Oct 182013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Massive-US-Troop-Movements-In-California-Raise-Russian-Concerns

Introduction

US and world political and economic leaders are faced with what they describe as a ‘systemic catastrophe’:  the inability to pay global creditors, including domestic and foreign banks, investors and governments, who hold $16.7 trillion in US Treasury notes.  There is a related crisis: the government cannot secure passage of a budget to finance its military and civilian agencies and activities, including large-scale payments to military contractors, the financing of business, agriculture and banking operations and social programs.  The raising of the debt-ceiling is central to the functioning of the financial ruling class as it extracts hundreds of billions of tax dollars in interest payments from the US Treasury.  Raising the debt ceiling allows the State to keep borrowing and pay its billionaire creditors.  In turn, as long as the US Treasury has liquidity, it remains a ‘safe haven’ for investors thus providing guaranteed profits.  In addition, as long as the dollar remains the principle currency for global transactions, it allows the US Treasury to print money at will and to borrow at a lower cost – at the expense of its competitors and adversaries.

Financing the budget deficit requires borrowing, which involves the sale hundreds of billions of dollars worth of US government bonds through Wall Street – but at a cost to the taxpayer.  The common denominator is that the entire edifice of finance capital and all of its support structures depend on debt financing by the State.  By borrowing and then taxing its citizens the Treasury extracts wealth from the vast majority of Americans.

To understand the fight to raise the debt ceiling and to pass a deficit budget it is necessary to analyze the long-term, large-scale sources of State debt.

Imperial Wars, the Ascendancy of Finance Capital and the Debt Crisis

The ever-increasing debt and the constant raising of the debt ceiling is a result of long-term, large-scale military spending to build the US Empire.  The imperial enterprise has generated a huge deficit:  the cost/benefit ratio has been overwhelmingly negative.  Contrary to militarist propaganda, the empire has not been ‘self-financing’:  Wars and occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have cost the US taxpayers trillions of dollars, not off-set by incoming imperial plunder or domestic economic expansion.

Parallel to the cost of wars and occupations, the rise of finance capital has largely resulted from the pillage of the US Treasury.  Huge bailouts, low interest loans, large-scale interest payments on bonds, subsidies and tax exemptions have created a financial ruling class based on maintaining a debt-laden, interest-paying State, which meets its obligations to the creditors while it privatizes (and eliminates) social programs.  The result is a ‘poor indebted State’ and a rich and prosperous Wall Street.  Wall Street stands to gain trillions with the privatization of the multi-billion dollar health (Medicare) and retirement plans (Social Security): this will form an integral component of the “Grand Bargain” to raise the debt ceiling.

Who are the Beneficiaries of Raising the Debt Ceiling?

The principle and immediate beneficiaries of increasing the debt ceiling are the wealthy, bond-holders and the medium and long-term beneficiaries are the military-intelligence-empire-builders who can continue to secure over $700 billion in annual budget allocations.  The principle strategic losers from raising the debt ceiling will be the hundreds of millions of beneficiaries of social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and their family members.  As part of the ‘Grand Bargain’ struck by the Democratic President and Republican Congress – between $1.3 trillion and $1.4 trillion in social cuts will take effect over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  The cuts in Social Security will occur by raising the age of eligibility for full benefits to 70 years, resulting in a loss of $120 billion, as many older retired workers would be expected to die before drawing a single payment while millions of Americans  will be forced to delay retirement and work an extra five years.

Secondly, the earliest age of eligibility for partial benefits will increase from 62 to 64 years – resulting in an additional loss of $144 billion dollars from workers.

Thirdly, the cost of living index would be reduced – a ten- year loss of $112 billion dollars.

Fourthly, the calculation for initial benefits would discard the wage-based method for a so-called “price-index”, resulting in American workers losing another $137 billion dollars over 10 years.  In sum, workers’ social security benefits would be reduced by more than half a trillion dollars – an enormous transfer of wealth to the billionaire creditors, investors and empire builders – all in the name of ‘debt reduction’.

The cuts in MEDICARE and MEDICAID would result in an even more retrograde class polarization.  The ‘Grand Bargain’ could lead to additional losses of over $419 billion dollars.

The biggest cost to the workers will come in the form of an increase in their  monthly premium  for physician services (MEDICARE Part B) from the current 25%  to 35%, resulting in a loss of $241 billion dollars.  The second biggest loss to workers will result from raising the age of eligibility for MEDICARE from 65 to 67 years costing workers an additional S125 billion dollars.  The third loss for workers will be a $53 billion hit  from restricting the use of MEDIGAP insurance – supplementary policies that cover MEDICARE cost sharing requirements.

Further cuts of $187 billion in MEDICAID– the medical plan for the poor and disabled– would result when the federal government shifts its direct funding to block grants to the states that would severely cut services for the poor – a plan first proposed during the Clinton Administration with regard to welfare funding.

Once these reactionary cuts in basic social programs are in place, the beneficiaries, who are able, will be forced to buy alternative supplementary private medical insurance and private retirement plans, while the poor will go without.  The running down of public social services by Wall Street has been a deliberate, cynical strategy to cause popular discontent paving the way for the gradual privatization of services: adding costs, eliminating options and limiting medical treatment, surgery and procedures, especially for the elderly.  The privatization of Social Security, MEDICARE and MEDICAID, will maximize insecurity while minimizing services and lead to untreated and under-treated illness, greater suffering and economic distress.  Bi-partisan Congressional –White House agreements via the “Great Bargain” to raise the debt ceiling will widen and deepen inequalities in the United States.

In sum, “the Grand Bargain” will cause American workers to lose over $1.119 trillion dollars over the next 10 years, leading to a sharp decline in life expectancy, access to health care, living standards and quality of life.

The Samson Solution

Given the harsh terms, which accompany the “Grand Bargain” to raise the debt ceiling, it would be better if no agreement were reached.  The financial elite is counting on the ‘Grand Bargain’ to leverage their debt collection over the lives and welfare of hundreds of millions of Americans.  It would be better to shake the pillars and pull down this Temple of Mammon (the ‘Samson Solution’) making them pay a price!

The ‘shock and awe’ induced by default would shake the very foundations of the financial pillage of the US Treasury and the taxpayers; default would seriously undermine the financial basis for imperial wars, spying, torture and death squads.  The entire empire building project would crumble.

True, in the short-run, the workers and middle class would also suffer from a default.  But the discredit of the ruling political parties, the political elite and Wall Street, could lead to a new political alignment, which would fund social programs by, in David Stockman’s phrase, “soaking the rich” – raising corporate taxes by 50%, imposing a financial transaction tax of 5%, uncapping the social security tax and collecting taxes on overseas US multi-nationals’ profits.  Additional billions would be saved by ending imperial wars, closing bases and canceling military contracts.  Tax reform, imperial dismantlement and increased domestic investment in productive activity would generate domestic growth leading to a budget surplus, extending MEDICARE to all Americans, reducing the age of retirement to 62 and providing a living wage for all workers!

Apr 172012
 

 

* WASHINGTON LEADS THE WORLD INTO LAWLESSNESS

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, Global Research

The US government pretends to live under the rule of law, to respect human rights, and to provide freedom and democracy to citizens. Washington’s pretense and the stark reality are diametrically opposed. 

US government officials routinely criticize other governments for being undemocratic and for violating human rights. Yet, no other country except Israel sends bombs, missiles, and drones into sovereign countries to murder civilian populations. The torture prisons of Abu Gahraib, Guantanamo, and CIA secret rendition sites are the contributions of the Bush/Obama regimes to human rights.  

Washington violates the human rights of its own citizens. Washington has suspended the civil liberties guaranteed in the US Constitution and declared its intention to detain US citizens indefinitely without due process of law.  President Obama has announced that he, at his discretion, can murder US citizens whom he regards as a threat to the US.

Congress did not respond to these extraordinary announcements with impeachment proceedings. There was no uproar from the federal courts, law schools, or bar associations. Glenn Greenwald reports that the Department of Homeland Security harasses journalists who refuse to be “presstitutes”,  and we have seen videos of the brutal police oppression of peaceful OWS protestors.  Chris Floyd describes the torture-perverts who rule the US.  […]

READ @ http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=30273

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* JOSEPH STIGLITZ: WAGE CUSTS AND AUSTERITY CANNOT BRING ECONOMIC GROWTH

Source: HappensInGreece 

Nobel laureate economist  and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz criticized sharply the European leaders on the management of the economic crisis.

In his interview for the German newspaper «Sueddeutsche Zeitung» the American economist warns against the austerity policy implemented in many European countries:

“Democracies can withstand cuts without seeing light at the end of the tunnel, but there is always a red line…  nowhere in the world can we find an example where salary, pension and social expenditure cuts resulted in the growth of a weak country!”

Stiglitz points out the need for a development policy implementation and he believes that the haircut of the debt is the only solution in order to escape the economic crisis…

“The Greek debt haircut  is unfortunately very limited due to the fear of a possible default. But the default is a part of the modern capitalism and it should be permitted… ” explains Mr. Stiglitz and asks for larger business loans from the European Investment Bank. […]

READ @ http://www.happensingreece.com/joseph-stiglitz-wage-cuts-and-austerity-can-not-bring-economic-growth/

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* DARTH VADER AND STORM TROOPERS OPEN WALL STREET

Source: youtube

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbngdR_ieWI

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* DISTURBING QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR GOVERNMENT AND TEH SO-CALLED “WAR ON DRUGS”

By Ernest A. Canning, BradBlog

How does one explain it?

The Eric Holder Department of Justice (DOJ) is faced with massive banking and Wall Street fraud that nearly brought the world’s economic system to its knees, yet no bankers are prosecuted. It is confronted by environmental crimes that have poisoned our air, water and even the food we eat, yet, for the most part, those crimes go unpunished. It has its hands full fending off voter suppression laws concocted by a billionaire-funded, subversive organization, which is also responsible for deadly “stand your ground” laws and an assault on the right of citizens to engage in collective bargaining.

Yet, the DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) make it a priority to target California medical marijuana dispensaries and to raid Oaksterdam University, a school founded by Richard Lee, a legalization activist who offers training in the cultivation and use of medical marijuana. It does so even though, in 1996, CA voters, by a wide margin, passed an initiative that “allows patients with a valid doctor’s recommendation…to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medical use.” The raids were also made against the backdrop of polls showing that a majority of Americans support legalization of marijuana.

In this three-part series, we will advance the hypothesis that this seemingly irrational obsession with busting medicinal marijuana dispensaries and fending off legalization of even the most innocuous of drugs, Cannabis, can only be understood in the context of U.S. Empire and the economics of the Prison Industrial Complex. […]

READ @ http://www.bradblog.com/?p=9238

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* MEET ALEC’s EQUALLY DESPICABLE ANTI-CHOICE COUSIN – AUL

Think the anti-choicers in statehouses around the country are coming up with abortion bans all by themselves? Think again.

By Sarah Seltzer and Lauren Kelley, AlterNet

When statehouses across the country started passing abortion bans at the seemingly arbitrary threshold of 20 weeks, was it a mere coincidence? When the “right to know” bills that required mandatory ultrasounds — sometimes transvaginal ones — before abortions were introduced or passed, in state after state, from Virginia to Texas to Pennsylvania, was that a matter of chance?

Of course not: none of these trends were the product of diabolical mind-sync on the part of anti-choice legislators. Instead, these bills arise from the tradition of blueprint legislation — the practice of borrowing bill prototypes or model bills from a central national entity and then adapting them for introduction in statehouses. The practice is used on both sides of the aisle, but is particularly insidious in the case of anti-choice bills, part of the “war on women”– the campaign to erode Roe until it’s all but nonexistent.

Blueprint legislation has come to light recently thanks to the spotlight on the right-wing, corporate American Legislative Exchange Council, and in particular ALEC’s hand in the proliferation of dangerous “stand your ground” laws, like Florida’s, and discriminatory voter ID legislation. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/story/154947/meet_alec%27s_equally_despicable_anti-choice_cousin_–_aul?page=entire

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* MILLIONS AGAINST MONSANTO: THE FOOD FIGHT OF OUR LIVES

By Ronnie Cummins, Natural News

“If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.” — Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” — Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications, quoted in the New York Times, October 25, 1998

For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture, aided and abetted by indentured politicians and regulatory agencies, supermarket chains, giant food processors, and the so-called “natural” products industry.

Finally, public opinion around the biotech industry’s contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We’re fighting back. […]

READ @ http://www.naturalnews.com/035578_Monsanto_petition_biotechnology.html

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* HIGHLIGHTS OF AP’s PULITZER PRIZE- WINNING PROBE INTO NYPD INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS

Source: AP

Since August, AP has been publishing stories from its ongoing investigation into secret intelligence operations set up by the New York Police Department following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

AP’s investigation has revealed that the NYPD dispatched undercover officers into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program. Police also used informants, known as “mosque crawlers,” to monitor sermons, even when there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

The AP also determined that police subjected entire neighborhoods to surveillance and scrutiny, often because of the ethnicity of the residents, not because of any accusations of crimes. Hundreds of mosques and Muslim student groups were investigated and dozens were infiltrated. Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD’s intelligence unit after 9/11.  […]

READ @ http://www.ap.org/media-center/nypd/investigation

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* A HUGE STUDENT LOAN SCAM

With the help of Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., for-profit colleges are massively ripping off U.S. taxpayers

By Andrew Leonard, Salon 

Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a bill with the impressive, everybody-can-get-behind-this title “Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act.” Sponsored by the ultra-conservative North Carolina Republican Virginia Foxx, the bill ostensibly took aim at an issue close to small-government-loving hearts: intrusive federal regulation of for-profit colleges — fast growing, highly profitable outfits like DeVry University or the online-only University of Phoenix.

Like so many of the bills passed by the House since Republicans gained the majority in the 2010 midterm elections, the bill was designed to repeal specific actions taken by the Obama administration. In this case, the issue at hand was the Obama administration’s efforts to ensure greater “program integrity” in the for-profit educational sector. Specifically, a new federal definition of what constitutes a legitimate academic “credit hour” and a new requirement that all online providers of post-secondary education be accredited in each and every state in which they do business.

Foxx’s bill repealed both measures. (The Senate has yet to address the measure.) According to Foxx, the new federal regulations threatened “innovation” in the educational sector. As reported by InsideHigherEducation, Foxx is on record as declaring that for-profit colleges do a “a better job of being mindful about efficiency and effectiveness than their nonprofit peers.” By, for example, flexibly providing online education when and where low-income working Americans want it, the for-profit free market delivers the kind of quality higher education that Americans so desperately need. The government should just stay out of their business. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/04/16/a_huge_student_loan_scam/

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* THE VERY FIRST “POST-INDUSTRIAL” NATION

By Thomas Heffner, Economy In Crisis

Is America Falling into Post-Industrialism?  As evidenced in history, all great economic empires eventually squander the great wealth that their forefathers have left them, but the pace at which America is accomplishing this is absolutely amazing.

It was America that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution. It was America that showed the world how to mass produce everything from automobiles to televisions to airplanes. It was the great American manufacturing base that crushed Germany and Japan in World War II. But now we are witnessing the deindustrialization of America. Tens of thousands of factories have left the United States in the past decade alone. Millions upon millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the same time period.

The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little. Do you know what our biggest export is today? Waste paper. Yes, trash is the number one thing that we ship out to the rest of the world as we voraciously blow our money on whatever the rest of the world wants to sell to us. The United States has become bloated and spoiled and our economy is now just a shadow of what it once was. Once upon a time America could literally outproduce the rest of the world combined. Today that is no longer true, but Americans sure do consume more than anyone else in the world. If the deindustrialization of America continues at this current pace, what possible kind of a future are we going to be leaving to our children? […]

READ @ http://economyincrisis.org/content/america-falling-post-industrialism

Mar 222012
 

 

* FINALLY COMPETITIVE! PART-TIME JOBS IN GREECE FOR JUST 255 EURO GROSS

Source: KeepTalkingGreece

You happen to be in Greece and fortune bless you with a part time job? If you’re under 25 years old… you’d better stay home. All you can earn working 4 hours per day, 20 hours per week, 80 hours per month will give you just 255 euro gross. Net salary it is estimated a little lower than 200 euro. As much as your daddy can give you or your granny before her pension was cut. If you are over 25, you can get the amazing amount of 299 euro per month – gross. This applies to young professionals without previous work experience. And they are many. According to official statistics one out of two young Greeks under 25 are jobless. Unemployment in Greece is estimated at 20+%. The data for 2011 have not been released yet.

In a much better situation are employees with work experience of more than 9 years. A part-time job will give them 380 euro gross per month if they are over 25. If they are under 25 and have 3+ years working experience, they’ll go home with less than 280 euro.

These wages are formed after the decreases of 22% and 32% in the private sector.

The lawmakers (earning more than 5,000 euro per month) have decided so after the Troika’s pressure to increase ‘competitiveness’ in Greece. The wages cuts are valid retrospective from February 14. Employers can cut their employees’ wages even without their consent. […]

READ @ http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2012/03/21/finally-competitive-part-time-jobs-in-greece-for-just-255-eur-gross/

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* GREEK REGIME’S OFFICIALS ENJOY BIG SALARY INCREASES

Source: StopCartel

At this moment, when the Greek people have been victimized and are experiencing unprecedented conditions of poverty – while salaries of the ordinary citizens are being slashed left, right and centre -ministerial advisors and consultants can expect a pay rises of up to 26 percent, under measures announced on Wednesday!

Under the new pay scale, a minister’s head advisor with a higher degree will see his or her monthly salary increase from 1,691 to 2,271 euros. Overall, the increases will cost the exchequer 2.1m a year.

The above development constitutes a further challenge for the unemployed people,the pensioners, the homeless citizens and the employees in the public and private sector and it is more than certain that this news will trigger further social reaction and turmoil against the leading caste of the country in the coming period. […]

READ @ http://www.stopcartel.net/2012/03/15/POLITICS/Greek_regime’s_officials_enjoy_big_salaries_increases../1139.html

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* AMERICA’S DECLINE SINCE THE WTO

By James Moreland, Economy In Crisis

On January 1, 1995, the U.S. government joined the World Trade Organization. Unfortunately for our nation’s workforce, the WTO is run by multinationalists. It is a self-serving and undemocratic organization that operates outside of our control. Our constitution states that all treaties made under the authority of the United States become supreme law of the land. When our government signed this treaty, it effectively sold away a piece of our sovereignty. Because we have made this mistake, the bylaws of the WTO now supersede and negate those of our very Constitution.

Our laws, regulations and administrative procedures must now conform to the WTO treaty – making it the highest law and the highest court ruling over the United States, with no input from the American people. This most often ends up in an unjustifiably negative result for our country.

One of the biggest damaging contributors to come about as a direct result of the WTO was the entrance of China in 2001. According to the Economic Policy Institute, trade with China since then has resulted in the loss of over 3.1 million American jobs. Those fortunate enough to retain their jobs witnessed their annual earnings decrease by roughly $1,400. American workers are put in direct competition with one another as more and more employers look to offshore production to nations with lower wage rates.

Jobs losses have affected both white and blue-collar sectors of the economy. Over that time we have lost:

  • Over 600,000 (627,700) jobs in computer and electronic products,
  • Roughly 150,000 (150,200) in apparel and accessories,
  • More than 130,000 (136,900) in miscellaneous manufactured goods,
  • Over 150,000 (153,300) in administrative support services,
  • And nearly 140,000 (139,000) in professional, scientific and technical services. […]

READ @ http://economyincrisis.org/content/wtos-disastrous-effects

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* THE U.S. AND LATIN AMERICA DRIFT APART OVER CUBA

By Nil Nikandrov, Strategic Cultural Foundation

The slogan of the VI Summit of the Americas which will convene in Cartagena de Indias (Columbia) on April 14-15 – «Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity» – is intended to sound optimistic. At the forum, leaders of 34 countries of the Western Hemisphere plan to discuss an integration and regional cooperation agenda which, as they hope, will help them achieve their loudly stated goals of overcoming poverty and social inequality, maintaining security, and ensuring wide access to advanced technologies.

As before, Washington made sure that no invitation on the occasion was sent to Havana. US President Obama, Vice President J. Biden, and Secretary of State H. Clinton rolled out a standard grievances list – the suppression of free speech and public protests, the communist party’s dictate, and the imprisonment of dissenters in Cuba – to justify shutting the country out of the summit, while a number of US congressmen threatened to boycott it in case Raul Castro shows up. Thus the US diplomacy made a thinly disguised attempt to intimidate the ALBA leaders who felt very strong about their Cuban peer joining them at the forum.

Last February, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez expressed resolute opposition to the policy of isolating Havana and, citing the SELAC summit which condemned the inhumane US blockade of Cuba, warned that the US position prompted outrage across Latin America. In fact, the US pressure led ALBA countries to consider shunning the forum in response. For example, Bolivian president Evo Morales said the US conduct was undemocratic, discriminatory, and even racist as Cuba drives progressive change in the region and just one country – the US – should not be allowed to impose its approaches on the whole Latin America. […]

READ @ http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2012/03/22/the-us-and-latin-america-drift-apart-over-cuba.html

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* THE DALLAS FED IS CALLING FOR THE IMMEDIATE BREAKUP OF LARGE BANKS

By Joe Weisenthal, Business Insider

[…] Here’s the full letter from Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, generally known as one of the most hawkish and conservative Fed Presidents.

Letter from the President:

If you are running one of the “too-big- to-fail” (TBTF) banks—alternatively known as “systemically important financial institutions,” or SIFIs—I doubt you are going to like what you read in this annual report essay written by Harvey Rosenblum, the head of the Dallas Fed’s Research Department, a highly regarded Federal Reserve veteran of 40 years and the former president of the National Association for Business Economics.

Memory fades with the passage of time. Yet it is important to recall that it was in recog- nition of the precarious position in which the TBTF banks and SIFIs placed our economy in 2008 that the U.S. Congress passed into law the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd–Frank). While the act established a number of new macroprudential features to help promote financial stability, its overarching purpose, as stated unambiguously in its preamble, is ending TBTF.

However, Dodd–Frank does not eradi- cate TBTF. Indeed, it is our view at the Dallas Fed that it may actually perpetuate an already dangerous trend of increasing banking industry concentration. More than half of banking industry assets are on the books of just five institutions. The top 10 banks now account for 61 percent of commercial banking assets, substantially more than the 26 percent of only 20 years ago; their combined assets equate to half of our nation’s GDP. Further, as Rosenblum argues in his essay, there are signs that Dodd– Frank’s complexity and opaqueness may evenbe working against the economic recovery. In addition to remaining a lingering threat to financial stability, these megabanks signifi- cantly hamper the Federal Reserve’s ability to properly conduct monetary policy. […]

READ @ http://www.businessinsider.com/dallas-fed-calls-for-breakup-of-big-banks-2012-3#ixzz1plgWWQ7l

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* ANOTHER HIDDEN BAILOUT: HELPING WALL STREET COLLECT YOUR RENT

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

Here’s yet another form of hidden bailout the federal government doles out to our big banks, without the public having much of a clue.

This is from the WSJ this morning:

Some of the biggest names on Wall Street are lining up to become landlords to cash-strapped Americans by bidding on pools of foreclosed properties being sold by Fannie Mae…

While the current approach of selling homes one-by-one has its own high costs and is sometimes inefficient, selling properties in bulk to large investors could require Fannie Mae to sell at a big discount, leading to larger initial costs.

In con artistry parlance, they call this the “reload.” That’s when you hit the same mark twice – typically with a second scam designed to “fix” the damage caused by the first scam. Someone robs your house, then comes by the next day and sells you a fancy alarm system, that’s the reload. […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/another-hidden-bailout-helping-wall-street-collect-your-rent-20120319

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* FAULT LINES – HISTORY OF AN OCCUPATION

Source: Aljazeera

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4VLYGfGDZg&feature=player_embedded

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* MAYOR’S OFFICE BUYS 8513 MORE FACE SHIELDS FOR NATO SUMMIT

By Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is buying 8,513 more face shields for Chicago Police officers at a cost of $757,657 — and demanding delivery in time for the May 20-21 NATO summit — to give every officer on the street a shield that fits over a gas mask and prevents them from being blinded by liquids thrown by protesters.

The supplemental purchase from Colorado-based Super Seer Corp. brings to $954,118 the amount of money spent to purchase 11,570 face shields twice as thick as the old ones with a larger surface and air-tight seal to keep liquids out.

The new contract was piggybacked onto an existing Fairfax County, Va. award with a third-distributor to expedite delivery. It makes it clear the Chicago Police Department is not scaling back its protest preparations even though President Barack Obama has shifted the G-8 summit from Chicago to Camp David.

“It’s an urgent thing. They want ’em by May 15th. Their intent is to outfit all of the officers Chicago Police have with the new face shield for the NATO summit,” said Super Seer President Steve Smith, who is hiring a dozen employees to “ramp up” production. […]

READ @ http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/11443023-418/mayors-office-buys-8513-more-face-shields-nato-summit.html

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* ARGUMENT RECAP: NEW POWER FOR SECRET SERVICE

By Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog

With almost all of the Supreme Court Justices fretting openly about not fettering the Secret Service as it protects the President and Vice President, the government’s key protective agency appeared Wednesday on its way toward a new shield against being sued when it arrests someone it deems to be a threat.   The only question that seemed to be open in the one-hour argument was whether such a curb on lawsuits would be extended widely to police everywhere, when they are trying to keep control of a situation where people — in a crowd or alone — are saying controversial things that may seem threatening.

The technical issue before the Court was whether the Justices will allow a citizen to file a lawsuit claiming that a Secret Service agent arrested that individual in retaliation for speaking out against government policy, if they had some other reason to make the arrest anyway.  But the hearing quickly centered on the protective work that the Secret Service does for the government’s top officials, and the Justices began expressing concern about forcing those officers to think about whether they might face a damages lawsuit depending upon how they carry out that task.

Although the Court would be told, later in the argument, that this concern was misplaced, because there have not been very many claims in court of “retaliatory arrests” for exercising First Amendment rights, that did not seem to divert the Court from worrying over getting in the way of the White House security detail.  Justice Stephen G. Breyer repeatedly expressed anguish over the risks that confront high officials (himself the recent target of a house invasion by a robber), and told the Secret Service agents early in the argument that “you make a strong case” for legal immunity for agents when they make arrests of protesting individuals. […]

READ @ http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/03/argument-recap-new-power-for-secret-service/#more-141217

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* DISCUSSING THE MOTIVES OF THE AFGHAN SHOOTER

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

[…] There is, quite obviously, a desperate need to believe that when an American engages in acts of violence of this type (meaning: as a deviation from formal American policy), there must be some underlying mental or emotional cause that makes it sensible, something other than an act of pure hatred or Evil. When a Muslim engages in acts of violence against Americans, there is an equally desperate need to believe the opposite: that this is yet another manifestation of inscrutable hatred and Evil, and any discussion of any other causes must be prohibited and ignored. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/03/19/discussing_the_motives_of_the_afghan_shooter/singleton/

Dec 102011
 

 

* THE INCOHERENT IMPERIALIST: DECONSTRUCTING TOM FRIEDMAN’S WORK

By Sandra Siagian, Inter Press Service

A new book on the influential New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman sets out to debunk his hawkish, neo-liberal views, accusing him of overt racism, factual errors and skewed judgments on issues ranging from the United States invasion of Iraq to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Deconstructing one of the country’s highest-paid journalists, Belen Fernandez’s The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work presents a comprehensive overview of the man – and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner – she describes as “characterized by reduction of complex international phenomena to simplistic rhetoric and theorems that rarely withstand the test of reality”.

Fernandez, 29, admits that prior to 2009 she wasn’t too familiar with the work of the foreign affairs columnist. It wasn’t until that summer she decided to analyze Friedman’s work after reading “a sequence of ridiculous articles”.

Finding it difficult to ”cram all of that incompetence into a concise book”, Fernandez divided the content into three issues that ”most enraged” her, analyzing his work along with a brief examination of the shortcomings of the US media. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153388

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* KARL ROVE’S LATEST ATTACK ON ELIZABETH WARREN

By Simon Johnson

Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS has another ad out attacking Elizabeth Warren (video here).   This is beyond ludicrous – the ad attempts to blame Ms. Warren for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and for bank bailouts.  The principle here seems to be that when the truth cannot be slanted in a way you want, just ignore the facts and go all out for disinformation.

I count at least five misrepresentations in the ad, and I suggest the following corrections:

  1. TARP was a Republican program – proposed and implemented by President George W. Bush.  At the time, Ms. Warren was busy championing people whose rights had been trampled by the financial sector through various kinds of abuses.
  2. Ms. Warren became chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) for TARP, precisely because people in Congress – on both sides of the aisle – trusted her to provide an honest and professional check on the support provided to financial firms.  She did her highest profile work during the Obama administration, bringing relentless pressure on the Treasury and other agencies who just wanted to prop up big firms without any conditions.
  3. Ms. Warren has also been a strong supporter of all efforts to rein in Too Big To Fail banks, including by breaking them up.  She has consistently been one of the strongest advocates for curtailing the abusive power of megabanks (and others who have behaved badly).
  4. At the same time, Ms. Warren has not demonized the financial sector.  On the contrary, when charged with setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she went out of her way to work closely with those in the financial sector who provide sensible products with reasonable conditions.  Her emphasis throughout has been on transparency, fairness, and full disclosure in this sector.  You are not allowed to sell dangerous toasters in the United States; her point is that you should not be allowed to sell financial products that have been proven dangerous.
  5. The idea that Elizabeth Warren would ever side with “big banks” against the middle class is preposterous.  Time and again, she has stuck up for the middle class (and anyone who uses financial services) - even when it was deeply unfashionable to do so.  The big banks have opposed her relentlessly and on-the-record, both directly and through various surrogates.

Perhaps the more interesting point about Karl Rove’s ad is what it tells us about his strategic thinking.  His team is implicitly conceding all of Elizabeth Warren’s substantive points: big banks got out of control, they did enormous damage, and they were bailed out in an unreasonable manner.  But Mr. Rove’s group thinks it can turn all these issues against her, just because she worked hard against the interests of the banks – particularly to introduce effective consumer protection for financial products. […]

READ @ http://baselinescenario.com/2011/12/08/karl-roves-latest-attack-on-elizabeth-warren/#more-9493

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* ELIZABETH WARREN VERSUS KARL ROVE AND THE ONE PERCENT

By Greg Sargent, Washington Post

In an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell, Elizabeth Warren uncorked an extensive response to that comically dishonest ad from the Rove-founded Crossroads GPS attacking Warren as too cozy with Wall Street. Her answer is worth quoting at length, because it suggests she will respond to these outside attacks by pivoting the focus back to where it belongs: On Wall Street.

Warren mocked the ad’s claim that she’s cozy with Wall Street, and made the salient point that the ad is being funded by wealthy interests that don’t want to see her anywhere near the Senate. She seized on Karl Rove as a convenient foil, to retell the story of the Bush administration and its role in exacerbating the lack of Wall Street accountability that’s become the rationale of her career and candidacy:

Their strategy now is the kitchen sink strategy. Throw everything you can at her and let’s see what happens.

Let’s keep in mind what was going on just a little over three years ago. Karl Rove was part of the inner circle while George W. Bush is telling Congress and the nation, `we’ve gotta bail out the big financial institutions.’ His Secretary of the Treasury is handing out money to the largest financial institutions — no strings attached. I go down to Washington and I’m calling them out for it. I’m calling them out on executive bonuses. I’m calling them out on the fact that they’re giving this money, no strings attached. And I get attacked for it. Okay.

Then we roll forward three years. Now Karl Rove takes money from Wall Street, in order to attack Elizabeth Warren for being cozy with Wall Street?

This one goes beyond anything I’ve ever imagined. I’m just amazed. It leaves you speechless.

It would be folly to imagine that these ads won’t have an impact on Warren. If Crossroads and other groups are willing to spend truly huge sums to keep Warren out of the Senate, Dems worry, she very well might find herself outspent, particularly if labor and outside groups on the left don’t step up and match the outside right wing spending. Right now Warren is keeping pace by mounting her own unusually early and aggressive ad blitz, with a six figure statewide buy supporting a one-minute biographical spot designed to prevent groups on the right from defining her on their terms. Over time, however, if a persistent spending disparity develops and the massive negative ad blitz continues, it could drive up her negatives, and the right is showing that it will throw everything it has at her.

But Warren seems determined to hit back hard, and to seize on these attacks to reframe the race on her own terms — as her versus Wall Street and its crew of political henchmen and errand boys.

READ @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/elizabeth-warren-versus-karl-rove-and-the-one-percent/2011/12/09/gIQAGHkJiO_blog.html

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* THE FINANCIAL CRISIS WAS ENTIRELY FORESEEABLE

By Washington’s Blog

Foreseeable or Not?

I noted in April:

Whenever there is a disaster, those responsible claim it was “unforeseeable” so as to escape blame.

For example:

  • It happened with 9/11

The big boys gamble with our lives and our livelihoods, because they make a killing by taking huge risks and cutting costs. And when things inevitably go South, they aren’t held responsible (other than a slap on the wrist), and may even be bailed out by the government.

But surely the financial crisis was different. After all, Wall Street executives and politicians say that the financial crisis wasn’t foreseeable. And see this.

Actually, it might have been slightly foreseeable for a little while before the financial crisis.

We’ve Known for Thousands of Years

We’ve known for literally thousands of years that debts need to be periodically written down, or the entire economy will collapse. And see this.

We’ve known for 1,900 years that that rampant inequality destroys societies.

We’ve known for thousands of years that debasing currencies leads to economic collapse.

We’ve known for hundreds of years that the failure to punish financial fraud destroys economies.

We’ve known for hundreds of years that monopolies and the political influence which accompanies too much power in too few hands is dangerous for free markets.

We’ve known for hundreds of years that trust is vital for a healthy economy.

We’ve known since the 1930s Great Depression that separating depository banking from speculative investment banking is key to economic stability. See this, this, this and this.

We’ve known since 1988 that quantitative easing doesn’t work to rescue an ailing economy.

We’ve known since 1993 that derivatives such as credit default swaps – if not reined in – could take down the economy. And see this.

We’ve known since 1998 that crony capitalism destroys even the strongest economies, and that economies that are capitalist in name only need major reforms to create accountability and competitive markets.

We’ve known since 2007 or earlier that lax oversight of hedge funds could blow up the economy.

And we knew before the 2008 financial crash and subsequent bailouts that:

  • The easy credit policy of the Fed and other central banks, the failure to regulate the shadow banking system, and “the use of gimmicks and palliatives” by central banks hurt the economy
  • Anything other than (1) letting asset prices fall to their true market value, (2) increasing savings rates, and (3) forcing companies to write off bad debts “will only make things worse”
  • Bailouts of big banks harm the economy
  • The Fed and other central banks were simply transferring risk from private banks to governments, which could lead to a sovereign debt crisis

Given the insane levels of debt, rampant inequality,  currency debasement, failure to punish financial fraud, growth of the too big to fails, repeal of Glass-Steagall, refusal to rein in derivatives, crony capitalism and other shenanigans … the financial crisis was entirely foreseeable.

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/the-financial-crisis-was-foreseeable-a-long-time-ago.html

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* BAILOUT TOTAL: $29.616 TRILLION DOLLARS

By Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture

There is a fascinating new study coming out of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.  Its titled “$29,000,000,000,000: A Detailed Look at the Fed’s Bail-out by Funding Facility and Recipient” by James Felkerson. The study looks at the lending, guarantees, facilities and spending of the Federal Reserve.

The researchers took all of the individual transactions across all facilities created to deal with the crisis, to figure out how much the Fed committed as a response to the crisis. This includes direct lending, asset purchases and all other assistance. (It does not include indirect costs such as rising price of goods due to inflation, weak dollar, etc.)

The net total? As of November 10, 2011, it was $29,616.4 billion dollars — (or 29 and a half trillion, if you prefer that nomenclature). Three facilities—CBLS, PDCF, and TAF— are responsible for the lion’s share — 71.1% of all Federal Reserve assistance ($22,826.8 billion).

One comment about some of the folks pushing back against this massive total: Yes, there is a big difference between a $100 lent for 3 days, and a $100 lent overnight rolled over 2 more times. And there is an enormous difference when temporary overnight lending lasts for three years.

Overnight lending, by its definition, is temporary, short term, lower risk, modest impact. It exists to allow slightly over-extended banks to meet their reserve requirements. But rolling overnight lending repeatedly for 3 years is none of those things. And it makes a mockery of these same reserve requirements, and the protective purposes they are supposed to serve.

The amount of overnight lending reflects how broken our financial system really is. A well capitalized, moderately leverage system does not require this massive liquidity from a central bank — interbank lending should be sufficient. What the data reveals is that the financial sector remains dangerously under-capitalized and overleveraged.

To pretend these were merely minor overnight loans, rolled over once or twice, is foolish, dangerous nonsense. […]

READ @ http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/12/bailout-total-29-616-trillion-dollars/

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* WHY NO FINANCIAL CRISIS PROSECUTIONS? EX-JUSTICE OFFICIAL SAYS IT’S JUST TOO HARD

By Marian Wang, Nation of Change

The Justice Department has decided that holding top Wall Street executives criminally accountable is too difficult a task.

It’s an issue we and others have noted again and again: Years after the financial crisis, there have still been no prosecutions of top executives at the major players in the financial crisis.

Why’s that? Well, according to a now-departed Justice Department official who used to be in charge of investigating such matters, the Justice Department has decided that holding top Wall Street executives criminally accountable is too difficult a task.

David Cardona, who recently left the FBI for a job at the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the Wall Street Journal that bringing financial wrongdoing to account is “better left to regulators,” who can bring civil cases. Civil cases, of course, can produce penalties from the banks — as well as promises to be on better behavior — but don’t put any executives behind bars. Here’s the Journal:

While at the FBI, Mr. Cardona oversaw dozens of criminal probes of large financial firms. The FBI’s probes haven’t led to any successful prosecutions of high-profile executives in relation to the financial crisis, despite demands from some lawmakers and angry Americans. In contrast, the SEC has filed crisis-related civil-fraud cases against 81 firms and individuals, and it has negotiated almost $2 billion in penalties in cases that have been settled.

Cardona told the Journal that the failed first attempt to charge financial players with crisis-related fraud — the 2009 trial and eventual acquittal of two Bear Stearns Cos. hedge-fund managers — triggered “a lot of rethinking on how we do things.” After that, he said, the federal government began to question its “ability to convince a jury that criminality has occurred” on complex and technical financial cases.

The lack of prosecutions was also raised in a ‘60 Minutes’ piece Sunday about large-scale mortgage fraud during the bubble. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer told CBS that the Justice Department had not lost confidence and was “bringing every case that we believe can be made.” […]

READ @ http://www.nationofchange.org/why-no-financial-crisis-prosecutions-ex-justice-official-says-it-s-just-too-hard-1323357871

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* WHY NO ONE’S INVESTIGATING WALL STREET

By David Sirota, Salon

The government finds money to crack down on food stamp “fraud.” If it wanted to go after finance crooks, it could

When it comes to our government’s collective refusal to aggressively investigate — much less prosecute — Wall Street crime, one prevailing line of apologism implies that it’s all about resources. As the general fable goes, Wall Street is so sprawling and so lawyered up that public law enforcement agencies simply don’t have the resources to make sure justice is served, especially at a time of budget deficits. In this story, Wall Street is not simply too big to fail; it’s too big to even police.

The motivation for such myth-making is obvious: It wholly absolves elected officials for their decisions to let their financial-industry campaign contributors off the hook. Yet thanks to recent events, the whole “Too Big to Police” rationale is being exposed for the farce that it is.

At the local level, the same governments that plead poverty when they’re asked to enforce their laws on financial fraud have somehow found plenty of resources to deploy their militarized police forces against Occupy protesters. At the federal level, it’s even more blatant. As we learned in a little-noticed Washington Post piece on Tuesday, the same Obama administration that has refused to spend political capital and federal monies to go after Wall Street is expending new resources to crack down on the supposedly rampant problem of food stamp “fraud.”

Tracking an individual example of this phenomenon, Matt Taibbi makes clear that it’s really difficult to overstate just how revealing this kind of thing is. Wall Street crooks who stole trillions of dollars are rewarded by the administration with additional trillions in bailouts. Meanwhile, those crooks’ now-impoverished victims — so poor they are on food stamps, mind you — are being targeted by the same administration for criminal investigation for allegedly making a few extra bucks on recycling empty bottles. […]

READhttp://www.salon.com/2011/12/06/why_no_ones_investigating_wall_street/singleton/

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* ’99 PERCENT’ DROP IN ON DC POWER PLAYERS

By Laurie Kellman, Yahoo! 

WASHINGTON (AP) — It wasn’t the slick suits, pricey heels and sense of purpose of the congressional staffers that Susan Wilkinson saw this week on Capitol Hill. What stung about crossing paths with them, she said, was this: “They wouldn’t make eye contact with us,” the unemployed Seattle activist recalled Thursday. “When did I get invisible?”

Wilkinson was among hundreds of angry Americans who streamed through Washington and its corridors of power this week to command attention for the 99 percent of Americans that protesters claim are struggling to survive the recession. They were hard to miss.

Dozens were arrested for disrupting traffic. Others crashed a campaign fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Their fist-in-the-air chants — “We are united” — echoed through the canyons separating the Capitol’s office buildings.

The message to the power brokers: They should be making laws for people who can’t afford lobbyists. Much of it was taken from the Democrats’ playbook, like extending unemployment insurance, and making wealthy people pay more taxes.

“Things have reached a boiling point,” observed protester Ed Vining, a small businessman from Boise, Idaho, who took photos of his fellow protesters passing in near silence in front of the Capitol. “This (protest) is as American an act as you can imagine.”

Their top target: House Speaker John Boehner, the Ohioan from modest roots they accuse of making law to benefit of the richest 1 percent while nearly 1 in 10 American workers is unemployed.

Fresh off a night of political party-crashing, the protesters carried their message as close to Boehner as they could get, marching from a Senate park across the East face of the Capitol to a sidewalk outside his personal office building.

“One: We’re unemployed! Two: We are united! Three: Tell the speaker we’re not leaving,” they hollered. From the terraces of the House building across the street, business-suited people watched and took pictures. […]

READ @ http://news.yahoo.com/99-percent-drop-dc-power-players-234421845.html;_ylt=AouNWz1BJFxMI8FY0q0S51Ws0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNpMDduZGN2BG1pdAMEcGtnA2NmZWJhNjQxLTBjYzYtM2RiMC1hNmQ2LWY1MzU4MTM0MDViOARwb3MDOQRzZWMDbG5fTGF0ZXN0TmV3c19nYWwEdmVyAzJhNjI3ODgwLTIyNzUtMTFlMS05ZGI5LTFmNzBjMzQwNTA5Zg–;_ylv=3

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* WHY IS ERIC CANTOR BLOCKING THE CONGRESSIONAL INSIDER TRADING ACT?

By John Carney, CNBC

In a strange and unexpected twist, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives is now blocking progress on a bill that would definitively outlaw insider trading by federal lawmakers.

The Republican sponsor of the bill in the House, Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus of Alabama, had scheduled a markup of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act for next week. But on Wednesday, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia cancelled the markup session.

Cantor reportedly said he blocked the bill to give Congress more time to examine the issue. Critics of the move, however, fear that any delay could kill the bill entirely.

Some version of the the STOCK Act has been bouncing around Capitol Hill for six years. But recent attention to the issue of Congressional insider trading, following reports from CNBC’s Eamon Javers and a “60 Minutes” report, brought the bill out of stasis and made its passage into law seem likely. If the latest delay pushes the bill into next year, it may become lost in election-year politics.

Trading by lawmakers based on non-public information about legislation falls into what many see as a loophole in insider trading regulations.

Although corporate insiders are banned from trading on non-public information about their companies, congressional representatives and senators may not be banned from trading on non-public information about legislation or regulation. The legal issue is disputed by scholars and regulators.

The head of the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission recently argued that congressional insider trading is already banned. But he admitted that no legal action has ever been taken against a member of Congress.

Studies have shown the investment portfolios of House members and Senators consistently outperform the market by significant degrees, suggesting they are either miraculously bright and lucky investors or using their access to non-public information when trading. Financial experts regard the idea that it is just luck or investing smarts as laughable. […]

READ @ http://www.cnbc.com/id/45612773?__source=google%7Ceditorspicks%7C&par=google

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* NATIONWIDE PROTESTS UNDER WAY IN RUSSIA

Source: Al Jazeera

Protests in Russia are taking place against Vladimir Putin’s 12-year rule amid signs of swelling anger over a poll won by his ruling United Russia party with the alleged help of widescale fraud.

Moscow authorities gave permission for 30,000 people to gather on a square across the river from the Kremlin on Saturday, after detaining some 1,600 activists over the past few days who joined unsanctioned rallies against the December 4 vote.

The opposition is also organising rallies in at least 14 other major cities in a rare outpouring of mistrust in a system put in place by Putin when he first became president in 2000.

Protests have already begun elsewhere, with several hundred marching in Vladivostok, seven timezones to the east of Moscow.

A 30,000-strong demonstration would be the largest to hit the Russian capital in 20 years, in what some see as the first warning bell for the former foreign agent and his secretive inner circle of security chiefs.

Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from Moscow, said:  ”Troops from the interior ministry and water cannons are also on standby in Moscow.

“I do think, that if the protestors try and widen the rally, then there could well be a clampdown.”

The authorities’ decision to permit Saturday’s rallies to go ahead nationwide is a first for the Putin era and suggests the Kremlin would prefer to avoid street battles between protesters and the riot police.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ivan Safranchuk, a Russian political analyst, said: ”People will be allowed to protest, but direct political change won’t happen.”

Allegations

Putin’s United Russia has been bruised by allegations of corruption, after opposition parties and international observers said the vote was marred by vote-rigging, including alleged ballot-box stuffing and false voter rolls.

The official results of the elections to Russia’s Duma showed that the ruling party United Russia lost 77 of its 315 seats, just retaining a small majority.

Barker said there is a widespread view, fuelled by mobile phone videos and accounts on internet social networking sites, that there was wholesale election fraud, and that Putin’s party cheated its way to victory. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2011/12/2011121053755418485.html