Wednesday, March 9, 2011

‘US Uncut’ crashes Bank of America ‘Tax Dodger Conference’

By David Edwards - RAW Story
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Several demonstrators crashed Bank or America's Investor Conference Tuesday to make the point that when corporations don't pay taxes, governments are forced to lay off public workers.

A blog posting by the anti-austerity group U.S. Uncut called for protesters to gather Tuesday morning at what they called Bank of America's "Tax Dodger Conference."

"Call your broker- if you have any shares in BofA, you're free to come inside to the conference and tell everyone you see about BofA's tax dodging," the statement said.

After the conference had gotten underway, demonstrators unfurled a banner reading "Tax Dodger."
"When corporations like Bank of America don't pay their fair share of taxes, we have to 'cut' teachers, firefighters, and public servants," one protester shouted. "Do you pay your taxes? So do we. Why don't corporations pay their fair share, just like everyone else?"

"Bank of America is Bad for America," the added. "Bank of America pockets billions in profits and bailouts, but $0 in American taxes - that's immoral and un-American."

Last month, the same group organized demonstrations at 40 different Bank of America branches.

U.S. Uncut credited an article in The Nation by John Hari called "How to Build a Progressive Tea Party" with calling the group to action.

"Imagine a parallel universe where the Great Crash of 2008 was followed by a Tea Party of a very different kind," he wrote. "Instead of the fake populism of the Tea Party, there is a movement based on real populism."
The group takes their name from the British group U.K. Uncut, which seeks to use public protests to shame corporations into paying taxes.

A list compiled by Forbes showed that Bank of America paid no taxes on $4.4 billion in income in 2009.

Senate fails to pass two budget bills, shutdown looms

By Sahil Kapur - RAW Story
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday struck down two separate budget measures for fiscal 2012, raising the stakes of an ongoing stand-off as the government's solvency hangs in the balance.

The GOP House bill H.R. 1, which cuts spending by over $60 billion, was defeated by a vote of 44-56.
The other, a White House-backed measure that cuts $6.5 billion in spending, failed 42-58.

Both required a 60-vote threshold for approval. Neither was expected to pass.

Congress failed to pass a budget for fiscal 2011 last year and since then has approved three continuing resolutions to keep the government solvent. The latest one expires on March 18, and the signs of a deal appear increasingly grim.

The failed Senate votes mean a fourth stop-gap measure is perhaps Congress's best chance to avoid a shutdown, which leaders of both parties say they do not want.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), a member of the Republican leadership, predicted Tuesday that another continuing resolution was the most likely course of action.

Illinois repeals the death penalty

By Stephen C. Webster - RAW Story
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

The Governor of Illinois has signed a bill repealing the death penalty and commuting the sentences of 15 men

Today, Illinois is expected to officially end the practice of state-sanctioned murder. It only took them 232 years.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, a supporter of capital punishment, was reportedly on track to sign a bill abolishing the death penalty. The bill has been on his desk since early January, after it cleared the state's Senate by a vote of 32-25.

Confirmation that the governor would sign the bill came from Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D), who told The Chicago Tribune that the governor's people said it would happen Wednesday.

"They point-blank told me they were signing the bill (Wednesday)," she reportedly said.

The move to end the state's long history of official murder was reportedly praised by President Barack Obama, who met with Gov. Quinn last week in the White House.
"The governor said Barack had complimented him and the state on our work on civil unions and the death penalty," state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D) told The Chicago Sun-Times.

Capital punishment has been on hold in Illinois for the last 11 years, after a Republican governor, George Ryan, suspended it.

"We have now freed more people than we have put to death under our system -- 13 people have been exonerated and 12 have been put to death," he said at the time, in prepared remarks. "There is a flaw in the system, without question, and it needs to be studied."

Contacted by the Sun-Times, a spokesperson with the governor's office refused to confirm that the governor would be signing the bill.

He has until March 18 to either sign it or issue a veto.

Illinois has executed 360 prisoners since the state was incorporated.

Gingrich says he cheated on his wives because he felt so ‘passionately’ for ‘this country’

(SCUMBAG! That's the worst excuse I've ever heard! The truth is, his first two wives got seriously ill, and Gingrich was out of there, rather than standing by either of his sick wives. If there is a hell, there is a special place being saved there for ol' Scumbag Newt.--jef)


Newt Gingrich is a Sorry Sack of Shit
By David Edwards
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Newt Gingrich (R-GA) loves the country so much that it has caused him to stray from his marriages.

At least, that what the former House speaker seemed to be saying in a recent interview with CBN's David Brody.

"There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate," Gingrich said.

"What I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn't trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them," he said.

Gingrich has been married three times and divorced twice.

His second wife, Marianne, revealed to Esquire last year how the former speaker had presented his first wife with the terms of their divorce while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery for uterine cancer in 1980.

Rumors about Gingrich's fondness for oral sex with other women have circulated for some time. A 1995 Vanity Fair profile explained how Anne Manning had claimed she had been intimate with him.

In 1999, over the Mother's Day weekend and on the same day his second wife had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Gingrich informed her he had found someone else.

In fact, he had reportedly been having an affair with Callista Bisek for six years.

Gingrich divorced his second wife in 2000 and married Callista that same year.

The Georgia Republican has launched a website to take donations for a possible 2012 presidential bid, but he will have to work hard to get conservative votes.

"He's the last person I'd vote for for president of the United States," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told the Tulsa World in August. "His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president."

Gingrich "doesn't know anything about commitment to marriage," he added.

The Republicans' Immoral Budget

 (My mother is a teacher's aid. If the Republican budget goes through, she'll lose her job at age 62. Her retirement was decimated by the Wall Street bankster theft, so like many other middle class people, she is fucked by the soulless dicks in the Republican party. And of course, none of the Democrats will lift a finger to try and stop them, either. They are just as bad.--jef)


If Republicans get their way, billions will be cut from vital programs that millions of Americans count on -- while tax cuts for the richest are protected.
By ,
Posted on March 8, 2011
Editor's note: The following is part of a campaign to publicize the true cost of the GOP's budget cuts.
This week, Congress could cut a deal on the budget. And if Republicans get their way, billions will be cut from vital programs that millions of Americans count on—while tax cuts for the richest are protected.

But most people don't have any idea what's at stake—and how devastating these cuts would be to their communities—even though the cuts could take effect within weeks. So we're launching an emergency campaign to spread the word. Republicans want to gut programs with enormous public support, and hope no one notices. So it's up to all of us to spark a public outcry before it's too late.

The devastating impact these cuts will have on our country—and on your community—is unprecedented. Check out the list below. If we can get it out to a million people, we can start to sound the alarm and stop the GOP.

The Republican budget would:
1. Destroy 700,000 jobs, according to an independent economic analysis.

2. Zero out federal funding for National Public Radio and public television.

3. Cut $1.3 billion from community health centers—which will deprive more than 3 million low-income people of health care over the next few months.

4. Cut nearly a billion dollars in food and health care assistance to pregnant women, new moms, and children.

5. Kick more than 200,000 children out of pre-school by cutting funds for Head Start.

6. Force states to fire 65,000 teachers and aides, dramatically increasing class sizes, thanks to education cuts.

7. Cut some or all financial aid for 9.4 million low- and middle-income college students.

8. Slash $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, a cut that experts say would "send shockwaves" through cancer research, likely result in cuts to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's research, and cause job losses.

9. End the only federal family planning program, including cutting all federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood to support cancer screenings and other women's health care.

10. Send 10,000 low-income veterans into homelessness by cutting in half the number of veterans who get housing vouchers this year.

Wisconsin Senate Passes Bill Stripping Collective Bargaining Rights from Teachers and Public Workers

(And the corrupt will of the corporate agenda triumphs over the people. Democracy is dying, folks. Freedom dies with it.--jef)


Crowd Chants "Shame, Shame, Shame"
By Chris Bowers, Daily Kos
Posted on March 9, 2011

Wisconsin Senate Republicans have passed a bill stripping collective bargaining rights for state workers. This was done by removing everything except the portions concerning collective bargaining rights from the "budget repair bill." The bill passed 18-1, with all Democrats absent, and only Senator Dale Schultz voting no. In one of the most anti-democratic procedural moves of all times, it passed out of committee only 14 minutes before it passed on the floor of the Senate. The way it was done was possibly illegal, too.

As I wrote earlier tonight, changing the bill in this way has laid bare the Republican lie that the bill could no longer be changed. It revealed Republicans were lying all along when they said collective bargaining rights were a budgetary matter, and as such had to be passed through a budget bill that required 20 Senators to be present.

Here is how the crowd reacted:

The Corporate/GOP Attack on America's Middle Class

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 by
by Jim Hightower

The most revealing comments by politicians are rarely revealed. This is because they're made in unrecorded conversations, when politicos let their guard down.

However, in a recent sting, blogger Ian Murphy recorded a revealing phone call he made to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Murphy pretended to be David Koch, the far-right-wing billionaire who pumped more than a million dollars into Walker's election last year. The governor is very busy, but he spent 20 minutes regaling the fake David Koch with details of his effort to kill the collective bargaining rights of state workers.

For example, Walker's power play was being blocked by 14 Democratic senators, who have left the state to prevent any Senate action. Walker giddily told "Koch" that his legislative troops were ramming through a rule to require all senators to pick up their paychecks in person, apparently assuming the 14 absentees would care as much about money as he does and rush back.

The governor was especially excited about his scheme to use state workers as political pawns: "I've got layoff notices ready (for five or six thousand employees)," he exulted, delighted to sacrifice them as pressure on the senators to return.

"Beautiful," responded the Koch masquerader, who then suggested "planting some troublemakers" among the crowds protesting the governor's union-busting.

"We thought about that," Walker assured him, but dropped the idea because "the public is not really fond of this." Besides, he said, the public's protesting is "not going to affect us."

"Well, good," said the billionaire imitator, adding, "Once you crush these bastards, I'll fly you out (to California) and really show you a good time."

Now this offer from his super-rich corporate co-conspirator really excited the guv. "All right," he replied, "that would be outstanding. Thanks a million!"

Actually, Scott, Koch is into you for more than a million, which explains why Walker's autocratic attempt to abrogate the democratic right of public employees to bargain with their governmental bosses is not wearing well with the public.

Recent polls show that a mere one-third of Wisconsinites favor his blatantly political power play and that if he had told voters in the last year's election that he intended to do this, he would've lost.

After only one month in office, Walker's approval rating has plummeted, and he's become a national poster boy for right-wing anti-union extremism — indeed, he's so out of step that he's even being jeered by democracy fighters in Egypt!

Yet, Walker is but one of a flock of far-right, corporate-crested Republican governors and congress-critters who're waging an all-out class war on unionized workers. It's a shameful effort to bust the wage structure and legal protections that support America's already endangered middle class.

In Washington, for example, loopy GOP leaders are out to abolish the legal mechanism through which workers can form a union and have their bargaining rights protected. Meanwhile, war-whooping Republican governors in Ohio, New Jersey, Indiana and elsewhere are slashing the health care and pension benefits owed to public employees, blaming these middle-class workers for their states' fiscal messes.

But state budgets have been depleted by the economic crash caused by Wall Street greed and massive tax giveaways to wealthy elites — not by a firefighter's pension or a teacher's health plan.

And check out Nevada, where the Chamber of Commerce is even pushing to eliminate the minimum wage. This corporate-funded Republican assault is not about fiscal responsibility. The corporate powers intend nothing less than to dismantle the entire framework of America's economic democracy and return us to the dark days of Robber Baron plutocracy.

To the barricades, people!

Drilling Companies Agree to Suspend Operations After Work at Wells in Arkansas Linked to Causing Earthquakes

Drilling linked to earthquakes
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
by the Daily Mail/UK

Two gas drilling companies have agreed to suspend specific operations at wells near Arkansas after their work was linked to nearby earthquakes.

Two gas drilling companies have agreed to suspend specific operations at wells near Arkansas after their work was linked to nearby earthquakes. Both Chesapeake Energy, based in Oklahoma, and Clarita Operating of Little Rock, informed the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission that they have halted operation of the wells near Greenbrier and Guy.

Arkansas geologists are continuing their search for answers and the drilling companies have stopped their work pending the AOGC panel's next regular meeting on March 29.

On Friday AOGC voted unanimously to order the two companies to halt their drilling - and they did not object. Both of the wells are directly in the seismic hot spot of hundreds of recent quakes.

The commission believes that it is highly likely there is a link between the wells and the earthquakes.

Some 800 earthquakes have hit the area in the past six months and a magnitude 4.7 quake – the strongest in Arkansas in 35 years – struck yesterday.

Local resident Linda Winfrey told 'I'm just so stressed with the whole thing, it's just been an ordeal for everyone.'

Another resident, Chad Rozanski, added: 'It's definitely a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done.'

A Chesapeake spokesman said: 'We do not agree with the conclusions. We believe there is a lot of natural seismicity in this area and there's a lot more data, facts and science that need to be brought to bear.

'And we look forward to a more thorough evaluation of all of that.'

The work at the high-pressure wells, which are used to dispose of waste water from natural gas drilling, will be halted for the time but Chesapeake and Clarita plan to fight more permanent actions at the meeting later in the month.

At the end of last year, the AOGC imposed a temporary ban on new permits for disposal wells. The following month, the board extended the moratorium until July 28th, pending an investigation.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Demystifying Our Economic Predicament

Lost in Theoretical FiligreeBy MICHAEL BRENNER
March 8, 2011

Transcendental mystery is of a bygone era. Yet our profane secular world also contains extraordinary things that are baffling and defy logical comprehension. Economics is especially rich in these mystifying puzzles. This despite the omnipresence of the experts who declare themselves wizards of the premier social science. Here are a few bewitching mysteries that bedevil us.

Number one is the gross discrepancy between a reviving national economy and public penury. Unprecedented deficits are exacting a painful price in austerity. Budgets of states and municipalities across the land are under the knife. Libraries have become luxuries, schools stepchildren, and even police and fire departments are endangered. In aggregate, the 50 states are running deficits of $175 billions. Cities in aggregate suffer a deficit of between $30 – 40 billion. In Washington, tax revenues are flat so that the deficit continues to mount despite the curtailment of stimulus spending and other austerities, e.g. a freeze on federal employee salaries. However, the numbers tell us that our stuttering recovery has succeeded in bringing GDP very close to where it was before the financial crisis broke in 2008. At that time, state and local governments enjoyed fiscal good health and Treasury revenue was much higher than it is today. How is this possible? Doesn't GDP today measure what it measured three years ago? Aren't local and state tax rates set where they were three years ago? Haven't the one-time federal tax cuts of 2009 expired? 'Yes' to all those questions. Indeed, real estate taxes in most jurisdictions have been kept level or actually increased – as in N.Y.C. and in Austin where they were raised by 10% despite stable housing prices.

So what's going on? Intervention by the capricious gods on Mount Olympus? Looking for an answer from the community of economists is frustrating. Rare is the specialist who addresses the question squarely. Certainly, a scouring of the financial press is a fruitless hunt for edification.

No need to consult either the Delphic Oracles or the economic seers. For there are clues that point to the solution of this mystery – a deeply unsettling solution. One glaring truth is that those who pay taxes in a manner commensurate with income now are reduced in number relative to those who routinely elude tax by means fair or foul. That latter category includes corporations and very wealthy individuals. Warren Buffett's secretary is in a higher tax rate than IS the maestro of Omaha – as he himself has pointed out. Of the Fortune 500 companies, 123 pay less than 23% on corporate revenues even though the official corporate tax rate is 35%. (Tim Geithner urges that the nominal rate drop to 25%), Corporate taxes as a fraction of GDP are at their lowest level in history. Those taxable earnings themselves represent only a fraction of profits given all the dodges built into tax code that invite accounting antics to hold official profits to a minimum. Then there are the special tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. Then there are the off-shore tax havens that allow corporations to locate their fictive headquarters in places with low or no taxes, e.g. Cayman Islands. Those havens are also available to the super rich. Then there is the infinite variety of financial shenanigans that befuddle underfunded, under motivated so-called regulators. The games that have shifted so much national wealth into the accounts top 2% are almost all still permitted despite their having brought the global economy to the brink of the precipice.

Then there is ever more extensive outsourcing of jobs and facilities abroad. G.E., whose CEO Mr. Jeffrey Immelt is now Mr. Obama's chief economic advisor, cut its payroll by some tens of thousands over the past decade. Its revenues have soared over this period as more and more of its corporate activity takes place in other countries. According to the numbers, much of the ensuing G.E. revenues are recorded as increases in national GDP. But foreign workers don't pay taxes to the IRS. Nor do they or GE contribute to FICA. The downward effect on government tax revenues if twofold: GE is in a better position to 'hide' earnings by showing the greatest profits in whichever of its locations have the lowest tax rates (between 2000 and 2007 GE's combined U.S. and foreign tax bill amounted to less than 3% of total revenue); and the earnings of American employees (who do file IRS returns) have become a smaller and smaller fraction of GE's corporate wage bill. A similar logic applies to the growing practice of raising 'productivity' by forcing white collar workers to work uncompensated overtime and by the reliance on part-time or temporary workers who are paid less and receive few if any benefits. Consequently, the inflation-adjusted income of the median household—smack in the middle of the populace—fell 4.2% between 2007 and 2010 (even worse than the 1970s, when median income rose 1.9% despite high unemployment and inflation).

GDP numbers themselves are distorted. The methodology for their calculation is a simple tabulation of transactions. Every time players in the financial money game trade 'products' of dubious value to the 'real economy,' like the notorious Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) or Credit Default Swaps (CDSs), the national cash register records the transaction as an addition to GDP. Those sorts of pseudo financial transactions have increased as a fraction of all financial dealings. The financial sector as a whole has grown to about 20% of the overall national economy and an even larger share of corporate profits. If we were to assume that 50% of financial transactions fall into the fictive category, then 10% of nominal GDP growth is also fictive. The American economy that allegedly grew at an annual rate of 2.8% in the fourth quarter may actually have grown by only 2.5%. There are other distortions of this kind that tend to overstate the rate of increase in GDP.

All of this could be inferred from the stubbornly high rate of unemployment coincidental with record corporate profits. Too, those profits are coincidental with a continuing decline in mean hourly wages for American workers – another telltale sign. Moreover, connivance with the 1990s reformulation of unemployment measures masks the fact that today's unemployment as stated in 1980 terms is more like 15% than the official 9%. These disparities are incomprehensible if we insist on taking at face value the numbers that are thrown at us about the state of the national economy.

A related mystery in embedded in the headline stories about the dire budgetary straits in which the country finds itself. The 'age of austerity' has become a commonplace in our public discourse on why America no longer can afford this, that or another thing. The concrete referents are everything from social services for the poor and elderly, to school counseling services, to public transportation on a par with any other reasonably prosperous country, to unemployment benefits, to decent health care. By any logical standard this is literally non-sense. The United States today is as rich as it ever has been – according to the numbers. And far richer than in earlier periods when we could afford most of those things – not to mention that other developed countries can afford them. Yet our political life accepts these apocalyptic assertions as Gospel Truth. Indeed, the economics priesthood provides the added reassurance of a scientific laying on of hands. Some of its luminaries actively proselytize in promotion of this creed. They are the intellectual mainstays of think tanks that go a step further to send forth the Word that we cannot even afford some basic things that we've had for 75 years – like Social Security. These numerologists are so deft that the obvious is cast into oblivion and the unreal is sealed in supposedly incontrovertible mathematical equations. The cultural equivalent of shamans speaking in tongues.

The United States does not pay for things of social value because IT chooses not to – not because it cannot afford them. IT has multiple antecedents: society as a whole; elected representatives; government officials; political parties; all those powerful interests that distort the process in every facet to their own advantage. The choices made in recent years include expending $1 trillion to $2 trillion to hunt spectral terrorists in the far corners of the globe to little effect. It includes the $87 billion spent annually on our intelligence agencies. It includes the huge tax breaks given by the Bush administration concentrated on those in the upper 2% income bracket. Between 2002 – 2010 that diverted approximately $2.4 trillion dollars out of the Treasury into the pockets of the wealthy (adding the debt servicing of resulting deficits). Barack Obama's ready acquiescence in their extension means that over the next decade another $3.1 trillion will be similarly diverted. As someone said, "a trillion here, a trillion there, and soon you're talking about real money." $ 7 – 8 trillion could pay for all the state/municipal budget cuts, the rebuilding of the country's infrastructure, a serious energy program, environmental clean-up, aid to the elderly. As for health care, we could pay for first rate coverage of every citizen at a cost one-third lower than what we now spend were we to switch to the kind of single payer system that works nearly everywhere else in the developed world – freeing another trillion or so for other purposes.

Think of higher education. When I began graduate school at Berkeley, I paid $104 per annum. That was not even tuition; it was a fee that covered maintenance of the student union and the pool complex in Strawberry Canyon. My total debt after receiving my PhD was $300 owed to the federal government for an interest free loan that I wisely invested in a vintage Pontiac convertible. Today, students at state universities pay tuition of between $10,000 – 20,000 per annum. They accumulate heavy debts on which they pay market rates. The Obama administration now has declared that Perkins Loans will start accumulating interest from Day 1 rather than upon the start of employment – adding to students' financial burden. Small wonder that the percentage of American high school graduates attending college is declining to the point where we rank below most developed countries. This did not happen because of 'hard times' or inexorable economic forces. Rather, it is due to social choices that the country has made.

This also is why the last subway system of any consequence in the United States was built when Nixon and Ford were presidents (D.C. and the San Francisco Bay area). So we suffer dilapidated transport while the residents of better endowed places ride efficient, clean trains in Calcutta, New Delhi, Recife (Brazil), Medellin (Columbia), Cairo, Baku (Azerbaijan); Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Yerevan (Armenia), Busan (South Korea), Izmir, Yekaterinburg, Naha (Okinawa) and Mecca (yes, that Mecca) – not to speak of the state of the art systems that speed on their way residents of every major city in China. It is concrete realities like this, and those noted above, that should be the starting point for serious intellectual and political discourse about the American economy – not the supposed economic verities that require 'fiscally responsible' government officials to make draconian teacher layoffs and to deprive the aged of a decent life.

Reality based assessments of the United States' economic predicaments should begin with a set of bedrock questions. What is the country's actual wealth? How is it distributed? Why is it distributed in this way? What is the role of government in producing that distribution? What are the consequences of that distribution? What are the reasons for a possible reallocation of national resources? How might it be done? Is that a desirable or undesirable goal? How could the transitions be made at minimal frictional cost while maintaining a smooth functioning of the economy? Some economic tools are useful to refine the answers. And most certainly Keynes should be required reading for all those who adhere to the flat-earth proposition that austerity is the curative for recession. But much of the rest is ritual, theoretical filigree for scholarly archives or mere distraction.

The Oil Trap

Bernanke's Version of Trickle Down

Rising oil prices threaten to derail the recovery. Oil at $106 per barrel (Monday's price) is not a problem, but oil at $160 is. With fighting increasing in Libya and social unrest spreading across the Middle East, no one knows where prices will settle. That leaves Fed chairman Ben Bernanke with a tough decision. Should he call off QE2 prematurely and let the stock market drift sideways or go-til-June and hope for the best? If the Fed tightens too early, deflationary pressures will reemerge further straining bank balance sheets and consumer spending. Housing prices will fall sharply and foreclosures will mushroom. But if Bernanke holds-firm with his zero rates and bond buying program--especially when the ECB is raising rates--he could trigger a bond market rout and send the dollar into freefall.

Bernanke has shrugged off the inflationistas saying that core inflation is still hovering at a safe 1 percent. But if oil keeps climbing, consumers will have to cut back on spending just when Obama's fiscal stimulus is winding down and just as the states are trimming their budgets. That will be a drag on economic activity and slow growth. Business investment will shrink, hiring will sputter, stocks will retreat, and the economy will head back into negative territory. It all depends on the price of oil. Here's Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg providing a little context to the fact that oil has "doubled" in just two years:
"There have been only five times in the past 70 years when this has happened within a two-year time frame: January 1974, November 1979, September 1990, June 2000, and August 2005. And now, December 2010. . . .
Of the five instances cited above, all but one involved a recession for the U.S. economy and that was in 2005 during the height of the credit and housing boom, which acted as a huge offset. But oil prices did keep rising and managed to outlast the euphoria in credit and residential real estate, so the recession may have been delayed at the peak of the 'growth rate' in the oil price, but it was not derailed as history shows." (The Big Picture)
So spiking oil prices and recessions go hand-in-hand. Accordingly, bond yields have been trending lower anticipating deflation while the shriveling dollar has been steadily slipping for more than a month. All of this is adding to investor anxiety. Wall Street is on tenterhooks waiting to see whether Obama will tap the National Oil Reserve to stop the bleeding or just cross his fingers and hope that the violence subsides before the economy nosedives. And then there's Bernanke. What will Bernanke do?

Most likely, the Fed chair will stay-the-course as long as possible convinced that deflation is still enemy Number One. But he's bound to take a lot of heat from critics who point to the tumbling dollar and higher prices at the pump. If the troubles in Libya spread to Saudi Arabia, as now seems likely, all bets are off. Bernanke will have to pull out all the stops to keep the economy from tanking.

Bernanke does have alternatives, although none that assure that the smooth transfer of wealth from worker to banker. (like QE2) He could, for example, appeal to congress for a second round of fiscal stimulus to increase employment, reduce the output gap, and show trading partners that the US is eager to generate more demand for global exports. That would increase goodwill among US allies while building a stronger foundation for growth. To hell with the deficits. When the economy is firing on all 8 pistons and revenues are poring in, the deficits will vanish by themselves.

And there are other options, too, even if Bernanke chooses to stick with monetary policy alone. Here's a clip form a recent report by Richard Wood titled "Deflation, Debt and Economic Stimulus":
"The US, Japan, and Ireland are suffering from deficient private demand, rising debt, and a tendency to deflation.....The alternative approach (to quantitative easing) involves the central bank printing new money to directly finance fiscal stimulus. This neglected policy option – apparently largely overlooked by officials during the global economic crisis – is likely to be appropriate for countries where prices are falling (or inflation drops toward zero), private demand is deficient, interest rates are already too low and where public debt is excessive.
If monetary policy is considered on its own then there could be a case for terminating current quantitative easing programmes. This would steer Japan and the US away from the shoals of triple jeopardy (Leijonhufvud 2011).
Quantitative easing could be replaced with a policy of printing new money with an explicit objective to assist in the financing of future budget deficits (see suggested money-financed tax cut: Bernanke 2002 and analysis by Corden 2010). The deployment of new money creation in this manner would take some pressure off the need for severe fiscal austerity measures (at a time when continued stimulus is still required); minimize further increases in public debt; provide clear signals of policy intent (in relation to interest rate objectives, the method of financing deficits and the approach to delivering economic stimulus); and be more effective, have fewer adverse side-effects, and deliver stronger economic stimulus than further quantitative easing." ("Deflation, Debt and Economic Stimulus", Richard Wood, VOX)
Ahh, the dreaded monetization of the debt. It's a bad choice compared to fiscal stimulus, but vastly superior to QE2.
Ask yourself this question: Who benefits from QE2? Bernanke even admitted in an op-ed in the Washington Post that the program was aimed at boosting stock market prices. And former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan was even more explicit in an article that will be published in an upcoming issue of International Finance. Here's what Maestro has to say:
"I still embrace the view I held a couple of years ago, that '[w]e tend to think of fluctuations in stock prices in terms of "paper" profits and losses somehow not connected to the real world. But, the evaporation of the value of those "paper claims" can have a profoundly deflationary impact on global economic activity. … [such] that much of the recent decline in global economic activity can be associated directly and indirectly with declining equity values....
'When we look back on this period, I very much suspect that the force that will be seen to have been most instrumental to global economic recovery will be a partial reversal of the $35 trillion global loss in corporate equity values that has so devastated financial intermediation. A recovery of the equity market driven largely by a receding of fear may well be a seminal turning point of the current crisis.'...
Equity values, in my experience, have been an underappreciated force driving market economies. Only in recent years has their impact been recognized in terms of 'wealth effects'. This is one form of stimulus that does not require increased debt to fund it....
Despite the surge in corporate cash flow over the last two years and expectations of security analysts of continued gains in profitability, equity premiums remain near a half-century high. This indicates an exceptionally large and presumably unsustainably high discount rate applied to expected future earnings. If the latter holds up, and activism recedes, stock values, of course, would move higher and carry with them a significant wealth effect that should enhance economic activity.
Short of a full-blown Middle East crisis affecting oil prices, a euro crisis and/or a bond market (budget) crisis reminiscent of 1979, the 'wealth effect' could effectively substitute private 'stimulus' for public." ("The costs of government activism", Alan Greenspan, EurekAlert)
There you have it; Fed policy in a nutshell. If you want to reverse deflation and ignite a "global economic recovery"; pump up stock prices. In other words, if we just make the rich even richer, our problems will be solved. What could be simpler?

How is this any different from "trickle down" economics? It's the same thing, which is to say that QE2 is the same thing. The goal is to increase the "wealth effect" for the investor class to such an extent that the spillover lifts the rest of the economy back to prosperity and growth. It's baloney. QE2 has done nothing to increase demand or help consumers patch their battered balance sheets. The economy is more vulnerable than ever and skyrocketing oil prices could be the shock that sends the economy skittering back into recession.
Bernanke has other options. It's just a matter of whose interests he chooses to serve.

The Marketing of Madness: Are We All Insane?

The Marketing of Madness: Are We All Insane? (2009)

Psychotropic drugging - it's business. This is the story of the high-income partnership between psychiatry and drug companies that has created an $80 billion psychotropic drug profit center, and millions of patients addicted to these drugs or developing worse health problems due to the use of these drugs.

This movie will break your heart.

vidlink (if video doesn't show)

Obama creates indefinite detention system for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay

By Peter Finn and Anne E. KornblutWashington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

President Obama signed an executive order Monday that will create a formal system of indefinite detention for those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who continue to pose a significant threat to national security. The administration also said it will start new military commission trials for detainees there.

The announcements, coming more than two years after Obama vowed in another executive order to close the detention center, all but cements Guantanamo Bay's continuing role in U.S. counterterrorism policy.

Administration officials said the president is still committed to closing the prison, although he made no mention of that goal in a short statement Monday. The administration's original plans to create a detention center in the United States and prosecute some detainees in federal court have all but collapsed in the face of bipartisan congressional opposition.

The executive order recognizes the reality that some Guantanamo Bay detainees will remain in U.S. custody for many years, if not for life. The new system allows them the prospect of successfully arguing in the future that they should be released because they do not pose a threat.

"Today, I am announcing several steps that broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice, provide oversight for our actions and ensure the humane treatment of detainees," Obama said in statement. "I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system - including [federal] Article III Courts - to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened."

But activists on either end of the debate over closing the prison cast the announcement as a reversal.

"It is virtually impossible to imagine how one closes Guantanamo in light of this executive order," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "In a little over two years, the Obama administration has done a complete about-face."

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the order vindicated Obama's predecessor. "I commend the Obama Administration for issuing this Executive Order," he said in a statement. "The bottom line is that it affirms the Bush Administration policy that our government has the right to detain dangerous terrorists until the cessation of hostilities."

The executive order applies to at least 48 of the 172 detainees who remain at Guantanamo Bay. An inter-agency panel led by Justice Department lawyers determined that this group could not be prosecuted in military commissions or in federal court because evidentiary problems would hamper a trial. But intelligence assessments also concluded that these detainees remain a serious threat and could not be safely repatriated or resettled in a third country. The administration said it will hold reviews for detainees it plans to prosecute but has not charged.

The administration argues that it has the legal authority to continue to hold all of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay under the laws of war. Federal courts have backed that assertion, although they have found that some detainees should be released for a lack of evidence against them. The detainees will continue to have the right to petition the federal courts under the doctrine of habeas corpus.

"The new executive order doesn't change the legal authority for detention at all," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies. "It simply provides additional reviews for individuals who have been found by the habeas courts to be lawfully detained under the laws of war."

Under the order, each detainee will receive within a year a written, unclassified review of the factors that justify his continued incarceration. A government representative will be appointed to advocate on behalf of the detainees, who will have the right to hire private counsel, but not at the government's expense, the executive order says.

A Periodic Review Board, composed of military, intelligence, Homeland Security, State and Justice Department officials, will consider each case. A detainee will have the right to appear before the board, introduce his own evidence and call witnesses "who are reasonably available," the order says.

Each detainee will receive a full review before officials every three years, and a paper review every six months.

But David Remes, an attorney who represents 20 detainees, including 16 Yemenis, said he sees no substantive difference between the new system and the review process under the George W. Bush administration, just "a new cast of characters" sitting on review boards. In light of the current administration's decision not to release any Yemenis, even those cleared for repatriation, Remes questioned whether the new system will be valid.

"What good will this do for a Yemeni?" he said. The administration has said Yemen does not have the capacity to reintegrate and monitor any returned detainees.

Moreover, recent legislation now makes it extremely difficult to transfer any detainee out of Guantanamo Bay even if he is believed to be no threat, and it is unclear how the administration will confront that congressional barrier.

The administration said that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will issue an order rescinding the suspension of new military commission cases.

The administration is expected to charge three detainees: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Yemeni accused of planning the October 2000 al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors; Obaidullah, an Afghan accused of storing anti-tank mines; and Ahmed Darbi, a Saudi accused of planning an attack on a ship in the Strait of Hormuz that never took place.

But the case against Guantanamo Bay's most prominent detainee, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, remains in limbo. The administration had planned to Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and four co-defendants on trial in New York. But intense political and public opposition scuttled the prosecution and it is unclear where - or whether - Mohammed will be tried.

"Unfortunately, some in Congress have unwisely sought to undermine this process by imposing restrictions that challenge the Executive Branch's ability to bring to justice terrorists who seek to do Americans harm," Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement Monday. "We oppose those restrictions, and will continue to seek their repeal."

Japan halts Pfizer, Sanofi vaccines after four die

Published on 03-07-2011
Source: Reuters

Japan's health ministry has halted the use of vaccines made by Pfizer Inc and Sanofi-Aventis SA to prevent meningitis and pneumonia following the deaths of four children.

The infants died shortly after receiving the vaccines and while it was unclear if there was link between the deaths and vaccines, use of Pfizer's Prevenar and Sanofi's ActHIB will be suspended while the deaths are investigated, the ministry said in a statement.

A ministry safety panel is scheduled to discuss findings in the investigations on Tuesday.

In February last year health authorities in the Netherlands said no relation was found between Prevenar and the deaths of three infants who had received the vaccine.

Three of the children that died in Japan were administered Prevenar together with ActHIB. In addition, three of the children also received a mixed vaccine against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus on the same day they received the other vaccines.

Three of the four children died a day after being immunized. The deaths happened between March 2 and March 4.

Representatives for Pfizer and Sanofi in Tokyo said the companies were cooperating with the investigation.

A spokesman for Sanofi said that the company has shipped more than 3 million doses of ActHIB in Japan since 2008 while a spokesman for Pfizer said the firm has distributed more than 2 million doses of Prevenar in Japan since last year.

Make Wall Street Pay! Angry Homeowners Shut Down B of A and Boehner's Office

A new campaign kicked off with a splash as hundreds of fed up homeowners brought business to a halt at a major bank and the House speaker's office. 
By Stephen C. Webster, Raw Story
Posted on March 7, 2011

A new campaign by a national network of activists kicked off Monday morning with a splash as it led hundreds of fed up homeowners in a series of protests that brought business to a halt at a major bank and the House speaker's office.

The National People's Action network picked Monday to launch the "Make Wall Street Pay" campaign thanks to another show in town: the National Association of Attorneys General's Convention in Washington, D.C.

But they didn't stop there.

Moving from the meeting of all 50 Attorneys General, the crowd made their way to a Bank of America branch on Pennsylvania Ave. While about 300 stood outside, another 300 moved indoors, filling up the lobby and bringing business to a stand still.

Then, they went to see if Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was available, filing into his Capitol Hill offices to send an unambiguous message: Wall Street must pay.

"They delivered the message that we have a revenue crisis and that Wall Street must pay its fair share," George Goehl, executive director of National People's Action, told Raw Story in an exclusive interview.

"Attorneys General from all 50 states have launched an investigation into annual foreclosure fraud," he continued. "American homeowners need this opportunity to save people's homes, so people have been organizing all across the country, really heavily in about 15 states, to put pressure on AGs to get them to push for strong settlements on this stuff. That means principle reductions on mortgages and criminal penalties for bankers that are breaking the law."
Activists inside the bank presented tellers with their own past-due notice, chanting for them to "pay your bills."

In a report issued by National People's Action and the non-profit corporate watchdog group Public Accountability Initiative, banks are blasted for using tax loopholes to avoid paying into public revenue coffers.

That's all due to a "revenue problem" and not an entitlement or deficit problem, the protesters insist.

There were no arrests, Goehl added.

The group's website encourages visitors to calculate the income they've lost since the onset of America's financial crisis in 2008, then send their own bill to their representatives in Washington. They also call upon activists of similar economic status to launch their own "Make Wall Street Pay" efforts.

This video was published to YouTube on Monday, March 7, 2011.

The Corporate Colonization of Our Democracy

Monday, March 7, 2011 by
by Christopher Hall
The United States of America has gotten so large, certain regions or even states, are taking on the same kind of burdens that third world colonized people have elsewhere. Americans are being colonized by a corporate-government complex right here in our own backyard.

In parts of Asia, Central and South America, and in the whole of Africa, colonization has long since created the "slave-in-place" model that worked only when the indigenous people behaved. This required a puppet ruler be put into place by the US and European countries, who have been colonizing in these continents for centuries. When it has worked for the empire countries, they have gotten along with their selected ruling elite who governed on behalf of the foreign corporations, and not at all on behalf of their citizens who suffered impoverished lives, extracting their own natural resources to hand over to the empire.

When it has not worked, is when the people resisted the colonization efforts, and we all know India as one example. Recently, with new technology, people have been getting upset about their living conditions in colonized (or even so-called post-colonized) regions, where they all get the tweets about how great life in the first world is, but suffer horrible poverty and joblessness at home in the third world.

Americans already know how good life is supposed to be in the first world, with "You can have it your way," and other $1.99 faux American Dream statements, but what's happening today is that corporations are controlling American government just like the colonizers did around the globe, and as a result, over the last several decades, life has gotten harder and worse for Americans: actually, they really aren't having it their way.

The very same colonialism we have conducted overseas has now come home to roost here in America, and that was a deep irony just waiting to happen. This comes directly from a situation where private sector corporations are funding certain US candidates to get elected, then paying countless lobbyists to influence them all day long once in office, so the laws of the cities, counties, states and federal government favor the corporations. This means people in America are getting burdened just like people in the third world, where the government does not work for them, but rather, works for the power base, the big corporate money interests: favoring the financial sector, outsourcing manufacturing jobs, increasing productivity making the worker work harder, and so on, to maximize profit.

There is always some collusion going on between the upper end of the corporate sector and their elected, lobbied politicians to control the worker on the left and the consumer on the right -- one and the same person, world-wide. Indeed, the corporations view the people as their workers and consumers -- exactly like a flock to feed and fleece, and the US Government is seen facilitating this under direct corporate supervision, functioning like an HR department with laws in place of policies.

Clearly, the corporations prefer their consumers who pay them, over their workers, who cost them money. Indeed, for many Americans, it is this problematic duality that corporations exploit, and the people get very upset sometimes, here and around the world.

In Wisconsin, the governor is clearly in the court of the corporate ruling elite, and we all knew that, long before the prank call. He has a whole state to rule over like a puppet corporate dictator. If more corporate elite ruling politicians are elected by discontented but highly mistaken people on the right, there will just be greater discontentment for all people as puppet dictators are elected in lavishly, corporate funded political campaigns.

Government staff employees paid $60k--$120k aren't necessarily more out to get you than private sector power brokers who make millions and billions. But the elected politicians are different: they are embraced by the corporations during the candidate-funding-election process, and never let go of once they win and get into office. They often are already on the inside long before they run for office.

Have you noticed that people vote, they don't lobby, and that corporations lobby, they don't vote? Corporations lobby 24/7/365, and have the money and connections to do so, while the rest of us 308 million Americans are pretty much ignored by the corporate sponsored politicians who haven't the time to listen to the small people, since they are so busy listening to the big people.

Across the country, Americans should all join in Denial Of Service (DOS) attacks directed at our politicians and demand all of their time until we feel like we have gotten back our government of, by and for the people. Until then, America will continue to be colonized, where the ruling class will exploit Americans for their labor-consumer function: they will pay less for labor, extract the most from the consumer, all without killing them both, and pocket the balance for profit.

It used to be that all of your labor and consumption was kept on the family farm and not laundered through the corporations. The time has come to find a contemporary way of having a greater say over our persons who labor and consume so we pocket the difference.

Beware the Invisible Hand of Privatization

Monday, March 7, 2011 by
by Willie Pelote, Sr.
In California, the state government currently spends more than $34 billion a year paying private contractors to do jobs that civil servants can perform for half the cost. Another $900 million of taxpayer funds is wasted annually propping up the state’s failed enterprise zone program. Common sense dictates that any proposal to balance the state budget begin here.

Instead, what is being implemented in state capitals across the country are plans to eradicate traditional retirement and health care benefits for civil servants and, in some cases, to return civil servants to 19th century working conditions by eliminating their First Amendment right to assemble, organize, and bargain collectively as free citizens.

These developments are part and parcel of an ongoing strategy to steal our taxpayer dollars by redirecting them from public services and democratic institutions and into the pockets of private companies and individuals through wasteful subsidy programs and corrupt private contracting practices in government.

Case in point, the Little Hoover Commission recently recommended that retirement benefits for new and current public employees be essentially eliminated and replaced with 401(k)-style plans in order to save taxpayers money.

What the Little Hoover Commission left out of their report and avoided saying in testimony before the state legislature was that no one with a 401(k) has ever been able to afford to retire with one.

They also failed to mention that 401(k) plans are about three times more expensive to maintain than traditional, defined benefit retirement plans due to the fees that Wall Street investors charge to manage a 401(k).

It’s akin to the way technology consultants have repeatedly taken advantage of Sacramento’s lack of computer know-how by promising quick fixes for low prices on projects that routinely turn out to be more complicated and expensive.

Clearly, the move to eliminate traditional retirement benefits for civil servants is simply another attempt by Wall Street and their business associates to redirect our hard-earned tax dollars into their pockets.

As if bringing on the Great Recession through a national housing crisis and financial meltdown wasn’t enough, these same vultures now want Main Street to pay for cleaning up their economic mess.

In light of the billions of taxpayer dollars given to bail out the financial institutions responsible for our current economic crisis, the public is right to be concerned over how our tax dollars are being spent.

That’s why we need to eliminate the more than $34 billion worth of private contracting in state government along with wasteful tax subsidy programs that routinely funnel billions every year to private companies with no oversight.

With regard to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s bid to end people's First Amendment right to assemble, organize, and bargain collectively as free citizens, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has astutely pointed out that this move masks a darker, more lucrative purpose.

Krugman writes that Walker’s budget bill is designed not only to eliminate collective bargaining rights for civil servants, but to facilitate the sale of taxpayer-owned heating, cooling, and electricity plants to private companies “with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state.”

In fact, “no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary” for the sale of taxpayer-owned plants or for the contracting out of the operation of these state institutions.

Here again, we find the market’s so-called invisible hand preparing to pilfer our hard earned tax dollars out of our collective pocket.

Instead of eliminating traditional retirement and health care benefits for grandma and other dedicated civil servants, we need to institute a surcharge on financial service transactions like stock trades to make sure that Wall Street cleans up this mess that the rest of us in California, the United States, and the rest of the world are suffering through.

Earliest evidence for magic mushroom use in Europe

06 March 2011 - New Scientist

EUROPEANS may have used magic mushrooms to liven up religious rituals 6000 years ago. So suggests a cave mural in Spain, which may depict fungi with hallucinogenic properties - the oldest evidence of their use in Europe.

The Selva Pascuala mural, in a cave near the town of Villar del Humo, is dominated by a bull. But it is a row of 13 small mushroom-like objects that interests Brian Akers at Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey, Florida, and Gaston Guzman at the Ecological Institute of Xalapa in Mexico. They believe that the objects are the fungi Psilocybe hispanica, a local species with hallucinogenic properties.

Like the objects depicted in the mural, P. hispanica has a bell-shaped cap topped with a dome, and lacks an annulus - a ring around the stalk. "Its stalks also vary from straight to sinuous, as they do in the mural," says Akers (Economic Botany, DOI: 10.1007/s12231-011-9152-5).

This isn't the oldest prehistoric painting thought to depict magic mushrooms, though. An Algerian mural that may show the species Psilocybe mairei is 7000 to 9000 years old.

One More Jobs Mirage

Some New Economy

The announcement on March 4 that 192,000 new jobs were created in February was greeted with a sigh of relief. But the number is just more smoke and mirrors, as I will show shortly. First, let’s pretend the jobs are real. What areas of the economy produced the jobs?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 152,000 of the jobs or 79 per cent are in private services, consisting of: 11,700 jobs in wholesale trade, 22,000 in transportation and warehousing, 36,400 in administration and waste services (of which 15,500 are temporary help services), and 36,200 in ambulatory health care services and nursing and residential care facilities. Entertainment, waitresses and bartenders accounted for 20,000. Repair and maintenance, laundry services, and membership associations accounted for 14,000.

As one who has often reported the monthly payroll jobs breakdown, I am struck by the fact that these categories are the ones that have accounted for job growth for year after year. How can this be? How can Americans, who have had no growth in their real incomes and who are foreclosed from their homes and maxed out on credit card debt, car payments, and student loans, spend more every month in bars and restaurants? How can a few service areas of the economy grow when nothing else is?

The answer is that there were not 192,000 new jobs. Statistician John Williams estimates the reported gain was overstated by about 230,000 jobs. In other words, about 38,000 jobs were lost in February.

There are various reasons that job gains are overstated and losses understated. One is the BLS’s “birth-death model.” This is a way of estimating the net of non-reported new jobs from business start-ups and job losses from business shut-downs. During recessions this model doesn’t work, because the model is based on good times when new jobs always exceed lost jobs. On the “death” side, if a company goes out of business because of recession and, therefore, doesn’t report its payroll, the BLS assumes the previously reported employees are still in place. On the “birth” side, the BLS adds 30,000 jobs to the monthly numbers as an estimate of new start-ups.

Williams estimates the “death” side is really reducing employment by about 200,000 per month, and the “birth” side is stillborn. Therefore, “the BLS continues regularly to overestimate monthly growth in payroll employment by roughly 230,000 jobs.” The benchmark revisions of payroll jobs bear out Williams. The last two benchmark revisions resulted in a reduction of previously reported employment gains of about 2 million jobs.

Another indication is that despite 10 years of population growth, there are 8 to 9 million fewer Americans employed today than a decade ago.

Some “New Economy” we have. If only we could have the old one back.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Simpsons take on Big Pharma


“I don’t think actual newts are this slimy.”


TSA, DHS plan massive rollout of surveillance vans with long-distance X-ray scanners

Sunday, March 06, 2011
by Mike Adams

Newly-released documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) reveal that the US Depart of Homeland Security has been working on plans to roll out a new wave of mobile surveillance technologies at train stations, stadiums and streets. These new technologies will track your eye movements, capture and record your facial dimensions for face-recognition processing, bathe you in X-rays to look under your clothes, and even image your naked body using whole-body infrared images that were banned from consumer video cameras because they allowed the camera owners to take "nude" videos of people at the beach.

Most importantly, many of these technologies are designed to be completely hidden, allowing the government to implement "covert inspection of moving subjects." You could be walking down a hallway at a sports stadium, in other words, never knowing that you're being bathed in X-rays from the Department of Homeland Security, whose operators are covertly looking under your clothes to see if you're carrying any weapons.

Roving vans to "track eye movements"

According to a article (, one project pursued by DHS using technology from Siemens would "mount backscatter x-ray scanners and video cameras on roving vans, along with other cameras on buildings and utility poles, to monitor groups of pedestrians, assess what they carried, and even track their eye movements."

Another project involved developing "a system of long range x-ray scanning to determine what metal objects an individual might have on his or her body at distances up to thirty feet."

We already know that the U.S. government has purchased 500 vans using covert backscatter technology to covertly scan people on the streets ( They're called "Z Backscatter Vans, or ZBVs."

This is all part of the U.S. government's new wave of police state surveillance that aims to track and irradiate innocent civilians who have committed no crime. Under the new Janet Napolitano regime, all Americans are now considered potential terrorists, and anyone can be subjected to government-sanctioned radiation scanning at any time, without their knowledge or approval.

And don't think these efforts will be limited merely to backscatter technology: The TSA is now testing full-power, deep-penetrating X-ray machines (like the ones that deliver chest X-rays in hospitals) in order to check people for bombs they may have swallowed. Yes, Janet Napolitano now wants to look inside your colon! And they're willing to X-ray everyone -- without their consent -- in order to do that.

Read the documents yourself

If you have trouble believing the U.S. government is unleashing a new wave of police state covert scanning vans on to the streets of America, you can read the documents yourself -- all 173 pages. They're available on the EPIC website at:

EPIC calls these vans "mobile strip search devices" because they give the federal government technology to look under your clothes without your permission or consent. It's also being done without probable cause, so it's a violation of the Fourth Amendment protections that are guaranteed to Americans under the Bill of Rights.

"It's a clear violation of the fourth amendment that's very invasive, not necessarily effective, and poses all the same radiation risks as the airport scans," said EPIC attorney Ginger McCall, in the Forbes article (above).

Huge health risks to the population

It's not just the privacy issues that raise red flags here, of course: It's also the fact that the U.S. government has no respect whatsoever for the health of its citizens who are being subjected to these radiation emitting devices. Even while the TSA refuses to release testing results from its own naked body scanners, DHS keeps buying more machines (and more powerful machines) that will only subject travelers to yet more radiation.

As we've already reported here on, numerous scientists are already on the record warning that the TSA's backscatter "naked body scanners" could cause breast cancer, sperm mutation and other health problems (

But the U.S. government doesn't seem to care what happens to your health. Their position is that their "right" to know what you're carrying under your clothes or inside your body overrides your right to privacy or personal health. All they have to do is float a couple of fabricated terrorism scare stories every few months, and then use those "threats" as justification for violating the Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens are very turn.

The real question in all this, of course, is how far will this go? The TSA is already reaching down your pants and feeling up peoples' genitals as part of the "security" measures. Will DHS soon just start subjecting people to body cavity searches as a necessary security requirement before entering a football stadium, for example? Will Americans now be X-rayed with cancer-causing ionizing radiation -- without their awareness or consent -- merely because they are walking down the street or boarding a train?

That seems to be the case. And as you can readily tell from all this, it's getting harder and harder for the fast-dwindling group of deniers to claim America isn't already a police state. The USA is fast becoming a high-tech version of the very worst police state tyrannies witnessed throughout human history. The only difference is that now they have "science" on their side with the coolest new technology that can violate your rights and irradiate your body in a hundred different ways, with high-resolution images and digital storage devices.

I suppose if all this were being done to really stop international terrorists, that might be one thing. But what has become increasingly clear in observing the government's behavior in this realm is that the U.S. government now considers Americans to be the enemy -- especially those who have the gall to defend their Constitutionally-protected freedoms or question the unjustified centralization of power taking place right now in Washington.

The DHS is America's new secret police. And their cameras are pointing inward, into the everyday lives of Americans; not outward, aimed at international terrorists.

When the price of security becomes forfeiting your liberty, the source of the "terror" is no longer the terrorists but your own government. Isn't this the lesson that history has taught us well?

Magnetic north shifting towards Russia

Polar Shift Inevitable
Sun Mar 6, 2011

Scientists say the magnetic pole, which has been in the icy wilderness of Canada for two centuries, is relocating towards Russia at 40 miles per year.

Surveys show the magnetic north pole is moving faster, threatening everything from the safety of modern transportation systems to the traditional navigation routes of migrating animals.

Scientists say that magnetic north, which for two centuries has been in the icy wilderness of Canada, is currently relocating towards Russia at a rate of about 40 miles a year, reported The Independent.

The speed of its movement has increased by one-third in the past decade, prompting speculation that the field could be about to "flip," causing compasses to invert and point south rather than north, something that happens between three and seven times every million years.

The phenomenon is already causing problems in the field of aviation, added the British daily.

The current rate of the magnetic north's movement away from Canada's Ellesmere Island is throwing out compasses by roughly one degree every five years.

Geologists believe that magnetic north pole (which is different from the true North Pole, the axis on which the Earth spins) moves around due to changes in the planet's molten core, which contains liquid iron. They first located it in 1831, and have been trying to follow its progress ever since.

Records indicate that the pole's location barely moved in the early decades, but in about 1904, it began tracking north-east at a rate of about nine miles a year.

That speed increased significantly from about 1989, possibly because of a "plume" of magnetism deep below ground.

The pole is now believed to be heading towards Siberia at about 37 miles each year.

“Earth's magnetic field is changing in time. And as far as we know, it has always been changing in time," geophysicist Jeffrey Love of the US Geological Survey in Colorado was quoted by the British daily as saying.

Motorists illegally detained at Florida toll booths for using large bills

TX Rep files anti-body-scanner bill

Written by: Andy Hogue - 3/4/2011

A freshman Representative filed a bill to penalize airport body scanner operators: Including TSA agents.

Can they do that to a federal agent? Bill author Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) thinks so. And he's not alone, with 18 co-sponsors from both parties (see list below) and a few organizations.

The bill, HB 1938, makes it a civil penalty for anyone working in a locally owned airport to install or operate whole-body imaging equipment -- "including a device that uses backscatter x-rays or millimeter waves, that creates a visual image of a person's unclothed body and is intended to detect concealed objects," the bill read.

The penalty is capped at $1,000 per day per violation.

The bill is supported by the Travis County Republican Party, the Travis County Libertarian Party, ACLU-Texas, and Austin-based Texans for Accountable Government which pushed for a city of Austin resolution against the scanners.

Simpson may also have the backing of U.S. Congressman John Carter of Texas, a member of the U.S. House Appropriations and Homeland Security committees.

"On Thursday I met with U.S. Congressman John Carter ... to discuss strategies for stopping the federal Transportation Safety Administration’s implementation of unconstitutional and unreasonable searches of U.S. citizens as a condition of travel," Simpson wrote in his weekly blog post.

If it becomes law, Texas will be one of at least two states opposing the measures, including New Jersey and New Hampshire.

A press conference on the bill originally scheduled for Monday has been postponed.

Co-authors so far include: Reps. Jose Aliseda (R-Beeville), Leo Berman (R-Tyler), Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont), Allen Fletcher (R-Tomball), Dan Flynn (R-Vann), John V. Garza (R-San Antonio), Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock), Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), Charlie Howard (R-Sugar Land), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), Jim Landtroop (R-Big Spring), Jodie Laubenberg (R-Rockwall), Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), Debbie Riddle (R-Houston), Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), and James White (R-Hillister).

The Stupidity of Not Raising Taxes on the Rich When Budgets Are Tight

By Larry Beinhart, AlterNet
Posted on March  7, 2011

The current economy is routinely and universally referred to as the worst recession since the Great Depression.

It makes sense, therefore, to look back at government tax and spending policies during the Depression and what the results were.
1932 -- Hoover raises the top tax rate from to 25 to 63 percent.

1933 -- Roosevelt comes into office. He begins spending at the same time that new tax hike comes into effect. The Depression bottoms out.

1934 -- Recovery begins. The GNP rises 7.7 percent, unemployment falls to 21.7 percent.

1935 -- New government spending on public works and rural electrification. A push to strengthen labor and raise wages. New taxes through the creation of Social Security.

The GNP grows another 8.1 percent, and unemployment continues to fall.

1936 -- The top tax rate is raised again. This time to 79 percent.

GNP grows a record 14.1 percent; unemployment falls even further.

1937 -- Roosevelt is afraid of deficits! He cuts spending for 1937.

There's a new recession. It continues for a year.

1939 -- The U.S. borrows, resumes deficit spending, this time on a military build-up. The recession ends.

1941 -- America enters World War II.

In economic terms, it's the New Deal on steroids. The top tax rate goes up to 91 percent. Nonetheless, government spending is so high that by 1945 the deficit is 123 percent of GDP. Unemployment is ended by employing 16 million people directly in the armed forces and millions more are employed producing war material and supporting the military.

The Great Depression is finally over.

When taxes were raised the economy improved. Every time. Deficits had no negative effect on the economy. Indeed, when deficits were at their highest, the economy boomed.

After spending was cut -- to balance the budget -- a recession immediately followed. When taxes were raised and government spending resumed -- with deficits -- that recession ended.

When taxes were raised again, and government spending went sky high, the Great Depression finally ended.

So here we are. We refused to raise taxes. The recession continues. Now, we're going to cut spending.

Bill proposes DPS checkpoints

By Nolan Hicks, Thursday, March 3, 2011

AUSTIN — The Department of Public Safety would be given the power to establish driver's license and insurance checkpoints along state roads as part of a broader border security bill introduced Thursday.

The checkpoint provision is part of a bill that supporters say would crack down on drug cartels and human smuggling rings operating in Texas.

It would require that every person booked into prison in Texas have their citizenship checked. It also would increase criminal penalties for gang and cartel members and increase fines for drug crimes.

“We want to have a package that's focused on solving our unique situation here in Texas,” said state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, who chairs the Senate committee on transportation and homeland security.

DPS officials have asked for the power to do checkpoints, claiming it's necessary to help disrupt the operations of drug cartels and human smugglers; however, legislation has failed because it usually was enveloped by political controversy.

“This bill has several provisions that appear to require state and local law officers to enforce federal immigration laws, which invites discrimination against citizens of Hispanic descent and legal immigrants,” said state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio.

Williams defended the proposal and said it would help reduce the number of uninsured drivers on the road and would give officers an additional chance at stopping illegal activity.

“There are actually local jurisdictions that do this,” Williams said.

He said agencies would still have to have probable cause to search vehicles and that current policy had “unnecessarily restrained the Department of Public Safety.”

Other Democrats voiced concern that the bill might become a vehicle for legislation from conservative House Republicans that would provide for an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigrants.

“What concerns me is that any omnibus bill can become a vehicle for other things which I would not support,” said Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville. “I would hate to see his bill amended to include Arizona-style legislation.”

The bill includes new requirements that would mandate that local law enforcement organizations check the citizenship status of everyone booked into prison. It also would require that state prisons officials keep a count of the number of illegal immigrants in state prisons.

“It's an expensive proposition — we think it could be as high as $200 million,” Williams said of the cost to house illegal immigrants in state prisons. “Because there's not a census being taken, it's very difficult to know how good that number is.”

'This is our Last Chance to Wrestle America Away From the Grubby Hands of the Greedy Rich.' (2 artciles)

Michael Moore in Madison
Saturday, March 5, 2011 by The Nation
by John Nichols

Filmmaker Michael Moore will march with members of Madison Firefighters Local 311 to the Wisconsin Capitol today and join a mass rally at the King Street entrance around 2 p.m.

Moore will speak up for union rights and cheer on the mass protests at a rally organized by the Wisconsin Wave movement, which has been backed by Wisconsin labor, farm, community and grassroots groups. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, former Mayor Paul Soglin, State Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, Liberty Tree Foundation director and Wisconsin Wave organizer Ben Manski and others will also speak, while singers Ryan Bingham, Jon Langford and Michelle Shocked will also join the rally.

Moore, a long-time supporter of labor rights, is the director and producer of Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, and Capitalism: A Love Story, four of the top nine highest-grossing documentaries of all time. His breakthrough film, Roger & Me, chronicled the deindustrialization of his his hometown of Flint, Michigan, along with the struggles of blue-collar workers.

Moore says of the protests against Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill – which would strip most public employee and teacher unions of their collective bargaining rights:
“This movement--we'll call it the 'Madison Movement' (after both the town where it was born and the president who wrote our Bill of Rights) is exploding across the Midwest. It will be unlike anything you've seen in recent U.S. history. It is built on this one truth: Corporations have taken over our country and we know this is our last chance to wrestle America away from the grubby hands of the greedy rich.”


Michael Moore: The Smug Wealthy Have Gone Too Far -- And We're Finally Fighting Back
By Michael Moore,
Posted on March 6, 2011

America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you'll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It's just that it's not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer "bailout" of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can't bring yourself to call that a financial coup d'état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we'd have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic -- and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

I have nothing more than a high school degree. But back when I was in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate. And here's what I learned: Money doesn't grow on trees. It grows when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs. It grows when we provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new generation of inventers, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and thinkers who come up with the next great idea for the planet. And that new idea creates new jobs and that creates revenue for the state. But if those who have the most money don't pay their fair share of taxes, the state can't function. The schools can't produce the best and the brightest who will go on to create those jobs. If the wealthy get to keep most of their money, we have seen what they will do with it: recklessly gamble it on crazy Wall Street schemes and crash our economy. The crash they created cost us millions of jobs.  That too caused a reduction in revenue. And the population ended up suffering because they reduced their taxes, reduced our jobs and took wealth out of the system, removing it from circulation.

The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. It's part of the Big Lie. It's one of the three biggest lies of the decade: America/Wisconsin is broke, Iraq has WMD, the Packers can't win the Super Bowl without Brett Favre.

The truth is, there's lots of money to go around. LOTS. It's just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates. They know they have committed crimes to make this happen and they know that someday you may want to see some of that money that used to be yours. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them. But just in case that doesn't work, they've got their gated communities, and the luxury jet is always fully fueled, the engines running, waiting for that day they hope never comes. To help prevent that day when the people demand their country back, the wealthy have done two very smart things:
1. They control the message. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day – this is America, where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart -- because you -- yes, you, too! -- might be rich/president/an Oscar-winner some day! The message is clear: keep you head down, your nose to the grindstone, don't rock the boat and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.

2. They have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. It is their version of mutually assured destruction. And when they threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in September of 2008, we blinked. As the economy and the stock market went into a tailspin, and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi scheme, Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into the ground. Fork it over or it's Goodbye savings accounts. Goodbye pensions. Goodbye United States Treasury. Goodbye jobs and homes and future. It was friggin' awesome and it scared the shit out of everyone. "Here! Take our money! We don't care. We'll even print more for you! Just take it! But, please, leave our lives alone, PLEASE!"

The executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain their laughter, their glee, and within three months they were writing each other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a nation full of suckers. Millions lost their jobs anyway, and millions lost their homes. But there was no revolt (see #1).

Until now. On Wisconsin! Never has a Michigander been more happy to share a big, great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant know as the working people of the United States of America. Right now the earth is shaking and the ground is shifting under the feet of those who are in charge. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone tells us America is broke and broken. It's just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and, yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have, through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still crave what we all crave: Our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! The United States of America. NOT the Corporate States of America. The United States of America!

So how do we get this? Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.

Thank you, Wisconsin. You have made people realize this was our last best chance to grab the final thread of what was left of who we are as Americans. For three weeks you have stood in the cold, slept on the floor, skipped out of town to Illinois -- whatever it took, you have done it, and one thing is for certain: Madison is only the beginning. The smug rich have overplayed their hand. They couldn't have just been content with the money they raided from the treasury. They couldn't be satiated by simply removing millions of jobs and shipping them overseas to exploit the poor elsewhere. No, they had to have more – something more than all the riches in the world. They had to have our soul. They had to strip us of our dignity. They had to shut us up and shut us down so that we could not even sit at a table with them and bargain about simple things like classroom size or bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force or letting a pilot just get a few extra hours sleep so he or she can do their job -- their $19,000 a year job. That's how much some rookie pilots on commuter airlines make, maybe even the rookie pilots flying people here to Madison. But he's stopped trying to get better pay. All he asks is that he doesn't have to sleep in his car between shifts at O'Hare airport. That's how despicably low we have sunk. The wealthy couldn't be content with just paying this man $19,000 a year. They wanted to take away his sleep. They wanted to demean and dehumanize him. After all, he's just another slob.

And that, my friends, is Corporate America's fatal mistake. But trying to destroy us they have given birth to a movement -- a movement that is becoming a massive, nonviolent revolt across the country. We all knew there had to be a breaking point some day, and that point is upon us. Many people in the media don't understand this. They say they were caught off guard about Egypt, never saw it coming. Now they act surprised and flummoxed about why so many hundreds of thousands have come to Madison over the last three weeks during brutal winter weather. "Why are they all standing out there in the cold? I mean there was that election in November and that was supposed to be that!

"There's something happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you ...?"

America ain't broke! The only thing that's broke is the moral compass of the rulers. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on. Never forget, as long as that Constitution of ours still stands, it's one person, one vote, and it's the thing the rich hate most about America -- because even though they seem to hold all the money and all the cards, they begrudgingly know this one unshakeable basic fact: There are more of us than there are of them!

Madison, do not retreat.  We are with you. We will win together.