Monday, October 31, 2011
(Reuters) - A central Texas gun dealer ran radio ads advising "Socialist" liberals, those who voted for President Barack Obama, Arabs and Muslims that they need not apply for his concealed gun license class.
Crockett Keller, who owns Keller's Riverside Store, ran the ads on the radio station in his rural hometown of Mason, Texas, which is 120 miles west of the state capital of Austin.
"If you are a Socialist liberal and/or voted for the current campaigner in chief, please do not take this class," Keller said in the ad. "You have already proven that you cannot make a knowledgeable and prudent decision as required under the law."
"Also, if you are a non-Christian Arab, or Muslim, I will not teach you the class," Keller said in the radio ad.
Keller said he is simply exercising his freedom to teach concealed handgun license classes to whomever he wants. He said he has received "hundreds" of calls from Americans who support his stance.
"I should have had the class next week instead of this week, I could have had 500 people in it," Keller said on Friday.
He said he was not joking when he put the lines about socialists in his commercial, because he knows some socialist liberals and did not want them to enroll in the class.
"I didn't want them to show up and have to tell them no," he said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which oversees the concealed carry program, and licenses instructors, said in a statement that "certified instructors are required to comply with all applicable state and federal statutes, and conduct by an instructor that denied service to individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion would place that instructor's certification at risk."
The department said it had begun an investigation into the matter, and would "take appropriate administrative action based on the findings of from the investigation."
Adults in Texas are allowed to carry concealed weapons if they have completed a class such as the one Keller teaches.
Keller wrapped up his radio by saying: "With no shame, I'm Crockett Keller. Thank you, and may God bless."
(Editing by Greg McCune)
Friday, October 28, 2011
House Speaker John Boehner attacked the Obama administration for financing failed solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC, saying government shouldn't pick winners and losers. That hasn't stopped him from demanding that the U.S. make a winner of a nuclear-fuel plant in Ohio, his home state.
Boehner is backing a $2 billion Energy Department loan guarantee sought by USEC Inc. (USU) for its American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio, aimed at enriching uranium for commercial nuclear reactors.
"When it comes to emerging energy technologies, the Republicans don't want to pick winners and losers -- unless it's nuclear power," Ellen Vancko, nuclear energy and climate-change project manager in the Washington office of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an interview.
So out of one side of his mouth John Boehner says this:
In an interview with Fox Business Network on Sept. 19, Boehner said that "for the federal government to be out there picking one company over another, one type of energy source over another. I think is wrong."
And out of the other he says this:
"Hundreds of Southern Ohio workers stand to lose their jobs if the Obama administration reneges on the president's promise to support an energy project in the small town of Piketon, Ohio," Boehner wrote. "I urge the administration to not betray the citizens of Ohio."
I actually haven't looked into the specifics of the loan, so I've got no idea whether it's a good idea or a bad one, but I do know that if I were a Republican operative, I'd point out that as long as John Boehner's definition of "hundreds" is less than one thousand, he's asking for at least $2 million for each job.
Meanwhile, he continues to double down on Solyndra scandalmongering and refuses to hold a vote on any of the major provisions in President Obama's jobs bill, even the one that would extend the payroll tax holiday another year. With "leadership" like Boehner's, it's no wonder that Congress has a 9 percent job approval.
most Americans are not taught about the protests by the Bonus Army during the Great Depression #p2 #tcot
Click here to view this media
Rachel Maddow and New York Magazine's Frank Rich did a wonderful job of giving her viewers a little history lesson for those who were not already aware of the struggles, protests and turmoil that Americans experienced in similar times of severe income disparity, a government that was only responsive to the ultra-rich and and uprisings that eerily resemble what we're seeing now with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Sadly, most Americans are not taught about the protests by the Bonus Army during the Great Depression as Maddow and Rich discussed here, nor are they taught about the history of our labor movement and the violence that was inflicted on them as well, before we finally got some laws in place to keep workers from being abused by their employers and some rights to protect them in the workplace.
If there's anything you can say about the success of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I agree with Maddow: It has at least changed the conversation in America about our economic policies and the fact that the poor and what's left of the middle class were pretty well being ignored by our corporate media before these protests started taking root nationwide. I'm grateful to both Maddow and Rich for segments like this that do take the time to educate the public about some of our history that most in the media and in our schools would rather ignore.
Here's Rich's article -- The Class War Has Begun.
Transcript of Maddow's opening describing some of it below the fold.
Tomato farmer Wayne Smith said he has never been able to keep a staff of American workers in his 25 years of farming.
"People in Alabama are not going to do this," said Smith, who grows about 75 acres of tomatoes in the northeast part of the state. "They'd work one day and then just wouldn't show up again."
At his farm, field workers get $2 for every 25-pound box of tomatoes they fill. Skilled pickers can make anywhere from $200 to $300 a day, he said.
Unskilled workers make much less.
A crew of four Hispanics can earn about $150 each by picking 250-300 boxes of tomatoes in a day, said Jerry Spencer, of Grow Alabama, which purchases and sells locally owned produce. A crew of 25 Americans recently picked 200 boxes — giving them each $24 for the day.
It may make sense for some to sit on the couch. Unemployment benefits provide up to $265 a week while a minimum wage job, at $7.25 an hour for 40 hours, brings in $290.
This is brutal work, which is why slaves were once imported to do it, and why it's work now done by the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder—immigrants. Just think about the numbers above—four Latinos picked a quarter to a third more tomatoes than a crew of 25 Americans. And sure, those Americans could learn to be more efficient and skilled at the work, but they won't, because they won't put up with that kind of abuse on their bodies (and minds, for that matter) in three-digit temperatures.
This is the same problem that Georgia farmers face, as that state cracks down on undocumented immigrants. As one Georgia farmer laments,
"You can't find legal workers," Horner said. "Basically they last a day or two, literally."
The results have been brutal for farmers in Georgia:
Charles Hall, director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, released figures from an upcoming industry-funded study Tuesday that says farmers lost at least $74.9 million in unpicked crops harvested by hand last spring and summer because they didn't have enough labor. The farmers said they lacked 40 percent of the total work force they needed.
That estimate is on the low end:
It's a snapshot of just a small fraction of Georgia's farmers overall. The surveyed farmers hold just short of half the state's overall acreage for those seven crops.
And the seven crops examined in the study accounted for just 5 percent of Georgia's $11.3 billion in farm products from 2009, according to the agribusiness center's last annual report.
Republicans are patting themselves on the back for forcing brown families to leave the state. What they're realizing is that our society, for better or for worse, functions on the back of those low-wage earners. Strip them out, and there will be pain.
fell again in September, yet another of the bad signals coming out of a broken housing market, one of the biggest challenges for economic growth. Residential investment as a share of GDP is now shockingly low, below any point in the past 60 years. Ryan Avent explains that this is a really historic collapse:
I think there are two key factors generating the failure of the residential investment sector to enjoy a recovery. One is the dismal outlook for demand growth, which has had a particularly relevant impact on household formation (there are lots of people doubling and tripling up at the moment). And another is the failure to get mortgage markets working again: despite rising rents and rock-bottom interest rates, mortgage lending remains at very low levels [...]
It's striking; you still hear many, many people argue that America can't count on housing, traditionally a leading cyclical sector, to help it out of a dismal recovery. These folks seem to be neglecting the remarkable, unprecedented collapse in housing construction over the past few years. The country may have had too many housing units at one point during the boom, particularly in certain outlying areas in especially bubbly markets. Whatever national excess there was has vanished. Once growth triggers a rise in household formation, housing demand will soar, and if the government can't clear up the lending channel, rents will begin soaring too.
I think Avent misses something here. One of the big reasons why mortgage markets aren't working, at the risk of redundancy, is that mortgage markets don't work. I participated in a call with the Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today, Raj Date. And he made this excellent point: the increase in delinquencies started around the last quarter of 2006. It's now the last quarter of 2008. "It's been five years, and we're still seeing difficulties and deficiencies with mortgage servicing," Date said. And that's because the servicing model simply doesn't work, and for the regulator with oversight over the servicing industry to say that, it has an impact. But it's true. [cont'd.]
"Servicer compensation doesn't work. It's not in a servicer's incentive to do a good job on loss mitigation," Date said. "I find that people generally do what they get paid to do." In addition, he noted that servicers, by selling the servicing rights, can fire the borrower, but the borrower cannot fire the servicer. This leads to a major lack of focus on consumer needs.
And this is true right down the line in the mortgage industry. During the bubble years, the origination was crooked, the securitization was crooked, the recording was crooked, the servicing was crooked and the foreclosure operation was crooked. Maureen Tkacik has a great series at Reuters this week about how the Federal Housing Finance Administration finally came around, after many years, to the fact that the entire mortgage process was fraudulent. As Date put it today, "Consumer finance is supposed to make life better, but lately it's been making life worse."
So I don't know how you end up with a working housing market when the same players who committed the same crimes are in position at the same points. A lot of the crooked originators have been rooted out, though none of them have had to go to jail for their crimes. But much of the rest of the system remains in place. Hoping for a market fix won't work. Date described this on today's call as an Econ 101 undergraduate problem. "Somewhere there is an undergraduate in an econ seminar being told that the market finds a way to correct stuff…. If you hope for the best, you're not going to get good policy outcomes."
And given that statistic of low residential investment, and what that means for the economy, the only way to return to a respectable growth level is to root out and prosecute those who have wronged the country and broken the market, which happens to be the largest market in the world. Accountability for fraud in the mortgage industry isn't just a moral imperative, it's an economic imperative.
The date on the bill is October 26, 2011. House Resolution 3261 could spell the end of all the Occupy demonstrations and effectively end the free and open internet as we know it.
Today everyone is paying close attention to the attempts to have videos documenting police brutality removed from You-Tube. There is a much greater threat looming. HR3261 Allows the U.S. Government to serve any internet provider with a court order to remove what they deem is copyrighted material or be shut down within five days. Under the guise of stopping piracy, any site can be shut down indefinitely. It is important to respect the rights of artists and make sure they are compensated for their creative endeavors. That said, shutting down a site with millions of pieces of content based upon on person choosing to violate copyright laws is more than heavy handed.
When any person, even law enforcement can upload any content to a site it is inevitable that the potential for abuse guarantees abuse.
A true Democracy in contemporary times is dependent on a free and open society. Those in power who like how the world is working for them are depending upon world governments to quell the uprisings and maintain the status quo. HR3261 could shut down Facebook, You Tube, Twitter and many more.
Make no mistake, those in power will do anything to make sure the demonstrations are stopped. Right now the provisions of the Patriot Act are being combed over and utilized to end the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don't exist – even when they do.
Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what's known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.
The new proposal – part of a lengthy rule revision by the Department of Justice – would direct government agencies to "respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist."
Open-government groups object.
"We don't believe the statute allows the government to lie to FOIA requesters," said Mike German, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the provision.
The ACLU, along with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and OpenTheGovernment.org said the move would "dramatically undermine government integrity by allowing a law designed to provide public access to government to be twisted.
The Glomar denial arose in the mid-1970s when a Los Angeles Times reporter requested information about the CIA's Glomar Explorer, built to recover a sunken Soviet submarine and the CIA's attempt to suppress stories about it.
rest at http://www.propublica.org/article/government-could-hide-existence-of-records-under-foia-rule-proposal
Charging customers for a debit card is just one reason not to bank at BoA. Recent Occupy Santa Cruz Bank of America incident illustrates how sensitive B of A is to protest. This "too big to fail" bank may collapse like a house made of junk bonds and become a taxpayer burden. Here are a few other reasons why you shouldn't bank with them.
There is no shortage of hatred for the biggest banks. Indeed, the Occupy Wall Street movement is leading a national revolution against these Byzantine, powerful Goliaths for the economic devastation they have caused. This makes it difficult to choose the worst of the bunch. That said, a strong case can be made that Bank of America deserves the title of the nation's most despised bank.
Here are ten reasons to take your money out of Bank of America - and park it at a credit union or community bank near you. (And yes, that may be near impossible if you have a mortgage with them, as refinancing away from any big bank nowadays is a nightmare.)
1. B of A rejects the right of customers to protest. When two Occupy Santa Cruz protesters in California marched into a local Bank of America to close their accounts, the response was, "You cannot be a protester and a customer at the same time," followed by a threat to call the police if the women didn't leave. (The attending officer later reiterated the bank manager's message.) Meanwhile, the fact that Bank of America charges a fee for closing an account prompted Rep. Brad Miller (D-North Carolina), who resides in Bank of America's headquarters state, to introduce a bill to protect customers from such fees.
2. To recoup ongoing losses from its stupendously dumb acquisitions of Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch, B of A pillages its customers. Thus, despite massive public outrage, the $5 debit usage fee for customers with less than a $5,000 balance and no mortgage with the bank will begin in 2012. B of A was the first large bank to confirm it would charge this fee, which is the highest in current discourse among the banks.
On October 18, Consumers Union wrote a letter to B of A chief Brian Moynihan asking him to reconsider this fee, which impacts poorer clients disproportionately. The letter summed it up nicely: "Consumers should not be required to pay a costly fee that appears to be arbitrary and designed to generate income to make up for Bank of America's bad business decisions rather than covering the costs of providing debit card services." Banks collect 24 cents from retailers for each customer swipe, much more than the median 8 cents it costs a bank to process the purchase. Senator Dick Durbin's (D-Illinois) response was to urge customers: "Vote with your feet. Get the heck out of that bank."
rest at http://www.truth-out.org/ten-reasons-not-bank-or-bank-america/1319648479
Widespread demonstrations in support of Occupy Wall Street have put the financial crisis back into the national spotlight lately.
So here's a quick refresher on what's happened to some of the main players, whose behavior, whether merely reckless or downright deliberate, helped cause or worsen the meltdown. This list isn't exhaustive -- feel welcome to add to it.
Mortgage lenders contributed to the financial crisis by issuing or underwriting loans to people who would have a difficult time paying them back, inflating a housing bubble that was bound to pop. Lax regulation allowed banks to stretch their mortgage lending standards and use aggressive tactics to rope borrowers into complex mortgages that were more expensive than they first appeared. Evidence has also surfaced that lenders were filing fraudulent documents to push some of these mortgages through, and, in some cases, had been doing so as early as the 1990s. A 2005 Los Angeles Times investigation of Ameriquest – then the nation's largest subprime lender – found that "they forged documents, hyped customers' creditworthiness and 'juiced' mortgages with hidden rates and fees." This behavior was reportedly typical for the subprime mortgage industry. A similar culture existed at Washington Mutual, which went under in 2008 in the biggest bank collapse in U.S. history.
Countrywide, once the nation's largest mortgage lender, also pushed customers to sign on for complex and costly mortgages that boosted the company's profits. Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo was accused of misleading investors about the company's mortgage lending practices, a charge he denies. Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank both purchased subprime mortgage lending outfits in 2006 to get in on the lucrative business. Deutsche Bank has also been accused of failing to adequately check on borrowers' financial status before issuing loans backed by government insurance. A lawsuit filed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara claimed that, when employees at Deutsche Bank's mortgage received audits on the quality of their mortgages from an outside firm, they stuffed them in a closet without reading them. A Deutsche Bank spokeswoman said the claims being made against the company are "unreasonable and unfair," and that most of the problems occurred before the mortgage unit was bought by Deutsche Bank.
Where they are now: Few prosecutions have been brought against subprime mortgage lenders. Ameriquest went out of business in 2007, and Citigroup bought its mortgage lending unit. Washington Mutual was bought by JP Morgan in 2008. A Department of Justice investigation into alleged fraud at WaMu closed with no charges this summer. WaMu also recently settled a class action lawsuit brought by shareholders for $208.5 million. In an ongoing lawsuit, the FDIC is accusing former Washington Mutual executives Kerry Killinger, Stephen Rotella and David Schneider of going on a "lending spree, knowing that the real-estate market was in a 'bubble.'" They deny the allegations.
Bank of America purchased Countrywide in January of 2008, as delinquencies on the company's mortgages soared and investors began pulling out. Mozilo left the company after the sale. Mozilo settled an SEC lawsuit for $67.5 million with no admission of wrongdoing, though he is now banned from serving as a top executive at a public company. A criminal investigation into his activities fizzled out earlier this year. Bank of America invited several senior Countrywide executives to stay on and run its mortgage unit. Bank of America Home Loans does not make subprime mortgage loans. Deutsche Bank is still under investigation by the Justice Department.
In the years before the crash, banks took subprime mortgages, bundled them together with prime mortgages and turned them into collateral for bonds or securities, helping to seed the bad mortgages throughout the financial system. Washington Mutual, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and others were securitizing mortgages as well as originating them. Other companies, such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Goldman Sachs, bought mortgages straight from subprime lenders, bundled them into securities and sold them to investors including pension funds and insurance companies.
Where they are now: This spring, New York's Attorney General launched a probe into mortgage securitization at Bank of America, JP Morgan, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley during the housing boom. Morgan Stanley settled with Nevada's Attorney General last month following an investigation into problems with the securitization process.
As part of a proposed settlement with the 50 state attorneys general over foreclosure abuses, several big banks were offered immunity from charges related to improper mortgage origination and securitization. California and New York have withdrawn from those talks.
The people who created and dealt CDOs
Once mortgages had been bundled into mortgage-backed securities, other bankers took groups of them and bundled them together into new financial products called Collateralized Debt Obligations. CDOs are composed of tiers with different levels of risk. As we've reported, a hedge fund named Magnetar worked with banks to fill CDOs with the riskiest possible materials, then used credit default swaps to bet that they would fail. Magnetar says that the majority of its short positions were against CDOs it didn't own. Magnetar also says it didn't choose what went its own CDOs, though people involved in the deals who spoke to ProPublica contradict this account.
American International Group's London-based financial products unit was among the entities that provided credit default swaps on CDOs. Though the business of insuring the risky securities made AIG large short-term profits, it eventually brought the company to the brink of collapse, prompting an $85 billion government bailout.
Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers and JPMorgan all made CDO deals with Magnetar. The hedge fund invested in 30 CDOs from the spring of 2006 to the summer of 2007. The bankers who worked on these deals almost always reaped hefty bonuses. From our story:
Even today, bankers and managers speak with awe at the elegance of the Magnetar Trade. Others have become famous for betting big against the housing market. But they had taken enormous risks. Meanwhile, Magnetar had created a largely self-funding bet against the market.
When banks found CDOs hard to sell, some of them, notably Merrill Lynch and Citibank, bought each other's CDOs, creating the illusion of true investors when there were almost none. That was one way they kept the market for CDOs going longer than it otherwise would have. Eventually CDOs began purchasing risky parts of other CDOs created by the same bank. Take a look at our comic strip explaining self-dealing, and our chart detailing which banks bought their own CDOs.
Where they are now: Overall, the banks and individuals involved in CDO deals haven't been convicted on criminal charges. The civil suits against them have produced fines that aren't very big compared to the profits they made in the leadup to the financial crisis. JP Morgan paid $153.6 million to settle an SEC suit alleging they hadn't disclosed to investors that Magnetar was betting against Morgan's CDO. Citigroup just agreed to pay a $285 million fine to the SEC for betting against one of its mortgage-related CDOs. The lawsuit doesn't mention dozens of similar deals made by Citi.
Magnetar is still thriving (the deals they made weren't illegal according to the rules at the time). In 2007, Magnetar's founder took home $280 million, and the fund had $7.6 billion under management. The SEC is considering banning hedge funds and banks from betting against securities of their own creation. As of May 2010, federal prosecutors were investigating Morgan Stanley over their CDO deals, and Goldman Sachs paid $550 million last year to settle a lawsuit related to one of theirs. Only one Goldman employee, Fabrice Tourre, has been charged criminally in connection to the deals.
Though recorded phone calls suggest that former AIG CEO Joseph Cassano misled investors about the credit default swaps that contributed to his company's troubles, the evidence wasn't airtight, and federal probes against him fell apart in 2010. Cassano's lawyers deny any wrongdoing.
rest at http://www.propublica.org/article/cheat-sheet-whats-happened-to-the-big-players-in-the-financial-crisis
Note: The Trade is not subject to our Creative Commons license.
Back when the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was doing its work, I would check in periodically with someone who worked there to find out how it was going.
"Good news!" my source would joke. "We got the guy who caused it."
That is the way I felt last week when the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it had, well, agreed to a measly $285 million settlement with Citigroup over the bank having misled its own customers in selling an investment it created out of mortgage securities as the housing market was beginning its collapse.
In addition, the S.E.C. accused one person -- a low-level banker. Hooray, we finally got the guy who caused the financial crisis! The Occupy Wall Street protestors can now go home.
After years of lengthy investigations into collateralized debt obligations, the mortgage securities at the heart of the financial crisis, the S.E.C. has brought civil actions against only two small-time bankers. But compared with the Justice Department, the S.E.C. is the second coming of Eliot Ness. No major investment banker has been brought up on criminal charges stemming from the financial crisis.
To understand why that is so pathetic and -- worse -- corrupting, we need to briefly review what went on in C.D.O.'s in the years before the crisis. By 2006, legions of Wall Street bankers had turned C.D.O.'s into vehicles for their own personal enrichment, at the expense of their customers.
These bankers brought in savvy (and cynical) investors to buy pieces of the deals that they could not sell. These investors bet against the deals. Worse, they skewed the deals by exercising influence over what securities went into the C.D.O.'s, and they pushed for the worst possible stuff to be included.
The investment banks did not disclose any of this to the investors on the other side of the deals, or if they did, they slipped a vague, legalistic disclosure sentence into the middle of hundreds of pages of dense documentation. In the case brought last week, Citigroup was selling the deal, called Class V Funding III, while its own traders were filling it up with garbage and betting against it.
By the S.E.C.'s own investigations of and settlements with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, and by reporting like my ProPublica work with Jake Bernstein and early stories by The Wall Street Journal, we know that these breaches were anything but isolated. This was the Wall Street business model. (Goldman, JPMorgan and Citigroup were all able to settle without admitting or denying anything, which, of course, is part of the problem.)
Neither the Citigroup settlement nor any of the others come close to matching the profits and bonuses that these banks generated in making these deals. And low-level bankers did not, and could not, act alone. They were not rogues, hiding things from their bosses.
Last week's S.E.C. complaint makes clear that the low-level Citigroup banker that it sued, Brian H. Stoker, had multiple conversations with his superiors about the details of Class V. At one point, Mr. Stoker's boss pressed him to make sure that their group got "credit" for the profits on the short that was made by another group at the bank.
Pause, and think about that. The boss was looking for credit, but as far as the S.E.C. was concerned, he got no blame.
The S.E.C. did not respond to a request for comment, so we are left to wonder what explains its failure to reckon adequately with the pervasive problems. Contrary to expectations, the embattled and oft-assailed agency has done almost everything right with structured finance investigations, taking aim at abuses related to C.D.O.'s and other complex deals.
What the NYPD Really Thinks of Occupy Wall Street #p2 #tcot Some rank-and-file officers admit they're sympathetic to the cause.
As midnight approached in New York City's Washington Square Park on Saturday, 14 occupiers sat in the center of an empty fountain playing Woody Guthrie songs. "If you would like to remain in the park past midnight, you will be subject to arrest," a policeman had just broadcast through a bullhorn, sending thousands who'd come for a political rally fleeing. Backed by some 100 riot cops in face shields, an exhausted-looking community affairs officer moved in to try to talk reason. "We marched with you guys; we treated you with respect," he said, pointing out that some officers had been on duty since 3 a.m. "We understand your cause. We understand your voice. We understand what you are saying. But all we want is for you to vacate the park."
"This is political," said a man in black glasses, between drags on a cigarette.
"C'mon guys," the officer pleaded. "Why get arrested?"
The New York City Police Department has dealt with a heavy dose of criticism for the way that it has handled the Occupy Wall Street protests, with an unprovoked pepper spraying, questionably legal arrests, and a dressing down by a US Marine at Times Square all caught on videotape. But in the interactions with police that I have witnessed and the conversations I've had with officers, a more nuanced picture has emerged: one of overworked rank-and-file cops torn between following orders and sympathizing with the movement and its goals.
rest at http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/10/nypd-occupy-wall-street
The fight to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker begins November 15, when the 60-day window opens for progressives, Democrats, and other Walker opponents to gather the more than half-million signatures they'll need to trigger a recall election. Conveniently for Walker, a loophole in Wisconsin elections law opens up the same day and spans the same 60-day window. For that two-month period, the state's $10,000 donation limit for individuals giving to gubernatorial candidates is out the window. That's right: Walker can raise unlimited campaign cash for his recall defense as his opponents round up support to recall him.
Going on a 60-day money bonanza is at the heart of Walker's recall defense strategy—at least that's how Wisconsin GOP chairman Brad Courtney put it at a GOP event in Milwaukee last Friday. According to an audio clip provided to Mother Jones, Courtney says Walker stressed to him the importance of being able to rake in unlimited funds to run ads defending his record—especially his controversial budget repair bill. That, of course, was the legislation that kneecapped public-sector unions and sparked a month of protest, including an occupation of the state Capitol. "What Scott says we're gonna raise a lot of money—we can accept unlimited money for a 60-day time period, so you're gonna see a lot of positive, wonderful ads about what's going on in Wisconsin," Courtney told the crowd. (A Walker spokesman didn't respond to requests for comment. A Wisconsin GOP spokeswoman, Nicole Larson, declined to comment.)
Listen to the audio clip:
rest at http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/10/scott-walker-recall-wisconsin-unlimited-money
The shock and awe didn't last long. On Friday afternoon, just minutes after Barack Obama announced that America's war in Iraq would be finally, truly over at year's end, critics of the president punctured what could have been a national moment of solemn reflection and relief.
"As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end," Obama—the president whose administration has ended the lives of Osama bin Laden, Anwar Awlaki, and just yesterday, Moammar Qaddafi—said in his announcement Friday. "The rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year." Obama added that US-Iraq relations would change dramatically on January 1, 2012, to "a normal relationship between sovereign nations"—a recognition of the past nine years' weirdness that, although perfectly obvious, still seemed poignant when spoken aloud.
Nonetheless, the end of US military operations in Iraq—100,000 troops have already left the country, and the final 39,000 will be gone by late December—is already being spun by some Republican critics as an admission of defeat, part of a larger attempt to paint Obama and his party as soft on national security. That narrative is increasingly divorced from reality.
rest at http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/10/gopers-hit-obama-iraq-withdrawal
U.S. Cellular Field (then New Comiskey Park) opened 20 years ago last April, but it's been the gift that keeps on giving for Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. First was getting the stadium itself for $167 million in Illinois tax dollars, following Reinsdorf's "a savvy negotiator creates leverage" jaunt to Tampa Bay. Then there was the $41 million renovation in 2004 that was paid for by the state handing over naming rights to the stadium to the team, which sold them for $68 million.
And now there's this:
The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the government agency that built and owns The Cell, paid $3.2 million for construction of the [new Bacardi at the Park] restaurant [across the street] plus just about everything inside the place, from walk-in refrigerators to bar stools, the Tribune and WGN-TV found in a joint investigation.
Another $3.7 million from the agency went for infrastructure upgrades for water and sewers at the Gate 5 plaza that made the restaurant possible.
A 2010 agreement between the Sox, who selected Gibsons Restaurant Group to run the business, and the agency shows that at the project's completion, the team was exempt from owing the agency any money. That arrangement contrasts with the management agreement for operating the stadium, which stipulates the team pay rent and make payments based on attendance.
rest at http://www.fieldofschemes.com/news/archives/2011/10/4712_white_sox_getti.html
Early morning in a nearly filled corporate ballroom at the Cobb Energy Centre, a second-tier event stadium on the outskirts of Atlanta. It's late September, and a local conservative think tank is hosting a get-together with Rick Perry, whose front-runner comet at the time is still just slightly visible in the bottom of the sky. I've put away five cups of coffee trying to stay awake through a series of monotonous speeches about Georgia highway and port reform, waiting for my chance to lay eyes on the Next Big Thing in person.
By the time Perry shows up, I'm jazzed and ready for history. You always want to remember the first time you see the possible next president in person. But as every young person knows, the first time is not always a pleasant experience. Perry lumbers onstage looking exceedingly well-groomed, but also ashen and exhausted, like a funeral director with a hangover.
In a voice so subdued and halting that I think he must be sick, he launches into his speech, which consists of the following elements: a halfhearted football joke about Texas A&M that would have embarrassed a true fan like George W. Bush, worn bromides about liberals creating a nanny state, a few lines about jobs in Texas, and a promise to repeal "as much of Obamacare as I can" on his first day in the White House.
"I will try," he says, "to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can."
Then he waves and walks offstage. The whole thing has taken barely 10 minutes.
I can't believe it, and neither can the assembled crowd of Georgia conservatives, who hesitate before breaking into polite applause. I feel like a high school cheerleader who just had her leg jizzed on in the back of a convertible. That's it? It's over? That was Rick Perry's stump speech?
"Low energy, low substance," sighs Justin Ryan, one of the conference attendees. "That's sort of the candidate in general."
But this is America, remember, where one should never underestimate shallow. And Rick Perry brings shallow to a new level. He is very gifted in that regard. He could be the Adolf Hitler of shallow.
Perry's campaign is still struggling to recover from the kind of spectacular, submarine-at-crush-depth collapse seldom seen before in the history of presidential politics. The governor went from presumptive front-runner to stammering talk-show punch line seemingly in the speed of a single tweet, rightly blasted for being too incompetent even to hold his own in televised debates with a half-bright pizza salesman like Herman Cain and a goggle-eyed megachurch Joan of Arc like Michele Bachmann. But such superficial criticisms of his weirdly erratic campaign demeanor don't even begin to get at the root of why we should all be terrified of Perry and what he represents. After all, you have to go pretty far to stand out as a whore and a sellout when you come from a state that has produced such luminaries in the history of political corruption as LBJ, Karl Rove and George W. Bush. But Rick Perry has managed to set a scary new low in the annals of opportunism, turning Texas into a swamp of political incest and backroom dealing on a scale not often seen this side of the Congo or Sierra Leone.
In an era when there's exponentially more money in politics than we've ever seen before, Perry is the candidate who is exponentially more willing than we've ever seen before to whore himself out for that money. On the human level he is a nonpersonality, an almost perfect cipher – a man whose only discernible passion is his extreme willingness to be whatever someone will pay him to be, or vote for him to be. Even scarier, the religious community around which he has chosen to pull his human chameleon act features some of the most extreme end-is-nigh nutcases in America, the last people you want influencing the man with the nuclear football. Perry is a human price tag – Being There meets Left Behind. And sometimes there's nothing more dangerous than nothing at all.
Perry shot into the race for the Republican presidential nomination like a rocket, which is to say, he jumped late into a historically underwhelming contest of bumblers, second-raters, extremists and religious loonies, and became the top dog by default simply by virtue of not looking obviously demented at first blush to the national media. At the time, the GOP's Tea Party base was splitting right down the middle, divided between the intellectual libertarians headed by fellow Texan and original Tea Partier Ron Paul, and the "values"-oriented sect steered by the Bible-thumping likes of Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. Despite Barack Obama's plummeting approval ratings, Republicans seemed to have little chance of success in 2012 unless someone emerged from the pack with the goods to pull off a seemingly impossible demographic trifecta: capturing enough of these two increasingly insurrectionary camps within the Tea Party to win the primary, while still retaining enough moderate cred to steal the middle from Obama in the general election.
Into this morass stepped Perry, a tall, perma-tanned, Bible-clutching Southerner with front-runner hair and the build of a retired underwear model, boasting 10 years of executive experience and a furious anti-government bestseller (Fed Up!) still sizzling on the nation's bookshelves. This was the magic-bullet candidate, with the End Times connections and born-again beatitude to out-Jesus Michele Bachmann, the CV full of arch-libertarian, anti-Fed ramblings pretentious enough to have been written by Ron Paul, and the eelish good looks to outshine robotic front-runner Mitt Romney. Perry just looked like the inevitable nominee, and it wasn't long before he was sitting atop the polls.
But as a presidential candidate, Perry has mainly distinguished himself with a kind of bipolar wildness in the debates: sullen and reserved one moment, strident and inarticulate the next. He sweats profusely. He can't stand still. When he does manage to get off a zinger, he cracks a smug grin, looking like he's just sewn up the blue ribbon in a frat-house dong-measuring contest. Parts of his record drive the Tea Party nuts, like his decision to pay for the kids of illegal immigrants to attend state colleges just like other students, or his executive order requiring all sixth-grade girls in Texas to be vaccinated against HPV, the human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer in women.
Liliana Ros, a party committeewoman in Florida, shook Perry's hand during a commercial break at the Orlando debate and promptly finked on him to reporters, offering a pervy description that was missing only the open raincoat and the raging boner. "He grabbed my hand and held on to it," Ros said. "His hand was so cold, like ice. And he was sweating. He didn't seem well, like he was in pain or he was sick or something. I don't know what it was, but something was definitely wrong."
As soon as Perry became that most fragile of early-campaign life-forms, the "presumptive front-runner," opponents and reporters began scrambling to find the skeletons in his closet. The journalism world is abuzz with salacious whispers about his private life, while liberals have focused on his ties to the New Apostolic Reformation, an apocalyptic sect of loopy Christian fundamentalists who think Jesus is coming back soon to blow up the planet. But voters who want to know who Rick Perry really is would do well to remember the advice of noted political analyst Hannibal Lecter, who instructed Jodie Foster about the serial killer she was tracking in The Silence of the Lambs. What does he do, Lecter asked, this man you seek? He kills women? No, that is incidental. Don't look at what the man does, look at what he is.
It's the same with Rick Perry.
Pro-Israel Organization Chooses to Honor Anti-Semitic Stereotype Peddler Glenn Beck, While Condemning Occupy Wall Street
In July 2005, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) (http://www.zoa.org/) presented Pat Robertson with its State of Israel Friendship Award at their "Salute to Israel" dinner. "We wouldn't do it," Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), told the New York City-based newspaper, The Forward. "He's not deserving, but I have no objections to other groups honoring him."
In May 2008, after it was revealed -- at the Talk To Action website -- that Pastor John Hagee had delivered a sermon stating that God sent Hitler to hunt the Jews and chase them to Israel, the ZOA issued a press release in defense of Hagge, calling him "a staunch friend and supporter of the State of Israel, of Zionism, and of the Jewish people" (http://4international.wordpress.com/2008/06/13/zoa-is-right-to-defend-hagee/).
Now, three-plus years later, on Sunday, November 20, one of the two featured speakers at the ZOA's 114th Anniversary Louis D. Brandeis Award Dinner will be Glenn Beck.
And the ZOA has chutzpah enough to lecture the Occupy Wall Street movement about anti-Semitism.
Perhaps hoping to drum up some publicity for its upcoming dinner, the ZOA has issued a press release calling for the president, Congress and other public officials to condemn incidents of anti-Semitism in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In the Press Release dated October 19, and titled "ZOA To President Obama & Congress - Condemn Anti-Semitism Of Occupy Wall Street Protestors," the organization called upon President Barack Obama Congress and other public figure "to explicitly condemn the manifestations of anti-Semitism that have figured prominently in the demonstrations of the 'Occupy Wall Street' protesters."
ZOA National Chairman of the Board Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, "We are frankly appalled and concerned that President Obama and Congressional leaders have not quickly and publicly condemned the numerous manifestations of anti-Semitism that occur regularly at the Occupy Wall street protests. This failure is all the more serious when the President and Congressional figures have spoken sympathetic words about these protests. When people start publicly blaming Jews and Israel for their problems, it is time for our political leaders to speak out.
"This contrasts sharply with the way Democratic leaders were quick to condemn alleged anti-black racist remarks and actions by Tea Party members on the basis of reports later proven to be false. They were willing to condemn the Tea Party even though two of its most repeatedly invited speakers have been African-American figures, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and Representative Allen West (R-FL)."
"The charges of racism against the Tea Party were fully documented in IREHR's report, 'Tea Party Nationalism' (http://www.irehr.org/issue-areas/tea-party-nationalism/the-report), and have never been proven to be false," Devin Burghart, vice president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, told me in an email. "Further, IREHR never made bigotry a partisan issue; it is a moral issue. And the fact that Jewish Republicans in California condemned an anti-Semitic ad placed by a local Tea Party group, proves that opposition to bigotry is not partisan either."
Regarding charges of anti-Semitism in the Occupy Movement, Burghart said that his organization "has already pointed out that there are known anti-Semites trying to wheedle their way in to the Occupy movement. [However,] the anti-Semites are having greater or less success depending on the city and the local movement."
Burghart added that "in a movement in which groups such as Jews for Racial and Economic Justice play a significant role as Jews, and a movement where Sukkahs were built in a number of cities, it would be a serious mistake to describe the movement as anti-Semitic."
Last year, the ZOA planted itself firmly on the side of then Fox Television's Glenn Beck when he claimed that George Soros, who Beck has called "The Puppet Master," was a Nazi collaborator who, as a teenager, participated in the theft of property owned by Jews by the Nazis.
Instead of condemning Beck for his recklessness, in a press release (http://www.zoa.org/sitedocuments/pressrelease_view.asp?pressreleaseID=1968), the ZOA "expressed its concern over the strong criticism that a number of American Jewish leaders and other prominent Jews in recent days have directed at ... Beck, for his criticism of Israel/U.S.-basher, financier George Soros, regarding his behavior in Nazi-occupied Budapest in 1944."
"In that year," the press release stated. "Soros' father obtained forged papers and bribed a government official to save his son, George, then 14 years old, by taking him in as his alleged godson under a falsified Christian identity. In this capacity, George Soros accompanied his fake godfather on his appointed rounds as a government official, confiscating property from Jews who were to be deported to their deaths in Auschwitz. George Soros later said that he felt no guilt, remorse or difficulty whatsoever for being in this situation. In fact, he wrote in a forward to his father's book, 'these ten months [of the Nazi occupation] were the happiest times of my life ... We led an adventurous life and we had fun together.'
"Regarding this circumstance, Mr. Beck said recently on his radio show that Soros 'used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. And George Soros was part of it. He would help confiscate the stuff. It was frightening. Here's a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps. I am certainly not saying George Soros enjoyed that, even had a choice - I mean, he's 14 years old. He was surviving. So I'm not making a judgment, that's between him and G-d' ('Soros enjoys taking countries down,' November 10, 2010).
In a piece for The Daily Beast, dated November 10, 2010, Michelle Goldberg wrote that Beck's invective against Soros "was a symphony of anti-Semitic dog-whistles."
The criticism of Soros, who has long been a target of the right, "went beyond demonizing him; he cast him as the protagonist in an updated Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Goldberg, the author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World, pointed out. "He described Soros as the most powerful man on earth, the creator of a 'shadow government' that manipulates regimes and currencies for its own enrichment. Obama is his 'puppet,' Beck says. Soros has even 'infiltrated the churches.' He foments social unrest and economic distress so he can bring down governments, all for his own financial gain."
Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director and a Holocaust survivor himself, said that "Beck's description of George Soros' actions during the Holocaust is completely inappropriate, offensive and over the top. For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say-inaccurately-that there's a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps, as part of a broader assault on Mr. Soros, that's horrific... To hold a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the Holocaust as pawrt of a larger effort to denigrate the man is repugnant."
While IREHR's Devin Burghart wished that the Zionist Organization of America, "may live long and be well," he emphatically noted that "they did not honor themselves by honoring Glenn Beck."
UPDATE: The Jewish Forward, in an October 28th article by Eric Alterman, comdemns the "pernicious attempt to brand protest as anti-Semitic: GOP tries to raise campaign bucks by tarring Occupy Wall Street"
It should also be noted that more than a thousand Jews chose to observe Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and holiest day in the Jewish year, at Liberty Park in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.