Feb 062013
 

 

DRINKING WITH MÉLENCHON

“O my God / am I here all alone?”

Iddhis Bing

Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Jean-Luc Mélenchon

I want to tell you a story. Yes, I know, 99GetSmart is not exactly a story teller’s site – although we could debate that – but I am going to tell it because it illumines a few dark corners that can not only bear the light, but that could be useful to those who are engaged in airing and publicizing what Ed Dorn once called Heavy Business in the White World, while attempting to aide those who are on the receiving end of the World’s Big Stick.

If I do that, I have to pass up the chance to talk about the untold juicy morsels that flew across the desk in the last few days, viz., in cash-strapped, austeritarian Spain, where the priest’s favorite altar boy, Mariano Rajoy, is in power, it has just now been discovered that party of which he is the head, the Partido Popular, keeps two set of organizational books, and in the second and more compelling one, they have parked 22 million Euros in a Swiss bank account. For what purpose? This seems to me worth investigating for any number of reasons (how it got out, the persons involved, how badly it will damage the PP, etc.) Maybe the Partido Popular is just planning ahead and when Austerity collapses, as it inevitably will, the upper echelons will flee to Switzerland and retire on their savings. Plus there is news from Greece, where Blackwater, the security firm close to the Bush mafia, will now be protecting the Greek parliament from the rabble.

But instead I am going to tell you a story, a bit of old news, because I think it reveals a little bit about the current state of things. It’s just too damn good to pass up.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a French politician, a long-time Socialist close to François Mitterand, who eventually split with the Socialist Party because he could not tolerate their drift towards the center, and formed the Front de Gauche. The F de G ran seriously for the first time in 2012′s presidential race and then in the legislative elections in June. Mélenchon ended up doing very poorly, scoring 11.4% of the vote (in contrast to Marine le Pen’s 17.3%) for a variety of reasons that if you try to explain it, becomes a kind of Rohrsach Test of your feelings about French politics: it was his first national campaign, the party was new, everyone was sick of Sarkozy so they coalesced around the one candidate who offended almost no one and had a chance to win, François Hollande, and who did. There are many other possibilities, none of which explain the dreaded Le Pen’s 17% share of the electorate.

You could argue that a large swath of the French electorate might say that Mélenchon, his quick verbal repartee and aggressive, unashamed leftwing take on issues appeals to them but they would never actually go into the voting booth and pull the lever for the man.

Now I read what Mélenchon writes and have published a translation of an interview with the man, and I find him smart, energetic, straight-on – even when, during the course of an interview it looks like his eyes are about to pop out of his head. Does he wake up angry in the morning? Is that a problem for you? Maybe we need a few more angry people around. The man engages with individuals when he meets them, he is committed to social revolution (yes, he dares to use the word from time to time), and he has provided the best ongoing criticism of Hollande’s presidency over the last six months. The French elect a monarch and give him five years to prove he deserves the kingdom. If not, off with his head. Mélenchon keeps the blade sharp.

OK, since I am not a Protestant and believe neither in purity of motive nor even in the desirability of a pure outcome, I find the following story vastly instructive and even infuriating – but not for the reasons you think. Revealing, certainly, because it tells us a little bit about our current politicians and about us.

It’s a true story, I have it direct from the horse’s mouth, that is to say, one of the participants – the man who found himself with Melénchon’s hands aimed at his throat. The story had a little play in the French press but never a whisper of it among the English speakers so, you read it here first. The photojournalist is Guillaume Binet and the journalist who accompanied him is Marion Mourgue. The story is old and it’s still good.

My friend works in politics, knows Mélenchon, has photographed and spoken with him on several occasions. And he also knows that Mélenchon had, in 2010, characterized the UMP politico and then-Minister of the Interior Brice Hortefeux in the following words: “C’est sa tête qui est un terrain vague, à cet homme-là. Il n’y a rien dedans: des mauvaises herbes, des pensées névrosées, la peur de l’étranger, la haine de tout le monde. Pour dire autant de bêtises et s’y prendre aussi mal.”

To wit: “The man’s head is a vacant lot. There’s nothing inside it except weeds, neurotic thoughts, fear of foreigners, hatred for everyone. Just talking about it is bad for you.”

Strasbourg. The European Parliament building, the 26th of October. 1:30 in the afternoon, after a vote on the budget. Binet is passing through with Mourgue and in crossing the ground floor, takes a short cut through the bar.

And there at the bar, sharing a glass of champagne with none other than Brice Hortefeux on a beautiful autumn day in Strasbourg, is Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The only customers at that hour.

Binet walks on. He does not take out his camera, he does not play the paparazzi, he does not do anything more than gently poke his friend in the ribs with his elbow.

This is an interesting scene. From my own, limited point of view, I’m not sure I want politicians to talk to each other. Every time they communicate it’s a conspiracy against the people. Maybe they should be kept in isolation, or some sort of public pillory. Of course, I also believe in the moderate application of the guillotine for pols. (Every other week?) But there’s no law against talking.

And what happens next? Mélenchon charges my friend, who let it be observed, enjoys a rather strong height advantage over Jean-Luc, as well being twenty years younger. But – ah, champagne, the great equalizer. Mélenchon decides to go for broke and screaming that he knows this piece of shit journalist is going to make a story out of the fact that he, the one and only Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is drinking with a prominent right wing pol in the Parliament bar. He charges Binet, yelling “Mais racontez-le donc, hein ! Jean-Luc Mélenchon et Brice Hortefeux qui discutent ensemble, ah ça vous plaît, hein, ça vous amuse !” (“Go ahead and tell the story, so what! Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Brice Hortefeux talking together, you really like it, ha! You think it’s amusing!”) Clearly, Mélenchon shares my opinion of what happens when politicians get together for a chat.

He gets his hands up around my friend’s neck and maybe he starts to squeeze but Mr. Vacant Lot Hortefeux comes to the rescue and slipping his arms around Mélenchon, pulls him off. Upshot? A brief media flurry and for the next several months Mélenchon regards the photo-journalist – who did not do his job, that is to say, took no photos before, during or after, they did not tweet the incident – with a withering contempt and a refusal to talk.

A rich scene, no? Maybe not Shakespeare but still compelling. In a perverse way I admire Mélenchon for being so explicit about his relation to the press, for making the point irrefutably clear that the press and the politicians have completely different interests. If M. makes it to the Palais Elysée one day, maybe he’ll put a boxing ring in the back yard.

I told this story last night to a mixed crowd of French and Americans and the response was, stupefaction on the part of the Americans, who hardly know who Mélenchon is and disbelief on the part of the French – that takes some doing. A few denied that it was even possible. “Never! Mélenchon hates Hortefuex, he would never drink champagne with him….!” Hence, this scene, which can be viewed from so many angles, becomes the Rohrsach test mentioned earlier.

I want to argue that this incident, based on your knowledge of Melénchon and your partiality or aversion to left-wing politics, reveals your regard for politicians as a class.

Because that is what they are – a class with a specific function. In the U.S. it is obligatory to believe in a politician, to believe that this or that self-motivated hustler is going to fix things. He is going to change things – even when it is obvious that the politician, as a member of a class, has absolutely no interest in the vague wave of change that he constantly alludes to in his speeches. His goal, if he has one, is to readjust the status quo ever so slightly in favor of his pals. But that doesn’t stop large numbers of people from falling in love with a politician, and the true believer stays in love after all evidence of infidelity is in. One stays in love with a politician after they have betrayed – by necessity – everything they said to get elected, and go on betraying until their last day in office. (I can’t help but remember Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich on his very last day as president. But that boyo offers such rich, copious evidence of betrayal, one hardly knows where to begin.) Reagan, Clinton, Obama – recent American history offers such splendid examples of betrayal. The great advantage possessed by the Bush dynasty is that they never betrayed anyone – they simply and brazenly acted on the interests of their monied class, and never apologized for it.

This is the moment when you, dear reader, leap out of your chair and accuse me of being a cynic. Maybe you even hurl your glass at me – because I have dared to tell you that most love is not love, and in any case, the mere act of believing in a politician of whatever stripe is tantamount to asking to be betrayed.  Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Most journalists make the same mistake, and are, in effect, in one camp or another. Melénchon knew this – he simply chose the wrong target, and made an enemy when he didn’t have to. Which may help explain his 11.4% of the vote.

Politicians occupy a very small portion of the political bandwidth, and the untiring obsession with what they are doing or saying obscures a simple fact: their power derives, not wholly but substantially, from the people from whom they stole it. If people really and truly stopped waiting for politicians to deliver a fraction of what they say they will… the jig would be up. The obsession with politicians makes it endlessly easy for us to avoid looking closely at what the people are doing and making a critique of that. It is the blind trance of our love affair, the demise of a republic.

Meanwhile, Greece, whose government is as close to a protection racket as can be imagined, has just announced a deal with the notorious American firm Blackwater, to provide “security” – from the people. Drones will in all likelihood be patrolling the skies over the Parthenon very soon. But if the Greeks stopped paying attention to their governors, if they stopped waiting to see how Syriza does in the next election, if they decided to take back a bit of the power they have so recklessly given away… ?

None of which should be construed as that lowly seconal, advice, to the Greek people but taken for exactly what it is: the description of a predicament. Criticism never solves anything. It isn’t meant to. It’s meant to break the silence about an intolerable situation. That’s enough, but it will have a tough time with Americans, who want instant solutions to intractable problems. And meanwhile half of Paris dreams of living in New York and the world pines for American solutions that after 200 years have yet to arrive.

The politicians have their hands around all of our throats, while we, ever patient, persist in believing that this is their tortured form of love, and if we just wait awhile, they will come to their senses and set things aright. Who is the cynic in this equation?

Iddhis Bing

Jan 042012
 

* NYPD ARRESTS OPERATORS OF OCCUPY WALL STREET LIVESTREAM

By Stephen D. Foster Jr., Addicting Information

In the absence of traditional media coverage that Tea Party protests enjoyed, the Occupy movement has been largely ignored and has had to rely on cell phone footage and livestream internet feeds to show the American public what’s been happening.

Global Revolution is considered to be the most important channel covering Occupy Wall Street, broadcasting live feeds of the protests all around the world. So when protesters tell police that the world is watching as the officers beat and pepper spray innocent Americans, they mean it. So it was shocking when Global Revolution ceased their livestream of Occupy protests against the National Defense Authorization Act in New York, and switched to Occupy Maui in Hawaii.

That’s because the NYPD ambushed the operators of the feed in the studio and arrested them. On Tuesday, police raided the building where Global Revolution was broadcasting from and took key operators into custody, including Vlad Teichberg, an operator named Spike, and four or five other volunteers. Vlad and Spike maintained the livestream feed.

Police raided the Bushwick studio after ordering everyone to vacate the premises because the space supposedly is “imminently perilous to life.” The livestream is now down for the time being.

Clearly, Wall Street is paying the NYPD and the mainstream media very well to silence the protests. Police have made every effort to violently end the Occupy movement. They’ve beaten and pepper sprayed protesters. They’ve fired rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds. They’ve even tried to end live web coverage of the protests and now they’re arresting the operators of these feeds. The NYPD has violated just about every civil right guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Maybe it’s time for the entire mass of protesters to occupy the headquarters of the NYPD, because the police are just as corrupt as Wall Street.

READ @ http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/01/03/nypd-arrests-operators-of-occupy-wall-street-livestream/

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* AT WALL STREET PROTESTS, CLASH OF REPORTING AND POLICING

By Michael Powell, NYTimes

In late November, the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, ordered every precinct in his domain to read a statement. Officers, the commissioner said, must “respect the public’s right to know about these events and the media’s right of access to report.”

Any officer who “unreasonably interferes” with reporters or blocks photographers will be subject to disciplinary actions.

These are fine words. Of course, his words followed on the heels of a few days in mid-November when the police arrested, punched, kicked and used metal barriers to ram reporters and photographers covering the Occupy Wall Street protests.

And recent events suggest that the commissioner should speak more loudly. Ryan Devereaux, a reporter, serves as Exhibit 1A that all is not well.

On Dec. 17, Mr. Devereaux covered a demonstration at Duarte Square on Canal Street for “Democracy Now!,” a news program carried on 1,000 stations. Ragamuffin demonstrators surged and the police pushed back. A linebacker-size officer grabbed the collar of Mr. Devereaux, who wore an ID identifying him as a reporter. The cop jammed a fist into his throat, turning Mr. Devereaux into a de facto battering ram to push back protesters.

“I yelled, ‘I’m a journalist!’ and he kept shoving his fist and yelling to his men, ‘Push, boys!’ ”

Eventually, with curses and threats to arrest Mr. Devereaux, the officer relaxed his grip.

You don’t have to take his word. An Associated Press photograph shows this uniformed fellow grinding a meat-hook fist into the larynx of Mr. Devereaux, who is about 5 feet 5 inches. A video, easily found online, shows an officer blocking a photographer for The New York Times at the World Financial Center, jumping to put his face in front of the camera as demonstrators are arrested in the background. […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/03/nyregion/at-wall-street-protests-clash-of-reporting-and-policing.html?_r=4&ref=media

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* CHIEF JUSTICE DRAWS GUFFAWS WITH HIS CLAIM THAT FEDERAL COURTS OPERATE HONESTLY

Posted by legalschnauzer, legalschnauzer.com

John Roberts, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, says in a year-end report that he has “complete confidence” that federal judges behave in an ethical fashion. One prominent legal journalist calls the Roberts report a “whitewash.” We would call it a sign that Roberts is living on Fantasy Island. More importantly, it’s a sign that oversight is needed in courts because judges clearly cannot be trusted to police themselves.

Roberts’ report comes at the end of a year marked by questions about the ethical standards that apply to federal judges, including those on the nation’s highest court. Critics have argued that at least two justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan, have conflicts that should force them to step down from hearing any constitutional challenges to President Obama’s health-care law. But we’ve seen no sign that either justice will recuse him or herself– and in our current system, such decisions are left up to the judge.

Questions related to Obamacare only skim the surface of ethical problems with the federal judiciary. We have shown that Bush-era political prosecutions, such as those involving former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and Mississippi attorney Paul Minor, were enabled by numerous unlawful rulings from federal trial-court judges. We also have shown that federal appellate judges unlawfully upheld those rulings, apparently more interested in protecting their judicial brethren than in ensuring that the law is applied correctly and fairly.

In my own legal world, 2011 was filled with examples of federal district judges ruling contrary to law on matters that are clear and simple–and with judges from the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta mostly upholding findings that are contrary to long-standing precedent. In the first few months of 2012, I will be presenting ample evidence from my own legal battles that show our federal courts are infested with corruption.

A key issue in my experience has been discovery. Specifically, federal judges have repeatedly allowed opposing parties to get away with not turning over relevant documents in discovery–or in one case, a federal judge actually ruled on summary judgment when no discovery had been conducted in the case at all. That simply cannot be done under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but an 83-year-old Reagan appointee did it anyway. We encourage you to stay tuned in 2012 for indisputable evidence that our federal courts are a cesspool.

So how does John Roberts reach his conclusion that all is hunky-dory in our federal courts? Answer: He’s trying to protect his turf, and he isn’t interested in making sure courts actually serve the public and uphold the law. Andrew Kreig, a journalist, lawyer, and director of the D.C.-based Justice Integrity Project, puts it in stark terms:

The federal courts function honestly, according to the annual report on the federal judiciary that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued Dec. 31 in the middle of the New Year’s holiday weekend. Noting at the outset the disgrace that bribery brought to baseball in 1919, Roberts said the federal judiciary needs no reforms because its members seek to address their duties in an ethical manner. Roberts said he had “complete confidence” in the integrity of judges, including his colleagues on the Supreme Court. As chief justice, Roberts presides over both the nine-member Supreme Court and the administrative office of the federal judiciary. His report focused heavily on the need for public confidence in the judiciary. But he recommended nothing more than what he called continued self-discipline by judges.

“Whitewash” is the most obvious description of the Roberts report by those of us documenting flagrant abuses of the public interest by judges. Our Justice Integrity Project, among many others, has documented judges who have been enriched or otherwise co-opted by benefactors and political allies, while protected by cronies and toadies.

Kreig even hints that Roberts released his report late on New Year’s Eve so that it would largely slip under the radar of the mainstream media:

The Roberts report was released at 6 p.m. Saturday night on Dec. 31, thus guaranteeing minimal attention from the public aside from those reporters provided advance copies

What does it tell us that John Roberts has confidence in the system he oversees? Absolutely nothing, of course. Roberts’ confidence in the system is not the issue. The issue is this: Should the American public have confidence in the federal judiciary? The answer is no.

What might make a difference? Kreig offers a suggestion:

Reform is simple: Oversight hearings by the House Judiciary Committee, with aggressive investigation by the FBI of corruption complaints against dishonest federal judges, whether high or low, Democrat or Republican. Little scrutiny exists currently except for the most obvious crimes. […]

READ @ http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2012/01/chief-justice-draws-guffaws-with-his.html

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* WHO WASTED $13 MILLION ON OCCUPY PROTESTS?

By Aaron Cynic and Natalie W., Z Magazine

According to an Associated Press article in the Chicago Tribune (November 23): “During the first two months of the nationwide Occupy protests, the movement that is demanding more out of the wealthiest Americans cost local taxpayers at least $13 million in police overtime and other municipal services. The heaviest financial burden has fallen on law enforcement agencies tasked with monitoring marches and evicting protesters from outdoor camps. And the steepest costs by far piled up in New York City and Oakland, California where police clashed with protesters on several occasions.”

At present, estimates from various cities across North America have highlighted various operational costs of policing Occupy movements in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. According to officials surveyed by the Associated Press, Occupy Wall Street has cost New York City a reported $7 million, Occupy Oakland $2.4 million, Occupy Portland at least $785,000. Those numbers continue to grow as cities deploy riot police to raid or destroy various Occupy encampments.

Some may argue that the nationwide Occupy movements waste taxpayer money by tying up police resources in attempts to assemble in public spaces. The argument is flawed. City administrations make the choice to spend money on policing Occupy protests

The mass arrests at peaceful demonstrations prove how removed the government is from the needs of its people and how determined it is to silence or ignore the very people it has been created to protect. Taxpayers are all paying money into and for a corrupt system that is persecuting its own people and denying their first amendment rights. Theoretically, the 99 percent are paying, through taxes, the police and the mayor to represent us and our interests and betterment. What we support with our beliefs, words, and dollars should not be a shoeshine for the boot-heel crushing our throat.

Occupy Chicago has been a peaceful assemblage for over two months. Rallies, general assembly, workgroup meetings, and other democratic actions rarely require a police presence. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Chief McCarthy have chosen to assign one. The mayor’s office and the Chicago Police department chose to utilize taxpayer dollars to persecute those taxpayers  who are attempting to redesign the status quo.

In Chicago and across the nation, mayors and their subordinates chose to burn taxpayer dollars and to silence workers, students, mothers, children, and fathers who speak out in defense of themselves and others. The status quo spends our money to zip tie and cram us in the back of police cars. In the case of many cities, they smash us with truncheons, spray us with chemical agents, fire tear gas canisters into our bodies, break our bones, and torment us. […]

READ @ http://zcommunications.org/contents/183759/print

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* SEVEN YEARS AFTER SIEGES, FALLUJAH STRUGGLES

By Dahr Jamail, Aljazeera 

Many of Fallujah's buildings that were damaged or destroyed in 2004 remain in disrepair. (Photo: Dahr Jamail / Al Jazeera)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fallujah, Iraq – Fallujah still bears the scars of war; skeletons continue to be pulled from the rubble of bombed buildings, and, worse, rates of birth defects and childhood malformations have skyrocketed.

There is evidence of reconstruction, but shortages of electricity and clean water remain prevalent. The overall mood in the city is one of anger, hopelessness, and fear.

In April and November of 2004, the United States military launched two massive military sieges against the city of Fallujah, located 60km west of Baghdad, due to on-going resistance there against the occupation.

Doctors at Fallujah General Hospital told Al Jazeera in 2004 that 736 Iraqis had been killed during the April siege. They said approximately 60 per cent of the victims were women, children, and elderly, and told of medical personnel being fired on by US forces while trying to evacuate the wounded.

By the end of nearly three weeks of heavy bombings and a ground invasion in the November siege, more than 1,000 Iraqis were killed, according to Fallujah doctors. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/seven-years-after-sieges-fallujah-struggles/1325615444

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* PAST LINGERS FOR COMPANY FORMERLY CALLED BLACKWATER

By Bill Sizemore, The Virginian-Pilot

As it goes about the complicated task of putting its past behind it, the Moyock, N.C.-based company once known as Blackwater is going through some lean times.

Nevertheless, its reach has never been wider. Its workers have deployed to more than a dozen countries around the world, many of them hot spots of civil unrest.

That should be no cause for alarm, the current owners say, because the old company is no more. Blackwater – some of whose security operatives were accused of killing civilians in war zones, and several of whose top executives face felony firearms charges – is dead and buried, a stake plunged into its heart.

It is a new company with new leadership now, they say, one dedicated to playing by the rules.

To drive the point home, last month the company unveiled its second rebranding since 2009, dumping the name Xe, successor to Blackwater, in favor of the studious-sounding Academi.

The urgency of outrunning the Blackwater legacy is apparent in recent revenue numbers.

The company lost one of its most lucrative jobs – guarding U.S. diplomats in Iraq – in 2009 when it was barred from the country by the Iraqi government, incensed over a 2007 shooting incident in Baghdad in which 17 civilians were killed. Four ex-Blackwater guards face federal manslaughter charges in the case.

The loss of that work is reflected in a Virginian-Pilot analysis of the company’s publicly identifiable federal contracts in an online database.

Those contracts, which form the bulk of the company’s revenue, dropped to about $160 million in 2011, a seven-year low.

Even though the United States has pulled its troops out of Iraq, there’s still a big market there for private security contractors. Ted Wright, Academi’s president and chief executive officer, has told interviewers the company wants to get back into the country.

Academi’s other big cash cow, Afghanistan, is still going strong for now. The company has banked more than $1 billion for its work there since 2002 – roughly the same amount it collected over five years in Iraq.

The future there is uncertain, however. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, blaming foreign security companies for inciting instability in the war-weary nation, has said he plans to ban them all. He recently extended the deadline for their departure from March 2012 to September 2013.

Academi is prepared for that eventuality, Wright said in an interview. As U.S. military operations abroad wind down, the company is shifting its primary focus from security to training.

“As the situation in Afghanistan changes from private security companies to Afghans doing that for themselves, what they’re going to need is our training services,” Wright said. “So I think that fits inside of our strategy extremely well.”

In the past six months, the company has won contracts – mostly for training – in a variety of other countries on three continents where security concerns loom large:

- Algeria, Tunisia and Bahrain, predominantly Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East that have seen demonstrations and rioting during the “Arab spring” uprisings over the past year.

- Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, former Soviet republics in central Asia, also predominantly Muslim, that have seen nationwide protests and armed conflict between government and militant forces.

- Mexico, a major source of illegal narcotics where powerful drug-trafficking organizations have engaged in bloody feuding, resulting in tens of thousands of homicides.

Some of the contracts were awarded by the State Department, a longtime Blackwater client. Others came from the Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office, an obscure agency in the Defense Department whose stated mission is to deter and disrupt drug-trafficking operations that support terrorist activities.

Blackwater was one of five prime contractors awarded five-year contracts by the agency in 2007 worth up to $15 billion. A 2009 audit of that award by the Defense Department’s inspector general found mismanagement and potential violations of federal appropriations law valued at more than $20 million.

In November, the agency announced a new round of bidding for $3 billion in follow-on contracts. […]

READ @ http://hamptonroads.com/2012/01/past-lingers-company-formerly-called-blackwater

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* MORE ICELANDIC BANKERS ARRESTED

By IceNews

Iceland’s special prosecutor into the banking crisis has confirmed that raids have taken place today and that arrests have been made. The Central Bank of Iceland is among the institutions under investigation.

Special Prosecutor, Olafur Thor Hauksson told Visir.is that house searches are taking place in at least three places today as part of investigations into the central bank, MP Bank and Straumur Bank.

Stefan Johann Stefansson at the central bank confirmed that agents were in the building conducting searches; and it has also been confirmed that searches are underway at MP Bank and ALMC (formerly Straumur).

An ALMC spokesman said that the premises are indeed being searched and that the bank’s staff members are doing their best to help.

In other news, four people have so far been arrested today in connection with the special prosecutor’s investigation into Landsbanki.

One of the arrested parties is Jon Thorsteinn Oddleifsson, former Landsbanki treasury boss; and it is not yet known who the other three are.

According to Visir.is sources, the arrests concern a brand new section of the wider case against the bank and are not directly connected to searches and arrests made last week.

READ @ http://www.icenews.is/index.php/2011/01/20/more-icelandic-bankers-arrested/

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* 30 STATISTICS THAT SHOW THAT THE MIDDLE CLASS IS DYING RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES AS WE ENTER 2012

By Michael Snyder, Zero Hedge

[…] America as a whole is getting poorer as a nation, and as this happens wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated at the very top of the income scale.  This is not how capitalism is supposed to work, and it is not good for America.

[…]

When the cost of the basic things that we need – housing, food, gas, electricity – go up faster than our incomes do, that means that we are getting poorer.

Sadly, if you look at the long-term numbers, some very clear negative trends emerge….

-The number of good jobs continues to decrease.

-The rate of inflation continues to outpace the rate that our wages are going up.

-American consumers are going into almost unbelievable amounts of debt.

-The number of Americans that are considered to be “poor” continues to grow.

-The number of Americans that are forced to turn to the government for financial assistance continues to go up.

After you read the information below, it should become abundantly clear that the U.S. middle class is in a whole heap of trouble.

The following are 30 statistics that show that the middle class is dying right in front of our eyes as we enter 2012….

#1 Today, only 55.3 percent of all Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 have jobs.

#2 In the United States today, there are 240 million working age people.  Only about 140 million of them are working.

#3 According to CareerBuilder, only 23 percent of American companies plan to hire more employees in 2012.

#4 Since the year 2000, the United States has lost 10% of its middle class jobs.  In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.

#5 According to the New York Times, approximately 100 million Americans are either living in poverty or in “the fretful zone just above it”.

#6 According to that same article in the New York Times, 34 percent of all elderly Americans are living in poverty or “near poverty”, and 39 percent of all children in America are living in poverty or “near poverty”.

#7 In 1984, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older was 10 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger.  Today, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older is 47 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger.

#8 Since the year 2000, incomes for U.S. households led by someone between the ages of 25 and 34 have fallen by about 12 percent after you adjust for inflation.

#9 The total value of household real estate in the U.S. has declined from $22.7 trillion in 2006 to $16.2 trillion today.  Most of that wealth has been lost by the middle class.

#10 Many formerly great manufacturing cities are turning into ghost towns.  Since 1950, the population of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has declined by more than 50 percent.  In Dayton, Ohio 18.9 percent of all houses now stand empty.

#11 Since 1971, consumer debt in the United States has increased by a whopping 1700%.

#12 The number of pages of federal tax rules and regulations has increased by18,000% since 1913.  The wealthy know how to avoid taxes, but most of those in the middle class do not.

#13 The number of Americans that fell into poverty (2.6 million) set a new all-time record last year and extreme poverty (6.7%) is at the highest level ever measured in the United States.

#14 According to one study, between 1969 and 2009 the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 dropped by 27 percent after you account for inflation.

#15 According to U.S. Representative Betty Sutton, America has lost an average of 15 manufacturing facilities a day over the last 10 years.  During 2010 it got even worse.  Last year, an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day shut down in the United States.

#16 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#17 Most Americans are scratching and clawing and doing whatever they can to make a living these days.  Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

#18 Food prices continue to rise at a very brisk pace.  The price of beef is up9.8% over the past year, the price of eggs is up 10.2% over the past year and the price of potatoes is up 12% over the past year.

#19 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

#20 The average American household will have spent a staggering $4,155 on gasoline by the end of 2011.

#21 If inflation was measured the exact same way that it was measured back in 1980, the rate of inflation in the United States would be well over 10 percent.

#22 If the number of Americans considered to be “looking for work” was the same today as it was back in 2007, the “official” unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11 percent.

#23 According to the Student Loan Debt Clock, total student loan debt in the United States will surpass the 1 trillion dollar mark at some point in 2012.  Most of that debt is owed by members of the middle class.

#24 Incredibly, more than one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps at this point.

#25 Since Barack Obama took office, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 14.3 million.

#26 In 2010, 42 percent of all single mothers in the United States were on food stamps.

#27 In 1970, 65 percent of all Americans lived in “middle class neighborhoods”.  By 2007, only 44 percent of all Americans lived in “middle class neighborhoods”.

#28 According to a recent report produced by Pew Charitable Trusts, approximately one out of every three Americans that grew up in a middle class household has slipped down the income ladder.

#29 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#30 The poorest 50 percent of all Americans now collectively own just 2.5%of all the wealth in the United States. […]

READ @ http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/30-statistics-show-middle-class-dying-right-front-our-eyes-we-enter-2012

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* WHY SPAIN’S NEW GOVERNMENT IS DRINKING AUSTERITY KOOL-AID AND HOW THIS THREATENS THE GLOBAL ECONOMY

By Marshall Auerback, AlterNet

Spain’s new government said late last month that this year’s budget deficit would be much larger than expected and announced a slew of surprise tax hikes and wage freezes that could drag the country back to the center of the eurozone debt crisis. The government plans to enact public spending cuts of 8.9 billion euros ($11.5 billion) and tax hikes aimed at bringing in an additional 6 billion euros a year to tackle the shortfall. Given what has happened to Greece, and now Italy, it is almost certain that this will have the opposite impact of that which the Spanish government wants: there will be HIGHER public deficits at the end of the day, as the cuts curtail economic growth even further.Self-inflicted Catastrophe

Spanish employment fell by a whopping 72,075 in November, which came on the heels of an even bigger 82,944 decline in October. The Spanish employment data is really terrible. To get a feel for these numbers, you have to realize that Spain’s employment is about one-eighth that of the U.S. We are talking about employment declines in the last two months that would correspond to monthly declines of more than 600,000 if it were the U.S. economy. In the prior three months Spain’s employment declines corresponded to the equivalent of almost 300,000 job declines a month in the U.S. Would anyone doubt that the U.S. was in a deep recession if it reported such horrible employment data? Of course not.

The eurozone, indeed, the entire global economy, continues to experience a self-inflicted catastrophe, largely because of dangerously destructive myths about fiscal policy. In spite of the shrill rhetoric of the fiscal austerity brigades, the evidence in Europe continues to mount that a nation cannot have a fiscal contraction expansion when all other spending is flat or going backwards. Unless you want an economic disaster.

Let’s look at some macroeconomic issues in a simplified form:

1. In any given country, how many sectors are there that can spend? Answer: three.

2. What are they? Answer: The foreign sector, the private domestic sector, and government sector.

3. What happens if firms in the private domestic sector cannot sell their goods and services because people can’t afford to buy them? Answer: They lay off workers and refuse to spend on new equipment, etc.

4. What happens if income in the local economy is lost to the foreign sector – that is, is not recycled back into domestic demand? Answer: Drain on growth, fewer exports, more imports.

5. If the economy is looking bad, what happens to private domestic sector households? They will not spend.

6. If the foreign sector isn’t spending on a country, and the domestic sector isn’t spending, either, then the economy will ground to halt unless the one remaining sector fills the breach: the government sector. This is true, regardless of what the anti-government mythologists from Germany, the University of Chicago, and others, argue to the contrary.

Free Market ‘Miracles’ are a Myth

This is particularly true in a situation when an economy is suffering from the after-effects of a PRIVATE SECTOR debt bubble. And let’s set aside this nonsense about the miracles of “letting the ‘free’ markets work. The notorious ‘Invisible Hand’ –that mythical self-regulating aspect of the market–turns out to look like 1995-2000 with all that wonderful allocation of capital to tech and telecom, or perhaps more along the lines of 2000-6, with the brilliant decisions made by hundreds and thousands of equity investors, bank loan officers, and credit analysts made regarding real estate allocations (of which Spain was a notable example). Doesn’t work too well in reality — and ordinary people are left holding the bag.

It’s time to wake up. Market allocation of investment has proven just plain idiotic too many times over the past two decades (plus) for anyone to believe such neoliberal fibs, except maybe the wettest behind the ears on Wall Street. The markets so glorified by free market fundamentalists are presently optimally designed to breed nonsense asset bubbles that make financiers as much money as they can before it all falls down. Everyone knows this. We’ve seen it in the deregulation of the financial sector, the failure of regulative oversight of real estate markets (including allowing private citizens to fund mortgages in foreign currencies), a bias towards budget austerity (under the European Union’s  Stability and Growth Pact) which meant that growth had to rely largely on private credit expansion – etc.

The behavior of governments leading up to the global financial crisis was based on exactly the same logic that is driving the fiscal austerity: that free markets are best and government should have as small a footprint as possible. This game is over, except, it appears, in the minds of Europe’s policy making elites, which continue to champion this form of economic Kool-Aid. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153640

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* IT’S THE INEQUALITY, STUPID

Eleven charts that explain what’s wrong with America

By Dan Gilson and Carolyn Perot, Mother Jones

Want more charts like these? See our charts on the secrets of the jobless recovery, the richest 1 percent of Americans, and how the superwealthy beat the IRS.

READ and CHARTS @ http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph

Dec 142011
 

 

* CHILD HOMELESSNESS UP 33% IN 3 YEARS

By Marisol Bello, USA Today

One in 45 children in the USA — 1.6 million children — were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.

The numbers represent a 33% increase from 2007, when there were 1.2 million homeless children, according to a report the center is releasing Tuesday.

“This is an absurdly high number,” says Ellen Bassuk, president of the center. “What we have new in 2010 is the effects of a man-made disaster caused by the economic recession. … We are seeing extreme budget cuts, foreclosures and a lack of affordable housing.” […]

READ @ http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-12-12/homeless-children-increase/51851146/1?loc=interstitialskip

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* CONFESSIONS OF A CHILD JANITOR

By Tina Dupuy, tinadupuy.com

My first job was cleaning the group home I lived in. True story. I participated in the Summer Youth Employment Program part of the Job Training Partnership Act passed during Reagan’s first term. It was a War on Poverty federal program considered to be an economic stimulus and a way to keep teenagers off the streets. I was in foster care and had just barely turned 14; I went to a few seminars on job skills and was given a job “super cleaning” for minimum wage ($4.25). I pulled in about $75 a week…before taxes.

I learned two things at that job: one, horizontal blinds are a malevolent plague on society; and two, Republicans don’t care about people who work.

No, Republicans, in general, and disgraced former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, specifically, concern themselves with their fickle “job creators” not the staple of the American economy: job workers.

The overpaid, overfed, and over-hyped Gingrich said to an audience at a Nationwide Insurance luncheon earlier this month, “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, so they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday.”

Gingrich is willfully ignorant of the fact you can work and still be “really poor” in this country. You can show up every Monday and do your job faithfully and STILL not make a living. If you work full-time at the federal minimum wage you’ll pull in $15,000 a year before taxes (and yes, they do take social security, state and federal taxes out of those paychecks). Add children to the equation and it’s worse than the working poor – it’s the working impoverished.

Now 49 million Americans live in poverty – with 2.6 million falling into the category last year. That’s 16 percent of Americans. There are more Americans living in poverty than there are Canadians on the planet.

Gingrich is trying to equate poverty with a moral shortcoming. It’s a warped offshoot of the prosperity gospel – riches are a sign of god’s love – poverty is a sign of his indifference. […]

READ @ http://www.tinadupuy.com/column/confessions-of-a-child-janitor/

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* EUROPE’S AUSTERITY ZEAL RISKS ANOTHER RECESSION

By Carmel Crimmins and Gavin Jones, Common Dreams

Europe’s “no pain no gain” attitude to solving its sovereign crisis risks exacerbating the bloc’s problems, choking off the very growth needed to raise the money to pay down the debt.

From Athens to Dublin, and almost everywhere in between, administrations are imposing wave after wave of spending cuts and tax increases to persuade investors they are serious about improving their public finances and persuade them to start buying euro zone sovereign debt again.

The austerity zeal risks tipping the continent back into recession and a downward spiral of austerity as pitiful growth prospects undermine budgetary targets and ramp up debt burdens, meaning further austerity is required.

“The expansionary fiscal contraction story says that you cut, you show you are serious about cutting and then the confidence fairy will come along and she will start pulling in private investment,” said Stephen Kinsella, professor of economics at the University of Limerick.

“The expansionary fiscal contraction story is a lie. You don’t cut your way to growth.” […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/12/14-0

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* BILL ALLOWING FOR INDEFINITE MILITARY DETENTION OF AMERICANS PASSES HOUSE

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now

House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a sweeping $662 billion military spending bill that would allow for indefinite detentions of Americans by the U.S. military. The bill has been widely criticized by several top Obama administration officials, human rights groups and many Tea Party Republicans. According to the Associated Press, the current legislation would deny some suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens seized within the nation’s borders, of the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention. President Obama had threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill which would have required all terrorism suspects be held and tried by the military. The military spending bill also imposes tough new sanctions on Iran.

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/13/headlines/bill_allowing_for_indefinite_military_detention_of_americans_passes_house_senate#.Tud2jdzR1so.facebook

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* LEGISLATING TYRANNY IN AMERICA

By Stephen Lendman, OpEdNews

Obama won’t prosecute CIA torturers, Wall Street crooks, other corporate criminals, lawless war profiteers, or other venal high-level civilian or government officials.

Instead, expect him to sign into law (or at least tacitly approve) indefinite military detentions of US citizens allegedly associated with terrorist groups, with or without corroborating evidence.

Post-9/11, US freedoms and other democratic values dramatically eroded. Enactment of police state provisions in the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act comes closer to ending them entirely.

On December 5, the ACLU headlined, “Indefinite Detention, Endless Worldwide War and the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” saying:

Enactment of this measure will authorize “the military to pick up and imprison people, including US citizens, without charging them or putting them on trial.”

Secretly with no hearings, both Houses are rushing to complete a “joint version” before leaving for Christmas break. “Fundamental American values and freedoms are on the line.” Given the stakes, they’re perilously hanging by a thread.

On December 13, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged Obama to veto NDAA in its present form. Otherwise, he’ll “be responsible for signing into law one of the greatest expansions of executive power in our nation’s history, allowing the government to lock up citizens and non-citizens without the right to fair trials.”

Indefinite detentions violate core democratic freedoms, including fundamental Bill of Rights ones already gravely eroded.

On November 27, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2524, declaring December 15 Bill of Rights Day to commemorate its 150th 1791 ratification.

At the time, he hailed “America(‘s) charter of personal liberty and human dignity,” including “freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the free right to petition the Government for redress of grievances.”

Although American freedom then was far less than he claimed, today it hangs by a thread and may pass entirely any time for any reason.

In response to global imperial wars, corporate favoritism, unbridled private sector criminality, and political corruption at the highest levels, causing economic crisis conditions at home, thousands began protesting nationwide for social justice.

In response, militarized police confront them violently as NDAA heads for enactment to stop anyone from challenging US hegemony and corporate power by throwing them indefinitely in military dungeons to rot.

Equity and justice are fast eroding entirely to advance America’s imperium. On May 26, the House passed HR 1540, 322 – 96. Doing so took a giant step toward abolishing freedom entirely.

On December 1, the Senate’s S. 1867 followed suit, 93 to 7. Both versions assure no one anywhere is now safe, including law-abiding US citizens. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=142765

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* THE INDEFINITE DETENTION BILL DOES APPLY TO AMERICA CITIZENS ON U.S. SOIL

By Washington’s Blog

Yes, the Indefinite Detention Bill DOES Apply to American Citizens

Even at this 11th hour – when all of our liberties and freedom are about to go down the drain – many people still don’t understand that the indefinite detention bill passed by Congress allows indefinite detention of Americans on American soil.

The bill is confusing. As Wired noted on December 1st:

It’s confusing, because two different sections of the bill seem to contradict each other, but in the judgment of the University of Texas’ Robert Chesney — a nonpartisan authority on military detention — “U.S. citizens are included in the grant of detention authority.”

A retired admiral, Judge Advocate General and Dean Emeritus of the University of New Hampshire School of Law also says that it applies to American citizens on American soil.

The ACLU notes:

Don’t be confused by anyone claiming that the indefinite detention legislation does not apply to American citizens. It does. There is an exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032 of the bill), but no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial (section 1031 of the bill). So, the result is that, under the bill, the military has the power to indefinitely imprison American citizens, but it does not have to use its power unless ordered to do so.

But you don’t have to believe us. Instead, read what one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Lindsey Graham said about it on the Senate floor: “1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”

Another sponsor of the bill – Senator Levin – has also repeatedly said that the bill applies to American citizens on American soil, citing the Supreme Court case of Hamdi which ruled that American citizens can be treated as enemy combatants:

“The Supreme Court has recently ruled there is no bar to the United States holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant,” said Levin. “This is the Supreme Court speaking.“

Levin again stressed recently that the bill applies to American citizens, and said that it was president Obama who requested that it do so: […]

READ and VIDEOS @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/the-indefinite-detention-bill-does-apply-to-american-citizens-on-u-s-soil.html

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* BLACKWATER MERCENARIES TO RETURN TO IRAQ

By PressTV

With the US pulling out troops from Iraq this month, Washington plans to send Blackwater mercenaries to the Middle Eastern country under the new brand of ACADEMI.

New York-based USTC Holdings, the investment group that bought ex-Blackwater firm, Xe Services, in December 2010, announced on Monday ACADEMI as the new name for Blackwater/ Xe Services, AFP reported.

The development came as US President Barack Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss the next phase of the relations between the two countries after withdrawal of US soldiers.

“We have had a year of extraordinary changes that have resulted in a new, better company,” ACADEMI president and chief executive Ted Wright said in a statement.

In an interview published on Monday, Wright said he would like to take ACADEMI’s business back to Iraq and went on to say that the firm had hired an external company to help it apply for an operating license in the country.

“I think eventually, we’re going to get a license; we’re going to do business in Iraq,” he said.

Blackwater adopted the name Xe Services after Iraqi authorities announced in 2009 that they would not renew the security firm’s contract because of a deadly incident in 2007 in which guards protecting a US diplomatic convoy opened fire in a busy district in the capital Baghdad killing 17 civilians.

Iraqi officials could not sue the Blackwater mercenaries as they had immunity from local prosecution and were not subjected to any Iraqi laws.

The US State Department had reportedly announced in August 2010 that the Pentagon would replace American troops in Iraq with private mercenaries, who call themselves private security firms or security contractors, on grounds of ensuring the security in the war-torn country.

The deployment of ACADEMI mercenaries is likely to cause outrage in Iraq where its predecessor Blackwater Worldwide mercenaries could kill civilians with impunity during their time in Iraq.

Iraqis will also take it as America’s unwillingness to end the occupation of their country where since 2003 the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation caused one million deaths, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored. […]

READ @ http://www.presstv.ir/detail/215338.html

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* HOW MF GLOBAL COLLAPSED BY OVER HYPOTHECATING AND WHO IS NEXT?

By Sam Chee Kong, Market Oracle

Another month another new implosion. Europe really seems to be stuck in a financial black hole, unable to free itself out of it. Before we even have time to digest all those exotic treasury products like CDO,CDS,MBS, ALT-A, Sub-Prime, Swaps and , now there is this new toy called ‘Hypothecation’.

What is Hypothecation ?

Hypothecation is the practice where a borrower pledges collateral to secure a debt. The borrower retains ownership of the collateral, but it is “hypothetically” controlled by the creditor in that he has the right to seize possession if the borrower defaults. A common example occurs when a consumer enters into a mortgage agreement, in which the consumer’s house becomes collateral until the mortgage loan is paid off.

The detailed practice and rules regulating hypothecation vary depending on
context and on the jurisdiction where it takes place. In the US, the legal right for
the creditor to take ownership of the collateral if the debtor defaults is classified
as a lien.

Re-hypothecation is a practice that occurs principally in the financial markets, where a bank or other broker-dealer reuses the collateral pledged by its clients as collateral for its own borrowing or in a process call Churning.

In the US, re-hypothecation is capped at 140% but in Europe it is unlimited or up to the imagination of the borrower. What does it mean when it is capped at 140%?

Under the U.S. Federal Reserve Board’s Regulation T and SEC Rule 15c3-3, a prime broker may re-hypothecate assets to the value of 140% of the client’s liability to the prime broker. For example, assume a customer has deposited $500 in securities and has a debt deficit of $200, resulting in net equity of $300. The broker-dealer can re-hypothecate up to $280 (140 per cent. x $200) of these assets.

But in the UK, there is absolutely no statutory limit on the amount that can be re-hypothecated. In fact, brokers are free to re-hypothecate all and even more than the assets deposited by clients. Instead it is up to clients to negotiate a limit or prohibition on re-hypothecation. On the above example a UK broker could, and frequently would, re-hypothecate 100% of the pledged securities ($500).

Hypothecation is similar to a Margin Lending Account with no limit. To illustrate, our normal Margin Lending Account will only lend as much as the securities or cash that is deposited. How much to lend is up to the discretion of the Broker’s Risk Management Department. If you are having just cash then you may get leveraged up to 200%. But if you are pledging securities then the amount to be leveraged depends on the value and risk factor associated with the securities, normally less than 100%.

For simplicity, say MF Global purchased $5 million of Irish bonds. It would then use these same Irish bonds as collateral for a loan of €5 million (or thereabouts) under the repo with an obligation to repurchase the bonds at the end of the repo. When the Irish bonds matured it would be due to receive €5 million – a sum which it would use to pay off the repo at the end of the transaction. […]

READ @ http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article32087.html

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* AL FRANKEN SHREDS THE REPUBLICAN ECONOMIC THEORY

By Progressivetoo

Senator Al Franken, speaking to AFL-CIO on Monday, points out the glaringly contradictory schools of thought that define the Republican economic theory:

“So the idea that those at the very top, who now are richer than anybody has ever been; we now have people who are richer than any people have ever been in the history of the world; why they can’t pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes in crazy. Those of us in the Senate who are Democrats, we talk to people who are rich. I don’t know any of them I meet who don’t say ‘I’m willing to pay higher taxes’. I know the Republicans go to these same fundraisers and hear different things from their people, and I respect that.”

Franken goes on:

“But there is no evidence that that works. In 1993, when we had something called the Deficit Reduction Package, President Clinton said, ‘let’s raise the top two levels’ [a 2% tax increase for the top earning 1% of Americans]. Every Republican voted against it, every single one. It passed by one vote in the House and one vote in the Senate. Every Republican, well not every Republican, but every Republican who said anything said this will cause a recession.”

After taking a jab at Newt Gingrich, who said this would be the “Democrat recession”, Franken continues:

“It worked. We had the longest period of uninterrupted expansion of our economy in our history when we increased the marginal rate on the people at the top. So it worked. And not only that, but it turned a record deficit into a record surplus, which he took from one Bush, a record deficit, and turned it over to the next Bush, a record surplus.”

And then it gets interesting:

“Five days after George W. Bush became president, Alan Greenspan testified to the Senate Budget Committee, and said ‘we are in danger of paying off our national debt too fast. We have a projected $5 trillion surplus going into the next ten years and we very well may pay off the debt too fast, the federal government is in danger of having too much money.’ He said, what would happen as a result of that is, we will have to take our excess money and invest it into private equities and that could disrupt the market.”

Franken continues:

“Now I don’t get their economic theories. If you cut taxes it will automatically raise revenues. They always say that, you hear it all the time. Watch Fox sometimes, ‘every time we’ve cut taxes we’ve doubled revenues.’ That’s Sean Hannity, he says it everyday, just google it.”

Here comes the contradiction:

“Then they also tell us ‘you have to cut taxes so the government doesn’t have too much money to spend’. Reagan said it in 1981, ‘you can tell your kids all you want, not to fritter away their allowance, but the only way to do it is to cut their allowance’. He said this, you can look it up. So in other words, his thing was, you’ve got to cut taxes so you cut the revenue so their not going to spend the money. So understand, their theory is based on two mutually exclusive contradictory theories.”

So does cutting taxes double revenues or decrease them? Which is it? Franken explains:

“Every time you cut taxes, you increase revenues. And every time you cut taxes, you decrease revenues. That’s fun to hear. And then Bush of course came in and said, ‘we’re in danger of having too much money, and it’s your money so let’s cut taxes, because it’s your money. And we’re running a surplus, let’s cut taxes’.

So we cut taxes because we had “too much money”, because the economy was good. But what did Bush do when the economy soured?

“Then as soon as we started losing jobs and we’re in a recession, Bush said, ‘well we’re in a recession, we need to cut taxes because the economy’s bad.’ So in addition to ‘every time you cut taxes you increase revenue’ and ‘every time you cut taxes you decrease revenue’, there was also, ‘every time the economy’s doing well you have to cut taxes’, and ‘every time the economy is doing bad you have to cut taxes.’”

Are you starting to get the point? Because Franken has more: […]

READ @ http://progressivetoo.com/2011/07/14/sen-al-franken-shreds-the-republican-economic-theory/

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* WHO’S REALLY COMMITTING VOTER FRAUD? VIDEO

By Paul Canning

The conviction of a Republican operative has thrown the spotlight onto who is really committing voter fraud in the US.

Right-wing news outlets have been claiming for years that liberal groups such as ACORN are behind ‘massive’ voter fraud operations. Despite investigations by the Justice Department only showing a tiny number of proven cases (86) over the past decade, Republican legislators in twelve states have passed legislation, on the basis of supposed fraud, restricting voting.

Paul Schurick, an aide to former Maryland Republican Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was convicted last week of attempted voter suppression.

During the 2006 gubernatorial election, Schurick tried to use robocalls to suppress the black vote. 112,000 voters were called a few hours before polls had closed in Baltimore and Prince George’s County. The recorded message told African American residents to “relax” because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had already won the race.

Wrote York Van Nixon III:

The conviction … reminds those old enough to remember [of] the days when African Americans were required to count the number of jelly beans in a jar before they were given a ballot.

The Washington Post’s Robert McCartney points out that this was not a minor official — Schurick was Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign manager in the 2010 race and had been his communications director for the four years that he was governor.

Will Crossly, Director of Voter Protection for the Democratic National Committee, told MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton that the Schurick case was not an isolated example of Republican voter suppression:

“Oh, there’s no question, we saw other efforts in 2010″ he said. “We’ve seen the misinformation campaigns. We’ve also seen voter caging, a process in which they send out post cards to people. If you don’t return the postcard, then they question your residency and add you to a list when you show up at the polls, question whether or not you’re actually qualified to vote. That happened in 1982 in New Jersey. We’ve seen it in Louisiana, 1987. We’ve seen it 1990 in North Carolina. We prosecuted 2004 in Ohio as well as in 2008 in the state of Michigan.”

“They created these lists from people’s names who had been placed on foreclosure and challenged their residency. We went to court over that as well. and so the important thing, we want voters to know that we were watching in the past this verdict today and will continue to watch in the future for these kinds of activities.”

Democrats claim that there is a coordinated voter suppression effort behind the state laws. They point to the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council – funded in part by David and Charles Koch. Last week they held hearings in Congress. […]

READ @ http://www.care2.com/causes/whos-really-committing-voter-fraud-video.html

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* THE SLICK SHTICK OF AMERICANS ELECT

By Justin Elliot, Salon

There’s an increasing amount of buzz around Americans Elect, a peculiar Internet-based effort to shake up presidential politics. But dig a bit beneath the surface and there’s reason to be deeply skeptical of the endeavor.

The basic pitch of Americans Elect goes like this: We’ll go through the expensive and time-consuming process of getting ballot access in all 50 states. Then we’ll hold an online convention in June in which any registered voter can participate. Participants will nominate a presidential ticket including one Democrat and one Republican who will then enter the general election fray.

Here’s what the group is not so upfront about: It’s fueled by millions of dollars of secret money, there is a group of wealthy, well-connected board members who have control over Americans Elect’s nominating process, and the group has myriad links to Wall Street.

Americans Elect has been getting periodic bursts of support from prominent commentators.

“What Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life — remove the barriers to real competition, flatten the incumbents and let the people in,” wrote Thomas Friedman in July.

And in a Huffington Post column this week titled “2012: The year of the Independent?” Jon Huntsman bundler Lynn Forester de Rothschild hailed the group for offering a “revolutionary new way to nominate a bipartisan ticket to occupy the White House.” Rothschild is also on the group’s board.

There is little doubt that these kinds of hosannas will intensify as the election heats up. Americans Elect’s brand of third way-ism tends to be irresistible to newspaper editorial boards. So here are some facts about the group to keep in mind. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2011/12/09/the_slick_schtick_of_americans_elect/singleton/

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* DEMOCRACY BURNING: THREE FOUNDING OWS MEMBERS TALK ABOUT OUR BROKEN SYSTEM AND HOW TO FIX IT

By Lila York, OpEdNews

Interview with OWS charter members Lex Rendon, Ryan Hoffman and Jesse LaGreca on current inequities, strategies for restoring democracy, and their hopes for a new nation built on equal justice for all.

I keep hoping to see news of Occupiers running for office in 2012 – one name on a ballot I could trust as incorruptible and not owned by some corporation.  No such news yet, but it is still early in the game.  The change sweeping the nation may yet find a political footing.  I asked   members of Occupy Wall Street to talk about fixing our broken system and their vision for the country.  What follows is my interview with Lex Rendon, Ryan Hoffman and Jesse LaGreca, three founding members of OWS who demonstrate a profound understanding of history, government, and the mechanisms for creating a democratic society.

LY:   What do you want government to look like?

Lex:   We want to see a government free of corporate money. And that will take a regime change. The two-party system needs to go. OWS is an experiment in a new form of democracy, based on community.

Ryan:  W e need a government that does not enforce the law selectively, based on     wealth status. Adam Smith argued against laissez-faire polices, and for big government standing up to big business.   But it is not about big versus small government – it is about good versus bad government.

Jesse:  I want the government the Founding Fathers intended us to have. But crony capitalism has created distortions, and millions now feel disenfranchised.   Who controls government – the people or the special interests?   There is a vast disconnect between Congress and the people. Military contractors want certain bills passed to fund war and we end up with an ever-expanding war budget. We need to get the money out of the process.

LY:   Lex and Ryan, you were involved in the process of writing the Declaration of the Occupation. It struck me that that document bears a striking resemblance to the Green Party platform, and to some extent the Libertarian party platform. The Greens have made important strides in Germany, and they are international, on every continent, Because of that, they have the unique ability to represent a global revolutionary spring. OWS grew up without funding, and it seems, although it has never been done, that a political campaign could be run the same way – using the internet and social media – with the follow-on that the mainstream media would at some point have to acknowledge it. So I wonder if any Occupy members are interested in running for office next year for congressional seats and seats in state legislatures. Are any of your members considering it? 

Lex:   Several people are considering it.   Some here are finding that they have a knack for politics and natural leadership abilities.   A group here wants to come to consensus on backing a [presidential] candidate, but there are many others who do not support that idea at the moment. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=142686

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* OCCUPY WALL STREET: THE ‘SQUIDDING’ OF GOLDMAN SACHS

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

I almost shed tears of pride this morning when I read this hilarious passage in the Daily News:

Earlier Monday, about 300 protesters in squid costumes surged outside the offices of Goldman Sachs investment bank shouting, “We fry calamari!” and “Everyone pays their tax – everyone but Goldman, Sachs!”

I wish someone had called me – I would have loved to have attended this “Let’s Go Squidding” expedition. Folks, if you do this again, please let me know, and I promise to put some serious man-hours into designing a squid costume. As it is, I’d like to see in person some of the ones that turned out yesterday, especially that giant papier-mâché-looking thing I seem to see in the News photo. Whoever made that thing, if you’re out there, please contact me.

In all seriousness, I commend these protesters and hope no harm came of those arrests. Goldman continues to be a natural and appropriate target of protester anger and if OWS actions continue to mock the bank and make sport of them, it might help the public learn more about how these state-dependent banks operate and why they need to be reined in, if not broken up altogether.

A perfect if small case in point, courtesy of Zero Hedge.

Last week, Goldman upgraded European bank stocks, raising their rating from Underweight to Neutral. As ZH pointed out, “Goldman has just started selling European bank stocks to its clients, whom it is telling to buy European bank stocks.” Seeing this last week, ZH instantly and correctly concluded that Goldman was attempting to unload crappy assets on clients, and immediately advised its readers to interpret Goldman’s recommendation in the opposite direction.

In other words: if Goldman says a stock is good, you should immediately conclude that the bank actually thinks the stock is shit and is merely trying to unload it on suckers. Anyway, a few days later, ZH reported:

Sure enough, European bank stocks are down 3.84% today alone… […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/occupy-wall-street-the-squidding-of-goldman-sachs-20111213