Monday, June 30, 2014

Hey Buddy (Waking Up Yet?) If You Like Being Used/Manipulated By Those You Thought You Paid To Protect You . . . (Watch Out for John Negroponte's Next Sighting!)

Welcome to terrifying Pottersville.

Yes. There are no good jobs or usable benefits for even the available bad ones.

And if you didn't have enough to do to try to keep mind and body operating in tandem as you go about your daily grind trying to rub two cents together to get a spark . . . .

. . . yes, guys.

There are too many comments highlighted below. But each of them is important to the history, so suck it up. Paranoia reigns.


Common Dreams
Monday, June 30, 2014

Blackwater's Top Gun to Investigator: 'I Could Kill You'

State Department official documented in memo that mercenary threatened him just weeks before Nisour Square massacre

- Jon Queally

As the trial continues against Blackwater mercenaries accused of a bloody massacre that took place in Iraq in 2007 and left seventeen civilians dead, new documents reveal that just weeks prior to that incident a State Department investigation into the practices of the private military company was cut short after threats of deadly violence.
According to the New York Times on Monday, citing previously unpublished State Department documents, the internal "inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat:  'that he could kill' the government’s chief investigator and 'no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq.'"
The documents and Times reporting detail how the behavior of the military contractors concerned the investigative team sent to Iraq to assess their peformance and protocols, but that efforts to make changes were rebuffed by Blackwater operatives and embassy personnel who "had gotten too close to the contractor."
“The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,” wrote one investigator, Jean C. Richter, in an Aug. 31, 2007, memo to State Department officials. “Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law,” he said, adding that the “hands off” management resulted in a situation in which “the contractors, instead of Department officials, are in command and in control.”

It was Richter, a Diplomatic Security special agent, who received the death threat from Blackwater's in-country manager, Daniel Carroll. Richter's fellow investigator, a State Department management analyst named Donald Thomas Jr., witnessed the incident.
Though none of the men involved responded to requests for comment from the Times, the incident is documented clearly inthe Richter's memo and corroborated by Thomas' testimony. According to the newspaper:

[Richter and Thomas] met with Daniel Carroll, Blackwater’s project manager in Iraq, to discuss the investigation, including a complaint over food quality and sanitary conditions at a cafeteria in Blackwater’s compound.

Mr. Carroll barked that Mr. Richter could not tell him what to do about his cafeteria, Mr. Richter’s report said. The Blackwater official went on to threaten the agent and say he would not face any consequences, according to Mr. Richter’s later account.
Mr. Carroll said “that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” Mr. Richter wrote in a memo to senior State Department officials in Washington. He noted that Mr. Carroll had formerly served with Navy SEAL Team 6, an elite unit.
“Mr. Carroll’s statement was made in a low, even tone of voice, his head was slightly lowered; his eyes were fixed on mine,” Mr. Richter stated in his memo. “I took Mr. Carroll’s threat seriously. We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.”
He added that he was especially alarmed because Mr. Carroll was Blackwater’s leader in Iraq, and “organizations take on the attitudes and mannerisms of their leader.”
Mr. Thomas witnessed the exchange and corroborated Mr. Richter’s version of events in a separate statement, writing that Mr. Carroll’s comments were “unprofessional and threatening in nature.” He added that others in Baghdad had told the two investigators to be “very careful,” considering that their review could jeopardize job security for Blackwater personnel.
(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.)
Blackwater private soldiers are the perfect gatekeepers, meant to unbalance the people and keep them out of the hair of important people. As gatekeepers with the Right political views (please those who are are also important, some of whom may be more important than you), they will be above the law, whatever they and their political partners say. That's what the people, viewed conveniently as 'the enemy' by elites and politicians, must contend with in this neoliberal era featuring a mafia capitalist system, an out of control police state and a well-funded, hi tech and very geared up stable of police and security agencies, public and private (corporatocracy).

Most public policy is made through blackmail. Every so often we get a glimpse of the process in action. This is no different from the threats Congress got from bankers in 2008 to crash the economy. As always happens, cowardly government officials capitulated.
bennes to GuyTouquet
It seems like the investigators were doing their job. It does not seem that they were backed up by their superiors in the State Department or Mr. Carroll would have been dismissed immediately.
And again, too much money being involved is the problem, NOT the solution. People, especially those with guns, will do ANYTHING to protect that money. I don't now why this should be a surprise.
Given all the high stakes controversy that has swirled about Ed Snowden's leaks, the war on government whistleblowers and the reporters they turn to, and heavy handed abuse of the Espionage Act by the Justice Department to facilitate keeping classified information out of the public domain no matter how clearly criminal, outrageous, and newsworthy the disclosures might be, please note that the by-line author of this explosive major New York Times article about Blackwater's operations in Iraq is none other than James Risen.
And yet.. and yet.. even after the Democratic Brand took power.. Blackwater / XE continued to receive lucrative contracts without accountability. Waking Up Yet?
Mercs...the dogs of war.
War to feed personal Addictions and reap Profit.
Lest any one forget, these are "Our Boys"
Trained by that Corporate War Machine the US Military.
As a Veteran that makes me just wanna...Salute the Flag.
God save us from our ignorance and grant Justice to Blackwater.
There is in the USA now, including within government a critical mass of dissent which will shortly require death squads here in the Security Homeland. Blackwater, and the like are in perfect position to fill this essential function of the imperial state.
Wherever John Negroponte goes death squads follow. It is his specialty. Watch for his appointment to some post within State or Defense. When that occurs the organized murders of dissenters, er, I mean, terrorists, will begin.
What a delightful coincidence! Just last week, the Massachusetts SWAT team (or its rep) stated that because it consists of private contractors, it is not bound by U.S. law. See you on the 4th. (yee-haw!)

They are "Hitmen for Hire". No doubt which side they will be on when the Revolution starts.
Does their funding come from the State Dept budget? A deceptive way to make the Pentagon budget look smaller than it really is. The State Dept has morphed into the War Dept... and Hillary helped that happen.

Make no mistake, there are people in the US military that are psychopaths. SEAL's are exceptional as US combat forces and they are not selected for their reverence of law or protocol. Too many are joining corporate security groups and the ranks of police departments like the NYPD, Oakland, Boston, Alberquerque, NM, Miami, Cincinnati, Chicago, et al..

squirrley, steroidal, delusional, dangerous, abominations = another example the economic colonization model of constant growth in the process of gobbling up everything in sight and turning it into poison, impoverishment at every level, - life as death wish with a death grip on _________ fill in the blank (hint: everything).

They are a mercenary force doing what they were paid to do, go after their paymasters.
“'The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,' wrote one investigator, Jean C. Richter, in an Aug. 31, 2007, memo to State Department officials. 'Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law,' he said, adding that the 'hands off' management resulted in a situation in which 'the contractors, instead of Department officials, are in command and in control.'"
Remember Roberto D'Aubuisson - AKA "Blowtorch Bob" - in El Salvador, who was massacring and torturing all those politicians, reporters, civil rights investigators, union leaders, clergy, nuns, journalists, peasants, students, etc? Remember how the "elected" El Salvadoran government officials allowed all this to happen because of the power he possessed against them, not to mention the fact that a substantial number of them secretly supported his death squad activities? Remember how the Reagan government was funding and supporting these massacres and massive torture/human rights abuses with every ounce of support that it could muster, all the while claiming they couldn't control D'Aubuisson's death squads who were operating with impunity against an unarmed population?
I do.

According to the US government investigator, Daniel Carroll, head of Blackwater in Iraq told him:
“that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,”

But the Daniel Carrolls of this world could never make it back here in the "Homeland" could they? Nope, just could never happen.
And now ask me again why I think any progressive in this country who still supports, at this late date, disarming the civilian population is just, well, dumb as nails on this issue?
Dangerous, very dangerous, first the "volunteer" army, then the employment of modern day Condottieri, and like their Renaissance forerunerrs, they now dictate terms to their ostensible employers. Also, Condottiero means contractor in Renaissance Italian.
I always remember that in the plumbing world, black water is used toilet water. Tells you all you need to know.
Funny isn't it that Al Qaeda and Blackwater both refer to toilets. Says a lot about the people and the mentalities that invented them.
  • Do anything about it i(n) Iraq or anywhere? This is the Empire's Murder Incorporated

    We could kill his children too. The difference is, we know it's wrong.

  • This is our lovely police state at work. It's getting worse day by day. This is the outcome of being such an "exceptional" nation. USA!!!!!
Think of Blackwater working with Homeland Security, 16 spy agencies, and LEC(Law enforcement council-aka national sherrifs posse). Obama is worse than Bush. He has not stood for law, he has stood for corporate hegemony.
So this government terrorist (Carroll) was part of Seal Team 6 -- why didn't the obadrone off him when he offed the team that 'got' bin Laden?
Maybe the unsanitary name Blackwater is also a reference to the state of their cafeterias? If this guy threatens murder if a State Dept official about the quality of the cafeteria, what might have been his reaction if they had ever got onto the really important issues. Anyway, Blackwater is no more: they have changed their name to Praetorian Guard - so thats alright then...."Quis custodes custodiet?"

A little more....
Even with this late revelation, why is Daniel Carroll not under arrest? Oh, never mind. What was I thinking?

To bad the State Department investigator didn't just shoot the Blackwater scumbag...That would have sent a clear message to the rest of the murdering scumbags in Blackwater to never bite the hand that feeds you.

The only problem with that is that the Blackwater guy would have been "killed by a terrorist," and the investigator's bullet riddled body would have been found in the street, "a victim of terrorists." (Technically correct, but the terrorists would have been misidentified as Iraqis.)

I take it the interview took place in Iraq and Blackwater at that time was charged with the security of State Department officials in Iraq. That would have amounted to suicide.
It possibly could have been newsworthy, perhaps. But I think it would have been covered up and the State Department investigator would have officially been offed by "Islamic Insurgents" according to media reports.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Bullshit Chronicles:  Yes, It's What We Unleashed (They Want to Say That This Is Not Even Just About Iraq, But About Islamic Radicalism from Nigeria to Pakistan)

No one saw it coming.

So "they" are now saying (again).

Except for the hundreds of thousands of citizens who opposed, marched, and wrote thousands of essays against it. And the millions who were positively influenced by them but whose supporting opinions were ignored purposely by the powerful decision makers.

For years.

If it's not Tricky Dick Cheney and his prancing twisted spawn dominating the TV channels spooz, it's some uncredentialed largely unknown "expert" in a large venue magazine who's being paid by someone also unknown who wants to explain (once again for you slow ones) how the U.S. is only in the Middle East (and much of Asia and all of Africa) in order to straighten out the values of those browner people and bring those poor stupids the liberty and freedom to purchase McDonald's burgers and Wal-Mart jeans and stop worshipping any ridiculous vengeful gods except our own capitalist buddy* Christ (h/t Kevin Smith's Dogma and Chasing Dogma).

As one Time reader said his march sign responded:

"Stop Operation Iraqi Fiefdom", "Support the Troops. Oppose the War." and "'1984' isn't an instruction manual."

Talk about "mission accomplished."

June 25, 2014

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting

TIME On Iraq War: What Did We Do To Deserve This?

by Peter Hart
With Iraq in crisis, many corporate news accounts treat the US war there as if it was something that was done to us, and the ensuing chaos proof that the good intentions of a US superpower cannot overcome tribal grievances.
Michael Crowley's cover story for Time (6/19/14), "The End of Iraq," might be the quintessential example. He writes:

The rapid march by ISIS from Syria into Iraq is only partly about the troubled land where the US lost almost 4,500 lives and spent nearly $1 trillion in increasingly vain hopes of establishing a stable, friendly democracy.
We tried to bring them a stable democracy, and look at what they're doing.

Crowley's statistic, of course, dismisses roughly 99 out of 100 human lives lost as a result of the invasion of Iraq.


But he wants to say that this is not even just about Iraq, but about Islamic radicalism from Nigeria to Pakistan. To Crowley, Osama bin Laden's "fundamentalist ideology – and its cold logic of murder in God’s name – arguably has broader reach than ever." And so in Iraq, the story is less about the brutal US invasion and more about inevitable history, a place where

ancient hatreds are grinding the country to bits. Washington has reacted with shock – no one saw it coming – and the usual finger pointing, but today's Washington is a place where history is measured in hourly news cycles and 140-character riffs. What's happening in Iraq is the work of centuries, the latest chapter in the story of a religious schism between Sunni and Shi'ite that was already old news a thousand years ago.
Why feel too bad about a 10-year-old invasion if what's really happening is "the work of centuries"?
The notion of an intractable, tribal religious war is popular in the press, but it has been questioned; see Murtaza Hussain's "The Myth of the 1,400-Year Sunni/Shia War" (Al Jazeera, 7/9/13), for instance.
And it functions as a way of letting the US off the hook for unleashing it. As Crowley writes, "To Americans weary of the Middle East, the urge is strong to close our eyes and, as Sarah Palin once put it so coarsely, 'let Allah sort it out.'"

To be clear, Crowley doesn't agree with regional expert Palin:

As long as the global economy still runs on Middle Eastern oil, Sunni radicals plot terrorist attacks against the West and Iran's leaders pursue nuclear technology, the US cannot turn its back.
Time's view of the Middle East, a place where "hatred, greed and tribalism" overwhelm "the spirit of liberty." (Photo:
One might assume that "nuclear technology" is code for weapons; Iran says it has no interest in the bomb, and there is no evidence that they do.
But Time knows otherwise, as Crowley later writes of "Shi'ite Iran's march toward a nuclear weapon." 
The language about "turning its back" seems to want to let the US off the hook for starting the Iraq War – and give a green light for intervening in its next phase with a clear conscience.
If you don't think that line quite does it, Crowley also writes:

What Leon Trotsky supposedly said about war is also true of this war-torn region: Americans may not be interested in the Middle East. But the Middle East is interested in us.
Crowley is back to arguing that the region's problems are due to a religious conflict the West simply cannot fathom, as he wonders: "But how could the secular West hope to understand cultures in which religion is government, scripture is law and the past defines the future?"
The piece closes by stating its premise quite clearly, with Time explaining:

On a deeper level, the blame belongs to history itself. At this ancient crossroads of the human drama, the US's failure echoes earlier failures by the European powers, by the Ottoman pashas, by the Crusaders, by Alexander the Great. The civil war of Muslim against Muslim, brother against brother, plays out in the same region that gave us Cain vs. Abel. George W. Bush spoke of the spirit of liberty, and Obama often invokes the spirit of cooperation. Both speak to something powerful in the modern heart. But neither man – nor America itself – fully appreciated until now the continuing reign of much older spirits: hatred, greed and tribalism. Those spirits are loosed again, and the whole world will pay a price.
We offered them the spirits of cooperation and liberty and the modern heart, and this is the thanks we get.
It's almost as if some people don't appreciate being invaded.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Peter Hart
Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra, and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly" (Seven Stories Press, 2003).
I regard it as a screaming, flashing, giant sign of the times (no pun intended) that such unmitigated bullshit could be printed and disseminated in this freak show of a nation. We should all be very afraid, because the absolute denial of reality is rising to that same level seen as when little king George II (and his daddy) destroyed the functioning state of Iraq.
We fucking bombed Iraq back to the stone age in the first gulf war, continued to bomb and sanction them for 12 more years and then dismantled what was left after we invaded, and that jackass Crowley has the gall to blame Iraq's tragedy merely on a historical feud? If what he's smoking has the ability to alter reality to that extent, I want some it.

And the price tag?

We won't tell you, but here's our opening bid:

Obama Requests Nearly $60 Billion to Continue Endless War

The Plunder of Detroit and Iraq

“Iraq was invaded with soldiers, guns and bombs. Detroit was invaded by the corporate ‘suits’ who made a fast buck for themselves.” Both are plundered by the same bandits.

. . . The coup de grace was delivered by big banks like UBS, Bank of America and Barclays, which sold risky derivatives schemes to corrupt Detroit politicians. When the financial deal inevitably headed south, the banks were the creditors first in line for a payout.

. . . Just as Iraq’s infrastructure has been destroyed, Detroit residents now live without basic services which ought to be regarded as the right of every human being. In the United States, a country which boasts of its high level of advancement, residents of a major city must plead to the international community for the right to access water.

A Secret Plan to Close Social Security’s Offices and Outsource Its Work

Secret Plan

Test your comprehension skills by trying to understand the Seckrit Plan without doing massive re-readings to enhance clarity.

There oughta be a law.

How a church that centers its devotion upon a Savior who chose to die rather than conform to this world's standards of success can dare to take "success" as a serious goal is one of the bewildering questions of our time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Oil War Continues in Iraq:  The One Fact In Iraq - It's the Oil, Stupid! (Irony Deluxe) Created By Usual Crowd of Know-Nothing Experts for Whom Being Wrong Is a Badge of Honor

Forgive me, friends. I had this essay written and all ready-to-go two days ago hoping to be current with the "news" of our impending invasion (re-invasion) of Iraq, but the Blogger dog ate my homework and I'm left with what follows. I think it hangs together pretty well - better than the arguments for continued war do. (Apologies all around!)

I appreciate your understanding. A special thanks goes out to "JS" for that kind and very much needed contribution to keeping this leaky raft afloat. It's the first one I've received since April of last year and I had been feeling pretty forgotten until then (but I know that a lot of my friends here feel the same). Thanks to everyone for your readership and continuing support.

From the Tom Dispatch we read the irrepressible Michael Schwartz's reporting on our current nightmare. And, yes, it's really a civil war now . . . uncivilly fought, of course, but check the stats on the U.S. Civil War if you think we did any better.

June 24, 2014

Tomgram:  Michael Schwartz, The New Oil Wars in Iraq

Imagine the president, speaking on Iraq from the White House Press Briefing Room last Thursday, as the proverbial deer in the headlights - and it’s not difficult to guess just what those headlights were. Think of them as Benghazi on steroids.  If the killing of an American ambassador, a Foreign Service officer, and two CIA private security contractors could cause almost two years of domestic political uproar, unending Republican criticism, and potential damage to the president’s “legacy,” consider what an Iraq in shambles and a terrorist state stretching across “the Levant” might do.  It’s hardly surprising, then, that a president regularly described as “reluctantnonetheless stepped before the press corps and began the slow march back into Iraq and toward disaster.

It was a moment of remarkable contradictions. Obama managed, for example, to warn against “mission creep” even as he was laying out what could only be described as mission creep. Earlier that week, he had notified Congress that 275 troops would be sent to Iraq, largely to defend the vast U.S. embassy in Baghdad, once an almost three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollars symbol of imperial hubris, now a white elephant of the first order.  A hundred more military personnel were to be moved into the region for backup.

Then on Thursday, the president added 300 “military advisers” drawn from Special Operations forces and evidently meant to staff new “joint operation centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the terrorist threat.” (If you are of a certain age, that word “adviser” will ring an eerie Vietnam-ish bell. You should, in fact, already be hearing a giant sucking sound somewhere in the distance.)

He also spoke vaguely of positioning “additional U.S. military assets in the region” into which the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, accompanied by a guided-missile cruiser and destroyer, had already sailedAnd mind you, this was only the reasonably public part of whatever build-up is underway.  While the president spoke of being “prepared to take targeted and precise military action” in Iraq, at least one unnamed “senior administration official” was already at work opening up the possibility of air strikes in Syria.  “We don't restrict potential U.S. action to a specific geographic space,” was the ominous way that official put it.

In other words, short of combat troops on the ground in significant numbers, that table on which “all options” are always kept open was visibly moved into Washington’s War Room of the Levant.  It’s quite a development for a president who took special pride in getting us out of Iraq (even though that departure was engineered by the Bush administration, while Obama's officials tried to negotiate leaving a force behind, only to be thwarted by the Iraqi government). 

 In tandem with the military moves, the president and his national security team, perhaps reflecting through a glass darkly the “democracy agenda” of the Bush era, also seemed to have dipped their fingers in purple ink.  They were reportedly pressuring Iraqi politicians to dump Prime Minister Maliki and appoint a “unity” government to fight the war they want.  (Adding to the farcical nature of the moment, one name raised for Maliki’s position was Ahmed Chalabi, once the darling of Bush-era officials and their choice for that same post.)

There is, however, no way that an American intervention won’t be viewed as a move to back the Shia side in an incipient set of civil wars, as even retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus warned last week. In fact, in opinion polls Americans overwhelmingly reject military intervention of any sort, just as every experience in the post-9/11 era should signal one simple lesson: Don’t do it!  But Obama and his top officials evidently can’t help themselves.

The rising tide of criticism-to-come is undoubtedly already pre-echoing in their heads - previewed by the endless media appearances of Senator John McCain and a stream of op-eds from former vice president Dick Cheney, former occupation proconsul  L. Paul Bremer III, and others from the crowd of “experts” who created the Iraq disaster and for whom being wrong about that country is a badge of honor.

We are clearly in the early stages of the intervention sweepstakes.  The initial moves may even be greeted as auspicious, but watch out for the long-run destabilizing effects in an already chaotic region.  Washington only imagines it can control such combustible situations.

In reality, it hasn’t in the past and it won’t be able to this time either, which means unexpected ugliness will ensue.  (And just wait until, in one of those joint operation centers or elsewhere, the first Iraqi soldier, like his Afghan counterparts, turns his gun on one of those special ops advisers.)

All that’s missing at the moment is the final touch on the Obama version of mission creep.  I’m talking about the signature gesture for this administration in its conflicts across the Greater Middle East (and increasingly Africa).  If you listen carefully, you can already hear the theme music for the era rising in the background and - with apologies to Stephen Sondheim for mangling his beautiful elegy to a lost relationship - it’s clearly “Send in the Drones.”

In the meantime, whatever the president is saying, he never mentioned oil
.  No one does.  Nor, generally, did the Bush administration when it invaded and occupied Iraq.

If you paid attention to our media, you would never know that it sits on one of the great, easily accessible fossil-fuel reserves on the planet, though that should never be far from anyone’s mind.

Fortunately, sociologist Michael Schwartz, an old-time TomDispatch regular, is back after a long absence to remind us of The One Fact in Iraq, the one we should never forget. Tom

It’s the Oil, Stupid!

Insurgency and War on a Sea of Oil

By Michael Schwartz
Events in Iraq are headline news everywhere, and once again, there is no mention of the issue that underlies much of the violence: control of Iraqi oil. Instead, the media is flooded with debate about, horror over, and extensive analysis of a not-exactly-brand-new terrorist threat, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). There are, in addition, elaborate discussions about the possibility of a civil war that threatens both a new round of ethnic cleansing and the collapse of the embattled government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Underway are, in fact, “a series of urban revolts against the government,” as Middle Eastern expert Juan Cole has called them. They are currently restricted to Sunni areas of the country and have a distinctly sectarian character, which is why groups like ISIS can thrive and even take a leadership role in various locales. These revolts have, however, neither been created nor are they controlled by ISIS and its several thousand fighters

They also involve former Baathists and Saddam Hussein loyalists, tribal militias, and many others. And at least in incipient form they may not, in the end, be restricted to Sunni areas. As the New York Times reported last week, the oil industry is “worried that the unrest could spread” to the southern Shia-dominated city of Basra, where “Iraq’s main oil fields and export facilities are clustered.”
Under the seething ocean of Sunni discontent lies a factor that is being ignored. The insurgents are not only in a struggle against what they see as oppression by a largely Shiite government in Baghdad and its security forces, but also over who will control and benefit from what Maliki - speaking for most of his constituents - told the Wall Street Journal is Iraq’s “national patrimony.”

The Deconstruction of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq

Does anyone remember what Iraq looked like a dozen years ago, when Saddam Hussein still ruled the country and the United States was about to invade? On the one hand, Iraqis, especially Shiites and Kurds, suffered under the iron heel of an oppressive dictator - who may have killed 250,000 or more of his own people during his 25-year reign. They also struggled against the privation caused by U.S.-led sanctions - some estimates at the time placed the number of sanction-caused infant deaths alone at 500,000.

On the other hand, the country had a number of successful export-oriented industries like leather goods and agricultural products like dates that offered employment to hundreds of thousands of relatively well paid workers and entrepreneurs. It also had a resilient electrical, water, and highway infrastructure (though increasingly decrepit thanks to those sanctions). In addition, it had a best-in-the-region primary and higher educational system, and the finest (free) health care in the Middle East.

In a nation of 27 million people, it also had - in comparison to other countries in the area - a large, mainly government-employed middle class of three million.

These pluses all flowed from a single source: the 2.5 million barrels of oil that Iraq produced each day. The daily income from the sale of the “national  patrimony” undergirded the country’s economic superstructure. In fact, the oil-based government budget was so ample that it supported Hussein with multiple palaces, enriched all his relatives and allies, and financed his various wars, both on other countries and on Iraq’s Kurds and Shiites.

This mixture of oppression and prosperity ended with the U.S. invasion. Despite denials that it would ever touch the Iraqi “patrimony,” the Bush administration went straight for those oil revenues, diverting them away from the economy and into “debt payment” and soon enough, a pacification campaign.

Despite promises from Washington that, under an American occupation, production would soon rise to six million barrels per day, the struggle to take control of energy production out of Iraqi hands ended up crippling the industry and reducing production by 40%.

In fact, the occupation government was a whirlwind of economic destruction. It quickly began dismantling all government-run (and oil-subsidized) industrial plants, bankrupting the private industries that depended on them. It disrupted or destroyed commercial agriculture, again by discontinuing Saddam-era oil-financed subsidies and by air attacks on insurgents in rural areas. It imposed both austerity measures and a “de-Baathification” program on the country’s educational and medical systems.

Since most Iraqis holding any position of significance had no choice but to belong to Saddam’s Baath Party, this proved a disaster for middle class professionals, a majority of whom found themselves jobless or in exile in neighboring countries. Since they had managed such systems, often under increasingly terrible conditions, the effect on the management of the electrical, water, and highway infrastructure was devastating. Add in the effects of bombing campaigns and the privatization of maintenance and you had a lasting disaster.

When, in 2009, the Obama administration first began withdrawing U.S. combat troops, Iraqis everywhere - but especially in Sunni areas - faced up to 60% unemployment, sporadic electrical service, poisoned water systems, episodic education, a dysfunctional medical system, and a lack of viable public or private transportation

Few Westerners remember that, in 2010, Maliki based his election campaign on a promise to remedy these problems by - that figure again - increasing oil production to six million barrels per day. Since the existing production was more than sufficient to operate the government, virtually all of the increased revenues could be used to reconstruct the country’s infrastructure, revive the government sector, and rehabilitate all the devastated public services, industries, and agricultural sectors.

The Corrupt Legacy of the U.S. Occupation

Despite his obvious Shia sectarianism, Sunnis gave Maliki time to fulfill his campaign promises. For some, hopes were increased when service contracts were auctioned off to international oil firms with the aim of hiking energy production to that six million barrel mark by 2020. (Some, however, just saw this as the selling off of that national patrimony.) Many Iraqis were initially reassured when oil production began to rise: in 2011, the Hussein-era mark of 2.5 million barrels per day was finally reached, and in 2013 production finally exceeded 3.0 million barrels per day.

These increases raised hopes that reconstruction from the invasion and occupation era would finally begin. With oil prices holding steady at just under $100 per barrel, government oil revenues more than doubled, from about $50 billion in 2010 to more than $100 billion in 2013.

This increase alone, if distributed to the population, would have constituted a windfall $10,000 subsidy for each of the five million Iraqi families. It also would have constituted a very promising down payment on restoring the Iraqi economy and its social services. (The electrical system in itself required tens of billions of dollars in new investment simply to restore it to inadequate pre-war levels.)

But none of this oil wealth trickled down to the grassroots, especially in Sunni areas of the country where signs of reconstruction, economic development, restored services, or jobs were hard to discern. Instead, the vast new revenues disappeared into the recesses of a government ranked by Transparency International as the seventh most corrupt on the planet.

Demanding a Share of the National Patrimony

So here’s where Iraqi oil, or the lack of its revenues at least, comes into play
. Communities across Iraq, especially in embittered Sunni areas, began demanding funding for reconstruction, often backed by local and provincial governments.

In response, the Maliki government relentlessly refused to allocate any oil revenues for such projects, choosing instead to denounce such demands as efforts to divert funds from more urgent budgetary imperatives. That included tens of billions of dollars needed to purchase military supplies including, in 2011, 18 F-16 jets from the United States for $4 billion.

In a rare moment of ironic insight, Time magazine concluded its coverage of the F-16 purchase with this comment: “The good news is the deal will likely keep Lockheed’s F-16 plant in Fort Worth running perhaps a year longer. The bad news is that only 70% of Iraqis have access to clean water, and only 25% have clean sanitation.”

In all fairness to Maliki, his government did use some of the new oil revenues to begin restaffing wrecked government agencies and social service institutions, but virtually all of the new employment went to Shia citizens in Shia areas, while Sunnis continued to be fired from government jobs. This lack of employment - which meant, of course, the lack of oil money - has been key to the Sunni uprising. As Patrick Cockburn of the British newspaper, the Independent, wrote,

“Sunni men were alienated by not having a job because government funds were spent elsewhere and, on occasion, suddenly sacked without a pension for obligatory membership of the Ba'ath party decades earlier. One Sunni teacher with 30 years' experience one day got a crumpled note under his door telling him not to come to work at his school any more because he had been fired for this reason. ‘What am I to do? How am I going to feed my family?’ he asked.”

With conditions worsening, Sunni communities only became more insistent, supplementing their petitions and demonstrations with sit-ins at government offices, road blockades, and Tahrir Square-type occupations of public spaces. Maliki’s responses also escalated to arresting the political messengers, dispersing demonstrations, and, in a key moment in 2013, killing dozens” of protestors when his “security forces opened fire on a Sunni protest camp.”

This repression and the continued frustration of local demands helped regenerate the insurgencies that had been the backbone of the Sunni resistance during the American occupation. Once lethal violence began to be applied by government forces, guerrilla attacks became common in the areas north and west of Baghdad that the U.S. occupiers had labeled “the Sunni triangle.”

Many of these guerrilla actions were aimed at assassinating government officials, police, and - as their presence increased - soldiers sent by Maliki to suppress the protests. It is notable, however, that the most determined, well planned, and dangerous of these armed responses targeted oil facilities.

Though the Sunni areas of Iraq are not major centers of oil production - more than 90% of the country’s energy is extracted in the Shia areas in the south and the Kirkuk region controlled by the Kurds - there are ample oil targets there. In addition to a number of small oil fields, the “Sunni triangle” has almost the entire length of the only substantial pipeline that exits the country (to Turkey), a significant refinery in Haditha, and the Baiji petroleum complex, which contains an electrical power plant serving the northern provinces and a 310,000 barrel per day oil refinery producing a third of the country’s refined petroleum.

There was nothing new about local guerrillas attacking oil facilities. In late 2003, soon after the U.S. occupation cut off the flow of oil revenues to Sunni areas, residents resorted to various strategies to stop production or export until they received what they felt was their fair share of the proceeds.

The vulnerable pipeline to Turkey was rendered useless, thanks to more than 600 attacks. The Baiji and Haditha facilities held insurgents at bay by allowing local tribal leaders to siphon off a share - often as much as 20% - of the oil flowing through them. After the U.S. military took control of the facilities in early 2007 and ended this arrangement, the two refineries were regularly subjected to crippling attacks.

The pipeline and refineries returned to continuous operation only after the U.S. left Anbar Province and Maliki once again promised local tribal leaders and insurgents (often the same people) a share of the oil in exchange for “protecting” the facilities from theft or attack. This deal lasted for almost two years, but when the government began cracking down on Sunni protest, the “protection” was withdrawn

Looking at these developments from a petroleum perspective, Iraq Oil Report, an online industry newsletter that offers the most detailed coverage of oil developments in Iraq, marked this as a key moment of “deteriorating security,” commenting that the “forces guarding energy facilities ... have historically relied on alliances with locals to help provide protection.”

Fighting for Oil

Iraq Oil Report has conscientiously covered the consequences of this “deteriorating security” situation. “Since last year when attacks on the [Turkish] pipeline began to increase,” the North Oil Company, in charge of production in Sunni areas, registered a 50% drop in production. The pipeline was definitively cut on March 2nd and since then, repair crews have been “prevented from accessing” the site of the break. The feeder pipeline for the Baiji complex was bombed on April 16th, causing a huge spill that rendered water from the Tigris River undrinkable for several days.

After “numerous” attacks in late 2013, the Sonangol Oil Company, the national oil company of Angola, invoked the “force majeure” clause in its contract with the Iraqi government, abandoning four years of development work on the the Qaiyarah and Najmah fields in Nineveh Province. This April, insurgents kidnapped the head of the Haditha refinery. In June, they took possession of the idle plant after government military forces abandoned it in the wake of the collapse of the Iraqi army in the country’s second largest city, Mosul.

In response to this rising tide of guerrilla attacks, the Maliki regime escalated its repression of Sunni communities, punishing them for “harboring” the insurgents. More and more soldiers were sent to cities deemed to be centers of “terrorism,” with orders to suppress all forms of protest. In December 2013, when government troops began using lethal force to clear protest camps that were blocking roads and commerce in several cities, armed guerrilla attacks on the military rose precipitously. In January, government officials and troops abandoned parts of Ramadi and all of Falluja, two key cities in the Sunni triangle.

This month, faced with what Patrick Cockburn called a "general uprising," 50,000 troops abandoned their weapons to the guerrillas, and fled Mosul as well as several smaller cities.

 This development hit as if out of nowhere and was treated accordingly by much of the U.S. media, but Cockburn expressed the view of many informed observers when he termed the collapse of the army in Sunni areas “unsurprising.” 

As he and others pointed out, the soldiers of that corruption-ridden force “were not prepared to fight and die in their posts ... since their jobs were always primarily about making money for their families.”

The military withdrawal from the cities immediately led to at least a partial withdrawal from oil facilities. On June 13th, two days after the fall of Mosul, Iraq Oil Report noted that the power station and other buildings in the Baiji complex were already “under the control of local tribes.” After a counterattack by government reinforcements, the complex became a contested area.

Iraq Oil Report characterized the attack on Baiji by insurgents as “what could be an attempt to hijack a portion of Iraq’s oil revenue stream.”
If the occupation of Baiji is consolidated, the “zone of control” would also include the Haditha refinery, the Qaiyarah and Hamrah oil fields, and “key infrastructure corridors such as the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline and al-Fatha, where a collection of pipelines and other facilities deliver oil, gas and fuel to the center and north of the country.”

Further proof of this intention to control “a portion of Iraq’s oil revenue stream” can be found in the first actions taken by tribal guerrillas once they captured the power station at Baiji:  “Militants have caused no damage and instructed workers to keep the facility online” in preparation for restarting the facility as soon as possible. Similar policies were instituted in the captured oil fields and at the Haditha refinery. Though the current situation is too uncertain to permit actual operation of the facilities, the overarching goal of the militants is clear. They are attempting to accomplish by force what could not be accomplished through the political process and protest:  taking possession of a significant portion of the proceeds from the country’s oil exports.

And the insurgents appear determined to begin the reconstruction process that Maliki refused to fund. Only a few days after these victories, the Associated Press reported that insurgents were promising Mosul citizens and returning refugees “cheap gas and food,” and that they would soon restore power and water, and remove traffic barricades. Assumedly, this will be funded by upwards of $450 million (of oil money), as well as gold bullion, reportedly looted from a branch of the Central Bank of Iraq and assorted other banks in the Mosul area.

The oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein was racked with insurgency, and when vicious repression failed, it delivered a portion of the vast oil revenues to the people in the form of government jobs, social services, and subsidized industries and agriculture. The oppressive United States occupation was racked with insurgency precisely because it tried to harness the country’s vast oil revenues to its imperial designs in the Middle East

The oppressive Maliki regime is now racked with insurgency, because the prime minister refused to share those same vast oil revenues with his Sunni constituents.

It has always been about the oil, stupid!

(Michael Schwartz is a Distinguished Teaching Professor, Emeritus, of sociology at Stony Brook State University. Long a TomDispatch regular, he is the author of many books and articles on popular protest and insurgency, corporate dynamics, and political policy, including War Without End: The Iraq War in Context. His email address is

[Note on Sources: This commentary rests, in part, on the reporting of Ben Lando and the staff of Iraq Oil Report, which is the best English language source for information about politics, economics, and social protest in Iraq. Because its articles cannot be accessed without a subscription, no links to its work are provided in the text. Unlinked evidence about oil and the U.S. occupation is also taken from War Without End: The Iraq War in Context.]

You gotta think it's romantic (dontya?) that now that Ahmed Chalabi is back in the mix, that his sweetie, Judy Miller, is also back on the scene telling us what a calamity she helped wreak previously.

Or something.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Why Congress So Unpopular A Mystery To Congress? (They Don't Appear Too Smart Because They Don't Want To?) Fortunately, Dark Pool Not Confusing To Those With Some Education (Paywall To Democracy:  Goldman Sachs' Rule)

The idea that serious money is not at stake is preposterously naïve. Former SEC Chair Mary Schapiro estimated that individual investors lost more than $200 million in improperly triggered stop loss orders on May 6, 2010 during the Flash Crash – an event fueled by high frequency trading.
Before the approval rating of Congress slips further, Republican obstructionists need to put down the Farmers’ Almanac and pick up a copy of The Financial Times.
. . . The aw-shucks questioning of Senators Johanns and Johnson in dead serious hearings last week is an embarrassment to the Senate and this nation. “Sinister” is exactly what we’re talking about. The very same mega Wall Street banks that crashed the U.S. economy in 2008, were charged with colluding and rigging the Libor interest rate market, and any day now will be charged with rigging the foreign exchange currency markets in chat rooms dubbed “The Mafia” and “The Bandits’ Club,” are not unjustly maligned actors.

So, the Senate has no idea why the Congress is only being awarded single digits in integrity and honorable intentions from the voting public?

From our reporters on duty at Wall Street On Parade, we are alerted that:

. . . while the Senate debated why the American public has lost confidence in Wall Street, which is experiencing the lowest individual stock participation rate in 16 years, it has never occurred to most Senators that the public’s loss of confidence in Congress to properly regulate Wall Street might factor into that equation.

The comments of two Senators in particular stood out at these hearings as tone-deaf to the reality that Wall Street has never been this corrupt in its entire history, including the period leading to the 1929 crash. That era resulted in the passage of the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Glass-Steagall Act (Banking Act of 1933), the creation of the FDIC and SEC and two solid years of Pecora Senate hearings to root out the corruption and bring it into the sunshine. Today we have a room of empty chairs and empty promises of reform.

During Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate Banking’s Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment, Senator Mike Johanns from Nebraska said he could relate to the debate about high frequency trading because he had grown up on a dairy farm in northern Iowa in the 1950s. “The combines are so far advanced” from what they were when he was growing up, said Johanns, adding that the consumer has benefitted from that by having a supply of food that’s “unparalleled in the world.”

According to the thinking of Johanns, it naturally follows that the consumer must also benefit from Wall Street’s super computers and super data feeds and artificial intelligence algorithms written by six-figure programmers to trade for the house against the interests of the little guy who has been intentionally stuck with a horse and buggy data feed while his “dumb money” trades are secretly routed to the fleecing herd in exchange for a cash kickback.

From the combines of the dairy farmers, Senator Johanns made the galactic leap that “it seems that technology developments over the last several years have benefitted retail investors by making the equity markets more accessible and affordable for the moms and the pops in Nebraska.”

Senator Ron Johnson Doesn't Like the Words "Dark Pool"

The same brand of illogic was on display on Tuesday during the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ hearing when Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin downplayed the problem of payment for order flow by dark pools and warned against government intervention in the markets.

Johnson used the word “sinister” — not to describe the conduct of high frequency traders, mind you, but about the charges being made by the truth-telling witnesses called to testify before the subcommittee. Johnson said: “What I’m concerned about is creating this sinister atmosphere with words like dark pool and conflict of interest and what we’re talking about, literally, I think, is 30 or 40 cents on a $2,000 trade…we’re really talking about miniscule amounts.”

Senator Johnson was so ill-prepared for this hearing that he apparently didn’t realize that “dark pool” is an industry term, not a phrase conjured up by witnesses testifying before the Senate panels.
Stock exchanges, which show the public the bids and offers on stocks are called “lit” markets. Alternative Trading Systems, which are owned and operated by the largest Wall Street banks as well as others, are called dark pools because they are “unlit” markets. They do not show the public the bids and offers on the stocks before they trade, leaving massive opportunity for front-running and stock price manipulation.
As we reported earlier this month, the Wall Street mega banks are even trading in the stocks of their own corporate parents in their own dark pools. (We asked the SEC how this is legal and received the response: “No comment.”)

The idea that serious money is not at stake is preposterously naïve.
Former SEC Chair Mary Schapiro estimated that individual investors lost more than $200 million in improperly triggered stop loss orders on May 6, 2010 during the Flash Crash – an event fueled by high frequency trading.

Senator Johnson’s fixation on his 100-share order at $20 insults the intelligence of Americans who understand that the bulk of the money they have in the stock market is managed by their pension portfolio manager or mutual fund manager who trades in 50,000 or 100,000 share lots, not 100-share lots. The public understands that they are being taken to the cleaners by high frequency trading, eroding the retirement savings of tens of millions of Americans.
They further understand that their 401(k) plan is losing its heft because the same actors have outsized fees and costs embedded in the mutual funds. (See PBS Drops Another Bombshell: Wall Street Is Eating Up Two-Thirds of Your 401(k))

Andrew Brooks of mutual fund manager, T. Rowe Price, testified before the Senate last week, saying that “disruptive HFT strategies are akin to a tax loophole that has been exploited and needs to be closed.  Market participants utilizing such strategies are essentially making a riskless bet on the market, like a gambler who places a bet on a race that’s already been run and for which he knows the outcome.”

There is now unassailable evidence that the stock exchanges are charging obscene fees of upwards of $144,000 a year plus tens of thousands more in infrastructure charges to co-locate Wall Street’s super computers next to the exchange’s computers to facilitate front-running slower orders.

Michael Lewis writes in Flash Boys that “both Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange announced that they had widened the pipe that carried information between the HFT [high frequency trading] computers and each exchange’s matching engine. The price for the new pipe was $40,000 a month, up from the $25,000 a month the HFT firms had been paying for the old, smaller pipe.”

There is unassailable evidence that the exchanges are selling faster and more comprehensive data feeds to the Wall Street elite while sticking the public with a slower data feed with outdated prices.

There is unassailable evidence that Wall Street mega banks are paying retail brokers for mom and pop order flow. This is the dumb money these firms want to trade against in their own dark pools.

There is unassailable evidence that the U.S. stock exchanges which previously functioned as self-regulators to police their own members have turned into brothels (as the New York Post put it) with a pay-to-play business model.
Read the whole essay here.

Oh, and do read about how things have not changed since 2012 when all hell had broken loose and it seemed like the banking industry actually thought then that it must clean up its act or go to jail (directly to jail, do not pass GO, do not collect $200).

It has only taken twelve years of unending Wall Street scandals and scoundrels, the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression, a wrecked national economy, 46 million fellow Americans living below the poverty level – including one in every five children — but, finally, the pigs are flying over Wall Street.  Yes, the unthinkable has happened.  The New York Times has admitted it was wrong about repealing the Glass-Steagall Act while Sandy Weill calls for taking a wrecking ball to the big banks.
In an editorial published in the print edition of the New York Times yesterday, “The Big Banker’s Change of Heart,” the paper of record at last fessed up to its role in America’s nightmare decade.
The editorial page editors wrote:
“While we are on this subject, add The New York Times editorial page to the list of the converted. We forcefully advocated the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. ‘Few economic historians now find the logic behind Glass-Steagall persuasive,’  one editorial said in 1988. Another, in 1990, said that the notion that ‘banks and stocks were a dangerous mixture’ ‘makes little sense now.’
“That year, we also said that the Glass-Steagall Act was one of two laws that ‘stifle commercial banks.’  The other was the McFadden-Douglas Act, which prevented banks from opening branches across the nation.
Having seen the results of this sweeping deregulation, we now think we were wrong to have supported it.” 
Making his call for breaking up the Wall Street banks into insured deposit institutions separated from investment banks on CNBC’s business network on July 25,  Weill did not go as far, saying the big bank model was right back when he deployed it but not now.  He offered not a shred of substance to support that position.
Weill did not apologize to the Nation for the misery he had helped to cause and he preposterously lied about having anything to do with the repeal of Glass-Steagall, saying it had gone away in the 1980s.
The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act occurred on November 12, 1999 with the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, officially known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999.  That legislation repealed the portion of the Glass-Steagall Act which barred banks holding insured deposits from merging with Wall Street securities firms.
It also removed the barrier located in the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 which prevented insured deposit banks from merging with insurance companies.
In making his absurd claim on CNBC, Weill was attempting to rewrite his own autobiography, The Real Deal. Published in 2006, the same year Weill stepped down as Chairman of Citigroup,  the Frankenbank he had created in 1998 in violation of existing law, Weill writes on page 269: “Around this time, we had been discussing strategic options with Marty Lipton and his team of banking lawyers at Wachtell Lipton. The firm’s lawyers captured my attention by claiming they could help us circumvent the legal issues involved with merging with a bank. Two powerful federal laws, the Bank Holding Company Act of the 1950s and the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, stood in our way – these laws prohibited commercial banks from diversifying and specifically ruled out affiliation with securities firms and insurance companies.” 
And the New York Times was not completely candid either.  It did not just forcefully advocate the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act as it now confesses It waved pompoms, on its editorial page, for Sandy Weill and his unwieldy behemoth that would collapse into the arms of the taxpayers in 2008.  On April 8, 1998, the following appeared on the Times editorial page:
“Congress dithers, so John Reed of Citicorp and Sanford Weill of Travelers Group grandly propose to modernize financial markets on their own. They have announced a $70 billion merger — the biggest in history — that would create the largest financial services company in the world, worth more than $140 billion
In one stroke, Mr. Reed and Mr. Weill will have temporarily demolished the increasingly unnecessary walls built during the Depression to separate commercial banks from investment banks and insurance companies.”
The inherent problem with restoring Glass-Steagall is not writing the legislation.  It takes but one sentence to restore sanity to the financial underpinning of America: “No bank holding insured deposits can own or be affiliated with an investment bank, broker-dealer, futures commission merchant, insurance company or engage in the underwriting of stocks and bonds.”
The problem is that Congress will succumb to the inevitable lobbying demand that Wall Street be given a phase-in period of, minimally, two years.
Frankly, under the current financial structure, America doesn’t have that long before the next great collapse.

And that was 2012, folks, can you feel that breeze of newly-inspired banking integrity yet?

Goldman Sachs’ Paywall to Your Democracy

By Pam Martens: July 30, 2012

The word paywall is typically used to describe web sites which make you pay to gain access. But viewed with the added perspective of the image below, that’s what representative government in the U.S. has become – a paywall to access
The following chart is provided through the courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics. The Center calls it the list of Goldman Sachs heavy hitters from 1989 to 2012 — those employees of Goldman Sachs making the largest political contributions.  (It should be noted that not all individuals listed on the chart continue to work for Goldman Sachs.) 
The first entry on the list is Todd J. Christie – brother to the current Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who said last week he plans to run for President in 2016.  Todd J. Christie is the former CEO of Spear, Leeds &  Kellogg, the New York Stock Exchange specialist firm which Goldman Sachs purchased in 2000 for $6 billion.  Todd Christie received $60 million in the deal. 
The SEC brought an action against Todd Christie in 2005 for cheating customers out of thousands of dollars in the trading of IBM and AOL Time Warner.  In 2008, Christie settled the charges without admitting or denying the findings (the despicable curse of the SEC in this lost decade of America).  The SEC took separate actions against other traders at the firm.
One remarkable aspect of the chart below is that if you click on the individual names, such as Christie, then click on “Itemized Contributions,” you find a really dirty little secret about which few Americans are aware — the sums that can be contributed to committees by the individual, above and beyond candidate contributions
On April 22, 2002, for example, Todd Christie made a $225,000 lump sum contribution to the Republican National State Elections Committee.
Over years of using data at the Center for Responsive Politics, I have never found an error.  But I couldn’t believe the size of this contribution from a single individual so I checked it out myself at the Federal Election Commission.  The dollar amount was memorialized in a receipt at the commission. 
Obscene contributions such as these were only somewhat curtailed under the McCain-Feingold legislation (Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002) with new legal limits becoming effective on January 1, 2003
So here’s what Todd Christie was able to give to a committee of the co-author of that bill in 2008: 
McCain Victory 2008 — 5/15/2008 $25,000  29933553532; 5/16/2008 $50,100 29933553533; correction entered 6/09/2008 -$5,000 29933553533 
Last year, the National Bureau of Economic Research released a study showing that 50 percent of the population would not be able to come up with $2,000 within 30 days for an unexpected expense.
The Census Bureau reports that 46.2 million people in America, the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on poverty, are living at or below the poverty line, which in 2010 was $22,314 for a family of four.
Now you get a proper perspective on America’s paywall to representative government.
Below are the current Political Campaign Contribution Limits provided by the Federal Election Commission.
Refer to those figures here.

Below is the list of Goldman Sachs Top Political Donors, 1989 to 2012, Center for Responsive Politics:


Barofsky Book: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley Would Have Failed Next

By Pam Martens: July 31, 2012

They’re everywhere – on 60 Minutes, peeping out of the display window at Barnes and Noble, going out on internet news feeds.  I’m talking about insiders who want to fill in the cracks and voids of Wall Street’s criminal wealth transfer system that has had an iron grip around our country’s throat since at least 1996.

Neil Barofsky, the former Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIG-TARP), has penned a humdinger.  Titled Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, it confirms what we’ve suspected since U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner appointed Mark Patterson, a Goldman Sachs lobbyist, to be his Chief of Staff – that the U.S. Treasury Department has become Wall Street West.

Barofsky was minding his own business dealing with drug cartels and mortgage fraud (a cakewalk compared to Wall Street) as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York when the George W. Bush administration picked him to oversee the outflow of what would become trillions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts to Wall Street.
Barofsky has meet and greets with his fellow colleagues at the Treasury Department and other Inspector Generals in their lavish and expansive offices – then he’s led to his new quarters in the Treasury building: a literal stink hole next to the cafeteria.

Next Barofsky is delivered a crystal clear message from Herb Allison, a Wall Street retread from Merrill Lynch who was plucked by Geithner to be Assistant Treasury Secretary. Allison warns:  “Out there in the market, there are consequences for some of the things that you’re saying and the way that you’re saying them.”  Then Allison invokes the Wall Street code: “Well, is it an appointment you might be looking for? Something else in government? A judgeship?” [An office that’s not a stink hole?]  
I’ve always suspected that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were miraculously anointed as bank holding companies during the height of the crisis because they were about to fail.  Barofsky weighs in on that.  Then Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson told Barofsky “that he believed that Morgan Stanley was just days away from collapse, and Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, similarly confided that he believed that Goldman Sachs would have been the next to go.  After that, all bets on the country’s financial system would have been off.” 
Barofsky was a Democrat.  George W. Bush knew that and yet appointed him anyway.  And the irony is that even after the Obama administration took over, to deal with Geithner’s obstructionist efforts to thwart oversight of the outflow of the taxpayers’ purse into obscene bonuses and backdoor deals on Wall Street, Barofsky time and again had to turn to Republican members of Congress in order to move forward.  That’s not really the message the Obama team needs on the airwaves three months before the Presidential election. (Of course, the other option is for the American people to elect Mitt Romney, a man who wants to gut all significant restraints on Wall Street.) 
Unfortunately, the truth has a way of seeping into the public consciousness at inconvenient times. Wall Street has never been held in lower regard by the public, and yet, more insider truth telling of its dirty underbelly spills out almost daily.
Omer Rosen is the latest to deal the dirt on Citigroup.  Writing yesterday at Boston Review, Rosen, who previously worked in a derivatives department at Citigroup, says he structured what he was told were illegal tax-evading schemes, simultaneously screwing both his client and the American taxpayer.  Rosen writes: “In so doing, they would hope to save millions of dollars (and so cost the U.S. government millions of dollars). We at Citigroup just hoped to net a seven-figure fee…” 
Rosen had filled in more details in February of last year, writing as follows: 
“Our clients were non-financial corporations, the Deltas and Verizons of the world, which relied on us for advice and education. Our directive was ‘to help companies decrease and manage their risks.’ Often we did just that. And often we advised clients to execute trades solely because they presented opportunities for us to profit. In either case, whenever possible we used our superior knowledge to manipulate the pricing of the trade in our favor …
Other sources of profit lay in details that clients thought were merely procedural but in actuality affected pricing as well. Once, a client called after his interest-rate swap was completed and asked to change a method of counting days. Unbeknownst to him, this change should have lowered his rate. I made the requested change but kept his rate the same, allowing us to realize unwarranted profit. This was standard practice. My coworkers knew what I had done, as did the traders, as did the people who booked trades. I even tallied the ‘restructuring’ as an achievement in a letter angling for a higher bonus.” 
Wall Street’s cancer has metastasized into every nook and cranny of our financial infrastructure. It should be clear to any thinking member of Congress that pruning around the edges of financial reform cannot deal with this entrenched criminal syndicate.  The heads of top management must roll, including government regulators and overseers, and the big banks must be broken up.

Each day that passes without serious reform poses a risk to the safety and soundness of the United States’ financial system.

How long will we stand it?