Saturday, October 1, 2011

California pulls out of 50-state foreclosure talks

By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press – Fri Sep 30, 7:44 pm ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Friday that she will not agree to a settlement over foreclosure abuses that federal officials and other state attorneys general are negotiating with major U.S. banks.

Her announcement is the latest to undermine a settlement that had been in the works between the banks and attorneys general in all 50 states. Other states including New York also have expressed reservations.

The agreement was supposed to settle claims of poor mortgage and foreclosure practices, including document fraud known as "robo-signing" — approving documents in foreclosures without actually reading them.

However, Harris said the pending deal is "inadequate for California homeowners" and gives bank officials too much legal immunity.

The state is being asked as part of the settlement "to excuse conduct that has not been properly investigated," she wrote, promising to continue her own investigation.

Without agreement from the nation's most populous state — and one of the hardest hit by foreclosures — the settlement could end up doing little to resolve the issue. Foreclosure fraud class-action lawsuits are also piling up against major banks across the country.READ MORE

Why Aren't Ayn Rand's Wealthy "Job Creators" ... Creating Jobs?

The myth of the wealthy "job creator" has been used for years to underscore a harmful vision of capitalism.
September 29, 2011

With the announcement last Monday of President Obama’s plan to pay for his jobs bill with, among other things, the so-called “Buffett Rule,” we’re going to be hearing a lot more about the “job creators.” Over the last year, Congressional Republicans have consistently invoked them as a hex of sorts against any proposal to raise new tax revenue. “I am not for raising taxes in a recession,” Eric Cantor declared last November, when the Bush tax cuts were a bargaining chip in the protracted budget debate, “especially when it comes to the job creators that we need so desperately to start creating jobs again.”

How Conservative Politicians Wait for God to Fix the Economy, With Frightening Results

The theology embraced by American religious conservatives may render them immune to evidence and reason when it comes to economic management.
September 26, 2011

Is it merely partisan politics and the misguided ideology of "austerity" that leads conservatives to reject commonsense fixes for this miserable economy? Or is something else going on?

It may well be the latter. A study released last fall suggests that the theology embraced by American religious conservatives may render them immune to evidence and reason when it comes to economic management. The study found that a sizable minority share a uniquely faith-based view of how the economy functions, believing that both good and bad outcomes are an expression of God's will, and are therefore beyond the reach of mere mortals.

This may help explain the disconnect between the gravity of our economic crisis and lawmakers' – especially conservative lawmakers' -- decided lack of a sense of urgency in addressing it. Consider for a moment three related facts that, taken together, cast what appears to be the sheer madness of our nation's economic stewardship in sharp relief.

Religious-Right Homophobes Whine That They're Being Oppressed

It's important to remember that we are talking about people opposing core civil rights for American citizens.
September 29, 2011

Maggie Gallagher, who has devoted much of her professional life to maintaining separate but decidedly unequal accomodations for gays and lesbians, is very concerned about Americans' individual rights. Mostly, she's worried about the “right” of religious conservatives dwelling on the wrong side of history to express their bigotry openly, without having to face the scorn of more enlightened citizens.

Gallagher, a syndicated columnist, is the former president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and current head of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy (a group that lobbies against marriage equality). She is best known for writing favorably of the Bush administration's “Healthy Marriage Initiative” without disclosing that she was receiving tens of thousands of dollars from the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the policy at the time.READ MORE

Study: Majority Of Young Evangelicals Have Pre-Marital Sex, Exposing Flaws With Right-Wing Attacks On Sex Ed

The religious right has a heavy hand in conservative politics, particularly in an election year. Christian presidential candidates like Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) all tout their Christian credentials and signed the pro-life pledges to court the evangelical vote. But there is one traditional position that even young Christians are abandoning: the purity pledge. According to a recent study, 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults have had sex, only 8 percent less than the general unmarried adult population: Read more

How the Tea Party's Noxious Legacy Will Haunt Us for Years

The chaos unleashed by Fox and friends on the American political system during those two years of the Obama backlash is going to be with us for a long, long time. READ MORE

Is Racism Worse in the Age of Obama?

There are plenty of downsides to racism, but the biggest is perhaps the fear and paranoia it instills in those who have experienced it or seen it up close and personal. READ MORE

Meet the Wealthy Men Trying to Buy Our Upcoming Election

These are America's best-funded political factions, their war chests filled by some of the richest men (and almost all are men) in the country. READ MORE

Progressives -- Don't Get Depressed, Fight Back

How can anti-authoritarian critical thinkers rise above their pessimism and really fight for change?READ MORE

Friday, September 30, 2011

Why Are Religious Conservatives So Scared of Gay Sex?

Photo Credit: Jamison Wieser via Flickr

Anti-gay bigotry is just one piece of a larger picture of conservative fear and loathing of all forms of sexuality.
September 29, 2011

The past year has been a remarkable one for moving the ball forward for gay rights: the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the addition of New York to the list of states where gays can marry legally, and the Obama administration first declining to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, and then going on the record opposing it as unconstitutional.

Subsequently, those on the right who are still willing to strongly oppose gay rights are becoming more shrill in their opposition. The National Organization for Marriage, which already had a gold medal in the "bigotry Olympics," felt the need to respond to these changes by appointing a new leader who had criticized the supporters of Prop. 8 in California for not being bigoted enough, saying that any rights given to gays in relationships was too marriage-like for his tastes. READ MORE

What they're really afraid of is the fall of another one of their taboos!

10 Congresspeople Making Life Worse for Their Constituents

What the Terrible Ten and their kind would have you believe is that we can no longer afford safety net programs due to the budget deficit. They're wrong. READ MORE

The Universe as a Hologram

By The Holographic Universe author Michael Talbot

Michael Talbot authored a number of thought-provoking books highlighting parallels between ancient mysticism and quantum mechanics. He depicted a theoretical model of reality that suggests the physical universe is akin to a giant hologram. In The Holographic Universe, Talbot bases much of his fascinating writing on the work of quantum physicist David Bohm and neurosurgeon Karl Pribram.

Does Objective Reality Exist?

In 1982 a remarkable event took place. At the University of Paris, a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect performed what may turn out to be one of the most important experiments of the 20th century. You did not hear about it on the evening news. In fact, unless you are in the habit of reading scientific journals, you probably have never even heard Aspect's name, though there are some who believe his discovery may change the face of science.

Aspect and his team discovered that under certain circumstances subatomic particles such as electrons are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating them. It doesn't matter whether they are 10 feet or 10 billion miles apart. Somehow each particle always seems to know what the other is doing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fox’s Roger Ailes Produces New Series To Misrepresent Labor and Environmental Protection Laws as Evil, "Life-Ruining"

The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz has an inside look at Fox News today that focuses on its 71-year-old president, Roger Ailes. In one passage, Kurtz revealed that Ailes is the brains behind a new Fox News series — Regulation Nation — that is meant solely to attack the very idea of regulations:

Ailes raises a Fox initiative that he cooked up: “Are our producers on board on this ‘Regulation Nation’ stuff? Are they ginned up and ready to go?” Ailes, who claims to be “hands off” in developing the series, later boasts that “no other network will cover that subject … I think regulations are totally out of control,” he adds, with bureaucrats hiring Ph.D.s to “sit in the basement and draw up regulations to try to ruin your life.” It is a message his troops cannot miss. Read more

By Pat Garofalo Sourced from ThinkProgress
Posted at September 26, 2011, 9:30 am

Perry Appointees May Raid Public School Funds to Give Oil Refineries $135 Million Tax Break

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan - See More Photos
APNewsBreak: Texas refineries may get back $135M

The nation’s biggest oil companies — many of them headquartered in oil-rich Texas — are raking in record profits this year and don’t need any more incentive to keep doing business. But Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and his hand-picked appointees are giving them one anyway, and literally taking money away from children and schools to pay for it.

Public education — along with Medicaid,women’s health care, and the Texas Forest Service — was gutted in the budget Perry signed this year. But the governor’s hand-picked appointees on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality look likely to raid another $67 million from public schools to give Big Oil a tax break: Read more

In Germany, Sex Workers Feed a Meter

Oliver Berg/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A ticket machine prints receipts for those who work the streets.

September 1, 2011, New York Times

The city of Bonn has begun collecting taxes from prostitutes with an automated pay station similar to a parking meter, proving again that German efficiency knows few if any bounds. Bonn is not the only city in Germany to charge such a tax, but it is the first to hit upon the idea of a ticket machine that prints out receipts for the nightly flat fee of 6 euros (currently about $8.65) for the privilege of streetwalking. The meter went into service over the weekend, and by Monday morning had collected $382 for the city’s coffers. Prostitution is legal in Germany; the Reeperbahn in Hamburg is one of the largest red-light districts in Europe. Attempts are often made to regulate the industry, unionize the workers and tax the proceeds, but they are not always effective, given both the discretion and the unpredictability that are inherent in the business. Street prostitution as practiced in Bonn, once the capital of West Germany and a town better known for sleepiness than sexiness, would be unfamiliar to many people outside Germany for its unusual degree of organization and institutionalization. The Siemens-built meter machine ... cost $11,575 including installation.

Note: Prostitution is legal and regulated in Germany and seven other European countries.READ MORE

Tony Blair 'visited Libya to lobby for JP Morgan'

Mr Blair was flown to Libya twice at Gaddafi's expense on one of the former dictator's private jets Photo: GETTY

Tony Blair used visits to Libya after he left office to lobby for business for the American investment bank JP Morgan. New questions over Tony Blair's ties to Col Muammar Gaddafi and his role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber have emerged from documents discovered in Tripoli. A senior executive with the Libyan Investment Authority, the $70 billion fund used to invest the country's oil money abroad, said Mr Blair was one of three prominent western businessmen who regularly dealt with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the former leader. Saif al-Islam and his close aides oversaw the activities of the fund, and often directed its officials on where they should make its investments, he said. The executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, said officials were told the "ideas" they were ordered to pursue came from Mr Blair as well as one other British businessman and a former American diplomat. "Tony Blair's visits were purely lobby visits for banking deals with JP Morgan," he said. Documents found by The Sunday Telegraph published this weekend showed Mr Blair had made at least three visits to Tripoli, twice in the lead-up to the release of the alleged Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Megrahi in 2008 and 2009 and once last year. On the first two occasions he was flown to the country on planes arranged by Col Gaddafi.

Note: For a two-page summary of US Marine Corps General Smedley Butler's explanation of the profiteering behind modern wars, click here.

For key reports on corporate and government corruption from major media sources, click here and here.

Oxfam warns of spiralling land grab in developing countries

September 22, 2011, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)

The scale of the rush by speculators, pension funds and global agri-businesses to acquire large areas of developing countries is far greater than previously thought, and is already leading to conflict, hunger and human rights abuses, says Oxfam. The NGO has identified 227m ha (561m acre ha) of land – an area the size of north-west Europe – as having being reportedly sold, leased or licensed, largely in Africa and mostly to international investors in thousands of secretive deals since 2001. The new land rush, which was triggered by food riots, a series of harvest failures following major droughts and the western investors moving out of the US property market in 2008, is being justified by governments and speculators in the name of growing food for hungry people and biofuels for environmental benefit. "Many of the deals are in fact 'land grabs' where the rights and needs of the people previously living on the land are ignored, leaving them homeless and without land to grow enough food to eat and make a living," said Oxfam chief executive Dame Barbara Stocking. While some investors might claim to have experience in agricultural production, many may only be purchasing land speculatively, anticipating price increases in the coming years. In addition, developing countries are under pressure from the IMF, the World Bank and other regional banks to put farmland on the international market to increase economic development and improve the balance of payments.

Note: To read Oxfam's summary and report on land grabs worldwide, click here.

Ron Paul Reveals Wikileaks US Embassy Cable Supporting and Asking Iraq to Invade Kuwait, the U.S. Used This Invasion to Justify It's Own War with Iraq

Ron Paul addressing congress concerning leaked cable reveiling Bagdag communicating with the Bush Sr adm. prior to the invasion of Kawait.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This video may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only. This constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

Lloyd's insurer sues Saudi Arabia for 'funding 9/11 attacks'

September 19, 2011, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)

A Lloyd's insurance syndicate has begun a landmark legal case against Saudi Arabia, accusing the kingdom of indirectly funding al-Qa'ida and demanding the repayment of £136m it paid out to victims of the 9/11 attacks. Outlined in a 156-page document filed in western Pennsylvania, where United Airlines flight 93 crashed on 9/11, the claim suggests that the nine defendants "knowingly" provided resources, including funding, to al-Qa'ida in the years before the attack and encouraged anti-Western sentiment which increased support for the terror group. The case singles out the activities of a charity, the Saudi Joint Relief Committee for Kosovo and Chechnya (SJRC), which was alleged by UN officials to have been used as a cover by several al-Qa'ida operatives, including two men who acted as directors of the charity. It is alleged that at the time the SJRC was under the control of Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, half-brother of King Abdullah and the long-standing Saudi Interior minister. The claim states: "Between 1998 and 2000, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through the SJRC, diverted more than $74m to al-Qa'ida members and loyalists affiliated with SJRC bureaus. Throughout this time, the Committee was under the supervision and control of Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz."

Note: This article singles out the important connection between Al Qaeda and the wars in Kosovo and Chechnya, where, as in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Osama bin Laden's organization provided Muslim jihadis to promote US imperial interests. This activity continued into the summer of 2001 in Macedonia, just a few months before 9/11. Amazingly, the lawsuit described in the article has been dropped.

What pressures could have been brought to bear on Lloyd's to cause it to drop its suit two weeks after bringing it?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chris Wallace Continues to Pretend the Rich are Already Paying Their Fair Share of Taxes

Senior White House adviser David Plouffe was out there making the rounds this Sunday, defending President Obama's deficit reduction plan which has Republicans up in arms because he's dared to suggest that the rich should be paying more in taxes. During Plouffe's interview on Fox News Sunday, Wallace did his best to play concern troll for the wealthiest among us, trotting out some of the same tired talking points we've been hearing from Republicans, and repeated constantly on Fox, for some time now.

Chris Hayes debunked one of them this weekend on his show that Nicole wrote about here -- Chris Hayes: Welcome To Inequalistan!:

SNL Season Opener Pans Recent GOP Presidential Debates

By Heather

Where Oh Where Is All This Bigotry Coming From?

FROM THE: Happy Valley News Hour BLOG

Posted on September 25, 2011 by kamper

Booergate continues! Following up on my post from yesterday,I checked in with Althouse earlier today and, sure enough, she had revisited the controversyof Who Booed the Gay Soldier at the Republican Debate: of Who Booed the Gay Soldier at the Republican Debate:

I have listened to the video several times, and I stand by my perception that only one person audibly yells “boo.” I hear a loud “boo,” then a difficult to decipher noise — which could be an ugh response to the booer — and then a little more of a boo, which sounds like the original guy.

She links to Jim Geraghtyat the National Review, who quotes a woman who witnessed booergate first hand:

I was at the debate, in the audience on the right hand side about halfway back (here’s my tweet of the video screen that was right in front of us). The person who booed was just a few rows in front of us.

Hmmm. Right hand side. About halfway back. Booer was just in front of her. Maybe if we employed some sort of advanced parametric analysis of the audio track we could pinpoint the booer’s exact location and thereby . . . hold on, wait one minute.


They are a Death Cult: How the Tea Party GOP is the Poltergeist of American Politics

They cheer at the thought of an uninsured person dying. They cheer at the thought of State sponsored murder. In all, the 2012 Tea Party Republican debates have revealed that they are a death cult, a cabal of ghouls. READ MORE

Wall Street Donated $41 Million to Supercommittee Members

Monday 26 September 2011
by: Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

Wall Street has given $41 million in campaign contributions to the members of the Congressional "supercommittee"charged with finding $1.5 trillion worth of deficit reduction measures, according to a report released today by two watchdog groups. The finance, insurance and real estate sector spent $3.7 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions from 1999 to 2008, according to the report,and the 12 members of the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction have all reaped the benefits.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Republican Party Needs to Get a Grip

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the presidential campaign trail, 09/18/11. (photo: Craig Ruttle/AP)

By Ana Marie Cox, Guardian UK

25 September 11
Never mind the candidates, can you believe what GOP debate audiences are telling us? The Republican party needs to get a grip: cheering executions and booing a gay soldier in prime time are not good for the brand.

robably the best thing that can be said about the audiences for the GOP presidential debates is that they are not representative of either the Republican party or the country as a whole. For one thing, debate audiences have an active interest in politics, a passion the overwhelming majority of Americans lack. But that indifference towards the political process also translates into an amiable ambivalence regarding the government's role in our lives: "live and let live" could be our national motto, right behind "super size me", in terms of how often we apply any piece of wisdom to our daily lives.

By contrast - and it is a stark one - Republican debate audiences have thus far shown themselves to be in favor of both government cruelty and personal vengeance.

White Supremacist Executed For Texas Dragging

This undated handout photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Lawrence Russell Brewer, one of two purported white supremacists condemned for for the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, is set for execution Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

HUNTSVILLE, Texas September 21, 2011, 09:37 pm ET HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — White supremacist gang member Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed Wednesday evening for the infamous dragging death slaying of James Byrd Jr., a black man from East Texas.

Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and pulled whip-like to his death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history.
Brewer, 44, was asked if he had any final words, to which he replied: "No. I have no final statement."

He glanced at his parents watching through a nearby window, took several deep breaths and closed his eyes. A single tear hung on the edge of his right eye as he was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into his arms, both covered with intricate black tattoos.

Byrd's sisters also were among the witnesses in an adjacent room.

"Hopefully, today's execution of Brewer can remind all of us that racial hatred and prejudice leads to terrible consequence for the victim, the victim's family, for the perpetrator and for the perpetrator's family," Clara Taylor, one of Byrd's sisters, said.

She called the punishment "a step in the right direction."

"We're making progress," Taylor said. "I know he was guilty so I have no qualms about the death penalty."

Appeals to the courts for Brewer were exhausted and no last-day attempts to save his life were filed.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Corporations Quietly Bankroll Redistricting Plans

Corporations, unions and other special interests are bankrolling redistricting groups. (photo: NASA)

Olga Pierce, Jeff Larson and Lois Beckett, ProPublica Intro: "Opaque redistricting groups are being quietly bankrolled by corporations, unions and other special interests. Their main interest in the once-a-decade political fight over redistricting is not to help voters in the communities they claim to represent but mainly to improve the prospects of their political allies or harm their enemies." READ MORE

Running From Right-Wing Clowns

Phil Rockstroh, Consortium News
Intro: "Why is it that self-termed progressives are in full retreat (and have been for decades) from the witless army of angry clowns and hack illusionists of the US right-wing? ... the self-gelded liberal has sacrificed libido and discarded sacred vehemence for careerist privilege. Worse, the rest of us are advised to follow suit ... that, in order to gain credibility, one must slouch towards center-hugging irrelevance." READ MORE

Defying US, Palestine Seeks UN Recognition for Statehood

Mahmoud Abbas's speech calling for Palestinian recognition by the UN was applauded by many of the delegates, 09/23/11. (photo: Justin Lane/EPA)

By Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service

24 September 11

f there were any lingering doubts the Palestinians would not be able to garner the support of an overwhelming majority of member states at the United Nations, they were laid to rest when the 193-member General Assembly Friday gave a rousing and rapturous welcome to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

As delegates from the United States and Israel sat glum-faced, the cavernous General Assembly Hall reverberated to more than a dozen rounds of sustained applause, including rare standing ovations, when Abbas made a plea for a separate nation state for Palestine.

After having submitted an application to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon seeking full UN membership - in defiance of unrelenting US pressure - Abbas kept the General Assembly riveted as he recounted the killings and destruction caused by the "occupying power" - and pleaded for recognition of statehood by the United Nations.

Green Helmets and Jackboots

The Pig of Propaganda

I'll let the site speak for itself