Bush tax cuts made our income decline!
I continue to heart Sen. Al Franken for standing up for people who are being abused by the powerful. Kudos also to the Minneapolis Star Tribune for publishing this series:
Alarmed by abuses in the debt collections industry, Sen. Al Franken said Sunday that he will introduce legislation to ban the use of arrest warrants by private firms and other practices he says are unfair to consumers.
“I was shocked when I read the Star Tribune series about this,” said Franken, D-Minn. “… Sometimes you pick up the paper and you say, ‘Holy moley, we have to do something about this.’”
Hounded, a Star Tribune investigative series published over the summer, exposed debt collectors’ aggressive tactics, including the increasing use of arrest warrants and the seizures of paychecks and bank accounts.
Franken would make it an unfair practice under federal law for private firms to use arrest warrants in debt collections, according to a summary of his proposed bill. Consumers would have the right to sue collectors over the practice. Franken said the bill won’t limit judges’ authority to issue arrest warrants against debtors who can pay, but don’t show up in court when a creditor sues.
“That should come from the court, not the debt collector,” said Franken, who asserted that the collections industry relies too much on public resources, such as sheriffs’ offices, to collect private debts.
His legislation also would require collectors to furnish consumers with more information about what they owe, including a breakdown of fees and interest, and notify people of what rights they have.
Stories like this were popping up everywhere back when I was reporter, and while I was sympathetic to the women who identified themselves as victims, I was always very skeptical of the kind of “therapy” that identified “lost” sexual abuse memories. It was always therapy with an agenda.
I’ve been following this for the past couple of days, not wanting to write about it until I was clear on exactly what happened. By now, it’s clear this was another massive abuse of the Patriot Act. Via Democracy Now!:
AMY GOODMAN: Antiwar activists are gearing up for protests outside FBI offices in cities across the country today and tomorrow after the FBI raided eight homes and offices of antiwar activists in Chicago and Minneapolis Friday.
The FBI’s search warrants indicate agents were looking for connections between local antiwar activists and groups in Colombia and the Middle East. Eight people were issued subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. Most of the people whose homes were searched or who were issued subpoenas had helped organize or attended protests at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, two years ago.
The federal law cited in the search warrants prohibits, quote, “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”
In June, the Supreme Court rejected a free speech challenge to the material support law from humanitarian aid groups that said some of its provisions put them at risk of being prosecuted for talking to terrorist organizations about nonviolent activities. Some of groups listed by name in the warrants are Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The warrants also authorized agents to to seize items such as electronics, photographs, videos, address books and letters.
Friday’s raids come on the heels of a Justice Department probe that found the FBI improperly monitored activist groups and individuals from 2001 to 2006.
For more, I’m joined now by three guests.
Joining us from Minneapolis, longtime antiwar activist Jess Sundin, whose home was raided by the FBI early Friday morning. She’s a member of the Anti-War Committee, whose offices were also raided.
Joining us via Democracy Now! video stream from Chicago is Joe Iosbaker, whose home was one of two raided in Chicago Friday. He’s an employee of the University of Illinois in Chicago and a steward for SEIU Local 73. He helped coordinate buses from Chicago to the protests at the Republican National Convention in 2008.
Also in Minneapolis we’re joined by former FBI special agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley. Time named her Woman of the Year, Person of the Year in 2002.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Let’s begin in Minneapolis with Jess Sundin. Tell us what happened.
JESS SUNDIN: Friday morning, I awoke to a bang at the door, and by the time I was downstairs, there were six or seven federal agents already in my home, where my partner and my six-year-old daughter had already been awake. We were given the search warrant, and they went through the entire house. They spent probably about four hours going through all of our personal belongings, every book, paper, our clothes, and filled several boxes and crates with our computers, our phones, my passport. And when they were done, as I said, they had many crates full of my personal belongings, with which they left my house.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you the only one there that morning?
JESS SUNDIN: No, my partner and my first-grade daughter were also there.
AMY GOODMAN: And what exactly did they show you to get in?
JESS SUNDIN: Well, we have a porch where you can’t see exactly who’s outside. And so, they had already let themselves into the porch by the time my daughter—my wife opened the door. And when they came in, they showed us this four-page document that listed, as I said, all the kinds of things that they were entitled to look—to search for in my home, as well as a subpoena to appear before a grand jury. My name was listed on the search warrant, but both myself and my partner received subpoenas for the grand jury in Chicago.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Chicago, to Joe Iosbaker. Describe what happened to you on Friday morning.
JOE IOSBAKER: Well, it’s the exact same story. It was a nationally coordinated assault on all of these homes. Seven a.m., the pound on the door. I was getting ready for work, came down the stairs, and there were, I think, in the area of ten agents, you know, of the—they identified themselves as FBI, showed me the search warrant. And I turned to my wife and said, “Stephanie, it’s the thought police.”
AMY GOODMAN: And they came in?
JOE IOSBAKER: They came in, and they proceeded to set up their operation in our living room, and they proceeded to photograph every room in our house. And over the next, I don’t know, thirty or forty-five minutes, they proceeded to label every room and then systematically go through every room, our basement, our attic, our children’s rooms, and pored through not just all of our papers, but our music collection, our children’s artwork, my son’s poetry journals from high school—everything.
AMY GOODMAN: And were they explaining to you what they were doing as they were raiding your house?
JOE IOSBAKER: There was—there were—some of the officers, you know, were telling us what they were doing. Most of them were not. But they gave us some explanation.
AMY GOODMAN: What exactly did they say to you?
JOE IOSBAKER: Well, they—all they said in terms of the content of what they were looking for is that they—you know, they showed us the search warrant, and I was—my wife and I were both subpoenaed, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: What organizations are you involved with, Joe? What do you think they’re looking for?
JOE IOSBAKER: Well, as you said at the start, I’m a trade unionist primarily. That’s how most people know me. I’m also the staff adviser at UIC for the Students for a Democratic Society chapter.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s University of Illinois, Chicago.
JOE IOSBAKER: Correct. And, you know, I’ve been a political activist for thirty-three years, so I’ve been a member of a lot of organizations and campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: Coleen Rowley, you’re a former FBI agent, whistleblower, named Time Person of the Year in 2002. Can you explain what you think is happening here? And also, put it in the context of this very interesting Justice Department IG—Inspector General—report that has just come out on their surveillance of whistleblowers—rather, the surveillance of activists over the last almost decade.
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, I can’t really detail all of the legal factors that have changed since 9/11, but there simply has been a sea change. For instance, when I taught constitutional rights in the FBI, one of the main top priorities was First Amendment rights. And while this is not the first time that you’ve seen this Orwellian turn of the war on terror onto domestic peace groups and social justice groups—actually, we had that begin very quickly after 9/11, and there were legal opinions, Office of Legal Counsel opinions, that said the First Amendment no longer controls the war on terror—but even so, this is shocking and alarming that at this point we have the, you know, humanitarian advocacy now being treated as somehow material support to terrorists.
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My local Action News is explaining that you can save money by buying clothes at consignment shops. Wow, who would have ever thought of that?
ONE NATION WORKING TOGETHER RALLY
Saturday, October 2, 2010,
Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C
Buses are leaving from Across the State. CLICK HERE to find a bus location nearest you. .
CLICK HERE to sign up and tell us you will be there!
To reserve seats on the bus and/or for more information contact David Hopkins at Grassroots4Change@gmail.com or at 609-868-2733
Leaving aside the economic and political costs of the policies undertaken by President Obama, there is a much more profoundly corrosive social effect at work here. There is a pervasive sense that people who have played according to the rules are being persistently jobbed by this Administration – this has begun to perpetuate a feeling of “they’ve got theirs and now I want mine.” It’s hard to quantify the impact of this growing mentality, but it is the kind of phenomenon often manifests itself via widespread tax evasion and a corresponding loss of political legitimacy on the part of a government in other countries.
The primary reason the public accepts what we call “fiat money” is because it has tax liabilities to the government. If the tax system were removed, the government would eventually find that its fiat money would lose its ability to purchase goods and services on the market. In the words of the economist Abba Lerner:
The modern state can make anything it chooses generally acceptable as money…It is true that a simple declaration that such and such is money will not do, even if backed by the most convincing constitutional evidence of the state’s absolute sovereignty. But if the state is willing to accept the proposed money in payment of taxes and other obligations to itself the trick is done.
If that trend persists, then we do end up being like Greece. Not because of growing national insolvency, but more because our citizenry begins to view the government as a piggy bank to be exploited, rather than an instrument which mobilizes national resources for broader public purpose. Absent this political authority, everything begins to break down.
For all of his renewed vigor on the campaign trail, Mr. Obama fundamentally fails to understand this phenomenon, which is why his exhortations of the kind that he uttered last weekend to the Congressional Black Caucus no longer resonate with the broader public. His “change” message is no longer a symbol of hope, but has become a source of bitter irony and cynicism. As a result, this President risks turning off an entire generation of new voters who were once genuinely excited by the man’s promise.
Frank Rich recently suggested that “it’s time for this big dog to bite back” and urged Obama to “call out the powerful interests…whether on Wall Street or in Big Oil or any other sector where special interests are aligned against reform in the public interest.” All well and good. But consider the fact that these “powerful interests” were some of the President’s biggest campaign donors. Which leaves a more troubling question: what if this particular “Big Dog” is actually nothing more than a lap dog – guarding the very special interests that he purports to oppose?
I have a feeling people are going to rediscover the joys of snail mail.