Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Federal Judge Pimp-Slaps the SEC Over Citigroup Settlement

POSTED: November 29, 10:10 AM ET

Chris Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images/Andrew
Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Greetings, folks. Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving…

Just a quick update on a big piece of news that came through yesterday. In one of the more severe judicial ass-whippings you’ll ever see, federal Judge Jed Rakoff rejected a slap-on-the-wrist fraud settlement the SEC had cooked up for Citigroup.

I wrote about this story a few weeks back when Rakoff sent signals that he was unhappy with the SEC’s dirty deal with Citi, but yesterday he took this story several steps further.

Rakoff’s 15-page final ruling read like a political document, serving not just as a rejection of this one deal but as a broad and unequivocal indictment of the regulatory system as a whole. He particularly targeted the SEC’s longstanding practice of greenlighting relatively minor fines and financial settlements alongside de facto waivers of civil liability for the guilty – banks commit fraud and pay small fines, but in the end the SEC allows them to walk away without admitting to criminal wrongdoing.

This practice is a legal absurdity for several reasons. By accepting hundred-million-dollar fines without a full public venting of the facts, the SEC is leveling seemingly significant punishments without telling the public what the defendant is being punished for. This has essentially created a parallel or secret criminal justice system, in which both crime and punishment are adjudicated behind closed doors.

This system allows for ugly consequences in both directions. Imagine if normal criminal defendants were treated this way. Say a prosecutor and street criminal combe into a judge’s chamber and explain they’ve cooked up a deal, that the criminal doesn’t have to admit to anything or plead to any crime, but has to spend 18 months in house arrest nonetheless.

What sane judge would sign off on a deal like that without knowing exactly what the facts are? Did the criminal shoot up a nightclub and paralyze someone, or did he just sell a dimebag on the street? Is 18 months a tough sentence or a slap on the wrist? And how is it legally possible for someone to deserve an 18-month sentence without being guilty of anything?

Such deals are logical and legal absurdities, but judges have been signing off on settlements like this with Wall Street defendants for years.

Judge Rakoff blew a big hole in that practice yesterday. His ruling says secret justice is not justice, and that the government cannot hand out punishments without telling the public what the punishments are for. He wrote:
Finally, in any case like this that touches on the transparency of financial markets whose gyrations have so depressed our economy and debilitated our lives, there is an overriding public interest in knowing the truth. In much of the world, propaganda reigns, and truth is confined to secretive, fearful whispers. Even in our nation, apologists for suppressing or obscuring the truth may always be found. But the S.E.C., of all agencies, has a duty, inherent in its statutory mission, to see that the truth emerges; and if it fails to do so, this Court must not, in the name of deference or convenience, grant judicial enforcement to the agency's contrivances.
Notice the reference to how things are “in much of the world,” a subtle hint that the idea behind this ruling is to prevent a slide into third-world-style justice. There are many such loaded passages in Rakoff’s ruling. Another one comes up around the issue of the “public interest.”

This issue of whether or not the SEC must consider the public interest in granting these cozy settlements gets to the heart of the Occupy Movement's central complaint, that there are two different sets of rules for two different Americas. The SEC in this case incredibly argued – out loud, on paper – that it could make regulatory decisions without considering the public interest. In particular, it argued that it didn’t need to consider the public interest when granting “injunctive relief,” i.e. an injunction barring future behaviors, as opposed to the stiffer and more immediate punishment of fines or criminal charges.

The SEC argued to Judge Rakoff that "the public interest ... is not part of [the] applicable standard of judicial review."

Translating: “When we decide to let thieving megabank off with just a promise to never do it again, we don’t have to consider whether or not this is in the public interest.”

If you stand back and really think about what this argument means, it’ll make your head spin. What the SEC is saying here is that according to the incestuous values of the small community of high-priced revolving-door lawyers who both head the SEC enforcement office and run the defense teams of banks like Citi, a $95 million fine with no admission of wrongdoing for a $700 million fraud is, in fact, “fair” and “reasonable.”

The settlement only becomes problematic, the SEC implies, if you ask them to square their judgment with “the public interest.”

The SEC, in other words, is admitting that they have a standard for “reasonableness” and “fairness” that somehow does not coincide with the public interest. This surreal formulation translates as, “We’re doing the right thing – we’re just not doing it for the public.”

Rakoff’s response to this lunacy:
A large part of what the S.E.C. requests, in this and most other such consent judgments, is injunctive relief... The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear, however, that a court cannot grant the extraordinary remedy of injunctive relief without considering the public interest.
The Rakoff ruling shines a light on the way these crappy settlements have evolved into a kind of cheap payoff system, in which crimes may be committed over and over again, and the SEC’s only role is to take a bribe each time the offenders slip up and get caught.

If you never have to worry about serious punishments, or court findings of criminal guilt (which would leave you exposed to crippling lawsuits), then there’s simply no incentive to stop committing fraud. These SEC settlements simply become part of the cost of doing business, as Rakoff notes:
As for common experience, a consent judgment that does not involve any admissions and that results in only very modest penalties is just as frequently viewed, particularly in the business community, as a cost of doing business imposed by having to maintain a working relationship with a regulatory agency, rather than as any indication of where the real truth lies. This, indeed, is Citigroup's position in this very case.
That line, “a cost of doing business imposed by having to maintain a working relationship with a regulatory agency,” is one of the more brutally damning things you’ll ever see a judge write. Rakoff is saying that these fines are payoffs to keep the SEC off the banks’ backs. They’re like the pad that numbers-runners or drug dealers pay to urban precinct-houses every month to keep cops from making real arrests. That's what he means when he refers to "maintaning a working relationship." It's heavy stuff.

On the other hand, both the SEC and Citigroup insist that this secretive payoff system is defensible and must continue. They clearly believe, sincerely, that none of this stuff is really the public’s business.

This is an extraordinarily condescending attitude and shows exactly how little they think of the public at large. One wonders if decisions like Rakoff’s will at least help to wake the government up.

Plus: Here’s a clip of me talking about the ruling last night on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.


Uploaded by RussiaToday on Nov 23, 2011

The US is like a drunkard who charges to war with anyone who might pose a threat, ex-Senator and former US presidential candidate Mike Gravel says.

Read more

N.B.  This video was called to the blogger's attention by Brasscheck TV  (a free e-mail subscription to videos you might like to see).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Occupy LA Teach-In with William K Black

Occupy LA Teach-In with Ellen Brown

Occupy LA Teach-In with Robert Reich, Parts 1 and 2

Monday, November 28, 2011

  theREALnews                                                                            Permalink

Thanksgiving and Undocumented Farm Workers

Frank Bardacke: Millions of undocumented farm workers produce much of America's food

More at The Real News

Sunday, November 27, 2011


UC Davis Pepper-Spray Incident Reveals Weakness Up Top


Was absolutely mesmerized last night watching the viral video of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying. It was totally amazing, simultaneously one of most depressing and inspiring things I’ve seen in many years.

To recap for those who haven’t seen it: police in paramilitary gear line up in front of a group of Occupy protesters peacefully assembled on a quad pathway. Completely unprovoked, police decide to douse the whole group of sitting protesters with pepper spray. There is crying and chaos and panic, but the wheezing protesters sit resolutely in place and refuse to move despite the assault.

Finally, in what to me is the most amazing part, the protesters gather together and move forward shouting “Shame On You! Shame On You!” over and over again. You can literally see the painful truth of those words cutting the resolve of the policemen and forcing them backwards.

Glenn Greenwald’s post at Salon says this far better than I can, but there are undeniable conclusions one can draw from this incident. The main thing is that the frenzied dissolution of due process and individual rights that took took place under George Bush’s watch, and continued uncorrected even when supposed liberal constitutional lawyer Barack Obama took office, has now come full circle and become an important element to the newer political controversy involving domestic/financial corruption and economic injustice.

As Glenn points out, when we militarized our society in response to the global terrorist threat, we created a new psychological atmosphere in which the use of force and military technology became a favored method for dealing with dissent of any kind. As Glenn writes:
The U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil… It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters.
Why did that step turn out to be so small? Because of the countless decisions we made in years past to undermine our own attitudes toward the rule of law and individual rights. Every time we looked the other way when the president asked for the right to detain people without trials, to engage in warrantless searches, to eavesdrop on private citizens without even a judge knowing about it, we made it harder to answer the question: What is it we’re actually defending?

In another time, maybe, we might have been able to argue that we were using force to defend the principles of modern Western civilization, that we were "spreading democracy."
Instead, we completely shat upon every principle we ever stood for, stooping to torture and assassination and extrajudicial detention.

From the very start we unleashed those despotic practices on foreigners, whom large pluralities of the population agreed had no rights at all. But then as time went on we started to hear about rendition and extralegal detention cases involving American citizens, too, though a lot of those Americans turned out to be Muslims or Muslim-sympathizers, people with funny names.

And people mostly shrugged at that, of course, just as they shrugged for years at the insane erosion of due process in the world of drug enforcement. People yawned at the no-knock warrants and the devastating parade of new consequences for people with drug convictions (depending on the state, losing the right to vote, to receive educational aid, to live in public housing, to use food stamps, and so on).

They didn’t even care much about the too-innocuously-named new practice of "civil asset forfeiture," in which the state can legally seize the property of anyone, guilty or innocent, who is implicated in a drug investigation – a law that permits the state to unilaterally deem property to be guilty of a crime.

The population mostly blew off these developments, thinking that these issues only concerned the guilty, terrorists, drug dealers, etc. And they didn’t seem to worry very much when word leaked out that the state had struck an astonishingly far-reaching series of new cooperative arrangements with the various private telecommunications industries. Nobody blinked when word came out that the government was now cheerfully pairing up with companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth to monitor our phone and Internet activities.

Who cared? If you don’t have anything to hide, the thinking went, it shouldn’t bother you that the government might be checking your phone records, seeing what sites you’ve been visiting, or quietly distributing armored cars and submachine guns to every ass-end suburban and beyond-suburban police force in America.

We had all of these arguments in the Bush years and it’s nothing new to assert that much of our population made a huge mistake in giving up so many of our basic rights to due process. What’s new is that we’re now seeing the political consequences of those decisions.

Again, when we abandoned our principles in order to use force against terrorists and drug dealers, the answer to the question, What are we defending? started to change.

The original answer, ostensibly, was, "We are defending the peaceful and law-abiding citizens of the United States, their principles, and everything America stands for."

Then after a while it became, "We’re defending the current population of the country, but we can’t defend the principles so much anymore, because they weigh us down in the fight against a ruthless enemy who must be stopped at all costs."

Then finally it became this: “We are defending ourselves, against the citizens who insist on keeping their rights and their principles.”

What happened at UC Davis was the inevitable result of our failure to make sure our government stayed in the business of defending our principles. When we stopped insisting on that relationship with our government, they became something separate from us.

And we are stuck now with this fundamental conflict, whereby most of us are insisting that the law should apply equally to everyone, while the people running this country for years now have been operating according to the completely opposite principle that different people have different rights, and who deserves what protections is a completely subjective matter, determined by those in power, on a case-by-case basis.

Not to belabor the point, but the person who commits fraud to obtain food stamps goes to jail, while the banker who commits fraud for a million-dollar bonus does not. Or if you accept aid in the form of Section-8 housing, the state may insist on its right to conduct warrantless "compliance check" searches of your home at any time – but if you take billions in bailout aid, you do not even have to open your books to the taxpayer who is the de facto owner of your company.

The state wants to retain the power to make these subjective decisions, because being allowed to selectively enforce the law effectively means they have despotic power. And who wants to lose that?

The UC Davis incident crystallized all of this in one horrifying image. Anyone who commits violence against a defenseless person is lost. And the powers that be in this country are lost. They’ve been going down this road for years now, and they no longer stand for anything.

All that tricked-up military gear, with that corny, faux-menacing, over-the-top Spaceballs stormtrooper look that police everywhere seem to favor more and more – all of this is symbolic of the increasingly total lack of ideas behind all that force.

It was bad enough when we made police defend the use of torture and extrajudicial detention. Now they’re being asked to defend mass theft, Lloyd Blankfein’s bailout-paid bonus, the principle of Angelo Mozilo not doing jail time, and 28% credit card interest rates.

How strong can anyone defending those causes be? These people are weak and pathetic, and they’re getting weaker. And boy, are they showing it. Way to gear up with combat helmets and the the full body armor, fellas, to take on a bunch of co-eds sitting Indian-style on a campus quad. Maybe after work you can go break up a game of duck-duck-goose at the local Chuck E Cheese. I’d bring the APC for that one.

Bravo to those kids who hung in there and took it. And bravo for standing up and showing everyone what real strength is. There is no strength without principle. You have it. They lost it. It’s as simple as that.

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books, most recently The Great Derangement and Griftopia, and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy
The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class's venality,
Article history

Occupy Wall Street protester Brandon Watts lies injured on the ground after clashes with police over the eviction of OWS from Zuccotti Park. Photograph: Allison Joyce/Getty Images

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk."

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors', city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually "OWS has no message". Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online "What is it you want?" answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, "we are going after these scruffy hippies". Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the "scandal" of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' "consulting" to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists' privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can't suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

N.B. The blogger became aware of this article by his e-mail subscription to Reader Supported News.


November 25, 2011 at 20:29:43

Promoted to Headline (H3) on 11/25/11:

Goldman Sachs Has Taken Over

By paul craig roberts (about the author)

Bankers have seized Europe

On November 25, two days after a failed German government bond auction in which Germany was unable to sell 35% of its offerings of 10-year bonds, the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble said that Germany might retreat from its demands that the private banks that hold the troubled sovereign debt from Greece, Italy, and Spain must accept part of the cost of their bailout by writing off some of the debt. The private banks want to avoid any losses either by forcing the Greek, Italian, and Spanish governments to make good on the bonds by imposing extreme austerity on their citizens, or by having the European Central Bank print euros with which to buy the sovereign debt from the private banks. Printing money to make good on debt is contrary to the ECB's charter and especially frightens Germans, because of the Weimar experience with hyperinflation.

Obviously, the German government got the message from the orchestrated failed bond auction. As I wrote at the time, there is no reason for Germany, with its relatively low debt to GDP ratio compared to the troubled countries, not to be able to sell its bonds. If Germany's creditworthiness is in doubt, how can Germany be expected to bail out other countries? Evidence that Germany's failed bond auction was orchestrated is provided by troubled Italy's successful bond auction two days later.

Strange, isn't it. Italy, the largest EU country that requires a bailout of its debt, can still sell its bonds, but Germany, which requires no bailout and which is expected to bear a disproportionate cost of Italy's, Greece's and Spain's bailout, could not sell its bonds.

In my opinion, the failed German bond auction was orchestrated by the US Treasury, by the European Central Bank and EU authorities, and by the private banks that own the troubled sovereign debt.

My opinion is based on the following facts. Goldman Sachs and US banks have guaranteed perhaps one trillion dollars or more of European sovereign debt by selling swaps or insurance against which they have not reserved. The fees the US banks received for guaranteeing the values of European sovereign debt instruments simply went into profits and executive bonuses. This, of course, is what ruined the American insurance giant, AIG, leading to the TARP bailout at US taxpayer expense and Goldman Sachs' enormous profits.

If any of the European sovereign debt fails, US financial institutions that issued swaps or unfunded guarantees against the debt are on the hook for large sums that they do not have. The reputation of the US financial system probably could not survive its default on the swaps it has issued. Therefore, the failure of European sovereign debt would renew the financial crisis in the US, requiring a new round of bailouts and/or a new round of Federal Reserve "quantitative easing," that is, the printing of money in order to make good on irresponsible financial instruments, the issue of which enriched a tiny number of executives.

Certainly, President Obama does not want to go into an election year facing this prospect of high-profile US financial failure. So, without any doubt, the US Treasury wants Germany out of the way of a European bailout.

The private French, German, and Dutch banks, which appear to hold most of the troubled sovereign debt, don't want any losses. Either their balance sheets, already ruined by Wall Street's fraudulent derivatives, cannot stand further losses or they fear the drop in their share prices from lowered earnings due to write-downs of bad sovereign debts. In other words, for these banks big money is involved, which provides an enormous incentive to get the German government out of the way of their profit statements.

The European Central Bank does not like being a lesser entity than the US Federal Reserve and the UK's Bank of England. The ECB wants the power to be able to undertake "quantitative easing" on its own. The ECB is frustrated by the restrictions put on its powers by the conditions that Germany required in order to give up its own currency and the German central bank's control over the country's money supply. The EU authorities want more "unity," by which is meant less sovereignty of the member countries of the EU. Germany, being the most powerful member of the EU, is in the way of the power that the EU authorities desire to wield.

Thus, the Germans bond auction failure, an orchestrated event to punish Germany and to warn the German government not to obstruct "unity" or loss of individual country sovereignty.

Germany, which has been browbeaten since its defeat in World War II, has been made constitutionally incapable of strong leadership. Any sign of German leadership is quickly quelled by dredging up remembrances of the Third Reich. As a consequence, Germany has been pushed into an European Union that intends to destroy the political sovereignty of the member governments, just as Abe Lincoln destroyed the sovereignty of the American states.

Who will rule the New Europe? Obviously, the private European banks and Goldman Sachs.

The new president of the European Central Bank is Mario Draghi. This person was Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs International and a member of Goldman Sachs' Management Committee. Draghi was also Italian Executive Director of the World Bank, Governor of the Bank of Italy, a member of the governing council of the European Central Bank, a member of the board of directors of the Bank for International Settlements, and a member of the boards of governors of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank, and Chairman of the Financial Stability Board.

Obviously, Draghi is going to protect the power of bankers.

Italy's new prime minister, who was appointed not elected, was a member of Goldman Sachs Board of International Advisers. Mario Monti was appointed to the European Commission, one of the governing organizations of the EU. Monti is European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, a US organization that advances American hegemony over the world. Monti is a member of the Bilderberg group and a founding member of the Spinelli group, an organization created in September 2010 to facilitate integration within the EU.

Just as an unelected banker was installed as prime minister of Italy, an unelected banker was installed as prime minister of Greece. Obviously, they are intended to produce the bankers' solution to the sovereign debt crisis.

Greece's new appointed prime minister, Lucas Papademos, was Governor of the Bank of Greece. From 2002-2010. He was Vice President of the European Central Bank. He, also, is a member of America's Trilateral Commission.

Jacques Delors, a founder of the European Union, promised the British Trade Union Congress in 1988 that the European Commission would require governments to introduce pro-labor legislation. Instead, we find the banker-controlled European Commission demanding that European labor bail out the private banks by accepting lower pay, fewer social services, and a later retirement.

The European Union, just like everything else, is merely another scheme to concentrate wealth in a few hands at the expense of European citizens, who are destined, like Americans, to be the serfs of the 21st century.

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press.

Friday, November 25, 2011


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November 24, 2011

Global Recession Looms as Euro Crisis Deepens

Costas Lapavitsas: Crisis deepens as Germany fails to sell-out 10 year bonds; the public must take over the financial system

More at The Real News
November 23, 2011 at 19:12:06

Promoted to Headline (H3) on 11/23/11:

The Roads To War And Economic Collapse

By paul craig roberts (about the author)

Comments on Today's News

November 23, 2011: The day before the Thanksgiving holiday brought three extraordinary news items. One was the report on the Republican presidential campaign debate. One was the Russian President's statement about his country's response to Washington's missile bases surrounding his country. And one was the failure of a German government bond auction.

As the presstitute media will not inform us of what any of this means, let me try.

With the exception of Ron Paul, the only candidate in either party qualified to be the president of the US, the rest of the Republican candidates are even worst than Obama, a president who had the country behind him but sold out the American people to the special interests.

No newly elected president in memory, neither John F. Kennedy nor Ronald Reagan, had the extraordinary response to his election as Barack Obama. A record-breaking number of people braved the cold to witness his swearing in ceremony. The mall was filled for miles distant from the Capitol with Americans who could not see the ceremony except as televised on giant screens.

Obama had convinced the electorate that he would end the wars, stop the violation of law by the US government, end the regime of illegal torture, close the torture prison of Guantanamo, and attend to the real needs of the American people rather than stuff the pockets of the military/security complex with taxpayers' money.

Once in office, Obama renewed and extended the Bush/Cheney/neoconservative wars. He validated the Bush regime's assaults on the US Constitution. He left Wall Street in charge of US economic policy, he absolved the Bush regime of its crimes, and he assigned to the American people the financial cost necessary to preserve the economic welfare of the mega-rich.

One would think such a totally failed president would be easy to defeat. Given an historic opportunity, the Republican Party has put before the electorate the most amazingly stupid and vile collection of prospects, with the exception of Ron Paul who does not have the party's support, that Americans have ever seen.

In the November 22 presidential "debate," the candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, revealed themselves as a collection of ignorant warmongers who support the police state. Gingrich and Cain said that Muslims "want to kill us all" and that "all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives."

Bachmann said that the American puppet state, Pakistan, is "more than an existential threat." The moron Bachmann has no idea what is "more than an existential threat." However, it sounded heavy, like an intellectual thing to say for the candidate who previously declared the long-defunct Soviet Union to be today's threat to the US.

Unfortunately for Americans and the world, the US electorate lacks the intelligence and the awareness of their plight as denizens of a police state to elect Ron Paul, the last defender -- together with Rep. Dennis Kucinich -- of the US Constitution. Nevertheless, there would be a silver lining in one of the Republican morons being elected president of the "world's only superpower." Once the rest of the world realized that a war-crazed idiot had his or her finger on the nuclear button, the rest of the world would organize and close down the Washington horror before it destroys life on earth.

Any sentient American who watched or read about the Republican presidential debate must wonder what there is to be thankful for as the national holiday approaches.

The Russian government, which prefers to use its resources for the economy rather than for the military, has decided that it has been taking too many risks in the name of peace. The day before Thanksgiving, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said, in a televised address to the Russian people, that if Washington goes ahead with its planned missile bases surrounding Russia, Russia will respond with new nuclear missiles of its own, which will target the Amerikan bases and European capital cities.

The President of Russia said that the Russian government has asked Washington for legally binding guarantees that the American missile bases are not intended as a threat to Russia, but that Washington has refused to give such guarantees.

Medvedev's statement is perplexing. What does he mean "if Washington goes ahead"? The American missile and radar bases are already in place. Russia is already surrounded. Is Medvedev just now aware of what is already in place?

Russia's and China's slow response to Washington's aggression can only be understood in the context of the two countries' experience with communism. The sufferings of Russians and Chinese under communism was extreme, and the thinking part of those populations saw America as the ideal of political life. This delusion still controls the mentality of progressive thinkers in Russia and China. It might prove to be a disaster for Russia and China that the countries have citizens who are aligned with the US.

Belief in Washington's trustworthiness even pervades the Russian government, which apparently, according to Medvedev's statement, would be reassured by a "legally binding guarantee" from Washington. After the massive lies told by Washington in the 21st century -- "weapons of mass destruction," "al Qaeda connections," "Iranian nukes" -- why would anyone put any credence in "a legally binding guarantee" from Washington? The guarantee would mean nothing. How could it be enforced? Such a guarantee would simply be another deceit in Washington's pursuit of world hegemony.

The day prior to Thanksgiving also brought another extraordinary development -- the failure of a German government bond auction, an unparalleled event.

Why would Germany, the only member of the EU with financial rectitude, not be able to sell 35% of its offerings of 10-year bonds? Germany has no debt problems, and its economy is expected by EU and US authorities to bear the lion's share of the bailout of the EU member countries that do lack financial rectitude.

I suspect that the answer to this question is that the failure of the German government's bond auction was orchestrated by the US, by EU authorities, especially the European Central Bank, and private banks in order to punish Germany for obstructing the purchase of EU member countries' sovereign debt by the European Central Bank.

The German government has been trying to defend the terms on which Germany gave up control over its own currency and joined the EU. By insisting on the legality of the agreements, Germany has been standing in the way of the ECB behaving as the US Federal Reserve and monetizing the debt of member governments.

From the beginning, the EU was a conspiracy against Germany. If Germany remains in the EU, Germany will be destroyed. It will lose its political and economic sovereignty, and its economy will be bled in behalf of the fiscally irresponsible members of the EU.

If Greeks will not submit to the tyranny, why should Germans? 

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011



Europe Bans X-Ray Body Scanners Used at U.S. Airports

Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images file photo

ProPublica, Nov. 15, 2011, 3:45 p.m.

The European Union on Monday prohibited the use of X-ray body scanners in European airports, parting ways with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which has deployed hundreds of the scanners as a way to screen millions of airline passengers for explosives hidden under clothing.

The European Commission, which enforces common policies of the EU's 27 member countries, adopted the rule “in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.”

As a ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation detailed earlier this month, X-ray body scanners use ionizing radiation, a form of energy that has been shown to damage DNA and cause cancer. Although the amount of radiation is extremely low, equivalent to the radiation a person would receive in a few minutes of flying, several research studies have concluded that a small number of cancer cases would result from scanning hundreds of millions of passengers a year.

European countries will be allowed to use an alternative body scanner, on that relies on radio frequency waves, which have not been linked to cancer. The TSA has also deployed hundreds of those machines – known as millimeter-wave scanners – in U.S. airports. But unlike Europe, it has decided to deploy both types of scanners.

The TSA would not comment specifically on the EU’s decision. But in a statement, TSA spokesman Mike McCarthy said, “As one of our many layers of security, TSA deploys the most advanced technology available to provide the best opportunity to detect dangerous items, such as explosives.

“We rigorously test our technology to ensure it meets our high detection and safety standards before it is placed in airports,” he continued. “Since January 2010, advanced imaging technology has detected more than 300 dangerous or illegal items on passengers in U.S. airports nationwide.”

Body scanners have been controversial in the United States since they were first deployed in prisons in the late 1990s and then in airports for tests after 9/11. Most of the controversy has focused on privacy because the machines can produce graphic images. But the manufacturers have since installed privacy filters.

As the TSA began deploying hundreds of body scanners after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009, several scientists began to raise concerns about the health risks of the X-ray scanner, noting that even low levels of radiation would increase the risk of cancer.

As part of our investigation, ProPublica surveyed foreign countries’ security policies and found that only a few nations used the X-ray scanner. The United Kingdom uses them but only for secondary screening, such as when a passenger triggers the metal detector or raises suspicion.

Under the new European Commission policy, the U.K. will be allowed to complete a trial of the X-ray scanners but not to deploy them on a permanent basis when the trial ends, said Helen Kearns, spokeswoman for the European transport commissioner, Siim Kallas.

“These new rules ensure that where this technology is used it will be covered by EU-wide standards on detection capability as well as strict safeguards to protect health and fundamental rights,” Kallas said.

Five-hundred body scanners, split about evenly between the two technologies, are deployed in U.S. airports.

The X-ray scanner, or backscatter, which looks like two large blue boxes, is used at major airports, including Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy in New York and Chicago's O’Hare. The millimeter-wave scanner, which looks like a round glass booth, is used in San Francisco, Atlanta and Dallas.

Within three years, the TSA plans to deploy 1,800 backscatter and millimeter-wave scanners, covering nearly every domestic airport security lane. The TSA has not yet released details on the exact breakdown.

Blogger selected comments by readers

The truth appears to be that the scanners were never thoroughly tested to begin with, nor have independent tests been done on them.

Read this article written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Andrew Schneider back in 2010 called “No Proof TSA Scanners Are Safe:”

And the best interview of Professors discussing the scanners and cancer:

The use of x-rays are only allowed by FDA when deemed medically necessary. The medical x-ray operators require advanced education and licensing by a state medical board. Medical x-ray equipment undergoes very strict guidelines and are closely monitored.

TSA x-rays provide no medical benefit, are operated by high school dropouts and are maintained by the manufacturer without any overview except maybe the TSA supervisor with a GED.

A cigarette by itself is not bad, it’s the accumulation and damage over time. Radiation is the same way. You are exposed to natural sources and that is part of life, to add additional exposure above and beyond that without clear medical benefit is insanity.

TSA is theater.

This petition is more relevant than ever:

Here is the money trail for those interested:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) this week awarded Rapiscan Security Systems a $25.4 million contract using Recovery Act funding for whole body imaging systems that will be deployed at some of the nation’s airports, marking the first production award to any company for the imaging systems.

Rapiscan’s Secure 1000 system is based on X-Ray technology…

The award is a surprise considering how recently the agency began the pilot tests of the Secure 1000 at several airports.

A less surprising choice for the first production award would seem to have been L-3 Communications [LLL], which has sold about 40 of its ProVision millimeter wave-based whole body imagers to TSA beginning in the fall of 2007.

(Don’t feel bad for L-3. They’ve gotten at least $165 million from Uncle Sam for body scanners.)

Rapiscan has a very cozy relationship with the TSA and other government agencies. Just this year, Rapiscan has been awarded an IDIQ (indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity) contract for up to $325 million from the TSA for its checkpoint x-ray baggage inspection system, $35 million for advanced aviation checkpoint x-ray systems, $3.5 million for cargo and vehicle Inspection systems, $9 million for advanced cargo and vehicle inspection technologies, contracts worth up to $12 million for research, $18 million for cargo and people screening systems, $3 Million for Rapiscan Secure 1000 Portable Body Scanner, $25 million for cargo & vehicle inspection systems. Using my old-fashioned arithmetic, the total for the year is approaching half a billion dollars.

A blogger at ultra-liberal Daily Kos also smells something suspicious:

“Rapiscan’s lobbyists include Susan Carr, a former senior legislative aide to Rep. David Price, D-N.C., chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee. When Defense Daily reported on Price’s appropriations bill last winter, the publication noted “Price likes the budget for its emphasis on filling gaps in aviation security, in particular the whole body imaging systems.”

Very convenient, very cozy! (see Update I below)

Other Rapiscan lobbyists include Peter Kant and Adam C. Emanuel.

Rapiscan also has a financial relationship with former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (now a peddler of whole body imaging).

- source

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Retired Philly Police Captain Ray Lewis After The Eviction of OWS From Zuccotti Park 11/15/11
Occupy Wall Street - Retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis joins OWS

The Arrest of Retired Philadelphia Police Captain, Raymond Lewis - 'Occupy Wall Street' 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dorli Rainey—who grew up in Nazi Germany—on getting pepper-sprayed in Seattle, and on how our corporate press reminds her of Herr Goebbels’

Go here for original.

Related Posts:

About News From Underground
News From Underground is a daily e-news service run by Mark Crispin Miller, a Professor of Culture and Communication at NYU. It is based on his belief that academics, like reporters, have a civic obligation to help keep the people well-informed, so that American democracy might finally work.


Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

18 November 2011

Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Linda P.B. Katehi,

I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.

You are not.

I write to you and to my colleagues for three reasons:

1) to express my outrage at the police brutality which occurred against students engaged in peaceful protest on the UC Davis campus today

2) to hold you accountable for this police brutality

3) to demand your immediate resignation

Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons, hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.

Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.
What happened next?

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

This is what happened. You are responsible for it.

You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt. Faculty get hurt. One of the most inspiring things (inspiring for those of us who care about students who assert their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly) about the demonstration in Berkeley on November 9 is that UC Berkeley faculty stood together with students, their arms linked together. Associate Professor of English Celeste Langan was grabbed by her hair, thrown on the ground, and arrested. Associate Professor Geoffrey O’Brien was injured by baton blows. Professor Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the United States, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, was also struck with a baton. These faculty stood together with students in solidarity, and they too were beaten and arrested by the police. In writing this letter, I stand together with those faculty and with the students they supported.

One week after this happened at UC Berkeley, you ordered police to clear tents from the quad at UC Davis. When students responded in the same way—linking arms and holding their ground—police also responded in the same way: with violent force. The fact is: the administration of UC campuses systematically uses police brutality to terrorize students and faculty, to crush political dissent on our campuses, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly. Many people know this. Many more people are learning it very quickly.

You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011. As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds.

On Wednesday November 16, you issued a letter by email to the campus community. In this letter, you discussed a hate crime which occurred at UC Davis on Sunday November 13. In this letter, you express concern about the safety of our students. You write, “it is particularly disturbing that such an act of intolerance should occur at a time when the campus community is working to create a safe and inviting space for all our students.” You write, “while these are turbulent economic times, as a campus community, we must all be committed to a safe, welcoming environment that advances our efforts to diversity and excellence at UC Davis.”

I will leave it to my colleagues and every reader of this letter to decide what poses a greater threat to “a safe and inviting space for all our students” or “a safe, welcoming environment” at UC Davis: 1) Setting up tents on the quad in solidarity with faculty and students brutalized by police at UC Berkeley? or 2) Sending in riot police to disperse students with batons, pepper-spray, and tear-gas guns, while those students sit peacefully on the ground with their arms linked? Is this what you have in mind when you refer to creating “a safe and inviting space?” Is this what you have in mind when you express commitment to “a safe, welcoming environment?”

I am writing to tell you in no uncertain terms that there must be space for protest on our campus. There must be space for political dissent on our campus. There must be space for civil disobedience on our campus. There must be space for students to assert their right to decide on the form of their protest, their dissent, and their civil disobedience—including the simple act of setting up tents in solidarity with other students who have done so. There must be space for protest and dissent, especially, when the object of protest and dissent is police brutality itself. You may not order police to forcefully disperse student protesters peacefully protesting police brutality. You may not do so. It is not an option available to you as the Chancellor of a UC campus. That is why I am calling for your immediate resignation.

Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students. And I want you to know that this is clear. It is clear to anyone who reads your campus emails concerning our “Principles of Community” and who also takes the time to inform themselves about your actions. You should bear in mind that when you send emails to the UC Davis community, you address a body of faculty and students who are well trained to see through rhetoric that evinces care for students while implicitly threatening them. I see through your rhetoric very clearly. You also write to a campus community that knows how to speak truth to power. That is what I am doing.

I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.


Nathan Brown
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Program in Critical Theory
University of California at Davis