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by Ellen Brown
Far from reducing risk, derivatives increase risk, often with catastrophic results.
—Derivatives expert Satyajit Das, Extreme Money (2011)
The “toxic culture of greed” on Wall Street was highlighted again last week, when Greg Smith went public with his resignation from Goldman Sachs in a scathing oped published in the New York Times. In other recent eyebrow-raisers, LIBOR rates—the benchmark interest rates involved in interest rate swaps—were shown to be manipulated by the banks that would have to pay up; and the objectivity of the ISDA (International Swaps and Derivatives Association) was called into question, when a 50% haircut for creditors was not declared a “default” requiring counterparties to pay on credit default swaps on Greek sovereign debt.
Hat tip: Tenth Amendment Center
by Rob Natelson
May 22, 2010
It is a document designed to protect our freedom by imposing law on those who wield political power. Without such law, Americans would be under the constant threat of tyranny.
The word “constitution” did not always refer to a particular document. The word is based on the Latin verb constituere, which means to arrange or decide. In its original English sense, a “constitution” was how a political system was set up. People spoke (and sometimes still speak) of the unwritten and evolving “constitutions” of Britain and of the ancient Roman republic.
As I explain in The Original Constitution, the American Founders acknowledged a huge debt to the British and Roman traditions, but they consciously rejected the British and Roman approach to constitutions. Specifically, they rejected the “evolutionary” and “unwritten” constitutional idea in favor of a written document that would lay out the rules in an clear and organized fashion.
There were only a few precedents for this approach: Sweden’s “Instrument of Government” was probably the first. Under Oliver Cromwell (1649-58), the English adopted a short-lived “Instrument of Government,” and then a short-lived “Humble Petition and Advice.” The name of the latter English constitution suggests how little those documents tempered Cromwell’s autocracy.
by Ellen Brown
For over a decade, accountant Walter Burien has been trying to rouse the public over what he contends is a massive conspiracy and cover-up, involving trillions of dollars squirreled away in funds maintained at every level of government. His numbers may be disputed, but these funds definitely exist, as evidenced by the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs) required of every government agency. If they don’t represent a concerted government conspiracy, what are they for? And how can they be harnessed more efficiently to help allay the financial crises of state and local governments?
The Elusive CAFR Money
Burien is a former commodity trading adviser who has spent many years peering into government books. He notes that the government is composed of 54,000 different state, county, and local government entities, including school districts, public authorities, and the like; and that these entities all keep their financial assets in liquid investment funds, bond financing accounts and corporate stock portfolios. The only income that must be reported in government budgets is that from taxes, fines and fees; but the investments of government entities can be found in official annual reports (CAFRs), which must be filed with the federal government by local, county and state governments. These annual reports show that virtually every U.S. city, county, and state has vast amounts of money stashed away in surplus funds. Burien maintains that these slush funds have been kept concealed from taxpayers, even as taxes are being raised and citizens are being told to expect fewer government services.
by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, May 17, 2010
When Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen and 30-year-old son of a retired senior Pakistani Air Force officer was arrested in the failed plot to detonate a car-bomb in Times Square May 1, U.S. counterterrorism officials and their stenographers in the corporate media proclaimed a “connection” between Shahzad and the far-right jihadi outfit, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Never mind that such “evidence” relies on the thinnest of reeds: that Shahzad had recently traveled to Pakistan, was allegedly in “contact” with the TTP and had even received “training” from a sectarian, clan- and tribal-based organization wary of outsiders who nevertheless, allegedly “approved” of an ill-conceived plan to kill hundreds of New Yorkers.
Last week on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claimed, “We know that they [TTP] helped facilitate it. We know that they helped direct it. And I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence which shows that they helped to finance it. They were intimately involved in this plot.”
Holder’s “evidence”? Why statements by former CIA torture-enabler and current Obama counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, “confirming” the administration’s threadbare assertions.
The New York Times reported that Brennan “appeared to say even more definitively than Mr. Holder did that the Taliban in Pakistan had provided money as well as training and direction.”
by Chuck Baldwin
Posted on May 19, 2010
People all over America are discussing freedom’s future. In short, they are worried. In fact, many are actually talking about State secession. In coffee shops and cafes, and around dining room tables, millions of people are speaking favorably of states breaking away from the union. Not since the turn of the twentieth century have this many people thought (and spoken) this favorably about the prospect of a State (or group of states) exiting the union. In my mind, this is a good thing.
Even many of those who oppose the prospect of secession understand the increasing tyrannical nature of the current central government in Washington, D.C., and that something must be done about it.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines tyranny as “1: oppressive power . . . 2: a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler . . . 3: a rigorous condition imposed by some outside agency or force . . . 4: a tyrannical act.”
Even a casual observer would have to conclude that most of the actions proceeding forth from DC today match at least Webster’s 1st and 3rd definitions of tyranny. Besides, who would argue the advantage of the tyranny of an oligarchy over the tyranny of a monarchy? A tyranny of many cannot be distinguished from a tyranny of one in most cases–especially not by those poor souls who are at the point of the spear of Government’s cruelties.
By Kevin Gosztola
Flickr Photo by bobster855
A Supreme Court decision on Monday stated that federal official could hold people who are considered “sexually dangerous” indefinitely even if their prison terms have been served completely.
The idea of keeping sexually dangerous people off the streets is not a bad one until you think of the enforcement mechanisms. Who gets to decide who is sexually dangerous and who is it? Aren’t these the same people who go to work with politicians who themselves have committed sex crimes?
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion:
“The statute is a ‘necessary and proper’ means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others.”
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented (not because he found indefinite detention to be a violation of one’s civil liberties but because he found it to be a violation of state’s rights):
By Steve Kornacki
AP Rand Paul
There wasn’t much suspense, but the reality is no less jarring: Ron Paul’s son, a 47-year-old ophthalmologist with no previous political experience, is the Republican nominee for Senate in Kentucky — and he’s in good position to win the seat in the fall.
For months, Paul enjoyed double-digit polling leads over Trey Grayson, Kentucky’s secretary of state and the handpicked choice of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, his dominance impervious to the GOP establishment’s effort to portray him as a risky general election candidate. Paul also withstood a concerted effort by his father’s neoconservative enemies to delegitimize his candidacy; Rudy Giuliani and Dick Cheney were among those who sided with Grayson.
When the results began streaming in shortly after 7 P.M. on the East Coast, it was clear a Paul landslide was in the offing.
Many will credit Paul’s triumph to the Tea Party movement, which he embraced wholeheartedly. There is something to this; after all, many original Tea Party activists are veterans of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign. But as it has grown, the Tea Party movement has become virtually indistinguishable from the Republican Party base. This makes Paul’s achievement that much more remarkable: In racking up such an enormous margin, he managed to unite factions of the GOP that don’t frequently see eye-to-eye.
With Paul as the GOP nominee, national Democrats will now talk up the Kentucky race as a chance for a pick-up this fall — especially if the Democratic establishment’s preferred candidate, state Attorney General Jack Conway, wins his primary. (Early returns showed Conway, who had trailed Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo for most of the campaign before pulling into a statistical tie in the final week, leading.) The logic is simple: With his libertarian economic views (and family name), Paul will be easy to caricature as a quirky extremist.
That’s the theory, at least. But Paul may be harder than Democrats believe to knock off. For one thing, he’s a far more charismatic and savvy communicator than his father — not quite as easy to caricature as a quack. Moreover, the political playing field in Kentucky in 2010 isn’t exactly level. The state has conservative leanings to begin with. Add in the fact that midterm elections almost always boost the out-of-power party; the fact that Barack Obama has never really caught on in the state; and the fact that his popularity in Kentucky has been further ravaged by the economy — suddenly, a Paul victory in November hardly seems improbable.
Certainly not as improbable as his victory tonight seemed a year ago.
Hat tip: Cato at Liberty
By David Boaz
The sight of middle-class Americans rallying to protest overtaxing, overspending, Wall Street bailouts, and government-directed health care scares the bejeezus out of a lot of people. The elite media are full of stories declaring the Tea Partiers to be racists, John Birchers, Glenn Beck zombies, and God knows what. So it’s a relief to read a sensible discussion (subscription required) by John Judis, the decidedly leftist but serious journalist-historian at the New Republic. Once the managing editor the journal Socialist Revolution, Judis went on to write a biography of William F. Buckley Jr. and other books, so he knows something about ideological movements in the United States. Judis isn’t happy about the Tea Party movement, but he warns liberals not to dismiss it as fringe, AstroTurf, or a front group for the GOP:
But the Tea Party movement is not inauthentic, and—contrary to the impression its rallies give off—it isn’t a fringe faction either. It is a genuine popular movement, one that has managed to unite a number of ideological strains from U.S. history—some recent, some older. These strains can be described as many things, but they cannot be dismissed as passing phenomena. Much as liberals would like to believe otherwise, there is good reason to think the Tea Party movement could exercise considerable influence over our politics in the coming years.
by Paul C. Wright
hat tip: Global Research, May 5, 2010
There is a new technological trend in the United States that promises to use advances in Internet, GPS, and chemical detection technology to manage states’ surging prison and parolee populations. Several states, particularly those with massive budget deficits like California and Michigan, are unable to shoulder the burden of housing more inmates in their dangerously overcrowded prisons. They are therefore dramatically increasing the use of GPS technology to monitor the whereabouts and activities of parolees, as well as using the technology for home detention programs and even alcohol consumption monitoring. While it is true that GPS ankle bracelets have been in use for a few years now, new technology, laws, and applications are increasing the use of such devices in what is soon to be a booming industry – fully dependent upon the corrections system.
In Richmond, California, statistically identified as having America’s fourteenth highest crime rate  , the police recently fitted twenty parolees with GPS tracking devices on their ankles.  The devices include paging systems that require the parolee to call his or her parole agent each time they feel the device vibrate. Police officers say that they can use the devices to track parolees and place them at the scene of a crime committed while on parole. The tracking devices do, however, bring into question the status of a parolee’s civil liberties and may open the door to court challenges regarding invasion of privacy and other constitutionally guaranteed rights. The political will of several states are fully behind using the new technology and the courts thus far seem to like the flexibility they offer in sentencing and early release. The Richmond program is merely the tip of the iceberg.
by sherry mann
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Earlier this year, I was married, subsequently changed my name and moved. Shortly after our marriage and move, I registered with the Delaware County Board of Elections to update their information. Shortly thereafter, they sent me a card with my new name (Sherry L. Mann) and current address.
In getting ready to vote today, I would have thought that my updated voter’s registration card (with embossed seal) along with my drivers license would have sufficed, but my husband is an attorney who specialized in election law at Ohio State University. He knew to bring other relevant documents, so in addition to my voter registration card and Ohio Driver’s license we brought our electric bill (which would prove my current address) and our marriage license (to show my recent name change).
But there was a problem. Actually, according to the local board of elections, there were several.
- Although my electric bill proved my address, it was in the name of, “Sherry L. Clark” so “Sherry L. Mann” didn’t have proof of where ‘she’ lived.
- My Ohio Driver’s License had “Sherry L. Clark” with my former address on it.
- My marriage license showed that “Sherry L. Clark” got married to Jesse R. Mann, but evidently that was not sufficient proof for the poll’s “presiding judge” that Sherry L. Clark was in fact, Sherry L. Mann.