Pentagon's Black Budget, Corporate Fraud Law,
Congressional Earmarks (a.k.a. Pork)
Revealing News Articles
April 3, 2008
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on an innovative analysis of the Pentagon's black budget, a Colorado citizen effort to pass a law that would hold executives accountable in cases of corporate fraud, the most recent wave of Congressional earmarks (a.k.a. pork), and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Inside the Black Budget
April 1, 2008, New York Times
Skulls. Black cats. A naked woman riding a killer whale. Snakes. Swords. Occult symbols. A wizard with a staff that shoots lightning bolts. A dragon holding the Earth in its claws. No, this is not the fantasy world of a 12-year-old boy. It is ... part of the hidden reality behind the Pentagon's classified, or "black," budget that delivers billions of dollars to stealthy armies of high-tech warriors. [A new] book offers a glimpse of this dark world through a revealing lens – patches – the kind worn on military uniforms. Trevor Paglen, an artist and photographer finishing his Ph.D. in geography at the University of California, Berkeley, has managed to document some of this hidden world. The 75 patches he has assembled reveal a bizarre mix of high and low culture. "Oderint Dum Metuant," reads a patch for an Air Force program that mines spy satellite images for battlefield intelligence, according to Mr. Paglen, who identifies the saying as from Caligula, the first-century Roman emperor famed for his depravity. It translates "Let them hate so long as they fear." Wizards appear on several patches. The one hurling lightning bolts comes from a secret Air Force base at Groom Lake, northwest of Las Vegas in a secluded valley. Mr. Paglen identifies its five clustered stars and one separate star as a veiled reference to Area 51, where the government tests advanced aircraft and, U.F.O. buffs say, captured alien spaceships. What sparked his interest, Mr. Paglen recalled, were Vice President Dick Cheney's remarks as the Pentagon and World Trade Center smoldered. "We've got to spend time in the shadows," Mr. Cheney said. "It's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective."
Note: The webpage at the link above includes color photos of several of these revealing patches. To read reviews or purchase the book by Trevor Paglen, I Could Tell You but Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me, click here.
Colorado Proposes Tough Law on Executive Accountability
April 1, 2008, New York Times
For 30 years, Lew Ellingson loved being a telephone man. His job splicing phone cables was one that he says gave him "a true sense of accomplishment," first for Northwestern Bell, then US West and finally Qwest Communications International. But by the time Mr. Ellingson retired from Qwest last year at 52, he had grown angry. An insider trading scandal had damaged the company's reputation, and the life savings of former colleagues had evaporated in the face of Qwest's stock troubles. "It was a good place," he said wistfully. "And then something like this happened." Now, Mr. Ellingson is the public face of a proposed ballot measure in Colorado that seeks to create what supporters hope will be the nation's toughest corporate fraud law. Buttressed by local advocacy groups and criticized by a Colorado business organization, the measure would make business executives criminally responsible if their companies run afoul of the law. It would also permit any Colorado resident to sue the executives under such circumstances. Proceeds from successful suits would go to the state. If passed by voters in November, the proposal would leave top business officers [with] unprecedented individual accountability, said Mr. Ellingson. "If nothing else, these folks in charge of the corporations and companies will think twice about cutting corners to make themselves look more profitable than they really are," he said. The plight of Mr. Ellingson's former employer, Qwest, based in Denver, was a motivation for the proposal. Last April, a jury in Denver convicted Qwest's former chief executive, Joseph P. Nacchio, of 19 of 42 counts of insider trading. Mr. Nacchio was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $19 million and forfeit $52 million in money he earned from stock sales in 2001.
Note: As reported in the Washington Post, Joseph P. Nacchio, the former Qwest CEO, has claimed that he was singled out for prosecution because he refused to cooperate with the National Security Agency's electronic surveillance of American citizens, which began before 9/11.
Congress Forgets Ban on Pet Projects
March 31, 2008, Associated Press
Get out the trough, it's feeding time. Congress has decided that an election year with recession written all over it is not the time to be giving up those job-producing "pork" projects bemoaned by both parties' presidential candidates. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has quietly shelved the idea of a one-year moratorium on so-called earmarks, the $18 billion or so in pet projects that lawmakers sent to their home states this year. Senators in both parties have voted to kill the idea. The response to the Senate vote from rank-and-file lawmakers: They sent in so many last-minute earmark requests that a House Appropriations Committee web site seized up and the deadline for requesting pork had to be extended. Earmarks for road and bridge projects, contracts for local defense companies and grants to local governments and nonprofits can mean jobs back home. Then there's the political boost that lawmakers running for re-election reap from earmarks, especially endangered freshmen like Nancy Boyda, D-Kan. Boyda requested 67 earmarks this spring, ranging from $13,800 to help the Erie Police Department purchase surveillance cameras to $8.5 million for Kansas-produced ammunition for NATO allies fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Few if any of the 12 spending bills that carry earmarks are likely to be sent to President Bush before then, much less be signed by him. One possible exception is the annual defense appropriations bill, slated to exceed $500 billion for the budget year beginning Oct. 1. The ... version passed last year contained $6 billion in earmarks disclosed by lawmakers, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group that tracks earmarks closely.
Note: Isn't it strange that this important story by the Associated Press was not picked up by most major newspapers? For many revealing reports on government corruption from reliable sources, click here.
JPMorgan memo shows dirty tricks of mortgage trade
March 28, 2008, Reuters News
An internal JPMorgan Chase memo entitled "Zippy Cheats & Tricks" offers a peek into just the sort of dubious lending tactics that underpinned the U.S. housing market's deepening downward spiral. The memo outlines step-by-step instructions on how to beef up mortgage applicants' stated incomes in order to help them qualify for home loans. They read as follows: "1. Make sure you input all income in base income. DO NOT break it down by overtime, commissions or bonus. 2. If your borrower is getting a gift, add it to a bank account along with the rest of the assets. Be sure to remove any mention of gift funds. 3. If you do not get (the desired results), try resubmitting with slightly higher income. Inch it up $500 to see if you can get the findings you want. Do the same for assets." In the context of a broader housing debacle, the memo [provides] some clues into just what lengths bankers went to [to] push loans through the system. Over the past six months, rising defaults on home loans have not only battered the mortgage sector, threatening recession, but also sent the banking industry into a tailspin. Many large banks repackaged mortgages and held them on their balance sheets as complex derivatives securities, essentially bonds backed by other types of loans. The conclusion of the JPMorgan memo, written in bright purple letters, certainly hints at a credit system gone awry: "It's super easy! Give it a try!" it reads. "If you get stuck, call me ... I am happy to help!"
Note: Though this highly revealing news was reported by the venerable Reuters news agency, why did no major media pick it up? For numerous reports of financial corruption from verifiable sources, click here.
Seeking UFOs, deep underground
March 28, 2008, Los Angeles Times
[Peter] Davenport, longtime director of the National UFO Reporting Center, a nonprofit clearinghouse and 24-hour hotline for UFO sightings, [is] a full-time UFO investigator and possessor of one of the world's most comprehensive, though unofficial, UFO databases. The center, in continuous operation since 1970, is known worldwide among those interested in UFOs: scientists as well as people surfing the Web. The hotline [206-722-3000] is posted on various UFO websites, and calls -- as many as 20,000 in a year -- come from people who believe they've seen or experienced something beyond the ordinary, potentially involving extraterrestrials. If the case seems compelling and is a short flight away, Davenport will investigate in person. He takes written reports, records testimony and consults experts in specialty areas. Costs can range from $500 to $5,000 a month, depending on travel. Davenport, 60, is a passionate, cerebral man with a haughty disdain for the media. "I do not countenance fools," he [said]. "The work of studying UFOs is of immense consequence to every living thing on this planet. If I sense you are wasting my time, I will be blunt." His life revolves around a question, namely: "Are we alone in the universe or are we not?" A number of prominent scientists and much of the public -- as many as 60%, according to polls -- believe UFOs exist and should be studied. As a corollary, a large number of astronomers believe life in other parts of the universe is not only possible but likely. Among the famous, former President Carter, anthropologist Margaret Mead, psychiatrist Carl Jung and astronaut Gordon Cooper reported seeing a UFO or proclaimed a belief in UFOs as representing visitations from extraterrestrials.
Note: For a powerful two-page summary of UFO sightings by highly respected former government and military personnel, click here.
Bohemian Club tries new tactic to log grove
March 28, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
The Bohemian Club's ambitious plan to log its famed Bohemian Grove on the Russian River [in northern California] hit a snag last year when opponents argued that the ritzy club's redwood holdings were too large to qualify for a streamlined permit from the state. In a new move, the all-male San Francisco club has offered to donate 160 acres as a conservation easement to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation of Missoula, Mont., effectively whittling down the size and making it eligible for a state exemption to log in perpetuity without extensive environmental review. Opponents of the plan, including the Sierra Club and some former Bohemian Club members, say the club's action is nothing more than a thinly veiled end-run around state law that offers the special permit to small, noncommercial holdings. At the heart of the controversy is the 2,700-acre redwood grove, where the club's secret membership, including U.S. presidents, kings of industry and celebrities, have gathered for spring and summer retreats for more than a century.
Note: For a treasure trove of revealing reports on secret societies from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.
Engineer Society Accused of Cover-Ups
March 25, 2008, Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Associated Press
After the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the levee failures caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the federal government paid the American Society of Civil Engineers to investigate what went wrong. Critics now accuse [ASCE] of covering up engineering mistakes ... and using the investigations to protect engineers and government agencies from lawsuits. In the World Trade Center case, critics contend the engineering society wrongly concluded skyscrapers cannot withstand getting hit by airplanes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency paid the group about $257,000 to investigate the World Trade Center collapse. In 2002, the society's report on the World Trade Center praised the buildings for remaining standing long enough to allow tens thousands of people to flee. But, the report said, skyscrapers are not typically designed to withstand airplane impacts. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, a structural engineer and forensics expert, contends his computer simulations disprove the society's findings that skyscrapers could not be designed to withstand the impact of a jetliner. Astaneh-Asl, who received money from the National Science Foundation to investigate the collapse, insisted most New York skyscrapers built with traditional designs would survive such an impact. He also questioned the makeup of the society's investigation team. On the team were the wife of the trade center's structural engineer and a representative of the buildings' original design team. "I call this moral corruption," said Astaneh-Asl, who is on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley.
Note: For a revealing two-page summary of many unanswered questions about 9/11 raised by major media sources, click here.
March 24, 2008, Newsweek magazine
When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, law-enforcement agencies hailed it as a powerful tool to help track down the confederates of Osama bin Laden. No one expected it would end up helping to snag the likes of Eliot Spitzer. In the fine print were provisions that gave the Treasury Department authority to demand more information from banks about their customers' financial transactions. But Treasury went further. It issued stringent new regulations that required banks themselves to look for unusual transactions (such as odd patterns of cash withdrawals or wire transfers) and submit SARs–Suspicious Activity Reports–to the government. Facing potentially stiff penalties if they didn't comply, banks and other financial institutions installed sophisticated software to detect anomalies among millions of daily transactions. They began ranking the risk levels of their customers ... based on complex formulas that included ... whether an account holder was a "politically exposed person" [PEP]. At first focused on potentially crooked foreign officials, the PEP lists expanded to include many U.S. politicians and public officials who were conceivably vulnerable to corruption. Federal prosecutors around the country routinely scour the SARs for potential leads. One of those leads led to Spitzer. Last summer New York's North Fork Bank, where Spitzer had an account, filed a SAR about unusual money transfers he had made. The governor called attention to himself by asking the bank to transfer money in someone else's name. The SAR was not itself evidence that Spitzer had committed a crime. But it made the Feds curious enough to follow the money.
Note: This story provides useful information about how the PATRIOT Act has been applied since its passage. The reasons for the investigation of Eliot Spitzer, leading to his resignation, may not have been so simple, however, given his many powerful enemies in government and on Wall Street.
Every bank transaction triggers snooping
March 26, 2008, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta's leading newspaper)
The sad saga of [Eliot] Spitzer should concern every American. The web of snooping in which federal investigators and regulators are now able to ensnare any person who engages in any form of financial transaction has become so complex and pervasive that almost no person anywhere in the world can escape its clutches. The seeds of this modern-day Orwellian financial web were sown in the late 1960s and early 1970s when such expansive federal laws as the Bank Secrecy Act were enacted. Designed as tools to ferret out organized crime figures, major drug traffickers and international money launderers, this family of far-reaching regulatory-cum-criminal laws initially was used largely as intended. Many of the "Suspicious Activity Reports" (or SARs) required by the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, for example, were largely ignored by investigators and prosecutors, who viewed them as burdensome and difficult to catalog and utilize. Two events have conspired to change all that. First, the advent of digital technology has elevated dramatically the ability of the government to gather, analyze, manipulate, retrieve and disseminate the SAR data. The second factor ... was, of course, the events of 9/11 and the ensuing USA Patriot Act. These two things institutionalized fear as the driving force in virtually all federal policies, including those relating to financial reporting. [A section of] the Patriot Act – has been interpreted by banking examiners to require banks to profile their customers and the full range of their transactions, regardless of amount. These "know your customer" regulations are among the most insidious of this entire class of invasive federal laws and regulations.
Note: This informative article is by former US Congressman Bob Barr, who has become a crusader against the excesses of the PATRIOT Act.
Foreign investors veto Fed rescue
March 17, 2008, The Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
As feared, foreign bond holders have begun to exercise a collective vote of no confidence in the devaluation policies of the US government. The Federal Reserve faces a potential veto of its rescue measures. Asian, Mid East and European investors stood aside at last week's auction of 10-year US Treasury notes. "It was a disaster," said Ray Attrill from 4castweb. "We may be close to the point where the uglier consequences of benign neglect towards the currency are revealed." The share of foreign buyers ("indirect bidders") plummeted to 5.8pc, from an average 25pc over the last eight weeks. On the Richter Scale of unfolding dramas, this matches the death of Bear Stearns. Rightly or wrongly, a view has taken hold that Washington is cynically debasing the coinage, hoping to export its day of reckoning through beggar-thy-neighbour policies. But even if you think the Fed has no choice other than to take dramatic action, the critics are also right in warning that this comes at a serious cost and it may backfire. The imminent risk is that global flight from US Treasury and agency debt drives up long-term rates, the key funding instrument for mortgages and corporations. The effect could outweigh Fed easing. Overall credit conditions could tighten into a slump (like 1930). It's the stuff of bad dreams. As the Wall Street Journal wrote this weekend, the entire country is facing a "margin call". The US has come to depend on $800bn inflows of cheap foreign capital each year to cover shopping bills. As of June 2007, foreigners owned $6,007bn of long-term US debt. [Most] likely, the twin crash in the dollar and US agency debt reflects a broad exodus by global wealth managers, afraid that America is spinning out of control.
Note: Why is the U.S. media not reporting important information like this? And why was the fact that gold broke $1,000 for the first time ever in mid-March not reported widely in the media?
Fight Violence with Nonviolence
March 27, 2008, Christian Science Monitor
Over the past 25 years nonviolent peacekeepers have been going into zones of sometimes intense conflict with the aim of bringing a measure of peace, protection, and sanity to life there. Rather than use threat or force, unarmed peacekeepers deploy strategies of protective accompaniment, moral and/or witnessing "presence," monitoring election campaigns, creating neutral safe spaces, and in extreme cases putting themselves physically between hostile parties. Civilian unarmed peacekeeping has had dramatic, small-scale, quiet, and unglamorous successes: rescuing child soldiers, protecting the lives of key human rights workers and of whole villages, averting potentially explosive violence, and generally raising the level of security felt by citizens in many a tense community. Recently a village on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines was under threat by two armed groups who had come within 200 meters of each other. The village elders called for help from the Nonviolent Peaceforce stationed there, who intervened and by communicating with all sides persuaded the armed group to back away. Thanks to mediation, no violence erupted, no lives were lost. Why haven't you heard about this exciting work? Because it is terribly underfunded, for one thing. There is also a prevailing prejudice that only governments or armed forces – including those of the United Nations – have the responsibility or means to contain conflict. But the biggest obstacle by far is the widespread – and rarely examined – belief that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. It is the belief that there is only one kind of power; threat power, which in the end can be relied upon to get others to change their minds or, failing that, at least their actions. That may change. The new global norm of "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) should inspire the use of civil society and nonviolent means.
Special note: Can you paint a decent self-portrait? An elephant can! To watch an amazing 8-minute video which opens a new window on reality, click here. For those interested in the fascinating WingMakers material, you can follow a revealing email exchange between Fred and those who claim to be responsible for the materials by clicking here. And to watch an exciting video book review of WantToKnow team member David Ray Griffin's new book, 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter to Congress and the Press, click here.
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Pentagon's Black Budget, Corporate Fraud Law, Congressional Earmarks (a.k.a. Pork)