Monday, March 28, 2011

BEWARE! Fascism On The March - And It's Happening in the New Nazi Haven - Good Ole USA! (Goldman Sachs: Here's What You Are) & NeoCONS Don't Change

Like the way I put that? So casually? In the title? Like "fascism" hasn't been present before in the U.S., and that I'd already (like everyone else) forgotten the Bush/Cheney years? But it's certainly not in what the Murdoch/NBC/Pentagon-controlled media covers as "news," and certainly not in the little guys' (like The New York Times) coverage that publishes exposed liar-journalists like Judy Miller and a host of others regularly, and reinstalls "pay walls" and gets rid of inconvenient columnists like Bob Herbert and Frank Rich (and who know whom else will be out soon, etc.). From TBD (where I hesitate to give a link as most of its commentary is reprehensible if not incomprehensible - get ready for young fools taking the place of their elders in writing "serious" news):

The New York Times paywall goes into effect today, potentially limiting our exposure to masturbatory ruminations on the lives of wonder boy bloggers (and the women who love them). Clever NYT backlash pieces will remain free of charge.

And Bob Herbert is gone as a columnist for the regular reasons (he's black! and not a conservative who detests blacks - so how could he be tolerated any further in the coming New World? And as he's only been there 18 years, it's a surprise to them to find out that their comfortable, white audience doesn't read him as much as they do Tom Friedbrain and David F. Brooks).

There actually are even better reasons to get rid of him now (who needs a truth teller in these times?). Remember this astonishing piece The Times allowed to run in 2007? Not many do as so few ever bothered to read this honest man (the stats on his readership are unbelievable to me (and I read him every chance I got)). (Do you believe that white supremacy vanished last century? Still wondering why Goldwater/Nixon/Reagan's "Southern Strategy" was so effective in turning southern Democrats into Republicans? Read on, MacDuff.)

Righting Reagan’s Wrongs?

Bob Herbert

Let’s set the record straight on Ronald Reagan’s campaign kickoff in 1980. Early one morning in the late spring of 1964, Dr. Carolyn Goodman, her husband, Robert, and their 17-year-old son, David, said goodbye to David’s brother, Andrew, who was 20. They hugged in the family’s apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and Andrew left. He was on his way to the racial hell of Mississippi to join in the effort to encourage local blacks to register and vote. It was a dangerous mission, and Andrew’s parents were reluctant to let him go. But the family had always believed strongly in equal rights and the benefits of social activism. “I didn’t have the right,” Dr. Goodman would tell me many years later, “to tell him not to go.”

After a brief stopover in Ohio, Andrew traveled to the town of Philadelphia in Neshoba County, Mississippi, a vicious white-supremacist stronghold. Just days earlier, members of the Ku Klux Klan had firebombed a black church in the county and had beaten terrified worshipers. Andrew would not survive very long. On June 21, one day after his arrival, he and fellow activists Michael Schwerner and James Chaney disappeared. Their bodies wouldn’t be found until August. All had been murdered, shot to death by whites enraged at the very idea of people trying to secure the rights of African-Americans. The murders were among the most notorious in American history.

They constituted Neshoba County’s primary claim to fame when Reagan won the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1980. The case was still a festering sore at that time. Some of the conspirators were still being protected by the local community. And white supremacy was still the order of the day. That was the atmosphere and that was the place that Reagan chose as the first stop in his general election campaign.

The campaign debuted at the Neshoba County Fair in front of a white and, at times, raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000, chanting: “We want Reagan! We want Reagan!” Reagan was the first presidential candidate ever to appear at the fair, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he told that crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.” Reagan apologists have every right to be ashamed of that appearance by their hero, but they have no right to change the meaning of it, which was unmistakable.

Commentators have been trying of late to put this appearance by Reagan into a racially benign context. That won’t wash. Reagan may have been blessed with a Hollywood smile and an avuncular delivery, but he was elbow deep in the same old race-baiting Southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon.

Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair. Whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans — they all knew. The news media knew. The race haters and the people appalled by racial hatred knew. And Reagan knew. He was tapping out the code.

It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you. And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered.

As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation. Congress overrode the veto. Reagan also vetoed the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Congress overrode that veto, too.

Throughout his career, Reagan was wrong, insensitive and mean-spirited on civil rights and other issues important to black people. There is no way for the scribes of today to clean up that dismal record. To see Reagan’s appearance at the Neshoba County Fair in its proper context, it has to be placed between the murders of the civil rights workers that preceded it and the acknowledgment by the Republican strategist Lee Atwater that the use of code words like “states’ rights” in place of blatantly bigoted rhetoric was crucial to the success of the G.O.P.’s Southern strategy.

That acknowledgment came in the very first year of the Reagan presidency. Ronald Reagan was an absolute master at the use of symbolism. It was one of the primary keys to his political success. The suggestion that the Gipper didn’t know exactly what message he was telegraphing in Neshoba County in 1980 is woefully wrong-headed. Wishful thinking would be the kindest way to characterize it.

Farewell, Bob. Fare well, my mentor, my friend. (His last column Losing Our Way explains in toto why he's so loved and valued by millions, but not there.)

One of our finest commentators on the political scene, economist Paul Krugman, captures our current dilemma on the pages of the soon-to-be-gone-from-the-nonpaying-public's gaze, The New York Times.

So sad about the US. It had such a good beginning. (Emphasis marks and some editing was inserted - Ed.)

American Thought Police Paul Krugman

March 27, 2011

Recently William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, decided to weigh in on his state’s political turmoil. He started a blog, “Scholar as Citizen,” devoting his first post to the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the state level. Then he published an opinion piece in The Times, suggesting that Wisconsin’s Republican governor has turned his back on the state’s long tradition of “neighborliness, decency and mutual respect.”

So what was the G.O.P.’s response? A demand for copies of all e-mails sent to or from Mr. Cronon’s university mail account containing any of a wide range of terms, including the word “Republican” and the names of a number of Republican politicians. If this action strikes you as no big deal, you’re missing the point.

The hard right — which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party — has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear. And that demand for copies of e-mails is obviously motivated by no more than a hope that it will provide something, anything, that can be used to subject Mr. Cronon to the usual treatment.

The Cronon affair, then, is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two great political parties has become. The demand for Mr. Cronon’s correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records.

Back in 2009 climate skeptics got hold of more than a thousand e-mails between researchers at the Climate Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia. Nothing in the correspondence suggested any kind of scientific impropriety; at most, we learned — I know this will shock you — that scientists are human beings, who occasionally say snide things about people they dislike. But that didn’t stop the usual suspects from proclaiming that they had uncovered “Climategate,” a scientific scandal that somehow invalidates the vast array of evidence for man-made climate change. And this fake scandal gives an indication of what the Wisconsin G.O.P. presumably hopes to do to Mr. Cronon. After all, if you go through a large number of messages looking for lines that can be made to sound bad, you’re bound to find a few.

In fact, it’s surprising how few such lines the critics managed to find in the “Climategate” trove: much of the smear has focused on just one e-mail, in which a researcher talks about using a “trick” to “hide the decline” in a particular series. In context, it’s clear that he’s talking about making an effective graphical presentation, not about suppressing evidence. But the right wants a scandal, and won’t take no for an answer.

Is there any doubt that Wisconsin Republicans are hoping for a similar “success” against Mr. Cronon? Now, in this case they’ll probably come up dry. Mr. Cronon writes on his blog that he has been careful never to use his university e-mail for personal business, exhibiting a scrupulousness that’s neither common nor expected in the academic world. (Full disclosure: I have, at times, used my university e-mail to remind my wife to feed the cats, confirm dinner plans with friends, etc.)

Beyond that, Mr. Cronon — the president-elect of the American Historical Association — has a secure reputation as a towering figure in his field. His magnificent “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West” is the best work of economic and business history I’ve ever read — and I read a lot of that kind of thing. So we don’t need to worry about Mr. Cronon — but we should worry a lot about the wider effect of attacks like the one he’s facing.

Legally, Republicans may be within their rights: Wisconsin’s open records law provides public access to e-mails of government employees, although the law was clearly intended to apply to state officials, not university professors. But there’s a clear chilling effect when scholars know that they may face witch hunts whenever they say things the G.O.P. doesn’t like. Someone like Mr. Cronon can stand up to the pressure. But less eminent and established researchers won’t just become reluctant to act as concerned citizens, weighing in on current debates; they’ll be deterred from even doing research on topics that might get them in trouble.

What’s at stake here, in other words, is whether we’re going to have an open national discourse in which scholars feel free to go wherever the evidence takes them, and to contribute to public understanding. Republicans, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, are trying to shut that kind of discourse down. It’s up to the rest of us to see that they don’t succeed.

As for the real culprits of economic/financial disaster, we have the following exposé on Goldman Sachs. And, who, exactly wants to grow up to be a scumbag? And does this country now encourage it? But we already knew this.

Goldman Sachs: Here's What You Are

If someone described a bank by what it does rather than by what it says, he/she would find that getting high fees for risky and poor quality products is what matters; that creating junk CDOs for investors and using CDSs for making a huge profit is common practice; that taking a short position on the toxic mortgage market and thereby cashing in with billions of dollars at others' expense is the way to do business; that taking advantage of clients' positions and creating a conflict of interest is not material; that paying a small fine for a civil action suit where clients were not properly informed is a small price to pay for profit; and that, finally, using naked CDSs on assets it did not own to bet against the mortgage market and making huge amounts of revenue for itself shows little in the way of ethical conscience.

That would be Goldman Sachs!

In the last portion of the memo (pages 12 and 13) sent by Senator Carl Levin, Subcommittee Chairman, and Senator Tom Coburn, Ranking Member, to the Members of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in which they explained very clearly the role played by investment banks in "the causes and consequences of the recent financial crisis" using Goldman Sachs as a case study, are listed the Subcommittee's findings as shown below:

Subcommittee Findings

Based upon the Subcommittee’s on going investigation, we make the following findings of fact regarding the role of investment banks in the recent financial crisis.

Securitizing High Risk Mortgages

From 2004 to 2007, in exchange for lucrative fees, Goldman Sachs helped lenders like Long Beach, Fremont, and New Century, securitize high risk, poor quality loans, obtain favorable credit ratings for the resulting residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS), and sell the RMBS securities to investors, pushing billions of dollars of risky mortgages into the financial system.

Magnifying Risk

Goldman Sachs magnified the impact of toxic mortgages on financial markets by re-securitizing RMBS securities in collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), referencing them in synthetic CDOs, selling the CDO securities to investors, and using credit default swaps and index trading to profit from the failure of the same RMBS and CDO securities it sold.

Shorting the Mortgage Market

As high risk mortgage delinquencies increased, and RMBS and CDO securities began to lose value, Goldman Sachs took a net short position on the mortgage market, remaining net short throughout 2007, and cashed in very large short positions, generating billions of dollars in gain.

Conflict Between Client and Proprietary Trading

In 2007, Goldman Sachs went beyond its role as market maker for clients seeking to buy or sell mortgage related securities, traded billions of dollars in mortgage related assets for the benefit of the firm without disclosing its proprietary positions to clients, and instructed its sales force to sell mortgage related assets, including high risk RMBS and CDO securities that Goldman Sachs wanted to get off its books, creating a conflict between the firm’s proprietary interests and the interests of its clients.


Goldman Sachs structured, underwrote, and sold a synthetic CDO called Abacus 2007-AC1, did not disclose to the Moody’s analyst overseeing the rating of the CDO that a hedge fund client taking a short position in the CDO had helped to select the referenced assets, and also did not disclose that fact to other investors.

Using Naked Credit Default Swaps

Goldman Sachs used credit default swaps (CDS) on assets it did not own to bet against the mortgage market through single name and index CDS transactions, generating substantial revenues in the process.

Read the entire document here.

And how's that latest neoCon war effort proceeding? Splendidly, you say? (Heck, any mistakes they may make will just take a few trillion more in taxpayer safety net benefits to make up! And see if after reading this essay you don't agree with my long-time belief that those NeoCONS don't really have any education to speak of, and got their degrees with a wink and a promise. I'm not sure that the Feith/Wolfowitz delegation can even read.)

The Neocons Regroup on Libyan War

Robert Parry

American neoconservatives worried that the pro-democracy wave sweeping the Middle East might take out only "moderate" Arab dictators, but the neocons now see hope that uprisings will topple "enemy" regimes in Libya and Syria. Yet, in rallying U.S. support for these rebellions, the neocons may be repeating the mistake they made by pushing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. They succeeded in ousting Saddam Hussein, who had long been near the top of Israel’s enemies list, but the war also removed him as a bulwark against both Islamic extremists and Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf. The neocons now are seeking a stronger U.S. military intervention in Libya to oust Col. Muammar Gaddafi (another old Israeli nemesis) and urging more support for protesters in Syria to overthrow the Assad dynasty (regarded as a frontline enemy of Israel).

However, by embracing these uprisings, the neocons are risking unintended consequences, including further Islamic radicalization of the region and deepening anti-Americanism.

Indeed, a rebel victory over Gaddafi could put extremists from an al-Qaeda affiliate in a powerful position inside Libya. So far, the major U.S. news media has aided the neocon cause by focusing on Gaddafi’s historic ties to terrorism, including the dubious charge that he was behind the Pan Am 103 bombing in 1988. There has been little attention paid to his more recent role in combating the surge in al-Qaeda activity, especially in eastern Libya, the base of the revolt against him. Similarly, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government has repressed Islamic extremism inside its borders, in part, because Islamic fundamentalists despise the Alawite religion of Syria’s rulers, considering it a form of apostasy that must be stamped out. So Assad and Gaddafi have their own political reasons to be enemies of al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization which U.S. officials cite as the greatest national security threat to the American homeland. As analysts Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman wrote in a report for West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, “the Syrian and Libyan governments share the United States’ concerns about violent salafi‐jihadi ideology and the violence perpetrated by its adherents.”

Source of Jihadists

In their report entitled “Al-Qaeda’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” Felter and Fishman also analyzed al-Qaeda documents captured in 2007 showing personnel records of militants who flocked to Iraq for the war. The documents revealed that eastern Libya (the base of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion) was a hotbed for suicide bombers traveling to Iraq to kill American troops.

Felter and Fishman wrote that these so-called Sinjar Records disclosed that while Saudis comprised the largest number of foreign fighters in Iraq, Libyans represented the largest per-capita contingent by far. Those Libyans came overwhelmingly from towns and cities in the east. “The vast majority of Libyan fighters that included their hometown in the Sinjar Records resided in the country’s Northeast, particularly the coastal cities of Darnah 60.2% (53) and Benghazi 23.9% (21),” Felter and Fishman wrote, adding:

“Both Darnah and Benghazi have long been associated with Islamic militancy in Libya, in particular for an uprising by Islamist organizations in the mid‐1990s. ... One group — the Libyan Fighting Group … — claimed to have Afghan veterans in its ranks," a reference to mujahedeen who took part in the CIA-backed anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, as did al-Qaeda founder, Osama bin Laden, a Saudi.

“The Libyan uprisings [in the 1990s] became extraordinarily violent," Felter and Fishman wrote. "Qadhafi used helicopter gunships in Benghazi, cut telephone, electricity, and water supplies to Darnah and famously claimed that the militants ‘deserve to die without trial, like dogs.’” The authors added that Abu Layth al‐Libi, Emir of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), “reinforced Benghazi and Darnah’s importance to Libyan jihadis in his announcement that LIFG had joined al‐Qa’ida.

“’It is with the grace of God that we were hoisting the banner of jihad against this apostate [Gaddafi] regime under the leadership of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which sacrificed the elite of its sons and commanders in combating this regime whose blood was spilled on the mountains of Darnah, the streets of Benghazi, the outskirts of Tripoli, the desert of Sabha, and the sands of the beach.’”

Some important al-Qaeda leaders operating in Pakistan’s tribal regions also are believed to have come from Libya. For instance, “Atiyah,” who was guiding the anti-U.S. war strategy in Iraq, was identified as a Libyan named Atiyah Abd al-Rahman.

It was Atiyah who urged a strategy of creating a quagmire for U.S. forces in Iraq, buying time for al-Qaeda headquarters to rebuild its strength in Pakistan. Prolonging the war [in Iraq] is in our interest,” Atiyah said in a letter that upbraided Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for his hasty and reckless actions in Iraq. The Atiyah letter was discovered by the U.S. military after Zarqawi was killed by an airstrike in June 2006. [To view the “prolonging the war” excerpt in a translation published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, click here. To read the entire letter, click here.]

Gaddafi’s Warning

As in the anti-Islamist crackdown of the 1990s, Gaddafi has used harsh rhetoric in vowing to crush the latest Benghazi-based rebellion. Those threats were cited by President Barack Obama and other leaders as a key reason for securing a United Nations resolution and establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, to protect the rebels and civilians in eastern Libya.

Yet, while intervening to save lives in eastern Libya, Obama and other Western officials seem to know little about whom they’re saving. So far, journalists have failed to identify the leaders behind the revolt. However, in a personal letter to Obama, Gaddafi cited the role of terrorists in this new uprising. “We are confronting al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, nothing more,” Gaddafi wrote. “What would you do if you found them controlling American cities with the power of weapons? Tell me how would you behave so that I could follow your example?”

Though Gaddafi clearly has a self-interest in portraying the rebels as al-Qaeda terrorists - and the rebels surely include many common citizens simply fed up with Gaddafi's authoritarian rule - the report from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center lends some credence to his claims. Still, influential American neocons and major U.S. news outlets have portrayed the Libyan clash as simply a case of a brutal dictator, who has his own terrorist baggage, crushing a popular movement of innocent citizens seeking democracy and freedom. Despite the warning signs of possible Islamist influences over the rebel forces, American neocons have grabbed the steering wheel of this wider-war bandwagon as it picks up speed.

“The only solution to Libya’s crisis, as Mr. Obama first recognized several weeks ago, is the removal of Mr Gaddafi from power,” said a lead editorial in Wednesday’s Washington Post, which has evolved into the neocons’ preeminent publication. “But the administration still seems to lack a coherent strategy for accomplishing that aim.” Clearly pining for the days of George W. Bush’s muscular unilateralism, the Post’s editors demanded that Obama take the lead in implementing a military strategy that ensures regime change in Tripoli.

“If the regime’s heavy weapons were systematically targeted, the rebels could surge forward,” the Post wrote. “All this would require Mr. Obama to do something he has avoided from the beginning in Libya: Exercise U.S. leadership. … “Far from rejecting that [U.S.] role, many Arabs have been puzzled and even outraged by Mr. Obama’s manifest reluctance to support a revolution aimed at overthrowing one of the region’s most vile dictatorships.

Ultimately, Mr. Obama’s passivity is self-defeating. “The sooner he recognizes this, the better the chance of salvaging a decent outcome in Libya.” Charles Krauthammer, one of the Post’s prominent neocon columnists, weighed in with his own typically snarky column on Friday, also demanding that Obama take decisive action against Gaddafi. “Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country,” Krauthammer wrote. “Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead — no one has anything near our capabilities, experience and resources —

The NYT’s Certainty

The New York Times, another newspaper with strong neocon tendencies, has taken the case for regime change in Libya into its news columns, as it did regarding Iraq in 2002-03 when the Times acted as a conveyor belt for the Bush administration’s propaganda about Iraq’s non-existent WMD. This time, the Times has reported as flat fact that Gaddafi’s regime orchestrated the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 – a conventional wisdom that is now repeated across the U.S. media spectrum despite the many holes in the 2001 conviction of Libyan intelligence agent Ali al-Megrahi.

[For details, see’s “Through the US Media Lens Darkly.”] This combination of ignorance about the internal politics of Libya (i.e. who are the rebels?) and the misplaced certainty of the U.S. press corps about another designated villain (supposed Pan Am 103 terrorist mastermind Gaddafi) has set the stage for a potential repeat of the Iraq disaster.

In Iraq, it turned out that Saddam Hussein, who had destroyed his stockpiles of WMD, was serving as a bulwark against both al-Qaeda-style terrorism and Iranian influence. His removal advanced both Islamic terrorist movements across the region and Iran’s power in the Persian Gulf.

Now, the neocons are baiting Obama into a wider war to overthrow Gaddafi. But they appear as ill-informed about the possible consequences in Libya as they did in Iraq: If the “rebels” are influenced or controlled by al-Qaeda-style terrorists, would they inflict massacres of Gaddafi’s supporters, thus flipping the notion of a humanitarian intervention?

Would a rebel victory give the Islamic terror groups of eastern Libya a foothold in or possible control of the whole country and its oil wealth? Would the prospect of an al-Qaeda affiliate in charge of a strategically placed Arab country require the United States to commit ground troops to the conflict to prevent an outcome that the U.S. intervention had unintentionally caused?

Over the past several decades as the neocons have grown in influence inside the U.S. political/media circles, one of their consistent characteristics has been to advocate wars against perceived “enemies” in the Muslim world. But the neocons’ lack of realism – and their enthusiasm to do whatever they think might be helpful to Israel – have often made them the classic sorcerer’s apprentice, stirring up trouble that grows worse and worse without knowing how to bring the chaos under control.

Yet, despite their war-mongering incompetence, the neocons have one great strength: they are clever enough - and well-connected enough - to block any accountability.

Even when their policies go horribly wrong, they can simply reframe the narrative to make themselves out to be the smart ones. Until their ability to rewrite the history is countered, the neocons can be expected to continue leading the United States into disaster after disaster. [For other examples of how neocons shape the narrative, see’s “Inside America’s ‘Adjustment Bureau.’”]

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History and Secrecy & Privilege, which are now available with Neck Deep, in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.


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