Saturday, October 23, 2010

Obama's 2010 campaign: Fake populism and right-wing policies

Obama’s 2010 campaign: Fake populism and right-wing policies

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President Barack Obama began his longest campaign swing of the 2010 elections Wednesday, a four-day tour of the West Coast and Nevada to urge a vote for beleaguered Democratic Party candidates. At each stop, he warned that the outcome of the November 2 congressional election would set the direction of the country “for the next 20 years,” making dire predictions of the right-wing policies that a Republican-controlled Congress would carry out.

While his pseudo-populist rhetoric against Wall Street won applause at large rallies in Oregon and Washington, packed with college students, there is little practical difference between the policies the Obama administration is already implementing and the measures the Republicans would carry out if they return to power.

Obama suggested that the Republicans would “cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires,” “cut rules for special interests, including polluters” and “cut middle-class families loose to fend for themselves.” These charges would be a fair summary of the domestic policies of his own administration.

Continuing the bailout of Wall Street that was begun under Bush, the Obama administration has carried the largest handout of public funds to the wealthy in American history. This was followed up by the enactment last summer of a financial system “reform” bill so toothless that it punishes no one for the greatest outbreak of swindling in history.

The White House assiduously protected oil giant BP from the repercussions of the greatest environmental disaster in US history and last week lifted its moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

As for leaving ordinary families “to fend for themselves,” the Obama administration has imposed the burden of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression on working class families, rejecting any serious action as mass unemployment, mass poverty and mass foreclosures have become permanent features of American life.

In the month leading up to the November 2 election, Obama has alternated speeches bashing the Republicans as tools of Wall Street with actions that demonstrate that the Democrats are no less committed to the defense of the financial aristocracy.

On the same day Obama boarded Air Force One to travel to the West Coast, the top administration official in the foreclosure crisis, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, held a White House briefing to declare that “we have not found any evidence at this point of systemic issues” in the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of false legal documents by mortgage bankers.

Donovan rejected any blanket moratorium on foreclosures, claiming, “We are focused on the process early, to keep people in their homes, rather than focusing late, when it is much less likely that people will be able to stay in their homes.” Translated into plain English, the administration policy is to pressure homeowners not to fall behind on their payments, rather than to rescue those who face eviction.

In a column in the New Republic magazine, liberal commentator John B. Judis observed that on the question of home foreclosure, “President Obama’s approach more closely mirrors Herbert Hoover’s than FDR’s.” This was disastrous economically, he argued: “A recovery will depend on increasing consumer demand, not boosting bank capital. And to do that, the administration needs an effective program that will allow working Americans to liquidate their debts without being thrown out on the streets.”

The administration’s indifference was also disastrous politically, he complained, given that the states hardest hit by foreclosures include such electoral battlegrounds as Nevada, Florida, California, Michigan and Ohio. Judis concluded: “It’s the working-class voters who reluctantly backed Obama in 2008, but have been turned off by the impression that the administration cares more about the banks than about them. And there’s little in the administration’s rhetoric to persuade them otherwise.”

In his West Coast speeches, Obama sought to address the mounting economic discontent that is the driving force of the political debacle facing the Democratic Party. He admitted, “There’s no doubt this is a difficult election. It’s because we have been through an incredibly difficult time as a nation.”

This argument fails to explain, however, why the Republican Party has been able to make a political comeback—something it could not do in 1934, two years into the first term of Franklin Roosevelt, although unemployment was far higher than today and living conditions for broad masses of people were far worse.

Obama pointed to the record of the Republican administration of George W. Bush in the eight years that culminated in the Wall Street crash of 2008, but did not explain how, only two years later, this thoroughly corrupted and discredited party is on the verge of recapturing control of Congress.

Unlike Roosevelt, Obama has offered nothing in the way of public works programs to restore employment, or significant checks on the most flagrant forms of Wall Street speculation. This is not merely a personal failing, or, to put more it precisely, Obama’s obvious indifference to the plight of millions of working people is not peculiar to him. It is the attitude of the entire social class, the top one percent in American society, which all the Democratic and Republican politicians represent.

American capitalism is no longer able to provide any significant reform measures. It is an economically declining power, the largest debtor nation on the planet. Consequently, there is no constituency in the American financial aristocracy for economic policies that make any concessions to the masses. Hence the spectacle of record profits and bonuses on Wall Street, while the White House rejects any aid to jobless workers facing foreclosure and eviction.

White House officials concede, albeit not publicly and on the record, that they expect the Republican Party to win control of the House of Representatives, and the president’s main electoral focus has been to safeguard Democratic control of the Senate and of governorships of key states.

There are mounting indications that the administration not only expects to share power with the Republicans after November 2, but that the White House positively welcomes this prospect and is preparing a further shift to the right in both domestic and foreign policy.

In his interview with the New York Times magazine published on Sunday, Obama told reporter Peter Baker that Republican gains would not necessarily be a defeat for him. Baker wrote: “Obama expressed optimism to me that he could make common cause with Republicans after the midterm elections. ‘It may be that regardless of what happens after this election, they feel more responsible,’ he said, ‘either because they didn’t do as well as they anticipated, and so the strategy of just saying no to everything and sitting on the sidelines and throwing bombs didn’t work for them, or they did reasonably well, in which case the American people are going to be looking to them to offer serious proposals and work with me in a serious way.’”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell responded by telling the Associated Press that he hoped to work more closely with Obama on tax cuts, trade agreements and other economic policies.

White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest cronies, told the CBS program “The Early Show” Wednesday that Obama still held out hopes of bipartisan cooperation with the Republicans. “He’s not going to give up on that,” she said. “He’s going to keep trying, no matter who’s in Congress.”

Another area where bipartisan cooperation is already well established is in foreign policy, particularly in Obama’s continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he has had greater support among congressional Republicans than among some sections of the Democratic Party. Obama retained Bush’s secretary of defense, Robert Gates, and escalated the Afghanistan war as troops became available from Iraq.

Obama was notably silent on foreign policy in his remarks to the first two rallies on the West Coast, where opposition to the Iraq war has been strong. The word “Afghanistan” did not appear in speeches in Portland or Seattle, and there was only one passing reference to Iraq, when he boasted of having withdrawn 100,000 troops from that country—without mentioning that more US troops are now deployed in the two countries than when George W. Bush was president.

GOP plan dramatically reduces Social Security benefits, actuary finds

GOP plan dramatically reduces Social Security benefits, actuary finds

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A high-profile Republican budget plan would slash Social Security benefits in the long-run -- perhaps even by up to half of what they are now, the program's actuary concluded in a new study.

The Chief Actuary of Social Security analyzed a proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP's ranking member on the budget committee, who could become its chairman in January, and found that new entrants in the US workforce could see massive decreases in their payouts upon retirement.

It was unveiled Wednesday by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, less than two weeks before an election in which Democrats have elevated Social Security into a major campaign issue.

"The new analysis reveals that these proposals result in benefits cuts ranging from ten percent to as high as 50 percent," Pomeroy said in a statement. "As I talk to seniors today about stretching their Social Security benefits with no cost of living adjustment in sight, they would not agree with describing cuts of this magnitude as 'modest'."

The Ryan "Roadmap for America's Future," the plan that was analyzed, has 13 co-sponsors (all Republicans). GOP leaders, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), have declined to fully endorse it but haven't disavowed it, either.

"I don't think the average American worker could afford to lose 30 percent of their Social Security, which is what would happen under the Republican proposal. That's not what I'd call 'saving' Social Security," Pomeroy said.

Ryan shot back, saying through a spokesman that Pomeroy was engaging in "partisan attacks" and warned that the status quo would bankrupt the program.

"According to the Social Security Administration, Congressman Pomeroy’s do-nothing plan will impose painful, across-the-board benefit cuts on current seniors and those nearing retirement," Ryan spokesman Conor Sweeney said in a statement e-mailed to Raw Story.

Social Security's trust fund is currently running a $2.5 trillion surplus, according to its trustees report, and is not projected to run into funding problems until 2037.

Democrats have relentlessly attacked Republican high-ticket candidates -- such as Joe Miller and Sharron Angle -- this election cycle for criticizing the program and questioning its future viability.

Some Democratic leaders do argue, however, that the program may need to be "tweaked" to ensure long-run solvency, with changes such as incremental increases to the retirement age.

75 Ways That The Government And The Financial Elite Will Be Sucking Even More Of The Life Blood Out Of The American People In 2011

75 Ways That The Government And The Financial Elite Will Be Sucking Even More Of The Life Blood Out Of The American People In 2011

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The American people are experiencing financial death by a thousand cuts and most of them don't even realize it. The U.S. government, state governments, local governments and the financial elite are draining us financially in dozens upon dozens of different ways, and yet we have become so programmed to accept it that it just seems normal to us. 2011 is rapidly approaching, and a whole slate of federal taxes is scheduled to go up, state taxes are being increased from coast to coast, local governments are finding new and creative ways to stick it to us and the financial elite are becoming more predatory than ever. Meanwhile, the incomes of many average Americans are actually going down. According to the Census Bureau's annual survey of income and poverty in the United States, of the 52 largest metro areas in the nation, only the city of San Antonio did not see a decline in median household income during 2009. Tens of millions of Americans are flat broke and they are getting pissed off. According to a new poll conducted by CNBC, 92 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. economy is either "fair" or "poor". The American people desperately want someone to fix the economy, but instead our "leaders" are trying to come up with new and creative ways to drain even more money out of us.

In no particular order, the following are 75 ways that the U.S. government, state governments, local governments and the financial elite will be sucking even more of the life blood out of the American people in 2011....

#1 State governments across the U.S. are raising fees and taxes in so many different ways it is staggering. A reader named Richard recently sent me an email in which he described the shock that he experienced when he recently received his license plate renewal notice in the mail....

I just got a license plate renewal notice from the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles. When I opened the envelope and saw the amount of the renewal, I was shocked. The amount seemed much higher than usual.

I have a computerized record of all my financial transactions over the last many years. I looked up previous DMV license plate renewals and I saw that my vehicle license plate fees were up 187% in only 8 years! In other words, they were almost triple what they were 8 years ago!

#2 The cost of health care also continues to escalate out of control. Americans already pay more for health care than anyone else in the world, and yet costs continue to explode. Health insurance companies from coast to coast are already announcing that they must raise health insurance premiums substantially due to the new health care law that Barack Obama and the Democrats have pushed through. For example, I am in perfect health and I have never had a single claim on my health insurance policy and yet I received notice earlier this year that my monthly health insurance premiums were going to be increasing by about 50 percent.

Unfortunately, I am far from alone. Crazy rate hikes are being reported from coast to coast. According to The Wall Street Journal, the following are just some of the health insurance companies that have announced rate hikes that are at least partially attributed to the new health care law....

*Aetna says that the extra benefits that the new health care reform law is forcing it to cover are behind rate increases for new individual plans of 5.4% to 7.4% in California and 5.5% to 6.8% in Nevada.

*Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon claims that the cost of providing additional benefits under the new health care law will account for 3.4% of a 17.1% premium rise for small employers.

*Celtic Insurance claims that half of a whopping 18% health insurance premium increase it is seeking comes from complying with mandates in the new health care law.

But do the financial elite in the health care industry really need more of our money? According to a report by Health Care for America Now, America's five biggest for-profit health insurance companies ended 2009 with a combined profit of $12.2 billion.

#3 But it isn't just our health insurance premiums that are going up because of the new health care law. One review of the health care legislation identified at least 19 different tax increases. Not only that, according to an analysis by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, the health care reform law will generate $409.2 billion in additional taxes from the American people by the year 2019.

#4 From coast to coast, the big Wall Street banks are buying up thousands upon thousands of tax liens and are making a killing by socking distressed homeowners with predatory interest, outrageous penalties and almost unbelievable legal fees. The article which I published yesterday, "The Big Wall Street Banks Have Found A New Way To Strangle The American People: Predatory Property Tax Collection" elicited a very strong reaction from many readers. In particular, Walter Burien, who has done some great work exposing financial fraud at the government level, left a message explaining how this kind of predatory property tax collection is being done by design....

Per the article “Predatory Property Tax Collection” here is the why government did this. The feds put it through last year at the recommendation of a few private associations that represented many local governments and it was the government that pushed forward to require the banks and mortgage companies to do the tax collection tied directly into the mortgage. (Quicker money for the local governments) Read the new mortgage documentation and the banks have been required to collect property taxation up front for the local government.

Government in most venues had to wait four (4) years to move forward with foreclosure for delinquent property taxes. Well now that they have assigned the banks to do the collection, the banks usually move on foreclosure in six months which gets a new head in the door to pay the same levied property taxes quicker.

But the biggest drain on all of our incomes is excessive taxation by the government. If the U.S. Congress does not act, and there is little reason to believe that they will, the following tax increases will go into effect in 2011....

#5 The lowest bracket for the personal income tax is going to increase from 10 percent to 15 percent.

#6 The next lowest bracket for the personal income tax is going to increase from 25 percent to 28 percent.

#7 The 28 percent tax bracket is going to increase to 31 percent.

#8 The 33 percent tax bracket is going to increase to 36 percent.

#9 The 35 percent tax bracket is going to increase to 39.6 percent.

#10 In 2011, the death tax is scheduled to return. So instead of paying zero percent, estates of $1 million or more are going to be taxed at a rate of 55 percent.

#11 The capital gains tax is going to increase from 15 percent to 20 percent.

#12 The tax on dividends is going to increase from 15 percent to 39.6 percent.

#13 The "marriage penalty" is also scheduled to be reinstated in 2011. Members of Congress keep promising to do something about this, but so far nothing has happened.

#14 Many American businesses are going to get hit with a very significant tax increase in 2011. Small businesses had been able to "expense", rather than slowly depreciate, equipment purchases of up to $250,000 a year. Now that will be slashed down to $25,000. Larger businesses had been able to expense half of their purchases of equipment. Now all of it will have to be depreciated.

#15 They keep talking about it, but so far Congress has not passed a "fix" for the Alternative Minimum Tax. If a fix is not passed, one out of every six U.S. taxpayers is going to be hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax. The taxpayers most likely to be affected are married couples, very large families, home owners and taxpayers in states that have high state and local taxes. The average tax increase that these taxpayers will be facing is going to be approximately $3,900 and most of them have no idea that it is coming. If nothing changes, 27.2 million American households will pay AMT in 2010.

The following are a whole bunch of other taxes that Americans must pay each and every year and which seem to continually go up....

#16 Accounts Receivable Taxes

#17 Building Permit Taxes

#18 Capital Gains Taxes

#19 CDL license Taxes

#20 Cigarette Taxes

#21 Corporate Income Taxes

#22 Court Fines (indirect taxes)

#23 Dog License Taxes

#24 Federal Income Taxes

#25 Federal Unemployment Taxes (FUTA)

#26 Fishing License Taxes

#27 Food License Taxes

#28 Fuel permit taxes

#29 Gasoline Taxes

#30 Gift Taxes

#31 Hunting License Taxes

#32 Inheritance Taxes

#33 Inventory tax IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)

#34 IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)

#35 Liquor Taxes

#36 Local Income Taxes

#37 Luxury Taxes

#38 Marriage License Taxes

#39 Medicare Taxes

#40 Payroll Taxes

#41 Property Taxes

#42 Real Estate Taxes

#43 Recreational Vehicle Taxes

#44 Road Toll Booth Taxes

#45 Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)

#46 Sales Taxes

#47 Self-Employment Taxes

#48 School Taxes

#49 Septic Permit Taxes

#50 Service Charge Taxes

#51 Social Security Taxes

#52 State Income Taxes

#53 State Unemployment Taxes (SUTA)

#54 Telephone federal excise taxes

#55 Telephone federal universal service fee taxes

#56 Telephone federal, state and local surcharge taxes

#57 Telephone minimum usage surcharge taxes

#58 Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges taxes

#59 Telephone state and local taxes

#60 Telephone usage charge taxes

#61 Toll Bridge Taxes

#62 Toll Tunnel Taxes

#63 Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)

#64 Trailer registration taxes

#65 Utility Taxes

#66 Vehicle License Registration Taxes

#67 Vehicle Sales Taxes

#68 Watercraft registration Taxes

#69 Well Permit Taxes

#70 Workers Compensation Taxes

#71 The Internet is increasingly being viewed as a potential major revenue source. Many U.S. states are working harder than ever to collect taxes that they feel they are owed from online transactions on the Internet.

#72 Student loan debt is more of a financial drain on Americans than ever before. Americans now owe more on student loans than they do on credit cards. As hard as that is to believe, that is actually true. Americans now owe more than $849 billion on student loans, which is a new all-time record.

#73 More Americans than ever find themselves unable to pay their bills, and an increasing number of frustrated creditors are actually resorting to wage garnishment. Yes, you read the correctly. Creditors are starting to ruthlessly go after the weekly paychecks of debtors.

The following is an excerpt from a recent New York Times article that discussed the rise of wage garnishment as a weapon against debtors....

After winning, creditors can secure a court order to seize part of the debtor’s paycheck or the funds in a bank account, a procedure called garnishment. No national statistics are kept, but the pay seizures are rising fast in some areas — up 121 percent in the Phoenix area since 2005, and 55 percent in the Atlanta area since 2004. In Cleveland, garnishments jumped 30 percent between 2008 and 2009 alone.

So if you are getting behind on your debt, you better watch out - your creditors may soon decide to garnish your wages.

#74 Many state and local governments throughout the United States are now viewing their police forces primarily as revenue raising organizations. For example, earlier this year a federally funded ticketing blitz in the state of Virginia resulted in a total of 6996 traffic tickets being handed out in a single weekend. Sure the roads are a little safer, but it also brought in a ton of money for the government.

The truth is that the police even realize what is going on. Just consider the following quote from from Police Chief Michael Reaves of Utica, Michigan....

"When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement, but if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues."

#75 If all of this wasn't bad enough, now there is an increasing amount of talk in international circles about the need for global taxes. The IMF and the World Health Organization are both proposing new global taxes that would be imposed on all of us. Not only that, but representatives from 60 different nations recently met at the UN to discuss a tax on global financial transactions that would be used to battle poverty and "climate change".

If all of these methods of draining us financially were combined into one, the American people would be screaming bloody murder. But because all of them are so small, and they go up so gradually, most Americans don't seem to notice.

It is like the story of the frog in the kettle. If you tried to drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, it would hop out immediately.

But if you put a frog into a kettle of warm water and turn up the heat very gradually, it will just sit there until it boils to death.

Well, we are that frog. Every single year, they drain us a little more rapidly. Tens of millions of us are flat broke and yet they keep coming back for more.

Never before in American history has money been drained out of us in so many different ways. They are literally bleeding us dry, and eventually there will simply be nothing left to drain.

The most shocking discovery yet about how the banks hid their toxic mortgages

What Clayton Knew

The most shocking discovery yet about how the banks hid their toxic mortgages.

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Since the early days of the current economic cataclysm, I have believed that we would, with some investigation, find the Rosetta stone that would demonstrate that the banks knew that the toxic mortgages they were packaging were, in fact, not viable financial instruments.

This belief stemmed from my experience as New York state's attorney general. The AG's office had investigated enough subprime lenders to recognize the magnitude of fraud and the ubiquity of bogus credit analysis. Our efforts to expand our inquiry were stymied by the banks—and the Bush administration—which claimed we didn't have jurisdiction to pursue the inquiry into many of the major national banks. (We finally won, in June 2009, in a 5-4 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling was a bit late.)

I saw enough to know that any investigator doing even a minimal amount of work would reach the same conclusion we had. And I knew that the credit departments of the major banks would have documented this shoddy analysis. This is why I encouraged all the investigators with whom I spoke to begin by demanding access to the documents that the credit departments of the banks examined.

Some of these documents have emerged, and they tell quite a fascinating and appalling tale: These documents, from Clayton Holdings, a due diligence company retained by the banks, reveal that Clayton, after analyzing more than 900,000 mortgages, told the banks that about 30 percent of the loans being packaged into securitized products did not satisfy the banks' own underwriting standards. This meant that the securitized products were almost bound to blow up.

So what did the banks do? They essentially ignored this information. We all know why: The process of securitization shifted the risk to others, and the banks were making too much money by continuing to push the deals through the pipeline. But the critical aspect to this information is that it puts to rest the banks' argument that they merely fell into the same econometric mistake that others had made in believing that the housing market was bound to keep rising. It wasn't just that the banks were wrong about their forecast of the housing market; it is that they intentionally ignored critical information given to them by the very people who were supposed to perform due diligence. And then they apparently withheld from investors that critical information about the quality of the bonds they were selling.

What is to be done? As those who watched a segment I did with Josh Rosner on Parker Spitzer last week know, I believe that massive investigative resources should be put behind simple questions relating to the Clayton documents:

Who saw these documents, and when?

What was said about these documents to those up the chain of command at the banks?

What efforts were made to verify the conclusions Clayton reached, to evaluate what the consequences would be if their conclusions were correct, and to notify federal authorities of the risk posed by securitizing so many substandard loans?

What lawyers and investment bankers were told of this information, and what rating agencies had access to this information?

And were major banks shorting their own securitized products after seeing negative due diligence information that they had not shared with the market? This would be dangerous territory for the banks. As William D. Cohan wrote in the New York Times last week, many seem to have preferred ignorance to knowledge in this arena.

There is one other critical area of inquiry. A fair number of people have been troubled by the fact that certain law enforcement agencies saw these documents but did nothing with the critical information they revealed. So the question must be asked: What agencies had these documents, and what, if anything, did they do?

It is not too late to use the Clayton information to claw back bonuses and hold the banks, rating agencies, and government enforcement agencies accountable.

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Eliot Spitzer is the former governor of the state of New York.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2271647/


Slave labor continues in Georgia

Slave labor continues in Georgia

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Lakeland, Ga., is a small town that is 67 percent white, 29 percent African-American and 0.7 percent Native American. The average salary of working males is $29,257 and females $19,276, with most residents living below the 2000 poverty level. Nonetheless, the city of Lakeland is building a state-of-the-art city hall and police department that will cost the city a projected $600,000.

According to Lakeland’s mayor, Bill Darsey, the city will save on wages because it will be using free labor — prison labor. The ruse here is that prisoners will learn a skill they supposedly can use when once released.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world with 754 out of every 100,000 people imprisoned. That’s almost 1 percent of the country’s population in jail, including 92,854 juveniles. African Americans, who make up just 12 percent of the U.S. population, constitute 44 percent of the prison population. That is an enormously disproportionate rate.

Mayor Darsey went on to state that the construction project’s electrical work, unpaid for rather than being done by skilled paid labor, saved the city $30,000.

Lakeland has an unemployment rate of 11.8 percent. Men and women living in poverty and seeking work cannot compete with the free labor of prisoners. These prisoners will not receive any wages and most likely will not be able to obtain work upon release because of the stigma of being a felon.

Clayton County, Ga., prisoners are being used to clean and maintain foreclosed homes now owned by banks. The continued use of free unskilled prison labor pits these men and women against their fellow unemployed workers on the outside. Georgia’s Department of Prisoners has asserted that they have “right to work” laws on their side. These racist laws are based on the South’s plantation system in the time of slavery.

The South was built on the backs of African Americans and indentured slaves who, like today’s prisoners, have no say in how their labor can be used. The South’s “right to work” laws are a continuous block to organizing by unions and a major factor in the superexploitation of Southern workers.

Another decade of neo-colonial war in Afghanistan

Another decade of neo-colonial war in Afghanistan

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In the lead-up to next month’s NATO summit in Lisbon, the Obama administration and its allies, confronting widespread antiwar sentiment at home, are attempting to dupe the public by claiming that the US/NATO combat role in Afghanistan will end by 2014, with troop withdrawals to begin next year. Behind closed doors, however, the talk is not of an end to the war, but rather of an open-ended, neo-colonial occupation.

In opening a debate on the Afghan war in the Australian parliament on Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard spilled the beans. After noting that Afghan President Hamid Karzai expected to assume full responsibility for his country’s security by the end of 2014, Gillard bluntly spelt out that the “transition process” would not mean the end to the Australian military presence in Afghanistan.

“Let me be clear,” Gillard said, “this [transition process] refers to the Afghan government taking lead responsibility for security. The international community will remain engaged in Afghanistan beyond 2014. And Australia will remain engaged. There will still be a role for training and other defence cooperation. The civilian-led aid and development effort will continue... We expect this support, training and development task to continue in some form through this decade at least.”

While ministers and officials in the US and other countries have spoken vaguely about a continuing military role in Afghanistan after 2014, Gillard is the first leader to declare that the US-led military occupation will continue for another decade—at least. Her repeated references to the “new international strategy” highlight the fact that this is the Obama administration’s plan. And if Australia, with its current, modest troop numbers of 1,550, intends to remain for another 10 years, then the US and its closest allies are preparing for a large military presence in Afghanistan into the indefinite future.

Taking her cue from Washington, Gillard justified the ongoing occupation by declaring Afghanistan must “never again become a safe haven for terrorists”. However, the intensifying US-led war is not directed against Al Qaeda—according to the CIA, it numbers no more than 50 in Afghanistan—but against the “Taliban”. The “enemy” are Afghans, predominantly Pashtun tribesmen, who are bitterly hostile to the continued foreign military presence that has wreaked death and destruction on the civilian population for more than nine years. Suppressing “terrorism” means a never-ending neo-colonial war against the Afghan people.

Washington’s “war on terrorism” was only ever a pretext for advancing US ambitions for dominance in the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia. The US strategy was drawn up well in advance of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the subjugation of Iraq in 2003 were part of broader plans for refashioning the Middle East and establishing a greater US presence in Central Asia. Now focussed on the challenge posed by a rising China, the Obama administration is not about to relinquish US footholds in Iraq or Afghanistan that could prove very useful in the future. His troop “surge” in Afghanistan, like that in Iraq, is aimed at securing a permanent US presence, including military bases, while ensuring the puppet Karzai regime and its army take on the lion’s share of fighting to suppress the anti-occupation resistance.

If Gillard was a little more open about the US plans, it was only to demonstrate that her Labor government is in lockstep with Washington. The Australian prime minister has already indicated that she might accompany her defence minister to the NATO conference in Lisbon where she would line up with Obama in pressuring other allies to make a similar open-ended military commitment. Canada has announced that it will be pulling its 2,800 soldiers out of Afghanistan by next year. Italy has set a deadline of 2014 for the complete withdrawal of its 3,300 troops. Gillard is standing unequivocally on the US side, despite overwhelming domestic opposition to the war, in a bid to ensure full US support as Australia shores up its own strategic position in the South West Pacific.

Next month’s haggling over the “transition process” at the NATO conference in Lisbon has been preceded by a preparatory gathering in Rome this week on Afghanistan. US special envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke insisted that the Lisbon conference would not lay out a timetable for specific provinces to be handed over to Kabul’s military control. He also emphasised that “transition” did not equal troop withdrawals, confirming that the US would be pressing for long-term military commitments.

Leading up to the Lisbon conference, the US has been at pains to stress the advances being made through the troop surge. In the Washington Post for instance, US officials claimed that the aggressive military campaign in recent months has killed or captured hundreds of Taliban leaders and more than 3,000 fighters, forcing some insurgent groups to consider negotiations with the Karzai government. They spoke of “pockets of security” in former Taliban strongholds where schools have been reopened and bazaars are bustling.

The slaughter of Taliban leaders and fighters, particularly in the current offensive around the southern city of Kandahar, is largely the result of intensified special forces operations. Like the reign of terror from aerial bombing, these assassination squads are notorious for killing civilians, thus adding to the bitterness and hatred among Afghans toward the occupation of their country and the corrupt puppet regime in Kabul. The so-called pockets of security in the south—the product of the expansion in foreign troop numbers to 150,000—are paralleled by reports of escalating insurgent attacks in the country’s north.

The optimistic note being sounded by the Obama administration and its camp followers like Gillard cannot hide the fact that nine years of war have proven to be an unmitigated disaster for the Afghan people. According to very conservative UN estimates, at least 14,000 civilian deaths are directly attributable to the military conflict. The military occupation is propping up a venal regime in Kabul that is notorious for corruption and ballot rigging. The majority of the population is still mired in poverty and lacks access to elementary services such as electricity, education and health care.

The only way to end this criminal war and allow the Afghan people to decide their future is to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops and the payment of tens of billions of dollars in war reparations.

Inside Sean Penn's Tent City in Haiti

Inside Sean Penn's Tent City in Haiti

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"I'm black and Haitian, and I wouldn't go where you're going right now, in the dark," Marc, my ride, says as we're on our way to the Petionville golf course on the eastern edge of Port-au-Prince. Well, it used to be a golf course. Now it's packed with more than 50,000 homeless and is known as "Sean Penn's camp," because the actor's humanitarian organization, JP/Haitian Relief Organization, runs it. Everyone knows the camps are hotbeds of rape and violent crime, but we've planning all day for Marc to drop me off here to meet someone. His sudden worry about my getting out of the car is a little unsettling.

"I'm sayin', there's a reason all the aid organizations get their people outta there by like six," Marc explains. (I've changed his name for his safety.) But when I resist blowing off the meeting, he allows that this settlement might be a little safer than others.

Daniel Julien, my new friend who lives here and invited me over, says the same assuring thing when I meet him on a busy side street and we start walking into the sea of tarps, lit by a few floodlights on impossibly high poles. I squint into the glare as Daniel leads me toward his house. "Did I call it a house? I'm sorry, should I say tent?" he says, and laughs. He leads me past row after row of plastic supported by sticks until we arrive at our destination. "And here we are," he says. "My piece of Tent City."

But "tent" isn't really accurate, either. Daniel's shelter, like the rest, is several sheets of sturdy plastic cobbled together. The "ceiling" is uneven, low, and leaky. It's built on a steep dirt slope. Water comes in from all directions when it rains. And oh, how it rains: hard monsoon-season buckets pouring in through gaps in the roof and the sides, the earth floor catching it and liquefying, mud sliding downhill into the beds made on the ground. That's the kind of water they've got too much of: the kind that keeps people standing all night so as not to wake up drowning. Daniel talks about the rain like a terror. A week later, he'll call me to describe how a 10-minute rainstorm that killed at least five camp-dwellers destroyed his shelter and his things (below).

Daniel introduces Melissa, his 10-year-old daughter. "Est-ce que je peux te donner un bisou?" she asks barely audibly. I sense the outline of braids in her silhouette, but can't be sure. "Bien sûr," I tell her, she is welcome to give me a kiss, and I bend down to accept it, supersoft and tiny against my cheek. Daniel turns a bucket upside-down to offer me a seat. Everyone else gets on the floor, where he has laid down some ceramic tiles. There is just enough room for us four to sit; my shoulder touches Daniel's fiancee's; my feet touch his feet. Melissa lies across Daniel's lap.

Inside Daniel's place, as it exists for now, the only source of light is a flashlight aimed at the grey tarp overhead. The dim beam illuminates the USAID logo printed on it -- which announces the gift as FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE -- but little else. While I wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, a child materializes at my left thigh.

"Fortunately," he says, "it's not that hot in here right now." I nod. All our arms are slick and our faces are running with sweat. But that hot means as hot as it is during the day, when being under the plastic is like being in an oven, when I become so woozy and oppressed that I find myself either forgetting or reluctant to suck more hot air into my lungs.

Daniel says that "Sean’s not here right now" -- he’s off filming a movie -- and talks about how the actor and American Marines set up in this camp after the quake. He helped run errands for the Marines. He helped deliver babies. He did whatever he could to aid the aiders. But the Marines are gone, and Daniel's friends who work in the camp say much of the rest of the aid organizations are leaving, too. "Already, it's been five months since we've gotten any food," he says. But they do have water in the camp now; you can fill up buckets at pumps. It used to make him really sick, and sometimes the bleach taste is quite strong. Sometimes they still wake up with knots in their stomachs. There's water that's safer to drink, but that's only for sale.

I am thirsty, but I hesitate to buy refreshments because Daniel doesn't want me to use the communal toilets. It's only eight o'clock, but it's dark, and plenty of girls before me have been assaulted on that short trip. Also, "the toilets aren't used properly, and you might get a disease you aren't interested in catching," Daniel says.

That's why everything smells like urine. To avoid the toilets, Daniel's family uses a bucket in a corner. The three of them keep their mud-floored plastic hovel fantastically neat, and empty the bucket constantly, but at some point I inhale sharply and breathe in too much of the stink. I puke into my mouth, and pretend I didn't. I suggest that we go for a walk.

Outside, it's clear that plenty of other residents are improvising bathroom facilities, too. The air is still, and within seconds my nose and throat are coated with the reek of hot rotting shit. "People have a lot of needs here," Daniel tells me while I spit as inconspicuously as possible. He's starting an organization called Redeem for Handicap. "There's a lot of amputees because of the earthquake, right?" I ask, looking for my footing on the steep muddy trail. "How do they get around here?" "Yeah, that's a problem," says Daniel.

But he points out that they're hardly the only ones struggling. There's a lady who lives right over here who lost her husband, Daniel gestures. She's got kids, and she's too sick to work, and she hasn't eaten in a week. This tall smiley fellow shaking my hand is difficult to understand because he's deaf from rubble that fell on his head. He needs a hearing aid. But Redeem for Handicap, or any other organization, can't raise money from the international community without a website…

Suddenly, a skinny guy comes tearing up the path. What should he do? he's asking Daniel, he's asking some guy behind Daniel, he's asking everyone nearby frantically. Some thugs are threatening his family because they want the space and piece of tarp his family occupies. The thugs say they will set it all on fire if he doesn't move his family out. Is there anyone to talk to? Can he find a cop around here or what?

You can't go anywhere in Port-au-Prince without seeing soldiers of MINUSTAH, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. They do have a presence in some of these bigger camps -- the French platoon kicking it at my hotel one night had spent their day breaking up a fight among refugees who cut open the side of a USAID tent to rob it, just as gangs of rapists slice through the side of a tent easy as pie and steal a woman. Haitians complain that the troops don't do much to actually protect camp residents. We haven't passed any police or soldiers or security on our long lap around the camp.

Daniel suggests to the panicked man where the blue helmets might be. The man goes running down the path in that direction. I wonder if he's going to find them. If he does, I wonder how he's going to tell them what's going on; European, South American, and African MINUSTAH soldiers don't speak Creole, and do not come with translators.

After a couple of hours of hanging out and wandering around, Daniel walks me back toward the edge of camp. From the sidelines, we can still hear the settlement buzz: people gathering in the wider paths, cooking hot dogs and selling water, people who ran long electrical cords to steal power to play that awful remake of "We Are the World" over the steady, chattery thrum. It's not even 10 on a Friday night, but the noise is starting to die down, Daniel points out. People have to wake up early lest they roast to death in their plastic ovens once the sun rises.

"How long do you think you're going to live here?" I ask.

"That's a good question," Daniel says. But not right away. First there's a hesitation, where he fully stops, then catches his breath. It's a horrible question, actually, under the circumstances. A friend of mine who delivered aid to Haiti in January emailed me when I got to the country. "Worst thing about being in Haiti for five days right after the quake," he wrote, "wasn't the dead bodies in the streets or the stench of the thousands buried in the rubble or even knowing that there were countless people alive under there doomed to a slow, horrible death because help was not on the way; it was knowing that the survivors -- those in the tents and those without tents and those without homes and without food and water -- those people would be without all of that forever. People forget that the day before the earthquake there were more NGOs operating in Haiti than any other country on the planet and it was still an unmitigated shithole and a horror. The idea that this will turn around in your lifetime is a fantasy -- and a crime of gargantuan proportions."

So how long does Daniel think he's going to live here, in this camp? He needs a moment to collect himself before he puts on his brave smile. "That remains to be seen," he says. That's the sort of answer I get from everyone I ask. It's sort of the only thing people can say when they still can't fucking believe this is how they live now, but at the same time have begun to recognize that they're going to live like this for a very, very long time.

From Global Depression to Global Governance

From Global Depression to Global Governance

The role of the corporate elites' secretive global think tanks

The following is the text of Andrew Gavin Marshall's presentation at the book launch of The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century", Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall (Editors). September 29, 2010, Montreal, Canada.


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We now stand at the edge of the global financial abyss of a ‘Great Global Debt Depression,’ where nations, mired in extreme debt, are beginning to implement ‘fiscal austerity’ measures to reduce their deficits, which will ultimately result in systematic global social genocide, as the middle classes vanish and the social foundations upon which our nations rest are swept away. How did we get here? Who brought us here? Where is this road leading? These are questions I will briefly attempt to answer.

At the heart of the global political economy is the central banking system. Central banks are responsible for printing a nation’s currency and setting interest rates, thus determining the value of the currency. This should no doubt be the prerogative of a national government, however, central banks are of a particularly deceptive nature, in which while being imbued with governmental authority, they are in fact privately owned by the world’s major global banks, and are thus profit-seeking institutions. How do central banks make a profit? The answer is simple: how do all banks make a profit? Interest on debt. Loans are made, interest rates are set, and profits are made. It is a system of debt, imperial economics at its finest.

In the United States, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, creating the Federal Reserve System, with the Board located in Washington, appointed by the President, but where true power rested in the 12 regional banks, most notably among them, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The regional Fed banks were private banks, owned in shares by the major banks in each region, which elected the board members to represent them, and who would then share power with the Federal Reserve Board in Washington.

In the early 1920s, the Council on Foreign Relations was formed in the United States as the premier foreign policy think tank, dominated by powerful banking interests. In 1930, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) was created to manage German reparations payments, but it also had another role, which was much less known, but much more significant. It was to act as a “coordinator of the operations of central banks around the world.” Essentially, it is the central bank for the world’s central banks, whose operations are kept ‘strictly confidential.’ As historian Carroll Quigley wrote:

"The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations."


In 1954, the Bilderberg Group was formed as a secretive global think tank, comprising intellectual, financial, corporate, political, military and media elites from Western Europe and North America, with prominent bankers such as David Rockefeller, as well as European royalty, such as the Dutch royal family, who are the largest shareholders in Royal Dutch Shell, whose CEO attends every meeting. This group of roughly 130 elites meets every year in secret to discuss and debate global affairs, and to set general goals and undertake broad agendas at various meetings. The group was initially formed to promote European integration. The 1956 meeting discussed European integration and a common currency. In fact, the current Chairman of the Bilderberg Group told European media last year that the euro was debated at the Bilderberg Group.


In 1973, David Rockefeller, Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank, Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Steering Committee of the Blderberg Group, formed the Trilateral Commission with CFR academic Zbigniew Brzezinski. That same year, the oil price shocks created a wealth of oil money, which was discussed at that years Bilderberg meeting 5 months prior to the oil shocks, and the money was funneled through western banks, which loaned it to ‘third world’ nations desperately in need of loans to finance industrialization.


When Jimmy Carter became President in 1977, he appointed over two dozen members of the Trilateral Commission into his cabinet, including himself, and of course, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was his National Security Adviser. In 1979, Carter appointed David Rockefeller’s former aide and friend, Paul Volcker, who had held various positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.S. Treasury Department, and who also happened to be a member of the Trilateral Commission, as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. When another oil shock took place in 1979, Volcker decided to raise interest rates from 2% in the late 70s, to 18% in the early 80s. The effect this had was that the countries of the developing world suddenly had to pay enormous interest on their loans, and in 1982, Mexico announced it could no longer afford to pay its interest, and it defaulted on its debt, which set off the 1980s debt crisis – collapsing nations in debt across Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia.


It was the IMF and the World Bank came to the ‘assistance’ of the Third World with their ‘structural adjustment programs’, which forced countries seeking assistance to privatize all state owned industries and resources, devalue their currencies, liberalize their economies, dismantle health, education and social services; ultimately resulting in the re-colonization of the ‘Third World’ as Western corporations and banks bought all their assets and resources, and ultimately created the conditions of social genocide, with the spread of mass poverty, and the emergence of corrupt national elites who were subservient to the interests of Western elites. The people in these nations would protest, riot and rebel, and the states would clamp down with the police and military.


In the West, corporations and banks saw rapid, record-breaking profits. This was the era in which the term ‘globalization’ emerged. While profits soared, wages for people in the West did not. Thus, to consume in an economy in which prices were rising, people had to go into debt. This is why this era marked the rise of credit cards fueling consumption, and the middle class became a class based entirely on debt.


In the 1990s, the ‘new world order’ was born, with America ruling the global economy, free trade agreements began integrating regional and global markets for the benefit of global banks and corporations, and speculation dominated the economy.


The global economic crisis arose as a result of decades of global imperialism – known recently as ‘globalization’ – and the reckless growth of– speculation, derivatives and an explosion of debt. As the economic crisis spread, nations of the world, particularly the United States, bailed out the major banks (which should have been made to fail and crumble under their own corruption and greed), and now the West has essentially privatized profits for the banks, and socialized the risk. In other words, the nations bought the debt from the banks, and now the people have to pay for it. The people, however, are immersed in their own personal debt to such degrees that today, the average Canadian is $39,000 in debt, and students are graduating into a jobless market with tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars of student debt that they will never repay. Hence, we are now faced with a global debt crisis.


To manage the economic crisis, the G20 was established as the major international forum for cooperation among the 20 major economies of the world, including the major developing – or emerging – economies, such as India, Brazil, South Africa and China. At the onset of the financial crisis, China and Russia’s central banks began calling for the establishment of a global currency to replace the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency. This proposal was backed by the UN and the IMF. It should be noted, however, that the Chinese and Russian central banks cooperate with the Western central banks through the Bank for International Settlements – which the President of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, recently said was the principle forum for “governance of central bank cooperation” and that the G20 is “the prime group for global economic governance.” In 2009, the IMF stated that the BIS “is the central and the oldest focal point for coordination of global governance arrangements.” The President of the European Union, appointed to the position after attending a Bilderberg meeting, declared 2009 as the “first year of global governance.” The 2009 Bilderberg meeting reported on the desire to create a global treasury, or global central bank, to manage the world economy. In 2009, prior to the Bilderberg meeting in fact, the G20 set in motion plans to make the IMF a global central bank of sorts, issuing and even printing its own currency – called Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) – which is valued against a basket of currencies. In May of 2010, the IMF Managing Director stated that “crisis is an opportunity,” and while Special Drawing Rights are a step in the right direction, ultimately what is needed is “a new global currency issued by a global central bank, with robust governance and institutional features.” Thus, we see the emergence of a process towards the formation of a global central bank and a global currency, totally unaccountable to any nation or people, and totally controlled by global banking interests.


In 2010, Greece was plunged into a debt crisis, a crisis which is now spreading across Europe, to the U.K. and eventually to Japan and the United States. If we look at Greece, we see the nature of the global debt crisis. The debt is owed to major European and American banks. To pay the interest on the debt, Greece had to get a loan from the European Central Bank and the IMF, which forced the country to impose ‘fiscal austerity’ measures as a condition for the loans, pressuring Greece to commit social genocide. Meanwhile, the major banks of America and Europe speculate against the Greek debt, further plunging the country into economic and social crisis. The loan is granted, to pay the interest, yet simply has the effect of adding to the overall debt, as a new loan is new debt. Thus, Greece is caught in the same debt trap that re-colonized the Third World.


At the recent G20 meeting in Toronto, the major nations of the world agreed to impose fiscal austerity – or in other words, commit social genocide – within their nations, in a veritable global structural adjustment program. So now we will see the beginnings of the Great Global Debt Depression, in which major western and global nations cut social spending, create mass unemployment by dismantling health, education, and social services. Further, state infrastructure – such as roads, bridges, airports, ports, railways, prisons, hospitals, electric transmission lines and water – will be privatized, so that global corporations and banks will own the entirely of national assets. Simultaneously, of course, taxes will be raised dramatically to levels never before seen. The BIS said that interest rates should rise at the same time, meaning that interest payments on debt will dramatically increase at both the national and individual level, forcing governments to turn to the IMF for loans – likely in the form of its new global reserve currency – to simply pay the interest, and will thus be absorbing more debt. Simultaneously, of course, the middle class will in effect have its debts called in, and since the middle class exists only as an illusion, the illusion will vanish.


Already, towns, cities, and states across America are resorting to drastic actions to reduce their debts, such as closing fire stations, scaling back trash collection, turning off street lights, ending bus services and public transportation, cutting back on library hours or closing them altogether, school districts cutting down the school day, week or year. Simultaneously, this is occurring with a dramatic increase in the rate of privatizations or “public-private partnerships” in which even libraries are being privatized.


No wonder then, that this month, the Managing Director of the IMF warned that America and Europe, in the midst of the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression, face an “explosion of social unrest.” Just yesterday, Europe experienced a wave of mass protests and social unrest in opposition to ‘austerity measures’, with a general strike in Spain involving millions of people, and a march on the EU headquarters in Brussels of nearly 100,000 people. As social unrest spreads, governments will likely react – as we saw in the case of the G20 in Toronto – with oppressive police state measures. Here, we see the true relevance of the emergence of ‘Homeland Security States’, designed not to protect people from terrorists, but to protect the powerful from the people.

So while things have never seemed quite so bleak, there is a dim and growing beacon of hope, in what Zbigniew Brzezinski has termed as the greatest threat to elite interests everywhere – the ‘global political awakening’. The global political awakening is representative of the fact that for the first time in all of human history, mankind is politically awakened and stirring, activated and aware, and that generally – as Zbigniew Brzezinski explains – generally is aware of global inequalities, exploitation, and disrespect. This awakening is largely the result of the information revolution – thus revealing the contradictory nature of the globalization project – as while it globalizes power and oppression, so too does it globalize awareness and opposition. This awakening is the greatest threat to entrenched elite interests everywhere. The awakening, while having taken root in the global south – already long subjected to exploitation and devastation – is now stirring in the west, and will grow as the economy crumbles. As the middle classes realize their consumption was an illusion of wealth, they will seek answers and demand true change, not the Wall Street packaged ‘brand-name’ change of Obama Inc., but true, inspired, and empowering change.


In 1967, Martin Luther King delivered a speech in which he spoke out against the Vietnam War and the American empire, and he stated that, “It seems as if we are on the wrong side of a world revolution.” So now it seems to me that the time has come for that to change.

Justices Scalia And Thomas's Attendance At Koch Event Sparks Judicial Ethics Debate

Justices Scalia And Thomas's Attendance At Koch Event Sparks Judicial Ethics Debate

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Reports that two Supreme Court Justices have attended seminars sponsored by the energy giant and conservative bankroller Koch Industries has sparked a mild debate over judicial ethics.

On Tuesday evening, the New York Times reported that an upcoming meeting in Palm Springs of "a secretive network of Republican donors" that was being organized by Koch Industries, "the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes." Buried in the third to last graph was a note that previous guests at such meetings included Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, two of the more conservative members of the bench.

It's not rare for a Justice to attend a seminar sponsored by a group with judicial or political interests. Members of the court, for instances, often speak at academic institutions or think tanks. Virtually all companies, meanwhile, are affected by the judicial branch. So long as Scalia and Thomas did not participate in overt partisan activities, there would be no apparent conflict of interest.

"There is nothing to prevent Supreme Court justices from hanging out with people who have political philosophies," said Steven Lubet, a professor of law at Northwestern University who teaches courses on Legal Ethics.

But the Koch event appears more political than, say, the Aspen Ideas festival. In its own invitation, it was described as a "twice a year" gathering "to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it." In addition, it's not entirely clear what the two Justices did at the Koch event. A copy of the invitation that served as the basis for the Times's report was posted by the liberal blog Think Progress. It provided no additional clues. A call to the Supreme Court and an email to a Koch Industries spokesperson meanwhile were not immediately returned.

Faced with a lack of concrete information, and cognizant of Koch's fairly intense history of political involvement, legal ethicists are urging for more disclosure.

"This is certainly worth more reporting," said Stephen Gillers, a professor of law at New York University. "It is intriguing because the Koch brothers are so politically active and identify with a point of view. I know I would be curious to know exactly what forums the Justices went to. Obviously they could not go to a strategy session about how to elect more Republicans. On the other hand if it was a forum on the meaning of the First Amendment and it didn't involve strategy or fundraising a Justice could appear... It's fascinating and it merits more reporting."

What complicates the report, as Gillers notes, is that the Supreme Court, very recently, handed down a major decision on campaign finance law that Koch Industries quickly utilized. Citizens United overturned existing law by ruling that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money on federal elections. Koch has always been an active political and philanthropic giver. And its checks have been sent to Democrats as well as Republicans (though weighted more heavily to the latter). This cycle, however, the company has become one of the premier bankrollers of conservative causes, and earned the enmity of Democrats for doing so.

Suggestions that Justices Scalia and Thomas's support of Citizens United may have been affected by their time with Koch officials ignores the fact that nothing concrete is known about what meetings they attended and when. Even then, Lubet argues, it would be difficult to argue that there is "a troublesome nexus between the event and the decision." Scalia and Thomas have been opponents of restrictions on campaign finance likely well before they were guests at a Koch Industry seminar.

But their presence at the conference still raises questions of transparency and, for some, broader concerns about judicial independence.

"I think it is very important for judges to be part of the real world and to appear in public for educative purposes to help explain the arcane mysteries of the court to the general public," said William G. Ross, a judicial ethics professor at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law. "That is very healthy and I don't think that judges should isolate themselves in a marble palace... However I am very troubled by the tendency of judges to make broader comments on public issues and to appear in public or private gatherings in which there are political overtones."

Millions Face Bleak Winter When Jobless Aid Ends November 30

Millions Face Bleak Winter When Jobless Aid Ends Nov. 30

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More than 1 million long-term unemployed workers a month will lose their unemployment benefits—the weekly check that helps keep a roof over their families’ heads and food on the table—if Congress doesn’t act by Nov. 30.

That’s the date the extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits program expires. But Congress does not return to work until Nov. 15 and then will adjourn again for the Thanksgiving holiday, leaving just a few days when lawmakers are in town to extend the lifeline that has been so vital as unemployment continues to hover near 10 percent.

Click here [2] to sign a petition to Congress to act quickly and extend the UI program before it expires Nov. 30.

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), says that in 2009 alone, UI benefits have kept 3.3 million American families— including 1.5 million children— from falling into poverty.

With the holiday season approaching, it would be especially cruel to families and bad for businesses to cut off these benefits. Any cuts would also be a drastic departure from how unemployment insurance has functioned ever since the Great Depression; Congress has never cut back on federally-funded jobless benefits when unemployment is so high.

NELP in recent days launched an online campaign—UnemployedWorkers.org [3]—as resource to mobilize support and push Congress to act before the Nov. 30 deadline. That will be a big lift because for the past two years, Republicans have tried to block every extension of the extended UI program. Says Owens:

Congress took seven weeks to reauthorize the extensions when benefits expired last June, and in that time, more than 2 million unemployed Americans and their families lost their jobless benefits.

Some Republicans and radio blowhards (see video) have even claimed unemployment insurance benefits—an average of just a little more than $300 a week—make jobless workers so comfortable, they won’t go out and look for work. Not that there’s much out there. Owens calls the claims “insulting and infuriating.”

In the video, Christopher J., a marketing professional out of work for more than a year, says:

There’s no such thing as pickiness when you don’t have a job. I have tried every job. I will go and apply for a maintenance position. I have done that maintenance position when I was in college.

UnemployedWorkers.org [4] features:

  • Fact sheets [5] on the jobs crisis and the role of unemployment insurance in rebuilding the economy.
  • Weekly tracking of jobless claims data, national and regional unemployment news and other items related to the recovery.
  • Online actions, including a petition [6] to Congress, call-ins and letter-writing to elected officials.
  • Workers’ stories [7], in blog posts [8] and videos [9], and a forum for workers to contribute their own.
  • Real-time feeds on Facebook [10], Twitter [11] and YouTube [9].
  • Expert advice for unemployed workers about jobless benefits.

With UnemployedWorkers.org [3], says Owens,

we intend to prevent any cut-offs or lapses this November by partnering with mobilized workers, supporters and other advocates to put unemployment insurance at the top of Congress’ to-do list when it reconvenes.


Article printed from AFL-CIO NOW BLOG: http://blog.aflcio.org

URL to article: http://blog.aflcio.org/2010/10/19/millions-face-bleak-winter-when-jobless-aid-ends-nov-30/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjLVIkFrKgs

[2] here: http://www.nelp.org/page/s/Sign_the_Petition_to_Congress

[3] UnemployedWorkers.org: http://unemployedworkers.org/sites/unemployedworkers/index.php/site/

[4] UnemployedWorkers.org: http://unemployedworkers.org/sites/unemployedworkers/index.php

[5] Fact sheets: http://unemployedworkers.org/sites/unemployedworkers/index.php/site/resources

[6] petition: http://unemployedworkers.org/page/s/Sign_the_Petition_to_Congress

[7] Workers’ stories: http://unemployedworkers.org/sites/unemployedworkers/index.php/site/our_voices

[8] blog posts: http://unemployedworkers.org/sites/unemployedworkers/index.php/site/blog

[9] videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/UnemployedWorkers

[10] Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/UnemployedWorkersorg/210054294851

[11] Twitter: http://twitter.com/laidoffleftout

Memo: Health Insurance, Banking, Oil Industries Met With Koch, Chamber, Glenn Beck to Plot 2010 Election

Memo: Health Insurance, Banking, Oil Industries Met With Koch, Chamber, Glenn Beck to Plot 2010 Election

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In 2006, Koch Industries owner Charles Koch revealed to the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore that he coordinates the funding of the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, media outlets and other anti-government efforts through a twice annual meeting of wealthy right-wing donors. He also confided to Moore, who is funded through several of Koch’s ventures, that his true goal is to strengthen the “culture of prosperity” by eliminating “90%” of all laws and government regulations. Although it is difficult to quantify the exact amount Koch alone has funneled to right-wing fronts, some studies have pointed toward $50 million he has given alone to anti-environmental groups. Recently, fronts funded by Charles and his brother David have received scrutiny because they have played a pivotal role in the organizing of the anti-Obama Tea Parties and the promotion of virulent far right lawmakers like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). (David Koch praised DeMint and gave him a “Washington Award” shortly after the senator promised to “break” Obama by making health reform his “Waterloo.”)

While the Koch brothers — each worth over $21.5 billion — have certainly underwritten much of the right, their hidden coordination with other big business money has gone largely unnoticed. ThinkProgress has obtained a memo outlining the details of the last Koch gathering held in June of this year. The memo, along with an attendee list of about 210 people, shows the titans of industry — from health insurance companies, oil executives, Wall Street investors, and real estate tycoons — working together with conservative journalists and Republican operatives to plan the 2010 election, as well as ongoing conservative efforts through 2012. According to the memo, David Chavern, the number two at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fox News hate-talker Glenn Beck also met with these representatives of the corporate elite. In an election season with the most undisclosed secret corporate giving since the Watergate-era, the memo sheds light on the symbiotic relationship between extremely profitable, multi-billion dollar corporations and much of the conservative infrastructure. The memo describes the prospective corporate donors as “investors,” and it makes clear that many of the Republican operatives managing shadowy, undisclosed fronts running attack ads against Democrats were involved in the Koch’s election-planning event:

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– Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in rolling back President Obama’s enacted reforms. Several companies impacted by health reform, including Allan Hubbard of A & E Industries, a manufacturer of medical devices and Judson Green, a board member of health insurance conglomerate Aon, were present at the meeting. Other businessmen at the meeting, like Omaha Burger King franchiser Mike Simmonds, are owners of fast food stores which have fought efforts to provide health insurance to their employees. Many corporate attendees of the meeting represent the financial industry impacted by Wall Street reform. For instance, attendee Bill Cooper is the CEO of TCF Financial, a corporation involved in the mortgage banking industry. Cooper recently filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Wall Street reform. Other financial industry players in the meeting hail from firms ranging from Bank of America, JLM Investment, Allied Capital Corp, AMG National Trust, the Blackstone Group and Citadel Investment. Annie Dickerson, a representative of Paul Singer, a powerful hedge fund manager who also gives tens of millions to Republican causes, was present. In addition, Koch Industries itself has a hedge fund and other financial derivative products in its portfolio of interests, which include oil pipelines, coal shipping, asphalt, refineries, consumer goods, timber, ranching, and chemicals.

Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in preventing progressive reforms promised by President Obama. Several executives at the meeting have an incentive to stop Democrats and President Obama from addressing climate change and enacting clean energy reform. The meeting included oil executives from Aspect Energy, Murfin Drilling, Anschutz Company, GeoPark Holdings, Smoky Oil, and several members of Koch’s various subsidiaries. The meeting documents explicitly state that funding efforts to curb “climate change alarmism” were discussed.

Fred Malek, Karl Rove’s top fundraiser for his $56 million attack ad campaign against Democrats, attended the meeting, along with leaders of other secret attack groups. Heather Higgins, who leads the Independent Women’s Forum, a shadowy group that has spent millions of dollars in attack ads on health reform, attended the meeting. So did Gretchen Hamel, a former Bush flak who now runs an attack ad group called “Public Notice” that runs ad which denounce spending programs.

Participants collaborated with infamous consultants who specialize in generating fake grassroots movements, as well as experts on how corporations should take advantage of Citizens United. One session, about how to “mobilize citizens for November,” involved a discussion with Republican strategists Tim Phillips and Sean Noble, anti-union leader Mark Mix, and longtime Koch operative Karl Crow. Phillips — a veteran astroturf lobbyist who previously managed a deceptive grassroots lobbying campaign to help the Hong Kong-based Tan family maintain their forced abortion sweatshops in the Mariana Islands — now leads the day-to-day operations of Americans for Prosperity, the group ThinkProgress first reported to have helped organize many of the initial Tea Party rallies against Obama. Americans for Prosperity, founded and financed by David Koch, has a field team of over 80 campaign staffers spread out around the country, and additionally plans to spend $45 million dollars worth of attack ads against Democrats. Shortly before the planning meeting, Crow authored a campaign finance memo explaining that because of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, he advised specifically that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 501(c)(6) and Americans for Prosperity’s 501(c)(4) can “now use general treasury funds to produce communications materials opposing or supporting specific candidates” and corporations can aggressively pressure their employees to vote a certain way.

The memo notes that participants in the 2010 election planning meeting “committed to an unprecedented level of support.”

Interestingly, the Koch meetings are managed by Kevin Gentry, an executive who doubles as a staffer in the Koch Industries lobbying office in Washington and as the key point person who helps deliver Koch charitable foundation grants. As ThinkProgress has documented, Koch Industries has dramatically boosted its own profits by using conservative front groups to manipulate public policy. The fusion between the “intellectual” conservative movement and big businesses opposed to regulations and accountability has a history in America dating back to the New Deal. During the thirties, the Du Pont family and other wealthy interests organized an assortment of “Liberty League” front groups to try to defeat New Deal agenda items and repeal President Roosevelt’s Social Security program. Now, corporations fund groups like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute — both had representatives at the Koch meeting — to further their lobbying agenda. The American Enterprise Institute even changed its name from the New Deal-era American Enterprise Association to try to dispel the notion that they were nothing more than a glorified business trade association.

As the memo states, Beck has addressed this regular gathering of conservative corporate executives in previous years. Past Koch meetings have included various Republican lawmakers, including DeMint, and Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia as speakers.

After ThinkProgess published its exclusive investigation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealing that the Chamber has been actively fundraising from foreign corporations for its 501(c)(6) account used to run a $75 million attack ad campaign, Chamber lobbyists found common cause with Beck and many of the conservative talking heads. Shortly after our investigation, Beck hosted an on-air fundraiser, asking his audience to give to the Chamber. Casual observers might have been surprised by the Chamber’s swift alliance with Beck (Chamber executives appeared on the Beck radio program and sung Beck’s praises on the Chamber blog), who has compared Obama to Adolf Hitler and called the President a “racist” who has a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” By telling his listeners to give money to the Chamber, Beck, who owns a media company worth more than $32 million dollars and an experimental Mercedes Benz, essentially told his working class viewers to give their wages back to their employers. However, Beck never disclosed his long working history of discussing political strategy with America’s largest corporations. The Koch memo clearly shows that Beck has been collaborating with the Chamber, as well as other titans of industry, for years. In his latest appeal for support to the Chamber’s foreign-funded trade association, which already counts JP Morgan and ExxonMobil as dues-paying members, Beck yesterday told his audience that the Chamber simply “defends the little guy.”

Click below to view a letter inviting corporate executives to attend the next Koch meeting in January, along with a list of the sessions held by Koch for the last meeting in June of 2010. An attendee list of the June, 2010 meeting is attached at the bottom of the document:

CAPAF interns Salvatore Colleluori, Riley Waggaman, and Ben Kaldunski contributed to this post.

Some of the donors at the Koch meeting were longtime Bush fundraisers, like Cintas Corporation CEO Dick Farmer and wholesale executive Art Pope. However, many names appear to be relatively new to conservative movement “investment.” Click below for a listing of the attendees

Name(s) Industry Notes
Jack and Rose Marie Anderson Finance Culver Corp, Rose Marie and Jack R. Anderson Foundation- Financial Advisor
Neil Anderson and Amy Fisher-Smith
Runs Rose Marie and Jack R. Anderson Foundation
Phil and Nancy Anschutz Investment Industrialist, Owner, Weekly Standard, Examiner newspapers
Cliff Asness Investment AQR Capital Management
Nate and Lynda Bachman Finance The Bachman Group-Financial Advisor
Whitney Ball Think Tank Owner of a firm that helps corporations give anonymous gifts to front groups
Michael Barone Media Fox News
Frank and Kathy Baxter Banking Ambassador Frank E. Baxter is Chairman Emeritus of Jefferies and Company, Inc., a global investment bank focusing on mid-cap companies.
Steve and Betty Bechtel Engineering Owns the Bechtel Group (Corporation), Largest engineering company in United States
Glenn Beck Media Fox News
Bernard and Margaret Blasingame Manufacturing President and owner of Aqua Dynamics Systems, Inc
Alan and Lisa Boeckmann Oil CEO Fluor Corporation
Boysie Bollinger Shipping/Commerce Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Bollinger Shipyards
Patrick and Paula Broe Real Estate Founder and CEO of Denver-based real estate asset management firm, The Broe Group
Arthur Brooks Think Tank President, American Enterprise Institute
David and Ann Brown Think Tank Heritage Foundation
John Bryan

Bob and Martha Buford Oil C. Robert Buford has been President and owner of Zenith Drilling Corporation
Tim Busch

Shelby and Nell Bush Energy Vice President, Legal and Administration – Hillwood Energy
Tim Carney Media Political Columnist, Washington Examiner
Charlies and Marla Chandler

David Chavern Lobbyist Executive Vice President and COO at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
John Childs Insurance Chairman and CEO of J.W. Childs and Associates
Paul and Lea Clifton
Runs Robert and Marie Hansen Family Foundation
Susie Coelhoe Media founder and CEO of Susie Coelho Enterprises Inc.
Bill Cooper and Kristin Tollefson Finance/Banking CEO of TCF Financial
Dino and Joan Cortopassi

Joe Craft Coal Joseph W. Craft III is president, chief executive officer and director of Alliance Resource Partners LP
Alex Cranberg Energy Aspect Holdings, LLC – Chairman
Jeff Crank Americans For Prosperity / Radio Pundit AFP State Director
Karl Crow Policy Analyst Capital Research Center
Eric Crown and Isabella King Technology Sales Sell Technology Equipment
Kevin Crutchfield Coal Kevin S. Crutchfield serves as Chief Executive Officer of Alpha Coal Sales Co., LLC.
Ravenell and Beth Curry

Jim and Shirley Dannenbaum Engineering Mr. Dannenbaum, Chairman of Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation
Veronique de Rugy Think Tank Senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center
Rich and Helen DeVos Business Founder and CEO of Amway
Annie Dickerson Business CBRE analyst
Ned and Nancy Diefenthal

Jim and Dorothy Patterson Oil Gulf Stream Petroleum
Dan and Kellie Peters Non-for Profit Daniel S. Peters is president of the Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio
Tom Petrie Banking Co-founder of BofA Merrill Lynch Petrie Divestiture Advisors
Dixon and Carol Doll Technology Co-Founder and General Partner of DCM
Karl and Stevie Eller Advertising
Ron and Kris Erickson Retail Ronald A. Erickson is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Holiday Companies
Melvyn and Suellen Estrin Natural Gas Director of WGL Holdings INC
Dick Farmer

Peter Farrell Biomed Founder of Resmed
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Charles Krauthammer Media Washington Post
Jim and Zibbie Ferrell Fuel Oil Ferrellgas Partners, L.P. engages in the distribution and sale of propane and related equipment primarily in the United States.
Dave Fettig Natural Gas Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy
Bob Fettig Natural Gas Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy
Steve Fettig Natural Gas Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy
Jerry and Nanette Finger Banking Managing Partner, Finger Interests LTD
Richard Fink Koch Industries Director of Georgia-Pacific, EVP of Koch Industries
Budd and Lauri Florkiewicz Manufacturing Foam Fabricators
Charlie and Kaye Lynn Fote Finance Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Fotec Group LLC
Randy and Jean Foutch Oil Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Laredo Petroleum, Inc.
Foster Friess Investment Mr. Foster Stephen Friess is the Founder and Chairman of Friess Associates, LLC
Steve and Polly Friess

Jerry and Leah Fullinwider Energy/Petroleum Vice Chairman, Hillwood International Energy, L.P.
Richard and Leslie Gilliam Coal Richard Gilliam has been President of Cumberland Resources Corporation since 1993.
Susan Gore Think Tank Founder, Wyoming Liberty Group
Oliver and Carolyn Grace Jr. Med and Telecom President and chief executive officer of Anderson Group, Inc.,
Judson and Joyce Green Energy and Med Mr. Judson C. Green is the President and Chief Executive Officer of NAVTEQ Corp.
Ken and Anne Griffin Investment Banking Founder and CEO of Citadel Investment Group
Gretchen Hamel

Fred and Jane Hamilton Oil Mr. Frederic C. Hamilton served as the President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of BHP Petroleum, Hamilton Oil Company and various Hamilton Oil Corporation subsidiaries and affiliates
Bob and Mary Sue Hawk Communications President of Hawk Communications
Dick and Ethie Haworth Retail Head of Haworth Furniture, Multi-national corporation, 3rd largest corporate furniture company in US
Robin and Barbara Hayes Government Former NC Congressman
Dan and Carolyn Heard Manufacturing Executive Officer of John H. Carter Co.,
Diane Hendricks Manufacturing Husband of Ken Hendricks
Steve and Regina Hennessy Auto Sales Auto Sales
James and Heather Higgins Think Tank Independent Women’s Forum
Paul Hill Oil Paul J. Hill serves as the Chief Executive Officer and has been President of Harvard Developments Inc. since 1978. Mr. Hill serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President of The Hill Companies.
John and Joan Hotchkis Education Board of Directors for Teach for America UC Berkley
Allan and Kathy Hubbard Chemicals and Manufacturing Founder and Chief Executive Officer, E & A Industries, Inc.
Stan and Karen Hubbard Communications Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc.
Ethelmae Humphreys Think Tank Cato Institute
Manley and Mary Johnson Political Consultant
Merritt Johnson

Gerry and Priscilla O’Shaughnessy Oil Gerald Eugene O’Shaughnessy Co-founded Geopark Holding Limited in 2002.
Michael O’Shaunessy Technology Petters Consumer Brands, LLC develops consumer electronics and appliances.
Tim O’Shaughnessy Media Hungry Machine, Inc., doing business as LivingSocial.com, is a social discovery and cataloging network.
Marshall Johnson

Kyle and Kirsten Johnstone

Mike and Beth Kasser Real Estate President, Holualoa Inc
Ken and Randy Kendrick Education/Technology Chairman, Datatel
Phil and Joanna Kerpen Advocacy Group/Think Tank VP of Policy, Americans for Prosperity
Gerry and Kathryn Kingen Restauranteur Red Robin, Happy Guests Int’ll
Scott Kirkpatrick Investor Teton Capital
Charles and Liz Koch Koch Industries
Chase and Annie Koch Koch Industries
David and Julia Koch Koch Industries
Elizabeth Koch Koch Industries
Bob and Cindy Koch Koch Industries
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Dennis Kuester Banking Retired CEO of M&I Bank
Andrew Kupersmith Consultant MD, Cardiology Consultants
Andre Lacy Investment Chairman, Lacy Diversified Industries
Ken and Elaine Langone Retail Invemed, Home Depot
Jay and Sally Lapeyre Services Laitram Corp
Ken and Frayda Levy Investment JLM Investment Mgmt
Tom Love Retail CEO, President, Love’s Country Stores
Bob Luddy Manufacturing President, Captive Aire Systems
Fred and Marlene Malek Investment Management Thayer Capital Partners
Elaine Marshall
Homemaker
Pierce Marshall Administrative Management MAROPCO
Preston Marshall

Bill Mayer Health Care MD, Mayer & Cope Family Practice
Glen and Diane Meakem Business Solutions CEO, Freemarkets Inc.
Ed Meese Think Tank Heritage Foundation
Lew and Suzy Meibergen Goods/Services President, Johnston Enterprises/WG Johnston Grain Co
Don and Deede Meyers Attorney Self Employed
Jerry and Caroline Milbank Investment Management CEO/Principal, Milbank Winthrop & Co.
Jack and Goldie Miller Retail CEO/President, Quill Corp.
Mark Mix Advocacy Group President, National Right to Work Committee
Joe and Mary Moeller Koch Industries Vice Chairman
Steve Moore Media member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board
David Murfin Energy President, Murfin Drilling Co.
Walter and Suzette Negley

Mina Nguyen

Larry and Polly Nichols Energy Executive Chairman, Devon Energy Corp
Sean Noble Front Group Americans for Prosperity
Tim and Teresa Oelke Advocacy Group/Construction Teresa – State Director of Americans for Prosperity, Tim – Crossland Construction Corp
Eric O’Keefe Front Group Sam Adams Alliance
Kurt and Nancy Pfotenhauer Media President of MediaSpeak Strategies/former political commentator on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC and former Senior Policy Advisor and National Spokesperson with the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign
Tim Phillips Advocacy Group president, Americans for Prosperity
Ramesh Ponnuru Media National Review magazine
Art and Kathy Pope Goods/Services Senior Exec, Variety Wholesaler
Russ Roberts Attorney Roberts, Ashby & Parrish
Corbin and Barbara Robertson Energy President, Quintana Minerals Corp
Richard Roder and Karin Hsu Construction Management CEO, Cmt-Construction Management
Gary and Kathleen Rogers Goods Former CEO, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream
Durk Rorie Manufacturing United Air Specialists
Chris Rufer Goods/Manufacturing Morningstar Company
Peter Schiff and Martha O’Brien Investor Schiff: Euro Pacific Capital Inc.,
Steve and Christine Schwarzman Financial Services CEO/founder, Blackstone Group
Rick and Sherry Sharp Retail Former CEO, Circuit City
Mike and Lin Simmonds Services CEO, Simmonds Restaurant Mgmt
Peter Smith Services CEO, Service Group of America
Dick Strong Investment Services Strong/Corneliuson Capital Mgmt
Michael Sullivan Investment Services CR Intrinsic Investors
Ray and Ladeline Thompson Manufacturing President/CEO, Semitool
Lynn Tilton Investment Management CEO, Patriarch Partners LLC
Dave and Melanie True Oil Partner
Steve Twist Consultant Rose & Allyn PR Consultants
Jim and Gayla Von Ehr Research/Development CEO, Zyvex Corp
Rick and Debra Waller Manufacturing Owner, Rollmeister Inc
Peter Wallison Think Tank Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
Bill and Sarah Walton Real Estate Allied Capital Corp
Lew and Myra Ward Oil Ward Petroleum Corporation owns and operates wells. It engages in oil and gas exploration and production. The company was founded in 1963 and is based in Enid, Oklahoma.
Dick Weekley Real Estate Weekley Properties
Fred and Susie Wehba Real Estate Bentley Forbes Real Estate
Nestor Weigand and Darcy Buehler Real Estate JP Weigand & Sons Real Estate
Dick and Mary Beth Weiss Life Insurance Wells Fargo, Hawthorne Rances
Howard and Rhonda Wilkins Insurance Diversified Insurance
Don and Sue Wills Oil
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Larry and Lorraine Winnerman Real Estate Win Win Enterprises
Joe Woodford

Earl Wright Finance AMG Natinal Trust
Karen Wright and Tom Rastin Energy/Manufacturing Tom Rastin, vice president of marketing and engineering, Ariel Corp – Karen Wright, Ariel CEO
Cliff and Susan Yonce Investment Banking Goldman Sachs
Fred and Sandra Young Services Diversified Search, LLC provides senior-level executive and corporate board search services in the United States and internationally. It provides recruitment services for various organizations in consumer and industrial, education, not-for-profit, arts and culture, financial and professional services, business, healthcare and human services, life sciences, media and entertainment, sports and leisure, energy and utilities, private equity, retail, and technology and communications industries.

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