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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
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."
By Linda Milazzo
Photo by Linda Milazzo (Marcy Winograd and supporter, Jim Hightower, at California Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus event Friday night at Palm Restaurant honoring Marcy).
One of the most watched primary campaigns of 2010, and one of the most dramatic, is taking to the floor of the California Democratic Party Convention on Sunday, April 18th.
Terror suspects held 'illegally' in Afghanistan prison named by charity
• MoD sued for refusing to identify pair handed to Americans
• Men named as Amanatullah Ali and Yunus Rahmatullah
By Richard Norton-Taylor | Guardian.co.UK
A legal charity has named two men who ended up in the infamous "dark prison" at Bagram in Afghanistan after being handed to US forces by members of the SAS. The men were held in Afghanistan after being seized by the British in Iraq.
The charity Reprieve said it was suing the Ministry of Defence for refusing officially to identify the men, who are from Pakistan. The MoD argues that if it released their names, even to their families, it would be in breach of the Data Protection Act.
The director of Reprieve, Clive Stafford Smith, accused the ministry of "rank hypocrisy" for refusing to give the prisoners their rights while at the same time claiming it was upholding the rule of law.
David Davis, the former Conservative shadow home secretary, who has also taken up the case, described the ministry's refusal to release the names as an "insult". "If they are bad people, tell us who they are. I think the reason we are not being told is because it is politically embarrassing. They deserve a trial. We deserve to know what the truth is."
Reprieve said it had taken years and thousands of pounds to discover the identities of the two men who were taken by the SAS in Iraq in 2004. It named them today as Amanatullah Ali, a Shia, and Yunus Rahmatullah, a Sunni. Read more.
At a press conference in Annapolis, Maryland, on Tax Day, April 15, 2010, social justice activists charged: “Fully one-third of the biggest corporations in Maryland paid absolutely nothing in state income taxes in 2007!” Matthew Weinstein, Fiscal Policy Director for “Progressive Maryland,” added: “The Maryland Chamber of Commerce (MCC) has played our state legislators for suckers for years...Maryland families are subsidizing business to the tune of $2 billion a year.” The event was held in front of the MCC’s office on West Street. It was sponsored by “The Heart of Maryland Coalition,” which is an ad hoc group comprising “non-profits, labor and progressive” organizations.
Bush CIA head agreed to destruction of torture videotapes
By John Andrews | WSWS
According to a formerly secret email message made public Thursday, Porter J. Goss, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004 to head the CIA, agreed to the November 2005 destruction of about 100 videos depicting the repeated waterboarding and other torture of two alleged Al Qaeda prisoners at a secret Thailand prison.
The email was among several documents recently released to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the course of Freedom of Information Act litigation initiated in 2003. To date, the ACLU has made available over 100,000 pages of heavily redacted government documents detailing various aspects of the Bush administration’s torture program.
The latest batch of documents reveals disputes between the CIA and Bush administration lawyers over the retention of video recordings depicting the 2002 torture of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Other documents confirm that CIA interrogators exceeded the generous limits on “enhanced interrogation techniques”—the Bush administration euphemism for torture—set out in the infamous torture memoranda prepared by White House counsel.
We are in a Massive Unemployment Crisis in this Country
By Dave Lefcourt | OpEd News
We are in a massive unemployment crisis in this country that a rising DOW above 11,000 has no connection to and if anything masks the true state of the American economy....
Our "official" unemployment level is close to 10% but unofficially is closer to 20% when including those no longer looking for work, people working part time but want (and need) full time jobs as well as those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits. So the reality of joblessness (close to 30 million) doesn't match the "official" figures....
In the immediate dire situation, short term deficit spending will be needed to achieve large scale job creation. But over the long haul, considering our existing trillion dollar deficits where can we find the resources to fund and sustain these type programs long term (as is likely)? The answer ; the bloated defense budget of unnecessary military hardware (planes, aircraft carriers, atomic submarines, tanks and other military hardware that are still being built for an enemy (the USSR) that ceased to exist over 20 years ago.
Couple this unnecessary spending with our undeclared wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (not to mention our clandestine war in Pakistan) funded through Congressionally approved supplements not included in the yearly approved Defense Department budget) there exists yearly, well over a trillion dollars in wasteful and unnecessary government spending directed to the military/industrial complex.
This unnecessary military spending has been all but a sacrosanct and virtually untouchable to serious cuts (or for that matter even given to serious political debate).
But that situation has to change and the American people must be made aware that our endless war driven economy is depleting us financially and is a political straitjacket preventing us from providing the necessary resources that can help us return to and sustain a full employment economy. Read more.
U.S. troops fired on a crowded passenger bus on the outskirts of Kandahar city, killing four civilians and injuring 18 others, stoking anti-American protests that promised to complicate a massive offensive against Taliban insurgents this summer.
Although the military command issued an apology, saying it “deeply regrets the tragic loss of life,” Monday’s incident cast fresh doubts on Operation Omid, billed as the pivotal offensive of the war, which will see tens of thousands of NATO troops attempt to seize control of Kandahar.
NATO officials were already struggling to win support for the offensive from ordinary Afghans and tribal elders who had expressed concern over the potential for “collateral damage.”
Monday’s shooting appeared to confirm those fears, with angry Afghans spilling into the streets, burning tires and chanting “Death to America.”
“People brought the bus to Kandahar bus station and drivers and ordinary people protested against Americans,” said a man named Naqibullah who attended the protest, which he said “showed the anger of the people against the Americans.” Read more.
To Organize Against Wall Street, We Need a Narrative Focusing on Crime and Massive Fraud
By Danny Schechter, Independent Filmmaker, Plunder | Global Research
In politics, it’s always all about the narrative, about how issues are framed.
As we ask ourselves, how we can be experiencing the largest economic meltdown in decades with millions out of work, and millions more losing their homes, and yet, with no real mass mobilization or ongoing response from the progressive world.
To understand this paradox, we need to reflect on how most of us we define the problem.
To this day, there has not been an aggressive investigation of who and what brought down the system ala the Pecora Commission appointed by FDR. Instead we have a wimpy ineffectual body that can’t get its act together. The New York Times, which hailed its appointment, now buries its defacto obit way back in the business section, noting it has “been hobbled by delays and internal disagreements and a lack of focus,”
At the same time, the bookshelves are filling up with volumes of complicated treatises on the complexities of derivatives, risky profit models and credit default swaps. The practitioners of the “dismal science” of economics are having a field day with longwinded dissertations that fail to engage the popular imagination.
We had a word for this when I worked in network television—MEGO, standing for “My Eyes Glaze Over!”
More popular writers are spinning catchy “yarns” like “The Big Short” which put it all down with psychologically-driven, character-based storytelling to how deluded everyone on Wall Street was. That leaves us feeling superior to the dunderheads who lost us trillions and, then, laughed all the way to their mansions in the Hamptons.
Missing is a hardnosed look at the financial crisis as a crime story---an approach that allows for morality as well as indignation, and resonates with public anger. It touches the nerve that most people feel. Read more.
A critical moment in banking reform
By Kevin Zeese | Prosperity Agenda US
Last month saw record bankruptcies since the federal personal bankruptcy law was tightened in October 2005, the underemployment rate increased to 20%, and the percentage of borrowers three months behind in mortgage payments is at 6.67% up from 2% in 2005.
People are hurting and the banks are taking advantage of them. Major banks are now part of the pay day loan scam charging up to 120% or higher interest rates. The rich are getting richer - the number of billionaires is increasing, the wealth divide is expanding with 70% of wealth now owned by the top 1%, CEO pay is $500 to every $1 made by the average worker. Wall Street is paying themselves record bonuses and salaries only because the taxpayers have provided them with trillions of dollars of our money.
The financial interests who dominate the Congress are doing a very effective job of preventing real financial reform. Rather than breaking up the big banks whose existence assures another financial collapse, the "reform" actually includes a back door bailout that gives the Fed emergency lending authority. And the Fed, which many criticized as a cause of the collapse, is gaining power under the proposed "reforms" including controlling the consumer protection agency.
Don Blankenship and the Chamber – buying the Courts to keep the money flowing
By Jason Rosenbaum | FireDogLake
Don Blankenship is the head of Massey Energy, the company that runs the Upper Big Branch Mine which just had a horrific "accident" that left 29 dead. Massey’s conduct under Blankenship has been negligent enough to approach criminality, calling into question how much of an "accident" this was. Leo Gerard, head of the United Steelworkers, makes that point:
Since 2005, regulators cited Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine 1,342 times for safety infractions and charged Massey $1.89 million in fines, $1.3 million of which Massey is contesting. Of the violations, 86 were for failing to obey a ventilation plan to control explosive methane gas and coal dust. These are the very factors suspected in Monday’s deadly blast. Regulators issued 12 of those citations in the past month, and miners told the New York Times that dangerous gas accumulation forced evacuations of the mine several times in recent weeks. Regulators found two violations on Monday, before the explosion.
In January, agencies imposed the largest fines in the mine’s history for two violations, including one case in which a mine foreman admitted he’d known of a ventilation problem for three weeks. In 2008, Massey paid what federal prosecutors said was the largest settlement in the history of the coal industry — $4.2 million in criminal fines and civil penalties — after a subsidiary pleaded guilty to criminal mine safety violations for a January, 2006 fire that killed two workers in Massey’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine. In addition those deaths at a Massey mine and the 29 killed Monday at Upper Big Branch, three other miners died at the Upper Big Branch mine since 1998.
The Charleston Gazette reported:
“In seven of the last 10 years, the mine has recorded a non-fatal injury rate worse than the national average for similar operations, according to MSHA statistics.” Read more.
By David Swanson
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has given out its 2010 Muzzle awards for those blocking freedom of speech, and the awards are all for particular petty instances of censorship. Stanley Fish muses in the New York Times about the conflict between valuing free speech and valuing democracy. What these two thoughtful, well-intended endeavors -- the awards and the op-ed -- seem to miss is that the greatest threat to free speech is the monopolization of speech by some vociferous defenders of free speech. The Supreme Court that ruled on "Citizens United vs. FEC" should not have gone without a Muzzle.
StopTheChamber.com Campaign Calls For Criminal Charges Against U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Director Don Blankenship For Homicide
No More Business As Usual
Our StopTheChamber.com Campaign Today Called For Criminal Charges Against U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Director Don Blankenship For Homicide Of 29 West Virginia Miners
We Also Called For Congress Members To Order Halt Contact With Chamber Lobbyists
YOU CAN HELP BY JOINING AND SUPPORTING OUR CAMPAIGN TO STOP THE CHAMBER!
Our StopTheChamber.com campaign has been warning for months about the devastating effect of U.S. Chamber of Commerce policies on the well being of Americans. Specifically, we have condemned the Chamber for spending hundreds of millions to fight regulation of its dues paying members and regulation of pollution caused by those members. These actions have been led by Chamber CEO Tom Donohue and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, the latter who runs vast coal mining operations in West Virginia, including the serial offending Upper Big Branch mine where 29 miners were killed last week.
In a recent press release, attorney and campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese said: “The convergence of the Chamber’s policies against regulation of workplace safety and the disaster of mining coal without regard for the environmental impact resulted in the death of 29 hard working West Virginian miners. This was not an accident, but rather the result of deliberate and intentional decisions and actions of Don Blankenship, a director of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Blankenship and Chamber CEO Tom Donohue must be held accountable for these deaths. What is it going to take for Congress and the President to stop coddling criminals, masquerading as legitimate businessmen, who cause the death of our loved ones? Blankenship, with the lobbying army of the Chamber to back him up, has thumbed his nose at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, ignoring or appealing every violation, including the scores that resulted in coal mine evacuations and the hundreds of other serious violations. As the Washington Post pointed out in a Saturday editorial, these 29 deaths would not have occurred absent this intentional conduct of Blankenship. He is just as criminally culpable as any mass murderer.”
Today we called on federal law enforcement officials to charge Don Blankenship with homicide, and for a complete criminal investigation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its CEO Tom Donohue to determine what policies and practices led to the death of these miners, and whether Chamber lobbyists and lawyers were used to cover-up or avoid compliance with safety regulations. Criminal prosecution of the perpetrators of this terrible crime will ensure accountability, expose the Chamber’s criminal conduct and pave the way for real worker safety across the nation.
We also called on all Congress Members to immediately issue a standing order to their staff to cease all communication and contact with U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyists. Now that the Chamber and its directors have been directly implicated in the homicide of 29 workers, there can be no more business as usual. Congress Members must stand up for working people by refusing to meet with and do the bidding of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization whose directors, policies and practices have killed and will kill again if they are not stopped.
Let us hear no more excuses for Barack Obama. Let us hear no more defenses, no more special pleading, no more extenuations. Let us have no more reciting of the "pressures" he is under, of the "many obstacles" that balk him in his quest to do us good, of the "bad advisors" who are swaying him to unworthy acts against his will. Let us be done at last with all these wretched lies, these complicitous self-deceptions that are facilitating atrocity and tyranny on a monstrous scale.
Barack Obama has ordered the murder of an American citizen, without trial, without due process, without the production of any evidence. All it takes to kill any American citizen in this way is Barack Obama's signature on a piece of paper, his arbitrary designation of the target as a "suspected terrorist." In precisely the same way -- precisely the same way -- Josef Stalin would place a mark by a name in a list of "suspected terrorists" or "counterrevolutionaries," and the bearer of that name would die. This is the system we have now, the same as the Soviets had then: a leader with the unchallengeable power to kill citizens without due process.
That this power has not been used on the same scale in the American system as in the Stalinist state -- yet -- does not alter the equivalence of this governing principle. In both cases, the leader signs arbitrary death warrants; the security services carry out the task; and the 'great and good' of society accept this draconian power as necessary and right.
This is what you support when you support Barack Obama. It does not matter if you think his opponents in the factional infighting to control a bloodsoaked empire and its war machine are "worse" than he is in some measure. When you support him, when you defend him, when you excuse him, it is arbitrary murder that you are supporting. It is the absolute negation of every single principle of enlightenment and human rights professed by liberals, progressives -- indeed, by honorable people of every political stripe -- for centuries. Read more.
I believe that during the past 18 months, there were very few instances of serial default and contagion that could have not been contained by adequate risk-based capital and liquidity. I presume, for example, that with 15% tangible equity capital, neither Bear Sterns nor Lehman Brothers would have been in trouble. Increased capital, I might add parenthetically, would also likely result in smaller executive compensation packages, since more capital would have to be retained in undistributed earnings.
FCIC Testimony, 4/7/10
It’s a question on everyone’s mind: how much capital must banks be made to hold? No other regulatory change can do as much to prevent another financial collapse. A bigger equity cushion not only buffers bank creditors from losses — preventing cascading bank runs — it by definition would reduce frothy lending that inflates bubbles in the first place.
The issue has new immediacy today, in the wake of revelations published by WSJ that major banks are masking their leverage. Because balance sheets are reported at a single point in time, i.e. the last day of the quarter, there’s an incentive to reduce risk around that particular day in order to present a pretty face to the world. Meanwhile, during the quarter banks are jacking up leverage in order to boost profits. While Lehman actually hid leverage (with Repo 105), other banks are temporarily reducing it, “understating debt levels used to fund securities trades by lowering them an average of 42% at the end of each of the past five” quarters.
This is just another reason that, when setting new capital standards, regulators should err on the high side. Not only are banks sitting on large embedded losses with the help of extend and pretend accounting, there’s now strong evidence they’ll game whatever standards are set. Read more.