PNN - 7/22 Guests and Show Stories Featured
RWS 07:00:00 PM 07:10:00 PM
Steve Perman 07:11:00 PM 07:26:00 PM
Diana Demarest 07:27:00 PM 07:42:00 PM
Kristin Jacobs 07:57:00 PM 08:12:00 PM
Mario Piscatella 08:13:00 PM 08:30:00 PM
[Steve Perman: Elected 2010 Dist. 78/81
Florida House of Representatives, District 78 (elected 2010)
House HHS Subcommittee for Health Access—Ranking Member
Economic Affairs Committee
Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee
Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee
Select Committee on Water Policy]
1. Revealed: Key Files on Big-Ticket Political Donations Vanish at Federal Election Commission
Top money and politics researchers discover that the FEC is quietly deleting information on fat-cat funders.
The Federal Election Commission has long been the go-to source for tracking political money. So when it starts cleansing politically hot contributions from its files, it matters. Big time.
We have discovered that sometime after January of this year, the FEC deleted a whole set of contributions totaling millions of dollars made during the 2007-2008 election cycle. The most important of these files concern what is now called “dark money” – funds donated to ostensible charities or public interest groups rather parties, candidates or conventional political action committees (PACs). These non-profit groups – which Washington insiders often refer to generically as 501(c)s, after the section of the federal tax code regulating them – use the money to pay for allegedly educational “independent” ads that run outside conventional campaign channels. Such funding has now developed into a gigantic channel for evading disclosure of the donors’ identities and is acutely controversial.
In 2008, however, a substantial number of contributions to such 501(c)s made it into the FEC database. For the agency quietly to remove them almost four years later with no public comment is scandalous. It flouts the agency’s legal mandate to track political money and mocks the whole spirit of what the FEC was set up to do. No less seriously, as legal challenges and public criticism of similar contributions in the 2012 election cycle rise to fever pitch, the FEC’s action wipes out one of the few sources of real evidence about how dark money works. Obviously, the unheralded purge also raises unsettling questions about what else might be going on with the database that scholars and journalists of every persuasion have always relied upon.
Why the FEC Was Created
Federal regulatory agencies are often the offspring of epic scandals. The Federal Election Commission is no exception. It was created in the aftermath of Watergate to do for political money what the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did for securities markets in the New Deal: End an anything-goes saturnalia of corruption through a mix of tough new regulations and “sunlight” – in this case, open, transparent publication of who is trying to buy whom with campaign contributions.
The FEC was supposed to inform the public and curb abuse in our democracy. But like the SEC in the post-Reagan era, the FEC’s reach soon exceeded its grasp. Virtually from the beginning, dark forces of law and politics combined to render the agency almost impotent as a regulator. Today a generation of legal loopholes, court decisions and bipartisan foot-dragging has wrecked spending limits, destroyed the promise of public funding and spawned a new Gilded Age of money in politics.
As the actual situation of money and politics slid from bad to worse, the FEC adjusted by trumpeted its public reporting functions. Given the vast holes in coverage, calling its data reports and archives the “gold standard” of reporting about money in politics would be a stretch. Yet for a generation, we and virtually everyone who tracks political money have benefited hugely from the agency’s labyrinthine data collections as well as the patience and kindness of its staff in explaining them. While you knew FEC data was unlikely to be the last word, you could be confident that whatever the agency did report was as true as it could make it. That the FEC would ever delete true reports of politically relevant money was literally unthinkable.
Something now appears to have changed at the FEC. We are dismayed to find that at some point between January and July 8, 2012, the FEC deleted a whole set of contributions totaling millions of dollars made during the 2007-2008 election cycle.
2. Nuclear operator to release secret Fukushima tapes
Source: ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Author: North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy
Date: July 16, 2012
Former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan, who was in office during the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, has told the ABC he believes the plant’s operator has been hiding key evidence.
[Tepco] now says it will bow to months of pressure from Mr Kan and the government and release the many hours of teleconference video taken in the days after last year’s meltdowns.
But it has confirmed crucial audio of a heated exchange with Mr Kan is missing, claiming its hard drive was full.
Mr Kan has described the missing audio of his speech as “extremely strange”.
“The speech was filmed and broadcast to all TEPCO sites. Surely they recorded the sound at one of those sites.
“It would appear the company is trying to hide something inconvenient.”
MORE FUKU - I don’t know if it’s because of the fear for radiation, but some of the workers in my company are really tempered. They use violence sometimes, I was lucky to be able to talk to my boss about that. If you are worried about radiation, you are not suitable to be a nuclear worker.
This NHK video below has no sound but does include onscreen captions in English.
Though not labeled in English in the video, it appears the river to the south is the Naka and north is the Kuji.
The hotspot appears nearby Fukushima Daiichi in NHK’s map, however it’s actually over 100km south. In reality, the hotspot is almost directly in front of Tokai nuclear power plant:
3. Antinuclear rally draws 170,000 people at central Tokyo park
An anti-nuclear power plant rally called for by a group led by Nobel literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe and other celebrities drew a crowd of around 170,000 people Monday at Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, according to organizers.
At the assembly held under a scorching sun, dubbed “100,000 People’s Assembly to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants,” journalist Satoshi Kamata said at the opening event, “We want to bring an end to nuclear power plants immediately.”
Oe criticized the government’s stance of trying to restart nuclear reactors when the Fukushima nuclear crisis has not yet fully been resolved. “I feel we’re being insulted by the government” due to the recent rebooting of a reactor, a move he described as “a plot by the government.”
4. Oil Prices might be Rigged? - London Daily Telegraph
You’ll be shocked to learn that “A report commissioned by the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies has warned oil prices could be vulnerable to a Libor-style rigging scandal.”
Concerns are growing about the reliability of oil prices, after a report for the G20 found the market is wide open to “manipulation or distortion”.
Traders from banks, oil companies or hedge funds have an “incentive” to distort the market and are likely to try to report false prices, it said.
Politicians and fuel campaigners last night urged the Government to expand its inquiry into the Libor scandal to see whether oil prices have also been falsely pushed up.
They warned any efforts to rig the oil price would affect how much drivers pay at the pump, which soared to a record high of 137p per litre of unleaded earlier this year.
Robert Halfon, who led a group of 100 MPs calling for lower fuel prices, said the matter “needs to be looked at by the Bank of England urgently”.
This is one of the major concerns raised in the G20 report, published last month by the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).
In the study for global finance ministers, including George Osborne, the regulator warns that traders have opportunities to influence oil prices for their own profit.
It points out that the whole market is “voluntary”, meaning banks and energy companies can choose which trades to make public.
IOSCO says this “creates opportunity for a trader to submit a partial picture in order to influence the [price] to the trader’s advantage”.
In an earlier report, the regulator concluded: “It is open to companies to report only those deals that are in their own best interests for the rest of the market to see.”
96% of participants - said INVESTIGATE
5. EFF Urges Congress to Protect Privacy in Face Recognition
Today, EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch urged Congress to limit the collection of biometrics and protect privacy with respect to the use of face recognition technology. Jennifer’s testimony [PDF] in a Senate hearing on “What Facial Recognition Technology Means for Privacy and Civil Liberties” outlined the privacy and security concerns that are inherent to automatic face recognition.
This is a pressing issue because, as we've noted before here and here, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are already incorporating face recognition technology into their extensive biometric databases, which are accessible in real-time by state and local law enforcement, the Department of Defense, the State Department and other federal agencies. Moreover, companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and various mobile app providers have already started to index faces for private face recognition databases.
The use of face recognition technology raises important First and Fourth Amendment concerns, though the scope of Constitutional protections in this area is unclear. Jennifer testified that “[f]ace recognition allows for covert, remote and mass capture and identification of images—and the photos that may end up in a database include not just a person’s face but also how she is dressed and possibly whom she is with.” While people cannot participate in society without showing their faces in public, they still have an expectation of privacy in their biometric data. Jennifer therefore stated that there should be “a warrant requirement based on probable cause for police to use this technology.” At the same time, the use of social media to communicate with family and friends has become an important practice. Automatic connection between peoples’ faces and their use of social media is therefore troubling.
Jennifer therefore asked Congress “to limit unnecessary biometrics collection; instill proper protections on data collection, transfer, and search; ensure accountability; mandate independent oversight; require appropriate legal process before government collection; and define clear rules for data sharing at all levels.”
We would like to thank Senator Al Franken for holding a hearing on this important issue.
6. Affordable Care Act today
Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, former insurance company executive Wendell Potter’s appeal to single-payer advocates to “bury the hatchet,” http://www.thenation.com/article/168843/healthcare-advocates-time-bury-hatchet">recently published in The Nation, is both misdirected and shortsighted.
Potter argues that insurance industry pirates will exploit left critiques of the ACA to subvert implementation of the law. He calls on proponents of more comprehensive reform to forgive and forget, embracing the massive concessions made by the Obama administration and its liberal allies.
But there are some gaping holes in this thinking.
First, the insurers hardly need to rely on the single-payer movement to sabotage elements of the law they don’t like. They have office towers full of high-priced lawyers who are adept at identifying loopholes in the much-touted consumer protection provisions, like the bans on pre-existing condition exclusions or dropping coverage when patients get sick, or limiting how much money can be siphoned off for profits and paperwork.
Second, let’s not have illusions about the history of the ACA.
Before he was elected, President Obama, an advocate of single-payer when he was in the Senate, called on progressives to push him. Instead, most of the liberals reduced themselves to cheerleading while all the pressure came from the right.
So when the healthcare bill was introduced, the president, with the active encouragement of groups like Health Care for America Now, blocked single-payer from consideration. Persuading people through consent, rather than coercion, to accept inadequate solutions for societal needs has long been a key feature of the neoliberal agenda. It’s one reason so many people vote against their own interests.
To get any hearing from Senator Max Baucus, who was running the Senate side of the debate, nurses, doctors, and single-payer healthcare activists had to get arrested in a Senate Finance Committee hearing. On the House side, Democrats who proposed single-payer amendments endured heavy-handed threats from then–White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Meanwhile, then–Press Secretary Robert Gibbs publicly attacked the “professional left” who will only “be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon.”
It should not come as a surprise that negotiating with your supporters before engaging political opposition, and lecturing, hectoring and seeking to silence healthcare activists who have worked for years for real reform, Obama and the Democrats ended up with a weaker bill. That bill lacked the public option HCAN and other liberals had claimed would be their bottom line, while HCAN and other liberals embraced the individual mandate—the brainchild of the right-wing Heritage Foundation—as high principle.
Even with its positive elements—yes, it does have some—the Affordable Care Act uses public money to pad insurance profits (the subsidies to buy private insurance), prevents the government from using its clout to limit price gouging by the pharmaceutical giants, does little to effectively control rising healthcare costs for individuals and families that have made medical bankruptcies and self-rationing of care a national disgrace, and falls far short of the goal of universal coverage.
We can, as Michael Moore has said, acknowledge that the Supreme Court decision was a defeat for the opponents of any reform of our healthcare system without pretending that our nation’s healthcare crisis is over.
For three weeks in June and July, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United sponsored a tour that drew about 1,000 people to free basic health screenings and another 2,000 to town hall meetings in big cities and rural communities across California. We heard a lot of stories like this one, from Carolyn Travao of Fresno:
I worked for Aetna health insurance for 15 years. When I took early retirement, I thought my Cobra would be manageable. Then they sent me a bill in January for $1,300 a month and I couldn’t pay it.
I had a heart attack. I knew I didn’t have health insurance. I have a mortgage. I had a 401(k) that I knew would get wiped out, so I didn’t go to the hospital. I stayed at home for 16 hours, suffering chest pains, praying that I would die because my son would be left homeless and I do have insurance to pay off my mortgage so if I die he would at least have a home. I couldn’t take the pain any longer and I kept passing out, and he kept saying “Mom, you’re going to die.”
“OK,” I said, “take me to emergency.” So we went to emergency. But when I got home, my bill was $135,000. I have $13,000 left in my 401k. I don’t think I can even start [paying]. I never thought I would lay there and want to die. But I would have rather died knowing that my son would be left homeless with no job.
Since the ACA’s cost-control mechanisms for insurance companies are so weak—for example permitting insurers to charge far more based on age and where you live—and hospitals will still largely have free reign to impose unpayable bills, will Carolyn and millions like her really have guaranteed healthcare under the ACA?
Sadly, nurses who have seen far too many patients like Carolyn know the answer all too well. That is why nurses and our organization will never stop fighting for guaranteed healthcare based on a single standard of quality care for all that is not based on ability to pay and is not premised on protecting the profits of healthcare corporations that long ago wrote off patients like Carolyn Travao.
Unlike Wendell Potter and many of the liberals, nurses see the ACA as a floor, not a ceiling. It’s time now for those who say they recognize its limitations and believe in genuinely universal healthcare to join us in pushing for an improved and expanded Medicare for all.
Nurses respect the president. But they love their patients far too much not to go the distance for their patients’ health and survival.
Link to the original article on The Nation
7. A SUBCONTRACTOR at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant told workers to lie about radiation exposure.
An executive at construction firm Build-Up in December told about 10 of its workers to cover their dosimeters, used to measure cumulative radiation exposure, with lead casings when working in areas with high radiation, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other media said.
The action was apparently designed to under-report their exposure to allow the company to continue working at the site of the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, media reports said.
A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 crippled cooling equipment at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering meltdowns that spewed radioactivity and forced tens of thousands of residents to flee.
The Asahi urged plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) to strictly manage the safety of work crews.
The influential daily also called on the government to conduct a thorough survey of work conditions at the site, which has been off limit to the public, except for occasional visits by journalists guided by TEPCO officials.
Several workers at Build-Up told the Asahi that a senior official from the firm who served as their on-site supervisor said in December he used a lead casing and urged them to do the same.
Without faking the exposure level, the executive told the workers they would quickly reach the legally permissible annual exposure limit of 50 millisieverts, according to the Asahi.
The workers had a recording of their meeting, the newspaper said.
"Unless we hide it with lead, exposure will max out and we cannot work," the executive was heard saying in the recording, the Asahi reported. Some workers refused to wear it and left the company, the Asahi said.
The workers were hired for about four months through March to insulate pipes at a water treatment facility, Kyodo News said.
The ministry of health, labour and welfare was starting to investigate the matter, newspapers and Jiji Press reported. Health ministry and Build-Up officials could not be reached for comment.
8. Lawyer: Treatment of Bradley Manning 'Should Shock the Court'
By Dan De Luce, Agence France-Presse
20 July 12
Evidence showing the mistreatment of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning at a military brig should "shock the conscience" of the court, his lawyer said Thursday.
The US Army soldier accused of handing over a trove of secret documents to the WikiLeaks website was subjected to harsh, "unlawful" conditions for nine months at the brig even though psychiatrists concluded he was not at risk of committing suicide, said David Coombs, his defense counsel.
Manning was placed under "maximum custody" at the US Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia as "the result of a direct order" from a commanding officer, witnessed by two colonels, Coombs alleged at a pre-trial hearing.
Other cases have revealed excesses but "this one should shock the conscience of this court," the lawyer added.
After his solitary confinement from July 2010 to April 2011, which sparked outrage by rights activists, Manning was transferred to a prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he was placed under less restrictive conditions after he was evaluated by mental health professionals.
Judge Denise Lind agreed to a defense request to have the commander of the Fort Leavenworth brig at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Dawn Hilton, testify next month about how Manning was evaluated and why he was not placed in solitary confinement.
Manning's lawyer said he planned to file a 100-page motion arguing his client suffered illegal detention conditions while awaiting his court-martial, and said his improved treatment at Fort Leavenworth made clear that he had endured an injustice at the Quantico brig.
"Either the water at Fort Leavenworth has amazing mental health healing properties or he was subject to unlawful pre-trial confinement (at Quantico)," Coombs said.
But the judge rejected a request from Manning to have UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez appear as a witness. Prosecutors had argued that Mendez's testimony was not relevant as he never visited Manning during his detention at Quantico.
Mendez requested a visit with Manning but US military authorities would not allow him to conduct an "unmonitored" meeting with the accused, Coombs said.
The judge also ruled Thursday that prosecutors have to meet a defense request to produce in court a tear-proof smock, blanket and mattress similar to those issued to Manning during his detention at Quantico.
The blanket was essentially "a large piece of sand paper," Coombs said.
The trial for Manning is tentatively due to begin in September but may be pushed back as late as February next year, the judge said.
Manning, 24, was a low-ranking intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq when he was arrested in May 2010 and accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and military logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.
If convicted of aiding the enemy, he faces a possible life sentence.
9. Does targeted killing of a US citizen violate the Constitution? “Things got a little crazy when the Senate Judiciary Committee FISA Amendment Markup turned to targeted killing.” John Cornyn wanted an amendment forcing the administration to reveal its authorization. Chuck Grassley was in support, but “Democrats prevented Cornyn and Grassley from attaching legislation mandating the Administration share the authorization with Congress.”
10. The One Percent Want Your Social Security and Medicare and Steven Pearlstein Is Trying to Help
Steven Pearlstein, the Washington Post business columnist, often writes insightful pieces on the economy, not today. The thrust of his piece is that we all should be hopeful that a group of incredibly rich CEOs can engineer a coup.
While the rest of us are wasting our time worrying about whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney are sitting in the White House the next four years, Pearlstein tells us (approvingly) that these honchos are scurrying through back rooms in Washington trying to carve out a deficit deal.
The plan is that we will get the rich folks’ deal regardless of who wins the election. It is difficult to imagine a more contemptuous attitude toward democracy.
The deal that this gang (led by Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles) is hatching will inevitably include some amount of tax increases and also large budget cuts. At the top of the list, as Pearlstein proudly tells us, are cuts to Social Security and Medicare. At a time when we have seen an unprecedented transfer of income to the top one percent, these deficit warriors are placing a top priority on snatching away a portion of Social Security checks that average $1,200 a month. Yes, the country needs this.
The most likely cut to Social Security is a reduction in the annual cost of living adjustment of 0.3 percentage points. While that might sound trivial, the effect accumulates through time. After ten years, a typical check will be about 3 percent lower, after 20 years it will be 6 percent lower, and after 30 years it will be about 9 percent lower.
Social Security amounts to 90 percent or more of the income for one-third of seniors. For this group, the proposed cut in benefits would be a considerably larger share of their income that the higher taxes faced by someone earning $300,000 a year as a result of the repeal of the Bush tax cuts on high income earners. The latter is supposed to be a big deal, therefore the proposed cuts to Social Security are also a big deal.
10. The New Eminent Domain RIPOFF - THE NEXT WALL STREET FLAVORED FIX
MT - "While seizing land with compensation to build a highway for public use is one thing, seizing property for the private profit of others is quite another."
The biggest problem though, is surely the danger of corruption. How many municipalities will end up using these opaque procedures to enrich well-connected insiders? How many will buy junk at inflated prices, or seize and sell to a well-connected insider at far below value? Who polices such transactions? Where is the transparency? How do we make sure that this is not just an excuse for bad lenders to offload junk to the taxpayer at inflated prices and cream a profit when they were set to reap a loss?
That is the new way of business: steal from the taxpayers. Anyone who thinks this is not what’s going to happen needs to pull their heads out of the sand and look at recent history (or even the not so recent history) in this country.
People should know this is going to be a scam. Another one. If you let parasites into the plan, don’t be surprised when they start sucking, what’s left of us that is, completely dry.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
RWS - 7pm - 7:10pm
Gayle Faath - 7:11pm - 7:39pm
Communications Director for Stand Up Florida
Toni Rosenburg [FPL]
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
Hollie Albert [UNDERTAKER W/OCCUPY]
Ed Wujciak - War vs Human Needs - 7:40pm - 7:50PM
Lee Camp Progressive Comedian - 7:51pm - 7:57PM
EVENTS AHEAD... JUST OVER THE HORIZON
Aug 4th Hands Across the Sand
Aug 18th Women's March on DC
August 24th at 10:00am - Women’s Equality Day Event is going to be at FAU
Any activist organization interested in participating can contact me at President@pbcnow.org.
The direct causes of the accident were all foreseeable prior to March 11, 2011. But the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was incapable of withstanding the earthquake and tsunami that hit on that day. The operator (TEPCO), the regulatory bodies (NISA and NSC) and the government body promoting the nuclear power industry (METI), all failed to correctly develop the most basic safety requirements—such as assessing the probability of damage, preparing for containing collateral damage from such a disaster, and developing evacuation plans for the public in the case of a serious radiation release.
TEPCO and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) were aware of the need for structural reinforcement in order to conform to new guidelines, but rather than demanding their implementation, NISA stated that action should be taken autonomously by the operator. The Commission has discovered that no part of the required reinforcements had been implemented on Units 1 through 3 by the time of the accident. This was the result of tacit consent by NISA for a significant delay by the operators in completing the reinforcement. In addition, although NISA and the operators were aware of the risk of core damage from tsunami, no regulations were created, nor did TEPCO take any protective steps against such an occurrence.
Since 2006, the regulators and TEPCO were aware of the risk that a total outage of electricity at the Fukushima Daiichi plant might occur if a tsunami were to reach the level of the site. They were also aware of the risk of reactor core damage from the loss of seawater pumps in the case of a tsunami larger than assumed in the Japan Society of Civil Engineers estimation. NISA knew that TEPCO had not prepared any measures to lessen or eliminate the risk, but failed to provide specific instructions to remedy the situation.
We found evidence that the regulatory agencies would explicitly ask about the operators’ intentions whenever a new regulation was to be implemented. For example, NSC informed the operators that they did not need to consider a possible station blackout (SBO) because the probability was small and other measures were in place. It then asked the operators to write a report that would give the appropriate rationale for why this consideration was unnecessary. It then asked the operators to write a report that would give the appropriate rationale for why this consideration was unnecessary.
The regulators also had a negative attitude toward the importation of new advances in knowledge and technology from overseas. If NISA had passed on to TEPCO measures that were included in the B.5.b subsection of the U.S. security order that followed the 9/11 terrorist action, and if TEPCO had put the measures in place, the accident may have been preventable.
2. Jolting the Democratic Party from Its Stupor
by Ralph Nader
It is also remarkable how the Democrats keep letting the Senate Republican leader Senator Mitch McConnell intone, day after day, the “American people” want, do not want, demand, oppose this and that, to camouflage his plutocratic programs.
In December 2010, with 99 senators agreeing to unanimous consent to pass the auto safety legislation, the Democrats let one Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) sink it. President Obama, ready to sign this life-saving bill, declined to use his powers of persuasion on Coburn, his avowed close friend in the Senate.
It is the Democrats’ defeatism that is the most self-corrosive. Veteran Democratic legislators openly tell those who ask that they don’t think the party will regain control of the House in the November election though, they add, the Republicans have a terrible anti-people record.
Politics are about credibly answering the question “whose side are you on and whose side is your opponent on?” That means drawing a bright line between the two parties. Unfortunately, on military and foreign policy there isn’t much of a difference. So the bright line will have to be on domestic issues.
Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. and two dozen progressive co-sponsors are behind a bill called “Catching Up To 1968 Act of 2012” (H.R. 5901). This would raise the federal minimum wage, depleted by inflation over the years, from $7.25 to $10.00, thereby helping thirty million workers and boosting the recessionary economy. Neither the Democratic leadership nor President Obama have come out in support of such popular (70 percent in the polls) legislation that historically has been identified with the Democratic Party since the first minimum wage law in 1938.
Senior staffers in the House complain on behalf of their bosses that the President does not communicate with them. “Boehner will give us nothing,” was one staffer’s inadvertent summing up of the party’s defeatism. Imagine Gingrich talking in that supplicant manner when he was in the House minority. He toppled House Speaker Tom Foley (D-Wash.) and took control of the House of Representatives in 1994.
Perhaps one story is most telling: President Obama has been more reticent in his nomination of federal judges than his predecessors. In meetings between outside support groups and White House-Justice Department staff, the nominees hailing from the ranks of labor and public interest lawyers, as well as law professors, are received coolly. The Obama staff want what they call “stealth candidates,” – that is corporate lawyers with some enlightened pro bono tendencies. Why directly take on the Republicans for the future of the federal judiciary when you can settle for the corporate status quo?
Who’s fooling whom? The coming days await a new and open jolting push by prominent outside Democrats who fervently want to wrench their party back from the abyss, from its own self-imposed sense of dread before a devastating, self-inflicted November defeat.
A coalition of housing advocates that supported the state/federal investigation into securitization abuses that accompanied the foreclosure fraud settlement has turned against it sharply, charging the Justice Department with stonewalling the investigation and denying it critical resources that could move prosecutions against leading banks for their role in the housing crash and subsequent economic crisis.
The coalition, including Campaign for a Fair Settlement, the New Bottom Line, and members of the Campaign for America’s Future, have been frustrated with the agonizingly slow pace of the investigations into the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) working group for some time. But the focus on DoJ, and Eric Holder in particular, is new, and frankly a bit implausible.
It was fairly clear to some of us when the RMBS working group was announced inside a revived financial fraud enforcement task force that it would be a repository for existing investigations that could be re-branded as “going after the banks” in an election year. Indeed, masaccio has found the task force taking credit for investigations having nothing to do with securitization abuses. So the slow-walking of investigations should really come as no surprise: “task force” is what people in Washington create when they don’t want to do anything about a particular issue. Delaying the investigations also serves the purpose of allowing statutes of limitations to run out on various financial frauds.
But the CFS/New Bottom Line argument, made on a conference call today, is that the investigation is nearing a critical point, and the Justice Department specifically is blocking progress by denying resources. Most of the arguments come from this report from Richard Eskow of CAF, citing anonymous sources:
Confidential sources say that the President’s much-touted Mortgage Fraud Task Force is being starved for vital resources by the Holder Justice Department. Political insiders are fearful that this obstruction will threaten Democrats’ chances at the polls. Investigators and prosecutors from other agencies are expressing their frustration as the ever-rowing list of documented crimes by individual Wall Street bankers continues to be ignored [...]
A growing number of people are privately expressing concern at the Justice Department’s long-standing pattern of inactivity, obfuscation, and obstruction. Mr. Holder’s past as a highly-paid lawyer for a top Wall Street firm, Covington and Burling, is being discussed more openly among insiders. Covington & Burling was the law firm which devised the MERS shell corporation which has since been implicated in many cases of mortgage and foreclosure fraud.
Nobody we talked to wanted to publicly demean a public official’s reputation. Few of the people who are criticizing Holder privately want to fuel the right-wing witch hunt against him, which recently led to in the Republican House’s shamefully politicized contempt citation. But more of them expressed concerns about Holder, and expressed them strongly, than we expected [...]
One source familiar with the task force said that other Federal agencies were actively participating in the process, but that the Justice Department was preventing the group from getting even the relatively meager resources promised to it by the Justice Department.
While nobody provided precise numbers, several sources said the Task Force could show concrete results with twenty or thirty more staff members.Yet Holder’s Justice Department won’t make them available, said one source. By contrast, Republican officials allocated more than one thousand people to investigate the savings and loan scandal.
The objections are annoyingly vague, but I recognize in dealing with these matters that nobody wants to go on the record or get into much detail. This shift toward Holder, however, deserves scrutiny. There have been plenty of documented stories of reluctance toward investigation from Treasury and the SEC and HUD. This centers all the attention on DoJ, however. It’s not entirely credible that Holder is operating independently to slow-walk an investigation that has been slow-walked by virtually every official in the Obama Administration at one point or another. It feels as if Holder has become the “rotating villain” in this scheme, someone to deflect attention away from the whole policy framework to let the banks off for their crimes. Ultimately, the buck has to stop at the very top, with the President.
When pressed on this by me, everyone on the call insisted this was not the case. Brian Kettenring of CFS pointed to several protests his organization put on at Obama campaign fundraising events, and said that they would not ignore holding the President accountable. Tracy Van Slyke of NBL concurred. Richard Eskow insisted that his confidential sources all pointed to DoJ and DoJ alone as stopping progress on the working group. All involved said they would continue challenging the Administration as well as federal agencies to show proof that the investigation constitutes more than lip service. In particular, the New Bottom Line has tried to organize the 16 million underwater homeowners, many in swing states, as a constituency, to give the campaign an electoral bite.
It’s true that the resource allocation is pretty pitiful. Kettenring made the point that DoJ devoted 93 investigators to the failed Roger Clemens investigation for lying to Congress about taking steroids, but promised about the same amount to prove the biggest consumer financial fraud in American history. And according to Eskow, they aren’t even providing those meager resources, when they can be put to use.
But there’s a sense here where the train has already left the station. The working group was announced on January 27 and it took four months to name an executive director. The signs that nobody associated with this task force wants to really do the work are pretty obvious. And if we’re still talking about resource allocation this deep into the process, you have to suspect that the entire enterprise was a chimera from the start.
And ultimately, Eric Holder is not the sole actor responsible for that. In fact, by putting himself in a position to be denied resources, the leading individual in this mess outside of Washington, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, deserves plenty of scrutiny. Kettenring said that he didn’t want to do any “post-game analysis” as he believed there was still a window to be effective and force the investigation forward. But he added that “everyone associated with this should know that their reputation is on the line.”
4. iraqi constitution articles 30-34
First: The state guarantee to the individual and the family -- especially children and women -- social and health security and the basic requirements for leading a free and dignified life. The state also ensures the above a suitable income and appropriate housing.
Second: The State guarantees the social and health security to Iraqis in cases of old age, sickness, employment disability, homelessness, orphanage or unemployment, and shall work to protect them from ignorance, fear and poverty. The State shall provide them housing and special programs of care and rehabilitation. This will be organized by law.
First: Every citizen has the right to health care. The state takes care of public health and provide the means of prevention and treatment by building different types of hospitals and medical institutions.
Second: Individuals and institutions may build hospitals or clinics or places for treatment with the supervision of the state and this shall be regulated by law.
The State cares for the handicapped and those with special needs and ensure their rehabilitation in order to reintegrate them into society. This shall be regulated by law.
First: Every individual has the right to live in a safe environment.
Second: The State undertakes the protection and preservation of the environment and biological diversity.
First: Education is a fundamental factor in the progress of society and is a right guaranteed by the state. Primary education is mandatory and the state guarantees to eradicate illiteracy.
Second: Free education is a right for all Iraqis in all its stages.
Third: The State encourages scientific research for peaceful purposes that serve man and supports excellence, creativity, invention and the different aspects of ingenuity.
Fourth: Private and public education is guaranteed. This shall be regulated by law.
5. Laser Scanners at a Molecular Level
New Homeland Security Laser Scanner Reads People At Molecular Level
WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The Department of Homeland Security will soon be using a laser at airports that can detect everything about you from over 160-feet away.
Gizmodo reports a scanner that could read people at the molecular level has been invented. This laser-based scanner – which can be used 164-feet away — could read everything from a person’s adrenaline levels, to traces of gun powder on a person’s clothes, to illegal substances — and it can all be done without a physical search. It also could be used on multiple people at a time, eliminating random searches at airports.
The laser-based scanner is expected to be used in airports as soon as 2013, Gizmodo reports.
The scanner is called the Picosecond Programmable Laser. The device works by blasting its target with lasers which vibrate molecules that are then read by the machine that determine what substances a person has been exposed to. This could be Semtex explosives to the bacon and egg sandwich they had for breakfast that morning.
The inventor of this invasive technology is Genia Photonics. Active since 2009, they hold 30 patents on laser technology designed for scanning. In 2011, they formed a partnership with In-Q-Tel, a company chartered by the CIA and Congress to build “a bridge between the Agency and a new set of technology innovators.”
Genia Photonics wouldn’t be the only ones with similar technology as George Washington University developed something similar in 2008, according to Gizmodo. The Russians also developed something akin to the Picosecond Programmable laser. The creators of that scanner claim that “it is even able to detect traces of explosives left by fingerprints.”
But what makes Genia Photonics’ version so special is that the machine is more compact compared to the other devices and can still maintain its incredible range.
Although the technology could be used by “Big Brother,” Genia Photonics states that the device could be far more beneficial being used for medical purposes to check for cancer in real time, lipids detection, and patient monitoring.
6. Drilling Strategies, Sensible and Fantastical
The Republicans and Mitt Romney have relentlessly accused President Obama of not moving swiftly enough to tap the nations’ considerable offshore reserves of oil and natural gas.
It is a tired complaint. Except for a necessary drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill in 2010, Mr. Obama has always embraced offshore oil and gas exploration as an important component of a rounded energy strategy. What he has not embraced is the drill-now-drill-everywhere approach of President George W. Bush, now embodied in a House bill that would open the entire continental shelf and all of Alaska’s waters to drilling.
The Obama administration’s latest drilling plan, which covers the years 2012 to 2017, would allow 12 large lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three smaller, carefully selected lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and the Cook Inlet in Alaska. There would be preliminary seismic testing, but no leasing, in the Atlantic. The approach is broadly similar to the leasing program announced in March 2010 and put on hold after the BP spill.
The Republicans, however, are in a lather. Representative Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, called the Obama plan “a giant step backward for American offshore energy production.” Mr. Hastings has unveiled a bill that would allow drilling rigs on the coasts of Maine, California, Oregon and Washington, and in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, a rich commercial fishery that even President George H. W. Bush chose to protect.
7. INSURANCE COMPANIES should be allowed to discriminate
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) said that insurance companies should be allowed to discriminate against people with brain tumors during a House Rules Committee debate of the GOP’s bill repealing the Affordable Care Act. The law, which Republicans will vote to eliminate on Wednesday, includes a provision prohibiting insurance companies from turning away sick people.
DREIER: And I believe my state of California has a structure in place to deal with pre-existing conditions. It’s a pooling process, which I think is one worthy of consideration, because while I don’t that think someone who is diagnosed with a massive tumor should the next day be able to have millions and millions and millions of dollars in health care provided, I do believe that there can be a structure to deal with the issue of pre-existing conditions.
8. Civic Liberties - lost in partisan unanimity
“Republicans already succeeded in backing him into a corner where he was unwilling to veto legislation that granted the military the power to indefinitely detain US citizens suspected of terrorism without charge.”
Ah, it was those dastardly Republicans that forced the President to do all this. As usual, Democrats would *prefer* to do the right thing, but their hands are tied. They’re just too weak, you see, to stand up for the Constitution and their own beliefs, and so we need to put more of them in office. Or something.
In reality, of course, it was President Obama himself — not the Republicans — who had indefinite detention inserted in the NDAA. It’s Obama himself (along with Axelrod) who oversees the Kill List. And so on.
9. Blowback we don't believe in no Stinking Blowback [history & karma]
Based on incident inside the US, there are no terrorists in North America (outside the one who work for the Government).
When the IRA were busy in the UK (funded by citizens of the US) there were three to five incidents on the streets every week.
OTOH Arbusto@1 has a very good point that is completely unaddressed by our dear beloved leader in DC. All we are doing is multiplying enemies. We know how well that works, look at Israel.
Based on the US’ logic the UK should have come over to the US and leveled Boston, and invaded NY, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, for the third or fourth time.
10. Kill or Capture, Torture & Detain Indefinitely: Partisan Disagreement on the ‘War on Terrorism’
By: Kevin Gosztola Monday July 9, 2012 5:33 pm
The presidency of Barack Obama has entrenched many of the counterterrorism policies of President George W. Bush in the national security state and helped to further cement bipartisan consensus on these policies. However, there is one vile aspect about which conservatives and center-left individuals disagree, and that is on whether to outright kill terror suspects or not. But it’s not about the absence of due process. Republicans or conservatives contend intelligence is being lost and it would be better to capture, torture and hold terror suspects indefinitely.
This disagreement was highlighted on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC this morning, when Tom Junod appeared on the program to talk about his latest article for Esquire magazine, “The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama.” Appearing on the show to discuss Obama’s escalated use of drone executions or lethal force against “terrorists” with him were centrist Democratic hack Harold Ford Jr. and neoconservative pundit Dan Senor.
Posted by Rick Spisak at 3:47 PM
Sunday, July 08, 2012
1. Nelson's Non-Response
2. Dennis K on MSM and the Drone Program
3. WHO's being spied on???? ah, they just can't say
4. Whistleblowers Strikeback
5. Hands Across the Sand Aug. 4th
6. Glen Greenwald - channels Sen. Frank Church
7. Nuns on the Bus - tour comments
8. NYC Police Reformers, harassed
9. Duke CEO Strikes GOLD - on his first day on the JOB
10. Ted Nugent - wishes he was in Dixie, and it'd WON
11. Bradley Manning Supporters, Investigated
12. Going into Libor
13. WAR INC. Comes Home
1. Bill Nelson responds (not)
Dear Mr. Spisak:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240), better known as the Farm Bill. I grew up on a family ranch, and I understand the importance of the Federal agriculture programs that Floridians rely upon.
On June 21, I joined with my colleagues in the Senate to pass the Farm Bill by a 64-35 bipartisan vote. The legislation makes a number of important changes to existing policies and programs, including ending direct farm payments, expanding crop insurance to cover "shallow losses" that are not currently eligible for claims, consolidating funding streams for simplicity and efficiency, and establishing mandatory funding for a number of USDA energy, conservation, and organic farming programs. The legislation is also projected to reduce the Federal deficit by $24 billion over 10 years, promoting fiscal responsibility in addition to ensuring economic opportunity for our farmers and middle class.
I have always worked to maintain Florida’s place as one of the country’s top producers of agricultural goods. During this session of Congress, I introduced legislation to provide research funding to combat the spread of plant diseases that threaten our State’s citrus crop, which generates an estimated $9.3 billion in economic activity every year. I also consistently support programs that promote energy and environmental conservation efforts on farms, programs that provide nutrition assistance to those in need, and programs that invest money for rural development.
I appreciate your taking the time to share your views with me on these important issues. If you have further concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me again.
2. Dennis Kucinich on DEATH SUPPORT by MSM embedded in the DRONE (programs)
Kucinich chides the media for not engaging in a better effort to uncover who is really dying in drone attacks. He states:
It’s not bad form to kill civilians, it’s only bad form to talk about it. That’s the problem. Let me say that there has been a tradition of American journalists in modern times to serve as the spear carriers for the government. They may look like pens but these are the spears of supernumeraries who have reporters’ cards. It’s what happens when you have fewer and fewer newspapers, and newspapers that are tied to large corporate interests. And a lack of enough institutions in the major media who are willing to serve as an effective counter-balance.
3. WHO IS BEING SPIED ON??? just can't say
Udall and Wyden sent a letter asking how many Americans have had their email communications read or their phone calls listened to by the NSA. They replied that they could not tell the senators because it would violate the privacy of Americans. Now, this is plainly laughable and, in fact, the entire room at Greenwald’s talk laughed hysterically when they heard this; Greenwald read the exact text of this response so he could clearly establish he was not making this newspeak up.
Udall and Wyden sent a letter asking how many Americans have had their email communications read or their phone calls listened to by the NSA. They replied that they could not tell the senators because it would violate the privacy of Americans. Now, this is plainly laughable and, in fact, the entire room at Greenwald’s talk laughed hysterically when they heard this; Greenwald read the exact text of this response so he could clearly establish he was not making this newspeak up.
4. Whistleblowers join suit
Three NSA whistleblowers back lawsuit over government's massive surveillance program
Electronic Frontier Foundation asks court to reject 'state secret' arguments so case can proceed
July 6, 2012 @ 12:05am | The KPBJ
SAN FRANCISCO — Three whistleblowers — all former employees of the National Security Agency (NSA) - have come forward to give evidence in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) lawsuit against the government’s illegal mass surveillance program, Jewel v. NSA.
In a motion filed July 2, the three former intelligence analysts confirm that the NSA has, or is in the process of obtaining, the capability to seize and store most electronic communications passing through its U.S. intercept centers, such as the “secret room” at the AT&T facility in San Francisco first disclosed by retired AT&T technician Mark Klein in early 2006.
“For years, government lawyers have been arguing that our case is too secret for the courts to consider, despite the mounting confirmation of widespread mass illegal surveillance of ordinary people,” said EFF legal director Cindy Cohn. “Now we have three former NSA officials confirming the basic facts. Neither the Constitution nor federal law allow the government to collect massive amounts of communications and data of innocent Americans and fish around in it in case it might find something interesting. This kind of power is too easily abused. We’re extremely pleased that more whistleblowers have come forward to help end this massive spying program.”
The three former NSA employees with declarations in EFF’s brief are William E. Binney, Thomas A. Drake and J. Kirk Wiebe. All were targets of a federal investigation into leaks to the New York Times that sparked the initial news coverage about the warrantless wiretapping program. Binney and Wiebe were formally cleared of charges and Drake had those charges against him dropped.
Jewel v. NSA is back in district court after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it in late 2011. In the motion for partial summary judgment filed July 2, EFF asked the court to reject the state secrets arguments that the government has been using in its attempts to sidetrack this important litigation and instead apply the processes in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that require the court to determine whether electronic surveillance was conducted legally.
“The NSA warrantless surveillance programs have been the subject of widespread reporting and debate for more than six years now. They are just not a secret,” said EFF senior staff attorney Lee Tien. “Yet the government keeps making the same ‘state secrets’ claims again and again. It’s time for Americans to have their day in court and for a judge to rule on the legality of this massive surveillance.”
For the full motion for partial summary judgment: https://www.eff.org/document/plaintiffs-motion-partial-summary-judgment
For more on this case: https://www.eff.org/cases/jewel
5. “Hands Across the Sand” is coming soon to a beach near you,
and we need your help to make sure it is a success! Saturday, August 4, 2012
As described by its founder, Hands Across the Sand is a movement made of people of all walks of life and crosses political affiliations and the borders of the world. This movement is not about politics — it is about the protection of our coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife and fisheries. The accidents that continue to happen in offshore oil drilling are a threat to all of the above. Expanding offshore oil drilling is not the answer; embracing clean energy is.
Oceana is supporting all the Hands events in Florida, but would like to make sure that South Florida is very well represented. Please join with friends, family, and colleagues at one of the events. You can find an event near you at http://www.handsacrossthesand.com/.
Oceana is collaborating with the Broward County Chapter of Surfrider Foundation to bring people together to join hands on the beach at the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and A1A. The event will feature the traditional joining of hands at noon, to be followed by music, raffles and fun until 6:00 pm. We also will be collecting photo petitions at events all around South Florida to support our effort to “stop the drill.” Can you help?
6. Greenwald channels Senator Frank Church on the NATIONAL SECURITY STATE
The National Security Agency’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the NSA could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.
Greenwald makes clear this scenario Church warned about has come to be.
The condition he has warned about, of the NSA apparatus being directed inward, has “come to pass.” Beginning in 2001, the NSA was secretly ordered to spy on American citizens. (Additionally, as Greenwald points out, no US senators these days would talk about the national security state in this manner and suggests it could get out of control and lead to “total tyranny.”)
The surveillance state has only grown under President Barack Obama.
Greenwald outlined some statistics on surveillance in the US. He mentioned William Binney, a former employee of the NSA and whistleblower who was targeted by the federal government for trying to call attention to abuse of spying abuses. He said on “Democracy Now!” the government under Obama has “assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about US citizens with other US citizens.” They’ve assembled data “about everybody,” and from that data, they have targeted anybody they want. And what he said about these statistics is that what is remarkable is that despite how “incredibly ubiquitous” and “menacing” it happens to be, the American people really know very little about it.
7. Nuns on the Bus
The Catholic nuns who began the “Nuns on the Bus” tour across the United States to protest cuts contained in the House Republican budget ended that tour today, blasting the GOP budget as “immoral” across from the U.S. Capitol. With more than a hundred supporters waiting outside the United Methodist center near the Capitol, the nuns criticized Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the author of the budget, for using Catholic social teaching to justify its cuts.
The nuns received widespread support; 75 members of Congress recently thanked them for embarking on the tour. As ThinkProgress has noted, the Republican budget finds 62 percent of its spending cuts from programs that benefit the poor and would kick millions of Americans off of food stamps and other programs.
“The Ryan budget would slash food stamps, it would slash Medicaid, it would slash a lot of domestic programs that benefit low-income people, affordable housing programs that [the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development] does,” Sister Richelle Friedman said. “So this is just really critical.”
Though Ryan attempted to justify the budget with Catholic social teaching, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops circulated letters urging members of Congress to vote against it, calling its cuts to safety net programs “unjustified and wrong.” Otherreligious leaders also condemned it.
8. Police Reform Activists Targeted by NYPD Won't Give In to Threats
from Alternet News
Two activists found a surprise in their local police precinct--a poster with their mug shots, calling them "professional agitators" and providing police with their address.
Two West Harlem residents, Christina Gonzalez, 25, and Matthew Swaye, 35, ran into a surprise when they showed up for a community meeting at their local NYPD precinct last week. There, on the wall of the 30th Precinct, were their mug shots—only they weren’t wanted for any crime.
Christina Gonzalez and Matthew Swaye are police reform activists who regularly film police interactions in their neighborhood, especially to record the NYPD’s controversial Stop and Frisk policy. Although filming police is completely legal, the poster (which was full of misspellings, I might add), advised officers to "be aware" that these "professional agitators" not only film police "performing routine stops," but also" post the videos on YouTube.
"Subjects purpose is to portray officers in a negative way and to [sic] deter officers from conducting their [sic] responsibilities." the warning from Sergeant Nicholson reads. "Do not feed into above subjects’ propaganda."
Gonzalez says it is the NYPD spreading propaganda and that the poster is an obvious tactic to criminalize, intimidate and target her. Since Gonzalez became involved with Occupy and the Stop-and-Frisk movement this fall, police have given her plenty of reasons to look over her shoulder, including calling her out by name and address, erecting a watchtower on her corner and aggressively arresting her sister in front of Gonzalez.
Of course, this is not the first time the NYPD or other police departments have targeted activists. The New York police have a history of infiltrating and intimidating activists, particularly during the Black Panther movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
For activists like Gonzalez, Stop-and-Frisk, a racial profiling tactic, is not only a violation of one’s constitutional rights, it is also part of the NYPD’s larger apparatus of racial oppression. Police stop more than 700,00 people per year, almost 90 percent of whom are young Black and Latino men. The best defense against the illegal searches, which occur during about 50% of stops, has proven to be video, and the ACLU recently launched an app to combat and document unconstitutional stops. But while the movement relies on cameras to expose Stop-and-Frisk, the NYPD targets filmers like Gonzalez with the same type of surveillance and repression police have used against activists in the past.
Gonzalez, who grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, and graduated magnum cum laude from John Jay College of Criminal Justice last year, has long been familiar with the NYPD—though rarely appreciative of their services. A few years ago, she was a victim of intimate partner violence, and the NYPD routinely refused to help her.
“They blamed me for my own abuse,” Gonzalez said. “The police were supposed to protect me.” Her former partner is currently incarcerated for assaulting his latest girlfriend.
Gonzalez says police are familiar with her and her activism, and that as the movement to reform Stop-and-Frisk grows, so, too, does the police reaction. Gonzalez said that, the more she filmed, demonstrated, and was arrested, the more police noticed her, often calling her by name and making comments like, “we remember you,” or, “be careful walking home; it’s a long walk to 153rd Street."
“That’s when I said, ‘Okay, they know where we live.’ That was kind of scary, especially to say in front of my little sister.”
In February, Gonzalez learned the NYPD were watching her YouTube page, where she posted videos of police harassment, such as the time officers taunted Gonzalez by telling her that her dreadlocked hair smells. Shortly after she posted the video, two officers called her by name over to their police car.
9. Duke Energy CEO To Receive $44 Million Payout Despite Resigning On His First Day
(from Think Progress)
Hours after new Duke Energy CEO Bill Johnson assumed his new position following the Duke/Progress Energy merger this week, he resigned his post. But Johnson can still qualify for up to $44.4 million for his time and effort:
Despite his short-lived tenure, Mr. Johnson will receive exit payments worth as much as $44.4 million, according to Duke. That includes $7.4 million in severance, a nearly $1.4 million cash bonus, a special lump-sum payment worth up to $1.5 million and accelerated vesting of his stock awards, according to a Duke regulatory filing Tuesday night. Mr. Johnson gets the lump-sum payment as long as he cooperates with Duke and doesn’t disparage his former employer, the filing said.
Under his exit package, Mr. Johnson also will receive approximately $30,000 to reimburse him for relocation expenses.
The Duke board voted for Johnson’s resignation, and since Johnson was eligible for severance if he quit for “good reason,” he is able to collect his $44 million. Grist calculates that Johnson’s pay package comes out to $5.5 million per hour, if he actually put in a full 8-hour day.
Johnson’s golden parachute after his one day of work is emblematic of the disconnect between worker pay and CEO pay that has occurred over the last few decades. Average CEO pay is now 380 times the pay of the average worker, and CEO pay has grown 127 times faster than worker pay over the last 30 years.
from a Comment -
[According to their quarterly report, Duke Energy has 29,250 employees who actually show up day after day putting in full 8 hour days. If you took that $44,400,000 and spread it over all of those people, you could give each of them a $1500 bonus and have money left over.]
10. TED NUGENT former Rock and Roll guitarist opines -
He wishes he was in the land of Cotton
ROMNEY ENDORSER TED NUGENT: ‘I’M BEGINNING TO WONDER IF IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BEST HAD THE SOUTH WON THE CIVIL WAR’ | Ted Nugent, the American rock singer known for his conservative politics and love of guns, also believes that the country would have been a better place had slavery won out. In a column for the Washington Times today, Nugent complains about a lack of regard for states’ rights, then says, “I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.” The statement isn’t a total surprise from a man who often dons confederate flag shirts and recently made a veiled threat to kill the President. But it does underline potential political repercussions for Mitt Romney, who actively sought Nugent’s endorsement.
11. Bradley Manning Supporters, Investigated by the US Army
from RT News
The US Army has confirmed that they are investigating the Bradley Manning Support Network, an international activism group that advocates on behalf of the imprisoned accused whistleblower.
A letter from the US Army Criminal Investigation Command (USACIDC) dated May 18, 2012 has been published to the Web in which Susan Cugler, the director of the Army’s Crime Records Center, responds to a Freedom of Information Act request for information pertaining to any internal files which may involve the Bradley Manning Support Network.
“A search of the USACIDC file indexes revealed that an active investigating is in process with an underdetermined completion date,” acknowledges Cugler. The memorandum just about ends there, however, with the Army refraining from revealing any more details into the advocacy group that backs the accused whistleblower who is alleged to have distributed classified materials to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks site.
The Army invokes specific subsections of the Freedom of Information Act to brush off the FOIA request, essentially freeing itself from releasing any details of their investigation on the grounds that the release"could reasonably be expected to endanger [the] life or physical safety” of those discussed in the military’s files.
Manning, a 24-year-old private first class with the US Army, has been behind bars for nearly 800 days without trial. Military prosecutors have charged PFC Manning with aiding the enemy due to the alleged leaking of classified materials, a charge that could send him to prison for life if he is convicted. His attorneys are in the midst of a heated legal debate to hear the government’s accusations, fighting on behalf of the soldier that the materials he is accused of releasing did not have any detrimental implications for national security. Last week, attorneys for Manning were awarded permission to view some of the military’s documents that they intend to use against the soldier.
12. Going into Libor - a Cesarian CUT… maybe the Unkindest Cut of All
What's the most basic service banks provide? Borrow money and lend it out. You put your savings in a bank to hold in trust, and the bank agrees to pay you interest on it. Or you borrow money from the bank and you agree to pay the bank interest.
How is this interest rate determined? We trust that the banking system is setting today's rate based on its best guess about the future worth of the money. And we assume that guess is based, in turn, on the cumulative market predictions of countless lenders and borrowers all over the world about the future supply and demand for the dough.
But suppose our assumption is wrong. Suppose the bankers are manipulating the interest rate so they can place bets with the money you lend or repay them - bets that will pay off big for them because they have inside information on what the market is really predicting, which they're not sharing with you.
That would be a mammoth violation of public trust. And it would amount to a rip-off of almost cosmic proportion - trillions of dollars that you and I and other average people would otherwise have received or saved on our lending and borrowing that have been going instead to the bankers. It would make the other abuses of trust we've witnessed look like child's play by comparison.
Sad to say, there's reason to believe this has been going on, or something very much like it. This is what the emerging scandal over "Libor" (short for "London interbank offered rate") is all about.
Libor is the benchmark for trillions of dollars of loans worldwide - mortgage loans, small-business loans, personal loans. It's compiled by averaging the rates at which the major banks say they borrow.
So far, the scandal has been limited to Barclay's, a big London-based bank that just paid $453 million to U.S. and British bank regulators, whose top executives have been forced to resign, and whose traders' emails give a chilling picture of how easily they got their colleagues to rig interest rates in order to make big bucks. (Robert Diamond, Jr., the former Barclay CEO who was forced to resign, said the emails made him "physically ill" - perhaps because they so patently reveal the corruption.)
But Wall Street has almost surely been involved in the same practice, including the usual suspects — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America - because every major bank participates in setting the Libor rate, and Barclay's couldn't have rigged it without their witting involvement.
In fact, Barclay's defense has been that every major bank was fixing Libor in the same way, and for the same reason. And Barclays is "cooperating" (i.e., giving damning evidence about other big banks) with the Justice Department and other regulators in order to avoid steeper penalties or criminal prosecutions, so the fireworks have just begun.
There are really two different Libor scandals. One has to do with a period just before the financial crisis, around 2007, when Barclays and other banks submitted fake Libor rates lower than the banks' actual borrowing costs in order to disguise how much trouble they were in. This was bad enough. Had the world known then, action might have been taken earlier to diminish the impact of the near financial meltdown of 2008.
But the other scandal is even worse. It involves a more general practice, starting around 2005 and continuing until - who knows? it might still be going on — to rig the Libor in whatever way necessary to assure the banks' bets on derivatives would be profitable.
This is insider trading on a gigantic scale. It makes the bankers winners and the rest of us - whose money they've used for to make their bets - losers and chumps.
What to do about it, other than hope the Justice Department and other regulators impose stiff fines and even criminal penalties, and hold executives responsible?
13. War Inc. Shifts Homeward
[Watching the BLOB - when the kids were warning about a monster threatening civilization
one COP wants to throw em all in jail, the other is inclined to listen - The reasonable chief says
"we have to keep reminding him, leave the WAR back overseas !"]
by Kelley B. Vlahos, May 22, 2012
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It’s been said many times that the war is a self-sustaining industry that requires a constant threat overseas to keep the machine thriving at home. Looking at the millions if not billions of dollars spent on securing “national special security events” against its own citizens, it’s clear that protesters have become the threat that has allowed, in part, the warfare state to flourish on American soil.
Sound dramatic? One need only to look at the lockdown of our cities during these “events” — whether it be the NATO Summit in Chicago today, or preparations to militarize the cities of Tampa and Charlotte for the Democratic and Republican conventions this summer — to see that the constitutionally protected, American tradition of protest has become a reason for law enforcement to spend their quickly evaporating budgets each year on new toys and overtime — including the latest in surveillance, crowd control gear and communications equipment, not to mention the helicopters overhead and armed vehicles on the ground.
Just as important, this threat allows the federal government to extend its own powers under the Patriot Act onto Main Street, all in the order of counterterrorism and national security.
No one would dispute that the gathering of representatives from 50 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including 28 members of the military alliance in Afghanistan, warrants extra security. Indeed, we live in a world today where gunmen walk right up to U.S. members of Congress and shoot them in the head, or pack cars full of explosives on the city street. But it becomes increasingly clear, after 10 years of conventions and “special events” with little or no incident, that the specter of terrorism is being used to generate intimidating and repressive conditions, particularly against peaceful protesters, and proliferating an industry that thrives on domestic conflict and chaos.
What is this industry? Look no further than the advertisements for this year’s GovSec 2012, the annual security exposition held in Washington, D.C. In April, it promised to help “arm homeland security professionals and law enforcement professionals alike with the training and tools they need to detect, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks — from large-scale international threats to the dangers posed by homegrown extremists and lone wolves.”
According to this report, funding for the U.S. homeland security and homeland defense sector (including federal, state and local governments, and the private sector) will grow from $184 billion in 2011 to $205 billion by 2014. The market will grow from $73 billion in 2011 to $86 billion by 2014.
“The face of terrorism is constantly changing,” insisted GovSec Director Don Berey in a GovSec press release. “As a result, it is critical that those on the front lines of homeland security understand where new threats may arise and how their strategies must be adjusted to remain ever vigilant.” Adjusted, and paid for.
Thus, the endless war over there, becomes the endless war at home. Chicago is just the latest example of putting these new “strategies” to use. Talking about Chicago last week on Democracy Now!, Bill Ayers, University of Illinois professor and right-wing nemesis, explained:
There’s a mass campaign. They’re shutting Lakeshore Drive. They’re shutting the trains. They’re closing exits off the freeways. And they’re creating a kind of culture of fear. We have police officers we—who are friends of ours, we run into in coffee shops. They’ve told us that the training is focused a lot on the danger of the protesters and how you should be careful when you grab one of them, because they might have some kind of poison spike in their sleeve or something. I mean, it really is quite nuts.
At the same time, they’ve denied permits, taken permits away, given them back, been very vague about making any agreement with the protesters…we insist that this is a family-friendly, nonviolent, permitted march. And all the kind of hysteria about what’s about to happen is really brought on by the police. I don’t think anything is going to happen, except that they are creating the conditions for a police riot, once again.
Reports on Monday morning indicated that 45 people were arrested and four officers injured, including a police officer who was reportedly stabbed during a dramatic clash with protesters on Sunday night. In his remarks to reporters Sunday, Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy blamed the “black bloc” for rushing the police and precipitating the violence.
Meanwhile, according to Firedoglake.com writer Kevin Gosztola, a number of independent journalists who were videotaping and/or livestreaming the event were pulled over and interrogated at gunpoint and “under the cover of night.”
There appears to have been a conscious targeting of bloggers and livestreamers. The Chicago police, possibly with help from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI or other federal agencies, appear to be working off a list of “suspected” people or spaces where they must go “check in” on what is happening simply to ensure all is safe…
In each of these instances, the police did not inform those detained why they were being detained.
Peace activist David Swanson, who was on hand for Sunday’s events and publishes the WarIsACrime.org weblog, admitted that a “segment of the activist world plays into these police tactics, wearing bandanas, shouting curses, antagonizing police, and eroding credibility for claims that violence is all police-initiated,” but that the buildup of tension and intimidation — including Friday’s pre-dawn raid and arrest of the so-called NATO 3 on terror charges (two additional arrests make it the NATO 5) — contributed to lower than expected turnout. All five of those arrested have been tied to the “Black Bloc.”
And who knows how much these dynamics fueled the anxiety and hostility in the air between police and protesters before exploding late Sunday afternoon? They don’t call it a tinderbox for nothing.
No one can have been disappointed with the turnout, but it might have been bigger if not for the fear that was spread prior to Sunday …
The fear was the result of a massive militarized police build up, rumors of evacuations, the boarding up of windows, brutal police assaults on activists, preemptive arrests, disappearances, and charges of terrorism.
A massive crowd of activists was significantly outnumbered on Sunday by armed police, many in riot gear. They lined the march route. They swarmed off buses. They looked a little ridiculous as we marched nonviolently, just as we’d intended to do. The marching didn’t harm anyone or destroy any accumulated riches or smash any of the windows that were not boarded up.
Police did not allow the day to end without any use of their training and weapons. Not long after I left, according to numerous reports, all hell broke loose. If it hadn’t, think of how many of those people fearfully watching Sunday’s march from their high balconies would have joined in the next one and invited their friends!
The militarization aspect is uncanny and has been captured in numerous photos now circulating in places like Twitter. All we need to know is on Thursday, Chief McCarthy took to the airways to talk about his 12,000 officers doing “12-hour tours” instead of 12-hour shifts, as though policing parades and protests and keeping vigilant outside of this international gathering was indeed, going to war.
This is not surprising, given how much law enforcement now emulates the military and the military feeds on this, handing down a record $500 million in surplus equipment to local departments in 2011 alone.
This is a decade-old phenomenon, in which “the military surplus program and (police) paramilitary units feed off one another in a cyclical loop that has caused an explosive growth in militarized crime control techniques.” Federal grants help the process along, leading “to a booming law enforcement industry that specifically markets military-style weaponry to local police departments,” wrote Rania Khalek in an explosive 2011 report for Alternet, which begins with the story of a 7-year-old girl who was shot in the neck by police during a SWAT raid in Detroit.
Today, Mayberrys all across the country have tanks and M-16s, and according to one estimate, SWAT teams outfitted for convoy on Route Michigan to Ramadi are conducting some 40,000 raids a year across America. Sadly, though SWAT teams were once only used in emergency situations like a hostage crises, these paramilitary units are more inclined to use their fancy new gear to perform normal police work, like executing warrants, often resulting in botched raids and the death of innocent citizens.
An interesting map of botched SWAT raids by Cato’s Radley Balko is here.
This year’s Occupy protests have been instructive in many ways, not the least of which they have shown how police are employing their military stockpiles and all the latest crowd control devices and strategy, the result of this massive niche market that has exploded after 9/11. This industry not only hawks the latest in hardware (pepper spray, Tasers, flash grenades, smoke bombs, rubber bullets, cameras, GPS), but traffics in training and consultants that cost municipalities big bucks for the privilege.
“Why is it that the state is spending so much money on arming the police here supposedly in response to what is being planned as a peaceful protest?” said John Beecham, an anti-war protest organizer, in an interview about Chicago with The Guardian.
Turns out Chicago raised upwards of $55 million, including $19 million in federal security grants, for security, traffic control and sanitation for the summit. We know that at least $1 million was used to buy new riot gear, and $40,000 for two new Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD). Officials say they are using this “modern megaphone” as a “messaging device,” and not to produce “high pitched alarm tones,” that have been blamed for damaging the protesters’ hearing when the LRAD was used at the Pittsburgh G8 summit in 2011.
We also note that some of the biggest corporate donors to Chicago’s summit fund are Honeywell, Boeing Corp & Raytheon, all huge players in the nation’s defense contracting industry.
Meanwhile, Tampa and Charlotte will each receive $50 million in federal taxpayer funding to secure their cities in anticipation of the zombie apocalypse RNC and DNC confabs respectively. That is in addition to whatever else the state and city fathers plan to contribute for the occasion.
According to Khalek at Alternet:
The (Tampa) city council agreed to spend nearly $237,000 on a Lenco BearCat armored vehicle, which will be used in conjunction with two aging armored vehicles the city acquired through the military surplus program. Tampa Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin told the Tampa Bay Times that the trucks are strictly for the purpose of protecting officers from potential gunfire, not for day-to-day patrolling and crowd control.
Whatever would be they doing in an armored vehicle during the convention if not engaging in some variation of “crowd control”? Are they truly expecting an insurgent attack in sunny downtown Tampa? It may feel as hot in August, but it is most certainly not Baghdad.
Another $1.18 million is going toward new digital video communication technology that will allow police helicopters to transmit video to cops on the ground equipped with handheld receivers. Various news outlets report that an additional $2 million was requested to ramp up surveillance with the installation of 60 surveillance cameras in downtown Tampa, far more than the five traffic cameras the city currently has.
Meanwhile, according to Ray Reyes of The Tampa Tribune, the city has purchased $815,000 in riot gear, and $6 million for new two-way walkie-talkies. The $13.5 million already spent also includes four-wheel drive utility vehicles, and 200 bikes for patrol officers. The city is also expected to pay $25 million to train, house and feed 3,000 visiting police officers for the event.
Despite the hype, there has been no major terror threat associated with the national conventions since 9/11. Given this, it is safe to assume that not only is the massive security presence an extravagant vanity exercise for the quadrennial gathering of politicians, lobbyists and party delegates, but yet another way to justify the enormous annual budgets of the burgeoning homeland enterprise. And as someone who has been to the last two rounds of conventions, I can say the display has gotten more intense each time.
Meanwhile, instead of shrinking from it, the protest movement seems to be growing in proportion to the hyper-militarization nationwide. The gulf between “civilian” and “soldier” on the street widens, too. Bursts of violent skirmishes appear inevitable now, a self-fulfilling prophecy unfolding before our eyes. While this may be quite profitable for War Inc., the impact on the health of our society, much less the republic, may be incalculable.
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Posted by Rick Spisak at 11:53 AM