Jan 102012



By David Morris, Defending the Public Good

When a totalitarian regime aids and abets the rape of tens of thousands of children one would expect it to be shunned by governments and citizens alike. And any statements it might issue on matters of morality accorded no respect.Why should we make an exception when the regime is the Catholic Church?

That the Roman Catholic Church is totalitarian is undeniable. Church law itself makes this clear. Canon 331 declares the Pope “the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.”

Canon 333 emphasizes the remarkable power this institution endows in one man, “No appeal or recourse is permitted against a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff.”


That the Catholic Church is guilty of widespread rape is also undeniable. A few years ago there was a spate of news items when sexual abuse cases first surfaced in Boston and a few other cities. Media coverage since then has withered but the issue has not. Just the opposite. In 2011 allegations of sexual abuse of minors have spread to 26 countries. In just one case in the United States the Churchagreed to pay $250 million in compensation to about 700 abused males and females. The Netherlands has documented almost 2000 cases.


The human toll of decades of exploitation and predation can get lost in the fog of statistics but comes through clearly in individual stories. Like that of Katherine Mendez who related her horrifying account to Kimberly A.C. Wilson of the Oregonian last March. Katherine was “11 years old when she was raped at St. Mary’s Mission School in Omak, Washington moments after she scuffled with another student and was brought into the office of Father John J. Morse. The sexual abuse continued from the sixth grade into eighth grade she said. And even after Mendez left the school and moved in with a foster family in Selah, 200 milers away, the priest tracked her down to continue the abused. “Every day, every single day, it was a nightmare”, says Mendez. “I was always looking over my shoulder.”


On September 13 the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) took the next step by asking the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague to investigate and prosecute high level Vatican officials, including the Pope, for widespread and systematic rape and sexual violence against children and vulnerable adults by Catholic clergy.The CCR accompanied its complaint with 22,000 pages of documentation. Pam Spees, staff attorney for CCR noted, “The magnitude, scope, and depth of harm are nearly unfathomable, especially when one considers that what we know at this point, shocking as it is, is likely the tip of the iceberg.”

Most of us view the ICC, established in 2002, as a prosecutor only of war crimes. But its mandate is broader–to prosecute crimes against humanity. And the ICC explicitly considers rape and sexual violence as crimes against humanity.

This election year the Roman Catholic Church will regularly pontificate on policy matters. And the media will report its views and actions as if they came endowed with a certain moral authority despite the fact that the Church itself has been found guilty of the most heinously immoral actions.

Instructively, virtually all of the Church’s most aggressive policy interventions relate to sex. (e.g. contraception, abortion, gay rights).


After Illinois legalized civil unions the Roman Catholic Bishops shuttered most of the state funded Catholic Charities rather than allow gay couples to avail themselves of its adoption services. This also occurred in Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts.

Better not to enable any adoptions, the Catholic Church insists, than allow the possibility of an adoption by a gay couple.The most recent target of the Catholic Church is the provision of the health reform bill requiring employer health insurance plans cover contraception services without a co-pay. A few days before Christmas the United Conference of Catholic Bishops took out full page adsin The New York Times and The Washington Post urging Congress and the administration to change the mandate.


Which leads to the question, if the Catholic Church loses its battle to amend the health reform law will it close its hospitals as it shut down its Catholic Charity offices rather than pay for contraceptives? Stay tuned.In late September HHS rejected an application by the Catholic Church for funding to continue to counsel sex trafficking victims because the Church refused to provide a full range of obstetric and gynecological care, including abortion and contraceptives.

Under prodding from the Church, the Republican House is investigating. Is it just me, or doesn’t it seem the height of effrontery for the Catholic Church, an institution found guilty of raping thousands of girls and boys to insist that it be allowed to withhold services to rape victims out of some sense of moral outrage?

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153674



Source: ACLU

Included in the stats:

  • 92% of the detainees were never al-Qaeda fighters. 86% were turned over to coalition forces for a bounty. Only 5% were captured by U.S. soldiers.
  • Number of children detained at Gitmo: 21 (the youngest was 13.)
  • The oldest detainee was 98.
  • More than 200 FBI agents reported abusive treatment of detainees
  • At least 16 were tortured in overseas secret prisons before getting to Gitmo
  • 8 detainees have died. 6 were suicides, including a detainee who arrived at Gitmo at age 16 and killed himself at age 21.

Presently, there are 171 detainees at Guantanamo. 89 have been cleared for release. It costs U.S. taxpayers $70 million a year to keep 89 people detained at Guantanamo.

READ and CHARTS @ http://www.aclu.org/national-security/guantanamo-numbers



By Thomas Heffner, Economy In Crisis

Few are aware that NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) has rendered us uncompetitive in the world economy, has destroyed our industrial base, caused us to outsource most of our production, and killed most of our manufacturing jobs.

Imagine if Congress decided that a single state, such as California or Michigan, was in desperate need of jobs and investment and made dramatic changes to boost that state’s economy.

Imagine Congress did the following for only one American state:

  • Dropped the minimum wage to $3 per hour
  • Exempted them from child labor laws
  • Expanded the work week
  • Reduced health and work place safety laws
  • Banned unions
  • Reduced protection for the environment

On top of this, the companies residing in this state would still have free duty-free access to all of the others states. In other words, companies in this state could produce at a fraction of the cost of other states, yet would be able to sell directly to all other 49 states and compete at no additional cost.


When NAFTA was passed, many people feared the worst. The results have indeed been disastrous:

  • The trade deficit with Mexico has exploded
  • Mexican wages remain nearly as low as they were prior to NAFTA and are still a small fraction of our average wages
  • Wealth and power has not filtered to the people. Most of Mexico is still controlled by less than 100 corporations in Mexico
  • Many of our other trading partners have relocated facilities to Mexico to circumvent other trade agreements with the us
  • American manufacturing has lost 3 Million jobs in the past 10 years as U.S. companies have also moved to Mexico for lower wages and lax regulations


READ @ http://economyincrisis.org/content/truth-about-nafta-north-american-free-trade-agreement



Europe is in crisis – but what’s going on? Which are the right key numbers to compare each country?

By Simon Rogers, Guardian UK

How bad are things in Europe – and how does each country compare?

Well, besides the data below, Polly Curtis’ Reality Check series is a good place to start, answering key questions such as What would the collapse of the euro mean for the UK? and What happens if Greece leaves the euro?

We wanted to see which key indicators are the best for comparing Europe and might help us understand what’s going on a little better. The best source for this info is Eurostat. You can download the full data below.

READ and CHARTS @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/nov/07/euro-debt-crisis-data



By Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel

Former JP Morgan Chase Exec Bill Daley has finally quit the job he sucked at, White House Chief of Staff. He will be replaced by former Citi Exec and current OMB Director Jack Lew.

>Chicagoan Bill Daley is stepping down as White House chief of staff and budget director Jack Lew is taking over the president’s team as it heads into a tough election year, senior administration officials say.

>Daley gave his letter of resignation to the president in a private meeting in the Oval Office last week, recounting the administration’s successes of his one year on the job and saying it was time for him to return to his hometown of Chicago.

>Obama plans to announce the change in leadership in a public event this afternoon. The official shift will take place at the end of this month, giving Lew time to complete the administration’s budget proposal while Daley leads the team through the crafting of the State of the Union address due in two weeks.

The guy who’s been doing Daley’s job for some time–Pete Rouse–and who appears to be quite good at the job has no ties with any TBTF bank.

I guess that’s why he’s not getting the job officially. […]

READ @ http://www.emptywheel.net/2012/01/09/obama-swaps-a-jp-morgan-chase-chief-of-staff-for-a-citi-one/



Source: youtube.com

William Black describes fraud and liars loans during the global economic crisis. Congress is just as corrupt at the banksters.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as5Xq4_TDos&feature=share



By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

Great story out this morning by Bloomberg reporter Thom Weidlich, detailing yet another devious and dirty scheme in the consumer credit industry.

The story outlines the misfortunes of a successful Park City, Utah restaurant called Cisero’s that is best known for serving the movie stars and film glitterati attending the nearby Sundance film festival. The restaurant is engaged in a legal battle with its bank, but the larger struggle is between the restaurant and major credit cards like Visa and MasterCard.

It’s a complex tale, but the gist of it is that the credit-card companies invoked arcane provisions of operating contracts with the merchant, and unilaterally “fined” the restaurant for enormous sums of money without proving any of the charges. Some of that money was actually debited from the merchants’ account before they managed to close it.

When a restaurant opens for business, it signs service contracts with middleman firms that allow them to accept charges from Visa and MasterCards. These middleman firms process the charges on behalf of the issuing cards, and also debit the accounts of merchants for things like debit fees.

The problem is that when merchants like these restaurant owners in Utah sign their service contracts, they also have to agree to a series of draconian security rules, under which they are automatically liable to the card companies if the card companies suspect fraud or lax security procedures.

In the case of the Utah restaurant, Visa and Mastercard both claimed that the restaurant allowed charges from fraudulently used cards, and also violated security rules by keeping the data for too many customer accounts on their company computer.

From Weidlich’s piece:

Unknown to [the owners of Cisero’s], data on 8,107 customers’ accounts had been stored in their computer system, they said. That was fewer than the 10,000 threshold for a fine to be imposed under Visa’s rules that certain customer data shouldn’t be stored on a merchant’s computer, they said.

Visa later said 32,581 accounts were on Cisero’s computer, without explaining how it got that number… […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/credit-card-firms-they-dont-just-steal-from-cardholders-20120109



By David DeGraw, ampedstatus.com

Finally, after trillions in fraudulent activity, trillions in bailouts, trillions in printed money, billions in political bribing and billions in bonuses, the criminal cartel members on Wall Street are beginning to get what they deserve. As the Eurozone is coming apart at the seams and as the US economy grinds to a halt, the financial elite are starting to turn on each other. The lawsuits are piling up fast. Here’s an extensive roundup:

Time to put your Big Bank shorts on! Get ready for a run… The chickens are coming home to roost… The Global Banking Cartel’s crimes are being exposed left & right… Prepare for Shock & Awe…

Well, well… here’s your Shock & Awe:

First up, this shockingly huge $196 billion lawsuit just filed against 17 major banks on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Bank of America is severely exposed in this lawsuit. As the parent company of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch they are on the hook for $57.4 billion. JP Morgan is next in the line of fire with $33 billion. And many death spiraling European banks are facing billions in losses as well.

FHA Files a $196 Billion Lawsuit Against 17 Banks

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises), today filed lawsuits against 17 financial institutions, certain of their officers and various unaffiliated lead underwriters. The suits allege violations of federal securities laws and common law in the sale of residential private-label mortgage-backed securities (PLS) to the Enterprises.

Complaints have been filed against the following lead defendants, in alphabetical order:

1. Ally Financial Inc. f/k/a GMAC, LLC – $6 billion
2. Bank of America Corporation – $6 billion
3. Barclays Bank PLC – $4.9 billion
4. Citigroup, Inc. – $3.5 billion
5. Countrywide Financial Corporation -$26.6 billion
6. Credit Suisse Holdings (USA), Inc. – $14.1 billion
7. Deutsche Bank AG – $14.2 billion
8. First Horizon National Corporation – $883 million
9. General Electric Company – $549 million
10. Goldman Sachs & Co. – $11.1 billion
11. HSBC North America Holdings, Inc. – $6.2 billion
12. JPMorgan Chase & Co. – $33 billion
13. Merrill Lynch & Co. / First Franklin Financial Corp. – $24.8 billion
14. Morgan Stanley – $10.6 billion
15. Nomura Holding America Inc. – $2 billion
16. The Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC – $30.4 billion
17. Société Générale – $1.3 billion

These complaints were filed in federal or state court in New York or the federal court in Connecticut. The complaints seek damages and civil penalties under the Securities Act of 1933, similar in content to the complaint FHFA filed against UBS Americas, Inc. on July 27, 2011. In addition, each complaint seeks compensatory damages for negligent misrepresentation. Certain complaints also allege state securities law violations or common law fraud. [read full FHFA release]

You can read the suits filed against each individual bank here. For some more information read Bloomberg: BofA, JPMorgan Among 17 Banks Sued by U.S. for $196 Billion. Noticeably absent from the list of companies being sued is Wells Fargo.

And the suits just keep coming… […]

Cenk, take it away and drive the point home:

READ MORE @ http://wakeup-world.com/2011/09/06/full-blown-civil-war-erupts-on-wall-street-financial-elite-start-turning-on-each-other/#comments



Occupy Rogers Park, Occupy the South Side campaign against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s NATO/G-8 ordinance; “This measure is a permanent attack on public protest in the City of Chicago.”

Source: CommonDreams.org

Last month Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced anti-protester legislation for the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits in Chicago.

Chicago’s WBEZ reported:

“During the summits, which could draw thousands of protesters, Emanuel wants to increase the minimum fine from $25 to $200 and double the maximum fine to $1,000. His proposed ordinance would also close parks, playgrounds and beaches overnight for longer periods of time.”

This past Tuesday, Emanuel clarified that these measures would in fact be permanent, and not just during the time of the summits. From WBEZ:

In fact, Emanuel said his proposal to dramatically increase fines for protesters who resist arrest – even passively – should be permanent. Some of the other sweeping powers the mayor is seeking – one would allow his office to unilaterally approve some city contracts – would expire once the May summits are over, he said.

This morning, Occupy Chicago reacted harshly to Emanuel’s plan, which they call the ‘Sit Down and Shut Up’ ordinance. From the Occupy Chicago website:

This ordinance consists of a host of bureaucratic tools created by and for the 1% to relegate, abridge, fine, arrest, and silence our speech. It is an attempt to bully and intimidate with increased police power and fines the brave working people who demand the ability to participate democratically in the organizing of our society. It is an attempt, by the 1%, to restrict and regulate the voice of the people when it upsets the structure that put them in power. The timing of the ordinance demonstrates that it has nothing to do with public safety but that its sole purpose is to stifle the voice and trample upon the constitutional liberties of all the people of Chicago. It is the blatant criminalizing of any public assembly that does not serve the interest of the 1%. It is the handcuffing of democracy. Occupy Chicago condemns this ordinance and demands that they be revoked. Those who are on the side of the democracy of the 99% will stand with us. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/01/09-3



By Paul Buhle, Dissent Magazine

The People occupying THEIR HOUSE in the Capitol Rotunda in Madison, Wisconsin Photo by Peter Gorman

At this writing, as organized signature-gathering groups and thousands of individual collectors press onward, a recall election for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his hapless lieutenant, Rebecca Kleefisch, now seems certain. Perhaps, as John Nichols comments, the most amazing development is the furious pace of signature collecting in small towns and rural areas, even those heavy with votes for Walker only thirteen months ago. The process of recall is assured, Republicans admit, and soon the multi- (perhaps mega-) million dollar election race, with progressives lined up against Walker and his corporate backers, will begin.

If Occupy ends almost everywhere or seeks a new identity by changing forms, with Democratic (with a degree of embarrassment) as well as Republican (here, no embarrassment) mayors determined to apply police force to occupiers, the contrast with Wisconsin could hardly be greater. Here, police joined firefighters in sympathy (and have joined together for petition-gathering!), Democrats have taken the helm of a ship that they could not really steer, and organized labor has been, at all times, near the center of the action. Indeed, it seemed to at least one labor historian—myself, that is—as if CIO-PAC of the early 1940s had been reborn, carrying the Democrats upon its sturdy back. To perpetuate illusion for the sake of veteran Dissent readers: the union members and labor retirees, whose efforts are bound to carry forward into the elections ahead, have a leadership that the late Michael Harrington would have dreamed of, and with good reason. Many of today’s Madison- and Milwaukee-area labor old-timers, still in or near key positions, were in the Democratic Socialists of America for decades.

How to account for similarities of one Occupy (the State Capitol here, in February and March) with other Occupies (across the country), alongside the differences? My friends and I call our volume of essays, appearing in January, It Started in Wisconsin. We admit that we are not quite sure what the “it” means, although we are awfully eager to find out! But we are confident, if I can speak for the writers as a group, that our Occupation was not so absolutely different from the others, after all. We did not wait for the next election, listening to promises: we occupied. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/why-wisconsin-different/1325872971



By Judith Scherr, Oakland, CA., globalissues.org

With its encampments mostly destroyed, the nascent Occupy Movement in thousands of communities across the U.S. and dozens more around the world has not faded away.

Instead, it has rebounded in multiple forms, reclaiming foreclosed homes, occupying banks, shutting down ports, interrupting university trustee meetings and political speeches at the Iowa Caucuses, and forcing people on the streets, in Congressional corridors and at city halls to address how the one percent’s wealth and power has created a stranglehold on the 99 percent.

The Occupy Movement exploded after the Wisconsin state Capitol occupation and Arab Spring, as if tens of thousands of people suddenly discovered allies and a voice to confront what they perceive as a corrupt power structure.

As the movement matures, however, it will be challenged to sustain its momentum, while continuing to embrace a diversity that includes anarchists and progressive Democrats, those without homes or jobs or hope and those in the middle class, and people who suffer from racism, sexism and homophobia as well as those who do not.

The future of the consciously leaderless movement is being determined both within the confines of its formal decision-making structures and, increasingly, through allied and autonomous groupings. […]

READ @ http://www.globalissues.org/news/2012/01/09/12388



Source: Washington’s Blog

SOPA Won’t Work

Many experts have said that the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) are not only draconian, but that they fail to address the root problem.

A former intellectual property law school professor points out:

[SOPA and PIPA] aim to curb online copyright piracy … but end up using a sledgehammer, when a fine scalpel is instead needed.


As reported by Forbes, the Atlantic Monthly and others, coders are already developing work-arounds to SOPA and PIPA. For example, a developer using the alias “Tamer Rizk” launched DeSopa, an add-on for the popular Firefox browser that would allow users to visit sites blocked by the proposed copyright protection measures proposed under SOPA. So not only these bills are not only draconian, but they won’t work.

Jay McDaniel – a plaintiff’s attorney for content providers fighting torrent–based copyright infringement – agrees, and  proposes a better alternative:

There is a simple solution to the dilemma of digital piracy, however, one that will cost the government nothing, that will protect free speech and that will ultimately bring an end to a practice that is undermining the viability of our cultural industries. More importantly, it will enable Congress to avoid polluting legitimate free speech issues with behavior that is neither protected by the Constitution nor lawful.

Simply let copyright holders exercise the right to efficiently discover the identity of infringers. Copyright law as it presently exists with its substantial civil remedies will take care of the rest of the problem. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/01/copyright-lawyers-oppose-sopa-and-say-it-wont-even-work.html



By Brian Bienkowski, from Mindful Metropolis

It causes the most ardent supporters of arts in the schools to hesitate: “We want to give your children the blues.”

In what may initially seem a backwards idea, the Chicago School of Blues has couched a message of positivity in a program that combines the history, music, and movement associated with the blues. The traveling program has been taking this message to Chicago-area schools, cultivating the self-expression and freedom that is so often lost with shrinking arts budgets. In the process, it is preserving an art form that is forever woven into the historical fabric of the city.

The Chicago School of Blues is an education program that began in December 2010 to take blues music to schools throughout Chicago. “Barrelhouse” Bonni McKeown, a historian and blues piano player, and Taj, a dancer and practitioner of holistic arts, lead the program, which they initiated to preserve what they see as a dying art.

“Serious blues musicians see the need to pass this art down to the younger folks,” McKeown says. “As I get older, I see how, as generations pass, things tend to get lost unless someone makes a conscious effort to preserve them.”

Unlike most blues education programs that focus more on the instruments, they begin with how the blues began, which is with the voice and the beat, McKeown says. By starting with the historical roots, the teachers are able to bridge the blues to modern music. […]

READ @ http://www.utne.com/print-article.aspx?id=2147492208



Northern Europe leads the world in laying out a social safety net for children and poorer parents, but the U.S. snags a top-five finish in the key “Working Mothers” category

By Derek Thompson, The Atlantic


With the lowest child-poverty rate among developed nations, Denmark was named the best country for work-life balance in a 2011 report from the OECD.

All three Scandinavian countries — Denmark, Sweden, and Norway — finished in the top seven in the ranking. So famous for their generous social safety net, which sharply divides liberals and conservatives between envy and consternation, northern Europe dominated the list, taking almost all the top ten spots.

What constitutes a balance between work and life? The OECD settled on three chief variables: (1) The share of the labor force that works very long hours (more than 50 hours a week); (2) time spent on “leisure and personal care” (defined in contrast to paid or unpaid work as spending time with friends, going to the movies, pursuing hobbies, sleeping, eating, etc.); and (3) employment rates for women who have children. The United States, which leads most of the world in share of mothers who are working, lagged in leisure time and share of overworked employees. Onto the list, with some analysis below:

READ / PHOTOS / STATS @ http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/01/the-23-best-countries-for-work-br-life-balance-we-are-number-23/250830/#slide23

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