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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
My Country Has Been Hijacked
Munich Peace Rally Speech
By Cynthia McKinney
Thank you for allowing me to come from the United States and participate in this rally for peace.
My country has been hijacked by a criminal cabal intent on using the hard-earned dollars of the American people for war, occupation, and empire.
As a result, the national leadership of my country, both Democratic and Republican, became complicit in war crimes, torture, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the peace.
As a Member of Congress from the Democratic Party, I drafted Articles of Impeachment against George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice. Later, when Democrats voted to support more war rather than take care of the needs of the people, I declared my independence from them and all national leadership; the Green Party nominated me to run for President, which I did on a platform of truth, justice, peace, and dignity.
I watched as Candidate Barack Obama came here to Germany to speak. I saw tears on the faces of many in the crowd who believed that, finally, there was something worth believing in again. That America had turned a page from its evil playbook that had so outraged and disappointed the world. That good was finally about to triumph over evil.
I know that beleaguered people all over the world, victims of cruel and deadly military, economic, imperial policies finally could believe in hope and change. And America could be believed in again.
Everywhere I went all over the world there were pictures of Barack Obama, slogans "Yes, We Can," and the words "Hope" and "Change" plastered everywhere.
And after eight years of George W. Bush, Barack Obama seemed to be the man the world was waiting for.
So when the Candidate became the President, we held our breath in anticipation.
That torture and rendition; spying on innocent, dissenting Americans; war and occupation; crimes against the U.S. Constitution and crimes against the peace would end and that the United States would finally join the community of nations.
Sadly, one year into the Presidency of Barack Obama, that is not the case.
Guantanamo Detainee Deaths: Responding to the Defense Department's Whitewash
By Stephen Lendman
On December 7, 2009, under the direction of Professor Mark Denbeaux, Seton Hall University School of Law's Center for Policy & Research (CP&R) published its 15th GITMO report titled, "Death in Camp Delta," covering three simultaneous deaths on June 9, 2006 in the maximum security Alpha Block. The detainees were found hanged in separate cells shortly after midnight on June 10, unobserved for at least two hours, rags stuffed down their throats, despite constant surveillance by five guards responsible for 28 inmates in a lit cell block monitored by video cameras. One of them was scheduled for release in 19 days, so why would he commit suicide?
The report found "dramatic flaws in the government's investigation (and) raise(s) serious questions about the security of the Camp (and) derelictions of duty by officials of multiple defense and intelligence agencies," who either let them die or killed them, then whitewashed the investigation to suppress it.
DOD responded, adding to the coverup, CP&R saying:
"The Center has found DOD's defense contradictory to, and inconsistent with, DOD's prior statement in its Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) report."
According to Professor Mark Denbeaux:
"Amazingly, some of DOD's statements purporting to defend the NCIS investigation actually impeach it; others are irrelevant or misdirected. The inflated number of statements supposedly supporting the NCIS Report are not as important as the statements omitted from the NCIS Report."
No more illegal wiretapping of American citizens....This administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not. - Barack Obama, Aug. 1, 2007
On second thought, never mind.
With the world's attention riveted by the earthquake in Haiti, few noticed when, late last month, a federal judge took a pair of sharp scissors to the Bill of Rights. But on Jan. 22, federal district judge Vaughan Walker agreed to dismiss a lawsuit over warrantless wiretapping, as the administration - the current one - had requested.
The suit was the second of its type to get tossed out. The first suit was filed against AT&T, and it accused the company of forking over to federal agents the calls and e-mails of customers in the United States. But Walker dismissed that suit last June, after Congress passed legislation granting retroactive immunity to telecom compa-
nies for cooperating with federal surveillance efforts.
The second suit was filed against the National Security Agency. Walker threw it out on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not show they had been individually harmed, because they could not "differentiate themselves from the mass of telephone and Internet users in the United States." They needed a "direct, personal stake" to claim standing for the right to sue, not merely "a right to have the government follow the law."
This seems to suggest that as long as the government is hoovering up vast amounts of communications records from many thousands of Americans - "dragnet surveillance," as the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls it - no harm done: The more people the government wiretaps, the more authority the federal government has to do so.
That is...interesting. Because the Obama administration had asked to have the case dismissed on entirely different grounds - the state- secrets doctrine: Litigating the dispute would require the government to disclose "a range of facts concerning whether, when, how, why, and under what authority the NSA may have utilized certain intelligence sources and methods," it argued, which could lead to "exceptionally grave harm to national security."
"Congress has not waived sovereign immunity," says the administration's brief, "and summary judgment for the Government on all of plaintiffs' remaining claims against all parties...is required because information necessary to litigate plaintiffs' claims is properly subject to and excluded from use in this case by the state secrets privilege."
This is precisely the position taken by the Bush administration. Indeed, by some lights the Obama position is even worse, since the Bush program was created while the country was in full panic mode after 9/11. Obama not only has had time to reflect from a distance; having reflected, he concluded the Bush position was wrong. Then he turned around and embraced it. Read more.
Iraq has ordered hundreds of private security guards linked to Blackwater Worldwide to leave the country within seven days or face possible arrest on visa violations, the interior minister said Wednesday.
The order comes in the wake of a U.S. judge's dismissal of criminal charges against five Blackwater guards who were accused in the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad.
It applies to about 250 security contractors who worked for Blackwater in Iraq at the time of the incident, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told The Associated Press.
Some of the guards now work for other security firms in Iraq, while others work for a Blackwater subsidiary, al-Bolani said. He said all "concerned parties" were notified of the order three days ago and now have four days left before they must leave. He did not name the companies.
Blackwater security contractors were protecting U.S. diplomats when the guards opened fire in Nisoor Square, a busy Baghdad intersection, on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq.
"We want to turn the page," al-Bolani said. "It was a painful experience, and we would like to go forward." Read more.
[Padilla] claimed that Yoo, as a Justice Department lawyer and self-described member of the Bush administration's "war council," approved his detention and wrote legal opinions that justified his treatment.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White refused to dismiss the suit in June. It was the first time a court had held a Justice Department attorney potentially responsible for the abuse of prisoners.
Yoo has appealed, saying the suit would interfere with presidential war-making authority. The Obama administration has taken his side, arguing that courts should not meddle in questions of national security.
But in filings over the last 10 days, groups of constitutional law professors, legal ethics scholars and former government attorneys urged the court to keep Padilla's suit alive.
They argue that this is not a dispute over legal advice, as Yoo contends, but the case of a lawyer who allegedly stepped out of his role to take part in planning detention and interrogation policies, and then devised legal opinions to justify those policies.
As reports circulate that the Justice Department has softened its criticism of attorney John Yoo for memos approving the Bush administration's treatment of terrorism suspects, several prominent lawyers are urging a federal appeals court in San Francisco to hold Yoo accountable. Read more.
Washington, DC — A federal agency has hired the nation’s top union-busting law firm but refuses to say for how much money or whether stimulus funds were used to pay the retainer, according to a summary judgment motion filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) in its lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. Normally a labor union ally, the Obama administration is paying a firm specializing in what is euphemistically called “union avoidance” or “preventive labor relations.”
This strange bedfellows arrangement arises out of an obscure federal agency called the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) which retained the high-priced law firm Jackson Lewis LLP this summer to defend it against charges that the IBWC fired its own general counsel in retaliation for reporting agency waste, fraud and abuse. PEER represents the now ex-general counsel, Robert McCarthy, in his whistleblower complaint before the U.S. Merit System Protection Board (MSPB).
In November, 2009 PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the retainer agreement IBWC signed with Jackson Lewis and the source of funds for payment. Initially, IBWC refused the PEER request on the grounds that it would reveal “trade secrets” about Jackson Lewis which counts Halliburton among its corporate clients. A month and a half later in response to a PEER administrative appeal, IBWC added a new reason, claiming it is covered by “attorney-client privilege.”
In early January PEER filed a federal suit to force release of the information. Last week, the U.S. Justice Department failed to answer the complaint within the required 30-day deadline. PEER is asking for an immediate court ruling in its favor. “There are no legitimate grounds for withholding this very basic data about how taxpayer funds are being spent,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Federal regulations require every agency to publicly report how much each is spending on outside private counsel and for precisely what reason.” Read more.
"If we don't act quickly, the court's ruling will have an immediate and disastrous impact on the 2010 elections," said Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate.
Democratic leaders in Congress unveiled proposals Thursday that would limit the impact of a Supreme Court decision allowing unfettered corporate spending on political campaigns.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) called for a ban on companies with more than 20 percent foreign ownership, government contractors and bank bailout recipients from participating in U.S. elections. They also want to require companies to inform shareholders about political spending, and to mandate that corporate chief executives to appear in any political advertising funded by their companies.
Schumer told reporters that the proposals will be introduced later this month. Read more.
Americans have been losing the protection of law for years. In the 21st century the loss of legal protections accelerated with the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” which continues under the Obama administration and is essentially a war on the Constitution and U.S. civil liberties.
The Bush regime was determined to vitiate habeas corpus in order to hold people indefinitely without bringing charges. The regime had acquired hundreds of prisoners by paying a bounty for “terrorists.” Afghan warlords and thugs responded to the financial incentive by grabbing unprotected people and selling them to the Americans.
The Bush regime needed to hold the prisoners without charges because it had no evidence against the people and did not want to admit that the U.S. government had stupidly paid warlords and thugs to kidnap innocent people. In addition, the Bush regime needed “terrorists” prisoners in order to prove that there was a terrorist threat.
As there was no evidence against the “detainees” (most have been released without charges after years of detention and abuse), the U.S. government needed a way around U.S. and international laws against torture in order that the government could produce evidence via self-incrimination. The Bush regime found inhumane and totalitarian-minded lawyers and put them to work at the U.S. Department of Justice (sic) to invent arguments that the Bush regime did not need to obey the law. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama is a relative newbie to Washington. He didn’t even complete one term in the senate, and now he’s just finished his first year in the White House, so it’s stunning to see how quickly this one-time “community organizer” has lost his moorings in the marbled halls of power in Washington.
In an interview reported in the Bloomberg news service, Obama expresses no concern with the latest huge bonuses that CEOs Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase ($17 million) and Lloyd Blankenfein of Goldman Sachs (9 million) paid themselves, saying not only that they are “savvy businessmen” and that “success and wealth” are “part of the American system,” but equating them with professional baseball players who “are making more than that who don't get to the World Series either.”
Talk about being out of it!
By David Swanson
On Democracy Now! on Tuesday, Congressman Dennis Kucinich said he was working on a Constitutional Amendment to address both "Citizen's United" and "Buckley v. Valejo," meaning the Supreme Court decisions giving corporations outrageous and destructive powers of "free speech" and defining the spending of money as "speech."
Glenn Greenwald replied to the Congressman that the First Amendment forbids making laws about free speech, even to limit free speech to human beings. But Kucinich, and so many others, including the campaigns at http://freespeechforpeople.org and http://movetoamend.org , are not proposing to pass laws. They are proposing to amend the Constitution. Greenwald can prefer the current Constitution with corporations holding almost limitless "rights" to buy off elected officials. But he cannot argue that the new Constitution, following an amendment process, would be unconstitutional.
U.S. President Barack Obama calls the $3.8-trillion US budget he just sent to Congress a major step in restoring America’s economic health.
In fact, it’s another potent fix given to a sick patient deeply addicted to the dangerous drug — debt.
More empires have fallen because of reckless finances than invasion. The latest example was the Soviet Union, which spent itself into ruin by buying tanks.
Washington’s deficit (the difference between spending and income from taxes) will reach a vertiginous $1.6 trillion US this year. The huge sum will be borrowed, mostly from China and Japan, to which the U.S. already owes $1.5 trillion. Debt service will cost $250 billion.
To spend $1 trillion, one would have had to start spending $1 million daily soon after Rome was founded and continue for 2,738 years until today.
Obama’s total military budget is nearly $1 trillion. This includes Pentagon spending of $880 billion. Add secret black programs (about $70 billion); military aid to foreign nations like Egypt, Israel and Pakistan; 225,000 military “contractors” (mercenaries and workers); and veterans’ costs. Add $75 billion (nearly four times Canada’s total defence budget) for 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees.
The Afghanistan and Iraq wars ($1 trillion so far), will cost $200-250 billion more this year, including hidden and indirect expenses. Obama’s Afghan “surge” of 30,000 new troops will cost an additional $33 billion — more than Germany’s total defence budget.
No wonder U.S. defence stocks rose after Peace Laureate Obama’s “austerity” budget. Read more.
Kucinich is right here, and Greenwald wrong, and here's why:
"Brownbaggers Not Teabaggers!" | Press Release
Vigils Against War Funding Spread Across Nation
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) organized "brownbag" lunch vigils against war funding at noon on Wednesday, January 20th, at the district offices of 22 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
On February 17th, PDA will be joined by CODEPINK, AfterDowningStreet, Democrats.com, the California Nurses Assn./National Nurses United, and United for Peace and Justice in holding brownbag vigils outside (or inside) at least 36 congress members' offices.
Brownbaggers are demanding commitments to vote against more money for war. Slogans on their posters include: "Healthcare not Warfare," "Corporations out of Politics," "Bailout Main Street not Wall Street," and "Brownbaggers not Teabaggers".
Vigils have been planned in the following districts: AZ-5, CA-6, CA-9, CA-10, CA-18, CA-22, CA-23, CA-40, CA-42, CA-45, CA-46, CA-48, CA-50, CA-53, FL-9, FL-10, FL-17, ID-01, IN-9, MA-1, MA-2, MA-3, MA-10, MI-9, NY-18, NY-28, OH-13, OH-17, PA-02, PA-7, PA-15, WA-2, WA-3, WA-6, WI-3, WI-7. These are almost all at noon on Wednesday the 17th, but a few are at odd times, so check the details: http://tinyurl.com/brownbagvigil
Brownbaggers are asking members of the House to publicly commit to voting No on any bills that fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen, and to publicly urge their colleagues and the House leadership to make the same commitment. As lesser steps in the same direction, PDA is encouraging congress members to cosponsor HR 2454, calling for an exit strategy from Afghanistan, and HR 3699, prohibiting any increase in the number of U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan. Congress members' commitments are tracked at http://defundwar.org
"We have to choose between jobs and wars," said PDA's national director Tim Carpenter. "The American people are on one side, but our so-called representatives in Congress are on the other. The Supreme Court is busy increasing corporate control of our elected officials. We need to be busy enforcing the people's control before it is too late."
"Without wasteful war and military spending," said PDA's deputy director Laura Bonham, "we could have healthcare, jobs, housing, education, retirement security, environmental sustainability, diplomacy and foreign aid. No longer will we take seriously anyone's claim to support these things while voting to fund more war."
Jeff Cohen is a media critic and lecturer, founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he is an associate professor of journalism. Cohen founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986.
Why We Can't Afford to Let Obama Give Bush's War Criminals a Free Pass
Punishing the guilty for deeds they committed in the past is the only way to show the world that we are truly on a new path.
By Charlotte Dennett | Alternet
In a week when one-year report cards on the Obama administration were piling up and not all the grades were good, Americans searching for the real change we heard so much about on Obama's campaign trail were hit with some news that would send his grades plummeting. Late last Friday, we learned that Obama's Department of Justice plans to go easy on John Yoo and Jay Bybee -- the two assistant attorney generals under Bush who penned the infamous torture memos. For those who have been working long and hard in the accountability movement to make sure no one -- not even presidents or their top advisors -- is above the law, this was a serious setback.
As part of that movement, I was appalled. Not just because I want to see those who committed crimes in office punished rather than excused. Not just because I want to see the Obama White House restore accountability to government rather than cover up crimes committed by the former administration. And not just because Yoo and Bybee memo'd-up legal opinions stating that torture techniques as egregious and illegal as waterboarding were acceptable. No, there is a deeper question in play here: Why were they really asked to render these opinions in the first place?
That's a question I had to grapple with while writing The People v. Bush, a book that shows how U.S. citizens might prosecute George W. Bush and his advisors for crimes committed in office. When President Obama ordered the release of more "torture memos" by Yoo and Bybee to the public in April 2009, I watched--with a mixture of horror and fascination--the repercussions unfold. First, came words of outrage from the CIA and leaders of the Republican Party about Obama "endangering America's national security." This was followed by indecision and capitulation to the right on the part of the Democratic Party leadership. And through it all, in what I call "the week from holy hell,' came brave calls for the lawyers' prosecution by bloggers, journalists, and even, tentatively, the New York Times. But no one was putting Yoo and Bybee's memos in their proper context, a context that would explain their actions and leave no doubt as to their culpability. Read more.
BILL MOYERS: Make me an offer I can't refuse. That's what President Obama said, when he talks about health care reform during his State of the Union last week.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Let me know. Let me know. I'm eager to see it.
BILL MOYERS: Dr. Margaret Flowers took him at his word.
MALE VOICE: Can I help you?
DR. MARGARET FLOWERS: Well, last night the President gave his State of the Union address, and I'm a physician. I'm the Congressional Fellow with Physicians for National Health Program.
BILL MOYERS: The very next day she was outside the White House with a letter urging the President to revive the idea of single-payer healthcare. Medicare for all.
MALE VOICE: We can't accept anything, so you'll have to send it through the mail.
BILL MOYERS: The Secret Service turned Dr. Flowers away, but she didn't give up. She tried again the next day in Baltimore, where once again, President Obama made his offer to hear ideas on health reform and once again, she tried to deliver her letter.
DR. MARGARET FLOWERS: Is there somebody here who's in charge that can have somebody who's a representative of the President, come and take this?
BILL MOYERS: This time, she and her colleague, Dr. Carol Paris, refused to move when security told them to, because Dr. Flowers said, "We didn't want to continue to be excluded, marginalized and ignored."
They were arrested.
DR. MARGARET FLOWERS: And we haven't been heard. They continue to exclude us. Read transcript, watch video.
Personal Corporatehood: Coping With the Reason Divided of Citizens United
By Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D. | Truthout
There's great consternation brewing over the recent Supreme Court decision that cements and extends the misbegotten logic of "corporate personhood," and rightly so. Surely, one of the most farcical and tortuous doctrines ever established in our system of jurisprudence, this conflated concept has drawn the ire of (small-d) democrats at least as far back as Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in 1816, "I hope we shall ... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
...Just imagine the benefits. When someone asks you for a favor, you can off-puttingly reply, "I have to check with my board of directors at next month's meeting; someone will get back to you then." When you want to meet with your Congressperson on matters you feel strongly about, the receptionist will announce, "Senator, a corporation is here to see you," which will likely get you instant access. If you go public, you can sell shares in yourself and make a tidy sum (just be sure to retain a controlling interest). If someone irritates you or has something you want, you can likely get the Marines sent in to deal with them. You can avoid having to appear personally at court hearings, sending your hired-gun attorney instead. And you can't be thrown in jail, since a corporation itself cannot be imprisoned. See?
At the end of the day, we "natural persons" can try and fight city hall on this one, or we can get in the game and embrace the benefits of artificiality. In a world of surfaces, where profiteering masks as politics and gerrymandering as justice, this may well be the best of all strategies for survival. Read more.
By David Swanson
Congresswoman Donna Edwards' bill proposing a Constitutional Amendment to deny corporations the free speech rights of persons in the form of unlimited election
bribery spending has now been cosponsored by: John Conyers, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jim McGovern, Keith Ellison, Chellie Pingree, Barbara Lee, Andre Carson, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Betty Sutton, Raul Grijalva and Ed Markey.
With the exception of Carson, these congress members are also all cosponsors of the Fair Elections Act, which seeks to address the fairness of our elections by providing public financing for campaigns.
Approaches to fixing the corporate ownership of our elected officials are proliferating, and many organizations and individuals will be backing more than one of them. Here are some of the courses of action already underway:
By Dave Lindorff
There were two points in President Obama’s State of the Union address that provoked resounding and universal applause in the chamber from the assembled senators and representatives of both parties. One point was when the president said he wanted to start his job-creation program “in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides its time she became her own boss.” The other point was when he said, “While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment; and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment.”
Tomgram: Robert Lipsyte, The Commercials Are the Super Bowl | TomDispatch.com
Tom of TomDispatch wrote: As Robert Lipsyte, former New York Times sports columnist and host of PBS's LIFE (Part 2), makes clear, the Super Bowl is our highest holy day, not for the celebration of the game itself but for the ads. This year, college quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother made non-stop news for the 30-second Super Bowl advocacy commercial they did for Focus on the Family, a Christian group that opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. It's been the talk of the Internet and, writes Lipsyte, though no one knows quite what the ad will contain, "whatever happens, the controversy put the game’s spotlight back where it belongs -- on the advertising."
Lipsyte makes his own declaration early: "I am a Super Bowl ad fan. I'd rather go to the bathroom during a third-down play than miss a commercial. You’ll want to know my all-time favorites." And then he uses those favorites to take us on a wild ride through the weirdnesses that our Mad Men and Women caught in past superbowls, and so the zeitgeist they helped to define, especially leading up to and during the eight losing seasons of the Bush administration. He explores their eerie prescience, as in the 1999 Super Bowl ad "Kenyan Runner": "a black African runner in a singlet, loping barefoot across an arid plain. White men in a Humvee are hunting him down as if he were wild game. They drug him and, after he collapses, jam running shoes on his feet. When he wakes up, he lurches around screaming, trying to kick off the shoes... Colonialism anyone? Racism? Forcing our values on developing countries? Mission accomplished."
Or how about on the domestic front, the ad "Money Out the Whazoo": "imagine a middle-aged man wheeled into an emergency room. Doctors and nurses turn him over and someone says, 'He has money coming out the whazoo.' A hospital administrator officiously asks his distraught wife if they have insurance. A doctor calls out, 'Money out the whazoo!' The administrator says, 'Take him to a private room.' The tag line was: 'You should be so lucky.' This was 2000. The sponsor was E*Trade, the online stock gambling outfit. How did they know that the economy was going to tank just when the health-care system would go up for grabs? And catch a wonderful TomDispatch audio interview with Lipsyte.
In 1987, an evangelical Christian missionary in the Philippines, Pam Tebow, sick and near term, ignored doctors’ advice to abort her fifth child. How could they know he would grow up to win a Heisman Trophy and lead the University of Florida to two national titles?
Twenty-three years later, before he even turned pro, Tim Tebow made himself the player to beat in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIV by starring in a 30-second commercial for Focus on the Family, a Christian group that opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. That the ad would run represented a reversal of CBS’s long-time policy against advocacy ads. At this late date, it is still not certain if Tim’s creation myth will be included in the commercial, or even if the ad will be aired at all.
Whatever happens, the controversy put the game’s spotlight back where it belongs -- on the advertising.
Super Bowl Sunday is America’s holiest day, our all-inclusive campfire, and with 100 million viewers, almost half of them women, about as close as we get, without a presidential election, to taking the national pulse. The ads tell us who we are and where we are going. Read more.
The Supreme Court’s seismic January ruling that corporations are free to spend unlimited amounts of their profits to advertise for or against candidates may have been the latest shakeup of campaign finance – but gaping holes already allow corporations to spend enormous sums without leaving a paper trail, a Raw Story investigation has found.
Campaign finance experts confirmed that though disclosure rules remained intact in the new Supreme Court decision, there are effective methods to circumvent them.
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, an attorney and campaign finance expert at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, said corporations already effectively end-run campaign finance law by shuffling money through trade associations.
“One of their favorites right now is spending through trade associations,” Torres-Spelliscy said.
Trade associations are considered tax-exempt non-profit organizations under US law. While they must report contributions received from other corporations to the Internal Revenue Service, the document itself remains confidential and is not made available to the public. Read more.
Congresswoman Donna Edwards has just introduced a Constitutional amendment, together with Congressman John Conyers.
Questions Linger About Full Payments to Goldman Sachs: Kucinich Dissatisfied With Geithner's Answers
Questions Linger About Full Payments to Goldman Sachs
Kucinich Dissatisfied With Geithner's Answers
By Mike Lillis | Washington Independent
To hear Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner tell the tale, the federal officials negotiating the taxpayer bailout of American Insurance Group had no choice but to provide full payment to the company’s trading partners, including Goldman Sachs.
“There was no way, financial, legal, or otherwise, we could have imposed haircuts, selectively default on any of those institutions, without the risk of downgrade and default,” Geithner told lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week.
Don’t tell that to Rep. Dennis Kucinich. The Ohio Democrat — who heads the committee’s domestic policy subpanel — says that federal officials had plenty of leverage to push Goldman for a lesser payout, but simply chose not to use it. Indeed, an investigation by his office, Kucinich says, found that Goldman was already preparing to take less than 100 cents on the dollar for the complex, AIG-backed securities it held at the time. He’s charging that Geithner — who headed the New York Federal Reserve when it funneled billions of dollars through AIG to other firms — simply put Goldman’s interests above those of taxpayers.
“There was only one way for Goldman Sachs to get all of the billions they claimed from AIG, and that was if the New York Fed voluntarily agreed to give it to them,” Kucinich, the populist former mayor of Cleveland, said in a little-noticed exchange with Geithner last week. “If the Fed had fought for taxpayers, Goldman would have had to take some losses and the cost to the people could have been minimized.” Read more.
They just can’t stop themselves:
A day after bashing lobbyists, President Barack Obama’s administration has invited K Street insiders to join private briefings on a range of topics addressed in Wednesday’s State of the Union.
The Treasury Department on Thursday morning invited selected individuals to “a series of conference calls with senior Obama administration officials to discuss key aspects of the State of the Union address.”
The invitation, which is addressed to “Friends,” emphasizes in bold and italics that “this call is for background information only and not intended for press purposes.” It advises callers to tell the operator “you’re joining the ‘White House Briefing Call.’ ”
Apparently everyone in the White House learned the wrong lesson from the Massachusetts election. It’s not that the country loves Republicans, it’s that they hate DC insider deal making. You can’t claim that you’ll “end the outsized influence of lobbyists” one night and then give them exclusive access you consciously try to hide from the press the next day, and expect that people will find it credible.
UPDATE: Dave Johnson from Seeing the Forest emails that the Hill article is a mischaracterization of the call:
I joined two of these calls. The invite came to me through a progressive organization. They were not secret. They were not organized by the Treasury Dept. There were no “lobbyists” asking questions on the calls unless you consider progressive organizations that are C4s to be “lobbyists”.
The calls were following up with details on specific issue areas from last night’s speech. Nothing more.
I have been very critical of Obama in the past and continue to believe that having Geithner in the Cabinet undermines his Presidency and progressives. But this story is completely false and is clearly intended to undermine the Obama Administration’s credibility with progressives.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) testified before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration at a hearing examining the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to allow unlimited corporate spending in elections.
“The Supreme Court has issued a decision inflating the speech rights of large faceless corporations to the same level of hard-working everyday Americans,” Kerry stated in testimony following Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), co-author of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. “In doing so, the Court has struck at the very heart of our democracy, a democracy in which corporations already have too much influence.”
The full text of Senator Kerry’s testimony, as prepared, is below:
9/11, Deep Events, and the Curtailment of U.S. Freedoms
A talk delivered to the New England Antiwar Conference, MIT, January 30, 2010.
by Prof Peter Dale Scott | Global Research
Hello everyone! I’m honored to be invited to this important anti-war conference. As I am in the final stages of editing my next book, The Road to Afghanistan, I have been turning down invitations to speak. But I was eager to accept this one, and to join my friends and others in debunking the war on terror, the false justification for the Afghan-Pakistan war.
Let me make my own position clear at the outset. There are indeed people out there, including some Muslim extremists, who want to inflict terror on America. But it is crystal clear, as many people inside and outside government have agreed, that it makes this problem worse, not better, when Washington sends large numbers of U.S. troops to yet another country where they don ‘t belong.
A war on terror is as inappropriate a cure as a U.S. war on drugs, which as we have seen in Colombia makes the drug problem worse, not better. The war on terror and the war on drugs have this in common: both are ideological attempts to justify the needless killings of thousands – including both American troops and foreign civilians -- in another needless war.
Why does America find itself, time after time, invading countries in distant oil-bearing regions, countries which have not invaded us? This is a vital issue on which we should seek a clear message for the American people. Unfortunately it has been an issue on which there has been serious disagreement dividing the antiwar movement, just as it divided people, even friends, inside the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s.
Perhaps many of you in this room know that there was disagreement between Noam Chomsky and myself in our analysis of how America entered the Vietnam War. This did not stop Noam and I from speaking out on the same platform against the war, or remaining friends, even after our public disagreements. There was too much on which we agreed.
Let me turn to today’s topic, the war on terror, by reading a long quote from Noam Chomsky in 2002, with which I fully agree:
"the war on terrorism was not declared on September 11 ; rather, it was redeclared, using the same rhetoric as the first declaration twenty years earlier. The Reagan administration, as you know, I'm sure, came into office announcing that a war on terrorism would be the core of U.S. foreign policy, and it condemned what the president called the "evil scourge of terrorism. " …. International terrorism was described as a plague spread by "depraved opponents of civilization itself," in "a return to barbarism in the modern age.”"
Today it is easy to see the falsehood of the government rhetoric in the 1980s about heroic freedom fighters fighting the “evil scourge of terrorism.” Most of the CIA money in the 1980s went to the terrorist drug trafficker Gulbeddin Hekmatyar, remembered for his habit of throwing acid in the faces of women not wearing burkas. Hekmatyar did not represent Afghan aspirations for freedom, but the interests of the U.S. ally Pakistan. As a true Afghan leader said in 1994, “We didn't choose [him]. The United States made Hekmatyar by giving him his weapons.” To describe Hekmatyar’s men as freedom fighters was a fraud. Read more.
Poll: Americans pretty clueless about politics, world
By John Byrne | Raw Story
Only one in four Americans know how many votes a Senate filibuster requires. One in three know the name of the chairman of the Republican Party. One in two know the Democratic leader of the US Senate.
Health care? Fewer than one in three Americans even know that no Republicans voted for the Senate health care overhaul.
Americans' ignorance about politics isn't new, but the latest results from the Pew Poll suggest few are really paying attention.
Half of Americans don't even know that Stephen Colbert is a comedian. And among those surveyed, only one in three Democrats knew that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was the Democratic leader.
"About four-in-ten (39%) know that Nevada Democrat Harry Reid is the majority leader of the U.S. Senate," Pew reports. "About a third (32%) correctly pick Michael Steele as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Interestingly, nearly half of Republicans (48%) are able to identify Reid as Senate majority leader compared with just a third (33%) of Democrats. More Republicans can identify Reid as majority leader than can identify Steel as chairman of the RNC (37%)." Read more.