Politics and Legislation
Groups Attempt to Influence Supreme Court on
Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times News Service:
“Justice Clarence Thomas likens all the outside political pressure that the Supreme Court is facing over its review of the Obama administration’s sweeping health care law to the distraction faced by a free-throw shooter confronted with fans waving wildly behind the basket…. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has helped lead opposition to the health care law, has been hosting moot court sessions to prepare lawyers involved in the case.”
Cash-for-access scandal leaves David Cameron’s UK government reeling
By msnbc.com and news services
LONDON — The government of British Prime Minister David Cameron was reeling on Monday after a video emerged showing his Conservative Party’s top fundraiser claiming to offer access to senior politicians in exchange for large donations.
In a sting operation, The Sunday Times (the newspaper operates behind a paywall) secretly videotaped fundraiser Peter Cruddas discussing donations. The film showed him telling undercover reporters: “200 grand ($317,000), 250 is premier league … it’ll be awesome for your business.”…..
Loan Forgiveness Good for the Economy, and Maybe Fannie and Freddie Mac Too
By Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica:
“New analyses by mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have added an explosive new dimension to one of the most politically charged debates about the housing crisis: Whether to reduce the amount of money beleaguered homeowners owe on their mortgages. Their conclusion: Such loan forgiveness wouldn’t just help keep hundreds of thousands of families in their homes, it would also save Freddie and Fannie money. That, in turn, would help taxpayers, who bailed out the companies at a cost of more than $150 billion and are still on the hook for future losses.”
Wall Street gold rush in foreclosed homes
Investors seeking higher yields are drawn to foreclosures because the rental market is red hot. But the heated competition for foreclosed homes is reminiscent of the frothy expectations that seem to accompany each new Wall Street investing craze.
Feds say Wells Fargo won’t turn over documents
Federal securities regulators are asking a federal court to order Wells Fargo & Co. to turn over documents in an investigation of the bank’s sale of $60 billion in mortgage-backed securities.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement Friday that Wells Fargo agreed to produce the documents under subpoenas dating to September of 2011, but the bank has failed to hand over much of the requested material.
The agency has asked U.S. District Court in San Francisco to order the nation’s largest mortgage lender to turn over the paperwork. The SEC is investigating possible fraud in the bank’s sale of securities that were made up of multiple mortgage loans between September 2006 and early 2008.
Big Banks Continue to Suck at the Government Teat With Never-Ending Stealth Bailouts
Open-Ended Bailouts Are Continuing
We’ve previously documented the fact that bailouts of the big banks are continued in stealth mode up to the present day.
True, the banks claim they’ve repaid the Tarp bailout funds … but nearly half of the banks “repaid” such bailout funds by borrowing from other government bailout funds (and the rest could only repay money by fudging their accounting and using stealth bailouts which are are a little harder to detect).
Indeed, the government has decided on perpetual bailouts for the too big to fail banks.
Some of the ongoing stealth bailouts include:….
Wars and Rumors of War
The Dangerous Mess in Syria Grows Murkier
By Eric Margolis
March 25, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Syria’s murky, multi-level conflict continues to grow worse. So does public confusion here in the west as the US, British and some European media keep depicting Syria’s civil war as a simple passion play pitting the evil Asad regime in Damascus against mostly unarmed democratic protestors.
We saw this same one-dimensional, deceptive reporting recently in Libya that was designed to support foreign intervention. It’s as incomplete today about Syria as it was in Libya which, by the way, is turning into a dangerous mess.
My assessment based on reliable primary sources in Washington, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon:
Support for the Asad family’s Ba’ath regime, now in power for 41 years, is clearly slipping. But important sections of the armed forces, the 17 intelligence and security agencies, the powerful Alawai minority, most Syrian Christians, tribal elements and much of the commercial middle and upper class still back the Asad’s. In spite of intense western efforts to overthrow him, Bashar Asad, a mild-mannered former eye specialist, is still hanging on….
Robert Bales – Lone Nut or Scapegoat?
What are the Americans hiding?
By Justin Raimondo
March 25, 2012 “Antiwar” – The murder of 17 Afghan civilians – most of them children – by staff sergeant Robert Bales may be far worse than we think at present. The semi-official story, as related by our compliant news media, is that a formerly model soldier went bananas under the pressure of war-related injuries, financial problems at home, and the all-purpose PTSD explanation for military misbehavior, whereupon he decided – at 3 am in the morning, after drinking with his army buddies – to walk the couple of miles to an Afghan village, shoot 16 people sleeping in their beds, pile the bodies atop a funeral pyre and set the whole thing alight.
How did he get out of the base at 3 am unchallenged and without anyone’s knowledge? How did he manage to do so much damage alone? These questions automatically register in the minimally critical mind – unless, of course, you’re an American reporter, who is quite used to accepting what our government tells us without question. On the other hand, without clear evidence of another – darker – scenario, all one can do is engage in problematic speculation. That problem has been solved, however, because evidence of an alternative explanation is now coming to light which throws the whole “lone nut” theory into question.
A few days before Bales went postal, there was a bomb attack on a US convoy in which a friend of Bales’s lost a leg: Bales’s lawyer has been detailing his client’s anger at this incident, implying it precipitated the murder spree. There are indications, however, that this is not the whole story. One local resident relates how the Americans paid a visit to the village where the killings took place and threatened residents with retaliation:….
Robots Kill, But the Blood Is on Our Hands
By David Swanson
March 25, 2012 “Information Clearing House” —In her spare time, between non-stop peace activism and leading international exchanges, Medea Benjamin has somehow managed to write the best book yet on the most inhuman form of war yet. The book is called Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.
Even if you’ve been reading everything you could about drones, attending peace conferences, and protesting in the lobbies of drone companies like General Atomics, you will learn a great deal from this book. In fact, I’m willing to bet that even if you “pilot” drones from a desk for a living, you will learn a great deal from this book. And if you have not been paying attention to drones, then you really need to read this book.
Many Americans first heard about “unmanned aerial vehicles” as weapons when Colin Powell told the United Nations in 2003 that Iraq might use them to attack the United States. This turned out to be a projection as well as a lie. It was, of course, the United States that used drones, among other weapons, to attack Iraq for nine years, and the U.S. drones are still in the skies of Iraq today, as well in the skies of many other countries.
US Plans No Charges Over Deadly November Strike in Pakistan
The United States military has decided that no service members will face disciplinary charges for their involvement in a NATO airstrike in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, an accident that plunged relations between the two countries to new depths and has greatly complicated the allied mission in Afghanistan.
An American investigation in December found fault with both American and Pakistani troops for the deadly exchange of fire, but noted that the Pakistanis fired first from two border posts that were not on coalition maps, and that they kept firing even after the Americans tried to warn them that they were shooting at allied troops. Pakistan has rejected these conclusions and ascribed most of the blame to the American forces.
UK Mercenaries tackle Somalia
March 25, 2012
Why send in conventional military units when you can deploy mercenaries into Africa to carry out special operations, commit atrocities and confiscate natural resources all off the books….
U.S. pays Afghans $50K per shooting death
March 25, 2012
The United States has paid $50,000 in compensation for each Afghan killed in the shooting spree attributed to a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan, an Afghan official and a community elder said Sunday…..
Report: Israeli soldiers scour Iran for nukes
Israel using permanent base in northern Iraq to launch intelligence missions in Iran in search of nuclear evidence, Western intelligence sources say.
Israel is using a permanent base in Iraqi Kurdistan to launch cross-border intelligence missions in an attempt to find “smoking gun” evidence that Iran is building a nuclear warhead, the Sunday Times reported Sunday.
According to Western intelligence sources, Israel has used sensitive equipment during its covert operations to monitor the radioactivity and magnitude of explosives tests. It was also reported that Israeli special forces used Black Hawk helicopters to carry commandos disguised as members of the Iranian military and using Iranian military vehicles……
Leader of Mali military coup trained in U.S.
March 25, 2012
The leader of a military coup in the West African country of Mali received military training in the United States on “several” occasions, a U.S. defense official said Friday.
Japan wants missile shield against N.Korean rockets
Uploaded by RussiaToday on Mar 23, 2012
North Korea has announced it will launch a rocket next month, which will put a satellite into orbit. But the U.S. and its allies see the plans as counter to international diplomatic efforts to deal with the reclusive state’s nuclear programme – and are worried the technology could be used to develop long range missiles in the future. It could also potentially violate UN Security Council resolutions, and threatens last month’s deal between North Korea and the Washington. Under this, Pyonyang was to freeze its uranium weapons program and its long-range missile activities – in return for American food aid. Japan’s has responded by deploying its own missile defense system to shoot down any rocket threatening its territory. For more on this, RT talks to Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford, from London.
Drug lords targeted by Fast and Furious were FBI informants
March 25, 2012
When the ATF made alleged gun trafficker Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta its primary target in the ill-fated Fast and Furious investigation, it hoped he would lead the agency to two associates who were Mexican drug cartel members. The ATF even questioned and released him knowing that he was wanted by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Attacking Iran will spell Israel’s end: Cleric
A senior Iranian cleric says the Israeli threats of a military strike on Iran are mere “psychological warfare” as Tel Aviv fully understands any such venture would lead to its “total annihilation”.
“There has been some talk in the media for some time of a military move [against Iran] by the Zionist regime [of Israel] in particular; these menacing murmurs are nothing but psychological warfare,” Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami said on Monday.
Last year during a period, foreign media created hype about a war [against Tehran] and anyone who paid attention to these media felt the US would attack Iran the following day,” he said.
The senior Iranian cleric, who is a member of the presiding board of the Assembly of Experts, said Israeli officials know that a military offensive against Iran would mean the complete annihilation of the Zionist regime
“We are not aggressors but our response to aggressors will be devastatingly crushing.”
Iran nukes: How would the world know?
By Pam Benson
American officials are adamant. The U.S. will respond – possibly with military force – if Iran crosses a red line and decides to actually make nuclear weapons.
But will the U.S. know with an degree of certainty that a line has been crossed?
The decision itself to push ahead really comes down to one person, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper told a Senate hearing recently that any decision would be based on “the supreme leader’s world view and the extent to which he thinks that would benefit the state of Iran or, conversely, not benefit.”
Clapper was referring to Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the supreme leader of Iran.
“It’s Khameini, period, full stop, end of sentence,” agreed Kenneth Pollack, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution.
But trying to read one person’s mind is no easy thing, observed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently, noting how Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was misread by U.S. intelligence.
“People sometimes say and do things that are at variance with what one might expect,” the secretary of state said. “It’s still quite bewildering to me why Saddam Hussein wanted everyone to believe that he had chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons of mass destruction when apparently he did not…..
South Korea warns it may shoot down North Korean rocket
Fears over suspected missile test overshadow international nuclear security summit in Seoul
South Korea has warned it might shoot down a North Korean rocket if it passes over its territory, as worries about what Washington calls a long-range missile test overshadowed an international nuclear security summit.
“We are studying measures such as tracking and shooting down [parts] of a North Korean missile in case they stray out of their normal trajectory” and violate South Korean territory, said Yoon Won-shik, a spokesman at the South’s defence ministry.
He called the launch “a very reckless, provocative act” that undermines peace on the Korean peninsula.
Articles of Interest
By Fareed Zakaria
March 25, 2012 “TIME.com” — Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today,” writes the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik. “Over all, there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America – more than 6 million – than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height.”
Is this hyperbole? Here are the facts. The U.S. has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. That’s not just many more than in most other developed countries but seven to 10 times as many. Japan has 63 per 100,000, Germany has 90, France has 96, South Korea has 97, and Britain – with a rate among the highest – has 153.
This wide gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world is relatively recent. In 1980 the U.S.’s prison population was about 150 per 100,000 adults. It has more than quadrupled since then. So something has happened in the past 30 years to push millions of Americans into prison.
That something, of course, is the war on drugs. Drug convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996, an almost tenfold increase. More than half of America’s federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions. In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges. And 4 of 5 of those arrests were simply for possession.
Hill Poll: Voters expect personal views to decide health case
By Sam Baker
Half of likely voters want the Supreme Court to overturn President Obama’s healthcare law, according to The Hill’s latest poll.
Just 42 percent said the court should uphold the law, with 50 percent saying it should be struck down.
A majority of both men and women want the law voided. By a 52-percent-to-39-percent margin women are more opposed to it than men, who oppose it 48 percent to 45 percent, a difference that matches the poll’s 3-point margin of error.
IRS takes heat from both GOP, Dems over Tea Party groups’ tax-exempt status
By Bernie Becker
The Revenue Service is taking heat from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers for its oversight of certain groups engaging in political activity, in particular Tea Party organizations seeking tax-exempt status.
Japan tsunami ‘Ghost Ship’ haunts Canada coast
R2P: Imperial Conquest by Another Name
Uploaded by GlobalResearchTV
As the world recovers from one humanitarian peace bombing in Libya, and braces for another possible intervention in Syria, many are now asking how it is that the so-called liberal left have become cheerleaders for the very wars of aggression they once pretended to deride. As long-time investigate reporter Pepe Escobar explains, an obscure international doctrine called Responsibility To Protect or R2P has been the main tool for shaping this new paradigm for the continuation of NATO’s imperial power grabs around the world.