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Obamacare: The Biggest Insurance Scam in History

I know this is very long, and it contradicts my former support for this law but Truthout is one if the few resl investigative journalism outlets left. They are not right or left wing.  They just get actual facts, background, and hidden information into the public eye so democracy can function. 

Even though this may provide “ammo” to those who simply hate everything President Obama does, my support for him is not the messiah worship some claim. I know he is one man doing the best he can in basically a nest of vipers.

He wanted to get something to help people and this is what was “possible” in the soup of corporate owned corruption in DC. 

Now we the people need to come together across party lines and clean our country out-remove the money-power-corruption and Then we can start to solve the myriad problems this creeping fascism has caused. 

How could we expect one man to accomplish what WE as Americans have failed to achieve since President Kennedy was killed?

We face a long and difficult road ahead. We need one another,  love, compassion, patience and determination.

People are suffering and dying right now because this is not solved. They are suffering and dying from the oil barons poisoning them-we have no more time left for childish bickering over manufactured “emergencies”.

 

The REAL emergencies are all around us.

 

Obamacare: The Biggest Insurance Scam in History

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Wednesday, 30 October 2013 10:21By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers ,Truthout | Op-Ed61font(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: takomabibelot, massmatt)

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called “Obamacare,” may be the biggest insurance scam in history. The industries that profit from our current health care system wrote the legislation, heavily influenced the regulations and have received waivers exempting them from provisions in the law. This has all been done to protect and enhance their profits.In the meantime, the health care crisis continues. Fewer people, even those with health insurance, can afford the health care they need because of out-of-pocket costs. The ACA continues that trend by pushing skimpy health plans with low coverage and restricted networks.This is what happens in a market-based system of health care. People get only the amount of health care they can afford, rather than what they need. The ACA takes our failed market-based system to a whole new level by forcing the uninsured to purchase private health plans and using the government to sell and subsidize them.Sadly, most Americans are being manipulated into supporting the ACA and do not even know they are being bamboozled. That is how scams work. Even after the con is completed, victims do not know they have been manipulated and ripped off. They may even feel good about being scammed, thinking they made a deal when they really had their bank accounts picked. But it is the insurance companies that are the realizing windfall profitsfrom the Obamacare con even as it falters.The mass media is focused on the technical problems with getting the insurance exchanges up and running. These problems result from the complexity of the law and outsourcing of services to corporations that are often more costly and less effective than government. In comparison, in 1965 when Medicare started, everyone 65 and over was enrolled within six months – using index cards.If all US residents were in one plan, Medicare for all, rather than the ACA’s tiered system that institutionalizes the class divides in the United States, not only would the health system be fairer and improve health outcomes, but it would be less bureaucratic, less costly and easier to implement. The Medicare-for-all approach considers health care to be a public good, something that all people need, like schools, roads and fire departments.Rather than being distracted by the problems of the exchanges, the more pressing issue is whether we want to continue using a market-based approach to health care or whether we want to join the other industrialized nations in treating health care as a public good. This conversation is difficult to have in the current environment of falsehoods, exaggerations and misleading statements coming from both partisan directions, echoed by their media supporters and nonprofit organizations.Of course, the Republicans attack Obamacare for partisan reasons. And they are often blatantly dishonest in their criticism. Their foundational claim, calling Obamacare socialized medicine, is the opposite of reality. And, the Obama administration and its allies in the nonprofit world also have their fair share of falsehoods about the ACA. We will describe these farther below.A Primed PublicIn reality, the US health care system is the worst of the wealthy nations. We spend the most per person, have the lowest percentage of our population covered and have poor health outcomes.Forty-five thousand adults die each year merely because they do not have insurance, and 84,000 Americans die each year of preventable illnesses that would not die in the French, Japanese or Australian health systems.Even those with insurance find it to be inadequate when they get seriously ill. Medical costs and illness are the greatest reasons for bankruptcy, and insurance does not prevent financial ruin. Every family is touched by the failures of US health care.The Institute of Medicine issued a report in 2013, US Health in International Perspective, that documents the failure of the US health care system. In summary: “Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries. The U.S. health disadvantage cannot be attributed solely to the adverse health status of racial or ethnic minorities or poor people: even highly advantaged Americans are in worse health than their counterparts in other, ‘peer’ countries.”The health care crisis had grown to such proportions that by the 2008 election it could not be ignored. It was a major topic of the presidential campaigns. The health industries knew this and invested heavily in the candidates. Candidate Barack Obama overwhelmingly received more in donations from health care-related industries than any of the other candidates.The public was ready for health care reform. Knowing that the majority of the public supports a Medicare-for-all system, it was going to take serious planning to silence that majority and enact a law that protected the interests of the health industries.Obamacare: The Insurance ScamA scam is a fraudulent operation designed to make money. A scam unfolds over time with a team of swindlers seeking to rob the victim without the victim ever knowing they have been scammed.In Confessions of a Confidence Man, Edward H. Smith lists the “six definite steps or stages of growth in every finely balanced and well-conceived confidence game.” Let’s go through these six steps and see how the process of selling the ACA to the public fits.1. Develop the FoundationThe foundation of a scam is the preparation done ahead of time to set up the scheme. In the case of the ACA, the foundation began with the health law passed by Massachusetts in 2006. The template was created by Stephen Butler of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The law was passed under a Republican governor, Mitt Romney.The next task was to sell this idea to Democrats. The Robert Wood Johnson foundation gave a major assist when it made large grants to state health reform groups in 2008 to promote Massachusetts-style reform in their states, called the “public-private partnership” model.To further sell the ACA, Roger Hickey, a longtime Medicare-for-all advocate of the Campaign for America’s Future (closely allied with the Democratic Party), took an idea from Jacob Hacker to create a new public insurance modeled after Medicare to ‘compete’ with private insurance. Hickey sold the model to progressive groups, and Hacker’s proposal was used by the Obama campaign.In July, 2008, Hickey and others rallied progressive groups to create a new coalition, Health Care for America Now, which received tens of millions of dollars to build grass-roots support for the ACA. The name was similar enough to the longtime Medicare-for-all organization, Healthcare-Now, to cause confusion.2. The ApproachThe approach is the way that the con artist gets in touch with the victim. The vehicle for the ACA con was the tech-savvy political campaign of Barack Obama. The candidate promised hope and change.Obama, who had supported single payer before running for president, was able to point to all of the problems in the US health care system and excite people with the potential of a new leader who understood the crisis and would fix it.After his election, the campaign organized Health Care House Parties in December 2008. People were encouraged to invite friends and neighbors to their homes, and the Obama transition team provided the materials. The booklet that was used was tightly scripted to build support for the ACA rather than actually elicit citizen input on what kind of health system was desired.3. The BuildupIn this stage, the victim is excited about the prospect and is filled with anticipation so their judgment is warped and caution is thrown away, setting them up to fall for the scam.Throughout the winter and spring of 2009, the Obama administration gave the appearance of bringing all of the “stakeholders” together to work for health reform. The president held aWhite House Health Summitin March 2009, which included representatives from health insurance corporations, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. The only groups that were not included, until there was a threat of protest, were those who advocate for Medicare for all. The single-payer advocates did not speak, but the insurance spokesperson opened and closed the White House summit.Throughout the spring, the president and allies reassured the public that if they liked their health insurance, they could keep it; that insurance would be made more affordable (not that health care would be more affordable); and that reform would aim for universal coverage.4. The ConvincerThe convincer for many who supported real health reform was “the Public Option.” The idea was that the law would force the uninsured to purchase insurance but would include the choice of a public health insurance plan. The public was told that this option would be more cost-effective than private insurance and, thus, less expensive, which would make it more attractive.Many were convinced that a public option would become a Medicare-for-all system, that it was a “back door” to single payer. They were told that going straight to a single-payer health care system would be too difficult and that the public option was a first step. Health Care for America Now organized grass-roots groups to put their energy into fighting for a public option, and many responded.There was real animosity directed toward those who pointed out that from a policy standpoint a public option made no sense. It was simply adding another insurance plan to an already-complex and expensive system of hundreds of insurances and that, as had occurred time and again at the state level, it would attract those with the greatest health needs and as a result would ultimately fail because of high costs.What most people did not understand at that point was that the public option was not only a non-solution to the health care crisis but that it was not even destined to be in the final legislation. Senator Max Baucus reported in March 2009 that it was a “bargaining chip” to get health insurers to accept regulations.Glenn Greenwald exposed thismore fully when the Democratic leadership in the Senate actively worked to keep the public option from being included in the Senate health bill. The public option was just part of the con.5. The HurrahThe Hurrah phase of a con involves some sort of crisis that must be overcome. This phase started in August 2009, when the Tea Party, backed by Americans for Prosperity (a Koch brothers front group), came out very aggressively against the ACA at local town halls. They called it “government-run” and opposed its fictional “Death Panels.” This served to energize the progressive groups to rally around the president and come out strongly in favor of the law. Rallies in favor of health reform were organized across the country.Health reform advocates were activated further to support the law as the House and Senate struggled to come to consensus. As more aspects of the law that were important to health reform supporters were jettisoned, such as coverage for immigrants and inclusion of reproductive services, and the public option was whittled down to nothing, support for the law became a partisan statement of support for President Obama.Members of Congress who supported the Medicare-for-all approach told us that they were going to “hold their nose and vote for it.” Progressive groups and media feared that if the health bill did not become law, it would ruin the Democrats’ chance to hold a majority in Congress in the midterm elections and would destroy the president’s chance to be re-elected.6. The In-And-InThe purpose of the final phase of the con is to make sure the victims do not realize they’ve been conned.Obama signed the ACA on March 23, 2010. Immediately the marketing began. The three words we heard the most to describe it were universal,affordable andguaranteed. Of course, the ACA is none of those. But members told us personally that if they told the truth, they wouldn’t be re-elected.Progressive groups started the work of explaining the advantages of the new health law to the public. The few positive aspects of the law were promoted without explaining the big picture. Overall, the ACA is similar to other neoliberal economic policies; it defunds and destroys our public health insurances and further privatizes health care.The end goal of the ACA con, to make sure people do not realize they have been conned, is ongoing. As we will see below, salespeople, often the same nonprofits who pushed the ACA, are getting big money to sell insurance with Madison Avenue marketing manipulation tactics.At the same time, leading single-payer advocacy groups fear further marginalization in their communities and so are afraid to tell the truth about Obamacare. The public has been so hoodwinked by the partisan debate between Republicans and Democrats, based on misinformation from both sides, that single-payer advocates are afraid if they tell the truth, their allies, many whom are Democrats, will push them away. So the truth has few emissaries, while the well-funded deceivers continue the ACA con.The Con Continues: The ProductA fundamental problem with the ACA is that it is based on continuing our complicated private health insurance or market-based system. Despite their advertising slogans, private insurers primarily exist to create profit for their investors or, in the case of “nonprofit insurers,” to pay exorbitant salaries to their executives. They care about health as much as Big Oil cares about the environment.Health insurers make their profits from charging the highest premiums they can and by restricting and denying payment for care. They want to take in as much money as they can, while paying out as little on health care as possible. They have many tools with which to do this, and they’ve successfully skirted regulations for decades. When they can’t make a profit, they simply pull that product from the shelf and create new products.The public has been led to believe that the ACA has changed the behavior of health insurers. In this section we briefly explain some major areas of concern and why many of the promises of the ACA are false.More-expensive insurance premiums: A major promise was that people could keep their insurance if they liked it, but many are finding that this isn’t working out. Kaiser Health News reported last week: “Health plans are sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage, frustrating some consumers who want to keep what they have and forcing others to buy more costly policies.” The Society of Actuaries released a report in March 2013 that showed insurance pools are set to see an average increase of 32 percent in underlying claims costs by 2017.The Charlotte Observer reported:”Across North Carolina, thousands of people have been shocked in recent weeks to find out their health insurance plans will be canceled at the end of the year – and premiums for comparable coverage could increase sharply.”The increase in premiums will force more people to use the state health insurance exchanges, where prices are supposed to be more affordable, but even that is not a solution. RussellMokhiber of Single Payer Action describes the dilemma he faces in West Virginia. Mokhiber received a notice that his current insurance expires January 1, 2014. If he wants to keep his plan, it will cost twice as much. In his state only one insurance company, Highmark, will be listed on the exchange. He called Highmark to find out what his choices were and got bad news: “The skimpiest plan is going to cost me more than I’m paying now and have a higher deductible and out-of-pocket costs.”There are reports of increased premiums from across the country. One reason for the increase in cost is, as USA Today reports: “About a third of insurance companies opted out of participating in the exchanges in states where they were already doing business, according to a recent report by McKinsey & Co. About half of states … will see a ‘material decline’ in competitors.”Decreased coverage: The ACA will increase the number of people who have inadequate insurance that requires high out-of-pocket costs and does not cover all necessary services. The ACA significantly lowers what is considered to be adequate insurance coverage through its system of tiers. The insurance exchanges offer four levels of coverage, with the least-expensive plans paying for 70 percent and 60 percent of covered services.have a higher deductible and out-of-pocket costs.”There are reports of increased premiums from across the country. One reason for the increase in cost is, as USA Today reports: “About a third of insurance companies opted out of participating in the exchanges in states where they were already doing business, according to a recent report by McKinsey & Co. About half of states … will see a ‘material decline’ in competitors.”Decreased coverage: The ACA will increase the number of people who have inadequate insurance that requires high out-of-pocket costs and does not cover all necessary services. The ACA significantly lowers what is considered to be adequate insurance coverage through its system of tiers. The insurance exchanges offer four levels of coverage, with the least-expensive plans paying for 70 percent and 60 percent of covered services.These plans include high co-pays and deductibles that are barriers to care – especially when 76 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. And insurers are restricting coverage further by limiting their networks so they do not include major medical centers or adequate numbers of health professionals.It is important to highlight that insurers pay only for covered services because people don’t usually understand that they will have to pay for uncovered and out-of-network services themselves. The use of out-of-network services is often involuntary and occurs without being known at the time of care, especially in emergency situations.The New York Timesreports:”Most of the 15 exchanges run by states and the District of Columbia do not have provider directories or search tools on their Web sites – at least not yet – so customers cannot easily check which doctors and hospitals are included in a particular plan’s network.”People are likely to choose the least-expensive plans without fully understanding that a serious accident or illness couldbankrupt themeven though they have insurance. And the race to the bottom in coverage will affect everyone. It is already estimated that44 percent of large employer-based plans will be high-deductible plans by 2014.Tricks to mistreat those with pre-existing illness: One of the great selling points of the ACA con is that those with pre-existing illnesses will not be denied coverage. This is true, but insurers have many ways to avoid the ill. The ACA waswritten by an insurance company executive from Wellpoint, Liz Fowler, who went on to behired by Obama’s HHS to implement the law and now works for a pharmaceutical giant. So, all along the way, the insurance companies had someone protecting their interests.One way to avoid the sick was mentioned above:excluding hospitals where people with serious health problems go, like major medical centers. Another way is by providing poor service to people who have a lot of claims so they change insurers. And a third has to do with the fact that insurance companies are allowed tocharge more in geographical areas where health costs are higher. If a plan in a particular area is not making enough profit, the insurance company can simply stop selling in that area.Insurance companies also can charge three times as much based on age. Because most pre-existing illness comes with age, this greatly undermines the protection of those with pre-existing illness.Insurance companies are excellent at gaming laws and regulations, so we can expect more creative avoidance of people who actually need health care.Almost no reduction in youths without insurance: One of the highly touted claims of the ACA con was that youths would be covered on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old. While this is true, the percentage of 19- to 26-year-olds without insurance has merely fallen from 48 to 41. Why? Most parents cannot afford the increased premiums that are required when more family members are covered. As a result this promise has been one of little value, except to the wealthy – and to those selling the Obamacare con.No cap on out-of-pocket spending: One of the selling points of the ACA con was that it would limit how much people pay out of pocket for health care. Of the thousands of waivers granted by HHS, one was the limit on out-of-pocket spending. The insurance companies claimed that their computers were not set up to handle this change. HHS took this absurd rationale seriously and gave them a waiver on this important provision.The Con Continues: The DealersThe most egregious aspect of the ACA is the individual mandate that those without health insurance who do not qualify for public insurance such as Medicaid must purchase private insurance or pay a penalty for being uninsured. The public is being led to believe that the solution to the health care crisis is to increase the number of people who have insurance. This ignores the fact that having insurance does not mean that patients will have access to or will be able to afford the health care they need.The ACA required states to create new marketplaces for insurance called exchanges or else the federal government would create the exchange. In essence, the federal government is using billions of public dollars to finance the exchanges, hire people to sell insurance and subsidize the purchases. Imagine what a benefit it would be if those billions of dollars were used instead to hire health providers and pay for actual care.The federal government plays a big rolein running 26 of the state health exchanges but is funding all of them. Theannual cost of operating the exchanges will be $15 million to several hundred million per state. In the end, consumers will pay the cost through monthly surcharges tacked on to their premiums.Part of the federal spending will be on “navigators” and “assisters,” people whose job it is to help people buy insurance. The Obama administration announced in 2013 that it would be directing $200 million to states, private groups and local health centers so that they can hire workers, called navigators, to sell insurance to Americans.How are navigators paid? A House Committee on Oversight and Reform issued a report on September 13, 2013, that examined how navigators will be paid. One problem is that many are paid based on the number of people they enroll. Obviously this could lead navigators and assisters to not merely “facilitate” enrollment but to persuade people to enroll. And navigators are not required to disclose this incentive.This payment structure is just one problem, the House report summarizes, warning of scammers:”… the training to be Navigators and Assisters will last only five to 20 hours and there is no requirement for a background check of Navigators and Assisters who will have access to highly sensitive personal information, such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and income for everyone in an applicant’s household. Given the stories about how scammers are gearing up to take advantage of the tremendous confusion caused by ObamaCare, Americans are at an increased risk of being the victim of fraud and identify theft because of the Administration’s poor development of its outreach programs.”The official navigators and assisters are only one part of the continued conning of America. The groups that advocated for Obamacare have evolved into Enroll America. The group (whose logo is incredibly similar to insurance giantWellpoint) not only includes advocacy organizations but also interests that profit from the market-based US health care system, e.g. insurance companies, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. The president of Enroll America, Anne Filipic, served in the Obama White House, the HHS, the Democratic National Committee and in Obama’s 2008 campaign.Information on the budget of Enroll America has been vague. In June Reuters reported: “In a conference call with reporters, Filipic declined to answer repeated requests for details on the group’s budget. In JanuaryCongressional Quarterly reported they were eyeing a $100 million budget and quoted founder Ron Pollack, who led an NGO that lobbied for Obamacare, saying: “We keep on saying it’s got to be in the significant tens of millions of dollars, and hopefully we reach another digit.” Reuters reported that the cost of the public outreach campaign would range into the tens of millions of dollars, with “at least seven figures” going to paid advertising. In a press release they described the advertising campaign:”Enroll America plans to organize a massive public education/advertising campaign about coverage eligibility and the ways people can enroll in coverage. We expect to involve well-known athletes and celebrities in the campaign. The advertising campaign will be segmented so that it effectively reaches different demographic groups, such as young adults, people in communities of color, low- and moderate-income families, etc. Depending on the availability of resources, we may be able to tailor ads to specific states.”The campaign isexpected to spend tens of millions of dollars on polling, focus groups, paid advertising and running its operations witha staff of a few hundred people. Americans will be subjected to all of the tools of Madison Avenue marketing through Enroll America along with sales by navigators, assisters and the insurance industry.How is Enroll America raising money? Secretary of Health and Human Services KathleenSebelius has been one of the fundraisers for the organization. According to the New York Times, herfundraising has caused a political uproar, with some Republicans claiming it was illegal and two House committees investigating the activity. They report: “Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming and Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia, both Republicans, said Ms. Sebelius appeared to be ‘shaking down’ businesses and other potential donors.” The Hill echoed this, reporting that insurance companies felt like they were being pressured by the administration to donate to Enroll America. One concern is that HHS has a lot of power over insurers as the agency can delay or deny approval of their health-insurance plans for federally approved exchanges.Sebelius isseeking funds from groups like Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and H&R Block. And the Hill noted “Obama himself made a vague but personal appeal for a close partnership with insurers, which some in the industry saw as a precursor to direct fundraising pitches.” In April 2013, “Obama reportedly sat in for an hour-long meeting he was initially not scheduled to attend and told insurance executives that the White House and the industry were now “joined at the hip” trying to make the healthcare law work.”Americans want health care, so why do they have to spend so much money to convince people to buy ACA insurance? The American people will be subjected to a sophisticated, echo chamber of marketing to sell them flawed insurance that provides insufficient coverage, huge out-of-pocket costs and limited networks of health professionals and hospitals.Understand the Con, End It and Replace ItThe ACA con is part of a broader con Americans and people around the world are having inflicted on them, thefalse idea that privatization is a better way to provide services than government. Even though there is virtually no evidence to support this claim and there has been a long history with many examples of privatizationcosting more and providing less, this is a centerpiece of neoliberal economics. Politicians like President Obama and the leadership of the corporate duopoly who believe in market solutions are pushing privatization at home and through big-business-riggedtrade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.The fundamental flaw of the ACA is that it entrenches a market-based system that treats health care as a commodity and profit center for Wall Street. The big drivers of the rising cost of health care – insurance, pharmaceuticals and for-profit hospitals – continue. The wealth divide that is a major byproduct of neoliberal economics is institutionalized by law under the ACA. Some, like Senator Ted Cruz, will receive the best health care from their employer, in Cruz’s case his wife’s employer, Goldman Sachs. Others, forced into the individual insurance marketplace, will be divided in four classes based on wealth, and millions will be in Medicaid, the inadequate health plan for the poor. Thus, after a high-stakes partisan battle, we’ve made no progress in confronting the fundamental problems in US health care. Indeed we have made some of them worse.There was an easier route and a more politically popular route. All that President Obama had to do was to push for what he used to believe in, Medicare for all. By just dropping two words, “over 65,” the United States would not have needed the 2,200-page ACA. Then the country could have worked to gradually improve Medicare so that the United States moved toward the best health care in the world, rather than being mired at the bottom.To replace Obamacare with the single-payer system, we need to be clear about the shortcomings of the law, especially its fundamental flaw of making a human right, one of manyhuman rights Americans do not realize they have, into a commodity like a cellphone. We need to recognize that ending the corporate domination of health care is part of breaking the domination of big business over the US government and the economy. Health care is at the center of the conflict of our times, the battle between the people and corporate interests, the battle to put people and planet before profits. Further reading:Beyond the spin, some facts about the Affordable Care ActThe ACA is the Wrong Direction, Time for Medicare for AllAccess to Health Care, Basic Necessities a Matter of Life or DebtSolve the Real Problems – Poverty, Retirement and Health Insecurity – and the Economy Will Recover To hear Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers interview: The Struggle for Health Care Continues with Guests Sergio Espana and Russell Mokhiber click here.This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.


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The Folly of Empire

The Folly of Empire

Monday, 14 October 2013 11:40By Chris Hedges,Truthdig | Op-Ed

2013.10.14.Hedges(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Immagina, sy parrish)The final

days of empire give ample employment and power to the feckless, the insane and the idiotic. These politicians and court propagandists, hired to be the public faces on the sinking ship, mask the real work of the crew, which is systematically robbing the passengers as the vessel goes down. The mandarins of power stand in the wheelhouse barking ridiculous orders and seeing how fast they can gun the engines. They fight like children over the ship’s wheel as the vessel heads full speed into a giant ice field. They wander the decks giving pompous speeches. They shout that the SS America is the greatest ship ever built. They insist that it has the most advanced technology and embodies the highest virtues. And then, with abrupt and unexpected fury, down we will go into the frigid waters.

The last days of empire are carnivals of folly. We are in the midst of our own, plunging forward as our leaders court willful economic and environmental self-destruction. Sumer and Rome went down like this. So did the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Men and women of stunning mediocrity and depravity led the monarchies of Europe and Russia on the eve of World War I. And America has, in its own decline, offered up its share of weaklings, dolts and morons to steer it to destruction. A nation that was still rooted in reality would never glorify charlatans such as Sen. Ted Cruz, House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Newt Gingrich as they pollute the airwaves. If we had any idea what was really happening to us we would have turned in fury against Barack Obama, whose signature legacy will be utter capitulation to the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex and the security and surveillance state. We would have rallied behind those few, such as Ralph Nader, who denounced a monetary system based on gambling and the endless printing of money and condemned the willful wrecking of the ecosystem. We would have mutinied. We would have turned the ship back.

The populations of dying empires are passive because they are lotus-eaters. There is a narcotic-like reverie among those barreling toward oblivion. They retreat into the sexual, the tawdry and the inane, retreats that are momentarily pleasurable but ensure self-destruction. They naively trust it will all work out. As a species, Margaret Atwood observes in her dystopian novel “Oryx and Crake,” “we’re doomed by hope.” And absurd promises of hope and glory are endlessly served up by the entertainment industry, the political and economic elite, the class of courtiers who pose as journalists, self-help gurus like Oprah and religious belief systems that assure followers that God will always protect them. It is collective self-delusion, a retreat into magical thinking.

“The American citizen thus lives in a world where fantasy is more real than reality, where the image has more dignity than the original,” Daniel J. Boorstinwrote in his book “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.” “We hardly dare face our bewilderment, because our ambiguous experience is so pleasantly iridescent, and the solace of belief in contrived reality is so thoroughly real. We have become eager accessories in the great hoaxes of the age. These are the hoaxes we play on ourselves.”

Culture and literacy, in the final stage of decline, are replaced with noisy diversions and empty clichés.

(The above is only an intro/ excerpt. Please click the link below to read the whole article on truthout-

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/19406-the-folly-of-empire )


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The Political Calculations behind Growing Inequality

Saturday, 07 September 2013 14:46By Sam Pizzigati,Other Words | Op-Ed

Fifty years ago, average Americans lived in a society where less than $10 of every $100 in personal income went to the nation’s richest 1 percent.

Our top 1 percent are now grabbing just under 20 percent of America’s income, double the 1963 level.

How did this happen? We Americans certainly never voted for this upward redistribution. In all the years since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, no candidates ever campaigned on a platform that called for enriching America’s already rich.

Yet the rich have been enriched. And they keep getting even richer while America’s 99 percent face an economic insecurity that never lets up.

This doesn’t make sense. Americans, after all, live amid democratic institutions. Why haven’t the American people, through these institutions, been able to undo the public policies that squeeze the bottom 99 percent and lavishly reward the crew at the top?

Why, in other words, hasn’t democracy slowed rising inequality?… (Read the whole article at the link below on Truthout- http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/18675-the-political-calculations-behind-growing-inequality )


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Obama Should Seek Legal Prosecution, Not Illegal War

Obama Should Seek Legal Prosecution, Not Illegal War

Saturday, 07 September 2013 14:28By Kevin Zeese, The Green Shadow Cabinet | Op-Ed

The most effective deterrent against the use of chemical weapons is not the mass bombing of Syria, an action that would be illegal under international law and counterproductive, but to use the international legal system that has been built since World War I and take legal action under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Members of the Security Council should immediately pass a resolution referring the issue of the use of chemical weapons in Syria to the International Criminal Court. This would be an approach working within the framework of the rule of law to enforce the ban on chemical weapons that all members of the Security Council would agree on and would strengthen the international regimen that bans chemical weapons, rather than weaken it.

In his August 31st Statement on Syria, President Obama warned about of the “costs of doing nothing,” in response to the use of chemical weapons. The president asked:

“What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world’s people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?”

Just as President Obama has complied with the constitution by seeking a resolution from Congress authorizing the use of the military in Syria, he should also respect the rule of international law by abiding by the requirements of the chemical weapons ban and referring the matter to the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution. Remarkably, the United States itself is not one of the 122 countries who have signed on as parties to the International Criminal Court. By withholding our support for this … (Read the whole article at the link below on Truthout- http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/18673-obama-should-seek-legal-prosecution-not-illegal-war )


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On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Obama Administration Wants to Give Police the Power to Search Your Cell Phone Without a Warrant, and More

On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Obama Administration Wants to Give Police the Power to Search Your Cell Phone Without a Warrant, and More.

In today’s On the News segment: The Obama administration thinks that your cell phone is a “suspicious object,” and wants to give police officers the power to search it without a warrant; right-wing billionaires are doing their best to try to sabotage Obamacare before it comes into effect; Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority just issued the gravest Fukushima nuclear warning in years; and more.


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It Can Happen Here: The Confiscation Scheme Planned for US and UK Depositors

It Can Happen Here: The Confiscation Scheme Planned for US and UK Depositors

Friday, 29 March 2013 09:04 By Ellen Brown, Web of Debt | News Analysis

Cyprus Bank.A crowd waits for a branch of Laiki Bank to open in Nicosia, Cyprus, March 28, 2013. (Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis / The New York Times)

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Confiscating the customer deposits in Cyprus banks, it seems, was not a one-off, desperate idea of a few Eurozone troika officials scrambling to salvage their balance sheets. A joint paper by the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bank of England dated December 10, 2012, shows that these plans have been long in the making; that they originated with the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel, Switzerland (discussed earlier here); and that the result will be to deliver clear title to the banks of depositor funds.

New Zealand has a similar directive, discussed in my last article here, indicating that this isnt just an emergency measure for troubled Eurozone countries. New Zealands Voxy reported on March 19th:

The National Government [is] pushing a Cyprus-style solution to bank failure in New Zealand which will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts . . . .

Open Bank Resolution (OBR) is Finance Minister Bill Englishs favoured option dealing with a major bank failure. If a bank fails under OBR, all depositors will have their savings reduced overnight to fund the banks bail out.

Can They Do That?

Although few depositors realize it, legally the bank owns the depositors funds as soon as they are put in the bank. Our money becomes the banks, and we become unsecured creditors holding IOUs or promises to pay. (See here and here.) But until now the bank has been obligated to pay the money back on demand in the form of cash. Under the FDIC-BOE plan, our IOUs will be converted into bank equity. The bank will get the money and we will get stock in the bank. With any luck we may be able to sell the stock to someone else, but when and at what price? Most people keep a deposit account so they can have ready cash to pay the bills.

The 15-page FDIC-BOE document is called Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions. It begins by explaining that the 2008 banking crisis has made it clear that some other way besides taxpayer bailouts is needed to maintain financial stability. Evidently anticipating that the next financial collapse will be on a grander scale than either the taxpayers or Congress is willing to underwrite, the authors state:

An efficient path for returning the sound operations of the G-SIFI to the private sector would be provided by exchanging or converting a sufficient amount of the unsecured debt from the original creditors of the failed company [meaning the depositors] into equity [or stock]. In the U.S., the new equity would become capital in one or more newly formed operating entities. In the U.K., the same approach could be used, or the equity could be used to recapitalize the failing financial company itselfthus, the highest layer of surviving bailed-in creditors would become the owners of the resolved firm. In either country, the new equity holders would take on the corresponding risk of being shareholders in a financial institution.

No exception is indicated for insured deposits in the U.S., meaning those under $250,000, the deposits we thought were protected by FDIC insurance. This can hardly be an oversight, since it is the FDIC that is issuing the directive. The FDIC is an insurance company funded by premiums paid by private banks. The directive is called a resolution process, defined elsewhere as a plan that would be triggered in the event of the failure of an insurer . . . . The only mention of insured deposits is in connection with existing UK legislation, which the FDIC-BOE directive goes on to say is inadequate, implying that it needs to be modified or overridden.

An Imminent Risk

If our IOUs are converted to bank stock, they will no longer be subject to insurance protection but will be at risk and vulnerable to being wiped out, just as the Lehman Brothers shareholders were in 2008. That this dire scenario could actually materialize was underscored by Yves Smith in a March 19th post titled When You Werent Looking, Democrat Bank Stooges Launch Bills to Permit Bailouts, Deregulate Derivatives. She writes:

In the US, depositors have actually been put in a worse position than Cyprus deposit-holders, at least if they are at the big banks that play in the derivatives casino. The regulators have turned a blind eye as banks use their depositaries to fund derivatives exposures. And as bad as that is, the depositors, unlike their Cypriot confreres, arent even senior creditors. Remember Lehman? When the investment bank failed, unsecured creditors (and remember, depositors are unsecured creditors) got eight cents on the dollar. One big reason was that derivatives counterparties require collateral for any exposures, meaning they are secured creditors. The 2005 bankruptcy reforms made derivatives counterparties senior to unsecured lenders.

One might wonder why the posting of collateral by a derivative counterparty, at some percentage of full exposure, makes the creditor secured, while the depositor who puts up 100 cents on the dollar is unsecured. But moving on Smith writes:

Lehman had only two itty bitty banking subsidiaries, and to my knowledge, was not gathering retail deposits. But as readers may recall, Bank of America moved most of its derivatives from its Merrill Lynch operation [to] its depositary in late 2011.

Its depositary is the arm of the bank that takes deposits; and at B of A, that means lots and lots of deposits. The deposits are now subject to being wiped out by a major derivatives loss. How bad could that be? Smith quotes Bloomberg:

. . . Bank of Americas holding company . . . held almost $75 trillion of derivatives at the end of June . . . .

That compares with JPMorgans deposit-taking entity, JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, which contained 99 percent of the New York-based firms $79 trillion of notional derivatives, the OCC data show.

$75 trillion and $79 trillion in derivatives! These two mega-banks alone hold more in notional derivatives each than the entire global GDP (at $70 trillion). The notional value of derivatives is not the same as cash at risk, but according to a cross-post on Smiths site:

By at least one estimate, in 2010 there was a total of $12 trillion in cash tied up (at risk) in derivatives . . . .

$12 trillion is close to the US GDP. Smith goes on:

. . . Remember the effect of the 2005 bankruptcy law revisions: derivatives counterparties are first in line, they get to grab assets first and leave everyone else to scramble for crumbs. . . . Lehman failed over a weekend after JP Morgan grabbed collateral.

But its even worse than that. During the savings & loan crisis, the FDIC did not have enough in deposit insurance receipts to pay for the Resolution Trust Corporation wind-down vehicle. It had to get more funding from Congress. This move paves the way for another TARP-style shakedown of taxpayers, this time to save depositors.

Perhaps, but Congress has already been burned and is liable to balk a second time. Section 716 of the Dodd-Frank Act specifically prohibits public support for speculative derivatives activities. And in the Eurozone, while the European Stability Mechanism committed Eurozone countries to bail out failed banks, they are apparently having second thoughts there as well. On March 25th, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who played a leading role in imposing the deposit confiscation plan on Cyprus, told reporters that it would be the template for any future bank bailouts, and that the aim is for the ESM never to have to be used.

That explains the need for the FDIC-BOE resolution. If the anticipated enabling legislation is passed, the FDIC will no longer need to protect depositor funds; it can just confiscate them.

Worse Than a Tax

An FDIC confiscation of deposits to recapitalize the banks is far different from a simple tax on taxpayers to pay government expenses. The governments debt is at least arguably the peoples debt, since the government is there to provide services for the people. But when the banks get into trouble with their derivative schemes, they are not serving depositors, who are not getting a cut of the profits. Taking depositor funds is simply theft.

What should be done is to raise FDIC insurance premiums and make the banks pay to keep their depositors whole, but premiums are already high; and the FDIC, like other government regulatory agencies, is subject to regulatory capture. Deposit insurance has failed, and so has the private banking system that has depended on it for the trust that makes banking work.

The Cyprus haircut on depositors was called a wealth tax and was written off by commentators as deserved, because much of the money in Cypriot accounts belongs to foreign oligarchs, tax dodgers and money launderers. But if that template is applied in the US, it will be a tax on the poor and middle class. Wealthy Americans dont keep most of their money in bank accounts. They keep it in the stock market, in real estate, in over-the-counter derivatives, in gold and silver, and so forth.

Are you safe, then, if your money is in gold and silver? Apparently not if its stored in a safety deposit box in the bank. Homeland Security has reportedly told banks that it has authority to seize the contents of safety deposit boxes without a warrant when its a matter of national security, which a major bank crisis no doubt will be.

The Swedish Alternative: Nationalize the Banks

Another alternative was considered but rejected by President Obama in 2009: nationalize mega-banks that fail. In a February 2009 article titled Are Uninsured Bank Depositors in Danger?, Felix Salmon discussed a newsletter by Asia-based investment strategist Christopher Wood, in which Wood wrote:

It is . . . amazing that Obama does not understand the political appeal of the nationalization option. . . . [D]espite this latest setback nationalization of the banks is coming sooner or later because the realities of the situation will demand it. The result will be shareholders wiped out and bondholders forced to take debt-for-equity swaps, if not hopefully depositors.

On whether depositors could indeed be forced to become equity holders, Salmon commented:

Its worth remembering that depositors are unsecured creditors of any bank; usually, indeed, theyre by far the largest class of unsecured creditors.

President Obama acknowledged that bank nationalization had worked in Sweden, and that the course pursued by the US Fed had not worked in Japan, which wound up instead in a lost decade. But Obama opted for the Japanese approach because, according to Ed Harrison, Americans will not tolerate nationalization.

But that was four years ago. When Americans realize that the alternative is to have their ready cash transformed into bank stock of questionable marketability, moving failed mega-banks into the public sector may start to have more appeal.

Ellen Brown

Ellen is an attorney and the author of eleven books, including Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Her websites are webofdebt.com and ellenbrown.com. She is also chairman of the Public Banking Institute.

Please Support Truthout, read the original story with links to more important stories, at the link below-

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/15401-it-can-happen-here-the-confiscation-scheme-planned-for-us-and-uk-depositors


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Why Chavez Chose Social Safety Net Over Skyscrapers

Why Chavez Chose Social Safety Net Over Skyscrapers

Monday, 11 March 2013 15:50 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

People walk by graffiti showing late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, as they head to pay their final respects during Chavez's funeral ceremony at the military academy in Caracas, Venezuela, March 11, 2013. (Photo: Mauricio Lima / The New York Times)People walk by graffiti showing late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, as they head to pay their final respects during Chavez’s funeral ceremony at the military academy in Caracas, Venezuela, March 11, 2013. (Photo: Mauricio Lima / The New York Times) Since news broke last week of the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, reactions to that leaders passing have been pouring in. While many argue that Chavez did incredible things for Venezuela and its people, there are those, especially here in the US, who dont have such a rosy view of the former leader.

Thats where Associated Press business reporter Pamela Sampson comes in.

In a piece from last Tuesday, speaking about the legacy of Chavez, Sampson wrote that, Chavez invested Venezuela’s oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world’s tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.

You heard that right.

Sampson appears to be arguing that providing healthcare, education and employment opportunities for millions of people is far less important than flaunting your wealth for the entire world to see. Lifting an entire nation out of crippling poverty is nothing compared to building a big glitzy building or opening up a new museum.

Now, if these were the feelings of just one journalist, we could move on. But the problem is that these sentiments are echoed throughout our country. Oil corporations have become so powerful and influential in our society that the idea of nationalizing our oil and using the money from it the way the Venezuelans, the Saudis, and the Norwegians (among others) do to help the American people is, according to conventional wisdom, crazy and absurd.

This is the reason why, up until Chavezs death, the U.S and Venezuela had frosty relations at best. Chavezs decision to use his nations vast sums of oil wealth to help his people, instead of adding to the bottom-lines of corporations, irked many U.S. politicians and government officials.

But whats really going on here? Why do so many Americans believe that corporate luxury is more important than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

In a society, achieving safety and security is step one.

For hundreds of thousands of years, humans achieved safety and security by giving it to others, and getting it in return. And similarly, the more safety and security you gave to people, the higher status you achieved. Archeologists call societies like this Potlatch societies, as status is gained by giving away as much as you can at giant feasting parties called Potlatches.

This is only a slight variation on the model that Hugo Chavez used in Venezuela,
and its why his people loved him so much. By using his nation’s oil wealth to give Venezuelans access to education, healthcare, improved housing and better living conditions, Chavez gave safety and security to millions of people, and was rewarded with high levels of admiration and respect.

Unfortunately, our modern society has become infected with a sort of cultural mental illness. The late professor of Native American studies at UC Davis, Jack Forbes, told me his people called it wetiko, a Native American word meaning cannibal or thief.

In western society, we get safety and security from making money, and then using that to buy goods and services. The more goods and services you produced, the more you were paid, and the more you were paid, the more you were able to purchase to help achieve safety and security.

This is the model that America has today. And, in its extremely mentally ill form, its why some billionaires say things like I only have $30 billion. Once I have $40 billion, Ill be happy. And its why Americans might think that shiny skyscrapers are more important than the social welfare of an entire nation.

But lets look at the numbers behind these two approaches to safety and security.

Before Hugo Chavez was president, according to the British newspaper The Guardian, unemployment in Venezuela was at 15%. As of 2009, it was at 7.6 %.

Before Hugo Chavez was president, extreme poverty was at 23.4%. As of 2011, it was at 8.5%

Meanwhile, here in the United States, millions of Americans are consistently unemployed each year. And, in the last 15 years, extreme poverty in the United States
has doubled. The number of U.S. households living on less than $2 per person a day, which is known as the extreme poverty line, more than doubled between 1996 and 2011, from 636,000 to 1.46 million

And, according to the latest Census Bureau data, a staggering 50 percent of Americans are either low-income or living below the poverty line.

The numbers here paint a pretty clear picture: The Chavez approach to governance, and his Robin Hood-esque mentality worked for Venezuela.

During 14 years in office, Chavez managed to drastically improve the lives of Venezuelans, while rebuilding an entire nation. He knew that the best way to achieve safety and security was not by constructing lavish buildings, but through maintaining a strong social safety net and ensuring that Venezuelans had the resources they needed to survive.

America should take a page out of the Chavez playbook.

Every Americans should have a comfortable baseline from which to survive and prosper. That means protecting this nations social safety net, and strengthening programs like Social Security and Medicare. It also means raising the minimum wage, and making it a living wage, so that Americans can provide for themselves, and for their families.

A country is only as strong as its people. Its time that America was strong again.

(Read the original article with comments and more links on Truthout at the link below-

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/15060-why-chavez-chose-social-safety-net-over-skyscrapers )

(Please support Truthout and Thom Hartmann for bringing us truth and pertinent issues in news instead of the nonsense the mainstream press tells us we “should be thinking about”.)


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Tar Sands Resistance Escalates in Massachusetts

Tar Sands Resistance Escalates in Massachusetts

Tuesday, 12 March 2013 12:43 By Chris Longenecker, Truthout | Op-Ed

"Funeral for our Future" coffin positioned into place while clergy members speak out about the toxicity of the Keystone XL pipeline. (Photo: Chris Longenecker)

The national week of actions against the Keystone XL pipeline called for by the nonviolent direct action group Tar Sands Blockade is supposed to run from March 16-23. Activists in Massachusetts decided they wanted to turn up the heat a little early. On Monday, March 11, 2013, at about 10:30 AM, over 100 protesters stormed the Massachusetts offices of TransCanada, the company that stands to profit most from the pipeline’s construction. After two hours, 26 people were arrested for handcuffing their bodies together, blockading the entrance and refusing to leave until the pipeline project was abandoned. The action was billed as a Funeral for Our Future and included somber songs, construction paper flowers and a homemade coffin. This was the third protest as part of an escalating direct action campaign in Westborough, Massachusetts, targeting the TransCanada offices there.

Action, Preparation and Rehearsal

The energy was palpable on the evening before the action. The buzzing electricity of a convergence hours before a protest is simply intoxicating. About 100 activists were gathered, preparing to put their bodies on the line to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. I found a few friends, and we started chatting about what the next day’s events might look like. After scarcely ten minutes of conversation, a friend on the tactical team was summoned to a last-minute meeting of the folks committed to risking arrest. I followed, feeling lucky to have help navigating through the massage circles, prop construction tables and slumbering masses, towards the tense midnight consensus meetings I know all too well.

Inside the room were 25 or so people discussing their plans for the morning. Everyone had their own pair of handcuffs, which nearly all were fiddling with – getting accustomed to feeling the cold, binding metal against their wrists. The irony of locking their bodies together, using handcuffs as a tool of resistance, only to later be carted out of the offices in a similar set of jewelry, did not escape me.

Blockaders get in place and handcuff themselves together in the shadow of TransCanada's corporate emblem. (Photo: Chris Longenecker)Blockaders get in place and handcuff themselves together in the shadow of TransCanada’s corporate emblem. (Photo: Chris Longenecker)At their meeting, the “arrestables” were figuring out a number of loose ends. Since the support team was considered unarrestable and would leave when asked to by police, they would quickly lose their police liaison, a role designed to ensure conversations taking place between police and protesters have a single voice and message. A second police liaison was chosen from among the folks planning to handcuff themselves together, although it was decided this person would speak up only if absolutely necessary. This is not a group that was in any way eager to negotiate or converse with agents of the state.

They later debated whether to use wax or glue inside the locking mechanisms of the handcuffs to make extraction more difficult and prolong the length of time they would be able to obstruct the offices. While some supported it, many were concerned about their safety if something went wrong and they wanted to get up and leave the stationary mass of protesters. It was decided to leave the keyholes unmodified and keep keys on their persons. Members of the group agreed that they would regularly check in with each other, and use a “green”-“yellow”-“red” model to alert others to their moods and needs. A “red” mood would signify an immediate need to leave the protest and have their handcuffs unlocked – a word everyone was hoping to avoid uttering during the action.

Civil Disobedience: Putting Our Bodies on the Cogs of the Machine

The morning was hectic and the complex system of transportation to and from the TransCanada offices proved more difficult than envisioned. Protesters became visibly nervous that they were behind schedule and beginning to fear what might await them at the offices. Rumors began to circulate through the crowd that the police had been tipped off. People feared police would be waiting for them before they were able to go inside. A suspicious car seemed to be circling our convoy at the final rendezvous location and the driver sped off when a protester pointed in his direction. The assembled activists, already exhausted and stressed about the gravity of what they planned to do, feared the worst.

Arriving at the parking lot of the TransCanada offices, the spirits of the group instantly lifted. Police were nowhere to be seen and their tactical team was in place, guiding the cars in. After a few minutes, the protesters gained access to the facility and ran up the back stair toward their target. All their planning and rehearsing had paid off. They assembled in two lines, blocking the door to the offices and lining the hallways. A coffin bearing the slogan “Our Future” was brought in through the crowd and placed at TransCanada’s door. Exuberant songs of resistance, chanting and rhythmic stomping bellowed throughout the halls of the normally drab building.

Nearly an hour into the protest, police began to confront the protesters. They informed the group that anyone who didn’t vacate the premises would be arrested. Most left at that point, leaving the last 26 to their chosen fate. The remaining blockaders crossed arms, held hands and snapped their handcuffs into place. Sitting down in a large mass completed their act of civil disobedience.

Some of the first arrestees being brought out, still singing, chanting and feeling empowered. (Photo: Chris Longenecker)Some of the first arrestees being brought out, still singing, chanting and feeling empowered. (Photo: Chris Longenecker) The protesters who had left the blockade now gathered outside. They were singing and chanting in solidarity with their comrades inside, making sure they were loud enough that their friends chained together could hear their cries. Cheers erupted from the lively crowd every time an arrestee was brought out of the building. Eventually, the police seemed to grow weary of this and tried to get the remaining arrestees out through the back entrance. The protesters, nearly 100 strong, simply ran around back to greet their friends and thank them for their act of bravery and sacrifice.

In the end, over 100 people entered the Westborough offices of TransCanada, 26 were arrested for blockading the entrance, and business as usual in the facility was disrupted for about two hours.

When called for comment about the protest, TransCanada provided a boilerplate response emphasizing its investment in renewable energy and what it claims is the inevitability of oil consumption. “The Keystone XL pipeline offers Americans a choice of receiving that oil from a friendly nation in Canada or the U.S. continuing to import higher-priced foreign oil from nations that do not share American values,” read part of the lengthy statement.

The Birth of a Horizontal Direct Action Movement

Observing this action, one could almost feel mainstream-nonprofit-style lobbying fading away, finding itself replaced by a vibrant, grassroots environmental movement operating horizontally using consensus principles and practices. Every meeting included the theater-esque, finger-wiggling hand gestures made ubiquitous by the 2011 park occupations in Spain and the United States and long used in other movements as a silent way to measure the level of consensus in a group. Indeed, these activists were clearly more influenced by the direct-action-oriented Occupy Wall Street movement than by the lobbying of groups like United States PIRG.

(Read the rest of the article at the link below on Truthout. Please support Truthout!

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/15077-tar-sands-resistance-escalates-in-massachusetts )

Chris Longenecker

Chris Longenecker, based in Boston, Massachusetts, is an agitator, organizer and direct action trainer. He is a founding member of Occupy Wall Street’s Direct Action Working Group. He is also a freelance writer, his work appearing most recently in The Indypendent, Waging Nonviolence and the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review. Follow him on Twitter @Clongenecker.

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