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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 02/05/2012 - 02/12/2012
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"Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it."
- Noam Chomsky
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why are SOME terrorist organizations not treated as terrorist organizatons?

inquiring minds want to know...


[T]hose who are politically and financially well-connected are free to commit even the most egregious crimes; for that reason, the very idea of prosecuting [Rudy] Giuliani, [Ed] Rendell, [Tom] Ridge, [Fran] Townsend, [Howard] Dean and friends for their paid labor on behalf of a Terrorist group [Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK)] is unthinkable, a suggestion not fit for decent company, even though powerless Muslims have been viciously prosecuted for far less egregious connections to such groups. But this incident also underscores the specific point that the term Terrorism is so completely meaningless, manipulated and mischievous: it’s just a cynical term designed to delegitimize violence and even political acts undertaken by America’s enemies while shielding from criticism the actual Terrorism undertaken by itself and its allies. The spectacle whereby a designated Terrorist group can pay top American politicians to advocate for them even as they engage in violent Terrorist acts, all while being trained, funded and aided by America’s top client state, should forever end the controversy over that glaringly obvious proposition.

but, glenn, terrorism is whatever we say it is and, besides, it's NEVER terrorism when WE do it...

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Obama the neo-con is no longer in the closet

for those of us who've been waiting for obama to rip off his mask and reveal his true self, andrew levine, writing in counterpunch, claims that has now happened...
[W]ith what remains of organized labor finally beginning to fight back, and with the Occupy movements of last fall getting ready to burst forth again, American politics is no longer just an electoral circus in which two semi-established parties huckster their offerings to “moderate” voters. Because Democrats and Republicans are beholden to the same interests and because there are few differences between them that are not merely stylistic or cosmetic, our electoral politics has long been mainly of sociological or even clinical interest; what called for an explanation was why two such likeminded parties became so polarized, why they couldn’t “all just get along.” Now we have more important things to concern us; real politics is back.

But Obama is still relevant, especially in an election year, when our media can be counted on to work overtime covering every facet of the horse race, while ignoring matters of graver consequence. It is therefore timely to reflect on the trajectory of Obama’s governance to this point, and on one rather startling development in the Obama story that has emerged in recent weeks – his newfound willingness to trumpet neoconservative ideas.

Obama, or at least the Obama of term one, will be remembered, above all, for disappointing the hopes of the constituencies that put him in office. He will also be remembered not just for having raised the level of ambient hypocrisy, but for the audacity with which he talks the talk, while walking a very different walk. The more Obama waxes ‘populist,’ the better the rich do, and the more corporate criminality flourishes. The more he speaks of peace, the more the drones fly, and the more his very own Murder Incorporated (Navy Seals and the rest) spread murder and mayhem.

He gets away with it, in large part, because he’s good at fooling some of the people all of the time – not all liberals, but a sizeable number of them. Once it becomes clear to all that the Republicans will nominate their least scary contender, expect those liberals to make fools of themselves big time. No longer can they make a case for Obama by playing up the absurdity of a Trump or Cain or Bachmann presidency. Soon, they won’t have Newt Gingrich to kick around any more either. Expect Rick Santorum too to go the way of what Google says he is — unless, as in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, Romney again miscalculates and underspends.


But Obama’s readiness of late to signal approval for neoconservative ideology marks a new departure. What makes it all the more astonishing is how unnecessary it is. It is not as if anything is changing at the policy level. In deeds, not words, Obama has always been a practicing neocon; from Day One he could justifiably have declared “we are all neoconservatives now.” But he had too much sense to do anything of the sort — then.


Unless we have all been wrong about how smart Obama is, it could hardly be because he finds neocon musings intellectually engaging. And we can only hope that he isn’t testing the waters, seeing how much liberals of the Obama-is-the-best-of-all-possible-presidents school will accept. The most likely explanation is that, with an election coming, this is a calculated move on Obama’s part to close what space there is that separates him from Romney, the better to capture the rightward veering center.

Whatever the cause, there are indications of late that Obama has taken on board Kagan’s main contention – that American power is not in decline; that, quite the contrary, we are on the threshold of another glorious American century. The plain implication is that there is no hard crash in the offing, and therefore no need for the empire to change course. American world dominance isn’t over yet, and won’t be for the foreseeable future. And for this, the argument goes, the world can only be grateful.


But until now he has at least tried to be discreet about it; he was just a closet neocon. Now that is changing. Is it because he feels that the pressure to go to war against Iran is becoming irresistible, and that the wisest course for him, in an election year, is: if you can’t beat them, to join them? All that is clear for now is that the neocon con is back, and that it is happening not just in the Romney campaign – and, for what difference it makes, also in Gingrich’s and Santorum’s — but also, blatantly, at Obama’s instigation.

at least perhaps now, we can step away from the cognitive dissonance that has plagued those of us who have continued to cling to the "hope and change" mantra...

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Yves Smith: top 12 reasons why the mortgage deal stinks

jumping to the closing line, "...this settlement is yet another raw demonstration of who wields power in America, and it isn’t you and me"... we knew that, though, didn't we...?

yves smith writing in naked capitalism...

1. We’ve now set a price for forgeries and fabricating documents. It’s $2000 per loan. This is a rounding error compared to the chain of title problem these systematic practices were designed to circumvent. The cost is also trivial in comparison to the average loan, which is roughly $180k, so the settlement represents about 1% of loan balances. It is less than the price of the title insurance that banks failed to get when they transferred the loans to the trust. It is a fraction of the cost of the legal expenses when foreclosures are challenged. It’s a great deal for the banks because no one is at any of the servicers going to jail for forgery and the banks have set the upper bound of the cost of riding roughshod over 300 years of real estate law.

2. That $26 billion is actually $5 billion of bank money and the rest is your money. The mortgage principal writedowns are guaranteed to come almost entirely from securitized loans, which means from investors, which in turn means taxpayers via Fannie and Freddie, pension funds, insurers, and 401 (k)s. Refis of performing loans also reduce income to those very same investors.

3. That $5 billion divided among the big banks wouldn’t even represent a significant quarterly hit. Freddie and Fannie putbacks to the major banks have been running at that level each quarter.

4. That $20 billion actually makes bank second liens sounder, so this deal is a stealth bailout that strengthens bank balance sheets at the expense of the broader public.

5. The enforcement is a joke. The first layer of supervision is the banks reporting on themselves. The framework is similar to that of the OCC consent decrees implemented last year, which Adam Levitin and yours truly, among others, decried as regulatory theater.

6. The past history of servicer consent decrees shows the servicers all fail to comply. Why? Servicer records and systems are terrible in the best of times, and their systems and fee structures aren’t set up to handle much in the way of delinquencies. As Tom Adams has pointed out in earlier posts, servicer behavior is predictable when their portfolios are hit with a high level of delinquencies and defaults: they cheat in all sorts of ways to reduce their losses.

7. The cave-in Nevada and Arizona on the Countrywide settlement suit is a special gift for Bank of America, who is by far the worst offender in the chain of title disaster (since, according to sworn testimony of its own employee in Kemp v. Countrywide, Countrywide failed to comply with trust delivery requirements). This move proves that failing to comply with a consent degree has no consequences but will merely be rolled into a new consent degree which will also fail to be enforced. These cases also alleged HAMP violations as consumer fraud violations and could have gotten costly and emboldened other states to file similar suits not just against Countrywide but other servicers, so it was useful to the other banks as well.

8. If the new Federal task force were intended to be serious, this deal would have not have been settled. You never settle before investigating. It’s a bad idea to settle obvious, widespread wrongdoing on the cheap. You use the stuff that is easy to prove to gather information and secure cooperation on the stuff that is harder to prove. In Missouri and Nevada, the robosigning investigation led to criminal charges against agents of the servicers. But even though these companies were acting at the express direction and approval of the services, no individuals or entities higher up the food chain will face any sort of meaningful charges.

9. There is plenty of evidence of widespread abuses that appear not to be on the attorney generals’ or media’s radar, such as servicer driven foreclosures and looting of investors’ funds via impermissible and inflated charges. While no serious probe was undertaken, even the limited or peripheral investigations show massive failures (60% of documents had errors in AGs/Fed’s pathetically small sample). Similarly, the US Trustee’s office found widespread evidence of significant servicer errors in bankruptcy-related filings, such as inflated and bogus fees, and even substantial, completely made up charges. Yet the services and banks will suffer no real consequences for these abuses.

10. A deal on robosigning serves to cover up the much deeper chain of title problem. And don’t get too excited about the New York, Massachusetts, and Delaware MERS suits. They put pressure on banks to clean up this monstrous mess only if the AGs go through to trial and get tough penalties. The banks will want to settle their way out of that too. And even if these cases do go to trial and produce significant victories for the AGs, they still do not address the problem of failures to transfer notes correctly.

11. Don’t bet on a deus ex machina in terms of the new Federal foreclosure task force to improve this picture much. If you think Schneiderman, as a co-chairman who already has a full time day job in New York, is going to outfox a bunch of DC insiders who are part of the problem, I have a bridge I’d like to sell to you.

12. We’ll now have to listen to banks and their sycophant defenders declaring victory despite being wrong on the law and the facts. They will proceed to marginalize and write off criticisms of the servicing practices that hurt homeowners and investors and are devastating communities. But the problems will fester and the housing market will continue to suffer. Investors in mortgage-backed securities, who know that services have been screwing them for years, will be hung out to dry and will likely never return to a private MBS market, since the problems won’t ever be fixed. This settlement has not only revealed the residential mortgage market to be too big to fail, but puts it on long term, perhaps permanent, government life support.

As we’ve said before, this settlement is yet another raw demonstration of who wields power in America, and it isn’t you and me. It’s bad enough to see these negotiations come to their predictable, sorry outcome. It adds insult to injury to see some try to depict it as a win for long suffering, still abused homeowners.

repeating myself from the previous post, it's sad, so very sad...

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Robert Scheer: Our elections are a hoax

so very, very sad...

robert scheer writing in truthdig...

Our own elections, the ones our government has modeled for the world, are a hoax. What other word should we use to describe this year’s presidential election, whose outcome will turn on which party’s super PACs gets the most generous bribes from billionaires? The Republicans, enabled by decisions of a Supreme Court they still control, were the first out of the gate and are far more culpable in destroying our system of popular governance. But the Democrats, no less committed to winning at any cost to political principle, have now jumped in.

The generally reserved New York Times editorial page responded to the Obama campaign’s decision to seek super PAC funding with a scathing editorial headlined “Another Campaign for Sale.” The Times reminded that Barack Obama, in his State of the Union speech two years ago, called out the Supreme Court justices sitting before him over their decision to free special interests from campaign spending limits. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests,” Obama said then. “They should be decided by the American people.” But sadly, as the Times editorial noted this week, “On Monday, the President abandoned that fundamental principle and gave in to the culture of the Citizens United decision that he once denounced as a ‘threat to our democracy.’ ”


Once again he has failed to take that case for economic justice to the American people and instead validated the Republican assault on what remains of our democracy.

and, with breakneck speed, we are headed to yet another presidential election where the choices are not really choices at all... i'm both angry and embarrassed that i actually thought 2008 presented a choice... silly me...

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Utter, craven, liberal, progressive, Democratic hypocrisy

i confess to simply not understanding how those who profess to hold the deepest and most fundamental values and principles suddenly turn their back on them out of political expediency...


I’ve often made the case that one of the most consequential aspects of the Obama legacy is that he has transformed what was once known as “right-wing shredding of the Constitution” into bipartisan consensus, and this is exactly what I mean. When one of the two major parties supports a certain policy and the other party pretends to oppose it — as happened with these radical War on Terror policies during the Bush years — then public opinion is divisive on the question, sharply split. But once the policy becomes the hallmark of both political parties, then public opinion becomes robust in support of it. That’s because people assume that if both political parties support a certain policy that it must be wise, and because policies that enjoy the status of bipartisan consensus are removed from the realm of mainstream challenge. That’s what Barack Obama has done to these Bush/Cheney policies (**see below): he has, as Jack Goldsmith predicted he would back in 2009, shielded and entrenched them as standard U.S. policy for at least a generation, and (by leading his supporters to embrace these policies as their own) has done so with far more success than any GOP President ever could have dreamed of achieving.

like i say, i just don't get it... as hard as it is to admit, i'm more outraged now than i was under the bush administration and i have trouble finding that even possible...
**[T]he notion that the President could do whatever he wants, in secret and with no checks, to anyone he accuses without trial of being a Terrorist – even including eavesdropping on their communications or detaining them without due process. But President Obama has not only done the same thing, but has gone much farther than mere eavesdropping or detention: he has asserted the power even to kill citizens without due process. As Bush’s own CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden said this week about the Awlaki assassination: “We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him but we didn’t need a court order to kill him. Isn’t that something?” That is indeed “something,” as is the fact that Bush’s mere due-process-free eavesdropping on and detention of American citizens caused such liberal outrage, while Obama’s due-process-free execution of them has not.Beyond that, Obama has used drones to kill Muslim children and innocent adults by the hundreds. He has refused to disclose his legal arguments for why he can do this or to justify the attacks in any way. He has even had rescuers and funeral mourners deliberately targeted. As Hayden said: ”Right now, there isn’t a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel.” But that is all perfectly fine with most American liberals now that their Party’s Leader is doing it...

three cheers for a democratic president... < /snark >

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Same crappy ol' news day...

sometimes i just can't quite muster the energy to post when all that's out there is the same old shit...

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The U.S. Constitution: "America is in danger ... of becoming something of a legal backwater"

this nyt article makes explicit what has been too long left unsaid - the u.s. constitution no longer serves us well...
The rights guaranteed by the American Constitution are parsimonious by international standards, and they are frozen in amber. As Sanford Levinson wrote in 2006 in “Our Undemocratic Constitution,” “the U.S. Constitution is the most difficult to amend of any constitution currently existing in the world today.” (Yugoslavia used to hold that title, but Yugoslavia did not work out.)

Other nations routinely trade in their constitutions wholesale, replacing them on average every 19 years. By odd coincidence, Thomas Jefferson, in a 1789 letter to James Madison, once said that every constitution “naturally expires at the end of 19 years” because “the earth belongs always to the living generation.” These days, the overlap between the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and those most popular around the world is spotty.

my deepest desire, if only a cherished fantasy, is to see the u.s. convene a constitutional convention... at least the subject is at last being broached...

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Monday, February 06, 2012

Bradley Manning nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

yes, i'm liking it...

from rt...

The name of Private Bradley Manning - a U.S. soldier accused of passing classified material to the whistle blowing website Wikileaks has consistently made it into the headlines, mostly in connection with his trial. But now his name is now on a different list - that of over 200 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. His nomination was put forward by the parliamentary group called "The Movement" in the Icelandic Parliament. One of its members Birgitta Yonsdottir says Manning deserves the nomination because it's not a crime to blogger-whistle on war-crimes.

if anyone sees this report on any traditional u.s. news outlet, please let me know...

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Romney's Bain & Co., a job "cremator," now advising American Airlines on how to kill their unions, their pensions and their workforce

ain't this sweet...
As Mitt Romney campaigns in today’s Florida presidential primary, airline workers have been following him with a message about one of his old company’s newest clients: Airline giant AMR, the parent company of American Airlines and American Eagle. AMR, which filed for bankruptcy in November, last week announced plans to retain the advice of Bain & Co., the consulting firm where Romney worked before co-founding private equity firm Bain Capital in 1985.

“He’s talking about creating jobs,” says Transport Workers Union President James Little, but “he’s not a job creator. He’s a job cremator.” TWU represents 24,000 members at American Airlines and American Eagle whose jobs and benefits are threatened in the bankruptcy process.

AMR’s retention of Bain (for consulting on its American Eagle subsidiary) came out the same week as news that AMR had contributed less than $7 million to its pension fund, out of a normally required $100 million, for the month of January. Days later, AMR increased its contribution. “I have a hard time sitting back,” says Little, “when the company is taking hard-earned money…to pay $525,00 a month to have this company come in and tell them how to cut heads.”


Reporter Terry Maxon predicted Sunday in the Dallas Morning News that AMR’s proposal tomorrow will include replacing all pensions with a 401(k), outsourcing thousands of jobs, and requiring employees to pay more of the cost of their health insurance. Maxon says those predictions were based on “conversations, management proposals in contract talks and what other airlines adopted” in their own bankruptcies.

this has all the makings of a deadly cocktail for romney, bain and american... unfortunately, american employees and retirees will still be the ones who get screwed...

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Yves Smith in Naked Capitalism: the mortgage "settlement" is a stealth bank bailout

and why would we be surprised...?

Schneiderman MERS Suit and HUD’s Donovan Remarks Confirm That Mortgage “Settlement” is a Stealth Bank Bailout

In case you had any doubts about what the mortgage settlement was really about and why banks that were so keenly opposed to it are now willing to go ahead, the news of the last two days should settle any doubts.

As we had indicated earlier, one of the many leaks about the settlement showed that there had been a major shift its parameters. Of the $25 billion that has been bandied about as a settlement total for the biggest banks, comparatively little (less than $5 billion) is in cash. The rest comes in the form of credits for principal modifications of mortgages.

Originally, that was to come only from mortgages held by banks, meaning they would bear the costs. The fact that this meant that whether a homeowner might benefit would be random (were you one of the lucky ones whose mortgage had not been securitized?) was apparently used as an excuse to morph the deal into a huge win for them: allowing the banks to get credit for modifying mortgages that they don’t own.

The first rule of finance (well, maybe second, “fees are not negotiable” might be number one) is always use other people’s money before your own. So giving the banks permission to modify loans they don’t own guarantees that that is where the overwhelming majority of mortgage modifications will take place, ex those the banks would have done anyhow on their own loans. And the design of the program, that securitized loans will be given only half the credit towards the total, versus 100% for loans the banks own, merely assures that even more damage will be done to investors to pay for the servicers’ misdeeds.

Let me stress: this is a huge bailout for the banks. The settlement amounts to a transfer from retirement accounts (pension funds, 401 (k)s) and insurers to the banks. And without this subsidy, the biggest banks would be in serious trouble

Why? As leading mortgage analyst Laurie Goodman pointed out in a late 2010 presentation, just over half of the private label (non Fannie/Freddie) securitizations have second liens behind them (overwhelmingly home equity lines of credit). Moreover, homes with first liens only have far lower delinquency rates than homes with both first and second liens. Separately, various studies have found that defaults are also correlated with how far underwater a borrower is. If a borrower is too far in negative equity territory, it makes less sense for them to struggle to stay current, no matter how much they love their home.


The Obama Administration may have decided that investors have acted enough like patsies, given how they have failed to react to rampant servicer abuses, that they judge the risk of investor litigation and a related PR embarrassment to be small. But this battle is not yet over. The rumblings I am hearing from investor-land remind of the sections of the Lord of the Rings when the Ents were finally roused. It isn’t yet clear that investors will act, but if they do, the Administration will be unprepared for the vehemence of their response.

great... let's throw even MORE money at the criminal banksters...

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Learning Without Frontiers - Noam Chomsky on the Purpose of Education

chomsky contrasts education as inquiry, search, creativity, self-expression and a quest for understanding with the concept of education as a system to ensure social order and conformity...
Noam Chomsky discusses the purpose of education, impact of technology, whether education should be perceived as a cost or an investment and the value of standardised assessment. Presented at the Learning Without Frontiers Conference - Jan 25th 2012, London.

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The American Empire is reaching a terminal point

almost three hours of chris hedges... nothing we don't know but, still, a fairly decent run-down of what we're experiencing both individually and as a nation...

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The U.S. considers Iran to be a threat...?

izzat so... let's go to the visuals...

first, a comparison of military spending, iran vs. the u.s...


now, let's look at a map of the u.s. military bases that literally surround iran...


glenn comments...
Indeed: imagine if the blue in that map were the U.S. (rather than Iran), and the large red areas were Mexico and Canada (rather than Iran’s neighbors), and the stars represented Iranian military bases. Then further imagine that Iranian political leaders and media figures routinely told their population that it was the U.S. that was an aggressive, threatening power that had to be stopped: the mocking condemnations of that level of propaganda would be endless. Yet American political officials and commentators feel free to insist, with a straight face, that Iran is an aggressor nation posing a serious threat to the U.S.: such a serious threat, in fact, that war may be necessary to stop it. And there is, tragically, little doubt that if there is an attack on Iran by Israel — with direct U.S. involvement or, more likely, U.S. support and approval — there will be little opposition in either American political party, and even less challenge to the ludicrous claims about the Grave Iranian Threat that will be invoked to justify it.

yesterday, in response to the incessant sabre-rattling, people took to the streets...
Hundreds of protesters demonstrated Saturday in New York and pacifist groups took to the streets in dozens of other US and Canadian cities in a "Day of Mass Action" against a possible war with Iran.

About 500 protesters gathered in Manhattan's Times Square and marched to headquarters of the US mission to the United Nations and to the Israeli consulate.

"No war, no sanctions, no intervention, no assassinations," read a banner leading the march.

The demonstrations came as Europe and the United States slapped tough new sanctions on Iran, and Israel this week launched new threats of military intervention if the Islamic republic fails to rein in its suspected nuclear development program.

There is heightened speculation that Israel is contemplating air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, fueled in part by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's comments to the Washington Post in which he said he believes there is a "strong possibility" that Israel will launch such air strikes this spring.

our super-rich elites know how effective war is as a tool to keep the u.s. population in line... so far, that strategy has bought them almost ten and a half years counting from the time of the start of the afghanistan war through the iraq war and right on to the present day... now, with iraq "finished" and afghanistan slated to "wind down" soon, i'm sure they're just itching to get another one going... my prediction...? this time it's not going to happen...

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