Sunday, November 2, 2008

Common Man News 11/2008

News for the common man because the elite already know!


Poverty and hunger on the rise in the US

US commits $800 billion more to bail out consumer credit and mortgage market

New U. S. Mortgage Crisis Looms

Iceland: Street protests against government and economic meltdown

Iceland: A portent of the future

Who is Paul Volcker? Obama appoints a longtime enemy of the working class

CEOs “cashed out” prior to economic crisis

The Gates appointment: Obama slaps antiwar voters in the face

FDA Hid Names of Melamine Contaminated Infant Formula Products from the Public

Food Prices Will Rise, Causing Export Bans, Riots

Government bailout hits $8. 5 trillion

Unchecked US attacks may reach Peshawar, officials warn

America Out of Work


Obama vows to slash federal budget

Obama appointees signal continuing aggression and war

Michigan’s Future - Beyond Bleak

Tutu, Obama and the Middle East

Recount Wrinkle Surfaces in Minnesota: Missing Ballots

Study: Many Kids in Katrina Trailer Park Anemic

Learning to Lead


Home prices in record plunge

Bush Labor Department misled Congress in effort to privatize jobs

The Truth behind the Citigroup Bank "Nationalization"

Down On The Farm, A Frenzy Over Free Food

Left Out of the Bailout: The Poor

Fed Commits $800 Billion More to Unfreeze Lending

Economic tumble worse than expected in 3rd quarter

Disposable Youth in a Suspect Society

Fed Bails Out Rich Arabs in Citigroup Deal

Citizens’ Economic Stimulus Plan; Stop Paying Credit Card Debt

Obama holds press conference, promises “whatever is required” for Wall Street

Obama may delay tax-cut rollback for wealthy

U. S. October Home Resales Fall; Price Drop Is Record

All US Financials Will be Nationalized in a Year: Manager

US bails out Citigroup and prepares to give trillions more to banks

Citibank Flips The Bird To American Taxpayers

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

U. S. Pledges Top $7. 7 Trillion to Ease Frozen Credit

7. 4 Trillion Dollars And Counting; The Cost Of "Rescuing" The US Financial System

Deprivation and Desperation in Gaza

The Slow Death of Gaza

Congress threatens UAW

Living the Good Life on $5,000 a Year

AP IMPACT: Govt pays for risky unapproved drugs

Job Centers See Crush of People in Need

Starving for Change

Globalization vs. Democracy Are U. S. victims ready to strike back?

The Battle of St. Paul

How Wall Street Killed the Economy

The G-20 vs. The G-6 Billion

Guantanamo Justice After Seven Years


To Hell And Back Again

Obama’s jobs plan: A band-aid for an economic catastrophe

The Price of Our Good Name

Pakistanis Fear U. S. Collision with Neighboring Enemies

Cheney, Gonzales indictment turns chaotic

I’m an American Worker Tired of Getting Screwed

The GOP attack on democracy continues in Ohio

Rich countries launch great land grab to safeguard food supply

Housing is bad enough, but wait — it’ll get worse

Dark days see warnings of worse to come

What MUST Be Done To Avoid Financial Destruction

Infallible Insurance On Sale

Time for a Bank Holiday

The death of the dollar?451469632

Why Washington Cannot Prevent Depression

The Third Clinton Administration By RALPH NADER

GM to Invest $1 Billion in Brazil with Money from U. S. Rescue Program

US auto union offering major contract concessions

Government plans massive Citigroup rescue effort

The Reckoning: Citigroup Pays for a Rush to Risk



Jobless claims jump unexpectedly to 16-year high

Bankers Shakedown G20

Grassroots Group Fights NAFTA Superhighway

Foreclosure Freeze Movement Takes on Wall Street

Flunking the Electoral College

Where That "Recycled" E-Waste Really Goes

Global markets plunge on fears of deflation and depression

This Is Not A Normal Recession; Moving on to Plan B

Midnight Hour

Birmingham, Ala. on Verge of Bankruptcy

US right stymie sensitive medical research

Gaza: On Top of Humanitarian Disaster, A News Blackout

Judge Orders Five Detainees Freed From Guantanamo

A Consumer’s Paradise of Wa

Bush set to relax rules protecting species

Lawmaker accuses Bush of secrecy over Iraq deal

Against the Militarized Academy

DA in Cheney case to be taken into protective custody

Cheney, Gonzales indictments move forward


Child hunger in US rose by 50 percent in 2007

Presiding judge has declined to sign Cheney, Gonzales indictment

Is Obama Screwing the Netroots?

Are Pentagon Nerds Developing Packs of Man-Hunting Killer Robots?

This is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama’s White House

The Morning After, Voting Problems Remain

The Wrong Place to Be Chronically Ill

Employee Free Choice Act Would Restore Worker Protections

EPA Moves to Ease Air Rules for Parks

Builders Index Hits New Low, Housing Starts Plunge Again

Did U. S. push detention of American without charges?

Blackwater gunboats will protect ships


Wall Street and Washington conspired to defraud Japanese banks

Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?

Taxpayers will pay for Gonzales’ private attorney

Mounting signs of protracted world recession

Bracing for a Major Disappointment

Early Test for Obama on Domestic Spying Views

Administration Moves to Protect Key Appointees

Are Vaccinations Causing Early Alzheimer’s?

Election protection in Ohio (and America) isn’t over

Lawmakers, Treasury lock horns on foreclosures

America’s Moronic Iraqi Policy

Gulf War illness is real, report finds

Suspected U. S. Missiles Strike Deep Inside Pakistan

Treasury Denounced Over Bailout

Texas grand jury indicts Cheney, Gonzales


The G-20 Washout

The G-20 Economic Summit Won’t Change the "Financial Crime Scene"

Obama’s “seamless transition” to endless war

Obama Team Signals No War Crimes Prosecution

Our Home-Grown Melamine Problem

U. S. Sen. Jim Inhofe: Cancel the ’blank check

Foreclosures up 25 percent: RealtyTrac

Florida pension fund plummets

States want their own federal financial bailout

Olmert orders plans drawn up for massive offensive against Gaza

The Real Goal of Israel’s Blockade

Chronic Malnutrition in Gaza Blamed on Israel


Nothing To Lose But Your Chains, Some Things Are Bigger Than Any Of Us

All the King’s Men

GM Must Re-Make the Mass Transit System it Murdered

Lehman Administrators’ Task Will Dwarf Enron, Creditors Told

Rather’s Lawsuit Shows Role of G. O. P. in Inquiry

Famine in Haiti made in the U. S.

The black “insiders” and the Obama administration

Never Forget

America the Illiterate

Torturing Demoracy Full Video And Transcript

The no-think nation: The Crisis Has Hardly Begun

Paulson Plays While We Pay

Why Big Banks May Be Trying to Buy up Your Public Water System

The Great Depression of the 21st Century: Collapse of the Real Economy

Citigroup to shed another 53,000 jobs


Ditch the smooth transition. The people voted for change

Iraq war veterans charged with ‘DisCon’

GM-Chrysler merger off, but more layoffs on the way

Dirty Money The fight to control one of the biggest polluters in U. S. history

Social workers at Detroit “poverty summit” describe impact of layoffs, foreclosures

US retail sales plunge as layoffs mount

Bush cheers “free enterprise” as US capitalism goes bust

G-20 summit: More like London 1933 than Bretton Woods 1944

Rare Treatment Is Reported to Cure AIDS Patient

Hard labor at a tender age


Study Confirms Genetically Engineered Crops Threaten Human Fertility

Wall Street’s Bailout is a Trillion-Dollar Crime Scene

The Danger of Keeping Robert Gates

While Paulson Waffles, the White House Dawdles, and Congress Dithers, the Economy Continues to Burn

World Bank forecasts falling trade, global recession and rising poverty

Chicago mayor warns of “huge layoffs” in a “frightening” economy

Growing tensions in lead-up to G20 summit in Washington

Soros says deep recession inevitable, depression possible

85,000 homes lost in October

Who Got Bailout Money So Far?

Crisis Is Beyond The Reach of Traditional Solutions

Whitehead sees slump worse than Depression

Construction of Israel missile defense base run by U. S. troops completed

Bush Administration Withholding Evidence About War Crimes

Trouble Brewing In West Bank Settlements

Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans join the homeless

Jobless claims jump unexpectedly to 7-year high

The Worst Is Not Behind Us

A. N. S. W. E. R. Lawsuit Frees Inauguration Route to the Public

Fed Covers Up Financial Crisis


Illegal tax scheme gives $140 billion to biggest US banks

Paulson announces shift in Wall Street bailout scheme

Auto workers to pay for Big Three bailout

Foreclosure rates up 25 percent year-over-year

Desperate Big Pharma Pushing to Double Statin Sales

Congressman calling for hearings on AIG Phoenix conference

Hard Times, But Big Wall Street Bonuses

GLOBAL MARKETS-US stocks plunge on Paulson comments, oil falls

KBR wins Army Corps emergency power disaster relief contract

Prescription Drugs Kill 300 Percent More Americans than Illegal Drugs

Labor’s high hopes

A closer look at Obama’s energy plan

Pending Home Sales Fall Sharply Outside of the West


Declining social conditions of students and youth in the US

Veterans’ Families Seek Aid for Caregiver Role

The Midnight De-Regulation Express

New federal mortgage plan offers relief to only a few

Lobbyists Swarm the Treasury for Piece of Bailout Pie

In Final Days, Bush Pushes for Iraq’s Oil

Some Blame Must Follow the Financial Collapse

What "Change" In America Really Means

Global Starvation Ignored by American Policy Elites

Citigroup freezes US home repossessions

Radioactive Beer Kegs Menace Public

Remembering The Victims of Those Who Profit From War

Global Economic Tremors

American Express Wins Fed Approval to Become Bank


Revised AIG Terms Begin Treasury Transfusions to ’Zombie’ Firms

Washington secretly authorized military raids on 20 countries since 2004

Layoffs mount, economic crisis deepens in the US

Globalization and the Rise of Monopolization Speeds Economic Failure

Space-Based Domestic Spying: Kicking Civil Liberties to the Curb


The Targeting Of Private Retirement Accounts

Fed Defies Transparency Aim in Refusal to Disclose

Bush Secretly Gave Banks $140 Billion Tax Windfall

Military command casts broad net with homeland security operations

Secret Order Allows US Raids Many Countries

Circuit City files for bankruptcy protection

DHL to cut 9,500 jobs

Tough Times Strain Colleges Rich and Poor

Conned Again


The Severity of Today’s Crisis: The Wages of Sin

Wall Street’s ’Disaster Capitalism for Dummies’: 14 reasons Main Street loses big while Wall Street sabotages democracy

3 ’superbanks’ now dominate industry

Democratic leaders discuss confiscating 401(k)s, IRAs

Another US massacre in Afghanistan

US jobless rate hits 14-year high

Obama reassures big business on economic policy

U. S. steps up raids inside Pakistan

The menace behind the U. S. attack on Syria

Obama and ACORN Officials Set Sights on Gunowners

ACLU wants probe into police-staged DNC protest


Philadelphia to close libraries, cut job

Pending Sales of Existing Homes in U. S. Fell 4. 6%

Consumer bankruptcies in October top 100,000

Jobs lost in 2008: 1. 2 million

The Escalation of the New Arms Race!

Europe plunges into recession

US, world stock markets plummet on global recession forecasts

Two-Month Decline in Jobs Reaches 524,000

Bush officials moving fast to cut environmental protections

Wall Street Fat Cats Are Trying to Pocket Billions in Bailout Cash

Jobless claims higher than expected

Retailers had the weakest October in at least 39 years

U. S. to Sell $55 Billion in Long-Term Debt Next Week

30 US states in recession, 19 at risk: Moody’s

IMF now sees global recession in 2009


Utility cut-offs on the rise in the US

Obama advisers discuss preparations for war on Iran

Class divisions begin to emerge in Obama coalition

An Obama Presidency: More Of The Same Only Worse

Solar Power Game-Changer: “Near Perfect” Absorption of Sunlight, From All Angles


Silence on War Crimes

The End of International Law?

Manufacturing activity at 26-year low

The Fed as a central bank to the world

No Currency Left to Buy the Big Lies

How Israel helps eavesdrop on US citizens

Bush’s Last 100 Days the Ones to Watch

Borders Are For Sissies

Closing Guantanamo

Six Held at Guantanamo After Plot Claim Is Dropped

Collapse of US auto sales points to deep recession

It’s No Joke: Fed Hires Failed Bank Executive

Israel launched an airstrike on Gaza


More from the Front Lines of the Financial Crisis

Florida Democrats Sue GOP Over Voter "Caging"

NYC foreclosures hit Queens hardest

‘Bailout’ billions used to swallow Cleveland’s largest bank

The End of a Subprime Administration

Judge tells White House to release wiretapping docs

Elite combat brigade for homeland security missions raises ire of ACLU

The Battle Over CA Prop 5: Special Interests Overwhelming the Public Interest

The Case of Patients v. Big Pharma

The Bush-Obama-McCain Administration

What About Syria’s and Pakistan’s Sovereignty?


Another Thumb on the Scales

Bush administration denies funding for FBI probe of mortgage mess

Paulson’s Swindle Revealed

The American Firm

One in five homeowners with mortgages under wate

Who Watches While the US Invades - Again

Pointing the US Surveillance Apparatus at the American People

Fed Adds $21 Billion to Loans for A. I. G.

Judge rules challenged absentee ballots won’t be counted

Princeton report rips N. J. e-voting machines as easily hackable

Reversal of Fortune

Justice Department Balks on Ohio Vote

Another Thumb on the Scales

Another Thumb on the Scales

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The world is in economic turmoil — much of it caused by American financial excesses — but the Bush administration isn’t budging from its anti-regulatory, unfettered-markets-know-best convictions.

The Justice Department’s antitrust division has published a new set of guidelines that narrow the interpretation of abuse that would justify government intervention against monopolies. It is a deregulatory gift aimed at getting pesky antitrust enforcers off of the back of big business.

The new doctrine bends over backward to protect big firms from accusations of anticompetitive behavior. It requires proof that the harm done by a monopolist’s actions — say, bundling new applications into a computer operating system to keep rival software makers out — be “disproportionately” greater than the potential gains to consumers.

If a dominant firm made an exclusive deal with a distributor to lock out a competitor, it would be illegal only if the competitor were denied access to least 30 percent of the market. If a dominant company used discounts as a tactic to smother competition, it could get off the hook if it let its smaller competitor survive, even if only barely. “Rivals’ continued presence in the market casts serious doubt on the existence of anticompetitive effects,” the report says.

The Department of Justice’s antitrust division is supposed to be the agency looking out for the interests of American consumers, not big companies — a role it has clearly forgotten over the last eight years. Throughout the entire Bush administration, it has not brought a single case against a dominant firm for anticompetitive behavior. And it has argued enthusiastically on behalf of monopolists before the Supreme Court.

Over the last decade and a half, the court also has bought into the creed that unregulated markets self-correct, and it has become extremely wary of government intervention against monopolistic firms.

But even the Federal Trade Commission declined to support the Justice Department’s new guidelines. Chairman William Kovacic, a Republican, said he doubted that big companies needed more protection from regulators. The three other commissioners — a Democrat, a Republican and an independent — said the report placed “a thumb on the scales in favor of firms with monopoly or near-monopoly power and against other equally significant stakeholders.”

Fortunately, the next administration can ignore this report. It should. The lesson of the last eight years is that unfettered markets don’t always know best. Government regulation must play a crucial part to ensure that fair competition prevails.

Bush administration denies funding for FBI probe of mortgage mess

Bush administration denies funding for FBI probe of mortgage mess

Many more agents needed, official says


Go To Original

The Bush administration is rejecting FBI pleas for more agents to investigate crimes that helped trigger the global financial meltdown, bureau sources said this week.

"They are bogged down big-time or there would be some indictments by now," said a recently retired bureau official who played a pivotal role in setting FBI policy after 9/ 11.

The FBI's response to the meltdown stands in sharp contrast to past financial crises, he said. "There are three comparable things ... the S&L crisis, corporate fraud like Enron and health care fraud. There was a clear, well-delineated effort there. I don't see it here."

The administration -- in reinventing the FBI after the 2001 terrorist attacks -- shifted about 2,400 agents from traditional crime-fighting squads to counterterrorism units, according to a Seattle P-I analysis of FBI data. At least 1,700 of those agents haven't been replaced, and the latest Bush budget continues that trend.

The P-I has chronicled the result for the past 18 months, finding a dramatic drop in the number of crimes investigated by the FBI nationwide.

An FBI official in a position to know said Thursday that efforts to keep the problem before the administration and Congress are continuing.

"People are making sure that Congress and the administration are aware of the issues we are facing," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

He said that it is unclear how many more agents are needed to address the mortgage meltdown and related corporate fraud, because the full scope of the problem has yet to be uncovered. However, just on the basis of the current cases, the bureau needs at least 300 to 400 more agents investigating the financial crisis, the official said.

Bush's proposed budget calls for increasing FBI funding in 2009 by $451 million, to $7.1 billion. That includes funding 280 additional agents for national security programs, but adding none for criminal programs.

Nationwide, only about 180 agents are investigating mortgage fraud in what has been called the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. About 100 additional agents are investigating corporate fraud, including the subprime loan debacle.

The crisis emerged as a cooling housing market led to a surge in home foreclosures, followed by bank bailouts and failures -- including the collapse of Seattle-based Washington Mutual in September.

"These are the core areas. If the bureau gets out of them, who is going to do it?"

The agent shortage presents the FBI's remaining white-collar crime investigators with an impossible challenge: confront a mushrooming number of complex corporate investigations, each of which requires agents that the bureau doesn't have to give to it.

"They are bogged down because they are even more under-resourced than when I was there," said the retired FBI official. "They are a year and a half into this, and I don't get the sense that any significant indictments are imminent. I just don't think there's a lot of traction."

Tony Adamski, the FBI's former head of financial crime investigations, said Thursday that he had more than 1,000 agents dedicated to financial crimes during the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s and early 1990s -- a crisis that pales in comparison with today's financial meltdown.

When told Thursday how many agents the bureau now has working the problem, Adamski, now retired, broke into a gale of rueful laughter.

"They must be absolutely overwhelmed," he said. "It's clear to me that they don't have enough resources for the magnitude of the problem. Someplace very high up in the (Bush) administration, the decision has been made that this isn't a sufficient priority to dedicate the money necessary to increase the agent staff."

Adamski estimated that an additional 1,000 agents would be needed to handle the current inventory of cases stemming from the financial meltdown.

"During the '80s, I had something like 3,000 agents working bank fraud, embezzlement and white-collar crimes," he said.

But since 9 /11, even partially restoring the FBI's crime-fighting capabilities has not been an administration priority, White House Deputy Budget Director Steve McMillin told the P-I in May. "The assumption that how it was pre-9/ 11 is how it ought to be for all time is not the correct premise."

Anthony Bladen, the FBI's assistant director for resource planning, said in May that it's hoped that by spending more for counterterrorism agents, there will be less pressure to tap remaining criminal agents for those duties.

In July, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama called for 1,000 new agents to restore crippled FBI crime squads, a move John McCain's campaign criticized as political posturing. Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, introduced a bill last year also calling for 1,000 new agents.

The McCain campaign has said the FBI will receive the needed resources to fight crime, but has refused requests to specify what the Arizona senator would do to bolster FBI crime squads if he's elected.


After the 2001 terrorist attacks,


agents were shifted from traditional crime-fighting squads to counterterrorism units.

At least


of those agents haven't been replaced.

Paulson's Swindle Revealed

Paulson's Swindle Revealed

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The swindle of American taxpayers is proceeding more or less in broad daylight, as the unwitting voters are preoccupied with the national election. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson agreed to invest $125 billion in the nine largest banks, including $10 billion for Goldman Sachs, his old firm. But, if you look more closely at Paulson's transaction, the taxpayers were taken for a ride--a very expensive ride. They paid $125 billion for bank stock that a private investor could purchase for $62.5 billion. That means half of the public's money was a straight-out gift to Wall Street, for which taxpayers got nothing in return.

These are dynamite facts that demand immediate action to halt the bailout deal and correct its giveaway terms. Stop payment on the Treasury checks before the bankers can cash them. Open an immediate Congressional investigation into how Paulson and his staff determined such a sweetheart deal for leading players in the financial sector and for their own former employer. Paulson's bailout staff is heavily populated with Goldman Sachs veterans and individuals from other Wall Street firms. Yet we do not know whether these financiers have fully divested their own Wall Street holdings. Were they perhaps enriching themselves as they engineered this generous distribution of public wealth to embattled private banks and their shareholders?

Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, raised these explosive questions in a stinging letter sent to Paulson this week. The union did what any private investor would do. Its finance experts vetted the terms of the bailout investment and calculated the real value of what Treasury bought with the public's money. In the case of Goldman Sachs, the analysis could conveniently rely on a comparable sale twenty days earlier. Billionaire Warren Buffett invested $5 billion in Goldman Sachs and bought the same types of securities--preferred stock and warrants to purchase common stock in the future. Only Buffett's preferred shares pay a 10 percent dividend, while the public gets only 5 percent. Dollar for dollar, Buffett "received at least seven and perhaps up to 14 times more warrants than Treasury did and his warrants have more favorable terms," Gerard pointed out.

"I am sure that someone at Treasury saw the terms of Buffett's investment," the union president wrote. "In fact, my suspicion is that you studied it pretty closely and knew exactly what you were doing. The 50-50 deal--50 percent invested and 50 percent as a gift--is quite consistent with the Republican version of spread-the-wealth-around philosophy."

The Steelworkers' close analysis was done by Ron W. Bloom, director of the union's corporate research and a Wall Street veteran himself who worked at Larzard Freres, the investment house. Bloom applied standard valuation techniques to establish the market price Buffett paid per share compared to Treasury's price. "The analysis is based on the assumption that Warren Buffett is an intelligent third party investor who paid no more for his investment than he had to," Bloom's report explained. "It also assumes that Gold Sachs' job is to protect its existing shareholders so that it extracted from Mr. Buffett the most that it could.... Further, it is assumed that Henry Paulson is likewise an intelligent man and that if he paid any more than Mr. Buffett--if he paid $1 for something for which Mr. Buffett would have paid 50 cents--that the difference is a gift from the taxpayers of the United States to the shareholders of Goldman Sachs."

The implications are staggering. Leo Gerard told Paulson: "If the result of our analysis is applied to the deals that you made at the other eight institutions--which on average most would view as being less well positioned than Goldman and therefore requiring an even greater rate of return--you paid a$125 billion for securities for which a disinterested party would have paid $62.5 billion. That means you gifted the other $62.5 billion to the shareholders of these nine institutions."

If the same rule of thumb is applied to Paulson's grand $700 billion bailout fund, Gerard said this will constitute a gift of $350 billion from the American taxpayers "to reward the institutions that have driven our nation and it now appears the whole world into its most serious economic crisis in 75 years."

Is anyone angry? Will anyone look into these very serious accusations? Congress is off campaigning. The financiers at Treasury probably assume any public outrage will be lost in the election returns. I hope they are mistaken.

The American Firm

The American Firm

Go To Original

Oligarchy: a political regime in which sovereignty belongs to a small group of people, a restricted and privileged class. The word became fashionable again to define the Cossack capitalism that has plundered Russia for the last several years. But, in the end, weren't Vladimir Putin's friends directly inspired by the American model?

The investigation of Goldman Sachs that we publish today invites a person to think so. It illuminates, in fact, the very close - practically incestuous - relationships (pages 18 to 19) that unite the most powerful bank in the world with the political authority of the premier global power.

Thus, the secretary of the treasury is none other than former Goldman Sachs's boss, Henry Paulson. His principle collaborators for the most part also come from "GS," starting with Neel Kashkari, in charge of the gigantic rescue plan for banks established a month ago to stem the financial crisis. And the list is long, from the president of the board of directors of America's central bank, the Federal Reserve, to that of the World Bank.

Certainly, these consanguineous relationships between Wall Street and Washington, between the bank and government circles, are as old as American capitalism. Certainly also, if Goldman Sachs alumni are often chosen to occupy key positions, it's just, they plead, because they're the best, soldier-monks of finance yesterday, of public service today.

Nonetheless, in the United States itself, and not only among envious competitors, this omnipresence of "GS" alumni arouses concern. For good reason. How else can one explain that this bank - at the heart of recent years' crazed speculation - should so easily make out O.K. in the present turmoil? How can one dispel the suspicion of conflict of interest when Goldman Sachs is, now more than ever, judge and participant? Let us add that Barack Obama's possible accession to the White House probably won't change much: some main names cited to succeed Mr. Paulson at the Treasury are - not unexpectedly - those of bankers from Goldman Sachs!

One in five homeowners with mortgages under water

One in five homeowners with mortgages under water

By Jonathan Stempel

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Nearly one in five U.S. mortgage borrowers owe more to lenders than their homes are worth, and the rate may soon approach one in four as housing prices fall and the economy weakens, a report on Friday shows.

About 7.63 million properties, or 18 percent, had negative equity in September, and another 2.1 million will follow if home prices fall another 5 percent, according to a report by First American CoreLogic.

The data, covering 43 states and Washington, D.C., includes borrowers nationwide, even those who took out mortgages before housing prices began to soar early this decade.

Seven hard-hit states -- Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio -- had 64 percent of all "underwater" borrowers, but just 41 percent of U.S. mortgages.

"This is very much a regional problem, and people tend to forget that," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's, who expects home prices nationwide to fall another 10 percent before bottoming late next year.

"Most of the country is not in bad shape," he continued. "Things seem to be stabilizing in Michigan, but the big bubble states -- Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada -- are still very overpriced."

About 68 percent of U.S. adults own their own homes, and about two-thirds of them have mortgages.

JPMorgan Chase & Co, one of the biggest mortgage lenders, on Friday offered to modify $70 billion of mortgages to keep a potential 400,000 homeowners out of foreclosure. Bank of America Corp, which bought Countrywide Financial Corp in July, also has a large loan modification program.


U.S. home prices fell a record 16.6 percent in August from a year earlier, with declines in all 20 major metropolitan areas measured by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

Foreclosure filings rose 71 percent in the third quarter to a record 765,558, according to RealtyTrac.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said gross domestic product fell at a 0.3 percent rate in the third quarter. Some experts expect the worst U.S. recession since the early 1980s.

Yet despite a series of expensive government programs to spur lending, mortgage rates are rising, making it tougher to borrow or refinance. The rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage jumped this week to 6.46 percent from 6.04 percent a week earlier, Freddie Mac said.

Meanwhile, borrowing costs on hundreds of thousands of adjustable-rate mortgages are expected to reset higher in the coming months. The problem may be particularly serious for borrowers with rates tied to the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, which is abnormally high relative to benchmark U.S. rates.

Last week, Wachovia Corp said borrowers with its "Pick-a-Pay" ARMs and living in or near Stockton and Merced, California, owed at least 55 percent more on their mortgages, on average, than their homes were worth. Wells Fargo & Co is buying Wachovia.


First American CoreLogic, an affiliate of title insurance and real estate services company First American Corp, said states with large numbers of homes with negative equity either had rapid price appreciation, many homes bought with subprime mortgages or as speculative investments, steep manufacturing declines, or a combination.

Nevada was hardest hit, where mortgage borrowers on average owed 89 percent of what their homes were worth, and 48 percent had negative equity. Michigan was second, with an 85 percent loan-to-value ratio and 39 percent of borrowers underwater.

New York fared best, with an average 48 percent loan-to-value ratio and just 4.4 percent of mortgage borrowers with negative equity.

But Wyss said this could change as financial market upheaval transforms Wall Street. This month, New York City Comptroller William Thompson estimated that the city alone might lose 165,000 jobs over two years.

"We're going to see home prices coming down pretty significantly in New York," Wyss said. "A lot of people are losing jobs, and won't be getting their usual bonuses, and that leaves less money for housing."

Who Watches While the US Invades - Again

Who Watches While the US Invades - Again

by: Marcia Mitchell

Go To Original

Has anyone in Washington noticed? The new US raids into Pakistan and Syria are, as was the invasion of Iraq, in blatant violation of international law. But who's keeping track of this sort of thing? Certainly not senior US officials, who apparently have weighed the negative consequences of illegal military operations against their perceived benefits and opted in favor of the latter.

Washington officials apparently reason that relations with Syria, already damaged over the attacks, may well be mended with the arrival of a new occupant in the Oval Office, given that country's desire for an improved relationship with the United States. Possibly, but not certain. And what may work with Syria may not work with Pakistan; further, what may work with leaders of these countries may not work with their enraged citizens. There is no question that US raids launched from Iraqi soil only add to this latest downward spiral into Middle Eastern mud.

It is fair to ask if anyone in Washington has noticed of late that Chapter VII of the UN Charter clearly establishes the rules for one country attacking another, rules to which this country is a signatory. International law provides three reasons for use of arms against an enemy - defense against imminent military attack, an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe, or a UN Security Council resolution.

(Regime change, now used as justification for having invaded Iraq, is specifically precluded as a reason for war. But again, no one seems to be noticing that toppling Saddam became a flawed justification once Weapons of Mass Destruction proved to be among the missing.)

Perhaps concern over these new forays across foreign borders is unwarranted. Certainly, selective raids against Syria and Pakistan hardly amount to war. But they are acts of aggression, plain and simple. The fact that this sort of cross-border incident is commonplace around the world is no reason for the United States to continue this sort of operation.

The announced objective for doing so is killing or capturing al-Qaida terrorists; the downside is the possibility of killing innocent civilians - children in schools, families celebrating a wedding, farmers working their fields. Add to the political calculus the certainty, not the possibility, of further infuriating and alienating other countries, both those considered friendly and those not so friendly. At this moment in history, it's hard to imagine a worsening of America's image abroad, but Washington seems determined to do so before the present administration leaves office.

Our recent book, "The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War," the story of British secret service officer Katharine Gun's efforts to at least derail the Iraq war, offers two relevant quotes worth thinking about, given these new attacks on Middle Eastern countries.

Richard Perle, sharing bellicose thoughts before the Iraq war, a war he saw as being insufficient to get the job done, said:

"No stages. This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq ... this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war ... our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

Most Americans must doubt that Perle's children's choir will perform as he predicted. Instead, they will consider his expectation consistent with a failed political culture, one that finds illegal "total war" preferable to "clever diplomacy."

Another especially relevant quote coming from the Katharine Gun story is attributed to CIA Director Michael Hayden, who was at the NSA helm in 2003 when Gun revealed that agency's illegal spy operation against members of the UN Security Council. It also has to do with a political culture:

"I'm not too uncomfortable with a society that makes its bogeymen secrecy and power ... making secrecy and power the bogeymen of political culture, that's not a bad society."

But it is. At the moment, Hayden-esque bogeymen seem to be making decisions that are turning much of the world against the United States - decisions paid for in the currency of thousands upon thousands of lives lost and maimed, of millions displaced, of America's shattered image abroad, and of new raids of doubtful legality.

There is no question that Perle's position on the Middle East was shared by a significant number of his pro-war colleagues, many still in high places in Washington. After more than five years of war, his words cast an ominous shadow over strategic planning sessions in Washington. And they bring to mind dangerous bogeypersons bent on total war, perhaps not just raids on Syria and Pakistan.

Is anyone noticing?

Pointing the US Surveillance Apparatus at the American People

FBI's Analytical Lexicon Lowers the Bar

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Do you "pal around with terrorists"? Are you a "radical" or express views that the government considers "extremist"?

On October 28, the whistleblowing website Cryptome published the FBI Directorate of Intelligence: Counterterrorism Division's Counterterrorism Analytical Lexicon. This eye-opening "Unclassified/For Official Use Only" (U/FOUO) document purports "to standardize terms used in the FBI analytical products dealing with counterterrorism."

But what it does instead, in keeping with the FBI's insatiable appetite for "actionable intelligence product," is create new categories of individuals who might fall under the purview of state "counterterrorism" investigations.

Right up front the Bureau informs us that the definitions used in the lexicon, "do not supercede those in the Department of Justice National Foreign Intelligence Program Manual (NFIPM), the Attorney General Guidelines, the National Implementation Plan for the War on Terror, or any US government statute."

That covers a lot and ground and can hide much in the way of government mischief, particularly when new guidelines issued by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey permit broad, intrusive investigations by FBI snoops. As the Washington Post reported in early October,

The new road map allows investigators to recruit informants, employ physical surveillance and conduct interviews in which agents disguise their identities in an effort to assess national security threats. FBI agents could pursue each of those steps without any single fact indicating a person has ties to a terrorist organization. (Carrie Johnson, "Guidelines Expand FBI's Surveillance Powers," The Washington Post, Saturday, October 4, 2008; A03)

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union warned that,

The new guidelines reduce standards for beginning "assessments" (precursors to investigations), conducting surveillance and gathering evidence, meaning the threshold to beginning investigations across the board will be lowered. More troubling still, the guidelines allow a person's race or ethnic background to be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move the ACLU believes may institute racial profiling as a matter of policy. ("ACLU Condemns New FBI Guidelines," Press Release, October 3, 2008)

In other words, an individual's political views, racial background or ethnic origin can serve as a pretext for an investigation. The Analytical Lexicon claims that "Analysis that labels an individual with any of these terms is not sufficient predication for any investigation or technique. Nor can any investigation be conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment or the lawful exercise of other rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States."

The next sentence, couched in overly broad language subject to a great deal of latitude on the part of investigators states: "Before applying a label to an individual or his or her activity, reasonable efforts should have been made to ensure the application of that label to be accurate, complete, timely, and relevant." (emphasis added)

Would, let's say, the word of a paid informant or provocateur, be considered a "reasonable effort" that would then lead to labelling an individual as a member of a "terrorist cell" or "network"?

Indeed, the Lexicon avers that "one or more terms from each of these categories can be used to characterize an individual and his or her background and activity. The applicability of these terms to an individual is generally a matter of degree and involves subjective judgments."

"Subjective judgments" by whom, and for what purpose, one might reasonably ask the Directorate of Intelligence. As has been amply documented in the case of antiwar activists targeted by the Maryland State Police (MSP), once individuals have been labeled "terrorists" their personal details disappear into a myriad of federal, state and local "extremist" databases.

During a 14 month period in 2005-2006 for example, the Maryland State Police and the MSP's Homeland Security and Intelligence Division (HSID), illegally spied on death penalty opponents and antiwar organizers.

Surveillance summaries, including names and personal details gathered on individuals and groups were entered into the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) database, a federal data mining "tool" which tracks suspected terrorists and shares the results with national "counterterrorist" Fusion Centers.

The Washington Post reported that one "well-known antiwar activist from Baltimore, Max Obuszewski, was singled out in the intelligence logs released by the ACLU, which described a "primary crime" of 'terrorism-anti-government' and a 'secondary crime' of 'terrorism-anti-war protesters'."

According to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, labeled "Exhibit 2" in the report issued by Stephen E. Sachs, "show that there was communication between the MSP and the National Security Agency (NSA) regarding surveillance," the ACLU reported.

Spying and repression by "off the reservation" state and local agencies dependent on federal largess hasn't been limited to Maryland, nor are intelligence operations targeting peaceful protest and constitutionally-protected speech limited to the FBI or Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Such operations in fact, fit a discernible and troubling pattern that for decades has equated dissident political activity with "subversion."

As Mike Van Winkle, a spokesperson with the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC) infamously told the Oakland Tribune back in 2003, "You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that (protest). You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act."

There you have it, the criminalization of dissent.

No reasonable person would oppose law enforcement officials investigating criminal gangs who might threaten Americans with horrific attacks such as those perpetrated on September 11, 2001 by the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets known as al Qaeda.

But as numerous media reports, Congressional investigators and indeed, the 9/11 Commission itself have documented: despite multiple occasions before the plot was executed, law enforcement and intelligence officials failed to act.

Indeed, these serial failures--whether through commission or omission--can be characterized as criminal negligence, a prosecutable offense that could result in jail time. Yet not a single official was ever held to account. On the contrary the worst offenders, including senior administrators in the FBI, CIA and NSA were awarded plum promotions or assumed well-compensated corporate positions within the military-industrial-security complex!

My purpose here is not to debate various theories regarding 9/11 or its subsequent cover-up, but rather to demonstrate that in the wake of those horrific attacks, state intelligence agencies pointed their formidable surveillance apparatus at the American people themselves. This tendency is prominently featured in the FBI's Analytical Lexicon where we discover:

US-Radicalized: A "US-radicalized" individual's primary social influence has been the cultural values and beliefs of the United States and whose radicalization and indoctrination began or occurred primarily in the United States.

Ideologue or propagandist: An "ideologue" or "propagandist" establishes, promotes, or disseminates justifications for violent extremism, often through manipulation of primary text materials such as religious texts or historical accounts that establish grievances. He or she may not have strong links to any terrorist organization or be integrated into an organization's command structure. Unless he or she directly advocates specific acts of violence, much of such an individual's activity might be constitutionally protected. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counterterrorism Analytical Lexicon," Washington, D.C., no date, pp. 4-5)

As we have seen over the years since 9/11, the grounds for launching "counterterrorism" investigations have shifted from directly targeting intelligence and/or terrorist operatives on U.S. soil, to American dissidents and their supporters, the vast majority of whom are antiwar, environmental, civil liberties, socialist and labor activists.

Indeed, millions of Americans have questioned "the cultural values and beliefs of the United States," particularly when they have challenged the Bush regime's doctrine of aggressive, preemptive war or the systematic looting of the economy by capitalist grifters.

The Lexicon, while affirming that the theoretical or investigative work of alleged "ideologues" and "propagandists"--such as investigative journalists or historians--"might be constitutionally protected," the bar is set very low here and this too, fits the Bureau's own historical ideological mindset that dissent = terrorism.

And when citizens band together to form, let's say, an antiwar committee, environmental action group or labor organizing task force, the Lexicon designates this "a network."

Network: A "network" is any group of two or more individuals that is tied together by communication or common associations. A network is distinguished from a cell in that a network does not work together toward a discrete common objective, although all the members might ideologically support a common goal. Any individual's associations can typically be described in terms of multiple networks. (FBI, op. cit., p. 8)

Citizens would be naïve to think that the terms described in the Analytical Lexicon wouldn't be applied to them or that the Bureau's current investigative guidelines will not become the basis for new political witch hunts against Americans.

As we have seen throughout these eight long, dark years of the Bush administration, the geopolitical machinations of the U.S. ruling class have created nothing but disaster and suffering. From Afghanistan to Iraq and from Hurricane Katrina to the ongoing nightmare that is "Hurricane America" in the form of the recent $700 billion Wall Street bailout, ruling elites will do everything in their power to "keep the rabble in line."

In a political culture such as this, we have all become "suspects."