Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Sunday, 4 November 2012
Foxconn profits - Profits have risen $1.9 billion posted on 11.5.12
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: billions in PROFITS - Foxconn spews a rise in profits
Topic: CORPORATE CRAP

Foxconn Surprises with Increased Profits

 http://www.theferrarigroup.com/supply-chain-matters/2012/11/01/foxconn-surprises-with-increased-profits/

No doubt, this week is turning out to be an incredibly active week in terms of supply chain related news and developments.  There are implications to the monster storm that impacted the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., a major merger announcement involving two best-of-breed supply chain technology providers, and a slew of quarterly earnings announcements that provide supply chain-related consequences.  In commentary through the remainder of this week, Supply Chain Matters will touch upon these developments.

A significant earnings announcement involves the world’s largest contract manufacturer, Foxconn. In its first nine months, net profits have risen 24 percent to $1.9 billion, based on a 20 percent revenue increase. Gross margin were reported as an increase to 4.6 percent, vs. a 3.7 percent level a year earlier.

Dwell on that gross margin number for a moment.  How many firms can successfully manage that level of margin when physical manufacturing services are concerned?

The answer is obviously making every cost expenditure count and having massive scale and volume to leverage physical assets. Having the globe’s most popular consumer electronics provider, namely Apple, fuel that scale, obviously makes the formula work.  Having other large volume customers and global-scale is also essential to grow profitability over the longer term.

In its reporting of Foxconn earnings, the Financial Times discloses (paid subscription or free metered view) the impact that Apple actually has.  While Foxconn does not dare disclose anything related to Apple for obvious reasons, FT quotes equity analysts as indicating that Apple represents 40 to 50 percent of Foxconn’s current revenues.  We believe that that number is probably highly conservative.

In our Supply Chain Matters previous commentary related to Apple’s latest quarterly earnings we noted the total volume of quarterly unit output as well as the signs of constrained supply. Yet in spite of ongoing Apple supply constraints and a number of troubling workforce-related incidents, Foxconn marches on and defies classic business case thinking. The FT article is quick to also point out that with the two most recent Apple product introductions, the new iPhone 5 and iPad Mini, and the holiday buying season yet to unfold, the prospects for continued volume growth look good for Foxconn.

Longer-term, however, Foxconn must focus on its broader strategic plan. Worker demands for higher pay and better working conditions obviously lead toward the need for increased automation of repetitive and monotonous production tasks, which imply increased capital costs.  The trick is influencing primary customers like Apple to share the bulk of that burden.  Then again, Apple needs to put some of its hoards of foreign-based cash to good use.

Apple has also begun to exercise its own supply chain risk mitigation strategy by dual sourcing of the assembly production of the iPad Mini among two contract manufacturers, the other being Pegatron. Foxconn must therefore seek to offset continued needs for added margin with increased scale, further supply chain vertical integration while recruiting additional customers.

In the end, however, we believe that the contract manufacturing business model will have to significantly change, since sustaining single-digit margins, while bearing the brunt of labor, capital and social responsibility burdens is not sustainable over the long-term.


Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:01 AM PDT
Friday, 2 November 2012
Imran Khan gets hassled by US Homeland
Mood:  don't ask
Now Playing: US Detention Of Imran Khan Part Of Trend To Harass Anti-Drone Advocates
Topic: DRONES

US Detention Of Imran Khan Part Of Trend To Harass Anti-Drone Advocates




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Imran Khan is, according to numerous polls, the most popular politician in Pakistan and may very well be that country's next Prime Minister. He is also a vehement critic of US drone attacks on his country, vowing to order them shot down if he is Prime Minister and leading an anti-drone protest march last month.

 

On Saturday, Khan boarded a flight from Canada to New York in order to appear at a fundraising lunch and other events. But before the flight could take off, US immigration officials removed him from the plane and detained him for two hours, causing him to miss the flight. On Twitter, Khan reported that he was "interrogated on [his] views on drones" and then added: "My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop." He then defiantly noted: "Missed flight and sad to miss the Fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance."

 

The State Department acknowledged Khan's detention and said: "The issue was resolved. Mr Khan is welcome in the United States." Customs and immigration officials refused to comment except to note that "our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people, and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband," and added that the burden is on the visitor "to demonstrate that they are admissible" and "the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility."

There are several obvious points raised by this episode. Strictly on pragmatic grounds, it seems quite ill-advised to subject the most popular leader in Pakistan - the potential next Prime Minister - to trivial, vindictive humiliations of this sort. It is also a breach of the most basic diplomatic protocol: just imagine the outrage if a US politician were removed from a plane by Pakistani officials in order to be questioned about their publicly expressed political views. And harassing prominent critics of US policy is hardly likely to dilute anti-US animosity; the exact opposite is far more likely to occur.

But the most important point here is that Khan's detention is part of a clear trend by the Obama administration to harass and intimidate critics of its drone attacks. As Marcy Wheeler notes, "this is at least the third time this year that the US has delayed or denied entry to the US for Pakistani drone critics."

 

Last May, I wrote about the amazing case of Muhammad Danish Qasim, a Pakistani student who produced a short film entitled "The Other Side", which "revolves around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economical effects of drones on the people in tribal areas of Pakistan." As he put it, "the film takes the audience very close to the damage caused by drone attacks" by humanizing the tragedy of civilian deaths and also documenting how those deaths are exploited by actual terrorists for recruitment purposes.

 

Qasim and his co-producers were chosen as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. He intended to travel to the US to accept his award and discuss his film, but was twice denied a visa to enter the US, and thus was barred from making any appearances in the US.

The month prior, Shahzad Akbar - a Pakistani lawyer who represents drone victims in lawsuits against the US and the co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization, Foundation for Fundamental Rights - was scheduled to speak at a conference on drones in Washington. He, too, was denied a visa, and the Obama administration relented only once an international outcry erupted.

 

There are two clear dynamics driving this. First, the US is eager to impose a price for effectively challenging its policies and to prevent the public - the domestic public, that is - from hearing critics with first-hand knowledge of the impact of those policies. As Wheeler asks, "Why is the government so afraid of Pakistanis explaining to Americans what the drone attacks look like from a Pakistani perspective?"

This form of intimidation is not confined to drone critics. Last April, I reported on the serial harassment of Laura Poitras, the Oscar-nominated documentarian who produced two films - one from Iraq and the other from Yemen - that showed the views and perspectives of America's adversaries in those countries. For four years, she was detained every single time she reentered the US, often having her reporters' notebook and laptop copied and even seized. Although this all stopped once that article was published - demonstrating that there was never any legitimate purpose to it - that intimidation campaign against her imposed real limits on her work.

 

That is what this serial harassment of drone critics is intended to achieve. That is why a refusal to grant visas to prominent critics of US foreign policy was also a favorite tactic of the Bush administration.

 

Second, and probably even more insidious, this reflects the Obama administration's view that critics of its drone policies are either terrorists or, at best, sympathetic to terrorists. Recall how the New York Times earlier this year - in an article describing a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documenting the targeting of Pakistani rescuers and funerals with US drones - granted anonymity to a "senior American counterterrorism official" to smear the Bureau's journalists and its sources as wanting to "help al-Qaida succeed".

 

For years, Bush officials and their supporters equated opposition to their foreign policies with support for the terrorists and a general hatred of and desire to harm the US. During the Obama presidency, many Democratic partisans have adopted the same lowly tactic with vigor.

 

That mindset is a major factor in this series of harassment of drone critics: namely, those who oppose the Obama administration's use of drones are helping the terrorists and may even be terrorist sympathizers. It is that logic which would lead US officials to view Khan as some sort of national security threat by virtue of his political beliefs and perceive a need to drag him off a plane in order to detain and interrogate him about those views before allowing him entrance to the US.

What makes this most ironic is that the US loves to sermonize to the world about the need for open ideas and political debate. In April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lectured the planet on how "those societies that believe they can be closed to change, to ideas, cultures, and beliefs that are different from theirs, will find quickly that in our internet world they will be left behind."

 

That she is part of the same government that seeks to punish and exclude filmmakers, students, lawyers, activists and politicians for the crime of opposing US policy is noticed and remarked upon everywhere in the world other than in the US. That demonstrates the success of these efforts: they are designed, above all else, to ensure that the American citizenry does not become exposed to effective critics of what the US is doing in the world.

Posted by Joe Anybody at 9:15 AM PDT
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
President Elect: Where Jill Stein stands on the issues in 2012
Mood:  suave
Now Playing: Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala GREEN PARTY 2012 - VOTE
Topic: POLITICS

Where we stand on the issues

 

http://www.jillstein.org/issues

 

 

Thank you for your interest  in learning more about what Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala will do on taking office.

We urge you to read about Jill and Cheri's Green New Deal, the centerpiece of their campaign. The Green New Deal is an emergency four part program of specific solutions for moving America quickly out of crisis into the secure green future. You can read all about the Green New Deal by clicking here.

JOBS                                                                                                             

  • Enact the Full Employment Program which will directly provide 25 million green jobs in sustainable energy, mass transit, sustainable organic agriculture, and clean manufacturing, as well as social work, teaching, and and other service jobs.
  • Provide grants and low-interest loans to green businesses and cooperatives, with an emphasis on small, locally-based companies that keep the wealth created by local labor circulating in the community, rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors.
  • Renegotiate NAFTA and other "free trade'' agreements that export American jobs, depress wages, and undermine the sovereign right of Americans and citizens of other countries to control their own economy.

WORKER RIGHTS

  • Provide full protection for workplace rights, including the right to a safe workplace and the right to organize a union without fear of firing or reprisal by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.
  • Support the formation of worker-owned cooperatives to provide alternatives to exploitative business models.
  • Make the minimum wage a living wage.    
  • Oppose two-tier wage systems.  
  • Ensure equal pay for equal work, ending discrimination based on race, gender, or generation. 

BUDGET AND TAXES  

  • Reduce the budget deficit by restoring full employment, cutting the bloated military budget, and cutting private health insurance waste. 
  • Eliminate needless tax giveaways that increase the deficit.
  • Require full disclosure of corporate subsidies in the budget and stop hiding subsidies in complicated tax code.  
  • Rewrite the entire tax code to be truly progressive with tax cuts for working families, the poor and middle class, and higher taxes for the richest Americans. 
  • Reject cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
  • Stop draining the non-profit sectors of our economy in order to give tax cuts to the for-profit sectors.
  • Relieve the debt overhang holding back the economy by reducing homeowner and student debt burdens.
  • Ensure the right to accessible and affordable utilities – heat, electricity, phone, internet, and public transportation – through democratically run, publicly owned utilities that operate at cost, not for profit.
  • Maintain and upgrade our nation's essential public infrastructure, including highways, railways, electrical grids, water systems, schools, libraries, and the Internet, resisting privatization or policy manipulation by for-profit interests.
  • Establish a 90% tax on bonuses for bailed out bankers.

FINANCIAL REFORM

  • Break up the oversized banks that are “too big to fail,” starting with Bank of America.
  • Create a Corporation for Economic Democracy, a new federal corporation (like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) to provide publicity, training, education, and direct financing for cooperative development and for democratic reforms to make government agencies, private associations, and business enterprises more participatory.
  • End bailouts for the financial elite and use the FDIC resolution process for failed banks to reopen them as public banks where possible after failed loans and underlying assets are auctioned off. 
  • Bring monetary policy under democratic control by prohibiting private banks from creating money, thus restoring government's Constitutional authority.   
  • Let pension funds be managed by boards controlled by workers, not corporate managers.  
  • Regulate all financial derivatives and require them to be traded on open exchanges.
  • Require banks to use honest bookkeeping so that toxic assets cannot be hidden or sold to unsuspecting persons.        
  • Restore the Glass-Steagall separation of depository commercial banks from speculative investment banks.         
  • Democratize monetary policy to bring about public control of the money supply and credit creation. This means nationalizing the private bank-dominated Federal Reserve Banks and placing them under a Federal Monetary Authority within the Treasury Department.
  • Establish federal, state, and municipal publicly-owned banks that function as non-profit utilities and focus on helping people, not enriching themselves.

EDUCATION

  • Provide tuition-free education from kindergarten through college, thus eliminating the student debt crisis.         
  • Forgive existing student debt.         
  • Protect our public school systems from privatization         
  • End high-stakes testing and stop punishing students and teachers for failures of the system in which they work. 
  • Stop denying students diplomas based on tests.  
  • Stop using merit pay to punish teachers.                                                           

HEALTH CARE

  • Provide complete, affordable, quality health care for every American through an improved Medicare-for-all insurance program.        
  • Allow full access to all medically justified contraceptive and reproductive care. 
  • Expand women's access to the "morning after" contraception by lifting the Obama Administration's ban.         
  • Roll back the community drivers of chronic disease, including poor nutrition, health-damaging pollution, and passive dirty transportation.     
  • Avoid chronic diseases by investing in essential community health infrastructure such as local, fresh, organic food systems, pollution-free renewable energy, phasing out toxic chemicals, and active transportation such as bike paths and safe sidewalks that dovetail with public transit.
  • End overcharging for prescription drugs by using bulk purchasing negotiations.
  • Ensure that consumers have essential information for making informed food choices by expanding product labeling requirements for country of origin, GMO content, toxic chemical ingredients, fair trade practices, etc.           

HOUSING   

  • Impose an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.  
  • Offer capital grants to non-profit developers of affordable housing until all people can obtain decent housing at no more than 25% of their income.
  • Create a federal bank with local branches to take over homes with distressed mortgages, and either restructure the mortgages to affordable levels, or if the occupants cannot afford a mortgage, rent homes to the occupants.
  • Expand rental and home ownership assistance and create ample public housing.                                                           

CLEAN ENERGY

  • Create a binding international treaty to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels deemed safe by scientific analysis to reduce global warming.
  • Phase out coal power plants to end their unacceptable harm to the climate, health and the economy. 
  • End mountaintop removal in Appalachia.   
  • Redirect research funds from fossil fuels and other dead-end industries toward research in renewable energy and conservation. 
  • Build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled, terrorist-proof energy.
  • Phase out nuclear power and end nuclear subsidies.   
  • Stop hydrofracking to prevent devastating pollution of groundwater, destruction of roads from the transport of millions of tons of toxic water, and the threats of earthquakes recently determined to be caused by drilling and disposal of fracking water in seismically unstable regions.              
  • End Federal subsidies for "clean coal" -- an expensive, carbon intensive, unproven technology promoted by the coal industry public relations campaign.
  • Halt all drilling that poses a threat to public lands or water resources.    
  • Halt the Keystone XL pipeline and bring the tar sand oils under a comprehensive climate protection treaty.

CIVIL LIBERTIES

  • Issue an Executive Order prohibiting Federal agencies from conspiring with local police to infringe upon right of assembly and peaceful protest.
  • Repeal the Patriot Act that violates our constitutional right to privacy and protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
  • Repeal the unconstitutional provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that gives the president the power to indefinitely imprison and even assassinate American citizens without due process.
  • Oppose the Online Piracy Act and all other legislation that would undermine freedom and equality on the Internet.
  • Pass the Equal Rights Amendment to forever end discrimination based on gender.
  • Eliminate the doctrine of corporate personhood with a constitutional amendment to clarify that only human beings have constitutional rights.   
  • Implement marriage equality nationwide to end discrimination against same-sex couples.   
  • Expand federal support for locally-owned broadcast media and local print media.                                                                                                           

VOTING RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY

  • Enact the full Voter's Bill of Rights guaranteeing each person's right to vote, the right to have our votes counted on hand-marked paper ballots, and the right to vote within systems that give each vote meaning.
  • Abolish the electoral college and directly elect the President. 
  • Get the big money payoffs out of politics by implementing public funding of election campaigns.
  • Reverse the Citizens United ruling to revoke corporate personhood, and amend our Constitution to make clear that corporations are not persons and money is not speech.   
  • Restore the right to run for office and eliminate unopposed races by removing ballot access barriers.
  • Require the use of auditable, hand-counted paper ballots in all local, state, and federal elections.        
  • Guarantee equal access to the ballot and to the debates to all qualified candidates
  • Eliminate “winner take all” elections in which the “winner” does not have the support of most of the voters, and replace that system with instant runoff voting and proportional representation.      
  • Provide equal and free access to the airways for all candidates, not just those with big campaign warchests.         
  • Enact statehood for the District of Columbia to ensure the region has full representation in Congress, and full powers of self-rule.       
  • Restore voting rights to ex-offenders who’ve paid their debt to society.
  • Require that all votes are counted before election results are released.
  • Replace partisan oversight of elections with non-partisan election commissions.
  • Celebrate our democratic aspirations by making Election Day a national holiday.
  • Bring simplified, safe same-day voter registration to the nation so that no qualified voter is barred from the polls.
  • Protect our right to vote by supporting Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s proposed “Right to Vote Amendment,” to clarify to the Supreme Court that yes, we do have a constitutional right to vote.
  • Protect the legitimate exercise of local democracy by making clear that acts of Congress establish a floor, and not a ceiling, on laws relating to economic regulation, workers rights, human rights, and the environment.

PEACE AND FOREIGN POLICY

  • Cut the bloated Pentagon budget by 50%.
  • End use of assassination as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy, including collaborative assassination through intermediaries.
  • Increase our energy security by reducing our nation's dependence on oil. 
  • Demilitarize U.S. foreign policy to emphasize human rights, international law, multinational diplomatic initiatives and support for democratic movements across the world.       
  • Restore the National Guard as the centerpiece of our defense.    
  • Create a nuclear free zone in the Middle East region and require all nations in area to join. 
  • Oppose attacks on nuclear facilities.          
  • Ban use of drone aircraft for assassination, bombing, and other offensive purposes.      
  • End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, withdrawing both troops and military contractors.
  • Make human rights and international law the basis of our policy in the Middle East.      
  • Join 159 other nations in signing the Ottawa treaty banning the use of anti-personnel land mines.        
  • Close some 140 U.S. military bases abroad. 
  • Initiate a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives.

ENVIRONMENT

  • Create millions of green jobs in areas such as weatherization, recycling, public transportation, worker and community owned cooperatives, and energy-efficient infrastructure.
  • Adopt the EPA's new tougher standards on ozone pollution.          
  • Promote conversion to sustainable, nontoxic materials.    
  • Promote use of closed-loop, zero waste processes.  
  • Promote organic agriculture, permaculture, and sustainable forestry.

IMMIGRATION

  • Grant undocumented immigrants who are already residing and working in the United States a legal status which includes the chance to become U.S. citizens. 
  • Halt deportations of law-abiding undocumented immigrants.
  • Repeal the deceptively named Secure Communities Act. 
  • Improve economic conditions abroad to reduce flow of immigrants, in part by repealing NAFTA.
  • Demilitarize border crossings throughout North America.   
  • End the war on immigrants, including the cruel, so-called “secure communities” program.                                                                                                                  

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

  • Repair our communities rather than dump resources into the prison-industrial complex. 
  • Work to eliminate laws tying judge’s hands with mandatory sentencing requirements. 
  • Immediately legalize medical use of marijuana and move to permit general legal sales under suitable regulatory framework.
  • End the ineffective and costly War on Drugs and begin to treat drug use as a public health problem, not a criminal problem.    

Posted by Joe Anybody at 11:37 AM PDT
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
RIots and Unrest at Foxconn in China September 24, 2012
Mood:  on fire
Now Playing: On going unrest - results of unfair labor laws and injustice
Topic: CORPORATE CRAP

Riot at Foxconn Factory

By and

Original Post is from here:

 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/business/global/foxconn-riot-underscores-labor-rift-in-china.html?_r=0

 

SHANGHAI — The images and video began to appear on Chinese social networking sites early Monday: buildings with shattered windows, overturned police cars, huge crowds of young people milling about in the dark and riot police in formation.

Enlarge This Image
 
The New York Times

 

The online postings were from a disturbance late Sunday that shut down a manufacturing facility in Taiyuan in north China, where 79,000 workers were employed.

State-run news media said 5,000 police officers had to be called in to quell a riot that began as a dispute involving a group of workers and security guards at a factory dormitory.

The unrest was noteworthy because the factory site is managed by Foxconn Technology, one of the world’s biggest electronics manufacturers and an important supplier to companies like Apple, Dell, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.

A spokesman for Foxconn said the company was investigating the cause of the incident. But analysts say worker unrest in China has grown more common because workers are more aware of their rights, and yet have few outlets to challenge or negotiate with their employers.

When they do, though, the results can be ugly and, because of social media and the Web, almost instantly transmitted to the world in their rawest and most unfiltered form.

“At first it was a conflict between the security guards and some workers,” said a man who was reached by telephone after he posted images online. The man said he was a Foxconn employee. “But I think the real reason is they were frustrated with life.”

The company said that as many as 2,000 workers were involved in the incident but that it was confined to an employee dormitory and “no production facilities or equipment have been affected.”

Nonetheless, the plant was closed, the company said.

Foxconn, which is based in Taiwan and employs more than 1.1 million workers in China, declined to say whether the Taiyuan plant made products for the Apple iPhone 5, which went on sale last week. A spokesman said the factory supplied goods to many consumer electronics brands. An employee at the Taiyuan plant said iPhone components were made there.

Supply-chain experts say most Apple-related production takes place in other parts of China, particularly in the provinces of Sichuan, Guangdong and Henan.

Apple referred questions to Foxconn.

Labor unrest in Taiyuan, in northern China’s Shanxi Province, comes as strikes and other worker protests appear to be increasing in frequency this year compared with last year, said Geoffrey Crothall, spokesman for the China Labor Bulletin, a nonprofit advocacy group in Hong Kong seeking collective bargaining and other protections for workers in mainland China.

Many of the protests this year appear to be related to the country’s economic slowdown, as employees demand the payment of overdue wages from financially struggling companies, or insist on compensation when money-losing factories in coastal provinces are closed and moved to lower-cost cities in the interior.

But the level of labor unrest in China this year has not yet matched 2010, when a surge in inflation sparked a wave of worker demands for higher pay, Mr. Crothall said.

The Taiyuan protest comes at a politically delicate time in China, with a Communist Party Congress expected in the coming weeks to anoint a new general secretary and a new slate of members for the country’s most powerful body, the Standing Committee of the Politburo.

The government has been tightening security ahead of the conclave through measures like restricting the issuance of visas and devoting considerable resources to watching and containing disturbances like the recent anti-Japanese demonstrations.

But the calendar may also be on Foxconn’s side. A weeklong public holiday starts this weekend to mark the country’s national day on Oct. 1. Factories across the country will close to allow workers to go home — and in the case of Foxconn’s Taiyuan factory, the dispersal of workers to hometowns could allow tempers to cool.

Mr. Crothall said that while the cause of the latest dispute in Taiyuan remained unclear, his group had found an online video of the police there using a megaphone to address “workers from Henan” — the adjacent province to the south of Shanxi. The police officer said that the workers’ concerns would be addressed.

Disputes involving large groups of migrant workers are common in China. In some cases, workers protest after believing that they have been promised a certain pay package and traveled a long distance to claim it, only to find on arrival that the details were different from what they expected. In other cases, workers from different provinces with different cultural traditions coming together in a single factory have clashed over social issues or perceived slights.

The disturbance is the latest problem to hit Foxconn.

Foxconn, which is part of Hon Hai Group of Taiwan, has been struggling to improve labor conditions at its China factories after reports about labor abuse and work safety violations.

Apple and Foxconn have worked together to improve conditions, raise pay and improve labor standards, particularly since March when the Fair Labor Association, a monitoring group invited by Apple to investigate conditions, found widespread problems.

Mr. Crothall said workers in China had become emboldened.

“They’re more willing to stand up for their rights, to stand up to injustice,” he said, adding that damage to factory buildings and equipment still appeared to be unusual, occurring in fewer than 1 in 20 protests.

The same Taiyuan factory was the site of a brief strike during a pay dispute last March, the Hong Kong news media reported then.

Social media postings suggested that some injuries might have occurred when people were trampled in crowds of protesters.

David Barboza reported from Shanghai, and Keith Bradsher from Hong Kong.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/business/global/foxconn-riot-underscores-labor-rift-in-china.html?_r=0


Posted by Joe Anybody at 9:38 AM PDT
Thursday, 20 September 2012
GM workers in Colombia and Portlands solidarity march
Mood:  irritated
Now Playing: Press Release
Topic: CORPORATE CRAP

OCCUPY PORTLAND MARKS ANNIVERSARY IN SOLIDARITY WITH GLOBAL 99%RALLY SUPPORTS INJURED COLOMBIAN GM WORKERS SEEKING JUSTICE 

MONDAY AFTERNOON ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2012, A PORTLAND CROWD NUMBERING IN THE HUNDREDS TURNED OUT FOR THE ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF OCCUPY WALL STREET, WHICH THEY MARKED BY RALLYING FOR JUSTICE FOR COLOMBIAN GENERAL MOTORS WORKERS WHO WERE HURT ON THE JOB AND THEN KICKED TO THE CURB BY THE US-BASED, AND TO A CONSIDERABLE EXTENT US GOVERNMENT OWNED MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION. 

THE COLOMBIANS HAVE MAINTAINED A CONTINUOUS PEACEFUL OCCUPATION IN FRONT OF THE US EMBASSY IN BOGOTÁ FOR OVER 400 DAYS. TEN OF THE COLOMBIAN WORKERS INCLUDING COLOMBIAN WORKER LEADER JORGE PARRA ARE ENTERING THEIR THIRD WEEK ON HUNGER STRIKE.

MR. PARRA IS CURRENTLY IN DETROIT WHERE SUPPORTERS RALLIED IN FRONT OF GM WORLD HEADQUARTERS AS PART OF AN INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR THE WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES.“THE FACT THAT GENERAL MOTORS IS FIRING WORKERS FOR INJURIES THEY DEVELOPED ON THE JOB IS BAD ENOUGH, THE COMPANY’S REFUSAL TO SIT DOWN AND TALK – THE WILLINGNESS THEY ARE DEMONSTRATING TO TURN A BLIND EYE TO THE WORKER’S HUNGER STRIKE IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE” SAID PAIGE SHELL-SPURLING, A MEMBER OF THE PORTLAND CENTRAL AMERICA SOLIDARITY COMMITTEE. “ GENERAL MOTORS IS SHOWING AN UTTER DISREGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE AND SPECIFICALLY FOR THE LIVES OF THE WORKERS ON WHOSE BACKS GM’S PROFITS ARE MADE.“THE PORTLAND RALLY DELIVERED PETITIONS DEMANDING JUSTICE FOR THE COLOMBIAN WORKERS WITH OVER 4,000 SIGNERS TO WENTWORTH CHEVROLET.

A MANAGER AT WENTWORTH AGREED TO FORWARD THE PETITIONS TO THE GM CORPORATE OFFICES. ACCORDING TO MARCO MEJIA OF PORTLAND JOBS WITH JUSTICE, “THE ISSUE OF EXPLOITATION OF THE COLOMBIAN GM WORKERS IS EMBLEMATIC OF THE KIND OF GLOBAL CORPORATE CORRUPTION THAT THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT IS FIGHTING AGAINST. 

OCCUPY AND THE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT IN GENERAL IS CONTINUING TO BUILD CAPACITY FOR CHANGE THROUGH EDUCATION, AGITATION AND MOBILIZATION.”

THE EVENT CONCLUDED WITH REMARKS FROM SEVERAL SPEAKERS AT ST. FRANCIS PARK, NEXT TO OCCUPY’S CURRENT BASE OF OPERATIONS AT ST. FRANCIS CHURCH. JOHN WALSH, ACTIVE WITH WITNESS FOR PEACE, SUMMED UP “CORPORATE WEALTH SHOULD NOT STEAL WORKERS’ HEALTH.”CAMERON WHITTEN, PORTLAND’S OWN HUNGER STRIKER FOR JUSTICE, READ A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM  JORGE PARRA.  JORGE ALSO SENT WORDS OF GREETING TO ALL OF THOSE RALLYING IN SOLIDARITY MONDAY:

Brothers and sisters in the struggle:It is for us an enormous blessing to count on your support. We never thought that our simple struggle would result in such a beautiful show of solidarity. It definitely unites our wish for the same cause of justice that you desire in your beautiful country.I feel truly moved and grateful for such great commitment and affection demonstrated towards us and our families. As you know, we are just Colombian workers, but with the firm conviction to fight and defend our rights. In the end, we are workers like you, and today we unite in the same world in a single call for justice and for GM to do what is right.Although we are not present in your actions of support, our hearts and our prayers are with you.

On behalf of Asotrecol and our families, thank you very much.  Compañeros y hermanos de la lucha:Es para nosotros una enorme bendición contar con su apoyo. Jamás pensamos que nuestra lucha tan simple y transparente diera como resultado esta hermosa muestra de solidaridad. Definitivamente unió nuestro sentimiento con la misma causa de justicia que ustedes anhelan en su hermoso país.

Me siento verdaderamente conmovido y agradecido  por tan grande compromiso y cariño demostrado para con nosotros y nuestras familias. Como saben, solo somos obreros colombianos pero con la firme convicción de luchar y defender nuestros derechos. Somos trabajadores como ustedes pero a fin de cuenta trabajadores, y hoy en el mismo mundo se unen en un solo grito de justicia para lograr que GM haga lo correcto.Aunque nosotros no estemos presentes en sus acciones de apoyo, nuestro corazón y nuestras oraciones lo están. En nombre de Asotrecol y nuestras familias, muchas gracias. 

http://www.youtube.com/user/asotrecol

http://www.asotrecol.com

WWW.WITNESSFORPEACE.ORGhttp://www.change.org/petitions#search/ASOTRECOL 


Posted by Joe Anybody at 8:37 AM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 23 September 2012 3:04 PM PDT
Monday, 9 July 2012
Consensus Organizing - It works
Now Playing: Understanding the Consensus process: Tom Hastings
Consensus organizing is really a way of acting and
 
thinking that you can use no matter what career path
 
you choose.
 
 
 --Mary Ohmer and Karen DeMasi (Ohmer & DeMasi, 2009, p. 68).
 

 From Tom Hastings blog I copied the following on July 9 2012
Seeking consensus is logically reserved for important decisions, since consensus takes much more time, usually, than does either majority rule or certainly than command and control. But consensus organizing is a way of organizing, not solely a decisionmaking process. If we are attempting to form a larger, more democratic body of decisionmakers we are attempting consensus organizing, whether locally, regionally, nationally or transnationally--whether in public policy, private sector, or associationally (e,g., religious, nonprofits, unions).

Consensus organizing is how nonviolence becomes strategic rather than just the ideological, religious, or philosophical mandate that can often seem exclusive. Consensus organizing is almost completely inclusive, with the exceptions of violence and exploitation as behaviors but not exclusionary of the people who mistakenly use either behavior, though those people can and do often exclude themselves.

An example of this might be what we have seen in Egypt in the struggle first to depose the regime of violence and exploitation while at the same time including those from across the entire spectrum of society, from Coptic Christians to Muslim Brotherhood, from trained nonviolent activists to the military. Was it perfect consensus organizing or perfect nonviolence? No, the ideal is just as impossible to achieve as is war without collateral damage. But it was remarkable. Even our talking heads seemed duly impressed.
 
Egypt continues to try, with the latest election and now Mohamed Morsi's attempt to reinstate Parliament, so we'll see if the inclusivity expands or contracts. The movement is expansive, using a uniquely Egyptian consensus organizing approach, with countervailing trends from those who prefer violence or exploitation.

Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:06 PM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 23 September 2012 3:05 PM PDT
Wednesday, 4 July 2012
The Idea of a Police State in America - and What Happened
Mood:  blue
Now Playing: Police State in America - What Happened?
Topic: CONSPIRACY

The Idea of America
By Jeffrey Tucker

[copied from an email from WhiskeyandGundpowder.com]

There are occasions in American life -- and they come too often these days -- when you want to scream: "what the heck has happened to this country?!" Everyone encounters events that strike a particular nerve, some egregious violations of the norms for a free country that cut very deeply and personally.

We wonder: do we even remember what it means to be free? If not -- and I think not -- The Idea of America: What It Was and How It Was Lost (hardcover and Kindle), a collection of bracing reminders from our past, as edited by William Bonner and Pierre Lemieux, is the essential book of our time.

I'll just mention two outrages that occur first to me. In the last six months, I came back to the country twice from international travel, once by plane and once by car. The car scene shocked me. The lines were ridiculously long and border control agents, clad in dark glasses and boots and wearing enough weaponry to fight an invading army, run up and down the lines with large dogs. Periodically, US border control would throw open doors of cars and vans and let the dogs run through, while the driver sits there poker faced and trying to stay calm and pretending not to object.

When I finally got to the customs window, I was questioned not like a citizen of the country but like a likely terrorist. The agent wanted to know everything about me: home, work, where I had been and why, and whether I will stay somewhere before getting to my destination, family composition, and other matters that just creeped me out. I realized immediately that there was no question he could ask me that I could refuse to answer, and I had to do this politely.

That's power.

The second time I entered the country was by plane, and there were two full rescans of bags on the way in, in addition to the passport check, and a long round of questioning. There were no running dogs this time; the passengers were the dogs and we were all on the agents' leashes. Whatever they ordered us to do, we did, no matter how irrational. We moved here and there in locked step and total silence. One step out of line and you are guaranteed to be yelled at. At one point, an armed agent began to talk loudly and with a sense of ridicule about the clothes I was wearing, and went out of his way to make sure everyone else heard him. I could do nothing but smile as if I were being complimented by a friend.

That's power.

Of course these cases are nothing like the reports you hear almost daily about the abuse and outrages from domestic travel, which now routinely requires everyone to submit to digital strip searches. We have come to expect this. We can hardly escape the presence of the police in our lives. I vaguely remember when I was young that I thought of the police as servants of the people. Now their presence strikes fear in the heart, and they are everywhere, always operating under the presumption that they have total power and you and I have absolutely none.

You hear slogans about the "land of the free" and we still sing patriotic songs at the ballpark and even at church on Sunday, and these songs are always about our blessed liberty, the battles of our ancestors against tyranny, the special love of liberty that animates our heritage and national self identity. The contrast with reality grows starker by the day.

And it isn't just about our personal liberty and our freedom to move about with a sense that we are exercising our rights. It hits us in the economic realm, where no goods or services change hands that aren't subject to the total control of the leviathan state. No business is really safe from being bludgeoned by legislatures, regulators, and the tax police, while objecting only makes you more of a target.

Few dare say it publicly: America has become a police state. All the signs are in place, among which is the world's largest prison population. If we are not a police state, one must ask, what are the indicators that will tell us that we've crossed the line? What are signs we haven't yet seen?

We can debate that all day about when, precisely, the descent began but there can be no doubt when the slide into the despotic abyss became precipitous. It was after the terrorists hit on 9/11 in 2001. The terrorists wanted to deliver a blow to freedom. Our national leaders swore the terrorists would never win, and then spent the following ten years delivering relentless and massive blows to liberty as we had known it.

The decline has been fast but not fast enough for people to be as shocked as they should be. Freedom is a state of being that is difficult to recall once it is gone. We adapt to the new reality, the way people adapt to degenerative diseases, grateful for slight respites from pain and completely despairing of ever feeling healthy and well again.

What's more, all the time we spend obeying, complying, and pretending to be malleable in order to stay out of trouble ends up socializing us and even changing our outlook on life. As in the Orwell novel, we have adjusted to government control as the new normal. The loudspeakers blared that all of this is in the interest of our security and well being. These people who are stripping us, robbing us, humiliating us, impoverishing us are doing it all for our own good. We never fully believe it but the message still affects our outlook.

The editors of The Idea of America are urging a serious national self assessment. They argue that freedom is the only theme that fully and truly animates the traditional American spirit. We are not united in religion, race, and creed, but we do have this wonderful history of rebellion against power in favor of human rights and freedom from tyranny. For this reason the book begins with the essential founding documents, which, if taken seriously, make a case for radical freedom not as something granted by government but as something that we possess as a matter of right.

The love of liberty is rooted in our Colonial past, and it is thrilling to see Murray Rothbard's excellent account of the pre-revolutionary past printed here, with followups to make the point by Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine. Lord Acton makes the next appearance with a clarifying essay about the whole point of the American Revolution, which was not independence as such but liberty. He forcefully argues that the right of secession, the right to annul laws, the right to say no to the tyrant, the right to leave the system, constitute great contribution of America to political history. As you read, you wonder where these voices are today, and what would happen to them if they spoke up in modern versions of the same thoughts. These revolutionaries are pushing ideas that the modern regime seeks to bury and even criminalize.

The voice of the new country and its voluntaristic themes is provided by Alexis de Tocqueville, along with the writings of James Madison. As Bonner and Lemieux argue in their own contributions, the idea of anarchism, that is, living without a state, has always been just beneath the surface of American ideology. Here they bring it to the surface with an essay by proto-anarchist J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur, who said of America: "we have no princes for whom we toil, starve, and bleed: we are the most perfect society now existing in the world."

The anarchist strain continues with marvelous writings by Thomas Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau, Volairine de Cleyre, plus some court decisions reinforcing gun rights. The book ends with another reminder that America is an open society that is welcoming to newcomers. The final choice of Rose Wilder Lane's "Give Me Liberty" is inspired.

The value of this book is dramatically heightened by the additional material from Bonner, whose clear prose and incisive intellect is on display here both in the foreword and the afterword, as well as Lemieux, whose introduction made my blood boil with all his examples of government gone mad in our time. Bonner in particular offers an intriguing possibility that the future of the true America has nothing to do with geography; it exists where the free minds and free hearts exist. The digitization of the world opens up new opportunities for just this.

The contrast is stark: what America was meant to be and what it has become. It is hard to take this kind of careful look. Truly honest appraisals of this sort are rare. Adapting, going along, pretending not to notice are all easier strategies to deal with the grim situation we face. But this is not the way America's founders dealt with their problems. This book might inspire us to think and act more like we should.

We should prepare.

In the words of Thomas Paine:

O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. -- Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.

Regards,

Jeffrey Tucker

[Editor's Note: Idea of America is considered a must read here at Agora Financial. The ideas inside are more powerful than any options, stock or bond tip we could ever pass along.

At less than $25 per copy, the book is well worth the small fee. We're not the only ones who think that way...

"I hope everyone will read this to see why America became a great country -- so we can keep it a great country," says Jim Rogers, best-selling author of Adventure Capitalist.

Edward Crane, president of CATO Institute says, "The Idea of America is a gem!"

"This is a superb book," starts reviewer R. Hall, "and gives very good and varied ideas of America in its founding days. Should be recommended reading for all ages, especially in school."

"This book cannot be recommended too highly," says Amazon.com reviewer P. Anderson.

But to celebrate the holiday, we're not asking you to pay $25 for Idea of America. In fact, we've worked out a special way for you to claim a free e-book copy.

It's an offer we've never done before. And one we may never do again.

So go ahead... before you catch the fireworks this evening, take advantage of our generosity this holiday, right here.]


Posted by Joe Anybody at 3:11 PM PDT
Sunday, 24 June 2012
Damn - drones in portland oregon 2012 WW article
Mood:  surprised
Now Playing: OMG - DRONES in PDX - go back to sleep
Topic: POLICE

Spying the Friendly Skies

Drone aircraft used for recon in Afghanistan are now in Portland.

news1_drone_3833
IMAGE: Federico Yankelevich

http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-19348-spying_the_friendly_skies.html
{copied from WW under the Fair Use Laws}
 
Military surveillance drones of the kind used to spy on Taliban targets for U.S. forces in Afghanistan are now based in Portland, but U.S. government officials are unclear how or when they might be used over the city or elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

An unclassified 2011 U.S. Air Force document revealed Portland’s status as a drone home. Publicintelligence.net first reported on the document last week, followed by Wired.

The Air Force document shows “current and projected” U.S. Defense Department operations involving “remote-piloted aircraft” at two Oregon sites, Arlington and Portland.

It’s already well known that a Boeing subsidiary, Insitu, builds drones in Bingen, Wash., about 70 miles down the Columbia River from its test airfield in Arlington. It is news, however, that Portland is a home to drones, although the specific location where they are stored remains undisclosed by the military.

A spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command listed as the drone operator told WW in an email that the Air Force map contained inaccurate information. “U.S. Special Operations Command does not have nor will it have [a drone] base in Portland,” wrote deputy public affairs officer Ken McGraw.

But U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) confirms the drones are already here.

“Portland is basically a storage area for a few small drones attached to a nearby military group, neither of which are proposed launching sites for drones,” Wyden said in a statement to WW. “However, in the event of a natural disaster or other legitimate need, they could be launched from there, but it is inappropriate to say that they are primarily launch sites.”

The rapidly expanding domestic presence of remote-controlled spy planes—often without public knowledge or debate—is already sparking controversy. “We have a right to be concerned that the military is bringing drones home,” says Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the speech, privacy and technology program of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C.

This year’s Federal Aviation Administration budget bill requires the agency to speed up plans for civilian drone use in the U.S. The FAA estimates 30,000 civilian law enforcement drones might be flying by 2030.

Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy organization, says the FAA bill will make the rollout of drone use less deliberative.

“We have no information on the drones public entities are flying, how many they have and where they’re authorized to fly,” Lynch says. “I think that’s pretty concerning.”

Wyden pushed the FAA bill. In 2009, Wyden backed a $3.2 million earmark for Insitu. Its parent, Boeing, donated $10,000 to Wyden’s campaign fund in 2009 and 2010.

Wyden spokesman Tom Towslee says the senator’s support for domestic drone use is no sign he is weakening his opposition to warrantless wiretapping, cellphone tracking and other surveillance programs that raise civil liberties issues. He calls his boss a “privacy hawk.”

“We’re not going down this road with the idea that this is going to be used to spy on people,” Towslee says. “It’s an economic development issue. It’s a jobs issue.”

The Air Force document indicates Portland could become home to the Raven and the Wasp, two small, hand-launched surveillance drones made by Monrovia, Calif.-based AeroVironment. The Wasp—weighing just under 16 ounces with a 28-inch wingspan—comes loaded with optical and infrared cameras. The larger Raven—with a 54-inch wingspan—has a longer range. Both have been used for reconnaissance and spying in Afghanistan.

The Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Special Troops Battalion has a drone operator in Pendleton. A spokesperson at the Oregon Military Department didn’t return WW’s call.

In Seattle, the police chief came under fire this year for testing a surveillance drone without approval from the City Council. Houston police also reportedly conducted secret drone tests, and state police in Texas used a Wasp drone during the execution of a search warrant.

The Portland Police Bureau isn’t using drones, but The Rap Sheet, the Portland Police Association’s newsletter, republished an article about building pressure on local police to deploy drones.

An April 2012 Air Force policy directive says domestic drone flights may not target U.S. citizens, but information “incidentally” acquired will be provided to federal or local law enforcement agencies.

John Villasenor, a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA who has written papers on the policy implications of drone use for the Brookings Institution, says drones’ powerful and constant spying capabilities make current laws and precedents on aerial surveillance obsolete.

“Drones are part of this inexorable growth in technologies that are logging almost anything that we do,” Villasenor says. “It’s a sobering time for those of us who came of age in a world where we could move about without necessarily having someone perform surveillance on us.”


 

Loading...
   
   
   
   
   
   

Posted by Joe Anybody at 3:00 PM PDT
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Human Trafficking - Tips to watch out for
Mood:  chatty
Now Playing: Help Stop Human Trafficking - tips and suggetstions
Topic: HUMANITY

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

 

20 Ways You Can Help

Fight Human Trafficking

After first learning about human trafficking, many people want to help in some way but do not know how.

Here are just a few ideas for your consideration.

 

  1. Learn human trafficking red flags and ask follow up questions so that you can detect a potential trafficking situation.
  2. In the United States, report your suspicions to law enforcement at 911, Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581, and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888. Victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.
  3. Be a conscientious consumer. Make socially responsible investments. Let your favorite retailers know that you support their efforts to maintain a slavery free supply chain. Encourage your company or your employer to take steps to investigate and eliminate human trafficking throughout its supply chain and to publish the information for consumer awareness. Refer to the Department of Labor's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.
  4. Hire trafficking survivors.
  5. Volunteer your professional services to help an anti-trafficking organization that need help from lawyers, doctors, dentists, counselors, translators and interpreters, graphic designers, public relations and media professionals, event planners, and accountants.
  6. Donate funds or needed items to an anti-trafficking organization.
  7. Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.
  8. Join or start a grassroots human trafficking coalition.
  9. Encourage your local schools to include modern slavery in their curriculum. As a parent, educator, or school personnel, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.
  10. Meet with and write to your local, state and federal government representatives to let them know that you care about combating human trafficking in your community.
  11. Create and distribute public awareness materials such as t-shirts, posters, and public service announcements for radio. Or distribute already existing materials available from the Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Homeland Security.
  12. Host an awareness event to watch and discuss a recent human trafficking documentary. On a larger scale, host a human trafficking film festival. Several noteworthy films and documentaries have been produced in the last several years that bring attention to the plight of victims worldwide.
  13. Write a letter to the editor for your local paper about human trafficking in your community.
  14. Incorporate human trafficking information into your professional associations’ conferences, trainings, manuals, and other materials as relevant.
  15. STUDENTS: Join or establish a university club to raise awareness about human trafficking throughout the local community and identify victims. Request that human trafficking be an issue included in such university courses as health, migration, human rights, social work, and crime. Increase scholarship about human trafficking by publishing an article, teaching a class, or hosting a symposium.
  16. COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS: ensure that your staff is able to identify and assist trafficked persons.
  17. LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS: join or start a local human trafficking task force.
  18. MENTAL HEALTH OR MEDICAL PROVIDERS: extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims assisted by nearby anti-trafficking organizations.
  19. IMMIGRATION ATTORNEYS: learn about and offer to human trafficking victims the immigration benefits for which they are eligible.
  20. EMPLOYMENT LAW ATTORNEYS: look for signs of human trafficking among your clients.

This page was copied and pasted here within the fair use laws from this URL link:
 

Posted by Joe Anybody at 1:28 PM PDT
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
The Poor are the ones preyed upon by big corporations and Governemnt
Mood:  sharp
Now Playing: Tax the poor, Steal from the poor, Jail the poor .... and more
Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT

Preying on Poverty: How Government and Corporations Use the Poor as Piggy Banks

 https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/05/17-4 by Barbara Ehrenreich

Individually the poor are not too tempting to thieves, for obvious reasons. Mug a banker and you might score a wallet containing a month’s rent. Mug a janitor and you will be lucky to get away with bus fare to flee the crime scene. But as Business Week helpfully pointed out in 2007, the poor in aggregate provide a juicy target for anyone depraved enough to make a business of stealing from them

The trick is to rob them in ways that are systematic, impersonal, and almost impossible to trace to individual perpetrators. Employers, for example, can simply program their computers to shave a few dollars off each paycheck, or they can require workers to show up 30 minutes or more before the time clock starts ticking.Lenders, including major credit companies as well as payday lenders, have taken over the traditional role of the street-corner loan shark, charging the poor insanely high rates of interest.

When supplemented with late fees (themselves subject to interest), the resulting effective interest rate can be as high as 600% a year, which is perfectly legal in many states.It’s not just the private sector that’s preying on the poor. Local governments are discovering that they can partially make up for declining tax revenues through fines, fees, and other costs imposed on indigent defendants, often for crimes no more dastardly than driving with a suspended license.

And if that seems like an inefficient way to make money, given the high cost of locking people up, a growing number of jurisdictions have taken to charging defendants for their court costs and even the price of occupying a jail cell.The poster case for government persecution of the down-and-out would have to be Edwina Nowlin, a homeless Michigan woman who was jailed in 2009 for failing to pay $104 a month to cover the room-and-board charges for her 16-year-old son’s incarceration. When she received a back paycheck, she thought it would allow her to pay for her son’s jail stay.

Instead, it was confiscated and applied to the cost of her own incarceration.Government Joins the Looters of the PoorYou might think that policymakers would take a keen interest in the amounts that are stolen, coerced, or extorted from the poor, but there are no official efforts to track such figures. Instead, we have to turn to independent investigators, like Kim Bobo, author of Wage Theft in America, who estimates that wage theft nets employers at least $100 billion a year and possibly twice that.

As for the profits extracted by the lending industry, Gary Rivlin, who wrote Broke USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. -- How the Working Poor Became Big Business, says the poor pay an effective surcharge of about $30 billion a year for the financial products they consume and more than twice that if you include subprime credit cards, subprime auto loans, and subprime mortgages.These are not, of course, trivial amounts. They are on the same order of magnitude as major public programs for the poor.

The government distributes about $55 billion a year, for example, through the largest single cash-transfer program for the poor, the Earned Income Tax Credit; at the same time, employers are siphoning off twice that amount, if not more, through wage theft.

And while government generally turns a blind eye to the tens of billions of dollars in exorbitant interest that businesses charge the poor, it is notably chary with public benefits for the poor. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, for example, our sole remaining nationwide welfare program, gets only $26 billion a year in state and federal funds. The impression is left of a public sector that’s gone totally schizoid: on the one hand, offering safety-net programs for the poor; on the other, enabling large-scale private sector theft from the very people it is supposedly trying to help. 

At the local level though, government is increasingly opting to join in the looting. In 2009, a year into the Great Recession,

I first started hearing complaints from community organizers about ever more aggressive levels of law enforcement in low-income areas. Flick a cigarette butt and get arrested for littering; empty your pockets for an officer conducting a stop-and-frisk operation and get cuffed for a few flakes of marijuana. Each of these offenses can result, at a minimum, in a three-figure fine.

And the number of possible criminal offenses leading to jail and/or fines has been multiplying recklessly. All across the country -- from California and Texas to Pennsylvania -- counties and municipalities have been toughening laws against truancy and ratcheting up enforcement, sometimes going so far as to handcuff children found on the streets during school hours. In New York City, it’s now a crime to put your feet up on a subway seat, even if the rest of the car is empty, and a South Carolina woman spent six days in jail when she was unable to pay a $480 fine for the crime of having a “messy yard.” Some cities -- most recently, Houston and Philadelphia -- have made it a crime to share food with indigent people in public places.Being poor itself is not yet a crime, but in at least a third of the states, being in debt can now land you in jail. If a creditor like a landlord or credit card company has a court summons issued for you and you fail to show up on your appointed court date, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.

And it is easy enough to miss a court summons, which may have been delivered to the wrong address or, in the case of some bottom-feeding bill collectors, simply tossed in the garbage -- a practice so common that the industry even has a term for it: “sewer service.” In a sequence that National Public Radio reports is “increasingly common,” a person is stopped for some minor traffic offense -- having a noisy muffler, say, or broken brake light -- at which point the officer discovers the warrant and the unwitting offender is whisked off to jail.

Local Governments as Predators

Each of these crimes, neo-crimes, and pseudo-crimes carries financial penalties as well as the threat of jail time, but the amount of money thus extracted from the poor is fiendishly hard to pin down. No central agency tracks law enforcement at the local level, and local records can be almost willfully sketchy.According to one of the few recent nationwide estimates, from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 10.5 million misdemeanors were committed in 2006. No one would risk estimating the average financial penalty for a misdemeanor, although the experts I interviewed all affirmed that the amount is typically in the “hundreds of dollars.”

If we take an extremely lowball $200 per misdemeanor, and bear in mind that 80%-90% of criminal offenses are committed by people who are officially indigent, then local governments are using law enforcement to extract, or attempt to extract, at least $2 billion a year from the poor.

And that is only a small fraction of what governments would like to collect from the poor. Katherine Beckett, a sociologist at the University of Washington, estimates that “deadbeat dads” (and moms) owe $105 billion in back child-support payments, about half of which is owed to state governments as reimbursement for prior welfare payments made to the children. Yes, parents have a moral obligation to their children, but the great majority of child-support debtors are indigent.

Attempts to collect from the already-poor can be vicious and often, one would think, self-defeating. Most states confiscate the drivers’ licenses of people owing child support, virtually guaranteeing that they will not be able to work.  Michigan just started suspending the drivers’ licenses of people who owe money for parking tickets.  Las Cruces, New Mexico, just passed a law that punishes people who owe overdue traffic fines by cutting off their water, gas, and sewage.

Once a person falls into the clutches of the criminal justice system, we encounter the kind of slapstick sadism familiar to viewers of Wipeout. Many courts impose fees without any determination of whether the offender is able to pay, and the privilege of having a payment plan will itself cost money.In a study of 15 states, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found 14 of them contained jurisdictions that charge a lump-sum “poverty penalty” of up to $300 for those who cannot pay their fees and fines, plus late fees and “collection fees” for those who need to pay over time.

If any jail time is imposed, that too may cost money, as the hapless Edwina Nowlin discovered, and the costs of parole and probation are increasingly being passed along to the offender.The predatory activities of local governments give new meaning to that tired phrase “the cycle of poverty.” Poor people are more far more likely than the affluent to get into trouble with the law, either by failing to pay parking fines or by incurring the wrath of a private-sector creditor like a landlord or a hospital.

Once you have been deemed a criminal, you can pretty much kiss your remaining assets goodbye. Not only will you face the aforementioned court costs, but you’ll have a hard time ever finding a job again once you’ve acquired a criminal record. And then of course, the poorer you become, the more likely you are to get in fresh trouble with the law, making this less like a “cycle” and more like the waterslide to hell. 

The further you descend, the faster you fall -- until you eventually end up on the streets and get busted for an offense like urinating in public or sleeping on a sidewalk.I could propose all kinds of policies to curb the ongoing predation on the poor. Limits on usury should be reinstated. Theft should be taken seriously even when it’s committed by millionaire employers. No one should be incarcerated for debt or squeezed for money they have no chance of getting their hands on.

These are no-brainers, and should take precedence over any long term talk about generating jobs or strengthening the safety net. Before we can “do something” for the poor, there are some things we need to stop doing to them.

© 2012 Barbara Ehrenreich  


Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:01 AM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 23 September 2012 3:08 PM PDT

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