Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Windows Not Only Sending Your Info To NSA/CIA/MS Every Second But Also Sending Easy Hacks) Happy New Year!

The Only Thing We Have to Fear...Is the CIA

America's Greediest: Koch Brothers, 'Libertarians' Who Hate the Free Market

It's no joke, folks.

And most of us in the programming world have known about this possibility/probability for evah. Of course, it wouldn't exist if everyone owning a Windows machine were a tech-school grad who could adjust the settings as needed (ha! just kidding!).

Because come on down, folks! Anyone can safely operate the new user-friendly, icon-accessible computer boxes! Without training!!!!

And you thought Vista was bad.

From our friends at Crooks & Liars we learn how vulnerable we (still) are online:

Windows-based PCs may be broadcasting sensitive security information to hackers, competitors and other potential sources of threats to the PC’s owner, according to (a) new report on the Windows Error Reporting crash-response software.
Windows Error Reporting (WER) is a crash-reporting and debugging system built into all versions of Windows since it was first introduced with Windows XP. It was designed to help debug applications and system software by recording error information into log files and preserving memory dumps containing information on the health of the system at the time an application or operating system crashed, to better help technicians decide afterward what had gone wrong.
One critical difference, according to a report published Dec. 29 by security software developer Websense, Inc., is that the old version left crash reports stored on the ailing PC’s hard drive unless the user designated a way to send it to Microsoft or another technical source for analysis.
WER, according to documentation from Microsoft, is now far more capable because it integrates a wide range of reporting, error-tracking and error-correction functions and is stable enough to gather critical data even when the system is in a condition that would have made it impossible for the older version to run.
It is also able to analyze crashes or specific errors and suggest ways to fix them automatically, or link the user to a support page at Microsoft that can provide advice or automated Fix-It repair apps users can download.
Though users can choose not to send any reports automatically, or limit the details in those that Windows sends, WER is set up by default to send error information automatically to both Microsoft and the developer of the application that generated the problem, according to Websense.
WER is also set up to report both errors and relatively routine incidents – the connection of a new USB device, for example – to Microsoft without encryption or any other mechanism to hide the information from prying eyes.
Just plugging in a new USB mouse automatically generates a report to Microsoft that includes the date, name of the manufacturer, number identifying the device and its version number, the default language, operating system, service pack and update version of the host computer, as well as the manufacturer, model, name, BIOS version and hardware ID number.
“While this information is no doubt critical for Microsoft to debug application crashes and hardware configurations, it can represent a significant information leak when it leaves an organization without being encrypted,” according to the report.
The threat of that information being intercepted may be relatively small to a large, IT-savvy organization, but WER doesn’t send information on just one machine from a large organization. Microsoft estimates 80 percent of Windows machines run WER, which makes 80 percent of the computers in an average company capable of reporting detailed information about changes made to it in clear text, several times per day.
Error reports on networked applications often include information about the network to which they’re connected, apps running on the machine, or server-based apps with which the PC is interacting and, sometimes, information about performance of the application on that network.
Using that data, “it is quite possible to quickly generate a representative model of a network,” giving potential attackers valuable clues about where and how both the corporate network and individual PCs might be vulnerable.

Read all about it here.

Like I've already said (many, many times before) . . . talk about blackmail material going mad (international!) . . .

The NSA Can 'Literally Watch Every Keystroke You Make'

Glenn Greenwald, Democracy Now! writes:

"I think everybody knows by now, or at least I hope they do after the last seven months reporting, that the goal of the NSA really is the elimination of privacy worldwide - not hyperbole, not metaphor, that's literally their goal, is to make sure that all human communications that take place electronically are collected and then stored by the NSA and susceptible to being monitored and analyzed."


Carol R 2013-12-31 11:08

JACOB APPELBAUM: "Basically, their goal is to have total surveillance of everything that they are interested in...There is only sometimes a boundary of what they are funded to be able to do..."

How much of our tax dollars are being spent on this gargantuan monstrosity that keeps growing? Taxpayers don't have the answer to that. Funding magically and silently just keeps being passed.

We have a government that says there is no money for food stamps, early childhood programs, infrastructure repairs or Meals on Wheels. There is continual talk of having to cut Social Security, Medicare and the defund ACA.

Just what are the ethics and morals of this country and how far downward can we spiral?

TomThumb 2013-12-31 12:03

Noam Chomsky continually amazes me. On a post online of a recent interview of his, he said, and I am paraphrasing him, that national security was not about the security of the population, that was low on the state's priorities, but about the security of the state apparatus itself. I actually think they need a terrorist attack every now and then to justify the intelligence apparatus.

So, what is the purpose of the intelligence apparatus? Well one thing that was exposed by Snowden was that a lot of the spying directly benefited US business. In other words, this apparatus benefits, in a large part, the corporate, intelligence, financial, military-industrial complex who will take care of these generals and politicians once they leave, so-called, public service.

One can see this in the disproportionate reaction to the 'Occupy Wall Street' protests. The Department of Homeland Security along with national police forces and intelligence agencies participated with local police forces who were directed by a regional 'fusion center', a new kind of entity, where the leaders of all these forces gathered to direct the operation. Also present were elements from the financial sector. Who made the financial sector part of the local police or even national police.

We, as a nation, have taken huge steps toward a fascist police state.

Tommy Rimes

And having suffered through a few of these . . . please allow me to direct your attention here:

The Invisible Threat from Brain Injuries

Blows to the head can be silent killers for which swift diagnosis is often the only recourse, say doctors.

Even if there is no damage to the outside of the head, the impact may inflict catastrophic damage to the brain inside, they say.

Because a shock that smashes the brain, a 1.3-kilo (2.8-pound) organ with the consistency of soft jelly, against the hard protective shell of the skull, can damage nerves, brain cells and blood vessels.

Blood clots and bruising then result, which in turn causes pressure to build up and squeeze the brain, worsening the damage and amplifying the risk of permanent handicap or death.

And we'll end the year with this:

Republicans Quietly Declare War On Themselves

Matt Taibbi

Karl Rove himself, speaking on behalf of his Crossroads SuperPAC, told Fox News Sunday that "our goal is to avoid having stupid candidates."

Allman Brothers Band Whip Up Another Beacon Theatre Run

"We're all still real into it," says Gregg Allman

Allman will also be honored with a tribute concert on January 10th at Atlanta's Fox Theatre. Guests include Jackson Browne, Eric Church, Sam Moore, Derek Trucks and Dr. John.

The Velvet Underground

White Light/White Heat: 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition

What a testament to Lou Reed: his vision, his guitar, his sheer will to stomp on people's nerves. This superbly expanded White Light/White Heat was in the works long before the man's death, but you couldn't ask for a more fitting tribute. It's the Velvets' loudest, meanest, most ear-corroding moment — and for many fans, their best. The Velvets cut the album in the New York of 1967, but they sound a million miles away from the Summer of Love. You can hear Reed and his guitar try to out-sneer each other in "I Heard Her Call My Name," until his mind splits open and the guitar wins.

Neil Young

Live at the Cellar Door

This handsome solo acoustic set overlaps a few songs with earlier entries in Neil Young's official bootleg series. But there's no shortage of standouts, including a handful of aching After the Gold Rush tracks and rare, unplugged versions of his electric Crazy Horse signatures "Cinnamon Girl" (on piano here) and "Down by the River" (on acoustic guitar). Best of all may be the Buffalo Springfield songs "Expecting to Fly" and "Flying on the Ground Is Wrong," the latter with a lengthy intro that finds Young strumming piano strings, giggling and confiding, "This song is about dope."

Have a happy new year's celebration, friends.

And please drive safely (or call a cab!).

Much love to everyone.

Thanks for accompanying me on this journey.

And don't forget that 2013 was a particularly lethal year to too many of our music legends.

Be glad we're still here to attempt to enjoy (or change) what's coming up next.

Friday, December 27, 2013

(Need Pest/Parasite Control?) We Are Two Nations Surely When One Half Is Glad To Let the Other Starve (They Don't Care) Are We Already France? (Sex, Drugs, Uh-huh!) Or Just the CIA In Its Usual Attack Mode? (Progressive Dems Only Pols Made by Own To Pay for Sexual Indiscretions) Don't Suspect the Bilderbergs, Please!

Edward Snowden announces breathlessly (in a brief Christmas greeting on the BBC's Channel 4) what we in netopia have been screaming about for years.

Edward Snowden’s Christmas Message: NSA Surveillance Exceeds Orwell’s Imagination

(Please consider making a contribution to the Welcome to Pottersville2 Holiday Season Fundraiser or at least sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. We are in a real tight spot financially right now and would sincerely appreciate any type of contribution. Anything you can do will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive during this holiday.)

And that once esteemed Chamber strikes the gong for itself:

Chamber of Commerce Sets GOP Goal for 2014: ‘No Fools On Our Ticket’

The nation isn't (διχοτομέω) cut into two exactly equal pieces, of course. The ones with all the stolen wealth have the much larger piece.

Charlie Pierce captures the American Christmas spirit perfectly, doesn't he?

I'm so glad he's still reporting from his blog and Esquire.

"Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family," said Scrooge."There are some upon this earth of yours,' returned the Spirit, 'who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all out kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us."

-- A Christmas Carol, Stave II.
he Congress of the United States left town this week very proud of itself. It had reached an accommodation by which the Republicans agreed that they would allow the government to function in a minimal capacity over the next two years and the Democrats agreed that they would be grateful to the Republicans for doing that. And then they all wished themselves well and went home, many of them, the ones proclaiming themselves most loudly to be the followers of the Jesus Christ of the Gospels, looking forward to being able to say "Merry Christmas" freely again, free from the liberals who have placed imaginary shackles upon their fictional freedom to keep the day in their own way.

There was a moment on Meet The Press yesterday that was noted by several people in the comments today. At the end of his segment, which he shared with Senator Charles Schumer and host David Gregory, both of whom are Jewish, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma made it a point to say "Merry Christmas" with essentially the same tone with which a person facing a firing squad would refuse a blindfold and a last cigarette. It was a point of pride for Coburn. You could see it in his entire demeanor. He had vanquished the gargoyles he had hung in the chambers of his own mind.

"At the ominous word liberality, Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back. 'At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, 'it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

-- A Christmas Carol, Stave I.

The Congress of the United States left town this week very proud of itself, and it left town with one serious matter left undone. They refused to vote to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans whose benefits will expire at the end of this week. There were some promises about getting something done in January, but these were idly tossed out the windows of the town cars making tracks for the airport.

But January is not the season. This is the season. All across America, Christmas dinners will be threadbare, if they happen at all.

Hundreds of thousands of children will watch the commercials, the shiny and happy people at the shiny and happy malls, the horse-drawn homecomings from the beer companies, and wonder what place it is in which these things happen, and how it could be that they one day could get there, while their parents watch from the stairway and wonder how their lives had drifted so far from that same place.

"I've been forced into these benefits and now they're going to cancel the benefits," Ham said. "I just think it's wrong." Ham was laid off in April after working for a private contractor at Fort Bliss for four and half years.

"I've been unemployed for eight months now and I haven't had one interview," Ham said. "I had heard stories about people being unemployed for a long time. I thought that's what I was headed towards. It's been a lot harder than I thought though." Ham said he needs those benefits to get by.
"I need them to pay for groceries, food, my bills, power and rent," Ham said. But Ham said more than anything he just wants to get back to work. "I'm leaning on my dad, but I'm 34 years old," said Ham. "I just keep applying and don't give up."

We Are Two Nations: A Christmas Serial

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

25 December 13

. . . This decision was consciously taken by a Congress soaked in electorally convenient religiosity. This decision was consciously taken by a Congress so soaked in electorally convenient religiosity that its members believe that people -- other people, naturally, and their children -- will be strengthened in their moral character by completely avoidable deprivation.

That the mothers and fathers out there, avoiding the gazes of their children because of the simple expectations there that they cannot meet, will be better, stronger, and moral people for the pain that causes them to look away as the lights on the tree begin to blur with their tears.

That, in 2014, these people will thank the Congress of the United States for forging this completely unnecessary crucible in which their souls can be forged into sterner stuff. This is what this Congress believes, as it goes home proud of itself and its members dress themselves to sing the midnight carols with no conscience sounding in counterpoint, and this is Christmas in America, and it is the year of our Lord, 2013.

All right then we are two nations.
-- John Dos Passos

The French are infamous for not caring about the private lives of their politicians.

If you think about it for a moment or so it might occur to you that most people in the U.S. don't care either. That number does not include anyone whose position of wealth or authority depends on false premises (advertising).

If you go down the following list, you might become a little bit more confused about which country you are living in. And, if like Jethro Gibbs and I, you don't believe in coincidences . . . .

And why John Edwards has become everybody's favorite candidate to be put away for a very long time. . . .

(But not Representative Dan Burton, the main antagonist of President Clinton):

Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana), 1998: Burton, who set himself up as an arbiter of morality in Congress, called President Clinton a “scumbug” during his sex scandal. He said no elected official “should be allowed to get away with these alleged sexual improprieties.” That became a difficult position for him in 1998 when he learned that Vanity Fair planned an expose (written by WhoWhatWhy’s Russ Baker) on Burton’s own behavior.

Faced with impending publication of that article, Burton held a press conference to admit that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. But he added, “As far as peccadilloes and all that stuff, man, they could go from dawn till dusk digging around trying to find out stuff about that . . . There’s nothing else to learn.”

Yet when Baker’s article finally appeared (in Salon), it revealed a staggering array of improprieties by the representative — ranging from shoving his hand up the dress of a Planned Parenthood lobbyist with whom he disagreed to putting his multiple mistresses (and one of his multiple love children) on his congressional and campaign payrolls. The Christian Coalition champion’s constituency seemed not to care. He held his seat for 30 years, finally retiring in 2013.

Have I mentioned lately what a superb job Russ Baker and the staff at Who What Why? are doing?

Well, if you haven't indulged before, please allow me to introduce you to their excellent reporting today:

Sex, Drugs and Political Heads That Rolled

Let me preface my take on the Edwards trial with one general observation: Not all politicians are created equal. And not all are treated equally. Therein lies an issue deserving a much, much closer look: whether vulnerable Democrats, chiefly of the liberal persuasion, are targeted for destruction. Or at least helped along to their doom by a double standard.
But first, the specifics of the Edwards case. He faces a potential $1.5 million fine, but, far more seriously, up to thirty years imprisonment. Thirty years. His crime? Not murder, not torture, not armed robbery, not stealing money from clients. No, his crime was his failure to report campaign contributions.

While preparing for his second presidential bid, in 2006, he got caught up in an extramarital affair that produced a child. And, not exactly able to announce that fact or ask his sick wife to sign off, the wealthy Edwards turned to some wealthy backers to take care of the woman and the baby and hide the whole thing from Elizabeth Edwards and presumably everyone else. Two people gave him a total of $900,000.

When someone running for office receives money, or the benefit of money or services, that’s a contribution, and it must both be reported and be subject to restrictions on amount. Unless of course it has nothing to do with the campaign itself. Certainly, candidates receive ordinary income (such as fees for lawyering) that is not subject to those limits. And if someone gives a candidate a gift that is not used for the campaign, it is similarly not subject to campaign finance laws.

So, what’s the ill intent here — and the consequence for the public interest? If this were a bribe by someone seeking to influence Edwards as an office-holder, that would be one thing. If the money were intended to help sway voters to support Edwards, that might be valid cause for pursuing the case aggressively. But nothing about the two donors, both elderly (one has since died), suggests an attempt to gain illegal influence. In reality, both donors – the billionaires Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Fred Baron — apparently liked and believed in Edwards and, when asked, were quick to aid him in a tough spot.

If it sounds like Edwards still needed to apply FEC rules and limits, consider this: Scott Thomas, a former commissioner of the Federal Election Commission testified that he did not consider that the payments would have come under his agency’s auspices — in part because they were not used directly for the campaign and did not free up any of Edwards’ own money to be spent on the campaign. And Thomas noted that the gifts from one of the donors continued after Edwards dropped out of the race, indicating they were not for campaign purposes.

Unfortunately for Edwards, the ex-commissioner, a 37-year FEC veteran with great credibility on these matters, was only permitted to testify without the jury present — and the jury may never get to hear from him.

In any case, one doesn’t need to in any way defend Edwards’ conduct to see that the matter is a bit complex, and the prosecution for a federal crime, and the prospective punishment, extraordinarily harsh.

The “Liberal” Media Loves to Sink Liberals

What’s this really about? The equal application of election law? Equal pursuit of actual corruption? An equal standard of sexual misbehavior and how it should be handled? It’s hard to see any of these legitimate concerns front and center here.

What did strike me about this matter is that it seems to confirm a feeling that I have long had:  Progressive Democrats who get caught with their pants down appear to pay a steeper price in terms of impact on their career prospects — if not criminal prosecution — when compared to similarly compromised corporate-friendly Republicans.

Let’s consider the long list of Democrats before John Edwards who were wounded by accusations of sexual misbehavior: Gary Hart. Gary Condit (who was tied to the disappearance and murder of a young woman; although in the end it turned out he had nothing to do with it, he was ruined anyway because of an alleged dalliance with the young woman). Bill Clinton. Eliot Spitzer. Anthony Weiner. (I’m sure I am forgetting some.)

Republican politicians seem no less prone than Democrats to adultery and other common if frowned-upon behavior. But compared to the infamy visited upon those named above, how many of us recall all the GOP/Conservative Scandals? How often were these the topic of constant chatter on the major talk radio programs?

Try David Vitter, Newt Gingrich, Jon Ensign, Dan Burton, Helen Chenoweth, Henry Hyde, Robert Livingston, Mark Foley, to name but a few. Several quickly resigned but the only one who, pardon the expression, went down after extensive coverage (and his own resistance) that I can recall was Larry Craig — whose public washroom behavior (and tone-deaf defense thereof) was pretty hard to ignore.

In fact, given the standard GOP claim to represent “family values” and morality in general, it would seem that shenanigans from that side of the aisle would warrant more attention — and graver consequences — if for nothing more than the inherent hypocrisy and cynicism.

We cannot ignore the decision-makers who decide whom to prosecute, partially in response to unstated political and other pressures. Nor should we ignore the role of the media (and supposed friends of the
Democrats) in sealing their doom

The New York Times, purported linchpin of the liberal media, hammered Bill Clinton and broke the Eliot Spitzer call-girl story.  Gary Hart was investigated by the purportedly moderate-liberal Miami Herald and Washington Post. Clinton was taken to the woodshed by Joe Lieberman and some feminists.

Spitzer was quietly mugged, off-record, by his Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who was only too glad to capture the governorship himself two years later. In the case of Rep. Weiner, the saturation coverage made it difficult to recall that he had not actually had sexual contact with the women he was sending messages to. Nevertheless, he was assailed by prominent liberal blogs and cut off by Nancy Pelosi; his seat, a sure Democratic bet, went GOP in a special election.

The same cannot be said, in general, of conservative politicians or conservative media. Their tendency has been to largely ignore, or to understate, or to deflect attention from the Republican shenanigans and abuses.

So much for the notion of a “liberal” media showing favoritism to its own. My experience is that the “liberal” label when applied to journalists is a red herring which distracts us from the fundamentally accom(m)odationist nature of the corporate-owned media. But the liberal label is effective in pressuring journalists to prove they do not coddle liberals — by doing the exact opposite.

The media is, by nature, cowardly. It too seldom goes after powerful people over the actual business of governing because it is too hard to make the audience care. And it only goes after people for misusing their peckers when it senses that a mob is forming, that there’s blood in the water. Then it is all about going to the head of the pack.

If we examine the case of Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, the contrast to Edwards’s treatment is startling. Sen. Vitter, a slavish advocate of oil industry and other corporate interests, broke the law prior to 2004 by patronizing prostitutes while a member of the House. The scandal broke after he had been elected to the Senate; he is still in the Senate. When it became public that his name was in the records of a Capitol Hill escort agency, Vitter put out a written statement of contrition, went into a week of seclusion, emerged and, with his wife (who happens to be a prosecutor), made a brief public apology, then refused to answer questions. He was never prosecuted due to the statute of limitations. The woman who ran the call girl ring he frequented, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, aka the “DC Madam,” was found hanged in what was labeled a suicide, after publicly saying that if anything happened to her, she most certainly did not intend to do harm to herself.

Had Vitter stepped down, the Democratic governor of Louisiana at the time would presumably have appointed a Democrat to temporarily fill his seat — an important factor in a closely divided Senate.

The hypocrisy of a “family values” politician like Vitter knows no bounds. When Vitter was in the House of Representatives he actually took calls from the DC Madam during roll call votes; later, Sen. Vitter expressed outrage over purported actions of the poverty group ACORN, where several staffers showed tolerance toward conservative operatives with a hidden camera who were pretending to be involved in prostitution.

So Vitter is still in the Senate, defending the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, while Anthony Weiner, who was never accused of any crime, was forced to resign by howls of protests from all quarters, including the Democratic leadership who abandoned him in the face of the “inevitable.”

. . . Could politicians with the “wrong public values” be targeted for a fall?

I find it instructive to look at the specifics of Edwards’ predicament, and the curious decision to prosecute in a federal court what was, while morally inexcusable, private behavior involving chiefly the wronging of a spouse.

-Edwards became enamored of a woman who approached him — and who was well aware that he was married, and how exposure of the affair could impact his future if it became public.

-The story came to the public in part with the help of the National Enquirer, the same paper that played a prominent role in Hart’s downfall in the run-up to the 1988 Presidential election.

-Edwards was, like Hart, a handsome, charismatic—and populist—candidate, a rare liberal hope in a party traditionally prone to nominating “system” moderates. His issues were poverty and income inequality, climate change, universal health care, and withdrawing troops from Iraq. When Rielle Hunter approached him in 2006 he was on a cross-country tour to help labor unions.  

-Hunter in some ways is reminiscent of other women who came forward to ruin or nearly ruin Democratic politicians with accusations of sexual improprieties—while personally profiting from their actions–including Donna Rice (Hart), Gennifer Flowers (Clinton) and Ashley Dupre (Spitzer). Meanwhile, some of those who turned on Edwards, notably his former aide Andrew Young and his wife, have by their own admission done well financially for doing Edwards in.

-Though Hunter was their entire case, prosecutors were sufficiently wary of her (or perhaps of drawing additional attention to her precise role in the matter) that they did not call her to the witness stand.

This investigative reporter smells a rat in Edwards’s downfall. Maybe I’m wrong. I’m not sure exactly who decided what, when, but consider that Hunter was down on her luck when she happened to bump into Edwards while he was in a hotel bar. The following excerpt is instructive. It comes from a book by Edwards’ former aide Andrew Young, now a prosecution witness against Edwards (The Politician):

The senator first met Rielle in early 2006 when he was in New York during a cross-country speaking tour with actor Danny Glover on behalf of hotel workers who wanted his help at union rallies. As she eventually told me herself, she saw Edwards in the lounge of the Regency, a five-star hotel on Park Avenue…..

By the time she saw John Edwards, she had lived much of her life on the edge of glamour, wealth, and enlightenment but was, at forty-one, divorced, unemployed, and living rent-free with a friend in New Jersey named Margaret “Mimi” Hockman.

When she made eye contact with the senator . . . she asked him if he was the candidate she had seen on television. After he identified himself, she said, “You’re so hot, but on television that doesn’t come through. You seem distant. I can help you with that.” . . .

Rielle decided immediately that she would devote herself to helping him reach this potential. This assistance would begin later, after she arranged to bump into him on the sidewalk, where she would flirt some more.

What’s even more interesting is that Hunter wasn’t really in a position to do what she promised. Partnering with her roommate, the two had to recruit still others to execute rudimentary video and editing work. Soon she and her crew were traveling with the politician, filming him in cinema verite style for online “webisodes.”

Now, how about Hart? The Hart scandal had the flavor of an operation designed to remove an enormously popular, populist candidate from the race. (Hart was at the time the leading Democratic candidate, and well ahead of his likely Republican opponent, vice president George H.W. Bush, in match-ups.)

Hart was invited onto a boat with a ridiculously newsworthy name (“Monkey Business”), an attractive blond plopped in his lap, and a waiting photographer got the money shot. A private investigator provided journalists with a report saying that Hart and the blond, Donna Rice, appeared to have spent the night together.  Other reporters were given an anonymous inside tip. The story reads right like a thriller — or an intelligence op.  A bit like how Watergate became a sensation. (See our series on the downing of Nixon here.)

It is now common knowledge that Clinton was targeted by a well-oiled Right-Wing operation (not too far off from Hillary Clinton’s statement, seemingly wild at the time, that her husband was the victim of a “vast, right-wing conspiracy”). We never did learn quite enough about how someone with Monica Lewinsky’s modest credentials and unique charms (just the sort Bill Clinton was known to appreciate) ended up interning for him. On the surface, it all looks innocent enough, but I’ve seen enough hints, and, over the years, enough comparable scenarios, to wonder.

Message: If You Mess With the Establishment, Don’t Mess With the Ladies

The Spitzer story featured a cast of corporate kingpins angry at his actions as attorney general, and the GOP “dirty tricks” specialist Roger Stone. Exactly how Spitzer’s financial transactions drew federal attention has been inadequately explored, as has why so big a deal was made of his extracurricular activities (the central federal legal “issue” was that he arranged for a prostitute to cross state lines). As for Anthony Weiner, he was targeted by the late provocateur Andrew Breitbart  and fellow Right-wing activists who used fake email addresses and pretended to be underage girls.

Probably the most interesting thing is how many of these guys who went down — or in Clinton’s case nearly did—were messing with powerful interests. Excepting perhaps Clinton, they all had a streak of populism — going after bankers, and the one percent, and, in at least one case, the CIA. Hart and Edwards both had stirred class-conscious politics prominently into their broader messaging. Hart was on the investigative Senate committee that looked into CIA abuses in the 1970s, and became an outspoken critic of the excesses of the spy establishment—just as Richard Nixon was secretly battling the CIA, the Pentagon, and corporate interests at the time that the Watergate scandal began to undo his presidency. Weiner was a liberal and a close ally of the Clintons with an eye on the New York mayor’s office. Spitzer was a leading figure in targeting Wall Street, insurance industry and other corporate abuses. He was one big problem for some tough customers, and had his eye on the White House next.

Is all this worth another look? This reporter thinks so.



You missed one. According to Hunter S. Thompson's last book - completed just before his "suicide" - Dennis Hastert ran a child prostitution ring in DC using orphan boys from Boystown who also ran cocaine across country for them. Hastert left Congress very quietly and the media never mentioned it. gee, wonder why.


He should have solicited boy pages, played footsie in the stalls of public bathrooms, or destroyed the global economy. If he had, he'd be home free.

Chris R.

Everyone remembers Donna Rice, but it was the Washington Post that forced Hart out in May of 1987. The WaPo ignored the well known rumors about Bush the elder having a mistress, which combined with his other baggage would have cost him the election, while threatening to "out" a woman whom Hart apparently had had a long term relationship when separated from his wife. Considering Hart's sterling public record, the WaPo's blackmail, and that is what it was, was extremely partisan. No doubt team Bush rewarded the WaPo with exclusive stories for their hatchet job of Hart.

If you actually look into the details of the Monkey Business caper, you will find that Hart's media consultant, Ray Strothers, was originally scheduled to be on that trip to help Hart write a speech. At the last minute he was called away for a fundraiser for the mayor of Dallas, who was the wife of DNC chair Robert Strauss, who later was named the last US ambassador to the USSR. Considering that Hart and Gorbachev had planned reductions in nuclear weapons, etc., this reward for someone who helped Bush win the election is glaring.

You will also find a British connection since Brit Christine Keeler, who brought down a British government with a sex scandal involving the UK John Profumo, the British Secretary of State for War, and a Russian military officer, sold the pictures to the National Enquirer of Donna Rice sitting on Hart's lap AND Rupert Murdoch was granted special favors from Bush to get his US citizenship and ownership of several U.S. television stations. At one point during the media frenzy in 1987, Hart made statements indicating that he felt his phone had been tapped. In light of Murdoch's habit of doing this in the U.K., there is reason to believe that he did that here as well to aid the election of Bush in 1988.

Major Martin to Chris R.

And let's not forget that Gene Pope Jr., publisher of the National Enquirer, worked for the CIA's psychological-warfare division before emerging, with cash of mysterious origin, to purchase and rebuild the Hearst paper that became the Enquirer.

Bill Wilt to Chris R.

On the subject of Spitzer's financial transactions being the "fruit of the poisonous tree"--that is, gained by illegal wiretaps, check Jim Bamford's WIRED mag article from April 2012, a folo on his "The Shadow Factory," asserting that the National Surveillance Agency (NSA)* had installed "splitter" computer systems (some made in Israel, I believe--as NARUS-brand) on ALL the US telecommunications carriers, effective Jan/Feb, 2002. (I think Bamford quoted Russ in one of his books, no?)

That is, ALL of our US telecommunications have been duplicated/copied and shipped down to the Total Information Awareness system at Lackland AFB, which has now run out of room, so an even bigger facility is being built at Bluffdale, Utah. I like to call these facilities "spyClouds," after Apple's "iCloud" and the general "cloud computing" lingo characterizing humongous computer storage "disk farms" or "data-centers."

. . . The NSA's Big Brother system may not yet have the all the capabilities theatricalized in the BBC's "The Last Enemy" (which see, if you haven't already) and other techno-spy entertainments, but remember that Blair/Orwell's original Big Brother (1948) had two-way TV--video cameras and microphones in every TV set. We've reached that technical plateau at least with the video-conferencing capabilities built into iPhones, iPads, laptops, used with such applications as Google+, Skype and FaceTime, etc.

But the NSA's goal, I'm sure, is to build all the technology needed to surveil every citizen in the nation in real-time. Which suggests that every citizen should develop personal skills in using very high-order digital encryption technology for all their communications tasks, unless you want to exist off the grid, using smoke signals, jungle drums, wig-wag and perhaps tin-can telephones. Snail-mail or messengers have been compromised ever since the "technology" of paper and ink, royal seals and sealing wax, and the horse (or pony) and rider were invented. Ditto "micro-dots" and "invisible ink" and the mini-Minolta.

I don't think, given current computing power, that it is an insurmountable problem to have real-time, total citizen surveillance. Way back in the Dark Ages (1980-81), using a DEC PDP 11/34, I had to find a way to translate the entire Encyclopædia Britannica (13 volumes and a yearbook, but not the ProPædia) from IBM's EBCDIC to the ASCII which the Atex system used. It had a nice capability to "work-list" a queue (folder) to a task, which would then direct the output to the next step, or to an error queue . . .

If memory serves, I think it took about 8 hours to run all the EB articles through the cascade.

Now, with "parallel computing" and "array processors" and high-powered micro-computers, such a task might take, what, three minutes? Or more like in Google-Time, with times like 0.18 seconds to search EBCDIC-to-ASCII (with 96,000 hits), but faster. To have, say, 10,000 spy agents each at a multiple-screen, multi-media workstation, tracking 10,000 citizens in real-time might require a workstation for each person being spied on.

Perhaps the "workstation" would be as large as the "shipping containers" being used by the CIA and JSOC, etc., in which they run their Assassination-By-Joystick operations, with expensive, unmanned model airplanes (but bigger) and Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, via satellite telecommunication links. But whatever they come up with (and the NSA's in-house (and out-house, or contractor-run) for computer hardware, about every 18 months (Moore's "Law") the "power" of these devices will double . . .

I'd also think it's safe to say that every one of these surveillance operations is illegal, violates the so-called Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act, and is totally beyond the bounds of any government activity supposedly reigned in by the Fourth Amendment. What's the current slang about such things? "Fourth Amendment...FAIL!"

The saddest thing about this concerted and deliberate destruction of the Constitution, by those who have and/or had sworn to "preserve, protect and defend" it (the prexy) or "support and defend" it (everyone else), is that it's being justified because, supposedly, "we were attacked" on 9/11/2001. And of course, we were not — it was all an inside job, with, perhaps, some bits and pieces sub-contracted out, as was the task of destroying the crime scenes where some 3,000 souls, give-or-take, were snuffed.**
- - - - - - -

** That total is probably subject to revision, given that people have observed that the former Solicitor General's new wife looks a good deal like the wife who supposedly died in a 9/11 crash.

If the price of DNA sequencers drops, as a current issue of Science magazine suggests, perhaps a large number of us could afford to have iPhones or iPads with built-in DNA sequencers. Heck, the fuzz are now doing iPhone retinal scans, without warrant, from a couple yards away. Which suggests that we all get polarizing coatings on our eye-glasses, along with some kind of Gimp Gaiters- that would use electrical impulses to alter our "gait," the way we walk (Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks" was more prescient than it knew - or had a source close to M in MI6).

John Lovejoy

If you will recall, Boris Yeltsin, in his memoirs, said Monica Lewinsky was hired by powerful Republicans to bring down Clinton. Yeltsin said he knew about this beforehand and warned Clinton, who ignored Yeltsin.

Kevin Schmidt

The real reason why Edwards is being hit with this bogus charge is because he dared to defy the Bilderbergs, who used to be such good friends of his, that they invited him to their exclusive conferences.

Edwards job was to help John Kerry throw the Presidential Election, and then he was supposed to fade from the political scene. But instead, he ran for President again, which shone the spotlight again on his prior thrown election.

The Bilderbergs don't like to be disobeyed, so they threw the law at him.



I greatly appreciate your work. I don't disagree with your premise; I would add the worse trend of the same ilk, assassinations (JFK, RFK, MLK, Wellstone, etc), which is even more obviously one-sided.

What I have wondered all along is this: In the Spitzer case, the genesis of the case was access to his banking records. Is this access itself a product of post-9/11 surveillance-state laws and power? I'm suspicious that that kind of surveillance, in his case specifically, was made possible by laws like the Patriot [sic] Act that enable these fishing expeditions into citizens' private records. Is this info known, or is it an area that deserves consideration/investigation?

Russ Baker to notthere56

That's an intriguing question


It was not a sex scandal but Rod Blagojevich was blatantly taken out quick. He threatened that the state of Illinois would stop all business with Bank of America if they did not restore credit to an Illinois business so the workers could get paid and he was arrested that night.

Elliott Negin

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld started a war under false pretenses and have not been indicted for high crimes and misdemeanors. Cheney has cheerfully admitted that he condoned waterboarding, a violation of the Geneva convention. Bush Senior pardoned all the Iran-contra criminals. Edwards, meanwhile, is facing 30 years.

Still watching 60 Minutes thinking that you're getting the "insider's information?" For some reason I stopped watching what seemed purposely fraudulent years ago. It probably had to do with so many of its exposés not really exposing what was actually happening to our country's freedoms, and too much goggle-eyed uneducated/misinformed commentary on truly incredible stories. And that after 9/11, it started to seem like just another government apologist organ.

When '60 Minutes' Checks Its Journalistic Skepticism at the Door

Last week, a study commissioned by the president concluded that the National Security Agency had reached too far into the private lives of Americans. The study, which came after a series of journalistic revelations exposing the agency’s surveillance practices, recommended numerous reforms that would curb the N.S.A.’s prerogatives. President Obama said he was “open to many” of the suggestions.

It was exactly the kind of news-making moment that “60 Minutes” — America’s leading purveyor of serious television news — has often been responsible for creating. For more than four decades, the program has exposed C.I.A. abuses, rogue military contractors and hundreds of corporate villains.

But where was “60 Minutes” on the N.S.A. story? The Sunday before the damning study, the program produced a segment that scanned as a friendly infomercial for the agency. Reported by John Miller, a CBS News reporter, the piece included extensive interviews with Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the N.S.A.

And don't we remember that John Miller had been employed by the NSA/CIA previously?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pottersville Is Capitalist Dream and Bedford Falls Is A Commie Nightmare - Meet the Press Has Been Painful for Years (But It's On Its Last Legs!) Al Goldstein Lives Forever (Be Very Afraid - Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Is Deliberately Shrouded in Secrecy, A Trade Deal Powerful People, Including Obama, Don’t Want You To Know About)

Don't they believe in angels? Then why should they be surprised when they see one?

. . . That's right. Attaboy, Clarence!

I have wondered many times in the past how long it would take some clever scamp (or just someone connected to self-serving money interests) to turn the scenes of It's A Wonderful Life into a Potter-serving landscape.

Not so long as you might think, it seems.

There's a scary/hilarious take-off by "Fox News" just in time for Christmas of It's A Wonderful Life or Mr. Potter and the Commies of Bedford Falls.

See Pottersville (beginning at 2.10 on film) as a high-falutin'  capitalist business Mecca (sharpies, ne'er do wells, drunkards, crooks and barflies running amuck) and Bedford Falls as a Commie plot to give away housing, money and sustenance (oh, horrors - don't they know about the Food Stamp cutbacks?) to the poor and undeserving FOR NO GOOD REASON.

Notice how nicely this intertwines with the prior essay here concerning Ronnie Reagan's vision for the country?

It's all coming true, folks. And we've been watching its steady progress with wide-open mouths.

Try not to gag.

(Please consider making a contribution to the Welcome to Pottersville2 Holiday Season Fundraiser or at least sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. We are in a real tight spot financially right now and would sincerely appreciate any type of contribution. Anything you can do will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive during this holiday.)

I love Christmas for its unexpected presents and the reappearance of people you've missed and haven't seen in a long time.

TPP is one present none of us want.

But we're getting it.

Ready or not.

Our bestest econ/reporting team lets us in on the "secrets" (not really that secret) in the latest trade deal. Ever think some strange, foreign, exotic noirist hidden presence is trading the quality of your life away right before your eyes as if you were too ignorant to understand and stop them?

Open those eyes now.

No one wants to be outside of this family of secrets.

Yves Smith and Dean Baker on Secrets In Trade

A US-led trade deal is currently being negotiated that could increase the price of prescription drugs, weaken financial regulations and even allow partner countries to challenge American laws. But few know its substance.
The pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is deliberately shrouded in secrecy, a trade deal powerful people, including President Obama, don’t want you to know about. More than 130 members of Congress have asked the White House for greater transparency about the negotiations and were essentially told to go fly a kite. While most of us are in the dark about the contents of the deal, which Obama aims to seal by year end, corporate lobbyists are in the know about what it contains.
And some vigilant independent watchdogs are tracking the negotiations with sources they trust, including Dean Baker and Yves Smith, who join Moyers & Company this week. Both have written extensively about the TPP and tell Bill the pact actually has very little to do with free trade.
Instead, says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “This really is a deal that’s being negotiated by corporations for corporations and any benefit it provides to the bulk of the population of this country will be purely incidental.” Yves Smith, an investment banking expert who runs the Naked Capitalism blog adds: “There would be no reason to keep it so secret if it was in the interest of the public.”

It would be easier for NBC if they actually decided to do a show that had real politicians meeting a real well-qualified, educated press (if we could find any who haven't sold out to the money boys yet).

But, oh well. At least maybe we'll get down to only five or so morally painful investigative TV shows on Sunday  morning after this one says bye-bye!

“Instead of getting better, NBC News has been getting worse [since (Deborah)Turness arrived earlier this year.] It’s a mess.” In October, the reporter cited rumors about Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski adding Meet The Press hosting duties to their already full 15 hours a week on MSNBC.
Meet The Press, which used to be the perennial first place finisher on Sunday mornings over ABC’s This Week and CBSFace The Nation, fell to a 21-year low over the summer and has been coming in third place behind those two show for much of 2013.


A good part of it is that the administration has done a great job making the role of the press unnecessary. They release stories and photos that are run without modification and combined with the uniformity on the narrative, just provide no reason for additional headcount expense. Most news agencies could gut their reporting staff and run with senior editors and layout staff and do just as good of a job re-reporting what the party and administration press managers give them.

Meet the Press Is Incredibly Painful

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Sorry, for family reasons I am seeing the Sunday morning shows. It's amazing these things exist. David Gregory is interviewing Yuval Levin about his book Tyranny of Reason, Imagining the Future, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Left and Right.

The book sounds like collection of painful cliches, the left likes activist government, the right believes in leaving civil society to work things out for itself.

Really? So the patents and copyrights that shift far more money to the wealthy than food stamps and TANF shift to the poor are just civil society, not activist government.

Trade policies that put downward pressure on the wages of most workers, while largely protecting doctors and other highly paid professionals are also just civil society, not activist government. Bank bailouts and no cost too big to fail insurance for the big banks are just civil society, not activist government.

There is a much longer list of such policies in my book The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive (free download available). There is zero evidence that either Levin or Gregory has ever heard of any of these arguments. They are determined to just repeat tired cliches that have nothing to do with actual politics.

The cliches of course do help to advance a right-wing agenda. It sounds much better to say that the rich got really rich by the natural workings of the market rather than by paying off the ref to write the rules to benefit themselves. The reality might be much closer to the latter, but Gregory and Levin apparently don't even want anyone to think about such possibilities.

My buddy, the New York Crank has the incisive comments on Al Goldstein's life that I wish I had made first.

Were you a fan?

You shameless hussy!


I despised the man.
But also, I liked him a lot.

That’s not quite as contradictory as it sounds. Goldstein was both the sort of person you love to hate, and the sort you hate to love, but do. What was loveable about him was his abjectly vulgar and often highly irascible authenticity. He was a man who eventually won a major victory against censorship. True to form, he censored nothing, least of all the language that spewed out of his own mouth.

While you couldn’t be absolutely sure that everything he told you was the truth, it was surely the truth as he happened to see it at the moment he spoke it. And sometimes, things he told you that seemed patently false turned out to be pretty much true after all.

I never read his rag, but I always admired the man who stood for the absolute right of freedom of expression (when it didn't negatively affect others).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

We Have A Moral Obligation To Fix US Inequality, Orwell Triumphs Regretted As Gov't Lies and Warrantless Wiretapping Continues, and More Cass Sunstein Legerdemain For the Unseeing Masses (Or Will It Ricochet)? Bankers Now Sitting In Barber Chair (Waiting for Trim?) Just A Quick Haircut As BoA Foreclosure Scams Revealed (Rape Victims Names Now A Commodity)

Robert Reich has a Christmas message for US.

(Please consider making a contribution to the Welcome to Pottersville2 Holiday Season Fundraiser or at least sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. We are in a real tight spot financially right now and would sincerely appreciate any type of contribution. Anything you can do will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive during this holiday.)

Ninety-five percent of economic gains since 2009 have gone to the 1 percent. We have a moral obligation to fix this.

It’s the season to show concern for the less fortunate among us. We should also be concerned about the widening gap between the most fortunate and everyone else.

the biggest lottery of all is what family we’re born into. Our life chances are now determined to an unprecedented degree by the wealth of our parents.

That’s not always been the case. The faith that anyone could move from rags to riches – with enough guts and gumption, hard work and nose to the grindstone – was once at the core of the American Dream.

And equal opportunity was the heart of the American creed. Although imperfectly achieved, that ideal eventually propelled us to overcome legalized segregation by race, and to guarantee civil rights. It fueled efforts to improve all our schools and widen access to higher education. It pushed the nation to help the unemployed, raise the minimum wage, and provide pathways to good jobs. Much of this was financed by taxes on the most fortunate.

But for more than three decades we’ve been going backwards. It’s far more difficult today for a child from a poor family to become a middle-class or wealthy adult. Or even for a middle-class child to become wealthy.

The major reason is widening inequality. The longer the ladder, the harder the climb. America is now more unequal that it’s been for eighty or more years, with the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of all developed nations. Equal opportunity has become a pipe dream.

Rather than respond with policies to reverse the trend and get us back on the road to equal opportunity and widely-shared prosperity, we’ve spent much of the last three decades doing the opposite.

Taxes have been cut on the rich, public schools have deteriorated, higher education has become unaffordable for many, safety nets have been shredded, and the minimum wage has been allowed to drop 30 percent below where it was in 1968, adjusted for inflation.

Congress has just passed a tiny bipartisan budget agreement, and the Federal Reserve has decided to wean the economy off artificially low interest rates. Both decisions reflect Washington’s (and Wall Street’s) assumption that the economy is almost back on track.

But it’s not at all back on the track it was on more than three decades ago.

It’s certainly not on track for the record 4 million Americans now unemployed for more than six months, or for the unprecedented 20 million American children in poverty (we now have the highest rate of child poverty of all developed nations other than Romania), or for the third of all working Americans whose jobs are now part-time or temporary, or for the majority of Americans whose real wages continue to drop.

How can the economy be back on track when 95 percent of the economic gains since the recovery began in 2009 have gone to the richest 1 percent?

The underlying issue is a moral one: What do we owe one another as members of the same society?

Well, we could have asked Ronald Reagan (see link below) when he started the nonsense of nobody-at-the-top-owing-anyone-below-anything meme (remember the so-popular "welfare queens in their cadillacs") in order to benefit his wealthy backers' plans . . . but no one in the media ever did (successfully).

How America Abandoned Its “Undeserving” Poor

With poverty on the rise in the late 1970s, Reagan conservatives waged war on the needy — and won

I've read many of George Orwell's works, including his poetry, because he was not only a truly gifted writer (and thinker par excellence), but he wrote in many differing genres that provide a wide landscape of information about the man who tried to alert his fellow citizens to the dangers inherent in the rise of the totalitarians after Hitler (and before).

Not much has changed since Orwell's time. Some think we've finally arrived at the proper recognition of how Orwell's vision of "1984" enwrapped us internationally under the cloak of "national security." Pigs rule. People are "terrorized."

Presenting the Orwellian sounding “Liberty and Security in a Changing World” report created for the Obama administration in the wake of the Edward Snowden psyop by a small group of hand-picked advisers including Cass Sunstein, Richard Clarke and Michael Joseph Morell.

The actual report was released early by the Obama administration. They released it today. It’s full of lofty sounding rhetoric, like Obama’s speeches. However, as in his speeches, if you ignore the lip-service he’s paying to his dwindling base and pay close attention to the detail while keep(ing) it in context of other current events, you should get a pretty good picture of what is happening and who is going to benefit from it.

It’s not you by the way who will benefit nor your privacy as they privatize bulk data collection and reserve the right for them to refuse to disclose anything if it hampers that all important “national security” thing they got going.

The New York Times Reminds Us the NSA Still Warrantlessly Wiretaps Americans, and Congress Has the Power to Stop It

By Trevor Timm: Last week, the New York Timespublished two important op-eds highlighting how the National Security Agency (NSA) has retained expansive powers to warrantlessly wiretap Americans after Congress ...

And lately:

“Almost Orwellian” – that’s the description a federal judge gave earlier this week to the massive spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on virtually all 380 million cellphones in the United States.

In the first meaningful and jurisdictionally grounded judicial review of the NSA cellphone spying program, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee sitting in Washington, D.C., ruled that the scheme of asking a secret judge on a secret court for a general warrant to spy on all American cellphone users without providing evidence of probable cause of criminal behavior against any of them is unconstitutional because it directly violates the Fourth Amendment.

. . . The Framers intended (the Fourth Amendment) to prevent the new government in America from doing to Americans what the British government had done to the colonists under the king.

The British government had used general warrants – which are not based on individualized probable cause and do not name the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized – to authorize British soldiers to search the colonists wherever they pleased for whatever they wished to seize. The reason for the Fourth Amendment requirement of individualized probable cause and specificity in the warrant is to prevent the very type of general warrant that the NSA has claimed is lawful. The reason for preventing general warrants is that they have become an instrument of tyranny.

The following paragraphs are a perfect lead-in to the essay below on the latest Cass Sunstein runaround.

Just in case you needed to get even more exercise(d).

Has Morley Safer Ever Told John Miller This Story?: 'Look, If You Think Any American Official Is Going to Tell You the Truth, Then You're Stupid'

Everyone who watched the 60 Minutes segment on the NSA should follow it up with this story involving Morley Safer — who, at 82 years old, is still a correspondent at 60 Minutes:

In August, 1965 Safer appeared in what became one of most famous TV segments of the Vietnam War, showing U.S. troops setting fire to all the huts in a Vietnamese village with Zippo lighters and flamethrowers.

A year later in 1966, Safer wrote an article about what he'd seen first hand during a visit to Vietnam by Arthur Sylvester, then Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (i.e., the head of Pentagon PR). Sylvester met at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon with reporters for U.S. news outlets:

There was general opening banter, which Sylvester quickly brushed aside. He seemed anxious to take a stand — to say something that would jar us. He said:

"I can't understand how you fellows can write what you do while American boys are dying out here," he began. Then he went on to the effect that American correspondents had a patriotic duty to disseminate only information that made the United States look good.

A network television correspondent said, "Surely, Arthur, you don't expect the American press to be the handmaidens of government."

"That's exactly what I expect," came the reply.

An agency man raised the problem that had preoccupied Ambassador Maxwell Taylor and Barry Zorthian — about the credibility of American officials. Responded the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs:

"Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you're stupid. Did you hear that? — stupid."

One of the most respected of all the newsmen in Vietnam — a veteran of World War II, the Indochina War and Korea — suggested that Sylvester was being deliberately provocative. Sylvester replied:
"Look, I don't even have to talk to you people. I know how to deal with you through your editors and publishers back in the States."
At this point, the Hon. Arthur Sylvester put his thumbs in his ears, bulged his eyes, stuck out his tongue and wiggled his fingers.

And speaking of Orwell and the term Orwellian . . . (it almost makes me think none of these people ever took a history (let alone, English) course), think back to the revelations about our own Soviet-throwback, apocrypha-laden, wise man/guy, "noted thinker" Cass Sunstein. Wonder where he's been and who's been paying him ever since?

He's not out of D.C., and has never left the fray.

And he's been deeply engaged at work turning out the latest Obama newspeak errr - recommendations for handling the NSA Snowjob blowback. And it won't blow back on them if these "recommendations" become the received knowledge.

The Cass Sunstein-Led Group Report Recommendations (PDF)

Posted on December 18, 2013 by willyloman

by Scott Creighton

Presenting the Orwellian sounding “Liberty and Security in a Changing World” report created for the Obama administration in the wake of the Edward Snowden psyop by a small group of hand picked advisers including Cass Sunstein, Richard Clarke and Michael Joseph Morell.

(Please read: Cass Sunstein and CIA Director at Time of the Leak are the Advisers Fixing the “Crisis” Caused by Snowden Psyop  )

The actual report was released early by the Obama administration. They released it today. It’s full of lofty sounding rhetoric, like Obama’s speeches. However, as in his speeches, if you ignore the lip-service he’s paying to his dwindling base and pay close attention to the detail while keep it in context of other current events, you should get a pretty good picture of what is happening and who is going to benefit from it.

It’s not you by the way who will benefit nor your privacy as they privatize bulk data collection and reserve the right for them to refuse to disclose anything if it hampers that all important “national security” thing they got going.

“In addition, the panel proposed terminating the NSA’s ability to store telephone data and instead require it to be held by the phone companies or a third party.” AP

Yes, it would seem that the privatization of bulk data collection is the main focus of the Sunstein group report. Obviously this will turn all that “metadata” (and the other forms of data they expressly discuss (recording and transcripts of emails, texts, etc.) into a commodity, wholly owned by the various companies that collect it such as AT&T, Verizon, Google, and others

“With respect to surveillance of US Persons, we recommend a series of significant reforms. Under section 215 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the government now stores bulk telephony metadata, understood as information that includes the telephone numbers that both originate and receive calls, time of call, and date of call. (Meta-data does not include the content of calls.). We recommend that Congress should end such storage and transition to a system in which such metadata is held privately for the government to query when necessary for national security purposes

Recommendation 4 : We recommend that, as a general rule, and without senior policy review, the government should not be permitted to collect and store all mass, undigested, non-public personal information about individuals to enable future queries and data-mining for foreign intelligence purposes. Any program involving government collection or storage of such data must be narrowly tailored to serve an important government interest.”

Recommendation 5 : We recommend that legislation should be enacted that terminates the storage of bulk telephony meta-data by the government under section 215, and transitions as soon as reasonably possible to a system in which such meta-data is held instead either by private providers or by a private third party. Access to such data should be permitted only with a section 215 order from the Foreign Intellience Surveillance Court that meets the requirements set forth in Recommendation 1″ As you can see from recommendation 4 and 5, these are two different categories of data being collected. “Undigested, non-public, personal information” is one category and “telephony meta-data” is another. Meta-data would certainly be processed or “digested”. What wouldn’t be would be actually recordings of calls or email transcripts. It’s unclear as too what justification the government would need to collect and store such information that would be “narrowly tailored” for some “government interest”
And lets not forget this recent gem:

“In their most concerted response yet to disclosures by the National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and AOL have published an open letter to Barack Obama and Congress on Monday, throwing their weight behind radical reforms already proposed by Washington politicians.” The Guardian

Why is it that these companies are so determined to see something like this enacted? Who do you think will be collecting, storing and commodifying all that data?

Can you say “the next bubble crisis”? Can you say “new derivatives markets”?

As too all that “transparency” they are beaming about on other news services. Don’t bet on it.

There is a recommendation which deals explicitly with provisions which would enable the government to ignore requests to see what information is being collected and for what reasons.

Recommendation 8: We recommend that: (1) legislation should be enacted providing that, in the use of National Security Letters, section 215 orders, pen register and trap-and-trace orders, 702 orders, and similar orders directing individuals, businesses, or other institutions to turn over information to the government, non-disclosure orders may be issued only upon a judicial finding that there are reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure would significantly threaten the national security, interfere with an ongoing investigation, endanger the life or physical safety of any person, impair diplomatic relations, or put at risk some other similarly weighty government or foreign intelligence interest;”
I think the only crime not covered under that all inclusive rubric would be one involving a kid shoplifting candy from a 7-11. But don’t hold me too that.

Basically what this allows for is the government to keep massive amounts of bulk data collections secret for any number of BS reasons they feel they can come up with. So there goes your transparency. All they have to say is they are collecting mass amounts of data on folks and they can’t disclose what and who because it might threaten their ongoing investigation and thus cause a risk to our “national security”

Of they can simply say they can’t disclose the data mining because it might impair our relationship with a foreign country . . . like Israel for example.

Whatever the lame excuse, transparency is not a given here. But don’t worry, Big Brother’s highest Party Members will be making the decisions and you can trust them… right?

Recommendation 11We recommend that the decision to keep secret from the American people programs of the magnitude of the section 215 bulk telephony meta-data program should be made only after careful deliberation at high levels of government and only with due consideration of and respect for the strong presumption of transparency that is central to democratic governance. A program of this magnitude should be kept secret from the American people only if (a) the program serves a compelling governmental interest and (b) the efficacy of the program would be substantially impaired if our enemies were to know of its existence”
See? They can keep all this secret from you if it serves a “compelling interest” of the people doing it.

There’s about 29 or so more recommendations from this Sunstein group that they claim are in response to the Snowjob affair which I suggest people read on their own. The group’s recommendations are not written in stone and they will certainly be modified in the next couple of weeks as the new CISPA is molded and shaped in the wake of the Greenwald snowjob.

Other fronts are being employed to this endeavor.

The same guy who wrote the Patriot Act has written another Orwellian sounding piece of legislation called the “USA Freedom Act”. They got the ACLU behind that sale’s pitch.

And of course, Jay Rockefeller (yes, of THOSE Rockefellers) has attached a rider to the new NDAA 2014 bill:

“Jay Rockefeller (D WVA) has attached a cyber-security amendment (I attached it below) to the NDAA 2014 bill in Congress to mandate that precautions be taken to protect America’s cyber infrastructure and private entities. Those of us who represent private entities, will soon find our free access to the internet eliminated. The fact that this internet control bill is attached to the NDAA is no accident because this means that dissidents, posting anti-government rhetoric on the internet, can be snatched off the street and held indefinitely for their “terrorist” views.” Blacklisted News
You can download and read the “Liberty and Security in a Changing World” report for yourself.



brian, on December 19, 2013 at 4:50 am said:

Thinking of the logistics to all of this (of which I am certainly no expert) I just wonder if these proposals reflect what has been going on all along…

. . . compare this from above ¨(…) Yes, it would seem that the privatization of bulk data collection is the main focus of the Sunstein group report. Obviously this will turn all that “metadata” (and the other forms of data they expressly discuss (recording and transcripts of emails, texts, etc.) into a commodity, wholly owned by the various companies that collect it such as AT&T, Verizon, Google, and others.¨

. . . with this: ¨Surveillance State is the inevitable development of a corporate-controlled Internet. Today some 70% of the NSA budget goes to corporations, which routinely implement computer programs that are hidden from the public as “proprietary information.” It’s not much of a jump from privatized and hidden corporate systems to privatized and hidden state surveillance systemshttp://www.dailycensored.com/digital-deformation/
What I mean is the tools are certainly already in private hands where no bulk data would have to be turned over really but just be kept in place, safeguarded and finalized by legalese.
It looks like this time the NSA is just a front for the corporates using their mantra of the ¨War on terror¨. Wouldn’t be surprised if at NSA HQ all they did was mopping floors.
willyloman, on December 19, 2013 at 8:19 am said:

It’s been privatized to an extent for a long time I would imagine. The collection of the data that is. Tice (I think it was him) told us how he installed routing lines into a special room on behalf of AT&T (I think it was) years ago (2006?)

The difference I think is that the “meta-data” will be collected, stored, processed, sifted through, flagged for further actions and eventually even marketed by these companies. Thin(k) about the sheer size of this pool of data and what it could be used for other than “national security”
Well, naturally, with the laws as they are, they can’t do that now legally and therefore they can’t create derivatives and CDS with it because legally they don’t have it and don’t own it.

Winston (K) Smith, on December 19, 2013 at 9:25 am said: 

So does the primary drive of all of the big Snowden game boil down to legalizing the packaging up different combinations of personal data and personal histories into new financial instruments to be gambled on like mortgages? How much does the Non-Sense Agency really have to do with this effort compared to the financial/corporate industry? Remember about ten years ago when there was a DARPA – sponsored effort to start a terrorism futures market to help “predict political upheaval in the Middle East”?
http://www.derivativeworks.com/2006/12/policy_analysis.html http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3072985/t/pentagon-kills-terror-futures-market/

Of course, DARPA scrapped the project because of its obvious potential for embarrassment. What may not have been as widely publicized is that the directors at DARPA got worried and had program managers bring any funded effort with a potentially sensitive name before them for “review”. All of them were immediately terminated without review (because that’s easier than evaluating I suppose) to be on the safe side and avoid scandal.

People and groups with projects both questionable and useful lost their funding with no recourse. While some of this may not have been bad (except for legitimate programs being canceled without review), I’m afraid many projects get funded as arbitrarily and with as little review as these got cancelled.

Remember MKUltra? It was “cancelled” because after becoming the biggest budget for the entire Corporate Infrastructure Agency, nobody could even track where the money was going!

Winston(K) Smith, on December 19, 2013 at 10:41 am said:

Something that is probably relevant to this discussion: The GAO has just put out a short report called “INFORMATION RESELLERS Consumer Privacy Framework Needs to Reflect Changes in Technology and the Marketplace” addressed to Rockefeller as the chairman of Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation:

Talk about regulation (mostly lack thereof) of third-party resellers of bulk personal data.

Warning: There’s an embedded document in it called GAO-v9.joboptions – I have no idea what it is or if it’s a problem – probably not, but just an FYI.

As if you need any more data about how we're manipulated by the banksters and their minions, there's always DealBreaker's rare insights:

16 Dec 2013

    Former UBS Banker-cum-Fugitive Will Probably Starting Naming Tax Evading Names: Guy

    By Bess Levin

    Raoul Weil, the former head of UBS AG’s global wealth management business accused of conspiring to help Americans evade taxes, was ordered to post bail of $10.5 million before trial, according to a court filing. Weil, 54, appeared today in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the first time since he was indicted in October 2008 and declared a fugitive. U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hunt said Weil must post a $9 million personal surety bond with a cash deposit of $4 million, as well as a $1 million corporate surety bond and a $500,000 personal surety bond, according to minutes of the hearing.

    Weil’s lawyer has said he is innocent. He is the highest-ranking banker among about 100 people charged since 2008 by the U.S. in a crackdown on offshore tax evasion. About three dozen foreign bankers, lawyers and advisers were charged. Tax lawyers not involved in the case said they expect Weil to plead guilty, cooperate with prosecutors, and seek leniency at sentencing. “There’s a good chance he’ll be ready to cooperate, and he’ll be throwing his people under the bus,” said attorney Edward Robbins of Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez in Beverly Hills, California. “He knows where all the dead bodies are. To the extent that the government missed any, he can tell them where they are.”

    Christmas Come Early For JP Morgan Junior Employees

    by Bess Levin | December 16, 2013

    Back in the day, as in pre-2008, attempts to make the job of a Wall Street junior banker slightly more palatable would have been laughed off as crazy and unnecessary. The main reason was that any complaints to management about treating young employees like indentured servants could be met with: “Yeah . . .but you’re/they’re making a ridiculous . . .

    Read more »

    Instead of helping homeowners as promised under agreements with the U.S. Treasury Department, Bank of America stalled them with repeated requests for paperwork and incorrect income calculations, according to nine former Urban Lending employees. Some borrowers were sent into foreclosure or pricier loan modifications padded with fees resulting from the delays, according to the people, all but two of whom asked to remain anonymous because they signed confidentiality agreements.

    HAMP was the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s attempt to prevent foreclosures by lowering distressed borrowers’ mortgage payments. Under the program, homeowners are given trial modifications to prove they can make reduced payments before the changes become permanent.

    The accounts of the former employees help explain why Obama’s plan fell far short of the 3 million averted foreclosures targeted in 2009. Relying on the same industry that sold shoddy mortgages during the housing bubble and improperly sped foreclosures afterward, HAMP resulted in still-active modifications for 905,663 homeowners as of the end of August, or 13 percent of the 6.9 million people who applied.

    Secret Inside BofA Office of CEO Stymied Needy Homeowners [Bloomberg]

    By Hugh Son Dec 16, 2013 203 Comments 

    Isabel Santamaria thought she finally caught a break in her effort to save her Florida home from foreclosure after nine frustrating months: She reached Bank of America Corp.’s Office of the CEO and President.

    What the mother of two autistic children didn’t know is that her case would find its way to contractors, including Urban Lending Solutions in Broomfield, Colorado, far from the bank’s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. Bank of America hired the firm founded by Chuck Sanders, a former Pittsburgh Steelers running back, to clear a backlog of complaints about a federal program designed to prevent foreclosures.

    “It felt like a big deal, reaching the CEO’s office,” Santamaria, 43, said of having her June 2010 call escalated to what she was told was the bank’s top level. “It only happened because I complained to my congressman, the attorney general, television stations. They only put you there if you make a big stink, but once you’re there, they still don’t help you.”

    Bank of America, led by Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan, faced more than 15,000 complaints in 2010 from its role in the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program. Urban Lending, one of the vendors brought in to handle grievances from lawmakers and regulators on behalf of borrowers, also operated a mail-processing center for HAMP documents.

    Paperwork Requests

    Instead of helping homeowners as promised under agreements with the U.S. Treasury Department, Bank of America stalled them with repeated requests for paperwork and incorrect income calculations, according to nine former Urban Lending employees. Some borrowers were sent into foreclosure or pricier loan modifications padded with fees resulting from the delays, according to the people, all but two of whom asked to remain anonymous because they signed confidentiality agreements.

    Countrywide Managers

    Bank of America stands out in a program that lawmakers and former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair have called a failure, leaving many homeowners worse off. The second-largest U.S. lender canceled more trial modifications than any mortgage firm and sent the highest percentage of rejected customers into foreclosure, Treasury data show.

    (Click on figure to enlarge.)

    To help run its modification program, Bank of America relied on managers who had worked at Countrywide Financial Corp., the subprime lender it took over in 2008. Those executives created and enforced quotas for resolving complaints, according to the former employees. Among them was Rebecca Mairone, found liable by a federal jury in October for defrauding government-backed housing companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while working at Countrywide.

    Urban Lending staff, struggling to meet those quotas, resorted to falsifying records and improperly purging complaints, the people said. They sent letters containing inaccurate statements on Office of the CEO and President stationery to lawmakers and U.S. agency officials who sought assistance on behalf of borrowers, the former employees said.

    ‘Absurd’ Ecosystem

    Tens of thousands of HAMP modifications were improperly denied by Bank of America and Urban Lending since April 2009, according to a July complaint filed by homeowners against the two companies in federal court in Colorado.

    “Everyone knew that we weren’t helping people,” said Erik Schnackenberg, a customer-service manager who left Urban Lending in 2011 and now runs a yoga studio in Longmont, Colorado. “They were giving us all the pressure and none of the power to change anything. It was this absurd, self-contained ecosystem of worthlessness.”

    Schnackenberg and other former employees, who spent from four months to three years at Urban Lending as customer-service representatives and auditors, said they spoke when contacted by Bloomberg News because they’re distressed by what they saw.

    Seamless Experience

    Bank of America didn’t intend to mislead or stall customers or misrepresent facts to lawmakers, Ron Sturzenegger, head of the lender’s Legacy Assets Servicing unit, said in an hour-long interview. Changing HAMP guidelines and an initial influx of overdue borrowers made the program difficult to implement, and the bank has made improvements since 2009, he said.

    The only intent that we’ve ever had is to help these customers,” said Sturzenegger, 53. “If we could get more people into HAMP, we’d do more HAMPs.”

    Bank of America authorized Urban Lending to refer to itself as the Office of the CEO and President in letters and telephone conversations to provide a seamless experience for homeowners who complained directly to Moynihan, Sturzenegger said.

    The way we view Urban and other vendors like Urban is as an extension of Bank of America,” he said.

    Glenn Stevens, general counsel and executive vice president of human resources at Urban Lending, denied that the firm engaged in any wrongdoing and declined to respond to questions, saying he wouldn’t address matters tied to pending litigation.

    Contractor Army

    To do the HAMP modifications, the U.S. turned to mortgage servicers, which handle billing and foreclosures. Bank of America became the biggest servicer when Moynihan’s predecessor, Kenneth Lewis, arranged the purchase of Countrywide as it teetered under the weight of losses from subprime lending.

    The deal saddled Bank of America with at least $43 billion in costs, 1.4 million delinquent borrowers and mounting complaints about its performance.

    Moynihan called on outside vendors, who hired an army of employees peaking at almost 17,000 last year to deal with the failing loans. One was Pittsburgh-based Urban Lending, which had been doing title work for Bank of America since 2007. The vendor also serviced mortgages for MetLife Inc. and SunTrust Banks Inc.

    Urban Lending was founded in 2002 by Sanders, a 6-foot-1 graduate of Slippery Rock University who scored one touchdown over two seasons in the National Football League. Anticipating the coming housing apocalypse, Sanders, 49, pivoted from title searches to servicing troubled mortgages, according to an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

    Pittsburgh Restaurant

    Revenue at Urban Lending surged to $183.5 million last year from $8 million in 2007, making it one of the country’s fastest-growing minority-owned businesses, according to Black Enterprise magazine. Sanders, whose other holdings include the Pittsburgh restaurant Savoy and a stake in energy-drink maker Fever, declined to comment for this article.

    Urban Lending expanded in Colorado after winning the Bank of America contract, moving into a five-story brick building in Broomfield with views of the Rocky Mountains. The firm also had a warehouse in Broomfield for processing documents from tens of thousands of HAMP applications.

    There, unopened mail was stacked to the ceiling, said three people who spent time at the warehouse. Time-sensitive documents such as pay stubs grew stale, and paperwork was scanned into computer systems late or partially, triggering loan-modification rejections, the people said.

    ‘Black Hole’

    The warehouse was a “black hole,” according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York by former Urban Lending employee Gregory Mackler, who accused Bank of America of intentionally denying qualified HAMP applicants. The complaint was unsealed and dismissed last year after five lenders reached a $25 billion settlement with federal and state governments to end probes of abusive foreclosure practices.

    At the office in Broomfield, Urban Lending employees examined every letter from lawmakers to determine which were computer-generated and which were signed by a human, according to four former employees. The handwritten ones got special attention and were called wet signatures, they said. The others were referred to as dry.

    The signatures of some U.S. senators, including Democrats Harry Reid of Nevada, Carl Levin of Michigan and Charles Schumer of New York, were enlarged to two to three feet and tacked on the walls of a quality-control room to help employees identify wet signatures, the people said.

    Handwritten Signatures

    Complaints with handwritten signatures were sent to an outside law firm to reduce the risk that a regulator or lawmaker would fault the bank, according to the former employees. The rest were handled by regular staff.

    Sturzenegger denied that employees attempted to verify signatures. He said Urban Lending scrutinized all letters from politicians and regulators to help identify broader policy issues. Those that raised such matters were considered wet, he said, while those from homeowners were called dry.

    The most common tactic used to stall and reject homeowners was to claim they hadn’t submitted paperwork, according to all nine former employees. Urban Lending requested new applications and supporting documents including pay stubs every 30 to 60 days, even if the customer had sent them, the people said.

    “People went through years of sending documents in,” said Daniel Ellersdorfer, 37, a customer advocate who left Urban Lending after 13 months in September 2012 and is now a scuba-diving instructor. “There were people who did everything right and they would still get screwed over and have to start the modification process all over.”

    Palm Bay

    Sturzenegger said Urban Lending employees accusing the bank of wrongdoing have an incomplete understanding of customer files. Stevens, the contractor’s general counsel, said the allegations “are baseless and constitute nothing more than the unsubstantiated accusations of a few disgruntled ex-employees.”

    Santamaria and her husband Abdiel Echeverria, 35, bought their four-bedroom Palm Bay home in 2008 for $167,000 and spent $60,000 to renovate it, she said. They applied for HAMP in October 2009 after Echeverria’s hours as a Waste Management Inc. driver fell. The bank rejected the application because their mortgage costs were too low in relation to their income to qualify for the program.

    The couple applied again in January 2010, sending their application to an Urban Lending office in Pittsburgh, after their children, Jonathan and Rebecca, were diagnosed with autism, Santamaria said. After five months of sending HAMP paperwork with little to show for it, she complained to U.S. Representative Bill Posey, a Florida Republican, who contacted the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on her behalf.

    OCC Letter

    Bank of America sent conflicting responses to the OCC and Santamaria. A Nov. 24, 2010, letter to Santamaria on Office of the CEO and President stationery stated that her modification was canceled because the bank didn’t receive the required financial paperwork. On the same day, the same customer advocate, Scott McDaniel, wrote to the OCC, saying the case was still under review.

    A third letter, sent by the OCC to Posey on Dec. 1 based on information obtained from Bank of America, said Santamaria had provided all documents and didn’t qualify for HAMP because her mortgage expenses were too low.

    “They tell the outsiders a completely different story from what’s really going on,” said Santamaria, who kept fax reports as evidence that she sent paperwork on time and has posted accounts of her dispute online.

    Santamaria said she was never told what was missing while sending applications and supporting material to Bank of America more than half a dozen times.

    Carlisle & Gallagher

    Her case shows how Bank of America relied on multiple contractors to staff its Office of the CEO and President. McDaniel, who signed the Nov. 24, 2010, letters, worked for Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group at the time. The firm was one of several vendors hired by Bank of America to handle mortgage complaints, said Dan Frahm, a spokesman for the bank.

    Melody Callaway, a spokeswoman for Charlotte-based Carlisle & Gallagher, declined to comment, as did McDaniel, who worked out of an office near Dallas and now owns an emergency-services company in West Plano, Texas.

    Santamaria’s case was returned for review to Urban Lending after she wrote to Posey and the OCC again, on Dec. 8, 2010, complaining that the bank’s letters contained inaccuracies. She said she received a phone call in January 2011 from a woman named Gloria Perez, offering her temporary forbearance on her mortgage -- the same offer the Dec. 1 letter from the OCC said she had already received.

    Perez was employed by Urban Lending, Frahm said.

    Emotional Harm

    Santamaria said she told Perez that she and her husband had filed a lawsuit the previous month in federal court in Orlando, Florida, accusing the bank of fraudulent misrepresentation and causing emotional harm. A judge dismissed the case, finding the couple, who represented themselves, failed to meet legal standards and provide sufficient evidence. An appeal was turned down in July.

    Last month, Bank of America sent her a foreclosure warning, Santamaria said.
    Posey declined through a spokesman to comment about the letters, as did Bryan Hubbard at the OCC. Frahm, the Bank of America spokesman, said the lender never received required documentation from Santamaria and ended efforts to reach her in mid-2011, after her lawsuit was filed.

    Extra Fees

    Borrowers whose modifications were delayed for a year or longer accumulated thousands of dollars in fees and interest and were disqualified for HAMP because their debt-to-income ratios worsened over time, four former Urban Lending employees said. Foreclosure or modifications under the bank’s own program, typically with higher interest rates, often became the only options, the people said.

    Bank of America said it had given 891,100 of its own modifications as of October, more than three times as many as provided under HAMP. That’s because most of the bank’s customers didn’t qualify for the government plan, Sturzenegger said.

    The bank gave legal assignments, title searches and appraisals to its own subsidiaries, including Recontrust and LandSafe. Fees charged to homeowners ranged from about $45 a month to inspect the outsides of homes to about $850 for legal filings, according to three former Urban Lending employees.

    Bank of America isn’t motivated by the extra fees and interest charged to customers as a result of delays, Sturzenegger said. The company doesn’t get reimbursed on all the fees, so it loses money when delinquencies drag on, he said.

    “Do you know how much money we lose in this division?” he said. “We lose a lot of money. To suggest we’re doing it because we make more money, it’s just completely inaccurate.”

    ‘Applying Pressure’

    Bank of America, which inherited hundreds of thousands of overdue borrowers from Countrywide, sent 33 percent of canceled HAMP trials into foreclosure through the end of July, the highest percentage of any of the biggest servicers, Treasury data show. The figure was 27 percent for Wells Fargo & Co. and 20 percent for both JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. The industry average was 22 percent.

    “While the country as a whole has made significant progress, there is still room for improvement for servicers, and the Treasury is committed to applying pressure on the mortgage-servicing industry to improve servicer behavior,” Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary Tim Bowler said in an e-mail.

    The reality of working at Urban Lending contrasted with the training they received, six of the people said. Recruits were told during six-week introductory sessions that they were being paid $16 to $18 an hour to help Americans keep their homes.

    Taco Bell

    Once they started, employees learned that Bank of America quotas applied to everyone from customer advocates to auditors and quality-control staff, the people said. They worked 15-hour days and on weekends with the knowledge they could be fired if they couldn’t meet targets. Properly resolving complaints was often impossible because Urban Lending employees couldn’t access needed files among a dozen software programs and relied on Bank of America personnel who often ignored requests, they said.

    “Smart people would leave right away,” said Schnackenberg, the former Urban Lending manager. “You were left with people trying to take care of complex, aged files who were formerly assistant manager of a Taco Bell. It was a recipe for failure for homeowners.”

    Under pressure from bank managers to close cases, Urban Lending workers resorted to shortcuts, six people said. That included forging power-of-attorney letters or removing notations that a customer hired a lawyer, making it easier to close files.

    Managers purged complaints after business hours, circumventing an internal review process set up by Accenture Plc, according to two of the people. Employees falsified records to show late-night conversations with borrowers that didn’t happen, the people said.

    Sturzenegger said he didn’t believe Urban Lending employees falsified or tampered with records.

    The Hustle

    Bank of America used ex-Countrywide managers to push Urban Lending to meet its goals, according to the former employees. One of them was Mairone, the only individual named in the government’s first mortgage lawsuit from the financial crisis to reach trial.

    Mairone was part of the Countrywide team that set up a program known as the Hustle, which removed quality-control steps for mortgages sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, costing the U.S.-backed firms $863.6 million, according to a Nov. 8 filing by prosecutors in federal court in New York.

    She helped create Bank of America’s HAMP policies as the firm’s lead default-servicing executive, according to the July lawsuit. Mairone joined JPMorgan in 2012 and now oversees vendors for that bank, according to a New York Times article.

    ‘Wealthy Man’

    “If I had a nickel for every homeowner that e-mailed or called Rebecca to thank her for keeping them in their homes, working to save their families and helping them through tough times, I’d be an extremely wealthy man,” said Marc Mukasey, her lawyer, who declined to comment about Urban Lending.

    Another Countrywide executive who took a role at Bank of America managing Urban Lending was Ken Scheller, senior vice president of default servicing.

    Bank of America was “not of course interested” in good-faith reviews of HAMP applicants, Scheller told Mackler, according to the whistle-blower complaint filed by the former Urban Lending employee. Scheller, who’s no longer at Bank of America, and Mackler declined to comment.

    Urban Lending employees were told by trainers that they should never admit fault on the bank’s behalf in writing or over the phone, four former workers said. They were warned that e-mails could be subpoenaed, the people said.

    Gift Cards

    To soothe homeowners frustrated by delays, employees had a monthly allotment of $25 and $50 gift cards they could give customers, said three of the former workers. The joke among staff: It was just enough money to buy moving boxes.

    Urban Lending employees said they were told by their managers that the orders to reduce homeowners’ complaints came directly from Moynihan and Bank of America board members, who checked caseload figures daily. One such push was called the “Drive to Five,” a plan in late 2010 to lower complaints to 5,000 from more than 15,000.

    Sturzenegger, an investment banker who took over as head of the legacy-asset unit in August 2011, said it was his responsibility, not the CEO’s, to manage the division. Stevens, the Urban Lending lawyer, said the vendor “had no visibility as to the activities or agenda of Brian Moynihan or the BofA board of directors.”

    ‘Last Resort’

    Moynihan, 54, who declined to comment for this article, has spoken of the responsibility the bank has to its most vulnerable customers. He told an Atlanta Rotary Club prayer breakfast in October 2011 that foreclosing is “always the option of last resort,” according to prepared remarks.

    “Foreclosure is not only the worst outcome for a customer, it’s also the worst financial outcome for the servicer and the owner of the mortgage,” he said. “The best decisions are the ones that go beyond our own narrow self-interest.”

    The CEO, dogged by investors’ questions about mortgage costs since taking over in 2010, is dismantling the division that handles delinquent borrowers. The unit had 6,200 contractors as of June, down from its peak of 16,900 last year.

    While Bank of America survived the Countrywide acquisition, some of its customers didn’t fare as well. Foreclosure sales were scheduled as homeowners were waiting to hear about their applications, giving them little time to appeal mistakes, said six former Urban Lending employees.

    Christmas Foreclosure

    Jose De Santiago, a municipal inspector in Mission Viejo, California, was in the midst of a modification in December 2011 when he got the letter: He had five days to leave his two-bedroom condo.

    De Santiago, 43, spent Christmas packing his belongings with his son Joseph, then 13, and was out the next day.

    After a Bloomberg News reporter alerted the lender’s communications department, Bank of America bought the condo from Alton Holdings Inc., which had purchased it in a foreclosure auction. A bank lawyer apologized, and De Santiago was allowed to move back after two weeks.

    Bank of America offered $5,000 to compensate him for furniture lost in the eviction, according to a draft of a proposed settlement. De Santiago refused because he would have had to sign a liability release, he said. He’s still fighting the lender to get it to repair his credit scores.

    “They asked me to put in writing how well they treated me,” De Santiago said. “I can’t believe Bank of America was allowed to do the horrible things it did to me and others.”

    Bank of America’s Sturzenegger said some customers who should have received government assistance may have fallen through the cracks of the system the lender created.

    “If you went back and re-reviewed the documents, based on today, would they have qualified for HAMP?” Sturzenegger said. “Possibly. That’s the best way to answer it.”

    To contact the reporter on this story: Hugh Son in New York at hson1@bloomberg.net

    Bank of America: Sorry About The Foreclosure. Here, Have An Applebee’s Gift Card On Us.

    by Bess Levin | December 16, 2013

    Buy yourself something nice. Like some drinks and a couple apps. Bank of America, led by Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan, faced more than 15,000 complaints in 2010 from its role in the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program. Urban Lending, one of the vendors brought in to handle grievances from lawmakers and regulators on behalf of borrowers, also operated a mail-processing center for HAMP documents.

    Instead of helping homeowners as promised under agreements with the U.S. Treasury Department, Bank of America stalled them with repeated requests for paperwork and incorrect income calculations, according to nine former Urban Lending employees. Some borrowers were sent into foreclosure or pricier loan modifications padded with fees resulting from the delays, according to the people, all but two of whom asked to remain anonymous because they signed confidentiality agreements . . . To soothe homeowners frustrated by delays, employees had a monthly allotment of $25 and $50 gift cards they could give customers, said three of the former workers.

    More Christmasy news?

    REVEALED: Data brokers sell rape victim names for 7.9 cents each
    ["Flatmates Enjoying A Beer Together" on Shutterstock]

    Top Bush lawyer tried to ‘ship out’ gay employees to Detroit: report

    Happy Christmas!

    One more Sarah Palin story to properly end this most metaphorical of years:

    You can be fired for calling your boss a dick, and you can just as easily be let go by a profit-seeking media company for imperiling its relationship with advertisers. And incidentally, this is the way true conservatives, and especially true hardcore speech advocates, have always wanted it.

    Could you imagine the uproar if someone passed a law saying that Martin Bashir couldn't be bounced from a broadcast job for saying Sarah Palin was a good candidate to have feces shoved in her mouth? Now that would be censorship.

    Remember, nobody heard a peep from Sarah Palin about free speech after that episode. Bashir earlier this year tiptoed across the line in an angry diatribe about Palin's invocation of slavery imagery, which she had somewhat amazingly used to describe the suffering (presumably white) middle Americans will feel when they are forced to pay for the "free stuff" the Obama administration is handing out, i.e. health care . . . .

    Palin's mind is amazing. Slavery was purely a private-enterprise abomination. It had nothing to do with being subservient to the government. It was the opposite of that, actually. She was also wrong in the sense that the health care program isn't "free stuff" (even those who will receive subsidized care will be paying in one form or another for their policies).

    So she pulled off a Friedman-esque anatomical impossibility there, getting three feet in her mouth at the same time.

    First, she was wrong about slavery. Then she was wrong about health care. Then, thirdly, she was almost insanely insensitive and inappropriate in her use of the word slavery at all, comparing white middle class angst over having to partially subsidize health care for their poor (and mostly nonwhite) neighbors to being whipped and tortured across generations of institutional racist terror.

    Bashir reacted to this by telling a story about slaves who were forced to defecate in each others' mouths, and then suggested that Palin, having "scraped the barrel of her long-deceased mind," was a "good candidate" for the same treatment. Soon after, he was essentially forced out of the network.

    Happy Holidays, amigos and amigas.

    If you would like to help spread the caliber of information available here at Pottersville2 throughout the netopia, please make a contribution to this blog's continuation in the new year by clicking on the PayPal donation button at the top of this page (or email me for other available routes of contribution).