Esther Kaplan is editor of the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, and author of With God on Their Side: George Bush and the Christian Right.
The jobless recovery means massive speedups for many workers you depend on.
Three New Orleans police officers and two former officers were indicted Friday in the shooting death of Henry Glover, an African-American resident of New Orleans who bled to death while in police custody in the days after Hurricane Katrina struck. The Nation broke the story of his suspicious death last year.
Justice may finally be imaginable for Edna Glover and her family. The charred remains of her son Henry were discovered in the burnt hulk of a car on a levee overlooking the Mississippi River a week after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. But she'd never gotten any answers.
Aram Roston's November Nation exposé, "How the U.S. Funds the Taliban," has been fast picking up steam on Capitol Hill. In the article, supported by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, Roston detailed how hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds are being funneled to Afghan insurgents, including the Taliban. The funds, he found, are used as bribes to secure safe passage of U.S. and Coalition supplies on Afghanistan trucking routes. U.S. and Afghanistan officials as well as private contractors all confirmed that such payola is rampant.
On December 2, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged Roston's findings in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "There's a lot of evidence," she said, "that, in addition to funding from the Gulf and the illegal narcotics trade, that siphoning off contractual money from the international community...is a major source of funding for the Taliban." Days later, the spokesman for NATO's forces in Afghanistan acknowledged that contracting dollars might be making it into Taliban hands.
Then yesterday, the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs announced a "comprehensive" investigation into the Department of Defense's multibillion dollar Host Nation Trucking contract and related logistics contracts in Afghanistan. The inquiry will be led by the subcommittee's chair, Rep. John Tierney of Massachusetts.
View a slideshow of images from the showdown in Chicago here.
On Tuesday morning, in Chicago, the unions came to town. It was the final day of the rolling protest dubbed The Showdown in Chicago, a confrontation with the American Bankers Association, whose members had gathered for their annual meeting. With a crowd estimated at 5,000, it was without a doubt the largest demonstration against Wall Street's ravages since the economy crashed a year ago.
From the desperate manufacturing sector came members of the Sheet Metal Workers and the Machinists and the Steelworkers. From the collapsed housing market came the Carpenters and the Painters and the Insulators. There were laid off workers from shuttered factories – Republic Doors and Windows, whose battle over severance pay was captured in Michael Moore's new film, Capitalism: A Love Story, and Quad City Die Casting, whose hundred employees all lost their jobs with far less fanfare last month. Pulling up the rear, a large contingent of garment workers from Hart Marx, suit makers to the president, who successfully fought off a shutdown threatened by creditor Wells Fargo, saving some 3,500 jobs. And, of course, a vast purple army from the Service Employees Union, SEIU.
Day two of the Showdown in Chicago, a three-day-long protest against big banks, began a bit dismally for The Nation. An email from American Bankers Association spokesman John Hall informed us that our press credentials had been revoked. The reason? Because we'd arrived early to cover a protest outside the ABA's annual meeting at the Sheraton Hotel the night before, he told us, ABA officials believed us to be "moles for the protesters."
Alas. That meant I wouldn't have the chance to hear how there's a silver lining to every recession -- I'm sorry, recovery -- through such workshops as "Strategies for Acquiring Troubled Banks" (this is, after all, the first year since 1992 when more than a hundred have failed in a single year) and "NonInterest Income," no doubt rich with tips on how to increase revenue through hiking fees on checking accounts, credit cards, and overdraft protection. Nor could I learn how to roll back socialism in "Unwinding Government Intervention," or sort through the puzzling link between record unemployment and depressed spending in "The Impact of the Recession on Consumer Preferences and Behavior." Worst of all, I'd miss Newt Gingrich's keynote speech in which, it was promised, he would "strike an optimistic tone."
It turns out Newt didn't exactly have his finger on the pulse, anyway.
In a brightly lit basement room at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago tonight, Angel Seda was leading seven hundred people in a chant. "Tell me what you want, what you really want," he called. Hundreds of voices shouted back, "Our homes back!" "Tell me what you need, what you really need." "CFPA!"
Yep, you heard right, hundreds of people were chanting for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a new oversight body Barack Obama has proposed that could ban such disastrous practices as no-doc mortgages, payday loans, and no-warning overdraft fees on checking accounts. (A bill to create the agency made it through the House Financial Services Committee last week). Wonky, sure, but vital, too, and it was both hilarious and inspiring to see a roomful of Iowa farmers and Kansas retirees and preachers and teachers and utility workers jumping to their feet at the sound of those magic letters. One woman from Wichita, Arnetta Jefferson, told me she herself was facing the loss of her home and described "house after house after house empty" in her community, all from foreclosures. "I'm tired of it," she said. CFPA! CFPA! CFPA!
It's been a year since the stock market crashed and Congress approved a $700 billion bailout for the very banks that made it happen, but populist anger has finally found its expression this week in Chicago.