Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dispatches from our "new Democracy" in The Land of The Afghans (NO! - NOT the Dogs)

This from "I Blame The Patriarchy". I'm copying it here simply because I'm afraid too many will be too lazy to go to the source. Follow link to the blog and bookmark it. really should read it.

Schmucknozzle of the Week: Hamid Karzai
on March 31, 2009
in Godbagism, Men Hate You, Politics, Rape Culture and The megatheocorporatocracy

You know that zany, completely unfounded Unified Patriarchy Theory proposed by eccentric spinster aunts and certain other women who advocate flat shoes? The theory that defines patriarchy as a culture of domination composed of default humans (males) who maintain dominion over everyone and everything else, including a class of indentured sex receptacles (women)? The theory that further proposes that, not only does patriarchy exist, but is experienced as oppression by the indentured sex receptacles?

Well, here’s another little piece of evidence to toss into the “Patriarchy Exists/ Sucks for Women” column.

As usual, some power-wielding dude is trading women for votes. This time it’s Afghan head cheese and ex-Bush henchman Hamid Karzai, who will gladly endure the suffering incurred by women whose husbands now have codified, legal carte blanche to rape them whenever the fancy strikes. In return for signing his great sacrifice into law, fundamentalist woman-raping hooligan godbags will vote for Friende Hamid come August.

In a massive blow for women’s rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman’s right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.

Get a load of Article 132:

Article 132 requires women to obey their husband’s sexual demands and stipulates that a man can expect to have sex with his wife at least “once every four nights” when travelling, unless they are ill. The law also gives men preferential inheritance rights, easier access to divorce, and priority in court.

Here’s more from the Telegraph:

The law [...] is believed to state women can only seek work, education or doctor’s appointments with their husband’s permission.

This throwing-women-under-the-bus behavior is routine and universal. Liberal American dudes do it all the time. They love porn, think Camille Paglia is a feminist, and only support abortion rights because it distinguishes them politically from, and therefore makes them feel morally superior to, the “repugs.” Women never had it so good, according to Amerian liberal dudes. Discrimination and violence against women are “fringe issues.” What about the men!?! Take, for example, this randomly selected comment at the Liberal Dude Circle Jerk site, Daily Kos. The commenter is responding to a post on the Obama administration’s announcement of the new Throw’em A Bone Council on Women and Girls and Nuclear Families.

Men die sooner, have higher suicide rates, prostate cancer kills about as many men as breast cancer kills women yet receives a fraction of the funding, men make up the vast majority of combat deaths, suffer the most from overall violence, suffer the vast majority of workplace deaths and injuries, and are falling further and further behind women in attending and graduating college. There are plenty of issues affecting men. So it would be nice to see a program of general social advancement, as opposed to another one just favoring group X.

Dudes are the core of humanity, women are “group X.” Afghan godbags want it written into law that it’s OK to rape a few members of group X? Who cares? That’s well within parameters set by the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women.

Fucking barbarians

This from TomDispatch.com - a must read

Death on the Home Front
Women in the Crosshairs
By Ann Jones

Wake up, America. The boys are coming home, and they're not the boys who went away.

On New Year's Day, the New York Times welcomed the advent of 2009 by reporting that, since returning from Iraq, nine members of the Fort Carson, Colorado, Fourth Brigade Combat team had been charged with homicide. Five of the murders they were responsible for took place in 2008 when, in addition, "charges of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault" at the base rose sharply. Some of the murder victims were chosen at random; four were fellow soldiers -- all men. Three were wives or girlfriends.

This shouldn't be a surprise. Men sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for two, three, or four tours of duty return to wives who find them "changed" and children they barely know. Tens of thousands return to inadequate, underfunded veterans' services with appalling physical injuries, crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suck-it-up sergeants who hold to the belief that no good soldier seeks help. That, by the way, is a mighty convenient belief for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which have been notoriously slow to offer much of that help.

Recently Republican Senator John Cornyn from Texas, a state with 15 major military bases, noted that as many as one in five U.S. veterans is expected to suffer from at least one "invisible wound" of war, if not a combination of them, "including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury." Left untreated, such wounds can become very visible: witness, for example, the recent wave of suicides that have swept through the military, at least 128 in 2008, and 24 in January 2009 alone.

To judge by past wars, a lot of returning veterans will do themselves a lot of damage drinking and drugging. Many will wind up in prison for drug use or criminal offenses that might have been minor if the offenders hadn't been carrying guns they learned to rely on in the service. And a shocking number of those veterans will bring the violence of war home to their wives and children.

That's no accident. The U.S. military is a macho club, proud of its long tradition of misogyny, and not about to give it up. One decorated veteran of the first Gulf War, who credited the army with teaching him to repress his emotions, described his basic training as "long, exhausting marches" and "sound-offs [that] revolved around killing and mutilating the enemy or violent sex with women." (The two themes easily merge.) That veteran was Timothy McVeigh, the unrepentant Oklahoma City bomber, who must have known that blowing up a government office building during business hours was sure to kill a whole lot of women.

Even in the best of times, the incidence of violence against women is much higher in the military than among civilians. After war, it's naturally worse -- as with those combat team members at Fort Carson. In 2005, one of them, Pfc. Stephen Sherwood, returned from Iraq and fatally shot his wife, then himself. In September 2008, Pvt. John Needham, who received a medical discharge after a failed suicide attempt, beat his girlfriend to death. In October 2008, Spc. Robert H. Marko raped and murdered Judilianna Lawrence, a developmentally disabled teenager he met online.

These murders of wives and girlfriends -- crimes the Bureau of Justice Statistics labels "intimate homicides" -- were hardly the first. In fact, the first veterans of George Bush's wars returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from Afghanistan in 2002.

On June 11, 2002, Sgt. First Class Rigoberto Nieves fatally shot his wife Teresa and then himself in their bedroom. On June 29th, Sgt. William Wright strangled his wife Jennifer and buried her body in the woods. On July 9th, Sgt. Ramon Griffin stabbed his estranged wife Marilyn 50 times or more and set her house on fire. On July 19th, Sgt. First Class Brandon Floyd of Delta Force, the antiterrorism unit of the Special Forces, shot his wife Andrea and then killed himself. At least three of the murdered wives had been seeking separation or divorce.

When a New York Times reporter asked a master sergeant in the Special Forces to comment on these events, he responded: "S.F.'s [Special Forces members] don't like to talk about emotional stuff. We are Type A people who just blow things like that off..."

The killings at Fort Bragg didn't stop there. In February 2005, Army Special Forces trainee Richard Corcoran shot and wounded his estranged wife Michele and another soldier, then killed himself. He became the tenth fatality in a lengthening list of domestic violence deaths at Fort Bragg.

In February 2008, the Times reported finding "more than 150 cases of fatal domestic violence or [fatal] child abuse in the United States involving service members and new veterans" since the Afghan War began in October 2001. And it's still going on.

The Pentagon: Conveniently Clueless

In April 2000, after three soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, murdered their wives and CBS TV's "60 Minutes" broke a story on those deaths, the Pentagon established a task force on domestic violence. After three years of careful work, the task force reported its findings and recommendations to Congress on March 20, 2003, the day the United States invaded Iraq. Members of the House Armed Services Committee kept rushing from the hearing room, where testimony on the report was underway, to see how the brand new war was coming along.

What the task force discovered was that soldiers rarely faced any consequences for beating or raping their wives. (Girlfriends didn't even count.) In fact, soldiers were regularly sheltered on military bases from civilian orders of protection and criminal arrest warrants. The military, in short, did a much better job of protecting servicemen from punishment than protecting their wives from harm.

Years later the military seems as much in denial as ever. It has, for instance, established "anger management" classes, long known to be useless when it comes to men who assault their wives. Batterers already manage their anger very well -- and very selectively -- to intimidate wives and girlfriends; rarely do they take it out on a senior officer or other figure of authority. It's the punch line to an old joke: the angry man goes home to kick his dog, or more likely, his wife.

Anger may fire the shot, but misogyny determines the target. A sense of male superiority, and the habitual disrespect for women that goes with it, make many men feel entitled to control the lesser lives of women -- and dogs. Even Hollywood gets the connection: in Paul Haggis's stark film on the consequences of the Iraq War, In the Valley of Elah, a returned vet drowns the family dog in the bathtub -- a rehearsal for drowning his wife.

The military does evaluate the mental health of soldiers. Three times it evaluated the mental health of Robert H. Marko (the Fort Carson infantryman who raped and murdered a girl), and each time declared him fit for combat, even though his record noted his belief that, on his twenty-first birthday, he would be transformed into the "Black Raptor," half-man, half-dinosaur.

In February 2008, after the ninth homicide at Fort Carson, the Army launched an inquiry there too. The general in charge said investigators were "looking for a trend, something that happened through [the murderers'] life cycle that might have contributed to this." A former captain and Army prosecutor at Fort Carson asked, "Where is this aggression coming from?... Was it something in Iraq?"

What Are We Fighting For?

Our women soldiers are a different story. The Department of Defense still contends that women serve only "in support of" U.S. operations, but in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "support" and "combat" often amount to the same thing. Between September 11, 2001, and mid-2008, 193,400 women were deployed "in support of" U.S. combat operations. In Iraq alone, 97 were killed and 585 wounded.

Like their male counterparts, thousands of women soldiers return from Afghanistan and Iraq afflicted with PTSD. Their "invisible wounds," however, are invariably made more complex by the conditions under which they serve. Although they train with other women, they are often deployed only with men. In the field they are routinely harassed and raped by their fellow soldiers and by officers who can destroy their careers if they protest.

On March 17, 2009, the Pentagon reported 2,923 cases of sexual assault in the past year in the U.S. military, including a 25% increase in assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, assaults committed by men who serve under the same flag. What's more, the Pentagon estimated that perhaps 80% of such rapes go unreported.

And then, when women come home as veterans, they, like their male counterparts, may be involved in domestic homicides. Unlike the men, however, they are usually not the killers, but the victims.

Shortly after Sgt. William Edwards and his wife, Sgt. Erin Edwards, returned to Fort Hood, Texas, in 2004 from separate missions in Iraq, he assaulted her. She moved off base, sent her two children to stay with her mother, brought charges against her husband, got an order of protection, and received assurances from her husband's commanders that they would prevent him from leaving the base without an accompanying officer.

She even arranged for a transfer to a base in New York. However, on July 22, 2004, before she could leave the area, William Edwards skipped his anger management class, left the base by himself, drove to Erin Edwards's house, and after a struggle, shot her in the head, then turned the gun on himself.

The police detective in charge of the investigation told reporters, "I believe that had he been confined to base and had that confinement been monitored, she would not be dead at his hands." Base commanders excused themselves, saying they hadn't known Erin Edwards was "afraid" of her husband. Even if true, since when is that a standard of military discipline? William Edwards had assaulted a fellow soldier. Normally, that would be some kind of crime -- unless, of course, the victim was just a wife.

Back in North Carolina, near Fort Bragg and the nearby Marine base at Camp Lejeune, military men murdered four military women in nine months between December 2007 and September 2008. Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, eight months pregnant, went missing from Camp Lejeune in December 2007, not long before she was to testify that a fellow Marine, Cpl. Cesar Laurean, had raped her. In January, investigators found her burned body in a shallow grave in Laurean's backyard. By then, he had fled to Mexico, his native country, and been apprehended there; but Mexico does not extradite citizens subject to capital punishment.

On June 21st, the decomposing body of Spc. Megan Touma, seven months pregnant, was found in a motel room near Fort Bragg. In July, Sgt. Edgar Patino, a married man and the father of Touma's child, was arrested and charged with her murder.

On July 10th, Army 2nd Lt. Holly Wimunc, a nurse, failed to appear for work at Fort Bragg. Neighbors reported that her apartment was burning. Days later, her charred body was found near Camp Lejeune. She had been in the process of divorcing her estranged husband, Marine Cpl. John Wimunc, and had a restraining order against him. He and his friend Lance Cpl. Kyle Ryan Alden were charged with murder, arson, and felony conspiracy.

On September 30th, Army Sgt. Christina Smith was walking with her husband Sgt. Richard Smith in their Fayetteville neighborhood near Fort Bragg when an assailant plunged a knife into her neck. Richard Smith and Pfc. Mathew Kvapil, a hired hit man, were charged with murder and conspiracy.

Striking about these "intimate homicides" is their lack of intimacy. They tend to be planned and carried out with the kind of ruthless calculation that would go into any military plan of attack. Most were designed to eliminate an inconveniently pregnant lover and an unwelcome child, or to inflict the ultimate lesson on a woman about to make good her escape from a man's control. In some of them, in good soldierly fashion, the man planning the killing was able to enlist the help of a buddy. On military websites you can read plenty of comments of comradely support for these homicidal men who so heroically "offed the bitches."

Give Peace a Chance

The battered women's movement once had a slogan: World peace begins at home. They thought peace could be learned by example in homes free of violence and then carried into the wider world. It was an idea first suggested in 1869 by the English political philosopher John Stuart Mill. He saw that "the subjection of women," as he called it, engendered in the home the habits of tyranny and violence which afflicted England's political life and corrupted its conduct abroad.

The idea seems almost quaint in competition with the brutal, dehumanizing effectiveness of two or three tours of duty in a pointless war and a little "mild" brain damage.

We had a respite for a while. For nearly a decade, starting in 1993, rates of domestic violence and wife murder went down by a few percentage points. Then in 2002, the vets started coming home.

No society that sends its men abroad to do violence can expect them to come home and be at peace. To let world peace begin at home, you have to stop making war. (Europe has largely done it.) Short of that, you have to take better care of your soldiers and the people they once knew how to love.

Ann Jones is a journalist and the author of a groundbreaking series of books on violence against women, including Next Time She'll Be Dead, on battering, and Women Who Kill, a contemporary classic to be reissued this fall by the Feminist Press, with a new introduction from which this post is adapted. She serves as a gender advisor to the UN.

Copyright 2009 Ann Jones

Monday, March 30, 2009


There's so much bad news out there that I'm almost catatonic. Just do not want to post much of anything.

Republicans are still playing "obstruct at all cost" games, while Obama shows his true "right-center" colors.

Framken is still not seated.

dems. are still pussies.

Country appears to be owned by the "financial interests".

One thing for sure -- Obama is no FDR.

I still wish him the best -- even if his best doesn't help folks like me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

More Bank Stuff

FDIC orders changes at six California banks
The banks, including two in Los Angeles County, received 'cease and desist' orders in February that spell out what the banks must do, such as boost capital levels and rein in risky loans.
By E. Scott Reckard
March 28, 2009
Revealing the recession's rising toll on financial firms, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. disclosed Friday that it had ordered six more California banks to clean up their acts in February after the agency examined their books and operations.

The banks -- two in Los Angeles County, two in Riverside County, and one each in Stockton and La Jolla -- received "cease and desist" orders that spell out publicly what the banks must do, such as boost capital levels, beef up management and rein in risky loans.

The number of such regulatory actions has been increasing rapidly.

The FDIC, a primary regulator of many state-chartered banks as well as the guardian of federally insured deposits, has announced 10 public enforcement actions against California banks and bankers in the first two months of this year, compared with 24 in all of 2008 and no more than seven in each of the preceding three years.

By the end of 2009, two-thirds of the state's banks will be operating under cease-and-desist orders or other regulatory actions, Anaheim-based banking consultant Gary S. Findley predicts.

"While it is not quite Sherman's march to the sea, the examination process for most has been disappointing, brutal, contentious and the basis of severe frustration among the bankers," Findley writes in a newsletter to be published next week.

Most banks targeted in such actions eventually tighten up operations and continue in business or merge with stronger institutions, but regulators are preparing for a major wave of failures.

The FDIC recently began working to hire as many as 600 employees to liquidate the assets of failed banks in the West from a new office in Irvine. FDIC chief Sheila Bair predicts that failures will cost the federal deposit insurance fund $65 billion over the next five years.

To keep the fund sound, the FDIC is raising premiums on the insured banks and thrifts that pay into the fund, which because of failures dropped from $34 billion on Sept. 30 to $18.8 billion on Dec. 31. The fund can borrow from the U.S. Treasury, so there is no chance it could run dry, FDIC officials have stressed.

In addition to public cease-and-desist orders, banks are subject to a variety of regulatory sanctions, including so-called memorandums of understanding, which are informal directives to correct problems. Regulators don't release those memos, but banks sometimes disclose them to shareholders.

In his upcoming newsletter to clients, consultant Findley describes sitting in on 11 final conferences between regulators completing examinations and bank officials. To drive home their points, he said, the regulators have been using such adjectives as "severe," "significant," "excessive," "out of control" and "rapid."

Not all the banks in the latest announcements were criticized for loan problems. The crackdown at Stockton's Bank of Agriculture & Commerce deals with a sideline business that helped a client route Social Security checks electronically to retailers and check-cashing businesses for people without bank accounts.

Regulators were requiring such detailed monitoring of the third parties involved that the bank is exiting the transfer business, Chief Executive Bill Trezza said. He described the incident as embarrassing, but said it was nothing like the problems plaguing much of the industry.

"There are more than 300 banks in California, and the reality is that more than a third of those are losing money," Trezza said.

Here are the other banks listed in the FDIC's log of February enforcement actions:

* Calabasas-based First Bank of Beverly Hills was ordered to raise capital after suffering heavy losses on real estate lending. The bank recently agreed to a takeover by a Chicago financial firm that pledged to provide new capital.

* Imperial Capital Bank of La Jolla, whose delinquent loans more than quadrupled in the last year, was ordered to raise capital and hire a chief executive "with proven ability in managing a bank of comparable size, and experience in upgrading a low-quality loan portfolio." The bank said in a recent news release that it had made "significant progress" toward strengthening itself.

* First Regional Bank of Los Angeles was ordered to raise capital and tighten lending standards after sustaining losses on commercial real estate mortgages and loans to builders. A bank official said First Regional had received $12 million in new capital from its parent company and was changing the composition of its loan portfolio to reduce risk.

* Desert Commercial Bank in Palm Desert was ordered to strengthen its management, raise capital, reduce its exposure to commercial real estate and overhaul its lending standards. Bank officials couldn't be reached for comment.

* Temecula Valley Bank was ordered to bring in managers capable of "upgrading a low-quality loan portfolio [and] improving earnings," raise capital and dispose of troubled assets. Frank Basirico, the bank's new chief executive, said in a news release this month that the bank had begun dealing with the FDIC's demands

Friday, March 27, 2009

From "Mish's Global Economic Amalysis"

Follow link for original and very useful charts. I'm afraid Krugman is right. We need a total overhaul of the financial system. The Republicans are attempting to lead us to total ruin - and are influencing policy too darn much.

The government is reporting 8.1% but a far better approximation is 14.8%. Many economists expect the "official" number to hit 10%. If and when that happens where will U-6 be?

The pattern is pretty unmistakable. In one year the official unemployment rate rose from 4.8 to 8.1 (3.3) while U6 rose from 9.0 to 14.8 (5.8).

Assuming U3 hits 10%, U6 is likely to be approaching 20%. How bad Michigan, California, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, and Rhode Island are by then is anyone's guess.

These are depression level statistics.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Jobless Rate

This from Bloomberg. Follow link for the original.

Jobless Rate Exceeds 10% in Three More U.S. States (Update1)

By Bob Willis

March 27 (Bloomberg) -- The number of U.S. states with a jobless rate exceeding 10 percent almost doubled in February as the worst employment slump in the postwar era spread.

Nevada, North Carolina and Oregon last month joined the four other states that had previously climbed above 10 percent, according to Labor Department data released today in Washington. Michigan, at 12 percent, remained the state with the highest unemployment rate, followed by South Carolina at 11 percent and Oregon at 10.8. California and Rhode Island bring the total number of states to seven.

Job losses have spread from areas battered by the housing recession and auto slump to states like the Carolinas where non- auto manufacturers and service companies are cutting staff. Economists at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York and Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte, North Carolina, are among those projecting joblessness nationwide will surpass 10 percent.

“We so seldom see an economy down so broadly,” said Steve Cochrane, a senior economist at Moody’s Economy.com in West Chester, Pennsylvania. ‘The impact from the downturn in manufacturing is heading south from the Midwest. Job losses have broadened out across all industries because of the credit crunch, the lack of consumer confidence and the global slump.”

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia registered increases in the unemployment rate last month, led by Oregon, North Carolina and New Jersey, the Labor Department said. Nebraska was the only state to post a decrease after the rate jumped the prior month.

Housing Slump

The states where home prices surged and then crashed remain among the hardest hit, including Nevada, with its 10.1 percent joblessness. Nicole Wolf, 39, was working for Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. in Las Vegas for the human resources department until this month when she was laid off from her job that paid $94,000 a year.

With her home worth less than her mortgage, and paying $800 a month to cover student loans, Wolf is trying to find a job in marketing or communications before her severance pay runs out.

“I’m assuming I’ll have a job or declare bankruptcy,” Wolf said in a telephone interview.

The outlook for finding work this month hasn’t improved. The world’s largest economy probably lost more than 600,000 jobs in March for a fourth straight month, and the jobless rate jumped to a 25-year high of 8.5 percent, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before next week’s report from Labor.

Bernanke on Unemployment

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in Washington March 10 that it was “certainly well within the realm of possibility” that unemployment nationwide could rise above 10 percent “for a period.”

With the recession already matching the longest in the postwar period, the jobless and the needy are becoming more evident across the country.

Gabriela Romero, who works for the Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission, last month organized a food drive in Mendotta, California, a city where four of 10 workers are unemployed, and arrived to find a crush of people seeking assistance.

“It was just a free-for-all,” she said. “You have people waiting in line for hours, pregnant women, disabled people.”

Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost 4.4 million jobs, already more than the 3.5 million jobs President Barack Obama is targeting to save or create with his $787 billion recovery program.

California, Florida

Payroll employment in February decreased in 49 states and the District of Columbia, led by California’s loss of 116,000 jobs. Florida had the second-biggest drop with 49,500 workers dismissed, followed by 46,100 positions cut in Texas, 41,600 in Pennsylvania and 37,200 in Illinois.

Surpassing 10 percent unemployment has a psychological impact and may further curtail spending, said Doug Woodward, a University of South Carolina regional economist in Columbia.

“It’s creating more anxiety and more fear,” he said. “It’s feeding on itself.”

Job losses are spreading from manufacturers such as General Motors Corp., Caterpillar Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. to other firms like lumber producer Weyerhaeuser Co., media companies like the New York Times Co. and even the U.S. Postal Service. They are affecting all income brackets and professions.

Quarter Million

Fred Herrmann, 33, of Minneapolis, lost his job as a mortgage broker making $250,000 a year in December when his company folded. He said he’s applied for 25 finance and sales jobs, each making $14 to $18 an hour plus commission.

“There’s not a whole lot of high-paying jobs,” he said. “When you go from making a quarter of a million a year to 15 bucks an hour, that’s not good.”

On the lower end of the scale, Arthur Bolden, 61, is finding it harder than ever to get a job as a day laborer.

While he used to get $10 an hour, the prevailing wage now is $7 or $8 an hour, he said, as he waited for work outside of a Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, social services building. “People don’t even have money to pay for landscaping or to cut grass.”

The jobless rates in North Carolina, at 10.7 percent, and Rhode Island, at 10.5, were the highest for those states since records began in 1976. Georgia, at 9.3 percent, also set a new high mark.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Willis in Washington at bwillis@bloomberg.net


Bank Failure #21: Omni National Bank, Atlanta

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This From Feministe

Follow the link.

If you're too lazy -- here's the post direct from Feministe.

"You know you’re a bad person when…
Posted by: Jill in Abortion, Assholes, Crazy Conservatives, Culture Of Life

You use a tragic plane crash that killed 7 adults and 7 children as “pro-life” fodder. Jill Stanek quotes anti-choice activist Gingi Edmond:

Some of you may have seen the major news story of the private plane that crashed into a Montana cemetery, killing 7 children and 7 adults.

But what the news sources fail to mention is… the [cemetery] contains… the Tomb of the Unborn… erected as a dedication to all babies who have died because of abortion.

What else is the mainstream news not telling you? The family who died in the crash near the location of the abortion victim’s memorial, is the family of Irving ‘Bud’ Feldkamp, owner of the largest for-profit abortion chain in the nation….

In my time working for Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, I helped organize and conduct a weekly campaign where youth activists stood outside of Feldkamp’s mini-mansion in Redlands holding fetal development signs and raising community awareness regarding Feldkamp’s dealings in child murder for profit. Every Thursday afternoon we called upon Bud and his wife Pam to repent, seek God’s blessing and separate themselves from the practice of child killing.

We warned him, for his children’s sake, to wash his hands of the innocent blood he assisted in spilling because, as Scripture warns, if “you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.” (Ezekiel 35:6)

A news source states that Bud Feldkamp visited the site of the crash with his wife and their 2 surviving children on Monday. As they stood near the twisted and charred debris talking with investigators, light snow fell on the tarps that covered the remains of their children.

I don’t want to turn this tragic event into some creepy spiritual “I told you so” moment, but I think of the time spent outside of Feldkamp’s - Pam Feldkamp laughing at the fetal development signs, Bud Feldkamp trying not to make eye contact as he got into his car with a small child in tow - and I think of the haunting words, “Think of your children.” I wonder if those words were haunting Feldkamp as well as he stood in the snow among the remains of loved ones, just feet from the Tomb of the Unborn?

If I were God, I would just go ahead and smite you for being such a world-class asshole. But hey, that’s the “culture of life” for ya — gloating over the death of an entire family, because they happened to be the daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, and family friends of an abortion provider.

Thanks to Chris for the link."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Support The Employee Free Choice Act!

Our political "leaders" appear to have been sold to the highest bidder. Let them know WE (the people) support the right of employees to unionize.

Shanty Towns

Cities Deal With a Surge in Shanty Towns
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

FRESNO, Calif. — As the operations manager of a outreach center for the homeless here, Paul Stack is used to seeing people down on their luck. What he had never seen before was people living in tents and lean-tos on the railroad lot across from the center.

“They just popped up about 18 months ago,” Mr. Stack said. “One day it was empty. The next day, there were people living there.”

Like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno is dealing with an unhappy déjà vu: the arrival of modern-day Hoovervilles, illegal encampments of homeless people that are reminiscent, on a far smaller scale, of Depression-era shanty towns. At his news conference on Tuesday night, President Obama was asked directly about the tent cities and responded by saying that it was “not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours.”

While encampments and street living have always been a part of the landscape in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, these new tent cities have taken root — or grown from smaller enclaves of the homeless as more people lose jobs and housing — in such disparate places as Nashville, Olympia, Wash., and St. Petersburg, Fla.

In Seattle, homeless residents in the city’s 100-person encampment call it Nickelsville, an unflattering reference to the mayor, Greg Nickels. A tent city in Sacramento prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to announce a plan Wednesday to shift the entire 125-person encampment to a nearby fairground. That came after a recent visit by “The Oprah Winfrey Show” set off such a news media stampede that some fed-up homeless people complained of overexposure and said they just wanted to be left alone.

The problem in Fresno is different in that it is both chronic and largely outside the national limelight. Homelessness here has long been fed by the ups and downs in seasonal and subsistence jobs in agriculture, but now the recession has cast a wider net and drawn in hundreds of the newly homeless — from hitchhikers to truck drivers to electricians.

“These are able-bodied folks that did day labor, at minimum wage or better, who were previously able to house themselves based on their income,” said Michael Stoops, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group based in Washington.

The surging number of homeless people in Fresno, a city of 500,000 people, has been a surprise. City officials say they have three major encampments near downtown and smaller settlements along two highways. All told, as many 2,000 people are homeless here, according to Gregory Barfield, the city’s homeless prevention and policy manager, who said that drug use, prostitution and violence were all too common in the encampments.

“That’s all part of that underground economy,” Mr. Barfield said. “It’s what happens when a person is trying to survive.”

He said the city planned to begin “triage” on the encampments in the next several weeks, to determine how many people needed services and permanent housing. “We’re treating it like any other disaster area,” Mr. Barfield said.

Mr. Barfield took over his newly created position in January, after the county and city adopted a 10-year plan to address homelessness. A class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of homeless people against the city and the California Department of Transportation led to a $2.35 million settlement in 2008, making money available to about 350 residents who had had their belongings discarded in sweeps by the city.

The growing encampments led the city to place portable toilets and security guards near one encampment known as New Jack City, named after a dark and drug-filled 1991 movie. But that just attracted more homeless people.

“It was just kind of an invitation to move in,” said Mr. Stack, the outreach center manager.

On a recent afternoon, nobody seemed thrilled to be living in New Jack City, a filthy collection of rain- and wind-battered tents in a garbage-strewn lot. Several weary-looking residents sat on decaying sofas as a pair of pit bulls chained to a fence howled.

Northwest of New Jack City sits a somewhat less grim encampment. It is sometimes called Taco Flats or Little Tijuana, because of the large number of Latino residents, many of whom were drawn to Fresno on the promise of agricultural jobs, which have dried up in the face of the poor economy and a three-year drought.

Guillermo Flores, 32, said he had looked for work in the fields and in fast food, but had found nothing. For the last eight months, he has collected cans, recycling them for $5 to $10 a day, and lived in a hand-built, three-room shack, a home that he takes pride in, with a door, clean sheets on his bed and a bowl full of fresh apples in his propane-powered kitchen area.

“I just built it because I need it,” said Mr. Flores, as he cooked a dinner of chili peppers, eggs and onions over a fire. “The only problem I have is the spiders.

Dozens of homeless men and women here have found more organized shelter at the Village of Hope, a collection of 8-by-10-foot storage sheds built by the nonprofit group Poverello House and overseen by Mr. Stack. Planted in a former junkyard behind a chain-link fence, each unit contains two cots, sleeping bags and a solar-powered light.

Doug Brown, a freelance electrical engineer, said he had discovered the Village of Hope while unemployed a few years back and had returned after losing his job in October. Mr. Stoops, of the homeless coalition, predicted that the population at such new Hoovervilles could grow as those without places to live slowly burned through their options and joined the ranks of the chronically homeless, many of whom are indigent as a result of illiteracy, alcoholism, mental illness and drug abuse.

That mix is already evident in a walk around Taco Flats, where Sean Langer, 42, who lost a trucking job in December and could pass for a soccer dad, lives in his car in front of a sturdy shanty that is home to Barbara Smith, 41, a crack addict with a wild cackle for a laugh.

“This is a one-bedroom house,” said Ms. Smith, proudly taking a visitor through her home built with scrap wood and scavenged two-by-fours. “We got a roof, and it does not leak.”

During the day, the camp can seem peaceful. American flags fly over some shanties, and neighbors greet one another. Some feed pets, while others build fires and chat.

Daniel Kent, a clean-shaven 27-year-old from Oregon, has been living in Taco Flats for three months after running out of money on a planned hitchhiking trip to Florida. He did manage to earn $35 a day holding up a going-out-of-business sign for Mervyn’s until the department store actually went of out business.

Mr. Kent planned to attend a job fair soon, but said he did not completely mind living outdoors.

“We got veterans out here; we got people with heart, proud to be who they are,” Mr. Kent said. “Regardless of living situations, it doesn’t change the heart. There’s some good people out here, really good people.”

But the danger after dark is real. Ms. Smith, who lost an eye after being shot in the face years ago, said she had seen two people killed in New Jack City, prompting her to move to Taco Flats and try to quit drugs. Her companion, Willie Mac, 53, a self-described youth minister, said he was “waiting on her to get herself right with the Lord.”

Ms. Smith said her dream was simple: “To get out of here, get off the street, have our own home.”

Monday, March 23, 2009

The "New" Plan

I've been reading about Pres. Obama's "new" toxic asset purchase plan -- the same as the old plans (plural). Plans from the Bush admin and from the Obama admin. It does appear the takeover of our government by Wall Street is complete. It's another tails they win, heads we lose situation.

Too bad. I did have some hope for a truly liberal (if not truly progressive) administration. I fear it's just more of the same -- with a kinder face.

I hope I'm wrong.

By the way, these assholes have no idea what "socialism" is. According to the Republicans of today, Eisenhower would be a "socialist", as would Nixon. We've moved so far right that forty years ago, Obama would have been a "Young Republican" -- and today they call him a "socialist".

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This from the Financial Times:

Watchdog fears market ‘Ponzimonium’

By Javier Blas, Commodities Correspondent

Published: March 20 2009 19:35 | Last updated: March 20 2009 19:35

US federal regulators have warned of a “rampant Ponzimonium” as they disclosed they are investigating “hundreds” of possible scams in the aftermath of the $50bn fraud allegedly perpetrated by Bernard Madoff.

Bart Chilton, a commissioner at the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the US regulator, said the watchdog was “seeing more of these scams than ever before” in commodities and other futures markets.

Mr Chilton said the CFTC, which patrol commodities and financial futures markets such as derivatives on stocks and foreign exchange, was investigating “hundreds of individuals and entities, many of which were related to Ponzi scams”.

The CFTC has filed charges against 15 alleged Ponzi schemes so far this year, compared with 13 during the whole of 2008. If the rate were sustained, the regulator could end the year filling more than 60 cases, officials said.

US regulators have said they are detecting more scams than before as the publicity surrounding Mr Madoff‘s case prompts some investors to question the credibility of returns.

But this is the first time a senior regulator has publicly put the number of investigation in the “hundreds”.

“The floundering economy has unearthed many of these house-of-card scams,” said Mr Chilton. “In the last month alone we’ve gone after crooks in Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Iowa, Idaho, Texas and Hawaii.”

Mr Chilton did not provide details of the investigations but it is likely the majority of the cases relate to small investments, in the range of a few million dollars to $50m (€37m, £35m). In the latest case, the CFTC this week charged a North Carolina investment company over an alleged $40m Ponzi scheme in foreign exchange trading.

“These frauds combined harmed tens of thousands of hard-working Americans, many of whom thought they were investing properly to save for retirement or even their first home,” said Mr Chilton.

“It is a good thing that folks are double-checking to ensure they aren’t being ripped off by fraudsters,” he said, referring to the increasing number of investors who are tipping off US federal regulators after they have become suspicious.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

3 Banks, 2 LARGE Credit Unions

Banks no. 18, 19, 20, were seized by the FDIC today. Two large Credit Unions were also taken over by their regulatory agency.

I guess even the "minor Masters of The Universe" have feet of clay.

Incompetence seems to rule the world.

return to regulation. Let's go back to banks being banks, insurance companies being insurance companies, and investment banks being investment banks. I think it's the current system that brought about this "Masters of The Universe" crap -- along with the totally anti-capitalistic concept of "too big to fail".

It's very strange when actual countries can fail -- but an insurance company is "too big". That's just crap.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ditch The dollar?

U.N. panel says world should ditch dollar
By Jeremy Gaunt, European Investment Correspondent
Wed Mar 18, 2009 11:16am EDT

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - A U.N. panel will next week recommend that the world ditch the dollar as its reserve currency in favor of a shared basket of currencies, a member of the panel said on Wednesday, adding to pressure on the dollar.

Currency specialist Avinash Persaud, a member of the panel of experts, told a Reuters Funds Summit in Luxembourg that the proposal was to create something like the old Ecu, or European currency unit, that was a hard-traded, weighted basket.

Persaud, chairman of consultants Intelligence Capital and a former currency chief at JPMorgan, said the recommendation would be one of a number delivered to the United Nations on March 25 by the U.N. Commission of Experts on International Financial Reform.

"It is a good moment to move to a shared reserve currency," he said.

Central banks hold their reserves in a variety of currencies and gold, but the dollar has dominated as the most convincing store of value -- though its rate has wavered in recent years as the United States ran up huge twin budget and external deficits.

Some analysts said news of the U.N. panel's recommendation extended dollar losses because it fed into concerns about the future of the greenback as the main global reserve currency, raising the chances of central bank sales of dollar holdings.

"Speculation that major central banks would begin rebalancing their FX reserves has risen since the intensification of the dollar's slide between 2002 and mid-2008," CMC Markets said in a note.

Russia is also planning to propose the creation of a new reserve currency, to be issued by international financial institutions, at the April G20 meeting, according to the text of its proposals published on Monday.

It has significantly reduced the dollar's share in its own reserves in recent years....

Monday, March 16, 2009

This From Krugman

March 16, 2009
Paul Krugman: A Continent Adrift

Was European integration and the creation of a common currency a mistake?:

A Continent Adrift, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: I’m concerned about Europe. Actually, I’m concerned about the whole world... But the situation in Europe worries me even more than the situation in America.

Just to be clear, I’m not about to rehash the standard American complaint that Europe’s taxes are too high and its benefits too generous. Big welfare states aren’t the cause of Europe’s current crisis. In fact,... they’re actually a mitigating factor.

The clear and present danger to Europe right now comes from ... the continent’s failure to respond effectively to the financial crisis.

Europe has fallen short in terms of both fiscal and monetary policy... On the fiscal side, the comparison with the United States is striking. Many economists ... have argued that the Obama administration’s stimulus plan is too small... But America’s actions dwarf anything the Europeans are doing.

The difference in monetary policy is equally striking. The European Central Bank has been far less proactive than the Federal Reserve; it has been slow to cut interest rates..., and it has shied away from any strong measures to unfreeze credit markets.

The only thing working in Europe’s favor is the very thing for which it takes the most criticism — the size and generosity of its welfare states, which are cushioning the impact of the economic slump.

This is no small matter. Guaranteed health insurance and generous unemployment benefits ensure that, at least so far, there isn’t as much sheer human suffering in Europe as there is in America. And these programs will also help sustain spending in the slump.

But such “automatic stabilizers” are no substitute for positive action.Why is Europe falling short? Poor leadership is part of the story. European banking officials ... still seem weirdly complacent. And to hear anything in America comparable to the know-nothing diatribes of Germany’s finance minister you have to listen to, well, Republicans.

But there’s a deeper problem: Europe’s economic and monetary integration has run too far ahead of its political institutions. The economies of Europe’s many nations are almost as tightly linked as the economies of America’s many states... But unlike America, Europe doesn’t have the kind of continentwide institutions needed to deal with a continentwide crisis.

This is a major reason for the lack of fiscal action: there’s no government in a position to take responsibility for the European economy as a whole. What Europe has, instead, are national governments, each of which is reluctant to ... finance a stimulus that will convey many if not most of its benefits to voters in other countries.

You might expect monetary policy to be more forceful. After all, while there isn’t a European government, there is a European Central Bank. But the E.C.B. isn’t like the Fed, which can afford to be adventurous because it’s backed by a unitary national government — a government that has already moved to share the risks of the Fed’s boldness, and will surely cover the Fed’s losses if its efforts to unfreeze financial markets go bad. The E.C.B., which must answer to 16 often-quarreling governments, can’t count on the same level of support.

Europe, in other words, is turning out to be structurally weak in a time of crisis. ... Does all this mean that Europe was wrong to let itself become so tightly integrated? Does it mean, in particular, that the creation of the euro was a mistake? Maybe.

But Europe can still prove the skeptics wrong, if its politicians start showing more leadership. Will they?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Is your pension safe?

Another shoe about to fall:

Municipal Pension Time Bomb Set to Go Off

Think back to when property prices were going through the roof, personal spending was being turbocharged by ultra-cheap and seemingly limitless credit, and few could resist the siren song of consumerism.

Under the circumstances, you would have thought that municipal authorities would have had more than enough to gorge on in their quest to squander taxpayer funds.

Yet even with all the revenues that were flowing in from real estate, income, and sales taxes, it was not enough. Short-sighted and corrupt politicians also decided that it would be a great idea to make all sorts of open-ended commitments to a key constituency: state and local government employees.

Now, however, like all of the other extravagances of the past few decades, those poor choices are coming home to roost. In "Pension Bills to Surge Nationwide," the Wall Street Journal reports on another financial time bomb that is set to go off.

Many States and Cities Face Hard Choices Because of Market Declines

Many state and city governments reeling from financial woes are about to get whacked again, this time by an unforeseen increase in their pension bill thanks to market declines.

In an effort to stave off tax increases, New Jersey lawmakers on Monday will consider a bill that would allow municipalities to defer payment of half their annual pension bill, due April 1, for one year. Those towns, counties and schools that opt to defer would face a higher pension bill for years to come.

Other states and municipalities are facing similarly difficult choices. In Pennsylvania, the state employees and public teachers pension funds both have warned that employer contribution rates could surge seven-fold from about 4% of payroll to 28%, starting in 2012. The Detroit police and fire pension plan might have to double employer contribution rates to 50% of payroll by 2011, according to the fund's outside actuary.

Two of the nation's biggest public pension funds, New York State Common Retirement Fund and the California Public Employees' Retirement System, also have warned state employers to brace for future rate increases.

"It's going to be huge showdown" between taxpayers and public employees, said Susan Mangiero, president of Pension Governance Inc., a consulting and research firm in Trumbull, Conn. "The anger is more acute today when people are feeling economic hardship."

The specter of higher pension bills comes as many states and cities are struggling to balance their budgets or, in some cases, avoid drastic measures, such as filing for bankruptcy protection, amid falling tax revenue, foreclosures and rising unemployment costs.

In most states, retirement benefits for public employees are guaranteed by law, so governments have little choice but to pay them in full. During bull markets, that wasn't a problem. But with the median rate of return for a public plan of negative 25% in 2008, according to Wilshire Associates, many plans now may be unable to meet their obligations without further injections unless markets rebound significantly, analysts said.

The Detroit police and fire pension plan, where employees are ineligible for Social Security so the benefit plan is more generous and costly, employer contribution rates could double to 50% over the next three years unless the markets turn around, said Norman Jones of Gabriel, Roeder & Smith in Southfield, Mich., the fund's outside actuary.

For future New York City police and firefighters, Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have proposed a minimum retirement age of 50, where no minimum currently exists. They also want to raise to 25 from 20 the number of years these employees must serve before they can collect full benefits.

Proposals pending elsewhere would move new public employees to a 401(k) plan. Some state lawmakers believe they would save money with a 401(k), which requires employees to pay a higher percentage of the contribution rate than they do under defined-benefit plans, said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Municipal unions said they would oppose such a shift, and note that such efforts have failed in the past, including four years ago in California. "It's not a program that is attractive to state employees," said Richard Ferlauto, director of corporate governance at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "It's doesn't work because you wouldn't be able to hire people."

But soaring pension costs are emboldening critics of public plans. They said local governments cannot afford to pay what are often perceived as generous benefits to government employees when the 401(k) plans held by others have shrunk, and as taxpayers already are looking at higher taxes and fewer services.

The pain is about to start in Wisconsin. The state has an unusual policy of adjusting the amount of benefits paid based on the pension fund's performance. Now, for the first time in 25 years, the majority of retirees will receive a benefit reduction.

This month, Wisconsin officials said that beginning in May nearly 150,000 retirees will face at least a 2.1% decrease in benefits, after the pension fund had a 26% negative return in 2008.

About 35,000 of retirees who held a portion of their retirement savings in an optional fund that invests entirely in stocks will be hit harder. Depending on how much of their savings they earmarked for the all-stock fund, their overall retirement income could be cut by up to 40%, according to a spokeswoman for the State of Wisconsin Investment Board.

Jim George, a 64-year-old retired elementary-school teacher in Milwaukee, estimates that his $3,700-a-month benefit check will be slashed by about $600. He is talking with his wife about where they will have to cut back: their annual January vacation to Florida, eating dinner out, maybe their high-speed Internet connection. "It's going to make things tight," he said.

His brother John George, a retired teacher in Madison, Wis., faces the 2.1% benefit reduction. But with the markets reeling this year, he is worried about what future cuts might look like. "The stock market and my pension fund are a daily worry," he said.

Optimism, in part, contributed to this quandary: Legislatures from Pennsylvania to California boosted employee benefits after the stock market boom years of the 1990s, which has added to their burden now.

Most pension funds also took the step of enacting smoothing policies, in which the benefit determination is based on average returns over five years. This was intended to dilute the impact of a particularly bad year. For the most part, this policy has worked to limit sudden or severe rate increases at most pensions.

"But these polices weren't meant to accommodate losses as big as pension funds suffered last year," said Ms. Munnell of Boston College. The college's Center for Retirement Research estimates that the average public plan's liabilities, if based on year-end 2008 market prices, now exceed its assets by 35%. For public funds in worse financial shape, including funds in Connecticut, West Virginia and Indiana, due to stock-market declines liabilities exceed assets by 50% or higher, according to the center.

Some states may decide it is easier to cut public employee benefits than it is to raise taxes, especially during hard economic times. In the Virginia General Assembly, a bill would freeze the current pension plan starting in July and replace it with a 401(k) plan for all future hires.

A state senator in Pennsylvania introduced a similar bill in 2007, and it went nowhere. But this year it is attracting attention.

If employer contribution rates in Pennsylvania jump as high as 28%, "the pension system is just not manageable," said Pat Browne, the Republican state senator who sponsored the bill. He said he expects it to be voted on this year. "We need to get it passed quickly if we are to phase out the existing plan in time to make an impact.

Sea Level

Northeast US to suffer most from future sea rise

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein, Ap Science Writer – Sun Mar 15, 2:04 pm ET
Scientists find bigger than expected polar ice melt AFP/File – Icebergs break off the Vatnajökull Glacier before floating to sea in 2006. A major scientific study …

WASHINGTON – The northeastern U.S. coast is likely to see the world's biggest sea level rise from man-made global warming, a new study predicts.

However much the oceans rise by the end of the century, add an extra 8 inches or so for New York, Boston and other spots along the coast from the mid-Atlantic to New England. That's because of predicted changes in ocean currents, according to a study based on computer models published online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

An extra 8 inches — on top of a possible 2 or 3 feet of sea rise globally by 2100 — is a big deal, especially when nor'easters and hurricanes hit, experts said.

"It's not just waterfront homes and wetlands that are at stake here," said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, who wasn't part of the study. "Those kind of rises in sea level when placed on top of the storm surges we see today, put in jeopardy lots of infrastructure, including the New York subway system."

For years, scientists have talked about rising sea levels due to global warming — both from warm water expanding and the melt of ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica. Predictions for the average worldwide sea rise keep changing along with the rate of ice melt. Recently, more scientists are saying the situation has worsened so that a 3-foot rise in sea level by 2100 is becoming a common theme.

But the oceans won't rise at the same rate everywhere, said study author Jianjun Yin of the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies at Florida State University. It will be "greater and faster" for the Northeast, with Boston one of the worst hit among major cities, he said. So, if it's 3 feet, add another 8 inches for that region.

The explanation involves complicated ocean currents. Computer models forecast that as climate change continues, there will be a slowdown of the great ocean conveyor belt. That system moves heat energy in warm currents from the tropics to the North Atlantic and pushes the cooler, saltier water down, moving it farther south around Africa and into the Pacific. As the conveyor belt slows, so will the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic current. Those two fast-running currents have kept the Northeast's sea level unusually low because of a combination of physics and geography, Yin said.

Slow down the conveyor belt 33 to 43 percent as predicted by computer models, and the Northeast sea level rises faster, Yin said.

So far, the conveyor belt has not yet noticeably slowed.

A decade ago, scientists worried about the possibility that this current conveyor belt would halt altogether — something that would cause abrupt and catastrophic climate change like that shown in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow." But in recent years, they have concluded that a shutdown is unlikely to happen this century.

Other experts who reviewed Yin's work say it makes sense.

"Our coastlines aren't designed for that extra 8 inches of storm surge you get out of that sea level rise effect," said Jonathan Overpeck, director of an Earth studies institute at the University of Arizona.

While Boston and New York are looking at an additional 8 inches, other places wouldn't get that much extra rise. The study suggests Miami and much of the Southeast would get about 2 inches above the global sea rise average of perhaps 3 feet, and San Francisco would get less than an extra inch. Parts of southern Australia, northern Asia and southern and western South America would get less than the global average sea level rise.

This study along with another one last month looking at regional sea level rise from the projected melt of the west Antarctic ice sheet "provide a compelling argument for anticipating and preparing for higher rates of sea level rise," said Virginia Burkett, chief scientist for Global Change Research at the U.S. Geological Survey.

Burkett, who is based in Louisiana, said eventually New Englanders could be in the same "vulnerability situation" to storms and sea level rise as New Orleans

Friday, March 13, 2009

Baby Strikers

This from "The Economic Populist". Follow the link to go to the site. Perhaps you might just bookmark it. There's a lot of good info there.

Anyway, here's a bit of labor history few people know, or even heard of. Our concept of labor unions and workers rights have been so twisted by the right wing noise machine over the last 30 years.

Actually, ever since the passage of Taft-Hartley. Why those who benefit most from collective action seem so set against it has always confused me ---- anyway, please enjoy the following.

Baby Strikers

* labor union history

On July 3, 1835, in Paterson, New Jersey, nearly 2,000 textile workers walked off the job. The strike was notable for several reasons.

For one thing the strikers weren't demanding more money, despite the fact that they only made $2 a week (adjusted for inflation, that would be $44 a week today). Their central demand was an 11-hour day (as opposed to the 13.5-hour days they were currently working), and only 9 hours on Saturday instead of a full day.
That in itself was significant enough. The first strike in American history to limit hours had happened only 7 years earlier, and was also in Paterson, New Jersey. That strike had been crushed after a week when the militia was called in.

What made this strike worth remembering was who the strikers were - they were children, aged 10 to 18. Many of them girls.

In Paterson, New Jersey, where women and children had to be at work at 4:30 a.m. and continue to work as long as they could see, with time off for breakfast and dinner...

Before the month was out the parents of Paterson had joined together to form the "Paterson Association for the Protection of the Working Classes of Paterson". Through the Association a "vigilance committee" was formed to organize support. In 1835 there was no such thing as a labor union. Back then there were only guilds for skilled workers. Nothing like that existed for textile workers, much less for children.
The management flat-out refused to negotiate with the Association, or any worker's organization. In response, the Association appealed to help from other workers. Women textile workers in other mills around Paterson walked out. Mechanics from Newark set up a committee to raise funds and investigate the working conditions in Paterson. This is what they found:

"[conditions in the Paterson mills] belong rather to the dark ages than to the present times, and would be more congenial to the climate of his majesty the emperor and autocrat of all the Russias, than "this land of the free and home of the brave," this boasted asylum for the oppressed of all nations."

After six weeks a deal was struck between the Association and the management. They would split the difference: the children of Paterson would only have to work 12 hours a day during the week, and 9 hours on Saturday; a 69-hour week. The children who continued to hold out for the 11-hour day were fired and blacklisted.

Baby Strikers

In the writing of labor history, children have largely been portrayed as victims, and there is plenty of evidence for this view. However, that isn't the whole story. Nor does it do justice to their sacrifice. They weren't always helpless and weak. Sometimes they showed a lot more strength and courage than the adults.
You should realize that these children weren't working weekends at a Burger King so they could have money to buy beer for their friends. Some of them were orphans, and this was their livelihood. Most others were earning money so they could keep their families from starving. Either way, going out on strike was a huge decision that a child should never have to make.

Over and over again, in some of the largest, as well as the most unknown strikes, it was children that made the difference. For instance, in April of 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, tens of thousands of factory workers in the Allentown region of Pennsylvania went on strike. It was children that turned the tide for the strikers.

"I don't believe the strikers should be entitled to any unemployment relief, because they don't have souls."
- Mrs. Charles Fox, wife of D&D shirt factory owner testifying before a congressional investigation

On April 19, 1933, 400 "Baby Strikers" (as they were dubbed), ranging from 14 to 16 years of age, went to see Governor Gifford Pinchot in Harrisburg to explain the plight of their lives in sweatshops. The girl on the right of the picture above is Anna Miletics, age 15. She packed shirts in boxes for 9 cents an hour. Her earnings for eight days were $3.50, less a 10 percent cut and two cents deducted from her earnings to pay the "check tax."

One boy said he worked from 7 a. m. until 5 p. m. and then returned to the factory three nights each week to work from 7 p. m. until 3 a. m.; others told of being ordered to hide in the cellar and on fire escapes when State inspectors came to the mill; many of the girls testified they had been forced to accept the attentions of their employers or face instant dismissal.

The effort by these children had a dramatic publicity value - the governor's wife joined the children on the picket line.

When a young girl asks Mr. Pinchot if its ladylike to picket, Mrs. Pinchot responds, "You are obliged to do it out of the consideration from the many others who are suffering from the low wages if not for yourself. Our ancestors fought their revolution. We must fight our economic revolution."

Before long the sweatshop owners in the Allentown area agreed to raise wages by 10% and cut back on mandatory hours.

Bread and Roses

Quite probably the most famous instance for children making a difference in a strike was also the most unintentional.

In the early part of the 20th Century, Lawrence, Massachusetts, was one of the most important textile towns in America. The woolen and cotton mills employed over 40,000 people, mostly immigrants. The mortality rate for children who lived in company housing was a scandalous 50% by age six. 45% of the factory workers were women, and 12% were children

A study by Dr. Elizabeth Shapleigh discovered that: "A considerable number of the boys and girls die within the first two or three years after beginning work. Thirty-six out of every 100 of all the men and women who work in the mill die before or by the time they are twenty-five years of age."

When a new Massachusetts law was passed in 1912 that reduced the maximum number of hours that women and children could work to 54 hours a week, the pay of these immigrants was also cut accordingly. Since they were making less than $9 a week this meant starvation.
The American Federation of Labor never tried to organize these workers because it assumed that immigrants, largely women and children, were a lost cause. The Industrial Workers of the World, OTOH, took a different approach and enthusiastically embraced the cause of these downtrodden immigrants. In doing so the I.W.W. had their singular defining moment. It was the point where the I.W.W. went from historical footnote to labor history legend.
And it never would have happened if not for thousands of nameless children.

The company and government cracked down in a disproportionate way. When the police turned firehoses on picketers, the picketers threw ice back and broke some windows. The judge sentenced 36 strikers to a year of hard labor for those broken windows. Mass arrests and attempts to frame strike leaders followed.
When the strike wasn't broken the governor declared martial law and called in the state militia. Public gatherings were banned despite the fact that all the violence had been caused by authorities. The I.W.W. responded by setting up soup kitchens and gathering volunteer doctors. The wobblies also worked overtime getting national attention to the cause of the strikers (even while the AFL tried to break the strike).

One of the ways the wobblies helped was by organizing a network of supporters in New York and Philadelphia for strikers to send their children to in order to keep them fed and safe during the strike. It was here that things would get completely out of control.

Alarmed at the publicity this exodus was receiving, the Lawrence authorities ordered that no more children could leave the city. On February 24 when a group of 150 more children made ready to leave for Philadelphia, fifty policemen and two militia companies surrounded the Lawrence railroad station. They tore children away from their parents, threw women and children into a waiting patrol wagon, and detained thirty of them in jail. A member of the Philadelphia Women's Committee testified under oath:

When the time came to depart, the children, arranged in a long line, two by two in an orderly procession with the parents near at hand, were about to make their way to the train when the police . . . closed in on us with their clubs, beating right and left with no thought of the children who then were in desperate danger of being trampled to death. The mothers and the children were thus hurled in a mass and bodily dragged to a military truck and even then clubbed, irrespective of the cries of the panic-stricken mothers and children. We can scarcely find words with which to describe this display of brutality.

Not only was this unconscionable act of brutality by the police done in public, it was done right in front of the press who were at the train station in order to cover the event. Outrage pored in from every corner of the country.
Politicians in Washington called for an investigation, thus allowing the strikers to speak their case on a national level. The testimony by child workers provoked yet another round of outrage, and this time President Taft ordered an investigation of industrial conditions throughout the nation.

About a month after the spectacle at the train station the Lawrence mills caved into all of the strikers demands.


The I.W.W. was on a roll after Lawrence, and that is when they got overconfident. Instead of wrapping things up for the strikers of Lawrence, they went onto bigger fish.
Which is an ironic twist, because the bigger fish happened to be the textile mills of Paterson, New Jersey, where we started this diary. Once again the wobblies were creative, and once again the A.F.L. tried to break the strike and failed.

Paterson strike leaders

However, unlike Lawrence, the strike was eventually broken. The wobblies never recovered in the east. They turned to the miners and loggers of the Rocky Mountains, as well as the shipping ports of the Puget Sound.
But that's another story.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chuck Norris hates America

I don't think any comments are necessary. Wingnuttery of the first order.

At the same time -- if you live in a state that allows you access to weapons, learn to shoot, learn to protect yourself, your home, your family.

We've already had wingnuts act out. With calls to arms like Norris', there are bound to be more.

Liberals, LGBTQ folks are allowed to protect themselves.

Chuck Norris claims thousands of right wing cell groups exist and will rebel against U.S. government
March 9, 7:33 AM · 555 comments
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The call by some right wing leaders for rebellion and for the military to refuse the commander in chief’s orders is joined by Chuck Norris who claims that thousands of right wing cell groups have organized and are ready for a second American Revolution. During an appearance on the Glen Beck radio show he promised that if things get any worse from his point of view he may “run for president of Texas.” The martial artist/actor/activist claims that Texas was never formally a part of the United States in the first place and that if rebellion is to come through secession Texas would lead the way.

Today in his syndicated column on WorldNetDaily Norris reiterates the point: “That need may be a reality sooner than we think. If not me, someone someday may again be running for president of the Lone Star state, if the state of the union continues to turn into the enemy of the state.”

He continues; calling on a second American Revolution; “…we've bastardized the First Amendment, reinterpreted America's religious history and secularized our society until we ooze skepticism and circumvent religion on every level of public and private life.

How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution? We the people have the authority according to America's Declaration of Independence, which states: That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…”

Norris claims that; “Thousands of cell groups will be united around the country in solidarity over the concerns for our nation.” The right wing cells will meet during a live telecast, "We Surround Them," on Friday March 13 at 5 p.m.

He closes with the words of Sam Houston followed by a plug for his next martial arts event.

“We view ourselves on the eve of battle."

(Note: Speaking of showdowns, Chuck is also inviting anyone near the Houston area this weekend to see a good example of the raw Texas fighting spirit by joining him and others for the national martial arts event, "Showdown in H-Town.")“


U.S. 2008 household wealth fell $11.2 trillion: Fed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. households suffered a record-large 9 percent drop in wealth and pared debt in the fourth quarter as a deepening recession battered confidence and finances, Federal Reserve data showed on Thursday.

Household net worth dropped by $5.1 trillion from the prior quarter to $51.5 trillion. For the full year, net worth dropped by $11.2 trillion, reflecting steep declines in the housing and stock markets.

The declines in household net worth were the largest since quarterly and annual records began in 1951 and 1946, respectively, the Fed said.

Since a second-quarter 2007 peak of $64.4 trillion, household wealth has dropped by about 20 percent. That has put a chill on consumer spending and added to Americans' anxiety about economic well-being.

The U.S. central bank's quarterly Flow of Funds report also showed that household borrowing contracted at a 2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, after increasing at a 0.2 percent pace in the previous period. This was the first quarterly decline on record.

Home mortgage debt fell at a 1.6 percent pace -- the third consecutive quarter of declines -- and consumer credit dropped at a 3.2 percent rate.

Businesses slowed their pace of borrowing to 1.7 percent from a 4.1 percent rate in the third quarter. The biggest jump in borrowing came from the federal government, coming in at a 37 percent rate in the fourth quarter.

At the end of the fourth quarter, domestic nonfinancial debt outstanding totaled $33.5 trillion, with households accounting for $13.8 trillion, nonfinancial businesses $11.1 trillion and government debt of $8.6 trillion.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bill to limit credit cark rates

Bernie Sanders deserves your support

Sanders Press release Loan Sharks in Three-Piece Suits:

Sen. Bernie Sanders will introduce legislation this week to cap interest rates charged by credit card companies that now slap consumers with rates of up to 30 percent. "This is money that comes right out of their hides and it hurts," Sanders told The Burlington Free Press. His legislation would impose 15 percent interest rate ceiling. It also would limit fees. “We are going to introduce a national usury law which will prohibit any financial institution from charging these outrageous rates,” he told Thom Hartmann’s nationally-syndicated radio show. “These loan sharks wear three-piece suits, but they’re not much different than those guys who break people’s knee caps.”

At the same time that banks are receiving the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history and at the same time that the Federal Reserve has lowered short-term interest rates that banks pay to near zero percent, the same banks are charging consumers outrageous fees and sky-high interest rates on credit cards and other loans.

Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and American Express recently notified customers that their interest rates are going up, in some cases to 30 percent, if a single payment is missed. They also are jacking-up interest rates on consumers who pay their bills on time and never go over their credit card limit.

More Good News

Blackstone CEO: As much as 45% of global wealth is gone
CFA Institute Financial NewsBrief

Describing the event as "absolutely unprecedented in our lifetime," Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Group, said the credit meltdown has wiped out between 40% and 45% of the world's wealth.

He said credit-rating agencies are partly to blame for the crisis. "What's pretty clear is that if you were looking for one culprit out of the many, many, many culprits, you have to point your finger at the rating agencies," Schwarzman said. Reuters (10 Mar.)

More Bits and Pieces

U.S. federal government budget widened to $192.8 billion in February ... the second largest monthly deficit on record ... receipts dropped 17% to $87.3 billion, the lowest since February 1995.

In February, individual income taxes fell 64% to just $8.7 billion. That's the lowest monthly total for individual income taxes since May 1985.

Earlier today, the BLS released the state unemployment rates for January. Four states are now above 10%: Michigan, South Carolina, Rhode Island and California.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

RE: Dirty Bomb

Anyone else notice that this story did not even get a passing mention in the supposed main stream media? I guess we can't really accuse white millionaires of being violently anti-American -- esp. if they are right wingers (can't get much more right than Nazism). Now, if his name was Padilla, or something like that, it would be HUGE headlines -- esp. if he was an "illegal".

Makes you want to cry.

Dirty Bomb

This from Raw Story.

Report: Slain US Nazi hated Obama, had parts for 'dirty bomb'
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Monday March 9, 2009

Claim: Depleted uranium purchased over the Internet from an American company

Trust fund millionaire James G. Cummings, an American Nazi sympathizer from Maine who was slain by his wife Amber in December, allegedly had the radioactive components necessary to construct a "dirty bomb," a newly released threat analysis report states.

The man, allegedly furious over the election of President Obama, purchased depleted uranium over the Internet from an American company.

"According to an FBI field intelligence report from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center posted online by WikiLeaks, an organization that posts leaked documents, an investigation into the case revealed that radioactive materials were removed from Cummings’ home after his shooting death on Dec. 9," reported the Bangor Daily News.

"Amber (Cummings) indicated James was very upset with Barack Obama being elected President," reported the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center (PDF link). "She indicated James had been in contact with 'white supremacist group(s).' Amber also indicated James mixed chemicals in the kitchen sink at their residence and had mentioned 'dirty bombs.'"

"Also found was literature on how to build 'dirty bombs' and information about cesium-137, strontium-90 and cobalt-60, radioactive materials," said the Bangor Daily. "The FBI report also stated there was evidence linking James Cummings to white supremacist groups. This would seem to confirm observations by local tradesmen who worked at the Cummings home that he was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and had a collection of Nazi memorabilia around the house, including a prominently displayed flag with swastika. Cummings claimed to have pieces of Hitler’s personal silverware and place settings, painter Mike Robbins said a few days after the shooting."

After Amber Cummings admitted to the murder and entered an insanity plea, Belfast, Maine police felt it necessary to bring the FBI on the scene. Bangor Daily reporter Eric Russell followed up in a filmed interview with Belfast Police Chief Jeffrey Trafton:

The paper also reported that Cummings had a long history of violence.

Public safety officials were quick to claim there was no threat.

The story of the first attempt at constructing a "dirty bomb" in the United States was not carried by any mainstream press outside of Maine.

"Conservatives apparently didn't want to draw attention to a radioactive, wealthy version of Timothy McVeigh coming from their own sphere, although nearly every day during Bush's reign saw "dirty bombs" hyped as the ultimate threat," summarized Wikileaks.

"The left didn't want to repeat another 'dirty bomb' story, the likes of which Republicans had used to drive hundreds of billions of dollars into Republican dominated military and security contractors."

In the report, an unnamed source noted, "state authorities detected radiation emissions in four small jars in the residence labeled 'uranium metal', as well as one jar labeled 'thorium.' The four jars of uranium carried the label of an identified US company."

"Further preliminary analysis on 30 December 2008 indicated an unlabeled jar to be a second jar of thorium. Each bottle of uranium contained depleted uranium 238. Analysis also indicated the two jars of thorium held thorium 232."

"An Internet search of the James B. Cummings Trust indicated that it has an annual income of $10 million," noted a report

Monday, March 9, 2009

bits and pieces

It's Monday March 9th 2009.

The U.S lost another 650,000 or so jobs (what's 5 or 10,000?).

There's a run on the English Pound. (Can you say Iceland? -- just kidding)

The global crisis wiped a staggering $50 trillion off the value of financial assets last year including $9.6 trillion of losses in developing Asia alone, the Asian Development Bank said Monday.

There are already tax protests in Ca. : "While the turnout at a recent anti-tax rally in California, detailed by the Fullerton Community Examiner in "Over 15,000 Descend on Fullerton to Protest Higher Taxes," represents an infinitesimally small fraction of the state's 37 million population, I expect it won't be long before the trickle of angry protestors turns into a flood -- in California and elsewhere."

I guess everyone wants services, everyone wants the economy to improve -- but no one wants to pay for it. We all want someone else to pay. We also blame it on "those people", while at the same time talking about "personal responsibility" -- for other people.

We don't know our history, don't know how the government works, think the USA is a "Christian Nation" -- even though the founding fathers were not Christian, and we were founded on principles of The Enlightenment. We were, and are a SECULAR nation.

we're afraid to teach our kids about sex -- so now, they're doomed to know less than their parents, and are doomed to make the very same mistakes we all made. The difference is that today the stakes are higher.

Our Media is a creature of its corporate overlords -- there is almost no news broadcast -- it's mostly propaganda.

One of our two major political parties is being run (defacto) by a fat, misogynistic, drug addict, who doesn't know the difference between the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution.

In order to fight the "horror" of "Gay Marriage" a formerly respected lawyer says a simple majority vote can strip away any and all rights from anyone. Talk about consequences.

There's talk GW Bush will be charged with war crimes. In addition folks are now saying the last eight years were a dictatorship.

Aside from those few things, things are getting worse.

Happy Monday.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Privatising The commons

This directly from "The Economic Populist" -- I'd suggest you bookmark, and check that blog. Lot's of good stuff. Just follow the link.

here's a history lesson:

Privatizing The Commons

"Virtually everything President Bush is doing to America is, at some level, related to privatization of our commons. Today we are witnessing the middle game portion of the Corporate Takeover of Everything Agenda. It scares me to imagine what the end-game will look like."
-Scott Silver, 2003

In 2006 the Democrats narrowly defeated Bush's attempts at selling 300,000 acres of public forest land to private interests. The reason given was to simply raise money to fill a budget gap.

"It kind of reminds me of selling off the 'back 40' to pay the rent. It's short-term thinking."

This certainly isn't the first time that Republicans have gone after the Commons, and it won't be the last.

"After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."
- James G. Watt, 1983

Starting with the Sagebrush Rebellion, continuing with Reagan's Interior Secretary, James Watt, and the Wise Use Movement of the late 80's and early 90's, and finally with the rise of the "free market environmentalism" the Republican base keeps coming and coming for undeveloped land, and they will never stop.
The pro-privatization crowd is very open with their reasoning and logic:

Some object to privatization because they believe that our national "crown jewels" (however defined) are sacred natural treasures and that no price tag can or should be attached to them. Well, one is welcome to one's beliefs, but value is subjective. Land is worth only what people will pay for it.
If there is more money to be made by turning the Grand Canyon over to the Walt Disney Co. rather than to an eco-sensitive tourism cooperative, it simply means that the public demand for Disney's services at the Grand Canyon is greater than the public's demand for Deep Green Trail Services Inc.

This is a philosophy that sees absolutely no value in anything that can't be turned into a buck. I feel no shame in saying that these people cannot be reasoned with. They can only be fought.
How can I say that with so much certainty? How can I be certain that I am right? The reason I have no doubts is because I know a little about history, and I would like to share it with you.
But to do this right, we need to go all the way back to the feudal system of England as it was coming out of the Dark Ages.

The New Tragedy Of The Commons

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.
— English folk poem, ca. 1764

As any student of law can tell you, the root of all American Constitutional law is English Common Law. And the root of English Common Law is the Magna Carta. This 13th Century document is so important that it has been repeatedly cited in U.S. Supreme Court rulings as recently as 1983.

The Carta De Foresta

That much you probably already know. What you most likely don't know is that the Magna Carta had a companion document known as the Charter of the Forest. In this almost forgotten legal document was the basis of The Commons. For example:

[12] Every free man may henceforth without being prosecuted make in his wood or in land he has in the forest a mill, a preserve, a pond, a marl-pit, a ditch, or arable outside the covert in arable land, on condition that it does not harm any neighbour.

[17] These liberties concerning the forests we have granted to everybody, saving to archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, and other persons, ecclesiastical and secular, Templars and Hospitallers, the liberties and free customs, in forests and outside, in warrens and other things, which they had previously.[...]

For centuries the Open Field System was the dominant economic agriculture system of England (and most other places in Europe). Resources were shared in the community and the community regulated its uses. This economic system existed from the neolithic period of human development all the way up to the middle ages. In other words, it is the opposite of the privatizing system being pushed through today. Unlike today's economic system, this community-based, sharing of resources is the default economic system of the human condition.

So what brought this system to an end? Contrary to what some would have you believe, it didn't die on its own. It wasn't gradually and efficiently replaced by today's capitalist system.
No, it was knifed in the back. And the hundreds of thousands that depended on this system had their livelihoods destroyed in the process, leaving a huge swath of the population homeless, penniless, and without means to feed their families.
Like most economic upheavals in history, this can be traced to a particular war. In this case, the Anglo-Scottish War of 1541.

I'm Henry The Eighth, I Am

When Henry VIII was crowned King in 1509 the country's treasury was in fine shape. But Henry had a love for starting wars with France and Scotland, and it quickly depleted the treasury. By the 1530's the country was nearly broke. It just so happens that 1531 was the year that Henry VIII declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, and in 1535 Henry had Thomas Cromwell visiting all the monasteries in the nation in order to a) inventory all their assets, and b) spread propaganda against the monks and nuns (using such terms as sinful "hypocrites" and "sorcerers").
[note: Cromwell was a disgusting toady of Henry's who's life ended in a deliberately botched private execution]
The following year the Dissolution of the Monasteries became law, as their property was confiscated. Abbots who resisted were executed. Around 800 of these institutions were seized. Henry didn't get as much revenue from seizing the assets of the monasteries as he thought he would, so he turned around and sold the land to the wealthy Tudor gentry at bargain basement prices.
[note: Every instance of privatizing public assets that I have ever read about, led to those assets being sold at pennies on the dollar to the politically connected wealthy. It's a good bet that this will happen every single time.]
The abbeys were one of the primary sources of charity and medical care in the country, thus gutting the weak safety net that was in place. The loss of them came at an extremely bad time. Henry VIII, now flush with quick cash went on an empire building spree.

Ireland circa 1530

For two centuries the Irish had been driving the English back towards Dublin, so that by 1541 the English controlled only an area of 20 miles in radius known simply as The Pale. But that year Henry crowned himself King of Ireland against the expressed wishes of the Pope. Combined with the process of buying off Irish Lords, Ireland soon become part of the English Empire (although not without frequent, bloody revolts).
However, Scotland was a different story. Henry was determined to convert them to Protestants, even if he had to kill every last one of them. When war broke out in 1541 Henry used his newly flush treasury to field an army to do just that. The problem was that Scotland didn't like the idea of England telling them how to worship, and created an alliance with France to help them fight the English invaders.
The war drug on year after year. Henry's armies used a scorthed-earth tactic known as "Rough Wooing" in which hundreds of villages and hamlets were burnt to the ground. At the same time Henry was conducting a full-scale invasion of France.
All of this war is expensive, and by 1542 the treasury was in danger of depletion yet again. Henry was faced with a tough choice - raise taxes or end the empire building? Raising taxes was not a choice because the English gentry had balked at paying for war three different times during the 1520's. Like George Bush and most modern politicians, he was loath to do either, and instead chose a third way - debasement of the currency.


Known simply as The Great Debasement, Henry did what is the modern equivalent of adding zeros to today's fiat currency. In 1542 One Pound contained 6.4 ounces of silver. By 1551 One Pound contained less than an ounce of silver.

For King Henry it created a temporary increase in the amount of cash on hand to fund his destruction and occupation of southern Scotland. For the poor, all they saw was rapidly increasing prices without a similar increase in wages. And for the wealthy landlords they saw a decrease in the value of the rents they charge.

Enclosure: The process whereby open land or common land was parcelled up into privately owned blocks or fields.

But the wealthy gentry had a way out. For more than a century the price of sheep's wool had been increasing because of strong demand on the continent (i.e. turning exports into hard currency). What stood in the way of this solution for the wealthy landlords was thousands of subsistence farmers on their lands.
But that was easy enough to fix - the farmers were evicted, the former farming lands were enclosed with ditches and hedges, and then the fields were turned to pasture for the sheep. By as early as 1516 this was becoming a problem. Thomas More wrote in his book Utopia:

But I do not think that this necessity of stealing arises only from hence; there is another cause of it, more peculiar to England.' 'What is that?' said the Cardinal: 'The increase of pasture,' said I, 'by which your sheep, which are naturally mild, and easily kept in order, may be said now to devour men and unpeople, not only villages, but towns; for wherever it is found that the sheep of any soil yield a softer and richer wool than ordinary, there the nobility and gentry, and even those holy men, the abbots not contented with the old rents which their farms yielded, nor thinking it enough that they, living at their ease, do no good to the public, resolve to do it hurt instead of good. They stop the course of agriculture, destroying houses and towns, reserving only the churches, and enclose grounds that they may lodge their sheep in them.

When The Great Debasement happened, this process was accelerated many times over. What's more, the wealthy were no longer satisfied with simply enclosing their own common land, but started enclosing land that didn't belong to them - common fens and marshes, moors and other "wastes". These were areas not owned by anyone, but that tenant farmers used for their animals to graze (along with the stubble of an open field after a harvest).
In other words this was outright theft by the powerful and wealthy of community owned land, land in which they had the right to use under the Charter of the Forest. These enclosures turned common land into owned land, whereas field enclosures only segregated land that was already owned. Access to these lands were critical to the marginal farmer, and it is no surprise when those farmers began revolting.

The Levellers: Part I

Enclosure riots began as early as the 1520's, but were usually modest in size and rarely caused violence (other than the knocking down of hedges and filling in of ditches that enclosed common lands). However, things changed for the worst in 1549, when the first round of full-scale enclosure riots began.
By 1549 the economic situation in Britain had become intolerable. Poverty rates which were normally around 20% had spiked to over 50%. And with the charity network gutted by Henry a decade earlier, these had become desperate times for many families.
The first major outbreak of violence was Kett's Rebellion during the summer of that year. Robert Kett became the unwilling leader of a rebellion of 15,000 angry farmers, almost completely unarmed, who stormed the town of Norwich after tearing down enclosures for several weeks. They amazingly beat back an attack of 14,000 of the King's militia. However, the King then sent a larger army with better leadership, which defeated the rebels in a pitched battle. Robert Kett was hung over the side of the Norwich castle, where his death was strung out over a period of several days.

Defeating Kett's rebellion did not stop periodic uprising against enclosures of the Commons. Nor did the end of the Great Debasement stop the enclosing of common land. Between 1570 and 1620 nearly 1/3 of all the land in England changed hands - from the poor and commons to the wealthy. By some accounts, 3/4ths to 9/10ths of the tenant farmers on some estates were evicted in the late medieval period.
All this enclosing of common land led to the complete depopulation of hundreds of villages and hamlets. In all, about 1,000 towns and villages ceased to exist during this period. With Scotland and Ireland coming under the thumb of the English crown, they too suffered from the same trend. Families gave up their children because they couldn't afford to feed them. People sold themselves into indentured servitude. So many thousands of families were being made homeless and destitute, with no means to support themselves, it led to skyrocketing crime rates.

The enclosure riots peaked in 1607 with the infamous Midland Revolt. Thousands of people, including women and children, took part in pulling down hedges and filling in ditches. When the local militia flat refused when called to put down revolt, the local landlords used their servants and armed thugs they hired.

The Royal Proclamation was read twice. The rioters continued in their actions and the gentry and their forces charged. A pitched battle ensued. 40-50 were killed and the ringleaders were hanged and quartered.
No memorial to the event or to those killed exists.

The Government Responds

Gradually the government responded to the social crisis they had helped create. Because the enclosing of common land was creating social instability, and, even more importantly, it was shrinking the tax base (because the homeless couldn't pay taxes), anti-enclosure laws were passed. However, they were poorly enforced and corruptly administered. Eventually the laws were simply repealed. The government was simply unable, or unwilling, to stand up to the wealthy, privileged class that had caused so much suffering.
The other method of dealing with the steadily increasing numbers of poor was stricter laws.

1495: Vagrants to be punished in the stocks for 3 days.
1531: Vagrants to be whipped.
1536: Vagrants make to work on jobs like road repairs.
1547: Vagrants could be forced to work as slaves (this law was canceled in 1549 because it was considered too harsh).
1572: Vagrants over 14 were to be whipped and have a hole made in their right ear the first time they were caught. Caught again, they could be put in prison, even hanged.
1576: Houses of Correction (Bridewells) set up where vagrants were forced to live and work.
1597: Vagrants whipped and sent back to county where they had last lived. Vagrants who kept getting caught were sent overseas to work in the colonies.

The last law listed eventually became a popular method of dealing with the flood of homeless poor. As the British Empire expanded, shipping the homeless poor off to undeveloped lands in America, and later Australia, became the default method of social administration. The colony of Georgia's early population can be largely attributed to this law.
In 1697 an act was passed requiring the poor to wear a "badge" of red or blue cloth on the right shoulder with an embroidered letter "P" and the initial of their parish.

Of course the government wasn't totally heartless. The latter part of the 16th Century saw the first Poor Laws - the first efforts in the western world at setting up a welfare state. In 1572 the first poor tax was introduced. The services rendered from the Poor Laws were exclusively reserved to those who were unable to take care of themselves such as children, the old, the crippled and sick.
In 1601 the Elizabethan Poor Law was enacted.

It made provision:

* To board out (making a payment to families willing to accept them) those young children who were orphaned or whose parents could not maintain them,
* to provide materials to "set the poor on work"
* To offer relief to people who were unable to work -- mainly those who were "lame, impotent, old, blind", and
* "The putting out of children to be apprentices"

In today's world this was a rather pathetic attempt at dealing with an impoverished society. But in 1601 this was radical thinking far ahead of its time.

The Levellers: Part II

In 1642, the English Civil War began (although fighting in Scotland and Ireland began earlier). Since the monarchy, with the aid of the Star Chamber, was the only institution that was slowing down enclosures, the eventual victory by the lords in Parliament dramatically sped up enclosures around the country.

The term levellers was used to describe the enclosure rioters for "leveling hedges". However, in November 1647, the term Levellers was used to describe a political movement among London's politicians.

The Levellers were an informal alliance of agitators and pamphleteers who came together during the English Civil War (1642-1648) to demand constitutional reform and equal rights under the law. Levellers believed all men were born free and equal and possessed natural rights that resided in the individual, not the government. They believed that each man should have freedom limited only by regard for the freedom of others. They believed the law should equally protect the poor and the wealthy. The Levellers were the social libertarians of the day (or classic liberals). "Leveller" was a term of abuse, coined by their opponents to exaggerate the threat of their ideas.

The Leveller politicians had only the most indirect connections to their namesakes, and their movement was crushed just three years later with a series of executions and assassinations.

By 1650 the rise in wool prices had ended, but by this time the fate of the Commons in Britain was sealed. There would be more enclosures and more families made homeless. The politicians in London would eventually openly side with the wealthy and institute a series of formal enclosure laws, which ended in 1801.