Saturday, August 27, 2011

FBI organizes most terror plots in the US

Published: 23 August, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation employs upwards of 15,000 undercover agents today, ten times what they had on the roster back in 1975.

If you think that’s a few spies too many — spies earning as much as $100,000 per assignment — one doesn’t have to go too deep into their track record to see their accomplishments. Those agents are responsible for an overwhelming amount of terrorist stings that have stopped major domestic catastrophes in the vein of 9/11 from happening on American soil.

Another thing those agents are responsible for, however, is plotting those very schemes.
The FBI has in recent years used trained informants not just to snitch on suspected terrorists, but to set them up from the get-go. A recent report put together by Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkley analyses some striking statistics about the role of FBI informants in terrorism cases that the Bureau has targeted in the decade since the September 11 attacks.

The report reveals that the FBI regularly infiltrates communities where they suspect terrorist-minded individuals to be engaging with others. Regardless of their intentions, agents are sent in to converse within the community, find suspects that could potentially carry out “lone wolf” attacks and then, more or less, encourage them to do so. By providing weaponry, funds and a plan, FBI-directed agents will encourage otherwise-unwilling participants to plot out terrorist attacks, only to bust them before any events fully materialize.

Additionally, one former high-level FBI officials speaking to Mother Jones says that, for every informant officially employed by the bureau, up to three unofficial agents are working undercover.

The FBI has used those informants to set-up and thus shut-down several of the more high profile would-be attacks in recent years. The report reveals that the Washington DC Metro bombing plot, the New York City subway plot, the attempt to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower and dozens more were all orchestrated by FBI agents. In fact, reads the report, only three of the more well-known terror plots of the last decade weren’t orchestrated by FBI-involved agents.

The report reveals that in many of the stings, important meetings between informants and the unknowing participants are left purposely unrecorded, as to avoid any entrapment charges that could cause the case to be dismissed. Perhaps the most high-profile of the FBI-proposed plots was the case of the Newburgh 4. Around an hour outside of New York City, an informant infiltrated a Muslim community and engaged four local men to carry out a series of attacks. Those men may have never actually carried out an attack, but once the informant offered them a plot and a pair of missiles, they agreed. Defense attorneys cried “entrapment,” but the men still were sentenced to 25 years apiece.

"The problem with the cases we're talking about is that defendants would not have done anything if not kicked in the ass by government agents," Martin Stolar tells Mother Jones. Stolar represented the suspect involved in a New York City bombing plot that was set-up by FBI agents. "They're creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror." For their part, the FBI says this method is a plan for "preemption," "prevention" and "disruption."

The report also reveals that, of the 500-plus prosecutions of terrorism-related cases they analyzed, nearly half of them involved the use of informants, many of whom worked for the FBI in exchange for money or to work off criminal charges. Of the 158 prosecutions carried out, 49 defendants participated in plots that agent provocateurs arranged on behalf of the FBI.

Experts note that the chance of winning a terrorism-related trial, entrapment or not, is near impossible. "The plots people are accused of being part of — attacking subway systems or trying to bomb a building — are so frightening that they can overwhelm a jury," David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor, tells Mother Jones. Since 9/11, almost two-thirds of the cases linked to terrorism have ended with guilty pleas. “They don't say, 'I've been entrapped,' or, 'I was immature,’” a retired FBI official remarks.

All of this and those guilty pleas often stem for just being in the right place at the wrong time. Farhana Khera of the group Muslim Advocate notes that agents go into mosques on “fishing expeditions” just to see where they can get interest in the community. "The FBI is now telling agents they can go into houses of worship without probable cause," says Khera. "That raises serious constitutional issues."

From the set-up to the big finish, the whole sting operation is ripe with constitutional issues such as that. A decade since 9/11, however, the FBI is reaching through whatever means it can pull together to keep terrorists — or whom they think could someday become one — from ever hurting America.

The Government Is Still Paying Banks Not To Lend

One of the most outrageous "open secrets" of U.S. government policy these days is that the Federal Reserve is still paying big banks not to lend money.

And it's doing that while screwing average Americans who have been responsible and lived within their means.



The Federal Reserve is quietly continuing with one of the many outrageous bank-bailout programs it initiated during the financial crisis--the one in which it pays big banks interest on their "excess reserves."

What are "excess reserves"?

Money that the banks have but aren't lending out--money that banks are just keeping on deposit at the Fed.

The Fed is paying banks 0.25% interest on this money.

0.25% interest may not sound like much, but it's more than the banks are paying you to keep money in your savings or money-market account. It's also more than you'll earn if you lend the Federal government money for 2 years.

Oh, by the way, why, exactly, are you earning so little interest in your savings accounts and money-market funds?

Well, because, thanks to another one of its bank-bailout programs, the Fed is keeping short-term interest rates at zero.

In other words, the Fed is paying banks not to lend money and screwing you, American citizens, because you're dumb enough to have saved money.

This is just so bass-ackwards it's not to be believed.

Why on earth is the Fed paying banks not to lend? Well, back in the financial crisis, the Fed wanted to find ways to secretly bail out the banks without it being screamingly obvious to every American that that was what it was doing. And this particular bailout program was one of the more successful ways it discovered of doing that. Over the past few years, this program has secretly funneled about $10 billion in risk-free cash (rough estimate) directly to the banks, just for being banks and not lending. Don't you wish you could get in on that game?

How much money are banks keeping in "excess reserves" that they might be encouraged to lend if the Fed weren't paying them not to?

Money for nothing.
Oh, only $1.6 trillion. (See chart)

The Fed pays banks about $4 billion of interest a year on that money--the money the banks aren't lending. And bankers get big bonuses based on that interest, for being so smart as to not lend money and instead just take the free interest from the Fed.

Meanwhile, you earn next to nothing (or nothing) on the money you've saved.

We don't think GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry should have threatened to kill Ben Bernanke the other day, but we can certainly understand his frustration.

God, it's great to be a banker.

Boy, does it suck to be an average responsible American.

Impact of Gulf Spill’s Underwater Dispersants Examined

by Joanna Foster 
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP sought and obtained permission to use dispersants, detergent-like compounds, to break up the 200 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude, into tiny droplets that would mix throughout the water column, trying to lessen the immediate impact of the oil slick on fragile coastal ecosystems.

The dispersants selected, Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527, were used in large quantities (1.84 million gallons) and also in ways never before used — they were applied directly underwater to the source of the spill. One month after oil first started gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the federal Environmental Protection Agency gave BP 24 hours to identify, and 72 hours to begin using, a less toxic alternative.

There were, at the time, 14 dispersants listed on the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule — a list of emergency-use products maintained by the E.P.A. for combating oil spills. BP, however, continued using Corexit, citing a vast paucity of data concerning the environmental impacts of any of the alternative dispersants.

As the situation in the Gulf worsened and questions about the safety of Corexit spread like, well, leaking oil, Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain information about the composition and safety of the dispersants listed as eligible for use. When the federal agency did not comply, Earthjustice sued on behalf of the Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation.

In response, the E.P.A. published the full chemical composition of Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527 and nearly a year later, released an aggregate list of 57 chemical components found in the 14 dispersants, although they provided no information about which chemicals were found in which dispersants, citing an obligation to protect what had been deemed as confidential business information by the manufacturers.

A review has now been published by Earthjustice, in collaboration with Toxipedia, an online toxicology Wiki, of all the scientific literature concerning the potential health impacts of these 57 chemicals. The report finds that “Of the 57 ingredients: 5 chemicals are associated with cancer; 33 are associated with skin irritation from rashes to burns; 33 are linked to eye irritation; 11 are or are suspected of being potential respiratory toxins or irritants; 10 are suspected kidney toxins; 8 are suspected or known to be toxic to aquatic organisms; and 5 are suspected to have a moderate acute toxicity to fish.”

While words like “associated with” or “linked to” may sound weak and unconvincing, the syntax highlights just how little is actually known about these chemicals. For 13 of the dispersant ingredients, no relevant data could be found.

“BP had a particular set of dispersants on hand and no one at the time seemed to know if they were safe, whether they were safer than other dispersants products that could be used or even whether they were safer for people and the environment than oil alone,” said Marianne Engelman Lado, a lawyer with Earthjustice. “BP chose Corexit because it was the dispersant on hand, not because it was the safest. However, regulation of dispersants is so inadequate that BP didn’t have enough information to figure out how it compared with other dispersants or oil alone.”

Nick Thorp, a project manager at Toxipedia, said:
There is just not a lot known about these chemicals and their linkages to potential health impacts. More research is really necessary to determine what exposure levels are, and aren’t safe. Ideally these questions would have been answered before the dispersants were approved for use. We’re now backtracking trying to answer these questions, after the public and the environment have already been exposed.
Earthjustice is calling for “more research, greater disclosure of the information that is known, comprehensive toxicity testing, establishment of safety criteria for dispersants, and careful selection of the least toxic dispersants for application in oil spill response.”

Fresh oil slicks forming over Deepwater Horizon spill site

(OK, see the cleanup for the BP Oil Spill Disaster was way too easy, and done far too quickly. And that's because they didn't clean it up at all--they sunk that oil to the bottom of the sea with Corexit and some of it has started floating back to the surface Now what? BP's not going to spend any more money to clean that area up.--jef)

Posted on 08.26.11 - RAW Replay
By Stephen C. Webster
Despite assurances from British oil company BP that no oil was present at the Deepwater Horizon site in the Gulf of Mexico, two Louisiana State University men have returned with video evidence of large blooms of crude oil swelling up to the water’s surface where the doomed oil rig once hovered.

Tests on the oil were inconclusive as far as linking it to the now-plugged oil well, but if it is from the Deepwater Horizon spill it could indicate the formation of fissures on the seabed, seeping oil into the ecosystem anew.

If so, that would mean the worst accidental release of oil in human history — a spill so bad, it took five months just to stop crude from flowing — isn’t quite over.

This video is from

PBS documentary sheds light on marijuana’s cancer-killing properties

 RAW Replay
on 08.26.11
By Stephen C. Webster
The cancer-killing properties of marijuana were the subject of discussion in a PBS documentary that aired this week to little media fanfare.

While using marijuana to kill cancer may sound like a wild claim to some, it struck Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti as a great idea. In his studies as professor of pathology and microbiology for the University of South Carolina, he tested synthetic cannabis drugs on cancer cells and developed a formula that was able to completely eradicate cancer cells in a test tube.

A follow-up on mice afflicted with cancer found that up to 30 percent in the test group completely rejected their disease, while others had their tumors significantly reduced. The same drug is now being tested on humans with Leukemia.

But it’s not just Dr. Nagarkatti who sees the medical value of marijuana: it’s the whole pharmaceutical industry. And that’s another point the documentary makes, examining the patents various companies have filed, and what they claim marijuana-based drugs could one day be used to treat.

The video below is just an excerpt from the full documentary, which originally aired in Montana amid a debate about repealing that state’s medical marijuana law. The full, nearly hour-long film is available to watch online for free.

This video is from PBS.

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

What Did You Learn in Your Purposefully Dumbed Down Texas School Today?

Millions of Texas students head back to school this week confronted by a dramatically altered, state-mandated social studies curriculum.

The contentious hearings of the Texas State Board of Education received considerable attention in the spring of 2010, but seem to have fallen out of the public consciousness as the new school year begins. The new curriculum, officially called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, deserves renewed attention, as it will undoubtedly surprise most Texans.

The fiercest battle during the board's hearings was fought over the 11th-grade history curriculum, which in Texas is "United States History since 1877." The exception to that timeline is the new state-mandated "Celebrate Freedom Week," during which students will learn about our founding fathers. That sounds simple enough, except that the only founding fathers included in the curriculum are Benjamin Rush, John Hancock, John Jay, John Witherspoon, John Peter Muhlenberg, Charles Carroll and Jonathan Trumbull Sr. What about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or John Adams? They are nowhere to be found in the new high school TEKS. Students apparently learned everything they need to know about them in eighth grade.

As part of the board's effort to emphasize the positives in American history, students will no longer learn about "American imperialism." Instead students will discuss "American expansionism" and come to understand how "missionaries moved the United States into the position of a world power." The board eliminated mention of our government's use of propaganda during World War I, and instead of analyzing Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II, students will now analyze the development of the bomb. Additionally, students will now "evaluate efforts by international organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty." The board included Estee Lauder in the state curriculum, but not George Washington.

Perhaps you have heard something about a labor movement in the 20th century? No longer will your children. The only reference to a 20th-century labor movement will come when learning about Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. No mention of the Fair Labor Standards Act or the National Labor Relations Act. No mention of strikes or any labor dispute. The words "labor movement" were taken out of the TEKS. Perhaps there is not enough time because students must now "understand how the free enterprise system drives technological innovation ... such as cell phones, inexpensive personal computers and global positioning products."

Students will learn about the contributions of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. Maybe the students will read Falwell's claim that feminists and homosexuals were partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the NRA are all included. Students will also be required to "discuss the meaning of ‘In God We Trust.' "

History in Texas classrooms will be decidedly different from when we were students. I never learned "both the positive and negative impacts of ... country and western music" in my high school history class. Where would you rate Estée Lauder in terms of historical importance to our country? If you think she is one of the 68 most important historical figures, you agree with the board. Yes, the board included her in the state curriculum, but not George Washington.

I also never learned that the findings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities were confirmed, perhaps because it is not true. It puts teachers in an awkward position by asking them to teach something that is historically inaccurate. I will not have to deal with that issue in some of my classes because my Advanced Placement U.S. History classes are not required to follow the state curriculum. I am guessing that the Texas Education Agency realizes that students could never pass national exams while learning the state-mandated curriculum.

During the next decade, we should not be surprised when university professors lament that Texas students are not prepared for college. Malcolm X once said, "Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today." You might remember a historical figure named Malcolm X, but your children won't. Malcolm X is not in the social studies curriculum in Texas. Now if you will excuse me, I have to do some research on Estée Lauder. She was not mentioned in any of my graduate history courses, either.

Labor Day Needs Protest Marches Rather than Parades

Labor Day is traditionally a time for picnics and parades. But this year is no picnic for American workers, and a protest march would be more appropriate than a parade.

Not only are 25 million unemployed or underemployed, but American companies continue to cut wages and benefits. The median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. High unemployment has given employers extra bargaining leverage to wring out wage concessions.

All told, it’s been the worst decade for American workers in a century. According to Commerce Department data, private-sector wage gains over the last decade have even lagged behind wage gains during the decade of the Great Depression (4 percent over the last ten years, adjusted for inflation, versus 5 percent from 1929 to 1939).

Big American corporations are making more money, by creating more jobs outside the United States than in it. If corporations are people, as the Supreme Court’s twisted logic now insists, most of the big ones headquartered here are rapidly losing their American identity.

CEO pay, meanwhile, has soared. The median value of salaries, bonuses and long-term incentive awards for CEOs at 350 big American companies surged 11 percent last year to $9.3 million (according to a study of proxy statements conducted for The Wall Street Journal by the management consultancy Hay Group.). Bonuses have surged 19.7%.

This doesn’t even include all those stock options rewarded to CEOs at rock-bottom prices in 2008 and 2009. Stock prices have ballooned since then, the current downdraft notwithstanding. In March, 2009, for example, Ford CEO Alan Mulally received a grant of options and restricted shares worth an estimated $16 million at the time. But Ford is now showing large profits – in part because the UAW agreed to allow Ford to give its new hires roughly half the wages of older Ford workers – and its share prices have responded. Mulally’s 2009 grant is now worth over $200 million.

The ratio of corporate profits to wages is now higher than at any time since just before the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, the American economy has all but stopped growing – in large part because consumers (whose spending is 70% of GDP) are also workers whose jobs and wages are under assault.

Perhaps there would still be something to celebrate on Labor Day if government was coming to the rescue. But Washington is paralyzed, the President seems unwilling or unable to take on labor-bashing Republicans, and several Republican governors are mounting direct assaults on organized labor (see Indiana, Ohio, Maine, and Wisconsin, for example).
So let’s bag the picnics and parades this Labor Day. American workers should march in protest. They’re getting the worst deal they’ve had since before Labor Day was invented – and the economy is suffering as a result.

Dangerous Cybercrime Treaty Pushes Surveillance and Secrecy Worldwide

(Ain't it funny/how rights just keep slippin'/away...Corporations write our laws. Corporations control the government by controlling its two party system. And it will take a huge effort on the part of us, the disenfranchised. Rise up or be plowed under.--jef)

As part of an emerging international trend to try to ‘civilize the Internet’, one of the world’s worst Internet law treaties--the highly controversial Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on Cybercrime--is back on the agenda. Canada and Australia are using the Treaty to introduce new invasive, online surveillance laws, many of which go far beyond the Convention’s intended levels of intrusiveness. Negotiated over a decade ago, only 31 of its 47 signatories have ratified it. Many considered the Treaty to be dormant but in recent years a number of countries have been modeling national laws based on the flawed Treaty. Moreover, Azerbaijan, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom are amongst those who have ratified within the last year. However, among non-European countries, only the U.S. has ratified the Treaty to date, making Canada and Australia’s efforts unique. The Treaty has not been harmless, and both Australia and Canada are fast-tracking legislation (Australia's lower house approved a cybercrime bill last night) that will enable them to ratify the Treaty, at great cost to the civil liberties of their citizens.

Leaving out constitutional safeguardsAustralia’s invasive bill highlights one of the fundamental flaws of the Convention on Cybercrime: the Treaty’s failure to specify proper level of privacy protection necessary to limit the over-broad surveillance powers it grants law enforcement agencies. This creates problems in countries like Australia since, as the Australia Privacy Foundation points out, Australia lacks the legal constitutional safeguards afforded to many other democratic countries:
The CoE Convention has to be read within the context that applies in CoE countries – where there are substantial and actionable constitutional protections for human rights. The absence of any such countervailing protection for human rights in Australia makes it completely untenable for the Convention to be implemented in Australia without very substantial additional provisions that achieve a comparable balance.
Bills proposed in Canada (read here and here) are also affected by the Convention’s flaws as they adopt the lowest possible standard of protection against many of the invasive powers they grant. The bills provide law enforcement access to sensitive data on the mere suspicion it might be useful to an investigation. Indeed, at times they leave out the safeguards altogether, as noted in a letter from Canadian privacy scholars and civil society organizations:
[the legislation] will give state agents the power to access ...highly sensitive personal information, even where there is no reason to suspect it will assist in the investigation of any offense...What [this] facilitates, simply put, are unjustified and seemingly limitless fishing expeditions for private information of innocent and non‐suspicious Canadians.
Gag orders in place of oversight: Cultivating a culture of secrecyThe Convention’s most systemic flaw is that it seeks to impose invasive surveillance powers without legal protections. Aside from failing to specify adequate safeguards, it also leaves out the types of oversight mechanisms necessary to ensure its broad powers are not abused. Worse, the Convention takes active steps to reduce oversight and transparency by calling for limitations on when individuals can and cannot be notified that they are being surveilled upon.

The Australian bill even criminalizes any attempt to disclose the fact that the powers it grants to law enforcement have been used to spy on an individual. These gag orders will prevent anyone from disclosing the existence and content of interception warrants, all but ensuring innocent individuals will never know their civil liberties have been violated: should be possible for individuals to find out that their communications have been subject to a preservation order or disclosed to law enforcement agencies once there is no longer any prejudice to an ongoing investigation.

Nigel Waters, Australia Privacy Foundation, Parliamentarian hearing on the Cybercrime Bill.
Proposed Canadian legislation also paves the way to blanket and perpetual gag orders that will apply by default to the most invasive of the seizure powers it authorizes. These gag orders can insulate abuses of power --when innocent people are surveilled for no good reason--and they will never find out nor will be able to challenge the abuse of their rights, even in situations where there is no longer any risk to an ongoing investigation.
The far-reaching powers this legislation puts in place, if adopted at all, should be accompanied by equally far-reaching oversight regimes, not gag orders. Instead of preventing abuses from ever seeing the light of day, individuals should be notified when they have been surveilled, and the extent, nature and frequency of such surveillance must be subject to rigorous external oversight.

Tamir Israel, staff attorney, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic.
Blanket gag orders are strongly disfavored under U.S. law, and at least one U.S. court of appeals has found a similar gag order provision partially unconstitutional. A provision of the PATRIOT Act permitted the government to obtain electronic communication transaction records from an Internet Service Providers without a court order. The law imposed a gag order on “National Security Letter” recipients, with extremely limited judicial review that required courts to accept the FBI’s assertions as true and placed the burden on the ISP to challenge the gag order after it had been issued. As EFF argued, such gag orders stifle free expression, and without any judicial oversight, the government was free to do what it wanted. The court agreed that the gag order provision was unconstitutional as written, but it construed the gag rules narrowly so as to pass First Amendment muster. The court found that the U.S. Justice Department could adopt additional procedures to cure the remaining defects—a result that EFF disagrees with because it is Congress’s job to write laws.

Forcing service providers to record your online activity
Countries are also using the Convention to put in place powers aimed at forcing service providers to store customer information for extended periods of time. While the Convention itself foresees targeted preservation orders in scenarios where there is a reason to believe the information would otherwise be vulnerable to loss or modification, Australian and Canadian bills ignore this important limitation. Also, while the Convention envisions a distinction between orders forcing service providers to preserve data they have already collected and orders aimed at forcing service providers to intercept and record data in real time, the misuse of proactive or ‘ongoing’ preservation orders aims to undermine this distinction.

In the U.S. and in Canada, for example, there have been cases where preservation powers have been misused to proactively compel service providers to retain data such as email or text messages that are not yet in their possession or control. Proactive preservation force service providers to record data they would never have otherwise retained, effectively bypassing legal protections in place for real-time electronic interceptions. As the U.S. DOJ notes in its manual on seizing electronic communications:
...should not be used prospectively to order providers to preserve records not yet created. If agents want providers to record information about future electronic communications, they should comply with the electronic surveillance statutes discussed in Chapter 4.
Instead of attempting to avoid such problems, the Australian bill embraces this confusion, and expressly grants law enforcement the right to order ‘ongoing preservation’. This, combined with the complete lack of any obligation to ensure preservation orders are narrowly targeted to capture relevant data at risk of deletion, opens the door to blanket retention orders aimed at real-time interception of communications services on a mass scale.

The Australian law, for example, is phrased in such broad terms that it could be applied indiscriminately, without any assurance that it will only be used to preserve data that is at risk of being destroyed:
The Bill could require an Internet Service Provider to preserve all stored communications (e.g. traffic and content data) for a telecommunications service (e.g. email, text messaging, mobile phone) for a specified period of time. Unless our concerns about the meaning of a ‘service’ are addressed, then under an ongoing domestic preservation notice, a Commonwealth agency could arguably request that a major carrier such as Telstra or Optus, preserve all emails used on its service for a 30 day period.

Australia Privacy Foundation Submission to the Parliament.
The proposed Canadian legislation also fails to ensure preservation demands will be used in a targeted manner and is likely to lead to voluntary retention of personal information that would not otherwise have been kept by telecommunications service providers.

Convention premised on outdated concepts of online data
The flaws inherent in the Convention itself are exacerbated by the fact that it was drafted over ten years ago and much has changed since then. The Convention was premised on the notion that ‘traffic data’ (data generated by computers as a by-product of online interactions) is ‘less sensitive’, and so should be more readily accessible to law enforcement. That was then, and this is now: Today’s ‘traffic data’ can include such sensitive information as your otherwise anonymous online identity or your social network of contacts. Mobile companies and our Internet services providers are now recording our whereabouts at every moment, and we are leaving far more detailed footprints that reveal sensitive information of our daily lives. Sensitive data of this nature warrants stronger protection, not an all-access pass.
Other things have changed in the online environment as well. The ongoing move towards cloud computing means that more and more of our information will be stored online.

Nowadays, countless millions are trusting web-based email services such as Google Gmail to store years worth of private correspondence, and cloud services such as Dropbox or Google Docs store your most private documents. The Treaty could not envision this reality when it was drafted in 2001. Governments must now think carefully about what the Treaty’s increased law enforcement powers will mean for citizen rights in this new digital context.

On Eve of Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Arizona Sues to Overturn Voting Rights Act

(Oh Arizona...1860 called. They want their simple-minded lunacy back. If there are any rational people living in Arizona, could you please man up and take your state back from the backward and clueless who are trying to send you back a century or more in the past. It has to be so embarrassing for you. Get off your asses and take back your state. Otherwise, we'll be forced to nuke Arizona from be safe.--jef)

It took years for Arizona to recover from right-wing Governor Evan Mecham’s disgraceful act to rescind the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in 1989.

Now, on the eve of the unveiling of the national memorial to the civil rights leader in Washington, DC, Attorney General Tom Horne has joined a lone county in Alabama to make Arizona the first state to file a suit against the Obama administration to strike down parts of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 — spurred by the horrific violence encountered by King and civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama — as unconstitutional.

“President Lyndon Johnson’s high spirits were marked as he circulated among the many guests whom he had invited to witness an event he confidently felt to be historic, the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” King wrote. “The bill that lay on the polished mahogany desk was born in violence in Selma, Alabama, where a stubborn sheriff … had stumbled against the future.”

Claiming that sections of the Voting Rights Act are “either archaic, not based in fact,” Horne has indeed stumbled against his own future and Arizona’s unfinished history of voting rights violations.

Horne, of course, is infamous in Arizona for his controversial witch hunt and eventual ban of bilingual education and the acclaimed Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson. The Attorney General has openly lied in the past about his history of bankruptcy and has the unique distinction of being banned forever from the Securities and Exchanges Commission after he “willfully aided and abetted” securities law violations.

His law suit this week marches in step with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and her Arizona Gone Wild legislature’s obsession to defy federal authority over gun laws, health care, immigration policy, and border security.

US Attorney General Eric Holder immediately responded to Horne’s suit: “The Department of Justice will vigorously defend the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act in this case, as it has done successfully in the past.”

Despite the fact that President George W. Bush signed the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act in 2006, it clearly rankles Horne to be included as “covered jurisdictions” among Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia and a handful of others states for “preclearance,” which requires Department of Justice approval for any changes in election policy, practices or administrative functions.

Echoing the state’s right mantra of notorious State Senate President Russell Pearce, who is currently embroiled in a recall election, Horne declared in his suit: “The State of Arizona is a sovereign state within the United States of America.”

The Canadian-immigrant Horne, who likes to claim that he attended the historic March on Washington in 1963, could benefit from a conversation with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) on the deadly violence during the “Bloody Sunday marches” in Selma, Alabama in 1965, which led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

Horne could also benefit from a lesson in Arizona voting rights history — and present reality.
In preparation for the reauthorization vote in 2006, an extensive report by Arizona State University researchers on Arizona’s voting rights record from 1982-2006 cited numerous violations and concluded: “Arizona’s record since 1982, when the temporary provisions were last reauthorized, shows that the state still has a long way to go.”
It gets worse.

Last fall, a report by Common Cause ranked Arizona at the bottom of swing states for the worst voting laws. According to Tova Wang, author of the report, the strained atmosphere behind Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 “papers please” immigration law was just the beginning of larger voter irregularities: “One of the biggest concerns in this election, especially in Arizona, is that the ugly immigration debate will be leveraged into the elections and the voting process. We are worried about the use of vote suppression tactics such as challenges at the polls and bogus charges of noncitizen voting being used as a way to impose obstacles to voting that could affect a wide range of voters, but primarily people of color. Just the climate that has been created could have an impact on its own.”

Here are some of the “notable obstacles” to voter participation in Arizona:
Citizens must register to vote a full 29 days prior to the election, which could block some Arizonans from participating.
Restoration of voting rights is only available to individuals with a single felony conviction. Persons with two or more felonies are permanently disenfranchised. Not only is it problematic that many people who have served their time are disenfranchised, but the distinction between single and multiple offenders confuses even election officials, leading to the potential disenfranchisement of people who should have their rights restored.
Arizona is the only state that requires proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. Many citizens are not able to produce such documentary proof.
All voters must present either one form of photo ID or two forms of non-photo ID. If the voter does not have what the poll worker deems the requisite identification, he is forced to cast a provisional ballot. Some voters will not have the necessary ID.
Voters who cast conditional provisional ballots must provide proper identification to the county recorder within three to five business days in order for the ballot to be counted. Provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct will not be counted.
Arizona’s laws regarding challengers at the polling site are lax: voters may be challenged by any qualified elector of the same county and standards for initiating challenge procedures are low.
The absence of specific laws targeting deceptive practices such as dissemination of misinformation about the electoral process leaves voters vulnerable to confusion and disenfranchisement.
Arizona has historically had inadequate outreach to certain language minority communities covered by the Voting Rights Act, and gaps in coverage for qualified and trained bilingual poll workers.

A Cooperative Economy: The Time Is Now

I am impressed by the amount of knowledge in our communities. There are countless skills among those who are currently unemployed and underemployed and those who have been laid off during this recession.

In more and more businesses, the tasks and responsibilities are being piled up on smaller staffs and overworked employees, many of whom find themselves increasingly fed up with top-down management that doesn't appreciate them.

In fact, much of our recession can be attributed to the lack of input from workers and small businesses. Our economy has been at the mercy of too few hands over the last several decades. Now many folks are using whatever skill they have to get by in a world with fewer local jobs and many, many underemployed people.

Why should so much talent go to waste?

This is a perfect time for a cooperative economy. Considering the disproportionate struggles faced by women and people of color during a recession, the cooperative economy presents an opportunity for all people, to leverage more power by making themselves the bosses, sharing ownership, and taking a collective approach to good management. Many people have already been let down by a top-down corporate or non-profit model in a recession-ridden society. Now is the time to rebuild the system, and build a society founded on justice, dignity, and respect for people and the planet.

Finding Opportunity in Crisis: Inspiration From the Road Ahead
I was really inspired by the power of community in supporting local economies through a recession when I first visited Detroit in 2008 and again in 2010 for the US Social Forum. There is much more than a depressed economy in Detroit. There are pockets of vibrant community. There is food growing. There are queer-owned, women-owned, cooperatively run businesses getting together. And while there may be great stretches of empty blocks, between them, there are farmers markets, and neighbors who talk to each other. There are older communities and advocates working alongside young and aspiring activists and entrepreneurs. This is what I think of when I hear Detroiters refer to "opportunity in crisis."

Austin is doing far better, financially at least, than Detroit. But when it comes to competition in a cutthroat time of depressed profit and wages, women, immigrants, and people of color are getting the raw end of the deal left and right. Many in the city feel underemployment, under appreciation or both.

In this sense we are primed for an alternative. And the good news is, while any big, social or economic grassroots movement is a "marathon", so to speak, we are witnessing big change over the last couple of years. Black Star Pub & Brewery.

Austin has already birthed more than one worker-owned cooperative business in recent years. Black Star Co-Op Pub & Brewery opened doors in the summer of 2010, with a large banner outside that reads "Community-Owned Beer." A consumer cooperative (owned by the community it serves) and also a worker-coop (run by its employees), Black Star is attracting a full house of business seven days a week. And the byproducts their brewery produces? They make great dog biscuits! Sold at the pub and at farmers markets and stores around town—green and delicious products for people and their pets.

Red Rabbit Cooperative BakeryRed Rabbit Cooperative Bakery has launched this year and is making donuts with local and organic ingredients. Their donuts also happen to be vegan, but the target audience includes meat and dairy eaters, since anyone can enjoy a good donut. The founding women of Red Rabbit used to work at a major grocery store chain bakery. They decided to take their skill set elsewhere, and make decisions collectively, so as to be truly appreciated as workers and owners. They started using all-natural, vegan, locally and organically derived ingredients, and using sustainable, environmentally friendly practices to create delicious donuts now being distributed all around town. Their demand is growing, and they are in the process of opening their own storefront, a green, worker-owned bakeshop.

One of the most beautiful things about building the movement for worker-owned businesses is that cooperatives, on principle, work to support each other. While Red Rabbit started small, with donuts, they are expanding to breads and other goods, and now sell sandwich loaves to Black Star Co-op Pub & Brewery as the Pub's menu expands. Black Star also collaborates with Third Coast Workers for Cooperation, an organization helping to develop green, worker-owned business and educating the community about the cooperative movement.

Black Star helps the organization out in fundraising initiatives, so that TCWC can continue to offer free and low-cost assistance to emerging worker coops. All three organizations strive to make every element of the work green, local, and sustainable. And economically, a local support system offers more sustainability than the disconnected, global, corporate alternative. Much like the cradle-to-cradle ideology protects our natural resources, keeping our money in a cyclical change of hands that stays in our community and promotes justice and sustainability, is the way we will change the world, one town at a time.

The most exciting thing about discussing this work right now, is that more folks are realizing that this model can apply to their situations. Again, skilled people, underemployed, who know these businesses, are the perfect candidates to get together and organize their collective skills into local, economic power. It could be a valet company, a restaurant, a bike rental business, a car body shop, a construction team, insulation team, house-cleaning cooperative. The possibilities are endless, and in a town like Austin where the service industry employs a huge sector of our population, the possibilities stand to be lucrative.

Without getting too carried away, we must dare to dream up a new reality. Reviewing the disappointments of national news can only get us so far, but if we can immerse ourselves into transforming local business, then we can address movement building from a much more inclusive and meaningful place. When our communities are empowered by belonging to a movement that they see is growing with success, then we will be even more ready to plunge into the national dialogue. But this time, we will be empowered by our own local successes.

To Stop Corruption, Fight the Power, Not the People

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and in a world where the gap between the powerful and powerless grows wider each day, corruption in political and economic institutions spreads much faster than shame.

Political power is abused wherever it exists—with scandals ranging from political graft in India to white collar crime on Wall Street to bribery of government regulators in China. Nonetheless, some communities seem especially vulnerable to the cycle of corruption, repression and impunity. And lately, we’ve seen many of them getting fed up with living under regimes that have lost legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Corruption has been one of the major issues driving the unrest across the Middle East and North Africa, and it has catalyzed a Gandhi-esque movement in the streets of New Delhi.

Indian activist Anna Hazare has inspired huge demonstrations in support of his hunger strike to promote a strict, controversial anti-corruption measure known as the Jan Lokpal bill. The government’s recent crackdown on Hazare only steeled protesters’ resolve under the slogan “India is Anna, Anna is India.”

Yet not all have been swept up in Hazare fever. Author and activist Arundhati Roy boldly challenged the public framing of the corruption issue, arguing it has been whitewashed by a bourgeois, nationalistic political class.In a commentary in The Hindu, she describes the obsession with the Lokpal bill, which would institute a “draconian” bureaucracy to monitor officials, as a well-managed charade, designed to absorb popular grievances into a more palatable but no less hierarchical concept of “accountability”:
Is corruption just a matter of legality, of financial irregularity and bribery, or is it the currency of a social transaction in an egregiously unequal society, in which power continues to be concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller minority? Imagine, for example, a city of shopping malls, on whose streets hawking has been banned. A hawker pays the local beat cop and the man from the municipality a small bribe to break the law and sell her wares to those who cannot afford the prices in the malls. Is that such a terrible thing? In future will she have to pay the Lokpal representative too? Does the solution to the problems faced by ordinary people lie in addressing the structural inequality, or in creating yet another power structure that people will have to defer to?
Rukshana Nanayakkara, senior programme coordinator for South Asia with the watchdog group Transparency International, told Colorlines that although the Indian and Arab uprisings may voice the outrage of citizens who feel “helpless and hopeless” about their rulers, their protests won’t necessarily articulate a solution:
While it is an important task to highlight corruption issues or to drive a grassroots movement based on this to overcome barriers to bring change, the real impact would lie within systemic changes and sustained ethical environments.
We can agree that corruption is bad, but can’t agree on what corruption really is. And when those who already have power are allowed to define and regulate corrupt practices, they’re empowered to permit the most dangerous form of impunity—the kind that is ingrained in the very edifice of the state.

Corruption Near and Far
Corruption may be a universal scourge, but media portrayals and civil society surveys suggest that the problem is especially acute in the Global South, which in turn invites facile “cultural” explanations for greed and graft (pointing to, say, gift-giving traditions or inborn backwardness and tribalism of sub-Saharan Africa).

Yet North and South are both plagued by breakdowns of institutional integrity. The banking collapse and everyday machinations of government reveal that the malaise reaches up to the highest offices in Washington. Indeed, much of the dirty money that floods into the Global South trickles down from above, according to a Transparency International paper:
The North also carries part of the responsibility for the situation in the South due to its role as the bribe-payer. After all, it is largely Northern corporate interests that supply the bribe payments. Until recently, governments of the North not only tolerated these corrupt practices, but they even rewarded them with tax deductibility.
The public’s mental map of official immorality around the world reflects political blindspots: we tend to indict obvious crimes without interrogating structures and historical inequities.
“Corruption in the Global South is much talked about as it is part of day-to-day lives of people, as opposed to grand level corruption, which is normally opaque and harder to uncover,” Nanayakkara noted. At the same time, Transparency International says public perceptions of corruption are rising in affluent countries, in part due to the financial crisis.

But official transgressions do cut especially deep in impoverished communities, where rules are slackened to attract private investment or “development aid.” In the Haiti earthquake, for example, Transparency International observed that the extreme death toll could be traced in part to “alleged corruption in the construction of public buildings, including schools and hospitals.” And in the aftermath, suspicions of profiteering continue to swirl around the reconstruction process, now being directed by a shaky national government and the corporate-friendly coffers of the Haiti Interim Recovery Commission.

Environmental disasters can aggravate government malfeasance. Activists warn that policy responses to climate change may create unprecedented opportunities for exploitation and profiteering, particularly in much-hyped development projects for green energy and forest preservation.

The idea of corruption as culturally endemic offers convenient justification for outside intervention in poor countries. In an analysis of public myths about corruption, development scholars Ed Brown, Jon Cloke and Mohammad Sohail argued, “rather than seeing corruption as a complex socio-political phenomenon linked to global processes and specific national cultural and political economies, the issue is often reduced to a kind of political backwardness which needs ‘treatment.’ ”

The potential side effects of this medicine have manifested in neoliberal financial interventions like the IMF restructuring plans that pauperized Haiti and stoked chaos in Greece. The authors point out that so-called “anti-corruption programmes” imposed by free-market experts sometimes aggravate economic damage and ironically end up reaffirming stereotypes of poor countries as innately incompetent.

Symptoms and Causes
Sometimes the popular fixation on officials’ ethical transgressions distracts from the political malaise of which they are a symptom. And political elites are wise to this. In the U.S., the right evokes the canard of “waste, fraud and abuse” to militate against any form of income redistribution by blaming the economic hardship that “deserving” citizens face on imaginary “welfare queens,” patients who use too much Medicaid, civil servants collecting extra disability pay, and other social parasites.

Is corruption just the cost of doing business in a society that traffics in injustice? A recent public opinion study suggests people’s lack of trust in government institutions isn’t just tied to perceptions of official malfeasance, but the degree of social inequality they experience, along with the perceived failure of policymakers to address it.

The rebellions unfolding in North Africa, the Middle East and India reflect righteous resentment at rulers who have made careers out of betraying public trust. Of course, ultimately, Indian officials may fail again to police themselves, and the Arab Spring uprisings may be hijacked by new political orders that just rebrand old patterns of tyranny and kleptocracy. Whatever emerges from the unrest, fundamental inequalities will still reign, as long as entrenched hierarchies remain intact and governance hinges on tiers of privilege.

Our disgust with rotten politicians and Wall Street kingpins is in part anger at their impunity, but maybe there’s a streak of latent jealousy, a dog-eat-doggedness that pervades any competitive capitalist society. Still, even if humans are hard wired to exploit, we’re also hard wired to keep trying to harness power, however naïvely we deploy legislation and revolutionary rhetoric. In the debate over fixing crooked leaders, the definition of corruption often leaves out the root: not the people who misuse authority, but an excess of power itself.

The Lewis Powell Memo - Corporate Blueprint to Dominate Democracy

Forty years ago this week, on August 23, 1971, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., an attorney from Richmond, Virginia, drafted a confidential memorandum for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that describes a strategy for the corporate takeover of the dominant public institutions of American society.

Powell and his friend Eugene Sydnor, then-chairman of the Chamber’s education committee, believed the Chamber had to transform itself from a passive business group into a powerful political force capable of taking on what Powell described as a major ongoing “attack on the American free enterprise system.”

An astute observer of the business community and broader social trends, Powell was a former president of the American Bar Association and a board member of tobacco giant Philip Morris and other companies. In his memo, he detailed a series of possible “avenues of action” that the Chamber and the broader business community should take in response to fierce criticism in the media, campus-based protests, and new consumer and environmental laws.

Environmental awareness and pressure on corporate polluters had reached a new peak in the months before the Powell memo was written. In January 1970, President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act, which formally recognized the environment’s importance by establishing the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Massive Earth Day events took place all over the country just a few months later and by early July, Nixon signed an executive order that created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Tough new amendments to the Clean Air Act followed in December 1970 and by April 1971, EPA announced the first air pollution standards. Lead paint was soon regulated for the first time, and the awareness of the impacts of pesticides and other pollutants-- made famous by Rachel Carson in her 1962 book, Silent Spring – was recognized when DDT was finally banned for agricultural use in 1972.

The overall tone of Powell’s memo reflected a widespread sense of crisis among elites in the business and political communities. “No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack,” he suggested, adding that the attacks were not coming just from a few “extremists of the left,” but also – and most alarmingly -- from “perfectly respectable elements of society,” including leading intellectuals, the media, and politicians.

To meet the challenge, business leaders would have to first recognize the severity of the crisis, and begin marshalling their resources to influence prominent institutions of public opinion and political power -- especially the universities, the media and the courts. The memo emphasized the importance of education, values, and movement-building.

Corporations had to reshape the political debate, organize speakers’ bureaus and keep television programs under “constant surveillance.” Most importantly, business needed to recognize that political power must be “assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination – without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.”

Powell emphasized the importance of strengthening institutions like the U.S. Chamber -- which represented the interests of the broader business community, and therefore key to creating a united front. While individual corporations could represent their interests more aggressively, the responsibility of conducting an enduring campaign would necessarily fall upon the Chamber and allied foundations. Since business executives had “little stomach for hard-nosed contest with their critics” and “little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate,” it was important to create new think tanks, legal foundations, front groups and other organizations. The ability to align such groups into a united front would only come about through “careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and united organizations.”

Before he was appointed by Richard Nixon to the U.S. Supreme Court Powell circulated his call for a business crusade not only to the Chamber, but also to executives at corporations including General Motors. The memo did not become available to the public until after Powell’s confirmation to the Court, when it was leaked to Jack Anderson, a syndicated columnist and investigative reporter, who cited it as reason to doubt Powell's legal objectivity.

Anderson’s report spread business leaders’ interest in the memo even further. Soon thereafter, the Chamber’s board of directors formed a task force of 40 business executives (from U.S. Steel, GE, ABC, GM, CBS, 3M, Phillips Petroleum, Amway and numerous other companies) to review Powell’s memo and draft a list of specific proposals to “improve understanding of business and the private enterprise system,” which the board adopted on November 8, 1973.

Historian Kim Phillips-Fein describes how “many who read the memo cited it afterward as inspiration for their political choices.” In fact, Powell’s Memo is widely credited for having helped catalyze a new business activist movement, with numerous conservative family and corporate foundations (e.g. Coors, Olin, Bradley, Scaife, Koch and others) thereafter creating and sustaining powerful new voices to help push the corporate agenda, including the Business Roundtable (1972), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC - 1973), Heritage Foundation (1973), the Cato Institute (1977), the Manhattan Institute (1978), Citizens for a Sound Economy (1984 - now Americans for Prosperity), Accuracy in Academe (1985), and others.

Because it signaled the beginning of a major shift in American business culture, political power and law, the Powell memo essentially marks the beginning of the business community’s multi-decade collective takeover of the most important institutions of public opinion and democratic decision-making. At the very least, it is the first place where this broad agenda was compiled in one document.

That shift continues today, with corporate influence over policy and politics reaching unprecedented new dimensions. The decades-long drive to rethink legal doctrines and ultimately strike down the edifice of campaign finance laws – breaking radical new ground with the Roberts Court’s decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission – continues apace.

Although many new voices have emerged in the 40 years since it circulated Powell’s memo, the U.S. Chamber has expanded its leadership position within the corporate power movement, leading dozens of judicial, legislative and regulatory fights each year. Measured in terms of money spent, the Chamber is by far the most powerful lobby in Washington, DC, spending $770.6 million since 1998, over three times the amount spent by General Electric, the second-largest spender. At the same time, the Chamber has reinforced its lobbying power by becoming one of the largest conduits of election-related “independent expenditures,” spending over $32.8 million on Federal elections in 2010. The Chamber sponsors the Institute for Legal Reform, which has spearheaded the campaign for tort “reform,” making it more difficult for average people who have been injured, assaulted, or harmed to sue the responsible corporations. Along with well over a dozen legal foundations, the Chamber has also helped shape the powerful “business civil liberties” movement that has been a driving force behind the Citizens United decision and other judicial actions that have handcuffed regulators and prevented Congress from putting common-sense checks on corporate power.

Cited Sources:
Jack Anderson, Washington Report, Volume 12, No. 24, November 26, 1973. Available at:

Kim Phillips-Fein, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009

Jeff Krehely, Meaghan House and Emily Kernan, “Axis of Ideology: Conservative Foundations and Policy,” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 2004

Michael Waldman, Executive Director of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law cites the Powell memo as the inspiration for the ideological war waged on behalf of the “free market” approach to the First Amendment that has elevated the rights of corporate speakers. See Waldman’s introduction to “Money, Politics and the Constitution: Beyond Citizens United," by Monica Youn (ed.), New York: Century Foundation Press, 2011

Additional References:

Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Papers, Powell Archives, Washington and Lee University School of Law. More information available at:

Nan Aron, “Justice for Sale: Shortchanging The Public Interest for Private Gain.” Washington, DC: Alliance for Justice, 1993

Oliver A. Houck, “With Charity for All.” New Haven, CT: Yale Law Journal, Volume 93, No. 8, July 1984.

$42 Million From Seven Foundations Helped Fuel The Rise Of Islamophobia In America

(Honk if you are the least bit surprised by this. It's strangely quiet...--jef)

by Faiz Shakir

Following a six-month long investigative research project, the Center for American Progress released a 130-page report today which reveals that more than $42 million from seven foundations over the past decade have helped fan the flames of anti-Muslim hate in America. The authors — Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matt Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and myself — worked to expose the Islamophobia network in depth, name the major players, connect the dots, and trace the genesis of anti-Muslim propaganda.

The report, titled “Fear Inc.: The Roots Of the Islamophobia Network In America,” lifts the veil behind the hate, follows the money, and identifies the names of foundations who have given money, how much they have given, and who they have given to:

Donors Capital Fund $20,768,600 Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), Middle East Forum (MEF), Clarion Fund (Clarion), David Horowitz Freedom Center (Horowitz)
Richard Scaife foundations $7,875,000 Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation (CTSERF), Center for Security Policy (CSP), Horowitz
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $5,370,000 MEF, CSP, Horowitz
Russell Berrie Foundation $3,109,016 IPT, CTSERF, MEF
Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund $2,818,229 IPT,CTSERF, MEF, CSP, Clarion, Horowitz
Fairbook Foundation $1,498,450 IPT, MEF, CSP, Jihad Watch, Horowitz, American Congress for Truth
Newton and Rochelle Becker foundations $1,136,000 IPT, CTSERF, MEF, CSP, Clarion, Horowitz, American Congress for Truth
Total $42,575,295

The money has flowed into the hands of five key “experts” and “scholars” who comprise the central nervous system of anti-Muslim propaganda:
FRANK GAFFNEY, Center for Security Policy – “A mosque that is used to promote a seditious program, which is what Sharia is…that is not a protected religious practice, that is in fact sedition.” [Source]
DAVID YERUSHALMI, Society of Americans for National Existence: “Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization…the Muslim peoples, those committed to Islam as we know it today, are our enemies.” [Source]
DANIEL PIPES, Middle East Forum: “All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.” [Source]
ROBERT SPENCER, Jihad Watch: “Of course, as I have pointed out many times, traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful. It is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.” [Source]
STEVEN EMERSON, Investigative Project on Terrorism: “One of the world’s great religions — which has more than 1.4 billion adherents — somehow sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine.” [Source]
These five “scholars” are assisted in their outreach efforts by Brigitte Gabriel (founder, ACT! for America), Pamela Geller (co-founder, Stop Islamization of America), and David Horowitz (supporter of Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch). As the report details, information is then disseminated through conservative organizations like the Eagle Forum, the religious right, Fox News, and politicians such as Allen West and Newt Gingrich.

Over the past few years, the Islamophobia network (the funders, scholars, grassroots activists, media amplifiers, and political validators) have worked hard to push narratives that Obama might be a Muslim, that mosques are incubators of radicalization, and that “radical Islam” has infiltrated all aspects of American society — including the conservative movement.

To explain how the Islamophobia network operates, we’ve produced this video to show just one example of how they have mainstreamed the baseless and unfounded fear that Sharia may soon replace American laws:

Click here to read the full report.

Reading From Wall Street’s Script

“The economy is now mired in an anemic balance-sheet recovery in which many consumers and businesses continue to curtail their spending relative to their income, increase their saving and reduce their debt even though interest rates are near zero. And the process of de-leveraging is only beginning.”
“Recovering From a Balance-Sheet Recession”, Laura D’Andrea Tyson, New York Times
Friday Morning: Just hours before Fed chairman Ben Bernanke delivered his much-anticipated speech on the state of the economy, 2nd Quarter GDP was revised down to 1.0 percent, lower than analysts expectations. The world’s biggest economy is now growing at less than 1 percent for the first 6 months of 2011, not nearly enough to produce jobs for the new entrants into the workforce or to narrow the gaping output gap which will cost trillions in lost production.

GDP –which has been progressively sliding since President Barack Obama’s $787 fiscal stimulus (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) wound down in late 2010–is now dependent on organic growth in consumer demand. But demand remains weak because consumers and households are still recovering from the $11 trillion that was shaved from their balance sheets following the financial meltdown of ’08. Experts believe that household delveraging will go on for years ahead leading to long-term high unemployment, slow growth and widespread economic stagnation. Bernanke is expected to go over many of these things today in his speech. He’ll also discuss the limits of monetary policy absent a commitment from Congress and the White House to add a fiscal component.

It is now generally accepted that the Fed’s 2nd round of Quantitative Easing (QE2) failed to achieve its objectives. While the bond buying program did raise inflation expectations short-term and buoy stock prices, thus, enhancing the “wealth effect”; it also boosted gas and food prices which turned out to be a drag on consumer spending and sentiment. All the equities gains achieved through Bernanke’s misguided program, have long-since been wiped out by increased volatility, dissipating demand, and deepening pessimism. The US economy is now dead-in-the-water. The Fed’s unconventional experiments have only added to the growing sense of malaise.

This is from a speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
“Our basic trouble was not an insufficiency of capital. It was an insufficient distribution of buying power coupled with an over-sufficient speculation in production. While wages rose in many of our industries, they did not as a whole rise proportionately to the reward to capital, and at the same time the purchasing power of other great groups of our population was permitted to shrink. We accumulated such a superabundance of capital that our great bankers were vying with each other, some of them employing questionable methods, in their efforts to lend this capital at home and abroad. I believe that we are at the threshold of a fundamental change in our popular economic thought, that in the future we are going to think less about the producer and more about the consumer. Do what we may have to do to inject life into our ailing economic order, we cannot make it endure for long unless we can bring about a wiser, more equitable distribution of the national income.”
(“FDR Explains the Crisis: Why it feels like 1932″ Pam Martens, CounterPunch)
Big business is now sitting on nearly $2 trillion with no profitable outlets for investment. Why?
Because unemployment is high, wages are flat, and consumers are still digging out from the financial crisis. So, demand remains weak. As FDR states; it has nothing to do with “an insufficiency of capital”. There’s plenty of money around; it’s just in all the wrong places. For the economy to function at maximum efficiency, there has to be a balance between supply and demand, which means that gross inequality inhibits the performance of the economy.

This is not a value judgment or an appeal for socialist government. It is a merely an acknowledgement of how the system works. If consumers don’t have enough money to spend–and GDP is 70% consumer spending–then the economy will tank. This is science not philosophy.

This is why Bernanke’s bond buying splurge was doomed from the get-go, because monetary policy always involves creating incentives for spending via an ever-weakening dollar. Now we know that Keynes was right, that there are times when people will not spend no matter how cheap money is. That’s when fiscal policy becomes necessary, when the only way to maintain economic activity is to put money into the pockets of the people who will spend it. Businesses won’t spend, because there’s nothing to invest in when people are broke; there’s no demand for their products. And, this condition can last for a very long time, because the market is not self-equilibriating, that’s another myth. If the market had the capacity to rebalance  itself, than unemployment would not still be hovering at 9 percent 3 years after Lehman Brothers collapsed. But markets do not rebalance. They are unthinking systems that respond to input, that’s all.

So, unemployment can stay high indefinitely, which is another thing that Keynes figured out. Here’s a quote from Keynes that illustrates his thinking on the matter:
“The Conservative belief that there is some law of nature which prevents men from being employed, that it is ‘rash’ to employ men, and that it is financially ‘sound’ to maintain a tenth of the population in idleness for an indefinite period, is crazily improbable – the sort of thing which no man could believe who had not had his head fuddled with nonsense for years and years. The objections which are raised are mostly not the objections of experience or of practical men. They are based on highly abstract theories – venerable, academic inventions, half misunderstood by those who are applying them today, and based on assumptions which are contrary to the facts…Our main task, therefore, will be to confirm the reader’s instinct that what seems sensible is sensible, and what seems nonsense is nonsense.”
(John Maynard Keynes)
Doesn’t it seem like Keynes is talking about Barack Obama? After all, isn’t Obama one of those men who has based his economic policy “on highly abstract theories… on assumptions which are contrary to the facts…”  If not, then how do we explain why he’s put “deficit reduction” above unemployment? As we’ve seen, unemployment is key to increasing demand, beefing up GDP, and putting money in the hands of people who will spend it. But Obama has given deficit reduction priority. Why?

It’s because Obama is reading from a script that was written by Wall Street. That’s why the recovery has failed and why 70 percent of the American people now feel the country is headed in the “wrong direction”, because deficit reduction doesn’t address the central problem, the unemployment crisis. In fact, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (which is the so-called budget ceiling agreement) effectively ties Obama’s hands as far as initiating fiscal stimulus bills that would lower unemployment and put the economy back on track. The president is now legally bound to keep the economy in a protracted state of depression. “Hurrah” for the progressive executive who achieved in just 3 years what the farthest-right wing loony never could hoped for, the statutory strangulation of state. Booyah, Obama.
“4 more years! 4 more years!…”

Here’s a clip from someone who knows a thing-or-two about how the economy actually works. This is from an article by economist James Galbraith:
“…Foggy rhetoric about “burdens” that will “fall on our children and grandchildren” sets the tone of discussion….But there isn’t, in fact, a “long-term deficit problem.” So long as interest rates stay below the growth rate, as they are, debt-to-GDP levels eventually stabilize and even decline. The notion that there is a big problem is pure propaganda based on a pseudo-debate….
The entire object of this propaganda campaign is to cripple government—including regulation and the courts—and to roll back Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”
(“Stop Panicking About Our Long-Term Deficit problem. We don’t have one”, James Galbraith, Truthout)
Right on. “Pure propaganda” promoted by an unprincipled phony who’d rather kowtow to the Wall Street oligarchy than lift a finger for the poor slob standing in an unemployment line.
“Yer doin’ a heckuva job, Barry!”

Obama uses the fictitious “debt crisis” the same way that George W Bush used the “War on Terror”, as a public relations ploy to undermine the institutions that protect the old, the sick, and the elderly, Wall Street’s “last frontier” for exploitation.

And, here’s more about the faux debt crisis from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich:
“Every time you hear an American politician analogize the nation’s budget to a family budget (as, sadly, President Obama has done), you should know the politician is not telling the truth. The truth is just the opposite. Our national budget can and should counteract the shrinkage of family budgets by running larger deficits when families cannot….
Despite what Standard & Poor’s says… our current crisis is jobs, wages, and growth. We do not now have a debt crisis.”
(“Slouching Toward a Double Dip, For No Good Reason”,  Robert Reich’s blog)
The debt crisis is a PR scam designed to foreclose on Progressive Era reforms that lifted working people from squalor and provided them with a decent living. Now those policies are under-fire from financial elites who want to turn back the clock, crush the middle class, and return us all to the Dark Ages.

And President Narcissus is leading the charge.