Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This Can't Wait for Next Sunday

Pope Francis has attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticising the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare".


The pope said renewal of the church could not be put off and the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy "also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion".

I heart Pope Frank.

He’s only got a little way to go to be a real human. He can start here:
[He] reiterated earlier statements that the church cannot ordain women or accept abortion. The male-only priesthood, he said, "is not a question open to discussion" but women must have more influence in church leadership.
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's Sunday

College students who were spanked as children are more likely to engage in criminal behavior, according to a new study.

Even young adults whose parents were generally loving and helpful showed higher rates of illegal activity if they’d been spanked, researchers said.

“The results show that spanking is associated with an increase in subsequent misbehavior, which is the opposite of what almost everyone believes,” said Murray Straus, co-director of the University of New Hampshire Family Research Lab. “These results are consistent with a large number of high quality peer-reviewed studies.”


Strauss said this study and only one other he knew of had empirically investigated this topic, and both found the belief was untrue.

“Spanking seems to be associated with an increased probability of subsequent child behavior problems regardless of culture and, regardless of whether it done by loving and helpful parents,” he said.


Researchers also found that college students who’d been spanked by both parents, and not just one, were even more likely to become associated with criminal behavior.


“Children need lots guidance and correction, but not by being physically attacked under the euphemism of ‘spanking,’” Straus said.

  Raw Story
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Drip, Drip, Drip

The American intelligence service - NSA - infected more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malicious software designed to steal sensitive information. Documents provided by former NSA-employee Edward Snowden and seen by this newspaper, prove this.


The NSA computer attacks are performed by a special department called TAO (Tailored Access Operations). Public sources show that this department employs more than a thousand hackers.


...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Business As Usual

According to [a] report, titled “Spooky Business,” a global network of former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA) employees work at the beck and call of corporations like Walmart, Monsanto, Coca Cola, Burger King, McDonald’s, Kraft, Shell, BP and others, undermining consumer protections and enforcing a pro-business agenda.

Walmart, for example, has an in-house “Threat Research and Analysis Group” that, according to a former employee, targets citizens’ groups and critics of the corporation’s policies. The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2006, the company wired an employee with a hidden microphone and sent him to spy on a meeting of Arkansas activists planning a protest.

  Raw Story
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Income Inequality and Health

While most Americans think of poverty in material terms, said the senate’s lone independent, its effects were more insidious and long-lasting.

The U.S. Senate subcommittee on primary health and aging met Wednesday morning to discuss the effects of poverty and stress on children, communities and health in America.


The effects of poverty on health and learning were much greater in the U.S. than other developed countries that had stronger safety nets, testified Dr. Steven Woolf, director of the Center on Society and Health and professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Obviously they have poverty in other countries, too, but there appears to be more programming and policies in place in those other countries to buffer the impact of material deprivation on families so that in effect children growing up in poor families in these other countries are more protected from the adverse effects than American children are,” Woolf said.

He also noted a Yale University study that found that other countries spent more on social programs and less on health care than the U.S., yet people in those countries tended to live longer and lead healthier lives.

  Raw Story
Just had a conversation with my sister this morning about how poverty undermines health and the possibility of escaping poverty, and now come across this article. One thing mentioned here that we hadn’t talked about was the influence of the physical environment; i.e. poor people have less access to good air, green space, etc., which also influence both physical and mental health.

Think about it.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Clarke and Dawe

You Mean We Are NOT Number One?

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has said the US and UK must do more to protect internet users’ privacy as the US has fallen to fourth place in a survey ranking countries in terms of their internet freedom.

Despite more and more people around the world having access to the internet, Berners-Lee warned that the growing tide of government-on-government surveillance and censorship is posing a threat to online freedom and the future of democracy. He made his remarks at an event to launch a global index that ranks countries according to their internet freedom in London Friday.


The league table is compiled of 81 countries, expended from 61 countries surveyed last year. It looks at various measures, including the extent of internet access, how “empowered” people are by its availability and how much censorship is employed by governments.


He also described attempts by spy agencies to crack encryption as “appalling and foolish.” He has said previously that the checks and balances that the UK and US governments are meant to have over GCHQ and the NSA have failed.

That’s us. Appalling and foolish.
Sweden was still in No. 1, with Norway coming in second. Russia and China scored poorly, coming in at 41 and 57, respectively.
Well, that’s good. We would hate to be worse than Russia and China.
No developing country has yet achieved the UN target of connecting at least 50 percent of their population to the internet.
That surprises me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Secret TPP: Furthering Corporate Takeover of the Globe

[T]he Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact [...] isn’t just a trade agreement. It slays safety regulations and labor protections, curtails communication freedoms, and re-writes domestic laws of the participating countries. It’s been called a mass assault on democracy and the biggest, most sinister corporate power grab yet.


All the negotiations, since 2008, have been going on behind thick closed doors.


[A]ccording to Kevin Reese, co-director of popularresistance.org [remember Margaret Flowers on Bill Moyers?], it gives major corporations unprecedented power.

Just this month (Sept.), the President pressured Congress to grant him extra-constitutional authority, known as “Fast Track,” to complete the TPP without congressional scrutiny.

“Fast Track” would have Congress voting up or down on the massive document without any power to discuss or amend any of it.


[Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach] suggests all of us contact our Congressmen and Senators and urge them not to abrogate their authority over trade. So does the Green Shadow Cabinet [remember Margaret Flowers on Bill Moyers?].


A Google alert on the topic for the past three or four months has shown most reports are coming from the foreign press and obscure websites, with some exceptions.


People must do their own research on this because the major media outlets aren’t taking it on.

Why would they? They might lose “access” to the White House.  Not to mention, they are owned by major corporations.
TPP will vaporize any law that interferes with making money. You might want to label the country of origin of a food item, for instance. Some Canadian beef got mad cow? No matter. They won’t label it Canadian. That would cut into the exporter’s profits. GMO? That would be discrimination. You prefer not to have your medicine from a Chinese factory. You won’t be able to know. Food and medicine that would formerly be blocked for not meeting our standards will have a red carpet.

Obama originally wanted to exempt tobacco regulations. Keep the warning labels. That has mostly gone by the wayside. Nations can now argue about tobacco regulations that hamper sales.
For a second, I wondered why he wanted to exempt tobacco.  Then I realized, the tobacco lobby has been reduced to impotency in the United States already, so Obama had nothing to lose by that stance, and something to gain by APPEARING to care.
Doctors Without Borders has heard of TPP. Its members are doing the best they can to protest the plan. It promises to keep patents on medicines longer, which would make it harder to provide affordable drugs for impoverished countries and peoples.

One Michigan Congressman is working for a “Buy Local” law. It won’t be enforceable. That would be discrimination against the far off producer under the TPP.


TPP is designed to allow major corporations to dominate business, which will hurt smaller countries most. And, he said, countries with laudable health care plans, like Japan, Australia and New Zealand, will be hard pressed to protect those plans. The TPP will ensure health care as a commodity.


Wallach pointed out that, in the latest round of negotiations, pressure is mounting for easy visas for workers to come to the U.S. This will further deflate wages for American workers. Jobs won’t have to be sent abroad for cheap labor – the cheap labor will come to the jobs.


[Rep. Alan] Grayson said,
“I can’t tell you what’s in the agreement because the U.S. Trade Representative calls it classified. But I can tell you two things about it:

1) There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret.

2) This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.

3) What they can’t afford to tell the American public is that [the rest of this sentence is classified].

I will be fighting this agreement with everything I’ve got. And I know you’ll be there every step of the way. For now, I’ve set up an e-mail address where you can ask me questions on this topic or other topics: askalan@graysonforcongress.com
Disputes under this pact won’t go to court. TPP people have got that rigged, too. The TPP creates an international tribunal. Its judges will be the lawyers and CEOS who wrote the TPP. Everyone gets screwed– except the corporations and those people working for them.
Such a deal.

Also check out the Green Shadow Cabinet article on TPP here. And Flush the TPP here.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

What's Happening in 2015?

Representatives of most of the world's poor countries have walked out of increasingly fractious climate negotiations after the EU, Australia, the US and other developed countries insisted that the question of who should pay compensation for extreme climate events be discussed only after 2015.


Hedegaard poured cold water on last week's related proposal by Brazil, that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change be asked to find a way to quantify each country's historical emissions of greenhouse gases in order to help countries establish the level of future emission cuts.

Debate on the issue has been rejected by rich countries, which fear it could lead to unacceptable costs.

[Connie Hedegaard, EU climate commissioner] conceded that rich countries had a special responsibility to cut emissions. "The whole financing discussion reflects that the developed world knows it has special responsibility. Most of what has been emitted has been done by us," she said.


Saleemul Huq, the scientist whose work on loss and damage helped put the issue of recompense on the conference agenda, said: "Discussions were going well in a spirit of co-operation, but at the end of the session on loss and damage Australia put everything agreed into brackets, so the whole debate went to waste."

Australia was accused of not taking the negotiations seriously. "They wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks throughout the negotiation. That gives some indication of the manner they are behaving in," said a spokeswoman for Climate Action Network.

They could all be out waltzing Matilda one of these days. Pack sunscreen.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

NOW You Can Squeal About Dictatorship

Venezuela's National Assembly has granted President Nicolas Maduro wide-ranging special powers to rule by decree for one year, a move that he has said is necessary to fully tackle the country's spiraling inflation.

The decree will essentially allow the president to create laws without parliamentary approval.

The US press and political elite were constantly badmouthing and calling Hugo Chavez a dictator. Apparently some still would like to lay that label on him, so that when Ryan Craggs of the Huffington Post reported a recent comment by Maduro who said "he saw a distinct correlation between youth violence and superhero idolization," Craggs had to preface it with: 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has carried the torch from his predecessor Hugo Chavez with zeal, regularly denouncing the politics and culture of the United States. It comes as little surprise, then, that Maduro would have a peculiar explanation of what lies at the root of violence in Venezuela.

Nice stretch. Superhero idolization = denouncing politics and culture of the US.

Get over it.  Hugo Chavez is dead. 

And just how far from presidential decrees are presidential signing statements?

Or this?
Just this month (Sept.), the President pressured Congress to grant him extra-constitutional authority, known as “Fast Track,” to complete the TPP without congressional scrutiny.


...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sysemic Overcollection

The National Security Agency systematically broke its own rules and collected information it wasn't supposed to, according to 1,000 pages of highly redacted classified files released for the first time by the Obama administration.

The documents include 2009 court records in which the NSA acknowledged it improperly collected data despite repeated assurances to the contrary. The NSA engaged in what John D. Bates, the presiding judge over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, called "systemic overcollection."

Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Surely not illegal.
"Virtually every" record generated by the program "included some data that had not been authorized for collection," the Guardian cites Bates as saying. Bates noted that the problems were endemic since the program’s inception.


Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released the information in response to part of an on-going civil liberties lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the government's sweeping phone-record collection activities.
Yes, the man felon who lied to Congress still has his job.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

It's the Corporate Model

In a 14-page report prepared by consultants from McKinsey & Co. (PDF) in March 2013, the [Obama] administration was alerted that the HealthCare.gov website had not undergone enough end-to-end testing and that the program’s “significant dependency” on contractors was problematic.


The Energy and Commerce Committee indicated that key administrators from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including CMS chief Marilyn Tavenner and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, were briefed on the McKinsey report in late March and early April.

But they took the Microsoft approach: roll it out and let the consumer find the bugs.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., blasted the Obama administration over the McKinsey report, saying in a statement that “on April 18, Secretary Sebelius appeared before our committee, looked us in the eye and repeatedly testified everything was ‘on track and on time.’ We now know that was not the case and the secretary was aware implementation was in trouble.”
I’ll be expecting her to need to spend more time with her family here soon.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Woman in the White House

"I hope we have a woman president in my lifetime, and I think it would be a good thing for the world as well as for America," [former US president Bill] Clinton said at a conference organised by the respected Chinese financial magazine Caijing.

He hopes that because he wants Hillary in the office, putting himself back in the White House.

We don't need the Clintons there again.  A woman might be great.  But not Hillary.  How about Jill Stein?  Margaret Flowers?  Elizabeth Warren?  Any one of them would be light years better than Hillary Clinton (or any MAN who's likely to run). 

Watch this very interesting and encouraging segment on Bill Moyers with Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers.
(I.E. doesn't want to show the video sometimes. If you have problems, go to the home page of the site: http://billmoyers.com/ or do a search for Bill Moyers Stein Flowers)
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

And if you want the links to the sites mentioned in the Moyers segment, here you go:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

And Hillarity Ensured

I almost couldn't believe it when I heard that JP Morgan Chase was going to do a live Twitter Q&A with the public – you know, all those people around the world they've been bending over and robbing for, oh, the last decade or so. On the all-time list of public relations screw-ups, it's hard to say where this decision by America's most hated commercial bank (with apologies to Bank of America, which probably finishes a 49ers-like very close second this year) to engage the enraged public on Twitter ranks. For sure, anyway, it's right up there with Abercrombie and Fitch's rollout of thong underwear for 10 year-olds and the $440,000 afterparty AIG executives threw for themselves at the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, California after securing a federal bailout.


Only on Wall Street would a bank that's about to pay out the biggest settlement in the history of settlements unironically engage the public, expecting ordinary people to sincerely ask one of their top-decision makers for career advice. The notion that this was their idea of reaching out to the public in a moment of public relations crisis – we'll take questions now on how you can become just as successful as us! – was doomed to be hilarious, and it turned out to be that and more.

Chase trotted out Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee to be pushed into the social media buzz-saw. [...] From the public's perspective, Lee basically represents the banker who foreclosed on your house and the guy who liquidated your factory in a deal financed by junk bonds, all in one.

Unsurprisingly, the public barraged him with abusive Tweets, and the bank ultimately had to cancel the Q&A.

  Rolling Stone
Go have a laugh: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/chases-twitter-gambit-devolves-into-all-time-pr-fiasco-20131115

And be sure and check out Stace Keach’s video reading of the Tweets. It’s in the article.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

It's Sunday

The Vatican has downplayed a warning that Pope Francis could be targeted by the mafia because of his reforms to Holy See financial bodies.

  Raw Story
The Mafia being the enforcement branch of corporate politics.
The warning was voiced by Nicola Gratteri, a respected state prosecutor in the southern Calabria region, who said the vicious local mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta, is “nervous” the pope is threatening its interests.

“Those who up to now have fed off the power and wealth coming directly from the Church are nervous, upset,” he said in an interview published by the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano this week.

The pope, Gratteri said, “is dismantling the Vatican’s economic centres.
I’ve been wondering how long he’ll be permitted to hold office.
Implied in Gratteri’s comments is that Italy’s mafia has its tentacles in the Vatican’s obscure financial dealings and agencies, some of which have been marred by scandal.

Since taking the papacy in March, Pope Francis has set about cleaning up the Holy See’s vast holdings and making them more transparent.

One of his first steps was to install a special commission tasked with investigating the Vatican’s bank and another to probe Vatican finances in general.

The pope has also called in a US consultancy, Promontory Financial Group, to conduct an external review of the Vatican bank’s money-laundering rules and, more recently, to look into the internal agency handling its many real estate holdings.

(h/t Raw Story)


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blocking UK Iraq War Inquiry

The US and Britain are trying to block the inquiry into the UK’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq.


It was set up in 2009. It was supposed to report in 2011. It is now being pushed back to at least the middle of next year and might be pushed back even further than that.


It makes you wonder exactly what is in these conversations between Bush and Blair. There must be quite a lot to hide for them to be so worried about them being released.


How early did they agree to the war? What were the conditions of it? Because if this was agreed when many people believe, in the spring of 2002, it means that all the effort to produce a dossier, all the pressure for the second resolution at the UN, were a charade because Tony Blair already knew that he was going to go to war.


What people are worried about is that there is maybe lots of evidence here for war crimes, for an agreement for a war over regime change, which of course is illegal under international law.

I’d say all the other evidence points to exactly that.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Friday, November 15, 2013

There Goes Another "Example"

Jeremy Hammond is a gifted young computer programmer facing a decade in prison. His crime? Leaking information from the private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, information which revealed that Stratfor had been spying on human rights activists at the behest of corporations and the U.S. government.

In a non-cooperating plea deal, Jeremy pled guilty to one count of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.


We have lodged 265 letters of support, including 36 from leading data experts and freedom of information campaigners, calling on judge Loretta Preska to show leniency towards Jeremy, a former member of the hacking network Anonymous who has become a cause célèbre for hacktivists, civil libertarians and those concerned about the rights of whistleblowers.

Since March of 2012, Jeremy has been denied bail, cut off from his family, and held in solitary confinement– treatment normally reserved for the most egregious offenses.

The release of internal emails belonging to Strategic Forecasting Inc. or Stratfor, has become one of the most successful operations ever conducted by the hacktivist group, Anonymous, which Hammond admitted to being part of. A trove of emails attributed to Stratfor executives suggested that the private company, which employs many former officials from the CIA and other government agencies, kept close ties with the security apparatus.

In particular, the emails published by WikiLeaks suggested that Stratfor was hired by private companies and government agencies alike to monitor political protesters and activists, including members of Occupy Wall Street and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

"I believe in the power of the truth," said Hammond, pleading guilty to helping liberate millions of emails from the company, which is paid by large corporations to spy on activists around the world. "I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right."


[Hammond] has spent the past 18 months in prison, including extended periods in solitary confinement.


Lauri Love, an activist from Suffolk, was arrested in Britain last month and may face extradition on charges of hacking into US government networks and a possible decade in a US jail. The legislation used to single out and lock up these people is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a flexible law that allows US courts to impose almost indefinite sentences against any crime committed with a computer, down to simple violation of terms of service.


The practical risks of hanging out the mucky bedsheets of power are decreasing just as a generation that has grown up with a weary distaste for government lies hits adulthood. Clearly, something has to be done to make them fearful again – and fast.

Internet activist Jeremy Hammond who pleaded guilty to hacking servers of the private intelligence company Statfor and leaking its information to anti-secrecy site, WikiLeaks, was sentenced to ten years in jail on Friday, November 15.


The controversial case has also ensnared the presiding judge, Loretta Preska, whose husband Thomas Kaveler was implicated in the leaked emails. Kaveler is an employee of Cahill Gordon & Reindell LLP, a Stratfor client and associate, and many Hammond supporters claimed that Preska’s impartiality is harmed by this conflict of interest. Preska denied the charge, however, and Hammond’s lawyers were unsuccessful in their attempt to force her recusal.


Another "Free Trade" Deal - in Secret, Of Course

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Thursday sent a letter to President Barack Obama's nominee to head U.S. trade negotiations, expressing concerns about the administration's lack of transparency in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal being negotiated largely in secret.


The letter signals that Warren's tough stance on bank regulation extends to other major consumer and public interest matters.

What the public does know about the TPP has been learned through leaked documents. According to those documents, the Obama administration is seeking to grant corporations the ability to directly challenge regulations in countries involved in the talks -- a political power that was typically reserved for sovereign nations until the 1990s. Obama opposed such policies as a presidential candidate in 2008. The leaked intellectual property chapter of the deal includes provisions that would increase the costs of life-saving medicines in poor countries.

[T]the idea that ideas themselves and digital goods and services are exactly like physical property, and that therefore the law should treat them the same way [...] defies both reality and the American Constitution, which expressly called for creators to have rights for limited periods, the goal of which was to promote inventive progress and the arts.


[T]he negotiators would further stiffen copyright holders' control while upping the ante on civil and criminal penalties for infringers. [...] It's Hollywood's wish list.


The medical industry has a stake in the outcome, too, with credible critics saying it would raise drug prices and, according to Love's analysis, give surgeons patent protection for their procedures.


One of TPP's most abhorrent elements has been the secrecy under which it's been negotiated. The Obama administration's fondness for secret laws, policies and methods has a lot to do with a basic reality: the public would say no to much of which is done in our names and with our money if we knew what was going on.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

These are not the first leaked documents from the secret negotiations.
June 12, 2012
Democracy Now!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Speaking of Banksters

A former Federal Reserve employee responsible for managing the agency’s quantitative easing program has written an op-ed apologizing for what he called “the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Andrew Huszar detailed his concerns about the Fed’s massive bond-buying measures. He argued that while the Reserve initially claimed the program would lower borrowing rates for average citizens, the trillion-dollar initiative primarily ended up lining the pockets of Wall Street executives.

And while he was “managing” the program, did he not think that would be the result?
“Despite the Fed's rhetoric, my program wasn't helping to make credit any more accessible for the average American,” Huszar wrote. “The banks were only issuing fewer and fewer loans. More insidiously, whatever credit they were extending wasn't getting much cheaper. QE may have been driving down the wholesale cost for banks to make loans, but Wall Street was pocketing most of the extra cash.”

What’s more, Huszar claimed that several Federal Reserve managers expressed apprehension over the effects of quantitative easing (QE) only to find their concerns ignored.

“Our warnings fell on deaf ears,” he wrote. “In the past, Fed leaders—even if they ultimately erred—would have worried obsessively about the costs versus the benefits of any major initiative. Now the only obsession seemed to be with the newest survey of financial-market expectations or the latest in-person feedback from Wall Street's leading bankers and hedge-fund managers.”
Oh. So, he did know. But he chose to keep his lucrative job and write about it after he retired, like so many who come to us after the horse has left the barn.

And don’t expect anything to change.

But, let’s have a look at something that is helping citizens, not banksters:
The Rolling Jubilee project has announced that it has helped eliminate an additional $13 million of Americans’ personal debt, bringing its total to nearly $15 million in the past year. The project is run by Occupy Wall Street activists.

According to a group press release, the $14.7 million in eliminated debt came from three different purchases. The most recent buy was announced this week. The group bought $13.5 million of medical debt held by 2,693 people across 45 states and Puerto Rico.


By sweeping up debt at cheap prices in the “secondary debt market,” the project has freed $14,734,569.87 of personal debt to date, while only spending $400,000.

“No one should have to go into debt or bankruptcy because they get sick,” said Laura Hanna, an organizer for the group.

"We thought that the ratio would be about 20 to 1," Andrew Ross, a member of Strike Debt, told the Guardian. He said the group first aimed to raise $50,000, or to eliminate $1 million in debt at the 20 to 1 ratio.

"In fact we've been able to buy debt a lot more cheaply than that,” Ross said.


"We're under no illusions that $15 million is just a tiny drop in the secondary debt market. It doesn't make a dent in the amount of debt.

"Our purpose in doing this, aside from helping some people along the way – there's certainly many, many people who are very thankful that their debts are abolished – our primary purpose was to spread information about the workings of this secondary debt market."


“So when you get called up by the debt collector, and you're being asked to pay the full amount of your debt, you now know that the debt collector has bought your debt very, very cheaply. As cheaply as we bought it. And that gives you moral ammunition to have a different conversation with the debt collector."

Rolling Jubilee
Strike Debt project

Is Elizabeth Warren Going to Make Me Waste My Time Voting?

Amid renewed speculation that she might challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination, [Elizabeth] Warren appeared at a congressional event to attack regulators for failing to tackle the problem of financial institutions that are "too big to fail".

"We have got to get back to running this country for American families, not for its largest financial institutions," said Warren, who said the issue was an indictment of how little had changed since the 2008 banking crash.

The four biggest Wall Street banks are 30% larger than before the financial crisis.

They saw an opportunity with that “too big to fail” promise, didn’t they?

And Just How "Green" Is Obama's Environmental Initiative?

With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. When President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country "stronger, cleaner and more secure."

But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and contaminated water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have been converted on Obama's watch.

Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.

Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, polluted rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive.

The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative consequences.


The numbers behind the ethanol mandate have become so unworkable that, for the first time, the EPA is soon expected to reduce the amount of ethanol required to be added to the gasoline supply.

  Big Story
Really, this is hard to understand in any way except to think that it was all a sham to appear to be “green” minded while actually favoring ethanol industrialists, because many, many years ago when ethanol was first introduced into the market, researchers and scientists were warning of this very thing. Ethanol industrialists and the farm chemicals industry - the incredible amounts of toxic chemicals used for growing corn has been a concern for decades as well, causing atrazine, one of the most widely used in US corn production, to be banned in Europe.

  ...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

In Case You've Been Missing Him

Former President George W. Bush — who has largely shunned media appearances in favor of a bit of post-presidency privacy — is poised to appear as a guest next week on “The Tonight Show.”

The ex-commander-in-chief will sit down with host Jay Leno on Nov. 19.

  The Hill
[George W.] Bush will address the [Jews for Jesus] annual fundraising gala on Thursday of this week, although the group has now scrubbed all mention of that fact from its promotional materials. Attendees are paying up to $100,000 a plate to receive the former president’s wisdom, funds that the group will use to forward its aim of hastening the apocalypse.

“The de facto job of being an ex-president,” Maddow said, “generally speaking, is to do relatively non-controversial good works. Or, if you’re George W. Bush, you could spend that time trying to convert the Jews to Christianity so we can have the Second Coming of Christ on Earth and therefore the apocalypse.”

Rabbi David Wolpe of the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles wrote about Bush’s appearance at the banquet on Twitter, saying, “This is infuriating.”

The Anti-Defamation League was softer on the former president, merely saying in a statement, “We were disappointed to learn that former President George W. Bush has decided to move ahead with his plan to speak at a fundraising event for an evangelical proselytizing group whose stated goal is to convert Jews to Christianity.”

  Raw Story
” To receive the former president’s wisdom?”

Slowly We Turn

The Hawaii Senate gave final legislative approval Tuesday to a bill extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Business As Usual

American taxpayers have unwittingly paid more than $150 million to companies throughout the Middle East that are known to have helped finance terrorist attacks on US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, according to a new internal US government report.


John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said he has encouraged the Department of Defense to cut ties only to be rebuffed.

“The reason they’ve given us is that it’s not fair to these contractors that the evidence that we’ve presented, and this is evidence collected by the United States government, is classified,” Sopko said. “That’s the absurdity of it. We can probably attack them via drone on Monday and we’ll send them a contract on Tuesday.”

An Army representative refused comment to media outlets, pointing reporters to a statement claiming the Army conducts an extensive vetting process and claims it takes allegations of terroristic activity very seriously.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Monday, November 11, 2013


On Saturday, nearly 40 armed men, women, and children waited outside a Dallas, Texas area restaurant to protest a membership meeting for the state chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun safety advocacy group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

According to a spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action (MDA), the moms were inside the Blue Mesa Grill when members of Open Carry Texas (OCT) — an open carry advocacy group — “pull[ed] up in the parking lot and start[ed] getting guns out of their trunks.” The group then waited in the parking lot for the four MDA members to come out. The spokeswoman said that the restaurant manager did not want to call 911, for fear of “inciting a riot” and waited for the gun advocates to leave.


Licensed gun owners are allowed to carry concealed weapons, but Texas is one of six states that prohibits open carry of firearms. Attorney General Greg Abbott, a likely Republican successor for Gov. Rick Perry (R), has vowed to permit concealed handgun owners to display their firearms in public. Four GOP contenders for lieutenant governor similarly hope to put in place open carry laws if elected.

I don’t know. They look pretty “open” to me. Open and in formation.

Next time, Moms, call the police.  Fear of these jackals should be part of what you are aiming to eliminate.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Bill Keller's Advice for Obama

President Obama is under water. His approval in the polls is low and sinking, his signature initiative is staggering from a combination of incompetence and sabotage, his foreign policy is a jumble. Congress is a Bermuda Triangle where the most elementary White House business disappears. The public is numbed and disgusted. Allies are theatrically furious about eavesdropping.


It’s not that I want the president to think small; by all means, address the threat of climate catastrophe and push ahead on early childhood education. But he needs to get a few wins on the scoreboard.

  Bill Keller/NYT
And he cares? He can’t have another term. He’s been more right-wing than any Republican before George W., and the Democrats are now even publicly hawks and corporate shills. Why would he bother to make any moves? His goal would seem to be to just stay in office and retire with the claim to fame of being the first black president (even though he’s just as white genetically speaking, and about as white as you can get politically).
I have no doubt that the administration will get the (ACA) system working and that the program will ultimately prove popular. But the longer it takes, the more the president squanders the already meager public confidence that he can do anything right.

If after a few more weeks the assembled experts are still struggling to make the website work, maybe it’s time to redeploy some techies from the National Security Agency.

Which brings me to...

Fire James Clapper.
A no-brainer. The man lied to Congress, which is a felony.  Why is he still there?

Keller’s other suggestions are: Double down on immigration reform; Rebalance foreign policy (toward braking China); Forget the Grand Bargain (with Republicans on economics, particularly social spending and taxes) and go for “little bargains” (jobs and growth); and Nationalize the midterm elections:
He should miss no opportunity to portray the 2014 elections not as 435 House contests and 33 Senate races, but as a national referendum on our government dysfunction.

The message could be: “Divided government has brought us paralysis and crisis and made us a global laughingstock. Send me Democrats, and we’ll get things working again. Or at least, send me Republicans with a trace of pragmatism.”
Good luck finding those.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.


We Don't Like Palestine OR Press Freedom

UNESCO on Friday suspended the voting rights of the United States and Israel, two years after both countries stopped paying dues to the U.N. cultural arm to protest its granting full membership to the Palestinians.

The U.S. decision to cancel its funding in October 2011 was blamed on American laws that prohibit funding to any U.N. agency that implies recognition of the Palestinians' demands for their own state.

The withdrawal of U.S. funding - which totaled about $240 million, or some 22 percent of UNESCO's budget - has plunged it into a funding crisis and forced it to cut programs.

UNESCO is responsible for designating World Heritage sites, promoting global education and supporting press freedom, among other tasks.


Analysts have said that by losing its vote, the United States is foregoing an important opportunity to exercise "soft power" - the ability to exert international influence through other means than brute force or money.

So? Brute force and money have worked fine for us.

Subprime Trial

The US government wants Bank of America Corp to fork over $863.6 million in damages after a federal jury found it guilty of selling subprime mortgages, the defective securities largely responsible for triggering the Great Recession in 2008.

Really? A bank pays for deceiving regular people?
The US Justice Department argued that Countrywide, which was bought by Bank of America in 2008, committed fraud by selling shoddy home loans over a two-year period to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) designed to enhance the flow of credit to targeted sectors of the economy.
Oh. Okay, for deceiving the US government. 
The amount of the penalty is based on gross losses Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac incurred on the Countrywide mortgages, the government said.
You poor slobs who fell for it and lost your homes…well, don’t be stupid next time.
The government also demanded penalties against Rebecca Mairone, a former executive at Countrywide unit who was cited in the lawsuit as having repeatedly ignored warnings about the "Hustle," otherwise known as the "High Speed Swim Lane."


Mairone, who worked at Countrywide and Bank of America from 2006 until 2012, is now employed with JPMorgan Chase & Co. She has denied any wrongdoing.

No criminal charges have been filed against Mairone or any other individual in connection with the alleged misconduct.
Well, of course not.
Bank of America is scheduled to respond to the government's penalty request by November 20.
It’s a penalty REQUEST?

Disregard this post.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Drip, Drip, Drip

According to a new report (German) by Der Spiegel, the British signals intelligence spy agency has again employed a “quantum insert” technique as a way to target employees [...] of two companies that are GRX (Global Roaming Exchange) providers.


Der Spiegel suggests that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British sister agency to the NSA, used spoofed versions of LinkedIn and Slashdot pages to serve malware to targets. This type of attack was also used to target “nine salaried employees” of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the global oil cartel.

According to a top-secret NSA presentation provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, one successful technique the NSA has developed involves exploiting the Tor browser bundle [an online anonymity network], a collection of programs designed to make it easy for people to install and use the software. The trick identifies Tor users on the Internet and then executes an attack against their Firefox web browser.

The NSA refers to these capabilities as CNE, or computer network exploitation.


The very feature that makes Tor a powerful anonymity service, and the fact that all Tor users look alike on the Internet, makes it easy to differentiate Tor users from other web users. On the other hand, the anonymity provided by Tor makes it impossible for the NSA to know who the user is, or whether or not the user is in the US.

After identifying an individual Tor user on the Internet, the NSA uses its network of secret Internet servers to redirect those users to another set of secret Internet servers, with the codename FoxAcid, to infect the user's computer.


Once the computer is successfully attacked, it secretly calls back to a FoxAcid server, which then performs additional attacks on the target computer to ensure that it remains compromised long-term, and continues to provide eavesdropping information back to the NSA.

  Bruce Schneier
SPIEGEL: What would be the consequences for Snowden if he were to return to the United States?

McCain: He'd go on trial, but he's not coming back.

SPIEGEL: Even next year when his asylum in Russia expires?

McCain: Never. President Vladimir Putin will grant him asylum indefinitely. The Russians know if they send him back that that's a lesson to other people who might defect. I'm sure that Mr. Snowden has told them everything that he possibly knows.

SPIEGEL: He denies that and says that he did not take the NSA documents to Russia.

McCain: If you believe that Mr. Snowden didn't give the Russians information that he has, then you believe that pigs can fly. And you might also believe that I am a consummate asshat.

  Der Spiegel
If you look closely, you might be able to pick out the statement that I added, and which McKnucklehead didn’t actually say.

Pigs flying:

It's Sunday

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ten Days Compared to 25 Years

Former Texas prosecutor and district court judge Ken Anderson agreed Friday to serve 10 days in jail, complete 500 hours of community service and give up his law license for hiding evidence in a 1987 murder trial that sent an innocent man to jail for nearly 25 years.

One piece of evidence he withheld was an interview with the murdered woman’s mother who said the 3-year-old son of the victim saw the murder and told his grandmother that his father wasn’t home at the time. The other piece of evidence was a report that a man in a green van had been seen going into the woods behind the victim’s home.

Oh, and Anderson will also pay a $500 fine.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Texas Only Talked About It

While most Americans went to the polls on Tuesday with nothing more than the fate of some politicians and a few ballot measures at stake, residents of 11 counties in Colorado got to decide whether or not they want to secede and form their own state. (Majorities in five counties said yes.)

Current Colorado residents aren't the only ones itching to add more stars to the American flag, even though the process is next to impossible—after obtaining local approval, a breakaway region must also get the OK from its home state's legislature, and then Congress.

While other parts of the country have their eyes on total independence from the United States, these four regions have a more modest goal: becoming the country's 51st state.

  Mother Jones
Check the article for the locations to see where the reddest of the red are.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Isn't That How We Got This Load of Crap in the First Place?


...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Doubling Down on Insider Threats

A Senate commitee approved the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act during a closed door session on Tuesday, a bill that if signed into law will allow the US National Security Agency and other departments to keep receiving funding amid an international scandal that has caused calls for reform and even abolishment of the NSA both in the US and abroad in recent months.


Next, the full chamber will weigh in on the matter before it is reconciled with a sister act by way of the House of Representatives and sent to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.


The bill, the committee wrote, “includes important provisions to enhance the conduct, accountability and oversight of the intelligence activities of the United States,” such as one intended “to protect against insider threats by adding necessary funds to deploy information technology detection systems across the intelligence community.”

The bill would also empower the Director of National Intelligence to “improve the government’s process to investigate . . . individuals with security clearances to access classified information,” while at same time “Instituting new statutory protections that protect the ability of legitimate whistleblowers to bring concerns directly to the attention of lawmakers, inspectors general and intelligence community leaders.”

Because THAT has worked so well for past whistleblowers. Protect their ability to bring concerns? Those we have heard about were all able to bring concerns, and they were all told to go away and mind their own business.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Peace Is Not Good Business

As reported on RT, Pakistan has accused the US of sabotaging peace talks between the authorities in Islamabad and the Taliban following last Friday’s drone assassination of the Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

“The murder of Hakimullah is the murder of all efforts at peace," Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisa said. "Brick by brick, in the last seven weeks, we tried to evolve a process by which we could bring peace to Pakistan and what have you [the US] done?"

The killing of Hakimullah Mehsud comes less than a month after the US effectively wrecked the Afghan government’s efforts to engage with the Taliban by capturing Latif Mehsud, Hakimullah’s lieutenant. Latif Mehsud was the man that the Afghan government hoped would be a go-between for peace talks with the Taliban. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was reported to have been furious about the US operation.

Not exactly a first.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Who Are You Going to Believe? Me Or Your Lying Eyes (& Ears)?

Despite more than two-dozen video recordings showing otherwise, President Obama said that he never promised Americans they’d be able to keep their health care plans under the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking to supporters in Washington on Monday, Obama claimed that in the past, he said, “You could keep [your plan] if it hasn’t changed since the law was passed.”

However, the Daily Caller reports that there are at least 29 videos showing the president leaving out the crucial words, “if it hasn’t changed.” Instead, he unambiguously stated numerous times that “if you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan, period.”

And, furthermore...
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called "Obamacare," may be the biggest insurance scam in history. The industries that profit from our current health care system wrote the legislation, heavily influenced the regulations and have received waivers exempting them from provisions in the law. This has all been done to protect and enhance their profits.

In the meantime, the health care crisis continues. Fewer people, even those with health insurance, can afford the health care they need because of out-of-pocket costs. The ACA continues that trend by pushing skimpy health plans with low coverage and restricted networks.

This is what happens in a market-based system of health care. People get only the amount of health care they can afford, rather than what they need. The ACA takes our failed market-based system to a whole new level by forcing the uninsured to purchase private health plans and using the government to sell and subsidize them.

  Truth Out
This is a good article, describing the realities of the ACA scam. You might want to read it all.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Does Anybody Fact Check? Or Read?

The White House and the leaders of the intelligence committee in Congress are rejecting National Security Agency-contractor Edward Snowden's plea for clemency.

"Mr. Snowden violated U.S. law," White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday about the former systems-analyst-turned-fugitive who has temporary asylum in Russia.

"He should return to the U.S. and face justice," Pfeiffer said, adding when pressed that no offers for clemency were being discussed.

Snowden made the plea in a letter given to a German politician and released Friday. In his one-page typed letter, he asks for clemency for charges over allegedly leaking classified information about the NSA to the news media. "''Speaking the truth is not a crime," Snowden wrote.

  AP News
Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive American security contractor granted temporary asylum by Russia, has appealed to Washington to stop treating him like a traitor for revealing that the United States has been eavesdropping on its allies, a German politician who met with Mr. Snowden said on Friday.

Mr. Snowden made his appeal in a letter that was carried to Berlin by Hans-Christian Ströbele, a veteran member of the Green Party in the German Parliament.


In his letter, Mr. Snowden, 30, also appealed for clemency. He said his disclosures about American intelligence activity at home and abroad, which he called “systematic violations of law by my government that created a moral duty to act,” have had positive effects.



  NY Times

Here’s the actual letter (I believe!) linked to in that NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/11/01/world/europe/02snowden-letter.html

See anything in there asking for clemency?  Or even an appeal to stop treating him like a traitor?  Me neither.

Hey! How About This Economic Recovery?

Last year the median wage hit its lowest level since 1998, revealing that at least half of American workers are being left behind as the economy slowly recovers from the Great Recession.


The median wage — half of workers make more, half less — came to $27,519 last year, virtually unchanged from 2011. Measured in 2012 dollars, the median wage was down $4.

Lowest wages in 15 years, and that’s if you HAVE a job. No to mention: prices have not gone down in that time.
But at the top, wages soared.
Bringing the AVERAGE wage up. And what a surprise.

Business As Usual

A Malaysian businessman whose company has serviced U.S. warships for 25 years stands accused of buying military secrets by lining up prostitutes, Lady Gaga tickets and other bribes for a U.S. commander.

Prosecutors in a federal court case in San Diego, Calif. say Leonard Francis, nicknamed "Fat Leonard," worked his extensive connections to obtain military secrets in a scandal that signals serious national-security breaches and corruption in the Navy.

The accusations unfolding amidst an ongoing investigation have set off high-level meetings at the Pentagon with the threat that more people, including those of higher ranks, could be implicated as the inquiry continues.


So far, authorities have arrested [Navy Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem] Misiewicz, Francis, his company's general manager of global government contracts Alex Wisidagama, and a senior Navy investigator, John Beliveau II. Beliveau is accused of keeping Francis abreast of the probe and advising him on how to respond in exchange for such things as luxury trips and prostitution services.


In October 2012, the USS George Washington was scheduled to visit Singapore and instead was redirected by the Navy to Port Klang, Malaysia, one of Francis' preferred ports where his company submitted fake contractor bids.


The company cheated the Navy out of $10 million in just one year in Thailand alone, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said.


[In 2010] Misiewicz caught the world's attention when he made an emotional return as a U.S. Naval commander to his native Cambodia, where he had been rescued as a child from the violence of the Khmer Rouge and adopted by an American woman. His homecoming was widely covered by international media.

Meanwhile, Francis was recruiting him for his scheme, according to court documents.


Within months, the Navy commander was providing Francis ship-movement schedules for the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and other ships, according to the criminal complaint.


The defendants face up to five years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery.

Wow. Five whole years. Maybe. Selling military secrets is not treasonous?

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Friday, November 1, 2013

So, Okay, Now That You KNOW...

we'll just go ahead and make it completely legal.
In a closed session, the US Senate Intelligence Committee approved legislation that codifies into law the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata.

The bill, sponsored by committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), cements bulk phone metadata collection into the business records provision (Section 215) of the Patriot Act, strengthening NSA surveillance legality allowed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).


Senate floor debate is the next step for Feinstein’s bill, though no date has been set.

So whatever it was she was mad about, it wasn't that they are collecting data on you and me.

When Will THIS Blow Wide Open?

Israeli warplanes struck a Syrian air defense base near the port city of Latakia on Thursday, US official have confirmed to media.


Another US official told CNN that the Israelis believed the base near Snobar Jableh, south of Latakia, had sensitive and sophisticated missile equipment that may have been transferred to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Earlier, Dubai-based broadcaster al-Arabiya reported two attacks carried out by the Israeli Air Forces – one in Latakia and the other one in Damascus.


There have been five previous incidents in which Israel is believed to have struck inside Syria. The first of those took place in January. In all of the alleged attacks, the reason given was that Israel feared that weapons were making their way into the hands of Hezbollah. But many critics said that it was just an excuse for a blatant direct attack inside Syria, RT’s Paula Slier explained.

In the past, Damascus has threatened to strongly retaliate against such attacks.


Like Cornered Rats

As the NSA points the finger at the Obama Administration for ordering the mass surveillance of European citizens, the White House is seeking to distance itself from the scandal, intimating the NSA was acting of its own volition.

Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the accusations, that the NSA recorded millions of European citizens’ telephone calls, in a video conference to London on Thursday. Kerry conceded that US surveillance had “reached too far” and stated that the NSA had been conducting its espionage on “automatic pilot.”

On Thursday evening, the director of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, blamed US diplomats for requests to place foreign leaders under surveillance.

During a pointed exchange with a former US ambassador to Romania, James Carew Rosapepe, Alexander said: "We, the intelligence agencies, don't come up with the requirements. The policy-makers come up with the requirements."

He added: "One of those groups would have been, let me think, hold on, oh: ambassadors."

Nasty Alexander may be exploding before he resigns. And I'm sure HE knows things about lots of people. There may be hostages.