Archive | #OccupyWallStreet
Here in Philadelphia, we have people who have been in jail for weeks because they can’t afford the drunk and disorderly fine. Nothing quite like the high cost of being poor:
CHILDERSBURG, Ala. — Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked.
When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.
For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that “two can dine for $5.99,” is not about innocence.
It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions.
“With so many towns economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to bring in money rather than mete out justice,” said Lisa W. Borden, a partner in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, a large law firm in Birmingham, Ala., who has spent a great deal of time on the issue. “The companies they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake.”
Geeze, wouldn’t it make more sense for towns to hire these unemployed people to collect the money? Of course, they wouldn’t be able to pay big kickbacks – er, campaign contributions. But maybe that’s the point.
Thank God billionaires still get their tax breaks:
According to a report from the Department of Education, the number of homeless students in the U.S. topped one million for the first time during the 2010-2011 school year. The number includes students enrolled in public preschool through 12th grade, and as the Orlando Sentinel pointed out, “the figure actually underestimates the number of homeless children by excluding infants, toddlers, preschool-aged children who aren’t enrolled in public programs and homeless children who are home-schooled.” According to the data, “44 states overall saw the number of homeless students increase, while “fifteen states’ homeless student population increased by one fifth or more.” (HT: Joy Resmovits and Saki Knafo)
I don’t even know what to say about something like this. I wrote about the leaked copy of this treaty a few weeks ago, and the response seemed to be a big yawn. The more I read this, the worse it gets. We actually elected someone who thinks this is a good idea? The media doesn’t want to discuss this, and we’re just a bunch of whiners if we bring it up.
I say, we need to blow the damned thing up — and Public Citizen is trying to do just that:
Have you heard about the small U.S. government agency engaged in years of closed-door negotiations that could undermine the Obama administration’s declared goals of creating jobs, reregulating the financial sector and lowering healthcare costs?
With the direct participation of 600 corporations and shocking levels of secrecy, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is rushing to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Branded as a trade agreement (yawn) by its corporate proponents, TPP largely has evaded public and congressional scrutiny since negotiations were launched in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration.
But trade is the least of it. Only two of TPP’s 26 chapters actually have to do with trade. The rest is about new enforceable corporate rights and privileges and constraints on government regulation. This includes new extensions of price-raising drug patent monopolies, corporate rights to attack government drug formulary pricing plans, safeguards to facilitate job offshoring and new corporate controls over natural resources.
Also included are severe limits on government regulation of financial services, zoning and land use, product and food safety, energy and other essential services, tobacco, and more. The copyright chapter poses many of the threats to Internet freedom of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was stalled in Congress under intense public pressure.
The proposed pact is so invasive of domestic policy space that it would even limit how governments can spend tax dollars. Buy America and other Buy Local procurement preferences used to reinvest our tax dollars in the American economy would be banned and sweat-free, human rights or environmental conditions on government contracts would be subject to challenge in closed-door foreign tribunals.
Indeed, signatory countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to TPP’s rules, effecting a quiet corporate coup d’état. And, regardless of election outcomes or changes in public opinion, these extreme rules could not be altered without the consent of all signatory countries. Failure to conform to these rules would subject countries to indefinite trade sanctions.
A recent leak of one of TPP’s most controversial chapters reveals that the pact would elevate individual corporations and investors to equal status with sovereign nations to privately enforce this treaty. U.S. negotiators are among the greatest champions of this “investor state” enforcement system. It would give any foreign firm incorporated in any TPP country new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges.
After Obama’s election, U.S. trade officials were instructed to withdraw from the TPP negotiations Bush had launched – supposedly to sort out a new approach that implemented candidate Obama’s campaign commitments to fix the damaging old NAFTA model. But after a kabuki dance of ears-closed check-the-box “consultations” with a minimal number of congressional representatives and civil society groups, Obama’s trade officials picked up where Bush left off. Actually, they doubled down — pushing even more extreme positions than the Bush administration on issues like Internet freedom and access to medicines.
Now a thirteenth round of TPP negotiations involving the Obama administration will occur next week in San Diego. There negotiators from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will meet behind closed doors with their counterparts from eight Asian and Latin American countries. What’s on the table is a 1 percenters’ dream – a corporate power tool of unprecedented scope and might. Think NAFTA on steroids with the whole world.
How could something so extreme get so far? Because the entire process has occurred under conditions of unprecedented secrecy. And, the goal is to sign a final deal before the election.
Why the rush? It’s because these sorts of corporate-power-grabs via “trade” agreements do not fare well in the sunshine. Last month, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk defended the extreme secrecy of TPP negotiations by noting that when the draft of a major regional trade pact was released previously, it became impossible to finish the deal as then proposed.
Yes, in a moment of candor, the top U.S. trade official admitted that TPP must be kept secret because otherwise they won’t be able to shove this deal past the public and Congress.
I was down there a little while ago to drop off some bottled water. (Oh, my aching back!) If anyone wants to donate some money for water, I’ll take more down tomorrow:
Occupy participants from around the country have converged on Philadelphia for the “National Gathering” June 30 through July 4. Organizers estimate the event will draw around 1,500 protesters and has been independently endorsed by more than 100 Occupy groups across the country.
From its very beginning, the convention was less about occupation and more about building communities.
“Tents more than likely won’t be necessary,” a statement on the group’s website reads.
Instead, the group plans to develop a list of grievances to take to legislators, presidential candidates, and Supreme Court justices in Washington, and the event will culminate with a planned march to Independence Halls on July 4.
“For me, this is a chance to finally meet face-to-face with people who are doing work in other cities and build real relationships,” said Jeff Rae, an Occupy activist who had his Twitter records subpoenaed by the New York District Attorney in March. “In a much broader scope, I hope that at the National Gathering, we can have some real dialogue about what’s next for Occupy. New tactics and strategies.”
Rae said he believes the Occupy movement is alive and well. “The conditions that created Occupy in the first place have not gone away, and if anything things have gotten worse,” he said, citing the 7,308 Occupy arrests since the movement’s inception, “and I think you have a lot of people dealing with that, along with working on other projects like eviction defense, stop-and-frisk, and banking issues.”
This is why Delaware is so popular with business: It’s easy to set up a shell company there.
NOTHING about 1209 North Orange Street hints at the secrets inside. It’s a humdrum office building, a low-slung affair with a faded awning and a view of a parking garage. Hardly worth a second glance. If a first one.
But behind its doors is one of the most remarkable corporate collections in the world: 1209 North Orange, you see, is the legal address of no fewer than 285,000 separate businesses.
Its occupants, on paper, include giants like American Airlines, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Ford, General Electric, Google, JPMorgan Chase, and Wal-Mart. These companies do business across the nation and around the world. Here at 1209 North Orange, they simply have a dropbox.
What attracts these marquee names to 1209 North Orange and to other Delaware addresses also attracts less-upstanding corporate citizens. For instance, 1209 North Orange was, until recently, a business address of Timothy S. Durham, known as “the Midwest Madoff.” On June 20, Mr. Durham was found guilty of bilking 5,000 mostly middle-class and elderly investors out of $207 million. It was also an address of Stanko Subotic, a Serbian businessman and convicted smuggler — just one of many Eastern Europeans drawn to the state.
Big corporations, small-time businesses, rogues, scoundrels and worse — all have turned up at Delaware addresses in hopes of minimizing taxes, skirting regulations, plying friendly courts or, when needed, covering their tracks. Federal authorities worry that, in addition to the legitimate businesses flocking here, drug traffickers, embezzlers and money launderers are increasingly heading to Delaware, too. It’s easy to set up shell companies here, no questions asked.
“Shells are the No. 1 vehicle for laundering illicit money and criminal proceeds,” said Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general for the criminal division of the Justice Department. “It’s an enormous criminal justice problem. It’s ridiculously easy for a criminal to set up a shell corporation and use the banking system, and we have to stop it.”
In these troubled economic times, when many states are desperate for tax dollars, Delaware stands out in sharp relief. The First State, land of DuPont, broiler chickens and, as it happens, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., increasingly resembles a freewheeling offshore haven, right on America’s shores. Officials in other states complain that Delaware’s cozy corporate setup robs their states of billions of tax dollars. Officials in the Cayman Islands, a favorite Caribbean haunt of secretive hedge funds, say Delaware is today playing faster and looser than the offshore jurisdictions that raise hackles in Washington.
And international bodies, most recently the World Bank, are increasingly pointing fingers at the state.
Delaware has been a plantation state forever, too, thanks to the DuPont family.