* DALEY’S OMINOUS DEPARTURE
By Evan Osnos, The New Yorker
When Bill Daley was growing up in Chicago, he watched his father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, fight bare knuckle for control of Democratic national politics from the living room of their South Side bungalow. (“Dick Daley is the ballgame,” as Bobby Kennedy put it.) Once it was time for his son, Richard M., to elbow into the family business, Bill ran campaigns through races in which people stuffed and stole so many votes that it “was like a Fellini movie,” Bill said later. Even when they lost, Chicago politics was bloody: In ’83, Richard ended up brawling on the floor of a toy store with a guy who blamed him for splitting the white vote. “The guy’s punching him, and his son Patrick’s there screaming, ‘Hit him, Dad!’” Bill recalled.
So when a Daley concludes that the political atmosphere is poisoned, that’s saying something. As a predictor of bipartisan coöperation, Bill Daley’s resignation as White House chief of staff is as auspicious as watching the canary quit and tiptoe out of the coal mine. […]
* THE NEW WH CHIEF OF STAFF AND CITIGROUP
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
When President Obama last January announced the departure of Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff, many liberals were furious that his replacement was the Midwest Chairman of JP Morgan and Boeing Director William Daley, who was also an opponent of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a critic of Obama’s health care bill as too leftist. As but one example, Rachel Maddow harshly condemned the choice, noting Daley was a hedge fund manager and “business lobbyist” and “is known for pushing Democrats toward business interests”; said “liberals are banging their heads against the wall as they try to comprehend this choice”; and then sardonically observed: “mmm – a banker and a lobbyist: smells like change.”
Yesterday, the White House announced Daley’s departure — he will now co-chair Obama’s re-election campaign, which basically means raising huge amounts of money from his Wall Street friends — and unveiled his replacement as Chief of Staff: Jacob Lew. In 2010, Lew became head of the Office of Management and Budget when Peter Orszag left and then, a couple months later, accepted a multi-million dollar position as a high-level Citigroup official. Lew has spent many years in various government positions, but he has his own substantial ties to Citigroup. Here is what Lew was doing in 2008 at the time the financial crisis exploded, as detailed by an excellent Huffington Post report from last year:
[Lew] oversaw a Citigroup unit that profited off the housing collapse and financial crisis by investing in a hedge fund king who correctly predicted the eventual subprime meltdown and now finds himself involved in the center of the U.S. government’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs. . . .
[I]t is his few years at Citi — in particular the one year he spent at its then-$54 billion proprietary trading, hedge fund and private equity unit — that’s likely to raise the most eyebrows in the coming weeks as Lew faces a Senate confirmation hearing.
Especially his unit’s investments in a hedge fund that bet on the housing market to collapse — a reality suffered by millions of American homeowners. […]
* HAVE THE SUPER-RICH SECEDED FROM THE UNITED STATES?
By Mike Lofgren, Truthout
It was in 1993 during Congressional deliberation over the North American Free Trade Agreement. I was having lunch with a staffer for one of the rare Republican members of Congress who opposed the policy of so-called free trade. I distinctly remember something my colleague said: “The rich elites of this country have far more in common with their counterparts in London, Paris and Tokyo than with their own fellow American citizens.”
That was just the beginning of the period when the realities of outsourced manufacturing, financialization of the economy and growing income disparity started to seep into the public consciousness, so at the time it seemed like a striking and novel statement.
At the end of the cold war, many writers predicted the decline of the traditional nation state. Some looked at the demise of the Soviet Union and foresaw the territorial state breaking up into statelets of different ethnic, religious or economic compositions. This happened in the Balkans, former Czechoslovakia and Sudan. Others, like Chuck Spinney, predicted a weakening of the state due to the rise of fourth-generation warfare and the inability of national armies to adapt to it. The quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan lend credence to that theory. There have been hundreds of books about globalization and how it would break down borders. But I am unaware of a well-developed theory from that time about how the super-rich and the corporations they run would secede from the nation state.
I do not mean secession in terms of physical withdrawal from the territory of the state, although that happens occasionally.(i) It means a withdrawal into enclaves, a sort of internal immigration, whereby the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well-being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension – and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call, who cares about Medicare? […]
* OCCUPY WALL STREET RETURNS TO ZUCCOTTI PARK
Source: CBS / AP
NEW YORK – Barricades surrounding a park that served as a camp for Occupy Wall Street protesters were removed Tuesday, allowing protesters to stream back in.
The atmosphere was celebratory but calm on Tuesday evening as about 300 protesters began filling New York City’s Zuccotti Park a couple of hours after the barricades were taken down and a day after a complaint about the barricades was filed with the city. Protesters milled around, eating lasagna on paper plates and playing chess.
Security guards who were previously guarding the barricades stood off to the side, along with a handful of police officers. It was a minor victory for the protesters, who have complained about financial inequality in demonstrations that gained traction across the globe.
“Word spread pretty quickly, and we ran down here,” demonstrator Lauren DiGioia said. “It’s hard to remember what it was like before the barricades were put up.” […]
* PROTESTERS RE-ENTER ZUCCOTTI PARK (VIDEO)
* WHAT DOES THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT WANT? CONSIDER TEH 99% DEFICIT PROPOSAL (VIDEO)
* OCCUPY PUSHES BACK AGAINST PROTEST ORDINANCE AS LAW ENFORCEMENT PREPS FOR FIGHT
By Aricka Flowers, Progress Illinois
Much anticipation is swirling around the upcoming G8 and NATO summits as city officials, law enforcement and protesters have already begun gearing up for the events planned for May. Yesterday, Occupy Rogers Park and Occupy the South Side issued a citywide call to action against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed ordinance imposing harsher fines and rules for protests and demonstrations. The call to action is set to last until January 18, when the plan is expected to go up for city council vote.
The two Occupy groups also sent a letter to Chicago aldermen voicing concerns about the proposal they are calling the “Sit Down and Shut Up Ordinance.” Meanwhile, law enforcement appears to be preparing for a battle.
The letter, sent all 50 of Chicago’s aldermen, accuses the mayor’s plan of being an “attack on public protests” that will have far-reaching effects well beyond the summits planned for May:
As you are no doubt aware, Mayor Emanuel sponsored this ordinance and has promoted it in the media as a “temporary” measure aimed at controlling protesters during specified events taking place later this year. As you’ve surely read, the Mayor has since been forced to retract his claim that these changes were ever meant to be temporary. Another blatant inconsistency is that the ordinance applies to the entire city, while the NATO and G8 summits occur only downtown. Other inconsistencies in the presentation of this ordinance are similarly problematic.
Given what the ordinance actually says, it cannot be construed as an effort to protect the integrity of G8 and NATO conferences. This measure is a permanent attack on public protest in the City of Chicago. The consequences of this attack will be far reaching, and will be felt by protesters throughout the city, most of whom will never have any connection to the protests associated with these events.
On the Occupy Chicago web site, the movement also details how Emanuel’s proposal could play out, if passed, and muffle the voices of protesters:
- Raising fines for “resisting arrest” up to $1000. “Resisting arrest” in Chicago does include passively going limp, so no more passive resistance.
- Close all public spaces overnight. Sorry homeless, go sleep in the water. No occupations, no physical presence wherever an officer can get at you. Your home is probably next.
- Need a permit to even gather on the sidewalk. No picketing, no union activities, no soap-boxing, no walking on the sidewalk to avoid getting arrested holding a public space.
- Head of police can deputize anyone he wants, in a no-bid contracting process. This means we’ll be facing a bunch of untrained rent-a-cops armed with tazers and pepper spray, payed for with our tax dollars. No-bid promotes cronyism, so some friends of Rahm will no doubt be providing the straw deputies. Rahm is empowered to hire at-will, with no input from City Council (aldermen).
- City gets to dictate what kind of gear (loudspeakers, drums, etc) you can bring, and you may face fines or arrest if you deviate on what they allow. Requires you file a week in advance for a permit.
- Protest organizers must make themselves liable for any damages, and have to reimburse city for police-incitement to violence.
- All-around making protest permits much harder to get, pretty much guaranteeing that anyone with a job and a family will not have time to organize or protest for their rights. The amount of red-tape to cut through will be quadrupled, and this kind of bureaucracy forces activists to have their own bureaucracies. Pretty hard to do when you’re a volunteer movement with no money or full-time staff.
- Protests restricted to 8am-10pm. Going after hours may get you arrested. […]
* SOLDIERS WITH AUTOMATIC WEAPONS CHECKING IDs AT A SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE IN FLORIDA: MORE OF THE FREEDOM THEY HATE US FOR?
By David Swanson, War Is A Crime
Feel free to reply with why these particular gun-toting intimidators are not “soldiers” but then read the story and think about it:
Training exercise startles locals
MILLARD K. IVES | Staff Writer
It may have looked like they were ready for war or some deranged person looking for his late Social Security benefits.
But it was only Federal Protective Service officers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who were conducting a random training operation early Tuesday morning when they surprisingly showed up at the Social Security Administration office in downtown Leesburg.
With their blue and white SUVs circled around the Main Street office, at least one official was posted on the door with a semiautomatic rifle, randomly checking identifications. And other officers, some with K-9s, sifted through the building.
“I thought someone was upset about not getting there check,” said Laura Kelly, who took a friend to the office on Tuesday.
According to one Homeland official in the Washington, D.C. office, Operation Shield. is an effort that uses routine, unannounced visits by FPS inspectors to test the effectiveness of contract guards, or protective security officers — “detecting the presence of unauthorized persons and potentially disruptive or dangerous activities.”
Part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FPS is the federal law enforcement agency that provides integrated security and law enforcement services to over 9,000 federally-owned and leased buildings, facilities, properties and other assets.
Officers on the scene would not speak to the press and by noon they were gone. But Thomas Milligan, district manager for the Social Security Administration office, said while the visit came as a surprise, the office was ready. He added the officers checked videos, security measures, alarm system and more.
“It was to make sure security measures are in place and properly followed,” Milligan said. […]
* POLICE VIDEO SHOWS OFF G8 / NATO SUMMIT PREPS
By Chuck Goudie, ABC News
(CHICAGO) (WLS) — The start of the two world government summits in Chicago is a little more than four months away. In this Intelligence Report: Evidence that police and protesters are both preparing for the G8 and NATO summits.
The back-to-back G8 summit and NATO meeting has been designated a national security event, which means the Secret Service has overarching jurisdiction.
But much of the street action will be under the command of Chicago Police and Illinois State Police, who have put out some photos showing their preparations.
At a long-closed hotel complex in northwest suburban Arlington Heights, Illinois State Police conducted what they called a large-scale training exercise. The training there, just before Christmas, was by members of the State Weapons of Mass Destruction Team. Video of the secret exercise obtained by the I-Team shows officers moving through drills that included the disarming of multiple improvised explosive devices and arresting the suspects.
In providing details of the training, state police officials specifically cited this May’s G8 and NATO summits. The drills also involved officers from the secretary of state’s bomb squad, National Guard’s Civil Support Team and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. […]
READ and VIDEO @ http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news%2Fiteam&id=8496624
* USDA TO CLOSE 259 OFFICES
Source: The Associated Press
DES MOINES — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday that it will close nearly 260 offices nationwide, a move that won praise for cutting costs but raised concerns about the possible effect on food safety.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the goal was to save $150 million a year in the department’s $145 billion budget. About $90 million had already been saved by reducing travel and supplies, and the closings were expected to save another $60 million, he said.
The plan calls for 259 offices, labs and other facilities to be closed, affecting the USDA headquarters in Washington and operations in 46 states. Seven foreign offices also will be closed.
Some of the closings had been previously announced. The USDA said last year it would shut down 10 agricultural research stations, including the only one in Alaska, where scientists were seeking ways to use the vast waste generated by the largest wild fishery in the nation to make everything from gel caps to fish meal for livestock feed.
Other parts of the announcement were a surprise. Andrew Lorenz, deputy district manager for the Food Safety and Inspection Service in Minneapolis, learned that his office would be closed, along with those in Madison, Wis., and Lawrence, Kan.
“They wiped out the entire Midwest,” said Lorenz, whose office handles all federal inspections of meat, poultry and egg products in Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming. […]
* THE NEXT GENERATIONS OF GMOs COULD BE ESPECIALLY DANGEROUS
By Tom Laskawy, Grist
The study in question, performed by researchers at China’s Nanjing University and published in the journal Cell Research, found that a form of genetic material — called microRNA — from conventional rice survived the human digestive process and proceeded to affect cholesterol function in humans.
Levaux argues that this new study “reveals a pathway by which genetically modified (GM) foods might influence human health” which should cause us to completely revisit the question of GM crops’ safety. And he’s right to be alarmed, just a little off on the reasoning.
Let’s take a closer look at how this study applies to current GM technology, shall we?
I would argue that several studies have already suggested that existing GM foods might present a health risk. For example, this study in The International Journal of Biological Sciences found evidence that Monsanto’s Bt corn causes organ damage in lab animals. Then there’s this one which showed that GM soybeans can alter mice on the cellular level — an indication that genetically modified material survives digestion and is active in animals that consume it.
Of course, advocates of genetically modified foods will observe that the phenomenon of genetic transfer through consumption applies to all plants and that GM foods are therefore “substantially equivalent” to non-GM foods. As Levaux explains at length, this concept of substantial equivalence has been used by the biotech industry as well as our government to push GM foods through safety testing with minimal scrutiny. What’s Monsanto’s defense of all this? On its website, the company claims:
There is no need to test the safety of DNA introduced into GM crops. DNA (and resulting RNA) is present in almost all foods … DNA is non-toxic and the presence of DNA, in and of itself, presents no hazard … So long as the introduced protein is determined to be safe, food from GM crops determined to be substantially equivalent is not expected to pose any health risks. […]
* GOVERNMENT SET TO SELL FORECLOSURES IN BULK
By Diana Olick, CNBC
The Obama administration, in conjunction with federal regulators and led by the overseer of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is very close to announcing a pilot program to sell government-owned foreclosures in bulk to investors as rentals, according to administration officials.
There currently are about a quarter of a million foreclosed properties on the books of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and millions more are coming.
The foreclosure processing delays of last year created a mammoth backlog of properties yet to be processed, which are just now being re-started. One of the initiatives of this program is for the federal government to be in the position to mitigate and manage any new wave of foreclosures, sources say.
Late-stage delinquencies still in the pipeline number close to two million, according to a new report from Lender Processing Services. Foreclosure starts outnumber foreclosure sales by two to one and “the trend toward fewer loans becoming delinquent, which dominated 2010 and the first quarter of 2011, appears to have halted,” according to LPS.
A number of institutional investors have shown appetite and interest in bulk REO deals, according to officials, but the plan has to incorporate ways to help facilitate financing. That has been one of the biggest roadblocks to deals already in the works between hedge funds and the major banks. Sources close to these private bank negotiations say there is plenty of cash to buy properties, but building out a management structure for the rentals is pricey, and some investors are finding the math doesn’t add up to make it worth their while. […]
* THE POWER OF WORDS: RACIALLY CODED POLITICAL RHETORIC
Source: The Crunk Feminist Collective
New Gingrich has repeatedly referred to President Obama as “The Food Stamp” President while contrasting that with his own aims to become “The Paycheck” President.
Ron Paul, in an attempt to beat unruly logic into submission, has tried to convince us that “entitlements” are not “rights.” In an effort to dispute affirmative action and minority rights he equates such “entitlements” with the “entitlements” that big businesses get from big government, thus causing the word itself to lose any precision it might have had. This of course is in addition to his refusal to clearly address his connection to several blatantly racist comments on publications bearing his name.
Rick Santorum, descendant of Ronald Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” rhetoric, told a room of mostly white voters in Iowa that he doesn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”
Mitt Romney holds as one of his campaign slogans that he vows to, “Keep America American.”
Rick Perry, in a stunning move of political originality, asserts that our President is a socialist. With the word “socialist” serving as a catch-all for a whole host of undesirable traits and policies, including, but not limited to, disrespect for the 10th Amendment’s protection of states’ rights.
With one primary down and another coming up in New Hampshire tomorrow, it has become difficult to avoid the spectacle that is the quest for a Republican candidate for President. A spectacle made such by a cohort of candidates that stubbornly refuses to winnow, casting us all into the Party’s frantic search for a standard-bearer.
And so it begins in earnest: the contest within the Republican Party to dig up its next contender. Let’s start at the beginning, though. Elections are about politics. They are condensed, hyper-charged and frantic attempts to remove people from positions of power, or by other to hold on to those positions or newly acquire them. To do this they need to convince us that they deserve these positions of leadership. […]
* FOUR YEARS AGO
From the archives: