* TRIBUTES TO VACLAV HAVEL IN WENCESLAS SQUARE
Mourners light candles at the base of a statue of St Wenceslas to commemorate the death of former Czech President Vaclav Havel in Wenceslas Square, Prague. Havel, who led the Velvet Revolution that ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989, died December 18 in his sleep at the age of 75. Credits: Sean Gallup
* WISCONSIN ACTIVISTS DEFY WALKER’S NEW PAY-TO-PROTEST RULES — AND NOTHING HAPPENS
By Eric Kleefled, TPM
Cracks are already showing in the new policy from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) administration, seeking to charge protesters money in order to get a permit to demonstrate at the state Capitol. On Monday, when the policy was set to go into effect, a large demonstration was indeed held against Walker, with over 250 people turning out in the Capitol — without a permit, and also without anything bad happening to them.
The administration has been holding a series of informational sessions on the policy — which seem to have stirred up only pushback from demonstrators and civil libertarians. But on Friday, the state Department of Administration appeared to back down at least a little, signaling that there would not be arrests.
The Capital Times reports:
The state Department of Administration kept its word and did not make any arrests or issue any fines, a course of action its spokeswoman had indicated Friday it would take.
Some 250 to 300 people showed up at noon Monday without a permit to sing at the daily Solidarity Sing-along in the Capitol rotunda. (The state DOA did not respond to a request for an official crowd estimate Monday.)
“The fact that they aren’t enforcing the policy tells me they know the policy is unconstitutional,” says Nicole Schulte of Madison, a regular attendee of the Solidarity Sing-along. “It seems obvious to me that they (the Walker administration) want to put people in a position to challenge the policy in court.”
Here is a video clip, via Wisconsin Radio Network:
* THOUSANDS OF RARE DOCUMENTS BURNED IN EGYPT CLASH
By Aya Batrawy, AP
Burnt pages from a large selection of rare and ancient books and documents housed in the historic Scientific Institute lie in a pile near Tahrir Square on Monday. (Reuters)
CAIRO: Volunteers in white lab coats, surgical gloves and masks were standing on the back of a pickup truck along the banks of the Nile River in Cairo, rummaging through stacks of rare 200-year-old manuscripts that were little more than charcoal debris.
The volunteers, ranging from academic experts to appalled citizens, have spent the past two days trying to salvage what’s left of some 192,000 books, journals and writings, casualties of Egypt’s latest bout of violence.
Institute d’Egypte, a research center set up by Napoleon Bonaparte during France’s invasion in the late 18th century, caught fire during clashes between protesters and Egypt’s military over the weekend. It was home to a treasure trove of writings, most notably the handwritten 24-volume Description de l’Egypte, which began during the 1798-1801 French occupation.
The compilation, which includes 20 years of observations by more than 150 French scholars and scientists, was one of the most comprehensive descriptions of Egypt’s monuments, its ancient civilization and contemporary life at the time.
The Description of Egypt is likely burned beyond repair. Its home, the two-story historic institute near Tahrir Square, is now in danger of collapsing after the roof caved in.
“The burning of such a rich building means a large part of Egyptian history has ended,” the director of the institute, Mohammed Al-Sharbouni, told state television over the weekend. The building was managed by a local non-governmental organization.
Al-Sharbouni said most of the contents were destroyed in the fire that raged for more than 12 hours on Saturday. Firefighters flooded the building with water, adding to the damage.
During the clashes a day earlier, parts of the parliament and a transportation authority office caught fire, but those blazes were put out quickly.
The violence erupted in Cairo Friday, when military forces guarding the Cabinet building, near the institute, cracked down on a 3-week-old sit-in to demand the country’s ruling generals hand power to a civilian authority. At least 14 people have been killed.
Zein Abdel-Hady, who runs the country’s main library, is leading the effort to try and save what’s left of the charred manuscripts.
“This is equal to the burning of Galileo’s books,” Abdel-Hady said, referring to the Italian scientist whose work proposing that the earth revolved around the sun was believed to have been burned in protest in the 17th century. […]
* I’VE HAD IT WITH THESE MASKED THUGS
By Gar Smith, OpEdNews
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting fed up with self-important gangs of masked, black-clad agitators running roughshod over our cities streets. They’ve occupied parks, shut down roadways, vandalized private property, assaulted law-abiding citizens and left entire communities afraid to venture into financially struggling downtown business districts. They’ve wielded spray cans and left behind eyesores that have incensed the community.
I am speaking, of course, about the police.
It’s one thing if a group of political anarchists walks into a bank and spray-paints slogans on vaults and filing cabine
ts. It’s another thing when police march into a peaceful tent encampment brandishing batons and pepper-spray.
Question: What’s the difference between a cop and an anarchist?
Answer: An anarchist defaces files. A cop defiles faces.
During a single Oakland night in early November, the violent misdeeds of these anarchists-with-badges shredded Constitutional rights, amassed a growing body count of innocent victims (including several combat veterans hospitalized with crippling injuries), and turned downtown Oakland into an urban No-Buy Zone.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, a flurry of in-your-face police assaults left an 84-year-old woman blinded by a blast of pepper-spray. At the same time, a 19-year-old woman who screamed at police, “Don’t hurt me! I’m pregnant!” was singled out for another blast of pepper-spray while a police officer took aim and kicked her in the stomach. She was rushed to a hospital where she subsequently suffered a miscarriage. (This appears to be the first police-related death attributable to the nationwide crackdown on the Occupy movement — it was, tragically, a literal “miscarriage of justice.”)
In theory, the police exist to enforce laws. Increasingly, in post-911 America, the police seem to exult in defying laws. In many cities, the police now have more power than mayors, council members and judges. In November, despite a court ruling that Zuccotti Park was to remain open to the Occupy Wall Street campers, the NYPD refused to allow the demonstrators to re-enter the public park — an act of constabulary defiance that constituted obstruction of justice.
In a pattern that has been seen in Occupied cities across the US — from Manhattan to Santa Cruz — local police have tried to stoke social tension and civil unrest by encouraging hungry, homeless, drug-addicted and violent individuals from other parts of their cities to relocate to the nearest “Occupy” site where, the police promise, they can expect free food, shelter and medical assistance. It would appear that the goal is not to improve public safety but to raise the potential for disputes and disruption that might contribute to discrediting the Occupy camps.
Another tactic used in cities across America is for city officials to claim that encampments must be eradicated because they constitute a “health and safety hazard.” This meme is then driven home by orchestrated “photo ops” featuring city workers who are ordered to don full-body hazmat suits and gas-masks before hosing down sidewalks and lawns with blasts of high-pressure steam. […]
Video: Police provocateurs dressed as civilians use violence to overthrow peaceful protests:
Quebec police admit going undercover at Montebello protests
G20 Police spotted in Black Bloc clothing -Toronto G20
Video Report: Tactics, Agent Provocateurs?/Undercover Police
* FROM OCCUPATION TO ”OCCUPY”: THE ISRAELIFICATION OF AMERICAN DOMESTIC SECURITY
By Max Blumenthal, Environmentalists Against War
[…] The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.
Having been schooled in Israeli tactics perfected during a 63 year experience of controlling, dispossessing, and occupying an indigenous population, local police forces have adapted them to monitor Muslim and immigrant neighborhoods in US cities. Meanwhile, former Israeli military officers have been hired to spearhead security operations at American airports and suburban shopping malls, leading to a wave of disturbing incidents of racial profiling, intimidation, and FBI interrogations of innocent, unsuspecting people.
The New York Police Department’s disclosure that it deployed “counter-terror” measures against Occupy protesters encamped in downtown Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park is just the latest example of the so-called War on Terror creeping into every day life. Revelations like these have raised serious questions about the extent to which Israeli-inspired tactics are being used to suppress the Occupy movement.
The process of Israelification began in the immediate wake of 9/11, when national panic led federal and municipal law enforcement officials to beseech Israeli security honchos for advice and training. America’s Israel lobby exploited the climate of hysteria, providing thousands of top cops with all-expenses paid trips to Israel and stateside training sessions with Israeli military and intelligence officials. By now, police chiefs of major American cities who have not been on junkets to Israel are the exception.
“Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism,” said former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer, who now serves as the US Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. Cathy Lanier, the Chief of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police, remarked, “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” “One would say it is the front line,” Barnett Jones, the police chief of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said of Israel. “We’re in a global war.”
Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham School of Law’s Center on National Security and a leading expert on terror and civil liberties, said the Israeli influence on American law enforcement is so extensive it has bled into street-level police conduct. “After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture,” Greenberg told me. “The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we’re going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It’s counter-terrorism creep. And it’s exactly what you could have predicted would have happened.” […]
* THE CORPORATIONS THAT OCCUPY CONGRESS
By David Cay Johnston, Reuters
Some of the biggest companies in the United States have been firing workers and in some cases lobbying for rules that depress wages at the very time that jobs are needed, pay is low, and the federal budget suffers from a lack of revenue.
Last month Citizens for Tax Justice and an affiliate issued “Corporate Taxpayers and Corporate Tax Dodgers 2008-10″. It showed that 30 brand-name companies paid a federal income tax rate of minus 6.7 percent on $160 billion of profit from 2008 through 2010 compared to a going corporate tax rate of 35 percent. All but one of those 30 companies reported lobbying expenses in Washington.
Another report, by Public Campaign, shows that 29 of those companies spent nearly half a billion dollars over those three years lobbying in Washington for laws and rules that favor their interests. Only Atmos Energy, the 30th company, reported no lobbying.
Public Campaign replaced Atmos with Federal Express, the package delivery company that paid a smidgen of tax — $37 million, or less than one percent of the $4.2 billion in profit it reported in 2008 through 2010.
For the amount spent lobbying, the companies could have hired 3,100 people at $50,000 for wages and benefits to do productive work.
The report – “For Hire: Lobbyists or the 99 percent” – says that while shedding jobs, the 30 companies are “spending millions of dollars on Washington lobbyists to stave off higher taxes or regulations.”
These and other companies have access to lawmakers and regulators that are unavailable to ordinary Americans.
Doubt that? Dial the Capitol switchboard at 1 (202) 224-3121, ask for your representative’s office and request a five-minute audience, in person, at the lawmaker’s convenience back in the home district.
In more than a decade of lectures recommending this, I have yet to have a single person email me (see address to the right) about having scored a private meeting with the representative called. [...]
* WHAT PAST PRESIDENTS THOUGHT ABOUT THE BIG BANKS
By Stephen D. Foster Jr., Addicting Information
“Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good.”
“The central bank is an institution of the most deadly hostility existing against the Principles and form of our Constitution. I am an Enemy to all banks discounting bills or notes for anything but Coin. If the American People allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the People of all their Property until their Children will wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered.”
~Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1803.
“History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.”
“I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the Bank. … You are a den of vipers and thieves.”
~Andrew Jackson, 1834, on closing the Second Bank of the United States
“I have two great enemies, the southern army in front of me and the financial institutions, in the rear. Of the two, the one in the rear is the greatest enemy….. I see in the future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of the war.”
“Whosoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce… And when you realise that the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.”
~James Garfield (assassinated within weeks of release of this statement during first year of his Presidency in 1881)
“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”
~Theodore Roosevelt, April 19, 1906
“A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the world– no longer a government of free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men.”
“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace-business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hatred for me – and I welcome their hatred. I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second administration that in it these forces met their master.”
~Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Speech at Madison Square Garden
“All problems, depressions, wars, disasters, assassinations, all of them were planned, caused, instigated, and implemented by the International Bankers and their attempt to establish a central bank in every country in the world, which they have now done, thanks to corrupt politicians who have been bought and paid for. This is all you need to know about the history of the world.”
~John F. Kennedy
The Secret of OZ – Best Documentary 2010: http://99getsmart.com/?p=1451
* DUE PROCESS GUARANTEE ACT 2011 DUE ON SENATE FLOOR IN JANUARY
By Lila York, OpEdNews
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Mark Udall are co-sponsoring a bill to remedy the damage to the Bill Of Rights done by the National Defense Authorization Act 2012
Immediately following the Senate’s passage of S. 1253, the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 (and upon the defeat of four amendments that would have preserved intact the civil liberties protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights) Senators Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Mark Udall (CO) agreed to co-sponsor a bill to re-instate those protections. The bill, entitled the Due Process Guarantee Act 2011, is being written in committee and will be submitted for a vote in the Senate in January of 2012. According to Senator Udall’s office, the bill will guarantee that no American citizen can be subjected to indefinite detention without charge and will guarantee a trial by jury in a civilian court of justice. The bill is modeled on the amendments to the NDAA originally offered by both senators. A mass phone drive to representatives will be needed to convince Republicans that Americans will not agree to live in a country without guaranteed civil liberties. Stay tuned.
For an understanding of the indefinite detention clauses of the NDAA, see Glenn Greenwald’s detailed explanation here:
* OBAMA AND GEITHNER: GOVERNMENT, ENRON-STYLE
By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
Strongly recommend this piece at the Huffington Post by Jeff Connaughton, a former aide to Senator Ted Kaufman. Jeff is one of the smartest guys on the Hill and is particularly strong on issues surrounding Wall Street and the regulatory system. In this piece, he takes apart the oft-stated mantra that what Wall Street firms did during and after the crisis was maybe unethical, but not illegal.
He takes particular aim at Barack Obama, who recently tossed that line out on 60 Minutes in what I thought was one of the real low moments of his presidency. Here’s Jeff’s take:
Speaking in Kansas on December 6, [Obama] said, “Too often, we’ve seen Wall Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and there’s no price for being a repeat offender.” Just five days later on 60 Minutes, he said, “Some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street wasn’t illegal.” Which is it? Have there been no prosecutions because Wall Street acted legally (albeit unethically)? Or did Wall Street repeatedly violate major anti-fraud laws (and should thus find itself in the dock)?
The President is confusing “legal” with “difficult to prosecute successfully.”
The notion that what Wall Street firms did was merely unethical and not illegal is not just mistaken but preposterous: most everyone who works in the financial services industry understands that fraud right now is not just pervasive but epidemic, with many of the biggest banks committing entire departments to the routine commission of fraud and perjury – every single one of the major banks, for instance, devotes significant manpower to robosigning affidavits for foreclosures and credit card judgments, acts which are openly and inarguably criminal.
Banks and hedge funds routinely withhold derogatory information about the instruments they sell, they routinely trade on insider information or ahead of their own clients’ orders, and corrupt accounting is so rampant now that industry analysts have begun to figure in estimated levels of fraud in their examinations of the public disclosures of major financial companies.
Beyond that, as Jeff points out, Obama is simply not telling the truth about the supposedly insufficient penalties available to regulators. Employing the famous “mistakes were made” use of the passive tense, Obama copped out in his December 6 speech by saying that “penalties are too weak.” As Jeff points out, what Obama should have said is that “the penalties my own regulators chose to dish out were too weak”:
Moreover, the President is misleading us when he says that Wall Street firms violate anti-fraud law because the penalties are too weak. Repeat financial fraudsters don’t pay relatively paltry — and therefore painless — penalties because of statutory caps on such penalties. Rather, regulatory officials, appointed by Obama, negotiated these comparatively trifling fines. This week, the F.D.I.C. settled a suit against Washington Mutual officials for just $64 million, an amount that will be covered mostly by insurance policies WaMu took out on behalf of executives, who themselves will pay just $400,000. And recently a federal judge rejected the S.E.C.’s latest settlement with Citigroup, an action even the Wall Street Journal called “a rebuke of the cozy relationship between regulators and the regulated that too often leaves justice as an orphan.”
What makes Obama’s statements so dangerous is that they suggest an ongoing strategy of covering up the Wall Street crimewave. There is ample evidence out there that the Obama administration has eased up on prosecutions of Wall Street as part of a conscious strategy to prevent a collapse of confidence in our financial system, with the expected 50-state foreclosure settlement being the landmark effort in the cover-up, intended mainly to bury a generation of fraud. Here’s how Jeff puts it:
In Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, he quotes Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as saying, “The confidence in the system is so fragile still… a disclosure of a fraud… could result in a run, just like Lehman.” The Obama Administration is pushing hard for a 50-state settlement with the major banks for their fraudulent foreclosure practices, even though several state attorneys general have rejected this approach because, in their view, it would shield too much wrongdoing. Regrettably, Obama’s top officials and lawyers seem more eager to restore the financial sector to health than establish criminal accountability among the executives who were in charge.
In other words, Geithner and Obama are behaving like Lehman executives before the crash of Lehman, not disclosing the full extent of the internal problem in order to keep investors from fleeing and creditors from calling in their chits. It’s worth noting that this kind of behavior – knowingly hiding the derogatory truth from the outside world in order to prevent a run on the bank – is, itself, fraud! […]