Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Murkowski rips Jindal’s ‘volcano monitoring’ comments on Senate floor.

Murkowski rips Jindal's 'volcano monitoring' comments on Senate floor.

In February, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) criticized the fact that the stimulus package provided funding for "volcano monitoring." Ironically, last week, Mt. Redoubt in Alaska erupted, spewing gas 11 miles into the air and sending ash toward Anchorage. In an impassioned floor speech yesterday discussing the "importance of volcano monitoring," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — who introduced legislation funding volcano monitoring — took a minute to criticize Jindal's ignorant remarks:

MURKOWSKI: I think we're all aware that there has been some recent comments made about federal spending for volcano monitoring and the suggestion perhaps that this might be wasteful money — that we don't have any need to be monitoring volcanoes. And I can assure you, Mr. President, that monitoring volcanoes is critically important to the nation, to the world, and particularly to Alaska right now where we are being held hostage by a volcano.

Watch it:


Curiously, Murkowski voted against the stimulus package that provided funding for volcano monitoring.

"President Obama has once again chosen neither to veto a bill nor to sign and execute it, but rather to imitate Bush by signing the bill and announcing that he will violate a portion of the new law: "

Another Signing Statement, Another Law Smashed, Another Smudge on the Constitution, Another Yawn From Partisanized Americans

By David Swanson

President Obama has once again chosen neither to veto a bill nor to sign and execute it, but rather to imitate Bush by signing the bill and announcing that he will violate a portion of the new law:

Section 8203 of the Act provides that the Secretary of the Interior shall appoint certain members of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission "based on recommendations from each member of the House of Representatives, the district of which encompasses the Corridor." Because it would be an impermissible restriction on the appointment power to condition the Secretary's appointments on the recommendations of members of the House, I will construe these provisions to require the Secretary to consider such congressional recommendations, but not to be bound by them in making appointments to the Commission.

Click for: The full statement.

Click for: The New York Times' report.

Click for: The determination to defend the rule of law announced by Democratic leaders and activist groups. [keep clicking]

read more

"Ten years ago, Congress repealed this archaic and useless little law called Glass-Steagal, because Larry Summers wanted a cushy gig at Citigroup."

90 More Geniuses For You to Blame [History]

Ten years ago, Congress repealed this archaic and useless little law called Glass-Steagal, because Larry Summers wanted a cushy gig at Citigroup.

As we now know, and as NO ONE COULD'VE FORESEEN THEN, repealing Glass-Steagal really helped eventually break the whole world economy. Cajun Boy went back and read the Times article about the vote, because he is hoping one of his readers has a time machine. The piece probably ran on page A52 or something too, right?

Many of the people who were 100% wrong on this are, of course, still respected and important. Well, no one takes Phil Gramm seriously. But Larry Summers is advising another president!

'Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century,'' Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. ''This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy.''

Hah. And hey, who's that, with the money quote? Why it's the president of the liberal New School, that famed war criminal Bob "universally loathed" Kerrey:

''The concerns that we will have a meltdown like 1929 are dramatically overblown,'' said Senator Bob Kerrey, Democrat of Nebraska.

Well how we he to know? It's not like anyone actually saw this coming! Hah, except this LIBERAL NUTCASE:

''Glass-Steagall was intended to protect our financial system by insulating commercial banking from other forms of risk. It was one of several stabilizers designed to keep a similar tragedy from recurring. Now Congress is about to repeal that economic stabilizer without putting any comparable safeguard in its place.''

Man, who's this joker, Lyndon LaRouche? No, it was this guy named Paul Wellstone—who was actually a Senator himself! But then the CIA killed him. It was pretty fucked up.

But yes, as usual, it's the serious-minded "centrist" Senate "grownups" who reach across the aisle who FUCK EVERYTHING UP. They are the reason the Senate is fundamentally undemocratic and it should be abolished. Some fucking jerkoff from Nebraska can hold the country hostage because they're trying to fix the inefficiencies that enrich his precious student loan companies.

The Senate is broken and its "centrists" are all the worst examples of politicians this country manages to produce—we would take actual criminals over them, in fact, because criminals don't consider their base motivations the sober, patriotic, wise judgment of true independent statesmen. Well, maybe Blago does.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How to prepare for Conficker from Politics in the Zeros.

How to prepare for Conficker

windows secrets

Windows Secrets has a comprehensive article on how to defend against the Conficker worm, whichs triggers on Wednesday. While no one is quite sure what it will do (and it's on millions of computers, mostly in Asia) protecting yourself, they explain, is easy.

If Conficker triggers, it blocks your access to antivirus websites. So, it's important to take precautions now, before April 1.

  • Run Windows Update and get the latest patches.
  • Update your third party antivirus software.
  • Turn off Auto Run. (And keep it turned off)
  • Download a Conficker removal tool, just in case you might need it.
  • Run Secunia's Software Inspector, a free online software scan, to see if any of your non-Microsoft programs need patching.

Windows Secrets has full details.

Lockheed's Official Congress-Briber Closes Up Shop [Politics] from Gawker

Lockheed's Official Congress-Briber Closes Up Shop [Politics]

Remember how we paid Lockheed Martin $67.5 million to index Dick Cheney's emails? The guy whose fault it was has been caught: Paul Magliocchetti, the famous lobbyist.

Magliocchetti runs PMA Group, a lobbying firm that will close down, next week, because his whole scam was basically found out. He funneled thousands to a couple of Democratic representatives, and those reps sent billions to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Every single fucking solitary dime the federal government spends on, say, feeding poor people, is watched and debated and decried as stupid waste. But if you show up in Congress one day and say "hello, I'm a defense contractor," they will just give you a check for a billion dollars and say, "hey, why don't you make us an airplane that doesn't work."

So John Murtha was the ringleader, here, accepting $774k from PMA and countless perks and gifts and things in 2008, and earmarking a healthy $38 million to PMA's clients, in return. Also on the wall of shame: Peter Visclosky from Indiana and James "Get a Brain" Moran from Virginia. All Democrats, all very good friends of the defense industry.

Murtha is more or less proud of his record of ignoring ethics rules, of course: "If I'm corrupt, it's because I take care of my district," he says.

This is a funny thing about the congressional ethics rules: if all Magliocchetti did was funnel contributions to congressmembers, and then those congressmembers appropriated billions for his clients, well, the lobbyist might get in trouble, but the Representative can say "we don't know why that sommelier and that caddy sent us $150k but we certainly had nothing to do with it!" But if Magliocchetti, say, takes the member golfing, or to dinner, that is the illegal bribery. We can only consider it a crime if it's petty enough to seem ridiculous, and not grand enough to just be How Things Work.

So! The FBI raided PMA last year, and now he is closing down shop. Government is saved!

Sick Around America: Half-Assed Health Insurance Doesn’t Work from Firedoglake

Sick Around America: Half-Assed Health Insurance Doesn't Work

This infuriates me. And not just because I have a pre-existing condition that would likely have me on the "insurance blacklist."

It's especially timely because growing numbers are looking for individual health insurance after losing their jobs. On top of that, small businesses, which make up the bulk of South Florida's economy, are frequently finding health policies too expensive and are dropping coverage, sending even more people shopping for insurance....

''This is absolutely the standard way of doing business,'' said Santiago Leon, a health insurance broker in Miami. Being denied for preexisting conditions is well known, but when a person sees the usually confidential list of automatic denials for himself, ``that's a eureka moment. That shows you how harsh the system is.''...

Imagine working your rear end off for a company and having them close down in this recession. But you've paid into an emergency fund for health care coverage, so you think you've planned ahead and made wise choices.

Or, if you own a small business (as I have), trying desperately to find affordable coverage for your employees and continually getting quoted insane prices for a relatively healthy group of people that none of you can afford. It's nuts.

And then, you get slapped with the fine print:

Many jobless Americans are shocked to learn that the health plan, either paid for by the employer or deducted from each paycheck, costs so much. The average payment under COBRA can be around $1,200, and much higher if your company had a really good health plan....

$1,200? That's reasonable compared to what you could be paying if you have a pre-existing condition and have to pay out-of-pocket for an individual plan.

Once you are out of the workplace, you have no leverage to negotiate on a group basis for a lower rate. It's just you and your meds, and whatever an insurance company does or does not want to cover.

In what universe does it make sense that the people who most need regular medical care are the ones least likely to get it?

Or that people who are now out of work in their chosen field -- and are turning up at fast food joints or pizza delivery trucks or various other lower wage jobs just to make ends meet -- now have no decent, regular health care coverage. So communicable diseases they have get spread around the community if not treated.

How does this make any sense at all whatsoever?

Only in a system where medical care is treated solely as a "for profit" enterprise, and where public health concerns mean nothing. That's where.

The market takes care of its own, and screw the rest of us when it comes to health care.

That has to change. Or we are going to be in an even larger world of hurt if a bird flu or other pandemic hits. Just imagine how far some pandemic disease could spread if no one could afford to go to the doctor and have their symptoms identified until it had been spread through every school and public office and business in your county? And then tell me that health care isn't important.

Frontline has what looks to be a very intriguing documentary airing on this subject tomorrow evening entitled "Sick Around America."

Here's hoping some policy-makers are watching it, even though they still have their government-paid healthcare intact. But to keep it, they have to stay in office, don't they?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

BofA's Lewis Against Reinstating Glass-Steagall Act from Crooks and Liars by Susie Madrak

from http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/bofas-lewis-against-reinstating-glass

No, of course not. Because so far, that little arrangement has been working rather well for them - they got obscenely rich, and we got the tab:

NEW YORK -- Bank of America Corp. rebuffed earlier news reports that its chairman and chief executive, Ken Lewis, intended to suggest to President Barack Obama to separate commercial and investment banking.

The Charlotte bank said in a statement, "Mr. Lewis was referring to people's understanding of banks and how they should view the difference between commercial and investment banks in terms of forming perceptions of their various activities."

The CEO "was not talking about reinstating a legal separation between commercial and investment banking," the statement said. Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch & Co., a major investment-banking and brokerage company, in January.

Mr. Lewis, and the leaders of several big banks, met with President Obama in Washington. Following Mr. Lewis' arrival at the White House, Bloomberg News reported that he said a separation of the two businesses should be considered.

The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 prohibited banks from having commercial- and investment-banking businesses under one roof, but the law was repealed in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. The change followed the merger of Citicorp Inc. with Travelers Corp. Inc. to form Citigroup Inc.

Where computers go to die from Politics in the Zeros


In Mustaffabad, India, poor people dismantle computers, expose themselves to highly toxic substances, make a pittance, and die early from our waste.

TARP funds return to Washington as campaign donations from Raw Story Breaking News

TARP funds return to Washington as campaign donations

from http://rawstory.com/news/2008/NBC_Some_politicians_got_thousands_from_0327.html

Recent filings in the Federal Election Commission's database revealed that in the first two months of this year, at least $250,000 of bail-out funds returned to Washington in the form of campaign finances.

NBC's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd reported yesterday that both Democrats and Republicans have been receiving donations from bail-out firms. Two of the most vocal opponents of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program(TARP) received some of the largest donations. Representative John Boehner(R-OH) received $5,000 from Bank of America, $5,000 from American Express, and $1,500 from U.S. Bancorp, while Eric Cantor(R-VA) received a total of $21,500 from Citigroup, Bank of America, American Express, Chrysler, and UBS. Cantor has opposed the TARP program in numerous interviews - "Why isn't it that Washington gets it anymore?" he asked on MSNBC's Morning Joe earlier this month – but has yet to make a statement concerning the kick-backs from the bailed-out banking firms. 11 of 26 representatives who received donations were on the committee responsible for bail-out oversight.

Corporations can donate to political campaigns through their Political Action Committees(PAC). Corporate PAC's ostensibly manage the political donations of all their employees, but the majority of the donations come from a small handful of executive officers. Corporate funding pays for a large part of Congressional campaigns, but the idea that taxpayer money given to banks through TARP is being donated to politicians for their campaigns is making some observers nervous. An anonymous bank fundraiser told Newsweek, "These are treacherous waters."

In addition to recipients in the House of Representatives, 14 Senators were sent checks in February.

Both sides of the aisle have received bail-out kick-backs. $15,000 was sent to each party's campaign committee. Newsweek reported that House Democrats "have quietly passed the word" that they will be accepting campaign funds from companies like Bank of America, but only after public animosity over the bail-out dies down. Individually, Senator Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Representative Barney Frank have said that they returned checks from firms that received more than $1 billion of government money. "If I, as chairman of this committee, were taking money from these beneficiaries...it would create the kind of distraction that we don't need at this time," Frank explained to Chuck Todd.

The Bush Administration: An Oral History of the Bush White House. The threat of 9/11 ignored. The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated.

The Bush Administration: An Oral History of the Bush White House. The threat of 9/11 ignored. The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated. Guantnamo and Abu Ghraib. Hurricane Katrina. The shredding of civil liberties. The rise of Iran. Global warming

An excerpt:

Cullen Murphy and Todd Purdum: there were detailed discussions and briefings on cyber-security and often terrorism, and on a classified program. . . . he seemed—I was disturbed because he seemed to be trying to impress us, the people who were briefing him. . . . The contrast with having briefed his father and Clinton and Gore was so marked. And to be told, frankly, early in the administration, by Condi Rice and [her deputy] Steve Hadley, you know, Don't give the president a lot of long memos, he's not a big reader—well, shit. I mean, the president of the United States is not a big reader?

Friday, March 27, 2009

More than 10,000 of you have stood up to Bill O’Reilly. from Think Progress

from http://thinkprogress.org/2009/03/27/oreilly-campaign-momentum/

Since the launch of our Stop Supporting The O'Reilly Harassment Machine campaign on Wednesday afternoon, more than 10,000 of you have taken action. Thank you for all your support! In just two days, here are all the successes we've had:

billo.jpg– UPS announced it will no longer advertise on The Factor

– Capital One expressed "regret" for O'Reilly's insensitivity and explained that it does not endorse his views.

– A Ford spokesman candidly told us that he agreed with us about the "rantings of the hopelessly pig-headed Mr. O'Reilly." (Ford then clarified that the statement did not speak for the company.)

– AT&T said it makes "every effort" to ensure their advertisers are in keeping with the company's "corporate values and philosophy," but it would not say whether O'Reilly's show was in keeping with that philosophy.

– Bill O'Reilly lashed out at us, calling us "insects."

– Amanda appeared on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann to discuss the campaign.

Let's urge more companies to follow the lead of UPS. Please join our campaign.

Ex-official: Bush panicked after 9/11 from Raw Story Breaking News

Lawyer confirms Bush tortured prisoners; GOP leader: Bush a 'millstone.'

rest http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/03/27/politics/main4897315.shtml?tag=topHome

(CBS/AP)  A former State Department lawyer tells The Associated Press that the Bush administration panicked after 9/11 and tortured prisoners.

Former President George W. Bush denied anyone was tortured. But Vijay Padmanabhan is at least the second insider to publicly describe as torture the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by the U.S.

Padmanabhan was the department's chief counsel on Guantanamo litigation. He says it was "foolish" for the Bush administration to declare that detainees were beyond the reach of U.S. and international laws and the Geneva Conventions.

He told the AP Friday that "Guantanamo was one of the worst overreactions of the Bush administration."

Last week, another former official in the Bush State Department publicly criticized the administration for its Guantanamo policies.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, said many detainees locked up in the prison camp were innocent swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants

"There are still innocent people there," Wilkerson told The Associated Press. "Some have been there six or seven years."

Wilkerson, who first made the assertions in an Internet posting, told the AP he learned from briefings and by communicating with military commanders that the U.S. soon realized many Guantanamo detainees were innocent but nevertheless held them in hopes they could provide information for a "mosaic" of intelligence.

"It did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance," Wilkerson wrote in the blog. He said intelligence analysts hoped to gather "sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified."

Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, said vetting on the battlefield during the early stages of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan was incompetent with no meaningful attempt to discriminate "who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation."

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney fought efforts to address the situation, Wilkerson said, because "to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership."

Wilkerson told the AP in a telephone interview that many detainees "clearly had no connection to al Qaeda and the Taliban and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pakistanis turned many over for $5,000 a head."

Some 800 men have been held at Guantanamo since the prison opened in January 2002, and 240 remain. Wilkerson said two dozen are terrorists, including confessed Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was transferred to Guantanamo from CIA custody in September 2006.

GOP budget is a budget of zero - that is, no actual numbers

Brought To You By The Party Of No: The Number Zero

'Nuff said.

So much for the Republicans coming out with a better budget. The rollout was a disaster, NBC's First Read guys write. "Let's be honest: Yesterday's House Republican budget rollout was a P.R. disaster for the GOP. 'Here it is, Mr. President' was the title of the GOP Leader blog touting that they had answered Obama's dare to produce a budget. The problem — their budget rollout didn't contain any hard budget numbers or deficit projections. They say those hard numbers will come out next week. But now we learn that Reps. Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan objected to unveiling yesterday's 'blueprint,' but were overruled by Reps. John Boehner and Mike Pence. But bigger than any internal disagreements or any criticism about a lack of details is the fact that yesterday's GOP non-announcement moved the attention away from the Obama-vs.-congressional Democrat storyline to the GOP's lack of a budget. In fact, after yesterday, the White House and congressional Democrats can agree on one thing: The GOP — at least until next week — is the 'Party of No.' What's more, it puts more pressure on Ryan to truly put out a comprehensive budget alternative; Also, this episode could end up creating a rift in the GOP over how to combat the Obama White House. After all, Senate Republicans wanted nothing to do with an alternative, and now Mitch McConnell, et al are either laughing at their House GOP colleagues, furious at them, or both."

fucking A - UPS - way to stick it to O'reilly

UPS to stop advertising on O'Reilly's show

UPS to stop advertising on O'Reilly's show

from http://thinkprogress.org/2009/03/27/ups-oreilly/

BREAKING: UPS Announces It Will Stop Advertising On Bill O'Reilly's Show

In response to our Stop Supporting The O'Reilly Harassment Machine campaign, UPS told us yesterday that it was investigating whether to continue supporting O'Reilly's show. "We are sensitive to the type of television programming where our messages and presence are associated and continually review choices to affect future decisions," spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg told us.

Today UPS announced it will stop advertising on O'Reilly's show. Here is the statement UPS emailed out just moments ago:

Thank you for sending an e-mail expressing concern about UPS advertising during the Bill O'Reilly show on FOX News. We do consider such comments as we review ad placement decisions which involve a variety of news, entertainment and sports programming. At this time, we have no plans to continue advertising during this show.

Here's a graphic of the email statement we received:


Thank you UPS! We need more corporate sponsors of O'Reilly to follow UPS's lead. Let's keep up the pressure. Please sign onto our campaign and tell your friends to do so as well:

UpdateSome other things you should know about UPS:
-- Brown deeply rooted in going green: Some of the many ways UPS conserves -- UPS Completes Deployment of 300 New "Green" Trucks -- UPS "Global Volunteer Month Environmental Challenge" Awards $70,000 to Keep America Beautiful Affiliates

Anti-Palin bloggers: Fox News threatening to 'ambush' us from Raw Story Breaking News

Anti-Palin bloggers: Fox News threatening to 'ambush' us

from http://rawstory.com/news/2008/AntiPalin_bloggers_Fox_News_threatening_to_0327.html

Alaskan blogger Linda Kellen Biegel, who blogs as Celtic Diva, charged on Friday that "Faux News is in Alaska and stalking complaint-filers!"

Biegel is one of a number of progressive bloggers who have recently filed a series of ethics complaints against Governor Sarah Palin. She says that she has been receiving "vitriolic" emails from Palin supporters ever since.

When a Fox News crew showed up in Alaska to do a story on the complaints, Biegel and several of the other bloggers were suspicious of their intentions and declined to be interviewed.

The result, says Biegel, was that "the news crew decided that since several of us refused to be on camera, they were going to 'ambush' us." She adds, "Good luck finding me after my recent move!!!!!"

Biegel's ethics complaint -- the eleventh to be filed against Palin since last year's "Troopergate" scandal -- alleges that Palin was guilty of a conflict of interest when she publicly wore clothing promoting a snowmobile manufacturer, Arctic Cat, that sponsors her husband, Todd Palin.

As another Alaska blog, the Mudflats, explains, "It all began when Governor Sarah Palin lowered the start flag at this year's Iron Dog Snowmachine race ... Last year's champions? None other than Alaska's 'first dude' Todd Palin and his teammate Scott Davis as the famous Team #22. ... Palin's sponsor? Arctic Cat."

"If the governor's family benefits directly from a private sponsor," the Mudflats continues, "(like getting a $5000 check from them) and the governor shows up to take an official role at an official event, representing all Alaskans, it's a big fat no-no to show up plastered like a billboard with the official 'gear' and giant flaming logo of the company that's been paying you money."

Fox News ran a reasonably balanced story on Wednesday describing Biegel's complaint and Palin's response. Palin, who has already run up more than a half million dollars in legal bills, has slammed the complaint as "asinine political grandstanding" and insists that "I wore Arctic Cat snow gear at an outdoor event, because it was cold outside."

However, Biegel's suspicions of Fox News appear to be based primarily on Fox TV host Greta Van Susteren's well-known sympathy for Palin. In fact, one of the earlier ethics complaints alleged that Palin's use of her governor's office for an interview with Van Susteren last November amounted to using state resources to aid her political career. Van Susteren has been extremely solicitous of Palin's reputation, and in January, she blasted CNN for including Palin on a list of scandal-plagued politicians.

According to blogger Andrew Halcro, "Van Susteren landed Palin's first interview after she returned home from her Vice Presidential run in November and this past week Van Susteren landed the first public media appearance by the governor's daughter and grandson. From snowmobiling and cooking moose hot dogs in Wasilla, to greeting racers at the end of the Iron Dog in Fairbanks, Van Susteren has had more one on one face time with Palin than most State commissioners."

In addition, Van Susteren's husband, John Coale -- who was previously a Clinton supporter -- has served as an unpaid adviser to Palin. According to the Washington Post, "Others familiar with Palin's political team insist that Coale has far more power than he is letting on -- essentially helping to run Sarah PAC. Coale demurred on that front, noting only that he talks to Palin regularly."

"Is it just a coincidence that one of Palin's close advisors is Sarah (or Todd?) fan, Greta Van Sustern's hubby?" Biegel asks. "Did a cry go out from the wilderness for aid and comfort?"

About That GOP Budget? from Daily Kos

About That GOP Budget?

This story just gets better and better - from The Washington Independent:

While reporters hooted at the comically simplistic charts and lack of details in the House Republican leadership's budget plan, the green eyeshade types at Citizen's for Tax Justice crunched the numbers (PDF). They conclude that a quarter of all households, most of them poor, would pay more taxes under the GOP plan, while the richest one percent would pay $100,000 less.

See the CTJ report here (pdf) - but be warned: there are numbers in it.

Paranoid Faux Populist Glenn Beck Walls Himself Off From Humanity [Demagogues] from Gawker

from http://gawker.com/5187225/paranoid-faux-populist-glenn-beck-walls-himself-off-from-humanity

Glenn Beck has been milking his faux populism for ratings gold, but he's walled off his $4.2 million estate behind a 6-foot barrier to keep the poors out. And we hear his neighbors aren't happy.

Beck applied for a permit to build a six-foot wall around his New Canaan, Conn., home (pictured above and below) last year, citing security concerns and claiming that he had been "besieged by angry audiences." Most homes in New Canaan are limited to four-foot fences.

But illegal Mexicans and faceless Illuminati assassins can easily hop four-foot barriers, so Beck asked the town for permission last year to completely encircle his home in a 6-foot wall, and he actually brought a security guard with him to the town meeting where his application was being considered because they are everywhere. Beck had begun construction of the wall prior to receiving permission from the town, a big no-no.

But the request was "approved with conditions," according to the minutes of a May meeting of New Canaan's planning board, and a subsequent June meeting makes mention of a five-foot fence that Beck was trying to reduce to four feet by "grading"—apparently he was just building up earth around the base of the fence so it only extended four feet above the ground. The application called for a fence along the length of Ponus Ridge Rd., in front of Beck's house, as well as Lake Wind Rd., which as you can see from the Google Maps image above, means it would wrap around the entirety of his property.

It's not clear where the fence plan stands today—there are no further mentions in the public records of New Canaan—but a tipster says the barrier has caused consternation among Beck's neighbors, who probably weren't too thrilled about a recovering drug addict paranoiac moving into the neighborhood in the first place.

President Lula of Brazil blames crisis on 'white and blue-eyed' [Times Online]

Let's Narrow This Down

So, as you're aware, this happened:

"This was a crisis that was fostered and boosted by the irrational behaviour of people who were white and blue-eyed, who before the crisis they looked like they knew everything about economics, but now have demonstrated they know nothing about economics," President Lula da Silva of Brazil said, mocking the "gods of wisdom" who had had to be bailed out. "The part of humanity that is responsible should be the part that pays for the crisis," he added.

Which is cool, we're all for laying blame, 'cause it feels good, but let's get specific, and compile some data. So far, the following info has been compiled:

Alan Greenspan - Brown eyes

Sandy Weill - Brown eyes

Phil Gramm - Brown eyes

Joe Cassano - Brown eyes

Robert Rubin - Brown eyes

Christopher Cox - Brown eyes

Angelo Mozillo - Brown eyes

John Thain - Brown eyes

Henry Paulson - Hazel eyes

Dick Fuld - Brown eyes

Ken Lewis - Hazel eyes

The rest falls to you. Surely among the Dealbreaker audience there must be at least a handful of people who've gazed lovingly into the eyes of Chuck Prince.

President Lula of Brazil blames crisis on 'white and blue-eyed' [Times Online]

Joe the Plumber gets another gig from Crooks and Liars

from http://crooksandliars.com/john-amato/joe-plumber-gets-another-gig

This is not a joke. Americans for Prosperity, an anti-Employee Free Choice Act group, is hiring Joe the Plumber to speak at rallies against the average working class in America.

Joe the Plumber is hitting the campaign trail again! He's been pressed into service to do a series of events throughout Pennsylvania rallying opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, the organizer of the events confirms.

Mr. Plumber will speak at rallies against the measure in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia on March 30th and 31st, according to a spokesperson for the anti-EFCA group Americans for Prosperity.

"The public loves Joe the Plumber," the spokesperson, Mary Ellen Burke, claimed to me. "They see him as a role model."

Asked whether Joe the Plumber had any particular knowledge or expertise about EFCA that might explain the decision to enlist him, Burke said that he was being enlisted to provide a "grassroots perspective" and "the working perspective" on the measure.

Pressed on whether Joe the Plumber has any particular claim to being a spokesperson on the issue, Burke replied that "he represents the American worker." Burke couldn't immediately say whether Joe the Plumber was being paid for his appearances.

Wonder if he'll tell the anti-EFCA crowds they make him horny, too. Sounds like a sure recipe for success.

The public doesn't love Joe the Plumber, insane conservatives do. This only makes things look so much worse for Republicans in this country. How weak and foolish Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe must feel seeing that Joe the Plumber is being billed as a celebrity in the GOP. It's so pathetic.

I guarantee you that after his run dies -- well, OK, it may never die, because they are a leaderless party, and he's about as qualified as any of them -- but when it does and if a union job opens up for him, he'll take it in a second.

The Dirty Dozen - Meet the bankers and brokers responsible for the financial crisis - and the officials who let them get away with it

from http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/26868968/the_dirty_dozen/

The Enabler

WAS Chairman of the Federal Reserve (1987-2006)
WHAT HE DID Pushed for sweeping power to regulate Wall Street — and then failed to use it. Fueled "irrational" bubble with low interest rates.
WORST MOVE Called derivatives like CDOs "extraordinarily useful"; regulating them would be a "mistake."
NOW ADMITS He was "partially" wrong to not impose tougher oversight.

The Pioneer

WAS CEO of Citigroup (1998-2003)
WHAT HE DID Created the first too-big-to-fail company, Citigroup. Led the boom in subprime mortgages.
RECENTLY Celebrated $45 billion taxpayer bailout of Citi by taking Mexican vacation on Citigroup jet, complete with $13,000 carpets, pillows made from Hermés scarves, and Baccarat crystal glassware.

The Ideologue

WAS Senate Banking Committee chair (1995-2000)
KNOWN AS "High priest of deregulation"
WHAT HE DID Pushed repeal of Glass-Steagall Act, leading to rise of megabanks.
WORST MOVE Wrote law that exempted disastrous CDS deals from all regulation.
NOW ADMITS Nothing. Says there is "no evidence" his laws caused crash, which he dismissed as a "mental recession."

rest from http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/26868968/the_dirty_dozen/

12 People Responsible for Financial Armageddon from THE DAILY BANTER.COM

Rolling Stone lists the dirty dozen. Top of the list? 'Saint' Alan Greenspan.

from http://www.thedailybanter.com/tdb/2009/03/12-people-responsible-for-financial-armageddon-.html

Incriminating Evidence of Israeli War Crimes in Gaza from AfterDowningStreet.org

from http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/41128

Incriminating Evidence of Israeli War Crimes in Gaza
by Stephen Lendman

Throughout its history, Israel has willfully and repeatedly committed crimes of war and against humanity, always with impunity. Yet under customary legal standards and norms (including Geneva, Hague, the UN Charter, S.C. and G.A. resolutions), it's lawless, a serial abuser, a threat to the region and humanity, mostly as an oppressive occupier. Attacking Gaza is the latest episode in its six-decade reign of terror satisfying the definition of genocide against defenseless Palestinian civilians. This article covers more evidence from some disturbing but unsurprising newly published information.

On March 19, in the first of a series of articles, Haaretz headlined: "IDF killed civilians in Gaza under loose rules of engagement." Military correspondent Amos Harel revealed Israeli soldier and pilot ("dirty secret") testimonies of being ordered to kill unarmed civilians and destroy their property - accounts at variance with official claims that only military targets were attacked and that "Israeli troops observed a high level of moral behavior during the operation." Defense Minister Ehud Barak calls the IDF "the most moral army in the world."

"Moral" examples included an infantry squad leader recounting the shooting of a mother and her two children: "There was a house with a family inside....We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family....The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left," after which a rooftop sniper "shot them straight away....I don't think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he (followed orders, and, besides, Palestinian lives are) less important" than our own soldiers.

Other incidents included:

  • a squad leader telling of a company commander ordering an elderly Palestinian woman to be shot and killed;
  • soldiers saying "we should kill everyone (in the center of Gaza); everyone there is a terrorist;"
  • soldiers writing "death to the Arabs on walls" and spitting on family pictures;
  • a squad leader saying: "At the beginning, the directive was to enter a house with an armored vehicle, break the door down, (and) start shooting inside - I call it murder - to shoot at everyone we identify;" commanders called it OK "because everyone left in the city is culpable because they didn't run away;"
  • soldiers ordered to indiscriminately destroy property and farmland;
  • orders given to enter a house, "switch on loudspeakers and tell (occupants) you have five minutes to run away and whoever doesn't will be killed;"

These and other accounts typify regular incidents in occupied Gaza and the West Bank. When revealed, official denials follow or in response to clear evidence, officers, like military advocate general Avichai Mendelblit, say the incidents will be investigated, after which everything is whitewashed, quietly forgotten, none of the guilty are prosecuted, and security forces keep using disproportionate force against defenseless Palestinian civilians.

In a March 19 analysis, Harel concluded that this "happen(s) in the field most of the time (and) as usual, reality is completely different from the gentler version provided by the military commanders to the public and media during (an) operation and after. The soldiers are not lying, for the simple reason that they have no reason to" and every reason to stay silent. The rule is: "You don't ask, we won't tell," but these soldiers, squad leaders, pilots and commanders did.

Further, there's a "continuity of testimony from different sectors that reflects a disturbing and depressing picture" of a rogue military willfully committing war crimes because they know they can get away with them. Harel concluded: "The IDF's ethical problems did not start in 2009." They go back decades, but according to some, military "deterioration" has been continuous from the 1967 war to Operation Cast Lead. Worse still is that Israeli history reveals six decades of relentless and continuous terror. Attacking Gaza for 22 days is just the latest episode.

On March 21, the London Independent's Donald Macintyre wrote: "Israelis (were) told to fight a 'holy war' in Gaza....a religious war" against Arabs, according to a soldier citing "the martial role of military rabbis during the operation." In rabbinate literature distributed to the troops, the message was: "We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land, and now we need to fight to expel the Gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land."

According to the Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, IDF head chaplain, Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, a brigadier general, distributed booklet material saying that it was "terribly immoral" to show mercy to a "cruel enemy" and that soldiers were fighting "murderers." Imagine rabbis claiming to be men of God, yet violating core Jewish dogma by preaching hate, premeditated murder, and lying about innocent civilians they're vilifying. Another example of the viciousness of a so-called civilized state, acting like barbarians (in the name of God) and calling it just.

There's more. On March 22 in Haaretz, Amira Hass headlined: "IDF soldiers ordered to shoot at Gaza rescuers" in citing a Hebrew handwritten document, "Rules of Engagement - Open fire also upon rescue." It confirms numerous reports and testimonies like the above that soldiers shot Palestinian civilians in cold blood, murdered them (and their rescuers), or in cases where they were still alive prevented their evacuation and let them bleed to death.

Hass stated: "The (above-mentioned) document provides written proof that IDF commanders ordered their troops to shoot at rescuers" besides ordering the killing of unarmed civilians and destruction of their property.

On March 22, London Observer writer Peter Beaumont headlined: "Gaza war crime claims gather pace as (still) more troops speak out." He cited a yet to be published "Breaking the Silence" report containing statements from 15 former soldiers. From their contacts with Operation Cast Lead participants, they corroborate the above claims of random killings and vandalism. According to the group's Mikhael Manekin:

"We have spoken to a lot of different people who served in different places in Gaza, including officers. We are not talking about some units being more aggressive than others, but underlying policy. So much so that we are talking to soldiers who said that they were having to restrain the orders given." According to one, Amir Marmor, orders from a Lt. Col. who briefed the troops were: "Shoot and don't worry about the consequences."

On March 20, Haaretz reporter Uri Blau disclosed that IDF soldiers ordered T-shirts marking the end of Operation Cast Lead featuring grotesque images of dead babies, mothers weeping at their children's graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosque, and a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's eye depicted on her stomach with the English slogan, "1 shot, 2 kills."

These aren't just anecdotes from what Ehud Barak calls "the most moral army in the world." On March 22, Haaretz correspondent Gideon Levy wrote: "IDF ceased long ago being 'most moral army in the world.' " Moreover, imagining the military will investigate the charges is "propagandistic, ridiculous (and) meant not only to deceive the public, but also to offer shameless lies" as part of a cover-up the way these revelations are always handled.

These practices have gone on for decades. Orders come right from the top - to kill Arabs and commit atrocities and vandalism, and according to one Operation Cast lead soldier: "That's what is so nice, as it were, about Gaza - You see a person on a road....and you can just shoot him." This message is ingrained in young recruits, to see Jews as superior, Arabs as sub-humans, so it's "morally" OK to slaughter them.

Yet on March 22, Haaretz published GOC Home Front Command General Yair Golan's reply saying: "The reports were exaggerated and any deviations from the IDF's moral standards will be dealt with."

Then on March 23, it added IDF Chief Gabi Ashkenazi's claim that he did not believe Israeli soldiers harmed Palestinian civilians in "cold blood." He and Golan lied the way top commanders and government officials always do.

Yet Ashkenazi echoed Ehud Barak saying that "the IDF is the most moral army in the world" despite volumes of clear evidence to the contrary. He added that any "incidents" were "isolated," but Haaretz stated:

"The soldiers' testimonies run counter to the IDF's claims throughout the operation that troops observed a high level of moral behavior. A number of officers told Haaretz....that the testimonies did not surprise them, as 'anyone with eyes in his head knows that these things happened during the fighting in Gaza,' and they weren't 'isolated' incidents."

Gaza Civilian Testimonies

Documented by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), they recount Operation Cast Lead's horror - highlighted by an Israeli soldier's message on Abu Hajaj's bedroom wall: "Death will find you....Soon."

PCHR noted the importance of finding "sanctuary in the comfort of one's home" at times of trauma, but Gazans lost it for 22 days and still suffer the effects. Briefly some examples:

  • the IDF occupied Mos'ab Dardona's Jabal Al Rayes northeast Gaza home, leaving behind wall drawings of soldiers urinating on toppled mosques and "devouring Palestinians villages;"
  • next door in Ibrahim Dardona's home, instead of using the bathroom, they left behind dozens of bags of feces and crude sexual diagrams on walls;
  • the defacing and other actions show a disturbing picture of racial hatred throughout Israeli society, according to PCHR's democratic development director, Hamdi Shaqqura; PCHR says thousands of Gazans are homeless, displaced, and forced to find shelter with relatives or move back to partially destroyed homes and cope as best they can;
  • in the agricultural area of Johr-ad-Dik, the IDF took over homes, displaced half the 2500 population and maliciously destroyed hundreds of olive and citrus trees;
  • the IDF ordered local residents near Saleh Abu Hajaj's home to leave; Saleh's daughter tied a white scarf to a stick, led out a group of civilians, then along with her mother was shot dead by the military;
  • in the Zeytoun district, IDF desecrated walls with messages like: "Die you all..Make war not peace..Arabs need to die," and on a gravestone "Arabs 1948 - 2009;"
  • inside Rashad Helmi Al Samouni's home, soldiers wrote: "There will be a day when we kill all the Arabs....Bad for the Arabs is good for me....A good Arab is an Arab in the grave (and) Peace now, but between Jews and Jews, not Jews and Arabs."

PCHR's conclusion was that whatever war crimes investigations reveal and what, if anything, follows from them, "it will do little to comfort the thousands of civilians whose sense of safety (in their own homes was) so categorically violated," something they no longer feel and for many never did.

PCHR published the names of 1417 Gazans killed by Israeli forces. It said 926 were civilians, 236 fighters, and 255 others civilian security forces, mostly police. Israel disputes the list claiming most targets "legitimate" despite clear evidence to the contrary, including from its own soldiers. In response, it's preparing its own list identifying most of the slain as "combatants or legitimate targets" without a shred of evidence for proof and plenty to disprove it.

PCHR also reported that in the week ending March 18:

  • IDF forces shot and injured 19 Palestinian civilians, including nine children and a US human rights activist;
  • the Israeli air force bombed selected Gaza sites, forcing civilians to abandon their homes and property in the areas;
  • Israeli forces conducted 39 incursions into West Bank communities, a practice occurring nearly daily; 39 Palestinian civilians were arrested, including six children for the crime of being Arab under Israeli occupation;
  • additional IDF arrests occurred at West Bank checkpoints, and measures to remove East Jerusalem Palestinians continue to make room for new Jewish settlements;
  • five West Bank homes were demolished leaving 49 Palestinians homeless; three other families were ordered from their homes in preparation for demolition;
  • West Bank settlement construction goes on unabated as part of an ethnic cleansing process;
  • settlers regularly attack Palestinians with impunity, and the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens reported (on March 21) a 1000% rise in 2008 crime rates over 2007 on Israeli Arab citizens; its leader, Jafar Farah, called it a "moral collapse;"
  • Gaza remains under siege with no progress made to end it; and
  • on March 23, PCHR reported that the IDF violated medical ethics during Operation Cast Lead by preventing Palestinian and ICRC medical teams from reaching the wounded; it also said Israel attacked 34 medical facilities, including eight hospitals, killing 16 medics and wounding 25 others.

Meanwhile on March 19, Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, said: "If the (IDF) cannot (distinguish between civilians and military targets), its attack becomes unlawful and constitutes a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law." He added that the UN (and human rights groups like Amnesty International) has clear evidence to support this conclusion and called for a formal investigation of IDF shelling of schools, mosques, ambulances, educational facilities, and homes as well as use of illegal weapons like white phosphorus.

Whatever follows, Gaza remains under siege. Allowed in humanitarian aid falls way short of supplying 1.5 million people with the barest subsistence they need. Through March 2, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that Israeli violence continues and "authorities (still) limit the amount and range of goods allowed into Gaza....A range of essential goods, including supplies and equipment needed for rebuilding, are not being allowed into the territory." They're still kept out.

Basic items like medical equipment, veterinary supplies, macaroni, chickpeas, and lentils were suspended or delayed, and border crossings remain closed, except for brief periods. Like before, everything is in short supply or not available, including essential medical care, food and fuel. Earlier Amnesty International said "Gaza (was) reduced to bare survival." Today, it's no better under a continuing Israeli siege, illegal and brutal in the extreme, yet not denounced by world leaders to give Israel cover to maintain it.

The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel's Position Paper on Israeli Civilian Killings in Gaza

Adalah (meaning justice in Arabic) is a 1996-established independent, non-profit, human rights organization serving Arab Israeli citizens' rights on issues of land, civil, political, cultural, social, religious, and economic matters among others. In February 2009, it examined the legality of Israel's 22 day Gaza attack, specifically the killing of civilian police and bombing of government buildings and Hamas institutions.

In citing the laws of war, it identified four central principles:

  • military necessity - that only those targets intended to "weaken or overcome the enemy or bring the battle to an end may be attacked;"
  • distinction - that must be drawn between combatants and military targets on the one hand, and civilians and non-military objects on the other; international law prohibits attacking the latter; doing so is a war crime; non-combatant civilians are protected by law under all circumstances; also, targets must clearly be military ones and nearby civilians must be warned in advance so they may leave;
  • proportionality - that prohibits disproportionate force likely to cause damage to or loss of human lives or objects; in other words, disproportionate to an intended military objective or that in any way is indiscriminate; and
  • the prevention of unnecessary suffering, especially for non-combatant civilians.

Beginning December 27 and continuing for 22 days, the IDF attacked uniformed police cadets and officers killing them and other civilians. During the period of fighting, non-combatant civilian Hamas members were also struck, including from its government.

International law prohibits attacking non-combatant civilian security forces, especially police whose role is to maintain law enforcement and public order.

Further, and despite using "rocket attacks" as a pretext, Israel attacked preemptively and aggressively, not in response to Hamas-initiated hostilities, and most initial targets were civilian ones. The IDF erroneously claimed that attacking uniformed police was legitimate because their role for 22 days changed from enforcers to combatants. By this logic, all civilians are legitimate targets because under attack they may defend themselves. That, in fact, is what Israel claims.

Under international law, civilians may only be harmed accidently or inadvertently as a result of attacks on legitimate military targets but never for reasons of military necessity, even when large numbers of combatants are present.

Adalah concluded:

"Members of a civilian police should benefit from the protection which is conferred upon them as civilians under customary international law. Given that the conditions for the exception to this rule - i.e., taking a direct part in hostilities at the time of the attack - were not met, the attack ran counter to customary international humanitarian law" and was illegal.

The same holds for attacking government buildings and institutions - a total of 68 buildings plus 31 offices belonging to NGOs, completely destroyed or damaged during the conflict. According to Major Avital Leibovitz, Head of International Communications Section in the IDF's Spokesperson's Office: "Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target," meaning all 1.5 million Gazans, the vast majority being non-combatant civilians, including women, children, and infants.

International law refutes Israeli policy, including under the principles of military necessity and distinction. These principles demand that military targets be differentiated from civilians and civilian objects (including government ones) to prevent deliberate attacks on them.

The only allowed exceptions relate to narrowly defined "vital and immediate military need" to defeat the enemy and end the battle, matters to which Israel didn't comply. Also, Israel ignored the requirement "to take all feasible precautions in attack, in particular the obligation to verify that objects (and individuals) to be attacked are military objectives," legitimate targets under international law.

Again Adalah: "Thus it is apparent that the attack on government buildings and institutions (as well as non-combatant civilians) on the basis of the claim that they formed part of the Hamas regime is illegal" under international law.

"Attacks that fail to distinguish between combatants and military targets and civilians and civilian objects constitute grave breaches of customary international law and are considered as war crimes. Attacks perpetrated against a civilian population may also be considered crimes against humanity if they are committed 'as part of a wide or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.' "

Planned months in advance, Israel's attack was premeditated, and under Article 8(2)(a)(1) and Article 8(2)(b)(1) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) constitutes a war crime. It's also a crime against humanity under the statute's Article 7(1) relating to the deliberate killing of civilians or deliberately attacking non-combatant ones.

Further, attacking government buildings and institutions is also a war crime under Article 8(2)(a)(1), Article 8(2)(b)(8), and Article 8(2)(b)(13) of the Rome Statute that prohibits the destruction of property and civilian objects for non-military necessity reasons.

Even though Israel is not party to the Statute, its Articles 7 and 8, relating to crimes of war and against humanity, reflect customary international law under which Israel, its officials, and military commanders at all levels may and should be held accountable.

Under international law, responsibility relates to perpetration, planning, inciting, and/or ordering a crime to be committed as well as "vicarious" (indirect) responsibility of civilian leaders and commanders for crimes committed by their subordinates. These conditions apply in the case of the 22 day Gaza attack - planned well in advance by high-level government and military officials and launched with overwhelming force against multiple targets on December 27.

Again, the evidence is clear, unequivocal, overwhelming, and conclusive that high-level Israeli government and military officials planned and willfully committed systematic crimes of war and against humanity of such gravity that justice demands they be held to account in an international court of law - either the ICC in the Hague or a special International Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI).

Doing so will warn future Israeli governments and all others that no one is exempt from the law and they, too, will be prosecuted if evidence provides justification. The rule of law is sacrosanct, especially for wanton killing that when ongoing for sustained periods satisfies the definition of genocide. Israel long ago passed that threshold. No longer can its lawlessness go unpunished.


Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Palin adviser's 'secret Scientology plot' outed: Raw blog from Raw Story Breaking News

Palin adviser's 'secret Scientology plot' outed: Raw blog

from http://rawstory.com/blog/2009/03/palin-advisers-secret-scientology-plot-outed/

Gawker, of all places, has uncovered an old memo once written by an adviser to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin which "plotted to use friendly politicians to advance the power-hungry cult's agenda."

That "power hungry cult" being the cult of Scientology, I should mention, not folks from the far right, Iditarod champion fan clubs or Illuminati.

Gawker's John Cook reports that Scientologist John Coale "masterminded a plan—which was never executed—for Scientology to get into the 'MONEY and VOTES game' in order to 'create power' for Scientology and win influence Washington, D.C."

"I thought it was a brilliant idea," Coale told the website, "but no one else did, so it never went anywhere. I was looking at ways to move a new religion forward. I looked at the history of Mormons, who had a lot of people in office, and I looked at the Jews, who were very successful and influential. But the church didn't want to be part of it. They didn't want to be misconstrued. There was one small meeting with parishioners in DC. Maybe 9 or 10 people showed up."

Politico's Ben Smith notes that the memo is still "entertaining — though 20-year[s]-old."

The whole memo can be read at this link.

Rush Limbaugh Pwned in 1990 from THE DAILY BANTER.COM

I had to sit back in amazement at this video of Rush Limbaugh guest hosting a talk show back in 1990. To say that the audience turned on him would be an understatement - he gets absolutely demolished by an angry crowd, vehemently opposed to his extreme right wing views. No wonder he stuck to radio. Wow:


rest http://www.thedailybanter.com/tdb/2009/03/rush-limbaugh-pwned-in-1990.html

Gaming the System from American Leftist

from http://amleft.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_amleft_archive.html#3090997552970052453

Geithner, Summers and Bernanke aren't just allowing transnational financial institutions to game government assistance programs purportedly required to stabilize the economy, no, it is bigger than that. They are allowing them to game the entire American political system, with the intention of consolidating even more power within a small financial elite.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced his plan, long anticipated, for addressing the trillions of dollars in toxic debt held by US financial institutions:

Administration officials outlined a three-part Public-Private Investment Program that offers private investors vast amounts of cheap, taxpayer-supported financing for every dollar they put up of their own money.

In essence, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve will be offering at least a tablespoon of financial sugar for every teaspoon of risk that investors agree to swallow.

"There is no doubt the government is taking a risk," Mr. Geithner acknowledged at a briefing for reporters. "The question is how best to do it."

Under one main component of the plan, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation would oversee a program in which banks offer bundles of whole mortgages for sale to investors. The F.D.I.C. would set up an auction for each bank portfolio, allowing a bank to sell the mortgages to the investor that offers the highest bid.

But the crucial incentive for investors — traditional fund managers, hedge funds, private equity funds, pension funds and possibly even banks — is that the government would lend as much as 85 percent of the purchase price for each portfolio of mortgages.

Chomsky: Geithner plan 'recycled Bush' from Raw Story Breaking News

Chomsky: Geithner plan 'recycled Bush'

Noam Chomsky: Plan is recycled Bush/Paulson. We need nationalization and steps towards democratization


On CNBC, woman mutters 'bullshit' during Obama town hall from Raw Story Breaking News

On CNBC, woman mutters 'bullshit' during Obama town hall


Single-payer health reform bill introduced in Senate from AfterDowningStreet.org

Single-payer health reform bill introduced in Senate

Would save $400 billion on bureaucracy, enough to cover all 46 million uninsured Americans

From Physicians for a National Health Program

Challenging head-on the powerful private insurance and pharmaceutical industries, Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a single-payer health reform bill, the American Health Security Act of 2009, in the U.S. Senate Wednesday. The bill is the first to directly take on the powerful lobbies blocking universal health reform in the Senate since Sen. Paul Wellstone's tragic death.

The single-payer approach embodied in Sanders' new bill stands in sharp contrast to the reform models being offered by the White House and by key lawmakers like Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). Their plans would preserve a central role for the private insurance industry, sacrificing both universal coverage and cost containment during the worst economic crisis since the Depression.

In contrast, Sanders' new legislation would cover all of the 46 million Americans who currently lack coverage and improve benefits for all Americans by eliminating co-pays and deductibles and restoring free choice of physician. The most fiscally conservative option for reform, single payer slashes private insurance overhead and bureaucracy in medical settings, saving over $400 billion annually that can be redirected into clinical care.

"This is excellent news for the nation's health," said Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program and a past president of the American Public Health Association. "There is now an affordable cure for our dysfunctional health care system. In the face of our present economic calamity, this is an urgent necessity."

Highlights of the bill include the following:

  • Patients go to any doctor or hospital of their choice.
  • The program is paid for by combining current sources of government health spending into a single fund with modest new taxes amounting to less than what people now pay for insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Comprehensive benefits, including coverage for dental, mental health, and prescription drugs.
  • While federally funded, the program is to be administered by the states.
  • By eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry, along with the burdensome paperwork imposed on physicians, hospitals and other providers, the plan saves at least $400 billion annually - enough money to provide comprehensive, quality care to all.
  • Community health centers are fully funded, giving the 60 million Americans now living in rural and underserved areas access to care.
  • To address the critical shortage of primary care physicians and dentists, the bill provides resources for the National Health Service Corps to train an additional 24,000 health professionals.

"We are confident that Sen. Sanders' bill will accelerate the national drive for the only reform that we know will work," Young said. "A majority of physicians endorse such an approach. Fifty-nine percent of U.S. physicians support national health insurance. Two-thirds of the public also supports such a remedy. We remember well that President Obama once acknowledged that single-payer national health insurance was the best way to go. It still is."

Sanders, who serves on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, is a longtime advocate of fundamental health care reform. His new bill draws heavily upon the single-payer legislation introduced by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) in 1993, S. 491, and closely parallels similar legislation pending before the House, H.R. 1200, introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.).

A single-payer bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), H.R. 676, obtained 93 co-sponsors in the House during the last session. It has been reintroduced in the new Congress as the U.S. National Health Care Act with the same bill number.

A copy of the bill is available here. (PDF)

Physicians for a National Health Program, a membership organization of over 16,000 physicians, supports a single-payer national health insurance program. To contact a physician-spokesperson in your area, call (312) 782-6006 or visit www.pnhp.org/stateactions.

Shoddy wiring on Iraq bases: Army inspector from Raw Story Breaking News

US troops face life-threat- ening risks: Army safety expert; 'horrible' work.


NBC's David Gregory Says: You're Stupid from Open Left - Front Page

NBC's David Gregory Says: You're Stupid

It's incredible. Just as 20,000 viewers signed an open letter to CNBC telling them to listen to Jon Stewart and hold Wall Street accountable instead of mindlessly repeating Wall Street talking points, NBC doubled down.

This morning, Meet The Press host David Gregory repeated what CNBC's Erin Burnett has been saying all along: The public is ignorant. If only the simpleton public understood what the Wall Street "experts" understand, we wouldn't be so populist and angry. See for yourself:


In these economic times, NBC needs to stop blaming the public and instead focus like a laser on holding Wall Street accountable. David Gregory, instead of calling the public stupid, how about saying on the air that there are, in fact, no "best and brightest" at AIG worth giving bonuses to if they threaten to leave?

That being said, CNBC is still the center of the fight to get the media to do their job. If we can get CNBC to truly start holding Wall Street's feet to the fire, that will have ripple effects throughout NBC and the entire financial news industry.

You can join leading economists, journalists, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and over 20,000 members of the public in signing the open letter to CNBC here.

Joe Conason: Offshore Tax Havens From Bailed Out Companies Costing Our Economy Estimated $100 Billion

Joe Conason: Offshore Tax Havens From Bailed Out Companies Costing Our Economy Estimated $100 Billion

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From 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. March 26, 2009.

Shuster: The outrage over AIG's bonuses has been justifiable but the $165 million dollars pales in comparison to another abuse which has been going on for much longer and involves a whole lot more money. We're talking about offshore tax havens. Many of the same companies that have received tax payer bailout money have also done business in these so called tax havens for years.


And Joe what kind of money are we talking about with all of this?

Conason: Well David the last time this, anybody made a serious estimate of these numbers it came to something like $12 trillion sheltered in offshore tax havens world wide and an estimate of about $100 billion in lost revenues to the IRS. People avoiding taxes illegally in those same tax havens. And as you mentioned it's in fact all of the companies that have received tax payer bailouts, have some sort of tax haven subsidiaries, many of them with lot of them.

I mean you could imagine there's some reason to have I guess a branch in the Cayman Islands because people might want to do some banking there but why you would need ninety subsidiaries there is really an interesting question.

Considerably more than those bonuses indeed that have everyone's tail feathers in an uproar in the Congress. Joe Conason has more in his article at Salon AIG is chump change -- let's find corporate America's hidden billions. From the article.

But what reason other than evasion could there be for Goldman Sachs Group to set up three subsidiaries in Bermuda, five in Mauritius, and 15 in the Cayman Islands? Why did Countrywide Financial need two subsidiaries in Guernsey? Why did Wachovia need 18 subsidiaries in Bermuda, three in the British Virgin Islands, and 16 in the Caymans? Why did Lehman Brothers need 31 subsidiaries in the Caymans? What do Bank of America's 59 subsidiaries in the Caymans actually do? Why does Citigroup need 427 separate subsidiaries in tax havens, including 12 in the Channel Islands, 21 in Jersey, 91 in Luxembourg, 19 in Bermuda and 90 in the Caymans? What exactly is going on at Morgan Stanley's 19 subs in Jersey, 29 subs in Luxembourg, 14 subs in the Marshall Islands, and its amazing 158 subs in the Caymans? And speaking of AIG, why does it have 18 subs in tax-haven countries? (Don't expect to find out from Fox News Channel or the New York Post, because News Corp. has its own constellation of strange subsidiaries, including 33 in the Caymans alone.)

When the cost of these shenanigans was last estimated two years ago, the U.S. government's annual loss in revenue due to tax avoidance by major corporations and super-rich individuals was pegged at about $100 billion -- considerably more than a rounding error, even today. But of course that is only a rough assessment, as is the estimate of $12 trillion in untaxed assets hidden around the world. Nobody will know for certain until the books are opened and transparency is established.

So I assume that means it could be even higher. The Obama administration is looking into closing these loopholes but they've got a huge fight on their hands with this one. Conason is right though and these companies should not be allowed to be taking tax payer dollars and then potentially illegally avoiding paying their own taxes in the United States.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ChiTrib ties mortgage scandals, Rahm

ChiTrib ties mortgage scandals, Rahm

ChiTrib ties mortgage scandals, Rahm

Before its portfolio of bad loans helped trigger the current housing crisis, mortgage giant Freddie Mac was the focus of a major accounting scandal that led to a management shake-up, huge fines and scalding condemnation of passive directors by a top federal regulator.

One of those allegedly asleep-at-the-switch board members was Chicago's Rahm Emanuel—now chief of staff to President Barack Obama—who made at least $320,000 for a 14-month stint at Freddie Mac that required little effort.

As gatekeeper to Obama, Emanuel now plays a critical role in addressing the nation's mortgage woes and fulfilling the administration's pledge to impose responsibility on the financial world.

Emanuel's Freddie Mac involvement has been a prominent point on his political résumé, and his healthy payday from the firm has been no secret either. What is less known, however, is how little he apparently did for his money and how he benefited from the kind of cozy ties between Washington and Wall Street that have fueled the nation's current economic mess.

Though just 49, Emanuel is a veteran Democratic strategist and fundraiser who served three terms in the U.S. House after helping elect Mayor Richard Daley and former President Bill Clinton. The Freddie Mac money was a small piece of the $16 million he made in a three-year interlude as an investment banker a decade ago.

In business as in politics, Emanuel has cultivated an aggressive, take-charge reputation that made him rich and propelled his rise to the front of the national stage. But buried deep in corporate and government documents on the Freddie Mac scandal is a little-known and very different story involving Emanuel.

He was named to the Freddie Mac board in February 2000 by Clinton, whom Emanuel had served as White House political director and vocal defender during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals.

The board met no more than six times a year. Unlike most fellow directors, Emanuel was not assigned to any of the board's working committees, according to company proxy statements. Immediately upon joining the board, Emanuel and other new directors qualified for $380,000 in stock and options plus a $20,000 annual fee, records indicate.

On Emanuel's watch, the board was told by executives of a plan to use accounting tricks to mislead shareholders about outsize profits the government-chartered firm was then reaping from risky investments. The goal was to push earnings onto the books in future years, ensuring that Freddie Mac would appear profitable on paper for years to come and helping maximize annual bonuses for company brass.

The accounting scandal wasn't the only one that brewed during Emanuel's tenure.

During his brief time on the board, the company hatched a plan to enhance its political muscle. That scheme, also reviewed by the board, led to a record $3.8 million fine from the Federal Election Commission for illegally using corporate resources to host fundraisers for politicians. Emanuel was the beneficiary of one of those parties after he left the board and ran in 2002 for a seat in Congress from the North Side of Chicago.

The board was throttled for its acquiescence to the accounting manipulation in a 2003 report by Armando Falcon Jr., head of a federal oversight agency for Freddie Mac. The scandal forced Freddie Mac to restate $5 billion in earnings and pay $585 million in fines and legal settlements. It also foreshadowed even harder times at the firm.

Many of those same risky investment practices tied to the accounting scandal eventually brought the firm to the brink of insolvency and led to its seizure last year by the Bush administration, which pledged to inject up to $100 billion in new capital to keep the firm afloat. The Obama administration has doubled that commitment.

Freddie Mac reported recently that it lost $50 billion in 2008. It so far has tapped $14 billion of the government's guarantee and said it soon will need an additional $30 billion to keep operating.

Like its larger government-chartered cousin Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac was created by Congress to promote home ownership, though both are private corporations with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The two firms hold stakes in half the nation's residential mortgages.

Because of Freddie Mac's federal charter, the board in Emanuel's day was a hybrid of directors elected by shareholders and those appointed by the president.

In his final year in office, Clinton tapped three close pals: Emanuel, Washington lobbyist and golfing partner James Free, and Harold Ickes, a former White House aide instrumental in securing the election of Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate. Free's appointment was good for four months, and Ickes' only three months.

Falcon found that presidential appointees played no "meaningful role" in overseeing the company and recommended that their positions be eliminated.

John Coffee, a law professor and expert on corporate governance at Columbia University, said the financial crisis at Freddie Mac was years in the making and fueled by chronically weak oversight by the firm's directors. The presence of presidential appointees on the board didn't help, he added.

"You know there was a patronage system and these people were only going to serve a short time," Coffee said. "That's why [they] get the stock upfront."

Financial disclosure statements that are required of U.S. House members show Emanuel made at least $320,000 from his time at Freddie Mac. Two years after leaving the firm, Emanuel reported an additional sale of Freddie Mac stock worth between $100,001 and $250,000. The document did not detail whether he profited from the sale.

Sarah Feinberg, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, said there was no conflict between his stint at Freddie Mac and Obama's vow to restore confidence in financial institutions and the executives who run them. At the same time, Feinberg said Emanuel now agrees that presidential appointees to the Freddie Mac board "are unnecessary and don't have long enough terms to make a difference."

Former President George W. Bush voluntarily stopped making such appointments following Falcon's assessment of their uselessness.

In an interview, Falcon said the Freddie Mac board did most of its work in committees. Yet proxy statements that detailed committee assignments showed none for Emanuel, Free or Ickes during the time they served in 2000 or 2001. Most other directors carried two committee assignments each.

Contrary to the proxy statements, Feinberg said she believed that Emanuel served on board committees that oversaw Freddie Mac's investment strategies and mortgage purchase activities. But Feinberg acknowledged she had no official documents to back up that assertion.

The Obama administration rejected a Tribune request under the Freedom of Information Act to review Freddie Mac board minutes and correspondence during Emanuel's time as a director. The documents, obtained by Falcon for his investigation, were "commercial information" exempt from disclosure, according to a lawyer for the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Emanuel's board term expired in May 2001, and soon after he launched his Democratic congressional bid.

One of Emanuel's fellow directors at Freddie Mac was Neil Hartigan, the former Illinois attorney general. Hartigan said Emanuel's primary contribution was explaining to others on the board how to play the levers of power.

He was respected on the board for his understanding of "the dynamics of the legislative process and the executive branch at senior levels," Hartigan recalled. "I wouldn't say he was outspoken. What he was, was solid."

By the time Emanuel joined Freddie Mac, the company had begun to loosen lending standards and buy riskier sub-prime loans. It was a practice that later blew up and contributed to the current foreclosure crisis.

In his investigation, Falcon concluded that the board of directors on which Emanuel sat was so pliant that Freddie Mac's managers easily were able to massage company ledgers. They manipulated bookkeeping to smooth out volatility, perpetuating Freddie Mac's industry reputation as "Steady Freddie," a reliable producer of earnings growth. Wall Street liked what it saw, Freddie Mac's stock value soared and top executives collected their bonuses.

Another focus of Freddie during Emanuel's day—and one that played to his skill set—was a stepped-up effort to combat congressional demands for more regulation.

During a September 2000 board meeting—midway through Emanuel's 14-month term—Freddie Mac lobbyist R. Mitchell Delk laid out a strategy titled "Political Risk Management" aimed at influencing lawmakers and blunting pressure in Congress for more regulation. Through Delk's initiative, Freddie Mac sponsored more than 80 fundraisers that raised at least $1.7 million for congressional candidates despite a federal law that bans corporations from direct political activity.

Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg said Emanuel "can't remember the meeting or topic" but might have been in attendance when Delk outlined his plans. Feinberg downplayed the significance of the fundraiser thrown for Emanuel, which brought in $7,000, stressing that it was but one of many hosted by Delk. The event stood out in at least one respect, however.

The Freddie Mac-linked events were mostly for Republicans, and only a handful benefited Democrats like Emanuel. "Rahm was a good friend of mine. He was on Freddie Mac's board. He was very much supportive of housing," said Delk, who resigned under pressure in 2004.

Then-Freddie Mac CEO Leland Brendsel also hosted a fundraising lunch for Emanuel's 2002 campaign that netted $9,500 from top company executives. Brendsel was later ousted in the accounting scandal.

Federal campaign records show that Emanuel received $25,000 from donors with ties to Freddie Mac in the 2002 campaign cycle, more than twice the amount collected that election by any other candidate for the U.S. House or Senate.

Emanuel joined the House in January 2003 and was named to the Financial Services Committee, where he also sat on the subcommittee that directly oversaw Freddie Mac. A few months later, Freddie Mac Chief Executive Officer Leland Brendsel was forced out, and the committee and subcommittee launched hearings to sort out the mess, spanning more than a year. Emanuel skipped every hearing, congressional records indicate.

Feinberg said Emanuel recused himself "from deliberations related to Freddie Mac to avoid even the appearance of favoritism, impropriety or a conflict of interest."