Bailout Secrecy, Illinois Governor Standing Firm, Bush Aide's Death in Plane Crash
Revealing News Articles
December 26, 2008
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the secrecy maintained by US banks which have received billions of dollars in bailout money, Illinois governor Blagojevich's standing firm in the face of intense pressure to resign, the death in a plane crash of a high-level aide to the Bush administration and the Republican party's electoral campaigns, 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.
Where'd the Bailout Money Go? Shhhh, It's a Secret
December 22, 2008, ABC/Associated Press
It's something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where's the money going? But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it. "We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,"' said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to." The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest? None of the banks provided specific answers. "We're not providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking," said Barry Koling, a spokesman for Atlanta, Ga.-based SunTrust Banks Inc., which got $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars. The answers highlight the secrecy surrounding the Troubled Assets Relief Program, which earmarked $700 billion–about the size of the Netherlands' economy–to help rescue the financial industry. There has been no accounting of how banks spend that money. "It is entirely appropriate for the American people to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent in private industry," said Elizabeth Warren, the top congressional watchdog overseeing the financial bailout. But, at least for now, there's no way for taxpayers to find that out.
Illinois governor seems to be growing stronger
December 21, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
I got a call from Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich the other day. The first thing I said to him was, "You know, this call is probably being taped." Blagojevich said he had read my column in The Chronicle last week, in which I raised questions about the "pay to play" charges being leveled against him in connection with his pending appointment of someone to fill Barack Obama's now-empty U.S. Senate seat. I think he liked how I raised questions about the timing and manner of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's decision to charge him over what appears to be little more than loose conversations he had with his staff. I wouldn't bet on him stepping aside anytime soon. If anything, his hand is getting stronger by the day. I can't go into details, but my impression is that the whole mess started because the governor had been considering appointing a political rival, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, to the Senate so she wouldn't be able to run against him when he went up for re-election in 2010. Apparently, Obama's people weren't happy about the idea of Madigan coming to Washington, and there were some pretty heated conversations between Blagojevich and Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, which I understand will burn your ears off. It was pretty clear that Blagojevich is going to hang tough, especially after the Illinois Supreme Court shot down Madigan's request that he be forced from office because he supposedly can't carry out his duties. It is also pretty clear that despite all the screaming over his appearing to be "selling" the seat in return for political favors or financial considerations, his fellow Democrats are not going to strip him of his power to appoint someone to replace Obama.
Note: The author of this article is insider Willie Brown, former mayor of San Francisco and power-broking speaker of California's assembly for 15 years.
The Madoff Economy
December 19, 2008, New York Times
The revelation that Bernard Madoff – brilliant investor (or so almost everyone thought), philanthropist, pillar of the community – was a phony has shocked the world, and understandably so. The scale of his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme is hard to comprehend. Yet ... how different, really, is Mr. Madoff's tale from the story of the investment industry as a whole? The financial services industry has claimed an ever-growing share of the nation's income over the past generation, making the people who run the industry incredibly rich. Yet, at this point, it looks as if much of the industry has been destroying value, not creating it. And it's not just a matter of money: the vast riches achieved by those who managed other people's money have had a corrupting effect on our society as a whole. Last year, the average salary of employees in "securities, commodity contracts, and investments" was more than four times the average salary in the rest of the economy. Earning a million dollars was nothing special, and even incomes of $20 million or more were fairly common. The incomes of the richest Americans have exploded over the past generation, even as wages of ordinary workers have stagnated. High pay on Wall Street was a major cause of that divergence. Wall Street's ill-gotten gains corrupted and continue to corrupt politics, in a nicely bipartisan way. From Bush administration officials ... who looked the other way as evidence of financial fraud mounted, to Democrats who still haven't closed the outrageous tax loophole that benefits executives at hedge funds and private equity firms ... politicians have walked when money talked. The pay system on Wall Street lavishly rewards the appearance of profit, even if that appearance later turns out to have been an illusion.
Note: This entire, penetrating article is well worth a read at the link above. For many revealing reports from reliable sources on the realities of the Wall Street bailout, click here.
George Bush aide dies in plane crash
December 21, 2008, The Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Mystery surrounds the death of a Republican pollster, recently compelled to give evidence about alleged election fraud in the 2004 election in Ohio, after he was killed in a plane crash. Top internet strategist Michael Connell, 45, was the only person in his single-engine private plane that crashed three miles short of the Akron-Canton airport on Friday night as he prepared to land. He had worked on Mr Bush's two presidential campaigns, advised John McCain this year and was also linked to allegedly missing White House emails in the 2006 controversy over a string of firings of US attorneys. The death of the married father of four immediately triggered conspiracy theories amid speculation that he had been about to reveal embarrassing details of the complicity of senior members of the Bush administration in fixing an election and destroying incriminating emails. In a blog posting entitled "One of my sources died in a plane crash last night...", Larisa Alexandrovna of The Raw Story revealed that Mr Connell had been talking to her about the Ohio case alleging that vote-tampering during the 2004 presidential election resulted in civil rights violations. "Mike was getting ready to talk. He was frightened... I am not saying that this was a hit nor am I resigned to this being simply an accident either. I am no expert on aviation and cannot provide an opinion on the matter. What I am saying, however, is that given the context, this event needs to be examined carefully."
Important Note: This death becomes even stranger considering that attorneys had sought protection for Connell against threats from Karl Rove in late July (click here). He also was apparently warned not to fly.
General George S. Patton was assassinated to silence his criticism of allied war leaders claims new book
December 21, 2008, The Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
George S. Patton, America's greatest combat general of the Second World War, was assassinated after the conflict with the connivance of US leaders, according to a new book. The newly unearthed diaries of a colourful assassin for the wartime Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, reveal that American spy chiefs wanted Patton dead because he was threatening to expose allied collusion with the Russians that cost American lives. The death of General Patton in December 1945, is one of the enduring mysteries of the war era. Although he had suffered serious injuries in a car crash in Manheim, he was thought to be recovering and was on the verge of flying home. But after a decade-long investigation, military historian Robert Wilcox claims that OSS head General "Wild Bill" Donovan ordered a highly decorated marksman [named] Douglas Bazata to silence Patton. His book, Target: Patton: The Plot to Assassinate General George S. Patton, contains interviews with Mr Bazata, who died in 1999, and extracts from his diaries, detailing how he staged the car crash by getting a troop truck to plough into Patton's Cadillac and then shot the general with a low-velocity projectile, which broke his neck while his fellow passengers escaped without a scratch. Mr Wilcox told The Sunday Telegraph that when he spoke to Mr Bazata: "He was struggling with himself, all these killings he had done. He confessed to me that he had caused the accident, that he was ordered to do so by Wild Bill Donovan."
Note: For key insights from reliable, verifiable sources into assassination as a political tool, click here.
UAW busting, Southern style
December 18, 2008, Los Angeles Times
The foreign nonunion auto companies located in the South have a plan to reduce wages and benefits at their factories in the United States. And to do it, they need to destroy the United Auto Workers. Last week, Senate Republicans from some Southern states went to work trying to do just that, on the foreign car companies' behalf. [Republican] representatives from states that subsidize companies such as Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan first tried to force the UAW to take reductions in wages and benefits as a condition for supporting the auto industry bailout bill. When the UAW refused, those senators torpedoed the bill. They claimed that they couldn't support the bill without specifics about how wages would be "restructured." They didn't, however, require such specificity when it came to bailing out the financial sector. Their grandstanding, and the government's generally lackluster response to the auto crisis, highlight many of the problems that have caused our current economic mess: the lack of concern about manufacturing, the privileged way our government treats the financial sector, and political support given to companies that attempt to slash worker's wages. When one compares how the auto industry and the financial sector are being treated by Congress, the double standard is staggering. At Goldman Sachs ... employee compensation made up 71% of total operating expenses in 2007. In the auto industry, by contrast, autoworker compensation makes up less than 10% of the cost of manufacturing a car. Hundreds of billions were given to the financial-services industry with barely a question about compensation; the auto bailout, however, was sunk on this issue alone.
Note: For highly revealing reports from reliable sources on the realities of the Wall Street bailout, click here.
Ariz. police say they are prepared as War College warns military must prep for unrest
December 17, 2008, Phoenix Business Journal
A new report by the U.S. Army War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks. "Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security," said the War College report. The study says economic collapse ... and loss of legal order are among possible domestic shocks that might require military action within the U.S.. U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., both said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson brought up a worst-case scenario as he pushed for the Wall Street bailout in September. Paulson ... said that might even require a declaration of martial law, the two noted. State and local police in Arizona say they have broad plans to deal with social unrest, including trouble resulting from economic distress. The security and police agencies declined to give specifics, but said they would employ existing and generalized emergency responses to civil unrest that arises for any reason. "The Phoenix Police Department is not expecting any civil unrest at this time, but we always train to prepare for any civil unrest issue. We have a Tactical Response Unit that trains continually and has deployed on many occasions for any potential civil unrest issue," said Phoenix Police spokesman Andy Hill.
Note: Use of military forces to maintain domestic order has been forbidden since 1878 by the Posse Comitatus Act. The Pentagon appears to be planning to abrogate this key support of civil liberties.
Cheney was key in clearing CIA interrogation tactics
December 16, 2008, Los Angeles Times
Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that he was directly involved in approving severe interrogation methods used by the CIA, and that the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should remain open indefinitely. Cheney's comments ... mark the first time that he has acknowledged playing a central role in clearing the CIA's use of an array of controversial interrogation tactics, including a ... method known as waterboarding. "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared," Cheney said in an interview with ABC News. Asked whether he still believes it was appropriate to use the waterboarding method on terrorism suspects, Cheney said: "I do." His comments come on the heels of disclosures by a Senate committee showing that high-level officials in the Bush administration were intimately involved in reviewing and approving interrogation methods that have since been explicitly outlawed and that have been condemned internationally as torture. Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, Cheney said, the CIA "in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it." Waterboarding involves strapping a prisoner to a tilted surface, covering his face with a towel and dousing it to simulate the sensation of drowning. CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has said that the agency used the technique on three Al Qaeda suspects in 2002 and 2003. Cheney has long defended the technique. But he has not previously disclosed his role in pushing to give the CIA such authority.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on US torture and other war crimes committed in the Iraq and Afghan wars, click here.
U.N. Rights Investigator Expelled by Israel
December 16, 2008, New York Times
Israeli authorities on Monday expelled Richard Falk, a United Nations investigator of human rights in the Palestinian territories, saying he was unwelcome because of what the government has regarded as his hostile position toward Israel. Mr. Falk, an American, arrived in Israel on Sunday. He was held [overnight] at the airport and placed on the first available flight back to Geneva, his point of departure. Mr. Falk, a professor of international law at Princeton, has the title of United Nations Human Rights Council special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories. He has long been criticized in Israel for what many Israelis say are unfair and unpalatable views. He has compared Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to Nazi atrocities and has called for more serious examination of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks. Pointing to discrepancies between the official version of events and other versions, he recently wrote that "only willful ignorance can maintain that the 9/11 narrative should be treated as a closed book." In his capacity as a United Nations investigator, Mr. Falk issued a statement this month describing Israel's embargo on Gaza ... as a crime against humanity. Regardless of Mr. Falk's views, some Israelis questioned the wisdom of banning him, noting that it would hardly make his reports more sympathetic. Jessica Montell, the executive director of B'Tselem, an Israeli group that monitors human rights in the occupied territories, said that ... barring his entry was "an act unbefitting of democracy."
Note: Israel quite explicitly raised the issue of Falk's call for a genuine investigation of the 9/11 attacks in its explanation of his deportation. Why would the state of Israel oppose such an investigation? For information from major media sources on this and many other questions about what really happened on 9/11, click here.
Why AIG Gets Billions, GM Gets Scorn
December 12, 2008, U.S. News & World Report blog
AIG, the huge insurance company, has so far gotten $173 billion worth of federal aid, because traders at one small division made bets on exotic securities that were so calamitous they threatened to bring down the whole company. So far, the amount of money the feds have pledged to this one firm equals nearly one-third of the nation's defense budget. General Motors, America's biggest automaker, has asked for a $10 billion federal loan, equal to one-seventeenth of what AIG has gotten – and Congress has said no. There were no rogue traders at GM, and the company's problems have intensified in plain view, over several months, instead of coming from out of nowhere in a single, cataclysmic episode. Make sense? Doesn't to me. So maybe if we look at each company a bit more closely, it will be clearer why the government favors companies like AIG over ones like GM. Does have AIG have friends in high places? You could say that. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke both support the AIG bailout, and they've steered money to the company without Congressional approval. GM's most important friends in Washington have been the Michigan Congressional delegation, which obviously doesn't have the clout it used to. Paulson has actually argued against using part of the huge $700 billion financial bailout fund to help the automakers, because they can't pass a "viability" test proving they'll stay in business long enough to pay back the loans. But AIG hasn't passed a viability test either, and without federal help there's little doubt it would be in bankruptcy.
Note: At least someone is asking the right questions! For many highly revealing reports from reliable sources on the realities of the Wall Street bailout, click here.
Survey: Oil May Lose Top Rank as Cheapest Energy
December 10, 2008, ABC News/Associated Press
Over the next 20 years or so, oil and natural gas will lose top ranking as the world's most affordable energy sources, according to a survey of energy executives. Deeper wells in more inhospitable places, both political and geological, have altered presumptions of doing business in the oil patch. Nearly three out of four executives and managers surveyed last month by Deloitte LLP said oil and gas are the cheapest available energy sources for now, though only 23 percent believe that will be the case in 25 years. The sampling revealed a growing concern about the sustainability of oil and natural gas in the coming years. Future sources of fossil fuels, the cost of producing them and the price consumers will pay are some of the biggest uncertainties facing the industry. "Clearly, the oil and gas professionals involved in our survey are starting to think about the nation's transition to renewable energy and other alternative fuels," said Gary Adams, vice chairman of Deloitte's oil and gas practice. Of the executives interviewed by Deloitte, 53 percent said they think the U.S. could run out of reasonably priced oil within the next quarter century, and 56 percent said the world is likely to face the same scenario in the next 50 years. Three out of four said shifting away from the nation's reliance on fossil fuels for transportation needs is an appropriate goal for the country, yet most think the best alternative right now is natural gas. About 30 percent said electric plug-in vehicles are the most promising alternative.
Note: For a treasure trove of exciting reports of new developments in energy production, click here.
Alternative Currencies Grow in Popularity
December 14, 2008, Time magazine
Most of us take for granted that those rectangular green slips of paper we keep in our wallets are inviolable: the physical embodiment of value. But alternative forms of money have a long history and appear to be growing in popularity. It's not merely barter or primitive means of exchange like seashells or beads. Beneath the financial radar, in hip U.S. towns or South African townships, in shops, markets and even banks, people throughout the world are exchanging goods and services via thousands of currency types that look nothing like official tender. Alternative means of trade often surface during tough economic times. "When money gets dried up and there are still needs to be met in society, people come up with creative ways to meet those needs," says Peter North, a senior lecturer in geography at the University of Liverpool and the author of [a book] on the subject. He refers to the "scrips" issued in the U.S. and Europe during the Great Depression that kept money flowing and the massive barter exchanges involving millions of people that emerged amid runaway inflation in Argentina in 2000. "People were kept from starving [this way]," he says. Closer to home, "Ithaca Hours," with a livable hourly wage as the standard, were launched during the 1991 recession to sustain the economy in Ithaca, N.Y., and stem the loss of jobs. Hours, which are legal and taxable, circulate within the community, moving from local shop to local artisan and back, rather than leaking out into the larger monetary system. The logo on the Hour reads "In Ithaca We Trust." Alternative (or "complementary") currencies range from quaint to robust, simple to high tech.
Note: Read the entire article at the link above to learn about the great range of uses and benefits provided by alternative currencies.
Special note: Click here to watch the former head of Pakistan's ISI state plainly on CNN state that he feels the Neocons were behind 9/11! Daily Kos has posted an intriguing transcript alleged to be conversation between White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. If this is for real, watch out! For those interested in new energy sources, you might enjoy a 30-second Dilbert video on this available here. And for a very fun and thought-provoking nine-minute clip on evolution, click here. For a highly revealing 10-minute clip on extreme news suppression, click here.
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Bailout Secrecy, Illinois Governor Standing Firm, Bush Aide's Death in Plane Crash