Dear listeners and friends of Dialogos Radio,
Dialogos Radio & Media
Dear listeners and friends of Dialogos Radio,
Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
Video: Alberto Reveron & Amira Bochenska. Thank you for all people that participates, special thanks for music – HK & les Saltimbanks (http://www.saltimbanks.fr).
Links to follow:
Take The Square http://takethesquare.net/
Marcha Bruselas https://www.facebook.com/15mMarchaBru…
Global Change https://www.facebook.com/groups/globa…
Asamblea Virtual https://www.facebook.com/AsambleaVirtual
Spanish Revolution https://www.facebook.com/SpanishRevol…
By Iddhis Bing, 99GetSmart
“What bothers me is that I still have an account open with UBS… The only way to close it is to go there? With an account open there I’m fucked, since UBS is not necessarily the most hidden of banks. It stinks. Is any sort of proxy possible?…Above all, so that the holdings somehow stay at UBS and can be managed from here. It’s a word game pure and simple.”
Jerome Cahuzac was, until March 19, Budget Minister in François Hollande’s socialist government, in charge of the enforcement of tax laws during a time of fiscal crisis and high unemployment.
Regarded as one of the more effective ministers in the new government, Cahuzac lost little time before lowering the boom. He grilled members of the new administration about their finances, pointedly asking Marylise Lebranchu if there wasn’t a zero missing from her husband’s tax declaration, and in September 2012, announced a 19.6% levy on plastic surgery, an industry with powerful clients which may have felt untouchable, not least because Cahuzac is a plastic surgeon.
On December 5, 2012, the Mediapart website published the recording transcribed above, claiming it was Cahuzac’s voice speaking to a third party about a secret Swiss bank account.1
Despite his ardent denials over the next three months – first that the voice was not his, and later that the account had been closed in 2010 - Cahuzac’s position became untenable. He resigned his post and made a public apology.
Such are the twists and turns of fate that, in November, 2012, Cahuzac announced a crackdown on tax fraud and on April 2 of this year appeared before anti-corruption judges Renaud Van Ruymbeke and Roger Le Loire to face charges of concealing his UBS account (« blanchiment de fraude fiscale »).
Undeclared income transferred to a second country – in this case, Switzerland – in order to avoid taxes in the person’s home country – in this case, France – was and is a crime. As such, the actions Cahuzac confessed to on the phone tape are but a miniscule yet revealing part of the worldwide tax avoidance game which was detailed in the Invisible Money series on this site. The scandal in France is still in its initial stages. Deniability has now been exhausted. More bankers will come under pressure from prosecutors and more information about other tax evaders will leak out.
Cahuzac was able to hold on for more than three months because of support from within the Hollande regime. Pierre Moscovici, Minister of the Economy, cleared Cahuzac of wrong doing on February 5 and publicly embraced him in the Assembly, while Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stated he had “total confidence” in his Budget Secretary. The position taken by the Socialist government raises many questions about both the veracity of their public statements as well as their competence. People in France, from different parts of the political spectrum, find the assertion that they didn’t know about Cahuzac’s hidden holdings after early December to be stretching credulity past the breaking point.
Part of President François Hollande’s response was the swift passage of the bill requiring his ministers to register their holdings in the public record. They are now available on-line; the entire country can see how much each minister is worth. While not exactly a millionaire’s club, it comes close. Hollande has spent a good deal of his time since Cahuzac’s resignation on trade trips, to Morocco and last week, China.
On April 2, Cahuzac made a public statement to the effect that he had been “trapped in a spiral of lies and went astray,” and that his UBS account, some 600,000 Euros, had not been added to in a dozen years, was closed in 2010 and the monies would be returned to France. With his rugged good looks and forthright manner it was a splendid “modified, limited hang-out,” to steal a phrase from Richard Nixon.
Reality has continued to spiral out of control since then, with more information becoming public. There remain many problems with Cahuzac’s account.
This article, although it breaks no new ground, attempts to review important aspects of the story for English-speaking readers. L’Affaire Cahuzac is much more than the story of a fallen minister: it’s an x-ray of the French class system in which one can observe how one gets ahead these days. Cahuzac’s contacts and alliances among politicians and Important People are legion as are his friendships with those behind the scene.
Tax evasion has become a way of life for those in the upper strata of society, in France as in other countries. People do what they think they can get away with, and Cahuzac’s case provides but one example of how it’s done. French newspapers speak of the “scandals doubtless to come.”
“Shit, Jerome, you’ve got a few contradictions!”
Jerome Cahuzac, 60 years old, has used the rural department of Lot et Garonne as his political base for years. Until March of this year he represented it in the National Assembly. (French law allows politicians to hold multiple positions at the same time; for a few days after he resigned his ministry he publicly toyed with the idea of keeping his elected post.)
Trained as a surgeon, he began his medical career as a cardiologist before changing, in the early ’90s, to the lucrative profession of plastic surgery, where he specialized in hair transplants.
From 1988 to 1991, he worked for the government under Minister of Social Affairs Claude Evin, on policy relating to cigarettes and alcohol as well as pharmacology and medicines. In 1993, while maintaining his plastic surgery practice, he set up Conseil Cahuzac, where he acted as a “purely technical advisor” to the pharmaceutical laboratories. At the Conseil, he worked closely with Daniel Vial, the lobbyist’s lobbyist, the man who knows everyone in the “Paris that counts.”
A member of the Socialist Party since 1977, he first ran for the National Assembly in the Lot et Garonne in 1997, picking up other offices such as regional Counsellor General and Mayor of Villeneuve-sur-Lot along the way. A rebarbative critic of the Sarkozy government’s handling of finances and debt, he was also known as the “hairsplitter” in his position as the president of the Assembly’s Commission of Finances. (In short, make a lot of noise but do little, as Edouard Perrin learned when he tried to interest the Assembly in his findings on tax evasion.) He has, at various times, either worked for or taken Michel Rocard, Lionel Jospin, Dominique Strauss Kahn and François Hollande as his mentors.
He is known to frequent the Cercle de l’Union interalliée, and is a member of the Grand Orient de France, whose ruling counsel has now asked for his suspension.
In 2000, he made the now-fatal phone recording. In June of 2008, Remy Garnier, a pol from the Lot et Garonne, tried to interest Eric Woerth of the UMP (Sarkozy’s party) in allegations that Cahuzac had a Swiss bank account. No takers. Likewise, the far-right National Front has been suspiciously quiet throughout a debacle that should play to their benefit, saying only that they believe in the presumption of innocence. In 2007, Cahuzac was found guilty of paying a Filipina maid 250 Euros a month for 40 hours work off the books. He paid a fine and later helped the woman become legal in France.
So much for the Official Story, which raises a few questions of its own.2 Let’s look at a little more closely at Jerome Cahuzac’s other life.
Although he joined the Socialist Party in 1977, he has maintained long-standing connections to the right and far right through personal relationships. Jean-Pierre Emié is a close friend of thirty four years. Emié has ties to GUD, a far-right student union and was, until 2004, counsellor to the National Front for Paris and its suburbs. It was Emié who introduced Cahuzac to Philippe Peninque, the lawyer who opened Cahuzac’s UBS account. (Peninque and Emié share an office on Rue Marbeuf.) Peninque, a militant ideologue in GUD during his student days, is one of Marine le Pen’s “shadow advisors.”
Gilles August, Cahuzac’s lawyer until earlier this month (April, 2013), is a former member of UNI, a conservative student union. Manuel Valls, Minister of Security in the Hollande government, celebrated his 50th birthday at August’s house last summer, in company with Cahuzac and numerous stars from the firmament: singers Patrick Bruel and Nolwenn Leroy, the Marseille real estate mogul Marc Pietri, TV producer Michel Drucker… Cahuzac is a militant sportif, and one of his bike partners is (or was) Patrick Sayer of Eurazeo Investment Bank, a member of the CAC40, the upper crust of the French Bourse.
Among the many clients at Cahuzac’s plastic surgery practice were former GUD militants, Philippe Peninque, Stephane Fouks of Havas Worldwide Marketing, Socialist Party leader François Patriat, as well as, by Cahuzac’s admission, one Hervé Dreyfus.
Jerome Cahuzac’s younger brother, Antoine, worked at CCF (Crédit Commercial de France) from 1985 to 1988, and again from 1994 to 2000 in a variety of different capacities before taking a senior position at HSBC Bank France.
None of this is grist for the conspiracy mill but it does establish just how deep and wide ranging Cahuzac’s contacts are within French society. When Jean-Pierre Emié complained to Cahuzac that, “Shit, Jerome, you’ve got a lot of contradictions, you’ve got robbery and delinquence in Villeneuve and you support Socialist immigration and security policy!” Cahuzac did not seize on the particulars but replied, like the song says, on a whole other level: “Who doesn’t have contradictions? You, Jean-Pierre, you don’t have any contradictions?” Cahuzac once characterised himself as a “maquisard,” a resistance fighter; a man capable of many disguises and identities. In his case, the war being fought is entirely on behalf of the career of one Jerome Cahuzac.
Reyl & Co.
If Jerome Cahuzac is the fuse that lit the scandal, the dynamite – at least the first stick of dynamite to explode – is definitely the private investment bank Reyl & Co. Or as one of Mediapart’s sources put it, “If there’s one den of thieves that has as its clients French show biz personalities, captains of industry and politicians, it’s Reyl.” 3
The history of Reyl closely parallels what we might call The Golden Age of Tax Evasion, with an explosive growth of revenue in the first decade of this century when cheating on taxes reached the level of a national sport.
Reyl & Co. was founded by Dominique Reyl in 1978 as a private management company in Geneva. For twenty years or so it was indistinguishable from dozens of other financial “boutiques.” With increased pressure from the European Union on big banks like UBS, the unregulated, extremely discreet Reyl & Co. came into its own, converting into a full-fledged bank in 2010. Its modus operandi is to advise clients how they might conceal their money behind unnamed accounts or fictive organizations, giving them the ability to disavow holdings at one of the large banks.
A massive sum of money left Switzerland in 2010, the year Jerome Cahuzac “closed” his account. New regulations had come into effect: the Swiss had agreed to furnish information about certain kinds of accounts to the EU. His money did not come back to France; it moved to Singapore, where along with Hong Kong, Reyl had established subsidiaries. From Singapore it moved “off-shore,” to fiscal paradises with names like Wind Charm Corporation, Fame Eagle Corporation, Oceania City International Inc., Sunny Ridge Group Limited, Jade Green Investments Limited, Moonlite Overseas LTD. in the Seychelles – all Reyl subsidiaries. To add yet another layer of secrecy, these transaction are carried out by middlemen like Swiss-Asia Holding Ltd., so that nothing can be traced back to Reyl or its clients.4
Further questions regarding Cahuzac’s accounts are raised by my sources in the banking industry. In his confession the ex-Budget Minister employed the figure of 600,000 Euros to describe his holdings in Switzerland. This is obviously a very strict definition. 600,000 – barely enough, as one joker commented, to buy a modest apartment in Paris – is the kind of figure held in a individual’s name, while a significantly larger amount is hidden behind the bank’s firewall. Is Jerome Cahuzac the beneficiary, either directly or indirectly, of other non-declared accounts in Switzerland? Did he only confess to the one account that could be traced back to him?
Second, Singapore law makes it impossible for non-residents to transfer money into their banks in amounts less than 1,000,000 Euros. If Cahuzac’s Swiss account was closed in 2010, and the money transferred to Singapore, as he has confessed, exactly how much was transferred? This second line of inquiry obviously casts doubt on the veracity of Cahuzac’s “confession” as to just how much money he had in Switzerland in the first place.
Who is the man on the other end of the phone line in that call from 2000? Who was Cahuzac speaking to? Obviously an intimate, at least financially. We may never know for certain but one thing we do know: undeclared money traveling from France to Switzerland does not travel by check or wire or any other traceable route. It crosses the border by suitcase or van. And for that the services of a porter are required. A discreet porter who knows how to keep quiet.
Enter Hervé Dreyfus, according to Le Temps Dominque Reyl’s half-brother, a man who is a senior partner at both Reyl & Co. and Raymond James Asset Management International (“managers for private clientele”) in Paris – an off-shore specialist. A man with a myriad of contacts, who knows how to lay low: there are few photos of him in circulation. A man Jerome Cahuzac claims he met only once – in his office, for a “transplant consultation.” They must have had a lot to talk about: Dreyfus is, or was, as bald as an egg.
If what Cahuzac says is true, Dreyfus, who has advised Nicholas Sarkozy’s ex-wife Cecilia among many others, is one of the few important people in France he doesn’t know.
Dreyfus and Cahuzac’s younger brother Antoine both worked at Credit Commercial de France in the 1990s, where Dreyfus was responsible for “portfolio management for non-resident private citizens” (according to his biography on the Raymond James site) and both men worked in European markets. It’s hard to imagine the two men not knowing each other.
Mediapart and Antoine Peillon, author of The 600 Billion Missing in France, have named Dreyfus as Reyl’s “delivery man for French affairs.” Mediapart went further: on December 10, 2012 the site flatly stated that Dreyfus is Cahuzac’s money manager. Neither Dreyfus nor the younger Cahuzac have spoken publicly since the scandal broke.
This is just the beginning. More names with secret accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere are sure to follow. The French are incensed: Gerard Depardieu at least had the grace to leave the country rather than pay. The other rich stay home, complain endlessly about taxes and hide the loot elsewhere. Cahuzac’s slow motion striptease, a little bit of truth at a time, gave them three extra months to move the money around. It will be interesting to see who flees across the border or to the prosecutor first, Jerome Cahuzac or Hervé Dreyfus. Or, to use a homely metaphor, who serves whom on a platter.
April 30, 2013
1 The phone conversation was inadvertantly recorded in 2000 by Michel Gonelle, Cahuzac’s rival in the 2001 municipal elections in Villeneuve-sur-Lot (Lot-et-Garonne), on his phone machine. Cahuzac, having spoken to Gonelle, believed he had terminated the call when he began a second conversation about his private finances. Gonelle, for whom the tape was a “heavy weight” he carried for 12 years, furnished the recording to Mediapart in 2012.
2 Questions are now being asked about his privileged relationship with the pharmaceutical companies and whether it affected his work for the government in 1988-1991 and, given his access to health officials, afterward; what exactly was the nature of the “purely technical advice” he gave to Big Pharma at his consulting agency – did it amount to government access?; whether it’s true that many of his hair transplants were done off the books. Finally, what is the real extent of his wealth, and how was it acquired?
3 « S’il y a bien une officine qui avait comme clients français des personnalités du show-biz, des grands capitaines d’industrie, et des hommes politiques, c’est Reyl. » Unnamed sources can say whatever they like. Unlike the average rumor mongers, Mediapart’s sources in L’Affaire Cahuzac have been proven right. Believe what you like.
4 Swiss-Asia is a “booking platform” operating between banks and financial management companies in different countries. Its on-line prospectus says, “Swiss-Asia Holding Pte. Ltd. operates from the core of its investment universe, where proximity and access to investment opportunities make it possible to produce superior returns with a pro-active and efficient risk monitoring. While Swiss-Asia’s mission is to build a sustainable “East meets West” style of Asset Management out of Singapore and Hong Kong, its dedicated team strives itself to provide High Net Worth Individuals, Financial Institutions and Corporate clients with the best-in-class asset-management, advisory and execution services.” Which reads like it was written on Ecstasy on the sundeck of a yacht passing through the Straits of Malacca.
TERRORS AND IDYLLS OF THE EXILE
This is NOT a political piece like many of the worthy and informative articles on 99 GetSmart. Every once in a while the present writer gets out and into trouble of a different kind.
It could be nothing more than a freak of geography, wherein God’s Creatures are tossed around the globe like so many storm-tossed mariners but even taking that into account, the sheer strangeness of the occasion is worth musing on for a minute or two: a small circle of Americans, none of them church-going, most of them strangers to one another, sitting around a cocktail table in the night club of a corporate hotel, where water was unthinkable and a glass of wine 29 Euros; the platonic, pre-fabricated cocktail table itself, the same in every dive the world over: there might be one factory on the whole planet, in Chicago, Cuzco or Mandalay that makes every single one of them; three quarters of us strangers to each other, black and white, who would never so much as look in the hotel door or even go down that block in our day to day, our knees knocking against the lip of the table (which may be the reason for the explosion later on), sitting in an environment faux to the max, everything “pre-designed” and meant to signify a certain easy complacency with the ways of the world; all of us there for one purpose beyond the unspoken one of sitting in a small circle with unknown others who may or may not have shared our reasons for exile, or even our taste – because we were all Americans in Europe, and however often that sort of gathering ends up a real disaster, we were willing to chance it. That purpose being to hear a small group of gospel singers, who were willing to sing for us sinners in an environment that shouted hoshannas to easy money from every corner. We were grouped around the table for the simple reason that we came from the same wilderness, the forest of America, a country now so far away we might not even be able to find it on a map.
We came to hear the Baptist-Methodist delivery of Sweet Jesus, who no matter how endlessly he procrastinates over his return – and where actually would he go to be received hospitably? A certain irreducible number of Americans are sure it must be the U.S.A. but, by God, we’d have that socialist hanging from a tree before the sun went down – delivers musically.
The waiter was, like the song says, very kind. No matter how many times we said “pas encore” when he came for our order, he smiled and deferred. A Kabuki drama, full of deference and hidden motives. We were playing a role, that of indigent Americans on foreign soil, no less than he, who isn’t a waiter when he’s at home. We had snuck in the side door, so to speak: one of our party was related to the oldest and most venerable of the singers, Elsa Harris, who has joined the Victory Singers for a brief tour of the Continent. And there we were, not buying drinks, getting to know each other, and listening. I don’t know how often black and white sit down together in the States these days, but it isn’t often; and less so here. What did I have to do with the religious message of Jesus this and Jesus that? Absolutely nothing. But tonight at least, Jesus wasn’t going to be denied, here on the home ground of the cults that made his name. (To compress two thousand years of history into a single sentence, if Paul hadn’t ventured to Greece and Peter to Rome, no would even know who the troublemaker from Galilee is.)
So there we sat, thirsty in a temple of Mammon, listening not to some dumb hotel jazz but voices: heavenly, ardent, righteous. We watched in a kind of open-eyed stupor.
Someone someday should do a full-length study about the way the Godless French flock to gospel performances, the price of the ticket, the way they sit there agog as if they were, finally, after a weary week of the worst despotism imaginable – the ordinary – at an authentic happening, and how, within twenty minutes or less, they are smiling, clapping and flapping their arms like the rawest yokels at the county fair. Well, the French are notoriously ever in search of a new exotic flavor – but surely they do not believe. So they are once again playing a role. And yet… What sounds to me like the worst pandering to Jesus, emblematic of just how primitive religion is in my country, they applaud more fervently than they ever did the Belgian priest LeMaitre’s announcement that the universe is expanding infinitely in all directions. When we come over, the Euros like to see us primitive, in bear skins if possible, chanting a noisome litany of pseudo-sacred truths. It reassures them.
It is for that reason among many others that I cannot completely convince myself that Europe is so very done with God just yet. He is, I suspect, waiting in the wings somewhere, fidgeting, eager to try on a new outfit of shiny, theatrical garb. Where and when are the questions. Make of that what you will.
The Victory Singers are a small group, five ladies and two men, one piano, and not one of those enormous choirs decked out in flowing robes whose posters adorn public walls in city after city here on the Continent, leading one to the suspicion that there are many wise black folk who have decided that singing for their supper in Europe is a far better deal than heading home to be an unemployment statistic and member of a race that some 47.3% of my countrymen will never truly accept as Americans at all. (“So happy to be here among the real people,” the pols whistle when they land in rural Kansas or South Carolina.)
(I know: Obama won reëlection resoundingly despite the fact that he is a savage, tom-tom beating African bent on hauling America against its will to a socialist paradise. It must have happened because… because an influential and odious character named Withers, who happens to be a cartoon, came out for Romney, and that gave America pause to think. Stranger things have happened. In any case, America is not to be understood – it kills those who try; it can only be accepted as is, contradictions intact.
What was it like for a white Christian in the South to go into the voting booth and, against pressure from his preacher and his boss, vote for a man they are taught to despise? That interests me. Of course they routinely vote for men who cannot be trusted with either their dollars or their daughter…)
And so there they were on stage in jeans, eloquent testimony to the Poor Church which, no matter the indignities of the week, gets up early Sunday to testify that God is with them each step of the way, a claim I find absurd but not laughable, utterly unproven but worthy, for a host of reasons, of respect.
And what did they sing? Our Homeric Hymns, the originals lost, replaced by a multitude of versions derived from the first template, variants comingling in the spirit, each telling a different story depending on who steps up to sing it. No one should be shocked to hear lines in Tell ‘em I’m a Child of God appear to very different ends in Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Alright. Or perhaps the singer in the Detroit church where Child of God was recorded listened to Dylan… – nothing out of the ordinary there. But if you trace the song back, you will end up not with a modern day believer singing for Jesus but a fugitive, an escaped slave, rain-soaked and shivering, who had no name to give him or herself and nothing more than A Child of God as a password and a desperate hope of shelter. An exile, in short, in his or her own country. That may or may not fit your definition of political but it is the human context in which many gospel songs were born.
I don’t know if I have conveyed the full strangeness of the evening, which seems to me now to have taken place in a hall of mirrors that would beggar Versailles. What were the Victory Singers doing at Le Méridien Etoile, an American chain of businessman’s hotels near Porte Maillot? There they were, five robust ladies testifying to the power of the name Jesus on the small stage of the imaginatively named Jazz Club (no Sluggos or Five Spot for the corporate set) and there we were in the front row, stranded until one of our party gave in and confessed, “Ah, hell, my husband died. I ain’t poor these days. I’ll go a round.” (How often do Methodists or Baptists or Seventh Day Adventists play for the cocktail crowd?) And there they were, the French making up the majority of the audience, there because they were staying in the hotel and it beat a Friday night watching television, or because even with the lowest rate of church attendance in Europe, their magnificent cathedrals empty of believers, they wanted to hear evidence of those who do believe. Vicarious thrills. And like I say, they put on, in their awkward way, just like mountain folk who come down from the hills to see some two-headed miracle.
Fiery condemnation will get you nowhere except a pulpit and, in any case, the occasion was too strange and sublimely discordant for such judgments. The only thing that could have topped the proceedings was if they announced that a production of Leroi Jones’s Dutchman would follow the second set. I wonder if the small crowd would have gone for that.
As it was, we had to content ourselves with the lady a few feet away who got a little too into it, kneeing the cocktail table and sending her tall, 50 Euro phizz flying into the air. It promptly landed and gave her a nice bath in Coco-Schnapps or whatever she was drinking. Uproar. Catastrophe. Something for the waiters to do – at last. They leapt into action with napkins and condolences. The singers kept belting it out the whole time.
The Victory ladies were a bit agog themselves. They had been to the Eiffel Tour earlier in the day for the first time in their lives. The piano player sighed wearily, “I stayed in bed. I’ve already done it three times,” (you can interpret that any way you like) but the ladies were beaming. Not a cathedral – the Eiffel Tower, which no Parisian goes near. Iddhis Bing December 3, 2012
* YO NO PAGO! REPORT FROM BARCELONA BY MIKIFUS
Source: Take The Square
I’m going to make a report, explaining my personal view of some of the last protests in Spain, wich I think could be really interesting in many other places.
This is the situation:
In Spain, public transport is being affected by the austerity and the companies decided to lower the salaries, fire the employees and increase the price of the service. There was no needing of anything of this, they’re just taking profit.
Also, the public transport increases every year the price, it’s normal because salaries also increase.
This year the salaries are freezed because of the crisis (only some governors increased theirs…), so the price of the transport shouldn’t increase.
Well, they did it, 12% of increasing. So fucking nice, privatization of healthcare, families on the streets, closing of public schools… Everybody is having fun.
This is the reaction:
Most of people does nothing, you know.
Well, public transport it’s not a basic need, so it’s nothing to care so much, there are worse things out there. But the ideas on how to solve it are really interesting: an increase of price has become an opportunity to use the services for free!
Based on the greek movement, we are starting one with the same name: “I don’t pay”, in spanish: “Yo no pago”. Of course Occupy/15m gives support and the movement medias are being used to collaborate.
This movement started with a massive jumping inside the metro (underground,subway I never know how to call it in english), it was a success and yesterday the did it again.
Yesterday in Madrid the metro station was sorrounded by a lot of police and 5 persons were arrested, the protesters made also an improvised demonstration.
In Barcelona was so nice, nobody did nothing to stop it, the doors were open and blocked for hours and workers or police didn’t care. Everybody could enter for free and some random people also joined the demonstration inside the midtown big station.
You’ll find photos and videos here: https://twitter.com/#!/search/yonopago
And today I was surprised when reading about a new parallel movement: “Yo no paro”, in english: “I don’t stop”, literal translation makes it not understandable, I would call it “I won’t stop them”. This is a calling made by the public transport workers from Madrid, they said that they’re not going to ask the people for the tickets nor stop them when jumping the doors in solidarity with the “yo no pago”.
PHOTOS @ http://yfrog.com/h65vvbrj
* ALTER(NATIVE) TV
Source: When the Crisis hit the Fan
[…] This is the story of Alter TV, one of the 6 private free-to-air channels in Greece.
The station is in a state that we call is “epischesi ergasias” (επίσχεση εργασίας), a phenomenon of the Greek job market I presume. So what is it? It’s something like a strike. When an employee owes several salaries to his employees, they have the right to proceed to an “epischesi ergasias”, which means that they still go to work, but are refusing to work because of the employer’s arrears. The difference with the strike is that they are not losing their wages while practicing it. They go to thei posts to show their readiness to work (though refusing to produce) and, in some cases, to protect the company’s personal (movable) property in case of bankruptcy. But let’s take the story from the beginning.
According to its employees, Alter TV got into financial trouble last year but managed to re-emerge as the second (and at times first) most popular news channel (based on the main news bulletins’ ratings). The channel is mainly owned by three men, the father and son Kouris and Kostas Giannikos who was also responsible for the day-to-day running of the place (the Kouris family had 51% of the shares, Giannikos had 25% and the rest was free floating on the market). In the past years he went on a borrowing spree, getting loans in the name of the Alter TV and then using them to create a network of sister companies which were totally depended on Alter. A music company, Legend, which produced music CDs that were advertised solely on Alter. Modern Times was a publishing house whose books were also heavily advertised by Alter. At a time when publishing houses could not afford to advertise books on TV, Modern Times could advertise any piece of junk they wanted on prime time and see them easily in the Top-10 list. The employees of the channel were employed not only to produce the channel’s programs but a series of tv ad clips which were done for the sister companies at a dirt cheap cost. The station also sold great parts of its advertising time slots in advance without securing a constant cash flow. As a result, when the Greek financial crisis became a fact in this country the station went into trouble. The employers started owing a month’s salary at the beginning and were paying their employees at an increasingly unpredicted way. A salary after 1,5 month, another one after 2 and so on.
Right now the owners owe between 8 and 12 salaries to their employees who have been in a state of “epischesi ergasias” for more than 2 months. Kostas Giannikos left the company and focused on his other companies which also ran into financial troubles. The employees at his financial newspaper “Investor’s World” are also in a state of “epischesi ergasias” now. Alter TV’s new Board of Directors has told the employees that there is a possible investor who is willing to take over the channel but they can’t mention his name. According to their plan, out of 650 employees about one third (286 employees) will have to be laid off. They’ll get 70% of what is owed to them and will receive their compensations after 12-24 months. The ones who’ll stay will get 60% of what is owed to them, they’ll have to work for free for the coming months until the company officially enters the protection of Article 99 (Bankruptcy Law which protects about-to-bankrupt companies from creditors). Oh yes, there will also be a renegotiation (sic) of their salaries with 10%-30% cut according to their previous salaries.
The employees did not accept this proposal and are waiting for another solution. In the meantime they have been using the station’s frequency to broadcast messages against the owners, the Kouris family.
As they told us, it was their reply to a cheap and dirty propaganda war launched by the Kouris family against its own employees. This can best be depicted by a front page of Avriani newspaper (owned by the Kouris family) which, at an attempt to blame and shame the employees, gathered all salary expenses in the past two years, including the salaries of celebrity tv presenters, changed the amount to drachmas and published this: […]
READ / PHOTOS / VIDEO @ http://whenthecrisishitthefan.com/2012/02/16/alternative-tv/
* GREECE IS OUT OF TIME, AGAIN
By Yves Smith, NakedCapitalism
There is definitely something odd happening in Europe. I can’t quite put my finger on it, so I thought I would list out my musings on the topic and see what I can come up with.
Firstly, overnight there was talk that the ECB appears to have entered into a bond swap deal with Greece:
The national central banks in the euro zone are set to exchange their holdings of Greek bonds into new bonds in the run up to a private sector debt deal to avoid taking any forced losses, euro zone sources said on Thursday.
The euro zone is putting the finishing touches to a second bailout deal for Greece for finance ministers’ approval on Monday, paving the way for a debt swap with its private creditors needed to avoid a ruinous default in March.
The deal, which aims to halve in nominal terms what Greece owes to investors, slashing its debts by 100 billion euros, is set to include a legal requirement for bondholders to accept losses. This would have put the ECB in a tricky position, leaving it open to claims it was financing governments. […]
* BANKERS OCCUPIED EUROPE AND AMERICA
By Stephen Lendman
[…] Attorney Dimitri Lascaris has family in Greece. His sister’s letter explained harm times there, saying:
In fall 2009, their family income declined. Their carpentry business only works sporadically. Customers with outstanding balances can’t pay. They prioritize other obligations like food, rent, mortgages, water, electricity and health insurance, etc.
“Slowly, cash has become more and more scarce for our customers, and therefore for us.”
In 2012, empty stores with rent signs are everywhere. Businesses still operating feature sales with 50 – 70% discounts. Once crowded markets became “deserted urban centers.”
“Suicides, drug abuse, prostitution, and crime have infiltrated village life….Other friends of ours have died of heart attacks, stressed to the limit by debt, or worse, the loss of their cars, homes,” and livelihoods.
Businesses have to beg customers to pay something, anything “because food or heat in the dead of winter has become an issue for us….We are all now at the mercy of anyone with money at hand to help our family survive, let alone aspire to a better life.”
The same scenario threatens Europe, especially in troubled Eurozone countries and Latvia where wages were slashed 30% and people haven’t enough to live on.
The more pounds of flesh extracted, the less able economies can grow. Greeks must either leave or rebel. The alternative’s letting politicians and bankers bleed them dry. There’s no in between, and what’s happening there’s heading for Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and eventually all Europe, Britain, and America. […]
* AUSTERITY IN GREECE: THE ‘SHOCK THERAPY’ KILLING THE PATIENT
By Common Dreams Staff
As Greek officials continue negotiations with their creditors over further austerity measures demanded to receive a bailout package, years of harsh cuts have been steadily unraveling Greek society with soaring unemployment, increasing homelessness and financial insecurity.
France 24 reports that the middle class is disappearing with people living “on the brink”:
Jobless rates in Greece are soaring, with nearly 21 percent of the total active population, and roughly 50 percent of those under 25 years-old, unemployed. Maria (not her real name), in her thirties, has a good job in the Greek labour ministry. She thinks the real unemployment figures are considerably higher than the official numbers cited by authorities. “Many people are not registered as job seekers,” she said. “Often they’re hopeless; they think that declaring themselves as unemployed won’t help them get anywhere.” [...]
‘People living on the brink’
“With my situation here five years ago, I would have considered buying an apartment,” Maria explained. “Today, it’s impossible. We don’t even plan on having children now, because it would be too hard to raise them in proper conditions.” In less than a year, her salary was cut by more than 18 percent. “And I was hired after the biggest salary cuts for civil servants [imposed after the first austerity plan in May 2010].” [...]
The lowering of the minimum monthly salary for those under 25 years of age from 586 to 360 euros has certainly not helped young Greeks trying to make ends meet. “On 586 euros a month, you may be able to live with a roommate and have enough to eat every day in Athens,” Maria said. “But you can’t pay for transportation, telephone or internet bills. Everyone seems to think it’s only about numbers and figures, but 11 million Greeks are affected. The middle class is disappearing; there is no working class, only people living on the brink.” […]
READ and VIDEO @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/02/16-2
* THE FARCE-HOLE GETS DEEPER: OBAMA’S “ROBO-SETTLEMENT FOR VOTES” COST TO TAXPAYERS: $40 BILLION
By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge
Plunging deeper into the farce-hole, the FT reports tonight that Obama’s foreclosure settlement with the banks over their improper seizure of tax-paying US citizens’ homes will in fact be subsidized by those very same US taxpayers. It is a hidden clause (that has not been made public yet) that allows the banks to count future loan modifications under the $30bn (taxpayer funded) HAMP initiative towards their $35bn agreement to restructure obligations under the new settlement. As the FT goes on to note, BofA will be able to use future mods made under HAMP towards the $7.6bn in borrower assistance it is committed to provide – which means, in a (as TARP inspector general Neil Barofsky describes) ‘scandalous’ turn of events the bank will receive payments for averting a borrower default and be reimbursed by the taxpayer for the principal write-down. We have much stronger words for how we are feeling about this but Barofsky sums it up calmly “It turns the notion that this is about justice and accountability on its head”. Are the Big Five banks truly beyond the law?
>US taxpayers are expected to subsidize the $40bn settlement owed by five leading banks over allegations that they systematically abused borrowers in pursuit of improper home seizures, the Financial Times has learnt.
As if the banks have not been spoon-fed enough over the past three years? We look forward to the mutually assured destruction spin (what would happen if they had to ‘spend’ that money themselves?) that will be propagandized should this be questioned openly and perhaps a glance at the level of bank reserves sitting on the Fed balance sheet might bring the citizenry off the couch, away from American Idol, and at minimum write a sternly worded text message to their closest BFF on Facebook.
Just to be clear: the guilty party in a fraud against taxpayers has their ‘punishment’ paid for by the innocent taxpayer who had the crime committed against them? ok, thank you.
* CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU LAUNCHES “MAKE LIFE EASEIR FOR LOBBYISTS” TOOL
By Yves Smith, NakedCapitalism
I’m pretty gobsmacked by the link (hat tip reader Scott S) to a webpage at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which says it is written by Richard Cordray: “We want to make it easier for you to submit comments on streamlining regulations.”
There is more than a little bit of NewSpeak in this idea. “Streamlining regulations” is generally right wing code for “eliminating/relaxing regulations.” Admittedly, Elizabeth Warren during her brief time as de facto head of the nascent CFPB, proposed and launched a project to simplify mortgage disclosure forms to combine two required forms into one and make them easier to understand. Banks, needless to say, opposed the idea.
Warren has long believed that improved disclosure for retail products was a win-win for consumers and financial services firms. I saw her speak in March 2010 and she mentioned how a standard credit card agreement in 1980 fit on one piece of paper. Today, with all the various riders, they come in at 30 pages. While greater clarity is obviously beneficial to the borrower, it also saves the banks’ costs. […]
* U.S. TO CUT FUNDS FOR WATER TESTING AT BEACHES
The EPA plans to cut $10 million in grants it gives annually. Water quality advocates worry that swimmers and surfers will be at even greater risk of illness.
By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times
Health testing at beaches in California and across the nation is at risk of being cut under a plan to eliminate federal funds for monitoring whether the water is too contaminated to swim in.
Citing the “difficult financial climate,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in its budget request this week that it would do away with $10 million in grants it gives each year to state and local agencies in coastal and Great Lakes states to test for tainted water.
“While beach monitoring continues to be important to protect human health and especially sensitive individuals,” the EPA said in an emailed statement, “states and local governments now have the technical expertise and procedures to continue beach monitoring without federal support.”
But state and local officials have struggled to pay for health testing along California’s busy coastline in recent years, and water quality advocates worry that swimmers and surfers will be at even greater risk of getting sick if the federal funds evaporate.
The proposed cuts come as the agency is drafting new nationwide beach water quality standards, which have been panned by environmental groups as being even weaker than the 1986 rules they replace. […]
* FACE MASKS, SNIPERS AND AERIAL SURVEILLANCE: CHICAGO’S NEWEST ANTI-PROTEST MEASURES REVEALED
By Yana Kunichoff, Truthout
[…] As part of the expanded powers given to Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the May summits, the city has authority to accept contracts for goods or services without approval of the City Council or the expected competitive bidding process. The face shields and aerial surveillance technology are the first use of this allowance.
Chicago police officers, and any law enforcement the city chooses to deputize under the measures put in place for NATO/G8, will be equipped with 3,000 new face shields that “will fit easily over gas masks,” according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
Chicagoist also reported that Chicago will get the latest in aerial surveillance equipment, according to the press release from a company called Vislink:
The airborne units will transmit to four strategically located ground-based receiver sites providing city-wide coverage and the ability to simultaneously receive real-time images from two aircraft for viewing at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) operations center. An additional three receive systems will be installed in the city’s mobile command vehicles to facilitate field operations. […]
* INSTEAD OF BEING DISGUSTED BY POVERTY, WE ARE DISGUSTED BY POOR PEOPLE THEMSELVES
Empathy has crashed. No more cruel to be kind. We must simply be cruel.
By Suzanne Moore, Guardian UK
She is there whenever I go the shops. Every time I think she can’t get any more skeletal, she manages it. Wild eyes staring in different directions, she must have been pretty once. I try not to look, for she is often aggressive. Sometimes, though, she is in my face and asking me to go into the shop, from which she has been banned, to buy her something. A scratchcard. She feels lucky. “Maybe some food?” I suggest pointlessly, but food is not what she craves. Food is not crack. Or luck. She has already lost every lottery going.
An addict is the author of their own misfortune. Her poverty is self-inflicted. All these hopeless people: where do they all come from? It is, of course, possible never to really see them, as their distress is so distressing. Who needs it? Poverty, we are often told, is not “actual”, because people have TVs. This gradual erosion of empathy is the triumph of an economic climate in which everyone, addicted or not, is personally responsible for their own lack of achievement. Poor people are not simply people like us, but with less money: they are an entirely different species. Their poverty is a personal failing. They have let themselves go. This now applies not just to individuals but to entire countries. Look at the Greeks! What were they thinking with their pensions and minimum wage? That they were like us? Out of the flames, they are now told to rise, phoenix–like, by a rich political elite. Perhaps they can grow money on trees?
Meanwhile, in the US, as this week’s shocking Panorama showed, people are living in tents or underground in drains. These ugly people, with ulcers, hernias and bad teeth, are the flipside of the American dream. Trees twist through abandoned civic buildings and factories, while the Republican candidates, an ID parade of Grecian 2000 suspects, bang on about tax cuts for the 1% who own a fifth of America’s wealth. To see the Grapes of Wrath recast among post-apocalyptic cityscapes is scary. Huge cognitive dissonance is required to cheerlead for the rich while 47 million citizens live in conditions close to those in the developing world. […]
AUDIO: America’s Poor @ http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00nm3fm/Assignment_Americas_Poor/
* 5 LESSONS FROM THE RISE OF THE BRICs
By Derek Thonpson and Max Fisher, The Atlantic
In 2001, Jim O’Neill, the chairman of Goldman Sachs asset management, famously predicted the four fastest-growing emerging markets for the decade. We know that foursome by the acronym BRIC: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. That the economic world remembers his prediction owes as much to the handiness of the acronym as it does to the accuracy of his forecast. China, India, and Brazil are among the most dynamic and exciting emerging powers in the world. Indeed, to call them “emerging” feels like a slight. India is the world’s largest county, China the world’s largest manufacturer, and Brazil the Western Hemisphere’s most vibrant expanding consumer economy. (Russia, the runt of the group, is beset by awful demographics and a weak private sector outside of its natural resources.)
As investors and economic analysts cast about for the next batch of high-growth markets, let’s pause to recall the lessons from the BRICs: (1) Work on the middle-income transition plan; (2) Trade, trade, trade; (3) state capitalism can work; (4) corruption kills; (5) strong civil society matters. […]
* GREECE MPs PASS AUSTERITY PLAN AMID VIOLENT PROTESTS
Greek MPs have approved a controversial package of austerity measures, demanded by the eurozone and IMF in return for a 130bn euro ($170bn; £110bn) bailout.
The vote was carried by 199 in favour to 74 against.
Coalition parties expelled more than 40 deputies for failing to back the bill.
Tens of thousands protested in Athens, where there were widespread clashes and buildings were set on fire. Violent protests were reported in cities across the country.
Protesters outside parliament threw stones and petrol bombs, and police responded with tear gas. Scores of police and protesters were injured.
The austerity measures include:
READ and VIDEO @ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17007761
* THE KILLING OF GREECE
Source: Delusional Economics
As you have probably heard, the Greek parliament, if you can still call it that, has passed the austerity bill. Overnight Athens has erupted in protest with a reported 80,000 people on the streets and up to 30 buildings on fire.
All of KKE, Syriza and Democratic Left members voted no, as well as 21 New Democracy members and 13 Pasok members. Laos members also voted No with their leader absent. All but one Democratic Alliance members voted Yes.
The political fallout is in full swing as I type, with Antonis Samaras expelling 21 members from his party and George Papandreou doing the same. 43 members in total have been removed.
What a complete mess.
What makes the situation completely surreal are the numbers. Greek debt in 2008 was approximately 260bn Euro. The first bailout was 110bn, the current one, that appears to be tearing the country apart, is 130bn. Add in the PSI+ haircut of approximately 100bn ( after sweetener deduction ) and you realized that Europe could have simply paid the entire bill in 2008 and saved itself 80bn Euro. Ok, that is an oversimplification of the problem but you can see my point. […]
* THE FIRST DOMINOES: GREECE, REALITY AND CASCADING DEFAULT
By Zeus Yiamouyiannis, zerohedge.com
[…] The central question, obscured by all the hand wringing and crocodile tears is simply this: Why should public citizens who have no stake in private enterprises, who received no profits or dividends, who had nothing to do with creating losses, be forced to pay for private losses? The only legitimate answer is, “They shouldn’t.” Period. Anything that does not acknowledge this tenet is not functioning capitalism, and if it is functioning capitalism it cannot violate this tenet.
Yet we witness apologist expert after expert excusing this fatal breach in capital practice as “regrettable but necessary to save the system.” They seem not to have noticed that the system has already killed itself by violating its own foundational laws and principles. If anything, current conventional practice might be accurately described as an all-out anti-capitalist assault on democratic free enterprise.
So now the follow-up question is easy to answer: “Why are we paying for something we did not buy and had no hand in creating?” The answer: We no longer have functioning capitalism. Call it what you want— corporate socialism, crony capitalism, cancer capitalism, plutocracy, kleptocracy, oligarchy, neofeudalism— the system we have now is the equivalent of an individual going up to a complete stranger on the street and shaking that stranger down for “protection money” to pay for the individual’s underwater house mortgage. […]
* HOW THE GOP BECAME THE PARTY OF THE RICH
The inside story of how the Republicans abandoned the poor and the middle class to pursue their relentless agenda of tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent
By Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone
The nation is still recovering from a crushing recession that sent unemployment hovering above nine percent for two straight years. The president, mindful of soaring deficits, is pushing bold action to shore up the nation’s balance sheet. Cloaking himself in the language of class warfare, he calls on a hostile Congress to end wasteful tax breaks for the rich. “We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share,” he thunders to a crowd in Georgia. Such tax loopholes, he adds, “sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary – and that’s crazy.”
Preacherlike, the president draws the crowd into a call-and-response. “Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver,” he demands, “or less?”
The crowd, sounding every bit like the protesters from Occupy Wall Street, roars back: “MORE!”
The year was 1985. The president was Ronald Wilson Reagan.
Today’s Republican Party may revere Reagan as the patron saint of low taxation. But the party of Reagan – which understood that higher taxes on the rich are sometimes required to cure ruinous deficits – is dead and gone. Instead, the modern GOP has undergone a radical transformation, reorganizing itself around a grotesque proposition: that the wealthy should grow wealthier still, whatever the consequences for the rest of us.
Modern-day Republicans have become, quite simply, the Party of the One Percent – the Party of the Rich.
“The Republican Party has totally abdicated its job in our democracy, which is to act as the guardian of fiscal discipline and responsibility,” says David Stockman, who served as budget director under Reagan. “They’re on an anti-tax jihad – one that benefits the prosperous classes.”
The staggering economic inequality that has led Americans across the country to take to the streets in protest is no accident. It has been fueled to a large extent by the GOP’s all-out war on behalf of the rich. Since Republicans rededicated themselves to slashing taxes for the wealthy in 1997, the average annual income of the 400 richest Americans has more than tripled, to $345 million – while their share of the tax burden has plunged by 40 percent. Today, a billionaire in the top 400 pays less than 17 percent of his income in taxes – five percentage points less than a bus driver earning $26,000 a year. “Most Americans got none of the growth of the preceding dozen years,” says Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. “All the gains went to the top percentage points.”[…]
* BRUCE BARTLETT ON WHERE THE RIGHT WENT WRONG
By Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers talks with conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who wrote “the bible” for the Reagan Revolution, worked on domestic policy for the Reagan White House, and served as a top treasury official under the first President Bush. Now he’s a heretic in the conservative circles where he once was a star. Bartlett argues that right-wing tax policies — pushed in part by Grover Norquist and Tea Party activists — are destroying the country’s economic foundation.
VIDEO @ http://vimeo.com/36529531
* THE PROUDEST COLLAPSING COUNTRY
By Thomas Heffner, Economy In Crisis
Americans have become so oblivious or apathetic to our country’s peril, that they are unaware of how far gone the U.S. already is.
The United States must stop fooling itself. We are riding on the wealthy coattails of the elite who came before us, squandering away their wealth and faking the good life.
We no longer have the industrial productive capacity to sustain ourselves. In September alone industrial production plummeted to astounding lows that haven’t been witnessed in almost 34 years, according to Bloomberg.
In America, imported products dominate the purchases of U.S. households and businesses. Over 92 percent of the money Americans spend on footwear goes overseas. Americans purchase 90 percent of their audio and video equipment from foreign produced entities and 90 percent of the money Americans spend on leather travels back overseas. […]
* SYRIA, THE NEW LIBYA
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
A Kalashnikov in Iraq, until recently, sold for US$100. Now it’s at least $1,000, and most probably $1,500 (those were the days when Sunnis joining the resistance in 2003 could buy a fake Kalashnikov made in Romenia for $20).
Destination of choice of the $1,500 Kalashnikov in 2012: Syria. Network: al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers, also known as AQI. Recipients: infiltrated jihadis operating side-by-side with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Also shuttling between Syria and Iraq is car bombing and suicide bombing, as in two recent bombings in the suburbs of Damascus and the suicide bombing last Friday in Aleppo.
Who would have thought that what the House of Saud wants in Syria – an Islamist regime – is exactly what al-Qaeda wants in Syria? […]
* 5 RIGHT-WING GOVERNORS GUTTING SCHOOLS TO FUND PRISONS, TAX BREAKS FOR THE RICH … AND A BIBLE THEME PARK
By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet
[…] Here’s a look at five of the governors taking money away from their states’ kids, and a look at some of the things they are still funding.
Governor Tom Corbett set off a wave of anger this week when his new budget hit—and slashed a full $1.2 billion from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education. According to the Education Law Center, that’s taking a full 15 percent out of the budgets of the state’s already-struggling schools. […]
* MIND-BLOWING CHARTS FROM THE SENATE’S INCOME INEQUALITY HEARING
By Josh Harkinson, MotherJones
In another sign that Democrats have embraced income inequality as a cause célèbre, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the subject today. The committee’s ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, managed to look concerned during two hours of testimony about the kneecapping of the Middle Class—not that it should have been all that difficult. Here are some of the hearing’s most striking charts: […]
* GOP UPS THE ANTE, INTRODUCED LEGISLATION TO ALLOW ANY EMPLOYER TO DENY ANY PREVENTIVE HEALTH SERVICES
By Igor Volsky, ThinkProgress
[…] But Republicans and some conservative Catholic groups are not satisfied with the accommodation and hope to use their false claim of “religious persecution” to deny women access to preventive health services. Despite Obama’s decision to shield nonprofit religious institutions from offering birth control benefits, next week Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is expected to offer an amendment that would permit any employer or insurance plan to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it:
(6) RESPECTING RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE WITH REGARD TO SPECIFIC ITEMS OR SERVICES —
“(A) FOR HEALTH PLANS. — A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) (or preventive health services described in section 2713 of the Public Health Services Act), to fail to be a qualified health plan, or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because —
“(i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or
“(ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage. […]
* THE 1 PERCENT PRESIDENT
By Peter Hart, FAIR
[…] What is this amazing juggernaut of technological and political progress? The Americans Elect plan consists of two parallel efforts. The first is a Web-based political dialogue that empowers citizen “delegates” to identify key issues and then nominate centrist presidential candidates. The second is a more traditional state-by-state petition drive to get the group and its eventual candidate a ballot line.
The Internet delegates will narrow down the pool of acceptably moderate candidates, who then must pledge to nominate a running mate from another political party. An online convention selects the Americans Elect nominee (or possibly not—see sidebar), and a public apparently hungry to move beyond the stale two-party duopoly sends a bona fide centrist to the White House. […]
* THE BOOK OF JOBS
Forget monetary policy. Re-examining the cause of the Great Depression—the revolution in agriculture that threw millions out of work—the author argues that the U.S. is now facing and must manage a similar shift in the “real” economy, from industry to service, or risk a tragic replay of 80 years ago.
By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair
[…] If we expect to maintain any semblance of “normality,” we must fix the financial system. As noted, the implosion of the financial sector may not have been the underlying cause of our current crisis—but it has made it worse, and it’s an obstacle to long-term recovery. Small and medium-size companies, especially new ones, are disproportionately the source of job creation in any economy, and they have been especially hard-hit. What’s needed is to get banks out of the dangerous business of speculating and back into the boring business of lending. But we have not fixed the financial system. Rather, we have poured money into the banks, without restrictions, without conditions, and without a vision of the kind of banking system we want and need. We have, in a phrase, confused ends with means. A banking system is supposed to serve society, not the other way around. […]
* MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT AS ATTORNEY GENERAL SELLOUT: DEAL IS NOT DONE, AND FINAL VERSION GUARANTEED TO BE WORSE THAN ADVERTISES
By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism
[…] As attorney Max Gardner said via e-mail (boldface ours):
I would never tell a client that I had settled a case or claim against a creditor until the ink was on the final written settlement agreement. I would of course advise the client of the verbal offer and secure the client’s acceptance but would always say something like “don’t spend any of the money because as Yogi might say it ain’t over until we have the signed agreement and their check has cleared my trust account.” An attorney would be guilty of serious ethical violations if he or she told a client we have a settlement with BoA and it is final before the deal was closed out by written agreement and in my bankruptcy practice the agreement was approved by the court. The AGs have said this agreement must be approved by a Federal District Court Judge so really why would you make such public announcements before at the least a written agreement signed and inked by ALL of the parties. […]
* MATT TAIBBI ASSESSES THE $26 BILLION SETTLEMENT DESIGNED TO AID VICTIMS OF FORECLOSURE FRAUD
Source: Countdown w/ Sam Seder
* FEDERAL RESERVE MAKES CONTINGENCY PLANS FOR SUMMITS
By Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times
The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said Thursday it has “extensive contingency plans” that would allow its employees to “work from home” or from an “off-site location” in the event that demonstrations turn ugly during the NATO and G-8 summits
The bank is located at 230 S. LaSalle in the heart of Chicago’s financial district. It is the first major business to raise the possibility of relocating its employees during the May 19-21 summit expected to draw President Barack Obama and other world leaders to McCormick Place
The Federal Reserve’s carefully-worded statement talked about the “threat of possible disruptions” without mentioning the tens of thousands of protesters expected to descend on Chicago. […]
* HOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS! BELGIAN FIREFIGHTERS SOAK POLICE IN PROTEST – VIDEO
Hundreds of Belgian firefighters hose down the prime minister’s office as part of a protest against retirement plans
By Guardian UK
Several hundred Belgian firefighters have broken through police lines in Brussels and hosed down the prime minister’s office in protest at the government’s tougher retirement plans.
The firefighters want to keep their early retirement age at 58, arguing their arduous job does not allow them to work into their 60s. […]
* OVER 100,000 RALLY IN LISBON AGAINST AUSTERITY
By Andrei Khalip, Rueters
More than 100,000 people packed Lisbon’s vast Palace Square on Saturday in the largest rally against austerity and economic hardships since the country resorted to an EU/IMF bailout last May, and organizers vowed to step up protests and labor action.
The mass rally occurred just four days before Portugal’s international lenders were due to start the quarterly evaluation of the bailout implementation on Wednesday in the finance ministry building which overlooks the square by the river Tagus. They come amid concerns Portugal may need more bailout funds, if not a debt restructuring like Greece.
“We take this opportunity here to make our own evaluation on behalf of those who suffer daily,” Armenio Carlos, head of the country’s largest union, CGTP, told supporters as the crowd chanted: “IMF doesn’t call the shots here!”
“We have to step up the struggle,” he said. Carlos promised the next wave of rallies across Portugal as soon as on February 29.
“The country needs to remove the rope from around its neck,” he said, saying that Portugal should try to renegotiate its debt rather than impose more austerity, an argument he has made consistently. […]
* ONE MORNING IN HOMS
By Amal Hanano, Jadaliyya
It is nighttime here, and I am about to go to bed. Before I disconnect from Syria, I notice Omar is on Skype. I send him a message telling him that his video on Anderson Cooper tonight was impressive. I tell him that he makes me proud to be Syrian. I tell him that I wished I was with them in Homs. A few seconds later, he sends me a link. I open it. Suddenly I am in Homs, at daybreak. He messages me: This is my livestream from Baba Amr. I plug in my laptop charger. It is going to be another long night.
It is six in the morning (6:00am on the dot) in Syria. I watch the static frame filled with a gray sky and rooftops of buildings. Three large satellite dishes in the foreground and a minaret in the distance. It’s completely silent. Then a rooster begins to crow, over and over, in precise intervals. Birds chirp. It was bliss to watch the stillness, for once nothing was happening. I feel pleasure at knowing these familiar sounds, knowing the exact scent of the winter air, knowing the peacefulness of an early morning in Syria. Omar was with me in the room that I couldn’t see, but his view was my view, his window was my window.
Then, the quiet is punctured with long, thunderous rumbles of rockets, quick shots of bullet fire, panicked voices of a few women, and once, a girl’s chilling scream. The familiar vanishes. I message him: I cannot believe this is my country.
He sends me the following statement from earlier in the day:
“The humanitarian situation on the ground in Baba Amr until this moment is still a mix of rocket launchers, tanks, mortar launchers hitting the area from all sides. More than 500 shells have come down on us since the morning, targeting homes, protest places and mosques. Al-Anwar Mosque was shelled with more than ten shells which led to the destruction of a large part of it; surrounding homes were also destroyed. The humanitarian condition is difficult at the moment, there is no bread, no medication and no nutritional supplies and as we mentioned in our last report, a field hospital was targeted and we lost a number of our medical crew. There is no form of communication inside the area and any moving thing is targeted by snipers surrounding the area.
Life is at a complete stand still. There is no escape or safe passage from the area and there is no safe shelter inside the area from the rockets and shells. The number of martyrs has reached sixty from the last statistic we received from Doctor Mohammad Almohammad (the head of the field hospital). […]
MORE NEWS and VIDEOS: http://www.enduringamerica.com/
* THE NEOCON’S BIG IRAN LIE
By Matt Duss, Salon
In February 2003, less than a month before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Gen. Eric Shinseki told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would be required to occupy Iraq in order to stabilize it in the wake of an invasion.
What quickly followed is well known. Several days later, in what journalist James Fallows called “probably the most direct public dressing-down of a military officer, a four-star general, by a civilian superior since Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur, 50 years ago,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz called Shinseki’s estimate “wildly off the mark,” and said that “it’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself.”
The cavalier dismissal by civilian officials and conservative pundits of military analysts’ predictions of the likely consequences of the Iraq war was symbolic of the entire hubristic enterprise. Over $800 billion and tens of thousands of civilian casualties later, the idea that America can deal with its problems and create specific outcomes simply through the application of its considerable military might is rightly understood as a mirage. […]
* HOW THE ARAB LEAGUE HAS BECOME A TOOL OF WESTERN IMPERIALISM
By Finian Cunningham, Global Research
It’s an intrigue befitting the machinations of classical colonialism in past centuries, such as the Sykes-Picot carve-up of the Middle Eastern Levant territories, or the betrayal of the Arabs after World War I, or the theft of Mesopotamia’s oil by British capitalists.
Only this time, it is Arabs who are helping the neocolonial powers to deceive and subjugate other Arabs. Enter the Arab League.
Over the past year, the 22-member organization has emerged as a useful deceptive cover for Western powers as they seek to redraw the political contours of the Arab World, and beyond, for their own strategic interests.
The momentous popular upheavals that began in early 2011 across the Arab World have in many ways been co-opted or manipulated by Western imperialist powers to minimize democratic gains and to refashion the political map to their continuing advantage. A feat of achievement considering that these same powers have for decades supported the repressive regimes that have inflicted so much misery and suffering.
The leitmotif for Western intervention is “responsibility to protect” (R2P) – the notion that these powers are motivated by concern for human rights and the protection of civilian lives. But given that the United States, Britain, France and other NATO states have been conducting criminal wars of aggression over the past decade in mainly Muslim lands, with a death toll exceeding one million and casualties amounting to many more millions, these powers found themselves with a huge credibility problem when it came to contriving a pretext to intervene in the Arab upheavals.
The arrangement works like this: foment violence and instability within the country of choice, arm dissident groups, and direct these same groups with covert special forces; when government forces move to quell the insurrection, then accuse them of violating human rights. The Arab League then suspends the country, marking it out for international pariah status, which in turn provides a pretext for Western powers to mount military strikes, committing atrocities in the name of “responsibility to protect”, and engineering regime change in the interests of the Western powers. It’s neocolonialism in Arab lands – with the help of other Arab states.
Libya can be seen as a dress rehearsal for this routine, which is now being played out feverishly with Syria. Recall that it was the spurning of Libya in March by other League members that immediately presaged the seven-month NATO aerial bombardment of that country, resulting in possibly thousands of civilian deaths, a crime that is not yet fully realized because of a corporate-controlled media blackout, but a despicable crime nevertheless with bloodied Arab hands involved.
It appears that the Arab League is now taking on an even more pronounced role as the routine finesses. Clearly in Syria what is happening is an insurrection that is being fomented and armed by foreign governments, with Turkey and Saudi Arabia taking a lead role in arming the so-called Free Syrian Army against the state forces of President Bashar Al Assad.
And it was the Arab League that brought the motion last week at the UN Security Council aimed at shackling the Assad government and setting it up for Libya-style NATO military intervention. The veto by Russia and China has for the moment derailed that plan. No doubt, Russia and China have learnt the lesson of Libya where a similar Security Council sanction was used by Western powers to launch a blitzkrieg on that country – in the name of the specious R2P.
The insidious role of the Arab League as the West’s hound-dog can be gleaned from the comment by British Foreign Secretary William Hague following the Russian and Chinese veto at the UN.
Hague said: “Russia and China faced a simple choice today: would they support the people of Syria and the Arab League, or not? They decided not to, and instead sided with the Syrian regime and its brutal suppression of the Syrian people in support of their national interests.”
This is British spin on facts and truth at its best. Firstly, Russia and China decided to side with the “Syrian regime” because – despite biased Western media coverage – the government of Assad appears to retain the support of the Syrian people, and therefore it retains sovereign legitimacy. And the “brutal repression” that the solemn Hague speaks of relates to violence that Western and foreign Arab states have assiduously fomented in Syria, as they did in Libya. […]
* ISRAEL, MEK AND STATE SPONSOR OF TERROR GROUPS
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
One of the most under-reported political stories of the last year is the devoted advocacy of numerous prominent American political figures on behalf of an Iranian group long formally designated as a Terrorist organization under U.S. law. A large bipartisan cast has received substantial fees from that group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), and has then become their passionate defenders. The group of MEK shills includes former top Bush officials and other Republicans (Michael Mukasey, Fran Townsend, Andy Card, Tom Ridge, Rudy Giuliani) as well as prominent Democrats (Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark). As The Christian Science Monitor reported last August, those individuals “have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK.” No matter what one thinks of this group – here is a summary of its activities – it is formally designated as a Terrorist group and it is thus a felony under U.S. law to provide it with any “material support.”
According to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a NATO airstrike yesterday in Afghanistan killed 8 children. Meanwhile, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar yesterday patiently explained that drone strikes — which Americans widely support, including American liberals — are “completely illegal and unlawful” and “counterproductive” because they “fuel terrorism,” since people tend to become quite angry at the foreign power which slaughters their children, their spouses, their parents, their neighbors, etc., i.e., for every Terrorist the U.S. allegedly kills, it creates five more people wanting to attack the U.S. (see her answers to the two questions beginning at 4:30):
* LT. COL. DANIEL DAVIS’ TRUTH-TELLING CONTINUES: LONG REPORT PUBLISHED BY ROLLING STONE
By Jim White, emptywheel.net
[…] Earlier this week, Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis published a short report in the Armed Forces Journal and coupled that with discussions with the New York Times’ Scott Shane for an article hitting on the same subject area. In those reports, we learned that Davis had prepared much longer reports, both a classified one which he shared with several members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and a non-classified one which he intended to publish. In the Armed Forces Journal piece, Davis noted that he intended to publish the longer report at his afghanreport.com website, and in an editor’s note, it was pointed out that “At press time, Army public affairs had not yet ruled on whether Davis could post this longer version.” In a very interesting twist, Davis’ long report now has been published, but not at his website. Instead, Michael Hastings, whose The Runaway General article at Rolling Stone eventually resulted in the firing of Stanley McChrystal, has posted Davis’ report (pdf) at the Rolling Stone website, along with a brief introduction from Hastings. There will be a post soon from bmaz addressing Davis’ approach to whistle-blowing and his treatment of classified information.
Davis’ thesis in the longer report remains unchanged from the original. He maintains that despite persistent claims by top military brass that progress is being made in Afghanistan, there is in fact no progress. Violence continues on a steady increase and Afghan forces are nowhere near a point where they can maintain security in the absence of ISAF forces. On the final page, he has this to say about his “final take-away” from the report. He prepared a graphic based on the one reproduced above:
If there were only one thing I could ask you to take away from this rather lengthy brief, it would be this one page. Below you see charted over time, the rising violence from the end of 2005 through the first quarter 2011 (chart source: ANSO, 2011). All spin aside, you see regardless of who was in command, what strategy they used, or what claims they made, nothing impacted the rising arc of violence from 2005 through today. The one thing, however, that has never changed: the upward arc of violence, which continues its rise and is expected to continue at least through this summer.
* IT’S TIME TO OCCUPY MAINSTREAM MEDIA
By Dustin M. Slaughter, OpEdNews.com
“Between the public sector and the private sector, we have wreaked untold havoc on the media environment.”
These aren’t the words of a progressive media advocate such as University of Illinois professor Robert McChesney or The Nation’s John Nichols, but of ex-FCC commissioner Michael Copps in January. In an interview on Democracy Now!, Copps attributes his claim to “the abdication of public interest responsibility by the FCC” over the last 30 years and their failure to enforce public interest guidelines and a stronger focus on news.
Here’s another example of how the FCC has failed in their responsibility to the public good: In 1995, the FCC forbade companies ownership of more than 40 stations. Clear Channel Communications now owns over 1,500. This rate of consolidation clearly shows no sign of slowing.
The closing of news rooms and the number of reporters on the street instead of the beat goes on as the corporate state continues its relentless and undemocratic consolidation of America’s media landscape. Layoffs continue despite a number of companies like McClatchy posting a 21% profit margin, according to the book The Death and Life of American Journalism. McClatchy fired a third of their newsroom staff in 2008.
“25 or 30 years ago, only 50 companies controlled more than half of what we see and hear every single day. Now, that 50 – which was alarming enough – has shrunk to six or even five,” says Johnathan Lawson, the co-founder of Reclaim the Media. Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp owns the top newspaper on three continents: The Wall Street Journal, The Sun, and The Australian. According to a 2008 GAO report, the company was operating over 150 subsidiaries in off-shore tax havens. How much of those subsidiary holdings could have gone to funding NPR, or towards community initiatives to help expand minority media in communities?
The assault on our airwaves first began in earnest in 1980, when “the FCC did away with public interest guidelines for broadcast television licenses, and the renewal period went from three to eight years,” according to Copps. Now all a broadcaster has to do is “mail in a postcard” and their license is renewed, because the FCC – against the very reason it was created – has watered down attempts to ensure that the public’s airwaves are by-and-large for the public good. […]
READ and PHOTOS @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=145361
* JEFFERY TUCKER MAKES THE CASE AGAINST THE FEDERAL RESERVE
In the video below, Austrian economist, Jeffrey Tucker, founder of Laissez Faire books, talks with RT’s Lauren Lyster. Several free-market related topics are discussed, including: central banks, minimum wages, and interest rates. Worth watching:
* FEDERAL RESERVE CONTINUES SHADOW BAILOUT OF BANKING INDUSTRY – $947 BILLION OF OVERPAID AND LOW DEMAND MORTGAGE BACKED SECURITIES SIT ON THE MASSIVE $2.8 TRILLION FED BALANCE SHEET. THE PRICE OF THIS HIDDEN BAILOUT WILL HIT ALL AMERICANS
The Federal Reserve continues a secretive bailout of the banking system by purchasing more and more questionable mortgage backed securities. You would think that $1 trillion would catch the attention of the media but they seemed focus on other trivial items. The Fed balance sheet is still at record levels above $2.8 trillion to be exact, but the more troubling aspect of all of this is the amount of mortgage backed securities they have purchased. They continue to hoard toxic commercial real estate loans and a massive amount of residential mortgage backed securities. How much? The Fed now holds over $947 billion in mortgage backed securities. Keep in mind that prior to this financial crisis the Fed rarely held anything else except quality paper on its balance sheet. Yet this is the cost of the shadow financial bailout. […]
* OLD MORTGAGES RISE FROM THE DEAD, HAUNT HOMEOWNERS
By Michelle Conlin, Rueters
[…] Diane Thompson, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, says she has defended hundreds of foreclosure cases, and in nearly all of them, the homeowner was not in default. “The record-keeping on the part of the mortgage servicers is not to be trusted.”
The problems grew from a lot of sloppy recordkeeping that began during the housing boom, when Wall Street built a quick-and-dirty back-office operation to process mortgages quickly so lenders could sell as many loans as possible. As the loans were later sold to investors, and then resold around the world, the back office system sidestepped crucial legal procedures.
Now it’s becoming clear just how dysfunctional and, according to several state attorneys general, how fraudulent the whole system was.
Depositions from “affidavit slaves” depict a surreal, assembly-line world in which the banks and their partner firms hired hair stylists, fast-food kids and Wal-Mart floor workers, paying them $10 an hour, to pose as bank vice presidents, assistant secretaries and corporate attorneys.
These “robosigners” became a national sensation in the fall of 2010 when it was revealed that they faked titles, forged documents and backdated affidavits so they could make up for the bypassed procedures and foreclose on properties.
They passed around notary stamps as if they were salt. They did all of this, they testified, without verifying a single word in any of the documents – as is required by law.
And it was all done, they say, to foreclose on as many homeowners as fast as possible. […]
* WHO KILLED THE MONEY PRINTER?
Friday’s NFP number brought us some altogether unprecedented BS from the BLS. Much has already been said about the filthy stench emanating from these “data points”, so I will just review the most important points here. First thing to note is that squeezing a record 1.2 million people out of the “labor force”(people who don’t waste time looking for jobs that don’t exist) is apparently a sure fire way to get the headline unemployment rate down to only 8.3% […]
READ and CHARTS @ http://theautomaticearth.org/Finance/who-killed-the-money-printer.html
* THERE ARE NO JOBS IN CHICAGO – VIDEO
People standing outside for hours in 10 degree weather in hopes of getting a job …
* COMMUTERS CAN’T MISS THE MILLIONAIRES TAX OF 2012!
Freeway blogging! This morning at 8 freeway overpass locations all over California volunteers held giant signs touting the Millionaires Tax of 2012. This included Richmond (seen below) through which hundreds of thousands of commuters pass on their way into San Francisco.
Media from all over the state, including ABC News, have covered the banners and the powerful message behind them: Our tax code needs to reflect the interests of middle-class Californians, not the special interests of corporate CEOs and their lobbyists. Now is the time to revamp our tax code here in California so it’s fair to the 99% of us who play by the rules, not just the 1% who lobby hard and re-write the rules. […]
* THE GREAT DIVERGENCE
By Timothy Noah, Slate
Part One: Introducing the Great Divergence
In 1915, a statistician at the University of Wisconsin named Willford I. King published The Wealth and Income of the People of the United States, the most comprehensive study of its kind to date. The United States was displacing Great Britain as the world’s wealthiest nation, but detailed information about its economy was not yet readily available; the federal government wouldn’t start collecting such data in any systematic way until the 1930s. One of King’s purposes was to reassure the public that all Americans were sharing in the country’s newfound wealth.
King was somewhat troubled to find that the richest 1 percent possessed about 15 percent of the nation’s income. (A more authoritative subsequent calculation puts the figure slightly higher, at about 18 percent.1)
This was the era in which the accumulated wealth of America’s richest families—the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, the Carnegies—helped prompt creation of the modern income tax, lest disparities in wealth turn the United States into a European-style aristocracy. The socialist movement was at its historic peak, a wave of anarchist bombings was terrorizing the nation’s industrialists, and President Woodrow Wilson’s attorney general, Alexander Palmer, would soon stage brutal raids on radicals of every stripe. In American history, there has never been a time when class warfare seemed more imminent.
That was when the richest 1 percent accounted for 18 percent of the nation’s income. Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation’s income. What caused this to happen? […]
* INDEPENDENT REPORT CONTRADICTS WESTERN PORTRAIT OF SYRIA
Source: Washington’s Blog
ARAB LEAGUE REPORT SHOWS THAT SYRIA HAS BEEN MISCHARACTERIZED
[…] Perhaps most importantly, the report notes that the Syrian people do not want foreign intervention:
However, the citizens believe the crisis should be resolved peacefully through Arab mediation alone, without international intervention. Doing so would allow them to live in peace and complete the reform process and bring about the change they desire.
The report condemns violence by both sides, but stresses that much of the violence has been perpetrated by the rebels against government forces:
In Homs and Dera‘a, the Mission observed armed groups committing acts of violence against Government forces, resulting in death and injury among their ranks. In certain situations, Government forces responded to attacks against their personnel with force. The observers noted that some of the armed groups were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles.
In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.
Recently, there have been incidents that could widen the gap and increase bitterness between the parties. These incidents can have grave consequences and lead to the loss of life and property. Such incidents include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police, members of the media and fuel pipelines. Some of those attacks have been carried out by the Free
Syrian Army [the main opposition group] and some by other armed opposition groups. [...]
* EXPOSED: THE ARAB AGENDA IN SYRIA
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
[…] The Arab League’s Ministerial Committee had approved the report, with four votes in favor (Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and GCC member Oman) and only one against; guess who, Qatar – which is now presiding the Arab League because the emirate bought their (rotating) turn from the Palestinian Authority.
|So the report was either ignored (by Western corporate media) or mercilessly destroyed – by Arab media, virtually all of it financed by either the House of Saud or Qatar. It was not even discussed – because it was prevented by the GCC from being translated from Arabic into English and published in the Arab League’s website.Until it was leaked. Here it is, in full.The report is adamant. There was no organized, lethal repression by the Syrian government against peaceful protesters. Instead, the report points to shady armed gangs as responsible for hundreds of deaths among Syrian civilians, and over one thousand among the Syrian army, using lethal tactics such as bombing of civilian buses, bombing of trains carrying diesel oil, bombing of police buses and bombing of bridges and pipelines.Once again, the official NATOGCC version of Syria is of a popular uprising smashed by bullets and tanks. Instead, BRICS members Russia and China, and large swathes of the developing world see it as the Syrian government fighting heavily armed foreign mercenaries. The report largely confirms these suspicions.
The Syrian National Council is essentially a Muslim Brotherhood outfit affiliated with both the House of Saud and Qatar – with an uneasy Israel quietly supporting it in the background. Legitimacy is not exactly its cup of green tea. As for the Free Syrian Army, it does have its defectors, and well-meaning opponents of the Assad regime, but most of all is infested with these foreign mercenaries weaponized by the GCC, especially Salafist gangs.
Still NATOGCC, blocked from applying in Syria its one-size-fits-all model of promoting “democracy” by bombing a country and getting rid of the proverbial evil dictator, won’t be deterred. GCC leaders House of Saud and Qatar bluntly dismissed their own report and went straight to the meat of the matter; impose a NATOGCC regime change via the UN Security Council. […]
* LEBANON: ISRAELI ARMS TO SYRIAN REBELS, U.S. DRONE BASE TO FOLLOW?
[…] We hear from retired Lebanese general Amin Khteit.
“The opening of the airport is officially motivated by economic reasons as well as by the needs of the tourist industry and local residents. But it seems that other reasons are behind it. For example, Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the opposition Syrian National Council, ordered a special plane with medicaments to Beirut, as it was reported, for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“But there is no need for Syrians in Lebanon to order medicaments aboard. In fact there are proven reports that that plane delivered Israeli weapons which later were sent to the insurgents in Syria. That is why there are grounds to assume that the airport in the north of Lebanon will become a transshipment base to supply weapons to Syrian insurgents. I suppose there is also an agreement with Lebanese officials on the establishment of a US military base in this district.”
If the US settles down in the Kleyate district there will be many variants in using the airport. One of the most probable variants is that it will become a base for US drones, the chief editor of the military review journal Independent Viktor Litovkin says:
“Such an airdrome is quite suitable to become a base for drones. Of course, there are different types of drones and some of them don’t even require any special conditions. In this particular case everything will depend on the tasks set for the flying vehicles.” […]
* IRAN: A MANUFACTURED THREAT
By Stephen Lendman
Iran attacked no other country in over 200 years. It threatens none now. It’s neighbors know it. So do Washington and Israel.
Nonetheless, saber rattling warnings continue. At issue is making an independent state a client one. It’s why Washington orchestrated Syria’s insurgency and continues anti-Iranian propaganda.
Tehran won’t tolerate losing its sovereignty, nor should it. It suffered a generation of repression under Washington’s installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi after the CIA’s first ever coup ousted democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh.
It also knows how America and Israel reign terror throughout the region. As a result, it’s prepared to defend itself if attacked.
America’s business is war, permanent war for unchallenged global dominance. Post-9/11, multiple ones raged and continue. Ordinary people want them stopped.
On February 4, dozens of anti-war organizations held a “Day of Mass Action to Stop a US War on Iran.” Among others, The World Can’t Wait announced it headlining, “NO war! NO sanctions! No intervention! No Assassinations.” […]
* U.S. IRAN POLICY IN ‘LOCKSTEP’ WITH ISRAEL? PRESIDENT OBAMA RISKS BECOMING A MAJOR-LEAGUE WAR CRIMINAL
By Dave Lindorff, This Can’t Be Happening
It’s a relief to know that President Obama’s “preferred” solution to dealing with disagreements with Iran is diplomacy, as he said yesterday in an interview on NBC TV, but at the same time, it’s profoundly disturbing that he is simultaneously saying that, as an AP report on the interview put it: he would “not take options off the table to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”
Equally disturbing are the president’s mutually contradictory statements that, on the one hand, he feels that “Any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is disruptive and has a big effect on us,” and that on the other, he will “make sure that we work in lockstep” with Israel in dealing with Iran and its nuclear program.
Lockstep? With Israel? […]
* TOP OFFICIAL: DRONE CRITICS ARE AL QAEDA ENABLERS
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
The New York Times‘ Scott Shane reported this morning on the Bureau of Investigative Journalism study I wrote about yesterday, detailing that the U.S. drone program, as the NYT put it, “repeatedly targeted rescuers who responded to the scene of a strike, as well as mourners at subsequent funerals.” Shane’s article contains this paragraph:
A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, questioned the report’s findings, saying “targeting decisions are the product of intensive intelligence collection and observation.” The official added: “One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions — there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed.”
* HEADING FOR WAR ON SYRIA
By Stephen Lendman
Washington’s longstanding policy is regime change in Iran and Syria. At issue is replacing independent regimes with client ones and securing unchallenged control of valued Middle East resources.
On February 4, Russia and China vetoed a largely one-sided anti-Assad resolution. A previous article called him more victim than villain. Yet he’s falsely blamed for months of externally generated violence.
In fact, he confronted a Western-backed armed insurgency replicating the Libya model. By so doing he acted responsibly against a heavily armed insurrection. […]
* SYRIA VOTE : US ‘APPROPRIATED’ UN POWER – VIDEO
While officials in Washington tirelessly admonish Russia and China for blocking another resolution on Syria, Rick Rozoff of the Stop NATO group tells RT that the UN has been hijacked by the US and NATO.
On Saturday, the United Nations voted on a resolution on Syria, drafted by Morocco. In the end of the day, the document was vetoed by Moscow and Beijing. This move provoked a wave of anger from the West, with most harsh rhetoric heard from the US; American Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Washington was “disgusted” by the veto, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote a “travesty.”
But Rozoff says the US is going overboard in its pursuit for international democracy.
“The very name of the international community has been appropriated by the US and its NATO allies – now including the Arab world,” Rozoff told RT.
Syrian opposition groups operate with complete impunity inside Turkey – which is a NATO member – with a green light from the Turkish government. Without arms and sponsorship from outside Syria, the opposition would never dare to take up arms against the Syrian army, Rozoff concludes.
Thus, Damascus is stripped of its natural right to protect itself from foreign assault.
“Were armed groups to invade the territory of the United States from Mexico or Canada, I can assure you Washington’s response would not be limited to a domestic one,” Rozoff said. […]
READ and VIDEOS @ http://rt.com/news/syria-us-vote-russia-547/
* US CLOSES EMBASSY IN SYRIA
|The US has closed down its embassy in Syria and pulled all of its employees out of the country, amid reports that the Syrian military is intensifying its assault on the central city of Homs.The UK also announced on Monday it would recall its ambassador to Syria for what it called consultations.
Activists and witnesses said the Syrian army had stepped up its attacks on opposition fighters in Homs, after a UN Security Council resolution, aimed at ending the bloodshed in the country, was blocked by Russia and China on Saturday.
Abu Abdo Alhomsy, an activist of a revolutionary council in Homs, described to Al Jazeera an attack on Monday on the city as live pictures showed smoke billowing into the sky.
“It is horrible right here,” Alhomsy said. “Rockets are falling. There are massive explosions that shook buildings. We don’t know really what to do. […]
* THE GROWING IRANIAN MILITARY BEHEMOTH
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
The tranquility of my Saturday morning was disrupted — and that’s putting it mildly — when I read on Glenn Reynolds’ popular right-wing “Instapundit” blog that we can learn important “Lessons About Iran From Hitler.” To know that we have yet another New Hitler in our midst is alarming indeed. Reynolds’ link takes one to an even more jarring warning about the Persian menace, by David Goldman, that extensively compares the fallen Nazi leader to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and argues that because both figures are maniacal monsters presiding over a dying nation, only a full-scale military attack can stop them. ”However much it costs in Iranian blood and well-being, it’s still worth it,” Goldman casually decrees.
Sociopathic calls for aggressive attacks on other nations and cheap invocations of Hitler are not worth commenting on: neocons churn those out reflexively. But what is worth noting is the event Goldman is flagging as proof of Iran’s aggressive intentions: “Iran is planning to double its defense budget even though its currency is collapsing,” he warns. A doubling of its defense budget! Who among us can remain calm in the face of such naked militarism?
That Ahmadinejad claims that Iran will increase its military budget for next year by 127% was widely reported this week. For a variety of reasons relating to Iran’s economic difficulties, that plan is quite infeasible — typical Ahmadinejad blustering — but let’s assume for the moment that it will actually happen. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Military Expenditure Database, Iran’s total annual military spending is $7 billion; an increase of 127% would take it to $15.8 billion — also known as: less than 2% of total U.S. military spending (which was $698 billion for fiscal year 2010). […]
* ANNIVERSARIES FROM “UNHISTORY”
By Noam Chomsky, Truthout
[…] Right now we are failing to commemorate an event of great human significance: the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s decision to launch the direct invasion of South Vietnam, soon to become the most extreme crime of aggression since World War II.
Kennedy ordered the U.S. Air Force to bomb South Vietnam (by February 1962, hundreds of missions had flown); authorized chemical warfare to destroy food crops so as to starve the rebellious population into submission; and set in motion the programs that ultimately drove millions of villagers into urban slums and virtual concentration camps, or “Strategic Hamlets.” There the villagers would be “protected” from the indigenous guerrillas whom, as the administration knew, they were willingly supporting.
Official efforts at justifying the attacks were slim, and mostly fantasy. Typical was the president’s impassioned address to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961, where he warned that “we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence.” At the United Nations on Sept. 25, 1961, Kennedy said that if this conspiracy achieved its ends in Laos and Vietnam, “the gates will be opened wide.” […]
* NATO, G8 IN CHICAGO: SECURITY GROUPS RAMPING UP IN PREPARATION FOR EXPECTED PROTESTS – VIDEO
Just more than three months out from the start of the concurrent NATO and G8 summits in Chicago, both private and public security are ramping up their training in preparation for what could be massive protests in the heart of the city’s downtown area.
Tony Grano of Controlled Force, a group that trains Marines, police and private security groups alike, explained to Fox Chicago what some of those preparations are likely entailing.
Grano told Fox that the protesters will “need to be handled with kid gloves, but there’s a job that still needs to be done, and that is to maintain order.” Grano explained that officers are being trained to take arrestees down to the ground to handcuff them and remove them from the scene — without the use of a weapon. […]
* MEET GOV. SCOTT WALKER’S NEW POLITICAL HIT WOMEN
The embattled Wisconsin governor hires two young Republicans who are veterans of no-holds-barred campaigns and propaganda efforts.
By Brendan Fischer, AlterNet
As Wisconsin’s recall elections approach, Republican Governor Scott Walker has enlisted an eyebrow-raising pair of well-connected, out-of-state political operators to sell his administration’s policies and promote his reelection. Of the two young women, one cut her teeth with Karl Rove and the other promoting anti-abortion causes and working with Tea Party favorite Sharon Angle.
Late last year, the governor’s office announced it had hired 28-year-old Jocelyn Webster to serve as communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA). The department manages the state buildings where most of the anti-Walker protests have been held, and its duties include setting rules for protests. Webster started her career with Rove’s notorious Office of Political Affairs in the George W. Bush administration.
A congressional investigation of the activities of that office yielded allegations — including specific allegations against Webster – that Rove’s team was involved in partisan campaigning on the public dime, a claim also leveled at aides of her newest boss during his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive.
As activists gathered signatures to recall the governor in late 2011, Walker also hired new campaign staff, including Ciara Matthews as campaign communication director. Matthews, a 20-something Nevada native, has worked as spokesperson for an anti-abortion group as well as Angle’s 2010 senate campaign, where she defended Angle’s racially tinged ads and banned reporters from a candidate event for asking questions without permission. […]
* AT LEAST WE KNOW WE’RE FREE (WELL SOMETIMES)
By Digby, Hullabaloo
[…] In a stunning break with First Amendment policy, House Republicans directed Capitol Hill police to detain a highly regarded documentary crew that was attempting to film a Wednesday hearing on a controversial natural gas procurement practice. Initial reports from sources suggested that an ABC News camera was also prevented from taping the hearing; ABC has since denied that they sent a crew to the hearing.
Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Gasland” was taken into custody by Capitol Hill police this morning, along with his crew, after Republicans objected to their presence, according to Democratic sources present at the hearing. The meeting of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment had been taking place in room 2318 of the Rayburn building. […]
* “GASLAND” DIRECTOR JOSH FOX ARRESTED AT CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON NATURAL GAS FRACKING – VIDEO
Source: Democracy Now!
The Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox was handcuffed and arrested Wednesday as he attempted to film a Congressional hearing on the controversial natural gas drilling technique, known as fracking, which the Environmental Protection Agency recently reported caused water contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming. Fox directed the award-winning film, “Gasland,” which documents the impact of fracking to communities across the United States, and is now working on a sequel. Fox says he was arrested after Republicans refused to allow him to film because he did not have the proper credentials. “We wanted to report on what happened [at the hearing]. I was not interested in disrupting. It was not a protest action,” says Fox. “I was simply trying to do my job as a journalist and go in there and show to the American people what was transpiring in that hearing, so that down the line — as we know there will be a lot of challenges mounted to that [Pavillion, Wyoming] EPA report, and frankly to the people in Pavillion who have been sticking up for themselves and demanding an investigation into the groundwater contamination — to make sure that people could view that in a larger forum than usually happens.” […]
* ‘GASLAND’ JOURNALIST ARRESTED AT FRACKING HEARING – VIDEO
* WHY THE AG’s MUST NOT SETTLE: ROBO-SIGNING IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
By Ellen Brown, OpEdNews
A foreclosure settlement between five major banks guilty of “robo-signing” and the attorneys general of the 50 states is pending for Monday, February 6 th ; but it is still not clear if all the AGs will sign.
A foreclosure settlement between five major banks guilty of “robo-signing” and the attorneys general of the 50 states is pending for Monday, February 6 th ; but it is still not clear if all the AGs will sign. California was to get over half of the $25 billion in settlement money, and California AG Kamala Harris has withstood pressure to settle.
That is good. She and the other AGs should not sign until a thorough investigation has been conducted. The evidence to date suggests that “robo-signing” was not a mere technical default or sloppy business practice but was part and parcel of a much larger fraud, the fraud that brought down the whole economy in 2008. It is not just distressed homeowners but the entire economy that has paid the price, resulting in massive unemployment and a shrunken tax base, throwing state and local governments into insolvency and forcing austerity measures and cutbacks in government services across the nation.
The details of the robo-signing scam were spelled out in my last article, here. The robo-signing fraud and its implications are expanded on below. […]
* CYBERGATE: WAS THE WHITE HOUSE STOLEN BY CYBERFRAUD?
By Simon Worrall, Kindle Store
[…] I am on my way to see a woman called Heather Connell. She is the recently widowed wife of Michael Connell, a prodigiously gifted computer expert who worked for Karl Rove and both George Bush Sr. and Jr. A month earlier, his Piper Saratoga plane had crashed at Akron airport on the way back from a trip to Washington, DC, killing Connell instantly.
I am on assignment for the London Sunday Times Magazine to investigate not just Connell’s death: but allegations that he may have been involved in the theft by cyber fraud of the Ohio, 2004 election, which put George Bush, not John Kerry, into the White House. If true it would be a bigger crime against American democracy than Watergate: a premeditated plot to hack the vote of tens of thousands of voters, which altered the course of American, and world, history. At the centre of that alleged plot may be the man whose plane fell from the sky.
My own journey began in December 2008, when my partner sent me a link to a news story about Michael Connell’s plane crash. I am a storyteller by profession. And the story of Connell’s fiery death in a Piper Saratoga, not long after he had given a deposition in a lawsuit that implicated Karl Rove in the conspiracy, struck a chord.
Not just a political chord. A human one. The image of his distraught widow waiting for a plane that never arrived captured my imagination. Who was Michael Connell? How did he die? Was it an accident? Or had he been murdered to keep him from saying what he knew about the hacking of the Ohio 04 election: and possibly others?
Like most people outside the Beltway, I had never heard of Michael Connell. But it didn’t take me long to discover that his name was all over the Web long before his plane crashed. In several websites, he was openly referred to as Karl Rove’s “vote rigger.” A YouTube video I downloaded showed an internationally respected cyber security expert named Stephen Spoonamore describing, in forensic detail, how in the middle of election night in 2004, IP addresses from the Secretary of State’s office in Ohio were rerouted to a server farm located in the basement of a former bank building in Chattanooga, Tennessee, allegedly controlled by Karl Rove.
My first reaction was skepticism. I have an innate belief in American democracy. Surely, I thought, this could not happen in the land of the free and the home of the brave? In Burma or Iran, yes. But in the most open and democratic country in the world? It must be another crazy conspiracy theory by a bunch of tin foil hatters. Like Roswell. Or the theory that the moon landings were filmed on a sound stage in Hollywood. After all, if these right-wing cyber thieves were so good at stealing elections why hadn’t they fixed it so that McCain beat Obama in 2008?
But, despite my skepticism, something about Connell’s plane crash seemed suspicious. Connell was an experienced pilot, the weather was not especially bad, yet he had inexplicably lost his way on his approach to Akron airport and crashed. Is that what really happened? Or had the plane been sabotaged? Certainly, as Karl Rove’s trusted cyber lieutenant, Connell posed a potential threat to many powerful people. He had deep inside information about Karl Rove and the Bush family. If Connell really were the invisible hand behind the theft of the Ohio 2004 election, he would be the most important witness in any criminal case against Rove. […]
* WHY DID KARL ROVE AND HIS GOP THUGS TARGET DON SIEGELMAN IN ALABAMA?
By Legal Schnauzer
As we set sail on 2012, a year in which political news will be dominated by the build up toward a presidential election, the mind drifts back to events that led us to this peculiar moment in American history. Our first black president is seeking re-election–and should be a shoo-in, even though he has disappointed huge numbers of his progressive base. The Republican Party counters with perhaps the weakest field of candidates any major party ever has put forth.
Why so much disarray and disgust on both sides of the political fence in an election year? I would propose that it’s because the nation still has not recovered from eight years of the disastrous George W. Bush administration. Obama has been hamstrung for four years by the economic, financial, and international messes he inherited from Bush. Republicans cannot hammer too hard on the nation’s woes without coming awfully close to admitting that one of their own caused them.
Here in Alabama, all of this has me thinking about one of the great political mysteries of the past generation. It’s a mystery that began to unfold before Bush ever took office, but it did not gain national attention until Dubya and his acolytes were in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice. […]
* JPM BUYS GREECE FOR $2.
By Peter Tchir, TF Market Advisors
[…] What I find interesting, is that finally some Greek citizens and even minor politicians seem to be getting the joke that the “bailouts” aren’t for Greece, it is for the people that lent Greece money. I do not think a Greek default is an economic disaster (stocks would sell off, probably 5% or more over a week or two, but that is not an economic disaster). A Greek default would be good for Greece. Greece wouldn’t owe the money. We all know the old saying about if you borrow a little and can’t pay it back, you have a problem, but if you borrow a lot and can’t pay it back, the lender has a problem. The Greek case is even stronger – they have borrowed a lot, and can’t pay it back, but the lenders have almost no way to enforce even the limited rights they have. The longer the negotiations drag on, the more people in Greece that will finally figure this out. When everyone was scrambling from desperate “plan” to desperate “plan” no one seemed to spend the time thinking about what a default would mean. The “Default” card would be played any time actual critical thinking reared its ugly head and with some gnashing of the teeth and wringing of the hands, new plans would be created. Now, more and more sensible people seem to be reaching the same conclusion – default would not be end of the world (heck, not even the end of the banking system) and might provide the best framework for future growth. […]
* TENSIONS BUILDING, AS THE PIGS AT THE TROUGH START TO SQUEAL
By Greek Correspondence
This has been a period of relative calm since the New Year as negotiations over the PSI (private sector involvement) grind on. This is a phony war as no-one really understands the discussions and what is involved, and do not see why they are relevant to everyday life. This discussions are about a deal between some banks and other banks, and central banks, and hedge-funds, investors etc. If the Greek government gets as much a write off of the national debt as possible then all is OK. No one can blame ordinary Greeks if these negotiations go wrong. Rather, ordinary people can find someone else to blame for the predicament Greece finds itself in. It has to be said ordinary Greeks are generally very tired of having to take the blame on behalf of their country, even though they remain committed to defend it. These PSI discussions have basically bored people into thinking things are moving in the right direction without realising that crunch time is upon us again.
The next few weeks will decide whether Greece will default completely or not, and whether the EU remains intact in its current form. The Troika has demanded more austerity measures before advancing the next tranche of the bailout, but the three leaders of the main political parties here will not agree to them. What’s on the table? The Troika want the minimum wage dropped by 25%, the abolition of the 13th and 14th salaries in the private sector (don’t ask), and a further cull of government jobs. The point of contention for the three political leaders? Losing more government jobs. That this is the stumbling block provides a unique insight into the rotten political culture and cronyism of the Greek State. The political class has so far been happy to reduce pensions and increase taxes for those honest enough to declare them, so this their objections are not for economic, pro-growth, reasons. However they have been reluctant to chase down tax evaders and have proved very adept at avoiding cutting the overall public sector payroll. Why is this? For the same old reasons – bribery, corruption and clientism. […]
* EUROPE-DEVELOPMENT: MAPPING OUT THE EU’s HARMFUL PROJECTS
Dozens of European Union-funded projects across several countries are ‘environmentally or socially unsound’, according to a map created by a joint effort between CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe.
By Bari Bates, Global Issues
The map highlighted projects in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland and Slovakia, which have been found to be particularly damaging to local biodiversity, to the future possibility of sustainable efforts and to human communities.
Twelve of the 33 projects studied were found in the Czech Republic, the highest number of harmful projects in any country.
These included plans for an incinerator in the East, where air pollution levels are already among the highest in Europe, which would ‘undermine EU targets for a 50 percent recycling ratio,’ as well as undercut efforts to reduce municipal waste as a whole.
Other projects, including several expressways, would infringe on Natura 2000 sites – areas across Europe that have been deemed by the EU to be ‘valuable’ by virtue of their wildlife and protected species’ habitats. […]
* BILL MOYERS: 6 MOVIES YOU HAVE TO SEE ABOUT THE FINANCIAL CRISIS – VIDEOS
By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company
Margin Call Trailer:
HBO FILMS: Too Big To Fail Trailer:
Inside Job Trailer:
FRONTLINE: “The Warning” PBS
The Flaw Trailer:
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
* READING ABOUT THE FINANCIAL CRISIS – A 21-BOOK REVIEW – PDF
By Andrew W. Lo
The recent financial crisis has generated many distinct perspectives from various quarters. In this article, I review a diverse set of 21 books on the crisis, 11 written by academics, and 10 written by journalists and one former Treasury Secretary. No single narrative emerges from this broad and often contradictory collection of interpretations, but the sheer variety of conclusions is informative, and underscores the desperate need for the economics profession to establish a single set of facts from which more accurate inferences and narratives can be constructed. […]
* QUELLE SURPRISE! SEC FAILS TO SANCTION BIG BANKS FOR FRAUD
By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism
Ed Wyatt of the New York Times has released an important story tonight on how the SEC goes easy on big banks by giving them exemptions to laws meant to stop securities fraud. This report stands in stark contrast to a Reuters story which repeats the favorite Administration mantra: it’s really hard to prosecute financial-related cases. It sure is when you don’t chose to use the powers you have.
It is hard to overstate the importance of this story. As we have said, one of basic rules of regulating is to make sure the regulated know you are not cowed by them. When I was a young person working on Wall Street, investment banks were afraid of the SEC. By contrast, this article reveals, as many have suspected, that regulators have plenty of tools to bring banks to heel. They choose not to use them.
The SEC does have a defense of sorts, which is (as we have recounted) that Congress has cut off funding when it merely tried to be tough in defending retail investors from abuses under Arthur Levitt in the 1990s. The passivity of the SEC is a symptom of elite corruption. A reform-minded President could choose to cross swords with Congress and defend the agency against harassment for tough minded enforcement. But that would be in a parallel universe where the banks were not in charge.
* GOLDMAN SACHS LIKELY TO AVOID CRIMINAL CHARGES IN DOJ PROBE AS TO WHETHER FIRM MISLED CLIENTS AND LIED TO LAWMAKERS
By Mark Decmabre, NewYorkPost
[…] Goldman confirmed in August that CEO Lloyd Blankfein and other executives had hired defense lawyers to advise them after the Senate referred the report to the Justice Department.
The probe has added to Goldman’s legal headaches and weighed on the shares, which have shed nearly a third of their value over the past year.
While the DOJ has yet to announce a resolution to the probe, sources close to Goldman said bank officials increasingly believe that the investigation won’t result in criminal charges against the firm or individual executives.
Sources within Goldman had expected the Justice Department to offer a statement of its findings in the more recent quarter after probing the banking giant for months. Goldman declined to comment and the DOJ didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Avoiding criminal charges, as insiders are hoping will be the case, would do much to bolster Blankfein’s determination to remain at the top. […]
* NO ONE IS EVER WRONG ANYMORE
By Joshua M. Brown, The Reformed Broker
[…] Take Bruce Berkowitz, manager of the Fairholme Fund – here’s a brilliant guy who unfortunately owned almost every single disastrous stock on the market in 2011 (he and John Paulson carved up the H-bomb list, if Bruce didn’t own it John did). He torched his shareholders and lost billions of dollars juat as his fund had raised record levels of assets under management, a total shit-show. And yet, you read his just-released letter to investors and it almost reads like he’s saying “I wasn’t wrong, the market was.” It really is an astonishing piece of writing…
Improving book value levels and ratios show companies recovering from tough times, prepared for uncertainty, and capable of profits without excess leverage. The Fund’s performance last year makes little sense in light of such positive trends and we can only hypothesize from public comments that investors did not fathom our financials’ assets.
Translation: You are all idiots and it’s your fault I rode concentrated positions down 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 percent without any risk management whatsoever. Rather than admit that the Sears, Bank of America and St Joe ideas were flawed positions with poorly timed entries, Berkowitz tells us no one else understands how to read a balance sheet or income statement except him. Good luck, dude. (full text of letter here) […]
* HOW US FASCISM COMES OUT ON TOP VIA ‘TOO-BIG-TO-FAIL’
Source: The Daily Bell
[…] Many modern, large-scale entities, especially those with government affiliations, are anything but competent. This is an entirely logical perspective. Large entities are usually advantaged ones. And the more artificial advantages an entity receives, the less apt it is to be exposed to market forces.
The less operative market forces are, the more inefficient and hapless the enterprise becomes – entailing yet more bailouts and special advantages. It is soon a vicious circle, a feedback loop of incompetence and even futility.
Has it been planned that way? The Anglosphere power elite that wants to run the world via global government is not apparently interested in stability or efficiency. Its handful of immensely powerful and wealthy leaders are interested mainly in DESTABILIZATION, from what we can tell. Bigness is yet another resource within their tool kit.
The more the West – and the world – is destabilized, the easier it will be, seemingly from their point of view, to impose world government. Starving, homeless, sick, war-weary populations are apt to put up less resistance to a New World Order than healthy, engaged citizens.
In fact, the idea that certain businesses are “too big to fail” is merely an extension of the propagandistic effort that gave us our current catastrophic central banking economy, worldwide. State-monopoly central banking is supposed to be an antidote to economic collapse. But always, the power elite will make arguments that are entirely opposed to the reality it wants to inculcate.
If the elites are arguing that government regulations and government funding will somehow make private enterprise more stable, you can be sure the reverse is true. The modern world is based on this sort of sick propaganda, which constantly informs people of solutions that generate exactly the opposite results from those that are putatively intended.
This kind of propaganda-as-program was unleashed on the West at least a hundred years ago, from what we can tell. In hindsight, it seems increasingly evident that those who campaigned for monopoly central banking (like JP Morgan himself) probably had a hand in the Panic of ’07 that ultimately led to the passage of the Federal Reserve Act 1913. […]
* 27 OF 35 BUSH ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT APPLY TO OBAMA
By David Swanson, OpEdNews
When Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush on June 9, 2008, the 35 had been selected from drafts of nearly twice that many articles.
When Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush on June 9, 2008, the 35 had been selected from drafts of nearly twice that many articles.
President Obama has accumulated his own massive list of high crimes and misdemeanors that were unavailable for Bush’s list (thing’s like openly murdering U.S. citizens, launching massive drone wars, selectively and abusively prosecuting numerous whistleblowers as spies, holding Bradley Manning naked in isolation, attacking Libya without so much as bothering to lie to Congress, etc.).
Nonetheless, it is instructive to review the 35 Bush articles in the Obama age. It quickly becomes apparent that Obama has either exactly duplicated or closely paralleled most of the 35. […]
* ACLU SUES OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OVER ASSASSINATION SECRECY
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
The ACLU yesterday filed a lawsuit against various agencies of the Obama administration — the Justice and Defense Departments and the CIA — over their refusal to disclose any information about the assassination of American citizens. In October, the ACLU filed a FOIA request demanding disclosure of the most basic information about the CIA’s killing of 3 American citizens in Yemen: Anwar Awlaki and Samir Khan, killed by missiles fired by a U.S. drone in September, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, killed by another drone attack two weeks later.
The ACLU’s FOIA request sought merely to learn the legal and factual basis for these killings — meaning: tell us what legal theories you’ve adopted to secretly target U.S. citizens for execution, and what factual basis did you have to launch these specific strikes? The DOJ and CIA responded not only by refusing to provide any of this information, but refused even to confirm if any of the requested documents exist; in other words, as the ACLU put it yesterday, “these agencies are saying the targeted killing program is so secret that they can’t even acknowledge that it exists.” That refusal is what prompted yesterday’s lawsuit (in December, the New York Times also sued the Obama administration after it failed to produce DOJ legal memoranda “justifying” the assassination program in response to a FOIA request from reporters Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, but the ACLU’s lawsuit seeks disclosure of both the legal and factual bases for these executions).
From a certain perspective, there’s really only one point worth making about all of this: if you think about it, it is warped beyond belief that the ACLU has to sue the U.S. Government in order to force it to disclose its claimed legal and factual bases for assassinating U.S. citizens without charges, trial or due process of any kind. It’s extraordinary enough that the Obama administration is secretly targeting citizens for execution-by-CIA; that they refuse even to account for what they are doing — even to the point of refusing to disclose their legal reasoning as to why they think the President possesses this power — is just mind-boggling. Truly: what more tyrannical power is there than for a government to target its own citizens for death — in total secrecy and with no checks — and then insist on the right to do so without even having to explain its legal and factual rationale for what it is doing? Could you even imagine what the U.S. Government and its media supporters would be saying about any other non-client-state country that asserted and exercised this power? […]
* CANCER CHARITY CONFRONTS BACKLASH OVER GRANT CUTS
By David Crary, AP
The renowned breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure faced an escalating backlash Thursday over its decision to cut breast screening grants to Planned Parenthood. Some of Komen’s local affiliates are openly upset, including all seven in California, and at least one top official has quit, reportedly in protest.
A source with direct knowledge of decision-making at Komen’s headquarters in Dallas gave a different account, saying the grant-making criteria were adopted with the deliberate intention of targeting Planned Parenthood. The criteria’s impact on Planned Parenthood and its status as the focus of government investigations were highlighted in a memo distributed to Komen affiliates in December.
According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, a driving force behind the move was Karen Handel, who was hired by Komen last year as vice president for public policy after losing a campaign for governor in Georgia in which she stressed her anti-abortion views and frequently denounced Planned Parenthood. […]
* KOMEN’S $7.5 MILLION GRANT TO PENN STATE APPEARS TO VIOLATE NEW POLICY
By Adam Serwer and Kate Sheppard, MotherJones
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which recently announced that it is ending grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening because of a controversial investigation launched by an anti-abortion Republican congressman, currently funds cancer research at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to the tune of $7.5 million. Like Planned Parenthood, Penn State is currently the subject of a federal government investigation, and like the Planned Parenthood grant, the Penn State grant appears to violate a new internal rule at Komen that bans grants to organizations that are under investigation by federal, state, or local governments. But so far, only the Planned Parenthood grants appear to have been cancelled. […]
READ @ http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/02/komen-foundation-gave-75-million-grant-penn-state?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Motherjones%2Fmojoblog+%28MotherJones.com+%7C+MoJoBlog%29
* DIET DRINKS: AMERICA’S PASSION FOR POISON
By Charles Foerster, Global Research
[…] Early testing was conducted in the fall of 1967 when Dr. Harold Waisman, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin, led aspartame safety tests on infant monkeys on behalf of the Searle Company. Of the seven monkeys that were being fed aspartame mixed with milk, one died and five others had grand mal seizures. The entire file can be found online @ dorway.com/raoreport.pdf.
On January 21, 1981, the day after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, Searle re-applied to the FDA for approval to use aspartame in food sweeteners, and Reagan’s new FDA commissioner, Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr., appointed a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the board of inquiry’s decision. It soon became clear that the panel would uphold the ban by a 3-2 decision, but Hull then installed a sixth member on the commission, and the vote became deadlocked. He then personally broke the tie in aspartame’s favor. Hull later left the FDA under allegations of impropriety, served briefly as Provost at New York Medical College, and then took a position with Burston-Marsteller, the chief public relations firm for both Monsanto and G.D. Searle. Since that time he has never spoken publicly about aspartame.
The preceding three paragraphs were reported by the National Institute of Science, Law, and Public Policy, Washington, D.C.
While the components of the additive are well known, the team that pushed the approval process were perhaps not quite as well known. Donald H. Rumsfeld was Chief Executive Officer at G.D. Searle from 1977 to 1985 which was during the aspartame approval process. As a hard-driving business executive at Searle he was awarded the “Outstanding Chief Executive Officer” in 1980 and 1981 for his efforts to reshape the company. He may have helped reshape America too with the help of the FDA and the diet food and drink industry. Cronyism scored a direct hit. […]