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Archive for February 2011

INSIDE JOB- criminals are still running American finance

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“Inside Job” won the 2011 Academy Award for best documentary on Sunday night. The film’s director used his acceptance speech to deliver pointed criticism of Wall Street and the financial industry.

“Inside Job” director Charles Ferguson subjected Wall Street players, economists and bureaucrats to a fierce cross-examination to depict the economic crisis as a colossal crime perpetrated on the working-class masses by a greedy few. His film examined the financial crisis of 2008. His speech lamented the lack of accountability three years later. “Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong,” Ferguson said.

Charles Ferguson’s Oscar Speech Rips Wall Street: ‘Inside Job’ Director Levels Criticism During Acceptance

Where Are The Wall Street Indictments?

Charles Ferguson: The Financial Crisis and America’s Political Duopoly

The United States is now in the grip of a political duopoly in which both parties are thoroughly complicit. The current arrangement all but guarantees the continuing decline of the United States as a nation.

 

“Why aren’t more meltdown moguls indicted?” asks USA Today edit board: “If anyone acted and looked the part of a villain, it was the co-founder of Countrywide … The former managing director of credit rating agency Moody’s Corp. found a novel way to quadruple his company’s market share in rating mortgage-backed securities — he transferred, or fired, most of the analysts in the group … The former head of AIG’s financial products used the sterling credit of his parent company to quickly become the world’s largest insurer of the complex mortgage products Wall Street was churning out”

“You Have More Money In Your Wallet Than Bank Of America Pays In Federal Taxes” reports ThinkProgress: “…as politicians are asking ordinary Americans to sacrifice their education, their health, their labor rights, and their wellbeing to tackle budget deficits, some of the world’s richest multinational corporations are getting away with shirking their responsibility and paying nothing.”

LAT has the latest on the cost of the bailouts: “In mid-2009, [TARP] was projected to lose as much as $341 billion. That’s been reduced to $25 billion … Still, many people are worried about the long-term effects of the government actions [by setting] a dangerous precedent, opening the door to future crises … critics also said that hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money … will not come back, mainly because of … Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which combined have consumed $150 billion … most recent estimates of losses for all the various bailout efforts range from $238 billion to $380 billion. But Treasury officials think those estimates might be too high. They said the total cost of all the financial interventions is likely to be less than $140 billion … less expensive than the federal losses from the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s…”

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The Oily Billionaire Koch Bros’ Obscene Game of Monopoly

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AlterNet

Here’s an infographic from  friends at The Other 98%:

The Great American Giveaway

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excerpted from: The War Against the Republic: The Battle of Madison

Feb 24, 2011      By Richard (RJ) Eskow

Power Grab

At the risk of sounding disagreeable, it’s hard to find an “honest difference of opinion” on ideology that explains a paragraph like this one in Gov. Walker’s new bill, spotted by my eagle-eyed pal Mike Konczal: “… the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant …”

This allows the governor to bypass regulators and legislators and sell the state’s power plants, built with millions in taxpayer money to anybody he likes. This paragraph goes on to say that ” any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project.” The governor can give these plants away if he wants, and nobody can stop him.

Cui bono? Who could possibly benefit from giving the governor the ability to sell the state’s “heating, cooling, and power plants” (there are 32 of them), or “contract with a private entity” to operate them, without a bid process or any regulatory oversight?

Let’s see now: Wisconsin has nearly one million natural gas customers, so it would presumably be a company that “provides consulting, engineering, design, procurement, fabrication and construction services for the natural gas and gas processing industries worldwide” and has “been the general contractor on some of the largest natural gas plants built in the U.S.” And since there are a number of coal-fired plants on the state’s list, our corporation would need to be a “leading supplier of coal and related products typically used in industrial applications or to generate electricity.”

Those quotes were taken from the website of Koch Industries, the company whose owners are bankrolling a little-known group that’s behind initiatives like Walker’s budget proposal.

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Looting Public Assets: here come the Koch brothers!

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(updated)  x 3

First Wisconsin, then your back yard.          

This isn’t just about unions- the big scam is about power plants and a vertical monopoly for the Koch Brothers with total disregard for the public interest. In a word: looting.


This is the big issue hidden behind the bargaining conflict: selling off public assets for peanuts to corporate cronies of corrupt politicians.  We will soon be prisoners in our own country if this continues: pay a corporation to drive on your street, to cross every bridge, to use your water faucet, to flip a light switch….They’ll add exponential profits to use what used to be public utilities and infrastructure built with public funds.  The new feudalism is at the gate!

May 1933: Hitler Abolishes Unions

“On May 2nd, 1933, the day after Labor day, Nazi groups occupied union halls and labor leaders were arrested. Trade Unions were outlawed by Adolf Hitler, while collective bargaining and the right to strike was abolished. This was the beginning of a consolidation of power by the fascist regime which systematically wiped out all opposition groups, starting with unions, liberals, socialists, and communists using Himmler’s state police. Fast forward to America today, particularly Wisconsin. Governor Walker and the Republican/Tea Party members of the state legislature are attempting to pass a bill that would not only severely punish public unions (with exception for the police, fire, and state trooper unions that supported his campaign), but it would effectively end 50 years to the right of these workers to collectively bargain.”

The Koch Brothers’ End Game in Wisconsin

[Note: Now here’s a thought…] As always this has to do with money, and the union “compromise” coming down the pipe was set up to be the “booby” prize while the Koch Brothers get their “booty” prize. This is all being well-orchestrated with an end game that has absolutely nothing to do with unions. As I said in comments before, to much bewilderment, this is about power plants and a vertical monopoly the Kock Brothers have their eye on in Wisconsin. So in short: 1) Koch Brothers get their puppet Governor Walker in power 2) Governor Walker gins up a crisis 3) Democrats and Progressives take the bait and counter-protest on collective bargaining 4) Governor Walker will compromise on collective bargaining if the rest of the budget is passed as is 5) Bill passes, with trojan horse give-a-way to the Koch Brothers nested in 6) Koch Brothers will buy Wisconsin state-owned power plants for pennies on the dollar in closed unsolicitated bids for which there will be no oversight 7) Koch Brothers get the best vertical monopoly in a generation .

Scott Walker Threatens Rights and Jobs for Wall St. Billions

In a move so fitting for a hero of the modern Corporate Facist Republican Party Scott Walker today is having a hissy fit if he does not get his way. Yes, the Governor that started that state’s budget problems with huge giveaways to Corporate America now wants his plan to make workers pay for it passed at all costs. Today he is refusing to compromise and threatening to axe 1500 jobs in a recession if he does not get his way. But of course Scott Walker has already been bought and paid for and has received his marching orders. Indeed, Walker has become a foot soldier for billionaires in the War on the Working Class and is relishing his new role as “warrior” for the greediest and least patriotic among us.

Wisconsin Is a Battleground Against the Billionaire Kochs’ Plan to Break Labor’s Back

By Adele M. Stan | AlterNet

What’s at stake in Wisc: Public Assets No-Bid Give-Away to Koch brothers

The fight in Wisconsin is over Governor Walker’s 144-page Budget Repair Bill. But the MSM is missing a large part of what the bill would do. The bill would allow for the NO-BID selling of state-owned heating/cooling/power plants, without concern for the legally-defined public interest. The attempt to break labor is part of the same continuous motion as saying that the crony, corporatist selling of state utilities to the Koch brothers and other energy interests is the new “public interest.”

A CMD Special Report: Scott Walker Runs on Koch Money

Madison, Wisconsin — A new investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy documents the big money funneled by one of the richest men in America and one of the richest corporations in the world to put controversial Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in office.

Walker’s hidden energy agenda was evident even before he took office:

Walker kills project to convert power plant to burn biofuels

***

Addendum: thanks to Mike Konczal at Rortybomb

Shawn Doherty in Cap Times has a great article on Governor Walker going after Medicaid.   I’ve been trying to get my head around this part of the debate, a part equally important as the public union breaking part.  The ability for a Governor to rework important state functions without oversight and without some sort of check for the “public interest” leads to crony deals and corruption. Jonathan Cohn has an important followup, where he points out the telling idea that Walker is even going after Tommy Thompson’s reforms.

Item from August, 2010:

COVERT OPERATIONS The billionaire brothers [owners of Koch Industries, Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, 74 and 70, respectively, at date of publication  8/30/2010],  are waging a war against Obama

Rupert Murdoch and David Koch Collude Against Wisconsin Workers

While Fox News feeds its rabble the anti-union line, Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal columnists front for Koch’s Americans for Prosperity and coddle elite investors

Confirmed: Union-Bashing Right-Wing Media Stars Hannity, Limbaugh and O’Reilly Are AFL-CIO Union Affiliated Members

In spite of their criticism of unions in Wisconsin, AlterNet has confirmed that leading right-wing pundits are American Federation Television and Radio Artists union members.

Emergency! Pathogen New to Science Found in Roundup Ready GM Crops?

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Update below

USDA senior scientist sends “emergency” warning

to US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on a new plant pathogen in Roundup Ready GM soybean and corn that may be responsible for high rates of infertility and spontaneous abortions in livestock

Feb 21, 2011 Institute of Science in Society Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

An open letter appeared on the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance founded and run by Judith McGeary to save family farms in the US [1, 2].  The letter, written by Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, warns of a pathogen “new to science” discovered by “a team of senior plant and animal scientists”. Huber says it should be treated as an “emergency’’, as it could result in “a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies.”

The letter appeared to have been written before Vilsack announced his decision to authorize unrestricted commercial planting of GM alfalfa on 1 February, in the hope of convincing the Secretary of Agriculture to impose a moratorium instead on deregulation of Roundup Ready (RR) crops.

The new pathogen appears associated with serious pervasive diseases in plants – sudden death syndrome in soybean and Goss’ wilt in corn – but its suspected effects on livestock is alarming.  Huber refers to “recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.”

This could be the worst nightmare of genetic engineering that some scientists including me have been warning for years [3] (see Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare, ISIS publication): the unintended creation of new pathogens through assisted horizontal gene transfer and recombination.

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Accounting Fraud- evidently now legal, bankers above the law

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“Where are the Handcuffs?” Why Aren’t Bankers in Jail?

MSNBC—Feb. 17, 2011—Dylan Ratigan discusses recent subpoenas and what else needs to happen to hold Wall Street accountable.

Cenk Uygur speaks with Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi on why crooks on Wall Street go unpunished (often while taking home enormous sums of money).

and here’s Matt’s Rolling Stone article: 

Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?

By Matt Taibbi      RollingStone Feb 16, 2011

Financial crooks brought down the world’s economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them

Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

“Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail,” he said. “That’s your whole story right there. Hell, you don’t even have to write the rest of it. Just write that.”

I put down my notebook. “Just that?”

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Army admits Gulf War medical records destroyed- letter ordering destruction found

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Feb. 11, 2011                  AZcentral
WTSP-TV, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. –

A letter from the Department of the Army telling units to destroy their records after the end of Operation Desert Storm has made it more difficult for injured veterans to get the medical benefits they need.

The letter, never made public before now, says units were told to destroy their records because officials had no room to ship the paperwork back to the United States. The letter goes on to say it was in direct contradiction to existing Army regulations.

“This could have been one, five, six, a couple of hundred or this could be thousands (of soldiers),” says Andrew Marshall, a Florida regional officer with the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans group. “You don’t know.”

One solider trying to get help from the Veterans Administration for combat-related injuries says he has been turned down because his records are missing. He did not want to be identified.

He says he has all the medical records for the time he was in the states, but the records for everything that happened outside of the country are gone.

Marshall says the Army should have backups to the records destroyed in the Persian Gulf.

But the Army’s letter says several years after soldiers began putting in medical claims, it was discovered all records below the brigade level no longer existed.

Operation Desert Storm pushed Iraqi troops out of Kuwait but kept Saddam Hussein in power and lasted from Aug. 2, 1990, to the cease-fire April 11, 1991. In the conflict, 383 service members died; as of last year, 467 were reported injured. About 2.225 million troops served in the war, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Not just the after-action reports have been destroyed or are missing. According to some files, when some veterans come to the Veterans Administration to get help for service-related disabilities, records show they served, but medical records are missing.

That means when the vets make claims, they are turned down.

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