Friday, December 16, 2011

The Rise Of Authoritarian Capitalism

Sorry for the length of this post, but it ties a lot of things together (most articles are from just this week). Here are the tenets of Authoritarian Capitalism as currently being implemented in the U.S.:

Massive redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich:
Chief executive pay has roared back after two years of stagnation and decline. America’s top bosses enjoyed pay hikes of between 27 and 40% last year, according to the largest survey of US CEO pay. The dramatic bounceback comes as the latest government figures show wages for the majority of Americans are failing to keep up with inflation….

This year’s survey shows CEO pay packages have boomed: the top 10 earners took home more than $770m between them in 2010. As stock prices began to recover last year, the increase in CEO pay outstripped the rise in share value. The Russell 3000 measure of US stock prices was up by 16.93% in 2010, but CEO pay went up by 27.19% overall. For S&P 500 CEOs, the largest companies in the sample, total realised compensation – including perks and pensions and stock awards – increased by a median of 36.47%. Total pay at midcap companies, which are slightly smaller than the top firms, rose 40.2%.

Last year's survey, covering 2009, found pay rates were broadly flat following a decline in wages the year before. Base salaries in 2009 showed a median increase of around 2%, and annual cash compensation increased just over 1.5%. The troubled stock markets took their toll, and added together CEO pay declined for the third year, though the decrease was marginal, less than three-tenths of a percent. The decline in the wider economy in 2007, 2008 and 2009 far outstripped the decline in CEO pay.

This year's survey shows CEO pay packages have boomed: the top 10 earners took home more than $770m between them in 2010. As stock prices began to recover last year, the increase in CEO pay outstripped the rise in share value. The Russell 3000 measure of US stock prices was up by 16.93% in 2010, but CEO pay went up by 27.19% overall. For S&P 500 CEOs, the largest companies in the sample, total realised compensation – including perks and pensions and stock awards – increased by a median of 36.47%. Total pay at midcap companies, which are slightly smaller than the top firms, rose 40.2%.

"Wages for everybody else have either been in decline or stagnated in this period, and that's for those who are in work," said Hodgson. "I had a feeling that we would see some significant increases this year. But 30-40% was something of a surprise." Bosses won in every area, with dramatic increases in pensions, payoffs and perks – as well as salary.
Revealed: huge increase in executive pay for America's top bossesExclusive survey shows America's CEOs enjoyed pay hikes of up to 40% last year – with one chief executive earning $145m (The Guardian)

Meanwhile, for ordinary Americans:
George Parks has been out of work for 21 months and his unemployment benefits will run out at the end of the month. At 60, he fears his prospects of getting a job are very slim, even though he has a degree in civil engineering and has vast experience in project management. A similar story is recounted by John Jones, 52, a fellow resident of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Jones lost his teaching job last July as the Pennsylvania state government tried to close a funding shortfall.

Parks and Jones are among the nearly 7 million Americans receiving jobless benefits under seven different state and federal programs. Around a quarter of those will fall off the rolls in January if Congress does not renew an extended benefits program that expires at year end. Parks' savings are almost exhausted and his house has lost more than 30 percent of its value, making it hard for him to seek job opportunities outside Pennsylvania. He has tried to market his management skills in manufacturing and the fast-growing field of health care, but has found them already overcrowded.

"It's really getting tight," Parks told Reuters. "The ability to provide is really diminishing and it becomes more the ability to survive."

Parks is collecting $500 a week in unemployment benefits, a far cry from the $80,000 a year he made in his last job as a project manager in architecture and construction. Although his wife still has her teaching job, they are stretching to cover their monthly expenses, which include a $480 monthly car payment. Last month, they combined and refinanced their mortgage and home equity loan, lowering their payment to $1,600 a month from $2,175. Gone are the vacations and gym memberships.

"Savings are pretty much gone, we are now into our 401(K) (retirement) money. I haven't bought any clothing in a year and a half; my wife does buy stuff occasionally to be presentable at school," said Parks. "We have taken no vacations. I just spoke to the gym about volunteering some of my time instead of having to pay for the gym membership."

Jones, who is married and has one child, used to make about $40,000 annually teaching . His wife has an hourly paid job. He declined to say how much he was collecting in unemployment benefits."Before I lost my job we could go out and buy extra things for the house. Right now we do not have that option. We have to watch everything that we're spending and buying," said Jones. That includes foregoing dental check-ups.

"Our savings are about gone and the benefits will be running out fairly soon," Jones added.
Long-term jobless eye bleak future as benefits end (Reuters)

And the poorest of the poor stand to lose even first-world benefits like running water and sanitation:

Banks stand to lose millions of dollars in debt repayments if the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history is allowed to proceed. But the real victims of the financial collapse in the US state of Alabama's most populous county are its poorest residents - forced to bathe in bottled water and use portable toilets after being cut off from the mains supply. And there is widespread anger in Jefferson County that swingeing sewerage rate hikes could have been avoided but for the greed, corruption and incompetence of local politicians, government officials and Wall Street financiers.

Tammy Lucas is the human face of a financial and political scandal that has brought one of the most deprived communities in America's south to the point of what some local people believe is collapse.
The Scandal of the Alabama Poor Cut Off From Water (BBC)

Scapegoating of vilified minorities to distract from real problems:

Meanwhile, in another part of the Deep South:

When hardware superstore Lowe's pulled its advertising from the cable reality programme All-American Muslim, it did so at the behest of a small group called the Florida Family Association (FFA). The FFA's previous letter-writing campaigns have been targeted at shows with both gratuitous and non-traditional sexuality, like Behind Girls Gone Wild and RuPaul's Drag Race. All-American Muslim is the first show that FFA has targeted on the grounds that it obscured "the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values". But it's not the first time Florida has made national headlines for sentiments hostile towards Muslims.

Last spring, pastor Terry Jones caused worldwide outrage when he burned a Koran at his church in Gainesville, Florida. In September, Nezar Hamze, head of the Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was the first person refused admission to the Broward County Republican Party. And Congressman Allen West, who represents constituents in South Florida, was recorded by the liberal website ThinkProgress last August saying "Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals that stand up and say that."

The boycott by the FFA comes as distrust of Muslims is on the rise across the US. Statistics released by the FBI in November show that anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by about 50% in 2010.The big spike in hate crimes across the US, he says, coincided with the summer controversy over plans to build an Islamic cultural centre near Ground Zero in New York City. "There's been a dramatic increase thanks to this completely ginned up controversy about the imposition of Sharia law," says Mr Potok. "What we're seeing is fearmongering on an absolutely massive scale." He is careful to point out that while speech against Muslims is not a hate crime, "words have consequences".

That being said, his office has not observed a noticeable rise in anti-Islamic group activity in Florida.

However, the debate over Muslim ideology has become a political fulcrum in Florida, especially for Tea Party candidates. "I've never seen anything like it," says Matt Hendly, a reporter for the New Times, a weekly paper in Palm Beach and Broward county. "Florida really is a hotbed for this kind of thing," says Tim Murphy, a reporter for Mother Jones magazine who has covered the issue.
Is Anti-Muslim Politics On The Rise In Florida? (BBC)

And don’t forget the GOP’s views on homosexuality. Hmmm…where have we seen this stuff before?

Media managed elections:

FOX News selects candidates who serve up soundbites, not solutions:
This doesn't work crudely – not that crudely, anyway. Roger Ailes, the Fox boss, does not deliver a newspaper-style endorsement of a single, anointed candidate. Rather, some are put in the sunlight, and others left to moulder in the shade. The Media Matters organisation keeps tabs on what it calls the Fox Primary, measuring by the minute who gets the most airtime. It has charted a striking correlation, with an increase in a candidate's Fox appearances regularly followed by a surge in the opinion polls. Herman Cain and Rick Perry both benefited from that Fox effect, with Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, the latest: in the days before he broke from the pack, Gingrich topped the Fox airtime chart. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney cannot seem to break through a 20-to-25% ceiling in the polls – hardly surprising considering, as the league table shows, he has never been a Fox favourite.

But it works in a subtler way than the mere degree of exposure. Fox, serving up constant outrage and fury, favours bluster over policy coherence. Its ideal contributor is a motormouth not a wonk, someone who makes good TV rather than good policy. Little wonder it fell for Cain and is swooning now for Gingrich – one of whom has never held elected office while the other messed up when he did, but who can talk and talk – while it has little interest in Romney and even less in Jon Huntsman, even though both have impressive records as state governors. The self-described conservative journalist Andrew Sullivan says that the dominant public figures on the right are no longer serving politicians, but "provocative, polarising media stars" who serve up enough controversy and conflict to keep the ratings high. "In that atmosphere, you need talk-show hosts as president, not governors or legislators."

Fox News and what Sullivan calls the wider "Media Industrial Complex" have not only determined the style of the viable Republican presidential candidate, but the content too. If one is to flourish rather than wither in the Fox spotlight, there are several articles of faith to which one must subscribe – from refusing to believe in human-made climate change, and insisting that Christians are an embattled minority in the US, persecuted by a liberal, secular, bi-coastal elite, to believing that government regulation is always wrong, and that any attempt to tax the wealthiest people is immoral. Those who deviate are rapidly branded foreign, socialist or otherwise un-American.

Some wonder if it was fear of this ultra-conservative catechism that pushed a series of Republican heavyweights to sit out 2012. "The talent pool got constricted," says David Frum, the former George W Bush speechwriter who has been boldest in speaking out against the Foxification of his party. Fox sets a series of litmus tests that not every Republican can or wants to pass.

This affects those who run as well as those who step aside, setting the parameters within which a Republican candidate must operate. What troubles Frum is that it pushes Republicans to adopt positions that will make them far less appealing to the national electorate in November, with Romney's forced march rightward typical. Even if Romney somehow wins the nomination, he won't be "the pragmatic, problem-solving Mitt Romney" of yore, says Frum, but a new Foxified version. It was this process that led the former speechwriter to declare last year: "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us – and now we're discovering we work for Fox."
How Fox News is helping Barack Obama's re-election bid (The Guardian)

While this focuses on the most extreme example – FOX News, really the media manages the campaigns of both parties. The coverage of Obama during the last election was overwhelmingly favorable. Third-party candidates outside of the “mainstream” are ignored and marginalized.

Removing voting rights for large segments of the population, particularly ‘undesirables’:

This is often seen through a racial lens, but the real thinking is to remove from the polls people who are most likely to not to have a job. Republicans know that their ideology is failing more and more people, so they have to make sure those people cannot vote to hold power:

A tough new law in the state of Wisconsin requiring voters to carry photo ID before they can cast their ballot is being challenged in a federal lawsuit that claims thousands of poor, black and elderly people could be disenfranchised. At the same time the American attorney general, Eric holder, has given a strong speech promising to defend the rights of previously marginalised voters. The legal action, lodged in the federal court for the eastern district of Wisconsin, opens a new front in the battle over voter registration before next year's presidential election. Civil rights groups are warning that a wave of legislative restrictions introduced in more than 30 states amounts to a concerted attack on voting rights in America on a level not seen since the days of segregation.

The lawsuit has been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, and other state officials. It is the only active federal challenge to the imposition of ID laws on voters.

Thirty-four states have tried to introduce photo IDs into the electoral process, ostensibly as a means to counter fraud, with nine introducing restrictions into law. Of those, Wisconsin, which passed its new law in May that will become effective from February next year, is seen as one of the most draconian. Under its terms, voters who used to be able simply to provide proof of residence to register to vote now have to jump through an intricate series of hoops before they can cast their ballot. Only a limited list of photo identification is accepted, and the law applies both to people voting in person in voting booths and by absentee ballot.

The complaint says numerous groups are at risk of being disenfranchised, including poor people who may not be able to afford petrol to travel to the driver's licence office, or the $135 to obtain a US passport. There are more than 12,000 families in Wisconsin who have no income of any sort other than food stamps. Other potentially vulnerable groups are students, elderly people and the disabled. African Americans are also disproportionately represented among those potentially deprived of the right to vote; the NAACP earlier this month petitioned the UN over what it says is the greatest threat to voter participation in America since the early 20th century.
Wisconsin faces lawsuit as civil rights groups cry foul over new voting rules (The Guardian)

Essentially, this is a twenty-first century poll tax. Nowhere does it say ‘only people with ID’s can vote’ in the Constitution. I would imagine the requirements to vote will get more and more restrictive as the economy deteriorates. Don’t forget, Mubarak’s Egypt and the Soviet Union had elections too.

Voting is already more restrictive in the US than most other countries. There is no voting requirement, there are fewer polling places and overcrowded polls, it’s on a Tuesday, and there is no voter’s holiday as there is in many other countries. With the conservative takeover of the judiciary at the state and national levels, I doubt any challenges to the GOP’s laws will be successful.

See also: GOP War on Voting: New Laws Could Block Five Million From Polls (Rolling Stone)

Suppression of  Protest:

Another nice tidbit from my home state which appears to have become something of a laboratory for the Koch Brothers:
Madison - Gov. Scott Walker's administration could hold demonstrators at the Capitol liable for the cost of extra police or cleanup and repairs after protests, under a new policy unveiled Thursday.

The rules, which several legal experts said raised serious free speech concerns, seemed likely to add to the controversy that has simmered all year over demonstrations in the state's seat of government.
The policy, which also requires permits for events at the statehouse and other state buildings, took effect Thursday and will be phased in by Dec. 16. Walker administration officials contend the policy simply clarifies existing rules.

State law already says public officials may issue permits for the use of state facilities, and applicants "shall be liable to the state . . . for any expense arising out of any such use and for such sum as the managing authority may charge for such use."

But Edward Fallone, an associate professor at Marquette University Law School, said the possibility of charging demonstrators for police costs might be problematic because some groups might not be able to afford to pay.

"I'm a little skeptical about charging people to express their First Amendment opinion," he said. "You can't really put a price tag on the First Amendment."

The policy says:

Groups of four or more people must obtain permits for all activity and displays in state buildings and apply for those permits at least 72 hours in advance. The policy requires permits for 100 or more people outside the Capitol. The policy does provide some leeway for spontaneous gatherings triggered by unforeseen events.

Groups holding demonstrations could be charged for the costs of having extra police on hand for the event. Costs associated with a counterprotest could be charged to that second group. The costs would be $50 per hour per Capitol Police officer - costs for police officers from outside agencies would depend on the costs billed to the state. The police could require an advance payment as a requirement for getting a permit and also could require liability insurance or a bond.

Demonstrators may not tape or stick signs to Capitol walls not intended for signs. During the protests hundreds of signs were posted at the Capitol.

Any damage or cleanup after a demonstration could be charged to organizers. During the court fight earlier this year over access to the Capitol, Walker's administration said the demonstrators had done $7.5 million in damage to the building with the signs and other wear and tear. But almost immediately the administration sharply backpedaled from that claim, conceding the damage was significantly less.
Walker Administration Would charge Capitol Protesters for Police, Cleanup (JSOnline)

We've already seen the birth of "free speech zones" and the brutal crackdown on Occupy.

Revival of debtors’ prisons:

NPR just ran a story called “Unpaid Bills Land Some Debtors Behind Bars.” As they report, ”Here’s how it happens: A company will often sell off its debt to a collection agency, generally called a creditor. That creditor files a lawsuit against the debtor requiring a court appearance. A notice to appear in court is supposed to be given to the debtor. If they fail to show up, a warrant is issued for their arrest.” Marie Diamond has more.

This is increasingly common across the country. My colleagues Matt Stoller and Bryce Covert have both written about debtors being jailed for failure to appear in court. Debtors’ prisons are illegal, and some point out that this is really jail for a summons problem, not a payment. But I haven’t had a full vision of the practice until I read this excellent working paper by Lea Shepherd of Loyola Chicago law school, “Creditors Contempt” (h/t creditslips). Beyond laying out the problems with the current system, which gives a disproportionate amount of the coercive powers of the state to creditors, this paper also has implications for another topic I’m interested in — the class bias of the submerged state.

Debtors who run into the law often don’t understand the process; since the debt has often been resold multiple times, they may not even recognize the names of the plaintiffs. It is also problematic that debtors who don’t show up for the summons are likely to be confused as to what they are being jailed for. They may think they are being jailed for nonpayment when they are actually being jailed for the failure to show up and not telling the court and creditors about their assets. It is in the interest of creditors to blur this distinction. Though debtors can often get out of jail by compliance, they may feel they need to pay off debts immediately to get out of jail instead. Debtors will be willing to make costly financial decisions, including using money that is legally protected from debt collectors, to get out of jail immediately. Indeed, many debtors are cash constrained and can’t deal with even temporary incarceration due to the costs of work and family disruptions and will be willing to do anything to get out of jail.

In many jurisdictions, bail posted to get out of being jailed for contempt of the discovery process is used to pay creditors. Besides being a great deal for creditors — as noted above, people often pay a huge economic penalty to get out of jail — it functions as a de facto debtors’ prison. As law professor Alan White described this process, “If, in effect, people are being incarcerated until they pay bail, and bail is being used to pay their debts, then they’re being incarcerated to pay their debts.” As the FTC noted, debtors being jailed for nonappearance “may be willing to pay the bail (and indirectly the judgement) using assets (such as Social Security payments) the law prohibits creditors from garnishing or otherwise obtaining to satisfy a judgement.”
Reinventing debtor’s prisons for the 21st century (Rortybomb)

Remember, student loans have no protections under the law – creditors have total control. How much of America will be able to be asset-stripped and imprisoned because of that? And another major source of debt is medical costs.

Use of Copyright Laws To Crush Dissent

Modelled on the authoritarian capitalist states of China and Russia, apparently:
Leading American Internet businessmen warn that the draconian copyright bill on the verge of being passed by Congress would let the US government use censorship techniques “similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran.”

If you want to know what the United States would look like after this bill is passed, just look at what’s been happening in Russia:  The Russian government has been crushing dissent under the pretext of enforcing copyright law.

Since the American copyright bills (SOPA and PIPA) target online activities, the same thing happening to Russian critics’ computers could happen to the websites of any Americans who criticize the government, the too big to fail banks, or any of the other powers-that-be.
America’s Future: Russia and China Use Copyright Laws to Crush Government Criticism (Washington's Blog)

The new act gives the government extraordinary cencorship powers in the name of copyright protection. At a time when Big Business and the government have essentially merged, the potential for abuse is staggering:

Today, however, Congress is considering passing major legislation to change the definitions of online infringement. While supposedly aimed at foreign "rogue sites" like the Pirate Bay in Sweden, the legislation's new definitions would alter the copyright safe-harbor and make platforms for user-generated speech -- including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube -- liable for copyright infringement committed by users. These sites would have to adopt Big Brother technologies to monitor all their users' activities in order to make sure no user is sharing the latest release from the Twilight series.

Making matters worse, the mechanisms for enforcement include cutting off all access to funding, removing sites from search engines, and blocking website addresses in technical ways that threaten the Internet's security and universality. All of this is done in the name of reducing copyright infringement online. Because of the threat to online speech platforms, companies like Tumblr and civil liberties groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future coordinated an "American Censorship Day" in November in protest. Even the European Parliament has launched criticism rooted in speech concerns across the Atlantic Ocean.

Contrast this with defamation. Imagine if our nation, or another, had proposed legislation to punish any website for defamation committed by its users. Imagine also that enforcement against such sites -- defined as "dedicated to defamation" -- would include automatically cutting off advertising and credit-card processing, removing sites from search engines, and messing with the global Internet addressing system to shut them down.

We would all recognize such a law would lie on the wrong side of free speech. But Leahy, who was a champion of the SPEECH Act, sponsored the Senate copyright bill that would adopt these procedures. Many members of the House supported speech protections for defamation through that Act but fail to support similar protections when a law addresses copyright -- even though the proposed laws would miss their mark and silence a lot of non-infringing speech.
Should Copyright Be Allowed To Override Free Speech Rights? (The Atlantic)

Rule by unelected financial managers who dismantle government for creditors:

Remember, unlike the Soviet Union, America is a ‘democracy’:

A growing number of cities have been saved from bankruptcy by private-sector, for-profit consultants granted sweeping powers to modify, reject, terminate and renegotiate contracts, including union contracts. They can also amend budgets, determine staffing, eliminate departments and remove members of local pension boards, as well as overrule mayors, city councils and other elected officials. What Old Man Potter tried to do to Bedford Falls in the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" -- get his fingers around every single aspect of municipal life -- they are doing routinely in towns such as Benton Harbor, Mich.

Some of them go by the name of emergency financial managers, or EFMs for short.

Critics have other descriptions, however, including dictators. "Most definitely," Benton Harbor commissioner Dennis Knowles said of last month's appointment of an EFM, though conceding that the city needed help after making a series of bad financial decisions. "But the city now is under a dictatorship. We aren't able to make our own decisions. All we [the commissioners] can do is meet, approve minutes of the meetings, and adjourn. It's a blatant disregard of the democratic process, the voice of the people."

In Michigan, such managers, appointed by the governor, control not just cities -- including Hamtramck and Ecorse outside Detroit -- but Detroit's public school system as well.
Bankrupt Cities Using Emergency Financial Managers to Recover (ABC News)

Indefinite Detention Without Trial:

And, of course, there’s this little item. Once passed, there will be absolutely no legal difference between a twenty-first century American citizen and a Soviet citizen living under Josef Stalin:

Barack Obama has abandoned a commitment to veto a new security law that allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial American terrorism suspects arrested on US soil who could then be shipped to Guantánamo Bay. Human rights groups accused the president of deserting his principles and disregarding the long-established principle that the military is not used in domestic policing. The legislation has also been strongly criticised by libertarians on the right angered at the stripping of individual rights for the duration of "a war that appears to have no end".

The law, contained in the defence authorisation bill that funds the US military, effectively extends the battlefield in the "war on terror" to the US and applies the established principle that combatants in any war are subject to military detention. The legislation's supporters in Congress say it simply codifies existing practice, such as the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists at Guantánamo Bay. But the law's critics describe it as a draconian piece of legislation that extends the reach of detention without trial to include US citizens arrested in their own country.

"It's something so radical that it would have been considered crazy had it been pushed by the Bush administration," said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. "It establishes precisely the kind of system that the United States has consistently urged other countries not to adopt. At a time when the United States is urging Egypt, for example, to scrap its emergency law and military courts, this is not consistent."

The law applies to anyone "who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaida, the Taliban or associated forces". Senator Lindsey Graham said the extraordinary measures were necessary because terrorism suspects were wholly different to regular criminals.

"We're facing an enemy, not a common criminal organisation, who will do anything and everything possible to destroy our way of life," he said. "When you join al-Qaida you haven't joined the mafia, you haven't joined a gang. You've joined people who are bent on our destruction and who are a military threat."

Graham added that it was right that Americans should be subject to the detention law as well as foreigners. "It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help Al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next," he said. "And when they say, 'I want my lawyer,' you tell them, 'Shut up. You don't get a lawyer.'"

Other senators supported the new powers on the grounds that al-Qaida was fighting a war inside the US and that its followers should be treated as combatants, not civilians with constitutional protections. But another conservative senator, Rand Paul, a strong libertarian, has said "detaining citizens without a court trial is not American" and that if the law passes "the terrorists have won".

"We're talking about American citizens who can be taken from the United States and sent to a camp at Guantánamo Bay and held indefinitely. It puts every single citizen American at risk," he said. "Really, what security does this indefinite detention of Americans give us? The first and flawed premise, both here and in the badly named Patriot Act, is that our pre-9/11 police powers were insufficient to stop terrorism. This is simply not borne out by the facts."
Military given go-ahead to detain US terrorist suspects without trial (The Guardian)

Matt Taibbi explains the potential:
This effort to eat away at the rights of the accused was originally gradual, but to me it looks like that process is accelerating. It began in the Bush years with a nebulous description of terrorist sedition that may or may not have included links to Sunni extremist groups in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But words like "associated" and "substantial" and "betray" have crept into the discussion, and now it feels like the definition of a terrorist is anyone who crosses some sort of steadily-advancing invisible line in their opposition to the current government. This confusion about the definition of terrorism comes at a time when the economy is terrible, the domestic government is more unpopular than ever, and there is quite a lot of radical and even revolutionary political agitation going on right here at home. There are people out there – I’ve met some of them, in both the Occupy and Tea Party movements – who think that the entire American political system needs to be overthrown, or at least reconfigured, in order for progress to be made.

It sounds paranoid and nuts to think that those people might be arrested and whisked away to indefinite, lawyerless detention by the military, but remember: This isn’t about what’s logical, it’s about what’s going on in the brains of people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain. At what point do those luminaries start equating al-Qaeda supporters with, say, radical anti-capitalists in the Occupy movement? What exactly is the difference between such groups in the minds (excuse me, in what passes for the minds) of the people who run this country?

That difference seems to be getting smaller and smaller all the time, and such niceties as American citizenship and the legal tradition of due process seem to be less and less meaningful to the people who run things in America.
Indefinite Detention of American Citizens: Coming Soon to Battlefield U.S.A. (Matt Taibbi)

And it's already happening. See this:
A leaked memo from the City of London Police (the special police force maintained by the administrators of London's financial district, who are elected by the corporations with offices in its boundaries) includes the Occupy movement in a list of "terrorist/domestic extremist" organisations that pose a threat to the City's businesses. Other groups on the list include FARC and Al Qaeda. 
City of London police class Occupy movement with terrorists such as Al Qaeda (BoingBoing)

And we’ve previously commented on mass incarceration of the citizenry, and the mass surveillance of the citizenry. And ironically, this week is the beginning of the Bradley Manning trial, which is a good window into how people who threaten the system will be dealt with. See also this: Is the US government at war with whistleblowers (BBC)? Why is this happening now? Here's why:

Connect the dots yet? A failing economic system, scapegoating of religious minorities, removing voting rights from the poor, stage managed elections, debtor’s prisons, suppression of protest, corporate managers in place of elected politicians, indefinite detention without trial of American citizens…this is not dystopian science fiction. This is not hypothetical. This is not happening in a faraway country. This is happening in America, right here, right now. And we are doing nothing to stop it; in fact, many Americans are cheering it on.

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