Libby’s Stew: Police, Tsarnaevs, Wages, Swiss CEOs, Manning
"After the Boston Bombings: A Police Chief for Peace" by Ruth Conniff
As the fog of our perpetual "war on terror" descended again after the Boston Marathon bombings, veteran police chief David Couper reflected on the dangers of loose explosives, why we should resist militarizing the police, and how cops who serve as "social workers in blue" can do more to keep us safe than SWAT teams and "police officers who look and act more like robots than peacekeepers."
One remedy, Couper says, is to renew legislative efforts to put identifying tags on all explosives—an effort that has been thwarted by explosives manufacturers--and, of course, gun control. Like a lot of cops, Couper is no fan of the NRA.
“I gave up on the NRA when I was chief and we were looking at legislation to ban Teflon-coated bullets, because the Teflon tip allows them to penetrate the protective vests police wear,” he says. “The NRA fought vehemently against it, and we did not get any legislation passed.”
“Police have a unique ability to be accepted in the community. They are important partners because they know so much about the community, if they’re doing their jobs right,” he says. The militarized response to terrorist attacks jeopardizes this special relationship. In Arrested Development, Couper explores the costs when “police officers look and act more like robots than peacekeepers.”
“It seems to me, if we work with people and show them respect, they’ll work with us,” he says.
That’s why the paranoid, war-on-terror mindset is such a loss—not just for the victims of racial profiling, but also for law-enforcement.
"Two Degrees of Separation: Tsarnaev Brothers Had a CIA Connection" b y Dave Lindorff
The troubled region in question is Chechnya, a region of the former Soviet Union which sought independence from Russia after the collapse of the USSR. The Russian state crushed that secession effort with incredible violence, but found itself still fighting a long and vicious guerrilla conflict against Chechen fighters .... The Chechen guerrillas were supported by the CIA as the US adopted a covert policy of backing efforts by former regions of the old USSR to break free of Russia.
Now it turns out that the two young men suspected of having placed the exploding pressure-cooker bombs at the finish line of the marathon, the slain Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his imprisoned younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, have an uncle, Ruslan Tsarni (he changed his name from Tsarnaev after immigrating to the US), who was until 1999 married to Samantha Ankara Fuller, daughter of a high-ranking CIA operations officer named Graham Fuller. (Fuller, who has called any suggestion of links between his former son-in-law and the CIA “absurd” retired from the Agency and went to work with the Rand Corp., where he focused on the Middle East.).
Fuller, reportedly at one time a CIA station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan, also worked over the years as an operations officer in such intelligence hotspots as Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, as well as Hong Kong.
Uncle Ruslan at one point during his marriage to Fuller’s daughter, was running a curious organization called the Congress of Chechen International Organizations which listed as its address Fuller’s home in Rockville, MD, a Washington DC suburb..... It appears that Ruslan Tsarni also, during the 1990s, reportedly worked as a consultant in Kazakhstan, another former Soviet republic, for US AID, an organization that has often served to provide cover for CIA operatives.
The most charitable theory, to me, would be that this Boston bombing may have been a particularly nasty example of blowback. Certainly there is reason to look carefully at the possibility of some US effort having been made to recruit at least Tamerlan, the older Tsarnaev brother, to work against Russia -- an effort that might then have backfired if he later turned against his American “handlers” for some reason, such as, perhaps, the ant-immigrant policy of the Golden Gloves organization which suddenly changed its rules about allowing legal immigrants to participate in the boxing contest, preventing him from having a second shot at the national title, or the INS, which blocked his efforts to obtain citizenship over an arrest (no conviction) for once allegedly slapping his girlfriend.
There are, of course, also darker possibilities, ... A key would be knowing what if any contacts there were between either of the Tsarnaev brothers and the CIA.
As I have written earlier, there remains the bizarre presence at the marathon finish line, before and after the bombing, of men who appear to have been working for the Texas-based private mercenary firm Craft International.
Look, I said before I’m not a conspiracy theory fan, and maybe this bombing in Boston was just a case of two angry young brothers who flipped out, egged each other on, and decided to go out with a bang.
But it would be naive and irresponsible not to make note of these bizarre links, through their Uncle Ruslan Tsarni, of the Tsarnaev brothers to the CIA, and of the apparent presence of the Craft International personnel at the marathon finish line, not to mention the uncanny similarity in attire between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the Craft mercenaries at the marathon bombing scene. ...
Also begging an answer is the question of where the two brothers, neither of whom had obvious access to wealth, got the money to spend on fancy clothes or, in the case of Tamerlan (who with his wife and small daughter, on the basis of his publicly available information, qualified until this year for welfare assistance), owned a late model Mercedes-Benz sedan.
"Wall Street Hogs Still Running Wild" by Jim Hightower
For years, Dimon has wallowed in the warm glow of America's financial, political and media limelight, hailed as a paragon of sound management and banker ethics. He's been publicly lauded by President Obama, celebrated by The New York Times and courted by leaders of both parties.
On March 14, a U.S. Senate committee issued a scathing 300-page report documenting that the loss was not a mere "trade blunder" by Chase underlings, but the product of a systemic corporate culture of recklessness, greed and deception. An internal email from Jamie himself, with the words "I approve," traced the stench all the way to the top. Not only did Dimon know what was going on, he enabled it.
JPMorgan's mess stems from the same dangerous combo that rocked America's financial system in 2007 and crashed our economy: ethical rot in executive suites, sycophantic politicians and reporters and willfully blind regulators. Meanwhile, Jamie is still Boss Hog at the giant bank and still drawing millions of dollars in annual pay and perks.
For a better performance on containing banker narcissism, our lawmakers might look to Europe. I know that it's considered un-American to like anything those "namby-pamby" European nations do, but still: Let's hear it for the Swiss!
In a March 3 referendum, the mild-mannered, pacifist-minded Swiss people rose up and hammered their corporate executives who've been grabbing rip-off pay packages, despite having made massive financial messes.
Two-thirds of voters emphatically shouted "yes" to a maverick ballot proposal requiring that shareholders be given the binding say on executive pay. Violators of the new rules would sacrifice up to six years of salary and face three years in jail. That's hardly namby-pamby.
Indeed, America's lawmakers and regulators are the ones who've been squishy-soft on banksterism. Jamie is not the only one being coddled — none of the Wall Street titans whose greed wrecked our economy have even been pursued by the law, much less put in jail.
It's not surprise, then, that those bankers have gone right back to scamming — and gleefully enriching themselves.
Meanwhile, just four giants — Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo — put nearly $20 million into last year's elections, mostly to back Republicans promising to weaken the few feeble restraints we now have on banker thievery.....
"Rainbows for the Ruling Class" by Randy Shields
Subheading: Barackodile Tears (Barackodile tears are tears shed by America’s historic first black president about dead, generally white, children gunned down in massacres while he simultaneously murders brown-skinned children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc.)
One of the great things about America is that it’s easy to be psychic here. This is the land of psychic opportunity. Anyone can hang out a shingle and predict the future. Anyone can read a palm that’s greased. If you want to know what’s going to happen next in America, all you have to do is ask yourself: what’s the most outrageous, ironic, perverted and soul-crushing thing that can happen in any given situation? ....
So it was that last week San Francisco Pride announced that jailed war crimes whistle blower Bradley Manning would be an honorary grand marshal for this year’s LGBT Pride Celebration. Before practically anyone had a chance to note how principled and inspiring Manning’s selection was, the decision was rescinded. ....
Most interesting to me was the slavish worship of authority in SF Pride president Lisa L. Williams statement announcing that Manning would not be an honorary grand marshal: “Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform — and countless others, military and civilian alike — will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. It is, and would be, an insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country.”
This is the same military “justice” system that gives out free passes and wrist slaps to the torturers of Abu Ghraib and the rapists and murderers of the children of Haditha, Iraq. The same system of “justice” that discourages female soldiers from reporting rape — and not a handful but the 20,000 servicewomen that even the Pentagon estimates are sexually assaulted every year, as noted in the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary Invisible War. So, yes, Ms. Williams, we eagerly await what the mass murdering rape-friendly torture enterprise has to say about a brave young person who blew the whistle on its crimes.
By exposing war crimes, Manning was actually doing his duty and nothing he did put the lives of American troops in danger. He caused embarrassment to the American empire because he showed that war crimes are routine. Everyone who raised hell with SF Pride’s original decision doesn’t, and can’t, name one instance of Manning putting a soldier’s life in danger because there weren’t any. If anything, Manning helped hasten the departure of America from Iraq and saved US soldiers’ lives. When the working class finally vanquishes the capitalist class, there will be monuments built to Manning — and molded clear plastic Bush and Obama heads used as urinals in hospitals. When you’re admitted to the hospital, a nurse will ask, similar to paper or plastic: “Democrat or Republican?” (After the revolution, hospitals are gonna be fun places that keep peoples’ spirits up.)
" When Your Boss Steals Your Wages: The Invisible Epidemic That’s Sweeping America" by Lynn Stuart Parramore
Imagine you’ve just landed a job with a big-time retailer. Your task is to load and unload boxes from trucks and containers. It’s back-breaking work. You toil 12 to 16 hours a day, often without a lunch break. Sweat drenches your clothes in the 90-degree heat, but you keep going: your kids need their dinner.
One day, your supervisor tells you that instead of being paid an hourly wage, you will now get paid for the number of containers you load or unload. This will be great for you, your supervisor says: More money! But you open your next paycheck to find it shrunken to the point that you are no longer even making minimum wage. You complain to your supervisor, who promptly sends you home without pay for the day. If you pipe up again, you’ll be looking for another job.
The laws protecting workers are grossly inadequate, and wage thieves go unpunished. For giant companies like Walmart, Citigroup and UPS, getting fined is just the cost of doing business. You could even say that they're incentivized to cheat because punishment is so unlikely, and when it happens, so light. The protections we used to take for granted, like the right to receive at least the minimum wage, the right to workers’ compensation when hurt on the job, and the right to advocate for better working conditions, are nothing more than a quaint memory for many Americans. Activist Kim Bobo, author of Wage Theft in America,calls it a "national crime wave."
The sheer scope of the problem is jaw-dropping, sweeping across key industries and inflicting massive damage on individuals and society as a whole. In 2009, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) released a ground-breaking study, “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers,” which found that in America, an honest day’s work is frequently rewarded with theft and abuse. A survey of over 4,000 workers in Chicago, L.A. and New York found that minimum and overtime violations were rife, and any attempt to complain or organize was swiftly met with punishment.
Who gets cheated? Women, minorities, immigrants, and workers at the bottom of the wage scale are hardest hit, but wage theft is thriving across the employment spectrum. People hired for jobs like yard work and domestic services in which the employer pays cash are denied social insurance like Social Security, and often what’s paid doesn’t add up to minimum wage. Some employees are paid for piece work, like the number of shirts produced in a garment factory, and get cheated when the tally falls below minimum wage (that’s one of the things that’s alleged to have happened to Carrillo). Another common form of theft is the “last paycheck” scam in which a worker is either fired or quits and finds that her final wages are withheld.
Low-wage tip workers are frequently the victims of theft in which the boss illegally keeps tips or makes you pay for your uniform or a ride to the job site. Restaurants are infamous for paying wages below the legal minimum; some charge a fee to convert credit card tips into cash, while others simply steal tips outright. When I was in college, I waited tables at a restaurant where the manager required the waiters to turn over tips at the end of the day, ostensibly so a certain percentage could be distributed among the cooks and other staff. I thought my manager was doing something to create fairness. Actually, he was stealing tips.
Then there’s the payroll fraud scam. Misclassifying workers as independent contractors means the business doesn’t pay overtime, employer contributions to Social Security and Medicare, or unemployment insurance. Sometimes bosses misclassify by mistake, but often they do it knowingly. Temporary and seasonal workers are especially vulnerable. The construction and trucking industries are notorious offenders, but payroll fraud impacts people like engineers, financial advisers, adjunct professors, and IT professionals. It doesn’t matter if you have agreed to call yourself an independent contractor, you may not be under the law.
You might think that joining the managerial ranks would protect you from wage theft. You would be wrong. Some people are given titles as managers so they can be forced to work overtime without extra pay. Managers pressured to “improve their numbers” sometimes resort to falsifying employee records. Others deny breaks or deduct the break from the workers’ wages. Walmart has engaged in so many of these practices that researcher Susan Miloser of Washington & Lee Law School refers to retail wage theft as a result of managerial strain the “Walmart Pinch.”
Clearly, the New Deal has somehow transformed into the Raw Deal. Since the rise of Ronald Reagan, the American workplace has been morphing from a relatively level playing field into a theater of exploitation. This process has been aided and abetted by influential economists known as "free-market fundamentalists," who dominate the Ivy League and policy circles. They have convinced policy makers and politicians that a voluntary system magically guided by an “invisible hand” produces outcomes that are good for most people. In their view, the economy is a system of equal exchanges between workers and employers in which everybody who does her part is respected and comes out ahead.
Obviously, they don’t focus their research on labor: they may talk about unemployment or wages – keeping the former high and the latter low -- but the conditions workers face are completely off the radar of these economists....
Here’s where we are: the twin evils of high unemployment and economic inequality have joined forces to turn workers into so many expendable units in the great capitalist machine. Union-busting, globalization, outsourcing, downsizing, and recession have turned dignified jobs into opportunities for employer predation. I have called job insecurity the “Disease of the 21st Century” and it has clearly metastasized into a situation in which people are terrified of doing or saying anything to jeopardize employment, no matter how egregious the abuse. As long as there aren’t enough jobs, bosses maintain the upper hand. ...
The Department of Labor is supposed to enforce fair labor practices, but budget cutting at the insistence of Big Business has had the desired effect. Currently, there are only 1,000 enforcement officers protecting 135 million workers. That would be enough to cover, say, the city of Chicago. Maybe! You can place a claim through the department, but you may not get results. Workers are often left to fend for themselves. (One thing every worker can do is consult the website CanMyBossDoThat.com to at least get a sense of your rights.)
In Wage Theft in America, Kim Bobo outlines a variety of things that communities and activists are doing to address the crisis, from creating task forces to identifying agencies that help low-wage workers know when they are being cheated. There’s been some good news: campaigns to strengthen wage theft laws in several states, cities and counties are underway. The state of New York has enacted statewide legislation to protect workers from wage theft. In Miami-Dade County, a city-wide ordinance was established in 2010 which focuses on eliminating the underpayment or nonpayment of wages and targeting unscrupulous businesses. Chicago’s newly adopted wage theft ordinance will strip employers of their business license if they are caught cheating workers. But the key word is "if." Methods are sneaky and workers often have no idea that they are being robbed.