31 January 2009

15 Most Loathsome People of 2008.

By: Allan Uthman and Ian Murphy, Buffalo Beast. Posted January 31, 2009.


Limbaugh, Palin, Warren, and more. They're the worst people in America, and unfortunately they dominated last year's headlines.

The Buffalo Beast has released its 50 Most Loathsome People in America list for 2008. We here at AlterNet rounded up 15 people from their list that we thought most deserved the insulting honor. Read through our top picks from their list, go check out the Beast's full list, and then drop some of the folks you think are the most loathsome people in America in the comments below. Happy hunting!

15. Michele Bachmann

Charges: Exemplifies the simmering, all-American fascism lurking behind the forced smiles of uptight church ladies throughout "real America." Echoing Sarah Palin's alarming hints about "helping" the media do its job, Bachmann's casual call for a "penetrating" press investigation into "anti-Americanism" in congress was so fucking dumb it made Chris Matthews seem smart. Once it occurred to the Oral Roberts University graduate that calling for witchhunts against Democrats might be a tad extreme for election season, she decided to just pretend she didn't say it, and then she blamed Chris Matthews. Then she just blamed words. Then she denied it again. Then she won. Way to go, Minnesota's 6th.

Exhibit A: BACHMANN: Actually, that's not what I said at all. COLMES: Well, I'm just -- I'm reading your exact quote. BACHMANN: Actually that's not I said. It's an urban legend that was created. That isn't what I said at all. COLMES: We have -- it's on tape.

Sentence: Assigned to conduct her own "expose" on anti-American views, in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

14. Bernie Madoff - Photograph: A. Golden, eyewash design, c. 2009.

Charges: Normally, the idea of a bunch of billionaires getting robbed blind for believing in a free lunch would amuse the hell out of us, but Bernie Madoff stole a lot of money from charity endowments, and is responsible for two suicides so far. Here’s a tip, Bernie: If you’re running the biggest scam since the Catholic church, handling billions of dollars, and all it takes to get busted is that some of your marks ask for their money back, you really should take some of that money and set up an escape plan. Still, he gets some credit for making Mort Zuckerman look like a jackass. The real villains here are Christopher Cox and the SEC, who investigated Madoff eight times, the last time specifically on suspicion of running a Ponzi scheme, each time “finding” no wrongdoing, which begs the all-too-familiar question of the last eight years: Satanically corrupt or grossly incompetent? Either way, Madoff was finally brought to justice… by his kids.

Exhibit A: "In today's regulatory environment, it's virtually impossible to violate rules ... but it's impossible for a violation to go undetected, certainly not for a considerable period of time."

Sentence: Sold into slavery.

13. Mark Penn - by: Cartoonist: Jeff Danziger

Charges: The most overpriced gravedigger in the world. As Clinton's Chief Strategist, this too-creepy-for-TV pollster steered what was initially considered a cinch presidential campaign with all the talent of Joseph Hazelwood at the helm of the Exxon Valdez. His laziness was explained by his strategy: Inevitability. Penn's cheap, backfiring smears of Obama as a coke-snorting Islamic radical teenager, coupled with pathetic whining about the mean old press, gave Clinton's campaign an odor as repugnant as his own playground-flasher looks. Like most reptiles, Penn was slow to adjust to environmental changes, racking up millions in direct mail fees while Obama plundered the internet, which Penn predicted wouldn't have any impact in 2008. His very employment signaled a total abdication on the corruption/lobbying issue. But it gets worse: Mark Penn didn't understand basic electoral arithmetic, announcing to colleagues that Hillary would win easily by gaining California's 370 delegates, assuming, wrongly, a winner-take all vote tally. Despite the revelation of his woeful lack of elementary knowledge, Penn did not adjust his big-state strategy, ignoring the caucus states that Obama rode to victory, and to the end, seemed utterly baffled that a candidate could win without "any of the significant states."

Exhibit A: After burning through $200 million before Super Tuesday, Penn now blames Clinton's loss on inadequate funds.

Sentence: Surgically attached to Harold Ickes.

12. Dina Lohan


Charges: Fame isn't the only thing that screws up child stars; it starts with self-obsessed, psychopathic parents living out their failed ambitions through their hapless offspring (Dina has been telling false stories of her days as a Rockette and Broadway actress for years). Her college-aged daughter may be a rehab veteran and serial drunk driver, but that's no reason for mom not to televise the warping of daughter number two, a pre-rhinoplasty 14-year-old with no discernible talent or personality who calls the absent Lindsay her "role model," and an 11-year-old boy whose future mugshot will no doubt become iconic. You may think your parents sucked, but at least they didn't do it on TV.

Exhibit A: Rarely has a person's life been so succinctly synopsized by real events as when Lohan's house caught fire with her minor children alone inside while she was busy accepting -- no shit -- a "Mother of the Year" award.

Sentence: Age, ugliness, poverty, obscurity.

11. David Addington - Cartoonist: Michelle Looney, c. 2007

Charges: In a nation fat with lawyers, it takes something special to be the worst of them all. If a White House legal argument is evil, unconstitutional and makes no actual sense, it’s a safe bet Grand Moff Addington is behind it. An expert in spook law since his early-‘80s stint as counselor to the CIA, Addington first hooked up with Cheney during the Iran-Contra hearings, even then pushing the “Unitary Executive” theory of unfettered presidential power and attempting to shoehorn dictatorship into the constitution. Addington thinks the president is above the law in times of war, which is awful convenient if you declare an endless war on a global battlefield. It’s this flimsy pretext on which the White House has evaded accountability for torture, domestic spying, and secret detention, proving that the best legal tools in DC are a straight face and a huge pair of balls.

Exhibit A: “I frankly don't know what you mean by the Unitary Theory of Government.”

Sentence: Declared an enemy combatant for farting in oval office; waterboarded with a fire hose by John Yoo.

10. Michelle Malkin

Charges: It's a remarkable achievement in unconscious projection that the author of a book called Unhinged could lose her fucking marbles over a patterned scarf in a donut ad, but that's what Michelle Malkin did when she sounded the nutbar clarion call and sicced her half-cocked league of masturbators on Rachel Ray and Dunkin Donuts for the flatly absurd notion that they were sending a message of solidarity with Palestinians. Right, Michelle -- you just can't sell donuts without joining the intifada these days. What did the nauseously spunky Ray do to incur the wrath of the Malkinoids? She wore a black and white scarf. A paisley scarf. A scarf that was clearly not a kaffiyeh, which, by the way, is just a hat that Arabs wear, not some universal symbol of jihad. In terms of completely false outrage, the only thing that rivaled this travesty of reason this year was the "lipstick on a pig" metaphor panic. But what puts this embarrassing sham over the top is that Dunkin Donuts actually apologized and pulled the ad, rather than try to explain to the fact-phobic horde that they were just blind, raging idiots with the collective brain-power of a lobotomized howler monkey.

Exhibit A: "If your neighbor's got an "Obama '08" bumper sticker or lawn sign, you might want to double-check your door locks at night."

Sentence: Deported to China for wearing red T-shirt.

9. Rick Warren

Charges: Dubbed "America's Pastor" by The Nation, he's duped people from both sides of the political spectrum into thinking he's the kinder, fatter version of James Dobson. Though he is fatter, how could anyone think a man who -- professionally -- quotes a book written by a make-believe space-giant, instructing the murder of homosexuals, could be anything other than a delusional bigot? Still riding the undeserved wave of fame onset by a meth-head kidnap victim's ownership of his pop-psych hybrid of churchy prudishness and self-help pabulum The Purpose Driven Life, Warren had a big year hosting a presidential forum at his gay-sounding Saddleback Church, helping to pass Prop 8 and being tapped to invoke said make-believe space-giant at Obama's inauguration. Plus, his neatly trimmed goatee is the queerest thing we've ever seen.

Exhibit A: "God tells us that he created all the land animals on the sixth day of creation, the same day that he created mankind. Man and dinosaurs lived at the same time." Can you feel the wisdom?

Sentence: He shalt giveth The Lord a blumpkin and eatheth of the pie until he bursts.

8. Ashley Todd

Charges: As attention-getting devices go, trying to start a race war is a tad disproportionate. It's a good thing this batty girl was completely hopeless as a fraudster, or her 11th hour "big black Barack backer battered burgled and branded Barbie" ruse could have done a lot worse than throw Pennsylvania to McCain. It's not surprising that log cabin bottom feeder Matt Drudge slapped the headline "Shock: McCain volunteer ‘attacked and mutilated' in Pittsburgh" on his bafflingly popular website in big red letters, as he's got about a 40% accuracy rating on the stories he "breaks." We've tried feeling sorry for Todd, but the fact that she scratched the "B" backwards, because she was looking in the mirror, is just too damned funny.

Exhibit A: "Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her cloths [sic] off, but its better if you do."

Sentence: The reverse "B" never heals.

7. Joe Lieberman

Charges: A fickle, flabbery fiend reviled by both parties, Lieberman somehow finds himself more powerful than ever, failing forward by virtue of the Democrats' unfalteringly chumpish lack of discipline. After promising that he was "not going to go to…the Republican convention, and spend my time attacking Barack Obama," Lieberman went to the Republican convention and attacked Barack Obama. But that was just the beginning of his descent into a self-dug hole of betrayal that should have proved inescapable. Lieberman thought it was "a good question" to ask if Obama was a Marxist. He campaigned not just with McCain, but with Palin and down-ticket Republicans, another thing he said he wouldn't do. But the most loathsome trait Lieberman exhibits is that most loathsome of all: Smearing dissent as treasonous. The kind of suppressive asshole who would accuse you of helping terrorists by beating him at checkers should not be Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and is not someone worth rewarding for his own dissent.

Exhibit A: "In matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." "Sen. Obama doesn't come to this debate with a lot of credibility.”

Sentence: Lieberman awakes to find himself in the body of an impoverished Iraqi living in a small apartment with 12 family members and no electricity. Shocked by this inexplicable turn of events, he stumbles outside and cries to God, looking up just in time for the white phosphorous to hit him in the face.

6. Rush Limbaugh - Cartoonist: Stuart Carlson, c. 2003.

Charges: The father of modern stupidity, Limbaugh spins reflexively, never struggling with issues, because he knows his conclusion must favor Republicans, and his only task is finding a way to get there. In other words, he may or may not actually believe what he's saying, but it's beside the point. His job is not to say what he thinks, but to instruct his listeners on what they should think. If the facts don't agree, he can always change them, as his "ditto heads" are already armed against the contrary evidence with the all-purpose "liberal bias" attack. "Rush is right," as the slogan goes, and all those nerdy reporters in the "drive by media" are lying, because they secretly love terrorists. It's this creepily worshipful, breathtakingly infantile abdication of intellect to a blatantly dishonest hypocrite that makes Limbaugh's audience so goddamn sad. These pathetic, insecure, failures of men look to Rush as the champion of their impotent rage, helping them to externalize responsibility for their own deficiencies, pinning the blame on those darn liberals and their racial and gender equality.

Exhibit A: You have to marvel at the sheer ignominy of someone who coins the term "Obama recession" two days after the election.

Sentence: Tiny speaker implanted in his inner ear which blares Randi Rhodes 24-7.

5. Dick Cheney - Illustration: Matt Carmody, c. 2004.

Charges: Still alive. The amount of medical resources devoted to keeping this black hole of decency operational could have cured cancer by now, but if they had, Cheney would make sure to keep it a secret. Since Watergate, Cheney's been fighting to rehab Nixon's image, and he has succeeded in a way, by showing us all just how much worse a presidency can be.

Exhibit A: "It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you."

Sentence: Eaten alive by baboons.

4. George W. Bush

Charges: It's hard -- believe us, we know -- to keep coming up with new things to say about this brutally stupid narcissist, who may have ruined this country irrevocably and certainly has ruined a couple of others, mugging amiably all the way. If anything good comes from Bush's reign of error, let it be the death of the notion that vitally important, life or death decisions that affect the entire world should be made with one's "gut." We used to think that incompetence was just a good cover story for this administration, an excuse that masked their deliberate criminality, but it turns out that Bush and his inner circle are both treasonous, corrupt warmongers and inept fools. One good thing about him, though, is that he has no real interest in politics, and probably won't give a flying shoe what happens to the world when his term is up. As he once put it, ""History, we don't know. We'll all be dead." Here's to George W. Bush being history.

Exhibit A: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

Sentence: Detained in formaldehyde-laced FEMA trailer without charges or counsel, sodomized by Lynndie England, declared guilty by military tribunal, set adrift naked on a small ice floe in the Arctic.

3. Sean Hannity - Cartoonist: Pixelmarx.com, c. 2008.

Charges: This relentlessly repugnant McCarthyite tool really outdid himself this year, in an all-out quest to otherize Obama in any way he could. This paranoid pustule is able to find a liberal conspiracy lurking behind any mundane occurrence, even attributing Obama's selection as Time's Person of the Year, an event as predictable as sunrise, to a pay-to-play scheme. Hopelessly outmatched shill Alan Colmes is finally leaving his role as Hannity's doormat; he will not be replaced.

Exhibit A: "I never questioned anyone's patriotism."

Sentence: Wrongfully convicted of murdering Vince Foster, based on evidence falsified by Jerome Corsi.

2. John McCain - Artist: Dan Lacey, c. 2008.

Charges: McCain vowed to run a clean, respectful campaign, and then accused Obama of pushing sex ed for kindergartners, calling Palin a pig, hanging with terrorists, being a welfare-loving Marxist, being an arugula-loving elitist and pretty much everything but conspiring with the Borg -- but he didn't really mean it, and he didn't use Reverend Wright, so we're all supposed to think he's swell. McCain lied so blatantly and constantly that even cable news bootlicks were compelled to fact-check him, to which he and his surrogates responded by insisting on the same lies. When pressed on the Nixonian onslaught of falsehood, McCain whined that he wouldn't have had to be such a mendacious prick if Obama had only refrained from raising so much more money than him. McCain pretended to give a shit about America, and then he picked a vapid ambition-hound to succeed him. His response to the economic crisis might as well have been to punch himself in the face. In every way he could this year, McCain burned up all the credibility he had stored up from decades of shameless worship by the press, utilizing every tactic he ever decried, exuding a heady aroma of bullshit and Alzheimer's, and displaying an unrequited obsession with Joe the Plumber, and he still wound up a failed Faust even the Devil didn't want.

Exhibit A: "In the 21st century nations don't invade other nations."

Sentence: Every time anybody says the word "surge," McCain is shot in the leg.

1. Sarah Palin - Cartoonist: Daryl Cagle, c. 2008.

Charges: If you want to know why the rest of the world is scared of Americans, consider the fact that after two terms of disastrous rule by a small-minded ignoramus, 46% of us apparently thought the problem was that he wasn't quite stupid enough. Palin's unending emissions of baffling, evasive incoherence should have disqualified her for any position that involved a desk, let alone placing her one erratic heartbeat from the presidency. The press strained mightily to feign respect for her, praising a debate performance that involved no debate, calling her a "great speaker" when her only speech was primarily a litany of insults to city-dwellers, echoing bogus sexism charges when a male Palin would have been boiled alive for the Couric interview alone, and lionizing her as she used her baby as a Pro-life stage prop before crowds who cooed when they should have been hurling polonium-tipped javelins. In the end, Palin had the beneficial effect of splitting her party between her admirers and people who can read.

Exhibit A: Waving her embryo-loving credentials, in the form of her Down syndrome baby. Saying "But ultimately what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy."

Sentence: Hand-to-hand combat with Vladimir Putin and a pack of wolves.



LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!

Thanks for all you do!
Live your values. Love your country.
And, remember: TOGETHER, We can make a DIFFERENCE!

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. 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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Follow the law: Stay PUT!


Wall Street and its co-conspirators on Main Street had a great plan.

Step 1: Ram predatory loans down the market with fraud and deceptive marketing.

Step 2: Some of the loans will blow up, but in the aggregate it will all work out and besides, the loans will be bundled and sold off to investors (spreading the toxic waste), so who cares?

Great plan, but it had a few problems.

Problem #1: It destroyed the world financial system (minor detail)

Problem #2 (And he's where it get VERY interesting...): For a loan to be valid, the lender needs to be able to produce the paperwork.

Guess what?

In their mad greed to screw the American people and line their own pockets, Wall Street forgot that little detail.

Many of these loans and been sliced and diced and sold and re-sold so many times that not only is the paperwork not easy to lay hands on, in some cases, it's not clear who actually owns the loan.

Here's where property law comes in.

If the bank can't produce the documents and the real owner of the loan can't be identified, the contract is null and void.

You've got to hand it to Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (and Ohio, producing a lot of great Congresspeople.)

By telling a bank to "produce the note," a homeowner can delay foreclosure by forcing the lender to prove the suing institution is actually the same which owns the debt.

Now, the banks own sloth and disorganization (and inherent dishonesty) can be used against it.

Final word: The media (and Wall Street and its criminal partners in Congress and the former Bush White House) love to call these loans sup-prime.

Here's the old fashioned word: predatory.

Many of the loans that were made in the past five years that have created so many problems would have been illegal until Bush & Co not only gutted lending laws, but also literally sued states to stop them from enforcing their own lending laws.




LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!

Thanks for all you do!
Live your values. Love your country.
And, remember: TOGETHER, We can make a DIFFERENCE!

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. 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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.



30 January 2009

As Army Suicides Mount, Officials Promise (Again) to Address It

Original Post: 30 Jan 2009 02:58 PM CST

by: Christopher Weaver, ProPublica
Photograph: A. Golden, eyewash design, c. 2009.

Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that the rate of soldiers committing suicides increased last year to the highest level in thirty years. As today’s New York Times reports, the number of suicides among soldiers has now increased for the fourth year in a row [1]. Somewhere between 128 and 143 soldiers killed themselves in 2008. (Fifteen cases are still under investigation.)

Army officials in turn pointed yesterday to new programs [2] and a campaign to combat the stigma of mental wounds.

"We need to move quickly to do everything we can to reverse the very disturbing number of suicides we have in the Army," Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who is responsible for suicide prevention, told the Times.

It’s a familiar refrain. Since 2003, yearly reports on the Army’s suicide rates have spurred similar news stories [3], and similar reactions [4] by Pentagon officials. Suicide-prevention initiatives – such as the "battle-buddy" program, which relied on ordinary soldiers to keep an eye on each other – have spawned in the wake of the grim statistics [5], but the numbers have only worsened.

Officials have pointed to the added stress of the wars since a jump in 2003, but in the years since, suicides spread more evenly among reservists and soldiers who have never deployed. Financial, legal and family problems were among the likely causes, officials told the Times.

The deaths were about evenly divided among soldiers on deployment, those returned from deployments, and their comrades who had never deployed, according to the report.

The suicides also struck all levels of the military, from enlisted men overseas to young cadets at the Army’s elite West Point academy, the Washington Post reported today [6]. Two cadets committed suicide, and another two tried to, within the last couple of months.

Though these were the first suicides at the academy since 2005, there’s no evidence that the deaths were linked to the Army’s larger problem. Officials at West Point told the Post, "nothing is more stressful here than it has been [in the past]."

The Army pledged a "stand down" day in which officers would be instructed to take time to address the problem in their units. They’ve also hired 250 more mental health specialists in the last year.

"[It] is absolutely critical is to reach out to soldiers and tell them it is not wrong to reach out for help," Chiarelli told the Times. "We have to change our culture."

The call for a change in culture also has echoes.

A March 2008 report by the Army’s inspector general [7] suggested a new "culture of support for psychological health."

And in April 2005, the Marine Corps Times reported that the Army’s surgeon general [8], Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, told a House Appropriations subcommittee, "That’s still part of our culture: Real men don’t see [mental health counselors]… I would like to see a culture that resets the force mentally."



LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!

Thanks for all you do!
Live your values. Love your country.
And, remember: TOGETHER, We can make a DIFFERENCE!

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. 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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

29 January 2009

Private security firm Blackwater to be ejected from Iraq

Original Post: The Times UK, January 30, 2009.

The private security firm Blackwater Worldwide faced a humiliating ejection from Iraq yesterday after the Interior Ministry said its licence to operate would not be renewed.

The decision was taken because of a shootout in September 2007 when Blackwater guards were accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians, a ministry spokesman said.

If implemented, the expulsion order would be a huge blow to the North Carolina-based company, which has the US State Department contract to protect the sprawling American Embassy in Baghdad and all American diplomats in Iraq.

It is unclear when the 1,000 Blackwater guards — who are made up largely of former US military personnel and has its headquarters in Baghdad’s green zone — will be asked to leave and whether they can continue to carry out their duties in the interim.

Major General Abdel Karim Khalaf, the Iraqi spokesman, said: “The contract is finished and will not be renewed by order of the Minister of the Interior . . . It is because of the shooting incident in 2007.”

An Iraqi investigation found that 17 civilians were killed and 20 wounded in the incident, when Blackwater guards opened fire with automatic weapons while escorting a US diplomatic convoy through Baghdad. The firm insists that its guards were acting in self-defence after being ambushed.

The US Embassy confirmed that it was looking for new security arrangements for its staff. “We are working with the Government of Iraq and our contractors to address the implications of this decision,” an official said.

A relative of two of the victims of the shootout at a busy Baghdad roundabout expressed scepticism that Blackwater would be forced to leave.

“This is a comedy,” Haitham alRubaie, a doctor whose wife and son were killed, said. He said that the firm had had its contract renewed in the past without requiring the permission of the Iraqi Government. Now, however, a US-Iraqi security accord approved in November gives Iraq the authority to decide which foreign security companies operate in the country.



LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!

Thanks for all you do!
Live your values. Love your country.
And, remember: TOGETHER, We can make a DIFFERENCE!

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. 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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Sign the Petition to Increase funding to the NEA

Friends,

In a swift victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge $819 billion Economic Stimulus bill last night - filled with new spending and tax cuts at the core of the young adminstration's revival plan for the desperately ailing economy. The vote was 244-188.

I'm writing to urge you to consider signing this petition to increase the proposed $50 million funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the $825 billion Economic Stimulus Plan, being voted on by the Senate next week.

The NEA has been underfunded since the Newt Gingrich budget assault following the 1994 Congressional elections, and fifteen years later has surpassed critical point. The NEA's current budget is around $144 million or, just 50 cents for each American. If the NEA budget were doubled, half of all additional funding over $175 million will go directly to Arts Education. President Obama has also announced his intention to beef up arts education in the Dept. of Education, and I hope you will support his efforts.

We are grateful that this small percentage of the $819 Billion Economic Stimulus Plan has been earmarked for the Arts - primarily through the administration of the NEA and the NEH. However, as Arts and economic development go hand-in-hand, and considering the Arts brings more money to cities than does professional sports, the argument that this money is really "pork" and doesn't stimulate the economy, is plain false. In fact, it has been pointed out by the NEA that the very small amount of money, when compared to the overall $819 billion, is actually placed more efficiently into the economy and will establish over 6,000 jobs. While the arts organizations financed by NEA grants may have only 2, 10, or 25 employees, there are hundreds of organizations and they add up to the same kind of impact as a large corporations such as airlines or banks.

Roosevelt carved a niche for artists in his New Deal. These programs not only created jobs, put money into the economy, and improved education / lives in general, they also placed the USA in a cultural leadership position in the world which exists today. Indeed, the Federal Art Project - along with several other WPA-backed programs, created well over 5,000 jobs for American artists. These artists created over 2,500 murals, over 17,700 sculptures, 108,000 paintings, and 240,000 prints. The project's legacy lives on, supporting artists like Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, and many other abstract expressionists whose work helped shift the most dynamic center of the art world from its traditional location in Europe, to where it now resides - in the largest American cities.

The FSA photography project was also most responsible for creating the image of the Depression in the U.S. Many of the images appeared in popular magazines. The photographers were under instruction from Washington as to what overall impression the New Deal wanted to give. Director Roy Stryker's agenda focused on his faith in social engineering, the poor conditions among cotton tenant farmers, and the very poor conditions among migrant farm workers. Above all, he was committed to social reform through New Deal intervention in people's lives. New Deal era films such as Citizen Kane ridiculed so-called "great men", while class warfare appeared in numerous movies, such as Meet John Doe and The Grapes of Wrath.

Established on July 27, 1935, the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) additionally created over 6,600 jobs for writers, editors, researchers, and many others who exemplified a given level of literary expertise. Compiling local histories, oral histories, ethnographies, children's books and other works, these writers created over 1,200 books and pamphlets. They also produced some of the first U.S. guides for states, major cities, and roadways. Responsible for recording folklore and oral histories, the FWP most notably wrote the 2,300 plus first-person accounts of slavery now existing as an invaluable collection in the Library of Congress. As with the Federal Art Project, the FWP's contributions to American literature were both significant and long-lasting, giving authors like John Steinbeck, Zora Neale Hurston, Sterling Brown, and many others the opportunity to continue their work in a time of difficult economic circumstances.

Not everyone is an athlete, an accountant, a scholar, a scientist, a finance expert, a teacher, or a politician, but most artists must embody all these characteristics to survive in a culture not valuing them. All great nations not only revered the Arts, but made certain artisans held court in the very highest echelons of society. Giving the arts the respectable place in our current society it deserves will better our future as a strong nation, and send a message not only to our fellow countrymen, but also to the rest of the world that real change is underway in America.

By signing this petition, you're telling your representative to support the arts by increasing the $50 million earmarked for the NEA. Your action will be the first critical step toward addressing the unmet need for all struggling artists. Passing this on to every contact you have would be most appreciated! Time is of the utmost importance. To find your representative, check here.

Sincerely,


LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!
Thanks for all you do!
Live your values. Love your country.
And, remember: TOGETHER, We can make a DIFFERENCE!



FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. 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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


28 January 2009

Report: Wall Street bonuses decline 44%

UPDATE:
"Shameful." - Omaba comments on the irresponsibility of Wall Street bankers' who gave themselves $20 BILLION in BONUSES, same amount as 2004.




Original Post:
Crain's NY, January 28, 2009 7:13 AM

Photographs: A. Golden, eyewash design, c. 2009.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimates that the securities industry paid its New York City employees $18 billion in bonuses for 2008, compared with nearly $33 billion in 2007.

(AP) - New York state will lose nearly $1 billion in revenues because cash bonuses to Wall Street employees declined 44% last year, according to a report state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued Wednesday.

Mr. DiNapoli estimates the securities industry paid its New York City employees $18.4 billion in bonuses for 2008, compared with nearly $33 billion in 2007.

The drop in bonuses will cost New York City $275 million, Mr. DiNapoli said.

"The securities industry has already lost tens of thousands of jobs and the industry is still continuing to write off toxic assets," Mr. DiNapoli said in a written statement. "It's painfully obvious that 2009 will probably be another difficult year for the industry."

He evaluated personal income tax collections and other factors, including industry revenue and expense trends.

The decline is the largest on record in dollars and the largest percentage decline in more than 30 years, but the bonus pool is still the sixth largest on record.

Before the financial crisis, business and personal income tax collections from Wall Street activities accounted for up to 20% of state tax revenues and 12% of New York City tax revenues.

The average bonus declined by 36.7% to $112,000 in 2008. The decline in the average bonus was smaller than the decline in the bonus pool because the pool was shared among fewer workers as the industry shed jobs.

It's important to make sure the federal bailout packages aren't paying for corporate jets, pay dividends or executive bonuses when the economy is suffering to this extent, Mr. DiNapoli said.

"Taxpayers have invested billions of dollars to stabilize the nation's banks and financial institutions and there are plans to make additional investments to shore up the banking system," Mr. DiNapoli said. "There needs to be greater transparency and accountability in the use of these funds. Every dime counts."

Mr. DiNapoli also estimated that the traditional broker and dealer operations of the member firms of the New York Stock Exchange lost more than $35 billion in 2008. Industry losses were actually much greater when other business services, such as mergers and acquisitions, were factored in.

Employment in the securities industry in New York City declined from 187,800 in October 2007 to 168,600 in December 2008, a loss of 19,200 jobs.



LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!

Thanks for all you do!
Live your values. Love your country.
And, remember: TOGETHER, We can make a DIFFERENCE!

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. 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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

27 January 2009

MTA Doomsday Budget Revealed The W and Z trains could be elimated along with major late night and midday reductions.

From: NBC news, NY, Updated 8:18 AM EST, Tue, Nov 18, 2008.
Photographs: A. Golden, eyewash design, c. 2009.

See ya later, W. No, not the President. The train.

Faced with a $1.2 billion budget deficit that's growing by the day, the MTA is considering doomsday budget cuts that would eliminate W and Z trains, and cut G, J, M train service in half, the Daily News reported today.

Bus service also would be cut and straphangers would face longer waits for the train during midday and overnight, The News reported, citing sources familiar the proposal. The MTA also would eliminate 1,500 New York City Transit jobs. The plan will be unveiled at the MTA’s monthly board meeting tomorrow.

"It's a nightmare on weekends if trying to go to Queens as it is,” Zack Frank, 26, an actor from Queens told The News. "The MTA should worry about strengthening what it's got, not cutting it."

Under the plan, according to The News, the MTA would:

  • Shut down the W and Z lines.
  • Eliminate the J-train express service.
  • Cut the G, J, and M train service in half.
  • Eliminate dozens of bus routes overnight and on weekends.
  • Run subways less frequently between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
  • Increase the time between trains running between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

STOP THE FARE HIKE! ROCK THE MTA’S BROOKLYN “PUBLIC HEARING”

BAIL OUT RIDERS, NOT THE BANKS! Wednesday, January 28 – 5 PM New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge 333 Adams Street between Fulton & Johnson

Protest at the MTA hearing
DEMONSTRATE OUTSIDE, THEN DEMONSTRATE INSIDE!

The MTA is bringing its panel of bankers and billionaires to Brooklyn -- its very own Farehike-apolooza -- tomorrow night for another so-called public hearing.

Like last week, the Bail Out the People Movement will be there to confront the Wall Street executives and rally the people who come out to the hearing. On January 14, BOPM turned the sidewalk in front of the Hilton into a “People’s Public Hearing,” where transit workers, students and activists rallied 100 people against the MTA. The entire demonstration then marched en masse into the hearing (see YouTube coverage below).

On Wednesday, the demonstration will also continue inside the hearing, with dozens of placards demanding that the MTA scrap its plans to make workers bear the brunt of its debt crisis.

The Times said yesterday that this year 1 out of 6 people will be unemployed this year, a figure which does not take into account the number among immigrant workers and others. Bank of America just got $20 billion more.

Now is not the time to be raising fares and cutting services. Now’s the time for the banks to use the billions they’ve sucked out of mass transit, the treasury and our labor -- and BAIL OUT THE PEOPLE.

NO FARE HIKES -- NO LAYOFFS! NO SERVICE CUTS -- NO BRIDGE TOLLS!
Wednesday, January 28 – 5 PM
New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge
333 Adams Street between Fulton & Johnson

A,C, TO BOROUGH HALL -- M,R TO LAWRENCE STREET -- 2,3,4,5 TO BOROUGH HALL


LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!

Thanks for all you do!
Live your values. Love your country.
And, remember: TOGETHER, We can make a DIFFERENCE!

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. 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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


AIG’s Milton Gets Four Years for Fraud, Avoids Life. Fuld sells mansion to Wife for US$100. After Pressure from Obama, Citigroup Doesn't Take Jet.

Original Post: Jane Mills and David Voreacos - Bloomberg.com
Photographs: A. Golden, eyewash design, c. 2009.

Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- A former vice president at American International Group Inc. was sentenced to four years in prison for defrauding shareholders, avoiding a possible life term.

Christian Milton, 61, was convicted Feb. 25 with four former executives of General Reinsurance Corp. of using a sham transaction in 2000 to help AIG improve its balance sheet. The judge could have given Milton a life sentence after ruling that the fraud cost AIG shareholders as much as $597 million.

Milton asked U.S. District Judge Christopher Droney for a “minimal” term, citing his good work in the community. Droney said that while life in prison would be too severe, the sentence must deter other executives, and that Milton’s conduct showed a “stark lack of honesty and respect” for investors.

“Mr. Milton’s participation in this fraud was critical to its success, and particularly disturbing,” Droney said in federal court in Hartford, Connecticut. “He surely knew it was a scam from the start.”

Droney also imposed a $200,000 fine and ordered two years of supervised release after Milton’s term ends. Milton, a legal permanent resident of the U.S., faces deportation to his native England after his prison term.

U.S. prosecutors said Milton played a central role in a transaction that began in October 2000 with a phone call from former AIG Chief Executive Officer Maurice “Hank” Greenberg.

“He could have and should have told Mr. Greenberg that this was a shady deal and he would have nothing to do with it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond E. Patricco Jr. told the judge today. “Instead, he became the point man for the deal.”

Greenberg

Prosecutors have said Greenberg was an unindicted coconspirator in the case. Greenberg, who resigned in 2005, wasn’t charged with a crime and denied any knowledge of an improper transaction.

Milton was fired from AIG in March 2005 and hired within days at C.V. Starr & Co., an insurance and investment company run by Greenberg, Patricco said today. Milton makes $425,000 a year at C.V. Starr, according to Patricco.

“To this day, Mr. Greenberg remains his boss and holds the purse strings” to his deferred compensation, Patricco told the judge.

An attorney for Greenberg who attended today’s hearing, Scott Morvillo, declined comment. Amy Foote, a spokeswoman for C.V. Starr, also declined comment.

Milton will surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons by March 25. He may apply for bail pending appeal. If the judge grants his request, it would delay the start of his prison term.

Leniency Sought

Milton, who submitted 67 letters to the judge seeking leniency, declined to speak at the hearing.

His attorney, Frederick Hafetz, said Milton deserved leniency for a variety of good acts, including intervening at AIG on behalf of two employees who had contracted AIDS.

“Mr. Milton, time after time, is the individual who stood up and showed compassion and courage when people were in trouble at work,” Hafetz said.

The deal at the center of the fraud arose after New York- based AIG said on Oct. 26, 2000, that premiums increased in the third quarter of 2000 as reserves for claims fell. Five days later, Greenberg asked Ferguson for help with AIG’s loss reserves, a key measure of an insurer’s success, according to trial evidence.

General Re, based in Stamford, Connecticut, agreed in writing to transfer at least $500 million in policies and pay $500 million in premiums, with AIG facing as much as $100 million in losses. AIG improperly booked the deal as posing a risk of loss, while General Re accounted for it correctly, prosecutors said. Secret side agreements corrupted the deal, according to the government.

On Dec. 16, Droney sentenced former General Re Chief Executive Officer Ronald Ferguson to two years in prison and fined him $200,000. He also faced a possible life term.

The case is U.S. v. Ferguson, 06-cr-137, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut (Hartford).

-----NEW$ UPDATE$ on OTHER CORPORATE CRIMINAL$-----

Lehman Brothers' Richard Fuld "sold" mansion to wife for US$100

Original Post: Christine Seib in New York, The Times, London - January 27, 2009.

The disgraced chief executive of Lehman Brothers transferred ownership of a $14 million Florida mansion to his wife for $100 in a possible attempt to move assets beyond the reach of infuriated investors of the collapsed bank.

Richard Fuld, who led the 158-year-old investment bank to its demise last September, sold the beach-front house to his wife, Kathleen, for $100 (£72) on November 10, according to Marin County real estate records.

The couple had previously jointly owned the Jupiter Island property, which was valued at $13.75million when they bought it in March 2004.

Cityfile.com, the New York website that uncovered the secret sale, speculated: “Could Fuld be worried about the flurry of lawsuits from incensed shareholders and creditors?”

The 3.3-acre property is one of five luxury homes owned by the Fulds, who spend most of their time at their eight-bedroom mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Mr Fuld has been named in at least one lawsuit filed by San Mateo County seeking damages for the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The Californian local authority lost $150 million on its investment in the Wall Street bank.

Lawyers were divided yesterday over whether the decision to move the mansion into Mrs Fuld's name was an attempt to put assets beyond the reach of investors who intend to sue the former chief executive for compensation. Some lawyers cited Florida's unusually generous home protection laws, which could save the Fulds from losing their house in the event of a lawsuit or bankruptcy.

To take advantage of these rules the couple would have to prove that they resided in Florida, which could be difficult because of the amount of time they spent in New York. Also, if a court decided that Mrs Fuld did not pay enough for the mansion, the transfer would be deemed to be “fraudulent conveyance” that would render the move void, lawyers said.

However, Barry Nelson, an attorney who specialises in asset preservation, said that the mansion would have been protected from creditors under Florida law even if it had remained in joint ownership. “As long as the acquisition of the property was not a fraud on creditors, which it wasn't because it was bought when the bank was doing well, and the debt is only his, not hers, then the property would be protected,” Mr Nelson said.

Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the 62-year-old banker, whose combative nature earned him the nickname The Gorilla, has become the symbol of everything that was wrong with Wall Street.

Even after overseeing America's largest bankruptcy, Mr Fuld has refused to admit responsibility for the fate of Lehman Brothers. Questioned by a congressional committee last October, Mr Fuld said that he felt

“horrible about what has happened to the company” but insisted that financial regulators and Congress should share the blame for the demise of the bank.

Mr Fuld also insisted that all his decisions in the months before the bankruptcy were “both prudent and appropriate” given the information that he had at the time.

He was paid $22 million in 2007 but did not receive any bonus or severance payment when he left Lehman Brothers last year. Henry Waxman, a Democrat Congressman, calculated that Mr Fuld had collected $480 million in compensation in eight years at the bank - a figure that Mr Fuld disputed, pointing out that he had taken home $300 million.

According to reports, Mr Fuld was running on a treadmill in the bank's gym, on the day he announced that Lehman Brothers was bankrupt, when he was punched in the face by an irate employee.

Mr Fuld's attorney did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Citigroup will not take possession of new aircraft

- Jan 27, 4:02 PM EST

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pressured by the Obama administration, Citigroup Inc. reversed course and said it will not take delivery of a corporate jet it previously planned to purchase.

The canceled deal comes amid a chorus of concerns from politicians who are worried about how banks that have received federal funds are spending the money. Citigroup has received $45 billion in capital from the government in recent months amid the ongoing credit crisis.

"Citi has no intent to take delivery of any new aircraft," the New York-based bank said in a statement Tuesday.

An official in President Barack Obama's administration reached out to Citigroup on Monday to reiterate Obama's position that such jets aren't "the best use of money at this point," and are "an outrageous use of funds" for a company getting taxpayer dollars, said a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely describe private conversations.

In a statement late Monday, Citi said it had placed a deposit in 2005 to acquire a new corporate jet, and said it didn't plan to use government funds for the purchase. The New York-based bank noted that any cancellation of the deal would likely lead to millions of dollars in penalties.

On Monday, the New York Post reported that Citi was set to take possession of a new corporate jet, and was still planning to receive it even after it received the government funding.

With the cancellation of the deal, a deposit on the jet will be lost, but is recoverable once the jet is sold, according to a person familiar with situation. Citi was in the process of purchasing a Dassault Falcon 7X for $50 million, the person said.

Aside from not taking control of a new jet, Citi is also planning to cut the number of corporate jets in its existing fleet to two from five, said the person, who asked not to be identified because those details haven't been made public.

Corporate jets have become a hot-button topic amid the ongoing credit crisis as the cost of owning and operating them has come into question, especially for companies receiving financial support from the government.

In November, executives of automakers Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC were roundly criticized for flying on corporate jets to Washington to ask Congress for federal bailout money.

Obama criticized the automakers during the transition, and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at his daily briefing on Monday that that view applied in the Citi case as well. So an official from the Treasury Department relayed this privately to Citi, saying it was the feeling of not just the president but also lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the public, according to the White House official who spoke anonymously.

Citi has been among the hardest hit banks by rising loan defaults and souring investments, and been one of the biggest receivers of government support.

The bank has received $45 billion in capital from the government as part of the U.S. Treasury Department's plan to directly invest in banks. The government is also providing guarantees on hundreds of billions of dollars of Citi investments in mortgages and other troubled investments.

Amid the struggles, Citi has been working to streamline its operations and shed assets in an effort to regain profitability. The bank has posted five consecutive quarterly losses, including a fourth-quarter loss of $8.29 billion.

Earlier this month, Citi reached a deal to sell a majority stake in its Smith Barney brokerage unit to Morgan Stanley. Citi has also announced plans split its operations into two units, separating its traditional banking businesses from its riskier operations.

It might take a while for Citi to recover its deposit on the canceled jet deal, as the market for corporate aircraft has softened with the economy.

Before the jet market cooled last year, speculators sometimes placed orders with no intention of taking delivery of the plane. They would sell their position in line.

"There was such a backlog - three or three-and-a-half year waits - people could buy positions and flip them for a profit," said Robert F. Agnew, president and chief executive of aviation consulting firm Morton Beyer & Agnew. "Selling a slot today is probably very difficult."

Agnew said buyers typically pay a few percentage points of the purchase price when placing the order, then a series of payments as production begins and other milestones are reached. They might pay about 35 percent of the cost before taking delivery, then pay the balance when taking the plane, he said. At that rate, Citi could have already spent $17.5 million on a plane it will no longer receive.

Agnew did note that upfront costs can be much lower where a strong relationship exists between buyer and seller, but said he was not familiar with Citigroup's arrangement with Dassault.



LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!

Thanks for all you do!
Live your values. Love your country.
And, remember: TOGETHER, We can make a DIFFERENCE!

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. 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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.