Community Articles from 2018
America Is On The Brink Of A Nervous Breakdown
by John Whitehead
Posted November 23, 2018
Authoritarian regimes begin with incremental steps. Overcriminalization, surveillance of innocent citizens, imprisonment for nonviolent—victimless—crimes, etc. Bit by bit, the citizenry finds its freedoms being curtailed and undermined for the sake of national security. And slowly the populace begins to submit.
No one speaks up for those being targeted.
No one resists these minor acts of oppression.
No one recognizes the indoctrination into tyranny for what it is.
Historically this failure to speak truth to power has resulted in whole populations being conditioned to tolerate unspoken cruelty toward their fellow human beings, a bystander syndrome in which people remain silent and disengaged—mere onlookers—in the face of abject horrors and injustice. More…
Appeals Court Tells Georgia: State Code Can’t be Copyrighted
By Joe Mullin
Posted November 18, 2018
In a democracy, people should have the right to read, and publish, the law. In theory, that should be easier than ever today. The Internet has vastly improved public access to the “operating system” of our government—the local, state, and federal statutes and regulations we are expected to abide by.
Unfortunately, some states have actually fought against easy access to the law. In Georgia, state officials have used copyright to extract fees and reward companies with state contracts.
On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit handed down a powerful opinion [PDF] that struck down the state of Georgia’s attempt to use copyright to suppress publication of its own laws. The ruling, which gives Georgians the right to read and publish the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, or OCGA, may also improve public access to legislative documents in other states. It’s just in time for this year’s Open Access Week, a time to celebrate the social benefits that we all reap when information is readily accessible. More…
Globalization Has Hollowed Out Rural America
by Charles Hugh Smith
Posted November 17, 2018
Proponents of globalization claim the few hundred dollars in annual household savings generated by shipping in commoditized goods are so beneficial nothing else matters. But if the cost of these paltry, essentially meaningless savings is the destruction of the local economy except for a handful of global corporate outposts and jumble shops, was this trade-off a good deal for rural communities?
I have often discussed the tyranny of price: making the sticker price the sole arbiter of value distorts the concept of value to the point of meaninglessness. Proponents of globalization overlook the intrinsic value of local control and local capital.
Once control of the local economy has been ceded to global corporations, the community has lost control of its destiny: the global corporation has only one goal and reason to exist: to increase capital and maximize profits by any means available. More…
Energy Transfer: New Name for Pipeline Company But Same Spills and Violence Against Protesters
By Sharon Kelly
Posted November 16, 2018
Battles over new shale gas and oil pipelines involving Energy Transfer, formerly known as Energy Transfer Partners, have heated up in recent weeks — an escalation that carries a tilt, as one side stands accused of acts of violence.
Energy Transfer (ET) security contractors have been accused of physically assaulting pipeline opponents on multiple occasions, including incidents in which security allegedly pointed a gun at one pipeline opponent, struck another with the butt of a shotgun, and overturned two boats carrying a television film crew and pipeline opponents into a Louisiana swamp, according to a new report published by Greenpeace USA on October 18. More…
How a Gang of Hedge Funders Strip-Mined Kentucky’s Public Pensions
by Gary Rivlin
Posted November 12, 2018
Kentucky’s willingness to gamble massively on high-risk alternative investments for its pensions has made the state an easy mark for Wall Street hucksters.
In April 2008, a longtime investment adviser named Chris Tobe was appointed to the board of trustees that oversees the Kentucky Retirement Systems, the pension fund that provides for the state’s firefighters, police, and other government employees. Within a year, his fellow trustees named Tobe to the six-person committee that oversees its investments, becoming the only member of the committee with any actual investment experience. It was an experiment in fiduciary responsibility that ended badly. “I started asking questions when things weren’t sounding right,” Tobe said. “And a secret session was held where they voted to kick me off.”
Several weeks after he was removed, the remaining members of the committee approved a $200 million investment in a hedge fund called Arrowhawk Capital Partners. Tobe, though he remained a trustee, only learned about the deal after the fact, while reading the magazine Pensions & Investments. More…
Wall Street Is Spending Big to Protect Its Ability to Jack Up Rents in California
by David Dayen
Posted November 09, 2018
For some on Wall Street, the financial crash of 2008 represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Homeowners who’d been walloped by the very crisis Wall Street had created were struggling to pay their mortgages, so financiers swooped in and bought up foreclosed homes, knowing the assets would eventually rise in price again.
But with so many people foreclosed on and out of work, selling the homes was difficult, so Wall Street hit on a different approach: renting them out. Now, the biggest practitioner of this gambit is spending heavily to make sure it stays lucrative.
Blackstone Group, a private equity giant that is also now the world’s largest real estate management firm, has pumped in $6,859,747 so far to battle a ballot measure in California that would allow cities to re-establish rent control laws, including on single-family homes. That figure constitutes $1 out of every $7 supporting the “No on Prop 10″ campaign and is part of a $45.5 million assault, mostly from corporate landlords and property developers, on the right of cities to determine their own rental laws. More…
Anti-Terrorism Laws Increasingly Used to Target Indigenous Activists
By Sandra Cuffe
Posted November 8, 2018
The images flew around the world. The teepees. The tear gas. The Indigenous water protectors’ camps. The boots advancing in unison as security forces cracked down on protests at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline. The defiance. The hundreds of arrests.
“While Sioux leaders advocated for protests to remain peaceful, State law enforcement officials, private security companies and the North Dakota National Guard employed a militarized response to protests,” Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, wrote in a recent report. A mercenary firm had been surveilling the pipeline opposition movement and engaged in military-style counterterrorism measures, according to an investigative report published by The Intercept.
The use of counterterrorism tactics against Indigenous protesters in the US reflects a global trend. More…
Think about this, these mercenaries are people who left the communities they pledged to “protect and serve” to answer a call to “protect and serve” corporate interests in another community, while these same corporate interests were placing local people’s water supplies at serious risk.
The People Give the Orders and the Government Obeys
by Jeff Thomas
Posted November 7, 2018
The sign above is located in the state of Chiapas in Mexico. In English, it says, “You are in the territory of Zapatista in Rebellion. Here, the people give the orders and the government obeys.”
Well, of course, what that really means is that the Zapatistas give the orders, not the people as a whole. Still, the people generally regard the Zapatistas as being more representative of their wishes (and less parasitical) than the government.
Mexicans are further along than, say, Europeans or Americans in understanding the true role of government. The mask has been off for some time and the people understand that the government does not exist to serve them; it exists to enslave them – that is, to rob them of the fruits of their labour through taxation, whilst doing as little as possible to benefit them. More…
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