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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
Lockheed Still Tops Misconduct Charts, But No Misconduct Pattern for Over a Third of Top Gov't Contractors
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is releasing its updated Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD), with a new top 100 ranking based on the fiscal year 2009 data of USAspending.gov. POGO's release is concurrent with the operational date for the federal government's contractor responsibility database — the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) — which will not be publicly accessible.
For 27 of the top 100 recipients of federal contract dollars, POGO did not find any instances of misconduct. "The fact that over a quarter of the top 100 contractors have no known instances of misconduct is further evidence that we should not accept contractor misconduct as a cost of doing business," said POGO Investigator Neil Gordon.
An additional 11 contractors in the top 100 have only one known instance, showing that more than one-third of the companies in the database do not show a pattern of misconduct.
However, 63 contractors did have multiple instances of misconduct, and once again Lockheed Martin tops the ranking with 50 instances of civil, criminal, or administrative misconduct since 1995. In FY 2009, Lockheed Martin received almost $40 billion in federal contract awards. Read more.
Launched in October 2003, Cageprisoners is a human rights organization dedicated to raising the "awareness of the plight of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay" and other War on Terror victims. As a "comprehensive resource," six words explain its mission: "education, campaign, support, motivation, co-operation (and) prevention" for its efforts to educate the public, campaign for Guantanamo and other detainee repatriations or their asylum, and have prisoner rights guaranteed under international law, including humane treatment not to be:
- indefinitely detained;
- disappeared; or
- denied proper legal representation, due process, judicial fairness, and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), medical personnel and families.
In April 2009, its report titled, "Fabricating Terrorism II: British Complicity in renditions and torture" followed its same-titled 2006 report. Part I covered 13 cases with evidence based on detainee testimonies, interviews with security service officials, and other research.
Part II updated it (including 16 other cases - 29 in all), focusing on Britain's claim to be a human rights leader. Stating it ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in 2003, its practices belie its commitment.
Prior to 9/11, Britain became complicit in America's War on Terror, and the worst of its crimes, including renouncing the rule of law, due process, and judicial fairness in persecuting innocent people, subjecting them to barbaric torture, other abuses, and long internments.
Muslims were targets of choice for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, activism, and at times charity. They've been singled out, hunted down, rounded up, held in detention, kept in isolation, denied bail, restricted in their right to counsel, tried on secret evidence and bogus charges, convicted in sham proceedings, then incarcerated as political prisoners for practicing Islam at the wrong time in America and Britain.
Targets were kidnapped, illegally detained, then extrajudicially disappeared to black sites, called extraordinary or irregular rendition, or the practice of forcibly transferring someone from one nation to another. The term is undefined in law.
From Peter Tucker, WPFW Pacifica Radio:
A group of us who are opposed to DC's mandate that sixth grade girls receive the controversial HPV vaccine testified at the DC Council before the Health Committee on Wednesday morning at a hearing on the DC Department of Health budget. The Chairman of the Committee, David Catania, who is responsible for creating the mandate, could not respond to Emily Tarsell's testimony.
Ms. Tarsell lost her daughter, Christina, 18 days after Chris was vaccinated with her third dose of Gardasil. Chris had shown signs of complications after the second dose, but since doctors don't always forewarn those receiving the HPV vaccine about the possible side effects, Ms. Tarsell had no idea that it was Gardasil that was causing the complications and that further vaccination could make things worse for her daughter.
Ms. Tarsell is a psychologist and she has merged her grief from losing her only child with her scientific skills and has become an expert on Gardasil. Among other things, she has started a website in honor of Chris (Gardasil and Unexplained Deaths). After giving her amazing testimony, as she was riding in a car to Union Station to catch a train back to Baltimore on her way home to northern Maryland, I got to interview her. Click to listen. The interview aired Wednesday evening on Spectrum Today on WPFW 89.3 FM
She is truly an amazing woman. Please spread this far and wide.
Note: For further shocking information on this, read gardasildad's comment here.
I'm Lila Garrett host of CONNECT THE DOTS Monday mornings 7 on KPFK 90.7 fm). On April 26th we discuss how Corporate America continues to call the shots:
- John Nichols author of the new book, OUR MEDIA NOT THEIRS, whacks press prejudice which gives small right wing rallies big coverage and big progressive rallies almost none at all.
- Bob Edgar, President & CEO of Common Cause on combating the recent Supreme Ct Decision which empowers Corporations to buy our elections with unlimited contributions.
- Marcy Winograd, jobs & peace candidate for Congress climbing in the polls as she continues to challenge war hawk incumbent Jane Harman in the California's 36th district. Winograd, for the people; Harman for the corporations. A real choice here.
Lila Garrett (Host of CONNECT THE DOTS)
KPFK 90.7 FM in LA; 98.7 Santa Barbara
Airs Mondays from 7AM to 8AM.
To pod cast or download the broadcast just use this link:
Each show is on line for three months.
Morning rush hour drivers into downtown Minneapolis were greeted by several banners across the interstates reading, "Jobs not war" and "Recruiters lie people die." This was the start of Zero Recruitment Day (ZRD), where more than 150 people protested at six military recruiting sites in Minnesota.
"We are here today to oppose the illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan by resisting military recruitment across the Twin Cities. We initiated Zero Recruitment Day to expose the lies that recruiters tell about serving and about the war," said Anti-War Committee member, Misty Rowan. She spoke at a press conference with other ZRD organizers outside Knollwood Mall, which houses military recruiting offices in Saint Louis Park.
Rowan continued, "A surge of combat forces has brought civilian casualties to an all time high [in Afghanistan], just as footage has surfaced of U.S. soldiers firing on unarmed Iraqi civilians - a criminal act that the U.S. military is denying responsibility for. Our government continues to spend billions of our tax dollars on war abroad while at home we’re faced with economic crisis. Military recruiters then use these conditions to prey upon our youth, disproportionately targeting those from low income families and people of color." Read more.
Jan. 21, 2010, will go down as a dark day in the history of U.S. democracy, and its decline.
On that day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government may not ban corporations from political spending on elections—a decision that profoundly affects government policy, both domestic and international.
The decision heralds even further corporate takeover of the U.S. political system.
To the editors of The New York Times, the ruling “strikes at the heart of democracy” by having “paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.”
The court was split, 5-4, with the four reactionary judges (misleadingly called “conservative”) joined by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. selected a case that could easily have been settled on narrow grounds and maneuvered the court into using it to push through a far-reaching decision that overturns a century of precedents restricting corporate contributions to federal campaigns. Read more.
No matter what the Dodd bill says, if one of the big 4 banks fails, they're going to have to get bailed out -- their assets equal 50% of GDP! Incremental steps are nice, but that's not what we will fight for. They're going to have to be broken up!
Loud support for Breaking up the Banks is growing! The power of too-big-to-fail banks to skirt regulations and get a bailout is too big.
Yesterday, Baseline Scenario blogged the petition. Democrats.com is now running it too. Lawrence Lessig, key advocate against political corruption, signed onto our petition, among some of your favorite thinkers: McJoan of Daily Kos, Nomi Prins, Economist Dean Baker, Chris Hayes of the Nation, Zephyr Teachout, Law Professor, Heather Booth of AFR, Adam Quinn of Credo, David Arkush of Public Citizen, Jan Frel of Alternet, Cryn Johannsen of AllEducationMatters, David Cobb, 2004 Green Party Presidential Candidate, Rob Johnson of Roosevelt Institute, and Dana Balicki of Code Pink, Doug Rushkoff of Life Inc.
For those of us against the bailouts and too-big-to-fail, this is our bill. For those of us for fair and safe competition, this is our bill. For those of us railing against political corruption, this is our bill.
Breaking up the banks is supported by Alan Greenspan, Thomas Hoenig of the St. Louis Fed, Robert Reich, Joe Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Michael Moore, Paul Volcker, Simon Johnson, Arnold Kling, George Soros, and ... Citigroup (seriously).
War is Failure
By Missy Comley Beattie
Sheesh, if I receive another email invitation for something like brunching, for a donation, of course, with a Democrat, I’m going to want to kamikaze the address of the gala. I do not feel a need to sup with, commune with, or brush the shoulders of the shills for Corporate America. And, yes, the requests from the opposition (hahahahahaha) party arrive, as well, in my inbox. I don’t want these solicitations. No eggs Benedict or build your own omelet for money. No schmoozing for dollars. Hey, that sounds like a new reality show—Schmoozing for Dollars. Or Schmoozing with the Stars, where politicos and their contributors eat and drink, merrily, for greed.
I’ve declared my independence, powerlessness acknowledged. Life had become unmanageable. So, I threw off the shackles of the mainstream where my vote and my voice had no chance of being counted or heard. To vote or not to vote? Is this a serious question?
Again, I say, “Sheesh,” because I don’t understand the big deal about voter fraud when the Republican and Democratic candidates are, well, frauds. Show me contenders who represent the interests of the people and I’ll care if our elections are compromised. Introduce candidates with integrity, who aren’t in the palm of Big Business, and I’ll be on the side of ridding the world of punch screens that can be hacked. Endorse a man or a woman who isn’t headlining a licentious lottery to sell a seat at the brunch or dinner table of Let’s Make a Deal and I’ll give a damn about the outcome. Put up for consideration political aspirants who are concerned that you and I may be the Biggest Losers here in the US of A, and I’ll contemplate dying to protect the vote.
Mr. Wrong, my ex, used to say, “Life is a shit sandwich without the bread.” Seems he was right, at least, about this.
The case of the missing 92 CIA interrogation tapes would be a good subject for a modern day Agatha Christie mystery. Someone at the CIA decided the tapes had to be destroyed — even at the risk of an obstruction of justice charge — but no one's confessing. By now John Durham, the assistant U.S. attorney investigating the tapes' destruction, must be scratching his head wondering if everyone at the CIA was complicit.
What we know to be fact is that in 2005, the then-head of the CIA's clandestine service, Jose Rodriguez, ordered the destruction of 92 videotapes of the interrogation in Thailand of two al-Qaeda suspects. The tapes were then destroyed, but that's where the trail ends. We can only guess whether Rodriguez acted on his own authority or on the orders of a higher-up. And then there's the question of why the tapes were destroyed. Did the CIA want to destroy graphic evidence of sleep-deprivation or waterboarding? They were interrogation methods approved by the Department of Justice in memos sent to the CIA, and therefore shouldn't have been deemed a legal problem. The closest thing we come to answer is an internal CIA e-mail released last Thursday, in which an unidentified CIA officer writes that Rodriguez decided to destroy the tapes because they made the CIA "look horrible; it would be devastating to us."
But was Rodriguez acting on his own, or following orders? Rodriguez's lawyer said his client had cleared the decision up and down the CIA's chain of command, even notifying Congress. The CIA director at the time, Porter Goss, denies it, saying he never approved the decision to destroy the tapes. But in one e-mail an unidentified CIA official writes that Goss had approved the tapes' destruction — but only after the fact. The CIA's acting General Counsel at the time, John Rizzo, also denies he knew of the decision, and says he was informed only after the tapes' destruction.
What adds to the mystery is that it wasn't as if the tapes' disposal was a routine administrative matter, easily lost in the press of business. One of the internal CIA e-mails described White House counsel Harriet E. Miers as "livid" when she heard about the tapes being destroyed, especially since she'd instructed that she be consulted before any decision was made about what do with the tapes. Read more.
ScienceDaily (Apr. 22, 2010) — A comprehensive assessment of global fossil-fuel subsidies has found that governments are spending $500 billion annually on policies that undermine energy security and worsen the environment.
Click "Read more" below to access this 447 page report.
On April 20, 2010, author and political gadfly Ralph Nader gave a lecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), in Baltimore, MD. He spoke before a near capacity audience for over an hour. Mr. Nader said corporate crimes, as opposed to “street crimes,” go mostly under-reported by the establishment media in the U.S. and are “rarely prosecuted.” He detailed how corporate “misbehavior, negligence and crimes” cost thousands of deaths every year in the country from “preventable” work-related diseases and injuries, [the Massey Mine Explosion]; air pollution; negligence in hospitals; and from medical malpractice cases. He also spotlighted how Wall Street insiders, using various schemes, looted “trillions of dollars” from workers’ pension funds. Mr. Nader added: “Forty-five thousand people die every year because they don’t have any health insurance.” Professor Fimin DeBrabander of MICA introduced Mr. Nader. For more information on Mr. Nader, go here.
Goldman Sachs: Master of the Universe
By Stephen Lendman
The status applies to all Wall Street giants, none, however, the equal of Goldman, the Grand Master. Like the fabled comic book Superman hero, it's:
- faster than its competitors, thanks to its proprietary software ability to front run markets (illegal, but no matter);
- more powerful than the government it controls; and
- able to leap past competitors, given its special status.
Founded in 1869, GS calls itself "a leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm that provides a wide range of services worldwide."
Since going public in 1999, the same year Glass-Steagall ended letting banks, insurers and securities companies combine, GS became a giant hedge fund trading against the advice given clients with the full faith and blessing of Washington - the same thing other Street giants did and profited handsomely.
On April 20, 2010, author and political gadfly Ralph Nader gave a lecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), in Baltimore, MD. He spoke before a near capacity audience for over an hour. Mr. Nader spotlighted corporate power and abuses in the U.S., and how AIG, the insurance titan, is the biggest recipient of “welfare--$182 Billion!” He showed how the workers in Western Europe have long had splendid social programs, like: “universal health insurance,” that are regularly denied our citizens. Mr. Nader submitted that the American psyche is dominated by a “fundamentalist market” ideology. Corporation loyalty, he also charged, citing various examples of gross abuse, is to the “dollar sign,” and not to the country. Professor Fimin DeBrabander of MICA introduced Mr. Nader. For more information on Mr. Nader, go here.
Ralph Nader Rips Obama, Praises Rep. Ron Paul On April 20, 2010, author and political gadfly Ralph Nader gave a lecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), in Baltimore, MD. He spoke before a near capacity audience for over an hour. During the Q&A, he was asked his opinion of President Barack Obama. Mr. Nader labeled Obama as “conflict-averse,” and criticized both his foreign and domestic polices. In response to a question about Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Mr. Nader said Rep. Paul was a “fresh voice,” and that he was “right” about ending the current privately owned Federal Reserve System, (“The Fed”), and that it should be a public agency and held “accountable” to the U.S. Congress. Mr. Nader also praised Rep. Paul’s opposition to “the wars of aggression” and to “empires,” but disagreed with him on other social justice issues. Professor Fimin DeBrabander of MICA introduced Mr. Nader.
Stock deals are rigged for insiders. Big money runs Congress. And we've gone to war based on a series of calculated lies.
Are you willing to accept the fact that our elections are subject to the same type of corruption?
If you are, then Proving Election Fraud by Richard Charnin pulls back the curtain and exposes the pattern of election fraud over the past four decades. It's not a mystery when your look at the numbers and check them against multiple public sources. The information is all there - if the experts care to look.
Charnin is the widely known internet poster using the name TruthIsAll. He was the first to discover the glaring discrepancies in the 2004 election results shortly after the polls closed. His internet posts on the mathematical impossibility of a Bush victory were critical in fueling the doubts about that election and those that followed.
His many posts are the basis for a consistent narrative and argument using a clearly outlined and heavily quantified analysis. The result is a wealth of information about how elections really work and a methodology (the True Vote Model) that allows the interested reader to check the official results of any national or state election.
Charnin's straightforward style fits his subject matter. For example, early on he makes a powerful point, one of many that appear throughout the book:
"Simple mathematics proves that the 1968, 1988, 2004 and 2008 elections were fraudulent. The returning voter mix required for the Final Exit Poll to match the recorded vote was not just implausible -- it was impossible. In each election, more voters from the prior election returned to vote than were alive. The fact that they were returning Nixon, Bush 1 and Bush 2 voters cannot just be a coincidence. The statistical anomaly has no rational explanation other than election fraud." (p.52)
When the official victory margin includes dead voters and excludes uncounted votes, it's more than reasonable to assume election fraud. Read more.
Diversity dead-end: Inclusiveness without accountability
By Robert Jensen
After a recent talk on racism and other illegitimate hierarchies at a diversity conference in Dallas, I received a letter from one of the people who had attended that asked “why you feel it necessary to perpetuate and even exacerbate the divisiveness of language when addressing a group of people assembled to learn how to live better together and be more accepting of differences?” He suggested that by being so sharply critical, I was part of the problem not the solution.
Calls for diversity and inclusiveness from people with privilege (such as a white man with a professional job living in the United States) are meaningful only when we are willing to address the systems and structures of power in which inequality and discrimination are rooted. But because such a critique strikes many people as too radical, crafting a response to those who want to avoid that analysis is crucial to the struggle for progressive social change. Below is my letter to him.
Dear ____: Thanks for the note and the challenge to my presentation. It’s clear we disagree, and getting clearer about where we differ is important.
First, I disagree with your suggestion that we should not assess blame for existing patterns of racial inequality and injustice, though I would substitute the word “accountability” for “blame.” I can’t imagine how we could move forward on any question of injustice without holding those responsible for the injustice accountable, which means holding ourselves accountable. This reflects a basic moral principle -- those who inflict injuries, or turn away when they see others inflicting injuries, must be accountable for their behavior.
To recognize the injustice, as you do, but then demand that we ignore the patterns at the root of the injustice in order to reach a state of inclusiveness is counterproductive. That simply allows people in positions of power and privilege to escape accountability, which inevitably places the political and psychological burdens on those with less power and privilege. That’s simply not fair.
Velvet Revolution Seeks Justice for Victims - Calls for Blankenship / Massey Energy Criminal Prosecution
Last Monday, our StopTheChamber.com spokesman and attorney, Kevin Zeese, wrote a letter to Attorney General Holder demanding a full scale criminal racketeering investigation against Massey Energy CEO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce director Don Blankenship for creating the safety hazards that led to the deaths of 29 miners in West Virginia. We followed with two press releases and, within hours, the disaster was no longer called “an accident,” but instead, the intentional and preventable act of a callous corporate CEO.
We were inundated with press inquires and Kevin gave interviews to the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, Huffington Post and even Dylan Ratigan on MSNBC, where Kevin appeared with Arianna Huffington and said that there would be no accountability or real reform without criminal prosecution of Blankenship. We posted that interview on YouTube and you can watch it here.
We now need to keep the pressure on to convince the Attorney General to launch a criminal probe into the actions of Massey Energy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We need to let all those in Congress understand that there is no more business as usual and that they must stop meeting with and doing the bidding of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization that opposes worker safety and environmental protection.
You can help us with a sustained PR campaign consisting of dozens of press releases, online ads and lots of media appearances by our terrific spokespersons — attorney Kevin Zeese, best selling author David Swanson and award winning writer Brad Friedman. Please donate to this campaign here.
Here is the ad our StopTheChamber.com campaign started running today:
All The Best,
We can't do this without you!
Help us push this campaign into the media by writing letters to the editor, linking to it on your websites and Facebook pages, and Twittering. Donate to VR today to increase the volume on this campaign!
If you prefer to send check or money order, you can mail it to:
PO Box 9576
Washington DC, 20016
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander may well be harboring the proverbial thought attributed to prevaricator Oliver North upon being spared punishment -- and instead getting rewarded handsomely -- for lying about the Iran-Contra Affair: “Is this a great country or what!”
Gen. Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency since August 2005, is about to become what the Army describes as “dual hatted.” The Senate is about to confirm him to a new, highly sensitive leadership position requiring the utmost integrity and fidelity to the Constitution when he has shown neither.
Yet, after sizing up the enormous challenge of running the new U.S. cyber-warfare command, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, looked at Gen. Alexander and added, “And you’re the right person for it.”
Not for the first time, neither Inhofe nor his colleagues seem to have done their homework. Or maybe it is simply the case that Congress now accepts being lied to as part of the woodwork in the Capitol.
Alexander, you see, has a publicly established record of lying about NSA’s warrantless wiretapping. Call me naïve or obsolete, but when I was an Army officer it was understood that an officer did not lie — and especially not to Congress. Gen. Alexander seems to have missed that block of instruction. Read more.
War protesters: Bring the money home
Decrying two decades of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, war protesters make a plea to redirect war funding to peaceful purposes.
By Peter Passi | Duluth News Tribune
Close to 100 people rallied on tax day in Duluth not to oppose taxes but to protest how much tax money is flowing to fund the nation’s war effort.
More than $1 trillion already has been spent on the war efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and now Congress is considering a supplemental bill that would send another $33 billion to the military, said Joel Kilgour, one of the event’s organizers. The rally was held at the corner of Lake Avenue and Superior Street.
“We want to tell Congress to bring the money home, so we can build roads, hire teachers and invest in things like mass transit,” Kilgore said, noting that more than half of the nation’s discretionary spending is now funneled into the military.
Frank Boyle, a former Wisconsin state representative from Superior, said the nation has now been engaged in armed conflict in the Middle East for 20 years, and those operations have claimed the lives of many innocent people.
“We are all members of the human community, and as we kill an innocent person in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq, we destroy the very fabric of our society,” he said. Read more.
Fatal mining disaster not just tragic, but criminal
By Amy Goodman | Rabble.CA
Massey Energy runs the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine in Montcoal, W.Va., where 29 miners were killed last week. The loss of life is tragic, but the UBB explosion is more than tragic; it is criminal. When corporations are guilty of crimes, however, they don't go to prison, they don't forfeit their freedom -- they just get fined, which often amounts to a slap on the wrist, the cost of doing business. No one makes this clearer than the CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship. He has been the bane of climate-change activists and mine safety advocates for years. This latest mine disaster, if nothing else, will surely bring needed attention to this poster boy for malevolent big business trampling on communities, the environment and workers' rights.
Days after the Massey explosion, Blankenship admitted in a radio interview: "Violations are, you know, unfortunately, a normal part of the mining process ... there are violations at every coal mine in America. And UBB was a mine that had violations." The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette has consistently reported critically on Massey Energy and Blankenship, prompting him to attack its editors in a November 2008 speech, saying: "It is as great a pleasure to me to be criticized by the communists and the atheists of the Gazette ... would we be upset if Osama bin Laden were to be critical of us? I don't think so."
Initial speculation on the cause of the explosion is methane in the mine. The Massey UBB mine has received thousands of citations for violations, including many for failing to remove the methane with ventilation. Another cause may be the mine's proximity to Massey mountaintop removal operations. Mountaintop removal involves the massive blasting away of mountaintops, providing access to seams of coal, but causing widespread destruction of the environment. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that a West Virginia state investigation into the explosion will include possible impact of nearby mountaintop mining operations. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson issued new rules restricting mountaintop removal on April 1, just days before the Massey explosion. Massey is the principal target of a growing grass-roots campaign against mountaintop removal. Among those arrested at protests have been renowned climate scientist James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and actress Daryl Hannah. Read more.
Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect. He curtly dismisses our two-party system as a mirage orchestrated by the corporate state, excoriates the liberal intelligentsia for being fops and courtiers and describes the drivel of the commercial media as a form of “brainwashing.” And as our nation’s most prescient critic of unregulated capitalism, globalization and the poison of empire, he enters his 81st year warning us that we have little time left to save our anemic democracy.
“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”
“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on. “Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”
“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.” Read more.
In late 2005, the booming U.S. housing market seemed to be slowing. The Federal Reserve had begun raising interest rates. Subprime mortgage company shares were falling. Investors began to balk at buying complex mortgage securities. The housing bubble, which had propelled a historic growth in home prices, seemed poised to deflate. And if it had, the great financial crisis of 2008, which produced the Great Recession of 2008-09, might have come sooner and been less severe.
At just that moment, a few savvy financial engineers at a suburban Chicago hedge fund helped revive the Wall Street money machine, spawning billions of dollars of securities ultimately backed by home mortgages.
When the crash came, nearly all of these securities became worthless, a loss of an estimated $40 billion paid by investors, the investment banks who helped bring them into the world, and, eventually, American taxpayers.
Yet the hedge fund, named Magnetar for the super-magnetic field created by the last moments of a dying star, earned outsized returns in the year the financial crisis began.
How Magnetar pulled this off is one of the untold stories of the meltdown. Only a small group of Wall Street insiders was privy to what became known as the Magnetar Trade. Nearly all of those approached by ProPublica declined to talk on the record, fearing their careers would be hurt if they spoke publicly. But interviews with participants, e-mails, thousands of pages of documents and details about the securities that until now have not been publicly disclosed shed light on an arcane, secretive corner of Wall Street. Read more.
QUESTION: As the nation's largest banks have regained their footing, what, if anything, can or should they do to help Americans still struggling as a result of the financial crisis and recession? Are there specific solutions or actions the banks should take or HAVE they already done enough? Do the banks have an "ethical obligation" to help those average American families still struggling?
ANSWER: First, banks have not recovered. It is essential to remember that the banks used their political clout last year to induce Congress to extort the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to change the accounting rules such that banks no longer have to recognize losses on their bad assets unless and until they sell them. Absent this massive accounting abuse, hiding over a trillion dollars in losses, banks would (overall) not be reporting these fictional "profits" and would not be permitted to award the exceptional executive bonuses that they have paid out.
Second, banks have, in reality (as opposed to their fictional accounting ala Lehman) been suffering large losses for at least five years. They only appeared to be profitable in 2005-2007 because they provided only trivial loss reserves (slightly over 1%) while making nonprime loans that, on average, suffer roughly 50% losses. Loss reserves fell for five straight years as bank risks exploded during those same five years. Had they reserved properly for their losses the industry would have reported large losses no later than 2005.
Third, banks have performed dismally when they were supposedly profitable. They funded the nonprime and the commercial real estate (CRE) bubbles that not only cause trillions of dollars of losses and the Great Recession, but also misallocated assets (physical and human) during those bubbles. Far too few societal resources went to productive investments that would increase productivity and employment. Our nation has critical shortages of workers with expertise in physics, engineering, and mathematics -- precisely the categories that we misallocated to finance instead of science and production. In finance, they (net) destroyed wealth by creating "mark to myth" financial models that maximized executive bonuses by inflating asset values and understating risk. Read more.
Afghans 'abused at secret prison' at Bagram airbase
By Hilary Andersson | BBC
Afghan prisoners are being abused in a "secret jail" at Bagram airbase, according to nine witnesses whose stories the BBC has documented.
The abuses are all said to have taken place since US President Barack Obama was elected, promising to end torture.
The US military has denied the existence of a secret detention site and promised to look into allegations.
Bagram was the site of a controversial jail holding hundreds of inmates, who have now been moved to another complex.
The old prison was notorious for allegations of prisoner torture and abuse.
But witnesses told the BBC in interviews or written testimony that abuses continue in a hidden facility. Read more.
Treatment of New York Detainee Is ”Legalised Torture”
By William Fisher | Faxts
For the past almost three years, a U.S. citizen, Syed Fahad Hashmi, has been held in isolation in a federal detention centre in New York City.
Hashmi is under 24-hour video and audio surveillance, even when he uses the toilet. He eats all his meals in his small cell. He is not allowed to communicate with other prisoners. He is a Muslim but is not allowed to participate in group prayer.
The month-old newspapers he receives have whole sections cut out of them by the government. Contact with the media is forbidden. For one hour every other week, one member of his family can ”visit” through a heavy screen. No touching or hugging is allowed or possible.
Sometimes the government takes away his family visits as punishment. In 2008, he lost his visits for three months and has not had family visits since December. Sometimes the government does not allow his family to see him when they arrive at the prison because the FBI translator is not there.
Hashmi's trial is finally scheduled for Apr. 28,...
Did his lawyer put up a robust defense against the imposition of the special administrative measures (SAMs)?
A: Yes, his defence has challenged the SAMs on multiple occasions, including introducing medical and scholarly evidence of the damage that prolonged solitary confinement has on a person....
These SAMs are legalised torture. The levels of isolation and sensory deprivation are dehumanising. They go against international standards and have been shown in medical and scholarly research to have a severe impact on a person's mental health and stability. And they severely impact the ability of a person to participate effectively in his or her own defence.
Fighting Bob La Follette, the great Senator from Wisconsin and the founder of this magazine, warned throughout his career about the looming threat posed by corporate power. When he ran for President in 1924, he said: “Democracy cannot live side by side with the control of government by private monopoly. We must choose, on the one hand, between representative government, with its guarantee of peace, liberty, and economic freedom and prosperity for all the people, and on the other, war, tyranny, and the impoverishment of the many for the enrichment of the favored few.”
ON FEBRUARY 16, ABOUT 200 people gathered on the steps of the Wisconsin state capitol. “It’s fitting that we stand out in the cold,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “That’s where the Supreme Court has left us.”
He was referring to the court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which granted corporations the right to spend unlimited funds on so-called independent expenditures to influence the outcome of elections. The crowd heartily agreed with McCabe. Signs said: “No Corporate Takeover of Elections,” “Free Speech, Not Fee Speech,” “Money Is Not Speech, Corporations Are Not Persons.” And a chant went up: “Overrule the Court.”
Ben Manski, executive director of the Liberty Tree Foundation, drew the crowd in with a historical analogy. Read more.
From TomDispatch this morning: A chilling account of two American-backed presidents -- in Afghanistan 2010 and Vietnam 1963 -- two unnervingly similar situations, and Washington's unending folly. This is an original -- Alfred W. McCoy, "America and Dictators, From Ngo Dinh Diem to Hamid Karzai."
In a beginning of unparalleled eeriness, historian, expert on the CIA and the drug trade, and TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy writes in his latest post: "The crisis has come suddenly, almost without warning. At the far edge of American power in Asia, things are going from bad to much worse than anyone could have imagined.... After years of lavishing American aid on him, the leader of this country, our close ally, has isolated himself inside the presidential palace, becoming an inadequate partner for a failing war effort. His brother is reportedly a genuine prince of darkness, dealing in drugs, covert intrigues, and electoral manipulation. The U.S. Embassy demands reform, the ouster of his brother, the appointment of honest local officials, something, anything that will demonstrate even a scintilla of progress..."
It sounds, of course, like -- and is -- America's man in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, 2010, but it's also an exact description of America's man in Saigon, Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, in 1963. In this singular and magisterial piece, McCoy describes just how similarly Karzai and Diem, both exiles without significant bases of support in their countries, were brought to power by the United States, ran fraudulent elections, made similar decisions, and presented Washington with a conundrum wrapped in an enigma that it could never solve or resolve as a American-backed war morphed into a full-blown American one and disaster ensued.
Diem's life was finally ended in a CIA-sponsored coup and assassinaton that still reverberates in American political calculations as Vietnam destabilized and the war there became a history-altering disaster. "America’s representatives in Kabul," warns McCoy, "are once again hurtling down history’s highway, eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror, not the precipice that lies dead ahead." Whatever the fate of Karzai, McCoy asks why, since World War II, Washington has ended up in similar situations with so often with local and regional autocrats it's backed.
He writes: "In the experiences of both Ngo Dinh Diem and Hamid Karzai lurks a self-defeating pattern common to Washington's alliances with dictators throughout the Third World, then and now. Selected and often installed in office by Washington, or at least backed by massive American military aid, these client figures become desperately dependent, even as they fail to implement the sorts of reforms that might enable them to build an independent political base. Torn between pleasing their foreign patrons or their own people, they wind up pleasing neither."
This is a stunning history of American global folly from the 1950s to late last night that ends only one way -- "with the collapse of our authoritarian allies, whether Diem in Saigon, the Shah in Tehran, or on some dismal day yet to come, Hamid Karzai in Kabul." Read it now.
Conservative and Liberal Pillagers Master the Art of Pandering
By Morris Davis, Fmr. Chief Prosecutor for the Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay | Huffington Post
The rule of law means everyone -- let me repeat, everyone -- is accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated. The Torture Statute, publicly promulgated federal law codified in the United States Code, says torture is a criminal offense. Likewise, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which the United States is signatory, requires the investigation of allegations of torture and the criminal prosecution of offenders. There is no opt-out provision in either statute that lets the government choose to ignore the law when it's not politically expedient or might prove to be unpleasant.
So how can the Obama administration say with a straight face that the United States is the champion of the rule of law and others should step up and follow our example when the administration deliberately ignores criminal accountability for the torture of some of the detainees captured in the global war on terrorism?
If it was a crime to misappropriate a word or phrase -- to treat it like you own it and toss it around arbitrarily whenever it suits your purposes -- then some prominent conservatives and liberals would be serving hard time. Of course there don't seem to be any real consequences when there's literal theft in the world of politics, so it's a pipe dream to imagine there would be any consequences for pillaging the vocabulary, but it's still a good thought.
Conservatives stole the word "patriot." They hot-wired the ignition and drove it away like they had the title in their back pocket. Join the Tea Party and become a Tea Party Patriot. Go to the TPP website and "join the fight for liberty." Buy Karl Rove's book and read how Dick Cheney is a patriot. If you think Sarah Palin is wonderful and President Obama is a socialist then you're a patriot, too. The clear message is that if you haven't embraced the far right agenda then by default you have to be an unpatriotic liberty hater.
As a military veteran who spent a quarter-century in uniform, I take offense when people like Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Gingrich, Cheney (Dick and Liz), Rove, Malkin, Coulter, and Dick Morris -- a dozen chest thumping right wing war hawks who've amassed personal fortunes wrapping themselves in the patriot banner and stoking the anger of the base with their "you're either with us or against us" blather, but who felt they had more important things to do when each of them had the opportunity to serve in the nation's armed forces -- imply that veterans who answered the call of duty but don't ascribe to their hateful fear-based ideology are unpatriotic and something other than "real Americans." It's disappointing, too, that so many ordinary Americans are drawn to these PINOs (Patriots In Name Only) like mosquitoes to the alluring blue light in a bug zapper. There are patriots of all stripes who love this country. No one, and no one ideology, has the right to treat the word like it's theirs exclusively. Read more.
Occupied Palestinians and Israeli Arabs never had rights in a state affording them solely to Jews. Now even they're at risk as democratic freedoms fast erode on their way to extinction; to wit, free expression, a right without which all others are endangered. It includes free speech, a free press, freedom of thought, culture, intellectual inquiry, and the right to challenge government authority peacefully, especially in times of war and cases of injustice, lawlessness, incompetence, and abuses of power.
Israel has no constitution or specific laws guaranteeing equality or free expression. Yet its Basic Laws protect human dignity and liberty as fundamental democratic values, more rhetoric than fact given its persecution of journalist Anat Kam and Haaretz's national security reporter Uri Blau.
Kam (held under house arrest since December) will be tried in mid-April for passing confidential documents she removed while stationed in IDF General Yair Naveh's office during her mandatory military service. Blau, fearing assassination or a judicial lynching, is now hiding in London.
Two (internal security) Shin Bet gag orders (code name "Double-Take") were judicially implemented to silence press discussion, on October 8, 2009 and on January 1, 2010 for 90 days, now partially lifted.
They're on grounds of harming national security, damaging the investigative process, and the ability of prosecutors to prove criminal liability. Part of it is cited in an undated April richardsilverstein.com Tikun Olam article headlined, "Anat Kam Gag Order Published for the First Time," stating:
"....publication about the investigation or that it even exists (is prohibited), and on the judicial discussion of the matter and legal decision rendered by the court which has been and will be conducted....
We seek that the gag prohibits publication even about the application for a gag order, its content, and even the existence of a gag order in this case; and any other publication likely to identify the respondent, witnesses, suspects or others engaged in the investigation, including publications of their images, addresses, or other identifying details."