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UNDERNEWS: August 7, 2011

UNDERNEWS:August 7, 2011

Since 1964, the news while there's still time to do something about it


S&P downgrade rated

Robert Reich, Business Insider -S&P’s intrusion into American politics is also ironic because much of our current debt is directly or indirectly due to S&P’s failures (along with the failures of the two other major credit-rating agencies ¬ Fitch and Moody’s) to do their jobs before the financial meltdown. Until the eve of the collapse S&P gave triple-A ratings to some of the Street’s riskiest packages of mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.

Had S&P done its job and warned investors how much risk Wall Street was taking on, the housing and debt bubbles wouldn’t have become so large – and their bursts wouldn’t have brought down much of the economy. You and I and other taxpayers wouldn’t have had to bail out Wall Street; millions of Americans would now be working now instead of collecting unemployment insurance; the government wouldn’t have had to inject the economy with a massive stimulus to save millions of other jobs; and far more tax revenue would now be pouring into the Treasury from individuals and businesses doing better than they are now.

In other words, had Standard & Poor’s done its job over the last decade, today’s budget deficit would be far smaller and the nation’s future debt wouldn’t look so menacing.

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Guardian, UK - Michael Hewson, a market analyst at CMC Markets, warned: "This crisis will run and run, and could make Lehmans look like a Tupperware party."

The British economist Baroness Vadera, a former Labour minister and G20 adviser who played a role in devising a rescue package for the international banking system at the time of the 2008 crash, said the current crisis could be even worse.

She told BBC Newsnight: "It feels as scary, but it is different. The reason it is potentially worse is that governments stepped in [in 2008-09] all over the world and saved the banking system in order to save their economies, but now who is going to step in to save governments?

"When we went into that crisis, interest rates were quite high, so we did have monetary policy to use as a tool and now we are at the outer limits of that. Lastly, we are currently facing quite a lot of inflationary pressures, particularly coming from commodities and emerging markets, so our room for maneuver is a lot more limited."

Obamadmin approves Arctic drilling by Shell

AFP - US officials have granted Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell conditional approval to begin drilling exploration wells in the Arctic Ocean from next year, in a move swiftly slammed by conservationists as "inexcusable."

The US Interior Department has opened the doors to Shell's proposal for four shallow water exploration wells in Alaska's Beaufort Sea to start in July 2012, said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement in a statement.

Environmentalists, pointing to the vastly complicated task of drilling in the harsh Arctic environment and effectively cleaning up any spills in such conditions, slammed the decision as "dangerous and disappointing," saying it puts the remote region, its wildlife and native communities at risk.

The move ignored a wealth of concerns raised by the same US agencies during the catastrophic 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, said a statement backed by leading environmental groups the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Alaska Wilderness League.

Warren Jeffs update

CNN - Warren Jeffs' nephew and niece testified Saturday during his sentencing phase about the alleged abuse they suffered at his hands. The polygamist sect leader was convicted this week on two counts of sexual assault on a child.

Brent Jeffs, 28, told jurors that his uncle raped him when he was 5 years old. "He began to tell me that we were going to do God's will," he said Jeffs told him. "This is between me, you and God." Three jurors wiped tears from their eyes as Brent spoke, his voice breaking with emotion.

Texas Ranger Jesse Valdez and Ezra Draper, who left the FLDS in 2003, also testified Saturday. . . . Using a yardstick, Jeffs stroked the inside of Draper's thighs, tapping his crotch three times, Draper said. Jeffs then told him: "Better that one of your members be cut off than the whole body be cast into hell," Draper testified.

He went on to describe changes that Jeffs made to the FLDS, such as banning parades, dances, music and even the color red.

During the hearing Friday, Jeffs said he objected to the introduction of items seized in the raid and documents that should get "religious protection."

He requested to be excused from the sentencing phase to avoid hearing his religion degraded. Jeffs remained outside the courtroom Saturday.

"I am God. Cease. Do not present my holy ways as a thing of naught," the self-proclaimed prophet said before he left court Friday. "Hear my warning as a full awakening. Let my holy way be of freedom."

Key criminal investigations into mortgage lenders stall

Reuters - Federal criminal investigations into failed mortgage lenders IndyMac Bancorp and New Century Financial Corp have stalled, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

A third probe, into Washington Mutual Inc, has ended with no charges being filed, the Department of Justice said.

Both the IndyMac and Century Financial investigations were essentially dormant, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the situation. Both probes could still gain new momentum if fresh evidence surfaced, the newspaper said.

The three investigations were among the first to weigh criminal charges against the companies and executives at the heart of the housing crisis, which was in part caused by offering so-called sub-prime loans to people who may not have otherwise qualified for credit.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles, which initiated the IndyMac and New Century probes, could not be reached for comment.

Young protest in Israel

Haaretz, Israel - Over 300,000 people took part in third consecutive week of mass rallies across Israel on Saturday. Protesters chanted "The people demand social justice" and "An entire generation demands a future."

"Young people of Israel, our time has come," said National Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmuli at the Tel Aviv rally.

Internet sightings

Ken Orenic’s ten year old daughter calls liver sausage “spreadable meat” and funerals “deadness ceremonies.” A tortilla is a “Taco bun.” Claudia Nickson has a four year old who refers to used bookstores as “broken libraries.”

Study finds little difference in Obama and Bush troop deployment

Tony Dokoupil, Daily Beast - Newsweek combed through a decade of military deployment history, and found only a faint line between the Bush and Obama presidencies. The number of American troops abroad has dropped less than 1 percent under President Obama, buoyed by what appears to be a sharp rise in the number of clandestine assignments, and curious growth in the number of personnel at Guantanamo Bay. None of the robust deployment trends begun under Bush have significantly abated. And since World War II, only President Bush has scattered a greater proportion of American might overseas. . .

Rating the rating agencies

Deven Sharma, President, Standard & Poor's
Ray McDaniel, CEO Moody's Corp
Stephen Joynt, CEO Fitch's Ratings

Dear Mr. Sharma, Mr. McDaniel and Mr. Joynt;

You have each indicated that the time may be near for a downgrade of the credit rating of the United States government, with all the negative and uncontrollable consequences that flow from such private corporate decisions.

Your rating agencies have disgraced your calling well beyond the conflict of interest built into your business (i.e. that you are paid for your ratings of financial instruments by the issuers themselves). In short, you are rewarded for what is a statutorily-secured business of trust by the very companies who want favorable ratings. Needless to say, as reported in leading newspapers such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, you repeatedly debased your calling during the years leading up to and including the 2008-2009 Wall Street economic collapse.

Now your lobbyists are pressing members of Congress to weaken further the provisions affecting rating agencies in the Dodd-Frank law in ways that will raise the risk-consequences for the savings and investments of innocent people. See the strong critique of your looming downgrade by arch-conservative columnist Holman W. Jenkins in the January 27, 2011 Wall Street Journal titled, "Who Elected the Rating Agencies?" Mr. Jenkins wrote that not only are your caveats overblown, but he concluded that, "it is foppish in the extreme of S&P to imagine its opinion is needed or valued, and one more reason to expedite a rare useful provision of Dodd-Frank - it's requirement that federal law be purged of language requiring investors to act on the opinions of rating agencies."

You have placed yourself in a position to shake the foundations of the U.S. government's credit with global ramifications and impacts on interest rates, among other damages, based on criteria developed by unaccountable analysts on your payroll operating under your private command. You should never have been given this quasi-government power.

You must exercise levels of caution and respect to which you are unaccustomed. You are playing with fire. Millions of Americans who never heard of you will be wanting to know who put into motion these latest assaults on their livelihood. The United States government is not in such serious straits to warrant the extremes you are contemplating. The United States is not Greece! Take note of that as you consider what you are going to do individually or collusively in a contemporary reality where you are over your head in hubris.

Best wishes,

Ralph Nader
Rob Weissman, President of Public Citizen

The Al Qaeda scorecard

Sibel Edmonds, Boiling Frogs - For almost 10 years we have been engaged in a massive and many-fronted war advertised as a war on terror-war on Al Qaeda. Recent reports put the total cost to America of this war on terror at around $3 trillion. This is not counting un-countable covert operations with secret budgets, and it does not include the war in Libya or covert wars elsewhere.

For the last 10 years of the Cold War, the period of our heightened expenditures against a war marketed as a war against communism, we reportedly spent slightly under $3 trillion.

We had the Soviet military with over 5 million men. We were dealing with Long-Range Ballistic Missile capabilities. We had an empire with a declared arsenal of 39,967 tons of chemical weapons. We were faced with massive nuclear arsenals and warheads, sophisticated fighter aircraft, tanks…

Afghanistan has been under our occupation for almost ten years, and we have our puppet government installed there, and when it comes down to it, the Taliban does not equate to Al-Qaeda, it never did. The Taliban did not exercise terrorism in the United States or its global territories.

We must also remove Pakistan as a terrorist country, thus a nation state target. If you remember, neither the quasi 9/11 Congressional Inquiry nor the quasi 9/11 Commission Report ever declared the Pakistani government/nation as terrorists or an Al-Qaeda member. Let us go with their official judgment. After all, haven’t we been giving Pakistan billions of dollars in US aid since 9/11 and continuing to date? Wouldn’t it be ridiculous to on one hand categorize our drone war there as war against Pakistan as a member of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, and on the other hand support and finance them?

Our war on Al-Qaeda terror does not include a single nation state or organized state military. No military infrastructure or headquarters. No trained army-navy-air force. No tanks, warplanes, nuclear warheads, drones. No intelligence institutions or landmarks. No communication satellites. No technology. No borders. No GDP…

The supposed Al Qaeda’s top leadership was declared by our government to be Osama Bin Laden, aka Al Qaeda Commander in Chief; a sickly old man who was hooked to a dialysis machine; who supposedly lived and hid in caves, and later, in a mud house located in a remote third world village with chickens and goats. A man who sustained himself and his family by periodically selling his wives jewelry or bartering milk from his goats for occasional lamb chops. All this according to our own government; coming out in bits and pieces, and of course, sometimes in a totally contradictory fashion. . .

How about the sophistication of weapons-methods used by our target terrorists, the ominous Al Qaeda? We are talking about a dozen or so pocket knives priced at approximately $4 a piece (probably made in China), and of course if bought in bulk, for a total under $40. That for the supposed execution of the massive terror plot over here, in the world’s super power nation. As for other worldwide terror incidents that have been placed under the ‘Al Qaeda Track Record,’ we are talking about rudimentary bomb-making ability paired up with ultra simple bombs created by ingredients such as fertilizer; we are talking a few loads of cow dung here; literally, that is.

What about the size of the manpower these terrorists, Al-Qaeda, possess? Interestingly no one in our government has ever touched upon any scientific or even commonsensical estimate as to the number of active-combative Al-Qaeda terrorists. . MORE


My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably. - George Bernard Shaw

Big judge by judge disparities found in Social Security Administration rulings on disabilities

TRAC - A court-by-court analysis of close to two million Social Security Administration claims has documented extensive and hard-to-explain disparities in the way the administrative law judges within the agency's separate hearing offices decide whether individuals will be granted or denied disability benefits.

Today the chance a disability claim is granted or denied is often determined more by the particular judge assigned ... than by the facts and circumstances presented in the case.
These findings suggest that in many SSA hearing offices today, the chance a disability claim is granted or denied is often determined more by the particular judge assigned to handle it than by the facts and circumstances presented in the case.

The findings further document that the problem is not simply the result of a few judges whose decisions are far out of line with those of other judges on the bench. Rather, the agency's own case-by-case evidence demonstrates that the problem is systemic. To a surprising extent the records on disability decisions show again and again that even within the individual offices there is not a clear consensus among the judges about which claims should be awarded versus which should be denied.

In addition to determining the current extent of the disparities within the SSA's court hearing offices, the data also show that the problem today is somewhat worse than it was four and a half years ago when the agency launched a broad program to reduce the vast number of individuals awaiting a hearing and to speed up the processing of cases.

A comparison of cases handed down in all SSA offices between the FY 2005-2006 and the FY 2010-2011 periods shows that during this span of years the problem of decision disparity grew. For a typical office, disparity increased by 10 percent. But the record in individual offices across the nation varied sharply, with some of them undergoing substantial deterioration. Among offices with the greatest disparity increases were those in Jackson, Mississippi; Morgantown, West Virginia; Greenville, South Carolina; San Jose, California, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

SSA responds and TRAC responds to SSA

Department of Good Stuff


Living "Illegally" In this probing investigation, a team of scholars in political science, religion, and Latin American studies offers a considered account of the complex global dynamics that shape immigration in America. The authors track the oscillations in U.S. immigration policy, from the open borders of the country's early history through the rising tide of nativism in the early 20th century and the growing restrictiveness of immigration policy over the past 20 years. - Publishers Weekly

Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson

Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki and The Greatest Movie Never Made by Greg Mitchell. The story of post A-bomb footage the U.S. government suppressed.


Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place: A documentary on the Merry Pranksters.

Mother: Caring for 7 Billion: The film illustrates both the overconsumption and the inequity side of the population issue by following Beth, a mother and a child-rights activist as she comes to discover, along with the audience, the thorny complexities of the population issue.

Pocket paradigms

We live in a time of democratic disguises when everyone -- at least until they reach their place of employment -- can be whoever they want. A nation of poseurs treating life as though it were an endless masque ball. Those who fail at the deception are the poor, the fat, the shy, the awkward, and the otherwise terminally declasse. For the rest, a manic preoccupation with style and attitude tempts them to become not a reflection of who they are but what they want others to think they are. Our primary business as Americans is to fool each other.- Sam Smith


Dickens didn't write what people wanted; he wanted what people wanted - GK Chesterton

Local heroes: Vonnegut library sends free books to students whose school banned them

Vonnegut Library - The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library will be giving away free copies of Slaughterhouse Five to students from Republic, Missouri’s high school (yes, the school that banned Slaughterhouse Five last week from their curriculum and school library). If you are a student at Republic High School, please e-mail to request your free copy of the book. Please provide us with your name, address, and grade level. We have up to 150 books to share, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor. We think it’s important for everyone to have their First Amendment rights. We’re not telling you to like the book… we just want you to read it and decide for yourself.

Great moments in homeland insecurity

Denver Channel - The Transportation Security Administration is apologizing to a pregnant woman, one day after she said her insulin and ice packs were confiscated by screeners at Denver International Airport.

The Aurora woman was traveling alone to a baby shower in Phoenix when she was questioned by a TSA agent as she went through security around 4 p.m. Thursday. "He's like, 'Well, you're a risk.' I'm like, 'Excuse me?' And he's like, 'This is a risk ... I can't tell you why again. But this is at risk for explosives,'” the woman said. She asked 7NEWS not to use her name for fear of retaliation for speaking out. Click here to find out more!

"I got a bottle of nail polish. I got hair spray bottles. I got needles that are syringes. But yet I can't take through my actual insulin?” she asked.

Some of the heretical Christians behind Governor Perry's day of prayer

NPR - [Governor Perry’s day of prayer event] is being paid for by the American Family Association, which describes itself as being "on the frontlines of America's culture war." The Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes the AFA as a hate group because of its fierce anti-gay agenda.

Among the participants:

¬ John Hagee, a San Antonio evangelist whose endorsement was rejected by John McCain in 2008 because of Hagee's anti-Catholic statements.

¬ Mike Bickle, a founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., who has called Oprah Winfrey a "pastor of the harlot of Babylon."

¬ Alice Patterson, founder of Justice at the Gate, in San Antonio, who has written that there is "a demonic structure behind the Democratic Party."

¬ And then there's John Benefiel, head of the Oklahoma-based Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, who once said this about the Statue of Liberty: "You know where we got it from? French Freemasons. Listen, folks, that is an idol, a demonic idol right there in the middle of New York Harbor."

China disses U.S. over debt

Business Insider - China's official comment on the S&P downgrade was harsh and condescending. Released through Xinhua (via Reuters) the statement condemned America for its "debt addiction" and "short-sighted" political wrangling.

"The U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone," Xinhua wrote.

America's largest creditor, China said it will accelerate diversification away from US treasuries, and that meanwhile it demands reform: "China, the largest creditor of the world's sole superpower, has every right now to demand the United States address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China's dollar assets," Xinhua said.

The statement also called for a new global currency: "International supervision over the issue of U.S. dollars should be introduced and a new, stable and secured global reserve currency may also be an option to avert a catastrophe caused by any single country," Xinhua said.

Paul says super committee not constitutional

The Hill - Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) indicated on Thursday that he might challenge the creation of a new "super committee" in Congress aimed at finding $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. "I would challenge it in the courts and say that it is not a constitutional function," Paul said on CNBC Thursday. "There's no authority to have a super-Congress who takes over for what the House and Senate are supposed to do." When asked specifically if he believes the committee is unconstitutional, Paul said, "I don't think there's any doubt about it. . . That was so far removed that it almost becomes a silly notion."

Young investor on the market situation

The mathematics of mowing your lawn

Morning line

Great thoughts of Tim Geithner

The Hill, April 19 - Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said Tuesday there is "no risk" the U.S. will lose its top credit rating amid a new analysis that revised its outlook on American debt to "negative."

There is no chance that the U.S. will lose its top credit rating, Geithner said, forcefully disputing the notion that S&P or other ratings services might downgrade U.S. bonds from their current AAA rating.

"No risk of that, no risk," Geithner said on the Fox Business Network.

At war in in 120 countries

Nick Turse, Information Clearinghouse - Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. “We do a lot of traveling -- a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence -- in about 60% of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged -- provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.

Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran, in which eight U.S. service members died, U.S. Special Operations Command was established in 1987. Having spent the post-Vietnam years distrusted and starved for money by the regular military, special operations forces suddenly had a single home, a stable budget, and a four-star commander as their advocate.

The Warren Jeffs trial: God is a pedophile

Daily Mail - Prosecutors used DNA evidence to show Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl and played an audio recording of what they said was him sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.

They also played audio recordings in which Jeffs was heard instructing young women on how to please him sexually.

The recording begins with Jeffs asking the girl how she feels. 'You have to know how to be sexually excited and to help each other ... and you have to be ready for the time I need your comfort.'

According to the transcript made and given to the court, the girl replies: 'Feels good.'

Soon after Jeffs can be heard saying: 'Everyone else let go of me, back away a little. Please get on the other side of the bed.

'You shall learn the powers of the spirit of God as a heavenly wife should,' Jeffs tells the 12-year-old.

The voice is also heard saying: 'You have to know how to be sexually excited and to help each other ... and you have to be ready for the time I need your comfort.

'This is your mission. This is how you abide the law.'

At one point, he says: 'Take your clothes off. Do it right now.'

The sounds of crying followed as he then says: 'Just don't think about the pain, you're going to heaven. The world's view of sexual relations is selfish, the celestial view is not.'

Jeffs has claimed he was the victim of religious persecution. More

Hints for Lawyers: How long can you nap during a trial?

Lowering the Bar - To prove ineffective assistance, a defendant usually has to prove that counsel's performance was deficient and that it actually prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). But some situations are considered outrageous enough that a court will assume there was prejudice. Is sleeping through trial one of those situations?

It is a little scary to consider that four federal circuits have now considered the question of "when sleeping by trial counsel becomes the effective denial of counsel" for this purpose. But they have, and the "substantial portion" test is the result. (A "not insubstantial" portion will also work, as the Fifth Circuit once ruled in a death-penalty case where defense counsel had been "repeatedly unconscious" during trial.) More

Dealing psychologically with the corporatocracy

The Bush-Obama bank bailout fraud

Michel Chossudovsky. Global Research - Both the Bush and Obama bank bailouts are hand outs to major financial institutions. They do not constitute a positive spending injection into the real economy. Quite the opposite. The bailouts contribute to financing the restructuring of the banking system leading to a massive concentration of wealth and centralization of banking power.

A large part of the bailout money granted by the US government will be transferred electronically to various affiliated accounts including the hedge funds. The largest banks in the US will also use this windfall cash to buy out their weaker competitors, thereby consolidating their position. The tendency, therefore, is towards a new wave of corporate buyouts, mergers and acquisitions in the financial services industry.

In turn, the financial elites will use these large amounts of liquid assets (paper wealth), together with the hundreds of billions acquired through speculative trade, to buy out real economy corporations (airlines, the automobile industry, Telecoms, media, etc ), whose quoted value on the stock markets has tumbled. . .

The stated objective of the bank bailout programs is to alleviate the banks' burden of bad debts and non-performing loans. In actuality what is happening is that these massive amounts of money are being used by a handful of institutions to consolidate their position in global banking.

The exposure of the banks, largely the result of derivative trade, is estimated in the tens of trillions of dollars, to the extent that the amounts and guarantees granted by the Treasury and the Fed will not resolve the crisis. Nor are they intended to resolve the crisis.

The mainstream media suggests that the banks are being nationalized as a result of TARP, In fact, it is exactly the opposite: the state is being taken over by the banks, the state is being privatized. The establishment of a worldwide unipolar financial system is part of the broader project of the Wall Street financial elites to establish the contours of a world government. . .

Since the Reagan era, Wall Street dominates most areas of economic and social policy. It sets the budgetary agenda, ensuring the curtailment of social expenditures. Wall Street preaches balanced budgets but the practice has been lobbying for the elimination of corporate taxes, the granting of handouts to corporations, tax write-offs in mergers and acquisitions etc, all of which lead to a spiraling public debt. . .

The Obama stimulus program constitutes a continuation of the Bush administration's bank bailout packages. The proposed policy solution to the crisis becomes the cause, ultimately resulting in further real economy bankruptcies and a corresponding collapse of the standard of living of Americans. . .

There are indications that the financial institutions are transferring billions of dollars into their affiliated hedge funds. From these hedge funds they can then channel money capital towards the acquisition of real assets. . .

What we are dealing with is the fraudulent transfer and confiscation of lifelong savings and pension funds, the fraudulent appropriation of tax revenues to finance the bank bailouts, etc. To understand what has happened: follow the money trail of electronic transfers with a view to establishing where the money has gone. What is at stake is the outright criminalization of the financial system: "financial theft" on an unprecedented scale. . .

There are no solutions under the prevailing global financial architecture. Meaningful policies cannot be achieved without radically reforming the workings of the international banking system.

What is required is an overhaul of the monetary system including the functions and ownership of the central bank, the arrest and prosecution of those involved in financial fraud both in the financial system and in governmental agencies, the freeze of all accounts where fraudulent transfers have been deposited, the cancellation of debts resulting from fraudulent trade and/or market manipulation.

People across the land, nationally and internationally, must mobilize. This struggle to democratize the financial and fiscal apparatus must be broad-based and democratic encompassing all sectors of society at all levels, in all countries.

Every Day Acts Of Resistance That Changed The World

From Every Day Acts Of Resistance That Change The World, by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson

The rise of Solidarity, a popular movement created in August 1980 by striking workers in the shipyards of Gdansk and across Poland, caused panic in the region that had ruled the country since the Second World War. On December 13, 1981, the Communist authorities put tanks on the streets to stop Solidarity once and for all. Hundreds were arrested; dozens were killed.

Despite the tanks and arrests, Poles organized protests against the ban on Solidarity, including a boycott of the fiction-filled television news. But a boycott of the TV news could not by itself embarrass the government. After all, who could tell how many were obeying the boycott call?

In one small town, they found a way. Every evening, beginning on February 5, 1982, the inhabitants of Swidnik in eastern Poland went on a walkabout. As the half-hour evening news began, the streets would fill with Swidnikians, who chatted, walked, and loafed. Before going out, some placed their switched-off television set in the window, facing uselessly onto the street. Others went a step further. They placed their disconnected set in a stroller or a builder’s wheelbarrow, and took the television itself for a nightly outing.

“If resistance is done by underground activists, it’s not you or me,” one Solidarity supporter later noted. “But if you see your neighbors taking their TV for a walk, it makes you feel part of something. An aim of dictatorship is to make you feel isolated. Swidnik broke the isolation and built confidence.”

The TV-goes-for-a-walk tactics, which spread to other towns and cities, infuriated the government. But the authorities felt powerless to retaliate. Going for a walk was not, after all, an official crime under the criminal code.

Eventually, the curfew was brought forward from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m., thus forcing Swidnikians to stay at home during the 7:30 news, or risk being arrested or shot.

The citizens of Swidnik responded by going for a walk during the earlier edition of the news at 5 p.m. instead. . .

In Oxford and other British university cities, an unusual set of graffiti appeared above pairs of Barclays Bank cash dispensers in 1984. Above one ATM was spray-painted the word BLACKS. Above the other: WHITES ONLY.

The graffiti changed nothing, of course, in terms of who could use which cash machine. Customers were free to choose whichever ATM they preferred. Black customers could line up at the WHITES ONLY machine if they wished to. Whites could take cash from the BLACKS machine.

The black-and-white labeling left people faintly unsettled, however. And unsettled was all that was needed. The graffiti made many of those lining up at the black-vs.-white machines feel uncomfortable about Barclays’ well-publicized involvement in the South African system of apartheid, where signs proclaiming NET BLANKES¬Whites Only¬were customary.

Fewer graduates applied to work at Barclays, so as not to be tainted by the black-white division that the bank seemed to represent. Barclays’ once lucrative share of UK student accounts plummeted from 27 percent to 15 percent of the market. In 1986, the banking giant admitted defeat at the hands of the graffiti sprayers and their allies. The Barclays pullout became one of the most high-profile and punishing acts of divestment suffered by the South African regime. . .

In Kenya in 2009, many feared a renewal of the post-election violence that had brought the country to the brink of catastrophe a year earlier. The relationship between the two main political rivals, Prime Minister Raile Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki, remained dangerously tense. Women’s groups, fearing another descent into violence, urged men to settle their differences and, as they put it, “begin to serve the nation they represent.” To emphasize the point, they announced a sex strike.

They were perhaps inspired by a similar action taken in Sudan in 2002, when thousands of women in the South took up the practice of “sexual abandoning” to compel men to end the twenty-year civil war in which an estimated two million people had died.

Rukia Subow, chair of one of the groups in Kenya, argued, “We have seen that sex is the answer. It does not know tribe, it does not have a party, and it happens in the lowest households.”

The strike gained widespread support¬even the prime minister’s wife, Ida Odinga, declared that she supported it “body and soul.” Women’s groups welcomed the success of the action¬“Kenyans began talking about issues that are affecting them. And it got the politicians talking.” The women even persuaded some sex workers to join the strike.

It ended with a joint prayer session. The prime minister and the president finally agreed to talk. MORE

How FDR learned to hate what the GOP & Obama are doing to the economy

David Woolner, New Deal 2 - Just under three quarters of a century ago, a group of conservative economic advisers close to Franklin Roosevelt informed the President that they were worried about the rapid rate of growth in the US economy. Since 1933, when FDR took over at the height of the Great Depression, the economy had been expanding steadily, at an average rate of 14 percent per year. Schooled as most of these advisors were in the tenets of economic orthodoxy (which called for cuts in spending during an economic downturn), and unsure of the effects of the Keynesian-style deficit spending that the administration had been engaged in under the terms of the early New Deal, the President was advised to cut the budget, reduce deficit spending and tighten the money supply as a means to stave off inflation. Heeding their word (and no economist himself), FDR did just that.

The results were an unmitigated disaster.

Thanks to the Administration’s decision to move away from the increasingly Keynesian policies it had been following ¬ policies that saw the unemployment rate fall from a high of 25 percent in 1933 to 14 percent by 1937 -- FDR launched one of the sharpest economic downturns in American history-the so-called "Roosevelt Recession" of 1937-38. In just a few short months, the GDP declined by 13 percent; industrial production by 33 percent; wages by 35 percent and an estimated four million people lost their jobs. No fool, FDR quickly reversed himself and went back to Congress to seek a massive stimulus bill to put people back to work and repair the damage to the Depression-era economy. Within three months growth had returned and the economy was back on track.

The lessons FDR drew from the 1937-38 recession were clear: Cutting federal spending and tightening the money supply in the midst of a deep economic crisis were bad ideas and from this point on his administration pursued economic policies that can only be described as unabashedly Keynesian. FDR may never have publically embraced Keynes’s theories, and in fact preferred to call his subsequent use of massive government borrowing and spending "compensatory fiscal policy," but the two concepts were virtually identical.

It is sad to think that history may be repeating itself. But the apparent decision of this administration to embrace cuts over spending may soon lead the President down the same path that FDR took in 1937. Only this time the "Obama recession" of 2011-2012 will most likely cost the current president his job.

How state legislators get told what to do

AFL CIO - This week in New Orleans, some 2,000 state legislators are being wined, dined and given their legislative battle plans by the American Legislative Exchange Council to push a corporate agenda and undermine workers’ rights. The Koch brothers-funded and corporate-backed ALEC generates model legislation for right-wing grassroots activists and funds their attacks on workers’ rights, public employees and more.

The lawmakers will be sitting down with some of the biggest corporations in the world¬ Koch Industries, Bayer, Kraft, Coca-Cola, State Farm, AT&T, WalMart, Philip Morris and more behind closed doors.

Writes Lisa Graves, executive director for the Center for Media and Democracy, "CMD recently made available to the public more than 800 “model” bills and resolutions voted on by corporations through their ALEC membership that have been introduced or approved by state lawmakers.

More than 70 members of Congress and governors have attended the closed-to-the public get-togethers where corporate CEOs lay out the agenda for the year ahead.

Also, Common Cause released a report on the nearly $400 million ALEC’s corporate members have funneled into state elections to support their agenda that includes: “support of public subsidies for private schools; the development of privately-owned prisons; restrictions on voting rights; unlimited, secret corporate spending on behalf of political candidates and parties; opposition to federal and state environmental regulations; and overturning the new federal health care reform law and state minimum wage laws, and trade and public employee unions.”

ALEC is a stunning example of how deeply corporate influence penetrates our democracy and undermines the public interest…Then the companies put their muscle behind that legislation at state capitols and invest millions of dollars to elect and re-elect lawmakers who support it.

Why the anti-abortion crowd should support birth control

Washngton Post editorial - It makes enormous sense to include contraception among preventive services. Nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and about 40 percent of women who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy opt for abortion. Encouraging and underwriting contraception reduces the number of abortions.

Judge rules against Obamadmin trying to prevent torture suit

Anti-War - US District Judge James Gwim rejected Obama Administration arguments to the contrary and allowed the lawsuit by a former US military contractor against Donald Rumsfeld for torture to continue.

The contractor, whose name has not been made public, was working as a translator for US Marines in Iraq, but when he was about to return home on leave he was captured by the military and held without any justification, being held as a “high-value” detainee at Camp Cropper for nine months, during which time he was repeatedly tortured. The contractor was never charged with any crimes, and was eventually just released by officials without any explanation.

The Obama Administration made multiple arguments to the judge about why such a lawsuit shouldn’t be allowed to proceed, claiming simultaneously that Rumsfeld was immune from lawsuits over crimes committed while Defense Secretary and that the courts don’t have jurisdiction over abuse of US citizens during times of war.

The Justice Department also claimed allowing the lawsuit might affect the decisions of future US officials who might have to decide whether or not to torture a US citizen for no reason.

Devolution: An interstate treaty

WGME, Portland ME - If you travel the turnpike, you may want to think twice before trying to get away without paying a toll. Maine Turnpike officials have signed an agreement with New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The agreement allows all three states to impose sanctions of EZ Pass toll violators across each other's state lines. It's the first tri-state agreement like this in the nation. Prior to the deal, the MTA had the ability to suspend Maine residents' vehicle registrations, but they had little recourse in pursuing out-of-state violators.

18-Year-Old Gay Socialite Seeks PR Firm

Gawker - An exciting employment opportunity for members of the flack community has just landed in the Gawker tip box:

Kevin Michael Barba is an openly gay, up and coming New York socialite who is currently seeking the help of a PR firm to help him gain recognition and press opportunities. Mr. Barba currently travels between homes in Manhattan, Palm Beach, and The Northfork of Long Island. With millions of dollars at his disposal, this 18 year old personality is ready to move to the forefront of society and let his personality, style, and panache grab headlines. Attached is a photo.

To set up an interview please contact Dana at. . .


Dana Scacco
Exec. Asst to The Barba Family

Fortunately, a nine minute video interview with Barba has appeared on line. We’ve seen a lot of self-promoters, but Barba is a natural

Nuke for Jesus Air Force course shut down

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, Anti-War - After a number of complaints by Air Force officers and a Truthout article last week by Jason Leopold revealed that the Air Force was using the Bible and even the invocation of a former Nazi scientist to justify the use of nuclear warfare, [a] long-standing course was shut down:

The course [The Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare training ] was led by Air Force chaplains and took place during a missile officer’s first week in training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Officers who train to be missileers were required to attend the ethics course, which included a Power Point presentation on St. Augustine’s “Christian Just War Theory” as well as numerous examples of characters from the New and Old Testament the training materials asserted engaged in warfighting in a “righteous way.”

St. Augustine’s “Qualifications for Just War,” according to the way the Air Force characterized it in slides used in the ethics training, are: “to avenge or to avert evil; to protect the innocent and restore moral social order (just cause)” and “to restore moral order; not expand power, not for pride or revenge (just intent).”

One of the PowerPoint slides also contained a passage from the Book of Revelation that claims Jesus Christ, as the “mighty warrior,” believed some wars to be just.

In his original story, Leopold talks about the most outrageous of the power point slides, the “moral” justification invoked by Wernher Von Braun, who was captured, recruited and brought to the U.S by American forces in 1945:

One of the most disturbing slides quotes Wernher Von Braun, a former member of the Nazi Party and SS officer. Von Braun, regarded as the father of the US space program, is not being cited as a scientific expert, rather he’s specifically being referenced as a moral authority, which is remarkable considering that the Nazi scientist used Jews imprisoned in concentration camps and captured French anti-Nazi partisans and civilians to help build the V-2 rocket, a weapon responsible for the death of thousands of British civilians.

Pocket paradigms

Some time around the middle of the 1980s I suddenly noticed that the truth was no longer setting people free; it was only making them drowsy.- Sam Smith

A modest financial reform

Sam Smith- Let's transfer Social Security & Medicare out of their trust funds and into the general budget. Then let's take the budgets of the Pentagon and the War on Terror and put them into a trust fund, complete with employer/employee deductions from each pay check so we'll know how much they are costing us.

Obama admin reaches sweetheart foreclosure deal with Bank of America: NY AG objects



America turns anti-children

WTOP, DC - Across the country, restaurants and other establishments are following in the footsteps of Malaysia Airlines, which recently announced it would no longer allow babies in first-class cabins. While the decision sparked a major debate, it also may have started a new trend.

Following Malaysia Airlines, Dublin-based RyanAir announced it will offer "Child Free" flights beginning in October. RyanAir says its decision was based on a survey of customers who said they "would pay higher fares to avoid other people's children."

In recent months, several restaurants across the country also have instituted bans on children. Pennsylvania restaurant McDain's no longer welcomes kids under the age of 6. Chicago-based restaurant Sprout has banned kids from its Sunday brunch. North Carolina-based restaurant Olde Salty went as far as posting a "Screaming children will not be tolerated" sign in its window. And, Brooklyn bar The Double Windsor has banned babies after 5 p.m.

Earlier this year, Arlington County considered prohibiting children under the age of 8 from the county's nine dog parks at the request of two of its dog park sponsor groups.


The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ … ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality¬judiciously, as you will¬we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’” - Ron Suskind, NYT Times Magazine 2004

Romney gets a million bucks from a corporation that only existed for four months

Michael Isikoff, NBC News -A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The company, W Spann LLC, was formed in March by a Boston lawyer who specializes in estate tax planning for “high net worth individuals,” according to corporate records and the lawyer’s bio on her firm’s website.The corporate records provide no information about the owner of the firm, its address or its type of business.

The Boston lawyer, Cameron Casey, dissolved the company on July 12 ¬ two weeks before Restore Our Future made its first campaign filing of the year reporting the donation from the now-nonexistent company, the corporate records show.

Furthermore. .

Radar Mercede Johnston is letting it all hang out in the September issue of Playboy. Levi Johnston's 18-year-old sister has posed nude for the men's mag, and blasted her brother's almost-mother-in-law Sarah Palin in the accompanying interview. "I think she'd have had a mental breakdown" if she'd become president, Mercede told interviewer George Gurley. "As governor she quit on us. What does that say about her?"

Some good Christian reasons
not to read the Bible literally. . . Nowhere does the Bible claim to be inerrant. . . Reading the Bible literally distorts its witness. . . Reading the Bible literally undermines a chief confession of the Bible about God

LA Times
- People with a bachelor's degree make 84% more over a lifetime than high school graduates. In 1999, the premium was 75. . . On average, a doctoral degree-holder will earn $3.3 million over a lifetime, compared to $2.3 million for a college graduate and $1.3 million for those with a high school diploma. People with less education in high-paying occupations can out-earn their counterparts with advanced degrees. But within the same industry, workers with more schooling usually land better paychecks.

Overheard at a YMCA in Washington. A woman talking to her babysitter: "I don't want the kids watching the news. If they hear about how Congress is fighting they might think that type of behavior is acceptable.

MSNBC considering giving Al Sharpton his own show. Biologists wait with bated breath, saying it would be the first time a parasite ever became a host - Fark

After causing the worst stock market decline in a couple of years, the GOP would like to do themselves one better and formalize the debt ceiling debacle in the Constitution in the guise of a balanced budget amendment.

The fact that 85000 jobs
were expected doesn't make 117000 good. We're below population growth. We are literally not recovering. - Ezra Klein

What's this about an double-dip recession? Who, except for economists, media types, and politicians, ever left the first one?

Incriminating stories about Dominique Strauss-Kahn's
habit of sexual harassment continue to surface. The latest comes from the French newspaper Le Parisien, which reported that Air France received so many complaints about the former IMF chief that it staffed its first-class cabin with male flight attendants whenever he was onboard. The airline denies issuing any special staffing instructions. Another French publication reported that Strauss-Kahn shouted, "What a nice ass!" at a female attendant shortly before he was hauled off his Paris-bound plane in New York and arrested.

During 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported the first decline in the overall state prison population since 1977 and found 24 states had reduced prison populations during 2009. In 2011 at least thirteen states have closed prison institutions or are contemplating doing so, potentially reducing prison capacity by over 13,900 beds. Since 2002, Michigan has led the nation in this regard. The state has closed 21 facilities, including prison camps, as a result of sentencing and parole reforms. Overall, the state has reduced capacity by over 12,000 beds for a total cost savings of $339 million.

City bus driver just stopped to convince an ice cream delivery truck to donate a popsicle to an older lady up front. Excellently done - tiffehr

The great American economy:


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