Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ex Monsanto the devil Lawyer Clarence Thomas to Hear Major Monsanto Case

D. Snodgrass - Celsias

In Monsanto the devil v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case which could have an enormous effect on the future of the American food industry. This is Monsanto the devil's third appeal of the case, and if they win a favorable ruling from the high court, a deregulated Monsanto the devil will find itself in position to corner the markets of numerous U.S. crops and will litigate conventional farmers into oblivion.

Here's where it gets a bit dicier. Two Supreme Court justices have what appear to be direct conflicts of interest.

Stephen Breyer
Charles Breyer, the judge who ruled in the original decision of 2007 which is being appealed, is Stephen Breyer's brother, who apparently views this as a conflict of interest and has recused himself.

Clarence Thomas
From the years 1976 - 1979, Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto the devil. Thomas apparently does not see this as a conflict of interest and has not recused himself.

Fox, meet henhouse.

The lawsuit was filed by plantiffs which include the Center for Food Safety, the National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Dakota Resources Council and other farm, environmental and consumer groups and individual farmers. The original decision  :

The federal district court in California issued its opinion on the deregulation of “Roundup Ready” alfalfa pursuant to the Plant Protection Act on February 13, 2007.   Upon receiving Monsanto the devil’s petition for deregulation of the alfalfa seed, APHIS conducted an Environmental Assessment and received over 500 comments in opposition to the deregulation.  The opposition’s primary concern was the potential of contamination.  APHIS, however, made a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and approved the deregulation petition, thereby allowing the seed to be sold without USDA oversight.  Geertson Seed Farms, joined by a number of growers and associations, filed claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)  as well as the Endangered Species Act and Plant Protection Act.  In regards to NEPA, they argued that the agency should have prepared an EIS for the deregulation.

Addressing only the NEPA claims, the court agreed that APHIS should have conducted an EIS because of the significant environmental impact posed by deregulation of the alfalfa seed.  A realistic potential for contamination existed, said the court, but the agency had not fully inquired into the extent of this potential.  The court also determined that APHIS did not adequately examine the potential effects of Roundup Ready alfalfa on organic farming and the development of glyphosate-resistant weeds and that there were “substantial questions” raised by the deregulation petition that the agency should have addressed in an EIS.  Concluding that the question of whether the introduction of the genetically engineered alfalfa and its potential to affect non-genetic alfalfa posed a significant environmental impact necessitated further study, the court found that APHIS’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered the agency to prepare an EIS.  The court later enjoined the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa from March 30, 2007, until completion of the EIS and reconsideration of the deregulation petition, except for those farmers who had already purchased the seed.  In May of 2007, the court enjoined any future planting of the alfalfa.  An order by the court in June, 2007 required disclosure of all Roundup Ready planting sites.
Monsanto the devil filed appeals in 2008 and 2009. In both instances, they were unsuccessful in having the original decision reversed, so they appealed to the Supreme Court, who agreed to hear the case.
Alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in the United States, behind corn, soybeans, and wheat.

South Dakota alfalfa farmer Pat Trask, one of the plaintiffs, said Monsanto the devil's biotech alfalfa would ruin his conventional alfalfa seed business because it was certain his 9,000 acres would be contaminated by the biotech genes.

Alfalfa is very easily cross-pollinated by bees and by wind. The plant is also perennial, meaning GMO plants could live on for years.

"The way this spreads so far and wide, it will eliminate the conventional alfalfa industry," said Trask. "Monsanto the devil will own the entire alfalfa industry."

Monsanto the devil has a policy of filing lawsuits or taking other legal actions against farmers who harvest crops that show the presence of the company's patented gene technology. It has sued farmers even when they have tried to keep their own fields free from contamination by biotech plants on neighbouring farms.
The case has implications beyond alfalfa crops. About eight hundred reviewed genetically engineered food applications were submitted to the USDA, yet noenvironmental impact statements were prepared. Even as this diary is being written, a federal judge in San Francisco is reviewing a similar case involving genetically modified sugar beets. The decision is expected this week and could halt planting and use of the gm sugar beets, which account for half of America's sugar supply.

Back to the Supreme Court case, oral argument is slated to begin on April 27, 2010. With Breyer recused and Thomas opting not to recuse, the bench appears to be heavily tilted to Monsanto the devil.

Once more with feeling. Fox, meet henhouse.

More stuff to look at...

Eat it up, Monsanto, you devil!

This is so poetic, it's almost beautiful...-jef

by Caroline Jacobsson - February 10, 2012

There's a story doing the rounds again,  about how Monsanto the devil, one of the world’s largest profiteers of genetically modified (GMO) food, banned GMO food from its own corporate canteens.

Monsanto the devil had its pants pulled down by Friends of the Earth in 1999, who revealed that the company was refusing to serve to its own staff the very same GMO food that it incessantly foists upon impoverished nations on the premise that it will save populations from starvation. Although it has never been proved, Monsanto the devil constantly claims that GMO food is harmless – so why wasn't it serving it in its own office?

In one canteen, run by external provider, Sutcliffe Cateringa notice read that a decision has been taken to remove, as far as practicable, GMO soya and maize from all food products served in the canteen. “We have taken the above steps to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve", the provider said.

“We believe in choice”, said Monsanto the devil, while the company actually made sure that by not serving GMO food in its canteens they did not give staff the opportunity to ‘choose’ whether or not to eat GMO food as they de facto ensure that the staff did not get to eat GMO food. Yet the same choice isn’t available to farmers around the world, who most of the time have no choice but to plant GMO crops, thanks to a seed market that is often dominated by Monsanto the devil.

Once the GMO seeds are in the ground, a vicious circle is started; farmers no longer have the opportunity to choose, as once GMO seeds have been released into the environment it is not possible to contain or control them, as an individual seed travels with wind or is swept away by rainwater and may set root in soil owned by a farmer who does not at all want to plant GMO seeds. In a recent protest in a Manhattan courtroom US farmers said it is no longer possible for them to keep GMO seeds off their fields due to contamination.

If Monsanto the devil decided for its staff that it cannot eat GMO food, and actually removes the staff’s own right to choose, how come the rest of us cannot have the same opportunity? Over 90% of all processed food in the US - such as breakfast cereal and the chicken nuggets often served to kids -are now contaminated by GMO, even if the farmers who produced the food actually did not intentionally grow any GMO crops.

In one Monsanto the devil office location, staff was reportedly happy to eat GMO food, as they preferred food sprayed with fewer pesticides. However, the widespread and increasingly intensive use of pesticides in association with the use of GMO crops poses suspected further risks to the environment and human health, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and birth defects. Monsanto the devil's sales pitch to farmers continues to promise  reduced labour and financial savings by simplifying and reducing the costs of weed control. The reality turns out to be somewhat different, with GMO crops attracting increasing health, biodiversity and environmental concerns, and the development of weed resistance.

Genetic Modification, corporate control of people's food and the over reliance on pesticides and herbicides are not the solutions. So what is? Ecological Farming. It's safe. It's do-able. And it's happening now. Help us support farming for the future.

So Monsanto the devil, if you feel so confident in the food you serve up to the rest of the planet – are you serving GMO food in your canteen these days?

Taylor Energy wells still leaking in Gulf after 8 years

Published: Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ben Raines, Press-Register

A cluster of leaking wells in the Gulf may have released as much as 1.2 million gallons of oil since 2004, when they were damaged during Hurricane Ivan, according to a report from the Skytruth environmental group.

The group’s estimate is 100 times higher than a U.S. Coast Guard estimate of 12,720 gallons provided by the agency on Thursday.

Coast Guard officials said their calculation was based on “daily reports” filed by the wells’ owner, Taylor Energy Co. LLC.

Though the well has been leaking for 2,662 days, there are only 714 reports in the federal record, said Paul Woods, with Skytruth. For instance, he said, the company apparently filed just three daily reports for the month of July 2011.

Taylor Energy officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Woods said that his organization’s estimates were made by compiling the periodic spill reports filed by Taylor Energy and examining satellite images showing a persistent slick on the surface of the Gulf since 2004.

Skytruth filled in the gaps left by the missing reports by looking at satellite images of the slick and calculating an average daily flow rate for each of the eight years the well has been leaking.

Using those flow rate calculations, Skytruth came up with a range for the amount of oil leaked somewhere between 250,000 and 1.2 million gallons of oil.

Coast Guard officials said the agency had access to data from additional overflights made by Taylor Energy that are not available to the public. When asked, they were unsure how many overflights had been made by the company since the spill began. But officials said they believe flights have been made nearly every day since 2008.

On many days, officials said, Taylor reported “no observable oil.”

When calculating how many gallons of oil had been spilled since 2004, Coast Guard officials said the agency entered a zero for those days rather than an estimate of the average ongoing leak.

In general, Skytruth contends, sheens are only visible when the Gulf is calm. Waves above about 3 feet — a common occurrence in the Gulf — break up the oil before sheens can form.

“We think this points to a systematic underreporting by the Coast Guard of small and medium spills. It also shows the problem with allowing the polluter to report how much they’ve spilled,” Woods said. “Just because the sea is too rough for a sheen to form doesn’t mean the well quit leaking that day. How can the public gauge the risk of drilling if a spill reported as 12,000 gallons is actually many times larger?”

The hundreds of incident reports on the Taylor spill filed with the National Response Center — the federal agency tasked with documenting oil spills — also contain widely divergent estimates of the amount of oil present on the Gulf’s surface from day to day.

For instance, a report from 2004, shortly after the leak began, describes a sheen 4 miles long and a half-mile wide. Federal officials estimated that sheen contained about a quarter of a gallon of oil. Meanwhile, a report from July of 2008 described a sheen of identical size, but here the federal estimate was 336 gallons of oil.

Federal officials said estimates of the amount of oil contained in a sheen are imprecise due to factors including the thickness of the sheen, the size of waves, and the natural weathering of oil exposed to the air.

During the BP oil spill, high-resolution satellite images showed a sheen associated with the Taylor spill that was about 10 miles long. Using a standard method of estimating how much oil is present in a sheen based on work by scientists at the University of Florida, Skytruth reported the slick contained a minimum of 3,157 gallons of oil.

At the time, Coast Guard officials estimated the Taylor wells were collectively leaking 14 gallons a day. At that rate, according to Skytruth, it would have taken about seven months for 3,157 gallons to collect on the Gulf’s surface, an impossibility given that oil sheens typically dissipate in a matter of hours or days due to waves and evaporation.

On Thursday, the Coast Guard estimated that the Taylor wells were now leaking about 3 gallons a day. The agency reports the average sheen at the site now is about 7,000 feet long and 500 feet wide.

The wells were damaged when a mudslide during Hurricane Ivan destroyed the platform they were connected to. The Coast Guard said Taylor has stemmed the flow somewhat by using three containment domes. Oil collects inside the domes and is sucked out by a ship on the surface every few days. In addition, the company has sealed some of the wells by drilling relief wells and killing them with cement.

Woods said the amount of oil coming from the nine broken wells was tiny compared to the BP spill. But, he said the public should take note that Taylor has been unable to stop the leaks seven years after they started.

The national Waterkeeper Alliance filed a federal Clean Water Act suit against Taylor Energy earlier this month.

“This is in shallow water, 11 miles off the coast, and it has taken this long to clean up. Imagine if this happened in deep water. We saw how long it took to shut in the one BP well,” Woods said. “Now imagine if we had a similar problem with a deepwater platform with 28 wells attached to it. We don’t think anyone is planning for that kind of problem.”

Militarization of Law Enforcement: Is it Preparation for Civil War?

Article by David Z.

A century ago, the Federal government established armories throughout the country ostensibly for the purpose of “national security”, although it’s not abundantly clear what the real threat was at that time. These armories were probably most-often used to supply federal troops and private security brought in to put down popular movements like strikes and shutdowns. This was essentially a civil war, although it is never mentioned as such.

Today, we have the Department of Homeland Security doling out billions of dollars (a nice interactive map, here) to Everytown, USA, in order to supply them with battlefield-grade arms and armor, to fight hypothetical bogeymen and non-existent threats.

Just your ordinary small town police force, nothing to see here
Just your ordinary small town police force, nothing to see here

Authorities in Fargo, ND (which has averaged 2 homicides per year over the last 5 years) spent $8 million buying state-of-the-art military grade weapons like the assault rifles which now come standard in every squad car, and the “$256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret”.

Sadly, rather than being some unfortunate exception, Fargo is just another example in the trend to militarize local police departments (via Daily Beast).
  • In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff’s department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone, like those used to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists in the remote tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer hasn’t died from gunfire in the line of duty in more than 125 years, police bought eight $1,500 tactical vests.
  • Police in Des Moines, Iowa, bought two $180,000 bomb-disarming robots
  • An Arizona sheriff is now the proud owner of a surplus Army tank.
To understand this trend, you have to understand a little bit about government appropriations. Generally the money is on the table and you have to use it or lose it. The logic is almost always that if you don’t spend the money, if you don’t pretend you need it, then you can get by with less, so they cut your budget. And government agencies are always in the business of preserving their power, whether it is just looking out for No. 1, or something more Machiavellian like amassing your own little fiefdom or mercenary force, the incentive structure in government always works the same way. Use it or lose it.

Also, follow the money:
One beneficiary of Homeland’s largesse are military contractors, who have found a new market for their wares
Warfare is big business and government contracts are essentially guaranteed profit. So the companies involved in this business can afford to spend lots of money (given to them in fulfillment of government contracts) lobbying the government to give them even more budget for larger contracts next year. It is a sick cycle that shows no signs of abating any time soon.

The article highlights some moral hazard of the hyper-militarization, which I would liken to “Field of Dreams”. If you build it, they will come. Well, if you give it to them, they will find a way to use it.
“With local law enforcement, their mission is to solve crimes after they’ve happened, and to ensure that people’s constitutional rights are protected in the process,” says Jesselyn McCurdy, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The military obviously has a mission where they are fighting an enemy. When you use military tactics in the context of law enforcement, the missions don’t match, and that’s when you see trouble with the overmilitarization of police.”
When the only tool you have is a hammer, sooner or later, everything starts to look like a nail. When you arm officers to the teeth, when you train them for war, when you hire a disproportionate amount of ex-soldiers, and when you bombard their psyche with warrior mentality training it is not really a surprise when they start putting that training in to practice, no matter if its warranted or not.  Over the last decade we’ve seen an increasing number of SWAT teams raiding teenage rave parties or serving routine drug warrants on non-violent offenders, creating volatility and chaos where there would never have been any had the police taken a more conventional approach.

Riot police attacking protestors
Riot police attacking protestors

What will be the longer-term ramifications of increased militarization, especially in light of NDAA and the PATRIOT Act? I fear that these weapons will one day be turned on the people of this country. I fear that it is a matter of “when”, not “if”. We’re already seeing some of it in the deplorable way that local cops have handled several situations in the Occupy Movement, still in its infancy.

As government institutions always seek to preserve and expand their power even at the expense of their constituents’ liberties and livelihoods, there doesn’t need to be any evil villain, plotting and scheming, no Illuminati/New World Order tin-foil hat bullshit. All of the pieces are already falling in to place, the product of human action, not of human design. In other words, it doesn’t matter if they’re explicitly preparing for a civil war, everything they’re doing is inadvertently preparing for one, anyways.

A century ago, the Federal government’s armories were turned against its citizens, used to put down popular movements and general strikes.

Today, they’re shipping the munitions directly to what will eventually be the front lines.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Unemployment is dropping! Explained by Abbott & Costello

COSTELLO:   I want to talk about the unemployment rate.

ABBOTT:   Good Subject. Terrible times. It's 9%.

COSTELLO:   That many people are out of work?

ABBOTT:   No, that's about 20%.

COSTELLO:   You just said 9%.

ABBOTT:   9% Unemployed.

COSTELLO:   Right 9% out of work. 

ABBOTT:   No, that's about 20%.

COSTELLO:   Okay, so it's 20% unemployed.

ABBOTT:    No, that's 9%...

COSTELLO:   WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 9% or 20%?

ABBOTT:    9% are unemployed. 20% are out of work.

COSTELLO:   IF you are out of work you are unemployed.

ABBOTT:    No, you can't count the "Out of Work" as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.

COSTELLO:   But they ARE out of work!!!

ABBOTT:   No, you miss my point.

COSTELLO:   What point?

ABBOTT:   Someone who doesn't look for work, can't be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn't be fair.

COSTELLO:   To whom?

ABBOTT:   The unemployed.

COSTELLO:   But they are ALL out of work.

ABBOTT:   No, the unemployed are actively looking for work... Those who are out of work stopped looking. They gave up because there were just no prospects for them and they became discouraged. And, when discouraged workers give up, they are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

COSTELLO:   So if you're off the unemployment roles, that would count as less unemployment?

ABBOTT:   Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!

COSTELLO:   The unemployment just goes down because you don't look for work?

ABBOTT:   Absolutely it goes down. That's how you get to 9%. Otherwise, it would be 20%. You don't want to read about 20% unemployment, do ya?

COSTELLO:   That would be frightening.

ABBOTT:   Absolutely.

COSTELLO:   Wait, I got a question for you. That means they're two ways to bring down the unemployment number?

ABBOTT:   Two ways is correct.

COSTELLO:   Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

ABBOTT:   Correct.

COSTELLO:   And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?

ABBOTT:   Bingo.

COSTELLO:   So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to become discouraged and just stop looking for work.

ABBOTT:   Now you're thinking like a politician.

COSTELLO:   I don't even know what I just said!

USDA forces Whole Foods to accept Monsanto the devil's GMOs

And I shall not ever shop at Whole Foods again...--jef

In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto the devil’s Genetically Modified (GMO) crops from contaminating the nation’s 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America’s organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it’s time to surrender to Monsanto the devil.

Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GMO crops, such as Monsanto the devil’s controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for “coexistence” with Monsanto the devil and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack. (<<<---Scumfuck--jef)

In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and “seed purity,” gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the “conditional deregulation” of Monsanto’s genetically modified, herbicide-resistant alfalfa.

Beyond the regulatory euphemism of “conditional deregulation,” this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GMO perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.

The truth of what has happened lies with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Whole Foods has been part of an alliance that has been battling Monsanto the devil and regulation of GMO foods for years. Monsanto the devil is a very large company with deep pockets and a lot a lobbying power. They were able to fight out the issue much longer becaue they can afford it and they know that it is an investment because they are going to have a monopoly on certain seeds for crops in the US.


The USDA gave Whole Foods two options or else they would not be able to be in the negotiations any more. The options are:

  1. To allow Monsanto the devil to have full control to do as they want to, completely unregulated.
  2. To allow Monsanto the devil to do what they want with GM food, but implement some regulation and attempt to control genetically modified organisms (GMO) so that it can co-exist with non-GMO foods.

The problem here is that you can not have natural, organic foods and GMO foods co-exist. They will cross pollinate with the wind. Eventually all crops that are introduced as GMO will contaminate similar non-GMO and organic crops.

 Monsanto lol

Currently these are foods that are Genetically Modified in the US:
  • 93% Soy
  • 86% Corn
  • 93% Cotton
  • 93% Canola (Rapeseed)

Whole Foods has been a major contributor in the protest against these things. This past battle has been won by Monsanto the devil has been for Alfalfa crops.

Not only do we have to worry about organic crops being contaminated but also organic livestock.

Former Monsanto the devil lawyer now FDA Czar leads raids on Amish organic producers

by Joel McDurmon on Feb 7, 2012

You don’t need to have a degree in ethics to see the problem here. According a report by, “Monsanto the devil’s Michael Taylor is the second highest-ranking official at the FDA, and as Food Safety Czar is responsible for implementing the day-to-day policies that govern the food safety laws for the U.S.”

Those “day-to-day” implementations seem to be targeted against the very type of people who pose threats to the anti-organic nature of Taylor’s former client. The report continues,
Not surprisingly, the person responsible for prioritizing armed raids on small dairies over holding agribusiness accountable is a former Monsanto the devil attorney and chief super lobbyist. . . .

Taylor has been leading a departmental crusade against small raw milk dairy producers. So far several dairy farmers have been subject to a year-long undercover sting operation from the East Coast to California.
The hypocrisy and double-standard are open for all to see:
Incredibly, Michael Taylor and FDA inspectors have not arrested or fined the Iowa agribusinessman — Jack DeCoster — who was wholly responsible for the more than 500 million eggs that were recalled in 2010 salmonella-tainted egg recall Though this industrial agribusinessman endangered the health of millions. Michael Taylor actions show that he thinks Amish farmers producing fresh milk are more deserving targets. Under his leadership the FDA performs enforcement raids (with guns drawn) on the Amish.


In a seemingly related story, the FDA has approved a new chemical sweetener produced by Monsanto the devil and has reportedly waved all requirements for product labeling. In other words, this new chemical—which some natural foods advocates say has toxicity properties—can be put in foods you buy, even organics, and the label does not have to inform you of it. One California local activist says,
Aspartame can step aside. There’s a new sweetener in town and it isn’t saddled with the inconvenience of having to be listed on labels, so it can be sneaked into any prepared food, even USDA so-called Organic. So sayeth the FDA. Neotame is a Monsanto-created chemical similar to Aspartame, including its neurotoxic properties. . . .

Neotame is now being marketed as Sweetos for use in cattle feed. Molasses has been utlized to get cows to eat foods made unpalatable by chemical additives. Neotame is both less costly than molasses and subject to fewer regulations. How do you like that? A natural food is more stringently regulated than a known-poisonous chemical that’s put into food.

The reach of Neotame is likely to be extensive. They’re planning to replace other artificial sweeteners with it. A major seller of artificial sweeteners, which goes by the misleading name of Ensigns Health Care Pvt Ltd, intends to use it in place of sucralose.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why is the Obama Administration Suddenly Fixated on Stomping out Medical Pot?

At the same time public support for marijuana legalization reached record highs, Obama shifted from one time medicinal cannabis sympathizer to White House weed-whacker.
By Paul Armentano, AlterNet
Posted on February 8, 2012

Broken promises are nothing new in Washington, DC. Yet even by the Beltway’s jaded standards, President Obama’s role reversal from one time medicinal cannabis sympathizer to White House weed-whacker is remarkable.

Indeed, the man who once pledged on the campaign trail that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” has – since taking the Presidential oaths of office – done virtually everything in his administration’s power to do precisely that. Yet he's taken these steps at the very time that a record number of Americans, including 57 percent of democrats and a whopping 69 percent of self-described liberals, endorse doing just the opposite.

Nonetheless, in recent months, the Obama administration – via a virtual alphabet soup of federal agencies – has launched an unprecedented series of attacks against medical cannabis patients, providers, and in some cases even their advocates.

To review:
-- Deputy Attorney General James Cole, along with the four US Attorneys from California, has ramped up federal efforts to close or displace several hundreds of medical cannabis providers in California. Their tactics have included: raiding specific dispensaries and prosecuting their owners; filing civil forfeiture proceedings against landlords who rent their property to medical marijuana providers; threatening to federally prosecute newspapers and radio stations who accept ad revenue from medical cannabis operations; and, most recently, intimidating local lawmakers who have either enacted or are publicly supportive of cannabis oversight regulations. Speaking with radio station KQED San Francisco last month, Tommy LaNier – Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's National Marijuana Initiative – boasted about the administration’s efforts to strong-arm local officials, stating "[We] have ... advised those places where they're trying to regulate marijuana -- which is illegal under the Control Substances Act -- (that) they cannot do that.” 
-- In Colorado, United States Attorney John Walsh has sent letters to owners of dozens of the Centennial State’s medical cannabis facilities stating, "Action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property" if they do not cease their operations. Unlike similarly targeted dispensaries in California, the operations on Walsh’s hit list are explicitly licensed by the state and thus fully compliant with state law – a fact that Walsh’s letters readily acknowledge but appear content to ignore. "This ... constitutes formal notice that action will be taken to seize and forfeit (your) property if you do not cause the sale and/or distribution of marijuana and marijuana-infused substances at (this) location to be discontinued,” they state. “[T]he Department of Justice has the authority to enforce federal law even when such activities may be permitted under state law.” Ironically, the Justice Department’s letters arrived just weeks after US Attorney General Eric Holder publicly told (read: lied to) Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, an ardent supporter of the medicinal cannabis industry, that that the federal government would only target medical cannabis operators that "use marijuana in a way that's not consistent with the state statute."

-- But the Obama Justice Department isn’t only sending letters to cannabis dispensaries owners and their landlords. Last year, the DOJ also mailed letters to numerous state lawmakers, including the Governors of Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as they were debating legislation to allow for the licensed distribution of medical cannabis. The letters threatened federal prosecution for those involved with said efforts – including, in some cases, state civil servants – if the measures went forward. As a result, most didn’t.

The Justice Department isn’t the only agency directly involved in the administration’s medical pot crackdown. Also over the past six months:

-- The IRS has assessed crippling penalties on tax-paying medical cannabis facilities in California by denying these operations from filing standard expense deductions;

-- The Department of Treasury has strong-armed local banks and other financial institutions into closing their accounts with medicinal marijuana operators. In Colorado, where the state’s estimated 700 licensed cannabis dispensaries are routinely subjected to state audits, there no longer remains even a single bank willing to openly do business with med-pot operators.

-- The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms has sternly warned firearms dealers not to sell guns to medical cannabis consumers, and stated that patients who otherwise legally possess firearms are in violation of federal law and may face criminal prosecution; 
-- In July, the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a nine-year-old administrative petition that called for hearings regarding the federal rescheduling of marijuana for medical use, ignoring extensive scientific evidence of its medical efficacy. “[T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana's) efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts,” the agency alleged. “At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.” 
-- This fall, the National Institute on Drug Abuse rejected an FDA-approved protocol to allow for clinical research assessing the use of cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder; a spokesperson for the agency conceded, “We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.” 
-- The DEA has reduced the total number of federally qualified investigators licensed to study plant marijuana in humans to 14 nationwide.

Most recently, and perhaps most egregiously, the DEA acknowledged that it was investigating a Montana state lawmaker for potentially conspiring to violate federal anti-marijuana laws. The lawmaker, Rep. Diane Sands – a Democrat from Billings, Montana – served as the chairwoman of a 2011 interim legislative committee that sought to enact statewide regulations governing the production and distribution of medical pot, which has been legal in the state since 2004. "Can you say McCarthy?” she told The Missoulian newspaper. “This sounds like stuff from the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joe McCarthy. So once you talk about medical marijuana in reasonable terms, you're on some sort of list of possible conspirators. … It's ridiculous, of course, but it's also threatening to think that the federal government is willing to use its influence and try to chill discussion about this subject."

* * *

So has the Obama administration collectively lost its mind when it comes to the subject of medical cannabis? That certainly seems to be the case. But the bigger question still remains: Why now?

Speculation among reformers and the general public is widespread. Many activists contend that the administration's about face is due to pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, which they surmise may be hoping to eliminate competition in the marketplace for their own forthcoming, soon-to-be FDA-approved cannabis-based drug.

Others believe that Obama’s crackdown is a Machiavellian attempt on the part of the President and his advisors to appeal to independent, conservative-leaning swing voters during an election year.

Still others argue that the recent attacks have little to do with President Obama at all. Instead, they believe the efforts of the DEA, DOJ, and other federal agencies are being coordinated primarily by drug war hawks within the administration, many of whom are holdovers from the George W. Bush regime, such as DEA administrator Michele Leonhart. Adding weight to this claim are recent statements from US Attorney Andre Birotte, who acknowledged that the DOJ’s recent activities were led by the federal prosecutors themselves and were not instigated by either President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder – both of which are engaged in their own personal battles for political survival and, as a result, are unlikely to expend even a shred of political capital to halt the efforts of the administration’s more ardent drug warriors.

There may be a grain of truth in all of the above theories. But perhaps the greatest underlying motivator for the administration’s sudden and severe crackdown on medical marijuana providers and patients is its desire to preserve America’s longstanding criminalization of cannabis for everyone else. There is little doubt that the rapid rise of the medical marijuana industry and the legal commerce inherent to it is arguably the single biggest threat to federal cannabis prohibition. Just look at the poll numbers. According to Gallup, in 1996 – when California became the first state to allow for the legally sanctioned use of cannabis therapy – only 25 percent of Americans backed legalizing marijuana for all adults. (Seventy-three percent of respondents at that time said they opposed the idea.) Fast forward to 2011. Today, a record high 50 percent of Americans support legalizing the plant outright and only 46 percent of respondents oppose doing so. It’s this rapid rise in the public’s support for overall legalization that no doubt has the Obama administration, and the majority of America’s elected officials, running scared.

While the passage and enactment of statewide medical marijuana laws – 16 states and the District of Columbia now have laws recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic use on the books – is not solely driving the public’s shift in support for broader legalization, it is arguably a major factor. Why? The answer is simple. Tens of millions of Americans residing in these states are learning, first hand, that they can coexist with marijuana being legal! And that is the lesson the federal government fears most.

In states like California and Colorado, voters have largely become accustomed to the reality that there can be safe, secure, well-run businesses that deliver consistent, reliable, tested cannabis products. They have come to understand that well-regulated cannabis dispensaries can revitalize sagging economies, provide jobs, and contribute taxes to budget-starved localities. Most importantly, the public in these states and others are finally realizing that all the years of scaremongering by the government about what would happen if marijuana were legal, even for sick people, was nothing but hysterical propaganda. As a result, a majority of American voters are now for the first time asking their federal officials: ‘Why we don’t just legalize marijuana for everyone in a similarly responsible manner?’

That is a question the President remains unable and unwilling to answer. And the administration appears willing to go to any lengths to avoid it.

Bank Bailout 2: Obama Lets Mortgage Abusers Off the Hook

Sickening. Once again, Obama screws the families who got fucked by the banks with those shitty robosigned mortgages, and rewards the banks with immunity from fraud charges and lawsuits. Obama deserves to lose the election. His replacement will suck too.--jef

Thursday, February 9, 2012 by Common Dreams
The Obama Administration has followed a predictable pattern: Leave No One Accountable
Common Dreams staff

The Obama administration announced this morning that the five largest U.S. banks have agreed to a $26 billion 'settlement' to end lawsuits over abusive practices that forced millions of families from their homes and helped bring about the nation’s financial meltdown.

After months of talks with state and federal officials, the banks have reportedly agreed to help some homeowners reduce their mortgage debt or refinance their homes at lower rates. Over 4 million familes lost their homes to foreclosure yet just 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure will receive a one-time check for just $1,800 to $2,000, which for many will barely cover the cost of moving. The deal will only help a fraction of the struggling homeowners affected by the bank’s practices. But it's a great deal for the banks.

New York and California have reportedly signed off on the deal after initially holding it up in protest of lenient treatment of the banks.

The deal gives banks immunity from civil lawsuits for "robosigning," a practice whereby homeowners were rapidly evicted without proper vetting.

In his January 24th State of the Union address, President Obama promised a fresh investigation into mortgage abuses that led to the financial meltdown. Now, before that investigation has even begun, Obama is granting these 5 "too big to fail" banks immunity from "robo-signing" abuses.

* * *

Yves Smith, writing at NakedCapitalism:

The Top Twelve Reasons Why You Should Hate the Mortgage Settlement[...] As we’ve said before, this settlement is yet another raw demonstration of who wields power in America, and it isn’t you and me. It’s bad enough to see these negotiations come to their predictable, sorry outcome. It adds insult to injury to see some try to depict it as a win for long suffering, still abused homeowners.

1. We’ve now set a price for forgeries and fabricating documents. It’s $2000 per loan. This is a rounding error compared to the chain of title problem these systematic practices were designed to circumvent. The cost is also trivial in comparison to the average loan, which is roughly $180k, so the settlement represents about 1% of loan balances. It is less than the price of the title insurance that banks failed to get when they transferred the loans to the trust. It is a fraction of the cost of the legal expenses when foreclosures are challenged. It’s a great deal for the banks because no one is at any of the servicers going to jail for forgery and the banks have set the upper bound of the cost of riding roughshod over 300 years of real estate law.

2. "If the new Federal task force were intended to be serious, this deal would have not have been settled. You never settle before investigating."That $26 billion is actually $5 billion of bank money and the rest is your money. [...]

3. That $5 billion divided among the big banks wouldn’t even represent a significant quarterly hit. [...]

4. That $20 billion actually makes bank second liens sounder, so this deal is a stealth bailout that strengthens bank balance sheets at the expense of the broader public.

5. The enforcement is a joke. The first layer of supervision is the banks reporting on themselves. [...]

6. The past history of servicer consent decrees shows the servicers all fail to comply. Why? Servicer records and systems are terrible in the best of times, and their systems and fee structures aren’t set up to handle much in the way of delinquencies. [...]

7. The cave-in Nevada and Arizona on the Countrywide settlement suit is a special gift for Bank of America, who is by far the worst offender in the chain of title disaster. This move proves that failing to comply with a consent degree has no consequences but will merely be rolled into a new consent degree which will also fail to be enforced. [...]

8. If the new Federal task force were intended to be serious, this deal would have not have been settled. You never settle before investigating. It’s a bad idea to settle obvious, widespread wrongdoing on the cheap. [...]

9. There is plenty of evidence of widespread abuses that appear not to be on the attorney generals’ or media’s radar, such as servicer driven foreclosures and looting of investors’ funds via impermissible and inflated charges. While no serious probe was undertaken, even the limited or peripheral investigations show massive failures (60% of documents had errors in AGs/Fed’s pathetically small sample). [...]

10. A deal on robosigning serves to cover up the much deeper chain of title problem. [...]

11. Don’t bet on a deus ex machina in terms of the new Federal foreclosure task force to improve this picture much. If you think Schneiderman, as a co-chairman who already has a full time day job in New York, is going to outfox a bunch of DC insiders who are part of the problem, I have a bridge I’d like to sell to you.

12. We’ll now have to listen to banks and their sycophant defenders declaring victory despite being wrong on the law and the facts. They will proceed to marginalize and write off criticisms of the servicing practices that hurt homeowners and investors and are devastating communities. [...]

* * *

And at Firedoglake, Scarecrow writes of the 'settlement':
Obama’s Guiding Principle: Leave No One Accountable

Obama’s people have performed this function for America’s looters over and over again. They did it for Wall Street, the banks, the rich tax evaders, the insurance companies, the oil companies, the gas companies, the coal companies, the CIA, the DoD, and numerous torturers and their legal/policy enablers and associated war criminals in the previous administration.[...] The Obama Administration has followed a predictable pattern we now recognize. It has consistently functioned like criminal defense counsel, whose mission is to get their criminal clients, the major corporations and executives who fund their elections, off with no admission of guilt, no forced resignations, and as little harm to their reputation, or that of the counsel, as possible. To do this, they neutralize anyone with an ounce of public purpose in their veins.

Its role is then to convince the public that whatever you thought or feared was going on in America, and whoever you believed had caused the collapse of America’s economy, caused millions to lose their jobs, their homes and their retirements and continued to loot the country, it’s time to look forward. Because everyone who matters — and that’s not you — now agrees, they say, to function in the public interest, even though it’s a bald face lie, since nothing has changed and the looters and their complicit overseers are still in charge.

Obama’s people have performed this function for America’s looters over and over again. They did it for Wall Street, the banks, the rich tax evaders, the insurance companies, the oil companies, the gas companies, the coal companies, the CIA, the DoD, and numerous torturers and their legal/policy enablers and associated war criminals in the previous administration.

Consistent with this strategy, Obama’s team must silence, neutralize or punish anyone who protests or blows the whistle on the massive criminality and corruption involved. It must also emasculate the left and what’s left of the liberal wing of the Dem Party, using the argument that the Administration is not nearly as awful as the other Party’s people, who openly glorify looting and killing and vilifying the victims.

But of course, when we were ruled by the latter, everyone with any humanity was repulsed by the open looting and killing and indifference and was willing to say so. When the Administration sanctions it, however, we are supposed to bite our tongues, because it could be worse.

Well, it’s worse, and it’s more insidious and corrupting of our souls than where we were four years ago. It is evil.

Report: U.S. Surveillance Society Running Rampant

By David Kravets - WIRED
If you think you’re being watched, you’re probably right.

The American Civil Liberties Union posted a website Monday showing that government-financed surveillance cameras are running rampant across the United States.

All the while,  studies suggest they do nothing to cut down on violent crime. San Francisco, for example, has spent $700,000 for dozens of public cameras, but a University of California  study (.pdf, 187 pages) just concluded there was "no evidence" they curtailed violent crime.

"Violent incidents do not decline in areas near the cameras relative to areas further away," added the study, which noted the cameras helped police bring charges against six people accused of felony property crimes. "We observe no decline in violent crimes occurring in public places."

But the report did show that, over the past two years, property crimes such as burglary and muggings dropped an estimated 24 percent in areas within 100 feet of San Francisco camera locations.

The ACLU’s website, "You Are Being Watched," shows a map of the 50 U.S. states with links to news accounts about where surveillance cameras are in each state. The federal government has given state and local governments $300 million in grants to fund an ever-growing array of cameras.

Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program, said in a telephone interview that, while the cameras have helped nab suspects, he believes they provide a false sense of security.

"It’s the illusion of security … public authorities like to give the impression they are doing something about crime and terrorism,"Steinhardt said.

He said it is impossible to quantify exactly how many government-backed surveillance cameras are in the public right of way, but they are in virtually every U.S. state.

Two questions posed on the ACLU site ask: "Do we want a society where an innocent individual can’t walk down the street without being considered a potential criminal?" and "Do we want a society where people are comfortable with constant surveillance?"

Drones All Over the US Get OK by Congress

Horrible. Now these things will be crashing into the houses they spy on. The government and its corporate financiers are out of control!--jef

Drones over U.S. get OK by Congress
By Shaun Waterman-The Washington Times
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It's ... a drone, and it's watching you. That's what privacy advocates fear from a bill Congress passed this week to make it easier for the government to fly unmanned spy planes in U.S. airspace.

The FAA Reauthorization Act, which President Obama is expected to sign, also orders the Federal Aviation Administration to develop regulations for the testing and licensing of commercial drones by 2015.

Privacy advocates say the measure will lead to widespread use of drones for electronic surveillance by police agencies across the country and eventually by private companies as well.

"There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities," said Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also is "concerned about the implications for surveillance by government agencies," said attorney Jennifer Lynch.

The provision in the legislation is the fruit of "a huge push by lawmakers and the defense sector to expand the use of drones" in American airspace, she added.

According to some estimates, the commercial drone market in the United States could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars once the FAA clears their use.
The agency projects that 30,000 drones could be in the nation's skies by 2020.
The highest-profile use of drones by the United States has been in the CIA's armed Predator-drone program, which targets al Qaeda terrorist leaders. But the vast majority of U.S. drone missions, even in war zones, are flown for surveillance. Some drones are as small as model aircraft, while others have the wingspan of a full-size jet.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. use of drone surveillance has grown so rapidly that it has created a glut of video material to be analyzed.

The legislation would order the FAA, before the end of the year, to expedite the process through which it authorizes the use of drones by federal, state and local police and other agencies. The FAA currently issues certificates, which can cover multiple flights by more than one aircraft in a particular area, on a case-by-case basis.

The Department of Homeland Security is the only federal agency to discuss openly its use of drones in domestic airspace.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency within the department, operates nine drones, variants of the CIA's feared Predator. The aircraft, which are flown remotely by a team of 80 fully qualified pilots, are used principally for border and counternarcotics surveillance under four long-term FAA certificates.

Officials say they can be used on a short-term basis for a variety of other public-safety and emergency-management missions if a separate certificate is issued for that mission.

"It's not all about surveillance," Mr. Aftergood said.

Homeland Security has deployed drones to support disaster relief operations. Unmanned aircraft also could be useful for fighting fires or finding missing climbers or hikers, he added.

The FAA has issued hundreds of certificates to police and other government agencies, and a handful to research institutions to allow them to fly drones of various kinds over the United States for particular missions.

The agency said it issued 313 certificates in 2011 and 295 of them were still active at the end of the year, but the FAA refuses to disclose which agencies have the certificates and what their purposes are.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the FAA to obtain records of the certifications.

"We need a list so we can ask [each agency], 'What are your policies on drone use? How do you protect privacy? How do you ensure compliance with the Fourth Amendment?' " Ms. Lynch said.

"Currently, the only barrier to the routine use of drones for persistent surveillance are the procedural requirements imposed by the FAA for the issuance of certificates," said Amie Stepanovich, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a research center in Washington.

The Department of Transportation, the parent agency of the FAA, has announced plans to streamline the certification process for government drone flights this year, she said.

"We are looking at our options" to oppose that, she added.

Section 332 of the new FAA legislation also orders the agency to develop a system for licensing commercial drone flights as part of the nation's air traffic control system by 2015.

The agency must establish six flight ranges across the country where drones can be test-flown to determine whether they are safe for travel in congested skies.

Representatives of the fast-growing unmanned aircraft systems industry say they worked hard to get the provisions into law.

"It sets deadlines for the integration of [the drones] into the national airspace," said Gretchen West, executive vice president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry group.

She said drone technology is new to the FAA.

NEOTAME, New Neurotoxic Sweetener: FDA Says NO LABEL NEEDED, Not Even for Organics

this is so corrupt and criminal! the FDA is the most corrupt agency in government. And Monsanto is the devil. --jef

New Acidic Neurotoxic Sweetener from Monsanto!
A Monsanto the devil-created chemical, Neotame is likely more toxic than Aspartame. The FDA has quietly decided that we don't have the right to know if it's adulterating our food, not even if the food is labeled USDA Organic.

by Heidi Stevenson

Aspartame can step aside. There's a new sweetener in town and it isn't saddled with the inconvenience of having to be listed on labels, so it can be sneaked into any prepared food, even USDA so-called Organic. 

So says the FDA. Neotame is a Monsanto the devil-created chemical similar to Aspartame, including its neurotoxic properties.

Monsanto the devil developed Neotame as their Aspartame patent was expiring, and had no trouble in gaining FDA approval in 2002. They added 3-dimethylbutyl, a chemical listed as hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to Aspartame, making it both sweeter and more toxic.

Both Aspartame and Neotame contain substances that are metabolized into formaldehyde, a highly toxic poison, and an excitotoxic amino acid that agitates, thereby damaging, nerves.

At the time Neotame was originally approved by the FDA,, which battles the addition of many dodgy food additives, stated:
We did a search of MedLine to find studies of adverse effects or side effects of Neotame. Only four studies appeared, two of which were not studies, and the other two of which were actually a single study done by NutraSweet company researchers.
Feingold aptly described one of the nonstudies as effectively saying, "If we don't look, we won't know anything bad." The other, by the World Health Organization, is not a look at potential toxicity, but rather is about setting acceptable daily intakes of Neotame, along with other artificial sweeteners. Note: One must wonder how the FDA justifies non-listing of an ingredient for which there's an acceptable daily intake.

Mary Nash Stoddard, founder of the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network, compared the historic arc of tobacco company research with that of Aspartame. It applies equally well to Neotame:
There is a parallel issue with which to compare the Aspartame issue. That of cigarettes and the deadly effects of smoking. The massive Tobacco Industry is able to produce large volumes of scientific studies showing smoking does not cause: lung cancer, heart disease, strokes or death. Today, mainstream science accepts the fact that smoking can be deadly and addictive. So it is with Aspartame, whose approval was based, not on scientific fact, but as an issue of public policy.

Neotame Labeling

From the beginning, Neotame labeling has been limited. It's in the background noise of products produced by Agribusiness.

Up to this time, Neotame hasn't been sold to the public, but that hasn't been necessary. It's been used widely in prepared foods. So, the less awareness the public has, the less likely it is that people will try to avoid it. For the most part, the technique has worked. Now, very quietly, the FDA has decided that the public shouldn't be informed when Neotame is included in any product. Even Organic products, which are supposed to be unadultered with chemicals, are not required to state when Neotame is inside.

India will soon serve as guinea pigs for Neotame. It will soon be launched there as a tabletop sweetener, like Equal and Splenda, by NutraSweet, which owns and sells the product.

Neotame is now being marketed as Sweetos for use in cattle feed. Molasses has been utlized to get cows to eat foods made unpalatable by chemical additives. Neotame is both less costly than molasses and subject to fewer regulations. A natural food is more stringently regulated than a known-poisonous chemical that's put into food.

The reach of Neotame is likely to be extensive. They're planning to replace other artificial sweeteners with it. A major seller of artificial sweeteners, which goes by the misleading name of Ensigns Health Care Pvt Ltd, intends to use it in place of sucralose.

In the EU, Neotame has been approved by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). As is so common in the EU, the product is hidden behind an E-number. So, labels don't have to say that products contain Neotame. They only need to list "E 961". Naturally, with hundreds of E-numbers, how many people can be aware of which ones are truly dangerous?

It looks like the FDA's loosening of labeling rules for Neotame is part of a large-scale effort to make it a near-ubiquitous artificial sweetener, to be found on the tabletop, in all prepared foods—even organics—and even in the meats consumed.

The solution is fairly simple, but not necessarily easy. If you want to avoid foods adulterated with Neotame, among other dangerous additives and overprocessing, then you need to grow your own foods and prepare them yourselves, or purchase only from suppliers whose processing and sourcing is known to you, which generally means locally-produced.

House Votes For Weakened Insider Trading Bill

Watered Down STOCK Act Passes
First Posted: 02/ 9/2012

WASHINGTON -- A weakened version of the STOCK Act banning insider trading by members of Congress and the administration passed the House Thursday without curbs on "political intelligence" or new clean-government rules.

The legislation would make it clear that lawmakers and key staffers are bound by the insider trading laws that affect everyone. The House bill also adds a provision to bar lawmakers from participating in IPOs. The bill passed 417 to 2.

But the House bill cut a provision that was in the Senate version requiring people who collect and trade so-called political intelligence -- information from government that can move markets and stock prices -- to register just like lobbyists if they want to talk with covered officials in Congress and the executive branch so that the public knows who they are and what they're doing.

It also cut a provision that cracks down on officials guilty of taking actions on the job to benefit themselves.
Republican sponsors of those provisions in the Senate -- especially Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) -- were highly critical of the changes, with Grassley calling them "astonishing and extremely disappointing."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) defended the revisions, saying his work on the legislation -- which was done in secret and ignored another version of the House bill that had nearly 300 co-sponsors -- strengthened the measure. He singled out the political intelligence provision.

"I think that is a provision that raises an awful lot of questions. I think there's a lot of discussion and debate about who and what would qualify and fall under the suggested language that came from the Senate," Cantor said, adding that political intelligence doesn't directly concern lawmakers since they are not the ones trading in the intelligence. "The political intelligence piece is outside of this body, and we're talking about us and the perception that has gathered around our conduct."

"It's incumbent upon each of us to start to restore the trust between the people and their elected representatives," Cantor asserted. "That is what the STOCK Act is all about."

But House Democrats, pointing to bipartisan disappointment in the Senate, took Cantor to task, even as they backed the bill in order to move it forward to a conference conference with the Senate, in which the differences could be worked out.

"It just raises a question to me as to if it is so important, and it certainly is, why we could not have worked in a more bipartisan fashion either to accept the Senate bill ... or to take up [the existing House bill]," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"Instead, secretly, the Republicans brought a much-diminished bill to the floor," Pelosi said. She added, "Senator Grassley's remarks are stunning, and a stunning indictment of the House Republicans."

If any version of the STOCK Act is to pass, House and Senate leaders must now appoint a conference committee; they are expected to do so.

Facebook Follies

Going Public

The big business news last week was that Facebook is going public with an initial public offering (IPO) that is likely to place the market value of the company in the range of $100 billion. This price would put Facebook among the corporate giants in terms of market value.

By comparison, Goldman Sachs, of vampire squid fame, has a market value of $55 billion. Ford’s market value is less than $16 billion. With its current market value near $106 billion, Facebook would even give a serious run to Verizon, the giant telephone company.

While the implied value of Facebook is impressive, a question that was raised in several stories was whether the company would really be worth this much money. Some simple back of the envelope calculations show that Facebook would have to gain an enormous share of advertising expenditures over the next 5-10 years in order to generate the sort of profits needed to justify this current price.

Of course that doesn’t mean it’s impossible; Google went public with a very high market capitalization in 2004. Less than eight years later its stock price has gone up by a factor of six. Someone would want to do some serious homework before ruling out the possibility that Facebook is actually worth its current stock price.

At the same time, there have been numerous cases of companies becoming market darlings when they were most definitely not worth the price. The best example of a failed market darling is probably the Internet giant AOL, which had a peak market value of over $220 billion in 2000. The price tag for AOL today is $1.8 billion.

In the case of AOL, the founders managed to cash out before things went sour. It used its stock to buy Time-Warner, one of the largest media companies in the world. In effect, AOL got Time-Warner to sell itself for nothing, since the value of the AOL stock used in the purchase would soon be a tiny fraction of the value of Time-Warner.

The big losers in that story were the shareholders of Time-Warner, who saw a big hit to the value of their holdings. Needless to say, the executives who engineered the give-away of Time-Warner did just fine, walking away with tens of millions of dollars.

And the top executives at AOL, most notably Steve Case, its co-founder, also did fine. The deal allowed Case to walk away with billions of dollars, making him one of the country’s richest people.

Suppose that Facebook ends up looking more like AOL than Google; who would be the losers and who would be the winners? Well, the losers would be the people who jumped on the stock near its peak. If it turns out that Facebook is just an overnight sensation that is either unable to hold onto its market share or to effectively turn its massive social networking franchise into a money making outfit, then people buying its stock near its IPO price will have thrown much of their money in the garbage.

If individual investors knowingly take this risk and end up losing, that is the way markets are supposed to work. Insofar as the purchasers are institutional investors who end up losing money for pension funds, university endowments, or mutual funds in 401(k)s, it will raise serious questions as to whether the managers of these funds were doing their homework or just got caught up in investment fads, as they have so many times in the past.

On the other side we have the early Facebook employees who will walk away with millions, and of course its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who stands to walk away with tens of billions. At a time when there is new attention being focused on inequality and the 1 percent, it is interesting to ask what Mr. Zuckerberg — who stands to rank at the very top of the 1 percent — has done for his money.

If it turns out that Facebook goes the AOL route, then Zuckerberg will effectively be the P.T. Barnum of the social media economy. He will have succeeded in creating incredible excitement and buzz that led people to voluntarily give him their money for nothing.

The result will be that many people will be somewhat poorer and Zuckerberg will be incredibly wealthy. He will be able to buy whatever he and his friends and family might want as long as he lives. He will be able to promote whatever philosophy he likes (e.g. school reform based on test scores) through charitable donations and political contributions. And, the media will treat him as a person with brilliant insights for the rest of us on how to run the country and live our lives until the day he dies.

This is a process whereby we redistribute money upward to the very rich. In this case, the key actors are highly paid money managers who don’t know anything about managing money, just as in the AOL case it was incompetent executives at Time-Warner. In a properly working market economy these people would pay an enormous price for such disastrous incompetence, but that doesn’t describe our current economy.

Of course we can always hope that Facebook is really worth its market price.

Will Iran Be Attacked?

The Money Rules

Washington has made tremendous preparations for a military assault on Iran. There is speculation that Washington has called off its two longest running wars–Iraq and Afghanistan–in order to deploy forces against Iran. Two of Washington’s fleets have been assigned to the Persian Gulf along with NATO warships. Missiles have been spread amongst Washington’s Oil Emirate and Middle Eastern puppet states. US troops have been deployed in Israel and Kuwait.

Washington has presented Israel a gift from the hard-pressed american taxpayers of an expensive missile defense system, money spent for Israel when millions of unassisted americans have lost their homes. As no one expects Iran to attack Israel, except in retaliation for an Israeli attack on Iran, the purpose of the missile defense system is to protect Israel from an Iranian response to Israeli aggression against Iran.

Juan Cole has posted on his blog a map showing 44 US military bases surrounding Iran.

In addition to the massive military preparations, there is the propaganda war against Iran that has been ongoing since 1979 when Washington’s puppet, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown by the Iranian revolution. Iran is surrounded, but Washington and Israeli propaganda portray Iran as a threatening aggressor nation. In fact, the aggressors are the Washington and Tel Aviv governments which constantly threaten Iran with military attack.

Neocon warmongers, such as David Goldman, compare the Iranian president to Hitler and declare that only war can stop him.

Washington’s top military officials have created the impression that an act of Israeli aggression against Iran is a done deal. On February 2 the Washington Post reported that Pentagon chief Leon Panetta believes that Israel is likely to attack Iran in two to four months.

Also on February 2, Gareth Porter reported that General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed the Israeli government that the US would not join Israel’s aggression against Iran unless Washington had given prior approval for the attack.

Porter interprets Dempsey’s warning as a strong move by President Obama to deter an attack that would involve Washington in a regional conflagration with Iran. A different way to read Dempsey’s warning is that Obama wants to hold off on attacking Iran until polls show him losing the presidential election. It has generally been the case that the patriotic electorate does not turn out a president who is at war.

On February 5, President Obama canceled Dempsey’s warning to Israel when Obama declared that he was in “lockstep” with the Israeli government. Obama is in lockstep with Israel despite the fact that Obama told NBC that “we don’t see any evidence that they [Iran] have those intentions [attacks on the US] or capabilities.” By being in lockstep with Israel and simultaneously calling for a “diplomatic solution,” Obama appeased both the Israel Lobby and Democratic peace groups, thus upping his vote.

As I wrote previously, this spring is a prime time for attacking Iran, because there is a good chance that Russia will be in turmoil because of its March election. The Russian opposition to Putin is financed by Washington and encouraged by Washington’s statements, especially those of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Whether Putin wins or there is an indecisive result and a run-off election, Washington’s money will put tens of thousands of Russians into the streets, just as Washington’s money created the “Green Revolution” in Iran to protest the presidential elections there.

On February 4 the former left-wing British newspaper, The Guardian, reported a pre-election protest by 120,000 anti-Putin demonstrators marching in Moscow and demanding “fair elections.” In other words, Washington already has its minions declaring that a win by Putin in March can only signify a stolen election. The problem for Obama is that this spring is too early to tell whether his re-election is threatened by a Republican candidate. Going to war prematurely, especially if the result is a stiff rise in oil prices, is not an aid to re-election.

The willingness of peoples around the world to be Washington’s puppets instead of loyal citizens of their own countries is why the West has been able to dominate the world during the modern era. There seems to be an infinite supply of foreign leaders who prefer Washington’s money and favor to loyalty to their own countries’ interests.

As Karl Marx said, money turns everything into a commodity that can be bought and sold. All other values are defeated–honor, integrity, truth, justice, loyalty, even blood kin. Nothing remains but filthy lucre. Money certainly turned UK prime minister Tony Blair into a political commodity.

The power of money was brought home to me many years ago. My Ph.D. dissertation chairman found himself in the Nixon administration as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security affairs. He asked if I would go to Vietnam to administer the aid programs. I was flattered that he thought I had the strength of character to stand up to the corruption that usually defeats the purpose of aid programs, but I declined the assignment.

The conversation was one I will never forget. Warren Nutter was an intelligent person of integrity. He thought regardless of whether the war was necessary that we had been led into it by deception. He thought democracy could not live with deception, and he objected to government officials who were not honest with the American people. Nutter’s position was that a democratic government had to rely on persuasion, not on trickery. Otherwise, the outcomes were not democratic.

As Nutter saw it, we were in a war, and we had involved the South Vietnamese. Therefore, we had obligations to them. If we proved to be feckless, the consequence would be to undermine commitments we had made to other countries in our effort to contain the Soviet Empire. The Soviet Union, unlike the “terrorist threat,” had the potential of being a real threat. People who have come of age after the collapse of the Soviet Union don’t understand the cold war era.

In the course of the conversation I asked how Washington got so many other governments to do its bidding. He answered, “Money.”

I asked, “You mean foreign aid?”

He said, “No, bags of money. We buy the leaders.

He didn’t approve of it, but there was nothing he could do about it.

Purchasing the leadership of their enemies or of potential threats was the Roman way. Timothy H. Parsons in his book, The Rule of Empires, describes the Romans as “deft practitioners of soft power.” Rome preferred to rule the conquered and the potentially hostile through “semi-autonomous client kings which the Senate euphemistically termed ‘friends of the Roman people.’ Romans helped cooperative monarchs remain in power with direct payments of coins and material goods. Acceptance of these subsidies signified that an ally deferred to imperial authority, and the Romans interpreted any defiance of their will as an overt revolt. They also intervened freely in local succession disputes to replace unsuitable clients.”

This is the way Washington rules. Washington’s way of ruling other countries is why there is no “Egyptian Spring,” but a military dictatorship as a replacement for Washington’s discarded puppet Hosni Mubarak, and why European puppet states are fighting Washington’s wars of hegemony in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy funds non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. It is through the operations of NGOs that Washington added the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to Washington’s empire, along with the Baltic States, and Eastern European countries.

Because of the hostility of many Russians to their Soviet past, Russia is vulnerable to Washington’s machinations.

As long as the dollar rules, Washington’s power will rule.

As Rome debased its silver denarius into lead, Rome’s power to purchase compliance faded away. If “Helicopter Ben” Bernanke inflates away the purchasing power of the dollar, Washington’s power will melt away also.