Nov 302011
 

 

* IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR RELEASES NEW STATEMENT: THE 1 PERCENT IS PROFITING FROM OUR SACRIFICES

By Eleanor Goldberg, HuffPo

Unemployed for two years and still recovering from a war injury, Dottie Guy has just about blown through her life savings. While the Iraq veteran qualifies for disability payments, she has no idea when the agency will set a date for her hearing.

“I have no income right now and it’s scary,” Guy, 29, told the Huffington Post.

The former military policewoman is just one of about 2,000 disgruntled veterans who say they’ve risked their lives and well-being only to come home to a country that profits from their sacrifices. Iraq Veterans Against The War issued a statement Monday saying that they feel betrayed by the nation’s leaders and will continue to join the Occupy Wall Street protests to broadcast their grievances.

“The VA services are abysmal,” Guy said. “But yet the corporations who are making all this money from these wars are living high off the hog.”

Veterans have found a natural sounding board in the Occupy movement. Faced with surging unemployment and a need for better health services, this vulnerable community has leveraged the protests to help galvanize, educate and empower veterans.

IVAW said that its membership has increased about 10 percent since Marine Corps veteran Scott Olsen was seriously injured at Occupy Oakland in October.

“Most veterans, when they get out, have found that the promises that were made to us were not followed through on,” said Scott Kimball, secretary of the IVAW board of directors.

Kimball said he’s been involved with the Occupy movement in Illinois since it began and helped organize the Veterans marches around the country that occurred on Nov. 2.

The wealth discrepancy between returning troops and corporations profiting from the war is a prime concern among veterans who have joined the Occupy movement. Guy has been among the 12.1 percent of veterans without jobs since 2009. Kimball, who served as an infantryman in Iraq from 2003 to 2007, went back to school after finding minimal employment opportunities. […]

READ @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/29/iraq-veterans-against-the-war-occupy-wall-street_n_1117837.html?utm_campaign=112911&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-imp

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* MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: FULL FRUITION

By Kathleen Wallace Peine, Dissident Voice

This week Congress is expected to vote on a bill advanced by John McCain and Carl Levin, a Republican and Democrat who united to bring us the foundation needed to propel us fully into a militarized nightmare state similar to what we have been exporting these last few years. It is the Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act.

In case you haven’t heard the details (which is likely if you have spent much time watching traditional news), the bill essentially labels every spot on this earth as a battlefield, including the United States. It’s a telling moment when they concede, or, in fact, advance a never ending war, and its present under each rock, according to these lawmakers. It’s certainly the stuff of 1984 (we’ve always been at war with Eastasia). From this notion springs the advancement of military tribunals dealing with all citizens of the globe (once again, Americans included) without the bother of transparency. Detention and disappearance could be the order of the day.

The secretive nature and broad sweeps have already been used on those they deem foreign enemy combatants around the world. As if by fascist playbook, this sort of thing is trial ballooned on “the other” and then brought home for the enjoyment of those who didn’t complain the first time around.

An enormous issue with the militarization and deviation from open aired civilian courts is the very secretive nature of it all. If an individual has truly done a harm that merits intervention, then the light of day should shine on the accusations and stand on their own merits. That tired excuse that the information in these trials needs to be hidden is simply a ploy to avoid oversight and scrutiny. The stories have circulated about local warlords turning in neighbors (who get sent to Gitmo) often for decidedly illegitimate reasons. And then just enough scary terror bogymen really are in residence there to allow the average citizen to go back to sleep, avoiding the uncomfortable realization that some there did nothing wrong, except perhaps be in the wrong place at the wrong time or have enemies with the ear of Uncle Sam. It would be mindless to think it would go down in any other manner here. We aren’t that exceptional, I’m sorry to say.

Not to mention that this further advancement of the Military Industrial Complex must be making those entities who profit off of all of this salivate. As resources dwindle, the decision seems to have been made by the few to loot all that is available, consequences be damned.

At a time when Walmarts around the country have to add extra staff to handle the huge influx at midnight when food stamp cards get recharged….is this really the largest threat to the average American right now?. Of course not. Who is really destroying our nation?

The lumbering corporate facilitators in Congress who let our people languish as they advance Military Industrial Complex hardcore porn legislation such as this.

I have trouble believing that all of the legislators are truly evil. Rancid little snowflakes, all of them, to be sure, some evil, but some merely venal and ignorant — all hideous in their own unique manner. We will find no assistance from this pool of infamy.

This bill is flying under the radar; few seem to know about it. But, of course, that’s understandable; a new woman has popped up to talk about an inappropriate affair with Herman Cain. And if she hadn’t materialized, some damn baby would have to go missing or a hooker’s ipad with Congressional fetish requests would have to be unearthed at a booth in Chili’s – as they debate legislation that would allow the foundations for a new class of “disappeared” to occur in this nation.

If you still have any lingering thoughts that a Democrat (Crip) or a Republican (Blood) might save you, then this should serve as your final wake up call. If the teams truly believed their rhetoric, an abomination like this would have never been advanced — the fear of the other party occupying the Commander in Chief throne would be too frightening to ponder for the opposite party. Sure, they say this is for Al-Queda, but that’s what they always say. It only morphs into the others, such as political dissidents down the road. […]

READ @ http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/11/military-industrial-complex-full-fruition/

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* SENATE REJECTS EFFORT TO EASE TERRORIST DETAINEE POLICY IN DEFENSE BILL

By Josiah Ryan, The Hill

The Senate rejected an amendment on Tuesday that would have removed a provision from the pending Defense spending bill to toughen U.S. policy towards suspected terrorists captured on the battlefield or on the home front.

The amendment, defeated 37-61, would have struck a section of the spending bill that authorizes the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” to detain people suspected of terrorism and instead would have implemented a timeline to allow further hearings and opportunities for the military to make recommendations on how detainee policy ought to change.

Prior to the vote, the amendment’s author, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), argued that military and law enforcement professionals ought to be given a louder voice in the deliberation over a policy that could so drastically affect the execution of their duties.

“We are ignoring the advice and the input of the director of the FBI, the director of the intelligence community, the attorney general of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and the White House,” said Udall.

“My amendment would take out these provisions, and give us in the Congress an opportunity to take a hard look at the needs of our counterterrorism professionals, and respond in a measured way that reflects the input of those who are actually fighting our enemies,” Udall had said on the Senate floor. “The secretary of Defense is warning us that we may be making mistakes that will hurt our capacity to fight terrorism at home and abroad.”

Udall also said he feared the provision could apply to U.S. citizens, which he said would be an “unprecedented threat to our constitutional liberties.” […]

READ @ http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/195949-senate-defeats-amendment-to-remove-terrorist-detainee-language

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* THERE’S NOTHING TO STOP MORTGAGE SERVICER FRAUD BECOMING A STANDARD BUSINESS PRACTICE

By Matt Stoller, Business Insider

[…]

And what happens when this kind of fraud goes unprosecuted? It continues, even today. The same banks that ran the corrupt home mortgage securitization chain are now committing rampant fraud in the foreclosure crisis. Here’s New Orleans Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Magner discussing problems at Lender Processing Services, the company that handles 80 percent of foreclosures on behalf of large banks (emphasis added):

In Jones v. Wells Fargo, this Court discovered that a highly automated software package owned by LPS and identified as MSP administered loans for servicers and note holders but was programed to apply payments contrary to the terms of the notes and mortgages. 

The bad behavior is so rampant that banks think nothing of a contractor programming fraud into the software. This is shocking behavior and has led to untold numbers of foreclosures, as well as the theft of huge sums of money from mortgage-backed securities investors.

Here’s how the fraud works: Mortgage loan notes are very clear on the schedule of how payments are to be applied. First, the money goes to interest, then principal, then all other fees. That means that investors get paid first and servicers, who collect late fees for themselves, get paid either when they collect the late fee from the debtor or from the liquidation of the foreclosure. And fees are supposed to be capitalized into the overall mortgage amount. If you are late one month, it isn’t supposed to push you into being late on all subsequent months.

The software, however, prioritizes servicer fees above the contractually required interest and principal to investors. This isn’t a one-off; it’s programmed. It’s the very definition of a conspiracy! Who knows how many people paid late and then were pushed into a spiral of fees that led into a foreclosure? It’s the perfect crime, and many of the victims had paid every single mortgage payment.

A lack of criminal prosecutions means that unethical business practices like this one drive out ethical business practices. After all, why should a bank hire an ethical default servicer that charges a high price for its product when it can pay nothing to one that simply extracts from investors and homeowners?

The joke that is the U.S. Attorney network has become very old and very stale. And unfortunately, because of Attorney General Eric Holder, that joke is on us. […]

READ @ http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-11-28/wall_street/30449339_1_foreclosure-crisis-banking-system-lender-processing-services

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* THE SECRECY-LOVING MIND OF THE U.S. JOURNALIST

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

[…] Cohen observes, quite rightly, that President Obama — who repeatedly vowed to usher in The Most Transparent Administration Ever — has taken U.S. foreign policy almost completely underground and draped it in sweeping, anti-democratic secrecy:

The Obama administration has a doctrine. It’s called the doctrine of silence. A radical shift from President Bush’s war on terror, it has never been set out to the American people. There has seldom been so big a change in approach to U.S. strategic policy with so little explanation. . . . President Obama has gone undercover.

So finally, after a long search, we have discovered a “change” from Bush’s foreign policy: whereas Bush fought his wars out in the open and with Congressional approval, Obama fights them covertly and with no public discussion, debate or accountability: he’s “undercover.” Cohen lists the numerous covert wars the Obama administration is fighting — meaning wars fought without a whiff of public debate or even acknowledgement — including in Iran, Pakistan, and Yemen (he could have added Somalia). Referring to the numerous murders of Iran’s nuclear scientists (and sometimes wounding of their wives), Terrorist explosions routinely taking place in that country, and cyber attacks on their facilities, Cohen points out that it “would take tremendous naïveté to believe these events are not the result of a covert American-Israel” effort. He then notes that such fighting of covert wars is not only anti-democratic but of very dubious legality:

The U.S. government says precious little about these new ways of fighting enemies. . . . The American case for legality rests on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force act . . . But killing an American citizen raises particular constitutional concerns; just how legal the drone attacks are remains a vexed question. And Iran had no part in 9/11.

In general, it’s hard to resist the impression of a tilt toward the extrajudicial in U.S. foreign policy — a kind of “Likudization” of the approach to dealing with enemies. Israel has never hesitated to kill foes with blood on their hands wherever they are.

This is a development about which no American can feel entirely comfortable. . . .[T]hese legally borderline, undercover options — cyberwar, drone killings, executions and strange explosions at military bases — invite repayment in kind, undermine the American commitment to the rule of law, and make allies uneasy.

And, of course, the one war of Obama’s which — over his objections — was subject to a Congressional debate (in Libya) ended with Congress rejecting its authorization. But he just went ahead and prosecuted it anyway.

So that’s a rather potent indictment of the Obama administration from Cohen: fighting numerous covert, possibly illegal wars around the world. Richard Nixon’s covert bombing of Cambodia was one of the most scandalous aspects of his presidency, with newspapers widely condemning it; Reagan’s covert mining of the harbors of Nicaragua produced similar outrage even from his own party. From the perspective of accountability, the magnitude of the secrecy behind which these current wars are fought makes Cambodia and Nicaragua look like child’s play. As Cohen points out, Obama is waging covert wars in multiple countries shrouded in complete secrecy: Obama officials refuse even to confirm that there is such a thing as a CIA drone program, let alone explain their legal basis for what they do.

So Cohen, as a journalist, must be furious about this systematic lack of accountability, transparency and democracy. After all, journalists — as they tirelessly tell everyone — are steadfastly devoted to those values; transparency for political officials is their North Star. Surely, nobody who would devote themselves to this profession would celebrate a President who drenches his entire foreign policy in secrecy — beyond any mechanism for democratic accountability — and who fights numerous covert wars without even any clear legal basis for doing so? So naive and wrong one would be for assuming that:

I approve of the shift even as it makes me uneasy. . . .You have to figure that one day somebody sitting in Tehran or Islamabad or Sana is going to wake up and say: “Hey, this guy Obama, he went to war in our country but just forgot to mention the fact. Should we perhaps go to war in his?” . . . .

Why do I approve of all this? Because the alternative — the immense cost in blood and treasure and reputation of the Bush administration’s war on terror — was so appalling. In just the same way, the results of a conventional bombing war against Iran would be appalling, whether undertaken by Israel, the United States or a combination of the two.

Political choices often have to be made between two unappealing options. Obama has done just that. He has gone covert — and made the right call.

In other words, it’s simply a given that war with all of these Muslim countries, including Iran, is necessary and inevitable — despite the fact that none is attacking the U.S. or threatening to do so. Warring against all these countries is America’s imperial responsibility and exceptionalist right. The only question, then, is whether the wars will be fought (a) democratically, legally and out in the open, or (b) in secret, with no legal basis or democratic accountability. Cohen, the journalist, chooses (b).

As usual, American journalists are the leading proponents not of transparency but of secrecy, not of  accountability but of covert decision-making in the dark, not of the rule of law but the rule of political leaders. As Cohen’s Washington Post namesake put it: “it is often best to keep the lights off.” That, with some exceptions, is the motto not only of The Washington Post but of American establishment journalism generally. That’s what NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen meant when he said that the reason we got WikiLeaks is because “the watchdog press died.” With some exceptions — some of this we have learned about from whistleblowers leaking to reporters, who then publish it – the American media does not merely fail to fulfill its ostensible function of bringing transparency to government; far beyond that, it takes the lead in justifying and protecting extreme government secrecy. Watching a New York Times columnist stand up and cheer for multiple covert, legally dubious wars and an underground foreign policy highlights that as well as anything one can recall. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2011/11/29/the_secrecy_loving_mind_of_the_u_s_journalist/singleton/

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* FEDS WITHHOLDING EVIDENCE FAVORABLE TO BRADLEY MANNING, LAWYER CHARGES

By Kim Zetter, Wired

The civilian lawyer for Bradley Manning, the Army private who allegedly leaked tens of thousands of classified U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks, is seeking to question the severity of the leak by requesting the government’s own internal damage assessments that reportedly contradict statements that Manning irreparably damaged national security.

Manning’s defense attorney, David E. Coombs, is attempting to get evidence from the government to defend Manning in his upcoming pre-trial hearing on Dec. 16, but says the government is stonewalling him.

“The defense has repeatedly requested the below discovery in this case, but the government has consistently responded with a blanket denial of the defense request,” Coombs wrote in the partially redacted filing.

The evidence Coombs seeks includes copies of internal reports conducted by task forces assessing the damage from and the classification levels of the 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and 500,000 classified Iraq and Afghanistan war field reports allegedly leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks.

Published information about the various reports put them at odds with each other, Coombs notes. One assessment conducted by the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that all of the information allegedly leaked was dated, represented low-level opinions, or was already commonly known due to previous public disclosures, while an official at another government office indicated that the leaks had caused damage to national security.

Coombs wants to use the DIA report, along with another unpublished one apparently commissioned by the White House, to ban witnesses from describing the leaks as more damaging than these official reports found them to be.

Manning is charged with 22 violations, which could get him up to life in prison if convicted.

The filing also sheds light on other likely avenues Coombs will use to mitigate or challenge the charges against Manning, including questioning the actions of President Barack Obama and Manning’s betrayer, Adrian Lamo.

For instance, Coombs seeks “known evidence tending to diminish credibility of any government witness including, but not limited to, prior convictions under Military Rule of Evidence (M.R.E.) 609, evidence of other character, conduct, or bias bearing on witness credibility under M.R.E. 608. Specifically, the defense requests the name and contact information for any law enforcement agent working with —.”

The name is blacked out in the document, but could be an indication that the defense will seek to discredit Lamo, a former hacker and prosecution witness who turned Manning in to authorities after Manning allegedly confessed to Lamo in chat logs that he leaked thousands of government documents to WikiLeaks. […]

READ @ http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/11/manning-defense-strategy/

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* BRADLEY MANNING TREATMENT IN CUSTODY CONCERNS MEPs 

By James Bell, The Guardian UK

[…] The open letter from European parliamentarians, which follows another signed by several hundred US legal scholars, questioned the charges against Manning and warned that his pre-trial treatment may harm the UN’s work elsewhere, “particularly its mandate to investigate allegations of torture and human rights abuses”.

“In order to uphold the rights guaranteed to Bradley Manning under international human rights law and the US constitution, it is imperative that the United Nations special rapporteur be allowed to properly investigate evidence of rights abuses. PFC Manning has a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. People accused of crimes must not be subjected to any form of punishment before being brought to trial,” they wrote.

“We certainly do not understand why an alleged whistleblower is being threatened with the death penalty, or the possibility of life in prison. We also question whether Bradley Manning’s right to due process has been upheld, as he has now spent over 17 months in pre-trial confinement.”

Five MEPs from the UK signed the open letter in support of Manning, who holds dual US and UK citizenships. They were Labour MEPs Richard Howitt and Derek Vaughan, Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor, and Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans.

Manning will attend an Article 32 hearing, the US military equivalent of a pre-trial hearing, on 16 December. This is expected to last five days. Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, has indicated he wishes to call 50 witnesses at the hearing, but military authorities are considered unlikely to grant such a request.

The Article 32 hearing then makes a recommendation to a general as to whether to proceed to a full trial.

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/29/bradley-manning-concerns-mep-letter

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* THE NEW AUTHORITARIANISM

By James Petras, Dissident Voice

We live in a time of dynamic, regressive, regime changes. A period in which major political transformations and the dramatic roll back of a half century of socio-economic legislation are accelerated by a prolonged and deepening economic crises and a world-wide financier led offensive. This essay explores major ongoing regime changes that have a profound impact on governance, the class structures, economic institutions, political freedom and national sovereignty. We delineate a two-stage process of political regression. The first stage involves the transition from a decaying democracy to an oligarchical democracy; the second stage currently unfolding in Europe involves the transition from oligarchical democracy to colonial-technocratic dictatorship. We will identify the specific features of each regime focusing on the specific conditions and socio-economic forces behind each “transition”. We will proceed to clarify the key concepts, their operative meaning: specifically the nature and dynamics of “decaying democracies” (DD), oligarchical democracies (OD), and “colonial technocratic dictatorship” (CTD).

The second half of the essay will detail the politics of CTD, the regime which has moved furthest from the notion of a sovereign representative democracy. We will clarify the differences and similarities between traditional military-civilian and fascist dictatorships and the up-to-date CTD, focusing on the ideology of apolitical expertise and technocratic rule as a preliminary to an exploration of the profoundly colonial hierarchical chain of decision making.

The penultimate section will highlight the reason why the imperial ruling classes and their national collaborators have overturned the pre-existing “democratic” oligarchical ruling formulas of “indirect rule” in favor of a naked power grab. The turn to direct colonial rule (a coup by any other name) was consumated by the major financial ruling classes of Europe and the US.

We will evaluate the socio-economic impact of rule by imperial appointed colonial technocrats, the reason for rule by fiat and force over the previous process of persuasion, manipulation and co-optation.

In the concluding section we will evaluate the polarization of the class struggle in a time of colonial dictatorship, in the context of hollowed out electoral institutions and radical regressive social policies. The essay will address the twin issues of struggle for political freedom and social justice in the face of fiat rule by emerging technocratic colonial rulers.

What is at stake goes beyond the current regime changes to identifying the most basic institutional configurations which will define the life chances, personal and political freedoms of future generations, for decades to come. […]

*** MUST READ @ http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/11/the-new-authoritarianism/

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* WHAT COUNTRY DO WE WANT TO KEEP?

By Consortium News

[…]

We live in truly sobering times – a time in which liberty is under significant and persistent duress. Jesselyn and I are two whistleblowers yoked together by the tragedy of 9/11. As government employees, we became embroiled in two of this era’s most controversial programs in their infancy: torture and warrantless wiretapping as prime evidence of the government’s abject abuse of power and bypassing of the law.

As a Justice Department ethics attorney, Jesselyn advised that the FBI not interrogate John Walker Lindh, an American, without counsel. The FBI ignored this advice, and the interrogation formed the basis of a criminal prosecution in which Radack’s conclusion that the FBI committed an ethics violation “disappeared” from Justice files and was withheld from the court.

While a senior official at the National Security Agency, I found out about the use of electronic eavesdropping on Americans and turning this country into the equivalent of a foreign nation for the purposes of blanket surveillance and data mining – blatantly disregarding a 23-year legal regime that was the exclusive means for the conduct of such electronic collection and surveillance, which carried criminal sanctions when violated.

I also discovered that NSA had withheld critical and crucial intelligence prior to 9/11 and after 9/11, as well as data and information that was available but was undiscovered – and if shared could have made a decisive difference alone in preventing the 9/11 attacks from ever happening.

I also learned about a massively expensive and failing surveillance program under development called TRAILBLAZER that largely served as nothing more than a funding vehicle to enrich government contractors and keep government program managers in charge — when a cheap, highly effective, and operational alternative called THINTHREAD was available in-house, that fully protected Americans’ privacy rights under the law, while also providing superior intelligence to the Nation.

These secret programs, which deliberately bypassed the Constitution and existing laws, were born during the first few critical weeks and months following 9/11, as the result of willful decisions made by the highest levels of our government.

Such shortcuts and end-runs were not necessary, as lawful alternatives existed that would have vastly improved our intelligence capability with the best of American ingenuity and innovation, as well as time-honored, non-coercive interrogation techniques.

Jesselyn and I both raised our concerns through internal channels – including our bosses and Inspector Generals. In my case, I also spoke directly with the NSA Office of the General Counsel, and became a material witness for two 9/11 congressional investigations.

I also became a material witness for a multi-year Department of Defense Inspector General audit of TRAILBLAZER and THINTHREAD at NSA based on a September 2002 Hotline Complaint that attempted to expose massive fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement at NSA and the NSA’s use of a data-collection program that was far more costly, far more threatening to American citizens’ privacy rights and far less effective in supporting critical intelligence requirements than the readily available alternative — namely THINTHREAD.

This complaint was signed by my former NSA colleagues — Kirk Wiebe, Ed Loomis, and Bill Binney as well as Diane Roark, the former professional staffer from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who had oversight accountability for NSA, and had all retired by this time from government service. I was the unnamed senior official in this complaint – working directly at NSA.

The throwing out of THINTHREAD was due to multi-billion dollar “buy versus make” money interests and political connections, all surrounding personal gain and institutional  self-interest. The throwing out of THINTHREAD was also due to blatant ignorance and disregard for policy under the Federal Acquisition Regulations and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

Either way, same result – critical breakthrough information technology, security, and defense innovation and ingenuity, the very best of who we are as Americans – was denied to the American people and precluded from use in providing for the common defense under the Constitution (as were a number of other programs) – with an incalculable loss of intelligence.

It is part of the great historical tragedy of what could have been – including the disruption, even the prevention, of 9-11. THINTHREAD had a laudatory purpose — find terrorists, modernize a very outdated signals intelligence system from end to end and thus protecting the US, its soldiers and allies – while doing it all legally. […]

READ @ http://consortiumnews.com/2011/11/27/what-country-do-we-want-to-keep/

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* POLL NUMBER ‘O THE DAY

by digby, Hullabaloo

43%:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 43% of Likely U.S. Voters agree with the former House speaker and think the protesters should take baths and get jobs. But an identical number (43%) disagree, and 14% more are undecided.

 Who says this country is polarized?

READ @ http://www.digbysblog.blogspot.com/

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* MERCER’S 2011 QUALITY OF LIVING RANKING HIGHLIGHTS – GLOBAL

Summary

In 2011, the world continued to experience instability due to the enduring economic crisis. Economic uncertainty helped provoke social and political unrest of varying degrees in many urban areas. Protests and strikes in numerous North American and Western European cities have been largely peaceful. But violence – and, in places, civil war – have broken out in other regions, endangering the safety of both locals and expatriates.The events of the “Arab Spring” of 2011, when citizens took to the streets to demand regime change in many North African and Middle Eastern countries, have lasted long past spring. Uncertainty continues in Tripoli, Libya, following the death of the country’s former leader, Muammar Qaddafi. And Cairo is still experiencing waves of violence through the fall of 2011, as the government clashes with protesters.

Some of this region’s cities, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and Muscat, Oman, rank quite high in personal safety, mainly due to their internal stability and low crime levels.

Even generally calmer regions have suffered civil disorder. Large protests, some of which were violent, broke out several times this year in Santiago, Chile, in support of higher government involvement and subsidies for education. The threat of economic collapse and resulting austerity measures in Greece brought on repeated violent clashes between street protesters and police in Athens, Greece.

These significant challenges to the security of expatriates and local residents in many locations led Mercer to choose personal safety as the special topic of its 2011 rankings.

Those cities and countries that have escaped the brunt of social unrest and economic downturn have been able to continue investing in urban infrastructure and other provisions for comfortable and enjoyable daily living to improve the quality of living for their residents. If economic and political instability remain a global factor, cities in parts of Asia-Pacific and Western Europe, as well as in Canada, will continue to benefit from their relative stability and wealth of public services and recreational provisions, becoming more attractive destinations for expatriate employees.

READ / VIDEO / TOP 5 LISTS @ http://www.mercer.com/qualityofliving

Nov 292011
 

 

By Matthew Houtsma

We stopped by to visit the Occupy Amsterdam movement while on a long weekend in Holland.  The camp of 100 tents is defiantly located directly on the doorstep of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.

There are protest banners and signs hanging off the tents, from the trees and written in chalk on the sidewalk. A large kitchen tent served as a huge bulletin board for announcements and protest signs.  Despite being festooned with banners and signs the encampment was all clean and organized, with the tents in rows and the equipment neatly stored.

Billy, at the OccupyAmsterdam’s Information booth, explained that the movement had a very good relationship with the local authorities and had not yet endured the sort of harassment seen in the US and Zurich.

“The Mayor of Amsterdam told us he thought we would still be here in the Spring.  We don’t quite believe him, but that is what he said.” Billy told us, with a smile.

They have also received support from the local firefighters.

“One day a firetruck stopped to chat and the fireman said that if a fire broke out at the Stock Exchange, he would let it burn to the ground,” he continued with a laugh.

He also directed us to the ‘needs and resources’ board where there were long lists of both.

“Please check and see if there is anything on the board that you need and, of course, let us know of any resources you wish to offer.”

We returned that night to see a small General Assembly being broadcast via livestream. We send thanks and support to the occupiers in Amsterdam.

Welcome to OccupyAmsterdam!

REVOLUTION!

Occupation encampment on the doorstep of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange

Detail of protest signs

‘Mind Check’ banner

Solidarity Egypt!

Protest sign

Occupation encampment

Nightly General Assembly on livstream

Sunday concert and demonstration

Sunday concert and demonstration

Matt H. @ OccupyAmsterdam

Photos by greydog

Nov 292011
 

 

* OCCUPY WALL STREET IS HERE TO STAY

By Adam Lempel, The Bloody Cross Roads

They keep trying, but they keep failing.  The elites are doing everything in their power to crush the revolution.  But they will continue to fail.  Every time they crack down we just get bigger.

After Bloomberg launched a most vicious, illegal and egregious raid on Liberty Square, we bounced right back.  I spent all Tuesday at the park, and at first it was depressing.  Seeing the police occupying Zuccotti Park in blatant contempt of a preliminary judicial ruling was tough.  But I saw someone holding a sign thanking Bloomberg for being the best propaganda vehicle for our revolution.  He was dead silent as he brandished his message, clearly tired, but steadfast in demeanor.

I walked up to him in the hopes of finding inspiration.  I introduced myself, saying I appreciate his optimism but cannot find a reason to be optimistic myself; “I’ve been here since day one but feel really down; can you tell me why I should be hopeful?” I asked.  A big smile lit his face up, brimming with exuberance and assurance.  He said his name is Murdoch.

“Dude, I’m thirty six.  I’ve been doing activism for years.  But I gave up a while ago.  It seemed hopeless.  But OWS has brought me back into the fight.  You guys give me hope.  We can’t fail.  You know why?  Because we’ve already got people talking.  After only two months, we’ve gotten people to start talking about issues they never discuss in ways they never have before—inequality, democracy, empire, etc.  It’s not supposed to be easy.  The Revolution upon which this country was founded wasn’t easy.  Civil rights wasn’t easy.  Universal suffrage wasn’t easy.  And that’s because change comes through struggle.  That’s the only way.  But we’re gonna win this man.”

That night, OWS hosted its largest General Assembly yet.  Thousands flocked to the park in spite of or perhaps because of the draconian police presence.  We had been punched in the gut, but not knocked out.  We shared stories from that morning’s horrors.  And we moved on, planning our next step as a group, true to our democratic principles. […]

READ @ http://thebloodycrossroads.com/551/occupy-wall-street-is-here-to-stay/

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* ENDGAME: WHEN DEBT IS FRAUD, DEBT FORGIVENESS IS THE LAST AND ONLY REMEDY

By Zeus Yamouyiannis, Ph.D, Of Two Minds

We hold this to be self-evident: When Debt is Fraud, Debt Forgiveness is the Last and Only Remedy.

Today I present an important guest essay by long-time contributor Zeus Yiamouyiannis, who suggests that when debt is essentially fraudulent, then debt forgiveness is both the logical and the only remedy. In case you missed his previous analyses on oftwominds.com, I list some of Zeus’s previous essays at the end of the entry.

Introduction

Finally serious economists are considering a position I have been maintaining and writing about since the 2008 financial meltdown. Whatever its name— erasure, repudiation, abolishment, cancellation, jubilee—debt forgiveness, will have to eventually emerge forefront in global efforts to solve an ongoing systemic financial crisis.

“On a grand scale the only way to erase counterfeit money and (counterfeit) assets of hundreds of trillions of dollars is to erase the debts associated with those fake assets. (Let me underscore again, these are not “toxic” assets, they are fake assets.)… Forgiveness in general, and forgiveness of debt in particular, stand as virtues if they free us up to acknowledge, address, and learn from our culpability, start anew, and create forward.” ( The Big Squeeze, Part 3: The Quiet Rebellion: Civil Disobedience, Local Markets, and Debt Erasure (January 29, 2011)

Debt forgiveness, therefore, accomplishes two important things. It eliminates the increasing and outsized portion of productive enterprise to pay off unproductive obligations, and it clears the ground for new opportunities, new thinking, invention, and entrepreneurialism. This is why the ability to declare bankruptcy is so essential in the pursuit of both happiness and innovation.

Currently we are mired in a “new normal” and calls for “austerity” which are nothing more than the delusional efforts of a status quo to avoid the consequences of its own error and fraud and to profit evermore. So bedazzled by the false wealth created by debt multiplication and its concomitant fantasy of ever-higher returns, this status quo continues to be stupidly amazed that people are not spending and that the economy is not picking up. But how could it be otherwise?

Productive wealth has been trapped in a web of parasitic theft, counterfeiting, liability evasion, non-regulation, and prosecutorial non-accountability. All the fundamental attributes of a functioning exchange economy have been warped to reward creative criminals. I spoke extensively about this in my posts from 2008. ( Imaginary Worth, Empire of Debt: How Modern Finance Created Its Own Downfall (October 15, 2008) […]

READ @ http://www.oftwominds.com/blogsept11/Zeus-debt-forgiveness-9-11.html

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* UNLEASHING THE FUTURE: ADVANCING PROSPERITY THROUGH DEBT FORGIVENESS (PART 1)

By Zeus Yamouyiannis, Ph.D, Of Two Minds

[…]

1) Debt that cannot (vs. “will not”) be practically paid is not a debt in its classical sense. It’s a default. Whether or not people want to recognize this reality is another issue. We recognize that a law that cannot be enforced is not really a law in any practical sense, so why are we dragging our feet with debt? Greece cannot pay its debt by any rational formula. It is already in default. Extending and pretending does not materially change this fact, it only delays recognition of the stark, enduring reality.

2) Debt based in fraudulent lending is also not true debt in any meaningful sense, since the loan along with its obligations originated from something (private fiat) that had no valid authority or exchange value to begin with. Much of the current worldwide debt simply stems from lending based in fraud numbering in the hundreds of trillions of dollars by institutions who did not have adequate collateral (i.e. held insufficient capital reserves, engaged in mark-to-fantasy accounting of their assets, assigned real value to fake assets like credit default swaps, etc.). A lending body cannot give effectively nothing to someone (claiming it is something) and legitimately expect to get something real back.

3) When debt systems are flooded with fraudulent currencies and claims, it is not true that someone, either the borrower or lender, will have to pay the “false value”-backed debt. You are not legally allowed to profit from crime nor legally obligated to support crime. This precludes the payment of many of the debts currently in circulation. In committing wide-scale control fraud, major financial institutions have broken laws. The laws they have broken are enforceable; they just have yet to be enforced.

However, even with successful prosecution, bankruptcy proceedings, and nationalization/receivership of offending institutions, we are left with a practical problem: Real currency has been mixed with fake currency, real debt with fake debt. Chains of title and claims to property have been so forged, electronically registered, diced up, and distorted as to make it difficult to sort valid ownership from invalid. When real money has been high-jacked and “disappeared” as with Bernie Madoff, what can be done to address this? These will be points of discussion later in this article series.

4) The mathematics of debt, even without fraud, would require periodic forgiveness or at least abatement. There must be ways for debts to be adjusted to contingencies. Economies, like families, go through good and bad times. Debt obligations are constructed as if there are only good times. Basically, the only way to pay off a debt is to outrun it in a time of relative stability. Even in eras of surplus, debt takes a big bite out productive effort, but it quickly becomes consuming as one gets behind in payments and as more and more of the fruits of effort must go to servicing debt.

At that point, loans become chains that tie people to mediocre jobs and underwater houses and no longer engines of mobile growth. Debt forgiveness recognizes this contingency and facilitates liberty, productivity, and global quality of life as the more salient indicators of vital economies. Policies and contracts ultimately must be in the interests of people’s well-being for them to be legitimate. Conversely, when debt is ring-fenced from contingency as with student loans, it will be become inherently corrupt and unjust.

5) In any rearrangement of the debt system, productivity and stakeholdership should be rewarded and parasitism should be punished. It’s easy to forget that people used to go to a banking agent to get a loan to grow their net financial worth through productive enterprise. In such a relationship the bank gained a stake in your success, not your misfortune. If we are serious about rewarding well-applied effort, then it would make sense to peg debt and debt obligations to the productivity growth curve of an enterprise or domestic product. Lending institutions, then, would essentially buy a longer term stake in the success of enterprises it funds, exert a due diligence proportional to its interest, and both benefit from and share the burden of inevitable rises and falls in growth.

In the housing-bubble debacle the incentives were exactly opposite. Irresponsibility was rewarded precisely because banks could sell off fraudulently documented loans as quickly as they could be signed. In late capitalism, bank support for productivity has been converted into support for exploitation and victimization, using repayment shortfalls to repossess assets from borrowers even though the bank loans were drawn from “money” backed by counterfeit assets. That has to be reversed—real money for real enterprise backed by real assets.

6) Things go down and not always up. “New era” rhetoric where financial gravity is suspended is a dangerous delusion. When we realize this simple fact and combine it with rewarding productivity and stakeholdership, we realize that our revenues and values will fluctuate dependent upon demand, environmental limits, and a host of other factors, some within our control and some not. Fighting this empirical fact, on the other hand, creates damaging and unsustainable living. Why not tie notions of prosperity and economic organization to optimizing our productivity, by identifying and working within the changing conditions, not distorting those conditions by taking on debt-credit to be paid by later generations?

7) The living shall not be beholden to the dead. When an individual person dies with debts, what can be collected from their remaining assets is collected and the rest is written off. Yet the opposite occurs with generational debt. Irresponsible borrowing by past generations is foisted on succeeding generations. The sins of the forefathers are preserved with interest to gouge the quality of life of younger people who neither decided upon nor benefited from irresponsible borrowing.

Certainly, we now see scorched-earth class warfare of the 1% against everyone else, but we are ignoring an even more profound unintended warfare by an entire generation of post-WWII world citizens against the wellness and interests of its own children. How could such a destructive myopia so thoroughly pervade society and bring us this critical historical inflection point? This will be examined in the next part.

READ @ http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2011/11/unleashing-future-advancing-prosperity.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+google%2FRzFQ+%28oftwominds%29

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* UC DAVIS PEPPER-SPRAY INCIDENT REVEALS WEAKNESS UP TOP

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

Was absolutely mesmerized last night watching the viral video of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying. It was totally amazing, simultaneously one of most depressing and inspiring things I’ve seen in many years.

To recap for those who haven’t seen it: police in paramilitary gear line up in front of a group of Occupy protesters peacefully assembled on a quad pathway. Completely unprovoked, police decide to douse the whole group of sitting protesters with pepper spray. There is crying and chaos and panic, but the wheezing protesters sit resolutely in place and refuse to move despite the assault.

Finally, in what to me is the most amazing part, the protesters gather together and move forward shouting “Shame On You! Shame On You!” over and over again. You can literally see the painful truth of those words cutting the resolve of the policemen and forcing them backwards.

Glenn Greenwald’s post at Salon says this far better than I can, but there are undeniable conclusions one can draw from this incident. The main thing is that the frenzied dissolution of due process and individual rights that took took place under George Bush’s watch, and continued uncorrected even when supposed liberal constitutional lawyer Barack Obama took office, has now come full circle and become an important element to the newer political controversy involving domestic/financial corruption and economic injustice.

As Glenn points out, when we militarized our society in response to the global terrorist threat, we created a new psychological atmosphere in which the use of force and military technology became a favored method for dealing with dissent of any kind. As Glenn writes:

The U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil… It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters. […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/uc-davis-pepper-spray-incident-reveals-weakness-up-top-20111122#ixzz1f31486jZ

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* SCOTT OLSEN, IRAQ VET INJURED BY POLICE AT OCCUPY OAKLAND, INTERVIEWS AFTER RELEASE FROM HOSPITAL

By Brad Friedman, BradBlog

[…] In the video interview, Olsen displays a remarkable memory of the events of the night — particularly given the bloodied, apparent state of shock he was seen in as he was carried off by fellow demonstrators shouting “Medic! Medic!” in video tapes of the incident.

As seen in the interview, he also now has trouble with his speech, thanks to the damage sustained to the left frontal lobe of his brain, according to David Id, who posted the interview on Monday at the East Bay Indy Media website.

Olsen tells Id that his condition has been improving. We’d say remarkably so, given the injury he sustained just over one month ago, which sent him to the hospital in critical condition with a fractured skull and a swelling brain in the early morning hours of October 26th.

His indomitable spirit, evidenced throughout the short interview in which he offers a message to police, politicians and demonstrators alike, is remarkable as well, as he is seen smiling while responding to each of Id’s questions, explaining what he recalls of that night in the moments both before and after he was shot…

“I took a step back and I walked across the right a little bit. I had my phone out. I was texting something to a friend of mine and next thing I know I’m down and on the ground and there are people above me who are trying to help me,” he says.

The responders trying to help him were momentarily waylaid as one of the law enforcement officials hurled an explosive canister amongst them as they were attempting to render aid, in another apparent violation of the Oakland PD Training Bulletin [PDF] created as part of the federal consent decree issued following similarly inappropriate behavior by the department in 2003 and 2005.

“They ended up carrying me away,” Olsen says about his fellow demonstrators. “I didn’t want them to. I wanted to get up and stay there, pick up my bag, but they carried me away.”

“They asked me my name several times and I couldn’t answer them. I couldn’t answer what — I don’t know if I couldn’t recall the answer or if I couldn’t spit it out. But that’s when I knew, yeah, okay, it’s time to go. Time to let them take care of me.”

Olsen’s failure to respond to those carrying him away — as he is seen bleeding from the head with his eyes wide open — is one of the more startling moments of the video taken the night he was shot. [That video, along with his Sunday interview, both follow at the end of this article.]

Asked to explain why he had come to join the demonstration that night, he says he received a call that people were needed in support of Occupy Oakland after the eviction from Oscar Grant Plaza that morning. He says when he was hit he was “standing up for our rights to exist here, with a veteran who was there with me, and all the people who were there. We were attacked and I ended up in the hospital that night.”

His friend was navy veteran Joshua Shepherd who, he says, he met via Iraq Veterans Against the War after moving to the Bay Area. Shepherd is seen in a remarkable piece of video tape, standing without a gas mask amidst rising clouds of CS gas, holding a VeteransforPeace.org flag in one hand and clutching an open copy of the U.S. Constitution in the other, as he stood stone still, staring at the law enforcement agents on the other side of the barricade they’d created at 14th and Broadway that night. […]

READ AND VIDEO @ http://www.bradblog.com/?p=8960

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* DEMOCRAT CALLS FOR HEARING ON ‘SECRET’ BANK LOANS FROM THE FEDERAL RESERVE

By Vicki Needham, The Hill

A top House Democrat is calling for a hearing with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke following a report that the central bank secretly committed more than $7 trillion to save banks during the financial crisis.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (Md.) sent a letter on Monday to panel Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) requesting the committee look into how banks “benefitted from trillions of dollars in previously undisclosed government loans provided at below-market rates.”

“Many Americans are struggling to understand why banks deserve such preferential treatment while millions of homeowners are being denied assistance and are at increasing risk of foreclosure,” Cummings said.

[…]

The request comes on the heels of a Bloomberg report that said the Fed secretly committed more than $7 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the nation’s top financial institutions, and that these banks “reaped an estimated $13 billion of income” on the below-market rates.

“Unfortunately, officials from many of these financial institutions declined to comment about these loans, including officials from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley,” Cummings writes.

Information about the loans was withheld from Congress as lawmakers debated and passed the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform bill and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, Cummings said. Banks also failed to disclose the information to their shareholders.

[…]

This “secret financing helped America’s biggest financial firms get bigger and go on to pay employees as much as they did at the height of the housing bubble,” according to economists cited in the report.

READhttp://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/banking-financial-institutions/195675-top-democrats-calls-for-hearing-with-bernanke-on-secret-bank-loans

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* HOW PAULSON GAVE HEDGE FUNDS ADVANCE WORD

By Richard Teitelbaum, Bloomberg

[…] After a perfunctory discussion of the market turmoil, the fund manager says, the discussion turned to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Paulson said he had erred by not punishing Bear Stearns shareholders more severely. The secretary, then 62, went on to describe a possible scenario for placing Fannie and Freddie into “conservatorship” — a government seizure designed to allow the firms to continue operations despite heavy losses in the mortgage markets.

Paulson explained that under this scenario, the common stock of the two government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, would be effectively wiped out. So too would the various classes of preferred stock, he said.

The fund manager says he was shocked that Paulson would furnish such specific information — to his mind, leaving little doubt that the Treasury Department would carry out the plan. The managers attending the meeting were thus given a choice opportunity to trade on that information. […]

READ @ http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-29/how-henry-paulson-gave-hedge-funds-advance-word-of-2008-fannie-mae-rescue.html

Nov 282011
 

 

* ASSASSINATING THE RULE OF LAW

By Leonard C. Goodman, In These Times

Of all the promises made by candidate Barack Obama, it was his promise to end the lawlessness of the Bush years by closing Guantanamo, ending torture and restoring the United States’ reputation for justice that got me out in the streets and knocking on doors. And it is President Obama’s failure to keep these promises that makes it impossible for me to support him again.

President Bush’s foreign policy was roundly criticized by most of the world and by candidate Obama. Following 9/11, Bush’s foreign policy was simple: If my administration decides that you are a terrorist or a terrorist supporter, we reserve the right to invade and occupy your country, kill you or send you halfway around the world to a prison camp.

To implement this policy, administration lawyers wrote memos making it all legal for their masters. First, Bush’s lawyers declared that the one-sentence “Authorization for Use of Military Force” enacted by a frightened Congress one week after September 11, 2001, authorized undeclared wars and the mass incarceration of terror suspects.

But Bush’s team wanted still more power—they wanted legal authority to torture suspects. So Bush’s lawyers wrote memos stating that torture under the president’s command would not violate federal law (which proscribes “torture”), or the U.N. Convention Against Torture, as long as the torturer lacks the intent to cause “prolonged mental harm” or “death or organ failure.” One of these memos, authored by Office of Legal Councel attorney Jay Bybee, included a convenient section called “Interpretation to Avoid Constitutional Problems.” […]

READ @ http://www.inthesetimes.org/article/12288/assassinating_the_rule_of_law

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* MAKING THE MOST OF COOPERATION

By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times

[…] The flurry of democratic enterprise has been guided by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a former schoolteacher who visited Mondragon, Spain, and recognized a possible path out of the poverty and unemployment that plague her city.

The Basque hill town is dominated by Mondragon Corp., a web of cooperatives that employ 83,000 workers and together represent Spain’s seventh-largest business. Co-op clusters based on Mondragon’s model have emerged in Cleveland and the Bronx, N.Y., among other cities.

Richmond, with a 16% unemployment rate, hopes to follow suit.

The city’s industrial roots date back more than a century, when it was home to the Santa Fe Railroad terminus and a Standard Oil refinery. World War II shipyards swelled the population to nearly its current 103,000. But Richmond has struggled since and is regularly listed among the nation’s 25 most dangerous cities.

Since August, Bay Area co-op veteran Terry Baird — a burly man with a gray beard and a penchant for South African freedom songs — has been on the city payroll, helping to piece together cooperative ventures in Richmond’s economically barren pockets.

Mondragon Corp. was created in 1956 and fine-tuned over half a century, McLaughlin said, “but you have to start somewhere. One of the prerequisites of starting a co-op is need, and that is something that we have in Richmond.”

Demand matters too. Baird aims to start small, with food and service co-ops such as a plumber’s collective that won’t require hefty upfront investment. Then the city hopes to bring government and other big employers on board, setting up ventures to meet their buying needs. […]

READ @ http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-richmond-20111128,0,464542,full.story

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*THE MAGIC OF DIASPORAS

Immigrant networks are a rare bright spark in the world economy. Rich countries should welcome them

The Economist

[…] Government as well as business gains from the spread of ideas through diasporas. Foreign-educated Indians, including the prime minister, Manmohan Singh (Oxford and Cambridge) and his sidekick Montek Ahluwalia (Oxford), played a big role in bringing economic reform to India in the early 1990s. Some 500,000 Chinese people have studied abroad and returned, mostly in the past decade; they dominate the think-tanks that advise the government, and are moving up the ranks of the Communist Party. Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution, an American think-tank, predicts that they will be 15-17% of its Central Committee next year, up from 6% in 2002. Few sea turtles call openly for democracy. But they have seen how it works in practice, and they know that many countries that practise it are richer, cleaner and more stable than China.

As for the old world, its desire to close its borders is understandable but dangerous. Migration brings youth to ageing countries, and allows ideas to circulate in millions of mobile minds. That is good both for those who arrive with suitcases and dreams and for those who should welcome them.

READ @ http://www.economist.com/node/21538742

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* MEASURING CORPORATE TAX DODGERS BY INDUSTRY

By John Iacovelli, OpEdNews.com

Most U.S. citizens understand that through a variety of loopholes, U.S. based corporations have reduced their U.S corporate tax burdens tremendously over the last forty years. With a new study just published, we can gauge, comparatively, which specific industry categories are the worst offenders. This article documents this via rough extrapolation and provides a bar chart showing tax payments by industry category in 2009, and what they would have paid with a 25% corporate income tax, no loopholes. First the graph, then the explanation, and finally, the data table. For each industry, the bottom bar shows what they paid. The top bar shows how much more they would have paid at 25%:

[…]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/articles/Measuring-Corporate-Tax-Do-by-John-Iacovelli-111127-396.html

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* OVER HALF OF ALL U.S. SUBSIDIES GO TO FOUR INDUSTRIES. GUESS WHICH ONES?

By Joe Romm, Think Progress

Citizens for Tax Justice has analyzed corporate tax rates from 2008 to 2010. The report [PDF] examines over half of the Fortune 500 companies.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the richest industries get the biggest subsidies, starting with finance and Big Energy.  That’s how the 1% operate.

Notably, 56 percent of the total tax subsidies went to just four industries: financial, utilities, tele-communications, and oil, gas & pipelines. 

[…]

But hey, Solyndra got a $500 million loan and went bankrupt so that is story the media focuses on over and over again, rather than the big robbery in broad daylight.

READ @ http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/11/13/366988/over-half-of-all-us-tax-subsidies-go-to-four-industries-guess-which-ones/

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* WHY DO LIBERALS KEEP SANITIZING THE OBAMA STORY?

By Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

When I pleaded with liberals to stop ignoring President Obama’s failures on civil liberties, foreign policy, and the separation of powers, treating them as if they didn’t even merit a mention, the quintessential example of the troubling phenomenon hadn’t yet been published. Now it has. In New York, one of America’s premier magazines, Jonathan Chait, a sharp, experienced political writer, has penned a 5,000 word essaypurporting to defend the president’s first term. It is aimed at liberal critics who, in Chait’s telling, naively expected too much.

Tellingly, as Chait writes for affluent urban liberals who railed against the Bush Administration’s excesses in the War on Terrorism, he neither desires nor feels compelled to grapple with President Obama’s approach to foreign policy, national security, or homeland security. The closest he comes in a piece overwhelmingly focused on domestic policy and political maneuvering is the breezy assertion that Obama “has enjoyed a string of foreign-policy successes — expanding targeted strikes against Al Qaeda (including one that killed Osama bin Laden), ending the war in Iraq, and helping to orchestrate an apparently successful international campaign to rescue Libyan dissidents and then topple a brutal kleptocratic regime.”

Isn’t that something?

Apparently it isn’t even worthy of mention that Obama’s actions in Libya violated the War Powers Resolution, the president’s own professed standards for what he can do without Congressional permission, and the legal advice provided to him by the Office of Legal Counsel.

In Chait’s telling, expanded drone strikes in Pakistan are a clear success. Why even grapple with Jane Mayer’s meticulously researched article on the risks of an drone war run by the CIA, Glenn Greenwald’s polemics on the innocent civilians being killed, or Jeff Goldberg and Marc Ambinder’s reporting on the Pakistani generals who are moving lightly guarded nuclear weapons around the country in civilian trucks as a direct consequence of the cathartic bin Laden raid. […]

But it won’t do for smart writers and prestigious publications to keep writing big think pieces about Obama’s tenure that read as if some of its most significant, uncomfortable moments never happened; as if it’s reasonable for an informed liberal to vote for him in Election 2012 as happily as in 2008. Civil liberties and executive power and war-making aren’t fringe concerns, or peripheral disappointments to lament in the course of leaving them to Charlie Savage and Jane Mayer. […]

READ @ http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/11/why-do-liberals-keep-sanitizing-the-obama-story/248890/

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* LIFE AFTER OCCUPATION

From Mobile, Ala., to Chicago, lessons in the importance of holding territory

By Arun Gupt, Salon

The post-occupation movement is taking shape across America. In New York, Occupy Wall Street is mulling next steps now that Zuccotti Park has been politically cleansed.Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore., have been evicted. And other  occupations are staring at imminent police action, including New Orleans, Detroit and Philadelphia.

In Chicago, which has been unable to secure a public space, the Occupy movement is trying to figure out how to sustain a public presence through a harsh winter while staging creative actions that capture attention. And while Occupy Mobile in the conservative stronghold of Alabama was shut down two weeks ago without much attention from the national news media, the local movement has not gone quietly into the night, providing one answer to the question: Can an occupation movement survive if it no longer occupies a space?

The answer, based on my visits to occupation sites around the country, is:  “Yes, but …” […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2011/11/21/life_after_occupation/singleton/

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* EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE SAYS ISPs CANNOT BE FORCED TO BE COPYRIGHT COPS

By Mike Masnick, Techdirt

from the good-for-them dept

Last Thursday, as many of us in the US were getting ready for a nice turkey dinner, the European Court of Justice issued a very nice ruling we should all be thankful for, saying that it is against EU law to require an ISP to set up a filtering system to prevent copyright infringement.

EU law precludes the imposition of an injunction by a national court which requires an internet service provider to install a filtering system with a view to preventing the illegal downloading of files.

Such an injunction does not comply with the prohibition on imposing a general monitoring obligation on such a provider, or with the requirement to strike a fair balance between, on the one hand, the right to intellectual property, and, on the other, the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information. […]

READ @ http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111127/14274716903/european-court-justice-says-isps-cannot-be-forced-to-be-copyright-cops.shtml

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* WES CLARK AND THE NEOCON DREAM

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

In October, 2007, Gen. Wesley Clark gave a speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco (seven-minute excerpt in the video below) in which he denounced what he called “a policy coup” engineered by neocons in the wake of 9/11. After recounting how a Pentagon source had told him weeks after 9/11 of the Pentagon’s plan to attack Iraq notwithstanding its non-involvement in 9/11, this is how Clark described the aspirations of the “coup” being plotted by Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and what he called “a half dozen other collaborators from the Project for the New American Century”:

Six weeks later, I saw the same officer, and asked: “Why haven’t we attacked Iraq? Are we still going to attack Iraq?”

He said: “Sir, it’s worse than that. He said – he pulled up a piece of paper off his desk – he said: “I just got this memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office. It says we’re going to attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years – we’re going to start with Iraq, and then we’re going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.”

Clark said the aim of this plot was this: “They wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control.” He then recounted a conversation he had had ten years earlier with Paul Wolfowitz — back in 1991 — in which the then-number-3-Pentagon-official, after criticizing Bush 41 for not toppling Saddam, told Clark: “But one thing we did learn [from the Persian Gulf War] is that we can use our military in the region – in the Middle East – and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet regimes – Syria, Iran [sic], Iraq – before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.” Clark said he was shocked by Wolfowitz’s desires because, as Clark put it: “the purpose of the military is to start wars and change governments? It’s not to deter conflicts?” […]

READ @http://www.salon.com/2011/11/26/wes_clark_and_the_neocon_dream/singleton/

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*COMFORTABLY NUMB

By Washington’s Blog

As I observe the zombie like reactions of Americans to our catastrophic economic highway to collapse, the continued plundering and pillaging of the national treasury by criminal Wall Street bankers, non-enforcement of existing laws against those who committed the largest crime in history, and reaction to young people across the country getting beaten, bludgeoned, shot with tear gas and pepper sprayed by police, I can’t help but wonder whether there is anyone home. Why are most Americans so passively accepting of these calamitous conditions? How did we become so comfortably numb? I’ve concluded Americans have chosen willful ignorance over thoughtful critical thinking due to their own intellectual laziness and overpowering mind manipulation by the elite through their propaganda emitting media machines. Some people are awaking from their trance, but the vast majority is still slumbering or fuming at erroneous perpetrators.

Both the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement are a reflection of the mood change in the country, which is a result of government overreach, political corruption, dysfunctional economic policies, and a financial system designed to enrich the few while defrauding the many. The common theme is anger, frustration and disillusionment with a system so badly broken it appears unfixable through the existing supposedly democratic methods. The system has been captured by an oligarchy of moneyed interests from the financial industry, mega-corporations, and military industrial complex, protected by their captured puppets in Washington DC and sustained by the propaganda peddling corporate media. The differences in political parties are meaningless as they each advocate big government solutions to all social, economic, foreign relations, and monetary issues.

There is confusion and misunderstanding regarding the culprits in this drama. It was plain to me last week when I read about a small group of concerned citizens in the next town over who decided to support the Occupy movement by holding a nightly peaceful march to protest the criminal syndicate that is Wall Street and a political system designed to protect them. My local paper asked for people’s reaction to this Constitutional exercising of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Here is a sampling of the comments:

“What are those Occupy people thinking?! The whole concept is foreign to me. There are always going to be the haves and the have nots. Get over it. Blame yourself for not paying more attention in school or not working hard enough. Just wish people would take responsibility.”

“If they worked half as hard actually working as they do being a pain in everyone else’s ass, they’d be rich! Being born does not guarantee success or wealth. Only hard work does. Maybe we should let them all occupy a jail cell or two.”

“If the goal is to irritate hardworking suburban commuters on their way home, that sounds like the perfect time and location.”

“Let’s hope they don’t pitch tents and trash Lansdale. They need to look for a job, not occupy the streets.”

“I work, and even if I wasn’t working I wouldn’t (march); I would be out looking for a JOB!”

I was dumbfounded at the rage directed towards mostly young people who haven’t even begun their working careers and have played no part in the destruction of our economic system underway for the last 30 years. The people making these statements are middle aged, middle class suburbanites. They seem to be just as livid as the OWS protestors, but their ire is being directed towards the only people who have taken a stand against Wall Street greed and Washington D.C. malfeasance. I’m left scratching my head trying to understand their animosity towards people drawing attention to the enormous debt based ponzi scheme that is our country, versus their silent acquiescence to the transfer of trillions in taxpayer dollars to the criminal bankers that have destroyed the worldwide financial system. I can only come to the conclusion the average American has become so apathetic, willfully ignorant of facts and reality, distracted by the techno-gadgets that run their lives, uninterested in anything beyond next week’s episode of Dancing with the Stars or Jersey Shore, and willing to let the corporate media moguls form their opinions for them through relentless propaganda, the only thing that will get their attention is an absolute collapse of our economic scheme. Uninformed, unconcerned, intellectually vacant Americans will get exactly that in the not too distant future.

[…]

The oligarchy of moneyed interests have done a spectacular job convincing the working middle class they should be angry at 20 year old OWS protestors, illegal immigrants and the inner city welfare class, rather than the true culprits – the Federal Reserve, Wall Street banks and mega-corporations. This is a testament to the power of propaganda and the intellectual slothfulness of the average American. U.S. based mega-corporations fired 864,000 higher wage American workers between 2000 and 2010, while hiring almost 3 million workers in low wage foreign countries, using their billions in cash to buy back their own stocks, and paying corporate executives shamefully excessive compensation. The corporate mainstream media treats corporate CEO’s like rock stars as if they deserve to be compensated at a level 243 times the average worker. The S&P 500 consists of the 500 biggest companies in America and while the executives of these companies have reaped millions in compensation, the stock index for these companies is at the exact level it was on July 9, 1998. Over the last thirteen years workers were fired by the thousands, shareholders earned 0% (negative 39% on an inflation adjusted basis), and executives got fabulously rich. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/11/comfortably-numb.html

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* THE DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL: ONLY HOPE IS THE UDALL AMENDMENT

By Jeralyn, TalkLeft

Unfortunately, the Senate is scheduled to vote Monday or Tuesday on the 2012 Defense Authorization bill with the horrible detainee provisions. The bill is a primer for indefinite military detention until the end of time, considering it encompasses more than al Qaida and the war on terror is endless. It gives the military total control over detainees.

Sen. Levin and McCain are pushing for a vote on new Amendments for Monday evening. The bill is S. 1867, introduced on Nov. 15. You can read or skim the 682 pages here. The detainee matters are in Subtitle D, starting on page 359 with Section 1031. They go through page 378 and Section 1037. The Congressional Record for Nov. 18 has the most recent events, including a statement by Sen. Levin as to why he thinks the Levin/McCain Amendment is more than fair and the Administration’s objections are unfounded.

There are dozens of pending amendments, including the most important one by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, who explains his amendment here [More…]

The text of Udall’s Amendment is here. Essentially, it would strike the detainee provisions and instead insert a timetable to come up with a new plan.

Here’s the action page to tell your senator to vote for the Udall Amendment.

The time has passed for “tweaks” to the provisions. The best course now is for Udall’s amendment to pass and for nothing to be included in the Senate bill on detainees. […]

READ http://www.talkleft.com/story/2011/11/27/214154/82