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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 06/17/2012 - 06/24/2012
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The increasingly corrupt banking industry and the multiple ways the U.S. Government continues to prop it up [UPDATE]

glenn highly recommends the following moyers & company youtube clip and, after watching it, i strongly concur...
If you can find 25 minutes or so this weekend, I can’t recommend highly enough this segment from this week’s Bill Moyers program, with Yves Smith and Matt Taibbi, discussing the increasingly corrupt banking industry and the multiple ways the U.S. Government continues to prop it up.


here's a link and a few paragraphs from matt taibbi's rolling stone article from 21 June...
[T]his just-completed trial in downtown New York against three faceless financial executives really was historic. Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street.

The defendants in the case – Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm – worked for GE Capital, the finance arm of General Electric. Along with virtually every major bank and finance company on Wall Street – not just GE, but J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia and more – these three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from "virtually every state, district and territory in the United States," according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being ­cheated. No thumbs were broken, and nobody ended up in a landfill in New Jersey, but money disappeared, lots and lots of it, and its manner of disappearance had a familiar name: organized crime.

In fact, stripped of all the camouflaging financial verbiage, the crimes the defendants and their co-conspirators committed were virtually indistinguishable from the kind of thuggery practiced for decades by the Mafia, which has long made manipulation of public bids for things like garbage collection and construction contracts a cornerstone of its business. What's more, in the manner of old mob trials, Wall Street's secret machinations were revealed during the Carollo trial through crackling wiretap recordings and the lurid testimony of cooperating witnesses, who came into court with bowed heads, pointing fingers at their accomplices. The new-age gangsters even invented an elaborate code to hide their crimes. Like Elizabethan highway robbers who spoke in thieves' cant, or Italian mobsters who talked about "getting a button man to clip the capo," on tape after tape these Wall Street crooks coughed up phrases like "pull a nickel out" or "get to the right level" or "you're hanging out there" – all code words used to manipulate the interest rates on municipal bonds. The only thing that made this trial different from a typical mob trial was the scale of the crime.

the scale of corruption is breathtaking...

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Friday, June 22, 2012

A Taliban massacre in Qargha at the same place I had lunch in 2008

Qargha Lake near Kabul

i went to lunch at qargha lake in 2008 with two afghan friends and colleagues... we sat out in the garden at tables under the trees at the very same spot and the very same hotel where this massacre took place... i was supposed to attend a wedding anniversary celebration there last year but my security manager put his foot down...
At least 15 civilians were killed when seven Taliban militants shot their way into a popular lakeside resort here and took scores of hostages, Afghan officials said on Friday.

The seven attackers, a police officer and three private guards also died as Afghan security forces fought their way into the compound to end the siege.

The onslaught lasted nearly 11 hours as Afghan security forces tried to rescue hostages and the hotel's other customers.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Afghans drank alcohol there and that there was prostitution and dancing. "These acts are illegal and strictly prohibited in Islam," said Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman. He added that: "Women dancers were sexually misused there."

Police officials described the sprawling resort at Qargha lake and the Spozhmai hotel, where the drama unfolded, as a daunting place to mount a rescue operation because it is wooded and easy for attackers to hide. In addition to the main hotel, there is at least one other hotel and numerous small cottages.

"The Afghan security forces managed to evacuate 250 to 300 customers at the hotel in the initial hours of the attack and in the morning we resumed our operation and so far we've managed to rescue 40 more hostages including women and children," said General Ayoub Salangi, the Kabul police chief.

"We also rescued four men who were stuck in the water," he said, referring to guests at the hotel who in the initial moments of the attack jumped into the lake. Because they could not swim, they had to cling to the stone sea wall, immersed in the chilly mountain waters until they were fished out by police in the morning.

it's so sad... qargha is one of the very few places kabul residents can go to get away from the city and enjoy a rare, brief moment in nature and a moment or two of enjoyment... it's terrorism, pure and simple...

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The global financial collapse edges ever closer

breaking news from the financial times...

Moody's downgrades biggest global banks

Fifteen of the biggest global banks were downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service on Thursday, adding to pressure on their borrowing costs and triggering multi-billion dollar collateral calls.
Morgan Stanley, seen as the most vulnerable, escaped the three-notch downgrade that Moody’s had threatened but saw its rating cut from A2 to Baa1, three notches above “junk”.

Stock markets fell as anticipation of the downgrades, which came after US markets closed, added to fears over the global economy. Shares in Bank of America, Citigroup and RBS fell by more than 3 per cent by the closing bell. The S& P 500 closed down 2.2 per cent at 1,325.51.

bring it on... i've been praying for this absurd house of cards to fall for a very long time...

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The ideology of capitalism and free markets reject the need for thought, knowledge, information, and any notion of public life

rob urie in counterpunch...

Occupy is Alive; So is History

Political leadership in the West has calcified atop a set of existing facts and trajectory that assure rebellion in one form or another until they are reconciled. In addition to the economic divides between wealth and poverty, employment and unemployment, opportunity and the lack of opportunity, there is a generational divide that has left youth around the world on the outside of economic life.


These conditions were not created by the young or by the multitudes that are likewise on the outside of economic and mainstream political life. They result from decades of ideologically driven policies that assumed that the secular deity of markets removed the need for thought, knowledge, information, and any notion of public life. This ideology supports a predatory economic order that has had disastrous consequences for vast majorities in the West. And yet it still drives economic and political decisions today.


[T]here are entirely practical reasons why rebellion is here to stay until these problems are resolved. What this rebellion will look like will be a function of material conditions as they develop and the systemic response to them. To date this response has been discouraging and events unfolding in Egypt add new degrees of pessimism. This written, rebellion is both necessary and life affirming.

we'll see, i guess...

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In a rather horrifying instance of deja vu, Obama is following in Dick Cheney's footsteps

i keep getting 4-5 solicitations every day asking me to donate or otherwise support obama's re-election, but my enthusiasm is at a low ebb, to say the least, and reading things like this certainly doesn't help...

michael t. klare in tomdispatch...
Through his speeches, Congressional testimony, and actions in office, it is possible to reconstruct the geopolitical blueprint that Cheney followed in his career as a top White House strategist -- a blueprint that President Obama, eerily enough, now appears to be implementing, despite the many risks involved.
That blueprint consists of four key features:

1. Promote domestic oil and gas production at any cost to reduce America’s dependence on unfriendly foreign suppliers, thereby increasing Washington's freedom of action.

2. Keep control over the oil flow from the Persian Gulf (even if the U.S. gets an ever-diminishing share of its own oil supplies from the region) in order to retain an “economic stranglehold” over other major oil importers.

3. Dominate the sea lanes of Asia, so as to control the flow of oil and other raw materials to America’s potential economic rivals, China and Japan.

4. Promote energy “diversification” in Europe, especially through increased reliance on oil and natural gas supplies from the former Soviet republics of the Caspian Sea basin, in order to reduce Europe’s heavy dependence on Russian oil and gas, along with the political influence this brings Moscow.


This four-part geopolitical blueprint, relentlessly pursued by Cheney while vice president, is now being implemented in every respect by President Obama.

When it comes to the pursuit of enhanced energy independence, Obama has embraced the ultra-nationalistic orientation of the 2001 Cheney report, with its call for increased reliance on domestic and Western Hemisphere oil and natural gas -- no matter the dangers of drilling in environmentally fragile offshore areas or the use of hazardous techniques like hydro-fracking.  In recent speeches, he has boasted of his administration’s efforts to facilitate increased oil and gas drilling at home and promised to speed drilling in new locations, including offshore Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.


In virtually every respect, then, when it comes to energy geopolitics the Obama administration continues to carry out the strategic blueprint pioneered by Dick Cheney during the two Bush administrations.  What explains this surprising behavior?  Assuming that it doesn’t represent a literal effort to replicate Cheney’s thinking -- and there’s no evidence of that -- it clearly represents the triumph of imperial geopolitics (and hidebound thinking) over ideology, principle, or even simple openness to new ideas.

When you get two figures as different as Obama and Cheney pursuing the same pathways in the world -- and the first time around was anything but a success -- it’s a sign of just how closed and airless the world of Washington really has become.

if the u.s. had taken the initiative to develop alternative and sustainable energy sources when jimmy carter first put them on the national agenda over 40 years ago, the world of energy would look nothing like it does now... instead, we have a perpetuation of greedy oilmen, exploitative oil companies, and a world full of gadgets and machines that either suck up oil products or are made from them... we tend to think only in terms of oil as fuel... but look around you... virtually everything you see that's made from plastic or uses synthetic materials is an oil-based product... we have steadily built our dependence on oil to unimaginable levels, so much so that, if oil suddenly went away, the world would grind immediately to a stop...

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Robert Reich: Wall Street can't have it both ways - too big to fail, and also able to make wild bets anywhere around the world

our criminal bankers really like their tbtf, protected status...

robert reich in truthout...
One advantage of being a huge Wall Street bank is you get bailed out by the federal government when you make dumb bets. Another is you can choose where around the world to make the dumb bets, thereby dodging U.S. regulations. It’s a win-win.

Wall Street would like to keep it that way.

For two years now, squadrons of Wall Street lawyers and lobbyists have been pressing the Treasury, Comptroller of the Currency, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, SEC, and the Fed to go easier on the Street for fear that if regulations are too tight, the big banks will be less competitive internationally.

Translated: They’ll move more of their business to London and Frankfurt, where regulations are looser.

Meanwhile, the Street has been warning Europeans that if their financial regulations are too tight, the big banks will move more of their business to the US, where regulations will (they hope) be looser.


If Wall Street banks demand a free rein overseas, the least we should demand is they be broken up here.

our super-rich elites will fight to their last breath to maintain their power over us and their ability to command the world's resources and reservoirs of capital...

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Given the travesty that is American justice, WikiLeaks' founder is entitled to seek asylum and well-advised to fear extradition

more on julian assange from glenn's op-ed in the guardian...
For several reasons, Assange has long feared that the US would be able to coerce Sweden into handing him over far more easily than if he were in Britain. For one, smaller countries such as Sweden are generally more susceptible to American pressure and bullying.
For another, that country has a disturbing history of lawlessly handing over suspects to the US. A 2006 UN ruling found Sweden in violation of the global ban on torture for helping the CIA render two suspected terrorists to Egypt, where they were brutally tortured (both individuals, asylum-seekers in Sweden, were ultimately found to be innocent of any connection to terrorism and received a monetary settlement from the Swedish government).


Assange's fear of ending up in the clutches of the US is plainly rational and well-grounded. One need only look at the treatment over the last decade of foreign nationals accused of harming American national security to know that's true; such individuals are still routinely imprisoned for lengthy periods without any charges or due process. Or consider the treatment of Bradley Manning, accused of leaking to WikiLeaks: a formal UN investigation found that his pre-trial conditions of severe solitary confinement were "cruel, inhuman and degrading", and he now faces capital charges of aiding al-Qaida. The Obama administration's unprecedented obsession with persecuting whistleblowers and preventing transparency – what even generally supportive, liberal magazines call "Obama's war on whistleblowers" – makes those concerns all the more valid.
No responsible person should have formed a judgment one way or the other as to whether Assange is guilty of anything in Sweden. He has not even been charged, let alone tried or convicted, of sexual assault, and he is entitled to a presumption of innocence. The accusations made against him are serious ones, and deserve to be taken seriously and accorded a fair and legal resolution.

But the WikiLeaks founder, like everyone else, is fully entitled to invoke all of his legal rights, and it's profoundly reckless and irresponsible to suggest, as some have, that he has done anything wrong by doing so. Seeking asylum on the grounds of claimed human rights violations is a longstanding and well-recognized right in international law. It is unseemly, at best, to insist that he forego his rights in order to herd him as quickly as possible to Sweden.

the u.s. could much better use its resources to indict and prosecute the criminal bankers who are plundering our country and the planet... 

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador

following denial of his appeal to avoid extradition...

Ecuador's foreign minister says Wilikeaks chief Julian Assange has taken refuge in the South American nation's embassy in London and is seeking political asylum.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino says Ecuador is weighing the request.

Can anyone claim that Assange’s fear of ending up in American custody is anything other than supremely reasonable and rational? Just look at what has happened to people — especially foreign nationals — over the last decade who have been accused of harming the national security of the United States.

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A massive march against "stop and frisk" in NYC

people are rightfully pissed off and want to show it... good on them...

from rt...
On Sunday, a sea of protesters filled the streets of New York City to show their solidarity against the Big Apple's Stop and Frisk policy. Approximately 50,000 protesters gathered in a silent march to draw attention to the policy that they feel is targeting minorities. According to statistics, 685,724 were searched in 2011 and of those people, 53 percent were black and 34 percent were Latino. Critics argue that this procedure legalizes racial profiling and must be abolished.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

We are hurtling headlong into a past that was defined by serfs and lords

john atcheson in common dreams...

Dark Ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment

We are witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world.  We are de-evolving, hurtling headlong into a past that was defined by serfs and lords; by necromancy and superstition; by policies based on fiat, not facts.


Now, we seek to operate by revealed truths, not reality.  Decrees from on high – often issued by an unholy alliance of religious fundamentalists, self-interested corporations, and greedy fat cats – are offered up as reality by rightwing politicians.

For example, North Carolina law-makers recently passed legislation against sea level rise.  A day later, the Virginia legislature required that references to global warming, climate change and sea level rise be excised from a proposed study on sea level rise.  Last year, the Texas Department of Environmental Quality, which had commissioned a study on Galveston Bay, cut all references to sea level rise – the main point of the study.

We are, indeed, at an epochal threshold.

As Stephen Colbert so aptly put it: if your science gives you results you don't like, pass a law saying that the result is illegal. Problem solved.

Except it isn’t.  Wishing reality away, doesn’t make it go away.  Pretending that the unreal is real doesn’t make it real.

UN-fuckingly believable...

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

The leading weapons seller in the world creates more jobs by selling more weapons - 70% more than 2011

i think one of the most disgusting things - among many - that the united states does is to produce and sell massive amounts of weaponry and defense items to countries around the world... i've posted on it repeatedly and i continue to find it unconscionable... now, the u.s. is setting another record...

US Sets Another Record on Defense Sales, Already 

The United States is set to far surpass previous records for defence sales this year, according to U.S. officials.

"Despite the global economic strain, demand for U.S. defence products and services is stronger than ever," Andrew J. Shapiro, an assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department, said on Thursday.

He confirmed that the U.S., long the world's largest weapons exporter, has already seen more than 50 billion dollars in government-to-government military sales this fiscal year.

"This represents at least a 20-billion-dollar increase over fiscal year 2011, and we still have more than a quarter of the fiscal year left," Shapiro said, speaking with reporters. The current fiscal year will end in September.

"To put this in context, fiscal year 2011 was a record-setting year at just over 30 billion. This fiscal year will be at least 70 percent greater."

Observers noted the administration's evident pride at the high numbers.

"An Obama arms bazaar is going on – this is further evidence of that," Jeff Abramson, director of Control Arms, an international civil-society alliance based in Washington, told IPS.

"This administration has made defence trade an economic rather than just a security issue – part of the agenda in terms of keeping the U.S. economy going. I think human rights issues should trump those concerns. Selling to countries such as Saudi Arabia, people need to ask whether the U.S. is living up to its promises on rights obligations."

Shapiro, who noted that the U.S. only allows a sale "after we carefully examine issues like human rights", spoke a week after the launch of the newest edition of the 655 Report, an annual compilation of defence products and services authorised for export.

Many have cautioned that the U.S. defence trade is notoriously difficult to estimate, given the numerous ways available to calculate the figure. Several point to a lower number of 30 billion dollars worth of actual transfers, rather than the larger sales number, not all of which may ultimately take place.


In a major priority for the U.S. government today, Shapiro noted that the Saudi Arabia deal alone would support more than 50,000 jobs.


According to Amnesty International, a watchdog group, today it is easier to trade in weapons than in bananas.

like i said - disgusting...


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