Friday, April 30, 2010

Moyers Says Goodbye, Welfare for Billionaires, Assault on Social Security and Medicare

News: Over 15,000 unionists marched on Wall Street, thursday. AFL-CIO
Pres. Richard Trumka: "We're here today for the folks who were played for
suckers in the casino economy and will be silent no more. The message
we bring is this: Wall Street, fix the mess you made."

America lost 8.5 million jobs because of the financial crisis created
by Wall Street, Trumka said, and now is 11 million jobs in the hole.

Absolutely no mention in in Nat'l or Business sections.

The Last Show

by: Bill Moyers Journal,
Wednesday 28 April 2010

Airtime: Friday, April 30, 2010, at 9:00 PM (EDT) on PBS (check local
listings at

In this special 90-minute finale to Bill Moyers Journal: With distrust of
the federal government at a historic high and Americans disillusioned with a
government run by and for the powerful, Bill Moyers sits down with populist
Jim Hightower to look at the history and legacy of people's movements and
discuss how ordinary people can reclaim political power. The Journal also
travels to Iowa where one group has been helping ordinary citizens fight for
change for more than three decades. And, acclaimed author Barry Lopez joins
Bill Moyers to discuss nature, spirit and the human condition. Lopez is an
essayist, author and short-story writer, whose many books include "Arctic
Dreams," winner of the National Book Award and "Of Wolves and Men," a
National Book Award finalist.


From: Anthony Saidy Weekly Newsletter
Sent: Thu, April 29, 2010 12:39:27 PM
Subject: This Week at


News National News | Comics | Blog

$1 Rent for Billionaire Broad

So much for Villaraigosa's new era of transparency and shared sacrifice


Welcome, Los Angeles, to your postrecessionary urban life. Prices are being
hiked by the City Council for superfluous items like DWP power and trash
pickup, the city is issuing $500 red-light camera tickets to increase
revenue, and the mayor and council are slashing library service in poor
neighborhoods. But, while Angelenos were cobbling together the rent, City
Councilwoman Jan Perry and others were involved in secret negotiations to
lease billionaire Eli Broad a piece of choice, taxpayer-owned property next
to Walt Disney Concert Hall for $1 a year. All this unfolded as City Hall
leaders, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Perry, who represents
downtown, were advocating municipal ... MORE »


The Coming Plan to Slash Social Security and Medicare

The Flight of the Deficit Hawks

Counterpunch: April 28, 2010

The deficit hawks are going into high gear with their drive to cut Social
Security and Medicare. President Obama's deficit commission is having a big
public event on Tuesday in which many of the country's most prominent
deficit hawks will tout the need to reduce the budget deficit. The next day,
Wall Street investment banker Peter Peterson will be hosting a "summit on
fiscal responsibility," which will feature more luminaries touting the need
to get deficits under control.

What will be missing from both of these events is any serious debate on the
extent of the deficit problem and its causes. These affairs are not about
promoting a real exchange of views on issues like the future of Social
Security, Medicare, and public support for education, research and
infrastructure. The purpose of these events is to tell the public that
everyone agrees, we have to cut the deficit. And, this means cutting Social
Security and Medicare. This is argument by authority.

Many public debates in the United States take this form. The issue is not
what is said, but rather who says it. A few years ago all the authorities
said that there was no housing bubble. The large body of evidence showing
that house prices had hugely diverged from the fundamentals did not matter
when the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the President's Council of
Economic Advisors and other leading lights of the economic profession
insisted that everything in the housing market was just fine.

Going further back to the mid-90s, many of this same group of deficit hawk
luminaries tried to use argument by authority to cut Social Security. They
came up with the story that the consumer price index (CPI) overstated the
true rate of inflation. After workers retire, their Social Security benefits
are indexed to the CPI. This crew (which included then Sen. Alan Simpson, a
co-chair of President Obama's commission, and Peter Peterson) argued that
Social Security benefits should lag the CPI by 1.0 percentage point a year.
In other words, if the CPI shows 3.0 percent inflation, then Social Security
benefits will only rise by 2.0 percent.

That may seem a small cut, but it adds up over time. A worker retired for 10
years would have their benefits reduced by approximately 10 percent. A
worker retired for 20 years would have their benefits cut by almost 20

To push this agenda, they put together a panel of the country's most
prominent economists, all of whom blessed the claim that the CPI overstated
the true rate of inflation by at least 1.0 percentage point. In addition to
this panel, the Social Security cutters also pulled in other prominent
economists, including Martin Feldstein, formerly President Reagan's top
economist and the head of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The Social Security cutters were so successful in rounding up the big names
that virtually no economists were prepared to publicly stand up and question
their claims about the CPI. They had near free rein, running around the
country with the "all the experts agree" line.

As events unfolded they were not able to get their cut in Social Security
benefits. (Ted Kennedy and Dick Gephardt deserve big credit on this.) But
what is really interesting for the current debate is what happened to the
experts' claim on the CPI. There were some changes made to the CPI, but in
the view of the expert panel, the major causes of the biases in the CPI were
not fixed. They concluded that even after the changes the CPI still
overstated the true rate of inflation by 0.8 percentage points annually.

If this claim is really true then it has enormous ramifications for our
assessment of the economy. It means, for example, that incomes and wages are
rising far more rapidly than the official data show. It means that people in
the recent past were far poorer than is indicated by official statistics. If
the claim about the CPI being overstated is true, then we would have to
re-examine a vast amount of economic research that starts from the premise
that the CPI is an accurate measure of inflation.

However, almost no economists have adjusted their research for a CPI's
overstatement of inflation. In fact, even the members of the expert panel
don't generally use a measure of inflation that adjusts for the alleged bias
in the CPI. In other words, when they are not pushing cuts to Social
Security, these economists act as though the CPI is an accurate measure of
the rate of inflation. This could lead one to question these experts'

This history should give the public serious grounds for being suspicious
about the latest efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare. A serious
discussion of the deficit will show that in the short-term the deficit is
not a problem and that the longer-term deficit problem is really a problem
of a broken U.S. health care system. The public should not allow the deficit
hawks to derail a more serious discussion with their argument by authority.

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research
(CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the
Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.

This column was originally published by The Guardian.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Scheer: 'God, What a Piece of Crap', Krugman: Berating the Raters

'God, What a Piece of Crap'

By Robert Scheer
Truthdig: April 28, 2919

It was the Perry Mason moment in the unraveling of what was left of Goldman
Sachs' reputation. Only in this case, it involved a grizzled former
prosecutor, Sen. Carl Levin, rather than a genial defense attorney. The case
was broken and the truth about the depth of Goldman's corruption revealed in
his startling cross-examination of Goldman Chief Financial Officer David

The Michigan Democrat, citing the language of the internal e-mails of
Goldman traders concerning the deceptive products they were selling, asked:
"And when you heard that your own employees in these e-mails are looking at
these deals said `God what a shitty deal. God, what a piece of crap,' when
you hear your own employees and read about those e-mails, do you feel

Viniar's answer told us all we need to know about the banal but profound
immorality of Goldman's business culture: "I think that's very unfortunate
to have on e-mail."

A flabbergasted Levin cut in with "On e-mail? How about feeling that way?"
and Viniar, apparently moved by jeers of ridicule from the audience,
conceded "I think it is very unfortunate for anyone to have said that in any
form." Pressed further by Levin asking, "How about to believe that and sell
them?" the CFO finally conceded, "I think that's unfortunate as well." To
which Levin responded, "That's what you should have started with."

But Goldman's executives didn't start with any such moral qualms or end with
them, as was made clear in the testimony of Goldman Chief Executive Officer
Lloyd Blankfein that followed. Blankfein basically pleaded ignorance about
the company's scams, making it clear that offering the details of such
products was below his pay scale. That would be $68 million in 2007, the
highest in Wall Street history, when Goldman's bets against its customers
paid off so handsomely. What was clear is that his job was to ensure the
company's immense year-end profitability with no questions asked about the
methods used. "I did not know" he replied when asked about the details of
the company's trades, and at another point he added, "We're not that smart."
Then there was "I don't have any knowledge" on selling short, and finally,
"We did not know what subsequently occurred in the housing market."

What he did know is that the scoundrels in his mortgage betting rooms were,
as with that high-flying London operation that got AIG so much loot before
it exploded, raking in enormous profits. Such ignorance is bliss for a
Goldman CEO who apparently is rewarded in inverse proportion to what he
knows of the operation as long as he pays attention to the bottom line.

That was certainly the case for the man whom Blankfein succeeded the year
before, Henry Paulson, when Paulson went off to serve as George W. Bush's
treasury secretary. As Paulson admits in his memoir, he was unaware that
suspect mortgages were at the heart of the banking meltdown, even though he
was head of Goldman when those toxic mortgage securities were developed.

And then there is that other Goldman-honcho-turned-public-servant Robert
Rubin, who was a Goldman vice chairman before serving as Bill Clinton's
treasury secretary. In that Cabinet job, Rubin pushed through the Financial
Services Modernization Act, which demolished the wall between investment and
commercial banking. Ironically, that reversal of the New Deal regulations
that had operated successfully for 60 years, the Glass-Steagall Act, was
referenced by Blankfein in his Tuesday testimony explaining how Goldman and
other firms spun out of control.

When asked by Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., how Goldman had morphed from a
traditional investment bank backing sound business ventures to a market
gambler in fanciful products, Blankfein attributed it, somewhat forlornly,
to "a change in the sociology of the business that took place over the last
15 to 20 years." He added, "I'm not sure that it was precipitated by the
fall of Glass-Steagall or it caused Glass-Steagall to fall. ."

Of course there was nothing inevitable about the fall of Glass-Steagall in
1999, since it was the result of decades of lobbying by the financial
industry. That change was followed by the total deregulation of financial
derivatives by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which Rubin had
pushed and which President Clinton signed into law.

Clinton recently conceded that he got bad advice from Rubin on derivatives
regulation, but he still holds to the notion that the reversal of
Glass-Steagall was not harmful. No one listening carefully to the day of
testimony by the various Goldman executives could accept the idea that these
folks can function decently without strict boundaries.


Berating the Raters

Ny Times Op-Ed: April 25, 2010

Let's hear it for the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Its
work on the financial crisis is increasingly looking like the 21st-century
version of the Pecora hearings, which helped usher in New Deal-era financial
regulation. In the past few days scandalous Wall Street e-mail messages
released by the subcommittee have made headlines.

That's the good news. The bad news is that most of the headlines were about
the wrong e-mails. When Goldman Sachs employees bragged about the money they
had made by shorting the housing market, it was ugly, but that didn't amount
to wrongdoing.

No, the e-mail messages you should be focusing on are the ones from
employees at the credit rating agencies, which bestowed AAA ratings on
hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of dubious assets, nearly all of
which have since turned out to be toxic waste. And no, that's not hyperbole:
of AAA-rated subprime-mortgage-backed securities issued in 2006, 93
percent - 93 percent! - have now been downgraded to junk status.

What those e-mails reveal is a deeply corrupt system. And it's a system that
financial reform, as currently proposed, wouldn't fix.

The rating agencies began as market researchers, selling assessments of
corporate debt to people considering whether to buy that debt. Eventually,
however, they morphed into something quite different: companies that were
hired by the people selling debt to give that debt a seal of approval.

Those seals of approval came to play a central role in our whole financial
system, especially for institutional investors like pension funds, which
would buy your bonds if and only if they received that coveted AAA rating.

It was a system that looked dignified and respectable on the surface. Yet it
produced huge conflicts of interest. Issuers of debt - which increasingly
meant Wall Street firms selling securities they created by slicing and
dicing claims on things like subprime mortgages - could choose among several
rating agencies. So they could direct their business to whichever agency was
most likely to give a favorable verdict, and threaten to pull business from
an agency that tried too hard to do its job. It's all too obvious, in
retrospect, how this could have corrupted the process.

And it did. The Senate subcommittee has focused its investigations on the
two biggest credit rating agencies, Moody's and Standard & Poor's; what it
has found confirms our worst suspicions. In one e-mail message, an S.& P.
employee explains that a meeting is necessary to "discuss adjusting
criteria" for assessing housing-backed securities "because of the ongoing
threat of losing deals." Another message complains of having to use
resources "to massage the sub-prime and alt-A numbers to preserve market
share." Clearly, the rating agencies skewed their assessments to please
their clients.

These skewed assessments, in turn, helped the financial system take on far
more risk than it could safely handle. Paul McCulley of Pimco, the bond
investor (who coined the term "shadow banks" for the unregulated
institutions at the heart of the crisis), recently described it this way:
"explosive growth of shadow banking was about the invisible hand having a
party, a non-regulated drinking party, with rating agencies handing out fake

So what can be done to keep it from happening again?

The bill now before the Senate tries to do something about the rating
agencies, but all in all it's pretty weak on the subject. The only provision
that might have teeth is one that would make it easier to sue rating
agencies if they engaged in "knowing or reckless failure" to do the right
thing. But that surely isn't enough, given the money at stake - and the fact
that Wall Street can afford to hire very, very good lawyers.

What we really need is a fundamental change in the raters' incentives. We
can't go back to the days when rating agencies made their money by selling
big books of statistics; information flows too freely in the Internet age,
so nobody would buy the books. Yet something must be done to end the
fundamentally corrupt nature of the the issuer-pays system.

An example of what might work is a proposal by Matthew Richardson and
Lawrence White of New York University. They suggest a system in which firms
issuing bonds continue paying rating agencies to assess those bonds - but in
which the Securities and Exchange Commission, not the issuing firm,
determines which rating agency gets the business.

I'm not wedded to that particular proposal. But doing nothing isn't an
option. It's comforting to pretend that the financial crisis was caused by
nothing more than honest errors. But it wasn't; it was, in large part, the
result of a corrupt system. And the rating agencies were a big part of that

Save 116 Public Spaces, Before the Rig Exploded, Kent State Anniversary Blues

From: Uncle Don B Fanning
Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 11:36 AM

ACTION: Save Beyond Baroque (& other public spaces)


A proposal by the City of Los Angeles City Administrator Officer's
office would eliminate the $1.00 per-year leases for 116 nonprofit
organizations (approximately 16 arts organizations) working in the
interest of the public. No economic analysis was conducted on the
long term costs of this short-term fix and no non-profits were
consulted on its impact. The proposal will go before the full LA City
Council sometime in the next two weeks.

This could have a devastating impact on many Venice-based non-profits
including: Beyond Baroque, Sparc, LA Theatre Works, the Vera Davis
McClendon Youth and Family Center, just to name a few.

Make your voice heard by taking action below NOW.


Send a letter to the LA City Council urging them to have a full
hearing on the fiscal impact, human and community impact this policy
will have on the lives of Angelenos.

A big thank you to Arts For LA for their partnership on helping with
this critical issue.

We thank everyone of you for your support, which is so crucial now!


Big Oil Fought Off New Safety Rules Before Rig Explosion

by Marcus Baram
Huffington Post: Apuil 27, 2010

As families mourn the 11 workers thrown overboard in the worst oil rig
disaster in decades and as the resulting spill continues to spread through
the Gulf of Mexico, new questions are being raised about the training of the
drill operators and about the oil company's commitment to safety.

Deepwater Horizon, the giant technically-advanced rig which exploded on
April 20 and sank two days later, is leaking an estimated 42,000 gallons per
day through a pipe about 5,000 feet below the surface. The spill has spread
across 1,800 square miles -- an area larger than Rhode Island -- according
to satellite images, oozing its way toward the Louisiana coast and posing a
threat to wildlife, including a sperm whale spotted in the oil sheen.

The massive $600 million rig, which holds the record for boring the deepest
oil and gas well in the world -- at 35,050 feet - had passed three recent
federal inspections, the most recent on April 1, since it moved to its
current location in January. The cause of the explosion has not been

Yet relatives of workers who are presumed dead claim that the oil behemoth
BP and rig owner TransOcean violated "numerous statutes and regulations"
issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S.
Coast Guard, according to a lawsuit filed by Natalie Roshto, whose husband
Shane, a deck floor hand, was thrown overboard by the force of the explosion
and whose body has not yet been located.

Both companies failed to provide a competent crew, failed to properly
supervise its employees and failed to provide Rushto with a safe place to
work, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of Louisiana. The lawsuit also names oil-services giant
Halliburton as a defendant, claiming that the company "prior to the
explosion, was engaged in cementing operations of the well and well cap and,
upon information and belief, improperly and negligently performed these
duties, which was a cause of the explosion."

BP and TransOcean have also aggressively opposed new safety regulations
proposed last year by a federal agency that oversees offshore drilling --
which were prompted by a study that found many accidents in the industry.

There were 41 deaths and 302 injuries out of 1,443 incidents from 2001 to
2007, according to the study conducted by the Minerals and Management
Service of the Interior Department. In addition, the agency issued 150
reports over incidents of non-compliant production and drilling operations
and determined there was "no discernible improvement by industry over the
past 7 years."

As a result, the agency proposed taking a more proactive stance by requiring
operators to have their safety program audited at least once every three
years -- previously, the industry's self-managed safety program was
voluntary for operators. The agency estimated that the proposed rule, which
has yet to take effect, would cost operators about $4.59 million in startup
costs and $8 million in annual recurring costs.

The industry has launched a coordinated campaign to attack those
regulations, with over 100 letters objecting to the regulations -- in a
September 14, 2009 letter to MMS, BP vice president for Gulf of Mexico
production, Richard Morrison, wrote that "we are not supportive of the
extensive, prescriptive regulations as proposed in this rule," arguing that
the voluntary programs "have been and continue to be very successful," along
with a list of very specific objections to the wording of the proposed

The next day, the American Petroleum Institute and the Offshore Operators
Committee, in a joint letter to MMS, emphasized their preference for
voluntary programs with "enough flexibility to suit the corporate culture of
each company." Both trade groups also claimed that the industry's safety and
environmental record has improved, citing MMS data to show that the number
of lost workdays fell "from a 3.39 rate in 1996 to 0.64 in 2008, a reduction
of over 80%."

The Offshore Operators Committee also submitted to MMS a September 2, 2009
PowerPoint presentation asking in bold letters, "What Do HURRICANES and New
Rules Have in Common?" against a backdrop of hurricane activity in the Gulf
of Mexico. On the next page, the answer appears: "Both are disruptive to
Operations And are costly to Recover From".

From: Paul Krassner
Sent: Friday, April 23, 2010 1:00 PM
Subject: latest

Kent State Anniversary Blues
by Paul Krassner

In my book, Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs: From Toad Slime to Ecstasy,
Freddy Berthoff described his mescaline trip at a Crosby, Stills, Nash and
Young concert in the summer of 1970 when he was 15. "Earlier that spring,"
he wrote, "the helmeted, rifle-toting National Guard came up over the rise
during a peace-in-Vietnam rally at Kent State University. And opened fire on
the crowd. I always suspected it was a contrived event, as if someone deep
in the executive branch had said, 'We've got to teach those commie punks a
lesson.'" Actually, President Nixon had called antiwar protesters "bums" two
days before the shootings. While Freddy was peaking on mescaline, CSNY sang
a new song about the massacre:

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming
We're finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in O-hi-o.

Plus nine wounded. Sixty-seven shots - dum-dum bullets that exploded upon
impact -- had been fired in 13 seconds. This incident on May 4, 1970
resulted in the first general student strike in U.S. history, encompassing
over 400 campuses.

Arthur Krause, father of one of the dead students, Allison, got a call from
John Ehrlichman, Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs, who said,
"There will be a complete investigation." Krause responded, "Are you sure
about that?" And the reply: "Mr. Krause, I promise you, there will be no

But NBC News correspondent James Polk discovered a memo marked "Eyes Only"
from Ehrlichman to Attorney General John Mitchell ordering that there be no
federal grand jury investigation of the killings, because Nixon adamantly
opposed such action.

Polk reported that, "In 1973, under a new Attorney General, Elliot
Richardson, the Justice Department reversed itself and did send the Kent
State case to a federal grand jury. When that was announced, Richardson said
to an aide he got a call from the White House. He was told that Richard
Nixon was so upset, they had to scrape the president off the walls with a

Last year, Allison Krause's younger sister, Laurel, was relaxing on the
front deck of her home in California when she saw the County Sheriff's
Deputy coming toward her, followed by nearly two dozen men. "Then, before
my eyes," she recalls, "the officers morphed into a platoon of Ohio National
Guardsmen marching onto my land. They were here because I was cultivating
medical marijuana. I realized the persecution I was living through was
similar to what many Americans and global citizens experience daily. This
harassment even had parallels to Allison's experience before she was

What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Now, 40 years later, Laurel, her mother and other Kent State activists have
been organizing the "2010 Kent State Truth Tribunal" (see scheduled for May 1-4 on the campus where the
slaughter of unarmed demonstrators originally occurred. The invitation to
participate in sharing their personal narratives has been extended to 1970
protesters, witnesses, National Guardsmen, Ohio and federal government
officials, university administrators and educators, local residents,
families of the victims. The purpose is to uncover the truth.

Laurel was 0nly 15 when the Kent State shootings took place. "Like any
15-year-old, my coping mechanisms were undeveloped at best. Every evening, I
remember spending hours in my bedroom practicing calligraphy to Neil Young's
'After the Goldrush,' artistically copying phrases of his music, smoking
marijuana to calm and numb my pain." When she was arrested for legally
growing marijuana, "They cuffed me and read my rights as I sobbed
hysterically. This was the first time I flashed back and revisited the utter
shock, raw devastation and feeling of total loss since Allison died. I
believed they were going to shoot and kill me, just like Allison. How
ironic, I thought. The medicine that kept me safe from experiencing
post-traumatic stress disorder now led me to relive that horrible experience
as the cops marched onto my property."

She began to see the interconnectedness of those events. The dehumanization
of Allison was the logical, ultimate extension of the dehumanization of
Laurel. Legally, two felonies were reduced to misdemeanors, and she was
sentenced to 25 hours of community service. But a therapist, one of Allison's
friends from Kent State, suggested to Laurel that the best way to deal with
the pain of PTSD was to make something good come out of the remembrance, the
suffering and the pain. "That's when I decided to transform the arrest into
something good for me," she says, "good for all. It was my only choice, the
only solution to cure this memorable, generational, personal angst. My
mantra became, 'This is the best thing that ever happened to me.' And it has
been." That's why she's fighting so hard for the truth to burst through
cement like blades of grass.

This piece is published in High Times magazine. Paul Krassner's latest book
is an expanded edition of his 1993 autobiography, Confessions of a Raving,
Unconfined Nut, available at <www,>.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Will the Real Tea Party Movement Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Tea Party Movement Please Stand Up?

"The Tea Party Express is successfully raking in money and garnering
tons of media attention while the real grassroots movement,
the Tea Party Patriots, struggles to raise money and get attention."

by Anne Landman April 19, 2010

Have you wondered how the Tea Party, portrayed as a "grassroots" movement,
could possibly raise enough money in one year to procure a
professionally-painted, luxury motor coach and send it on two
highly-publicized national tours? Or how the Tea Party so quickly developed
the expertise to plan, organize and execute the tours, and consistently draw
major media attention to them?

The answer is that the Tea Party Express is not a "grassroots" effort. The
Web site obtained and posted a proposal (pdf) showing that
long-time Republican party operatives are, in fact, directing the "Tea Party
Express" portion of the movement. The "group" and its activities are the
result of efforts by a Republican-affiliated political consulting and public
relations firm, Russo Marsh & Rogers, based in Sacramento, California. PR
executive Sal Russo of Russo, Marsh & Rogers is also the chief strategist
for the Our Country Deserves Better, political action committee (PAC) formed
in 2008 to oppose then-candidate Barack Obama.

A Visible "Brand"

The "Tea Party Express" is one of the more visible "brands" of the overall
tea party movement. It is the faction that organized the highly publicized
desert rally in Searchlight, Nevada last March to oppose Senator Harry Reid
(D-Nevada), an event that cost around $1 million to pull off -- a pretty big
chunk of change for a real "grassroots" gathering.

Since forming in 2008, the Our Country Deserves Better PAC has taken in more
than $4.5 million in donations, including major contributions from corporate
executives and other wealthy supporters of conservative candidates, like the
actor Chuck Norris. The PAC does not have to disclose who its big-name
funders are.

"Tea Party Express" PR Proposal

The PR proposal obtained by Politico was written by Joe Wierzbicki, a
principal at Russo Marsh & Rogers. In it, Wierzbicki suggests essentially
taking over the Tea Party movement by rushing in with campaign-style event
planning and advance work. He suggests obtaining a "proper luxury coach
wrapped in 'tea party'-themed graphical design," and sending it out to
"cross the nation, stopping in cities to conduct 'tea parties.' " Wierzbicki
suggests inviting local Tea Party leaders, talk radio hosts and
fiscally-conservative political candidates to speak at each stop. Wierzbicki
says a major fundraising effort would be needed "to 'do this 'right' (have
an awesome looking tour bus, getting the word out, having
slick/persuasive/compelling advertising, paying for permits/insurance
hotels, food, etc... ). He suggests that, to raise the money, "the bus tour
rallies focus not on asking for funds to support the tour, but on the "
'Defeat Harry Reid' or 'Defeat Chris Dodd' or 'Defeat Arlen Specter'
political components to this effort." In other words, Wierzbicki suggests
exploiting the real Tea Partiers' emotions to raise money, and take the
focus off the PR project itself. He also suggests renting email lists from
conservative news outlets like Newsmax, Human Events, WorldNetDaily, etc. to
begin direct fundraising -- again, not a cheap endeavor.

All of Wierzbicki's ideas are professional-style campaign moves proposed by
a GOP-affiliated, political PR firm. In fact, they bear a suspicious
similarity to the strategy we saw in another big-funded, right-wing endeavor
by Americans for Prosperity: the "Hands Off My Health Care Bus" and its
tours around the nation. Clearly, none of this is the work of the
kitchen-table set.

"Outsider" Sensitivity, "Buttressing Authenticity"
Wierzbicki expresses sensitivity to the issue of outsiders coming in and
"working" the tea party theme. He says,

"We have to be very very careful about discussing amongst ourselves anyone
we include 'outside of the family' because quite frankly, we are not only
NOT part of the political establishment or conservative establishment, but
we are also sadly not currently a part of the 'tea party' establishment ..."
Wierzbicki acknowledges the difference between their big PR effort and
"real" grassroots activists:

"We can probably pull off a phenomenally successful tour without these
big-ego establishment types, provided that we do a good job in getting the
word out to local tea party leaders and grass roots conservatives who
operate in their local communities independently as is..."
He discusses "buttressing our authenticity" by featuring local supporters
and donors in TV ads that target Harry Reid.

True Grassroots Buried

Most everything Wierzbicki put in his proposal has come to fruition. The Tea
Party Express is successfully raking in money and garnering tons of media
attention while the real grassroots faction of the movement, the Tea Party
Patriots, struggles to raise money and get attention. The Patriots have said
they do not want to support political parties or PACs, and have accused the
"Tea Party Express" of being a "sham organization" and an "astroturf"
outfit. They point out that Republican strategists are co-opting a true
conservative movement to raise money to support the party's agenda. The
Patriots have even charged that Tea Party Express organizers dragoon real
grassroots Tea Party activists into doing the grunt work for the
professional campaign, like getting them to help set up stages and clean up
rally sites after the bus leaves.

Even More Dubious Tea Party Factions

Other Tea Party factions are equally dubious: Tea Party Nation (the entity
that organized the first official Tea Party convention last February in
Nashville, Tennessee) is purely a for-profit business entity. Its official
name, "Tea Party Nation Corporation," is even registered with the Tennessee
Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Division of Business Services. Its
business is selling "tea party" merchandise, like bejeweled tea bag pins
($89.99 apiece), regular and decaffeinated "Freedom" coffee beans, trucker
hats, coolers and other items at a Web site called Tea
Tea Party Nation's organizer, an attorney named Judson Phillips, was even
alleged to have linked a PayPal account for Tea Party Nation merchandise to
his wife's bank account.

Corporate Backing

Reports indicate that the Tea Party movement benefits from millions of
dollars in funding funneled to it from conservative foundations supported by
mega-wealthy U.S. families and their business interests.

Money to organize and implement Tea Party activities flows primarily through
two conservative groups: Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. In an
April 9, 2009 article posted on '''', Lee Fang reported
that the principal Tea Party movement organizers are Americans for
Prosperity and Freedom Works, two "lobbyist-run think tanks" that are "well
funded" and provide the logistics and organizing for the Tea Party movement
from coast to coast. ''Media Matters'' reported that FreedomWorks receives
substantial funding from David Koch of Koch Industries, the largest
privately-held energy company in the country, and the conservative Koch
Family Foundations, which make substantial annual donations to conservative
organizations (including FreedomWorks and other conservative think tanks
advocacy groups). Media Matters reports that the Koch family has given more
than $12 million to FreedomWorks and its predecessor, Citizens for a Sound
Economy, between 1985 and 2002.

"Fox News Tea Parties"?

The Tea Party also gets substantial support in the form of promotion from
the Fox News Channel and its talk show hosts, including Glenn Beck. Media
Matters noted that "While discussing the April 15 protests on his April 6
program, Beck suggested that viewers could "[c]elebrate with Fox News" by
either attending a protest or watching it on Fox News. Beck stated that in
addition to himself, hosts Neil Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, and Sean Hannity
would be "live" at different protests. While Beck spoke, on-screen text
labeled those protests as "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties."

The Real "Takeover" is by Corporate Interests

While tea partiers load their rifles and worry about a supposed "government
takeover," their nascent movement itself has, in fact, been taken over by
GOP-affiliated PACs, professional PR operatives, wealthy corporate interests
seeking a "grassroots" face and by individuals seeking to profit off of
citizens' honest concern about the country's political direction. Like a
human hand zooming in and animating an otherwise limp hand puppet, these
entities have zoomed in and co-opted the tea party movement from the inside
out, and have started using it to advance their own agendas.

The bright side is that this episode is instructive to people on both sides
of the political spectrum about how entrenched corporate, media and
political interests work together to co-opt real public sentiment, and
harness it to advance their own goals. A "big government" takeover may seem
like less of a threat when viewed through the prism of how all these big,
professional political and corporate-level interests have siezed the tea
party movement and started using it for their own gain.

Rami Elhanan: Sowing hate and reaping death

18 April 2010
**Sowing hate and reaping death*

By Rami Elhanan

Original Hebrew:

Shalom and good evening.

My name is Rami Elhanan. Thirteen years ago, on the afternoon of Thursday
the fourth of September 1997, I lost my daughter, my Smadar, in a suicide
attack on Ben-Yehuda street in Jerusalem. A beautiful sweet joyous 14 year
old girl. My Smadar was the granddaughter of the militant for peace, General
(Ret.) Matti Peled, one of those who made the breakthrough to
Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. And she was murdered because we were not wise
enough to preserve her safety in Matti's way, the only correct and possible
way – the way of peace and reconciliation.

I do not need a Remembrance Day in order to remember Smadari. I remember her
all the time, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 60 seconds a minute. Without
a pause, without a rest, for 13 long and accursed years now, and time does
not heal the wound, and the unbearable lightness of continuing to exist
remains a strange and unsolved riddle …

But Israeli society very much needs Remembrance Days. From year to year,
like clockwork, in the week after Passover, it is drawn into the annual
ritual: from Holocaust to the Rebirth of the nation, a sea of ceremonies,
sirens and songs – an entire people is swept into a whirlpool of addictive
sweet sorrow, eyes tearful and shrouded; mutual embraces accompanied by
`Occupation songs` and sickle and sword songs [1] against the background of
images of lives that were cut short and heart-rending stories … and it is
hard to avoid the feeling that this refined concentration of bereavement,
fed directly into the vein, is intended to fortify our feeling of
victimhood, the justice of our path and our struggle, to remind us of our
catastrophes, which God forbid we should forget for a single moment. This is
the choice of our lives – to be armed and ready, strong and resolute, lest
the sword fall from our grasp and our lives be cut short.[2]

And when all this great sorrow is dispersed with the smoke of the barbeques,
[3] when Israelis return to their daily routines, I am left enveloped in
great sorrow. I miss the old good Land of Israel that never existed, and I
have feelings of alienation and estrangement that keep increasing with the
passage of years, from war to war, from election to election, from
corruption to corruption.

And I think about the stations of my life, on the long journey that I have
taken on my way to a redefinition of myself, of my Israeliness, of my
Jewishness and of my humanity. About the light-years that I have travelled,
from the young man who 37 years ago fought in a pulverized tank company, on
the other side of the Suez Canal, from the young father who 28 years ago
walked the streets of bombed Beirut, and it did not at all occur to me that
things could be otherwise. I was a pure product of a cultural-educational
and political system that brainwashed me, poisoned my consciousness and
prepared me and others of my generation for sacrifice on the altar of the
homeland, without any superfluous questions, in the innocent belief that if
we did not do it, they would throw us – the second generation after the
Holocaust – into the Mediterranean Sea.

Nearly 40 years have passed since then, and every year this armour of
victimhood continues to crack. The self-righteousness and the feeling of
wretchedness keep dissipating, and the wall that separates me from the other
side of the story keeps crumbling.

When Yitzhak Frankenthal recruited me to the Bereaved Families Forum 12
years ago, for the first time in my life I was exposed to the very existence
of the other side – to this day I am ashamed to say that for the first time
in my life (I was 47) I encountered Palestinians as normal human beings,
very much like me, with the same pain, the same tears and the same dreams.
For the first time in my life I was exposed to the story, the pain and the
anger, and also to the nobility and the humanity of what is called "the
other side."

The climax of that journey was the meeting between me and my brother, the
"terrorist" who spent seven years in an Israeli prison, the peace-warrior
Bassam Aramin, who wrote to us, among other things, the following moving

"… Dear Nurit and Rami. I wanted to express my identification with you as a
brother on this sad day, the anniversary of the death of your beautiful and
pure daughter, Smadar. There is no doubt that this is one of the saddest
days, and from the moment we met I did not have the courage to write to you
about it, for fear of adding more sorrow and pain to your hearts. I thought
that time would likely heal that deep wound. But after I myself drank from
that same bitter cup that you drank from before me, when my daughter Abir
was murdered on 16 January 2007, I understood that parents never forget for
a moment. We live our lives in a special way that others do not know, and I
hope that no other human beings, Palestinians or Israelis, will not be
forced to know …"

Today my perception of the two sides is completely different from what it
was 40 years ago.

For me, the line that separates the two sides today is not between Arabs and
Israelis or Jews and Muslims. Today the line is between those who want peace
and are willing to pay the price for it, and all the rest. They are the
other side! And today, that other side, to my dismay, is the corrupt group
of politicians and generals that leads us and behaves like a bunch of mafia
dons, war criminals, who play ping-pong in blood among themselves, who sow
hate and reap death.

But this evening I want to talk specifically to those who are in between,
who are sitting on the fence and watching us from the sidelines, I want to
talk to the satiated Israeli public that does not pay the price of the
Occupation, the public that sticks its head in the sand and does not want to
know, that lives within a bubble, watches television, eats in restaurants,
goes on vacation, enjoys the good life and looks after their its own
interests, shielded by the pandering media that help it to hide from the
bitter reality that is concealed only a few metres from where they live: the
Occupation, the theft of lands and houses, the daily harassment and
oppression and humiliation, the checkpoints, the abomination in Gaza, the
sewage on the streets of Anata …

On this evening, especially, I want to address the Left public in all its
shades, those who are disillusioned and angry, those who are afflicted with
apathy, with despair and weakness, those who enclose themselves in the
bubble of themselves and grumble on Friday nights, but are not involved with
us in this hard war against the aggressive pathogen of the Occupation that
threatens to destroy the humanity of all of us. And on this evening, the
evening of Remembrance Day for the dead on both sides, I want to ask them to
join us in our war against this fatal affliction! I want to tell them that
to be bystanders is to be complicit in crime! I want to tell them that there
are many who are not willing to stand aside, who are not willing to be
silent in the face of evil and stupidity and the absence of basic
accountability and justice!

And I want to tell them about the true anonymous heroes of our dark age!

About those who are willing to pay a high personal price for their honesty
and decency, those who dare to stand in front of the bulldozers with rare
and amazing courage, the refusers who say no to the omnipresent militarism,
the combatants for peace who discarded their weapons in favour of
non-violent resistance, the resolute demonstrators who crush against the
terror of the police and the army in Bil'in, in Ni'lin, in Sheikh Jarrah and
Silwan every weekend, the lawyers who struggle every day in the Ofer camp
military Court, and in the High Court of Justice, the heroic women of Mahsom
Watch, the dedicated peace activists from abroad, like the late Rachel
Corrie who gave her life, and also the those who blow the whistle on crimes
and conspiracies, from Anat Kam to Gideon Levy and Akiva Eldar, and also the
peace organizations of both peoples, and especially the bereaved Palestinian
and Israeli families who are bringing about the miracle of reconciliation
despite their tragedies.

The darker the sky gets, the more visible are these stars gleaming in the
darkness! [4] The more the oppression becomes opaque and evil, the more
they, with their heroism and their noble struggle, save the honour and the
humanity of all of us!

And today we desperately need to expand the circles of non-violent
opposition to the Occupation! This evening I call on you from here and from
the bottom of my heart: get out of your bubble! Join the mosquito that
buzzes unceasingly in the ears of the Occupation, [5] that annoys and
irritates and harasses, and does not let Filth prevail in silence! [6] Don't
let the other side steal the future of all of us! Don't let the other side
continue to endanger the security of our remaining children.

*** *** ***

Thank you.

[1] Songs of the singing troupe of Nahal (a brigade in the Israeli

[2] From Moshe Dayan`s Eulogy for Roi Rutenberg (April 19, 1956).
[3] Israelis traditionally have barbeques on the eve of Independence Day.

[4] Martin Luther King.

[5] Ali Abu Awwad.

[6] Ze'ev Jabotinsky: Betar Song.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fast Facts on Arizona's Crack Down, Charlie King & Karen Brandow this Saturday

Fast Facts on Arizona's Immigration Crack Down

The New Law's Dangerous Economic, Social, and Legal Consequences

Counterpunch: April 23, 2010

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed today what is now the most punitive and
sweeping anti-immigrant state law in the nation. This law's full effects
will not be measurable for months to come, but it is already clear that it
will be challenged in court because it denies rights guaranteed in the U.S.
Constitution. And until the legal issues are settled, the new law will have
a detrimental effect on Arizona's economy, as well as city and state

The law essentially legalizes racial profiling:

a.. The law puts communities of color in the crosshairs by requiring state
and local government workers to determine if a person is illegally in the
United States based on a "reasonable suspicion."
b.. Legal experts maintain that the law will result in racial profiling,
as it does not prohibit police officers from relying on race or ethnicity in
deciding who to investigate. Of course all Arizonans don't all look alike.
Like America, Arizona is a diverse state with multiple generations of U.S.
citizens. Three out of every 10 Arizonans are Hispanic, 1 out of 10 is
American Indian, and 13 percent are foreign born.

The law undercuts the Constitution and imbues local police with federal

a.. Arizona is attempting to grant local police arrest authority for
administrative violations of federal immigration law, even though the state
police does not even have that authority under federal law.
b.. The measure does not require the local police to have a search warrant
or even suspect that some illegal action has occurred.
c.. The law criminalizes the solicitation of work even though courts have
previously ruled that the solicitation of work is protected speech under the
First Amendment.

The law will harm the state and local economies:

a.. The National Employment Law Project pointed out that smaller-scale
anti-immigrant ordinances have cost individual localities millions of
dollars. The Texas-based Perryman Group calculated that if all unauthorized
immigrants were removed from Arizona, the state would lose $26.4 billion in
economic activity, $11.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately
140,324 jobs.
b.. The Immigration Policy Center noted that, "with Arizona facing a
budget deficit of more than $3 billion," the new law will "further imperil
the state's economic future."
c.. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and other local leaders anticipate a drop in
new business ventures in the state because of the harsh new law. Phoenix
Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski observed: "We're the laughing stock of the
country because of these crazy laws."

The law will be expensive and take cops away form community policing:

a.. The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police firmly opposes the law for
fiscal and public safety reasons, noting that fear of government officials
will diminish the public's willingness to cooperate with police in criminal
investigations and will "negatively affect the ability of law enforcement
agencies across the state to fulfill their many responsibilities in a timely
b.. Local taxpayers will bear the heavy costs of lengthy court litigation.
c.. The costs to arrest, detain, process, and transport undocumented
immigrants out of Arizona will drain local government treasuries. There were
an estimated 460,000 undocumented immigrants in Arizona as of January 2009,
making up 4 percent of the state's population. If the federal government
were to handle the entire undocumented population, the cost would be
approximately $23,482 per person, based on a recent study by the Center for
American Progress.

Arizona and other local and state governments are taking action on
immigration because Congress has failed to enact comprehensive immigration
reform that restores border security, provides a flexible visa program to
meet business and family needs, and deals with the 11 million undocumented
immigrants in the United States. This is a federal issue and must be handled
by Congress immediately before other states start to follow Arizona's lead.


From: Frank Dorrel

WHAT: House Concert at The Dorrel's: Charlie King & Karen Brandow
WHEN: Saturday, May 1st ~ Doors Open at 7:00 PM ~ Concert: 8:00 PM
WHERE: The Dorrel's, 3967 Shedd Terrace, Culver City 90232

"Charlie King is one of the finest singers & songwriters of our time." -
Pete Seeger

Dear Friends,
Don't Miss Our House Concert with the Fabulous
Charlie King & Karen Brandow

Saturday, May 1st
Doors Open at 7:00 PM ~ Concert Begins at 8:00 PM
Frank, Jane & Emily Dorrel's
3967 Shedd Terrace, Culver City 90232

$10 at the Door
Drinks & Desserts Served

Charlie & Karen will do two sets!

RSVP to: 310-838-8131 or to:

Dear Friends,
Charlie & Karen are such beautiful musicians and human beings. They sing
about everything we are involved with in the Peace and Justice Movement.
They will lift your spirits and give us hope for a better world. If you are
free, please join us on Saturday, May 1st. We would love to see you that
night. You will be glad you came.
Frank Dorrel

Charlie King & Karen Brandow Biographies

Charlie King and Karen Brandow are musical storytellers and political
satirists. Their repertoire covers a century and a half and four continents.
They perform with the sweet and precise harmonies of life partners. They
sing and write passionately about the extraordinary lives of ordinary
people. "Two voices that complement each other beautifully & instrumentation
that is spare, acoustic & just right" - Victory Music Review. In addition to
a full time career of concert touring, King and Brandow have sung in support
of numerous groups working for peace, human rights, environmental sanity and
alternatives to violence.

Their central vision as entertainers is to leave audiences with a sense of
optimism and possibility about the future. "We try to cover a broad
emotional landscape in our concerts. The stories we collect and the songs we
write take the listener on a journey of humor, heartache and hope. What we
most value in a song is the way it helps us see an old reality in a totally
new light."

Charlie King has been at the heart of American folk music for over 40 years.
His songs have been recorded and sung by other performers such as Pete
Seeger, Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, John McCutcheon, Arlo Guthrie, Peggy
Seeger, Chad Mitchell and Judy Small. Honors include an "Indie" award for
one of the top three American folk recordings of 1984. In May of 1998 the
War Resisters League gave their Peacemaker Award to Charlie and to Odetta.

Pete Seeger nominated Charlie for the Sacco-Vanzetti Social Justice Award,
which he received in November 1999. Charlie has released a dozen solo albums
since 1976. He has also released three albums with the touring ensemble
Bright Morning Star, and numerous compilation albums with other artists.
Charlie was born in 1947, and was raised in Brockton, MA. He cites as
musical influences the folk music revival of the 1960's, the civil rights
movement and the Vietnam War era. Folk legend Peggy Seeger says, "If we had
more Charlie Kings in the world I'd be less worried," and Tom Paxton adds,
"Luckily, we have him!"

Karen Brandow has been performing with Charlie King since 1998. While doing
human rights work in Guatemala from 1986-1994, Karen studied voice,
performance and classical guitar. She performed at political and cultural
events in that country as a soloist and was a founding member of the a
cappella singing group, the Non-Traditional Imports.

Karen was born in 1954 in Philadelphia, PA. She began singing and playing
guitar as a teenager. While living in Central America, she broadened her
repertoire to include Latin American music of the "Nueva Canción" or New
Song Movement. She performs songs in English and Spanish.

Drier: Showdown on Wall Street and K Street

Showdown on Wall Street and K Street

By Peter Dreier
HuffingtonPost: April 23, 2007

The shake-out of the American economy has left a handful of large banks at
the pinnacle of the American economy. Next week, a coalition of major
community organizations, unions, and religious groups will launch a campaign
to challenge the economic and political influence of these mega-banks,
beginning with a series of protests in San Francisco, Kansas City,
Charlotte, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.

As a growing number of banks have collapsed and been gobbled up by larger
institutions, the four biggest commercial banks - the Bank of America, Wells
Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup - now control about 40% of the
nation's $8 trillion in bank deposits. The two largest investment banks -
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley - hold one-third of the securities
industry's $4.4 trillion in assets.

"We want to use this moment and the rage that the American people have at
banks as a way to get into the bigger issues of how Wall Street banks and
corporate power have sabotaged the economy and enriched themselves,"
explained Stephen Lerner, a veteran organizer with the Service Employees
International Union (SEIU), who heads the union's campaign on financial

The organizing campaign is spearheaded three community organizing networks -
PICO, National People's Action (NPA), and the southeast region of the
Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) - along with SEIU and the AFL-CIO.
Organizers believe that the recent victory on health care reform will help
propel a similar movement to take on banking giants.

"There's only one group of people in this country who are more hated than
insurance companies," Lerner said. "That's the banks and Wall Street. This
is not complicated. A bunch of rich, greedy oligarchs crashed the economy
and got bailed out by tax payers."

A new public opinion poll sponsored by the nonpartisan Pew Economic Policy
Group confirms Lerner's observation. A national survey conducted in March
found that 68% of the public have an unfavorable opinion of big banks.
Two-thirds of the public blame either the big banks or Congress' failure to
regulate banks for the current financial crisis. Seventy-nine percent think
it is important for Congress to take action quickly to reform Wall Street's

To help channel public outrage, the coalition's short-term goal is to push
Congress to enact strong consumer protection regulations on the financial
industry. Their intermediate goal is to pressure banks to stop the epidemic
of foreclosures and renegotiate mortgages so owners can keep their homes.
Their long-term goal is to limit the banking industry's political clout and
its economic influence. They believe banking should be reorganized so it
invests in good jobs, affordable housing, and environmentally-friendly

"The big banks shattered our economy and left workers and our communities to
clean up the pieces. We've lost 8 million jobs, 1 out of every 8 mortgages
is in default or foreclosure, and our cities, counties and states teeter on
the edge of bankruptcy," said Heather Booth, executive director of Americans
for Financial Reform, a coalition of unions, consumer, and community
organizations. "Now the same banks that we bailed out with billions of tax
dollars are pouring $1.4 million per day into the Senate to stop real Wall
Street reform."

"This is a fight about which side are you on -- Main Street or Wall Street?
Main Street is organizing, forcing the politicians to decide whether they
follow the money or support the American people," Booth noted.

Just as activists hope that voters will reward Congressmembers in November
who supported health care reform, they want voters to re-elect politicians
who support bank reform and punish politicians who are in the pockets of the
bank lobby.

The protests will take place just as the Senate will be debating and voting
on bank reform legislation. Progressive Democrats want the bill to include
strong consumer protections, requirements that banks renegotiate mortgages
for families facing foreclosure, limits on the size of banks, and new
regulations against Wall Street gambling with default swaps and derivatives.

The banking industry and its business allies are pushing hard to weaken the
proposed regulations. In the past few months, the major banks, along with
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have dramatically increased their lobbying
activities and campaign donations to thwart reform. Senator Mitch McConnell
of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has become the banking industry's top
ally, but every other Republican and some Democrats also oppose any reform
that bank lobbyists don't like.

To rally public opinion, President Barack Obama gave a speech Thursday at
Cooper Union in New York, close to Wall Street, and insisted that Congress
needed to rein in the risky practices that led to the financial crisis and
the recession. He criticized the "battalions of financial industry lobbyists
descending on Capitol Hill, as firms spend millions to influence the outcome
of this debate."

"It is essential that we learn from the lessons of this crisis, so we don't
doom ourselves to repeat it," Obama said. "And make no mistake: That is
exactly what will happen if we allow this moment to pass. And that's an
outcome that is unacceptable to me, and it's unacceptable to you, the
American people."

"Unless your business model depends on bilking people, there's little to
fear from these new rules," Obama said to an audience of 700 people that
included Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and executives from JP Morgan
Chase, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and other financial powerhouses.

"I want to urge you to join us, instead of fighting us in this effort,I'm
here because I believe that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the
best interest of our country, but in the best interest of the financial

For the activists, the battle to overhaul federal banking regulations is one
part of a broader strategy.

"We have one eye on winning significant financial reform now and one eye on
building a movement for corporate accountability," explained George Goehl,
executive director of NPA, which has 25 community organizing affiliates in
14 states.

On Tuesday, April 27, organizers expect more than a thousand consumers,
union members, and clergy to march through downtown San Francisco to Wells
Fargo's annual shareholder meeting at the Merchants Exchange Building. Some
of the protesters who have purchased Wells Fargo stock will confront the
board of directors with a list of demands. On that day in Kansas City,
family farmers, retirees, veterans and union members from Missouri, Kansas,
and Iowa will march through that city's financial district to the Bank of
America, an action that organizers are calling "showdown in the heartland."

The following day in Charlotte, N.C., veterans, clergy, and working families
hurt by foreclosures and lay-offs will rally at the First United
Presbyterian Church and then, proxies in hand, march to Bank of America's
annual shareholder meeting at Belk Theater, while in Chicago, unions,
community groups, and faith-based activists will march to the corporate
offices of Goldman Sachs, whose outrageous executive bonuses, illegal
practices, and political influence-peddling have made it the poster child
for public anger against big banks. (Last week the Securities and Exchange
Commission accused Goldman Sachs of defrauding investors). NPA started the
ball rolling last month by announcing and organizing the April 29th march on
Wall Street. Organizers now predict over 5,000 protesters, joined by AFL-CIO
President Rich Trumka, will march on Thursday.

The protest actions will culminate in three-day "Showdown on K Street" in
Washington, D.C. from May 15 to 17. The DC mobilization will focus attention
on the connections between the banking industry's political clout through
its huge campaign contributions and lobbying warchest. It will include a
series of protests at the offices of corporate lobby groups and members of
Congress - Democrats and Republicans -- with close ties to the banking

The protestors have a list of demands for each bank. In San Francisco, for
example, they'll insist that Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf resign from the
board of the Financial Services Roundtable, the powerful lobby group that
represents the nation's largest banks and which is using its muscle to
thwart the proposed federal Consumer Financial Protection Agency, one of the
top priorities of the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats.

The grassroots delegation will also ask Wells Fargo to stop rampant
foreclosures and evictions of homeowners and tenants.

"Everyday Americans from all walks of life are going to be challenging banks
like Wells Fargo to keep families in their homes, to stop predatory and
payday lending, and to start investing to create jobs and rebuild our
communities" explained Adam Kruggel, director of CCISCO, a PICO affiliate in
northern California. "Wells Fargo was one of the biggest subprime lenders in
the United States and it has modified less than 8% of the troubled mortgages
eligible under the president's Making Home Affordable program. That is
unacceptable. It has an awful track record of predatory lending, including
offering payday loans to its own customers at annual interest rates of

The bank reform coalition hopes to popularize a "move the money" campaign to
help channel public anger with the banking establishment. Drawing on the
boycott tactics of the civil rights and labor movements, and the divestment
efforts that helped dismantle apartheid in South Africa, the campaign is
based on the idea that Americans should move their money from mega-banks
that destroy jobs and communities to financial institutions that act more

"Can you imagine what would happen if we could get the major labor unions
and religious denominations, and even some local governments, foundations,
and universities, to take their pension funds, endowments, and deposits out
of banks that engage in abusive practices and into banks that support our
families and communities?" asked Gerald Taylor, the southeast director for
IAF, a community organizing network with seven chapters in North Carolina,
including one in Charlotte, where the Bank of America is headquartered.

In addition to mobilizing for federal reform legislation and pushing banks
to address the foreclosure crisis, the coalition wants to draw attention to
the banks' responsibility for state and municipal budget crises.

"Cities and states are cutting vital services, and laying off teachers and
other employees, because the banks crashed the economy and starved local and
state government of the revenues they need," explained Gordon Whitman,
director of public policy for PICO, which has 1,200 religious congregations
as members in over 150 cities.

"The compensation bonus pool for the big six banks - over $130 billion --
would solve the entire budget crisis for all the states," noted Lerner, the
SEIU organizer.

Activists in different cities have been organizing people to push for
municipal legislation to hold banks accountable for exacerbating local
economic problems. In Oakland, for example, SEIU and several community
groups have pressured the City Council to demand that banks renegotiate or
cancel interest-rate swaps that cost the city $5.2 million in fees. In Los
Angeles, SEIU, LA Voice (a PICO affiliate), and the Alliance of Californians
for Community Empowerment (a new organization formed by former leaders and
staff of ACORN) worked with City Council member Richard Alarcon on
legislation to renegotiate swap deals on municipal bonds and would require
the City to move its investments (including $25 billion in pension funds and
almost $1 billion in deposits) from financial institutions that failed to
cooperate with local, state and national foreclosure-prevention efforts.

At least five states have introduced legislation to explore how their
deposits in banks can be used to guarantee reinvestment in their state and
more responsible lending practices.

Grassroots organizing against the power of banks goes back to the agrarian
Populist movement in the late 1800s. In the 1970s, community organizing
against redlining - racial discrimination in mortgage lending and bank
divestment from inner cities - led to passage of the Community Reinvestment
Act (CRA) in 1977, led by NPA. NPA is now mobilizing people in cities around
the country to hold banks and bank regulators accountable. Over the past
decade, ACORN, along with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the
Center for Responsible Lending, and NPA, led the fight against predatory
lending and the foreclosure epidemic. Two years ago, for example, NPA
brought over 500 people to a protest at Federal Reserve Chairman Ben
Bernanke's house in Washington, D.C. Since then, NPA leaders have meet with
Bernanke three times, pushing him and his staff to toughen regulations on
rip-off "pay day" lenders and to update the CRA.

The battle for bank reform has triggered new alliances. This is the first
time that PICO, NPA, and IAF have worked together on a common campaign. And
the recent involvement of the labor movement in the battle against Wall
Street and the big banks injects additional political clout into the
activist coalition.

"We need stronger reform of Wall Street, but we also need a new business
model for banking," said PICO's Whitman. "We need to get back to the day
when people could trust their banks and banks made their money by lending to
homeowners and small businesses, not speculating in the Wall Street casino.
We want to squeeze speculation out of the banking system. This is about
rebuilding our communities and our economy."
More information about the activities in each city and the coalition's
broader agenda can be found at: and

Peter Dreier
E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Program
Occidental College
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913

"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis
remain neutral" - Dante

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cole: Colonizing East Jerusalem, Thailand - The crisis escalates

Netanyahu Commits to Colonizing East Jerusalem; First Palestinian Expelled
under new Policy

by Juan Cole:
Informed Comment: April 23, 2010

The new Israeli policy of deporting Palestinians from the West Bank on
arbitrary grounds has kicked in with Ahmad Sabah, who has just been deported
to Gaza and separated from his family in the West Bank. The measure
contravenes the Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of occupied
populations, and it also goes contrary to the undertakings Israel made
toward the Palestine Authority in the course of the Oslo peace negotiations.

The episode underlines the ways in which their forced statelessness leaves
Palestinians (almost uniquely among major world nationalities) completely
vulnerable to loss of the most basic human rights. That he was forcibly
moved to Gaza by the Israelis suggests that many of those singled out for
potential deportation from the West Bank may be moved to the small slum
along the Mediterranean, which the Israelis have cut off from its
traditional markets and which they keep under a blockade of the civilian
population (a war crime). The Israeli establishment has decided not to try
to colonize Gaza, and its isolation and hopelessness make it an attractive
place for them to begin exiling West Bank residents, thus making more room
for Israeli colonists.

The new policy, which is illegal six ways to Sunday in international law, is
the brainchild of the government of far rightwing Likud leader Binyamin

Netanyahu, an Israeli hawk and expansionist, slapped President Barack Obama
in the face again Thursday when he confirmed that he refused to halt
construction of new homes in Palestinian East Jerusalem, which is militarily
occupied by Israel.

Netanyahu's announcement is probably the nail in the coffin of any two-state
solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (in which the Israelis have
thrown most Palestinians now living beyond the Green Line off their land and
deprived them of citizenship in a state and all the rights that go with such
citizenship). Palestinians are so despairing that only 57 percent even
believe in having an independent Palestinian state any more. The rest are
resigned to becoming Israelis in the distant future, when demographic
realities and perhaps world-wide boycotts of Israel for its Apartheid-style
policies toward the occupied Palestinian will force Israel to accept them.

At the same time, Netanyahu tried to throw sand in peoples' eyes by talking
about recognizing an 'interim' Palestinian state with "temporary" borders.

Palestinian leaders reject this formulation, which is intended to allow the
Israelis to continue aggressively to colonize Palestinian territory while
pretending that they are engaged in a 'peace process.' The Palestine
Authority, established in the 1990s, was already a sort of interim state
then, and Palestine's borders were then 'temporary.' So temporary that
Israel has made deep inroads into them through massive colonies and building
a wall on the Palestinian side of the border, cutting residents off from
their own farms and sequestering entire towns and cities.

Netanyahu's various moves this week, from illegally expelling a Palestinian
from the West Bank to Gaza- to blowing off the president of the United
States and hitching his wagon to massive increased colonization of
Palestinian land- all of these steps are guaranteed to mire Israel in
violent disputes for years and perhaps decades. And the US, which has
already suffered tremendously in Iraq and elsewhere from its knee-jerk
support of illegal and inhumane Israeli policies toward the Palestinians,
will suffer further.

Meanwhile, in the wake of a vicious attack on Barack Obama by New York
senator Chuck Schumer, Steve Clemons of the Washington Note frankly wonders
whether Schumer understands he is in the US Senate or whether he is under
the impression he is serving in the Israeli Knesset.


From: "Steven Robinson" <>

Thai crisis escalates as deadly explosions yield more clashes

Mark MacKinnon, Bangkok
Globe and Mail: Thursday, Apr. 22, 2010

Thailand's escalating political crisis has taken a dangerous new turn after
a series of mysterious explosions killed at least three people and wounded
dozens more, sparking several hours of violent clashes between pro- and
anti-government protesters.

The question that looms large is what the government of Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva will do now, after an evening that saw police and soldiers
looking helplessly on from the sidelines - seemingly without orders - as
Thailand's warring political factions hurled bottles, rocks and firecrackers
at each other.

The explosions that provoked the fighting occurred just after nightfall,
targeting the Silom Road commercial district, where pro-government
demonstrators were gathering to show their opposition to Red Shirt protests
that have occupied parts of the capital for six weeks, as well as a nearby
Skytrain station.

The government said the five blasts were caused by M79 grenades that were
fired from shoulder-carried launchers somewhere within the sprawling Red
Shirt encampment in the city's shuttered commercial centre. Deputy Prime
Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said that three people were killed. Seventy-five
others, including several foreign tourists, were injured in the attacks, and
blood was still splattered on the sidewalk of Silom Road hours later.

Red Shirt leaders hotly denied responsibility for the attack. They said
their protest was peaceful and had nothing to gain from attacking civilians
riding a commuter train, They also accused the government of staging a
provocation in hopes of forcing the military to act. The government,
however, was quick to note that M79 grenade launchers were also used by Red
Shirt demonstrators during a failed military crackdown on the protests
earlier this month that left 25 people dead, including five soldiers. It was
the worst political violence Thailand had seen in nearly two decades.

Mr. Abhisit's government and, more significantly, the Thai military have
been reticent to launch a second effort to disperse the Red Shirts, fearing
that large-scale loss of life would result. Mr. Abhisit called an emergency
meeting of his cabinet Thursday after the grenade attacks.

"To take people in Bangkok hostage is not right," army spokesman Colonel
Sansern Kaewkamnerd warned the Red Shirts before Thursday's clashes began.
He said the protesters should disperse immediately for their own safety.
"Your time to leave the area is running out," he said. The protests are in
violation of a state of emergency that Mr. Abhisit declared on April 7.

The Red Shirts have in recent days been bracing for a government assault
they believe is imminent, building a wall of sharpened bamboo poles and car
tires around the perimeter of their nearly three-square-kilometre tent city.
After the grenade blasts, hundreds of young Red Shirts gathered just north
of the Silom intersection, clutching crude weapons in preparation for a
military move that never came.

Instead, they were pelted with rocks and bottles hurled over the bamboo wall
by pro-government youths who seemed to act with impunity for several hours,
with hundreds of riot police moving out of the way rather than moving in to
arrest the handful of provocateurs. The police took shelter in building
entrances and under highway overpasses as the Reds responded with fireworks
and rocks, and only moved in to stop the fighting after it had raged for
more than four hours.

The 1,500 soldiers who have been stationed along Silom Road since earlier
this week also took no action as the two mobs clashed. The only thing
preventing greater casualty figures was the Red barricade.

The Red Shirts, many of whom are supporters of fugitive former prime
minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have been protesting since March 12 to demand
the resignation of Mr. Abhisit and fresh elections. Many of the protesters
are rural poor from the north of the country who say they feel discriminated
against by a Bangkok elite that orchestrated the ouster of three successive
pro-Thaksin governments.

The Red Shirts also showed their strength outside of Bangkok when protesters
blocked the passage of a train carrying military vehicles and supplies for
several hours. They eventually released the train - with 10 Red Shirts
aboard to supervise it - after they were convinced that it was headed to the
restive south of the country, where the government is battling an Islamic
insurgency, and not Bangkok.

Recent days have seen the re-emergence of pro-government Yellow Shirt
protesters who took part in 2008 demonstrations that helped force Mr.
Thaksin's allies from office. Yellow Shirt leaders - who say they will rally
50,000 of their own supporters in the Thai capital Friday - have given the
government until the weekend to end the rolling Red Shirt demonstrations
before they say they will take unspecified action of their own.

Some of the Yellow Shirts are supporters of Mr. Abhisit, while others say
they are taking to the streets to protect Thailand's widely revered
monarchy, which they see the Red Shirts as attempting to overthrow.

With the Red Shirts insisting they will not negotiate with Mr. Abhisit's
government, the odds of a peaceful resolution to the crisis appear slim.
Most Thais are waiting to see what army chief General Anupong Paochinda will
do now: order a crackdown on the protests or stage another coup.

The Thai military has launched 11 military takeovers since 1932. The most
recent was a bloodless takeover that deposed Mr. Thaksin in 2006. He was
later convicted in absentia on abuse of power charges.

Rad-Green mailing list

Rich: Fight On, Goldman Sachs!

Fight On, Goldman Sachs!

NY Times Op-Ed: April 24, 2010

MAYBE Lloyd Blankfein was doing "God's work" after all.

When the Goldman Sachs chief executive made that tone-deaf remark to an interviewer in November, he became the butt of a million insults, the ultimate symbol of Wall Street's abdication of responsibility for its sleazy role in the Great Crash of '08. But now we've learned that Blankfein was actually, if inadvertently, on the side of the angels. It's his myopic, unrepentant truculence that left Goldman exposed to a Securities and Exchange Commission accusation of fraud that will be litigated in public rather than bought off in private. And it's that S.E.C. legal action that has, in a single week, radically transformed the politics and prospects for financial reform in America.

In just that week, the Party of No's intransigent campaign of obstruction and obfuscation went belly up. The Obama White House moved to get its act together with an alacrity lacking in its health care campaign, abruptly adding Thursday's New York speech to the president's schedule. The bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission at last issued its first subpoena — to Moody's, one of the rating agencies that for a fat fee slapped AAA ratings on the toxic garbage Goldman packaged and sold to benighted suckers on the other end of a huge bet placed by a favored client, the hedge fund player John Paulson.

Salutary as this rush of events is, it still adds up so far to just one small step for mankind. We don't yet know how many loopholes lobbyists will slip into the bill-in-progress. We don't yet know the outcome of the S.E.C. case, let alone what other much-needed legal pursuit of Wall Street may follow it. And we still don't know what, if any, true correction lies ahead for the financial sector's runaway casino culture — much of it legal — that turned a subprime-mortgage bubble in a handful of overheated American states into an international economic meltdown.

But before we get to those gloomy caveats, let's smell a few roses.

The farcical spectacle of the Republican retreat has been particularly enjoyable. It was only last Sunday that Senator Mitch McConnell went on CNN to flog his big lie that the Senate reform bill somehow guaranteed bank bailouts — a talking point long ago concocted for the G.O.P. by its favorite spin strategist, Frank Luntz. McConnell's House counterpart, John Boehner, was meanwhile waging a campaign to portray the Democrats as shills for Goldman, a major source of Obama donations and personnel. Never mind that the Bush White House chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, was a Goldman alumnus and that both McConnell and Boehner had voted for the very bailouts they now profess to abhor (a k a TARP) after a sales job by Henry Paulson, the Bush Treasury secretary who was Blankfein's predecessor as Goldman's C.E.O.

In another bit of hubris, McConnell boasted of a letter signed by his caucus pledging 41-vote unity to block the reform bill. But on Monday, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a Republican who had been negotiating with his Democratic peers in good faith, took to the Senate floor to start breaking ranks with his dear leader. The bill at hand, Corker said, was "anything but" a mandate for bank bailouts. On Tuesday, the House G.O.P. leadership distributed a spreadsheet publicizing Goldman's donations to Democrats, and this too backfired. Politico reported the next morning that Goldman's political action committee donated more money to politicians in March than in all of 2009, most of it to Republicans. The total take for Boehner was double that of Harry Reid's.

That afternoon Charles Grassley of Iowa, up for re-election this fall, became the first G.O.P. senator to vote with the Democrats on part of the pending package. Maybe someone showed him another spreadsheet — a Pew poll finding that even in a divided America 61 percent favor financial regulatory reform. The unity pledge in McConnell's pocket was now worth as much as a mortgage-backed security.

The White House's own shift last week, though far less momentous than the Republicans', was also promising. A year ago, President Obama had delivered an address labeling the financial crisis a "perfect storm" — the term long favored by Robert Rubin, the discredited guru of bailed-out Citigroup and mentor to many on the White House economic team. At Cooper Union on Thursday, the president, while far from fiery, was no longer likening the calamity to a natural disaster beyond anyone's control. He chastised those in the financial sector who saw the free market as "a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it." He was no longer describing Blankfein, sitting before him, as a "very savvy" businessman — a compliment he had bestowed on him and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase just 10 weeks earlier.

Still, the Republicans had half a point when they indicted the White House for being too close to Goldman and its brethren. The truth is that both parties are too often in hock to the financial sector, and both parties bear responsibility for the meltdown. In response to a question from Jake Tapper of ABC News last weekend, Bill Clinton was right to say that he and two of his Treasury secretaries, Rubin and Lawrence Summers, "were wrong" to leave derivatives unregulated. They deserve regulation, Clinton said, because "sometimes people with a lot of money make stupid decisions and make it without transparency."

Those same people also make smart decisions without transparency — smart for them, if not the country. Even if the reform bill does bring stringent regulation to derivatives — a big if — that won't rectify capitalism's worst "innovation" in our own Gilded Age: the advent of exotic, speculative "investments" that have no redeeming social value and are instead concocted to facilitate gambling for its own sake. Such are the Goldman instruments of mass financial destruction that paid off for John Paulson. In 2007 alone, according to Gregory Zuckerman in his book "The Greatest Trade Ever," Paulson's personal take amounted to over $10 million a day, "more than the earnings of J. K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods put together." That "financial alchemy," as Zuckerman calls it, explains why the finance sector's share of domestic corporate profits, never higher than 16 percent until 1986, hit 41 percent in the last decade.

As many have said — though not many politicians in either party — something is fundamentally amiss in a financial culture that thrives on "products" that create nothing and produce nothing except new ways to make bigger bets and stack the deck in favor of the house. "At least in an actual casino, the damage is contained to gamblers," wrote the financial journalist Roger Lowenstein in The Times Magazine last month. This catastrophe cost the economy eight million jobs.

Lowenstein argued for a transfer tax on financial trading, a reform that has found favor with Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, if not our own Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner. Equally compelling is the notion articulated by Ryan Avent, a blogger at The Economist, that "public anger" and "hooting derision" be increased to shame Wall Street into changing its ethos. This assumes, of course, that there is any capacity for shame. Perhaps the most productive tactic comes from Ted Kaufman, Democrat of Delaware, who is using his lame-duck residence in the Senate (as the appointee to Joe Biden's old seat) to demand that we root out the "fraud and potential criminal conduct" that "were at the heart of the financial crisis."

To achieve this overdue reckoning will require action — by the S.E.C., the Justice Department and any other legal authority that wants to get into the act. That no one at Lehman Brothers has yet been held liable for its Enronesque bookkeeping deceit is appalling. That we still haven't seen the e-mail and documents that would illuminate A.I.G.'s machinations with Goldman and the rest of its counterparties amounts to a cover-up. That investigative journalists have consistently been way ahead of the authorities, the S.E.C. included, in uncovering Wall Street's foul play is a scandal. If this culture remains in place, the whole crisis will have gone to waste.

As a reminder of the unchastened status quo, Blankfein remains the gift that keeps on giving. On Thursday, The Financial Times reported that he had been calling clients to argue that the S.E.C. case against Goldman would ultimately "hurt America." The opposing point of view was presented by Ira Glass on his radio show "This American Life" this month. With reporters from the nonprofit journalistic organization ProPublica, it told the story of another hedge fund, Magnetar, that gamed the housing bubble. Bankers who worked on Magnetar deals walked away with their huge bonuses well before disaster struck — or, as the program put it, "bankers made money even when they were buying things that eventually blew up the bank." Not to mention the economy. And it was all legal.

To award the audience a bonus, "This American Life" concluded with a Broadway song commissioned from a co- author of the satirical musical "Avenue Q." Titled "Bet Against the American Dream," it distills a complex financial saga to its essence: Those who shorted the housing market shorted the country.

Go online, listen to it and laugh. But the fact remains that those who truly hurt America are laughing harder still, all the way to the bank.