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The Road to World War 3

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Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »

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U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

Huffington Post July 1, 2013 By Mark Gongloff Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study — or More »

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Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

NBC San Diego July 1, 2013 By Christina London The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges. A jury returned its More »

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The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

Washington’s Blog/Global Research May 20, 2012 By George Washington Attack on the Press You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press. You might have More »

Category Archives: corruption

Time for an Economic Bill of Rights

Truthout
Nov. 11, 2011
By Ellen Brown

Henry Ford said, “It is well enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
We are beginning to understand, and Occupy Wall Street looks like the beginning of the revolution.
We are beginning to understand that our money is created, not by the government, but by banks. Many authorities have confirmed this, including the Federal Reserve itself. The only money the government creates today are coins, which compose less than one ten-thousandth of the money supply. Federal Reserve Notes, or dollar bills, are issued by Federal Reserve banks, all 12 of which are owned by the private banks in their district. Most of our money comes into circulation as bank loans, and it comes with an interest charge attached.

According to Margrit Kennedy, a German researcher who has studied this issue extensively, interest now composes 40 percent of the cost of everything we buy. We don’t see it on the sales slips, but interest is exacted at every stage of production. Suppliers need to take out loans to pay for labor and materials before they have a product to sell.
For government projects, Kennedy found that the average cost of interest is 50 percent. If the government owned the banks, it could keep the interest and get these projects at half price. That means governments – state and federal – could double the number of projects they could afford, without costing the taxpayers a single penny more than we are paying now.
This opens up exciting possibilities. Federal and state governments could fund all sorts of things we think we can’t afford now, simply by owning their own banks. They could fund something Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King dreamt of – an Economic Bill of Rights.
 
A Vision for Tomorrow
In his first inaugural address in 1933, Roosevelt criticized the sort of near-sighted Wall Street greed that precipitated the Great Depression. He said, “They only know the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and where there is no vision the people perish.”
Roosevelt’s own vision reached its sharpest focus in 1944, when he called for a Second Bill of Rights. 
He said:
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights…. They were our rights to life and liberty.

Members of Congress Increased Personal Wealth 25% in Two Years

AllGov
Nov. 3, 2011

The rich in Congress have continued to get richer, according to a new analysis of lawmakers’ net worth by Roll Call.
 
Three years ago, the collective net worth all representatives and senators was $1.65 billion. By 2010, this amount had increased to more than $2 billion, representing nearly a 25% bump.
 
Roll Call also determined that almost 90% of the increase was enjoyed by the richest 50 members of Congress, who account for 80% of the total net worth even though there are 535 voting members of Congress.
 
Within the Senate, Democrats (the majority party) possess about 80% of the wealth. Meanwhile, House Republicans, who control the chamber, command 78% of the riches.
 
The numbers are skewed by the wealth of one Congressman, Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who is worth at least $294 million. Still, the median net worth for members of Congress, $513,000, is four times that of the median American household.
 

Judges Are for Sale — and Special Interests Are Buying

Time
Published Oct. 31, 2011
By ADAM COHEN

The Occupy Wall Street movement is shining a spotlight on how much influence big-money interests have with the White House and Congress. But people are not talking about how big money is also increasingly getting its way with the courts, which is too bad. It’s a scandal that needs more attention. A blistering new report details how big business and corporate lobbyists are pouring money into state judicial elections across the country and packing the courts with judges who put special interests ahead of the public interest.
A case in point: West Virginia. In 2007, the West Virginia Supreme Court, on a 3-2 vote, threw out a $50 million damage award against the owner of a coal company. Funny thing: the man who would have had to pay the $50 million had spent $3 million to help elect the justice who cast the deciding vote. The West Virginia ruling was so outrageous that in 2009 the United States Supreme Court overturned it. But that was unusual. In most cases, judges are free to decide cases involving individuals and groups that have paid big money to get them elected. (MORE: Justice on Display: Should Judges Deliberate in Public?)

So who is paying? The new study — by New York University Law School‘s Brennan Center for Justice, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and the Justice at Stake Campaign, a non-partisan reform group — found that a small group of super spenders plays the biggest role, using their money to buy the kind of judges they want hearing their cases. These super spenders are the usual suspects: mainly big business, corporate lobbyists, and trial lawyers. Also high on the list: a disturbing category called “unknown.” In many states, disclosure laws are so weak that special interests can buy judicial elections without the public even finding out.
There is also a lot of one-issue money sloshing around. In 2010, three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage were voted out of office — after a bitterly fought campaign dominated by money from out-of-state groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the American Family Association. Much of the special interest money is used for attack ads, which leverage hot-button issues to demonize judicial candidates. Has a sitting judge ever reversed a criminal conviction because the law was not followed? Then they must be soft on crime — and not care about victims.
Why does all this matter? Because as money floods into judicial elections, we are getting courts that are filled with judges whose first loyalty is not to justice — or to the general public — but to insurance companies, big business and other special interests. It’s not hard to guess what insurance companies want their judges to do. They want them to rule against people who have been injured — even when they deserve compensation, and they want damage awards to be slashed. Big business wants weak enforcement of laws against discrimination and pollution. On the other side of the political spectrum, trial lawyers want verdicts for plaintiffs — and large damage awards. 

Tens of thousands in Hungary protest govt policy

Associated Press
Oct. 23, 2011

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesters have attended a rally expressing their opposition to the policies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Speakers from several civic groups, united by the “I don’t like the regime” motto, condemned a wide range of government measures, from restrictive media polices to changes in the tax system hurting the poor.
Balazs Denes, head of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, said the weak opposition parties in parliament, up against Orban’s two-thirds majority, were also responsible for the problems affecting Hungarian democracy.

Defense Dept. Gave $431 Billion to Contractors After They were Convicted of Fraud

AllGov
Oct. 22, 2011

In the nation’s capital, crime does pay for defense contractors.
The Department of Defense has admitted that it has rewarded hundreds of companies convicted of fraud with new deals that totaled more than $1.1 trillion.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who requested the information from the Pentagon, said,
“The ugly truth is that virtually all of the major defense contractors in this country for years have been engaged in systemic fraudulent behavior, while receiving hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money.”
Examples include Lockheed Martin, which in 2008 paid $10.5 million to settle charges that it defrauded the government by submitting false invoices related to the Titan IV space launch vehicle program. The following year Lockheed pulled in $30.2 billion from the Defense Department.

Police told to move along as anti-bank protesters camp out at St Paul’s

Guardian
Oct. 16, 2011
By

In their stand against mammon, protesters occupying St Paul’s churchyard to vent anger at reckless bankers found heartwarming support emanating from the house of God.

Far from requesting that the 300-strong crowd be removed from the cathedral steps on Sunday , the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s, requested that the police themselves move on as the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest entered its second day.

A line of officers had taken up position at the top of the steps to “protect” the building. “Which was very good of them,” explained the canon. But then he had asked them if they would leave, “because I didn’t feel that it needed that sort of protection”.


And so those attending Sunday mass found themselves picking a path through the makeshift camp of around 100 tents erected at the foot of the cathedral’s steps after Saturday’s global day of action inspired by the US’s Occupy Wall Street movement.

With the sermon of the day appropriately including a gospel reading about “God and money”, the regular congregation was joined by some of the protesters. The canon had warned them the cathedral bells were “really loud”, so it was an early start to their first full day of occupation.

An attempt on Saturday to set up camp outside the London Stock Exchange in nearby privately-owned Paternoster Square had been thwarted by police. But all the indications on Sunday were that a hard core of dedicated protesters were digging in for the long haul at St Paul’s.

A field kitchen was being erected, offering basics donated by wellwishers. A first aid point was set up in front of a poster renaming the area as Tahrir Square. A media area, powered by a generator, was aiming to stream activities from the camp live on to the internet. A line of seven portable toilets had also been installed. “Pick up your litter” was one of the continual announcements over the camp’s megaphone.

A spokesman said the purpose of the occupation was “to challenge the bankers and the financial institutions which recklessly gambled with the economy. This and 20 other occupations all around the UK have been directly inspired by what’s happening all across America and especially in Wall Street.”

Roy Alexander, 39, from Surrey, said: “We’re planning to stay here indefinitely, we’ll stay here and make a stand. I think we’ll have more people join.”

The protest indeed appeared to have struck a chord with many who were new to demonstrating. “I’m 40. Never been on a protest before. But I found myself here,” said one man, who asked not to be named, from Sheffield. “I’m pretty middle of the road politically, so I wasn’t sure about all the Socialist Workers placards at first. But this issue has attracted people from all walks of life. I’m a diehard atheist – there’s a woman over there with a ‘Jesus is Calling’ placard. It’s all of us.”

Another on his first protest was Ollie Taylor, 23, from Aldershot. “I feel really, really strongly about this issue. I really think it is going to snowball.” He, like many others, was having to leave the protest to return to his job, working in a photographic studio. But many pledged to return.

Police appeared relaxed, keeping a visible but low-key presence, and chatting and mingling with protesters. It was a different situation on Saturday, when an estimated 3,000-4,000 protesters converged on the cathedral. Supporters claimed a disproportionate amount of force was used and people were “kettled, grabbed and thrown off the steps forcefully”.

Full Article Here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/16/occupy-london-protest-st-pauls?newsfeed=true

Protesters to rally worldwide against greedy rich

Reuters
Oct. 14, 2011
By Michel Rose

(Reuters) – Protesters worldwide geared up for a cry of rage on Saturday against bankers, financiers and politicians they accuse of ruining global economies and condemning millions to poverty and hardship through greed.

Galvanised by the past month’s Occupy Wall Street movement, they plan to take to the streets from Sydney to Alaska via London, Frankfurt, Washington and New York.

Riot police prepared for any trouble — cities such as London and Athens have seen violent confrontations this year — but it was impossible to say how many people would actually turn out despite a rallying call across social media websites.

“I’ve been waiting for this protest for a long time, since 2008,” said Daniel Schreiber, 28, an editor in Berlin. “I was always wondering why people aren’t outraged and why nothing has happened and finally, three years later, it’s happening.”


The Australian city of Melbourne got the ball rolling on Saturday with about 1,000 gathering peacefully in central City Square, listening to speeches.

Nick Carson, a spokesman for OccupyMelbourne.Org, said protests were planned for all of Australia’s major cities.

“I think people want real democracy,” he said. “They don’t want corporate influence over their politicians. They want their politicians to be accountable. They want proper representation.”

Elsewhere in traditionally reserved Asia, about 50 gathered in New Zealand’s quake-hit city of Christchurch and small demonstrations were expected in the Japanese capital Tokyo.

The protests are billed as peaceful. But in a sign of what may happen, a group of students stormed Goldman Sachs’s offices in the Italian city of Milan on Friday.

The students managed to break into the hall of the Goldman Sachs building in the heart of Milan’s financial district. The protests were quickly dispersed but red graffiti was daubed on its walls expressing anger at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and saying “Give us money.”

Demonstrators also hurled eggs at the headquarters of UniCredit, Italy’s biggest bank.

Italian police were on alert for thousands to march in Rome against austerity measures planned by Berlusconi’s government.

SOMETHING HAPPENING HERE

In Britain, demonstrators aim to converge on the City of London — a leading international financial center — under the banner “Occupy the Stock Exchange.”

“We have people from all walks of life joining us every day,” said Spyro, one of those behind a Facebook page in London which has grown to some 12,000 followers in a few weeks.

Full Article Here – http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/15/us-protests-idUSTRE79E0FC20111015

Students storm Goldman Sachs building in Milan

Reuters
Oct. 14, 2011

(Reuters) – A group of students stormed Goldman Sachs’s central Milan offices on Friday ahead of worldwide protests against financial inequality planned for the weekend.

The Italian demonstrations are the latest bout of anger at banks and financiers as outcry spreads throughout the world following the occupation of Wall Street in New York by protesters over the past month.

Students managed to break into the hall of the Goldman Sachs building in the heart of Milan’s financial district, a few steps away from La Scala opera house, police said.


The protests were quickly dispersed by police and security was restored to the elegant building, though red graffiti was daubed on its walls expressing anger at Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and proclaiming “Give us money.”

Protesters in Italy’s financial capital also hurled eggs at the headquarters of UniCredit, the country’s biggest bank.

Full Article Here – http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/14/us-italy-goldman-protests-idUSTRE79D3ZM20111014

Finally Making Sense on Wall Street

New York Times
Oct. 11, 2011
By MARK BITTMAN

Countercultures and alternative systems can be nurturing, educational, illuminating, inspiring — and these are not small things — but they do not bring about fundamental change. Food co-ops, for example, make a difference, but they won’t much alter the way Big Food operates. Historically, the route to fixing broken systems goes through struggle, confrontation and even revolution.

Those scenarios are spreading because, as Naomi Klein wrote in The Guardian last week, “[E]veryone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control.” The struggle for positive change is being defined by groups as diverse as the revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt, the strikers in Greece (“Erase the debt and let the rich pay”), the indignados in Spain, the misled but occasionally well-intentioned members of the Tea Party, and certainly those occupying Wall Street (and, in case you missed it, some 1,500 other places, and growing, as of this writing). Now it’s even being embraced by the Democratic leadership.


What we need are more activists who are interested in food than “food activists.” Whether we’re talking about food, politics, healthcare, housing, the environment, or banking, the big question remains the same: How do we bring about fundamental change?

Some criticized the Wall Street occupiers for having no demands (“Anyway … it’s not the Brookings Institution,” quips The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg), but their position is clear: the Obama administration bailed out Wall Street without reforming it, allowing it to thrive while median income falls. (Europe is following suit: investors will make a killing on Greece and the other “Club Med” countries, at the expense of the social welfare of the continent’s non-rich.)

Indeed, at first the occupiers appeared to be building a counterculture. But on Sept. 29 they accused Wall Street of supporting foreclosures, encouraging inequality, undermining the agricultural system and poisoning the food supply, stripping employees of healthcare, pay and negotiating rights, determining “catastrophic” economic policy, blocking alternate energy sources, and more. (I didn’t see “sabotaging efforts to deal with climate change” in their declaration, but it noted — not without humor — that “these grievances are not all-inclusive.”) Who among us, except those who benefit from these practices, is not in agreement with at least some of this?

“We Are the 99 Percent” encourages us to demand of those in power, “Are you with the 99 percent or not? And what are you doing about it?” And the “99 percent” slogan is not only all-embracing but nearly correct: the system is working for far more than one percent of us, of course, but how much more? We are the most class-divided of all the world’s “developed” nations, though in my travels through five countries I’ve seen and heard about life-altering cuts everywhere.

Protest is such a no-brainer that support for the occupiers now comes even from labor union leadership, along with every progressive in the country. Happily, the right is unhappy. Herman “Get a Job” Cain calls Occupy Wall Street “un-American,” which is just stupid. Mitt “Put the Dog on the Roof” Romney calls it “class warfare,” but that’s as American as the struggle for justice; it’s just that the wrong class is winning. In fact there’s no more American action than this one; its roots are in the populist, suffragist, labor, civil rights, women’s, anti-war, environmental and even food movements.
Unlike the Tea Party, funded as it is by wealthy reactionaries like the Koch brothers, “Occupy” is sustained by energy, frustration, anger, perception, pizza and apples paid for by supporters or donated by farmers and, ultimately, by its daily growth.

Like my colleague Gail Collins, I was part of a like-minded movement that peaked more than 40 years ago. I had really long hair; I went to a lot of meetings; I ran a tiny newspaper. After I had children, developed a career and gained the trappings of a successful American life, things seemed less black and white. Probably they are.

Full Article Here – http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/finally-making-sense-on-wall-street/?smid=tw-nytimesopinion&seid=auto 

Hedge funds take in $6.1 billion in August

Reuters
Oct. 10, 2011

(Reuters) – Hedge funds took in $6.1 billion in August as the industry outperformed slumping markets, according to data released on Monday.

August marked the seventh month this year when inflows into the $2 trillion hedge fund industry exceeded redemptions, according to figures compiled by BarclayHedge and TrimTabs Investment Research. Hedge funds took in $51 billion in the first eight months of the year.

The vicious market sell-off that began in August and continued into September hurt many hedge fund managers, who lost 5.02 percent on average in the third quarter, according to Bank of America Corp research.

The wild market swings even demolished returns for such industry stars as John Paulson and Lee Ainslie.

Paulson rose to fame with prescient bets on the subprime crisis and gold, but his hedge fund firm, Paulson & Co, is one of this year’s worst performers. One of its biggest funds, Advantage Plus, is off 46.73 percent in 2011, said two people who saw the numbers. The fund lost 19.35 percent in September alone.

Despite disappointing performance by individual managers, investors continued to pour money into hedge funds, which outperformed the Standard and Poor’s 500 stock index in the first eight months of the year.

“Recent inflows might owe in part to excellent relative performance,” said BarclayHedge President Sol Waksman. “While the S&P 500 plunged 10.6 percent in the four months ended August, the Barclay Hedge Fund Index decreased only 5.6 percent.”

Full Article Here – http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/sns-rt-us-hedgefunds-flowstre7993fv-20111010,0,4792219.story