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Thoughts on Saving an Old Barn

Corporations have no more place in a democracy than carpenter ants or mold have in the beams of an old barn

By Dave Lindorff

For the last two weeks, I’ve been contemplating the mysteries of a post-and-beam barn, trying to work out how to rescue the long-ignored structure from the fate of many barns of its vintage (probably about 150 years old), which is total collapse.

Ex-Manager: More Excesses By U.S. Embassy Guards

Ex-Manager: More Excesses By U.S. Embassy Guards
by Michele Kelemen | NPR

"Their goal was to do everything they could do to prevent the State Department from discovering their multiple contract violations and operational shortcomings. Their goal was to maximize their profits, provide a fig leaf of security at the embassy and pray to God that nobody got killed," Gordon told reporters in Washington.

A week after photographs emerged of U.S. Embassy guards in Afghanistan taking part in raucous, drunken parties, there is a new allegation that some may have been involved in sex trafficking.

James Gordon, who formerly worked with the private security company ArmorGroup North America, raised that prospect in a lawsuit against the company, which guards the embassy in Kabul.

Gordon's whistle-blower retaliation lawsuit says he was forced out of the company in February 2008 after he attempted to raise the issues within the firm and to the State Department.

Gordon, a retired army captain from New Zealand, says the road to the courthouse wasn't an easy one for him. Before filing suit Thursday, he says he tried repeatedly to raise red flags with ArmorGroup North America, its parent company, Wackenhut Services Inc., and the State Department to talk about the need for a more professional guard force at the embassy.

A former director of operations for ArmorGroup, Gordon alleges that the company lowballed its bid for the contract and then understaffed its guard corps. ArmorGroup was awarded the $189 million embassy security contract in 2007. Read more.

91 Former AGs File Brief In Siegelman Case

91 former AGs file brief in Siegelman case
BY Chris Rizo | Legal Newsline

A bipartisan group of 91 former state attorneys general are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal by former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

The former Democratic governor is appealing his federal bribery conviction. The former attorneys general, in a brief filed Thursday, said the case raises important free speech issues.

In court papers, the former attorneys general said it was not against the law for Siegelman to appoint former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board after Scrushy arranged for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery.

They said there was no agreement between the governor and Scrushy concerning the appointment.

"This case concerns the criminalization of conduct protected by the First Amendment - the giving and receiving of campaign contributions," the group's amicus brief said. Read more.

Whistleblowers Unveil More Armor Group Allegations

Whistleblowers Unveil More Armor Group Allegations
Former Company Officials Say State Department Contractor Involved in Myriad Fraudulent Schemes
By Spencer Ackerman | Washington Independent

Former employees of ArmorGroup, the private security company that holds a State Department contract to protect the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, unveiled new allegations against the besieged contractor a week after photographic evidence emerged of its guards engaged in physical and sexual harassment. In a press conference revolving around an unlawful-termination lawsuit filed against ArmorGroup, former senior company officials said ArmorGroup was aware of widespread fraud; intentional use of non-English speaking guards to save money at the expense of embassy security; operations of a shell corporation in order to win contracts intended only for American companies; and even involvement in prostitution — and that the State Department knew about at least some of the company’s illicit practices.

The allegations came from John Gorman, a former manager of ArmorGroup’s Kabul contract, and James Gordon, the former director of operation’s at ArmorGroup’s North American branch, headquartered in McLean, Va. Gordon, who yesterday sued the company for wrongful firing in federal court, spoke by teleconference from Kabul, where he said he was employed by an unspecified security company. Gorman and Gordon’s revelations come after the Project on Government Oversight wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week detailing accusations of fraud in ArmorGroup’s $189 million contract; and a year after their former colleagues and fellow whistleblowers, James Sauer and Peter Martino, filed a similar lawsuit.

Both Gorman and Gordon said ArmorGroup intentionally misrepresented its cost requirements to the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security in order to win the contract to protect the embassy when it was initially put up for bid in 2006. Gordon’s lawsuit alleges that Michael O’Connell, ArmorGroup North America’s vice president of operations, emailed Sauer on March 11, 2007, “AGNA bid this at a very low price and a very low margin,” adding the next day that the timelines and resources given to State in its proposal “don’t match up,” but it wasn’t “a big deal unless” the State Department contracting officer’s representative “calls us on it.”

One immediate consequence of the emphasis on hiding fraud, Gordon said, was hiring Nepalese guards, known as Gurkhas, who did not speak adequate English to guard the embassy. “It was impossible to safeguard the embassy with a guard force that couldn’t communicate with one another,” he said. “I was told that no language test had ever been given. I immediately reported this violation to the Department of State. To this day, AGNA has not corrected the problem.” Read more.

Afghan Recount Ordered Because of Fraud Charges

Afghan Recount Ordered Because of Fraud Charges
UN-backed commission orders Afghan recount as Karzai wins majority of votes
By Jason Strazoiso and Heidi Vogt, Associated Press | ABCNews.com

A U.N.-backed commission found "convincing evidence" of fraud Tuesday in Afghanistan's presidential election and ordered a recount of suspect ballots in at least three provinces, a process that could take months.

At the same time, Afghan officials released new returns that give President Hamid Karzai 54 percent of the vote with nearly all ballots tallied, enough to avoid a run-off unless large numbers of tainted ballots are ultimately thrown out.

The separate announcements from the complaints commission, which is dominated by U.N.-appointed Westerners, and the election commission, which is filled with Karzai appointees, could set the stage for a showdown.

The image of a crooked Afghan president rigging the vote threatens to discredit the entire U.S.-led mission here at a time when NATO casualties are mounting and American, European and Canadian voters are fatigued and disenchanted with the war. Read more.

TomDispatch: Afghanistan by the Numbers - Measuring a War Gone to Hell

Afghanistan by the Numbers
Measuring a War Gone to Hell
By Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch.com

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Let me express my awe. The Tuesday before Labor Day weekend, I posted a striking piece by organizer and activist David Swanson, "Bush's Third Term, You're Living It." It was the day his new book, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, was published. Somehow, he organized websites, blogs, admirers, and friends into a campaign to buy the book at Amazon on that day and it soared to the #1 spot in nonfiction, knocking Glenn Beck's bestseller briefly off its perch. Now, that's organizing for you!

Also a reminder: If you click on any book link (or book-cover image) at TomDispatch and then buy anything at Amazon, TD takes home a tiny percentage of the purchase. So, if you're going to buy there anyway, consider doing it through this website. Also many thanks to those readers who have continued to contribute directly to TomDispatch, some of you, amazingly enough, via recurring donations. You're helping us upgrade the site, get a little extra help, pay a little more to young writers, and generally get by. Many thanks! Tom]

Here may be the single strangest fact of our American world: that at least three administrations -- Ronald Reagan's, George W. Bush's, and now Barack Obama's -- drew the U.S. "defense" perimeter at the Hindu Kush; that is, in the rugged, mountainous lands of Afghanistan. Put another way, while Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we've been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation.

Imagine for a moment, as you read this post, what might have happened if Americans had decided to sink the same sort of money -- $228 billion and rising fast -- the same "civilian surges," the same planning, thought, and effort (but not the same staggering ineffectiveness) into reclaiming New Orleans or Detroit, or into planning an American future here at home. Imagine, for a moment, when you read about the multi-millions going into further construction at Bagram Air Base, or to the mercenary company that provides "Lord of the Flies" hire-a-gun guards for American diplomats in massive super-embassies, or about the half-a-billion dollars sunk into a corrupt and fraudulent Afghan election, what a similar investment in our own country might have meant. Read more.

They DESERVE Justice

CCGR 4 PAK

Even the least of us deserves justice and accountability starts with you. So why don't you send out a reminder. Even Cheney deserves all the justice he can get and we should ensure he gets his day in court.

Use these images as a 4 PAK and send 4 different cards to the same person; or, choose your favorite and send the same postcard to 4 different persons.

It's easy. Each individual postcard is formatted to the dimensions of 4.25"x5.5". Quarter a sheet of paper and combine the cards as you like. Don't forget to print the other side. Remember the postage stamps. Then mail one to your best beloved, your friends and neighbors, some acquaintance--your politicians and their parties. Show someone you care about them and about justice.

Justice for Cheney

Justice for Condi

Justice for Gonzales

Justice for Rove

Reverse Side Postcard

Rachel Maddow On US Embassy Contractors Gone Wild (Armor Group)

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

US Embassy guards fired after naked party scandal
By Kay Johnson | Associated Press

Eight security guards at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan were fired and two resigned following allegations of lewd behavior and sexual misconduct at their living quarters.

The Kabul senior management team of ArmorGroup North America, the private contractor that provides guards for the State Department, was also "being replaced immediately," an embassy statement said Friday.

The terminated guards, who left Afghanistan on Friday, all appeared in photographs depicting guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties flowing with alcohol, the embassy said. Their names and nationalities were not released.

The scandal surfaced this week when an independent watchdog said the embassy guards were subjected to abuse and hazing by supervisors. The Project on Government Oversight contended the situation had led to a breakdown in morale and leadership that compromised security at the embassy in Kabul, where nearly 1,000 U.S. diplomats, staff and Afghan nationals work. Read more.

Sibel Edmonds' Deposition Disclosures:Congressional Bribery, Blackmail and Espionage

Sibel Edmonds' Deposition Disclosures:Congressional Bribery, Blackmail and Espionage
By Brad Friedman | BradBlog

It has now been over a week since the video tape and transcript from the remarkable 8/8/09 deposition of former FBI translator-turned-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds was publicly released. Previously, the Bush Administration invoked the so-called "state secrets privilege" in order to gag Edmonds, in attempting to keep such information from becoming public.

The under-oath, detailed allegations include bribery, blackmail, espionage and infiltration of the U.S. government of, and by current and former members of the U.S. Congress, high-ranking State and Defense Department officials and agents of the government of Turkey. The broad criminal conspiracy is said to have resulted in, among other things, the sale of nuclear weapons technology to black market interests including Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Libya and others.

Even as many of these allegations had been previously corroborated to varying extents, by a number of official government reports, documents and independent media outlets (largely overseas), not a single major mainstream media outlet in the U.S. has picked up on Edmonds' startling claims since her deposition has been made fully available.

Granted, last week was a busy news week, with the death of Ted Kennedy, the release of the CIA Inspector General's report on torture, and the announcement that Michael Jackson's death was ruled a homicide. And, it's true, a 4-hour deposition and/or 241-page transcript [PDF] is a lot of material to review, particularly given the wide scope of the charges being made here. Read more.

Partial Progress on White House Visitor Records

By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to change White House policy by releasing the names of thousands of visitors whose comings and goings traditionally are kept secret by presidents.

President Obama said Friday the change follows a lengthy legal review. The policy change resolves four lawsuits filed by a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), against the Obama and Bush administrations seeking details on White House meetings.

Until now, Obama had followed the Bush policy of keeping visitor logs secret. News organizations and watchdog groups had sought to make the records public to show who was influencing administration policy on health care, financial rules and other issues.

Pfizer to Pay Record $2.3B Penalty for Drug Promos

Pfizer to Pay Record $2.3B Penalty for Drug Promos
Repeat offender Pfizer paying record $2.3B settlement for illegal drug promotions
By Devlin Barrett, Associated Press | ABC News.com

As part of its illegal marketing, Pfizer invited doctors to consultant meetings at resort locations, paying their expenses and providing perks, prosecutors said. "They were entertained with golf, massages, and other activities," said Mike Loucks, the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts....Under terms of the settlement, Pfizer must pay $1 billion to compensate Medicaid, Medicare, and other federal health care programs.

Federal prosecutors hit Pfizer Inc. with a record-breaking $2.3 billion in fines Wednesday and called the world's largest drugmaker a repeating corporate cheat for illegal drug promotions that plied doctors with free golf, massages, and resort junkets.

Announcing the penalty as a warning to all drug manufacturers, Justice Department officials said the overall settlement is the largest ever paid by a drug company for alleged violations of federal drug rules, and the $1.2 billion criminal fine is the largest ever in any U.S. criminal case. The total includes $1 billion in civil penalties and a $100 million criminal forfeiture.

Authorities called Pfizer a repeat offender, noting it is the company's fourth such settlement of government charges in the last decade. The allegations surround the marketing of 13 different drugs, including big sellers such as Viagra, Zoloft, and Lipitor. Read more.

The Drive for Single Payer

The Drive for Single Payer
By Ralph Nader | Common Dreams | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

The units of measure for losses due to health care fraud and abuse in this country are hundreds of billions of dollars per year. We just don't know the first digit. It might be as low as one hundred billion. More likely two or three. Possibly four or five. But whatever that first digit is, it has eleven zeroes after it. These are staggering sums of money to waste, and the task of controlling and reducing these losses warrants a great deal of serious attention.

In the early 1990s, the Congressional Government Accounting Office estimated that billing fraud accounts for 10% of health care spending annually. That would be about $250 billion this year. In 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno declared that health care fraud was the number two crime problem, after violent crime in the country.

After several weeks of protests at Senate hearings and health care events by single payer advocates (visit Single Payer Action.org), six physicians from Oregon, with 191 years of combined real-world medical experience, are crossing the country in a 27-foot Winnebago making stops in nearly 30 cities, to debate, educate and advance full medicare for all. Everybody in, nobody out.

Calling themselves "Mad as Hell Doctors," these physicians are already drawing crowds and expect thousands to turn out at each city that they visit, culminating in a large arrival demonstration in front of the White House around October 1. (Visit Mad As Hell.com).

They have written President Obama asking for a meeting "to discuss the future of health care as well as the moral, social, and fiscal imperative of enacting a single-payer system for America at this moment in our history."

The White House turned them down flat, not even leaving the door open for reconsideration. Mr. Obama has met countless times with the CEOs of large corporations, whose greed and callousness causes so much of this crisis. Though he believes in single payer "if we started from scratch," he has yet to meet with any single payer delegation. Read more.

Prosecutors Resort to Fabrications in Siegelman Case

Prosecutors Resort to Fabrications in Siegelman Case | Legal Schnauzer

Federal prosecutors in Alabama apparently felt the need to create a fantasy world in their efforts to prevent a new trial in the Don Siegelman case.

In a document dated August 27, 2009, the government responds to a Motion for a New Trial Based on Newly Discovered Evidence that had been filed by Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy.

Prosecutors' response contains statements that are clearly false related to several critical issues. Specifically, prosecutors make numerous misstatements about Karl Rove's Congressional testimony. They also mischaracterize the contents of affidavits that were designed to counter the sworn statements of Alabama attorney and whistleblower Jill Simpson.

Regarding Rove, prosecutors state that the former Bush White House adviser denied contacting anyone at the Justice Department regarding the Siegelman case. In fact, Rove did no such thing. He either contradicted himself or used hedge language ("not that I recall," "not to my knowledge") in all of his answers to questions about his possible involvement in the Siegelman case.

Early in his testimony, Rove did deny contacting anyone at the Justice Department about the case. But when asked if he had contacted Noel Hillman, then head of the Public Integrity Section (which is part of the Justice Department), Rove hedged: "No, not that I recall."

And as we reported on August 13, Rove certainly did not deny that someone working for him might have contacted the Justice Department regarding the Siegelman case: Read more.

Voter GA Case History and Status

VOTER GA CASE HISTORY AND STATUS: How BushCo stole it down in Georgia
By Garland Favorito | Op-Ed News

Our Georgia Supreme Court case is picking up some national attention and as a result, several people have asked for a brief history of the case and its status so here it is: In 2002, Georgia became the first (and now only) state to conduct statewide elections with unverifiable voting equipment that has no means to the audit vote recording of actual ballots cast on Election Day.

Unbeknownst to us, the law at the time required that any new voting machines "shall have an independent audit trail of each vote cast". None of the voting machines procured, piloted, allegedly certified, and acquired with $54 million of tax money had any form of audit trails that are independent of the vote recording process such as standard Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails that were available even at that time.

Prior to the acquisition, the need for audit capabilities, voter verification and recount retention had already been documented in Senate meetings, by the Fulton County Elections chief, in the state's 21st Century Voting Commission report, by the general public and in plaintiff Emails that were authenticated under oath by the former Assistant Elections Director. Therefore, the acquisition could not have been a mistake. Read more.

Millions in VA Bonuses Questioned

Millions in VA Bonuses Questioned
By Associated Press | Military.com

Outside the Veterans Affairs Department, severely wounded veterans have faced financial hardship waiting for their first disability payment. Inside, money has been flowing in the form of $24 million in bonuses.

In scathing reports this week, the VA's inspector general said thousands of technology office employees at the VA received the bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances. It also detailed abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship between two VA employees. Read more.

Cheney's 'Fodder'

Cheney's 'Fodder'
Cheney's torture claims debunked; will the media say so? | FAIR.org | 8/28/09

The release of a 2004 CIA inspector general's report on the agency's "enhanced interrogation" techniques, along with two other previously classified memos, has thrown a harsh spotlight on former Vice President Dick Cheney's oft-repeated pro-torture arguments. But corporate media seem intent on deflecting much of that glare.

Earlier this year, Cheney spent weeks on the airwaves, explaining that these CIA memos would back up his argument that torture provided valuable intelligence that helped thwart attacks against the United States (FAIR Media Advisory, 5/29/09). But the heavily redacted documents don't appear to do that. Of the two that Cheney asserted would help his case, reporter Spencer Ackerman noted (Washington Independent, 8/24/09) they "actually suggest the opposite of Cheney's contention: that non-abusive techniques actually helped elicit some of the most important information the documents cite in defending the value of the CIA’s interrogations."

Some reporters managed to reach the opposite conclusion, though how they did so was unclear. On the CBS Evening News (8/25/09), reporter Bob Orr said: "The once-secret documents do support the claims of former Vice President Dick Cheney that harsh interrogations at times did work. Interviews with prisoners helped the U.S. capture other terror suspects and thwart potential attacks, including Al-Qaeda plots to attack the U.S. consulate in Karachi and fly an airplane into California's tallest building." The problem is, whatever one makes of the CIA's argument that their interrogations yielded valuable intelligence, there's nothing in the documents newly available to the public--and to CBS--that actually argues this intelligence was produced by the torture techniques like waterboarding that Cheney so publicly defended.

As Ackerman told CounterSpin (8/28/09): Cheney and his supporters' argument "depends a lot on conflating the difference between saying the documents show that valuable [intelligence] came from detainees in the program, and then saying that it came from the enhanced interrogation techniques themselves.... That's a conflation that has served the former vice president's purposes. Read more.

Racketeering 101: Bailed Out Banks Threaten Systemic Collapse If Fed Discloses Information

Racketeering 101: Bailed Out Banks Threaten Systemic Collapse If Fed Discloses Information
By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge

And so the guns come out blazing. The Clearing House Association, another name for all the banks that were bailed out over the past year with the generous contributions from all of you, dear taxpayers, are now threatening with another instance of complete systemic collapse if Bloomberg's lawsuit is allowed to proceed unchallenged, let alone if any of the "Audit The Fed" measures are actually implemented.

As a reminder, The Clearing House Association consists of ABN Amro, Bank Of America, The Bank Of New York, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, US Bank and Wells Fargo.

In a declaration filed in the Bloomberg Case (08-CV-9595, Southern District of New York), the banks demonstrate no shame in attempting to perpetuate the status quo with regard to the Federal Reserve and demand that the wool over the eyes of the general population remain firmly planted in perpetuity.


The Clearing House submits this declaration because the Court's Order threatens to impair the ability of our members to access emergency funds through the New York Fed's Discount Window without suffering the severe competitive harm that public disclosure of their identity will cause.

Our members have accessed the New York Fed's Discount Window with the understanding that the Fed will not publicly disclose information about their borrowing, especially their identity. Industry experience, including very recent and searing experience, has shown that negative rumors about a bank's financial condition - even completely unfounded rumors - have caused competitive harm, including bank runs and failures.

Read more.

For background on this alarming, "take no prisoners" approach by the bankers, see bink's blog at Daily Kos, "The Secret That Will Destroy the World's Financial System." It starts out this way:

There's a secret out there.

A secret so incredible, so horrifying, so toxic that if the public ever heard about it, it would destroy the world's financial system....In November of last year, the Bloomberg news organization sued the Federal Reserve bank of the United States. The goal of the suit was to force the Fed to disclose information on the alphabet soup of lending programs it created in 2008 to help prop up Wall St. banks. Read more.

Prosecutors Argue Against New Trial For Siegelman, Scrushy - Plus More Don Siegelman Resources

Prosecutors argue against new trial for Siegelman, Scrushy
By Kim Chandler | Birmingham News

MONTGOMERY - Federal prosecutors on Thursday asked a judge to deny former Gov. Don Siegelman's and HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy's request for a new trial, arguing that the men's 2006 trial was fair.

Defense lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller to grant a new trial arguing, among other things, that newly discovered evidence showed the 2006 case was tainted by prosecutor misconduct. Siegelman's lawyers said that prosecutors scripted the testimony of their star witness, former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey, and failed to turn over Bailey's notes to defense lawyers.

Prosecutors denied both claims in their filing and said defense claims were based on hearsay.

"What is remarkable here is that defendants' new evidence claims do not rest on even a foundation as shaky as recantation testimony from a trial witness ... While the government did meet with Bailey prior to trial, preparing a witness to testify is not misconduct," prosecutors wrote.

Defense lawyers in their request for a new trial quoted Bailey's statements to others that the prosecutors were so frustrated that they made him write his testimony to get his story straight. Read more.

Economic Hit Men and the Next Drowning of New Orleans

ECONOMIC HIT MEN AND THE NEXT DROWNING OF NEW ORLEANS
Hurricane Bush Four Years Later, Part 2
by Greg Palast | Greg Palast.com

This week only, our readers can download, free of charge, Greg Palast's film, "Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans." Or donate and get a signed DVD. Watch the 1-minute trailer ...

Who put out the hit on van Heerden?

Ivor van Heerden is the professor at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center who warned the levees of New Orleans were ready to blow — months and years before Katrina did the job.

For being right, van Heerden was rewarded with ... getting fired. [See Katrina, Four Years Later: Expert Fired Who Warned Levees Would Burst]

But I've been in this investigating game long enough to know that van Heerden's job didn't die of natural causes or academic issues. This was a hit. Some very powerful folks wanted him disappeared and silenced — for good.

So who done it?

Here are the facts.

Dr. van Heerden has lots of friends, mostly the people of New Orleans, those who survived and cheered his fight to save their city. But he also has enemies, many of them, and they are powerful.

First, there is Big Oil. More than a decade ago, van Heerden pointed the finger at oil drilling as a culprit in threatening New Orleans and the Gulf Coast with flooding.

"Certainly he was critical of what the oil companies did to the coast," Louisiana engineer HJ Bosworth told me. "Seeing what kind of bad citizens they were. Dozens and dozens of pipeline canals just carved the living daylights out of the coast just to find some oil."

Well, we need oil, don't we? Read more.

Obama's War: Afghanistan Is Spelled V-I-E-T-N-A-M

By Dave Lindorff

President Barack Obama has staked his presidency on winning his “necessary” war in Afghanistan. Coming into office, one of his first acts, on Feb. 18, was to boost US troop levels in that country by 17,000, bringing the total number of soldiers and Marines in the country to about 57,000, to which one must also add 74,000 private contractors who are doing things normally done by soldiers, and about 33,000 other soldiers from NATO countries and Australia. That’s 164,000 foreign soldiers fighting against Taliban fighters.

Who Is Obama Playing Ball With?

Who Is Obama Playing Ball With?
By Amy Goodman | Truthdig

It looked like it was business as usual for President Barack Obama on the first day of his Martha’s Vineyard vacation, as he spent five hours golfing with Robert Wolf, president of UBS Investment Bank and chairman and CEO of UBS Group Americas. Wolf, an early financial backer of Obama’s presidential campaign, raised $250,000 for him back in 2006, and in February was appointed by the president to the White House’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Economic recovery for whom?

Interestingly, Wolf’s appointment came in the same month that UBS agreed to pay the U.S. $780 million to settle civil and criminal charges related to helping people in the U.S. avoid taxes. Not to worry. UBS, an ailing bank with a pre-existing condition, had great insurance coverage. It was actually receiving $2.5 billion in a backdoor bailout from bailed-out insurance giant AIG. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said, “It looks like we’re simply laundering this money through AIG.” UBS, this bank that shelters wealthy tax dodgers, was actually being bailed out by hardworking U.S. taxpayers.

UBS, which once stood for Union Bank of Switzerland, was founded more than a century ago. Its success hinges on Switzerland’s famous banking secrecy laws, allowing people to squirrel money away in untraceable “numbered accounts.” Secret Swiss bank accounts have become a favorite way for wealthy people in the U.S. to dodge taxes. According to the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, in a July 2008 report, “From at least 2000 to 2007, UBS made a concerted effort to open accounts in Switzerland for wealthy U.S. clients, employing practices that could facilitate, and have resulted in, tax evasion by U.S. clients.” Read more.

Sibel Edmonds' Deposition: Video and Transcript Released

Sibel Edmonds' Deposition: Video and Transcript Released
Long-gagged FBI whistleblower's full under-oath testimony from Ohio election case, details Congressional blackmail, bribery, espionage, infiltration, more...
By Brad Friedman | Brad Blog

Just over two weeks ago, FBI translator-turned-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds was finally allowed to speak about much of what the Bush Administration spent years trying to keep her from discussing publicly on the record. Twice gagged by the Bush Dept. of Justice's invocation of the so-called "State Secrets Privilege," Edmonds has been attempting to tell her story, about the crimes she became aware of while working for the FBI, for years.

Thanks to a subpoena issued by the campaign of Ohio's 2nd District Democratic U.S. Congressional candidate David Krikorian, her remarkable allegations of blackmail, bribery, espionage, infiltration, and criminal conspiracy by current and former members of the U.S. Congress, high-ranking State and Defense Department officials, and agents of the government of Turkey are seen and heard here, in full, for the first time, in her under-oath deposition. Both the complete video tape and transcript of the deposition follow below.

Though there was much concern, prior to her testimony, that the Obama Dept. of Justice might re-invoke the "State Secrets Privilege" to keep her from speaking, they did not do so. Nor did they choose to be present at the Washington D.C. deposition. Read more, view videos.

George Carlin ~ Owners Of The Country

WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE - and if you've watched George Carlin (RIP) I shouldn't have to mention that; you'd know.

Americans: Serfs Ruled by Oligarchs

Americans: Serfs Ruled by Oligarchs
by Paul Craig Roberts | Op Ed News

"In a little time [there will be] no middling sort. We shall have a few, and but a very few Lords, and all the rest beggars." R.L. Bushman

"Rapidly you are dividing into two classes--extreme rich and extreme poor." "Brutus"

Americans think that they have "freedom and democracy" and that politicians are held accountable by elections. The fact of the matter is that the US is ruled by powerful interest groups who control politicians with campaign contributions. Our real rulers are an oligarchy of financial and military/security interests and AIPAC, which influences US foreign policy for the benefit of Israel.

Have a look at economic policy. It is being run for the benefit of large financial concerns, such as Goldman Sachs.

It was the banks, not the millions of Americans who have lost homes, jobs, health insurance, and pensions, that received $700 billion in TARP funds. The banks used this gift of capital to make more profits. In the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Goldman Sachs announced record second quarter profits and large six-figure bonuses for every employee.

The Federal Reserve's low interest rate policy is another gift to the banks. It lowers their cost of funds and increases their profits. With the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, banks became high-risk investment houses that trade financial instruments such as interest rate derivatives and mortgage backed securities. With abundant funds supplied virtually free by the Federal Reserve, banks are paying depositors virtually nothing on their savings.

Despite the Federal Reserve's low interest rate policy, beginning October 1 banks are raising the annual percentage rate (APR) on credit card purchases and cash advances and on balances that have a penalty rate because of late payment. Banks are also raising the late fee. In the midst of the worst economy since the 1930s, heavily indebted Americans, who are losing their jobs and their homes, are to be bled into bankruptcy by the very banks that are being subsidized with TARP funds and low interest rates. Read more.

The Obstacles to Real Health Care Reform: Private Insurers and Big PhRMA

The Obstacles to Real Health Care Reform: Private Insurers and Big PhRMA
By Stephen Lendman

In almost the same breath on August 17, the White House effectively dropped a real public option (that likely never existed) while Obama was telling the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) that the Pentagon will escalate the Afghanistan/Pakistan war into a long-term conflict that will assure "more difficult days ahead." He did so in defiance of international and Constitutional law, the lives and welfare of American forces, millions in both target countries, and lied at the same time saying: "This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity" in plain contradiction of the fact that in October 2001, US forces launched a long-planned premeditated attack against a non-belligerent country posing no threat to America.

MORE Banking Fraud (Foreclosure Stats)

MORE Banking Fraud (Foreclosure Stats)
Posted by Karl Denninger | Market-Ticker

When does the willful blindness in terms of bank fraud taking place daily in the so-called "marks" on housing-related loans stop?

The Mortgage Bankers Association released its latest update:

The non-seasonally adjusted delinquency rate increased 64 basis points from 8.22 percent in the first quarter of 2009 to 8.86 percent this quarter.

and

The delinquency rate includes loans that are at least one payment past due but does not include loans somewhere in the process of foreclosure. The percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at the end of the second quarter was 4.30 percent, an increase of 45 basis points from the first quarter of 2009 and 155 basis points from one year ago. The combined percentage of loans in foreclosure and at least one payment past due was 13.16 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the highest ever recorded in the MBA delinquency survey.

That's right folks. That means that of all mortgage loans 13.16% are not in "accrual" status - that is, they're not performing in that interest and principal are not being paid. This is no longer about "subprime" - it is now all about prime loans; the claim that this was going to be "contained' is now proved false.

That our banks are not being forced to take the marks associated with these delinquencies is an outrage. It is the cause of the FDIC's losses, it is the cause of our credit system remaining locked up, and it is the cause of our continued moribund economy, as without a functioning credit system there can be no actual economic recovery.

These institutions are being protected by our Congress and the willful, intentional blindness of The Federal Reserve, FDIC, OTS and OCC.

These agencies and persons have the same data that is being released to the market. The stock market continues to rally not based on improving economics but based on the federal government and The Federal Reserve continuing to allow institutions to LIE about their financial condition and the expectation that the LIES will be permitted to continue! Read more.

Blackwater: CIA Assassins?

Blackwater: CIA Assassins?
By Jeremy Scahill | The Nation

In April 2002, the CIA paid Blackwater more than $5 million to deploy a small team of men inside Afghanistan during the early stages of US operations in the country. A month later, Erik Prince, the company's owner and a former Navy SEAL, flew to Afghanistan as part of the original twenty-man Blackwater contingent. Blackwater worked for the CIA at its station in Kabul as well as in Shkin, along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where they operated out of a mud fortress known as the Alamo. It was the beginning of a long relationship between Blackwater, Prince and the CIA.

Now the New York Times is reporting that in 2004 the CIA hired Blackwater "as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda." According to the Times, "it is unclear whether the CIA had planned to use the contractors to capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance."

The Times reports that "the CIA did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune." A retired intelligence officer "intimately familiar with the assassination program" told the Washington Post, "Outsourcing gave the agency more protection in case something went wrong." The Post reported that Blackwater "was given operational responsibility for targeting terrorist commanders and was awarded millions of dollars for training and weaponry, but the program was canceled before any missions were conducted." Read more.

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