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Monthly Archives: August 2012

The accidental diplomat.

I love this video.  I “have people” in Hawaii.  I have people in Baltimore.  I have people-by-marriage in Canada and the Philippines (the buses they are dancing on in this video in Quezon City are called jeepneys, by the way).  Etc.  We all “have people” somewhere.  We are all people from somewhere, living somewhere, or going to somewhere.  We are all just people.  We are being taught that we should be afraid of some of these other people.  The US wants to kill some of these people just because of where they live or who runs their government.  You can think deep and philosophical thoughts about the video or just enjoy the music.  Whatever you want.

From Matt’s “About” section:

Matt thinks travel is important. It helps us learn what we’re capable of, that the path laid in front of us isn’t the only one we can choose, and that we don’t need to be so afraid of each other all the time.

Matt would like to see the Transportation Security Administration disbanded and replaced with a new system that doesn’t train people to mindlessly obey pointless rules. He believes brief conversations with well-trained humans who make direct eye contact would be a better way to keep people safe without sacrificing their dignity and liberty.

From Matt’s FAQ section:

Why is the world so screwed up?
Men.
How do we fix it?
Women.

How did you get those kids in Rwanda to dance with you?
I just started dancing. There was no prior discussion or explanation. They thought it looked like a fun thing to be doing and joined in. They also really dug seeing themselves on the camera’s playback screen.

Words to the song, “Trip the Light”, composed by Garry Schyman and sung by Alicia Lemke:

If all the days that come to pass
Are behind these walls
I’ll be left at the end of things
In a world kept small

Travel far from what i know
I’ll be swept away
I need to know
I can be lost
 and not afraid

We’re gonna trip the light
We’re gonna break the night
And we’ll see with new eyes
When we trip the light

Remember we’re lost together
Remember we’re the same
We hold the burning rhythm in our hearts
We hold the flame

We’re gonna trip the light
We’re gonna break the night
And we’ll see with new eyes
When we trip the light
(x2)

I’ll find my way home
On the Western wind
To a place that was once my world
Back from where I’ve been

And in the morning light
I’ll remember
As the sun will rise
We are all the glowing embers
Of a distant fire

We’re gonna trip the light
We’re gonna break the night
And we’ll see with new eyes
When we trip the light
(x3)

This stuff belongs to Matt Harding.  http://www.wherethehellismatt.com/

The video:

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Posted by on August 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Another day, another winner.

Former Goldman, Sachs CEO Jon Corzine will not be facing any jail time for “misplacing” a billion bucks.  He will, however, be retaining the pay he “earned” while heading his firm, MF Global.  The DoJ is preparing to end its investigation into the case of the magically disappearing money without bringing charges against the company or any of its employees, including Corzine.  Tough shit for the customers who invested with MF Global.  But it’s not all bad news; Corzine is going to open a new hedge fund, so you will have a chance to trust him with more money and perhaps (snort) make up for that cash of yours, which he “lost” last time.

The New York Times published a front-page article on August 16 reporting that the US Justice Department is preparing to end a ten-month criminal investigation into the collapse of the Wall Street brokerage firm MF Global without charging the company or any of its employees.

This is despite what the Times called the “disappearance” of some $1 billion in customer money that emerged when the firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last October 31. MF Global raided clients’ accounts in an attempt to meet margin calls in the days leading up to its collapse. The newspaper reports that $175 million of this stolen money went to JPMorgan Chase.

The failure of the firm, on the other hand, left “farmers and other customers out millions,” according to the Times report.

Nevertheless, the company and its former chairman and CEO Jon Corzine are likely to be given a free pass by the government. The Times cited “people involved in the case who spoke on condition of anonymity,” making clear that news of the government whitewash had been deliberately leaked, presumably in an effort to prepare public opinion and dampen popular outrage. […]

After being forced out of Goldman Sachs in 1999, Corzine used $62 million of the $400 million fortune he had accumulated to get himself elected US senator from New Jersey.

In 2005, he used another $38 million of his own money to win the state house in New Jersey. As governor, he imposed brutal cuts in health care, pensions, higher education and aid to the cities, as well as slashing 5,000 state jobs. As a result, he lost his reelection bid in 2009 to Republican Chris Christie.  [Teri’s note: Well, that turned out better for ya, dint it?  Such are the “choices” given the voters.]

In March of 2010 he became chairman and CEO of MF Global. He began making enormous bets with borrowed funds that the sovereign debt of countries such as Spain and Italy would not collapse, including a single bet of $6.3 billion—six times MF Global’s capital. When the firm reported a second quarter 2011 loss of nearly $190 million due to the worsening of the European debt crisis, investor confidence in the company collapsed.

Nevertheless, in the 18 months he headed the firm before running it into the ground, Corzine took in $14.25 million in total compensation. The August 16 New York Times article reports that Corzine is now considering launching a hedge fund.
The refusal of the government to prosecute MF Global or Goldman Sachs and their respective executives is anything but an aberration. Nearly four years since the Wall Street crash of September 2008, not a single high-ranking banker has been criminally prosecuted, let alone jailed.

Federal regulators have refused even to hold civil trials for bankers up to their necks in corrupt and illegal practices. Instead, the government has arranged one settlement after another in which financial firms and executives paid token fines and in return were let off without admitting guilt.

The Obama administration has brokered the following major settlements:
* In July 2010, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $550 million in a settlement with the SEC on charges of misleading buyers of mortgage-related investments.
* In October 2010, Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo agreed to pay $67.5 million to settle an SEC investigation into fraud and insider trading practices in the sub-prime mortgage market.
* In March 2011, the Justice Department dropped a criminal probe of Mozilo without laying any charges.
* In June 2011, JPMorgan Chase paid $153.6 million to settle a civil fraud case with the SEC.
* In July 2011, Citigroup settled a civil fraud case with the SEC for $75 million.
* In February 2012, the Obama administration brokered a settlement with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial over rampant fraud and forgery in the processing of foreclosure documents. The banks were penalized a combined $25 billion—only $5 billion of it in cash—in return for the quashing of 49 state investigations with the potential for tens of billions in fines. The settlement enabled the banks to accelerate their foreclosing of homeowners. [Teri’s note: and the remaining 20 bb will be coming from taxpayers.  Further, if you were foreclosed on fraudulently – and you can prove it – you may be entitled to a whopping $2500 or thereabouts.  For the loss of your home.  Plus, there is an idea being bandied about Congress for legislation which would grant taxpayer money to tear down the houses the banks don’t really want after they’ve foreclosed, so the banks wouldn’t even have to pay to raze the houses they took.]

The record speaks for itself. The American financial aristocracy is above the law. It lies, steals, cheats and destroys livelihoods with impunity, protected by its bribed political representatives. It has turned the economy into its personal gambling casino, secure in the knowledge that its losses will be covered by public funds.  -Barry Grey

http://wsws.org/articles/2012/aug2012/corz-a21.shtml

These are the “job-creators”.  They are protected by all the lines of defense we thought were working for the people.  In case it has escaped your notice, we are protected by no-one.  (By the way, when the DoJ or SEC “settles” with one of these big financials, where does the money go?  Does the government get to keep the fines and settlements, or does the money go out to the actual people who were hurt by the fraud and other assorted crimes?  Is there a difference between a “settlement” and a “fine” as far as where the money goes?  I thought someone should ask.  I do not know.)  Unbelievably, some of us think it would be a great idea to end social security and ask people to invest in Wall St.-backed retirement accounts.  And just what do you suppose will happen if Lloyd (Blankfein) or Jon (Corzine) or Jamie (Dimon) or Vikram (Pandit) “loses” your 401k?  Well, I’d suggest it will be the same exact thing that is happening now to the guys who lost your retirement funds in ’08 – not one damn thing.  Except that they continue to get wealthier by leaps and bounds.  Funny how that works.

 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2012 in corporatocracy, economy, Wall St and banks

 

Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations resume in Sept.

The major negotiations on the TPP continue into round 14 and will take place behind closed doors in Leesburg, Va. from  Sept. 6 – 15.  For background on this alarming trade agreement, see my earlier article:

http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/06/the-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp/

The group that brought this trade pact to the public spotlight is Public Citizen; they managed to obtain a few pages of the highly secret agreement that the Obama administration has been working on for several years, concealed from all public oversight or knowledge – even Congress has been barred from the talks.  You may find out more about Public Citizen in general here – their home page:  http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=183

For their specific information page on the TPP, see:  http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=3129

An excerpt from the above link (all information in this excerpt Copyright © 2012 Public Citizen. All rights reserved.):

Threats posed by TPP

More Power to Corporations to Attack Nations
Read how foreign corporations would be empowered to attack our health, environmental and other laws before foreign tribunals to demand taxpayer compensation for policies they think undermine their expected future profits.

Threats to Public Health
U.S. negotiators are pushing the agenda of Big PhaRMA – longer monopoly control on drugs for the big firms. This would mean millions in developing countries are cut off from life-saving medicines & higher prices for the rest of us.

Bye Buy America & Jobs
Read how special investor protections incentivize offshoring by providing special benefits for companies that leave. Plus, TPP would impose limits on how our elected officials can use tax dollars – banning Buy America or Buy Local preferences.

Undermining Food Safety
TPP would require us to import food that does not meet U.S. safety standards. It would limit food labeling.

Son of SOPA: Curtailing Internet Freedom
Thought SOPA was bad? Read how TPP would require internet service providers to “police” user-activity and treat individual violators as large-scale for-profit violators. Plus, TPP would stifle innovation.

Financial Deregulation: Banksters’ Delight
TPP would rollback reregulation of Wall Street. It would prohibit bans on risky financial services and undermine “too big to fail” regulations.

Public Citizen offers tips and talking points on writing a letter to the editor to the newspapers.  [See: http://action.citizen.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=11398 ]  This is especially important since the negotiations are resuming in just a few weeks and the major media outlets refuse to cover the topic at all.  It only takes a few moments to write a letter to the editor of your local paper or better yet, to the major papers, and Public Citizen lists the email addresses of the major papers in this action link, making it even easier for you.

It is not alarmist, but merely fact, to say that this trade agreement will completely change our democracy as we understand it.  Please take a few minutes to read up on the TPP and let others know what is going on.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Congress, corporatocracy, economy, trade agreements

 

And the winnah is…

No, I am not going to talk about Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Barack Obama, or the “presidential” “election”.  After all, what is there to say?  The “winner” has been picked, and guess what?  You are the loser.  When the unrepentant I-got-wealthy-sending-your-job-to-China Mitt tries to make himself appear somewhat related to the human species, with laughable results, and Paul Ryan, Mitt’s running mate, brags about his budget plan which, by the way, would eliminate 4.1 million jobs within 2 years, raise taxes on the middle class, lower them for the wealthy, and increase the deficit, and Obama whines that he is not getting enough credit for being willing to cut social security and medicare, you have to face the fact that there is not much else to say.  The only difference between Mitt and Barack is that currently Barack has the power to arrest and detain you indefinitely, or just assassinate you outright, depending on how he feels this morning; Mitt does not currently have that power, but he’d sure like to.  They both intend to help rich people get richer and put the hurting on poor people.  “Poor people”, those at or near poverty, now includes nearly one third of the nation.  The Dec., 2011 US mayors’ report on poverty claims 50% are at or near poverty.  – http://wsws.org/articles/2011/dec2011/pove-d16.shtml 

[See also : http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/09-2 and http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175543/tomgram%3A_barbara_ehrenreich%2C_looting_the_lives_of_the_poor/ ]

Nope, this week’s winner is one of the proud sponsors of the 2008 and 2012 “elections” and also, coincidentally, one of the major looters and sackers in the Kill The Economy Sweepstakes…Ladies and Gentlemen, I present this week’s award in the ‘getting out of jail free’ category to….Goldman, Sachs.  Long noted for their breath-taking and inventive economic assaults on countries worldwide and their mass destruction of the American Dream at home, this company can now claim three big wins in one week.  What a performance!  Bravo, I say, oh, bravo!  Pay attention, Jamie, the King’s favored one – these guys might have a word or two of advice even for you.  [http://www.salon.com/2012/07/03/barclays_head_forced_out_jpmorgan_head_remains/ ]

12 August, 2012
Attorney General to US: Nothing to See on Wall Street, Folks, Just Move Along
By Richard (RJ) Eskow

Yesterday the Justice Department announced that once again it’s not going to pursue evidence of Wall Street crimes which has been sent its way. It has already failed to act on information sent to it by sources whose investigators are apparently more dogged than its own, including several other government agencies and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Now the bipartisan committee which was led by Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn can be added to the list of sources whose leads weren’t pursued by Attorney General Eric Holder and his staff.

Holder was on the defensive yesterday, a sign that the mounting criticism of his inaction is getting his attention. He was also scornful of that criticism, saying that it’s belied by “a troublesome little thing called facts.”  There’s something troublesome here, all right, but it isn’t the facts.

A Justice Department press release announced that there will be no prosecutions based on the Levin/Coburn report:
“After a careful review of the information provided in the report and more than a year of thorough investigation, the Department of Justice … the FBI and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (and other agencies) have determined that, based on the law and evidence as they exist at this time, there is not a viable basis to bring a criminal prosecution with respect to Goldman Sachs or its employees in regard to the allegations set forth in the report.”

The press release goes on to say that “the department and its investigative partners conducted an exhaustive review of the report and its exhibits, independently gathered and scrutinized a large volume of other documents, and tenaciously pursued potential evidentiary leads, including conducting numerous witness interviews.”

The DoJ also boasts that “Since FY 2011, the Department of Justice’s financial fraud enforcement efforts have resulted in at least $185 billion in civil and criminal forfeitures, restitution, civil settlements and other penalties.” (Bankers have continued to collected huge salaries and bonuses, however, so the lack of criminal prosecution gives them no reason to stop committing crimes.)
The statement goes on to describe DoJ’s “aggressive” pursuit of bank fraud, adding that “The Department of Justice has not hesitated to investigate and take enforcement action when the evidence and facts support doing so.”

Holder himself was considerably more testy: “There have been, I guess, 2,100 or so mortgage-related matters that we have brought here at United State Department of Justice. Our state counterparts have done a variety of things. The notion that there has been inactivity over the course of the last three years is belied by a troublesome little thing called facts.”

Unfortunately, the Holder Justice Department has had a troublesome relationship with facts. That dates back to its ginned-up and ultimately discredited claims about something called “Operation Blind Trust,” in which it claimed credit for dozens of mortgage-related convictions that it said had resulted from a coordinated operation of that name. As the New York Times noted, many of those investigations had actually concluded before the 2008 election, Holder’s appointment, and the creation of “Blind Trust.” […]

And despite Holder’s claims, the convictions obtained over the least three and a half years have been strictly for small fry. The Justice Department hasn’t even tried any cases against major financial executives, despite seemingly overwhelming evidence which includes:

The AIG allegations: We used the Levin/Coburn Report to review the list of potential criminal activity in that case here.
GE Capital deceptions: That’s the company whose politically-connected CEO was given a Presidential appointment. Referring investigators were stunned to find that no criminal charges would be filed over its fraudulent deception of investors, even though they had identified specific individuals in the accounting department who had cooked GE’s books. GE Capital has also been implicated in fraudulent mortgage practices.

Wells Fargo drug-money laundering: That’s the case in which bankers laundered money for the Mexican cartels that have killed tens of thousands of people. You know the gangsters we mean – they’re the guys who decapitate people.

JPMorgan Chase’s “London Whale”: With particular concern about the cover-up of billion-dollar losses, with special concerns about CEO Jamie Dimon’s statement to investors that its London losses were “a tempest in a teapot.” Dimon later admitted he already knew that those losses would be at least two billion. (Making false statements to investors is stock fraud, a crime.)

And there are others, too numerous to mention all of them here: Countrywide. Citigroup. HSBC. The list goes on and on.

The Justice Department’s argument for inaction seems to come down to this: Bank cases are complicated. They’re hard to win. We don’t want to try. And it has repeatedly used an argument that’s also been made by the President and Treasury Secretary as well, as they’ve tried to explain away the inactivity: that bad banking behavior isn’t necessarily criminal behavior. That claim’s been repeated many times, especially in the context of “ABACUS” and other Goldman Sachs misdeeds contained in the Coburn/Levin report.

But it’s not true. It’s already illegal to lie to clients, to knowingly conceal important information from in order to get their money under false pretenses, or to withhold materially important information from shareholders. And yet that flimsy argument seems to lie at the core of the DOJ’s explanation for once again declining to pursue the evidence wherever it may lead.

Here’s what really happened in this case: Goldman was selling its clients “crap” investments (A Goldman employee’s word), and which it knew to be “crap,” while at the same time betting against those investments. And it concealed the fact that these investments were selected, not by the people it told investors were doing the choosing, but by somebody who was well-known for betting against the “crap” – and who would make a fortune if they failed.[…]

Meanwhile, the cases the Justice Department hasn’t prosecuted have led to billions of dollars in settlements. Eric Holder says that his department and this Administration are doing everything they can to prosecute Wall Street fraud and make sure it doesn’t happen again. There’s only one thing that makes that statement hard to believe: It’s a troublesome little thing called “facts.”

http://www.nationofchange.org/attorney-general-us-nothing-see-wall-street-folks-just-move-along-1344690534

On the same case and the concurrent announcement of the SEC dropping their investigation:

US drops investigations of Goldman Sachs
By Barry Grey 
11 August 2012

The US Justice Department announced Thursday evening it was ending a one-year criminal investigation and would not file charges against the giant Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs or any of its employees.

In April 2011, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a voluminous report on the role of major banks, federal regulators and credit rating firms in the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and ensuing financial crash of September 2008.

Of the report’s 640 pages, 240 pages, or 40 percent, were devoted to a detailed examination of Goldman Sach’s deceptive practices in marketing mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations. The report alleged that Goldman bilked clients by selling them mortgage-backed securities without informing them that the bank itself was betting the investments would fail.

The Senate report concluded by listing federal securities laws the committee believed had likely been violated by Goldman and other banks. The committee referred its findings to the Justice Department and federal prosecutors for a criminal investigation of Goldman and its executives. It also called for an investigation into whether Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein had perjured himself in his public testimony before the panel.

In releasing the report, the chairman of the committee, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, said the panel’s two-year probe had found “a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest and wrongdoing.” He recommended that charges be brought and said, “In my judgment, Goldman clearly misled their clients and they misled Congress.”

In its statement released Thursday, the Justice Department said it had conducted “an exhaustive review of the report,” but concluded that “based on the law and evidence as they exist at this time, there is not a viable basis to bring a criminal prosecution with respect to Goldman Sachs or its employees in regard to the allegations set forth in the report.”[…]

Also on Thursday, Goldman revealed in a regulatory filing that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had informed the bank it had ended a separate probe of a $1.3 billion subprime mortgage deal stemming from 2006, and had decided to take no action. This was an about-face by the SEC, which had notified the bank last February that it planned to pursue a civil action in relation to the Goldman security.

The SEC decision to drop the investigation comes as regulators are approaching a statute of limitations deadline for mortgage securities issued before 2007.[…]

http://wsws.org/articles/2012/aug2012/gold-a11.shtml

Yesterday, Goldman won another one:

(Reuters) – Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and other bank officials won the dismissal of a shareholder lawsuit accusing them of tolerating poor mortgage practices and quitting a federal bailout program early to boost executive pay.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan said the shareholders failed to show there were “red flags” to put bank directors on notice of “broken controls” in Goldman’s mortgage servicing business, including that workers at its Litton unit may have been “robo-signing” documents.

Pauley also cited a similar lack of red flags to suggest directors knew Goldman was packaging troubled loans in residential mortgage-backed securities, including loans the bank sold “short” in a bet they would lose value.

The judge also said the plaintiffs did not show that directors acted in bad faith in letting Goldman repay $10 billion taken from the Troubled Asset Relief Program early, in June 2009, freeing the bank from restrictions on executive pay.[…]

Goldman still faces other shareholder litigation. In June, for example, Pauley’s colleague Paul Crotty said shareholders may pursue claims that they lost money after Goldman concealed conflicts of interest in how it put together several collateralized debt obligation transactions.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice said it ended a criminal probe into Goldman activity that predated the financial crisis, while the bank said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ended a civil probe into a sale of $1.3 billion of subprime mortgage debt.[…]

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Richard Chang and Matthew Lewis)

http://www.reuters.com/article/email/idUSBRE87D0UX20120814

 

For some background on the statute of limitations issue, see here:  http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/07/connect-the-dots/

You may read an analysis of the Abacus deal (one of the cases mentioned above) here:  http://sevenpillarsinstitute.org/case-studies/goldman-sachs-and-the-abacus-deal

The details are, as someone put it to me the other day, lurid.

The Holder DoJ, the SEC, and the various states’ courts are running the clock out on these cases.  It is truly…audacious.  Yet for some reason, we hope for justice to come from one of the two presidential candidates, both of whom are funded magnificently by Wall St. and the big financial companies, and one of whom has had four years to do his Big Reveal, which turns out to be the revelation that he will not under any circumstances end too-big-to-fail or carry out Wall St. prosecutions.  Perhaps someday, we sigh.  Maybe eventually.   As they say, you can put your wishes in one hand and piss in the other – and just watch which one fills up first.

(“So long, and thanks for all the fish!” – Goldman, Sachs, et al to the world.)

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2012 in corporatocracy, economy, MERS, Wall St and banks

 

Is you is, or is you ain't, aiding a terrorist?

According to the 2012 NDAA  [National Defense Authorization Act], you can be picked up and detained indefinitely without trial for aiding terrorist organizations.  This most specifically includes the Taliban, al Qaeda and its related affiliates.  The Obama administration is appealing Judge Forrest’s recent decision barring enforcement of the indefinite detention provisions in the NDAA.  In other words, despite Obama’s words that he didn’t “like” that part of the NDAA and that he only signed it for the sake of national security, his administration is battling for the right to use exactly those provisions.

[…]Manhattan federal court Judge Katherine Forrest in May ruled in favor of activists and reporters who said they feared being detained under a section of the law, signed by President Barack Obama in December.

The government says indefinite military detention without trial is justified in some cases involving militants and their supporters.
The judge’s preliminary injunction prevents the U.S. government from enforcing section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act’s “Homeland Battlefield” provisions.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, which represents the government in this case, along with named defendants Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta filed its notice of appeal with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The plaintiffs in the case have asked Judge Forrest to make her injunction permanent. Oral argument on the request is scheduled for Tuesday.[…]

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/indefinite-detention-ruling_n_1749566.html

 As it came out during the hearings in this case, there are many ways the government can pick you up for “aiding terrorists”: you might interview a member of the Taliban or al Qaeda for an article you are writing or include a sentence expressing support for the political goals of the Taliban in a book or article you have written.  You may donate money to a group that is later added to a “watchlist” by the FBI or Homeland Security.  Perhaps you organize a demonstration that someone decides shows support for a terrorist organization (both “support” and “terrorist organization” being only vaguely defined by the NDAA).  You may loan money to a friend in need who has somehow become involved with a group on one of the “watchlists”; the fact that you did not know this, that you helped the friend unwittingly, is irrelevant under the provisions of the NDAA.

Now let’s look at the situation in Syria.  News reports recently revealed that Obama signed secret orders some time ago allowing the CIA to take part in the “rebel uprising” in Syria.

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, sources familiar with the matter said.

Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence “finding,” broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.[…]

Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined.
The full extent of clandestine support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.[…]

A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.[…]

Separately from the president’s secret order, the Obama administration has stated publicly that it is providing some backing for Assad’s opponents.

The State Department said on Wednesday the U.S. government had set aside a total of $25 million for “non-lethal” assistance to the Syrian opposition. A U.S. official said that was mostly for communications equipment, including encrypted radios.[…]

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury confirmed it had granted authorization to the Syrian Support Group, Washington representative of one of the most active rebel factions, the Free Syrian Army, to conduct financial transactions on the rebel group’s behalf. The authorization was first reported on Friday by Al-Monitor, a Middle East news and commentary website.[…]

Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad’s opponents.[…]

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/02/us-usa-syria-obama-order-idUSBRE8701OK20120802

We are determined to intervene in Syria and oust President Assad, for “humanitarian reasons”, of course.  We seemed to have liked Assad well enough when we were using his prisons as black sites to hold and torture people we deemed threats.  Now the Assad regime must go and we just have to get involved in another country’s internal problems. The thing is, we are determined to move forward with the broader war planned with Iran, and Syria is the last country standing in the way.

Thus we hear Hillary we-came-we-saw-he-died Clinton, ever the diplomat, warn that Assad’s days are numbered. “The sand is running out of the hourglass,” she said.  “It should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime their days are numbered.” http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2012/07/clinton-assads-days-are-numbered.html ]  (Did a cackling Clinton just invoke the Flying Monkeys meme?)

Leon Panetta did her one better, threatening members of Assad’s family.  Although to be fair, he was merely stating US policy of going after the entire family in grand mafioso style as we did in Libya – one of our first targets there was a Ghaddafi family home and the dead included one of Ghaddafi’s sons and three of his little grandchildren.  “I’m sure that deep down Assad knows he’s in trouble and it’s just matter of time before he has to go,” Panetta said. “I would say if you want to be able to protect yourself and your family, you better get the hell out now.”  Interestingly, Panetta also thinks it is important to keep Assad’s military intact after getting rid of Assad; this is the same military supposedly running rampant and killing civilians throughout Syria.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says that when Bashar al-Assad loses his grip on power, he wants the Syrian military to remain in place.

“I think it’s important when Assad leaves – and he will leave – to try to preserve stability in that country. And the best way to preserve that kind of stability is to maintain as much of the military, the police, as you can, along with the security forces, and hope that they will transition to a democratic form of government. That’s a key,” Panetta told CNN’s Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr in an exclusive interview in Tunis, Tunisia, Monday.[…]

http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/30/panetta-says-when-not-if-al-assad-falls-syrian-military-should-remain-intact/?hpt=hp_t3

 

According to one Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the US is seeking a “controlled demolition” of the Assad government.  (Which he seems to find not an altogether bad idea.)  [ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/world/middleeast/us-to-focus-on-forcibly-toppling-syrian-government.html ]

The “rebel” group we have befriended in our effort to get rid of Assad is the Free Syria Army.  They are supported by al Qaeda, as is acknowledged by both Clinton and Panetta, and a fact which has been pointed out by numerous media sources.  For instance:

Syria: Clinton Admits US On Same Side As Al Qaeda To Destabilise Assad Government

by Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has acknowledged that Al Qaeda and other organizations on the US “terror list” are supporting the Syrian opposition.

Clinton said: “We have a very dangerous set of actors in the region, al-Qaida [sic], Hamas, and those who are on our terrorist list, to be sure, supporting – claiming to support the opposition [in Syria].”

Yet at the same time, in the above BBC interview the US Secretary of State repeats the threadbare Western claim that the situation in Syria is one of a defenceless population coming under “relentless attack” from Syrian government forces.

There is ample evidence that teams of snipers who have been killing civilians over the past year in Syria belong to the terrorist formations to which Clinton is referring to.[…]

The admission at the weekend by Hillary Clinton corroborates the finding that armed groups are attacking civilians and these groups are terroristic, according to US own definitions, and that the situation in Syria is not one of unilateral state violence against its population but rather is one of a shadowy armed insurrection[…]

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29524#.UCIk3H88pmw.email

 

German intelligence: al-Qaeda all over Syria
By John Rosenthal

German intelligence estimates that “around 90” terror attacks that “can be attributed to organizations that are close to al-Qaeda or jihadist groups” were carried out in Syria between the end of December and the beginning of July, as reported by the German daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).[…]

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NG24Ak02.html

From the Council on Foreign Relations’ Ed Husain:

The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks. By and large, Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions are tired, divided, chaotic, and ineffective. Feeling abandoned by the West, rebel forces are increasingly demoralized as they square off with the Assad regime’s superior weaponry and professional army. Al-Qaeda fighters, however, may help improve morale. The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA needs al-Qaeda now.

In Syria, al-Qaeda’s foot soldiers call themselves Jabhat al-Nusrah li-Ahli al-Sham (Front for the Protection of the Levantine People). The group’s strength and acceptance by the FSA are demonstrated by their increasing activity on the ground (BBC)–from seven attacks in March to sixty-six “operations” in June. In particular, the Jabhat has helped take the fight to Syria’s two largest cities: the capital of Damascus, where 54 percent of its activities have been, and Aleppo. Indeed, al-Qaeda could become the most effective fighting force in Syria if defections from the FSA to the Jabhat persist and the ranks of foreign fighters (Guardian) continue to swell.

Al-Qaeda is not sacrificing its “martyrs” in Syria merely to overthrow Assad. Liberation of the Syrian people is a bonus, but the main aim is to create an Islamist state in all or part of the country. Failing that, they hope to at least establish a strategic base for the organization’s remnants across the border in Iraq, and create a regional headquarters where mujahideen can enjoy a safe haven. If al-Qaeda continues to play an increasingly important role in the rebellion, then a post-Assad government will be indebted to the tribes and regions allied to the Jabhat. Failing to honor the Jabhat’s future requests, assuming Assad falls, could see a continuation of conflict in Syria.

Thus far, Washington seems reluctant to weigh heavily into this issue. In May 2012, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta publicly accepted al-Qaeda’s presence in Syria (Guardian). And in July, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, Daniel Benjamin, rather incredulously suggested that the United States will simply ask the FSA to reject al-Qaeda. The unspoken political calculation among policymakers is to get rid of Assad first—weakening Iran’s position in the region—and then deal with al-Qaeda later.

But the planning to minimize al-Qaeda’s likely hold over Syrian tribes and fighters must begin now as the Obama administration ramps up its support to rebel groups (Reuters). […]

http://www.cfr.org/syria/al-qaedas-specter-syria/p28782#cid

See also: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/30/al-qaida-rebels-battle-syria

And who are the experts in regard to all matters Syrian, the most often quoted by the press when a spokesman is needed to push for the invasion of Syria?  Charlie Skelton, a journalist for the Guardian UK, did an amazing bit of reporting when he asked just that question and found some answers:

A nightmare is unfolding across Syria, in the homes of al-Heffa and the streets of Houla. And we all know how the story ends: with thousands of soldiers and civilians killed, towns and families destroyed, and President Assad beaten to death in a ditch.

This is the story of the Syrian war, but there is another story to be told. A tale less bloody, but nevertheless important. This is a story about the storytellers: the spokespeople, the “experts on Syria”, the “democracy activists”. The statement makers. The people who “urge” and “warn” and “call for action”.[…]

It’s important to stress: to investigate the background of a Syrian spokesperson is not to doubt the sincerity of his or her opposition to Assad. But a passionate hatred of the Assad regime is no guarantee of independence. Indeed, a number of key figures in the Syrian opposition movement are long-term exiles who were receiving US government funding to undermine the Assad government long before the Arab spring broke out.[…]The most quoted of the opposition spokespeople are the official representatives of the Syrian National Council. The SNC is not the only Syrian opposition group – but it is generally recognised as “the main opposition coalition” (BBC). The Washington Times describes it as “an umbrella group of rival factions based outside Syria”. Certainly the SNC is the opposition group that’s had the closest dealings with western powers – and has called for foreign intervention from the early stages of the uprising. […]
The most senior of the SNC’s official spokespeople is the Paris-based Syrian academic Bassma Kodmani.

Kodmani is a member of the executive bureau and head of foreign affairs, Syrian National Council. Kodmani is close to the centre of the SNC power structure, and one of the council’s most vocal spokespeople. […]This year was Kodmani’s second Bilderberg. […]

Back a few years, in 2005, Kodmani was working for the Ford Foundation in Cairo, where she was director of their governance and international co-operation programme.[…]
In September 2005, Kodmani was made the executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) – a research programme initiated by the powerful US lobby group, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

The CFR is an elite US foreign policy thinktank, and the Arab Reform Initiative is described on its website as a “CFR Project” . […]

Another often quoted SNC representative is Radwan Ziadeh – director of foreign relations at the Syrian National Council. Ziadeh has an impressive CV: he’s a senior fellow at the federally funded Washington thinktank, the US Institute of Peace (the USIP Board of Directors is packed with alumni of the defence department and the national security council; its president is Richard Solomon, former adviser to Kissinger at the NSC).

In February this year, Ziadeh joined an elite bunch of Washington hawks to sign a letter calling upon Obama to intervene in Syria: his fellow signatories include James Woolsey (former CIA chief), Karl Rove (Bush Jr’s handler), Clifford May (Committee on the Present Danger) and Elizabeth Cheney, former head of the Pentagon’s Iran-Syria Operations Group.
Ziadeh is a relentless organiser, a blue-chip Washington insider with links to some of the most powerful establishment thinktanks.[…]

Along with Kodmani and Ziadeh, Ausama (or sometimes Osama) Monajed is one of the most important SNC spokespeople. There are others, of course – the SNC is a big beast and includes the Muslim Brotherhood. The opposition to Assad is wide-ranging, but these are some of the key voices. […]  So, again, a fair question might be: who is this spokesman calling for military intervention?

Monajed is a member of the SNC, adviser to its president, and according to his SNC biography, “the Founder and Director of Barada Television”, a pro-opposition satellite channel based in Vauxhall, south London. In 2008, a few months after attending Syria In-Transition conference, Monajed was back in Washington, invited to lunch with George W Bush, along with a handful of other favoured dissidents […]

At this time, in 2008, the US state department knew Monajed as “director of public relations for the Movement for Justice and Development (MJD), which leads the struggle for peaceful and democratic change in Syria”.

Let’s look closer at the MJD. Last year, the Washington Post picked up a story from WikiLeaks, which had published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables. These cables appear to show a remarkable flow of money from the US state department to the British-based Movement for Justice and Development. According to the Washington Post’s report: “Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified US diplomatic cables show that the state department has funnelled as much as $6m to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria.”[…]

One of the most widely quoted western experts on Syria – and an enthusiast for western intervention – Michael Weiss echoes Ambassador Ross when he says: “Military intervention in Syria isn’t so much a matter of preference as an inevitability.”
Some of Weiss’s interventionist writings can be found on a Beirut-based, Washington-friendly website called “NOW Lebanon” – whose “NOW Syria” section is an important source of Syrian updates. NOW Lebanon was set up in 2007 by Saatchi & Saatchi executive Eli Khoury. Khoury has been described by the advertising industry as a “strategic communications specialist, specialising in corporate and government image and brand development”.[…]

But Weiss is not only a blogger. He’s also the director of communications and public relations at the Henry Jackson Society, an ultra-ultra-hawkish foreign policy thinktank.

The Henry Jackson Society’s international patrons include: James “ex-CIA boss” Woolsey, Michael “homeland security” Chertoff, William “PNAC” Kristol, Robert “PNAC” Kagan’, Joshua “Bomb Iran” Muravchick, and Richard “Prince of Darkness” Perle. The Society is run by Alan Mendoza, chief adviser to the all-party parliamentary group on transatlantic and international security.[…]

Statistic after horrific statistic pours from “the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” (AP). It’s hard to find a news report about Syria that doesn’t cite them. But who are they? “They” are Rami Abdulrahman (or Rami Abdel Rahman), who lives in Coventry.

According to a Reuters report in December of last year: “When he isn’t fielding calls from international media, Abdulrahman is a few minutes down the road at his clothes shop, which he runs with his wife.”[…]

That name, the “Syrian Observatory of Human Rights”, sound so grand, so unimpeachable, so objective. And yet when Abdulrahman and his “Britain-based NGO” (AFP/NOW Lebanon) are the sole source for so many news stories about such an important subject, it would seem reasonable to submit this body to a little more scrutiny than it’s had to date.

The Observatory is by no means the only Syrian news source to be quoted freely with little or no scrutiny […]They’re selling the idea of military intervention and regime change, and the mainstream news is hungry to buy. Many of the “activists” and spokespeople representing the Syrian opposition are closely (and in many cases financially) interlinked with the US and London – the very people who would be doing the intervening. Which means information and statistics from these sources isn’t necessarily pure news – it’s a sales pitch, a PR campaign.

But it’s never too late to ask questions, to scrutinise sources. Asking questions doesn’t make you a cheerleader for Assad – that’s a false argument. It just makes you less susceptible to spin. The good news is, there’s a sceptic born every minute.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/12/syrian-opposition-doing-the-talking

I know that was a lengthy excerpt, but I think it important to understand who the spokesmen pushing for intervention in Syria are.  The entire article is excellent and I highly recommend you read the whole thing.  We see all the usual suspects pushing for war – the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg people, the Ford Foundation (Obama’s mother worked for the Ford Foundation at one point in her career, by the way), etc.  And the Syrian opposition is not really so much “rebels” and “freedom fighters” as it is CIA and al Qaeda.  Although it has become painfully clear that the US has been involved in staging this civil war in Syria for some time, Hillary angrily proclaimed a day ago that those working “to exploit the misery of the Syrian people, either by sending in proxies or by sending in terrorist fighters, must recognize that that will not be tolerated, first and foremost by the Syrian people.” [Clinton speaking from S. Africa: http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/07/world/meast/syria-unrest/ ]  The CNN article goes on, blissfully unaware of the irony of following the Clinton quote with this: “Nations such as the United States, France, Britain and Turkey, as well as Arab League countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have supported Syrian rebels and the opposition.  There are also reports of Islamist cells schooled in terror tactics helping some rebels fight the al-Assad regime, and weaponry has flowed across the borders to Free Syrian Army rebels…”

As I pointed out at the beginning of this article, Obama wants to retain the right to imprison you indefinitely without trial for aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.  Congress likes the idea so much that they have included this provision in the 2013 NDAA, currently being worked on.  ….On the other hand, you are now encouraged to donate money to what we know is a group working with al Qaeda in Syria.   Wait a second here – what about the War on Terror?  Are we going to take al Qaeda off the terror list?  Perhaps just in this one case?  You know, temporarily-like?  What the hell?

Because this fundraiser is aimed at Americans, the donation website includes a little video game where you can shoot down Assad.  So cute and endearingly childish, we are.  Notice in the following article how sweetly we are encouraged to fight the government of a foreign nation with our donations and to “help set up a new government” there.  Getting us all to collude in the (illegal) invasion of sovereign nation with which we are not at war, and to (illegally) replace its current government with forced regime change.  Perhaps this is a method of entrapping foolish Americans into donating to terrorists.  Maybe Oblahblah forgot about the NDAA momentarily.   It may be an “oversight” (oops, did we just ask you to support al Qaeda?), or a way for the government to deny the already admitted al Qaeda affiliation to the Free Syria Army.   Perhaps it is just intended to be a tax deduction for the Koch Brothers and Jeffrey Immelt.  It is clearly a way for Americans and Big Money to directly fund terrorism and call it a charitable donation.  It may just be a sign of the insanity and nonsense that rules the US now.  Who the hell knows?   For what it is worth, though, here it is:

Now you legally can buy weapons for Syrian rebels, according to the Obama administration. Sacramento and national media are now telling U.S. residents that they can legally arm Syrian rebels by sending money to the Syrian Support Group based in Washington, DC at 1000 Connecticut Avenue NW, suite 900, Washington DC 20036 and run by an American. There’s a link on the group’s website you may click if you wish to donate money.

The group supports the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The Free Syrian Army is an armed opposition group operating in Syria that has been active during the Syrian civil war. […]

The organization reports that it advocates military intervention by any willing country to ensure saving lives on the ground, according to its website.

The U.S. Treasury Department cleared the way today for U.S. residents to buy weapons to send to Syria by donating money, not mailing guns and bombs, of course.

Today the federal government, that is, the Obama administration’s Treasury Department, has now cleared the way after more than a year and a half of rebel fighting in Syria for U.S. residents actually to buy weapons for the rebels who are fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. This means that now a Washington-based advocacy group has been legally granted a rare license to collect money for arms and other equipment.

You can’t actually mail guns to Syria, but the Washington-based advocacy group can collect money from you to buy arms and other equipment to fight the Syrian government and knock Bashar Assad out of office with the imagery of a pin-ball game, where you figuratively shoot the target photo of Assad, that is, send money to that organization which in turn buys the arms such as guns and other equipment like tanks and bombs to fight the government of Syria and help set up a new government there.[…]

http://www.examiner.com/article/u-s-residents-now-can-legallly-arm-sryian-rebels

See also: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/02/4684067/us-residents-can-help-arm-syrian.html

Or: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/08/01/159311/us-eases-arms-purchases-for-syrian.html

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Congress, Iran, MIC, Syria