Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Oh, Glennie! And We Waited Soooo Long for Your Well-Advertised (Funded by Ukrainian Revolution Co-Funder Pierre Omidyar) Stunning Announcement! (And We Thought We Knew You So Well . . . .) And Not-To-Be-Overexpected Richie Riches Screw Up Again (Rental Scams Equity Market Gambit)

So, now we know.

And my heart's breaking.

I had such liberal/progressive hopes.


However, it has been revealed at its source (by its source - you) that only Reagan-loving Republicans need apply to your (Glenn Greenwald's) much-kept-secret-but-now-revealed list of those whose personal data were accessed and used inappropriately by the much-superior to everyone else in recorded history's USA USA USA spying networks.

Superior to the Stasi and the Russkies and the Nazis, I'm guessing.

Even better than that of the French Revolution we can suppose (at least they are hoping).

And was it worth the wait? We probably don't need to ask your Intercept's funder Pierre Omidyar, who* has been recently outed as one of the co-funders (alone with the U.S. government) of the Ukrainian Revolution bringing the world our current Crimean Follies.

Glenn Greenwald’s Carefully Contrived “Big List” of Spied-On Americans Totals 5 Neoliberal Muslims

Posted on by willyloman

by Scott Creighton
As promised, Glenn Greenwald has finally come out with his “Big List” of Americans spied on by the NSA and others.

It’s total BS and it’s only five people… five politically connected neoliberal Muslims.   ಠ_ಠ

“The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives.” Greenwald
You will soon understand what Glenn Greenwald considers “exemplary.”

He claims that there were only another 202 “U.S. persons” identified on the “Big List” by email addresses only (which they blacked out of course) making it “impossible” to identify them by name (perhaps he could have sent them an email?)

“The vast majority of individuals on the “FISA recap” spreadsheet are not named. Instead, only their email addresses are listed, making it impossible in most cases to ascertain their identities. Under the heading “Nationality,” the list designates 202 email addresses as belonging to “U.S. persons,” 1,782 as belonging to “non-U.S. persons,” and 5,501 as “unknown” or simply blank. The Intercept identified the five Americans placed under surveillance from their email addresses” Greenwald

Are we really supposed to believe that he could ONLY identify these five politically linked, neoliberal Muslims in his “Big List’ of people spied on by the NSA?

You might notice something else… the list shows that ALL of the surveillance ended prior to Obama taking office.

These are the five he mentions by name and this is how he lists them in the first part of his “groundbreaking” article:

  • Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;
  • Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;
  • Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;
  • Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;
  • Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.
But there is another way to list them, a more accurate way, which tends to cast a little doubt on the authenticity of his “Big List”:

  • Faisal Gill,“I was a very conservative, Reagan-loving Republican,”; a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush; Department of Homeland Security as a senior policy adviser; “Gill and Ghafoor traveled to Sudan to meet with government officials there about representing the country in U.S. court. Many family members of victims of Al Qaeda terror attacks were suing the government of Sudan for aiding the operations“; he advised the Under Secretary on policy issues ranging from intelligence policy, infrastructure protection, cyber-security and information sharing initiatives;
  • Asim Ghafoor, a public relations consultant, lobbyist; Ghafoor worked for a Texas state representative, Ciro Rodriguez; a prominent behind-the-scenes operator on Capitol Hill for the Muslim community; a Saudi charity, hired Ghafoor after its U.S. assets were frozen

Ghafoor with President George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton (photos courtesy Asim Ghafoor)

Ghafoor with Bush and Hillary Clinton

  • Hooshang Amirahmadi, Vice President Joe Biden, Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have all spoken at events organized by Amirahmadi; Amirahmadi has dual citizenship as an American and an Iranian. A secularist, he has twice launched quixotic candidacies to become the president of Iran (in 2005 and again in 2013) as a statement against the Iranian political establishment; If elected, Amirahmadi’s administration would have supported creating a coalition government in Syria; vehemently opposes any attempt by Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. He also recognizes the validity of Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state; Caspian Associates – "Foundation for New Haiti (FNH) Business Plan"
  • Agha Saeed, a joint Ph.D. from Berkeley and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; as chair of the American Muslim Political Coordination Council Political Action Committee, a coalition of four major Muslim organizations, Saeed announced the group’s endorsement of George W. Bush for president; a $50,000 donation the group made to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign; On the day of the 9/11 attack, Saeed was in Washington, D.C. He was scheduled to meet that afternoon with President Bush in the White House, along with several other prominent American Muslim leaders. In the weeks after the attack, he was again invited by Bush to the White House.;
  • Nihad Awad, he served on Vice President Al Gore’s Civil Liberties Advisory Panel to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, and he has personally met with Presidents Clinton and Bush, as well as former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell; one of the few American Muslim leaders who participated in a press conference with President Bush at the Islamic Center of Washington; “I do not support Hamas,”;
Gill worked with Ghafoor at Gill and Gallenger, a law firm. I’m not exactly sure what the two of them did since G&G has a uniquely opaque internet presence. Both are Washington insiders, neoliberals.

Hooshang is a member of the Iranian community which seeks regime change in their home country. He runs a globalist advising company looking to help bring the joys of neoliberalism to untapped markets around the world.

Saeed ran something called the American Muslim Alliance which seems to have stopped doing any work back in 2008 when they were organizing for various Muslim candidates and apparently a guy by the name of Barack Obama. It’s unclear if he has continued his close connection with the White House since then.

I find it interesting that the only Americans spied on by the NSA for that period of time appear to have been political insiders. Seems kind of counter-intuitive if you ask me.

Instead, it would appear that the list has been carefully scripted so that it doesn’t bring about any uncontrollable lawsuits which would threaten to really expose the practices Glenn is pretending to shed light on.

Also … this list of Glenn’s was bound to generate a great deal of attention for anyone so named as being targeted by the NSA. Undoubtedly there will be millions of folks looking into the victim’s backgrounds and probably tons of media exposure for not only them, but their causes such as they are.

How would it have been had Prof(essor) Michel Chossudovsky, Prof. James Petras, Chris Hedges, Barry Grey, Michael Parenti, Naomi Klein, Naomi Wolf, Elizabeth Warren, Ron Paul, Cynthia McKinney, David Ray Griffin, Aaron Swartz, John Perkins, Mark Klein, William Binney, Russ Tice, Thomas Andrews Drake, Thomas Tamm, or any number of real dissidents been named on that list? What would the fallout have been? Do you actually think folks like this aren’t being carefully watched? Do you think it all stopped in 2008?

Instead, what we have before us (thanks to the “intrepid” work of Glenn “Hairy Studs” Greenwald and his billionaire sugar daddy) is a ridiculous list of 5 “exemplary” D.C. insider “Muslims” who can certainly be counted on to say just the right things at a time like this.

And the troubling aspect of their respective contributions to the alternative media narrative will also never be given any undue attention. It’s a very carefully contrived “Big List” when you think about it.

What Glenn’s contribution here is doing is it is advancing the mythology that the ONLY reason anyone is spying on us is because of the fear of al Qaeda and the related organizations. That’s absurd ... just as Glenn’s bullshit list is.

His “Big List” propaganda is designed so that spying seems justified at least on the surface and those who support future spying via CISPA will still be able to justify their position due to the fact that many of these guys had some accusations in the past for affiliation with groups like Hamas.

What Mr. Greenwald is doing is quite transparent. His detractors like myself should have a field day with this latest marketing/propaganda effort of his. His supporters (numbers growing smaller by the day hopefully) should finally understand what side of the fence Glenn has planted himself. Hopefully.

And the hits just keep on coming.

I know I started shedding tears when I read about how hard it is for the already vastly wealthy to get a good return on any current investment.

Didn't you?

And I really grok this friendly-looking photo of our uniquely American hero, Jamie Dimon.

He's still all smiles.

But this new gambit was supposed to make money, right?

Maybe Obama will sign on to another bailout?

Oh, if only Dumbya were still around (and not just painting bathroom art for the high-end market) to blame.

Although his carbon-tax buddy Hank Paulson certainly is (having been a founding member of what leftists called the cap-and-trade scammers and what the Tea Party calls the "global warming nuts").

Jul 9, 2014 07:44 AM EST

One Percent’s Rental Nightmare: How Wall Street Scheme Blew Up In Its Face

Big Money investors thought they had the perfect plan to buy up rental properties. There was just one huge problem.

One percent's rental nightmare: How Wall Street scheme blew up in its face

Smilin' Jamie Dimon (Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas/xeni4ka via iStock/Salon) (Click to expand photo for full effect.)

I’ve followed the Wall Street rental scheme for some time. You know the basics by now:   Big Money investors decided to buy up all the foreclosed properties their pals at the banks created during the financial crisis, and rent them out to many of the same people who lost their homes. Then, they started selling securities backed by the rental revenue, just like the mortgage-backed securities from the crisis. Profiting off their own failure: It was Wall Street’s perfect plan.

There was just one problem:   turns out that institutional investors have no idea how to manage rental properties.

That has become clear through a series of new statistics from early investors, who regarded themselves as the trailblazers of a hot new asset class. For example, nobody has purchased more properties and converted them into rentals than Blackstone, holders of roughly 45,000 nationwide. Invitation Homes, a Blackstone subsidiary, issued the first rental-backed security last November, and just released its first of this year, 2014-SFR1, worth $1 billion and based on 6,537 properties in selected markets, including Phoenix, Atlanta, Sacramento, California, several parts of Florida and Riverside County, California. Yet while these areas have tight housing inventory, vacancies at the Invitation Homes properties have surged.

As of May 31, the vacancy rate for the homes in 2014-SFR1 stood at 7.3 percent, a 33 percent increase over the previous month. It’s not a fluke: Vacancy rates for Invitation Homes’ initial rental-backed security from last year have spiked to a higher-than-expected 8.3 percent.

That doesn’t sound so bad, until you consider that the apartment vacancy rate for the entire United States is 4.1 percent, around half of the Invitation Homes rate. By one study, occupancy in the second quarter of 2014 was at its highest level in 13 years. In fact, we’re in the midst of a rental housing crisis in America, with demand on the rise and not enough supply to meet it. That’s why rental prices have risen consistently, up 3.4 percent over the past year, despite flat wages.

Investors – and their trade-group allies – have pitched single-family homes as a salve for this crisis, bringing more supply online and stabilizing the rental market. But it would be extremely difficult in this environment to put homes out for rent and then see the vacancy rates explode upward. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what’s happening to the properties in Invitation Homes’ rental securitizations. And there are only a couple of possible reasons here, all of them pointing to poor property management. We have plenty of anecdotal information about substandard remodeling, shoddy maintenance and difficulty in contacting managers. The higher relative vacancy rates put some data-driven meat on those bones.

Word is getting around in these communities about the pitfalls of renting from Invitation Homes, leading renters to seek other options. To take one example, in May, a couple in Los Angeles sued Invitation Homes over the slumlike condition of their rental property, which featured mold and rotted plumbing. The couple got sick from the mold, moved out and then could not retrieve their contaminated belongings for months. The company still contacts the couple, demanding back rent for the months when they didn’t occupy the home.

Rep. Mark Takano, who has been one of the few members of Congress to question the Wall Street rental scheme from the start, told Salon that the report of rising vacancy rates “highlights one of the concerns I had with these types of bonds in the first place.” He added, “Just how accurately can these private equity firms predict vacancy rates, and what happens to the bondholders and local communities if rates rise faster than expected?”

The bondholders should be fine – at least some of them. Like mortgage-backed securities, rental securities are purchased in tranches. The senior bondholders in the highest tranches get paid first with the rental revenue streams, while the junior bondholders in the lowest tranches must wait. They get a higher potential reward for taking on more risk, but with vacancy rates growing, they will likely lose money on the deals.

The real losers here are the local communities. If investor purchases put a floor on housing prices, as economists like Dean Baker have suggested, a faltering market where investors bug out will send prices collapsing through that floor. And that’s starting to happen, earlier than previous expectations. Early investors like Waypoint Real Estate are shopping thousands of properties acquired in California to investors, many of them in Rep. Takano’s Riverside County district. Och-Ziff Capital Management and Oaktree Capital already sold off their properties. And the scale of purchases for those staying in the market has slowed. As demand sinks, the housing market suffers in the biggest investor-purchase areas, which could feed back into the local economies and cause a slowdown.

Price reductions obviously have an impact for those who managed to recently purchase homes at the market rate and may now find themselves underwater. But the bigger concern is what happens to those rental properties in a fire sale, and the tenants in them. Under the contracts of the rental-backed securities, if performance falls below a certain level, the entire portfolio goes into default, which may lead to evictions for thousands of renters. The more vacancy rates rise, the closer we get to those performance targets, and policymakers and regulators have not prepared for an uncertain aftermath.

Finally, there is the problem of vacant housing itself. Single-family homes without occupants are prime opportunities for blight, which can wreck entire communities (just ask Detroit). Blight attracts crime and disease, drops property values and creates a vicious cycle where neighbors would rather leave than rehabilitate communities. If the property management companies cannot maintain the properties while they are rented, there’s little hope for the vacant ones.

Investors claimed their rental scheme would prevent the very blight they may now be creating with increases in vacant properties. Rep. Takano pointed out that the Morningstar credit rating agency, even while giving the top tranches of 2014-SFR1 AAA ratings, pointed out that “finding and retaining creditworthy renters could be costly and difficult to forecast.” Takano told Salon, “Now it seems that warning could be true.”

Investors think they’re solving problems with their rental scheme, while earning a profit on the side. But this so-called solution may create additional problems. Renters get abused by bad property management, junior bondholders lose out on their investments, local housing markets get riled by price swings, tenants in the rental properties could face future evictions, and neighbors must live with increasing blight. We don’t yet know if big-time investors are merely going through the growing pains of a new business, or if we’re seeing a vacancy spiral that won’t end. But with numerous dangers, Rep. Mark Takano believes Congress must get ahead of the issue.

“I urge my colleagues and federal regulators to keep a close eye on these bond deals,” Takano told Salon, “to help protect consumers and local communities.”

David Dayen is a contributing writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter at @ddayen.

*   EBay founder Pierre Omidyar is expanding into other ventures nearly 20 years after founding his online auction company. Outspoken on Twitter, he created First Look Media, a group that aims to present new forms of independent journalism. It's first publication, digital magazine The Intercept, launched in Feb. 2014, featuring work from Edward Snowden-revealing journalist Glenn Greenwald. The site will initially focus on disclosing new information from NSA whistleblower Snowden. Still serving as eBay's chairman, Omidyar also spends time on the Omidyar Network, his philanthropic investment firm. A member of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge, Omidyar and his wife, Pam, have been perhaps the biggest private donors to the fight against human trafficking over the last half decade.

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