Monday, October 31, 2011

It's illegal to be homeless in America...

...so don't lose your job, or if you do, hope there's room for you at the local homeless shelter.

Starting with Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York, city after city has passed "broken windows" or "quality of life" ordinances making it dangerous for the homeless to loiter or even look "indigent" in public spaces.

All over the country police have moved in on the tent cities of the homeless, from Seattle to Providence, in raids that often leave the former occupants without even their minimal possessions.

What occupiers from all walks of life are discovering is that to be homeless in America is to live like a fugitive. (Full Article).

The Census Bureau recently determined that Atlanta has the most income inequality. The day before the new census data was released, Atlanta city officials cleared out an Occupy Atlanta encampment and arrested dozens of occupiers.

An aide: A recent study found that those who sit on "boards of directors" average just 4.3 hours a week on board work, and the nation’s top 1 percent took home more income than America’s entire bottom 40 percent. The Social Security Administration researchers reported earlier this month that half of America’s workers (the 99%) earned less than $26,364 last year.

By comparison: Larry Ellison (the 1%), the CEO at Oracle, has just listed a 6.9-acre home and horse farm he owns in Northern California for $19 million. He has a $33 billion net worth. The Oracle kingpin owns at least 15 homes, including two in Southern California’s Malibu. Says Malibu mayor John Sibert: “One or the other of his yachts shows up here about four times a year, right off shore. Other than that, we don't see him around town very much.”

But Americans aren't even allowed to live in a tent if we lose our jobs and are evicted from our homes. We have to live as homeless roamers.

Right now the occupiers on Wall Street have been reduced to using bicycles to produced electricity.

Police in Austin, Texas made 39 arrests early Sunday as they moved to enforce a new rule banning food tables in the City Hall plaza where protesters have camped out.. "On a night where there are hundreds of drunks driving around town, they have all these resources here to take down three food tables," protester Dave Cortez told the newspaper.

But how can the Occupy Wall Street Moment ever expect to make real change when sporting events, concerts, royal weddings, and presidential inaugurations draw much bigger crowds.

More than 3 million people marched through Rome in opposition to the U.S.- led invasion of Iraq in 2003 (as Americans had also been protesting all along), but 8 years later as of October 2011 we're still in Iraq - - and the corporations have been profiting the entire time.

And I also noticed that much smaller countries have gathered much larger crowds. Will things have to get much more worse in the U.S. before there can really be mass protests...enough so as to influence political and corporate behavior?

On January 20, 1980 the Super Bowl was attended by a record 103,985 spectators, which remains a record through today. How many people are in Zuccotti Park trying to end political corruption and corporate greed?

It looked discouraging when I looked at past U.S. protests and compare them to what the people in Europe and the Middle East have done.

It would help if all the colleges got involved the way they did during the Vietnam Era. While although they have no fear of being drafted into war these days, they still have unemployment and college debt to fear.

So now it's almost illegal to be jobless and homeless through no fault of your own. Only in America.

Proof that CEOs are Evil Psychopaths

Eli Roth has been putting the fear of god into moviegoers since the debut of his 2002 hit, Cabin Fever. Now Roth takes a look at real-life human horrors in "How Evil Are You", a new installment in Discovery's Curiosity series.

Eli Roth and his team recreate the infamous Milgram Experiment from the 60s, which aimed to discover the correlation between authority and morals, in hopes of explaining the Nazi mentality. A shocking experiment in every sense of the word.



Originally, The Milgram Experiment studied obedience towards authority figures. The study began in July of 1961 as a series of notable experiments in social psychology conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, “which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience”.

At the heart of the Milgram Experiment is the study of human reaction to obedience. Without hesitation, seventy percent of individuals comply with orders given by authority. There are varying degrees of obedience that commonly exemplify this point.

Eli Roth discusses this in a recent interview:

"I've always been fascinated with the concept that evil doesn't actually exist -- that it's really all about your point of view. A suicide bomber, to one group, is the anti-Christ and to another group, they're a hero. Obviously certain acts are unquestionably evil, but most often when people commit these acts, they totally feel justified in doing them. And that is the most disturbing and terrifying thing. There's nothing scarier than when someone does something thinking they're on the side of right."

"We talk about the Milgram Experiment a lot in the show and recreating them was something I've always wanted to do, but wondered if you actually could. There's stricter rules now -- you can't just let someone shock another person to death, but you can certainly do the experiment. And, honestly, I've shot some disturbing scenes before, but there was nothing more disturbing than watching another person shock someone, hearing the person scream, 'Please stop, please stop, I have a heart condition.' And the scientist just says,'continue'. So they keep going."

"Growing up in a Jewish household with Holocaust education, you think about it a lot. How could these people who were educated do what they did? I've always wondered how that happens. What I've learned from doing this, what I really saw, was that people need authority in their lives. We need to feel like, if there's trouble, there's a policeman right there. And we like that there are fire trucks when there’s a fire. And when someone's sick, there's an ambulance right there. We need to believe that's all in place in order for us to function. But that authority can cross over into a dangerous area when people learn not to question it. And what's crazy is if people can displace guilt and responsibility on a third party, they're capable of anything."

"Look no further than Occupy Wall Street. I mean, those people down there truly believe that these [Wall Street] people are evil. And the [CEOs] are there are saying, 'We're not evil. We are educated, we worked hard, this is how the system is -- we're in a Capitalist society. Our goal is to make money. Why are we all pretending it's not?'"

"Look at what happened in the banking industry. It makes you absolutely sick, but to those bankers and those corporations and those CEOs, they see themselves as saviors. Ultimately they feel that what they do is for the good of the country because they've just hired thousands of employees. It very quickly gets into this grey area of who is evil? And everybody thinks that they're right and the other person is evil. So it’s very hard to qualify what evil is. It really depends on which side of the corner you're on."

“The same qualities that are in a psychopath or serial killer are the qualities we look for in a CEO. You want them to kill the competition and make tough decisions, to be a strong leader, a dictator, a president. They have similar brain functions to a psychopath -- or someone that can just turn off and kill another person.”



Richard Severin "Dick" Fuld, Jr. was the final Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers. He had held this position until 2008 when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection.

In October 2008, Fuld was among twelve Lehman Brothers executives who received grand jury subpoenas in connection to three criminal investigations led by the United States Attorney's offices.

Richard Fuld's face was the universal symbol of Wall Street greed. After Lehman Brothers had filed the largest bankruptcy in history, Fuld was before Henry A. Waxman, who chaired the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Waxman has stared down plenty of CEOs over the years, yet this had to be one of the most intense confrontations of his career.

"Mr. Fuld will do fine," Waxman said. "He can walk away from Lehman a wealthy man who earned over $500 million. But taxpayers are left with a $700 billion bill to rescue Wall Street and an economy in crisis."

On November 10, 2008 Fuld transferred his Florida mansion to his wife Kathleen for one hundred dollars in order to protect the house from potential legal actions against him. They had bought it four years earlier for $13.56 million.

In late March 2009 Fuld had an email sent out stating that he joined Matrix Advisors, a New York-based hedge fund. In May 2010 Fuld was registered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority as employed by Legend Securities, a securities brokerage and investment banking firm in New York.

Richard Fuld (part of the top 1%) kept his money and house, never went to jail, and is working in the same business and in the same town doing what he did before the collapse of the financial markets. (At his age, and with all that money, why didn't he just retire? Insatiable?)

See my article on greed called Yes Dammit, Spread the Wealth Around! (Is greed good?)

Historical Mass Protests, Rallies, Marches, Sit-ins, Tree-Sittings, and Occupations

In 1916 and 1917 suffragists for the women's movement picketed the White House, with one silent picket leading to the arrest of 218 women from 26 states.

The Bonus Army was the popular name of an assemblage of some 43,000 marchers (17,000 World War I veterans, their families, and affiliated groups) who gathered in Washington, D.C., in the spring and summer of 1932 to demand immediate cash-payment redemption of their service certificates. Its organizers called it the Bonus Expeditionary Force.

N.O.W. (Women's Movement)

On August 26, 1970, on the 50th anniversary of women's suffrage, NOW activists organized a Women's Strike for Equality. Approximately 50,000 women marched in New York and another 100,000 women participated in demonstrations and rallies in 90 cities, 42 states.

In 1977 NOW organized over 100,000 people to march on Washington in 95-degree heat, in a sea of purple, gold and white banners (reflecting the suffragist colors), to press for an extension of the time limit on ratifying the ERA.

Having won the extension, NOW activists organized a record 90,000 people to march on Chicago, again urging Illinois' ratification, in the 1980 Mother's Day March for ERA.

After the defeat of the ERA in 1982, NOW did not organize another major march on women's rights until the East Coast/West Coast March for Women's Equality/Women's Lives in March 1986, when over 120,000 women and men demonstrated in Washington, D.C., and the following weekend in driving rain in Los Angeles, against the impending threat to abortion rights.

NOW's April 1989 March for Women's Lives drew crowds that had not been seen in Washington since the Vietnam protests of 1969 and 1971. After organizing a recording-breaking crowd of 600,000 in April, NOW followed up with a rally of 350,000 that fall — the November, 1989 Mobilize for Women's Lives at the Lincoln memorial -- and broke their own record by bringing 750,000 abortion rights supporters for a massive April 1992 March for Women's Lives

In 1995, more than 200,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., on April 9 for the Rally for Women's Lives, the first and largest mass action to stop violence against women.

Vietnam Protests

They lasted about ten years from the early 60s into the early 70s. It's well documented and too lengthily to list there. In 1969 Students for a Democratic Society held its national convention in Chicago from 18 June through 22 June. Huge list at Wiki.

Actual "Occupations"

The Very First Actual Occupation: On 9 April, 1969, 300 students at Harvard University seized the administration building in protest of the war. They threw out eight deans and locked themselves in. Harvard students took over University Hall, one of the college's oldest buildings. Opposed to the escalating war in Vietnam, the protesters demanded that Harvard end its Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program. The demonstrators had vowed non-violent resistance, but in the early hours of April 10th, university administrators made the unprecedented decision to call in city and state police. The use of billy-clubs and mace to remove the demonstrators outraged even those members of the community who did not support the takeover. The sit-in at Harvard, and the so-called "bust" that ended it, were part of a national phenomenon; but as one participant put it, "Like it or not, whatever goes on at Harvard gets a lot of attention."

In 1977: Initially Joseph Califano, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, refused to sign meaningful regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. After an ultimatum and deadline, demonstrations took place in ten U.S. cities on April 5, 1977.

The sit-in (occupation) at the San Francisco Office of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, led by Judith Heumann, lasted from April 5th to until May 1st, 1977 (25 days). More than 150 demonstrators refused to disband. This action became the longest sit-in at a federal building to date. Joseph Califano signed the regulations on April 28, 1977.

The following year in 1978 disability rights activists successfully protested the Denver Regional Transit Authority with a year-long civil disobedience campaign because the transit system was inaccessible to people who used wheelchairs.

In 1989, students occupied the administration building at Wayne State University for either eleven or twelve days in response to racist incidents on campus.

The Afrikan Student Union at Ohio State University occupied the offices of the campus president for eight days in 1998 in protest of proposed changes in the Office of Minority Affairs.

At Harvard in 2001, a sit-in demanding that university employees be paid a living wage lasted for three weeks. in Massachusetts Hall. (Alt. source)

Another living wage sit-in, this one at Washington University in 2005, lasted for eighteen days.

In May of 2008, students protesting the University of North Carolina’s ties to sweatshop garment makers occupied the lobby of their administration building for sixteen days.

On September 24th, 2009 students and workers at UC Santa Cruz began the occupation of the Graduate Student Commons as part of a day of action at all UCs across the state. From CNN: "About 70 students at UC Santa Cruz in California avoided arrest early Sunday morning when they surrendered the administration building they had occupied for three days, according to a school spokesman."

The Wisconsin Protests and Occupation

February 13, 2011 - Gov. Scott Walker unveils his budget repair bill, which would curb most collective bargaining rights for most public employees and asks them to increase contributions for benefits. Democrats and labor leaders call it union busting and begin to mobilize against it. About 150 people protested in front of the Capitol while about 100 others demonstrate in front of the Governor's Mansion.

February 14 - Teaching and project assistants from the University of Wisconsin–Madison distributed "We ♥ UW: Don't Break My ♥" Valentine cards to the governor, as a means of protesting the bill's negative impacts on working conditions at the university

February 15, 2011 - At least 10,000 protesters gather at Capitol Square, while 3,000 more fill the Capitol.

February 16 - The number of protesters in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol was estimated at 30,000.

February 17, 2011 - About 25,000 people continued the protest, citing concerns that Republicans were attempting to pass the legislation without scheduling adequate time for public review and debate. Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller led the 14 senate democrats in fleeing the state to prevent the quorum necessary for a vote on the Budget Repair Bill. At the same time, protesters occupied the Senate chambers. Protesters eventually had undertaken a physical occupation of the Capitol building, establishing a fully functioning community within the public spaces of the Wisconsin State Capitol, including an information center, a sleeping area, food stations with food for protesters supplied by local businesses.

February 18, 2011 - Tens of thousands of protesters jammed the Wisconsin capitol and many schools closed for a third day. State troopers were enlisted in the hunt for 14 Democratic state senators whose disappearance has prevented a vote on the new governor's controversial budget proposal.

February 19, 2011 - Some of the largest crowds yet (70,000 protesters) descended upon Wisconsin's state capitol to march, chant and shout about Republican Governor Scott Walker's controversial proposal to trim benefits and curtail collective-bargaining rights.

February 26, 2011 - Protests hit its peak on Saturday, when more than 100,000 people descended on the Capitol grounds for a rally, which was the largest state rally since the Vietnam War.

March 3, 2011 - After the occupation of the State Capitol building for two weeks and two days, the final group (50 to 100) of pro-union protesters left the building peacefully after a judge ordered their removal.

Occupy Wall Street Movement

Began September 17, 2011 - New York City's Zuccotti Park. The mother of all occupations. To date: Occupied 6 Weeks and 2 Days and counting. By October 9, similar demonstrations were either ongoing or had been held in 70 major cities and over 600 communities in the U.S. Internationally, as other "Occupy" protests have modeled themselves after Occupy Wall Street, in over 900 cities worldwide.

Tree- Sitting

Sometimes, tree-sitting is also used as a long-term resistance strategy, with activists occupying trees for months or years at a time. There was a tree-sitters' camp in Berkeley, California protesting the planned removal of coastal live oaks. The protesters were in the trees from February 12, 2008 to September 9, 2008 (7 months), making it the longest running urban tree-sit in history. (number of people unclear)

Rallies and Marches and other Mass Protests

"I Have a Dream" is a 17-minute public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. and was delivered on August 28, 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. Over 200,000 civil rights supporters attended.

The March for Women's Lives was a demonstration for reproductive rights and women's rights, held April 25, 2004 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. The National Park Service no longer makes official estimates of attendance after the Million Man March controversy in 1994, so official estimates are often speculation. March organizers estimated that 1.15 million people participated.

The Million Man March was a gathering of social activists, en masse, held on and around the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on October 16, 1995. ABC-TV funded researchers at Boston University estimated the crowd size to be 837,000.

The Million Woman March was a protest march organized on October 25, 1997, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Organizers estimated an attendance of 2.1 million.

The Genoa Group of Eight Summit protest, from July 18 to July 22, 2001, was a dramatic protest, drawing an estimated 200,000 demonstrators. Dozens were hospitalized following clashes with police and night raids by security forces on two schools housing activists and independent journalists. People taken into custody after the raids have alleged severe abuse at the hands of police.

The Restoring Honor rally was held on August 28, 2010 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and was organized by Glenn Beck. A scientific estimate placed the crowd size around 87,000, while media reports varied dramatically from tens of thousands to 500,000.

Other Mass Gatherings

In 480 B.C., the Persian Army marched into the Battle of Thermopylae with between 200,000 and 500,000 men.

More than 2,000 years later, in 1943, the Soviet Union's Red Army suffered more than a million casualties at the Battle of Stalingrad.

Also during the early 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi led millions of Indians in protest against British rule through noncompliance. Indian public officials resigned, parents withdrew their children from British schools and participants boycotted British goods. Exact figures for such a movement are difficult to calculate.

Largest Mass Protests

When it comes to protests, the book of Guinness World Records currently lists the Feb. 15, 2003 Iraq War protest in Rome as the largest antiwar rally in history. The event drew an estimated crowd of 3 million. On that same day, protesters gathered in nearly 600 cities in a coordinated global effort to express moral outrage against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This included a reported 1.3 million protesters in Barcelona, Spain, and between 750,000 and 2 million protesters in London [sources: Guinness Book of World Records]. All told, between 6 and 10 million people participated in the global protest. According to the French academic Dominique Reynié, between January 3 and April 12, 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war

During January 2007, an estimated 60 million Hindu pilgrims gathered at the convergence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in northern India for the Ardh-Kumbh Mela, or festival [source: BBC].

Largest Massive Peaceful Gatherings

Over five million

* Pilgrimage to Sabarimala Hindu temple in Kerala, India is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with an estimated 45–50 million devotees visiting every year.
* An estimated 40 million people gathered over 41 days in Sabarimala, India between 15 November and 26 December 2008.
* An estimated 34 million people gathered over 11 days in Rajahmundry, India for Godavari pushkaram between 31 July and 10 August 2003.
* An estimated 15 million people attended the funeral of C. N. Annadurai in Tamil Nadu, India in 1969.
* An estimated 10 to 14 million people visited the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala, Iraq during Arba'een in 2009.
* An estimated 10 to 14 million people visited the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala, Iraq during Arba'een in 2010.
* An estimated 9 million people visited the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala, Iraq during Arba'een in 2008.
* An estimated 8 million people attended the annual feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila, Philippines on January 2011.
* An estimated 7 million people attended the 25th anniversary of El Shaddai Manila, Philippines.
* An estimated 5 million people gathered in Sabarimala, India on 14 January 2007.
* Over 5 million people attended a World Youth Day Rally in Manila, The Philippines in 1995 to see Pope John Paul II.

Two to five million

* Up to 5 million people came to welcome Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran, Iran on his return to Iran on 1 February 1979.
* An estimated 5 million people attended the funeral of Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser on 1 October 1970 in Cairo, Egypt.
* An estimated 4 million people attended the funeral of Abdel Halim Hafez in Egypt.
* An estimated 4 million people attended the funeral of Umm Kulthum in Cairo, Egypt on 6 February 1975.
* An estimated 4 million people attended the closing Mass of World Youth Day 1995 in Manila, Philippines.
* An estimated 2 to 4 million people are reported to have attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome, Italy on 7 April 2005.
* An estimated 3 million people marched through Rome, Italy in opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in the largest anti-war rally in history on February 15, 2003.
* An estimated 3 million people attended a parade in Boston, United States celebrating the Boston Red Sox's victory on October 30, 2004. The victory ended an 86 year drought of world series championships and ended the era of the famous Curse of the Bambino for the Red Sox.
* An estimated 3 million people attended the annual feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila, Philippines on January 2008
* An estimated 3 million people gathered for the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran in 1989.
* An estimated 2 to 3 million people gathered to rally in defense of workers rights in Rome, Italy on March 23, 2002.
* An estimated 2.8 million people made the annual Hajj to Mecca,Saudi Arabia (excluding unregistered pilgrims which were over 0.75 million, the number of pilgrims would then be over 3.5 million) in November 2010.
* An estimated 2.7 million people attended the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, Italy.
* An estimated 2.5 million people participated in a beatification mass held by Pope John Paul II in Błonia Park, Kraków, Poland.
* An estimated 2.5 million people participated in the São Paulo Gay Pride Parade that took place in June 2006 in'São Paulo, Brazil.
* An estimated 2 million people gathered in Philadelphia, USA for the Stanley cup parade for the 1974 Stanley Cup Champions, the Philadelphia Flyers.
* An estimated 2 million people gathered for the Republic Protests on May 13, 2007 in İzmir, Turkey.
* An estimated 2 million people are reported to have gathered in Madrid, Spain for a parade celebrating the success of Spain national football team in 2010 FIFA World Cup.
* An estimated 2 million Hindu women gathered at the Attukal Temple in Kerala, India on 4 March 2007, making it the largest gathering of women in history, overtaking the record set by the same festival on February 23, 1997.
* On 25 May 2010 an estimated 2 million people gathered at the 9 de Julio avenue in Buenos Aires to attend several concerts and street art parades celebrating the Bicentennial of the May Revolution 
* An estimated 5 million people are reported to have gathered in Tahrir Square for a Celebrating the removal of Mubarak regime on 19 Feb 2011 during the Egyptian revolution.
* An estimated 2 million people are reported to have gathered in India for a Christian healing service, conducted by Benny Hinn in 2005; with the three day attendance totaling 4 million. But, Indian newspapers only reported attendance in the order of thousands, where as Binny Hinn's personal website claimed 7.3 million attendees.

One to two million

* An estimated 1.5 million attended the Diretas Já protest (April 16, 1984) in São Paulo, Brazil
* An estimated 1.0 million gathered in London, England for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on 29 April 2011.
* An estimated 1.5 million people attended the funeral of former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan on 1 March 2011. The length of the funeral cortege surpassed 4 miles.
* An estimated 1.2 million people attended the inauguration of Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. on 20 January 2009.
* An estimated 1.5 million people attended the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia, PA 2 July 2005.
* An estimated 1.5 million Hindu women gathered at the Attukal Temple in Kerala, India on 23 February 1997 for what was at that time the largest gathering of women in history and earned the temple a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. They brought cooking pots with which they prepared food as an offering to a goddess.
* An estimated 1.2 million to 1.5 million people attended the "Telangana Maha Garjana", at Warangal in Andhra Pradesh,India on 16 December 2010 to demand the formation of Telangana as an Independent Statehood.
* An estimated 1.25 million people attended a Papal mass given by Pope John Paul II in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland on 29 September 1979. The estimated attendance was about one third of the population of Ireland gathered in one expansive public area.
* An estimated 1.6 million people (30 percent of Lebanon's 4 million population) gathered in Beirut, Lebanon on 14 March 2005 to demand an end to the Syrian military presence in Lebanon. This event is known as the Cedar Revolution.
* An estimated crowd of over 1 million protesters gathered at the headquarters of the UN Military Observer Group in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir on 1 March 1990 to present a memorandum addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations demanding that Kashmir be given the right of self determination.
* An estimated 1 million people participated in what is considered the largest procession in the history of New Delhi, India on 8 October 1970 in commemoration of Hans Ji Maharaj, led by his son Guru Maharaj Ji (now Prem Rawat).
* An estimated crowd of over 1 million revelers attended Love Parade in Essen, Germany on 25 August 2007.
* An estimated crowd of over 1 million Colombians gathered in Bogotá, Colombia on 4 February 2008 to protest against FARC.
* An estimated crowd of 750 thousand to 1.5 million people gathered in Central Park in New York City on 22 April 1990 to celebrate Earth Day.
* An estimated crowd of about 2 million people attended the funeral at Dhaka of President Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh on 30 May 1981.
* An estimated 1 million people attended the funeral procession of the French enlightenment writer Voltaire on 11 July 1791.
* An estimated one million Catholics gathered for the mass at Saint Peter's Square, to celebrate John Paul II's beatification on May 1, 2011.
* An estimated 1.2 million attended World Youth Day 1997 (August 19–24) in Paris
* An estimated 1 million attended World Youth Day 1987 (April 11–12) in Buenos Aires, Argentina
* An estimated 1.4 million attended World Youth Day 2011 (August 16–21) in Madrid

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_peaceful_gatherings_in_history

(* Also GOOGLE "Prison Strikes" and the G-8 protests)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Top 1% Mocks Homeless at Halloween Party

The 1% mocked the homeless and homeowners, many who have been illegally foreclosed on, in a Halloween celebration. First they TRICKED innocent homeowners, then they TREATED themselves. Now they're being investigated for fraud by the authorities.

This story makes one wonder how prevalent this is among the uber-wealthy. Oh, what a real treat it would be if only I could be a fly in the wall in their mansions and boardrooms! It's no wonder those protesters on Wall Street are camped out in a New York City park in the freezing cold and snow. And maybe the 1% is right now gazing down upon them in the comfort of their warm multi-million-dollar penthouse suites, laughing and making jokes as they sip on their $50,000-a-bottle Pernod-Ricard Perrier-Jouet champagne.

Bloomberg reports that multi-millionaire Steven J. Baum’s New York foreclosure law firm has attracted lawsuits and fines for its actions during the housing crisis, with one judge likening its conduct to something out of the “Twilight Zone."

Late last year Baum’s firm, which one lawyer for homeowners said processes about half the foreclosures in New York state, was ordered to pay legal fees, fines, and costs by a Nassau County District Court Judge.

A probe came after JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial's GMAC mortgage unit said they would stop repossessions in 23 states where courts supervise home seizures and Bank of America froze foreclosures nationwide.

Steven J. Baum's firm has been accused of overcharging, filing false documents and representing parties on both sides of a mortgage transfer. Baum runs the firm his father founded in 1972 and he is said to be worth $50 million.

Baum has gained notoriety statewide and nationally, as the firm’s work in the foreclosure crisis placed it in the midst of the controversy over improper legal paperwork and so-called “robo-signing.” Employees of banks and law firms have admitted to signing tens of thousands of affidavits and other court documents attesting to the circumstances of a foreclosure without actually knowing them or reviewing them, as required by law.

The controversy and investigation are major issues for Baum, which employs well over 100 people.

Originally a small real estate firm, Baum has grown rapidly over the past decade into New York’s dominant foreclosure firm, handling over 40 percent of filings statewide on behalf of the nation’s biggest mortgage lenders and loan servicers.

In the process, it has mastered the task of generating and filing routine court papers through an assembly-line operation, enabling it to churn out tens of thousands of documents a year for its bank clients in an effort to speed foreclosures. The firm has become the linchpin in the flood of foreclosure activity in the state. As a result, it’s now squarely in the cross hairs of consumer advocates and opposing attorneys, who denounce its work and label it “a foreclosure mill” as they fight it in court.

“It’s truly a foreclosure factory. They really mass-produce these things without putting sufficient effort into preparing a polished product,” said Craig D. Robins, a Long Island consumer bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney. “The quality of their work is sub-par.”

The firm and its attorneys have been criticized for submitting court documents that opposing attorneys and judges say are riddled with errors and unsubstantiated claims.

There are also assertions of rampant conflicts of interest with Baum, as some of the firm’s attorneys are signing mortgage “assignments” or transfers from one bank to another as “deputies” or agents of the Mortgage Electronic Registry Service, or MERS. At the same time, their firm represents the bank that is trying to foreclose, so the firm is representing both sides of the mortgage transfer. And during the process, their employment with Baum is not disclosed to the court.

MERS is a service created by the banking industry to simplify the sale and transfer of loans by recording them in MERS’ name without having to file new county records each time a different bank takes over. But the validity of the entire system, and Baum’s role in it, is now under attack nationwide. MERS is now being sued by Delaware's Attorney General

Critics have accused Baum's firm of not only sloppy and unprofessional work, but fraud. It’s even the target of a couple of class-action racketeering lawsuits.

“People have talked about robo-signers and paper irregularity. This is fraud,” said Ronald J. Kim, an attorney in Saratoga Springs. “A lot of the things Baum has done, I would have had my license taken away for.”

And in Nassau County District Court, Judge Scott Fairgrieve accused the Baum firm of misrepresenting its client’s position and trying to mislead the court, calling its actions “outrageous,” “reprehensible” and “repugnant.”

Now the state New York attorney general has set his sights on the firm. Most of the nation’s attorneys general are negotiating a massive $20 billion settlement with lenders, mortgage servicers and related parties.

In particular, he’s examining the relationship between Baum and Pillar Processing, a legal documents processing and outsourcing company that Baum founded and then sold in 2007 to a Wall Street hedge fund, Tailwind Capital. Besides documents, Pillar provides human resources, accounting and technology services for Baum.

Although legally separate, the two companies remain intertwined, with their office suites sharing the same space, secured entrance and receptionist in a nondescript suburban office building at 220 Northpointe Parkway. Most of Pillar’s work is for Baum’s firm, although Pillar’s employees for the most part are not lawyers.

From InfoWars - October 30, 2011 - On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum, that represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, threw a Halloween party.

The party is the firm’s big annual bash. Employees wear Halloween costumes to the office, where they party until around noon, and then return to work, still in costume. A former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent snapshots of last year’s party via e-mail, and in the e-mail it said that "she" wanted to show the appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.

Reuters reported that Baum's firm has recently received some of the worst PR imaginable over the weekend, when the New York Times ran office Halloween-party photos featuring the firm's staff seeming to mock the homeless and displaced.

In one photo, a woman wears a sign around her neck that reads, "3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served." That statement is meant to mock "the typical excuse of the homeowner trying to evade a foreclosure."

Another picture shows a coffin with a picture of woman with her eyes cut out. A sign reads, "Rest in Peace. Crazy Susie." That's allegedly a reference to Susan Chana Lask, a lawyer who filed a class-action suit against Steven J. Baum.

According to the New York Times, the firm is already under investigation by the New York attorney general, and it recently agreed to pay $2 million to resolve an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether it had "filed misleading pleadings, affidavits, and mortgage assignments in the state and federal courts of New York."

The Buffalo News says that those at the office Halloween party were criticized as being insensitive toward people who were losing their homes.

A corner of the office party was decorated like foreclosed homes; and a sign reading “Baum Estates.”

The head of the firm, Steven J. Baum, said in a statement to The Buffalo News on Saturday that the photos obviously were in poor taste. "On behalf of the firm, I sincerely apologize for what happened at our Halloween party."

The photos had generated 175 reader comments on the New York Times website as of Saturday evening. “I am appalled but find I pity those in these photos,” one reader wrote. “The lack of their empathy and humanity are apparent.”

Photos from a former employee of the law firm of Steven J. Baum

Steven J. Baum employees mocking homeowners who have been foreclosed on.



A corner of the Baum office was decorated to look like a row of foreclosed homes.



O.T.S.C. stands for order to show cause, a last-ditch motion often made by desperate homeowners about to be evicted from their homes.



Contact Steven J. Baum

Phone: 716-204-2400

* Fax: 716-204-4600
* 716-204-2496

Regular Mail

P.O. Box 1291
Buffalo, NY 14240-1291

Overnight Mail (Physical address of office)

220 Northpointe Pkwy, Suite G
Amherst, NY 14228

Long Island Address

900 Merchants Concourse
Suite 412
Westbury, NY 11590
* This is not a mailing address *

Border Guards Armed with AR-15s at Occupy Phoenix

Just like the Tea Party, the Occupy Wall Street movement is now locked and loaded.

A citizen militia group armed with AR-15s were defiantly standing in front of the local police. The U.S. Border Guard is making its presence felt at the Occupy Phoenix demonstration to protect free speech rights, arguing that the second amendment prevents the state from abusing the first amendment. (Original video and article posted at Alex Jones InfoWars).

The article says the group has been labeled “neo-nazis” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is usually a demonization tactic, but this particular individual (shown in the video clip below and known as J.T. Ready) has attended neo-nazi rallies in the past and is supposed to be "closely affiliated" with the "fringe" National Socialist Party.

Wiki says there is no clear definition of national socialism, and that the term has been used to mean many different things. Here it says, "National Socialism is the opposite of international finance capitalism, i.e. the opposite of globalization. Under National Socialism, engineers would not lose their jobs to outsourcing, and great industrial cities would not be disintegrating and turning back to farmland."

But regardless...the man being interviewed in the video sounded very articulate, he didn't spew hate or racism, and he was just but one member in the group of U.S. Border Guards at the Occupy Phoenix protest.

Occupy Wall Street now seems to have but another commonality with the Tea Party, and is beginning to look more and more like the ORIGINAL Tea Party movement everyday (i.e. government corruption, corporate greed, "hands off my Medicare", and now guns.)

The major difference between the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement? One might argue that The Tea Party went home every night to their comfortable homes, while the Occupy protesters are toughing it out in the cold while living in tents.

(Below) U.S. Border Guard J.T. Ready with U.S. Republican Arizona Senator Russell Pearce (left) and at the protest (right).

(Below) Supporters for Joe Miller, the Tea Party favorite for Alaska in 2010 and the Republican Party nominee.

(Below) Even Tea Party presidential candidate Rick Perry was publicly exercising his Second Amendment Right.

(Below) More Second Amendment Tea Party enthusiasts

.

And just like with the Tea Party (or any other group, "fringe" or otherwise, even the police and military) there will always be a segment of racists. But even THEY are part of the 99%.

IT'S SIMPLE MATH, 1 + 1 + 1 = PROTESTS

NO JOBS and BUDGET CUTS - The immediate crisis facing the United States economy is the jobs deficit, not the federal debt -- and budget cuts may make matters worse.

+

A WORSENING ECONOMY - On most major measures of economic health, the economy is still worse today than it was before the recession began.

+

INCOME INEQUALITY - The current protests on Wall Street effectively calls attention to the extreme and growing income inequality in the United States, an economist writes. "Storming the Capitalist Castle"

=

PROTESTS - Today "Occupy" protesters clashed with police in Denver, Portland, and Austin: Police use rubber bullets and pepper spray on demonstrators as Occupy Denver protest turns ugly.

  • Denver: Police shot rubber bullets and used pepper spray - 20 arrested.
  • Austin: Police arrested at least 38 protesters.
  • Portland: At least 30 protesters were cuffed after they refused to leave Jamison Square.

Yes Dammit, Spread the Wealth Around!

If they won't invest in America and hire American workers, then tax them.

Spreading the wealth is like sharing a loaf of bread with someone...it's a good thing. But the propaganda that has been put out for many decades by the wealthiest and most powerful among us has demonized this concept of sharing, equating it to evil and communism (and we know how Stalin and Mao mass-murdered their own people).

Media pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck who spew their fear-mongering would have you think that taxing the rich is akin to a socialistic plot to destroy America. Pure nonsense. Tax rates during Dwight D. Eisenhower's time was 3 times higher than they are today, and he was just as American and patriotic as anyone I've ever read about in U.S. history (and he was a Republican too).

And Ronald Reagan, another Republican, despite his misguided ideas about economics, knew that responsible governments needed taxation to fund government, and that millionaires should pay their fair share. We ARE government. And if we're "bigger government", it's mostly because our population has grown by a third -- over 100 million on the last 40 years...since I was 16 years old.

Greedy people don't want to pay fair wages or their fair share of taxes. Greedy people don't want to share at all. And not sharing is greedy, and greed is evil.

In the thirteenth century St. Thomas Aquinas, an Italian priest of the Catholic Church and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian, had wrote that greed was "a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things."

Greed or avarice, after all, is specifically cited as one of the Seven Deadly Sins by the Catholic Church. And Dante Alighieri's Inferno dedicates an entire circle of Hell to the painful punishment of the greedy. Greed or avarice was seen by the Church as sinful due to its overvaluation of the mundane, rather than immaterial or spiritual aspects of existence.

Avarice can describe various greedy behaviors such as betrayal or treason for personal gain, hoarding of material things or wealth ($2 trillion on the side lines in off-shore accounts), theft (such as all those on the TV show American Greed), robbery (such as the investment banks like Goldman Sachs), and fraudulent schemes such as Bernie Madoff's, designed to dishonestly manipulate others for personal profit.

Greed is about never being satisfied with what one has, always wanting and expecting more. It is an insatiable hunger. A profound form of gluttony.

Addiction is a form of greed. Addicts always want more of what gets them high, gives them pleasure, enables escape from anxiety, suffering, themselves. They greedily crave that which their substance or rituals of choice provide, be it drugs, sex, gambling, food, pornography, internet, television, fame, power or money.

We all have our own personal addictions to some varying degree, it's human nature: workaholism, rationalism, shopaholism, perfectionism etc. This is our futile attempt to fill a spiritual and emotional emptiness within, to gratify some long-buried need, to heal, or to at least numb some festering psychological wound.

Greed is a type of selfishness. And most of us are taught from childhood that selfishness is sinful, bad or evil. When does selfishness cross the line into egoism, self-indulgence, greed, sociopathy and pathological narcissism? When does one cross the line from being just stingy to evil?

How many "Gordon Gekkos" are there really in this world that truly believe that "greed is good"?

Is it Bill Gates with $59 billion, Warren Buffett with $39 billion, Larry Ellison (Oracle) with $33 billion, the Koch brothers with $25 billion each, George Soros with $22 billion, or Sheldon Adelson (Las Vegas Sands casino) with $21 billion? Who's good and who's evil?

Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" could have been about true hostile takeovers (Carl Icahn $13 billion), insider trading (Raj Rajaratnam $7 billion hedge fund), cold calling, investment banking (Goldman Sachs managing $720 billion) -- information asymmetries -- the language of so-called high finance permeates the world depicted in the movie Wall Street. The film has come to epitomize the culture of that center of financial transactions in the United States called by the same name. That's why the Occupy Wall Street protests are happening there today. Greed and corruption.

But if all the financial markets did was just move money from "weak" hands to "strong" hands, then it would be little more than the casino that many have claimed it to be.

What is the relationship of the financial sector to the so-called real economy? This is an important macroeconomic question. In Wall Street, Lou Mannheim tries, implicitly, to answer this question when he says to Bud Fox that "the money you make for people creates science and research jobs."

In fact, most of the trading in the financial markets has no direct effect on the capital available to industrial corporations, such as those producing tangible products, for building new plants, buying equipment, or hiring new workers (including those engaged in research and development).

Trading in existing equity and bonds simply moves money from one portfolio investor's hand to another such portfolio holder.

House Speaker John Boehner says that the markets need "certainty". In order for these markets in securities to work properly, most portfolio investors must be confident that the market is, for the most part, fair. That's why we have the SEC. So why does John Boehner and the Republicans want to further de-regulate it?

But how can greed ever be good if no jobs are being created and millions of people are either unemployed or earning sub-standard wages?

If someone such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs had used domestic workers (paying a living wage) and domestic suppliers to manufacture their products, couldn't they have been just as competitive in the market-place and still been billionaires, but just had a few billion less that they do now?

Instead of Bill Gates using slave labor in China to earn $59 billion, couldn't he have created middle-class jobs in this country and only be worth half as much today? What would he have been unable to do? What would have kept him from being competitive in the marketplace? And couldn't the same be said for all the other 400 people on the Forbes's Richest 400 List?

Then there is Wal-Mart with low paying part-time jobs and no healthcare benefits for employees who sell products made in China. Together the 4 heirs of Wal-Mart have $81 billion in personal wealth between them (Christy Walton $24.5 billion, Jim Walton $21 billion, Alice Walton $21 billion, and S. Robson Walton $20.6 billion). Do they think that "greed is good"?

How about NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg with $19.5 billion, Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg with $17.5 billion, or those at Google. Or the late Steve Jobs with $7 billion? Did he think that "greed is good"?

And what of all their executives on their board of directors...what do they think?

Some people say taxing them is punishing the rich for their success; and that by asking our captains of industry to hire Americans and contribute to this country is somehow being un-American. Or that asking the caretakers of our nation's monetary supply to improve our infrastructure and pay off national debt is unfair. Some compare it to Socialism and "spreading the wealth around". Well, what happened to their "trickle-down" theory? Wasn't that supposed to also reward American workers with the fruits of their labor? Wasn't their "free market" economic system supposed to be a rising tide, lifting ALL of our boats? (Millions have sank since 2008.)

With income inequality wider than it ever was since the Gilded Age, couldn't greed be suspected by some of the bankers and corporations? Or are poor people just whining for no reason at all? Is it really just the poor people who are waging a class war against the innocent multi-national conglomerates, and it's really just the poor people that are really the greedy, envious, and evil ones?

But can poor people even afford to be greedy, if they have nothing to share?

No matter how the point is argued, even without considering the Forbes 400 list of people's PERSONAL net assets, there is still $2 trillion on corporate balance sheets that's sitting dormant. There is a lot of money they won't invest and can't spend...so they only hoard it. Hoarding leads to an inefficient distribution of scarce resources, making the scarcity even more of a problem. And hoarding is evil. Read: Good (us) Verses Evil (bankers)

If I were a successful baker and I had an extra loaf of bread that I couldn't sell because everybody else that could, already bought my bread - and you were hungry, but didn't have the money to buy my bread - should I just keep the extra loaf stored away somewhere until someone else could buy it at a later date? Should I just hold it until it becomes moldy and is no good to anyone else, and then just throw it away?

Or should I just give it to you so you won't starve, by spreading my wealth around? (I wouldn't starve.)

More that 99% of all Americans don't have a net worth of $1 million, nor will they ever acquire it in their entire lifetime (not even as a lifetime total), let alone actually earn $1 million in any one given year. That's who Obama wants to tax. He wants to tax those who have a million loaves of bread. If you want to call that "socialism", so be it. I call it sharing.

President Obama in an address to the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. on February 7, 2011 - "So if I’ve got one message, my message is now is the time to invest in America. Today American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets."

Greg Gutfeld (Fox News "Red Eye") Makes Ass of Himself

If you can, watch the Fox News Red Eye "Half-time Report" from tonight when they discussed Occupy Wall Street. Greg Gutfeld made a total ass out of himself in a discussion with Andy Levy.

Greg Gutfeld said that if the Occupy Wall Street protesters got bailed out and had their college loans forgiven, he'd go on the street to protest.

PARAPHRASED....

Andy Levy : "Oh, so it's OK to bail out the banks?"
Greg Gutfeld : "That's different, the government gave them that money."
Andy Levy : "The government? Aren't we the government?"
Greg Gutfeld : "That's different. The bankers weren't camping out in a park saying 'give me a bail out, give me a bail out.'"
Andy Levy : "No, the bankers were in their million-dollar penthouse suites saying 'give me a bail out, give me a bail out.'"

It's common knowledge that, like the Republicans, Fox News pimps for the wealthiest 1%. So seeing Greg shamelessly pimp for the banks was no surprise. But seeing Andy Levy so skillfully counter Greg's insanely lame argument was priceless!

To join the exclusive 1% club, Americans need a minimum annual income of $516,633 according to the Tax Policy Center.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Republican's Jobs Bill and Tax Plan

To see a fantastic jobs bills and a fair tax plan that's being presented by the Republican party, just click on the man's nose.

There are no fantastic jobs bills or fair tax plans that are being presented by the Republican party...just more cuts to government workers, government services, and government social programs.

Oh, and more tax cuts for the uber-wealthy, those who have been hoarding the money supply.

Below is taken from an article by Jared Bernstein, who joined the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in May 2011 as a Senior Fellow. From 2009 to 2011 he was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and a member of President Obama’s economic team.

This was excerpted from one of his most recent posts:

"Critics like those at the Heritage Foundation have used the analogy that stimulus spending is like taking water from one end of the swimming pool and putting in the other end. A dollar that the government spends on stimulus is a dollar someone else won’t be spending, so there’s no net gain.

The swimming pool analogy doesn’t work because it’s static—it ignores the dynamics…the actual moving parts in a real economy. A static economy would be one without cycles—demand would be effectively constant—and you certainly wouldn’t have demand contractions like the Great Recession.

Once you admit such cycles, then the static view disappears. It’s perfectly easy to imagine dollars sitting on the sidelines not getting spent or invested, and millions suffering unnecessarily because of it.

A better analogy is to think of the economy as a car and fuel as the demand that propels the car forward. The gas tank is empty, but we’ve got a tank of gas sitting on the lawn next to the car. If we put the gas in the tank, the car can get started and we can go somewhere -- we took the gas that we had sitting there on the sidelines and used it to get the engine started.

They Republicans are like weathermen in a building with no windows, telling everyone that according to their computer model, it’s a beautiful sunny day, when in fact there’s a hurricane outside."

Excerpted from some of his reader's responses:

"Sometimes these people do not view the economy as a collaborative enterprise, but as a game, as when if other people are unemployed (‘losing’), but they themselves are doing better, then they're 'winning' the game."

"The Circular Flow model is commonly presented on the first day of Macro 101. It’s truly shocking that a bunch of supposedly-sophisticated economists do not seem to understand the most basic ideas about money, like the idea that it is possible for capital to be idle. If some rich person decided to take out a billion dollars in cash from his off-shore bank account and stuck it under the world’s largest mattress, and then the Fed decided to print a billion dollars and give it to the government to spend, how could those folks insist that this was not helping to generate economic activity? And if they don’t argue with that, then how do they argue that moving dollars out of idle reserves into the circular flow is any different?"

Paul Krugman: "Monetary expansion just piles up in bank reserves."



"Why do the Republicans think that cutting jobs is unlikely to result in higher employment and stimulate job growth?" 

"Couldn't taxing the excess that the 1% hoards at least help create more government jobs, and then exponentially create even more jobs, and thereby create more economic activity?" - Bud Meyers

Below: From Rick Sloan, Executive Director, Ur Union of Unemployed 

The New York Times polled the unemployed last week. The newspaper conducted a similar survey in December 2009. Taken together, the polls show a not-so-subtle shift in the attitudes of jobless Americans.

Party identification saw a two point drop for Republicans (now at 18%) and a two point pick up for Democrats (35%) and Independents (40%). 

On which party would be better at job creation, the unemployed answered Democrats (44%) and Republicans (23%). Both parties lost a point since 2009.

Three-fifths of the jobless (59%) have exhausted their benefits or never qualified for benefits. Only 38 percent said they were receiving benefits, down four points in two years.

And that may be why everything else shifted! The glass is no longer half full; it's been drained. 

The unemployed became far more liberal (plus 11 points) and much less conservative (down 5 points) since polled in 2009. 

And the distribution of their education levels has changed - more high school graduates (plus 15 points) and fewer with some college (down 6 points).

But what really shifted was their self-assessment of their class standing:

• In 2009, 37 percent described themselves as middle class. Now, only 22 percent do.
• Two years ago, 17 percent said they were lower class. Now, 27 percent do.
• Those answering working class climbed five points to 46 percent in the last two years. 

No wonder the wrong track numbers have grown from 59 to 71 percent among the jobless. Or that their distrust of government has reached 85 percent! (Only a 9% overall approval rating for Congress).

These Americans are jobless. They're not clueless. They know where the problem lies: in Washington and at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

President Barack Obama gets much higher marks. But among the unemployed, even his approval numbers have tanked since 2009:

• Overall job approval has declined from 61 to 40 percent. Disapproval has grown from 29 to 49 percent. 
• On handling of the economy, Obama's approval rating slipped from 57 to 32 percent. His disapproval rating shot up from 35 to 59 percent. 
• On job creation, his approval rating went from 47 down to 29 percent. His disapproval rating hit 60 percent, a 16 point increase since 2009.

What must be unsettling, especially for the White House, the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign, is how deeply disillusioned the jobless are. When three-fifths of the unemployed disapprove of the job you're doing on job creation - even after a ten week campaign to pass the American Jobs Act - it is time to recalibrate your strategy.

In the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, an estimated 40 million voters will come from households where someone has been unemployed in the last four years. Each knows how far down the economic ladder they have fallen.

Finding a way to put millions of them to work is the only strategy that can change their attitudes. Otherwise, the disillusionment now felt by America’s 29.1 million unemployed and underemployed will devastate the political landscape like a massive tsunami a year from now.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Millionaires and Billionaires - Pinheads or Patriots

As of last month, Warren Buffett was #2 on the Forbes 400 List, second only to Bill Gates. And Bill O'Reilly's name was nowhere on the list. I mention this because Warren Buffett (a multi-billionaire) was generously asking to pay more in federal income taxes, whereas Bill O'Reilly (a multi-millionaire) was constantly whining about the mere possibility of having to pay more in taxes. He even threatened to quit his gig at Fox News (as though that might be a loss to society).

It would be foolish of Warren Buffett to be the only wealthy man to voluntarily contribute a larger share of his earnings in income taxes to help finance the needs of our government. As one man, it would make little difference in revenues to the U.S. Treasury, our national debt, or our annual budget. It would take a collective effort by all patriots in the top 1% income bracket in order to really achieve a substantial difference.

But we can't expect most of these people to simply donate more money, as though it were charity. We would have to make them honor-bound to contribute more as responsible citizens; but not by simply asking them to, but by instructing them to do so by law. That's the civilized way. We don't ask, we don't demand, we don't beg, and we don't threaten. We just simply pass a law.

A wealthy and/or a powerful person rarely relinquishes their wealth or voluntarily surrenders their power. Despots don't. Dictators don't. Czars don't. Kings don't. Presidents don't. And neither will the wealthiest 1%. It's usually the people (the masses) that must take these things from them by force. But I don't propose that we do this by using violence, but by peaceful means.

Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father (and part of the wealthiest 1%) once wrote in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy on November 13, 1789 - "Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

So I say, in order to more fairly redistribute the wealth of this nation (to stop the hoarding) so that we might restore the heath of the nation's indebtedness, restore the standard-of-living to the middle class, and restore our infrastructure, let's not kill the richest 1% of our population, but tax them into compliance with our collective will. That is the civilized way. We don't ask, we don't demand, we don't beg, and we don't threaten. We just simply pass a law.

And the only way we can do that is to elect people to Congress who will sign a vow to get money out of politics and to vote on taxing the uber-wealthy at a tax rate that we had previously taxed them at...and that's at any other time before the George W. Bush tax cuts.

A good many wealthy Americans will whine and complain, because they have no empathy for the middle-class or poor, and they are not true patriots in regards to the financial health and national security of this great nation...nor the well-being of it's most unfortunate citizenry.

Many are just self-serving and greedy (almost narcissistically and pathologically indifferent), such as rich Republican and Tea Party millionaires like Bill O'Reilly, Paul Ryan, Sean Hannity, Eric Cantor, Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum, Rupert Murdoch, the Koch bothers, Michele Bachmann, Paul Rand, Nikki Haley, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, and the rich Republican members of Congress.

The movie stars, drug lords, professional athletes, rock stars, Hollywood celebrities, best-selling novelists, celebrity heiresses, organized crimes bosses, and all the thieves at Goldman Sachs have been conspicuously silent on this issue.

But I'm sure most corporate CEOs, bankers, hedge fund managers, talk radio show hosts, and Fox News commentators don't want to see their taxes raised a dime, no matter what the consequences are to the people or the nation as a whole.

But there is one group called the Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength who are willing to be taxed more. It's almost reassuring to know that someone of means still has a strong moral sense of social responsibility. Michael Moore wrote a letter yesterday on this very subject called Life Among the 1%.

And another group united under the banner of "We are the 1 percent: We stand with the 99 percent" who are a band of entrepreneurs, trust fund babies, professionals and inheritors who have taken to the web to share their abhorrence of corporate greed and support for tax code changes that would see them pay a higher share of their considerable wealth.

Among other things, they’re posting their stories on a Tumblr page created by Wealth for the Common Good and Resource Generation, two groups dedicated to working for "fair taxation and just wealth distribution."

A new poll from the New York Times and CBS has found that Americans not only view the Occupy Wall Street protests positively, but also supports a more equal distribution of wealth and higher taxes on top earners -- while also opposing corporate tax breaks that have been protected by the Republicans.

The poll found that two-thirds object to tax cuts for corporations and a similar number prefer increasing income taxes on millionaires. It’s no wonder 70% of Americans think Congressional Republicans favor the rich, as the GOP continues to either ignore the problems of the middle- and lower-classes or directly assault the programs that help them most.

A new survey by the Spectrum group – finds that 68% of millionaires in the nation support jacking up taxes on millionaires.

Yesterday on MSNBC Lawrence O'Donnell, in referring to that poll, said the majority of the 1% would be willing to pay more in taxes; but then, if this were so, why are the Republicans so adamant about not raising taxes in their proposal to the congressional 12-member Super Committee that's now deciding our country's budget? And especially when ALL polls show that a majority of voters also favor taxing the rich more to bring down our national debt, while at the same time meeting our obligations to the elderly, sick, and poor.

In a speech yesterday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed that President Obama created “class resentment” (and promoted "envy") by calling for slightly higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. At the same time, Occupy Wall Street protesters continue to speak out in favor of an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top of the income scale.

Why do we even pay members of Congress like Paul Ryan $174,000 a year (although he, and almost half are already millionaires) to represent the needs of ALL the people, when we have 30 million Americans living on sub-standard wages, 21 million who are unemployed, 50 million that are without healthcare, and 45 million who need food stamps. If anyone should be storming the ramparts, these people should.

Just like with Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Tax Plan, a new analysis of Rick Perry's "flat-tax plan" proves that billionaires like the Koch Brothers would get a mind-boggling tax CUT under the plan. And since Perry eliminates the capital gains income tax for people such as Warren Buffet , and other billionaires who make their money off dividends like Paris Hilton, they would pay as little less than one percent in taxes if Perry were elected.

Meanwhile, the typical hourly wage for the average worker has gone up only $1.23 in the last 36 years, while the price of everything else – from healthcare to college to energy – has skyrocketed.

But it's the Republicans who have been doing most of the complaining about the possibility of being taxed a little more (and more fairly). This disconnect with the people and the Fox News channel's blatant and hateful propaganda is one big reason why people began participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests all across the country.

But the Republicans can only be certain of two things in life...death and taxes. I'd suggest they be happy with the latter and stop whining while millions of their fellow countrymen are truly suffering.

The rich won't suffer, manufacturers won't stop making things, and many of the "job creators" will only send more jobs overseas for cheaper labor anyway, regardless of what their tax rates are. No matter how much you tax the wealthy investors, large corporations, or big banks, they are still going to do everything they can to earn a buck, they won't just roll over and die. They're like machines in perpetual motion, they just keep going no matter what.

With regards to the "millionaire tax plan", Paul Ryan said Obama was preying on fear, envy and resentment.

But the poor and middle-class don't feel that way at all towards the rich. Just the opposite is true. Ordinary working folks admire and aspire to be more like them. It's rich people who feels envy towards someone richer than they -- the uber-rich. Did you every hear of yacht envy?

We, the middle-class (the 99%), are satisfied with a 3-year-old dependable and good-running car, a modest 3-bedroom house, and a job that pays a "living wage" so that we earn enough to save some. It's the rich who are never satisfied.

Example: Meet Diane Hendricks, who like Warren Buffett, is also part of the top 1%. She has an estimated net worth of $2 to $3 billion. She is ranked #188 on the Forbes 400 List (far below Warren Buffett).

In an interview with Forbes she says, "There's a sense that no matter where you are, you still have further to go. You never really achieve the success you want and feel you've fully met your potential. Perhaps that's a key to success, though: always wanting to prove and reach for more, never being satisfied."

Arthur Schopenhauer - "Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become."

It was the rich who created and waged a class war against the 99%, but it's the 1% who blame us and accuse us of envy and class warfare. The top 1% also blames the poor for being poor and blames the unemployed for being unemployed.

I was a hard-working American patriot all my life until I was laid off in 2008. I'm still a patriot but now I'm unemployed and rely on food stamps. Yet people like Bill O'Reilly would rather you think that I'm a lazy communist who chooses to be on the government dole and just wants to destroy our country. But it was the caretakers of this nation, the banks and politicians, that are responsible for destroying our economy. You can't blame me for that.

Now I can no longer work, so I've applied for Social Security Disability; but guys like O'Reilly thinks guys like me are "left-wing loons" if I hold up a sign to peacefully demonstrate against the Republican's proposed cuts to Social Security after I paid in to the system for 35 years -- because guys like O'Reilly don't want to cough up a few bucks more to keep the program solvent after his buddies borrowed against the Social Security Trust Fund for the last 35 years to fund wars, crooked government contractors, oil subsidies, and other pet projects of congress.

I think it's people like Bill O'Reilly who are the pinheads, and those such as Warren Buffett are the true patriots.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Second Gilded Age: History Repeats Itself

The result of 40 years of conservative-leaning policies has undermined labor unions and favored banks and corporations over workers. If he had been alive today, when Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography, "It kept us hoping and hoping during 40 years, and forsook us at last," he could have been referring to these last 40 years of middle-class decline.

The Gilded Age is a period roughly defined by the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the beginning of World War I in 1917 in the United States when the economy transformed itself and grew under the leadership of new tycoons; and when America's mercantile society had once again transformed itself under the impact of the nouveau riche -- the opportunistic industry leaders and speculative railroad promoters. They were once known as tycoons, moguls, magnates or robber barons. Today they call themselves CEOs.

During the Gilded Age the super-rich industrialists and financiers such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew W. Mellon, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Flagler, Henry H. Rogers, J.P. Morgan, and the Vanderbilt & Astor families were attacked as "robber barons" by critics, who believed they cheated to get their money -- and lorded it over the common people.

John D. Rockefeller used his wartime profits from the Civil War to finance his investment in Samuel Andrews' oil refinery, which led to the creation of Standard Oil and his huge fortune. But Rockefeller was also an astute businessman who knew how to borrow money to finance promising projects. Most (Northern) businesses benefited from the Civil War's demand, so many considered this "war profiteering".

Philip Danforth Armour more directly profited from the Civil War by selling pork "short" in New York City and made his first million in the process. Then he went to Chicago, where he built up a huge meat-packing house in partnership with his brother. In the 1980s, the Armour brothers brand was split between Pinnacle Foods and Smithfield Foods. The Armour brand for use in the pharmaceutical industry is owned by Forest Laboratories Inc.

The Civil War allowed others to profit as well. The Pacific Railroad Act lay the ground for the first U.S. transcontinental railroad. The subsequent fortunes of the Thomas C. Durant and Ames, as well as the Pacific Quartet (Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, C.P. Huntington and Mark Hopkins), were based on this monumental construction project.

The Civil War caused the disruption of normal labor conditions during the war, in conjunction with the increased demand for food and clothing, which was directly responsible for the rise of the John McCormick harvester-reaper and the Singer sewing machines.

Mining fortunes laid the foundation for California and the West Coast's economy and later radiated on the whole nation's economy, as the mining bonanza kings and their descendants invested their silver or copper profits in enterprises of national interest. George Hearst used his mining fortune to buy the San Francisco Examiner and gave it to his son to manage. Using the millions he inherited from his father, William Randolph Hearst later built one of the major tabloid newspaper chains in the Twentieth Century.

After the outbreak of Civil War, Cornelius Vanderbilt left the steamship business, sold most of his ships to the Union Navy and started his career of a railroad tycoon. In a number of short campaigns, he acquired the New York & Harlem, the Hudson River and the New York Central railroads. In the process he built himself a fortune and became the richest man in the world.

Other railroad tycoons made large fortunes in all regions of the United States, building other transcontinental roads, speculating on their stocks and bonds to eventually consolidate them in ever larger systems, spanning whole regions and driving towards a monopoly, which they never seemed to reach. Men like Jay Gould, Jim Fisk and Russell Sage became known as the archetypes of the robber barons, preying on their fellow citizens to extort their money in devious Wall Street speculations or corporate coups.

J.Pierpont Morgan was another monument of the Gilded Age. This son of a wealthy merchant banker joined forces with the Drexels of Philadelphia in 1873 and Morgan became the peacemaker in the railroad wars of the 1880's, having gained the Vanderbilts' confidence.

Drexel, Morgan & Company became J.P.Morgan & Company in 1893, the nation's premier investment bank. When John Pierpont Morgan created United States Steel in 1901, and became the first American corporation with a capitalization exceeding $1 billion, he wielded more power than any other American capitalist, or any other man in the World. His creations also included General Electric, International Harvester and the reorganization of American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T). The Titanic was a ship of the International Mercantile Maritime trust, a corporation J.P. Morgan sponsored in 1902.

The Gilded Age was also the age of the banker and J.P. Morgan was the greatest and most charismatic of the great investment bankers of his time, but he was in no means the only one, and he was also not the richest. The superlative among the bankers in terms of wealth fell to the Mellon brothers of Pittsburgh: Andrew William Mellon and Richard Beatty Mellon. They were major stockholders in the fabulously successful Gulf Oil corporation and the Aluminum Company of America (to become Alcoa). Their aggregate wealth exceeded $1 billion before the stock market crash of 1929.

The Gilded Age also saw the rise of the great commercial banks, most of them located in New York. Moses Taylor built the City Bank. This, and the First National Bank of New York, merged to form the First National City Bank of New York, nowadays known as Citicorp.

The Gilded Age also saw the establishment of Jewish banking houses in America. August Belmont was the agent of the Rothschilds in New York and in this position, one of the most influential Jewish bankers in America. But the largest and most influential American Jewish banking house was Kuhn, Loeb & Co of New York.

Merchants evolved to superlatives in these times of rapid growth. The first of the great merchant princes was Alexander Turney Stewart, whose department store became a monument in New York City. In 1875, A.T. Stewart was the third richest man in America. Unlike Vanderbilt and Astor, Stewart had no children and therefore failed to found a dynasty. The A.T. Stewart department store was acquired by the Wanamakers of Philadelphia. Marshall Field built the largest department store in Chicago and became one of the richest Americans at the turn of the 20th century. Department stores rose in all major American cities such as Macy's in New York, controlled by the Straus family (not to be confused with Levi Strauss, the German-Jewish immigrant who founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans in 1953); Strawbridge & Clothier in Philadelphia; and many smaller ones.

Frank Winfield Woolworth was the king of chain merchandising with his 5 & 10 cent stores. George Huntington Hartfort also built a very successful specialized chain with his Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P and Pathmark supermarkets). Another new retailing concept was mail order, the direct ancestor of nowadays e-commerce. Richard Warren Sears (Sears, Roebuck and Company) and Aaron Montgomery Ward were the successful pioneers in this field.

But the Gilded Age was first of all the age of industry. During the second wave of industrial revolution, the small family manufacturers and mercantile partnerships gave way of ever larger industrial plants, financed and promoted by a new breed of capitalists. It was the age of the trusts, these nebulous legal creations, predecessors of the modern corporations, which so much scandalized the public by their strive to monopoly.

The first and largest trust, sometimes called the "mother of trusts", was the Standard Oil company, whose main promoter, John Davison Rockefeller, later became the richest American ever -- and also one of the foremost philanthropists. The basis of the Standard Oil Trust was the secret association of the major oil refiners in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York, to bring order to the anarchy, that prevailed in the Western Pennsylvania oil regions. Under the umbrella of Standard Oil, John Davison and William Rockefeller gathered the leading oil industrialists of their times. (By 1911, with public outcry at a climax, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Standard Oil must be dissolved under the Sherman Antitrust Act and split into 34 companies.) Standard Oil was so fabulously profitable after the trust agreement of 1882, that the major partners had millions to invest in other enterprises, which they eagerly did, such as in mining and the production of steel.

The Gilded Age was also the age of steel, which was the pillar of the U.S. industrialization during the second part of the 19th century. The champions were Andrew Carnegie and his handpicked team of partners and managers, including Henry Phipps, Alexander Holley, Captain Bill Jones, and later Charles Schwab and William Corey. One of the main Carnegie partners was Henry Clay Frick, who also dominated the coke industry at Connellsville, Pennsylvania. (Alexander Berkman plotted to murder Henery Clay Frick in revenge for the seven steelworkers killed when they were attacked by the Pinkerton detectives hired by Frick to disperse the locked-out workers and allow in strikebreakers.)

A profitable business and essential component of the industrial revolution, steel soon became the coveted turf of some of the major corporate consolidators. J. Pierpont Morgan and the Moore brothers created several steel product trusts. Both the Moores and J.D. Rockefeller made attempts to takeover Carnegie Steel toward the end of the 1890's, but is was Morgan, who finally clinched the deal with Carnegie and managed to organize the giant United States Steel corporation in 1901. U.S. Steel was apotheosis of the trust movement. Charles Schwab was made the first president of U. S. Steel, but he resigned after just three years, took over Bethlehem Steel and built it into a major rival. (The U.S. steel industry operated with little foreign competition. But eventually foreign firms were rebuilt with modern techniques such as continuous casting, while profitable U.S. companies resisted modernization.)

Soon a new sector of services known as "public utilities" emerged. Public utilities roughly comprised telecommunications, street railways, and gas or electricity suppliers. Telecommunications started with the telegraph lines. The Western Union Telegraph company soon had the reputation of a stable investment held by many of the richest capitalists, including the Astors and the Vanderbilts. Through a series of merger transactions, Jay Gould and Russell Sage gained control during the 1880's. These robber barons were already among the leading railroad tycoons. During the 1890's this group of capitalists consolidated the street railways in NYC and Philadelphia and reaped huge profits. With the profits from their transactions, these men took large positions in gas and electricity companies, mining enterprises, the nascent automobile industry and the American Tobacco trust (a monopoly that controlled the cigarette market. (Aside: The game of Monopoly can be traced back to 1904.)

The huge fortunes they derived from their mining, railroad, banking, merchandising or industrial activities, brought the American capitalists a status, second to none, including royalty. And like the kings and earls of Europe or the somewhat more modest colonial manor lords and plantation owners, the kings of fortune left their landmarks to posterity, mainly in the form of their castles and mansions. Superlative architectural expressions of great wealth were built in many places, but they tended to favor certain spots, such as Newport R.I. or Long Island (where Bill O'Reilly of Fox News lives. See his mansion here.)

The Vanderbilt family easily outdid all other wealthy families of the Gilded Age in their architectural aspirations, although the Du Ponts of Delaware later made it to a close second. Their favorite architect, Richard Morris Hunt, built the Vanderbilts no less than five castle-like mansions, including 660 Fifth Avenue, Idle Hour, Marble House, the Breakers (pictured below) and Biltmore, the largest of them all. A dozen other mansions rounded the set of Vanderbilt family seats, which had reputedly cost an aggregate of more than $100 million. Like the Livingstons (signers of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution) did a hundred years earlier, the Vanderbilts built their social prominence on the stones of their lofty country estates.

Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad, which was a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation during the late 19th century. Below is his grandson's Rhode Island mansion The Breakers. Estate taxes eventually slowed the perpetuation of wealth in the hands of these founding families...but not very much today.



The Du Pont family's mansions were all built in the countryside of Delaware and nearby Pennsylvania in an area which is known as the "American chateau country", nestled in the quiet Brandywine valley. Like the Vanderbilts and the Duponts, other wealthy families built their mansions preferably in the countryside close to their hometowns, in Newport or in Florida.

But the great capitalists of the Gilded Age also left more public minded legacies. Many of them ended a lifelong passion of art collectors by leaving their collections to a museum. Some of the greatest magnates just left a sizeable part of their fortune to philanthropic foundations. Andrew Carnegie devoted the last two decades of his life spending the money he had made before. John Davison Rockefeller did likewise in what some would later term as an attempt to restore his image and shed the cloak of the villain. (Rockefeller Center in NYC was named after John D. Rockefeller, Jr.)

The Gilded Age ended sometimes in the first third of the 20th century, Some cite the 15th of April 1912, the night when the ocean liner Titanic sank. Others mention World War I or the stock market crash of October 24, 1929. All these events certainly had an impact on the factors which put an end to the Age of Moguls in America. The Titanic disaster taught mankind that there were still limits to where it could go. World War I started a process in which the power of the federal government was increased against the power of the tycoons, a process which would be furthered by the depression which followed the stock market crash of 1929.

A century later one might call this era in American history The Second Gilded Age. With the advent of modern banking, the advancement of computer technology, the outsourcing of American jobs, and the proliferation of American greed and corruption in politics over the last 40 years, we have seen the exact same inequality of wealth as we did during the original Gilded Age.

America's 99 percent are not just imagining it. The gap between the incomes of the rich and poor in this new Gilded Age is strikingly broad and deep, according to an October report from Congress' data crunchers. The study by the Congressional Budget Office, released this week, found that income has become dramatically concentrated, shifting heavily toward the top earners between 1979 and 2007. And although incomes at all levels have risen some, they've skyrocketed for the very wealthiest of earners. The top 1 percent is where the growth was breathtaking. That contingent saw their incomes spike by 275 percent.

"It is really stunning the degree to which rewards have been concentrated at the top," said Josh Bivens, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "We have now returned to Gilded Age levels of inequality."

The hoarding at the top was so great that even after accounting for taxes, the "income received by the 20 percent of the population with the highest income exceeded the after-tax income of the remaining 80 percent," the CBO found. This week's report is far from the first to point out rising income equality in the United States. Numerous studies have shown that America's very highest earners have been steadily pulling away from the rest of the population for a generation.

Wages for the lower and middle classes have hardly moved for the last three decades -- a phenomenon that roughly coincides with the decline in union participation, as Think Progress noted. Paul Krugman, the Nobel-winning economist and left-leaning New York Times columnist, describes this phenomenon as the "Great Divergence."

Today, the 400 richest people in the country control more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of households, and the U.S. ranks roughly alongside countries like Uganda in terms of the gap between its richest and poorest citizens.

The CBO report noted that salaries for "superstars" -- top earners in sports, entertainment and the corporate world -- have jumped out of proportion to other workers' income. The report also noted that capital gains income has spiked much more than cash coming from interest, dividends or pensions.

A big culprit is the deregulation of the finance industry. The CBO identified finance (banks) as a sector that saw some of the largest jumps in income.

The year 2007 has a lot in common with another notable year: 1929. Besides the similar spikes in glaring income inequality, both years marked the beginning of one of the worst economic downturns in United States history. According to the International Monetary Fund, the pronounced degree of inequality today is likely holding back the economic recovery -- thereby prolonging the misery for millions of Americans who are out of work and the record 46.2 million who are currently living in poverty.

The gap separating the richest 1 percent from the rest of the country has emerged as arguably the single most prominent rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began last month on September 17th in New York City's Zuccotti Park and has since expanded to hundreds of protests around the country and sister demonstrations across six continents.

And there's another coincidence that Occupy Wall Street and the 99 percenters might point out: It was the collapse of the Gilded Age that preceded many of the successes of the labor movement and the Progressive Movement.

What really put an end to the original Gilded Age (The Age of the Moguls), was the introduction of income and estate taxes during the Wilson administration. Corporate and income taxes rendered wealth accumulation slower and more difficult, whereas the estate taxes prevented the perpetuation of wealth in the hands of the founding families. It allowed for an American middle-class in the 1940's, 50's and 60's, but which has steadfastly eroded over the last 40 years -- about the same time taxes for the wealthy declined as labor unions came under attack as wages stagnated.

Now we're trying to fix this disparity in wealth by fairly taxing the wealthy; but because of the Republican Party (widely known to favor the wealthy and large corporations), and because of money and corruption in politics, it's proven to be very difficult to do.

Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner wrote a novel in 1873 called "The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today", which satirizes greed and political corruption in post-Civil War America. Its title very quickly became synonymous with graft, materialism, and corruption in public life. In one preface to the novel Mark Twain writes, "We have also touched upon one sad feature...that is the shameful corruption which lately crept into our politics, and in a handful of years has spread until the pollution has affected some portion of every State and every Territory in the Union."

There is currently a petition to end unlimited money going to SuperPacs to bribe elected politicians, those who only represent the interests of very wealthy people (like the Koch brothers), banks (like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America), and corporations (like Exxon Mobil), instead of the interests on THE PEOPLE. Only when corporations and banks can be reigned in and properly taxed and regulated, can THE PEOPLE (here, and around the world) take back their country and restore (or create) a middle-class.

Just like the during Roaring Twenties before the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression of the 1930's, the deregulation of banks made possible by Republican sponsored legislation, allowed the banks to sell derivatives that caused the housing collapse in 2008. The banks, who made easy money spawned by greed and excess, and the low taxes on large corporations and the uber-wealthy (during the Bush tax cuts years), fueled the Second Gilded Age, and caused the budget crisis, unemployment, and the Second Great Depression.

What ended the Gilded Age was better taxation of income, corporations, and wealthy estates. It once allowed for an American middle-class, which has steadfastly eroded, as did taxes on the rich, over the last 40 years. I suspect the same thing is needed again to end this Second Gilded Age...taxing the rich more and more fairly redistributing the wealth. But we'll never have that with the Republicans.