Notes from the Print Shop (originally published on the PCC Issues List)
by Ted Rall
Governments are supposed to fulfill the basic needs of their citizens. Ours doesn’t pretend to try.
Sick? Too bad.
Can’t find a job? Tough.
Broke? Can’t afford rent? We don’t give a crap.
Forget “e pluribus unum.” We need a more accurate motto.
We live under a f— you system.
Got a problem? The U.S. government has an all-purpose response to whatever ails you: f— you.
During the ’80s I drove a yellow taxi in New York. Then, as now, there were no public restrooms in the city. At 4 in the morning, with few restaurants or bars open, the coffee I drank to stay awake posed a significant challenge.
It was—it is—insane. People pee. People poop. As basic needs go, toilets are as basic as it gets. Yet the City of New York, with the biggest tax base of any municipality in the United States, didn’t provide any.
So I did what all taxi drivers did. What they still do. I found a side street and a spot between two parked cars. It went OK until a cop caught me peeing under the old elevated West Side Highway, which later collapsed due to lack of maintenance. Perhaps decades of taxi driver urine corroded the support beams.
“You can’t do that here,” said the policeman.
“Where am I supposed to go?” I asked him. “There’s aren’t any restrooms anywhere in town.”
“I know,” he replied before going to get his summons book from his cruiser.
The old “f— you.” We create the problem, then blame you for the results.
I ran away.
In recent days American mayors have been ordering heavily armed riot police to attack and rob peaceful members of encampments allied with Occupy Wall Street.
Like NYC, which won’t provide public restrooms but arrests public urinators, government officials and their media allies use their own refusal to provide basic public services to justify raids against Occupations.
In the middle of the night on November 15th NYPD goons stormed into Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. They beat and pepper-sprayed members of Occupy Wall Street and destroyed the books in their library. Citing “unsanitary conditions,” New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, then told reporters: “I have become increasingly concerned…that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protesters and to the surrounding community.”
Four days before the police attack The New York Times had quoted a city health department statement worrying about the possible spread of norovirus, vomiting, diarrhea and tuberculosis: “It should go without saying that lots of people sleeping outside in a park as we head toward winter is not an ideal situation for anyone’s health.”
So why don’t they give the homeless some of the thousands of abandoned apartment units in New York?
Anyway, according to the Times: “Damp laundry and cardboard signs, left in the rain, have provided fertile ground for mold. Some protesters urinate in bottles, or occasionally a water-cooler jug, to avoid the lines at [the few] public restrooms.”
Of course, there’s an obvious solution: provide adequate bathroom facilities—not just for Occupy but for all New Yorkers. But that’s off the table under New York’s f— you system of government.
Doctors noted a new phenomenon called “Zuccotti cough.” Symptoms are similar to those of “Ground Zero cough” suffered by 9/11 first responders.
Zuccotti is 450 feet away from Ground Zero.
Which brings to mind the fact that the collapse of the World Trade Center towers released 400 tons of asbestos into the air. It was never cleaned up properly. Could Occupiers be suffering the results of sleeping in a should-have-been-Superfund site for two months?
We’ll never know. As under Bush, Obama’s EPA still won’t conduct a 9/11 environmental impact study.
Sick? Wanna know why? F— you.
One of the authorities’ most ironic complaints about the Occupations is that they attract the mentally ill, drug users and habitually homeless.
To listen to the mayors of Portland, Denver and New York, you’d think the Occupiers beamed in bums and nutcases from outer space.
When mentally disabled people seek help from their government, they get the usual answer: f— you.
When people addicted to drugs—drugs imported into the U.S. under the watchful eyes of corrupt border enforcement officers—ask their government for help, they are turned away. F— you again.
When people who lost their homes because their government said “f— you” to them rather than help turn to the same government to look for safe shelter, again they are told: “f— you.”
And then, after days and years and decades of shirking their responsibility to provide us with such staples of human survival as places to urinate and defecate and sleep, and food, and medical care, our “f— you” government has the amazing audacity to blame us, victims of their negligence and corruption and violence, for messing things up.
Which is why we are finally, at long last, starting to say “f— you” to them.
© 2011 Ted Ral
North Dakota's Economic "Miracle" - It's Not Oil
Friday 2 September 2011
by: Ellen Brown, YES! Magazine | News Analysis
The state-owned Bank of North Dakota is credited with the state's relatively healthy economy. (Photo: banknd.nd.gov)
In an article in The New York Times on August 19th titled “The North Dakota Miracle,” Catherine Rampell writes:
Forget the Texas Miracle. Let’s instead take a look at North Dakota, which has the lowest unemployment rate and the fastest job growth rate in the country.
According to new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today, North Dakota had an unemployment rate of just 3.3 percent in July—that’s just over a third of the national rate (9.1 percent), and about a quarter of the rate of the state with the highest joblessness (Nevada, at 12.9 percent).
North Dakota has had the lowest unemployment in the country (or was tied for the lowest unemployment rate in the country) every single month since July 2008.
Its healthy job market is also reflected in its payroll growth numbers. . . . [Y]ear over year, its payrolls grew by 5.2 percent. Texas came in second, with an increase of 2.6 percent.
Why is North Dakota doing so well? For one of the same reasons that Texas has been doing well: oil.
Oil is certainly a factor, but it is not what has put North Dakota over the top. Alaska has roughly the same population as North Dakota and produces nearly twice as much oil, yet unemployment in Alaska is running at 7.7 percent. Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming have all benefited from a boom in energy prices, with Montana and Wyoming extracting much more gas than North Dakota has. The Bakken oil field stretches across Montana as well as North Dakota, with the greatest Bakken oil production coming from Elm Coulee Oil Field in Montana. Yet Montana’s unemployment rate, like Alaska’s, is 7.7 percent.
A number of other mineral-rich states were initially not affected by the economic downturn, but they lost revenues with the later decline in oil prices. North Dakota is the only state to be in continuous budget surplus since the banking crisis of 2008. Its balance sheet is so strong that it recently reduced individual income taxes and property taxes by a combined $400 million, and is debating further cuts. It also has the lowest foreclosure rate and lowest credit card default rate in the country, and it has had NO bank failures in at least the last decade.
If its secret isn’t oil, what is so unique about the state? North Dakota has one thing that no other state has: its own state-owned bank.
Access to credit is the enabling factor that has fostered both a boom in oil and record profits from agriculture in North Dakota. The Bank of North Dakota (BND) does not compete with local banks but partners with them, helping with capital and liquidity requirements. It participates in loans, provides guarantees, and acts as a sort of mini-Fed for the state. In 2010, according to the BND’s annual report:
The Bank provided Secured and Unsecured Federal Fund Lines to 95 financial institutions with combined lines of over $318 million for 2010. Federal Fund sales averaged over $13 million per day, peaking at $36 million in June.
The BND also has a loan program called Flex PACE, which allows a local community to provide assistance to borrowers in areas of jobs retention, technology creation, retail, small business, and essential community services. In 2010, according to the BND annual report:
The need for Flex PACE funding was substantial, growing by 62 percent to help finance essential community services as energy development spiked in western North Dakota. Commercial bank participation loans grew to 64 percent of the entire $1.022 billion portfolio.
The BND’s revenues have also been a major boost to the state budget. It has contributed over $300 million in revenues over the last decade to state coffers, a substantial sum for a state with a population less than one-tenth the size of Los Angeles County. According to a study by the Center for State Innovation, from 2007 to 2009 the BND added nearly as much money to the state’s general fund as oil and gas tax revenues did (oil and gas revenues added $71 million while the Bank of North Dakota returned $60 million). Over a 15-year period, according to other data, the BND has contributed more to the state budget than oil taxes have.
North Dakota’s money and banking reserves are being kept within the state and invested there. The BND’s loan portfolio shows a steady uninterrupted increase in North Dakota lending programs since 2006.
According to the annual BND report:
Financially, 2010 was our strongest year ever. Profits increased by nearly $4 million to $61.9 million during our seventh consecutive year of record profits. Earnings were fueled by a strong and growing deposit base, brought about by a surging energy and agricultural economy. We ended the year with the highest capital level in our history at just over $325 million. The Bank returned a healthy 19 percent ROE, which represents the state’s return on its investment.
A 19 percent return on equity! How many states are getting that sort of return on their Wall Street investments?
Timothy Canova is Professor of International Economic Law at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California. In a June 2011 paper called “The Public Option: The Case for Parallel Public Banking Institutions,” he compares North Dakota’s financial situation to California’s. He writes of North Dakota and its state-owned bank:
The state deposits its tax revenues in the Bank, which in turn ensures that a high portion of state funds are invested in the state economy. In addition, the Bank is able to remit a portion of its earnings back to the state treasury . . . . Thanks in part to these institutional arrangements, North Dakota is the only state that has been in continuous budget surplus since before the financial crisis and it has the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
He then compares the dire situation in California:
In contrast, California is the largest state economy in the nation, yet without a state-owned bank, is unable to steer hundreds of billions of dollars in state revenues into productive investment within the state. Instead, California deposits its many billions in tax revenues in large private banks which often lend the funds out-of-state, invest them in speculative trading strategies (including derivative bets against the state’s own bonds), and do not remit any of their earnings back to the state treasury. Meanwhile, California suffers from constrained private credit conditions, high unemployment levels well above the national average, and the stagnation of state and local tax receipts. The state’s only response has been to stumble from one budget crisis to another for the past three years, with each round of spending cuts further weakening its economy, tax base, and credit rating.
Not all states have oil, of course (and it’s hardly a sustainable basis for an economy), but all could learn from the state-owned bank that allows North Dakota to capitalize on its resources to full advantage. States that deposit their revenues and invest their capital in large Wall Street banks are giving this economic opportunity away.
submitted to the issues list by Mark Schwebke
in the PCC Print Center
29 November 11
emember the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program with which the federal government came to the rescue of faltering banks in 2008? Well, according to a Bloomberg report, that was just a fraction of the financial help the Federal Reserve Bank wound up doling out to troubled lenders. The real total was reportedly closer to $8 trillion, after you add up benefits outside TARP, including emergency loans given at below-market rates:
The amount of money the central bank parceled out was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he “wasn’t aware of the magnitude.” It dwarfed the Treasury Department’s better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.
Bloomberg came up with that number after reviewing "29,000 pages of Fed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and central bank records of more than 21,000 transactions." Bloomberg adds, "The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day." That's nearly twice the amount made public in TARP.
~~ Mark Schwebke
Kathy Kelly | Voices for Creative Nonviolence
vcnv.org/speaker-bio/kathy-kelly Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence
(www.vcnv.org) a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare
ADELAIDE, Australia – At Tabor House Technical College, 21 young people sit in a semicircle looking curiously at Hakim and me. We’ve been invited to speak with them about the practice of justice. Hakim, who has lived among Afghans for the past nine years, begins by describing how an Afghan youth, Zekerullah, would greet them. “Salam,” he says to all. With his hand over his heart, Hakim makes eye contact with each student, and then nods in silent greeting. I smile, having watched Zekerullah do just this, whenever he entered a room. The students are interested.
“You can’t listen only to leaders,” Hakim tells them. “We must put our ears close to the hearts of ordinary people and listen to them.” Hakim is often poetic, but he’s also a trained physician, prone toward assembling data and seeking careful diagnosis.
Rising early this morning, he prepared for today’s presentation by collecting statistics about government responses, in various parts of the world, to massive manifestations of public opinion. As expected, the short survey showed that leaders aren’t listening well to ordinary people, that ‘national interests’ routinely overrule the people’s interests:
72% of Australians want their troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.
But Prime Minister Julia Gillard insists that Australian troops will remain "till the end of the decade, at least."
63% of Americans oppose the Afghan war.
But the US is about to sign a US-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement that will allow joint military bases in Afghanistan beyond 2024.
80% of the Spanish population support the estimated 6.5 to 8 million Spanish Indignados protesting unemployment.
But the Spanish government has been repressing the protesters since their police cleared out Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid on 17th May 2011.
89% of Chileans support the student protests for free public education.
But Chilean police used water cannons and tear gas to break up a student march on October 6th 2011.
US National polls over October and November 2011 were mixed, with agreement/approval ratings for Occupy Wall Street varying from 59% to 22%, but, generally, approval was larger than disapproval.
Yesterday, New York police cleared out the protesters from Zuccotti Park in New York.
“Do governments hate their people?” Hakim asks, “Or do they simply treat their general public as stupid belligerents?”
He encourages students to recognize the wisdom ordinary people hold, offering as an example Afghan villagers who became his teachers. He thought he had come to assist people in the Afghan village because he had ‘knowledge’ to offer them. He instead found that they changed his life completely. They taught him about love and community.
Then he shows us a video he filmed of Zekerullah answering questions posed by Hakim. Zekerullah was 13 at the time the video was made.
“Zekerullah Jan,” Hakim asks, “What are you doing?”
“I am peeling potatoes, teacher,” Zekerullah responds.
“Is having work good?” asks Hakim.
“Yes it’s very good for people. Not having work is a disease.”
“In 2009,” says Hakim, “3 Afghan children were killed daily in war, children like yourself.”
“This is vulgar and bad news…bad because there’ll be less Afghans,” Zekerullah says. “The people of Afghanistan will no longer exist.”
Hakim tells Zekerullah that when Afghan children are killed, foreign and local leaders express their ‘regret.’ “Is their ‘regret’ appropriate?” Hakim asks.
Zekerullah responds immediately. “No. Their regret seems to mean that however much the ‘regret,’ children will still be killed again, so their regret isn’t acceptable.”
Hakim asks a new question: “If your younger brother was killed by a bomb, and you were offered money in compensation, would you accept the money?”
Zekerullah says he wouldn’t accept it. “Firstly,” he asks, “why was he killed?”
“Secondly,” he continues, “those responsible should be punished so they won’t infringe on the rights of other people. The monetary compensation shouldn’t be accepted as money doesn’t match up to the value of a person.”
“Zekerullah,” Hakim asks, “Is your life as valuable as the life of Obama’s daughter?”
“Her life is very good,” says Zekerullah, looking directly at the camera, “because she’s the child of a minister or king.”
“Aren’t you as valuable as Obama’s daughter?” asks Hakim.
“In terms of humanity,” Zekerullah replies, “both of us are human beings.”
“Zekerullah,” Hakim says, “Never forget that you are as valuable as every other child, whether in Afghanistan, America or Europe.”
Zekerullah stares at the potato he is peeling, nodding thoughtfully.
“Okay,” he then says, looking up at Hakim.
“And all of us love you,” Hakim adds.
Zekerullah smiles slowly. “Be alive and at peace, teacher,” he says.
One of the students comments about how hard it would be to lose your brother. “These young people you know,” he asks, “can they feel forgiveness when their family members are killed?” Hakim says it is very hard. He tells the story of Abdulai who has publicly stated that it’s time to stop the spiral of revenge, even though the Taliban killed his father. Abdulai, age 15, was invited to join this tour of Australian cities, but the Australian government has not yet issued him a visa. “Why not value a bearer of forgiveness more than those who bring weapons and preparation for warfare into your country?” Hakim asks.
President Obama is visiting Australia today. During a 26 hour trip, he’ll go to Darwin where he and Prime Minister Gillard will most likely announce plans to greatly increase U.S. military presence at several bases. The 72% of Australians who no longer want Australian troops to participate in the U.S./NATO war in Afghanistan will have to work very hard to be heard by their leaders.
Using costly wars as the de-facto method of controlling terrorists and the world should be debated. The debate should include careful listening to people bearing the brunt of these wars. And alternative methods for resolving human conflict should be sought.
Hakim encourages the students to read “The Kingdom of God Is Within You,” by Leo Tolstoy.
Having watched Hakim’s encounter with Zekerullah, Tolstoy’s confidence that the law of love is in accord with human nature seems wonderfully plausible. Tolstoy writes:
The inherent contradiction of human life has now reached an extreme degree of tension: on the one side there is the consciousness of the beneficence of the law of love, and on the other the existing order of life which has for centuries occasioned an empty, anxious, restless, and troubled mode of life, conflicting as it does with the law of love and built on the use of violence.
This contradiction must be faced, and the solution will evidently not be favourable to the outlived law of violence, but to the truth which has dwelt in the hearts of men from remote antiquity: the truth that the law of love is in accord with the nature of man.
But men can only recognize this truth to its full extent when they have completely freed themselves from all religious and scientific superstitions and from all the consequent misrepresentations and sophistical distortions by which its recognition has been hindered for centuries.
The class is about to end. One of the students says that he’s glad we watched the video because it gives him hope that thirty years from now people in the future could know what the people like Zekerullah said and what the politicians did.
Alliance Contributing Editor
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