"It is the death of humanity to know the price of everything but the value of nothing." ~Unknown

Monday, May 31, 2010

Lobbyists continue to weaken Financial Reform bill

Lobbyists continue to weaken Financial Reform bill | Fix Congress First

May 26, 2010

The banking and credit industries' assault on the Financial Reform bill is rolling on as an army of lobbyists presses Senators to vote in their favor. Their latest victory: a 35–60 defeat of an amendment that would have allowed states to cap interest rates to protect their citizens from usurious creditors (i.e., lenders who believe they have the right to charge 30% interest).

Had Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's (D-RI) amendment made it into the bill it would have ended a practice where lenders can set up operations in less consumer-friendly states to charge as much interest as they can to consumers across state lines.

Senators who voted against this bill received 144% more money than those who voted to protect consumers from obscenely high interest rates.

You can read more about the amendment and the lobbying efforts here.

Get involved in fixing Congress here and help pass the Fair Elections Act Now here.

No Protection From The Corporate Pilfering, Pillaging and Plundering Or Theft of Public & Private Land

Arrested on Public Land because Big Corporation Mining Volture, AKA, Rio Tinto is preparing for the pilfering, pillaging and plundering of sacred land.  The people of that region have been sold out by The Corporate Whores who hold Michigan State Office;  Find Them Here:  Governor of Michigan    Senators of Michigan     Representives      State of Michigan Government Agencies

By Cynthia Pryor

Posted: May 7, 2010

Around the world, indigenous communities are defending their homelands and sacred sites from mining companies with more urgency than ever. With the fictional Avatar receiving so much media attention, it's important to realize that very real battles between indigenous communities protecting sacred sites and corporations infringing on them are happening in the real world. And not just in exotic corners of the world, but right here in America, in the Great Lakes, where millions get their drinking water.

Rio Tinto has from the beginning played out the role of the big bad mining company in its plans to mine nickel and copper in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The project has been marred by a flawed approval process, with one expert hired by the state insisting the project could collapse on workers. Despite unresponsive regulators and politicians, a persistent grassroots movement has stalled the company plans by years already.

This seven-year battle between Rio Tinto and local citizens came to a head when I was arrested a couple weeks ago for "trespassing" on land the company wants to mine for nickel, copper and other precious metals. I was doing what I've been doing on a weekly basis for over a decade - walking with my dog to Migi Zii Wa Sin, or Eagle Rock, a sacred site to Anishinaabe tribes. Rio Tinto took my presence there as a threat and called local law enforcement to the scene. I was arrested and jailed for refusing to leave land the company still has no legal title to.

The important thing about my arrest is that it happened on public land. A couple years ago, Rio Tinto signed a land use lease with the State of Michigan to build surface facilities and a portal for their mine.

Under the Treaty of 1842 the Anishinaabe have retained all rights for fishing, hunting and gathering on public lands over a wide swath of land in Michigan and Wisconsin. By allowing Rio Tinto to mine a sacred site, the State of Michigan has disregarded these long-standing rights and dismissed Eagle Rock as a place of worship. Would Rio Tinto get away with blasting a mine into the floor of a Christian cathedral? I doubt it.

My arrest triggered three brave members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) to act in protecting their treaty rights and sacred site. They arrived at Eagle Rock the night of April 23 in a beat-up Geo Metro to "take a stand." The courage of these women, who were the first to occupy Eagle Rock, has inspired many more men and women - both native and non-native - to gather here to protect this place. 

2010-05-07-CharlotteLoonsfoot.jpg"I am here because I am a woman and we protect our sacred water," Charlotte Loonsfoot (picture to left by Chauncey Moran), a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, told me about her initial decision to occupy Eagle Rock. "It is the bloodline of Mother Earth and if we pollute her blood, we will die."

"We have done ceremonies before recorded time until the Treaty of 1842 and our people's removal from our culture and our language. Our stand at Eagle Rock is not only to protect our water, but the spirit in Eagle Rock."
This place, while held sacred by the Anishinaabe, is also a place that is dear to the people living in the small remote communities surrounding Eagle Rock. Locals cherish the notion that America still has remote places where no industrial lights block out the stars, no industrial noise blocks out the wind in the pines, and where people may quietly enjoy these quality public lands held in trust for them by the State of Michigan.
Our state government has sold us out on this public land heritage by placing the wealth and profit of Rio Tinto over the health and welfare of the people it represents. Not only do they fail to recognize the sacred value of Eagle Rock and the rights of the Anishinaabe, they have allowed this company to proceed without federal approval while arresting citizens under absurd charges for getting in the way of Rio Tinto's plans. 

Rio Tinto is working now to fence off this public land and Eagle Rock and doesn't seem to mind moving forward without legal authority from the federal government. The Anishinaabe and their non-native supporters will not allow this to continue. We will peacefully stay here until the state recognizes our rights to public land, the sovereign rights of the Anishinaabe, and their right to their sacred land - right here at Eagle Rock.

Cynthia Pryor lives seven miles away from Rio Tinto's planned mine, near the Yellow Dog River, and has worked through the grassroots Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve since 1995.
Anyone interested in keeping up on this issue can find photos and more information at the blog for the Eagle Rock occupation,

Ferdinand Pecora Exposes Banksters & Wall Street In 1930 ~ No Justice Today

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Where Is Our Ferdinand Pecora? 

From a January, 2009 NYT OP-ED

BARACK OBAMA has assigned a top priority to financial reform when the new Congress assembles today. If history is any guide, legislators can perform a signal service by moving beyond the myriad details of the rescue plans to provide a coherent account of the origins of the current crisis. The moment calls for nothing less than a sweeping inquest into the twin housing and stock market crashes to create both the intellectual context and the political constituency for change.

For inspiration, Congress should turn to the electrifying hearings of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee, held in the waning months of the Hoover presidency and the early days of the New Deal. In historical shorthand, these hearings have taken their name from the committee counsel, Ferdinand Pecora, a former assistant district attorney from New York who, starting in January 1933, was chief counsel for the investigation. Under Pecora’s expert and often withering questioning, the Senate committee unearthed a secret financial history of the 1920s, demystifying the assorted frauds, scams and abuses that culminated in the 1929 crash.

The riveting confrontation between Pecora and the Wall Street grandees was so theatrically apt it might have been concocted by Hollywood. The combative Pecora was the perfect foil to the posh bankers who paraded before the microphones. Born in Sicily, the son of an immigrant cobbler, Pecora had campaigned for Teddy Roosevelt and been imbued with the crusading fervor of the Progressive Era. As a prosecutor in the 1920s, he had shut down more than 100 “bucket shops” — seamy, fly-by-night brokerage houses — and this had tutored him in the shady side of Wall Street. 

With crinkly black hair and flashing eyes, Pecora was an earthy populist who appealed to Depression audiences. He was fond of playing pinochle and was often portrayed with a thick cigar clamped between his teeth. When he was hired for $255 per month by the Senate committee, Pecora was earning less money than most Wall Street mandarins disbursed weekly in pocket change.

Pecora was meticulous in preparation and legendary in stamina, mastering reams of material and staying up half the night before interrogations, aided by John T. Flynn, an Irish-American journalist, and Max Lowenthal, a Jewish lawyer. As Flynn wrote, “I looked with astonishment at this man who, through the intricate mazes of banking, syndicates, market deals, chicanery of all sorts, and in a field new to him, never forgot a name, never made an error in a figure, and never lost his temper.” 

As Pecora relentlessly grilled the most famous names in finance, the nation relived the 1920s boom in a collective act of national remembrance. The hearings started in a modest committee room, but as the public was swept up in the drama, they shifted to a stately caucus room, illuminated by chandeliers and flashbulbs. As it gained momentum, the inquiry expanded until it shined a searchlight into every murky corner of Wall Street. Pecora exposed a stock market manipulated by speculators to the detriment of small investors who could suddenly attach names and faces to their losses.

Bankers had been demigods in the 1920s, their doings followed avidly, their market commentary quoted with reverence. They had inhabited a clubby world of chauffeured limousines and wood-paneled rooms, insulated from ordinary Americans. Now Pecora defrocked these high priests, making them seem small and shabby. 

On Black Thursday of 1929, the nation had applauded a seemingly heroic attempt by major bankers, including Albert Wiggin of Chase and Charles Mitchell of National City, to stem the market decline. Pecora showed that Wiggin had actually shorted Chase shares during the crash, profiting from falling prices. He also revealed that Mitchell and top officers at National City had helped themselves to $2.4 million in interest-free loans from the bank’s coffers to ease them 
through the crash. National City, it turned out, had also palmed off bad loans to Latin American countries by packing them into securities and selling them to unsuspecting investors. By the time Pecora got through with the bankers, Senator Burton Wheeler of Montana was likening them to Al Capone and the public referred to them as “banksters,” rhyming with gangsters.

With a public aching for retribution, Pecora was playing with combustible chemicals, and Wall Street complained that he was destroying confidence. President Franklin Roosevelt retorted that the bankers “should have thought of that when they did the things that are being exposed now.” It was hard for Wall Street to mount a legitimate defense as Pecora pilloried them daily. 

His prosecutorial methods grew questionable when he turned to the mysterious world of private banking, exemplified by the House of Morgan. In implacable style, Pecora badgered Morgan partners into admitting that they had paid no taxes for 1931 and 1932 — an incendiary revelation when the country was undertaking huge public works projects to combat unemployment. That the Morgan men had avoided taxes because of stock market losses was lost amid the hubbub. 

No less inflammatory was exposure of Morgan’s “preferred list” by which the bank’s influential friends participated in stock offerings at steeply discounted rates. The renowned names on the list, including Calvin Coolidge, the former president, and Owen J. Roberts, a Supreme Court justice, shocked the nation with its unseemly association of money and power. 

One Morgan partner, George Whitney, lamely explained that the intent was to safeguard small investors by preventing them from assuming such risk. To which Pecora responded tartly in his best-selling book, “Wall Street Under Oath,” “Many there were who would gladly have helped them share that appalling peril!”

Such was the furor over the Morgan testimony that Senator Carter Glass of Virginia shook his head and sighed, “We are having a circus, and the only things lacking now are peanuts and colored lemonade.” Seizing on the comment, a press agent for the Ringling Brothers Circus took advantage of a pause in the hearings to pop Lya Graf, a midget in a blue satin dress, on the lap of the portly and surprised J. P. Morgan Jr. The committee chairman, Senator Duncan Fletcher of Florida, pleaded with newspapers not to print the pictures, which only made them rush to do so.
The photo of Morgan with a circus midget planted on his lap became the signature shot of the hearings, emblematic of Wall Street’s fallen state. An embittered J. P. Morgan Jr. said Pecora had “the manners of a prosecuting attorney who is trying to convict a horse thief.”

Whatever their failings, the Pecora hearings laid the groundwork for financial reform legislation. By the time they ended in May 1934, they had generated 12,000 printed pages of testimony, collected in several thick volumes. These documents have served generations of historians. Our national narrative of stock market mayhem in the 1920s is largely composed of characters and anecdotes gleaned from their pages. 

Pecora not only documented a litany of abuses, but also paved the way for remedial legislation. The Securities Act of 1933, the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 — all addressed abuses exposed by Pecora. It was only poetic justice when Roosevelt tapped him as a commissioner of the newborn Securities and Exchange Commission.

Our current stock market slump and housing bust can seem like natural calamities without identifiable culprits, creating free-floating anger in the land. A public deeply disenchanted with our financial leadership is desperately searching for answers. The new Congress has a chance to lead the nation, step by step, through all the machinations that led to the present debacle and to shape wise legislation to prevent a recurrence.

Ron Chernow is the author of “The House of Morgan” and “Alexander Hamilton.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why We Fight ~A Documentary

 A documentary on the commerce of war, and how the military industrial complex profits so much from war, that it must create wars to continue the growth of it's business.

Runtime: 1 hr 39 mins
Genre: Education/General Interest
Release: Jan 20, 2006


BP Oilpocalypse Creates Underwater Nightmare - WHAT BP DOES NOT WANT YOU TO SEE

Philippe Cousteau, Jr., the grandson of the famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, to film what the spill looks like underwater. Cousteau observed, "This is a nightmare," and "one of the most horrible things I've seen under water."

Hydraulic Fracking and Water Contamination

The Results of Deregulation

Gas drilling companies such as Halliburton say the gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is safe, but opponents contend it pollutes groundwater with dangerous substances. Now, new evidence has emerged possibly linking natural gas drilling to groundwater contamination. ProPublica journalist Abrahm Lustgarten reports federal officials in Wyoming have found that at least three water wells contain chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

Addicted To Oil? Every Addict Has A Pusher

The Pushers

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Free Country? Think Again. The Oil Industry, Automobile Industry in collusion with The Federal Government out of pure greed have strip The American People of the right to access cheaper, cleaner energy.....Forced into paying high gas prices......God Bless The Corporate States of America.


What are the Largest Oil Companies on the Planet?

With the ever rising cost of motor fuel in most countries around the world, more and more attention has been focused on the largest oil companies in today's market. Many people are not entirely certain what are the largest oil companies in the world today.

Before turning to focus directly on the largest oil companies in the world, it is interesting to look at the top ten largest corporations of all varieties in operation in the world today. The top ten corporations in the world today, the ten largest corporations in the world today are:

1. Exxon Mobil
2. Wal-Mart Stores
3. Royal Dutch Shell
4. BP
5. General Motors
6. Chevron
7. DaimlerChrysler
8. Toyota Motor
9. Ford Motor
10. ConocoPhillips

Fully fifty percent of the largest companies on the planet today are oil companies:

* Exxon Mobil
* Royal Dutch Shell
* BP
* Chevron
* ConocoPhillips

One interesting trend that has been occurring in the past decade involves the merger of oil companies. Indeed, it is because of the merger of the Exxon and Mobile corporations that drove the combined Exxon Mobile to the top of the charts as the largest corporation in the world. Of the five oil companies that dominate the list of the top ten largest companies in business today, three of the companies are merged enterprises. The mergers took place only in the past ten years:

* Exxon Mobile
* Royal Dutch Shell
* ConocoPhillips

Historically, when oil companies first started to gain a significant market share in the United States and around the world, these companies were large "oil trusts" owned and operated by a few families. The prime example was the Standard Oil Trust owned by John D. Rockefeller.

Interestingly, in the United States and in some other countries around the world, the large oil trusts were broken up by the government. In today's world, the mammoth companies that have come into existence because of the merger of oil companies far exceed the assets and holdings of the oil trusts that were dismantled a few generations ago.

In the 21st century, the vast majority of oil companies in operation have enjoyed significant profits. This definitely has been the case with the major oil companies that have been mentioned previously and that dominate the list of the top ten biggest companies in the world at this point in history.

Most industry insiders and analysts believe that the revenues and profits enjoyed by major -- and smaller -- oil companies are expected to continue to rise unabated into the foreseeable future. A minority of industry analysts maintain that the governments of some countries (perhaps even the United States) may be positioned to attempt to enact some sort of windfall profits tax of the kind that was legislated into being in the 1970s. However, the belief that a tax on so-called windfall profits might be forthcoming in the United States or elsewhere is a minority perspective.

Media claim access to spill site has been limited ~ Censorship In America

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Media organizations say they are being allowed only limited access to areas impacted by the Gulf oil spill through restrictions on plane and boat traffic that are making it difficult to document the worst spill in U.S. history.

In at least two cases, a media organization and a seaplane pilot say BP PLC — the company responsible for cleaning up the spill — appeared to have a role in deciding on access.

Other media, including The Associated Press, have reported coverage problems because their access has been restricted, though not all have linked the decision to BP. Government officials say restrictions are needed to protect wildlife and ensure safe air traffic.

Ted Jackson, a photographer for The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans, said Saturday that access to the spill "is slowly being strangled off."

A CBS news story said one of its reporting teams was threatened with arrest by the Coast Guard and turned back from an oiled beach at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The story said the reporters were told the denial was under "BP's rules."

U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Aviation Administration officials said BP PLC was not controlling access.

Coast Guard officials also said there was no intent to conceal the scope of the disaster. Rather, they said, the spill's complexity had made it difficult to allow the open access sought by the media.

Associated Press Senior Managing Editor Mike Oreskes said the news organization was concerned about the restrictions.

"The Coast Guard obviously has a responsibility to protect natural habitats from both the seeping oil and from excessive traffic," Oreskes said in a statement. "But we have a shared responsibility to keep the public informed about this extraordinary event. It is not the job of either the government or BP to keep journalists from seeing what has happened."

Coast Guard Lt. Commander Rob Wyman said personnel involved in the CBS dispute said no one was threatened with arrest.

Vessels responding to the spill are surrounded by a 500 yard "standoff area" with restricted access, he said.

"If we see anybody impeding operations, we're going to ask you to move. We're going to ask you to back up and move away," he said.

BP contractors are operating alongside the FAA and Coast Guard at a command center that approves or denies flight requests. Charter pilots say they have been denied permission to fly below 3,000 feet when they have reporters or photographers aboard.

Those special flight restrictions, imposed on May 12, cover thousands of square miles of the Gulf and a broad swath of Louisiana's coast. Normally there are no restrictions on flying.

Charter seaplane pilot Lyle Panepinto of Belle Chasse, La., said his request to enter restricted airspace was denied after he told a BP contractor that his passenger was Jackson, the Times-Picayune photographer

The contractor, Dennis Dorsey, worked in a command center staffed by the company, the Coast Guard and the FAA. Reached by telephone Dorsey, who works for O'Brien's Response Management, said Panepinto's flight was rejected because it was not part of the response to the spill. He said that was based on rules set by the FAA.

"We don't want people (in the restricted flight area) that aren't working through this group trying to take care of the environmental problem," he said. "That's all set by the FAA."

Government officials and BP contractors take turns answering calls from pilots with requests for exemptions from the flight restrictions, Dorsey said.

The chief of the Coast Guard's public affairs programs branch said access had been hampered by a cumbersome approval process that stretched all the way to the White House.

Chief Warrant Officer Adam Wine said White House officials had to sign off on requests for tours of the spill zone before they could proceed. The Coast Guard is attempting to increase access through guided boat and aircraft tours, he said. Still, there is no plan to lift restrictions on flights or boat traffic into offshore areas — including some barrier islands.

White House officials referred questions about their involvement to Wyman. He said Wine's description of the chain of command was incorrect and that all requests from media were decided on by the command center in Robert, La. The Department of Homeland Security is notified, he said.

Two weeks ago, oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau was turned away from waters near a wildlife sanctuary after the Coast Guard discovered a reporter and a photographer from The Associated Press were on board.

Jackson, The Times-Picayune photographer, said he had been kept back from oil-covered beaches and denied a request to fly below 3,000 feet.

Referring to the elevations pilot are mandated to maintain, Jackson added: "The oil spill from there is just a rumor."

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said hundreds of flights related to the recovery effort go each day into the restricted airspace, including aircraft from the oil industry and law enforcement that are exempt from the flight restrictions.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

BP Oil Deaths, Massey Energy Deaths Spur Calls for Criminal Prosecutions of Corporate Execs

Full Article: Democracy Now

Disasters in Gulf Coast, West Virginia Spur Calls for Criminal Prosecutions of Corporate Execs

From the Gulf of Mexico to the Massey mine of West Virginia, scores of workers have died. We speak to Corporate Crime Reporter editor Russell Mokhiber, who says corporate executives should be held criminally accountable for the disasters under their watch. Mokhber is involved with a group of citizen activists who have just launched a campaign calling on the state of West Virginia to prosecute Massey Energy for manslaughter in connection with the April 5th explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine that claimed the lives of twenty-nine coal miners.

Chevron Has 5 Activists Arrested and Bars Entry to Global Victims of Its Practices at Annual Shareholders’ Meeting

Read Article: Democracy Now

Chevron has had five protesters arrested at its annual shareholders meeting in Houston and refused to allow another two dozen people from Chevron-affected countries around the world, like Nigeria, Ecuador and Burma. Those denied entry held legal shareholder proxies. The True Cost of Chevron Network says it organized the protest to call attention to Chevron’s human rights and environmental record. We speak to Antonia Juhasz, director of the Chevron Program at Global Exchange, who spent the night in jail after her arrest; and Emem Okon, an activist from Nigeria and the founder and executive director of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center in the Niger Delta.

SCOTUS To Dive Into Death Penalty Appeal On DNA Testing

I believe the Death Penalty is State Sanctioned Murder and is morally & ethically wrong.  I have no faith in The American Justice System. I do not trust Federal Prosecutors who almost always have a Political agenda.  Why would any court of law block a request for DNA testing if they were truly interested in finding the out the truth and prosecuting the right person?  Seems pretty obvious to me that the courts & prosecutors are only interested in 'a' conviction and not so much interested in convicting the true guilty party.  Please follow the link for more on The Death Penalty.

 by: Jessica Pieklo

For over 10 years Henry Skinner sat in prison insisting he was an innocent man.  A Texas jury had convicted Skinner in the 1993 murder of his girlfriend and her two adult sons.  Skinner maintained that DNA evidence found at the scene would prove his innocence and has requested, for the past decade, that Texas test that evidence, and for the past decade the Texas courts have denied these requests.  And in a turn of events fit for only for Hollywood, Skinner came within 24 hours of execution before the Supreme Court granted a rare and last-minute stay so it could decide if it would hear his case.  This week, they agreed to do just that.

More specifically, the Court will decide whether an inmates' requests for DNA testing can be considered as a civil rights claim.  So far, federal appellate courts are split on the issue and a definitive ruling has the potential to change, perhaps permanently, criminal jurisprudence.

Skinner's case has garnered a lot of attention.  It's received the attention because the evidence Skinner is asking to be tested is substantial, including DNA testing on bloody knives found at the scene, material found beneath the victim's fingernails, and rape kit samples.  And that's only some of the evidence he wants tested--evidence that should be examined in any homicide case.  And the case against Skinner was largely circumstantial.  The state's main witness recanted her testimony and claimed she had been intimidated by prosecutors.  A toxicology report done on Skinner suggests he was too intoxicated at the time to have committed the crimes, and investigators failed to consider a different suspect who actually had motive.

The case has also gained a lot of attention for some of the more technical aspects of criminal and constitutional law it implicates.  Skinner filed his request for DNA testing as a Section 1983 civil rights claim, and prisoners wanting courts to order DNA testing can submit the requests in the form of habeas corpus filings or as Section 1983 civil rights claims.  Currently, five circuit courts allow 1983 DNA requests, two do not, and five remain undecided on the issue.  And the heart of the controversy over the Section 1983 DNA appeals is whether the prisoner is merely seeking DNA testing of evidence or whether that inmate is demanding to be released from prison.  Typically, an attempt to be released from prison would be a habeas corpus case while simply seeking testing is a 1983 civil rights case.

This matters because many prisoners have had their habeas petitions denied, so a finding that a prisoner may challenge evidence via a civil rights claims could resuscitate some prisoner appeals.  And if a prisoner is successful at getting DNA testing of evidence, and that evidence proves exculpatory, convictions could ultimately be thrown out.

But isn't that a good thing?  Our criminal justice system, while one of the best in the world, is capable of error.  This country has recently, as in just a few years ago decided it wouldn't execute juveniles, and even more recently decided that children shouldn't be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if the crime they committed didn't result in a death.  As for adult offenders, the measure of the strength in that system comes from insuring a balanced and just application of our laws as we seek justice for unthinkable crimes.  Capital punishment is the ultimate exercise of government power and control, shouldn't we want to make sure that every person to face that power is truly guilty before we strip them of life?

Kid Steals A Cheese stick and Goes To Jail, Wall Street Bankers Steal $$Billions$$ From Taxpayers and get Huge Bonuses

I thought I'd share what I think is an interesting article, one that sheds more light on  the schizophrenic American Justice Systems.   This 18 year old is going before a Grand Jury for stealing a $.99 cheese stick,  meanwhile The Banksters & Wall Street are getting rewarded with huge bonuses for stealing $$Billions$$  from The American Taxpayer. Ahhh yes, we have indeed jumped through the Looking Glass.......God Bless The Corporate States of America. 

 Cortez Wyanna, 18, was indicted on charges of theft under $500  resisting arrest , disorderly conduct, and assault, all misdemeanor charges. According to the Columbia Daily Herald, Wyanna left the lunch line at Columbia Central High School, entered a restricted area, and stole some food. When one of the cafeteria workers tried to grab food from his lunch tray, he grabbed her hand, scratching it in the process, and took the food back. (That would be the charges of disorderly conduct and assault.)

And now Wyanna has been indicted by the Maury County grand jury, no less. He was also suspended from school for two days, and transferred to an alternative school for the remainder of his high school days.

Maybe he's lucky he wasn't born into seventeenth century England, where the theft of a leg of mutton could get you hanged at the gallows or shipped off to Australia for the rest of your life.

But seriously - a cheesestick? How much money are taxpayers in Tennessee forking out to deal with the theft of a 99 cent item? Apparently Wyanna had stolen a few cheesesticks earlier in the year. Well, maybe he was just hungry.

And what is it with Columbia, Tennessee? A few months ago, I wrote here about another school-related incident in the same city, when nine-year-old twins Jorden and Jacen Edwards were suspended from school because their school principal called their matching haircuts "gang haircuts"  and told them they could not return to school until they shaved their heads.

And now school administrators have descended to the Cheesestick Level. Don't the courts and the district attorney already have enough to occupy them? Last week I wrote about a high school senior in Pennsylvania, whose phone was turned over to the authorities after the principal discovered nude photos there. Whether it's the content of a cell phone or the theft of a cheesestick, school administrators need to learn what they should handle within the school system.

Whatever the mitigating circumstances, Wyanna stole food and should be disciplined for that action. But indicted by a grand jury? How about handling school issues within the school where they belong?

Noam Chomsky: Distorted Morality

Noam Chomsky Compares Right Wing Media To Nazi Germany

Friday, May 28, 2010

Are You Unemployed Because You Are Lazy?

Are you still unemployed? Obviously it is because you are lazy. At least, many members of Congress think so, anyway.

And besides, cutting the deficit -- caused by tax cuts for the rich and massive military spending increases -- is much more important than paychecks for Americans. The solution to the deficit -- caused by tax cuts for the rich and massive military spending increases -- is to cut back on things that help the American public.

Here is Senator Gregg on CNBC (Senate salary $174,000, see benefits below**), saying that unemployment checks mean people are "encouraged not to go look for work" and "don't want to go look for work"

And this in the news today, In Congress, spending measures meet bipartisan resistance [1],
"It's time to start paying for things," said Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.), a freshman who voted for last year's economic stimulus bill but said she is likely to oppose the next spending package, scheduled to hit the House floor Tuesday. "We've done some good things, but one of the best things we could do right now is get control of our fiscal house."
. . . Dahlkemper, facing a well-funded Republican car dealer in the blue-collar district she seized from the GOP in 2008, said businesses back home complain that they want to start hiring but are getting few applicants because Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment benefits.
"At some point we have to pivot" away from saving the economy and start reducing the deficit, said Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.).
So remember, the deficit -- caused by tax cuts for the rich and massive military spending increases -- has to be brought down and the way to bring down the deficit -- caused by tax cuts for the rich and massive military spending increases -- is to cut back on things that help the American public, and cut back on the investments in infrastructure (the seed corn) that bring future economic growth. But not to do anything about the cause of the deficits: tax cuts for the rich and massive military spending increases.
So if you are unemployed, just remember, in Washington the people who put $13.89 trillion at risk to bail out the big Wall Street firms, $4.71 trillion disbursed with $2.01 trillion still outstanding [2], think this is because you are lazy.

**Senate benefits [3]:
Along with earning salaries, senators receive retirement and health benefits that are identical to other federal employees, and are fully vested after five years of service. Senators are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). As it is for federal employees, congressional retirement is funded through taxes and the participants' contributions. Under FERS, senators contribute 1.3% of their salary into the FERS retirement plan and pay 6.2% of their salary in Social Security taxes. The amount of a senator's pension depends on the years of service and the average of the highest 3 years of their salary. The starting amount of a senator's retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of their final salary. In 2006, the average annual pension for retired senators and representatives under CSRS was $60,972, while those who retired under FERS, or in combination with CSRS, was $35,952.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trusting the Scorpion: BP, the Legacy of Republican Hypocrisy and Democratic Cowardice

by John Atcheson

The progressives are up in arms over the oil spill.  Like a scene from Frankenstein, the good citizens are storming the hydrocarbon castle with torches ablaze, and pitchforks held high.

Some demand stricter regulations, some a wiser energy policy, but they're all focused on tarring BP with this heinous crime against nature.

Especially now that Obama is starting to get some blame.  An inordinate amount of energy is being spent on how we can use this event to "message," with the emphasis here on assigning the blame to BP.

It would be nice to get stricter regulations; certainly a wiser energy policy would be good.  But focusing on blaming BP is missing the point.  Of course they cut corners; of course they're sleazy.  It's what they do.

But they can do it only because we let them.  The whole thing is reminiscent of the fable about the scorpion and the frog.  If you've forgotten, it goes like this:
 A scorpion asks a frog to carry him across a river. The frog, afraid of being stung, refuses at first, but when the scorpion points out that if it were to sting the frog,  the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown as well, he relents. Yet when they reach the middle of the river, the scorpion stings him. As they are sinking,  the frog asks why, and the scorpion explains, "I'm a scorpion; it's what we do."
The hydrocarbon castle we would storm is but one building in a vast city as dark as Mordor.

That's why focusing on blaming BP, even in hopes of getting a saner energy policy, is such a waste - it's like worrying about a case of the sniffles (albeit a very bad case) when you've got end stage cancer. 

Was Exxon - the mot profitable company in history last year -- not blamed for the "Exxon-Valdez?" Did it change anything?

Here's the grim reality: the oil spill is merely a symptom of a much deeper problem, one that is our fault, because for the last 30 years we've been trusting the scorpion.

The fact is, Reagan had it backwards. Government, it turns out, is often the solution and unconstrained private industry the problem. 

Many of us knew this, but few have had the courage to stand up to Reagan's dangerous, but popular, fantasy, then or now. 

Indeed, when the history of the last three decades is written, it will be a story of epic hypocrisy on the part of Republicans, enabled by abject cowardice on the part of Democrats, with consequences that created a legacy far more tragic and irreversible than even this horrendous oil spill.

There may have been a few conservative ideologues who actually believed the small government, magic market mantras spouted by the likes of Reagan, Grover Norquist (I simply want to rduce [government] to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub) William Kristol and assorted industry-funded think tanks, but they were few and far between. 

The real reason this philosophy spread was because it was politically expedient, it was backed and funded by powerful interests who made campaign contributions, and few had the courage or conviction required to confront a fantasy that told people they didn't have to pay for the services they demanded.

Across our entire economy and society we are now reaping the harvest of that hypocrisy, and the fruits of that cowardice. 

To any remaining acolytes of Reaganism, the track record stands in stark rebuke.

The evidence mounts every day.  The BP oil spill, yes.  But also The Big Branch coal mining disaster; the sub-prime disaster; the AIG and various other Wall Street disasters; the growing income disparity between the rich and the rest of us; a global thermostat set on self-destruct; a globalized economy as volatile as a vial of nitro-glycerin - everywhere you look, you see more proof that the conservative mantra of small government and uber-free markets has completely failed.

If one examines the record, it's pretty clear that Republicans and conservatives (effectively the same thing) never really cared much about small government.  In fact, government grew rapidly under Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. The only time since Carter that government growth subsided was under Clinton.

Doubt that?  Here's the numbers.

If you rank all Presidents since Nixon by the number of government employees per 1000 citizens, here's what you'll find:

Reagan tops the list with the most, and Bush II is next. Clinton, on the other hand, had the smallest government by number of employees. 

The story is much the same for deficits:

Reagan increased the federal deficit as a per cent of GDP by 10%, Bush I by 13%, and Bush II by an incredible 20%.  In contrast, Clinton lowered it by 10%.

Of course there are lots of ways to slice and dice the statistics, but any honest look at the numbers comes up with the same conclusion - Reagan, Bush I and Bush II talked about small government but presided over dramatic growth in the size of government, while Clinton actually made progress in reducing the size of government. 

And rather than having the courage to actually cut popular services, Republicans cut taxes and raised deficits to continue providing them, while making it virtually inevitable that someone, someday would have to shrink government - hopefully enough to drown it in the bathtub.  Ironically, Democrats - only slightly more interested in delivering good government than amassing power than Republicans are - did most of whatever spending cuts did happen.

So, if small government wasn't really the goal for conservatives, what was? 

Simple: weak government. 

Government that couldn't constrain the vaunted private sector - the font of all good things according to conservatives' public pronouncements - the font of campaign contributions in reality as Paul Krugman pointed out in a recent column, and Thomas Frank noted in What's the Matter with Kansas?. 

And while Clinton made real progress in constraining government growth, he signed onto the Conservative notion of eviscerating government.  It was Clinton's economic team, after all, which led the charge to rescind the Glass Steagall Act - the jewel in the crown of financial deregulation, and the source of much of our misery now.  It was Clinton who  ended welfare and proclaimed the era of big government to be over.

It wasn't just Clinton. Democrats quickly became complicit in this epic hypocrisy. They formed the DLC and went after corporate campaign contributions, they triangulated, they became split-the-difference Democrats, adopting much of the conservative playbook, and legitimizing more of it.

Aside from the obvious ethical and moral issues, the problem with this strategy is that when the policy, philosophy or system fails, the triangulator owns a big share of the catastrophes that failure creates.

For example, back to the BP oil disaster.  Just weeks before it occurred, in a classic triangulation, Obama announced that he supported off-shore drilling.  Because he failed to take a stand then, he couldn't avoid taking some of the blame for the spill.  Had he made Republican deregulation an issue and opposed offshore drilling rather than cratering to the drill-baby-drill crazies - had he stood on principle - he wouldn't be in a defensive position, trying to pass off blame and criticism to BP.  Rather he would have made deregulation the issue, and he'd be leading a popular charge against a broken regulatory system and a failed political philosophy, putting conservatives in a defensive position. 

That's right, because of political cowardice and a too-clever-by-a-half strategy, the Obama administration is fending off blame for something Republicans, conservatives, and the drill-baby-drill crowd fought to put in place.

And this is just one example of a dynamic that has dominated politics since Reagan. 

You can't confront Wall Street when you've set up Goldman Sachs South in the US Treasury and the White House, stocking it with the very folks who created the problem.

You can't confront Health Care crazies when you've made back room deals with big Pharma, and preemptively ceded the victory to private industry. 

You can't confront the collapse of the educational system, if you've advocated tax cuts.  Look at California, which was at the vanguard of the tax cutting frenzy.  Their educational system went from number 1 in the country when Reagan took over to number 47, now. 

You can't get out of illegitimate and ill-advised wars when you've given them legitimacy. 

Come on. 

Does anyone really believe the US has a strategic stake in Afghanistan?  And even if you did, does anyone believe that occupying the hapless country with conventional military forces is the way to deal with it?  Let's face it, we doubled down on this war because Democrats thought it would be the best way to inoculate themselves against the dreaded "soft on defense" epithet.

In fact, Democrats have been so ready to run from name calling it's as if they're wearing track shoes and poised in starting blocks, the better to sprint from their convictions at the first whiff of a meanie. 

They've been so eager for power, that they stopped thinking about why the want it - it became an end, not a means.

If we'd been willing to stand on principle for the last three decades, we might have lost a few elections, but at least the debate would be framed, the battle lines clear.

And when the inevitable failures from the conservative hypocrisy came, Tea-partiers might have been pouring into the streets demanding that the rich pay their fair share of taxes and the corporations quit exploiting humanity and the planet so that a few CEOs might buy an extra 25,000 square foot vacation home in Barbados.  Indeed, they might even be demanding that government fulfill its role as guarantor of a civil society.

Now, instead, no one believes government has a role.

Bottom line: we're not having the debate this country so desperately needs to have because for decades, we've run from that debate, and to do so now would be to expose the full depth of that cowardice.  

That's why watching liberals and progressives falling all over themselves trying to figure out how to fix the blame on BP is such a tragedy. Even if they succeed the root cause of the disaster remains, and far more serious issues go unaddressed.

We are now fording difficult passages - as dangerous as any this country has ever faced - and until we confront the larger conservative failure, we will do so with the scorpion on our collective back. 

The countless failures of Reaganism are laid out like stepping stones across this broad river we must ford. 

We can see, on the other side, shimmering in the distance, the promised land - a land in which citizens run government, not corporations; in which the wealth of our collective endeavors is shared among us all, not ceded to the top 1%; a land in which we treat nature with the care and reverence our very survival demands, not as a spare parts shed and waste pile; a land in which government is the way we come together to meet the great challenges of the 21st Century, not a punch line to a cynical and manipulative speech given by corporate lackeys posing as politicians.

The choice is clear. 

We could treat each of the national disasters facing us as discreet entities, in which case we attempt to swim the river with the scorpion on our back.  Or with a little courage and a little integrity, we could confront them as symptoms of the larger failures of conservatism that they are, in which case we simply step across the stones before us to reach the other side.

We have no choice.  Conservatism's failure is complete, the consequences of not confronting that failure too dear.  The time is now; cowardice is no longer an option. All we lack is a leader with the courage to take the first step.

Mr. Obama, will you be that leader?

John Atcheson's writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, as well as in several wonk journals. His last article for Common Dreams was "Fear, Ignorance and the Summer of Our Discontent" on 10/4/09. He is currently at work on a fictional Trilogy that centers on climate change.  Atcheson's book reviews are featured on Email to:

Scientists Say More Gulf Oil Flowing Than Thought

ROBERT, La. - Scientists studying the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico now say it's leaking at least twice as much oil and possibly five times as much as original estimates.
this May, 23, 2010 photo provided by the Plaquemines Parish, La. 
Government, a dead oil-covered dolphin lies on the ground in Venice, La.
  (AP Photo/Plaquemines Parish Government) ]In this May, 23, 2010 photo provided by the Plaquemines Parish, La. Government, a dead oil-covered dolphin lies on the ground in Venice, La. (AP Photo/Plaquemines Parish Government)
U.S. Geological Survey Director Dr. Marcia McNutt is the leader of a team put together to try to figure out how much oil is coming from the well.
She says results are preliminary but two teams using different methods determined the well is leaking at least 504,000 gallons a day.

One team said it might be leaking as much as 798,000 gallons and another said that number might be closer to a million gallons.

The well blew out when the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20.

BP and the Coast Guard had said since then that about 210,000 gallons a day was flowing.

We Are All Connected

It's too bad we don't vote into Office people who subscribe to this philosophy.  If we did there would be fewer wars, less homelessness and poverty, fewer for-profit prisons and more drug/alcohol treatment centers,  everyone would have access to health and mental health care questions is:    Are we our brother's keeper, I've always thought so and I'm not a Christian.  My brother always thought so and he's an Atheist.   Just something to keep in mind the next time you hear one of our Politicians start talking about their 'Christianity'.

By Grant Lawrence
Bodhi Thunder

Greg Braden, a spiritual teacher of some significance, uses science to explain in easy to understand terms the connection between our feelings and the world.

Science has traditionally told us that human feeling can only effect a person physically. In the past, there was even some debate on how much feelings do effect our health.

Today we know that our feelings can contribute tremendously to our health or our ill health. Today we also know, thanks to quantum scientific research, that the physical world is connected to consciousness.

We are literally the universe and not in any way separate from it. We must start seeing our lives in terms of the whole world and the whole of life. Once we start to see how intimately our feelings are connected to everything else, we can begin to embrace our own power.

But this power comes with a great deal of responsibility. When we have grasped the truth of our being, then we understand that we are responsible for the life of the world.

As Cain asked in the Old Testament Garden of Eden Story, "am I my brother's keeper?"

The answer is that we are our brothers keeper. Our brother is all the life of the planet. We are all responsible for each other.

The good news is that once we start to see this truth then we start to feel better about ourselves and our lives. Thus as we raise our feelings, our very being, then we can have profound effects on the rest of life, as Greg Braden explains below.

They Say: 'A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words'....You Decide.

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Count Crimes Committed in Oily Gulf of Mexico: Ann Woolner

As much as I would love to believe that there will be justice for ever animal, both human and non I have serious doubts.  The Corporate-Government corruption is as thick and runs as deep as The Gulf Oil Spill itself.


Commentary by Ann Woolner

May 26 (Bloomberg) -- At least one federal crime had indisputably been committed when oil started spewing into the Gulf of Mexico and approached land. Another criminal act became clear when the first oil-covered sea bird died.

Even if everyone involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster did precisely what they were supposed to do, if every crew member, each manager and all suppliers followed every regulation diligently, the oil globs reaching shore and the deadly crude covering pelicans signal crimes just as clearly as would a body with a dagger through the heart.

“Someone’s going to be criminally prosecuted for this,” says David M. Uhlmann, who for 17 years worked as a prosecutor for the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section, including seven years as the unit’s chief.

The questions are: who, and for what crimes?
BP Plc tops the list of suspects because the company leased the rig, owns the oil and to some degree oversaw the operation. But Transocean Ltd., which owns the rig and supplied most of the staff, no doubt has its lawyers working defensively right about now. And then there’s Halliburton Co., which cemented the well.

As for laws that were clearly broken, there are two that let prosecutors slam-dunk convictions with no evidence of negligence or intentional wrongdoing. Many a white-collar case has floundered on the problem of proving criminal intent. These environmental laws make that unnecessary.
Environmental Statutes

The 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects fowl. The Refuse Act, part of the 1899 Rivers and Harbors Act, outlaws industrial discharge in navigable waters.

OK, they are both misdemeanors punishable by minor fines, but stay with me here.
Even a misdemeanor conviction would remove the $75 million cap on damages that the Oil Pollution Act sets. BP says it will pay all legitimate damages from the spill, regardless of the cap, but fisherman still suffering from the Exxon Valdez spill 20 years ago would urge caution in believing such promises.
Bumping it up a notch by showing negligence, prosecutors can win a conviction under the Clean Water Act, and there’s every reason to believe that can be shown here. Negligence means an absence of due care, say in keeping the blowout preventer working to, um, prevent a catastrophic blowout, for example.

All right, a negligence conviction would be a misdemeanor, too, but it carries a fine that could decimate any company charged in this catastrophe: up to twice the damages the spill caused. And an individual charged could spend a year in jail, which would seem a lot for an oil-company manager.
Proving Felonies

To get into felony territory is trickier. For that, prosecutors need to show that companies or people acted “knowingly.”

Surely no one knew they would be wreaking ecological devastation on the Gulf of Mexico, ruining a coastal fishing industry, crippling tourism or trashing beachfront property values when they were operating the Deepwater Horizon, even if they took a shortcut or two.

That kind of knowledge doesn’t have to be proven to make a felony case. A BP subsidiary admitted felonious guilt in a deadly 2005 explosion at a Texas City, Texas, refinery and when another BP operation spilled 200,000 barrels of oil into Prudhoe Bay in Alaska.

Uhlmann, who now teaches law at the University of Michigan, says that if sufficient evidence emerges, the government could win felony convictions under the Clean Water Act by proving those in charge knew the operation had serious problems and continued to run it anyway.
Eyewitness Account

That seems the case laid out in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview with Mike Williams, chief electronics technician on the Deepwater Horizon.

He said that before the explosion, the rig’s blowout preventer coughed up broken pieces of a crucial rubber seal. A supervisor said it was no big deal.

And when a crew member’s error broke part of the blowout device’s emergency backup system, no one much cared about that, either, Williams told “60 Minutes.”

Then, when it came time to close the new well in preparation for pumping, a BP manager demanded the crew use a quicker, riskier way than the standard process the Transocean manager had planned, according to Williams.

It could turn out that Williams’ account is flawed, or that none of those problems led to the explosion, or that BP and Transocean did everything they reasonably could to prevent the 11 deaths and thousands of barrels of still-spewing oil that’s now coating wildlife and washing ashore on beaches and wetlands.

Legal Thresholds
But if someone filed a false report, manipulated a test result or showed any attempt at deceit, that would ratchet up a Clean Water case to a felony. It could also trigger prosecution for fraud, obstructing justice or filing a false statement against the individuals involved, as well as their employer.
In this case prosecutors will be driven to be as aggressive as possible, says Uhlmann, given the gravity of what’s occurred and previous convictions by BP subsidiaries, all of them accompanied by promises to do better.

And yet, even the misdemeanor crimes we know were committed led to a calamitous result. They could also lead to ruinous penalties to those responsible.

(Ann Woolner is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)
To contact the writer of this column: Ann Woolner in Atlanta at 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

America, from Sea to Corporate Owned Sea

 I find it incredulous that this Brit who's corporation is responsible for  the death of 11 people (who we hear nothing about because in Corporate America 'life' is cheap and meant to be exploited).  This Brit who's corporation (with the help of deregulation and The MMS)  is responsible for a polluted and dying Golf is on US land bullying The American Media (what little media that's not corporate owned).  America, from Sea to Corporate Owned Sea.

BP Is 'Big And Important': BP Chairman Strikes Out At Critics, CEO Scolds Photographer At Oil Spill Site (VIDEO)

Carl-Henric Svanberg, the chairman of BP, has struck out at critics of his company's response to the Gulf oil spill and told The Financial Times that BP is "big and important."

In an interview published Tuesday by FT, Svanberg painted the oil company's relationship with the U.S. as one that was mutually beneficial to both parties. "The US is a big and important market for BP, and BP is also a big and important company for the US, with its contribution to drilling and oil and gas production," Svanberg said. "So the position goes both ways."

Svanberg dismissed calls for a government takeover of the effort to plug the well and said that "if we do the right thing," BP's reputation may not suffer long-term damage.

The chairman's "big and important" assertions about his company came shortly after BP CEO Tony Hayward was recorded acting big and important around photographers covering the spill. 

While observing a beach covered in crude, Hayward took it upon himself to scold a photographer whom he thought was too close to the spill. 

"Hey, get outta there. Get outta there," Hayward barked to the photographer. "Get him out. Get him out." 

Hayward's orders came just before a BP press conference.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Mother Jones

“It’s BP’s Oil”

Running the corporate blockade at Louisiana's crude-covered beaches.