Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ecstasy could treat blood cancers: researchers

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, August 18th, 2011

LONDON — Researchers in Britain revealed Friday they are exploring whether the nightclubbers' drug ecstasy could be effective in treating blood cancers.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham in central England said modified forms of the drug boosted its ability to destroy cancerous cells by 100 times.

Six years ago, researchers found that cancers affecting white blood cells appeared to respond to certain "psychotropic" drugs.

These included weight loss pills, Prozac-type antidepressants, and amphetamine derivatives such as methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) -- commonly known as ecstasy.

The Birmingham scientists said their discoveries since then could lead to MDMA derivatives being used in patient trials.

The derivatives could be effective in treating blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

"This is an exciting next step towards using a modified form of MDMA to help people suffering from blood cancer," said Professor John Gordon, from the university's School of Immunology and Infection.

"While we would not wish to give people false hope, the results of this research hold the potential for improvements in treatments in years to come."

The team found that the dose of MDMA required to treat a tumor would prove fatal, so they set about isolating the drug's cancer-killing properties.

They are now looking at ways to get MDMA molecules to penetrate cancer cell walls more easily.

Doctor David Grant, scientific director of the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research charity, which part-funded the study, said: "The prospect of being able to target blood cancer with a drug derived from ecstasy is a genuinely exciting proposition.

"Many types of lymphoma remain hard to treat and non-toxic drugs which are both effective and have few side effects are desperately needed."

The findings are published in the bi-monthly journal Investigational New Drugs.

Verizon Strike Expected to End Soon

Verizon Strike: As Delays Mount, It's Time for the Company to Bargain With Workers in Good Faith (Update: Strike May End Soon)
By Laura Clawson, Daily Kos
Posted on August 20, 2011

Update: According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Verizon Communications Inc. and union leaders will announce today that employees will return to work starting Tuesday morning, ending for a time, the longest and largest strike in recent labor history."

Though Verizon has claimed that its managers and replacement workers would be able to keep up with the workload of striking workers, reports of significant service delays are spreading. And with inexperienced people trying to do complex work and not knowing what they're doing, as seen below, no wonder.
In that video, striking workers actually step in to help prevent injury or damage. Another video shows replacement workers blowing a transformer, and that's not the end of the problems striking workers have witnessed. So no wonder that while "Verizon acknowledges 'minor' disruptions since the strike began on Aug. 7," Steven Greenhouse goes on to report some issues that sound less than minor.
Mr. Marsh, who just graduated from Buffalo State College with a degree in urban planning, wanted to order Verizon’s FiOS Internet and television services for his new apartment on West 49th Street in Manhattan. 
"They let me go through the whole signup and then at the end they said, 'There are no installation dates available. Someone will contact you,' " Mr. Marsh said. "That was probably a week ago. They were trying to make it seem like everything is O.K., like the service is there but it’s not. I thought it would be a couple of weeks, but it might end up being a couple of months. I decided to go with Time Warner instead."
Meanwhile, Verizon workers have taken the pickets to the homes of top executives, saying:
"One can't possibly go up to the mansions in Mendham and not be struck by the grossness of destroying the standard of living of working-class operators and technicians while living in the lap of luxury. It is worth marking the contrast," said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA's New Jersey director. [...]

Telecommunications Companies in the US May Be Spying on You Every Day

It's Not Just News Corp: There is reason to believe that the media we've entrusted to investigate abuses of privacy are part of the cover up.
By Eliot Cohen, Buzzflash at TruthOut
Posted on August 20, 2011

When Guardian reporter, Nick Davies, broke the story that Rupert Murdoch's News of the World had been hacking British citizens' voicemail messages, including those of a murdered teenager, there was a public outcry. Unfortunately, this is the tip of a glacial iceberg that has the potential to bring down a lot more than the News of the World.

Last year, without due public debate and input, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Justice Department approved a merger between Comcast and NBC Universal that gave the Internet cable giant control over the programming of NBC news. At the same time, pursuant to the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act, Comcast as well as all other telecommunication companies are required to cooperate with the Federal government in providing the facility for government to search through all electronic communications sent down their pipes.

So presently, the government, with the help of Comcast and other telecommunication companies, can hack everyone's phone and email conversations. Here also lies a new 21st century media model: a telecom company that owns and operates the infrastructure for the digital transmission of news and information; simultaneously owns the newsroom; and uses it infrastructure to assist the government in mass, warrantless surveillance of all American citizens.

The News of the World spied on a relatively few number of individuals for the purpose of getting a story. Comcast routinely spies on millions of people on behalf of government. The official purpose of such spying is to uncover terrorist plots; however, racial profiling can be used to conduct searches; mass sweeps are warrantless; and adequate judicial oversight of screening criteria and procedures is lacking. Worse still, in this brave new world, the media entrusted to keep an eye on government abuses of power is now part of this overreaching power structure.

Further, given the symbiotic relationship between media and government, there is nothing to stop Comcast from examining the email messages and phone conversations of rival news organizations, political opponents, and other persons and organizations of interest in an effort to "adjust" its news coverage and massage its bottom line. In fact, Comcast has maintained that it has a broad right to monitor its customers' email messages and Internet activities. It has an established history of having spied on its customers as well as preventing them from sharing files. Further, it is presently lobbying Congress to do away with net neutrality, the principle that assures that everyone, not just giant media companies, has an equal voice on the Internet. And, in 2008, Chris Albrecht, presently CEO of Starz TV, reported that Comcast's senior VP told him that Comcast was experimenting with installing cameras into its cable boxes thereby allowing it to see into people's living rooms and identify viewers.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department now has good reason to look the other way should Comcast engage in such eavesdropping activities since it is beholden to Comcast as Comcast is to government. As for the FCC, shortly after voting to approve the Comcast/NBC Universal merger, Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker took a job working for Comcast as a lobbyist. This latter fact may be more disturbing than the fact that British Prime Minister Cameron employed former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson as his communications chief. Yet, the British Prime Minister had his head on the proverbial chopping block for so doing, while the curious revolving door at the FCC received virtually no press whatsoever. Small wonder, of course, that Comcast/NBC didn't cover the story.

Recently the progressive political talk show host, Cenk Uygur, was fired from MSNBC because he was not towing the establishment line. According to Uygur, MSNBC head Phil Griffin told him, "I was just in Washington and people in Washington tell me that they're concerned about your tone ... I'd love to be an outsider, outsiders are cool, but we're not outsiders; we're insiders; we are the establishment."

The meanings of the terms "insider" and "outsider" in this context are subject to interpretation, but there is one thing that is clear. The head of MSNBC thinks that the newsroom must work cooperatively with government. To be on the inside as opposed to the outside means to be a partner, not an adversary. In contrast, to be an outsider is not to be "in" with government. Outsiders are therefore able to maintain distance and avoid conflict of interest. Insiders have a conflict of interest in covering the news while outsiders don't. As the Fourth Estate, the press cannot be an insider and still do its job.

As an insider, Comcast has a conflict of interest in covering the activities of government. This conflict also includes its interest in maintaining access to government spokespersons, the loosening of media ownership rules by the FCC, tax incentives, and the awarding of military defense contracts (all of which impair corporate media's ability to objectively report government malfeasance).

Comcast/MSNBC is now also poised to hire Al Sharpton as Uygur's replacement. Sharpton was in fact a lobbyist for the Comcast/MSNBC merger, so the inbreeding and disintegration of an independent media couldn't be more obvious than in the case of Comcast.

But the idea of a giant telecom corporation such as Comcast, which simultaneously privately owns and controls the digital information highway and is also a major news provider, is a brand new idea. Couple this with the fact that this information gatekeeper is legally mandated to assist government in conducting mass, warrantless surveillance of all American citizens and the possibilities for violating citizens' civil liberty are incredibly high. Want to know if the corporate media/government is targeting progressive "outsiders"? Don't ask Comcast because this "insider" is doing the tracking

Presently, the corporate media landscape is one in which giant companies motivated by an insatiable thirst for money and power attempt to establish dominance. In this dog-eat-dog corporate world of mergers and acquisitions, both successful and failed, things rarely happen by accident.

It is therefore curious that the investigation into the News of the World's illicit eavesdropping activities, which had begun back in 2005, came to a head in 2011 just before Murdoch was about to seal a deal to purchase British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB). This company is the UK's largest pay-per view satellite company and a major broadband Internet provider.

So what would have happened if Murdoch's parent company, News Corp, got hold of BSkyB? It would have made News Corp the primary pay-per-view satellite company in Britain. It would also have made News Corp an even more formidable pay-per-view and broadband competitor to Comcast.

It is worth noting in this regard that Comcast also has a longstanding history of interest in the UK media market, including having made in 2007 a bid to purchase Virgin Media, which owns and operates UK's only national cable network. Add to this that, in 2010, BSkyB acquired Virgin Media TV, which included VMTV's entire channel portfolio, airtime advertising, and long-term rights to use of its cable TV network for Sky's own basic subscription channels. And add to this that Virgin Media has just introduced the world's fastest cable broadband for the UK, which could only have made the potential acquisition of BSkyB by Murdoch an even greater threat to Comcast.

So, the Murdoch scandal, which nixed the deal for him, was good for Comcast, bad for News Corp. Did Comcast help to stir the pot?

A likely first response to this question is that it was simply the luck of the draw, nothing more. But the point is that, we cannot put such probative questions past doubt when it comes to companies like Comcast and News Corp. These companies do not care about justice; they care about maximizing their bottom lines; and justice and maximization of profit are not necessarily the same.

Comcast is now the rising star among these behemoth monsters. The Comcast/NBC Universal merger has given this company incredible power to control both conduit and content of news and information in the digital age. Its close ties to government have eviscerated the purpose of the media as Fourth Estate. And its power to spy on all of us under the banner of "national security" has made it a formidable threat to the free world.

The corporate media has kept these facts well hidden. Meanwhile, the Murdoch scandal is all over the news, and Comcast is none too happy to cover it.

News Corp surely deserves the bad press it is presently receiving; but there is also underway an insidious assault on our basic civil liberties that isn't even being investigated. Sadly, the media entrusted to launch the investigation is part of the cover up.

'Constitutional Conservatives' Like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry Have No Respect for the Constitution

It's ironic that those claiming fealty to the constitution habitually thumb their noses at its most sacred principle.
By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on August 20, 2011

A great irony of our political discourse is that those who describe themselves as “constitutional conservatives” display not only habitual ignorance of what our founding documents proscribe, but also show blatant scorn for the most important principle they enshrine: the separation of powers.

For much of our history, people across the political spectrum laid competing claims to being the true champions of the United States constitution, but in recent years that ground has largely been ceded to the far-right. When the Tea Partiers stormed into Congress, one of their first acts was a bit of political theater arranged by Tea Party caucus leader Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota: reading the Constitution (with the embarrassing bits edited out) aloud on the floor of the House.

In her book, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History, historian Jill Lepore writes that the problem with the Tea Partiers’ claimed fealty to the Constitution is that it's a form of religion rather than analysis. “Originalism,” Lepore writes, “looks like history, but it is not; it’s historical fundamentalism, which is to history what astrology is to astronomy, what alchemy is to chemistry, what creationism is to evolution.”

But fundamentalism requires a strict adherence to a sacred document, and that's where today's constitutional conservatives go off the rails. As I wrote back in May, “constitutional conservatives,” once in power, have offered any number of legislative proposals which, on their face, are blatantly unconstitutional. Bachmann – who is obsessed with lightbulbs -- herself proposed a bill on their regulation that would have required Congress to usurp the executive branch's enumerated powers in obvious violation of settled constitutional law.

The reason these constitutional fundamentalists have such disregard for the constitution is that they refuse to acknowledge the enumerated powers in Article Three, which established the judicial branch and gave it exclusive authority to mediate conflicts that arise between the states, and between the states and the federal government. Here is section two of Article Three:
The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;—between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

What constitutional conservatives are really saying is that they don't like the decisions the court has rendered over the years. The most obvious example is the Supreme Court's “expansive view” of the Commerce Clause, under which a wide variety of federal legislation has been enacted.

It is entirely legitimate to disagree with the Supreme Court's rulings – progressives also find fault with a variety of precedents established by the court over the years (does Citizens United ring a bell?). But it's one thing to disagree with the court's decisions, and something entirely different to pretend that Rush Limbaugh or the most conservative members of Congress, rather than the Supreme Court, is empowered to interpret and adjudicate “cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution [and] the Laws of the United States” – which is exactly what they're doing.

Let's also be very clear about the intent of the founders. They regarded the separation of powers as a vital bulwark against tyranny. Instead of pitting an all-powerful monarch against the masses, the idea of having independent centers of power check and balance each other was essential to the American project. If you paid attention to "School House Rock" as a kid, you're familiar with this most basic principle of constitutional government, but those claiming the most fealty to the founding document simply thumb their noses at even those Supreme Court decisions that have been validated in case after case – so-called “super-precedents.”

Rick Perry recently walked back comments suggesting that Social Security and Medicaid are unconstitutional, even though the court settled that question 75 years ago. Matt Yglesias read Perry's book, Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington, and found that the newest Republican presidential candidate regards regulation of banks, consumer protections and federal education policies as unconstitutional. In fact, writes Yglesias, Perry thinks “almost everything is unconstitutional.”

Such claims rarely come with an actual constitutional argument. At the heart of conservative rhetoric these days is the simple assertion that any legislation passed by Democrats is by definition illegitimate and defies the will of the Founders (as channeled by the mystics who lead the Tea Party movement). Or, as Gary Epps, a legal scholar at the University of Baltimore, put it, "Conservative lawmakers increasingly claim that the 'original intent' of the Constitution's framers and the views of the right wing of the Republican Party are one and the same."

Ultimately, that's an appealing way to avoid a debate on the merits of popular government programs. Conservatives can read the polls, and they understand that while abstract talk of “limited government” can be appealing, Americans really like consumer and environmental protections, safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare and federal initiatives like subsidized student loans. In a nominal democracy, they can't get far simply saying that they oppose these things on ideological grounds. So, just as they use deficit hysteria to argue that we simply can't afford those things, they rely on the Constitution – but not the Supreme Court's interpretations of its text over the past century – as a form of political cover from which they can take potshots at the 20th century without having to own up to the regressive nature of their worldview.

Fixing Schools: A Smart Plan for Jobs

Politicians love to talk about how to “fix” the education system, from imposing standardized tests to shuttering “failing” schools. But they've been ignoring a big, basic fix for the nation's schools—one that might help fix the unemployment rate as well. A comprehensive school renovation program could be a boost for jobs and for public education.

Revamping schools is one pillar of Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky's new job-creation bill, which would provide '400,000 construction and 250,000 maintenance jobs to fix American schools,” among various other public-service related work projects.

The program is known as Fix America's Schools Today (FAST!). Developed by the Economic Policy Institute and the 21st Century School Fund, the proposal points out there's a big job to do in the country's foundering school buildings and facilities:
[S]chool districts have been under-spending on maintenance and repair for many years. Chronic deferred maintenance and repair can lead to energy inefficiencies, unsafe drinking water, water damage and moldy environments, poor air quality, inadequate fire alarms and fire safety, compromised building security, and structural dangers.
By conservative estimates the accumulated backlog of deferred maintenance and repair amounts to at least $270 billion. Including the cost to "green-up" existing schools—and using less conservative assumptions—the cost of needed improvements to buildings and systems could exceed $500 billion....
Most school districts do not have resources to address the maintenance and repair backlog, let alone to make energy conservation and efficiency improvements.
It's not just the buildings that could use some work. A dilapidated school is likely a manifestation of other social hardships affecting the whole neighborhood, including the unemployment epidemic, failing infrastructure and underfunded public services. A study by the 21st Century School Fund showed:
at the school district and zip code levels, that there was tremendous disparity in the spending by school districts to provide healthy, safe and educational adequate school facilities. Over the period from 1995‐2004, the lowest income communities had by far the least spending.
Helping parents get a job fixing their kids' schools may help reverse that pattern of disinvestment and social inequality. So renovating a local school means more than slapping on a fresh coat of paint, according to EPI:
Construction and building repair generally create 9,000‒10,000 jobs per billion dollars spent. Eliminating even half of the entire backlog and improvements could eventually create more than two million jobs, over a period of years. Addressing even one-tenth of the needed improvements could immediately create half a million jobs.
The jobs would be crucial for the construction industry, which has collapsed along with the housing bubble and left devastated laborers, contractors and retail suppliers around the country.

The financing of FAST!, as outlined in Schakowsky's jobs proposal (and possibly in a parallel plan to be floated by the Obama administration) is an open question. But the EPI suggests a funding formula based on the needs of individual school districts and estimates of how many jobs would be generated and how much energy would be saved.

Some of these renovation goals would help green up schools as well: fixing ventilation so students with asthma can breathe cleaner air, installing solar or wind power systems, retrofitting to improve energy efficiency, or modernizing plumbing systems.

For students, a better learning environment means better learning. According to a 2010 report by the Environmental Protection Agency: “health, attendance and academic performance improve with increased maintenance. Furthermore, schools with better physical conditions show improved academic performance while schools with fewer janitorial staff personnel and higher maintenance backlogs show poorer academic performance.”

EPI's scheme provides another ancillary environmental benefit: the program's costs would be covered "by eliminating fossil fuel preferences as in President Obama’s FY2012 budget. Closing these loopholes raises $46 billion over 10 years.”

Fixing up schools isn't the answer to the jobs crisis, but it could be a simple measure to provide meaningful work while addressing critical infrastructural and educational needs, and cleaning up the environment along the way. If only lawmakers were smart enough to spot an elegant solution when they see one.

How Washington Could Create Jobs Right Now

I like to ask friends about the oddest summer job they ever had. One talks about how he used to don a rubber suit every morning at a Sylvania electronics plant in Syracuse, NY, and climb into a tank, where he dipped television tubes into some sort of mercury solution. He now moonlights as a thermometer.

Another spent a summer walking from floor to floor of a Manhattan skyscraper. His job was to take a long stick and un-jam the mail chute that ran alongside the elevator banks from the highest floor of the building to the bottom. When he reached the basement, he took the elevator back to the top and started all over again, a Sisyphean postman.

A third worked in a factory that canned orange juice concentrate. In the process of filtering for impurities, the pulp was removed from the juice. But lots of people insisted on the authentic taste and texture of pulp in their o.j., so my friend's job was to sit with an ice pick and an enormous frozen block of pulp. As cans of concentrate came by on a conveyor belt, he'd chip off a bit and throw it in.

Much of that kind of summer work doesn't exist these days for teenagers or anyone else, not only because of our snail-like jobless recovery, but also the simple reality that technology has kissed goodbye to so many of our relatively mindless, rote occupations. My first college summer job was working at The New Republic magazine, where I was in charge of compiling the publication's semi-annual index, a deadly duty that required a typewriter and piles of index cards on which were noted subjects, authors, dates, etc. I then spent several days taping them onto long sheets of legal paper which were shipped off to the printer. My first published work. Today, computers compile and collate that kind of data in nanoseconds. Good for them and us, I guess, but at least it was a job when I needed one.

Technology, outsourcing, the colossal economic meltdown of 2008 -- according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in June, there were 4.5 out of work men and women for every available job. That's down slightly from 4.6 to 1 in May, but "still extremely high," reported Heidi Shierholz of the progressive Economic Policy Institute. "June marks two-and-a-half years straight that the job seeker's ratio has been substantially above 4-to-1... [That means] for three out of four unemployed workers, there are simply no jobs."

She continues, "Unfortunately, instead of helping the unemployment situation, the debt ceiling deal..... will slow growth and make joblessness worse." Gene Robinson of The Washington Post concurs and adds: "The Republican solution has been to eliminate jobs rather than create them. Last month, the economy added 117,000 jobs -- a performance so weak that unemployment changed little. The private sector actually added 154,000 jobs, but the public sector lost 37,000 jobs as Republicans continue to impose an austerity program at an inopportune moment."

Republican House members even oppose House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson's proposal to set up a joint select committee on job creation, with representatives from both parties, similar to the new, debt deal supercommittee that's supposed to carve at least $1.2 trillion out of the deficit. (Hard to believe Capitol Hill could ever resist creating yet another committee but go figure.)

Speaker John Boehner's spokesman says it "sounds like a scheme for more of the same failed 'stimulus' government spending," but as Gene Robinson noted, "The GOP seems to believe that a federal, state or local job somehow isn't a 'real' job. I'll bet most Americans know otherwise."

Because there actually are lots of solid proposals beyond the Republicans' broken record of more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, deregulation and continued exploitation of fossil fuels -- "their mantra," as Wall Street exec and former Treasury official Steven Rattner writes, of "repeal and retrenchment, devoid of new initiatives or a positive agenda."

There are jobs to be had, jobs for the creating, even good ones, if Washington can just pull its head out of... the hole it's dug for itself. But just as a starting point of reference, for all the GOP denigration of TARP, actions by the Federal Reserve and the Obama stimulus, according to a recent report issued by the non-partisan policy group Demos, "It's important to remember that we dodged a far more lethal bullet. The Great Recession could have turned into another Great Depression. The fact that it did not is attributable to the federal government's forceful macroeconomic intervention in late 2008 and early 2009. Economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi (one a former Clinton appointee to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and the other a former economic advisor to Senator John McCain) have estimated that the nation's unemployment rate would have reached 16 percent rather than its actual 10.1 percent in the absence of this intervention."

The report, "Back to Work: A Public Jobs Proposal for Economic Recovery," written by Rutgers law and economics professor Philip Harvey, recommends an approach that "doesn't require us to wait for the economy to recover in order to put people back to work. It puts people back to work as a way of nourishing the recovery. It's a strategy for producing a job-led recovery rather than the jobless recovery we have been experiencing so far.

"The recovery strategy... is conceptually simple: Create jobs for the unemployed directly and immediately in public employment programs that produce useful goods and services for the public's benefit. What this does for the unemployed is obvious. They get decent work while they wait for the recession to run its course... Benefits delivered... trickle up to the private sector, inducing private sector job creation that supplements the immediate employment effect of the job creation program itself."

A million temporary jobs in a federally administered, direct jobs creation program -- jobs in childcare, eldercare, education, public health and housing, construction and maintenance, recreation and the arts. And as many as 414,000 jobs created outside the program. Annual cost in program spending: $46.4 billion. Actual net cost, taking into account revenues and savings: only $28.6 billion. How? For a fuller explanation, you can read the complete Demos report at: (Full disclosure: I'm a fellow at Demos.)

By the way, Harvey adds, "We currently need about 8.2 million more jobs to reduce the nation's unemployment rate to 4.5%. Creating that many jobs in a program like the one described... would require a net increase in federal spending of about $235 billion during the first year... If the Bush-era tax cuts had been allowed to expire at the end of 2010, the federal government would have collected about $295 billion in additional revenue during 2011. This would have been more than enough to cover the cost of the job program."

Aspects of the report's proposals are mirrored by legislation soon to be introduced by Illinois Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky -- the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act. Over two years, her plan would cost $227 billion and would be paid for by tax increases for those earning more than $1 million and $1 billion, closing corporate tax loopholes and ending subsidies for big oil. She says such programs as a School Improvement Corps, a Park Improvement Corps, a Community Corps, and the Neighborhood Heroes Corps, among other such New Deal-echoing creations, would create 2.2 million jobs and decrease unemployment by 1.3 percent.

Before you uncase your dueling pistols or put quill to parchment in an angry letter to the Times, for those of the right and center who seethe that Rep. Schakowsky's plan veers too close to the days of FDR or even the sunny side of Bolshevism, there's also a proposal floating about from the Alliance of American Manufacturing, a coalition of leading manufacturers and the United Steelworkers, that focuses on private sector job creation. One manufacturing job, they say, supports four or five others.

Among its provisions, according to AAM's executive director Scott N. Paul: a national infrastructure bank leveraging capital for transportation and energy projects (a similar proposal is favored by President Obama); reshaping the tax code "in a revenue neutral way to provide incentives for job creation and investment," including R&D tax credits and lower tax rates for manufacturing in America; "buy America" provisions for all federal spending; expediting small business loans; and shifting "some education investment to rebuilding our vocational and technical skills."

I especially like this one: "Kick any CEO off of federal advisory boards or jobs councils who has: (1) not created net new American jobs over the past five years, or (2) is expanding the company's foreign workforce at a faster rate than its domestic workforce. Replace them with CEOs who are committed to investing in America. Shame is a good motivator."

The president will make a major speech on jobs shortly after Labor Day. According to the Associated Press, "It is likely to include tax cuts to help the middle class, a build-up-America construction program that goes beyond any infrastructure proposal Obama has had already, and targeted help for the particularly worrisome group of people who have remained unemployed for many months in a row."

All good, but unfortunately, if the past is any indication, what President Obama proposes will not be as bold or far-reaching as many of the ideas presented above. It certainly won't include my personal favorite, as suggested by Steve Benen at Washington Monthly's "Political Animal" blog: "Have the White House take the several hundred letters GOP lawmakers have sent to the executive branch since 2009, asking for public investments, and let President Obama announce he'll gladly fund all of the Republicans' requests that have not yet been filled. This is especially important when it comes to infrastructure, a sector in which GOP members have pleaded for more investment in their areas...

"If these Republican lawmakers have identified worthwhile projects in need of government spending, which they themselves insist will boost the economy, why not start spending the money GOP officials want to see spent?"

Why not indeed? Alas, such an idea runs smack into more deficits: a deficit of irony among Republicans, certainly, but worse, a deficit of commitment and vision from a White House which until now at least, has been more focused on the pragmatic middle, despite a gainsaying opposition that yields nothing. Still, as Benen writes, "When Republicans say 'no jobs, no way,' at least the nation will be able to see where both parties stand, and then choose accordingly next year." Amen.

Fake Facebook Identity Used By Military Contractors Plotting To Hack Progressive Organizations

by Lee Fang 
Earlier this year, ThinkProgress obtained 75,000 private emails from the defense contractor HBGary Federal via the hacktivist group called Anonymous. The emails led to two shocking revelations. First, that an assortment of private military firms collectively called “Team Themis” had been tapped by Bank of America to conduct a cyber war against reporters sympathetically covering the Wikileaks revelations. And second, that late in 2010, the same set of firms began work separately for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a Republican-aligned corporate lobbying group, to develop a similar campaign of sabotage against progressive organizations, including the SEIU and ThinkProgress.

In presentations obtained by ThinkProgress from the e-mail dump detailing the tactics potentially used against progressives, HBGary Federal floated the idea of using “fake insider personas” to infiltrate left-leaning groups critical of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s policies.

As HBGary Federal executive Aaron Barr described in several emails, his firm could work with partner companies Palantir and Berico Technologies to manipulate fake online identities, using networks like Facebook, to gain access to private information from his targets. Other presentations are more specific and describe efforts to use social media to hack computers and find vulnerabilities among even the families of people who work at organizations critical of the Chamber.

In one email from the dump, Barr discusses a fake persona he created called “Holly Weber.” She would be born in Portland in 1984, attend Reynolds High School, and work for Lockheed Martin after a stint in the Air Force. Earlier this week, Twitter users actually identified the phony account. Before it was taken down, ThinkProgress snagged screen shots of the fake persona’s Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. (Barr also described his strategy for pretending to be teenagers online). View a screenshot of the fake account below:

Barr, who sold his illicit talents to the highest bidder, appears to be drawing on Maxim for inspiration. A Maxim covergirl named Holly Weber was also born in 1984. Unlike Barr’s creation, the Maxim one is real.

Hunton and Williams, the law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had been immersed in talks with HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico to deliver on a $2 million deal to move forward with the hacking plot against the Chamber’s critics. However, after Anonymous leaked HBGary’s emails and a few reporters picked up on the story, the Chamber distanced itself from the deal. The emails show that HBGary Federal had also worked to sell “persona management” solutions to the U.S. government for cyber intelligence work.

Perry, Bachman and the Politics of Evolution

That Vexing Concept 
"The progress of Evolution from President Washington to President Grant was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin."
The upcoming presidential campaign will almost certainly prove enlightening and singular. 

The United States will be the only country in the world where two candidates for its highest office will engage the country in a meaningful debate on evolution. For too long it's been taken for granted although not by Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry who promise to revive the debate. If one of them is elected president it is almost certain that the new president would propose legislation to address evolution, most likely outlawing it although that is only a guess. Rick Perry has the most experience addressing evolution and that should work in his favor. In early July he put his imprimatur on the vexing problem of what to teach children by appointing Barbara Cargill the new chairwoman for the Texas State Board of Education. 

Ms. Cargill was a biology teacher and is well qualified to judge evolution. As a board member she has voted to require that the theory's weaknesses be taught in classrooms. In questioning evolution she mirrors Mr. Perry's views on the subject. In an interview with the Associated Press Mr. Perry said that:
"There are clear indications from our people who have amazing intellectual capability that this didn't happen by accident and a creator put this in place. Now, what was his time frame and how did he create the earth that we know? I'm not going to tell you that I've got the answers to that. I believe that we were created by this all-powerful supreme being and how we got to today versus what we look like thousands of years ago, I think there's enough holes in the theory of evolution to, you know, say there are some holes in that theory."
If people with "amazing intellectual capability" even though not identified, are opposed to the theory that should certainly be good enough for the rest of us and, should Mr. Perry become president, we can all hope that at least some of these people will be his advisors. Equally compelling is Mr. Perry's tautological statement that "there's enough holes in the theory of evolution to, you know, say there are some holes in that theory." 

Mr. Perry will not, of course, be permitted to get to the oval office without a challenge from an equally compelling intellect in the person of Michelle Bachmann. Although her campaign has been marred by occasional confusion, she, too, will help us focus on the need to rethink evolution. (Most notably she confused America's movie hero, John Wayne, who killed outlaws on the silver screen, with one of America's more notorious serial killers, John Wayne Gacy who murdered 33 teenage boys and buried 26 of them in the crawl space of his home. When not murdering children he performed as "Pogo the Clown" at charitable fundraising events, parades and children's parties.) At the Republican Leadership Conference in June 2010 she said:
"I support intelligent design. What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don't think it's a good idea for government to come down on one side of a scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides. I would prefer that students have the ability to learn all aspects of an issue whether they disagree with my premise or not. I just believe in the science. And that's why I believe that the federal government should be involved in local education to the most minimal possible process."
In 2006, in a panel discussion on the subject, she said that are "hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel prizes that believe in intelligent design." Given the opportunity to name the Nobel laureates to whom she was referring at the Leadership Conference she elected to ignore the questioner and went on to talk about other matters. If she becomes president, one of the first things she should do is create a task force to advise her on evolution so that the entire country can be brought up to speed on this vexing concept. 

Neither of these candidates should be seen as one-issue candidates, however. Once Mr. Perry has put evolution to rest he can focus the country's attention on global warming, which he says is simply a ruse by scientists "who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects" to procure grants. Michelle, on the other hand can focus on homosexuality. Fresh from her victory in Iowa she announced that when she is president she will reintroduce the ban on gay troops serving in the military. Speaking on CNN she said the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy has worked well and she would probably reinstate the ban.

By the time either of these candidates has finished serving as president, the United States will be a country of which all who have not fled to saner places, will be proud to be citizens.

Scenes From the War on Marijuana

Some Idiotic Shit

Joe Cain of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, another valuable informant for this column, has sent an alert detailing the several bills scheduled for votes in the Michigan Legislature this fall and says, "All of them are civil rights violations that in fact enforce the concept [that] if you are a medical marijuana patient, you are a criminal and must be monitored closely."

The Senate bills are SB 0377, to make medical marihuana patients' registry information available to law enforcement officers upon issuance of a medical marihuana card; SB 0504, prohibiting the dispensing of medical marihuana within 1,000 feet of a church or school; SB 0505, to establish qualification for designation as a primary medical marihuana caregiver; and SB 0506, to clarify what is a "bona fide physician-patient relationship" for purposes of enforcing the medical marihuana law.

In the state House of Representatives the pending bills are HB 4850, to restrict and limit defenses in legal cases arising from arrest for transfers of medical marihuana; HB 4851, the lower chamber's attempt to clarify the definition of "bona fide physician-patient relationship"; and HB 4852, to allow for local zoning ordinances to regulate the location of medical marihuana facilities.

"These bills are going to be voted on in September or October," Cain points out, "and there is lobbying money coming in from all over the U.S. to force medical marijuana patients into a dispensary model by stripping them of their protection to grow their own. Just from reading these bills, you would never guess we're in America."

It is some idiotic shit.

Speaking of idiocy, Holland continues its belated march along the trail blazed by the storm troops of the War on Drugs, refining its doomed efforts to ban non-Dutch nationals from entering, copping and getting high in the country's 750 coffeeshops.

In a plan ironically being advanced by the Maastricht cannabis café owners association, the coffeeshops in the Dutch border town are prepared to ban all but Dutch, German and Belgian nationals from their premises in order to "reduce the nuisance caused by marijuana smokers" by a projected 500,000 coffeeshop customers a year — or 20 percent of the total. Some 70 percent of the city's cannabis consumers come from abroad.

Visitors from Germany and Belgium would still be allowed in the cafés because the two countries border the Netherlands, the association explains, but the Maastricht city council — which has been trying to reduce "drugs tourism" for several years — rejects the plan because it can be considered discriminatory in that not all foreigners are being banned.

My informants assure me that the Dutch government will never succeed in banning tourists from the coffeeshops, but the futility of its cause seems to act as no deterrent in its effort to turn back the hands of time.

Across the English Channel from Amsterdam, the Liberal Democratic Party, half of the right-wing coalition government that rules Britannia at present, is expected to call at the party convention later this month for the creation of a regulated marijuana marketplace and the appointment of an independent panel of experts to study the question of decriminalizing all illegal drugs in Britain.

One of our most reliable informants, Philip S. Smith of the Drug War Chronicle, reports that the move was confirmed when aides to party chairman Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, told the Daily Mail they anticipated that party members would approve the motion and adopt it as official policy. They pointed out that Tory Prime Minister David Cameron had advocated drug legalization at an earlier point in his political career and "can be persuaded to allow an open-minded inquiry into the controversial topic."

The Liberal Democratic Party motion introduces some serious language into the debate on legalization of drugs: "There is increasing evidence," the motion states, "that the UK's drugs policy is not only ineffective and not cost effective, but actually harmful, impacting particularly severely on the poor and marginalized."

"The motion also calls for the inquiry to review the impact of the Misuse of Drugs Act," Smith adds, "and whether the government [should] seriously consider heroin maintenance programs. It cites the success of the Portuguese decriminalization model as well as the call for reform from the Global Commission on Drug Policy and the findings of Britain's own Advisory Commission on the Misuse of Drugs, which called for the decriminalization of drug possession during the national review of drug strategy last year."

"Even if the motion is passed," Smith concludes, "it is unlikely to become law.... But passage of the motion would mean that one of Britain's major political parties is now lining up behind serious drug reform efforts."

Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., Kristen Gwynne reports in AlterNet that a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll reveals that about 55 percent of Americans "consider the War on Drugs a failure and support the legalization of marijuana, though the majority does not support the legalization of other drugs like cocaine or heroin."

Further, Gwynne says, "in a move towards removing the stigma of drug users and addicts, 64 percent of respondents believe our country has a serious drug problem that affects the [entire] United States, and only 20 percent consider drugs a problem that affects only certain people or areas.

"Only 5 percent of respondents said America does not have a drug problem, and 67 percent call the War on Drugs a failure, [while] only 9 percent of respondents consider the war on drugs a success."

Pollster Angus Reid concludes: "The survey shows a country that is concerned about the effects of drugs, and at the same time deeply disappointed with the efforts of the U.S. government to deal with the drug trade."

There's no indication as yet that the present administration has its finger out in this particular wind of change, and the casualties of the inhuman War on Drugs continue to mount, federally and locally. This gruesome story by Adriane Quinlan just came in from Allen St. Pierre at NORML:

"Her decision to smoke a marijuana cigarette outside a Manhattan bar where she was attending a bachelorette party landed Jaime Rutkowski in jail, threatened her life and led to a lawsuit that has now yielded $125,000 from the City of New York.

"Ms. Rutkowski, who has diabetes, said she was thrown to the ground and arrested on charges of possession of marijuana outside a club on the Lower East Side.

"Stress elevates her blood sugar levels and at the nearby police station house, the blood sugar meter she uses was confiscated. The police eventually called for an ambulance more than three hours after Ms. Rutkowski had been taken into custody.

"Emergency medical technicians found that her sugar level was almost four times the normal level, dangerous enough to take her to Bellevue Hospital Center."

Ouch! As a diabetic myself, now I'm even happier than usual to be a medical marijuana patient in the State of Michigan.

Wal-Marting the Oceans

Marine Protection Reserves as Privatization Scam

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), a national grassroots recreational fishing organization, this week slammed Wal-Mart's contribution of $36 million to ocean privatization efforts through "catch shares" programs and the creation of so-called "marine protected areas."

"Wal-Mart announced this week its efforts to help fund the demise of both the recreational and commercial fishing industry while also working to ensure that the next generation of sportsmen will have less access to coastal fish stocks than at any point in U.S. history," according to a news release from RFA.

In a August 16th news release from Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Walton Family Foundation announced "investments" totaling more than $71.8 million awarded to various environmental initiatives in 2010. The foundation handed over $36 million alone to Marine Conservation grantees including Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The five top grantees were: Conservation International, $18,640,917; the Nature Conservancy,$9,305,449; Environmental Defense Fund
$7,086,054; the Marine Stewardship Council, $4,500,000; and the Ocean Conservancy, $3,757,768.

Critics of Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, have blasted the company for decades for being able to sell its products at cheap prices only by employing sweatshops, undercutting competitors, wielding its market power to cripple both competitors and suppliers, and flouting national and international health, safety, labor, and environmental standards. Anti-corporate globalization opponents have long regarded Wal-Mart as a virtual "Darth Vader" of retailers, as documented in the film, "The High Price of Low Cost."

Greenwashing Wal-Mart's image

However, in 2006 the retail giant hired Adam Werbach, former Sierra Club president, to "polish" its image. This latest Wal-Mart release is apparently part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to greenwash its image - and extend control over public trust resources.

According to the release, the Walton Family Foundation "focuses on globally important marine areas and works with grantees and other partners to create networks of effectively managed protected areas that conserve key biological features, and ensure the sustainable utilization of marine resources - especially fisheries - in a way that benefits both nature and people."

"We focus our work in the United States' primary river systems and in some of the world's most ecologically significant marine areas," said Scott Burns, director of the foundation's Environment Focus Area and the former director of marine conservation at the World Wildlife Fund. "It's important to us to protect and conserve natural resources while also recognizing the roles these waters play in the livelihoods of those who live nearby."

The RFA countered that these specially managed areas of coastal waters are also referred to as "marine protected areas" or "marine reserves," and the end result is denied angler access, of little or no benefit to the very people whom Wal-Mart claims to benefit.

Marine protected areas without real protection

"A quick visit to the Ocean Conservancy website should be telling enough for anglers interested in learning where Wal-Mart's profits are being spent," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "These folks are pushing hard to complete California's network of exclusionary zones throughout the entire length of coastline, and they've made it very clear that they would like to see the West Coast version of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) extended into other coastal U.S. waters."

Grassroots environmentalists, fishermen, California Indian Tribes, civil liberties activists and environmental justice advocates have criticized Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, privately funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, for its numerous conflicts of interest, institutional racism and the violation of numerous state, federal and international laws.

The so-called "marine protected areas" established under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, water pollution, wave and wind energy projects, military testing, corporate aquaculture, habitat destruction and all other human impacts upon the ocean other than fishing and gathering. In an extreme case of corporate greenwashing, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force that created these questionable "marine protected areas."

The release also said that targeted marine protected areas moving forward include Indonesia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico. It will be interesting to see if these marine protected areas, like California's MLPA Initiative, will disrespect and fail to acknowledge the sovereign gathering rights of the indigenous people of these countries and regions.

Will these marine protected areas be like the one imposed by the Mexican government that denied members of the Cucapa Tribe the right to fish in the Colorado River Delta, spurring the Zapatistas (EZLN) and the Tribe to set up a "peace camp" from February to May 2007 to affirm their sovereign rights?

Donofrio said of Ocean Conservancy in particular, "Here's an organization which has publicly opposed creation of artificial reefs used by Wal-Mart's tackle buyers, in some cases openly advocating for their removal, yet the Walton family is handing over tons of money for support."

Wal-Mart boycott follows Safeway boycott

"Shopping for fishing equipment at Wal-Mart is contributing directly to the demise of our sport, it's supporting lost fishing opportunities and decreased coastal access for all Americans," Donofrio said. "I hope all RFA members across the country will remember that when it's time to gear up, but I would also wonder if perhaps our industry can help spread the message and support our local tackle shops by also pulling product off Wal-Mart's shelves."

RFA in April announced its support of a national boycott of the Safeway Supermarket chain, including Genuardi's in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, because of that corporation's support for California's widely-contested MLPA initiative.

"Apparently Safeway has gotten some bad advice from the people in the ocean protection racket, a community to which the California-based mega-corporation is now donating profits," said Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the RFA. "Safeway says it is supporting groups that make a difference like the Food Marketing Institute's Sustainable Seafood Working Group, the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions and the World Wildlife Fund's Aquaculture Dialogues, but it's little more than corporate greenwashing."

Donofrio believes it's time that Wal-Mart was added to the angler boycott list as well.

"The Walton family created this huge corporate entity that has threatened the vibrancy of our local retail outlets, and now they're essentially doing the same thing with our fishing communities," Donofrio said.

"Much like Safeway has done with their financial investment in the environmental business community, Wal-Mart apparently prefers customers buy farm-raised fish and seafood caught by foreign countries outside of U.S. waters, while denying individual anglers the ability to head down to the ocean to score a few fish for their own table," noted Donofrio.

Wal-Mart pushes catch shares program

The Walton Family Foundation is also working "to create economic incentives for ocean conservation," while candidly pledging their support for "projects that reverse the incentives to fish unsustainably that exist in 'open access fisheries' by creating catch share programs," according to the official news release.

A broad coalition of commercial and recreational fishing, consumer and environmental groups is opposing the catch shares programs being pushed by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, a former vice-chair of the Board of Directors of Environmental Defense, because these programs amount to the privatization of public trust resources by concentrating fisheries in the hands of a few corporate hands. Wherever catch shares have been introduced, local fishing communities, fish populations and the environment have been devastated.

"A catch share, also known as an individual fishing quota, is a transferable voucher that gives individuals or businesses the ability to access a fixed percentage of the total authorized catch of a particular species," according to Food and Water Watch. "Fishery management systems based on catch shares turn a public resource into private property and have lead to socioeconomic and environmental problems. Contrary to arguments by catch share proponents – namely large commercial fishing interests – this management system has exacerbated unsustainable fishing practices."

"Fish are a public resource," explained Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director. "Unfortunately, private investment groups and even some public interest groups have shamelessly and publicly compared access to fish to the stock market and are treating it like an investment that can be bought and sold for personal profit. They're aiming to model the fishing business after big agribusiness on land, with giant commercial operations controlling the market."

Donofrio emphasized, "Our local outfitters and tackle shops along the coast have had to face an immense challenge by going up against Wal-Mart's purchasing power during the last decade, but now that the Walton family is so up front about their opposition to open access fisheries, it's hard for me to believe that any sportsmen would ever be interested in shopping there again."

"California anglers have been outraged to learn that money they spend at a Safeway grocery store might end up in the hands of anti-fishing groups like the EDF and the Ocean Conservancy, so I hope more anglers will join the national boycott by sending a message to Wal-Mart as well as Safeway," Martin added.

Sam and Helen Walton launched their "modest retail business in 1962" with guiding principle of helping "increase opportunity and improve the lives of others along the way," according to the Walton Family Foundation website. It is that principle the foundation says, that makes them "more focused than ever on sustaining the Walton's timeless small-town values and deep commitment to making life better for individuals and communities alike."

RFA said grassroots efforts to combat the corporate anti-fishing, pro-privatization agenda are more than just an uphill climb.

"The EDF catch share coffers are already filled to the top, while Pew Charitable Trusts has billions in reserve," Donofrio said. "When you add another $36 million annual commitment from the Walton family each year, I can't see how our local efforts can get anywhere unless the national manufacturers step up and openly denounce this corporate takeover once and for all."

"The individual anglers and local business owners are being denied opportunity, and I hope the federal trade representatives are willing to get onboard with their support of real small-town values," Donofrio said, adding that Ocean Conservancy and EDF combined received more than $10 million in Walton Family Foundation grants in 2010.

Commercial fishermen join recreational anglers in denouncing Wal-Mart's support of privatization

Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), praised the RFA for criticizing Wal-Mart's contributions to ocean privatization efforts and welcomed the organization's call for a Wal-Mart boycott.

"Wa-Mart is wrong on this issue, just as it has been in the past on labor and community issues," said Grader. "The privatization of public trust resources is the antithesis of conservation."

"I've been boycotting Wal-Mart for decades and it's absolutely great that recreational and commercial fishermen are together on this," noted Grader.

It is worth noting that Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy, the two top recipients of Walton Family Foundation funds, are known throughout the world for their top-down "environmental" programs that run roughshod over local communities to achieve their corporate greenwashing goals.

The Nature Conservancy in California is a strong backer of state and federal plans to build a peripheral canal or tunnel to export more Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water to corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies. Canal opponents, including recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Delta residents, family farmers and California Indian Tribes, believe the construction of the canal would result in the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other imperiled fish populations.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

E-Verify Is a Threat to Liberty!

Written by Tom DeWeese
Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The rush is on to force into law mandatory use of the E-Verify system that will mandate that all businesses use this hand-me-down from the Social Security Administration in order to hire anyone. Republican Representative Lamar Smith has introduced HR 2164 and House action is expected at any time. Say proponents, E-Verify is necessary to stop illegals from getting jobs. Many freedom-loving Conservatives are supporting the idea in a desperate attempt to control illegal immigration. Is this the right way to protect America?

To answer that, it’s necessary to ask another question. If government won’t do its job, is that a reason for Americans to surrender their liberty? Do you think that is a funny question? Well, it is actually what a number of Conservative activist groups are now advocating in the name of stopping illegal immigration through enforcement of E-Verify.

The answer, say some very powerful anti-immigration forces, is to put the burden of control on American businesses. Jobs, they say, are the draw to illegals, so business should be the first line of defense. The answer, we are told, is simply to get tough with business and stop the ability of illegals to get a job. Such a plan, while appealing to desperate Americans, can have dire consequences if a nation desires to remain free.

Chief among the schemes to “get tough” with business is the universal enforcement of something called the E-Verify System. It is the brainchild of the Department of Homeland Security and is an electronic employment verification (EEV) program. Essentially, E-Verify uses the Social Security databases to check potential employee Social Security Numbers to determine if the job candidate is a US citizen. Employers are to simply enter in the applicants Social Security Number to verify they are an American citizen (of legal status) and therefore eligible for employment.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal for employers to “knowingly” employ unauthorized workers, and E-Verify (then known as “Basic Pilot”) grew out of the requirement for work-eligibility verification. Since its inception the program has been voluntary for all businesses. However, if Smith’s bill passes, voluntary will change to mandatory.

In 2007, after the dramatic defeat of the illegal immigration amnesty bills, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced several changes to the E-Verify System. The agency now requires more than 200,000 federal contractors to use E-Verify, an increase of more than 1,076 percent over the 17,000 employers registered in 2007 (with only about half actually using) E-Verify. The system now requires an “enhanced photograph capability” that will allow employers to check photographs in E-Verify databases. DHS is expanding the number of databases E-Verify checks to include visa and passport databases; and the agency now wants direct access to state Department of Motor Vehicle databases. DHS will require employers to fire employees if they are unable to resolve “no match” discrepancies within 90 days. If the employers do not terminate the workers’ employment, the business will fines of $11,000 or more. DHS also will raise fines against employers by 25 percent and increasingly use criminal action against employers, as opposed to administrative action.

With those changes, E-Verify is now being sold as the atom bomb in the war on illegal immigration. Described as “the most effective tool to protect vulnerable American workers from unscrupulous businesses that hire illegal foreign workers to displace American workers or depress wages.” Sounds great – of course all of this confidence in the E-Verify System’s ability to stop illegal immigration is celebrated BEFORE most businesses have even been required to use it.

The fact is, there are major problems with the E-Verify System. It is a hugely flawed system and will have a severe effect on both naturalized U.S. citizens, as well as those who are native born.

Millions of employees could mistakenly fall into legal limbo.
Independent analysis of existing government databases have found unacceptably high error rates. Currently those voluntarily using E-Verify have experienced near double-digit error rates. Forcing more than 7 million employers to verify the legal status of more than 160 million current employees, as well as the millions of future hires, means that potentially, as many as 17 million citizens and legal US residents will be mistakenly found “ineligible” to work.

The fact is, the Social Security Administration (SSA) never purges a Social Security number once it’s assigned. The Numident database (which E-Verify uses) currently contains 435 million records; more than 100 million more than the nation’s total population, legal or otherwise. In December 2006, the SSA Inspector General reported approximately 18 million of these records are not accurate. Yet, DHS wants E-Verify made mandatory for the entire American work force.

“As a matter of simple math,” says Jim Harper at the CATO Institute, “that means that if E-Verify were to go national, on the first day 1 in 25 legal hires would be bounced out of the system and asked to go down to the Social Security office and straighten out the problem.”
Imagine the problems faced by honest, law abiding Americans who are thrown out of the system. In most cases, these are not well-to-do executives who can simply take the afternoon off to fix the problem. They are lower level workers who depend on every dime they earn to pay the rent and feed the kids. Simply taking a day off to go down to the local Social Security office isn’t an easy thing.

From the moment they are found to be a “tentative non-confirmed” they have eight days to contest the claim and to prove they are legal. A day off work is required because the Social Security office is only open from 8:30am to 5:00pm. If the employee fails to make it to the office in the 8 days, the employer is required by threat of fine and criminal charges to fire the employee.

Moreover, as the E-Verify system is forced on all employers and the large numbers of employees (as reported above) are thrown from the system, there will be a massive run on the Social Security office. The SS Administration is simply not equipped to handle such a massive influx of cases. The infrastructure to handle it is not in place.

As anyone who tried to get a passport a few years ago after the government makes significant, mandatory changes in a system, knows how badly managed typical-government inefficiency made for massive lines. New rules concerning passports forced Americans to flood passport offices, but the offices weren’t prepared to receive and process the massive number of applicants. The E-Verify System would force much larger numbers into unprepared Social Security offices.

Now, under E-Verify, employees that do make it to the SS office may be forced to return day after day. Jobs and income will be lost as the Employment Eligibility Verification (EEV) process does not permit employers to hold the jobs or delay start dates. The clock starts to tick the second the tentative non-confirmed notice is issued and runs out in exactly 8 days.
If it’s all been a mistake, the burden of proof is on the employee to prove who they are and that they are legal citizens or residents eligible to continue working. These law-abiding American citizens enter the Social Security Office as criminal suspects with the potential of being deported. Contrary to American law, they are guilty until proven innocent. Incredibly, there is no appeals process in place to challenge the findings of E-Verify.

More Fraud – Not Less
The E-Verify System is promoted as the only foolproof way to stop illegals from obtaining jobs. Advocates say the program has enough safeguards to protect citizens. Not so fast. Once the system is in place there are huge gaps that allow massive fraud.

To work efficiently, an E-Verify System allows employers access to a centralized record of all legal residents and citizens. Given the government’s mixed record on data security, this could become a one-stop-shop for identity theft.

First, illegals and those employers wishing to hire them can simply work under the table, paying cash, hiding the transaction from any official source. Illegals don’t regularly file income taxes, so the hire isn’t hard to hide.
Today, an illegal only has to obtain the name and SS number of a legal citizen. While that legal person may already be working a job, it will not create an alert if the information is used by someone else.

Such information can be available through a wide variety of situations, including stolen lists and select employees with access to databases like the Social Security lists. Organized crime can certainly have well placed cohorts. The process would create a massive criminal market for Americans citizens’ personal information. The only way to stop it is for the federal government to create a new database that records every new hire and monitor all employees in the nation. The real losers in this game are the people who now have had their identity stolen in the process. They may be the ones accused of identity theft as they suddenly discover someone else is using their name and SS number.

Of course, the federal government has proven it has no ability to safeguard the records in its current databases. And the more databases established, the more opportunity for theft. Not long ago there was a major scandal as federal employees were caught “sneaking a peek” at the passports of a large number of celebrities and even presidential candidates including Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

In August of 2007, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lost a laptop computer which contained the records of 33,000 people who had signed up for its pre-screening program, designed to give travelers quicker access through airport security. The unencrypted information in the database included names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, passport numbers, Social Security numbers, Alien registration numbers, and current credit card numbers.

The laptop was in the possession of employees of a private company contracting with TSA for the project. TSA signup documents for the project promised that the records would be maintained at its headquarters in Arlington, VA and “other authorized TSA or DHA secure facilities, as necessary, and at a digital safe site managed by a government contractor.” In reality, the laptop was stashed in a locked office at the San Francisco Airport. There are a lot of laptops containing personal information of Americans being taking home by government employees these days. Why?

Mission CreepThe greatest threat from the establishment of a system such as E-Verify is the creation of perhaps unintended results. As Cato’s Jim Harper surmises, “The things to make a system like this impervious to forgery and fraud would convert it from an identity system into a cradle-to-grave biometric tracking system.”

“Mission Creep” is the commonly used description for a program designed for a specific purpose, but is later used for much more. A prime example of mission creep is the Social Security System itself. It was designed specifically as a means for people to deposit money into a government program to supplement their retirement years. Today, there are those who want to take its databank of users and transform it into an identity system to prove American citizenship. The excuse – “well, it’s already there!” That’s mission creep.

As reported in the beginning, the Department of Homeland Security intends to increase the E-Verify system to include biometric photographs and extended databases. On numerous occasions DHS spokesmen have expressed the desire to create a national identification card that would include near complete information on its bearer. This would include job, medical, tax, and school records. It would also include biometric and facial recognition, with RFID microchips that could monitor the whereabouts of every American.

E-Verify is the beginning of the creation of such a system. Is it worth it for Americans to endure an existence in a well-controlled matrix of surveillance simply to catch some illegal workers? Communities across the nation are proving that illegals will stop coming here – in fact actually leave – if they are made to feel unwelcome. Arizona’s much derided immigration law has proven that a get tough policy results in illegals avoiding the area. Manassas, Virginia is another locality that had a huge illegal immigration problem, only to see a huge decrease in such activity when it passed tough new laws to arrest and deport them.

And the most dangerous aspect of E-Verify is that it sets the stage for a national workforce management system which gives the government ultimate power to decide who works and who doesn’t. Will Obama appoint a “Jobs Czar” to comply with the new E-Verify law? It is designed to ultimately subject all Americans to an intrusive global surveillance system as the information in DHS databanks is being transferred to international systems through such DHS partners as American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The federal government doesn’t require cradle-to-grave biometric tracking of every legal American to accomplish that task. Facts show that such “internal enforcement” would not reduce the illegality, it would promote it.

Those who profess a love of freedom must learn quickly that granting government massive new powers to control employment is not freedom, but tyranny beyond any ever experienced in the United States. HR 2164 and E-Verify in any form must be stopped.

Perry dismisses evolution as ‘a theory that’s out there’

(God, how my home state has crumbled in the areas of rational governance and the arts and sciences. When I was in school, they didn't teach "creationism" at all, much less in science class because it isn't science and there is nothing scientific about any aspect of "creationism." It is a fable taught in Sunday school class while kids glue cotton balls to little outlines of sheep and tape them to the windows while they sing "Jesus Loves the Little Children." Back then, Texas was an almost entirely blue state, having only ever elected 3 Republican Governors by the time I graduated. Since then,Texas has elected only 3 more republican Governors: Bill Clements, George W. Bush, And Ricky Perry. 

The foundation of progressive governance and education established over 164 years has been completely unraveled in under 16 years, presided over by Bush and Perry. It seems wholly unlikely, but sadly it's true. Now, kids get a useless education of conservative christian ideals, pro-corporate morality and privatized schools, and diminished arts and humanities. 164 years of progressive education, governance, arts, humanities, and sciences produced such diverse Texas minds exported to the world like Molly Ivins, Howard Hughes, Carol Burnett, Walter Cronkite, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Gene Roddenberry, Audie Murphy, Lloyd Bentsen, Barbara Jordan, Janis Joplin, Ann Richards, F. Murray Abraham, Bill Hicks, Steve Martin, Forest Whitaker, Tommy Tune, Robert Rodriguez, Megan Mylan, Terrence McNally, Richard Linklater, Kris Kristofferson, Mike Judge, Tommy Lee Jones, Wes Anderson, Powers Boothe, Chris Cooper, Joan Crawford, Jamie Foxx, Woody Harrelson, Erykah Badu, Ron White, T-Bone Burnett, Van Cliburn, Roky Erickson, Kinky Friedman, Lyle Lovett, Elliott Smith, Barry White, Rusty Weir, Tom Landry, Tex Avery, Berkeley Breathed, Dan Piraro, Robert E. Howard, Larry McMurtry, Joe Bob Briggs, Amon G. Carter, Dan Cook, Linda Ellerbee, Norm Hitzges, Jim Lehrer, Brad Sham, Lauren Anderson...and a list that would take days to complete. In the 16 years during which this state has gone through a massive gerrymandering and conservative christian upheaval funded by corporate sponsorship, our theocratic education system with a de-emphasis on art and science and an emphasis on creationism and conservative persons of interest and biblical principles has produced: Jessica and Ashley Simpson, Anna Fermanova, Chris Bosh, and assorted American Idol contestants.--jef)

"In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our schools," Says Perry.
By David Edwards - RAW Replay
on 08.18.11

Climate change isn’t the only science that Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has doubts about.

The Texas governor told a boy in New Hampshire Thursday that evolution was also questionable.

“You know, it’s a theory that’s out there,” Perry replied. “It’s got some gaps in it. In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our schools. Because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

“How old do you think the Earth is?” the boy had asked earlier.

“You know what? I don’t have any idea,” Perry said. “I know it’s pretty old. So, it goes back a long, long way. I’m not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how long the Earth is.”

CNN noted that about 35 protesters had confronted Perry regarding Social Security and Medicare at the same event.

Watch this video from ABC News, broadcast Aug. 18, 2011. Check out the kid's mom using her kid to ambush Perry with accusing questions the kid would not have asked himself.

Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 by Rolling Stone
A whistleblower claims that over the past two decades, the agency has destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals.
by Matt Taibbi

Imagine a world in which a man who is repeatedly investigated for a string of serious crimes, but never prosecuted, has his slate wiped clean every time the cops fail to make a case. No more Lifetime channel specials where the murderer is unveiled after police stumble upon past intrigues in some old file – "Hey, chief, didja know this guy had two wives die falling down the stairs?" No more burglary sprees cracked when some sharp cop sees the same name pop up in one too many witness statements. This is a different world, one far friendlier to lawbreakers, where even the suspicion of wrongdoing gets wiped from the record.

That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – "18,000 ... including Madoff," as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.

Under a deal the SEC worked out with the National Archives and Records Administration, all of the agency's records – "including case files relating to preliminary investigations" – are supposed to be maintained for at least 25 years. But the SEC, using history-altering practices that for once actually deserve the overused and usually hysterical term "Orwellian," devised an elaborate and possibly illegal system under which staffers were directed to dispose of the documents from any preliminary inquiry that did not receive approval from senior staff to become a full-blown, formal investigation. Amazingly, the wholesale destruction of the cases – known as MUIs, or "Matters Under Inquiry" – was not something done on the sly, in secret. The enforcement division of the SEC even spelled out the procedure in writing, on the commission's internal website. "After you have closed a MUI that has not become an investigation," the site advised staffers, "you should dispose of any documents obtained in connection with the MUI."

Many of the destroyed files involved companies and individuals who would later play prominent roles in the economic meltdown of 2008. Two MUIs involving con artist Bernie Madoff vanished. So did a 2002 inquiry into financial fraud at Lehman Brothers, as well as a 2005 case of insider trading at the same soon-to-be-bankrupt bank. A 2009 preliminary investigation of insider trading by Goldman Sachs was deleted, along with records for at least three cases involving the infamous hedge fund SAC Capital.

The widespread destruction of records was brought to the attention of Congress in July, when an SEC attorney named Darcy Flynn decided to blow the whistle. According to Flynn, who was responsible for helping to manage the commission's records, the SEC has been destroying records of preliminary investigations since at least 1993. After he alerted NARA to the problem, Flynn reports, senior staff at the SEC scrambled to hide the commission's improprieties.

As a federally protected whistle-blower, Flynn is not permitted to speak to the press. But in evidence he presented to the SEC's inspector general and three congressional committees earlier this summer, the 13-year veteran of the agency paints a startling picture of a federal police force that has effectively been conquered by the financial criminals it is charged with investigating. In at least one case, according to Flynn, investigators at the SEC found their desire to bring a case against an influential bank thwarted by senior officials in the enforcement division – whose director turned around and accepted a lucrative job from the very same bank they had been prevented from investigating. In another case, the agency farmed out its inquiry to a private law firm – one hired by the company under investigation. The outside firm, unsurprisingly, concluded that no further investigation of its client was necessary. To complete the bureaucratic laundering process, Flynn says, the SEC dropped the case and destroyed the files.

Much has been made in recent months of the government's glaring failure to police Wall Street; to date, federal and state prosecutors have yet to put a single senior Wall Street executive behind bars for any of the many well-documented crimes related to the financial crisis. Indeed, Flynn's accusations dovetail with a recent series of damaging critiques of the SEC made by reporters, watchdog groups and members of Congress, all of which seem to indicate that top federal regulators spend more time lunching, schmoozing and job-interviewing with Wall Street crooks than they do catching them. As one former SEC staffer describes it, the agency is now filled with so many Wall Street hotshots from oft-investigated banks that it has been "infected with the Goldman mindset from within."

The destruction of records by the SEC, as outlined by Flynn, is something far more than an administrative accident or bureaucratic fuck-up. It's a symptom of the agency's terminal brain damage. Somewhere along the line, those at the SEC responsible for policing America's banks fell and hit their head on a big pile of Wall Street's money – a blow from which the agency has never recovered. "From what I've seen, it looks as if the SEC might have sanctioned some level of case-related document destruction," says Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose staff has interviewed Flynn. "It doesn't make sense that an agency responsible for investigations would want to get rid of potential evidence. If these charges are true, the agency needs to explain why it destroyed documents, how many documents it destroyed over what time frame and to what extent its actions were consistent with the law."

How did officials at the SEC wind up with a faithful veteran employee – a conservative, mid-level attorney described as a highly reluctant whistle-blower – spilling the agency's most sordid secrets to Congress? In a way, they asked for it.

On May 18th of this year, SEC enforcement director Robert Khuzami sent out a mass e-mail to the agency's staff with the subject line "Lawyers Behaving Badly." In it, Khuzami asked his subordinates to report any experiences they might have had where "the behavior of counsel representing clients in... investigations has been questionable."

Khuzami was asking staffers to recount any stories of outside counsel behaving unethically. But Flynn apparently thought his boss was looking for examples of lawyers "behaving badly" anywhere, including within the SEC. And he had a story to share he'd kept a lid on for years. "Mr. Khuzami may have gotten something more than he expected," Flynn's lawyer, a former SEC whistle-blower named Gary Aguirre, later explained to Congress.

Flynn responded to Khuzami with a letter laying out one such example of misbehaving lawyers within the SEC. It involved a case from very early in Flynn's career, back in 2000, when he was working with a group of investigators who thought they had a "slam-dunk" case against Deutsche Bank, the German financial giant. A few years earlier, Rolf Breuer, the bank's CEO, had given an interview to Der Spiegel in which he denied that Deutsche was involved in übernahmegespräche – takeover talks – to acquire a rival American firm, Bankers Trust. But the statement was apparently untrue – and it sent the stock of Bankers Trust tumbling, potentially lowering the price for the merger. Flynn and his fellow SEC investigators, suspecting that investors of Bankers Trust had been defrauded, opened a MUI on the case.

A Matter Under Inquiry is just a preliminary sort of look-see – a way for the SEC to check out the multitude of tips it gets about suspicious trades, shady stock scams and false disclosures, and to determine which of the accusations merit a formal investigation. At the MUI stage, an SEC investigator can conduct interviews or ask a bank to send in information voluntarily. Bumping a MUI up to a formal investigation is critical, because it enables investigators to pull out the full law-enforcement ass-kicking measures – subpoenas, depositions, everything short of hot pokers and waterboarding. In the Deutsche case, Flynn and other SEC investigators got past the MUI stage and used their powers to collect sworn testimony and documents indicating that plenty of übernahmegespräche indeed had been going on when Breuer spoke to Der Spiegel. Based on the evidence, they sent an "Action Memorandum" to senior SEC staff, formally recommending that the agency press forward and file suit against Deutsche.

Breuer responded to the threat as big banks like Deutsche often do: He hired a former SEC enforcement director to lobby the agency to back off. The ex-insider, Gary Lynch, launched a creative and inspired defense, producing a linguistic expert who argued that übernahmegespräche only means "advanced stage of discussions." Nevertheless, the request to proceed with the case was approved by several levels of the SEC's staff. All that was needed to move forward was a thumbs-up from the director of enforcement at the time, Richard Walker.

But then a curious thing happened. On July 10th, 2001, Flynn and the other investigators were informed that Walker was mysteriously recusing himself from the Deutsche case. Two weeks later, on July 23rd, the enforcement division sent a letter to Deutsche that read, "Inquiry in the above-captioned matter has been terminated." The bank was in the clear; the SEC was dropping its fraud investigation. In contradiction to the agency's usual practice, it provided no explanation for its decision to close the case.

On October 1st of that year, the mystery was solved: Dick Walker was named general counsel of Deutsche. Less than 10 weeks after the SEC shut down its investigation of the bank, the agency's director of enforcement was handed a cushy, high-priced job at Deutsche.

Deutsche's influence in the case didn't stop there. A few years later, in 2004, Walker hired none other than Robert Khuzami, a young federal prosecutor, to join him at Deutsche. The two would remain at the bank until February 2009, when Khuzami joined the SEC as Flynn's new boss in the enforcement division. When Flynn sent his letter to Khuzami complaining about misbehavior by Walker, he was calling out Khuzami's own mentor.

The circular nature of the case illustrates the revolving-door dynamic that has become pervasive at the SEC. A recent study by the Project on Government Oversight found that over the past five years, former SEC personnel filed 789 notices disclosing their intent to represent outside companies before the agency – sometimes within days of their having left the SEC. More than half of the disclosures came from the agency's enforcement division, who went to bat for the financial industry four times more often than ex-staffers from other wings of the SEC.

Even a cursory glance at a list of the agency's most recent enforcement directors makes it clear that the SEC's top policemen almost always wind up jumping straight to jobs representing the banks they were supposed to regulate. Lynch, who represented Deutsche in the Flynn case, served as the agency's enforcement chief from 1985 to 1989, before moving to the firm of Davis Polk, which boasts many top Wall Street clients. He was succeeded by William McLucas, who left the SEC in 1998 to work for WilmerHale, a Wall Street defense firm so notorious for snatching up top agency veterans that it is sometimes referred to as "SEC West." McLucas was followed by Dick Walker, who defected to Deutsche in 2001, and he was in turn followed by Stephen Cutler, who now serves as general counsel for JP Morgan Chase. Next came Linda Chatman Thomsen, who stepped down to join Davis Polk, only to be succeeded in 2009 by Khuzami, Walker's former protégé at Deutsche Bank.

This merry-go-round of current and former enforcement directors has repeatedly led to accusations of improprieties. In 2008, in a case cited by the SEC inspector general, Thomsen went out of her way to pass along valuable information to Cutler, the former enforcement director who had gone to work for JP Morgan. According to the inspector general, Thomsen signaled Cutler that the SEC was unlikely to take action that would hamper JP Morgan's move to buy up Bear Stearns. In another case, the inspector general found, an assistant director of enforcement was instrumental in slowing down an investigation into the $7 billion Ponzi scheme allegedly run by Texas con artist R. Allen Stanford – and then left the SEC to work for Stanford, despite explicitly being denied permission to do so by the agency's ethics office. "Every lawyer in Texas and beyond is going to get rich on this case, OK?" the official later explained. "I hated being on the sidelines."

Small wonder, then, that SEC staffers often have trouble getting their bosses to approve full-blown investigations against even the most blatant financial criminals. For a fledgling MUI to become a formal investigation, it has to make the treacherous leap from the lower rungs of career-level staffers like Flynn all the way up to the revolving-door level at the top, where senior management is composed largely of high-priced appointees from the private sector who have strong social and professional ties to the very banks they are charged with regulating. And if senior management didn't approve an investigation, the documents often wound up being destroyed – as Flynn would later discover.

After the Deutsche fiasco over Bankers Trust, Flynn continued to work at the SEC for four more years. He briefly left the agency to dabble in real estate, then returned in 2008 to serve as an attorney in the enforcement division. In January 2010, he accepted new responsibilities that included helping to manage the disposition of records for the division – and it was then he first became aware of the agency's possibly unlawful destruction of MUI records.

Flynn discovered a directive on the enforcement division's internal website ordering staff to destroy "any records obtained in connection" with closed MUIs. The directive appeared to violate federal law, which gives responsibility for maintaining and destroying all records to the National Archives and Records Administration. Over a decade earlier, in fact, the SEC had struck a deal with NARA stipulating that investigative records were to be maintained for 25 years – and that if any files were to be destroyed after that, the shredding was to be done by NARA, not the SEC.

But Flynn soon learned that the records for thousands of preliminary investigations no longer existed. In his letter to Congress, Flynn estimates that the practice of destroying MUIs had begun as early as 1993, and has resulted in at least 9,000 case files being destroyed. For all the thousands of tips that had come in to the SEC, and the thousands of interviews that had been conducted by the agency's staff, all that remained were a few perfunctory lines for each case. The mountains of evidence gathered were no longer in existence.

To read through the list of dead and buried cases that Flynn submitted to Congress is like looking through an infrared camera at a haunted house of the financial crisis, with the ghosts of missed prosecutions flashing back and forth across the screen. A snippet of the list:

Goldman Sachs MLA-01909 6/99 - 4/00 Market Manipulation
Deutsche Bank MHO-09356 11/01 - 7/02 Insider Trading
Deutsche Bank MHO-09432 2/02 - 8/02 Market Manipulation
Lehman Brothers MNY-07013 3/02 - 7/02 Financial Fraud
Goldman Sachs MNY-08198 11/09 - 12/09 Insider Trading

One MUI – case MNY-08145 – involved allegations of insider trading at AIG on September 15th, 2008, right in the middle of the insurance giant's collapse. In that case, an AIG employee named Jacqueline Millan reported irregularities in the trading of AIG stock to her superiors, only to find herself fired. Incredibly, instead of looking into the matter itself, the SEC agreed to accept "an internal investigation by outside counsel or AIG." The last note in the file indicates that "the staff plans to speak with the outside attorneys on Monday, August 24th [2009], when they will share their findings with us." The fact that the SEC trusted AIG's lawyers to investigate the matter shows the basic bassackwardness of the agency's approach to these crash-era investigations. The SEC formally closed the case on October 1st, 2009.

The episode with AIG highlights yet another obstacle that MUIs experience on the road to becoming formal investigations. During the past decade, the SEC routinely began allowing financial firms to investigate themselves. Imagine the LAPD politely asking a gang of Crips and their lawyers to issue a report on whether or not a drive-by shooting by the Crips should be brought before a grand jury – that's basically how the SEC now handles many preliminary investigations against Wall Street targets.

The evolution toward this self-policing model began in 2001, when a shipping and food-service conglomerate called Seaboard aggressively investigated an isolated case of accounting fraud at one of its subsidiaries. Seaboard fired the guilty parties and made sweeping changes to its internal practices – and the SEC was so impressed that it instituted a new policy of giving "credit" to companies that police themselves. In practice, that means the agency simply steps aside and allows companies to slap themselves on the wrists. In the case against Seaboard, for instance, the SEC rewarded the firm by issuing no fines against it.

According to Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant at the SEC, the Seaboard case also prompted the SEC to begin permitting companies to hire their own counsel to conduct their own inquiries. At first, he says, the process worked fairly well. But then President Bush appointed the notoriously industry-friendly Christopher Cox to head up the SEC, and the "outside investigations" turned into whitewash jobs. "The investigations nowadays are probably not worth the money you spend on them," Turner says.

Harry Markopolos, a certified fraud examiner best known for sounding a famously unheeded warning about Bernie Madoff way back in 2000, says the SEC's practice of asking suspects to investigate themselves is absurd. In a serious investigation, he says, "the last person you want to trust is the person being accused or their lawyer." The practice helped Madoff escape for years. "The SEC took Bernie's word for everything," Markopolos says.

At the SEC, having realized that the agency was destroying documents, Flynn became concerned that he was overseeing an illegal policy. So in the summer of last year, he reached out to NARA, asking them for guidance on the issue.

That request sparked a worried response from Paul Wester, NARA's director of modern records. On July 29th, 2010, Wester sent a letter to Barry Walters, who oversees document requests for the SEC. "We recently learned from Darcy Flynn... that for the past 17 years the SEC has been destroying closed Matters Under Inquiry files," Wester wrote. "If you confirm that federal records have been destroyed improperly, please ensure that no further such disposals take place and provide us with a written report within 30 days."

Wester copied the letter to Adam Storch, a former Goldman Sachs executive who less than a year earlier had been appointed as managing executive of the SEC's enforcement division. Storch's appointment was not without controversy. "I'm not sure what's scarier," Daniel Indiviglio of The Atlantic observed, "that this guy worked at an investment bank that many believe has questionable ethics and too cozy a Washington connection, or that he's just 29." In any case, Storch reacted to the NARA letter the way the SEC often does – by circling the wagons and straining to find a way to blow off the problem without admitting anything.

Last August, as the clock wound down on NARA's 30-day deadline, Storch and two top SEC lawyers held a meeting with Flynn to discuss how to respond. Flynn's notes from the meeting, which he passed along to Congress, show the SEC staff wondering aloud if admitting the truth to NARA might be a bad idea, given the fact that there might be criminal liability.

"We could say that we do not believe there has been disposal inconsistent with the schedule," Flynn quotes Ken Hall, an assistant chief counsel for the SEC, as saying.

"There are implications to admit what was destroyed," Storch chimed in. It would be "not wise for me to take on the exposure voluntarily. If this leads to something, what rings in my ear is that Barry [Walters, the SEC documents officer] said: This is serious, could lead to criminal liability."

When the subject of how many files were destroyed came up, Storch answered: "18,000 MUIs destroyed, including Madoff."

Four days later, the SEC responded to NARA with a hilariously convoluted nondenial denial. "The Division is not aware of any specific instances of the destruction of records from any other MUI," the letter states. "But we cannot say with certainty that no such documents have been destroyed over the past 17 years." The letter goes on to add that "the Division has taken steps... to ensure that no MUI records are destroyed while we review this issue."

Translation: Hey, maybe records were destroyed, maybe they weren't. But if we did destroy records, we promise not to do it again – for now.

The SEC's unwillingness to admit the extent of the wrong doing left Flynn in a precarious position. The agency has a remarkably bad record when it comes to dealing with whistle-blowers. Back in 2005, when Flynn's attorney, Gary Aguirre, tried to pursue an insider-trading case against Pequot Capital that involved John Mack, the future CEO of Morgan Stanley, he was fired by phone while on vacation. Two Senate committees later determined that Aguirre, who has since opened a private practice representing whistle-blowers, was dismissed improperly as part of a "process of reprisal" by the SEC. Two whistle-blowers in the Stanford case, Julie Preuitt and Joel Sauer, also experienced retaliation – including reprimands and demotions – after raising concerns about superficial investigations. "There's no mechanism to raise these issues at the SEC," says another former whistle-blower. Contacting the agency's inspector general, he adds, is considered "the nuclear option" – a move "well-known to be a career-killer."

In Flynn's case, both he and Aguirre tried to keep the matter in-house, appealing to SEC chairman Mary Schapiro with a promise not to go outside the agency if she would grant Flynn protection against reprisal. When no such offer was forthcoming, Flynn went to the agency's inspector general before sending a detailed letter about the wrongdoing to three congressional committees.

One of the offices Flynn contacted was that of Sen. Grassley, who was in the midst of his own battle with the SEC. Frustrated with the agency's failure to punish major players on Wall Street, the Iowa Republican had begun an investigation into how the SEC follows up on outside complaints. Specifically, he wrote a letter to FINRA, another regulatory agency, to ask how many complaints it had referred to the SEC about SAC Capital, the hedge fund run by reptilian billionaire short-seller Stevie Cohen.

SAC has long been accused of a variety of improprieties, from insider trading to harassment. But no charge in recent Wall Street history is crazier than an episode involving a SAC executive named Ping Jiang, who was accused in 2006 of enacting a torturous hazing program. According to a civil lawsuit that was later dropped, Jiang allegedly forced a new trader named Andrew Tong to take female hormones, come to work wearing a dress and lipstick, have "foreign objects" inserted in his rectum, and allow Jiang to urinate in his mouth. (I'm not making this up.)

Grassley learned that over the past decade, FINRA had referred 19 complaints about suspicious trades at SAC to federal regulators. Curious to see how many of those referrals had been looked into, Grassley wrote the SEC on May 24th, asking for evidence that the agency had properly investigated the cases.

Two weeks later, on June 9th, Khuzami sent Grassley a surprisingly brusque answer: "We generally do not comment on the status of investigations or related referrals, and, in turn, are not providing information concerning the specific FINRA referrals you identified." Translation: We're not giving you the records, so blow us.

Grassley later found out from FINRA that it had actually referred 65 cases about SAC to the SEC, making the lack of serious investigations even more inexplicable. Angered by Khuzami's response, he sent the SEC another letter on June 15th demanding an explanation, but no answer has been forthcoming.

In the interim, Grassley's office was contacted by Flynn, who explained that among the missing MUIs he had uncovered were at least three involving SAC – one in 2006, one in 2007 and one in 2010, involving charges of insider trading and currency manipulation. All three cases were closed by the SEC, and the records apparently destroyed.

On August 17th, Grassley sent a letter to the SEC about the Flynn allegations, demanding to know if it was indeed true that the SEC had destroyed records. He also asked if the agency's failure to produce evidence of investigations into SAC Capital were related to the missing MUIs.

The SEC's inspector general is investigating the destroyed MUIs and plans to issue a report. NARA is also seeking answers. "We've asked the SEC to look into the matter and we're awaiting their response," says Laurence Brewer, a records officer for NARA. For its part, the SEC is trying to explain away the illegality of its actions through a semantic trick. John Nester, the agency's spokesman, acknowledges that "documents related to MUIs" have been destroyed. "I don't have any reason to believe that it hasn't always been the policy," he says. But Nester suggests that such documents do not "meet the federal definition of a record," and therefore don't have to be preserved under federal law.

But even if SEC officials manage to dodge criminal charges, it won't change what happened: The nation's top financial police destroyed more than a decade's worth of intelligence they had gathered on some of Wall Street's most egregious offenders. "The SEC not keeping the MUIs – you can see why this would be bad," says Markopolos, the fraud examiner famous for breaking the Madoff case. "The reason you would want to keep them is to build a pattern. That way, if you get five MUIs over a period of 20 years on something similar involving the same company, you should be able to connect five dots and say, 'You know, I've had five MUIs – they're probably doing something. Let's go tear the place apart.'" Destroy the MUIs, and Wall Street banks can commit the exact same crime over and over, without anyone ever knowing.

Regulation isn't a panacea. The SEC could have placed federal agents on every corner of lower Manhattan throughout the past decade, and it might not have put a dent in the massive wave of corruption and fraud that left the economy in flames three years ago. And even if SEC staffers from top to bottom had been fully committed to rooting out financial corruption, the agency would still have been seriously hampered by a lack of resources that often forces it to abandon promising cases due to a shortage of manpower. "It's always a triage," is how one SEC veteran puts it. "And it's worse now."

But we're equally in the dark about another hypothetical. Forget about what might have been if the SEC had followed up in earnest on all of those lost MUIs. What if even a handful of them had turned into real cases? How many investors might have been saved from crushing losses if Lehman Brothers had been forced to reveal its shady accounting way back in 2002? Might the need for taxpayer bailouts have been lessened had fraud cases against Citigroup and Bank of America been pursued in 2005 and 2007? And would the U.S. government have doubled down on its bailout of AIG if it had known that some of the firm's executives were suspected of insider trading in September 2008?

It goes without saying that no ordinary law-enforcement agency would willingly destroy its own evidence. In fact, when it comes to garden-variety crooks, more and more police agencies are catching criminals with the aid of large and well-maintained databases. "Street-level law enforcement is increasingly data-driven," says Bill Laufer, a criminology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "For a host of reasons, though, we are starved for good data on both white-collar and corporate crime. So the idea that we would take the little data we do have and shred it, without a legal requirement to do so, calls for a very creative explanation."

We'll never know what the impact of those destroyed cases might have been; we'll never know if those cases were closed for good reasons or bad. We'll never know exactly who got away with what, because federal regulators have weighted down a huge sack of Wall Street's dirty laundry and dumped it in a lake, never to be seen again.