Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bin Laden Conveniently Appears - The Continuing Corruption of the FED & Tea Baggers Bagged (SH*T Flows Downhill)

How do you like the convenient appearance of Bin Laden whenever someone in power in the U.S. government is in BIG trouble and needs to avert the public's gaze for a little while? This year he's a "liberal" who is eco-friendly and hates banksters. The wiseacres who spend so much time devising these opportunistic videos want us to think that if we pursue the banksters or any type of true "green" policies that we are sympathetic to terrorists. They've certainly got a good sense of humor (and very little regard for ours). Seems to me that they assume the mob from the French Revolution is brewing and this time it's not from the lowest classes. The AIG-Goldman SEXual hijinks continue with news that, yes, everyone on the inside knew exactly what they were orchestrating (and hiding for years before) for our continued enjoyment. Too bad they are so easily exposed and so difficultly banished from the scene of the loving MSM coverage of their venality. Click PDF here to learn everything (including how the taxpayer bailed out the European investors as well). Even more explication here.* (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

A key question at the heart of the controversial bailout of AIG is just how much money the government lost. The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department have worked to keep that number secret and to conceal who was on the winning end.

An unredacted document obtained by the Huffington Post lists the damage in detail. Goldman Sachs alone, for instance, got $14 billion in government money for assets worth $6 billion at the time - a de facto $8 billion subsidy, courtesy of taxpayers.

The list was produced as part of a congressional investigation led by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into the federal bailout of AIG.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then led by now-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, purchased a slew of souring assets from the world's biggest banks for 100 cents on the dollar in November and December 2008. A scathing report by a government watchdog held Geithner responsible for the overpayments.

The New York Fed initially pressured AIG to keep the list hidden from investors, regulators and the public. When it was eventually filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC allowed the Fed and AIG to keep the details secret. A heavily-redacted version was made public last March.

The document is part of 250,000 pages of internal documents on the AIG deliberations subpoenaed by the oversight committee. It lists the toxic mortgage bonds that banks insured through AIG.

Those insurance contracts, called credit default swaps, are what the New York Fed ultimately took off AIG's books, paying the banks 100 cents on the dollar for toxic mortgage bonds - home mortgages that were bundled together and securitized. The banks could never have gotten anywhere near such a generous deal on the open market, so the move served essentially as a direct subsidy to those banks from taxpayers.

Up until now, taxpayers had no way to know exactly what they owned. They knew they owned a certain amount of assets, but none of the details: which bundles of mortgages it purchased from AIG; how the banks were valuing those mortgages; how much collateral they had demanded from AIG on those securities; or which bank bundled those mortgages into securities.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the top ranking Republican on the oversight committee, told HuffPost that he was not persuaded by government and Fed arguments that the transactions should be kept secret.

"Just because the government happens to own the bonds, which means - by the way, they don't have to be sold at all until they are worth what we want them to be worth - that somehow they have to be kept a secret," Issa said during a break in the today's AIG oversight hearing, where Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner testified about his role in the bailout as then-head of the New York Fed.

The troubled insurer tried to publicly disclose these details in December 2008 before being thwarted by the Geithner-led New York Fed. A month later Geithner left to head the Treasury Department.

Issa said that the public had a right to see the document. "I mean, think about it: What the government owns it can keep as long as it wants. It would be like saying you can't appraise federal land. Why? It is one of those things that's outrageous. We know we paid a hundred percent for them. We know who got the money. This document shows who ultimately were the beneficiaries. And we believe since that they've asked to have it locked up until 2018 - and nobody today defended that - that it's time to release that," Issa said.

A government audit this month found that as of Sept. 30, 2009, the Treasury Department was expecting a $30 billion loss on its TARP-related AIG investment. The value of the securities could ultimately rise, though.

"The way the AIG bailout was engineered was to specifically benefit Goldman Sachs and its trading partners," said Janet Tavakoli, a Chicago-based derivatives expert and founder of Tavakoli Structured Finance. "Goldman's past and present officers used crony capitalism to put their own interests ahead of the public."

The nation's fifth-largest bank by assets ultimately got $14 billion through what members of Congress are calling a "backdoor bailout" of the world's biggest banks.

"The suppression of the details of the [credit default swap] trades protected Goldman Sachs and its trading partners," said Tavakoli, who's examined Goldman's credit default swap arrangements with AIG. "The $182 billion bailout overall kept AIG alive, and its trading partners, including Goldman Sachs, benefited from the funds made available to the securities lending transactions and other subsequent trading transactions."

At the time the document was prepared, Goldman's $14 billion in souring derivatives had a market value of just $6 billion. Goldman had more than $8 billion in collateral from AIG to protect it from losses, meaning it was still about $6 billion short.

But more than $2 billion of those collateral payments came from AIG after it was bailed out on Sept. 16 of that year, according to a Nov. 2008 presentation prepared for the New York Fed that was released this week. So that $2 billion was made possible partly due to taxpayer assistance.

Combined with the $6 billion deficit it faced in the face value of those securities, Goldman Sachs ultimately received about $8 billion from taxpayers via AIG. Goldman posted a $1.3 billion profit for 2008.

Despite the Fed's protestations that full disclosure would harm AIG - and thus the taxpayer - the financial blog Naked Capitalism has largely pieced together many of the key details using public sources - and traders who were interested in buying the bonds from the government would easily have access to the rest.

. . . a Schedule A Shortfall Agreement, can be viewed here.

WATCH the New York Fed's top lawyer explain why this should be kept secret (after the document had already been revealed, incidentally).

* Schedule A to the Amended Shortfall Agreement, once redacted to the nines, now unveiled, means we don’t have to wait until 2018 to get an inside peak into just which CDO deals, and banks, the US government helped via its bail-out of mega-insurerer AIG. As guest-blogger Tom Adams over at Naked Capitalism points out, one of the most interesting things here is the relationship between notional value and collateral posted. Since AIG was providing insurance on these deals, it had to post additional collateral as the notional value of the deals declined.

For a fair number of deals, the posted collateral is very close to the notional amount of the bonds. In layperson-speak, that means some deals were basically dead already – and they were distributed across vintages and collateral type (excluding the commercial real estate CDOs, which are a small portion of the total). This implies that the other deals were going to catch up at some point. Put another way – if a 2005 high grade deal from one issuer had 80% collateral posting (meaning the counterparty and AIG agreed it was worth only 20% of its original value), odds are high that the other 2005 high grade deals and the 2006 high grade deals are going to get there soon enough (there was enough similarity in structures and underlying assets that the dispersion among eventual outcomes, in most cases, would not be that great).

The fact that some transactions were acknowledged both by AIG and the dealers to be zeros as of the bailout is yet another reason to doubt that these deals would have future upside. That is contrary to both the Fed’s logic in buying the CDOs (see our related post) and its current claim that the deals have traded up despite a massive decay in credit quality.

AIG and the Fed, not above water, but drowning?FT Alphaville The uncomfortable position of UBSFT Alphaville

AIG Scandal: Fed as Chump or Fed as Crook?

And what about that missing $6 Billion in Abacus trades? Is this the secret link to the Carlyle Group or some other larger and more mysterious entity behind all of the cronies?

One commenter at Naked Capitalism has a very cogent explication.
The story Geithner and Bernanke (and Hank Paulson) tell is that they did everything, however personally repugnant it was to them as dedicated stewards of public funds, to keep the entire financial system from collapsing. And they are sticking to this story no matter what. People who study the details know they did so many things that had nothing to do with saving the world, both during the early days when they were shoveling money out the door into their friends’ limos and later when they started hiding their tracks and working to preserve Wall Street’s ability to pull off new scams in the future, that the only real question is whether they are crooks or cronies. Nevertheless, most Americans, including people I know and like, believe the end-of-the-world comic book version, in which life as we know it was preserved by three superhero geniuses–a nerdy professor from Princeton who understood financial collapses better than anyone else on the planet and two financial wizards with nerves of steel who were on loan from Wall Street. People hear versions of this story every day, from people they trust, from Time Magazine and the New York Times, from Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong and Mark Thoma, from Barack Obama and Larry King and, probably, from Oprah. More than sixty U.S. Senators are about to endorse this version of reality. What can you do?
Sounds like something to consider carefully to me. And then there's the latest data that shows that "somebody's lying: Subpoenaed Documents Show Goldman Sachs Offered to 'Tear Up' AIG Derivatives Contracts at 'Right Price' Before NY Fed Took Over Negotiations And the final insult to us all. Yes, we are "too angry" and thus all the bankster actions are forgiveable (whereas ours aren't).

One of the things that has been driving me crazy about MSM coverage of the latest public demands for tougher reforms of Wall Street is that they typically engage in subtle or not-so-subtle demonization of the critics. It is a blatant effort to put the shoe on the wrong foot. No, it isn’t that the financiers managed to drive their own firms over the cliff and take the global economy with it, yet come out even more profitable than before by skillfully looting the public purse. Heavens no, can’t look at the facts at hand. No, the fact that a normally complacent public has woken up to the fact that its was had is turned on its head. How often have you read that the reason for renewed reforms headfakes is that the public is “angry”? Obviously, by implication, anyone who is emotional must not have sound judgment. so the anger by implication is not warranted or at best overdone.

The more sophisticated version of this meme is to brand calls for reform as populist, again implying that it is great unwashed (and thus of course uninformed) masses that want reform, that if they really understood how things worked, they’d be delighted with this Best of All Possible Worlds that we inhabit.

Matt Taibbi continues his salvos against recent David Brooks New York Times op-ed columns (hat tip Marshall Auerback), and does his usual brutally effective job of shredding this sort of argument.
Joe Bageant outs the teabaggers (and the corruption funding them) once and for all.
And it's hilarious tragedy. An unobservant observer asks Joe for his opinion. Yes! He did! (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
I don't get it about the Tea Party movement. After eight years of of a super right wing administration destroying jobs and what social safety net there was ... "the people" have suddenly decided: "Now that I'm unemployed, I think I'll form a grassroots movement to destroy my health care too. It seems that no one in the mainstream media finds it a bit suspicious that this so-called grassroots popular movement sounds an awful lot like the neocons we just dumped. Hell, in my home town the Tea Bagger leadership pretty much comes from the ranks of the movers and shakers in the local Republican Party. This is a populist movement?

Maybe it's just my cynicism, but the Tea Party movement smells to high hell of the far right think tanks.

Of course if you get upwind, up there in the official state entertainment agencies, mainstream media, you can't smell it, and wonder of wonders, it is declared to be another example of the American people exercising democracy!

What's your take?

(Joe replied)

You're right about the nature of the Tea Baggers.

However, there are three things that really stand out to me about the Tea Baggers in a broader context.

The first is the general political incoherence of their lines of attack and in what they claim to be for and what they claim to be against. The most retrograde or ignorant of McCarthyites in the 50's or New Right activists of the 70s and 80's would not have attacked their very mainstream adversaries for being both Communists and Nazis at the same time. Second is the responses the Tea Baggers have solicited from progressives in general and the very large well funded Obama political organization. The Obama machine has no interest in fending them off since they have been excellent foil in keeping progressives in line and have pushed the health care debate in the direction of the deals they have already cut with the health care industry (pro-corporate and to the right), and away from more progressive vision of health care reform. And the progressives are fucking worthless - they don't hate, they don't fight and then they wonder why no one is afraid of them. Lastly and most importantly, I think the Tea Baggers are really our canary in the mine that we are entering our late empire period. Crisis and decline in such situations does not lead to discrediting the failed ideologies that caused the given crisis, but rather the belief that we are failing because we were not faithful enough to those ideals. (Think of the crisis in Islamic world and the rise of fundamentalism.) When it comes to history, shit just flows down hill. John Brown
Definitely - from this crowd.

Suzan ___________________

Saturday, January 30, 2010

AIG-GoldMan Sex Frauds Exposed, Elizabeth Warren Warns, Paul C. Roberts Explains Political Reality, John le Carre Depicts Venality

Jon Stewart interviews Elizabeth Warren (stolen from Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!)) on straightening out the mess and saying "No!" to our masters. (I've been waiting to read the exact details of what transpired before, during and after the AIG fraudulent activities that led to Goldman Sachs being paid dollar for dollar, bailing out their bad bets, on toxic assets. My buddy, RJ, has done me the favor of answering that question. You won't believe the arrogance of these "men" who had no problem in defrauding every citizen of the U.S. and then giving themselves a bonus for their brilliance - and still expecting not to be held accountable by a grateful populace. And if you thought any of these people were smarter than you in order to be able to figure out how to enrich themselves at your expense, relax. They are only corrupt to the bone (and clever in the way that all small-time crooks are). Not a field in which most of us would like to compete for honors.)
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor Health Care Crisis
Paul Craig Roberts has his own views defining our current reality (emphasis marks added - Ed.):
Rule By The Rich The election of Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate by Democratic voters in Massachusetts sends President Obama a message. Voters perceive that Obama’s administration has morphed into a Bush-Cheney government. Obama has reneged on every promise he made, from ending wars, to closing Gitmo, to providing health care for Americans, to curtailing the domestic police state, to putting the interests of dispossessed Americans ahead of the interests of the rich banksters who robbed Americans of their homes and pensions.

But what can Obama do other then spout more rhetoric?

The Democrats were destroyed as an independent party by jobs offshoring and so-called free trade agreements such as NAFTA. The effect of "globalism" has been to destroy the industrial and manufacturing unions, thus leaving the Democrats without a power base and source of funding.

Obama and the Democrats cannot be an opposition party, because Democrats are as dependent as Republicans on corporate interest groups for campaign funding.The Democrats have to support war and the police state if they want funding from the military/security complex. They have to make the health care bill into a subsidy for private insurance if they want funding from the insurance companies. They have to abandon the American people for the rich banksters if they want funding from the financial lobby.

Now that the five Republicans on the Supreme Court have overturned decades of U.S. law and given corporations the ability to buy every American election, Democrats and Republicans can be nothing but pawns for a plutocracy.

Most Americans are hard pressed, but the corporations have only begun to milk them.Wars are too profitable for the armaments industry to ever end. High unemployment is now a permanent state in the U.S., thus coercing job seekers into military service.

The security industry profits from the police state and regards civil liberties as a hindrance to profits. By announcing that he intends to continue the Bush policy of indefinite detention, a violation of the Constitution and U.S. legal procedures, Obama has granted the Democratic Party’s consent to the Republicans’ destruction of habeas corpus, the main bastion of individual liberty.

Jobs offshoring is too profitable for U.S. corporations for Obama to be able to save American jobs and restart the broken economy. Americans are being squeezed out of health care not only by the loss of job benefits, but also by corporate takeover of medical practice from physicians. Today medical doctors are wage slaves of corporate health providers that leverage doctors by turning them into supervisors of physician assistants, lower paid people without medical degrees who perform the services that doctors once provided. As neither doctor nor physician assistant has any independence, there is no one to represent the patient’s care against the profits of the corporation. Even environmental concerns are being used to create "cap and trade" rights to buy and sell the ability to pollute. Wall Street is licking its lips over a new source of leveraged derivative instruments. The American public cannot even get reliable information about their plight as the "mainstream media" has been concentrated into a few corporate hands that do not permit independent reporting. The media is as dependent on corporate money as are politicians. How can President Obama restart an economy that has been moved offshore? Millions of manufacturing jobs are gone, as are millions of jobs for college graduates, such as software engineering, Information Technology - indeed, any intellectual skill the product of which can be conveyed via the Internet. Even those intellectual skill jobs that do remain in the U.S. are filled increasingly by foreigners brought in on work visas. The wipeout of blue collar and middle class job growth has stopped the growth of American incomes except, of course, those of the super rich. For a decade American consumers substituted increased personal indebtedness for income growth. In order to maintain and to increase their consumption, Americans consumed their assets, such as their home equity. Americans reached their maximum debt load just as the real estate bubble burst and just as the banksters highly-leveraged, toxic financial instruments brought down the stock market and the values of Americans’ pensions. The enormous damage done to the U.S. economy by jobs offshoring, work visas, and financial deregulation cannot be offset by government stimulus plans, which expand the debt burdens that are crushing Americans. The federal government’s massive budget deficits and the Federal Reserve’s easy monetary policy are setting the stage for an inflationary depression to follow a deflationary depression. The Federal Reserve chairman says not to worry about inflation, because the Fed can take the money back out of the economy. But can the Fed take the money out without contracting the economy? TheFederal Reserve says not to worry about financing the federal budget deficit. Banksters are buying the Treasury bonds with the proceeds from their sales of their toxic derivatives to the Fed. So what is happening to the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet? And when will the Fed have no recourse but to print new money in order to finance the federal deficit? How long can the dollar retain its reserve currency role in such circumstances, and how does the U.S. pay for its imports when this role is lost? Don’t look to Washington for answers to these questions.
I respect John le Carre immensely for his integrity and honesty for the last 50 years. Here he tells us about the lost opportunity we encountered because of the leadership by George H.W. Bush and his CIA-Neocon backers, the black ops of "embedded media," and that he doesn't see "globalization as different from colonization." Suzan _______________________

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More Lying Liars - The New Spy Game (On Our Neighbors)

John le Carré (David Cornwell) tells us how infected with the black ops/secret world our everyday lives used to be, and by extrapolation, still are with a slightly different focus: we are spying on our own people now. And this is very old news, bubby.

By the time I entered the secret world, foreign services, diplomacy and those things were really like cover organizations for a huge industry of espionage and counterespionage. It was the battlefield of the Cold War, so I was incredibly lucky to be as a very, very small worm, to have a worm's eyeview of that kind of secret conflict that was running at that time. . . .

And our lives are not better after the end of the Cold War. The horror of his world is
seeing the movie coming round again. . . . And we had a chance to recreate the world . . . there was no Marshall Plan . . . no Peace Corps . . . absolutely no grace or creativity in the way we addressed the world at that moment. For the blink of a star we could have remade it, and there was nobody there. . . . These are not the gloomy perceptions of an old man . . . my children are making" (them). . . . America could not think itself out of a posture of belligerence. . . . and that's a catastrophe.

Yes, he detests Thatcher and Reagan. He's deeply embarrassed by Blair's subornation. When reading the article below remember the Bushes' history in the CIA, Clinton's War on Bosnia and Kosovo and the coming reality of the next "terr'ist" attack.

These guys are not joking around. Like your financial system now? It may soon fade into the twilight distance as your primary concern. Please listen to Le Carré here.

Relevant questions begging for answers include: Who made the decision not to "connect the dots"? Are right-wing elements and holdovers from the previous administration actively conspiring to destabilize the Obama government? Was the attempted bombing a planned provocation meant to incite new conflicts in the Middle East and restrict democratic rights at home? As with the 9/11 attacks, these questions go unasked by corporate media. Indeed, such lines of inquiry are entirely off the table and are further signs that a cover-up is in full-swing, not a hard-hitting investigation. Nearly one month after passengers foiled an attempted suicide bomb attack aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit on Christmas Day, new information reveals that the White House and U.S. security agencies had specific intelligence on accused terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, far earlier than previously acknowledged. Along with new reports, evidence suggests that the administration's cover-up of the affair has very little to do with a failure by the intelligence apparatus to "connect the dots" and may have far more serious political implications for the Obama administration, and what little remains of a functioning democracy in the United States, than a botched bombing. What the White House and security officials have previously described only as "vague" intercepts regarding "a Nigerian" has now morphed into a clear picture of the suspect - and the plot. The New York Times revealed January 18 that the National Security Agency "learned from a communications intercept of Qaeda followers in Yemen that a man named "Umar Farouk" - the first two names of the jetliner suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - had volunteered for a coming operation."

According to Times' journalists Eric Lipton, Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti, "the American intelligence network was clearly listening in Yemen and sharing that information." Indeed, additional NSA intercepts in December "mentioned the date of Dec. 25, and suggested that they were 'looking for ways to get somebody out' or 'for ways to move people to the West,' one senior administration official said." . . . However, the real bombshell came last Wednesday during hearings before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee when Bushist embed, and current Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Michael E. Leiter, made a startling admission.

CongressDaily reported on January 22 that intelligence officials "have acknowledged the government knowingly allows foreigners whose names are on terrorist watch lists to enter the country in order to track their movement and activities." Leiter told the Committee: "I will tell you, that when people come to the country and they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another."

CongressDaily reporter Chris Strohm, citing an unnamed "intelligence official" confirmed that Leiter's statement reflected government policy and told the publication, "in certain situations it's to our advantage to be able to track individuals who might be on a terrorist watch list because you can learn something from their activities and their contacts."

An alternative explanation fully in line with well-documented inaction, or worse, by U.S. security agencies prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and now, Christmas Day's aborted airline bombing, offer clear evidence that a ruthless "choice" which facilitates the murder of American citizens are cynical pretexts in a wider game: advancing imperialism's geostrategic goals abroad and attacks on democratic rights at home. Leiter's revelation in an of itself should demolish continued government claims that the accused terror suspect succeeded in boarding NW Flight 253 due to a failure to "connect the dots." However, as far as Antifascist Calling can determine, no other media outlet has either reported or followed-up CongressDaily's disclosure; a clear sign that its explosive nature, and where a further investigation might lead, are strictly off-limits.

Taking into account testimony by a high-level national security official that terrorists are allowed to enter the country for intelligence purposes, one can only conclude that the alleged "failure" to stop Abdulmutallab was neither a casual omission nor the result of bureaucratic incompetence but rather, a highly-charged political calculation.

Bushist Embeds: Destabilizing the Obama Administration?

One subject barely explored by corporate media throughout the Flight 253 affair, is the unsettling notion that the aborted Christmas day bombing may have been a move by rightist elements within the security apparatus to destabilize the Obama administration, a course of action facilitated by the Obama government itself as we will explore below. This is not as implausible as it might appear at first blush. When one takes into account the meteoric rise to power by the 40-year-old former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor, Michael Leiter's ascent tracks closely with his previous service as a cover-up specialist for the Bush-Cheney regime.

"In 2004, while working as a federal prosecutor," a New York Times puff piece informs us, "Mr. Leiter joined the staff of a commission, appointed by President George W. Bush, to examine intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq. That led to a series of jobs in the intelligence world, and in 2008, Mr. Bush appointed him director of the counterterrorism center."

A rather curious appointment, if Leiter were simply an ingénue with no prior experience in the murky world of intelligence and covert operations. However the former Navy pilot, who participated in the U.S. wars of aggression against the former Yugoslavia and Iraq seemed to have the requisite qualifications for work as an intelligence "specialist."

While attending Harvard Law School, Leiter served as a "human rights fellow" with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, the U.S.-sponsored kangaroo court that has prosecuted America's official enemies in the Balkans whilst covering-up the crimes of their partners.

Amongst America's more dubious "allies" in the decade-long campaign to destabilize socialist Yugoslavia were al-Qaeda's Islamist brigade, responsible for carrying-out hideous massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo, with NATO approval and logistical support, as Global Research analyst Michel Chossudovsky, and others, have thoroughly documented.

As Deputy General Counsel and Assistant Director of the President's Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States, the so-called "Robb-Silberman" cover-up commission, Leiter focused on what are euphemistically described in the media as "reforms" with the U.S. "Intelligence Community," including the stand-up of the FBI's repressive National Security Branch.

Prior to joining NCTC, Leiter was the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence under former NSA Director and ten-year senior vice president of the spooky Booz Allen Hamilton security firm, John "Mike" McConnell. From his perch in ODNI, Leiter coordinated all internal and external operations for the Office, including relations with the White House, the Department of Homeland Security and the CIA.

Leiter's résumé, and his role in concealing Bush administration war crimes, predicated on ginned-up "intelligence" invented by Dick Cheney's minions in the Defense Department and the CIA, should have sent alarm bells ringing inside the incoming Obama administration.

As we have seen since Obama's inauguration however, rather than cleaning house - and settling accounts - with the crimes, and criminals, of the previous regime, the "change" administration chose to retain senior- and mid-level bureaucrats in the security apparatus; employing officials who share the antidemocratic ideology, penchant for secrecy and ruthlessness of the Bush administration. While the Times claims his "unblemished résumé" has taken a hit over the Flight 253 plot, an interview with National Public Radio shortly before the Abdulmutallab affair, provides chilling insight into Leiter's agenda, particularly in light of his January 20 statement to the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Presciently perhaps, the NCTC chief told NPR: "We're not going to stop every attack. Americans have to very much understand that it is impossible to stop every terrorist event. But we have to do our best, and we have to adjust, based on, again, how the enemy changes their tactics." It becomes a painfully simple matter for "the enemy" to gain advantage and "change their tactics" when those charged with protecting the public actually facilitate their entrée into the country "for some reason or another"!

According to the Times, the White House has kept Leiter at the helm and that it came as "no surprise to Bush officials" because, get this, "Michael wasn't political," if we're to believe the carefully-constructed legend of former Bushist Deputy National Security Adviser Juan Zarate. If the Bush-Cheney years tell us anything it's that appointments by the previous regime were ruthlessly political. As The Washington Post reported shortly after Obama's election, these appointments were made permanent across a multitude of federal agencies and departments, including the security apparat, in a cynical maneuver designed to reward Bush loyalists.

"The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions" the Post disclosed, "called 'burrowing' by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs." The Times reports that the White House has publicly defended Leiter "and aides to the president said Mr. Obama called to convey his support."

Perhaps not so curiously, the allegedly "nonpolitical" NCTC Director "has been mentioned as a possible future head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and how he performs might help determine whether he remains on the fast track."

One can only wonder, how many other counterterrorist officials have "burrowed" their way into, and hold key positions in the current administration, ticking political time-bombs inside America's permanent shadow government.

Senate Whitewash Fuel Attacks on Democratic Rights

During Wednesday's Senate hearings, Obama's Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis C. Blair, in keeping with the former Bush administration's assault on democratic rights, assailed the decision by the Justice Department to try the suspect in a court of law. This is fully in line with the rhetoric of ultra-right Republicans and so-called "centrist Democrats" such as arch neocon Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Newsweek reports that new details "surrounding the Christmas Day interrogation of the bombing suspect aboard Northwest Flight 253 raise questions about the accuracy of testimony provided Wednesday by senior U.S. intelligence and Homeland Security officials." Last week, the newsmagazine reported that "Obama administration officials were flabbergasted Wednesday when Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair testified that an alleged Qaeda operative who tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day should have been questioned by a special interrogation unit that doesn't exist, rather than the FBI."

This theme was quickly picked-up by Senate Republicans. The overarching sentiments expressed by this gaggle of war criminals and corporate toadies was not to demand accountability from the responsible parties, but to call for further attacks on Americans' democratic rights.

Republicans on the committee lambasted Obama's Justice Department for its decision to try Abdulmutallab in a civilian court. John McCain (R-AZ), the Republican party's failed candidate in the 2008 presidential election, said the decision was "a terrible, terrible mistake," while the execrable Jeff Sessions (R-AL) claimed that the hapless suspect should have been delivered to the U.S. military as an "enemy combatant." Ranking Republicans on the committee, Susan Collins (R-ME) and John Ensign (R-NV) went so far as to imply that Abdulmutallab should have been tortured.

Collins inquired: "how can we uncover plots" if accused criminal suspects are allowed to "lawyer up and stop answering questions?" Ensign, a staunch supporter of policies articulated by the Bush administration, particularly former Vice President and war criminal, Dick Cheney, argued that "limiting" CIA interrogators to the methods laid out in the Army Field Manual would allow terrorists to "train" in advance of interrogations.

But the harshest criticism of the administration came in the form of a stealth attack by Obama's own Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Blair. The Wall Street Journal reported January 21 that "nation's intelligence chief said the man accused of trying to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day should have been questioned by a special interrogation team instead of being handled as an ordinary criminal suspect." Rather than coming to terms and halting the Bush regime's practice of torturing so-called terrorist suspects, the Obama administration has compounded the crime by creating a secretive group of interrogators called the High-Value Interrogation Group or HIG.

Blair told the Senate that the administration had "botched" the handling of suspect Abdulmutallab, by, wait, not handing him over to a group that as of this writing, exists only on paper, a salient fact of which Blair was certainly knowledgeable!

Please read the rest of this history of ongoing coverups here.

Just sayin'.


P.S. Read Raj Patel's The Value of Nothing if you have any spare moments at all. It's quite something - brilliant in fact - as it addresses what we have to do to recover our real value(s). ______________________

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bernie Says "NO!" Krugman Counters, Obama Seeks Verboten Freeze in Domestic Spending To Placate Mathematically Challenged

You know that I have a lot of respect for Paul Krugman's judgment - even when I think he is wrong (and his full disclosure is almost fuller than I wished). Before reading his latest on the Bernanke reconfirmation, I would have been able to tell you exactly why it was a very bad idea. Surprisingly enough though, Paul does it for me, and then convinces me that he's probably right (purely on the grounds of self defense). Which I hate. Bernie Sanders actually makes a better case but can we afford the revenge? (Okay. I can. But can the country?) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Joe Bageant is much more amenable to my way of thinking and his latest thoughts jibe much more closely with my own insights. He even gets to straighten out a "tea partyer" who is absolutely sure of his own judgment (which is uneducated, sure, but held by about 70% of the population).

About the Tea Party movement. Yeah, you're right. It is not what it started out to be. Personally, I believe it has been co-opted by ultra conservative GOP think tanks operating in the background. I've seen it happen before and I believe I am seeing it happen now. With no proof, mind you. However, when I smell fresh dog shit in the air, I assume the presence of a dog somewhere about. I am not alone in this. Many veteran journalists agree with me privately, but cannot say so publicly because they cannot prove it. They supposedly have journalistic standards and public responsibilities to which they adhere (they cannot prove that either). I, on the other hand, am moreover retired from journalism as a vocation, and have a big mouth. In the typical crankiness of aging Southerners given to drink, I have taken to calling things as I see them. Or smell them, as the case may be. And these days with the political climate reeking like a whorehouse after the fleet pulls out, the olfactory bulbs reign triumphant.

Please read the rest here (I guarantee you won't regret the moments you spend).

The Bernanke Conundrum (Paul Krugman) A Republican won in Massachusetts — and suddenly it’s not clear whether the Senate will confirm Ben Bernanke for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman. That’s not as strange as it sounds: Washington has suddenly noticed public rage over economic policies that bailed out big banks but failed to create jobs. And Mr. Bernanke has become a symbol of those policies. Where do I stand? I deeply admire Mr. Bernanke, both as an economist and for his response to the financial crisis. (Full disclosure: before going to the Fed he headed Princeton’s economics department, and hired me for my current position there.) Yet his critics have a strong case. In the end, I favor his reappointment, but only because rejecting him could make the Fed’s policies worse, not better. How did we get to the point where that’s the most I can say? . . . That’s not a ringing endorsement, but it’s the best I can do. If Mr. Bernanke is reappointed, he and his colleagues need to realize that what they consider a policy success is actually a policy failure. We have avoided a second Great Depression, but we are facing mass unemployment — unemployment that will blight the lives of millions of Americans — for years to come. And it’s the Fed’s responsibility to do all it can to end that blight.
Please read the rest here as it's an eye opener.
J. Bradford DeLong says this is an economic disaster in the making. I agree. You decide. (Oh, and Obama is perfectly okay with being a one-term President? If only he'd campaigned on that plank.) Danny Schechter, who is always a treat to read, points out that Obama is Kowtowing as he Seeks 3-Year Freeze in Spending on Many Domestic Programs.

President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday. The freeze would cover the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year, including air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks. [More here →]

J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics at U.C Berkeley: This Is Such a Disaster in the Making… Doesn’t anybody in the White House know how to play this game? First rule of politics: If you have campaigned against a proposal called a “freeze,” and denounced it in the most eloquent terms, don’t call your own proposal a “freeze.” Obama To Diane Sawyer: ‘I Would ‘Rather Be Really Good One-Term President’ Obama tells Diane Sawyer he doesn’t want to be a “mediocre two-term president.” ABC has posted the whole transcript here.

And I'm pretty sure that you don't want to know why Haiti has been responded to like its middle name is New Orleans.

LA Times: Haitian Elite Planning A New Capital/ New Haiti - This article of how members of the elite there began planning to rebuild within an HOUR after the quake hit is seen by the person who sent it to me as evidence that they a) were not all that eager to provide aid immediately and b) saw it as an opportunity to move the poor out of the new capital they hope to build. Businessmen who have been part of creating low-wage factories in partnership with US firms were part of the group. “You would think their first concern would be saving the people.” she said. “Is this too conspiratorial? Perhaps. But there must be reasons for the delay in aid for the masses there beyond the logistical “bottlenecks” we are being told about since many procedures have now changed suggesting there was only the barest of plans and knowledge of what to do among the US military who everyone assumed knew what they are doing. CNN reports (that a)id is beginning to seep through and reach more people but this is now two weeks after the disaster struck. There are still major shortages of materials and personnel.

No wonder TV news prefers focusing on the more feel-good news, the uplifting stories about orphans coming to America.

That's certainly my choice. Just don't let any of those damned legless Haitians in legally. Suzan __________________

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Naifs' Smooth Lying About Wars & How Democracy in America Became Merely a Useful Fiction

It's Stratcomm Psy-Ops all the time now. Boom! Boom! Boom! The hits just keep on coming. I remember my first thoughts about the going along of the Democratic leadership with the nonsense emanating from the 9/11 Scare. "Are they stupid or just naive?" And if they aren't really our representatives, who is? But if we turn off the TV, how will we know where to gather for the prison bus pickup?

The "patriotic" citizen, plagued by fear of job losses and possible terrorist attacks, unfailingly supports widespread surveillance and the militarized state. This means no questioning of the $1 trillion in defense-related spending. It means that the military and intelligence agencies are held above government, as if somehow they are not part of government.

Finally facing our Waterloo? Well, we could just dance to their tune (or organize and dance to ours). Chris Hedges (published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East; served for eight years as the Middle East bureau chief of The New York Times, where he shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism, for coverage of terrorism; also received the 2002 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism) expresses exactly what I'm feeling about this issue. How can anyone argue successfully against this interpretation? (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction

January 25, 2010

"Truthdig" - Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d'état in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.

The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is seriously challenged, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic facade exists, liberals can engage in an empty moral posturing that requires little sacrifice or commitment. They can be the self-appointed scolds of the Democratic Party, acting as if they are part of the debate and feel vindicated by their cries of protest.

Much of the outrage expressed about the court's ruling is the outrage of those who prefer this choreographed charade. As long as the charade is played, they do not have to consider how to combat what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of "inverted totalitarianism."

Inverted totalitarianism represents "the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry," Wolin writes in "Democracy Incorporated." Inverted totalitarianism differs from classical forms of totalitarianism, which revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader, and finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. The corporate forces behind inverted totalitarianism do not, as classical totalitarian movements do, boast of replacing decaying structures with a new, revolutionary structure. They purport to honor electoral politics, freedom and the Constitution. But they so corrupt and manipulate the levers of power as to make democracy impossible.

Inverted totalitarianism is not conceptualized as an ideology or objectified in public policy. It is furthered by "power-holders and citizens who often seem unaware of the deeper consequences of their actions or inactions," Wolin writes. But it is as dangerous as classical forms of totalitarianism. In a system of inverted totalitarianism, as this court ruling illustrates, it is not necessary to rewrite the Constitution, as fascist and communist regimes do. It is enough to exploit legitimate power by means of judicial and legislative interpretation. This exploitation ensures that huge corporate campaign contributions are protected speech under the First Amendment. It ensures that heavily financed and organized lobbying by large corporations is interpreted as an application of the people's right to petition the government. The court again ratified the concept that corporations are persons, except in those cases where the "persons" agree to a "settlement." Those within corporations who commit crimes can avoid going to prison by paying large sums of money to the government while, according to this twisted judicial reasoning, not "admitting any wrongdoing." There is a word for this. It is called corruption.

Corporations have 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals that dole out corporate money to shape and write legislation. They use their political action committees to solicit employees and shareholders for donations to fund pliable candidates. The financial sector, for example, spent more than $5 billion on political campaigns, influence peddling and lobbying during the past decade, which resulted in sweeping deregulation, the gouging of consumers, our global financial meltdown and the subsequent looting of the U.S. Treasury. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $26 million last year and drug companies such as Pfizer, Amgen and Eli Lilly kicked in tens of millions more to buy off the two parties. These corporations have made sure our so-called health reform bill will force us to buy their predatory and defective products. The oil and gas industry, the coal industry, defense contractors and telecommunications companies have thwarted the drive for sustainable energy and orchestrated the steady erosion of civil liberties. Politicians do corporate bidding and stage hollow acts of political theater to keep the fiction of the democratic state alive.

There is no national institution left that can accurately be described as democratic. Citizens, rather than participate in power, are allowed to have virtual opinions to preordained questions, a kind of participatory fascism as meaningless as voting on "American Idol." Mass emotions are directed toward the raging culture wars. This allows us to take emotional stands on issues that are inconsequential to the power elite.

Our transformation into an empire, as happened in ancient Athens and Rome, has seen the tyranny we practice abroad become the tyranny we practice at home. We, like all empires, have been eviscerated by our own expansionism. We utilize weapons of horrific destructive power, subsidize their development with billions in taxpayer dollars, and are the world's largest arms dealer. And the Constitution, as Wolin notes, is "conscripted to serve as power's apprentice rather than its conscience."

"Inverted totalitarianism reverses things," Wolin writes. "It is politics all of the time but a politics largely untempered by the political. Party squabbles are occasionally on public display, and there is a frantic and continuous politics among factions of the party, interest groups, competing corporate powers, and rival media concerns. And there is, of course, the culminating moment of national elections when the attention of the nation is required to make a choice of personalities rather than a choice between alternatives. What is absent is the political, the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests rabidly seeking governmental favors and overwhelming the practices of representative government and public administration by a sea of cash."

Hollywood, the news industry and television, all corporate controlled, have become instruments of inverted totalitarianism. They censor or ridicule those who critique or challenge corporate structures and assumptions. They saturate the airwaves with manufactured controversy, whether it is Tiger Woods or the dispute between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. They manipulate images to make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge, which is how Barack Obama became president. And the draconian internal control employed by the Department of Homeland Security, the military and the police over any form of popular dissent, coupled with the corporate media's censorship, does for inverted totalitarianism what thugs and bonfires of books do in classical totalitarian regimes.

"It seems a replay of historical experience that the bias displayed by today's media should be aimed consistently at the shredded remains of liberalism," Wolin writes. "Recall that an element common to most 20th century totalitarianism, whether Fascist or Stalinist, was hostility towards the left. In the United States, the left is assumed to consist solely of liberals, occasionally of ‘the left wing of the Democratic Party,' never of democrats."

Liberals, socialists, trade unionists, independent journalists and intellectuals, many of whom were once important voices in our society, have been silenced or targeted for elimination within corporate-controlled academia, the media and government. Wolin, who taught at Berkeley and later at Princeton, is arguably the country's foremost political philosopher. And yet his book was virtually ignored. This is also why Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney, along with intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, are not given a part in our national discourse.

The uniformity of opinion is reinforced by the skillfully orchestrated mass emotions of nationalism and patriotism, which paints all dissidents as "soft" or "unpatriotic." The "patriotic" citizen, plagued by fear of job losses and possible terrorist attacks, unfailingly supports widespread surveillance and the militarized state. This means no questioning of the $1 trillion in defense-related spending. It means that the military and intelligence agencies are held above government, as if somehow they are not part of government. The most powerful instruments of state power and control are effectively removed from public discussion. We, as imperial citizens, are taught to be contemptuous of government bureaucracy, yet we stand like sheep before Homeland Security agents in airports and are mute when Congress permits our private correspondence and conversations to be monitored and archived. We endure more state control than at any time in American history.

The civic, patriotic and political language we use to describe ourselves remains unchanged. We pay fealty to the same national symbols and iconography. We find our collective identity in the same national myths. We continue to deify the Founding Fathers. But the America we celebrate is an illusion. It does not exist. Our government and judiciary have no real sovereignty. Our press provides diversion, not information. Our organs of security and power keep us as domesticated and as fearful as most Iraqis. Capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, when it emasculates government, becomes a revolutionary force. And this revolutionary force, best described as inverted totalitarianism, is plunging us into a state of neo-feudalism, perpetual war and severe repression. The Supreme Court decision is part of our transformation by the corporate state from citizens to prisoners.

And about those Generals "selling the wars" in a so-called civilian-controlled military (and their eager students) - The Stepford Men's Association. (Now this is truly terrifying when you consider the new actors (emphasis marks added - Ed.).)

Sure, the lawmaker may fly into Bagram air field with a head full of steam against sending 30,000 more troops, or at least a healthy skepticism toward escalating of a war in which every additional day, month, and year of the occupation seems to breathe new life into the forces against us. But like Joanna Eberhart’s fateful discovery at the Stepford Men’s Association, nearly every member of Congress who travels overseas these days to meet the boss returns mouthing the same rhetoric, like a plastic simulacrum of the man or woman their constituents elected. “What I saw here is almost totally positive,” gushed Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, after a hand-holding walk through a forward operating base in Afghanistan. “We went to places away from Kabul today. We saw real partnering with Afghans … it’s reassuring to see that happening.” Levin traveled to the region earlier this month with Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), spending one day in Pakistan and two whole days in Afghanistan. “Our counterinsurgency strategy may be taking hold … we are offering [the Afghans] terms of security better than the false security offered by the Taliban," he told reporters. "I came back more optimistic about where we are," Franken shared with Minnesota Public Radio upon his return. "Gen. McChrystal did say momentum and perception are so important in Afghanistan. I believe we are seeing a change in that," Franken said. "We need to clear, hold, and build, we need to secure these areas … we’re using classic counterinsurgency tactics and I feel much better." As I wrote about in The American Conservative (M)agazine last month, this (is) all part of the Pentagon’s massive strategic communications ((S)tratcomm) matrix.

One may think that (S)tratcomm – which includes everything from Army public affairs to battlefield information operations (IO) and psychological operations (PSYOPS) – is all about shaping perception and influencing "hearts and minds" overseas, but a critical part is keeping elected officials (i.e., the keepers of the coin) on board with the mission. As such, Gen. McChrystal has learned from the master, Gen. Petraeus, how to gently subjugate members of Congress, tailoring and massaging the desired take-home message for each delegation, ensuring not only that individual members "get it," but that they invoke the correct narrative, tone, and language with their colleagues on Capitol Hill, the media, and with their people back home. In some cases, for example, he makes insiders of key senators, like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman, who fan out smugly like McChrystal’s national surrogates after each CODEL, mouthing all the prescribed verbiage on television, at town hall meetings, and in exchanges with the White House. Levin and Franken began as skeptics of President Obama’s escalation plan (and they still are, to a point, or so they suggest post-CODEL). Nonetheless, Levin has always insisted that the key to leaving Afghanistan is getting the Afghan security forces trained well enough to defend the government against the Taliban and insidious al-Qaeda elements. McChrystal has seized upon this, no doubt, leaving the senators with the impression today that not only is substantially building the police and national army (the latest goal is from 191,000 to 305,000) by the end of next year doable, but that recruits are now swarming in at a record pace. U.S. and NATO forces just need the additional trainers to keep up with the momentum.

Steve Clemons, always willing to give the Democrats the benefit of the doubt, nevertheless seemed fairly stunned at Levin’s apparent lack of circumspection after his brief "confidence tour" with McChrystal:

"According to Levin, the only shortfall in the area of partnering is not the lack of American combat troops to partner with Afghans in the field, but rather the number of trainers. He said that there are ‘more than enough troops to handle the true shoulder to shoulder partnering.’ He continued, ‘What we learned, to our dismay, is that in the early training, during the first eight weeks, in the preliminary kind of skills given to recruits – there is a significant shortfall in personnel to train.’" Franken’s take was, not surprisingly, identical. "They got so many recruits they had to cut them off at a certain point because they don’t have enough trainers," Franken told reporters. He was treated to the same "partnering" exhibition as Levin. "The Afghan national army is the most respected institution in the country," he told his public radio host. Considering that a wide swath of the Pashtun people, who make up an estimated 40 to 45 percent of the population, despise the military because they see it as a Tajik appendage of the corrupt Karzai regime, this doesn’t say much for the rest of Afghanistan’s institutions. But someone in uniform must have told Franken that, so it has to be true.

Franken and Levin weren’t the only CODEL in town. A few more had already passed through a week before – and all working off the same page, it seems, with small variations depending on party affiliation and ideological bent.

On an entirely different page altogether.


Monday, January 25, 2010

SCROTUS, Court Screams & Debt Collectors Ruining Your Right to Privacy and a Job (The Plot Thickens)

Don't you wish we had someone the caliber of Smiley (Alec Guinness) working for our side? I'm not sure that character and integrity like this exist anywhere anymore (and, yes, I know this is theatre, but ain't it all?). From Think Progress we learn the most interesting news since the ruling that exposed the corruption of the Supreme Court:

. . . “all five of the [Supreme] Court’s conservatives joined together … to invalidate a sixty-three year-old ban on corporate money in federal elections,” a move that Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said “opens the floodgates for the purchases and sale of the law” by big corporations.

Today, in response to the Supreme Court’s catastrophic decision, “dozens of current and former corporate executives” from corporations including Delta, Ben & Jerry’s, and Crate & Barrel sent a letter to Congress asking it to immediately pass the Fair Elections Now Act, which would publicly finance all congressional campaigns out of a special fund created by a fee levied on TV broadcasters:

Roughly 40 executives from companies including Playboy Enterprises, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, the Seagram’s liquor company, toymaker Hasbro, Delta Airlines and Men’s Wearhouse sent a letter to congressional leaders Friday urging them to approve public financing for House and Senate campaigns. They say they are tired of getting fundraising calls from lawmakers — and fear it will only get worse after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling. [...]

“Members of Congress already spend too much time raising money from large contributors,” the business executives’ letter says. “And often, many of us individually are on the receiving end of solicitation phone calls from members of Congress. With additional money flowing into the system due to the court’s decision, the fundraising pressure on members of Congress will only increase.”

Even before the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, corporate special interest money was making a huge impact on the legislative process. From 1998 to 2009, the financial, insurance, and real estate lobbies spent nearly $3.8 billion in Washington, successfully deregulating Wall Street, passing huge tax cuts for the wealthy, barring Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices, killing mortgage cramdown legislation, and weakening financial and health reforms.

According to polling done in November 2008, 69 percent of the American people support publicly financing all campaigns, including the majority of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and independents. The bipartisan Fair Elections Now Act currently has six Senate co-sponsors and 125 co-sponsors in the House (President Obama was a co-sponsor when he was a senator). Click here to sign the Fair Elections Now Act petition.

The Existentialist Cowboy brings us Jim Hightower's measured opinion of these august justices.

Jim Hightower: 'A Black-Robed' Coup d'Etat'

Last September, I wrote The Hightower Lowdown about how the Roberts' Court could throw out over 100 years of campaign finance law.

Remember their names: Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas.

Yesterday, from within the dark isolation of the Supreme Court, these five men pulled off a black-robed coup against the American people's democratic authority. In an unprecedented perversion of judicial power, this court cabal has decreed that corporations have a free-speech "right" to dip into their corporate coffers and spend unlimited sums of money to elect or defeat candidates of their choosing.

Corporate interests already had too much money power over our political system. No other group in America comes anywhere near the spending clout that this relatively small clutch of wealthy special interests wields over our elections and government. So it's ludicrous for anyone – much less Supreme Court judges – to argue that the corporate voice is a victim of political "censorship." This is not merely judicial activism, it is judicial radicalism.

Thomas Jefferson warned about the dangerous rise of corporate power, declaring that (we) must "crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations." Today, I'm sure that founding patriots like Jefferson are not simply spinning in their graves at the Supreme Court's surrender to this aristocracy – they're trying to claw their way out of their graves to throttle all five of the traitors.

We MUST fight back. Many good groups are working on this issue, and we all have to get involved to fight against this corporate take over of our political system. Public Citizen has a petition we can sign. Common Cause is asking us to contact your congressperson and make sure they have signed on to the Fair Elections Now Act. I mentioned other good groups that are working on this issue. Get in touch with them. Let's fight the good fight... and win! Onward!

I don't know exactly what the bona fides are of the following item but the Legal Schnauzer has another even more disturbing tale that illuminates exactly where we are as far as having no privacy (or job safety) whatsoever if someone above decides we are expendable. (I have no dog in this fight, only an interest in making sure that if things like this go on, the word will get out.) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Debt Collectors Leave Fingerprints at the Scene of the Crime

My wife and I filed a lawsuit in July 2008 alleging multiple violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) associated with a debt we allegedly owed to American Express.

Strange events started happening on my wife's job at Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation in June 2009, just as discovery issues began to heat up in our lawsuit. The strangeness reached a head on September 25 when my wife - we call her Mrs. Schnauzer (MS) here - was fired under mysterious circumstances. Could someone connected to the defendants in our case - NCO and Ingram & Associates - have caused my wife to be cheated out of her job? Have things gotten so bad in our "justice system" that someone can lose her job simply for trying to seek redress in court? Did someone knowingly violate my wife's civil rights under 42 U.S. Code 1985 (2), which specifically prohibits such actions? We've been studying fingerprints left at the scene of the crime, and the answers to those questions appear to be yes. Actually, the circumstances surrounding MS's termination are not all that mysterious. Lawyers for NCO and Ingram & Associates had tried all kinds of threats in an effort to get us to drop the lawsuit. But it became clear in mid September that those threats weren't going to work, and defendants were going to have to turn over information in discovery. That's when my wife's supervisor at Infinity gave her a written warning for being "tardy," even though he had asked her some three months earlier to move her start time from 9 to 9:30 a.m. in order to help better serve California customers. She had always arrived well in advance of the 9:30 start time, and her supervisor had never given her oral notice of a tardiness problem, as required by the company handbook.

My wife disputed the written warning, indicating that she was going to take the matter to (H)uman (R)esources. Her supervisor then said he was "fine," stating that he had left the document in his drawer. In other words, he indicated that there was no official warning after all, and everything was fine. A few days later, MS was fired. Infinity's failure to follow its own policies regarding alleged tardiness indicate the grounds for my wife's termination were bogus. In fact, the company's incompetence in the whole matter is almost laughable.The written warning also charged that MS had taken several unscheduled absences on Mondays, hinting that she was abusing sick leave. In fact, all of those days were scheduled and approved vacation days, and the company eventually admitted in writing that the charge was baseless. But it upheld my wife's termination anyway! What fingerprints point to debt collectors in the cheat job my wife experienced at work? Let's consider just a few:* We had long been concerned that someone connected to our various legal issues might try to cheat MS out of her job. For that reason, we had been unusually secretive about her place of employment; her own sister did not know where she worked. But one of the first questions we had to answer in discovery for the lawsuit was a simple one: Where do you work? We were reluctant at first to answer the question, but we figured the court would frown on delay over such a basic question. So we answered it. That meant the defendants, and their lawyers, were pretty much the only people outside our household who knew where my wife worked.* NCO is represented in our case by Lloyd Gray & Whitehead, a Birmingham law firm with strong connections to Infinity Property & Casualty. How strong are the connections? Here is just one example: Erin E. May, an attorney in corporate litigation at Infinity Property & Casualty, used to work at Lloyd Gray & Whitehead. (See document below.)* Erin May apparently is sensitive about her ties to Lloyd Gray & Whitehead - at least when it comes to our case. MS raised the issue in a deposition a few weeks back. Consider this exchange, taken from the transcript, with Wayne Morse, attorney for Ingram & Associates: Q: Okay. But you think there was pressure on you in Infinity because Erin May is a former associate at Lloyd Gray & Whitehead. Is that . . .A: I think . . . well, according to her Facebook page, she's still close friends with omeone that works there, I don't recall the name, somebody. We had checked Erin May's Facebook page several times, and it appeared to be quite active, with several hundred friends. When we went back to check it after the deposition, it was gone. It's still gone, as I write this post. Does that mean Erin May caused my wife to be fired at Infinity? Nope. But it does mean there are ties between the defendants in our lawsuit and my wife's former employer. And it means someone isn't real anxious to have those ties known.We have more information about connections between the defendants and Infinity Property & Casualty. But for now, let's close with this document - Erin May's profile from LinkedIn. I found it originally by doing a simple Google search, and it was available to the public. It now appears to be available only to LinkedIn members. Again, someone appears to be sensitive about public documents that show connections between Infinity and Lloyd Gray & Whitehead . . .

Posted by Legalschnauzer at 10:40 AM Robby Scott Hill said... As a former debt collector, I can tell you that one of the nasty little secrets of the industry is the sharing of attorney fees and payment of bounties to legal assistants & investigators. Let's suppose I am a debtor working at a company like Infinity. The law firm representing the creditor calls over to Infinity's corporate law office and Infinity's General Counsel tells them that I own a big home in Vestavia Hills and have 10 grand in a savings account because my supervisor just gave me a bonus. So, the General Counsel at Infinity cuts a deal with the attorneys at the collection firm. The General Counsel at my own employer has me fired so the debt collectors can get my savings account and my home to satisfy the debt. The General Counsel who had me fired gets a kickback in the form of $2000 cash and he is invited to make an offer on my home when it goes up for auction. My home may be worth $300k, but the bastards will sell it to him for much less as a thank you for setting me up. Then, he can go out and flip it at full market price and make a nice profit for himself if he doesn't want to live in it. That's how debt collectors purchase loyalty and buy friends. January 20, 2010 12:16 PM Legalschnauzer said... Wow, Rob, very interesting. Thanks for the insight. Something ugly happened with Carol's job, and I'm going to find out what it is. I'm also starting to think my termination at UAB might have been tied to debt collectors. More on that in a future post. January 20, 2010 12:24 PM

Something ugly has happened to too many jobs in the US already. Still wondering about those bona fides? Suzan ______________