contestants in GOP primaries.

For many lawmakers, it’s a case of feeling menaced by elements of the same movement that helped fuel their takeover of the House last year.

Republicans of all stripes love to boast about the support of influential activist groups when they’re on the campaign trail. They brandish endorsements, scores and awards as they scrounge for votes. Not so long ago, the scorecards served mostly to give voters a sense of who shared their worldview and who didn’t. But the new grading culture, designed to put pressure on lawmakers to observe orthodoxy, has created a sense of paralysis for many members of Congress. The threat of political retribution, carried explicitly and implicitly in grass-roots “action alerts” and scorecards, is injected into every imaginable act.
Read more: 









4 Polls That Show Occupy Wall Street is Just Getting Started


After over a month of demonstrations, numerous dismissals, and thousands of arrests, Occupy Wall Street is gaining momentum. Over the last two weeks, polls have poured in revealing that Americans familiar with the protests largely support them. And since that familiarity will continue to increase, we can only conclude that the country’s support for the movement will keep on  growing. When you’ve got NYT punditCharles Blow unfurling his hipster flag comparing OWS to legendary 90s band Nirvana, you know a tipping point has been reached!

Recent polls prove that when Americans hear this band, they dig it. Here’s a round-up:

Oct. 9-10 Time Magazine/Abt SRBI: This poll showed a 54 percent favorable rating of OWS, compared to a mere 27 percent thumbs up for the Tea Party. The same poll revealed a strong support for grievances associated with the movement. 86 percent of Americans polled thought that “Wall Street and lobbyists have too much influence in Washington”; 79 percent said that “the gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S. is too large”; 71 percent wanted prosecutions for “executives of financial institutions responsible for the financial meltdown in 2008”; and 68 percent believed that “the rich should pay more in taxes.” Echoing the sense of alienation expressed by OWS protesters, 60 percent of respondents said that “the political debate in Washington and the media” does not represent their concerns.

Oct. 13-16 United Technologies/National Journal Congressional 

Connection Poll: Here, a majority of those polled – fully 59 percent – said that they backed the goals of the protests from what they “know about the demonstrations.” And 68 percent supported the Democratic surtax on millionaires to pay for the cost of their jobs plan, a policy cited by OWS protesters in a recent Millionaire’s March in New York City.

Oct. 17 Quinnipiac poll: This survey of New York City voters revealed that the Big Apple is on board with OWS. 67 percent agreed with the views of the Wall Street protesters and a whopping 87 percent believed it’s okay that they are protesting. On the political front, the poll showed that 81 percent of Democrats supported the protests v. 35 percent of Republicans. Interestingly, 21 percent of voters blamed the banks for the country’s economic woes, while 37 percent blamed former President George W. Bush’s policies. (Um, is there a difference?) But a hefty 73 percent said they would support tougher government regulation of the banking industry.

Oct. 15 -16 USA Today/Gallup poll: This poll, which received the most misleading spin, found that nearly two-thirds of people who were asked didn’t know enough about the goals of the Occupy Wall Street protests to say if they approved of them or not. Some have been duped by this result into thinking that the movement has a “branding problem.”

Piffle, says Thomas Ferguson, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “This thing is still growing,” Ferguson told AlterNet. “If you know it, you generally like it. You have to remember that the major media haven’t been very good on covering the protests. Only recently did the New York Times start publishing substantive articles. Lots of people are just hearing about it, and as more hear about it there will be growing support.”

Things get a little complicated when respondents are asked who they blame for the country’s economic woes. The Gallup poll showed that a greater number of blamed the government compared to those who blamed Wall Street. The question is, which government policies are we talking about? The Quinnipac poll showed that respondents placed a great deal of blame on George W. Bush’s deregulatory policies if you offered them more specific questions.

“I liken this Government v. Wall Street blame game to a Kentucky Derby head-to-head match,” said Ferguson. “Even after all the propaganda that has been circulated blaming the government, half the population doesn’t buy it. That’s pretty amazing.”

In an era of government capture by the financial sector, it’s understandably hard to disentangle Wall Street from Washington. The anti-regulatory fever sparked by Ronald Reagan was certainly caught by Bill Clinton, and continued to rage through Bush II to fuel a full-on Wall Street conflagration. Obama’s ties to the financial sector, evidenced in his still-strong campaign support from Wall Street, will only serve to further alienate populist-minded Americans. But when it comes to OWS, Democrats are much more likely to be supporters, the Gallup poll showed. 42 percent of Dems backed the protesters v. only 9 percent of Republicans.

Bottom line: If this thing continues to grow – and there is every indication that it will – the Occupy Wall Street could become the definitive movement for an entire generation. On Sunday, Noam Chomsky addressed Occupy Boston and called the movement “unprecedented.” “There’s never been anything like it,” said Chomsky. “If the bonds and associations that are being established at these remarkable events can be sustained through a long, hard period ahead – because victories don’t come quickly – it could turn out to be a real historic, a very significant moment in American history.”









A Question of Integrity Hangs Over the U.S. Supreme Court

Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice:

With so much at stake, with deeply contentious issues on the docket, and with public perceptions of the Court’s legitimacy starting to shift into negative territory, one would think that Supreme Court justices would be particularly careful to distance themselves from anything that would call their objectivity into question or that would align them directly with the hyper-partisan political forces roiling the country. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening, as revealed in a new short film from Alliance for Justice, called A Question of Integrity: Politics, Ethics, and the Supreme Court.

The film shows, for example, that Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia were flown out to luxury resorts at the expense of the Federalist Society in order to hobnob with the people attending the infamous political strategy conferences hosted by the billionaire Koch brothers, whose partisan goals are no secret (and whose companies are frequently in federal court). Thomas went in 2008 and Scalia in 2007. David Koch himself explains these meetings are for “combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.” One may reasonably ask which public policies Scalia and Thomas were there to combat in these closed-door Koch conclaves.

At the same time, Justice Samuel Alito feels free to give keynote speeches at fundraisers supporting the American Spectator magazine and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, both organizations with strong ideological agendas. And recent news reports reveal that Justice Thomas happily accepts the largess of Texas businessman and conservative donor Harlan Crow in the form of rides on his jet and yacht, million-dollar donations to the justice’s pet project, and gifts of $19,000 historic bibles. Justice Thomas’ wife, Virginia, isn’t left out either; Crow gave her $500,000 to start her own right-wing advocacy group, Liberty Central.

Why does all this matter? In order for the American judicial system to function effectively, judges must be perceived as impartial, independent arbiters of the law. They are expected to be guided by legal precepts rather than partisan or personal motives, and unencumbered by conflicts of interest.

Everyone who walks into a courtroom needs to know they will get a fair hearing before a judge who has not pre-judged their case as part of a political agenda. As the Code of Conduct for United States Judges explains, “An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensible to justice in our society.” Or, as the Supreme Court itself has said, “justice requires the appearance of justice.”

But here’s the kicker: The Supreme Court of the United States is not formally bound by the Code of Conduct that guides the ethics of all other federal judges.

This has to change. As a country rooted in the rule of law, we simply can’t afford to have Supreme Court justices who feel unconstrained by the same formal ethical standards that bind all other federal judges. The code prohibits participation in political activities. It bans serving as the keynoter at fundraising events, no matter how seemingly benign. It instructs judges not to do anything that creates even the “appearance of impropriety.” Yet some justices do those very things, even while they claim to voluntarily adhere to the rules.

The ethics code is not an onerous straitjacket designed to keep Supreme Court justices out of the public eye. They are not only free to speak and interact with all manner of groups or individuals, they are encouraged to do so. It was startling to hear Justice Scalia at a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee admit that he has “very little contact with the American people.” That can’t be healthy for our democracy or the law.

But the code builds a common-sense ethical firewall built around political activity, fundraising, and relationships that create an appearance of impropriety. Unfortunately, as the record shows, that firewall has too frequently been breached by some justices on this Supreme Court and so action must be taken.

As A Question of Integrity explains, our reform agenda is straightforward: Finally, formally, and unequivocally apply the Code of Conduct to the Supreme Court. We have started a petition asking the Court to undertake that essential reform on its own, but if it won’t act of its own volition, legislative options are available.

It is painfully clear that some justices seem to have forgotten their ethical obligations, don’t understand what they are, or simply don’t care. In this tumultuous time, with increasing doubts about the legitimacy of our national institutions, we can ill afford to allow the Supreme Court to drift further into politicization and ethical ambiguity. The time for change is now, before it is too late. There should never be questions of integrity at our nation’s most important legal institution. Watch the film:






Day after day I hear concern, complaints, and angst from readers and Twitter pals about what this country is becoming, about how insignificant they feel, about how– no matter how many times we get out the vote, campaign, donate, scream, yell, cry, or fight– it seems like nothing happens. Nothing is effective. Nothing works.

There is one thing, however, that does work, and that one thing is this:  getting involved and electing Progressives starting from the bottom up. That is how to make a difference.

This is how you make a difference:





Denounce the Oakland police’s actions against OccupyOaklandand tell Mayor Quan to drop all charges



One evening, an old Cherokee tells his grandson that inside all people, a battle goes on between two wolves. One wolf is negativity: anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame, and hate. The other is positivity: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and above all, love. The grandson thinks about this for a minute, then asks his grandfather, “Well, which wolf wins?” The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

~~ Native American proverb

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I really like and agree with Nicholas Kristof’s column.
Sadly, there are certain segments in our population, both on the right (Teabaggers) and the left (Firebaggers), that will never listen to reason or logic.
Thankfully, both extreme groups are the minority.
The Dems and the GOPers need their bases, but neither extreme of either party is who decides elections.

I am surprised that the corporation that my husband and I worked for is not in the top 50 of global corporations, but I think that they’d be in the top 100.

I bring that up, because my husband likes to watch ‘The Nightly Business Report’ on PBS and this past week they interviewed the top CEO from where we worked and we both listened to his advice for improving the economy.

There were 2 things that he said that were good, such as pushing kids to take more math and science in schools and push kids to go into engineering.
He said that not enough kids are interested in math and science, and the US needs to have a ‘Sputnick Moment’ to compete globally.
Yeppers, that’s all fine and good and excellent advice.

But the reality of where we worked compared to what the CEO advises is deceitful.

Both of us got out at the right time.
The rules changed for those who are left working there.
The current employees must work until they are 65 years old in order to be eligible for Medicare as the corporation will no longer bridge those of us who took early retirement.
Meaning, that my husband and I still have our corporate medical coverage, even though our premiums have gone through the roof, we still do have coverage.

That’s besides the employees having been forced to take pay-cuts and work more hours without pay, plus they are forced to take time off without pay – a week at the beginning of the year and a week in July.
But the work doesn’t go away, so they must go into work without pay to meet the deadlines.

But the best one, or worst, is that anyone who leaves, or dies, the corporation replaces the position in Mexico.
They are not allowed to hire anyone in the USA.
And that is the truth, even for white collar engineering jobs.

When they first started sending engineering jobs to Mexico, the quality of work wasn’t very good, but they’ve trained them now and they are up and running down there.
They used to utilize India heavily, but India has become too expensive, so they focused on Mexico.

This has been happening since the ’70’s, but always manufacturing, and it hasn’t been until the last 10 years (more or less) that they’ve been outsourcing engineering.

SCOTUS very much interests me and I know throughout history that SCOTUS has been corrupt, but I’m not sure if it’s ever been as corrupt as it is now, and BOTH parties are to blame for that.

Biden played a hand in squelching further testimony against Thomas and why the Democrats ever let Roberts or Alito be approved, well, I could go all CT about that and think that I might not be far off the mark.

There’s deep corruption in our government, imho, at every level, but I do have faith in Americans, or ‘we the people’ but we’re now called ‘we – the 99%’.

And when it comes to OWS and what happened in Oakland to Scott Olsen, well, if you read some comments on various sites, there are those who think that that Iraq Vet deserved it.

All I can do is remember that I have cousins who still believe that the murders at Kent State were justified and yes, they are FOX watchers, bigots, and Teabaggers, and needless to say, I never communicate with them anymore at all.

The very funny thing about that is that my cousin, who is (shocking – NOT) also a misogynist, still sends emails to my husband and my husband does not tolerate any of his bullshit.
My husband does not tolerate any bullshit via email from anyone, but rather he sends them rebuttals along with Internet sites that disproves whatever bullshit they send!

I love my husband.