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Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled

Social Security checks to rise just 0.3% in 2017


Social Security got short shrift in the presidential “debates” this year, meriting only a brief mention at the end of the third event, and even then, only by Hillary Clinton, who vowed not to cut benefits in any effort to bolster the system’s funding (a promise she was only grudgingly pushed into by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign).*

But the truth is that benefits have been getting cut, are being cut in 2017, and unless something is done, will continue to be cut in the future. This is because the method used to calculate the annual adjustment for inflation each year is, to borrow a phrase popular with Donald Trump, “rigged.”

Just consider this. The Consumer Price Index or CPI, actually the CPI-U version of the index which is used by nearly all federal agencies, including the IRS (which uses it to recalibrate tax brackets each year), found inflation in the US running at 0.73% in 2015, and at 2.07% year-to-date through September 2016 (it was 1.46% for the 12-month period Oct. 2015 through Sept. 2016, suggesting that the rate has been actually accelerating through the latter part of this year. Yet the modified version of the CPI, called CPI-W, which Congress since 1983 has mandated that the Social Security Administration use to calculate cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security benefits, showed no inflation in 2015, and only 0.3% inflation for 2016.

That’s why Social Security beneficiaries -- the elderly, the disabled and dependent children of Social Security beneficiaries -- received no increase in their benefits during 2016 over the prior year, and why their benefit checks in 2017 will only increase by a paltry 0.3% (That would be an extra $4.50 a month or $54 for the year for someone receiving a typical Social Security benefit check of $1500 per month!).

Now reasonable people can argue whether the elderly and disabled spend more or less than other Americans on food, on entertainment, on transportation or on health care, but anyone who claims that the elderly have faced no higher costs during 2016 than in 2015, or that 2017 won’t cost them more than $54 extra than they had to pay to survive in 2016 is, to put it simply, lying.

Both parties in Congress have been stiffing seniors and the disabled for decades by insisting on Social Security using a lousy CBoth parties in Congress have been stiffing seniors and the disabled for decades by insisting on Social Security using a lousy CPI measure to calculate annual benefit inflation adjustments (courtesy the Union of Electrical workers)

Anyone but a rich person who doesn’t even look at what she or he is spending knows that groceries are more expensive, that bus and taxi fares are up, and that the cost of cars, car repairs and car insurance have risen. Health care costs are rising too, as well as health insurance costs. So are rents. Basically everything the elderly have to pay for has gone up in price each year, but their mainstay -- and for 33% of the elderly, Social Security is their only source of income, while for 61% it represents more than half their income -- has stayed essentially flat.

So long-- a cautionary tale (interpretation of Woody Guthrie's "Dusty old dust")

New poem:


So long
so long
I've got to be drifting
The dust storm blew
It hit
like thunder
In the month called Gray
I walked down
to the grocery store
it was crowded
One pound of butter
for two pounds of gold
Kind friend, kind friend,
I've got to be drifting
I'll sing it again
drifting along
so long, it's been good
so long
The old dust storm
So black
so black
The telephone rang
And rang and rang
and rang and rang
and rang
--Gary Lindorff

Philly Police Abuse Case Typifies All-Too-Common Misconduct by Nation's Prosecutors

Abusing the abused

Actions and inactions by Philadelphia’s District Attorneys Office that have blocked Sharif Anderson from his day-in-court for an arrest that took place over 1,200-days ago have elevated this Philadelphia police abuse victim into a prime example of what the phrase "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied" means.

During recent months Philadelphia prosecutors have repeatedy presented specious requests in court that have delayed trial dates for Anderson, who endured a brutal May 27, 2013 arrest when Philadelphia police confronted him as he videoed an incident of police brutality with his cell phone.

Those requests by prosecutors for delays in the Anderson case raise issues regarding adherence of prosecutors to a provision in the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers in Pennsylvania that states it is “not proper for a lawyer to routinely fail to expedite litigation.”

The Philadelphia District Attorneys Office declined requests for comments on issues raised in the case of Sharif Anderson. “Unfortunately, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office cannot comment…because the case is still active,” stated a self-serving email reply from the DAs Office.

Protestors at march against deadly May 1985 bombing by Philadelphia police. LBW PhotoProtestors at march against deadly May 1985 bombing by Philadelphia police. LBW Photo

Disturbingly, it is not unusual for prosecutors in Philadelphia and elsewhere around America to reflexively pursue obstructionist tactics that shield police in cases that contain documented evidence of improper and/or biased actions by police.

The failures of prosecutors to prosecute police misconduct was an underlying element in reports critical of abusive policing issued by the U.S. Department of Justice after high profile examinations of law enforcers in Baltimore, Maryland; Cleveland, Ohio and Ferguson, Missouri -- three cities that erupted in protests following incidents of abusive policing.

Debate #2 Lost by Hillary Clinton on Points

Sex, lies, videotape...and hacked emails


The “town-meeting”-formatted “debate” between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Sunday night was, as could have been expected, a disappointing affair, with the two moderators generally avoiding any real challenge to the lies and distortions of the two candidates and declining to push them into critical areas that have been ignored throughout this fall’s presidential campaign -- like climate change, an increasingly dangerous conflict between nuclear powers that could trigger a likely nuclear world war, and the worsening income gap in the US which, let’s face it, neither candidate has a program or even a desire to combat.

On balance though, while both candidates were awful, I would say the night went worse for Clinton. Trump’s challenge in this second outing, coming right after the release of an 11-year-old video in which he boasted of assaulting women, was firstly to defuse that damaging revelation, and secondly to avoid losing his cool and making outrageous extemporaneous statements that would worsen his standing as a sober “leader.” He largely met both challenges, apologizing for his lewd boasting and his obnoxious and abusive behavior as described in the video, which he dismissed as “locker-room talk” that he wasn’t proud of, and sticking for the most part to criticisms of Clinton’s actual actions (and inaction) and to her words. His performance probably was adequate to at least staunch the stream of defections of Republican candidates and Republican voters from his campaign and support base.

Clinton meanwhile, had the challenge of trying to get the public to trust her. In this she failed miserably. Smirking frequently when she was being accused by Trump of serious crimes and of blatant and repeated lying, she clumsily tried to dodge some serious and valid charges he made against her. These on-screen actions and lame efforts to change the subject will only succeed in making her less trusted by those voters who have still not made up their minds about which candidate, if any, to back on November 8.

For example, when Trump hammered at Clinton for having deleted and then “bleached” from her hard drive over 30,000 emails -- actions taken after she had already received subpoenas for them -- she tried to dodge the issue by referring, in a complete non-sequitor, to the 50,000 emails that “I did provide.” It was hardly an adequate response, and effectively simply confirmed her crime of obstruction. The two moderators, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz, did almost nothing to press her on this failure to respond.

Without Stein's perspective included, presidential 'debate' two was largely devoid of contentWithout Stein's perspective included, presidential 'debate' two was largely devoid of content

Pour One for Jan Bianchi (1944-2016), Author of World's Best Abortion Legislation

Co-author of Washington State's Intiative 120 Dead at 72


Women of color have long had a love-hate relationship with white feminists. While the two groups clearly have the united goal of dismantling the patriarchy, all too often the efforts are co-opted by white women. “Wins” are typically not “wins for women” but in fact, “wins for white women.” The pro-choice movement has been no different.

However, in that dark landscape of frustration is Jan Bianchi. And though she has recently passed away, like every other unsung hero, her legacy will live on. Unlike many white feminists, her work has greatly benefited women of color.
Jan BianchiJan Bianchi, 1944-2016

With an increasing number of TRAP laws and the recent battle against Texas’s HB2 legislation, the discussion around reproductive rights is largely focused on stemming the seemingly contagious spread of anti-woman legislation. One can’t help but wonder what it would look like if the opposite were true.

Jan Bianchi was one of the co-authors of the Washington State’s Initiative 120 that was passed in 1991 by popular vote and created the most liberal abortion legislation in the country. Washington is also the only state that legalized abortion through popular vote rather than through legislators.

As the US Surveillance Expands, Maybe the Best Way to Resist is to Bury It in Garbage

NSA surveillance keywords to sprinkle in all your electronic communications


Word that Yahoo! last year, at the urging of the National Security Agency, secretly developed a program that monitored the mail of all 280 million of its customers and turned over to the NSA all mail from those who used any of the agency's thousands of keywords, shows that the US has become a total police state in terms of trying to monitor every person in the country (and outside too).

With the courts, especially at the appellate and Supreme Court level, rolling over and supporting this massive evisceration of basic freedoms, including the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech and the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure and invasion of privacy, perhaps the best way for us to fight back is to overload the spy system. How to do this? Just copy and paste random fragments of the following list (a bit dated, but useable), provided courtesy of the publication Business Insider, and include them in every communication -- email, social media, etc. -- that you send out.

The secret Yahoo! assault (reported on here by Alfredo Lopez in yesterday's lead article), works by searching users' emails for keywords on an NSA list of suspected words that might be used by alleged terrorists or anti-government activists, and then those suspect communications are forwarded to the NSA, where humans eventually have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Too much chaff (and they surely have too much chaff anyhow!) and they will be buried with work and unable to read anything.

In fact, critics of the government's metastasizing universal surveillance program, including former FBI agents and other experts, have long criticized the effort to turn the US into a replica of East Germany with its Stazi secret police, cannot work and is actually counter-productive, because with spy agencies' limited manpower looking at all the false leads provided by keyword monitoring, they are bound to miss the real dangerous messages. In fact, this was also the argument used against the FBI's program of monitoring mosques and suspecting every Muslim American who expressed criticism of the US. Most are just people saying what a lot of us say: that the US wars in the Middle East are wrong or even criminal, but they are just citizens or immigrants exercising their free speech when they do this, not terrorists, and spying on them is and has been a huge waste or time and resources.

So, to help destroy the continuing and expanding effort to monitor everything we do, here's a sample of the NSA's keyword list:

Yahoo Scanned All Users' Emails for Government!

A scandal that reveals more than it says


If you are one of the approximately 280 million people with Yahoo email accounts, your email was scanned for content and possibly turned over to the U.S. government. Yahoo, on Tuesday, admitted that fact.

Reuters revealed on Tuesday that the Internet mega-company (which is now being purchased by Verizon Communications) designed a special program last year to capture and scan all its users' incoming email after being ordered to do that by the either the NSA or FBI. It deployed the program over the last year, scanning every piece of email Yahoo accounts received and apparently turning over all email that contained any of the tens of thousands of "keywords" the NSA considers suspicious.

The decision, Reuters says, was made by President and Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer, in collaboration with people in her legal department. It wasn't without controversy: several Yahoo top staffers left the company including Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos (who left for a top job at Facebook).

Yahoh Chief Mayer -- She left out "scan all user email"Yahoh Chief Mayer -- She left out "scan all user email"

The news is startling for several reasons. It's also deceptive for some others.

President Barack Obama's Crappy Legacy

We got 8 years of change, but not much hope


Barack Obama came into the White House on a wave of passionate new voters, many of them black or young and white, becoming the nation's first black president and promising a new era of "hope and change."

Eight years later, as he is preparing to exit the White House, he leaves behind considerable wreckage, disappointment and a legacy of death and destruction, plenty of it physical, but also much of it in the legislative and political arena.

He did give us, over the last eight years, a lot of change, but not much hope, and most of the change has been negative.

Let's just run through at least some of the list:

* One of candidate Obama's big selling points in 2008 was that he promised to end the Bush/Cheney administration's disastrous war in Iraq, to close the horrific torture site and prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, so damaging to American principles and to the county's international reputation, and to restore the rule of law with regard to government behavior in areas like torture, extrajudicial killing and surveillance. Eight years later, the war in Iraq -- a country almost totally destroyed by the illegal US invasion in 2003 and by the subsequent occupation and deliberate encouragement of civil war between Sunni and Shia populations -- continues, with US forces being added even as our Nobel Peace Laureate president prepares to leave office. Guantanamo remains open and stocked with prisoners, many of them known to have been wrongly accused of terrorism, as the president has proved too gutless to do the right thing and just shut the place down, or order the captives released. Meanwhile, torture continues, the president has expanded and formalized a system of state-sanctioned and directed murder, even of US citizens abroad, and surveillance of Americans has reached appalling levels not even imagined by science fiction writers like George Orwell a generation or more ago. Indeed, the Obama administration had its lawyers actively and aggressively defend these Constitutional assaults, crimes and violations of international law in the nation's federal courts, even appealing when courageous federal judges made the right decisions.

* Race relations in the US, and the economic condition of people of color in America, have only deteriorated during President Obama's two terms. When a police officer arrested a distinguished middle-aged Harvard professor in his own house early in Obama's first term, falsely assuming the man, despite showing his faculty ID, was a burglar, the president had the two men to the White House for a "beer summit," instead of demanding an end to such racial profiling. As a result, racial profiling and the killing of unarmed blacks, including children, by mostly white police officers has become epidemic and an almost daily occurrance on this president's watch, along with a general militarization of police (encouraged by his administration's offer of free military surplus war armaments) to the point that it's hard to distinguish them from an army of occupation across the land. The president has had basically nothing to say about reversing this catastrophic assault on freedom and democracy.

 First hope and a legacy of hopelessnessObama 2008-2016: First hope and a legacy of hopelessness

Sioux Activists and Backers Prepare for Cold Winter of Resistance at Standing Rock ND

Native Peoples of the US and around the globe come ogether in support


UPDATE: Shortly after this program was aired, and after this article linking to the podcast was posted, a group of praying Lakota at the Standing Rock protest site were confronted by at least 40 deputies of the Monroe County ND Sheriff's office. They reported that the deputies -- in full riot gear -- aimed their guns at the unarmed men, women and children, and arrested 21 of them. One elderly Lakota woman in her 80s reported that in all her life living on the reservation "I never had a gun pointed at me until these sheriff's did it." She called the experience "terrifying."

A Vietnam-era veteran living abroad who is Lakota said he fears that the current Standing Rock resistance movement could end in another massacre. He says that a friend from the days of the '73 AIM occupation in Wounded Knee wrote him saying, "Standing Rock is not Wounded Knee 1973 –- they’re not armed, they have no cover, no security. This is more like the first Wounded Knee." That Wounded Knee was when US Army troops in 1890 raided a Lakota encampment and massacred some 300 Lakota men, women and children.

Hopefully such an atrocity will not happen again, but the Monroe County Sheriff's action is not a good sign. Increased support and solidarity, and demands for more media attention to this standoff, are the best defense in this latest struggle of America's indigenous people.

Sioux resistance continues at Standing  Rock, ND (L) and image of Keith Scott at the moment he was shot dead by Charlotte NC policeSioux resistance continues at Standing Rock, ND (L) and image of Keith Scott at the moment he was shot dead by Charlotte NC police

Levi Rickert, founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online, talks with "This Can't Be Happening!: radio host Dave Lindorff about the latest developments at Standing Rock, North Dakota, where the Sioux People are still taking a rock-solid stand against efforts by the federal government and the oil industry to run a crude oil pipeline from North Dakota's Bakkan oilfield south to St. Louis through Sioux lands and sacred sites. Rickert also talks about a meeting of tribal representatives from the 500 recognized Indian tribes in the US with Washington government agencies to hammer out a protocol for having "substantive" discussions between tribes and government agencies whenever a decision is going to impact them.

Rickert talks about how the whole indigenous community, including indigenous people in other parts of the world as remote as New Zealand and the Arctic, are sending support to Standing Rock to help Sioux activists and their supporters prepare for the long haul as cold weather starts to move into the prairie.

Lindorff also segues into a discussion of the worsening slaughter of unarmed people -- mostly people of color -- in the US by increasingly militarized and gratuitously violent state, county, local and federal police. To hear the whole hour-long program, please go to the Progressive Radio News' This Can't Be Happening! podcast of the show, which aired Wednesday.

We Should All Start 'Taking Responsibility' for our Transgressions

Wells Fargo's Stumpf leads the way


Hey Americans! Let's all start taking responsibility for what we do wrong. Let's all start being accountable for our actions or our lack of action.

John Stumpf, the CEO of Wells Fargo Bank, one of the nation's biggest "too-big-to-fail" banks, is showing us the way in to this bright new stand-up world.

When the government discovered that his bank had since as long ago as 2011 been boosting its bottom line by creating millions of credit card accounts in the name of but behind the backs of existing Wells Fargo clients, and then running up charges on those accounts, charging the unawares named holders of the cards late fees and interest for those charges, it slapped the bank with a $185-million fine. But as with prior criminal behavior by the nation's biggest banks (think Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase), it didn't indict any bank executives this time either.

But hey, this John Stumpf is a stand-up guy. He has told the media and the Senate Banking Committee that he takes "full responsibility" for the gigantic defrauding of the country's third largest bank's customers, and says that he is "accountable" for the high-pressure sales tactics demnded of low-level bank salespeople to make them produce sales of bank products -- the policy that led over 5300 of those employees to set up the fraudulent accounts.

But here's the beautiful thing: Standing up and saying "I take full responsibilty" and "I'm accountable" is really easy! You don't have to actually do anything and nothing happens to you! In fact, Stumpf admitted under questioning by Senate Banking Committee member Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, that he earned $19.3 million last year alone, $ 4 million of that a bonus for doing such a fine job of running the operation -- this in a year in which the bank and its board of directors was well aware that it was being investigated for the gigantic fraud. "Taking responsibilty" and being "accountable" doesn't apparently involve actually taking responsiblity or being accountable, as in stepping down from one's lucrative post as CEO, much less leaving one's firm. It doesn't apparently even mean taking a pay cut. Pretty neat really.

That's not true though for the thousands of employees who engaged in the actual act of creating the fraudulent charge accounts. They have all been fired by the bank, no doubt at Stumpf's direction. They took a substantial paycut for their criminal behavior, which one might say is a kind of "taking responsibility" for what they did, though perhaps they didn't do it voluntarily.

Model stand-up guy John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo BankModel stand-up guy John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo Bank

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Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

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by Dr. Radut