Friday, January 30, 2009

Congresswoman Advises Homeowners Facing Foreclosure to Demand the Note

A Congresswoman, who reminds you of a beloved high school teacher, is giving hope to Ohio residents fighting off homelessness.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) urged residents facing foreclosure to demand the loan note and if necessary exercise squatter's rights
before leaving their homes.

No, Rep. Kaptur is not encouraging her constituents to break the law. In fact the opposite is true. She is encouraging individuals who are attempting to pay their mortgages and who have made every attempt to renegotiate their loans to exercise their legal right to fight eviction.

During an interview on Lou Dobbs Tonight, which aired on Thursday Jan 29th, CNN Correspondent Drew Griffin reported:
"Elected officials are saying Toledo is not in a recession, it is a depression. It is this bleak backdrop that inspired Toledo Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur to take the floor of the House earlier this month to tell her constituents to stay put.

Kaptur says she has had it with government bailouts for Wall Street banks, but nothing for homeowners. She is advocating for a legal revolution, a demand that not one of her constituents leaves their home without an attorney and a fight."

The following video clip shows Rep. Kaptur
explaining how Wall Street and the banks have manipulated the system during a Jan. 7th address on the House floor.

The following is an excerpt from the Lou Dobbs Tonight broadcast transcript:

" GRIFFIN (voice over): Kaptur is behind a strategy called produced the note. Mortgages have been so divvied up on Wall Street that banks are having a hard time finding that original paperwork, adding a delay to foreclosures.

She is also pushing banks to rework loans, especially those banks getting bailouts and holding mortgages of folks getting tossed out.

KAPTUR: They are vultures. They prey on our property assets. And I guess the reason I'm so adamant on this is because I know property law and its power to protect the individual home owner. And I believe that 99.9 percent of our people have not had good legal representation in this.

GRIFFIN: Without a lawyer, Andrea Guice bought a $147,000 home with nearly $40,000 down.

GUICE: I should have had an attorney. I really should have had the attorney. I did not know.

GRIFFIN: She admits she didn't read the paperwork, didn't learn, until it was too late, she had a sub-prime loan. Her payments of $883 a month jumped in a year to more than $1,500. When it did, she stopped paying.

(on camera) So they foreclosed on you?

GUICE: They have foreclosed on me, yes.

GRIFFIN (voice over): The law firm representing the bank in Guice's foreclosure declined comment to CNN. Another one of the banks Guice believes holds her notes, Wells Fargo, said it wouldn't comment on individual cases, but tries to work with homeowners.

Backed by her Congresswoman, Guice simply is not budging.


GRIFFIN: Lou, no one's saying, "don't pay your mortgage." What the Congresswoman is saying if you're being foreclosed on, don't just leave. Don't assume you have to leave your house. And you're going to have a run, I know."

In the following video Rep. Kaptur explains how, given the "loan pooling" process, in many instances the institution initiating foreclosure proceedings has now idea where to locate the original loan note.


During the same broadcast, Congresswoman Kaptur further clarifies her position with the show's host, Lou Dobbs:
DOBBS: -- ... At what point does telling a person, as you have, to just exercise squatter's rights -- at what point are you bumping up against the issue of breaking the law?

KAPTUR: Well, you know, Lou, the problem is that these families haven't had proper legal representation. Most of these companies on Wall Street can't even find the loan, and they have not properly noticed the homeowner under the Truth and Lending Act and the Real Estate Practices Act.

DOBBS: Right.

KAPTUR: If you really look at the fine print, these Wall Street firms can't find the loan. They've divided it up into so many pieces, so there's a legitimate question in the law as to where that deed, where that loan actually is.

DOBBS: In point of fact, it's not -- to be clear, if there's no note, there is no debt?

KAPTUR: That's right.

And if you don't have proper legal representation -- and I mean good legal representation -- what happens to the homeowner in places like our region is, they're law abiding people. They're afraid and they leave the property.

I say your biggest right is to hold on to your property. The law is on your side.

DOBBS: Marcy Kaptur, I'm sure that millions of Americans and the folks in Ohio appreciate you being on their side

Yes, Rep. Kaptur, I'm sure that millions of Americans are grateful that the people of Ohio elected someone who really cares about them. Thank You

If you are facing foreclosure and need legal advice contact your local Bar Association and investigate your state's "squatter's rights" laws. You can also inquire about law firms that specialize in real estate and/or offer pro-bono services.

If you are a senior citizen check with your local AARP branch or similar group which might offer low cost legal services.

And finally, everyone should contact their elected State and Federal representatives and encourage them to pass legislation that will help consumers and not just Wall Street and the banks.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Iraq Says GoodBye to Blackwater

It took a long time coming but change is coming slowly to Iraq. 

excerpt from:
Iraq to deny licence to US Blackwater guards | Reuters

By Khalid al-Ansary

BAGHDAD, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Iraq will not renew the licence of Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm accused of killing Iraqi civilians while protecting U.S. diplomats, U.S. and Iraqi officials said on Thursday.

"The operating permission for the firm Blackwater will not be renewed. Its chance is zero," said Alaa al-Taie, head of the press department at the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

"It is not acceptable to Iraqis and there are legal points against it, like killing Iraqis with their weapons."

A U.S. embassy official confirmed that the embassy had been informed that the licence would not be renewed, and said it was working on finding a new arrangement to cover its security.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Conspicuously Conspicuous Consumption, Fraud and Partisan Politics

"So much of the prosperity we took for granted was based on
consumption that was conspicuously conspicuous
-- Matt Frei, BBC News

And might I add that there were equal portions of corporate greed, Madoff style fraud and political corruption in the mix as well.

After BBC News Reporter, Matt Frei interviewed residents in what he referred to as "ground zero of the sub-prime crisis" he found that despite the large number of foreclosures, for many in Miami, suffering means downsizing from four cars to two.

In his article "
Miami Consumption", Frei makes the case that the decline in consumer confidence is in large part a reflection of the fact that consumers can no longer buy the things that they don't need. While I agree with much of Frei's analysis, it is important to note that the situation in Miami is just one small piece in America's economic puzzle.

He writes:

"So much of the prosperity we took for granted was based on consumption that was conspicuously conspicuous. We did not need most of the things that we bought on credit and that were produced cheaply for us by China, Vietnam or India.

We were, if we are being honest, perfectly comfortable without them. We are living in a saturation economy in which demand was fueled by a combination of superb advertising, peer pressure and easy credit.

Such an economy cannot cope with the fear of losing a job. That is why the declines in consumer confidence and consumption have been so dramatic.

We have stopped buying the things we do not really need. And there are a lot of them.

Yet none of us are missing any meals. Most of us are not homeless. And that is the absurd tragedy of the vicious cycle we are in.

Without our conspicuous consumption, China's economy cannot continue to grow at 8% a year and the US cannot create 100,000 jobs a month, to keep in line with population growth.

President Bush's glib post-9/11 advice to America to just go out and go shopping seems rather prescient these days.

But if we stop all conspicuous consumption, then our economic woes may become a self-fulfilling economic catastrophe that is more worrying than any we have previously experienced.

Can the billions of dollars borrowed from the tax-payer inject confidence into the banks to resume lending and confidence in us to resume spending?

Not for a while, I think."

While in Miami there are many who have nothing more to fear than giving up the family vacation and the extra car, millions of Americans are facing foreclosure, have lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs or, are choosing between buying food or medicine. And there is a small group like Addie Polk, the 90-year old, Ohio resident who are considering ending their lives rather than be kicked out of their homes. People who were once living the American Dream are now struggling with necessities.

If our economic prosperity is really based on conspicuous consumption then there seems to be a very important question that very few in Washington are willing to ask much less answer.

Is the system sustainable? Or, is the current economic model deeply flawed?

And if the answer to the latter is yes, is bailing out a flawed system the right long-term solution?

Like most Americans, I don't hold a PhD in economics. Nor am I an economic policy expert but here is what I, and most Americans, do know:
  • Only a few months ago a number of prominent politicians and economists were declaring that the fundamentals of the economy were strong.
  • In 2007, former President Bush was blaming the foreclosure crisis on consumers who were trying to buy more house than they could afford or who didn't read the fine print on their mortgage agreement.
  • Democrats are blaming the current economic crisis on Bush Administration deregulation
  • Republicans are claiming that Bush inherited economic problems from Clinton.
  • While the middle-class has been going down the tubes for the past eight years, the rich have been getting exponentially richer and sheltering their wealth in off-shore banks.
  • Consumers are told to shop in order to stimulate the economy and then are blamed for not saving and/or carrying excessive debt.
  • Washington politicians voted in favor of the banks and passed a bill to make it harder for consumers to declare bankruptcy so banks could buy corporate jets, gold plated toilets and give their employees multi-million dollar bonuses as a reward for failure.

Dear Members of Congress,

The American people may be slow and too naive but we are not stupid. Throwing billions of borrowed dollars at an economy that is fundamentally flawed in design is like giving heroin to an addict in order to cure his crack addiction.

Virtually everyone agrees: Americans need jobs, homes and affordable health-care; small businesses need credit and tax relief; and, that none of this is going to happen over night.

Congress, all but a few of you, (Democrats, Republicans & Independents included), acted like the fabled three monkeys and pretended not to see, hear or speak evil for eight years.

You stood idly by while corporate America outsourced labor and small towns faded into memory.

You let lobbyists rule the day and Wall Street run amok.

You cut taxes on the rich and watched them hide their money in off-shore banks.

You let the banking industry pillage the poor with exorbitant fees, penalties, and all manners of usury.

You watched the previous administration award billions in no-bid contracts to war contractors who in return literally electrocuted, poisoned and rape American men and women who were serving their nation.

Many of you sold your soul and sold America to the highest bidder. And now, when all of your sins are laid bare before the world, you still can't pass an economic recovery bill without playing partisan politics and trying to load the bill with pork.

Members of Congress, Americans are watching you and we will not be deceived.

The economy is in trouble and something needs to be done. But for heavens sake, take your time and get it right.

Pass a real economic recovery bill that has both short-term and long-term impact and includes a plan for accountability. Forget the earmarks. If programs are worth funding they should be able to stand on their own. Forget the partisan grand-standing and one-up-manship, it only plays with the radical right and the radical left.

For once in your political careers, do the right thing and represent the people who've elected you. You have a lot to answer for already.

Related articles:

Thain Get Subpoena from NY AG

The Deeper Truth About Thain's Ouster from BofA

Troubled Times Bring Mini-Madoffs to Light
by Leslie Wayne for the NYTimes

Other related posts:

The One Story That You Haven't Heard from KBR

A Mantra for Our Times, Why, Why, Why

In Search of Answers to the Foreclosure Crisis
that won't make matters worse, May2008

Bad Luck, Incompetence, Lack of Regulation, or
Simple Avarice
, March, 2008

What Happens When You Don't Know What They Don't
Want to Tell You,
November 2007

Watch for the Signs, October 2007

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Details on the Shooting of Oscar Grant

Oscar Grant Punched In Face Just Before Being Shot - New Video!

"Moments before he was killed, Oscar Grant was punched in the face -- but not by the BART officer who shot him.

A new cellphone video shows another BART officer punching Grant just before he was shot by BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, who was arrested on murder charges nearly two weeks ago. "

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bees, Frogs, Bats and Bad News

First it was the bees, then the frogs and now, it's the bats. What's next?

It appears that the economy isn't the only failing system in the US. The nation's ecosystem and its agricultural base are just as much in a state of crisis. Yet, from all appearances, it seems that the problem is getting little attention and almost no support for the people working on a plan for rescuing and revitalizing the environment.

In late 2006, we first began learning that the honey bees were vanishing due to a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

As Melissa McNamara reported in February, 2007 for CBSNews:
"In spite of all the advances in agriculture, honeybees remain indispensable. By moving pollen from flower to flower, bees are the only efficient way for many crops to pollinate, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.

As growing season begins in California's Central Valley, there is nothing quite as busy as a beekeeper. Farmers pay them to put their hives in their fields and orchards.

'It means the difference between profit and loss for them,' says beekeeper Lance Sundberg.

But beekeepers like Sundberg have a mystery in their hives this year. Bees are disappearing at an alarming rate.

'Colonies are going down. The bees aren't dead in the box or aren't out front,' says Jerry Bromenshenk, a bee researcher at the University of Montana. 'They've just disappeared. Just vanished.'

The following is a trailer for the documentary feature film - The Vanishing of the Bees which discusses the scale and potential impact of the problem.

It has also come to the attention of scientists, environmentalists and virtually anyone who spends anytime with nature that the frogs are dying.

Now it appears that bats are mysteriously dying too.

Last October Eliza Strickland reported for Discover Magazine:
"Researchers have gathered some clues to solve the mystery of what’s killing off hibernating bats throughout New England, but say they’re still far from knowing how to halt the strange die-off. In a new study, researchers identified the characteristic white fungus that has been found on the noses of dead and dying bats, and say it’s a new species of mold that thrives at low temperatures like those found in caves in the winter. But debate still continues over whether the fungus is the cause of death, or simply a secondary infection that takes advantage of bats with already weakened immune systems.

Bats covered with the fungus, a sickness now called white-nose syndrome, were first spotted in Howes Cave near Albany, N.Y., during the winter of 2006. At that time, field biologists reported caves that were typically covered with hibernating bats had loads of vacancies…. In one case, a cave floor was littered with dead bats [LiveScience].
Since then, the epidemic has spread throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont, with 80 to 100 percent of bats dying in some caves."

Now today, Sandy Bauers, Inquirer Staff Writer reports the following in her article, Troubling signs for bats in Pa:

"Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Game Commission confirmed that bats had tested positive for the same fungus found in New England bats that have been dying by the tens of thousands during the last two winters.

Everyone agrees that the finding could have profound effects on the bat population here. One of the many mysteries is whether the fungus causes the deaths, now referred to as 'white-nose syndrome,' or is a symptom.

Mass deaths have consequences not only for the bats, which are common throughout the region and are found even in urban areas.

'Bats are the best friends we have, in terms of insect control in some areas,' said game commission spokesman Jerry Feaser. 'And they are, for farmers, some of the best natural predators of crop-killing bugs.

A single bat can eat hundreds of mosquitoes and other insects an hour.
Officials are asking anyone who sees flying bats or dead bats this winter to report it to the regional game commission office in Reading at 610-926-3136.

Of course, you can't expect that a few missing and dying bees, frogs and bats to get the same media coverage as the economy or the wars. This won't be a marketable story until we're over-run with disease carrying pest insects or there is an absence of fresh fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets.

Let's just hope that it's not too late.

"Clean Coal"? Yeah, Right.

In March of 2000, during the last days of the Clinton administration, the EPA decided coal ash was a hazardous waste. Then, two months later, it flipped. If the EPA had stuck to its guns, the Kingston Coal Ash disaster in Tennessee might have been averted. Now, momentum is building to federally regulate coal ash. Will the EPA make the same mistake twice?


Sunday, January 18, 2009

As The Dream Unfolds

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Over the course of the next few days millions of people around the world will be celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. followed by the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America. During this time there will be an untold number of references to the links between Dr. King's dream, the civil rights movement, and the inauguration of the first African-American President of the US.

However what will often be left out of the discussions about "The Dream" and its fulfillment will be an acknowledgment that Dr. King's vision was as much about the evolution of a non-violent society and the achievement socio-economic opportunity as it was about racial equality.

I am sure that if Dr. King were with us he would be as overwhelmed with emotion at the sight of Barack Obama taking the oath of office as many of us will be. Yet I feel confident that he would be equally moved and speaking out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis on the working class fighting, the crisis in healthcare, Guantanemo and torture.

Dr. King was against war, even retaliatory ones. He was against injustice in all forms and therefore, I am sure would have been against a suspension on habeas corpus, detention without trial, extraordinary rendition, torture, and illegally spying on private citizens. I also believe that while Dr. King would be calling the nation to unity, he would also be loudly speaking out about the police shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant while he laid handcuffed on a Bay area subway platform.

In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Dr King stated:
"I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that even amid today's motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land."

Now many people would say that now is not the time to bring up these things. Now is a time for celebrating how far we, as Americans, have come. To them I reply, yes now is a time for celebrating but as Alice Walker once said, "No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow". Now is precisely the time for the "friends" of Dr. King's Dream and the new administration to break the silence.

As Marcia G. Yerman cited in her recent article "Obama and the Progressive Community" for The Huffington Post:
"A litmus test for many will be the stand that the Obama administration puts forth on accountability regarding the actions of Bush and his key players on the issue of torture and civil rights. The conversation is out there, and has been featured in numerous posts including a January 9th article at Talking Points Memo by Elana Schor. Jonathan Turley, Constitutional Law Professor at George Washington University, has been seen on both the Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow shows, where he has been explaining the high stakes for all Americans in getting this right." Yerman later writes: " As Amy Goodman said to me, referencing the election of Obama, 'This is just an opportunity. The change hasn't happened yet.' Underscoring the need for each individual to be a part of the solution, she stressed, 'The lesson is -- it is completely up to you.'"
Yes, it is up to us speak out, to speak loudly and to speak often as the dream unfolds. In the months and years to come let us not be remembered for our silence.

I leave you with these thoughts from Dr. King.

excerpt from
Beyond Vietnam
delivered April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church

" These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.

It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; [Audience:] (Yes) the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: 'Let us love one another, (Yes) for love is God. (Yes) And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.' 'If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.' Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: 'Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.'

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood—it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, 'Too late.' There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: 'The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.' "

" Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. " Martin Luther King Jr., December 11, 1964

"The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers. " from 'Strength to Love,' 1963

" I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. "--- from Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, Dec. 10, 1964

"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. " --- Strength to Love, 1963

photos courtesy of
cartoon courtesy of

Related posts

Love, reason and the future of civil society
by Michael Edwards for OpenDemocracy

I Have Seen The Promise Land
by Taylor Branch for Time Magazine

Breaking the Silence of the Night
by Ron Kovic for TruthDig

The Assault of Reason
by Al Gore

9/11 -- We Will Remember But Will We Ever Learn
from the Coffee Conversation Archives

There Isn't A Day Goes By
from the Coffee Conversation Archive

Laughter Turned to Tears
from the Coffee Conversation Archive

Support H.R. 104 -- the bill to create a Commission on Presidential
War Powers and Civil Liberties.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Open Letter to the Citizens of Israel from Dennis Trainor

The UpTake is opening up a call for Opinion/Editorial videos. The first video by Dennis Trainor, points out that the actions of a nation's government are not always reflective of the will of a nation's people.

Matt Miller on the Tyranny of Dead Ideas

"America is at a crossroads. In the face of global competition and rapid technological change, our economy is about to face its most severe test in nearly a century - one that will make the recent turmoil in the financial system look like a modest setback by comparison. Yet our leaders have failed to prepare us for what lies ahead because they are in the grip of a set of "dead ideas" about how a modern economy should work. They wrongly believe that:

* Our kids will earn more than we do
* Free trade is always good, no matter who gets hurt
* Employers should be responsible for health coverage
* Taxes hurt the economy
* Schools are a local matter
* Money follows merit

These ways of thinking;dubious at best and often dead wrong;are on a collision course with economic developments that are irreversible."

Learn more at:

Ask Producer of '24' to Stop Promoting Torture

Dear friend:

After being a huge fan of the series "24" for its first 4 seasons, I stopped watching the show as a matter of conscience. I simply couldn't feel comfortable speaking out against torture while continuing to watch a television program which promoted the practice.

As the organization Human Rights First points out, "the hit television series '24' is notorious for how its hero Jack Bauer gets the job done: He tortures suspects, gets what he wants, and always saves the day."

Disturbingly, Human Rights First - working with military educators - has learned that young soldiers have either copied Jack Bauer's actions in the field and view him as a model of how to conduct interrogations.

The writers and producers of '24' have the freedom to create what they think will appeal to viewers. But we also think they should be aware of the show's impact.

Please join me by adding your name to the letter that Human Rights First is sending Howard Gordon, the executive producer of '24'ask the show to adopt a socially responsible position on promoting torture.

Go to:


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The One Story That You Haven't Heard About KBR

By now, I hope that you've heard the report that an Army criminal investigator has declared that the death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, was "negligent homicide" because the contractor, Kellogg, Brown &Root (aka KBR), failed to ensure that “qualified electricians and plumbers” worked on the barracks where Maseth died.

Hopefully you're aware of reports that KBR unnecessarily exposed US troops in Iraq to the carcinogenic chemical, hexavelent chromium.

In a December 2008 broadcast, CBS News reported that,
"Depositions from KBR employees detailed concerns about the toxin in one part of the plant as early as May of 2003. And KBR minutes, from a later meeting state "that 60 percent of the people … exhibit symptoms of exposure," including bloody noses and rashes."

You might recall the AP report from as early of as March 2008 that "
Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, the Pentagon's internal watchdog says."

In fact, the following video was posted to YouTube in May 2007

And last, but by no means least, I'm sure that you've heard about the sexual assaults of Tracy K. Barker and Jamie Leigh Jones by their fellow KBR employees while working in Iraq.

You may be familiar with all of these despicable incidents.

Yet, the one story that you haven't heard about KBR is that their government contract has been canceled and that criminal charges have been brought against the employees (and those who supervised them) for these heinous acts.

A few weeks ago, I took a stand with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) in asking that KBR be held accountable for exposing US troops to a deadly toxin.
I ask that you please take a minute to do the same by visiting But that is not enough.

As the report by CBS News indicated, "
Kellogg Brown and Root, known as KBR, has won more than $28 billion in U.S. military contracts since the beginning of the Iraq war. " Many of these contracts were no-bid contracts from an administration whose Vice President was a former Haliburton/KBR executive.

In short, KBR made $28 billion while electrocuting, poisoning and literally raping the US civilian and military men and women who were serving their country in a war that was partly initiated by one of its former corporate executives.

To this day, Haliburton and KBR are still responsible for the care of US troops.

That is a disgrace.

Support H.R. 104 - the bill to create a Commission on Presidential War Powers & Civil Liberties

updated 1/16/09

Dear Friends,

While we were all being distracted by the Rod Blagojevich / Roland Burris circus as well as yet more stories about Sarah Palin a very important piece of legislation was introduced on Capitol Hill.

On January 6th, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) introduced H.R. 104 - a bill to establish a National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties. The proposed commission would be comprised of experts outside of government service and have the subpoena power to investigate the actions of the Bush Administration ranging from detainee treatment to water-boarding to extraordinary rendition.

I believe that Americans and the global community deserves answers to questions about the Bush administration policies that lead to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the suspension of habeas corpus, the NSA wire-tapping program, extraordinary rendition, torture, the no-bid contracts to war contractors, and more.

When House Speak Nancy Pelosi took the impeachment option of the the table, hopefully that didn't mean that the search for truth was tabled was well. That is why I have drafted a petition asking members of Congress to support H.R. 104.

The petition, which is hosted on the People's Email Network allows you to send your comments directly to your Senator, Congressperson or local newspaper.

After reading Elana Schor's article: Sleeper Bill of the Month: Our Own Truth & Reconciliation Commission, I felt that this bill would die without a loud public outcry.

If you click on the link below you can send the following message, (or a customized version) to your Congressperson asking him/her to support the creation of a Commission on Presidential War Powers & Civil Liberties.

You can also send your personal comments as a letter to the editor of your nearest local daily newspaper.

As the quote by George Santayana states "Those who cannot remember their past are condemned to repeat it."

The actions, or in-actions, of the 111th Congress will decide whether Americans remember propaganda, lies and half-truths or will be condemned to blindly re-electing officials who repeat the same mistakes. I hope that you will join me in asking Congress to pass this bill.


Now, you can also show your support for this bill by:

joining the Facebook group Support H.R. 104 to Establish Commission on War Powers and Civil Liberties

or track the status of the bill on

Related posts:

Washington's New Definition of "Non-Profit"

US General Warns Against Torture

Update on the False Arrest and Torture of Maher Arar

Fifth Anniversary of the Patriot Act

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Obama Leaves Door Open To Investigating Bush, But Wants To "Look Forward"

Now, the American people need to put a foot in Obama's door and keep it open if it really wants to see the Bush administration held accountable for the war, torture, extraordinary rendition, violations of the US Constitution and policies that facilitated the rape of the US economy. If Americans remain silent the Obama administration will too.
About Barack Obama
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, January 9, 2009

PCC's Pick for Political Quote of the Day

"It feels like we had the right person at the right time,
and then it became the wrong time,"

-- stated by Colleen Bracken, a Philadelphia leadership consultant
when asked by a Phila. Inquirer writer to critique the performance
of Mayor Michael Nutter.

Patrick Kerkatra, Inquirer staff write reports:
" For the anniversary of his City Hall open house, The Inquirer sought out 15 people who had been randomly chosen for interviews from the thousands who showed up to celebrate on the day after Nutter's inauguration.

If they widely share one sentiment now, it is quiet disappointment - not so much with the mayoral leadership as with the fading opportunity to transform the city.

Though some said Nutter had stumbled, most said he had managed as well as could be expected, given the recession's devastating impact on the city budget.

All said their hopes for what Nutter could accomplish had dimmed.

'I'm heartbroken. Heartbroken,' said Colleen Bracken, a leadership consultant from Germantown. 'I really do think we were on a great trajectory, and it's just a completely different scenario now.'

Bracken said she still strongly supported Nutter, but no longer expected him to accomplish all she had hoped.

The Nutter supporters interviewed this week said they had been encouraged by his first eight months in office, particularly his appointments of Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and other senior officials. Some also credited him with restoring their confidence that City Hall was ethically run.

Then came the budget crisis.

'It feels like we had the right person at the right time, and then it became the wrong time,' Bracken said."

I understand the sentiment but I see things a little differently.

For me, it feels like we have the right person, at the right time, in very difficult times. I believe that Mayor Michael Nutter will do what he has to do to navigate Philadelphia through stormy economic waters. My question is whether the voters will help man the oars and ride out the storm or whether they'll just jump ship.

Will the majority of Philadelphians recognize the situation that the Mayor is facing. be patient, judge the Mayor's efforts fairly and give him a second term?

Philadelphia's problems didn't happen overnight, in a vacuum or without voter consent. Yes, some of the City's economic troubles are reflective of a failing national economy. However, it has to be recognized that the City's problems are also rooted in: the two term administration of former Mayor John Street; decades of an ineffectual and occasionally corrupt City Council; and Philly's general political modus operandi which probably rivals Chicago's.

Philadelphia is often referred to as "a city of neighborhoods". Well anyone who's lived here long enough knows that every neighborhood wants their slice of the pie and often a slice of their neighbor's. Almost no one does anything without expecting something. The corporations want influence, the unions want influence and so does the clergy. No one wants to pay higher taxes. No one wants to see cuts in municipal services. Everyone says they want an end to crime but virtually no one wants to help the police when they try to investigate one. To avoid the headaches, those with two dollars to rub together move to the suburbs. This way they too can complain about the dangers and high taxes from afar.

When a political figure occasionally emerges, who seems to rise above "politics as usual" and promise change, great hopes surround that candidate. Voters believe that this individual is going to ride in, fix the problems that took decades to create and, run all the bad guys out of town in the process. It's becomes chic and hip to say that you want "change".

Then the reality of governance sets in and so many people are disappointed or disillusioned.


Because for many people, it wasn't real "change" that they wanted as much as their slice of the pie.

Most people have heard Mahatma Gandhi's saying "You must be the change that you want to see in the world". Yet many still wait for that change to come from someone else.

Well here's a little ancient Chinese wisdom for everyone who still wants to sit on the sidelines watching and waiting.

"The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. "

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Best Joke of The Week: No One Saw It Coming

Here's one that literally knocked me off my seat with laughter.

In an interview with Associated Press, soon to be ex-Vice President Dick Cheney stated that "his boss, President George W. Bush, has no need to apologize to the American people for not doing more to head off the financial calamity, saying no one saw the crisis coming."

AP quotes Cheney as actually saying, "nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure it out."

cartoon courtesy of

Well gee Mr. Cheney, apparently a few people had an inkling that a little something was out of whack.

For example, Mark Trahant, Seattle Post Intelligencer Editorial Page Editor, reported on a few of the warning signs in his April, 2005 article, "The Economy is Based on Borrowing".

Trahant reported:

The country's wealth scale is out of balance. "Using newly available income data that goes all the way back to 1913, income in 2000 was only slightly less concentrated among the top 1 percent of households than during the run-up to the Great Depression, which was the worst period of uneven income concentration in the last century," the report says.

Where you see the effects is in the shrinking paycheck of median household income. In real dollars, the median household income has declined $971 in 2001, $502 in 2002 and $63 in 2003 -- a cumulative loss of $1,536.

"As for benefit coverage," the report says, "it declined through the early 2000s."

Health insurance has declined for all wage groups -- and pension coverage is shrinking, too, down from more than half of all workers in 1979 to about 45 percent in 2002.

How does a family pay for all these wage and benefit cuts? We borrow more.

Nearly 18 percent of households showed a zero or negative net worth in 2001 -- and government figures show that many families are paying 40 percent of their income just to keep up with their debt.

It's also true that home ownership rates are on the rise but the debt side of that picture is troublesome, too. Last week, a mortgage association reported that 36.6 percent of mortgages are based on adjustable rates. As interest rates go up, so will debt obligations -- and the risk of insolvency for any family already on the edge.

Enough of the bad news. There is some positive news -- at least for a very few Americans -- in the Economic Policy Institute report. "From 1979 to 2000, the wage of the median chief executive officer grew 79 percent, and average compensation grew 342 percent."

When the recession hit, chief executive officers cut their pay -- a 36 percent decline -- from 2000 to 2003.

But last week, USA TODAY reported that chief executive pay is back. The newspaper collected data from the 100 largest companies that showed median compensation from pay, stock grants and other incentives was $14 million in 2004, up 25 percent from the year before.

Of course news of exorbitant increases in executive pay certainly wouldn't raise any eyebrows in the Bush White House. And when it was reported by the Christian Science Monitor in August 2005 that the US poverty rate had risen for the fourth year in a row, I'm sure that it wasn't a sign of trouble either.

I think it's safe to assume that no one in the Bush Administration read the January, 2006 report by the Economic Policy Institute titled, "What's Wrong With the Economy". And I'm absolutely certain that no one in the White House or on Capitol Hill read the March, 2007 article, "America, Maxed Out" by James Scurlock. No one could have seen the current economic problems coming. After all, there were problems with the Oval Office receiving good "intelligence" from government agencies.

When you think about it maybe nobody anywhere was smart enough to predict the financial crisis, the extreme hurricanes in the Gulf, falling bridges, outrageous war profiteering or, the fact that the Iraqi people would be so damn ungrateful for being liberated.

Maybe we're all just too stupid. George W. Bush was elected to two terms as US President, wasn't he?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Is Blagojevich Another Earl Long?

He just might be.

Who's Earl Long?

Earl Kemp Long was the very eccentric three time Democratic Governor of Louisiana who was portrayed by Paul Newman in the 1989 movie Blaze. When MSNBC's Chris Mathews compared Rod Blagojevich to Long during his interview with Howard Dean this evening, an admittedly jaded thought crossed my mind.

If you recall, shortly after his indictment on corruption charges, Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich received a visit from several members of the African American Baptist clergy. According to the Chicago Defender website the visit by Reverends Marshall Hatch, Steve Jones, Ira Acree, as well as a later visit by Rev. Leonard Barr, were at the invitation of the Governor.

Call me cynical but I have to wonder if Blagojevich requested the visits in order to find solace for his soul or for a more carnal reason like gaining a few future allies in the African American community for say, a fight over a Senate appointment.

Now let me make it clear, I am not implying anything untoward about the motivations of the members of the clergy. But you don't have to make a giant leap of the imagination to suspect that a man with a huge ego, who thought that he could sell a Senate seat, may have been planning a way to defy Congress the minute he heard that they agreed not to seat anyone that he selected.

So just when did Blagojevich decide to appoint Roland Burris? Only he knows. But if he really did use the Burris appointment as his way of giving his enemies the finger, that would be a political move that Earl Long might appreciate.

Even Howard Dean had to admit that the Illinois Governor won this round.

68% of US Debt Financed by Foreign Entities

I may not have used the same expletive that you'll see at the end of this video but damn if it doesn't apply.

The Narcoleptic Public Consciousness of America

Wikipedia defines Consciousness as a type of mental state, a way of perceiving, particularly the perception of a relationship between self and other. It has been described as a point of view, an I, or what Thomas Nagel called the existence of "something that it is like" to be something.

It defines Narcolepsy as a neurological condition most characterized by Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS), in which a person experiences extreme tiredness, possibly culminating in falling asleep during the day at inappropriate times, such as at work or school.

So the narcoleptic public consciousness of America is that oft repeated habit of the American public of falling asleep at extremely appropriate times. And now is one of those times.

Remember Dennis Kucinich's speech at the Democratic National Convention which cried "Wake Up America".

In spite of those stark reminders of malfeasance on the part of the Bush Administration, when the current President and The Fed asked Congress to rush through a $700 billion Wall Street bailout, the request was met with only minimal resistance. In fact, both President-elect Obama and his then election campaign opponent, Senator John McCain were advocates of the plan.

Surprise, Surprise. T
here was no plan.

In fact there has been virtually no accountability on how the TARP funds have been distributed or how they have been spent.

Now today Josh Marshall of TPM Is reporting that The Fed has very quietly "initiated a program to purchase half a trillion dollars worth of mortgage debt that is purportedly clogging up the credit markets" and has "contracted with four financial services firms to manage the money." And apparently while much of the media is entranced by the Roland Burris media circus, TPM is the only outlet raising questions about this plan and keeping the Fed's activities on their radar.

Josh Marshall reports:
" Under normal circumstances the fees generated by managing that much money could be huge.

Equally important, having these firms manage this money creates huge potential conflicts of interest and opportunities for self-dealing.

All of which makes it really important that we know how these four companies were chosen, how they're being paid and just how the decision-making is taking place.

So with all that in mind, last week, we went to the Fed and started asking questions. A Fed representative insisted that there'd been a formal and open bidding process. He refused to divulge any information about the value of the contracts of the successful bids. But he did tentatively agree to release the original RFP (Request for Proposals). But now they seem to have changed their minds and have stopped returning our calls.

Now, here's the key. This isn't some remote issue of good government transparency. This is about gargantuan sums of money used in a way that makes possible all sorts of rotten insider deals. And the Fed won't release even the most cursory information on how this is being done. That's a big deal.

I can't tell which is a bigger scandal -- that fact that the Fed is shifting gears and stonewalling us or that we seem to be the only ones even asking the question."

Josh, the biggest scandal is that, in light of all that the public knows about the rampant corruption in Washington and the corporate sector, your team seems to be the only one keeping and eye on The Fed.

The American public should be demanding answers on where all of the money is going and where it's all coming from. They should be flooding their Congressperson's inbox and tying up the Congressional switchboard. Instead, it seems that after the election much of the public is drifting off again.

Related posts and other articles:

Get Over The Shock ... Stop Them Now
- Sept, 2008

The Bailout Profiteers
by Naomi Klein

Oversight Board Raises Questions About Treasury Bailout

In Reverse, Now Fed Won't Release Key Doc on Asset Buying Program
- TPMuckraker.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pew...What's That Smell?

photo courtesy of

This picture pretty much sums up this day in Congress.

Despite the Burris media circus there really are a few people in Congress who want to get things done.

In the following video, the staff of the Congressional blog "The Hill" asks a few members of Congress to share their top priorities for 2009.

Beware of Mortgage Leopards Trying to Hide Their Spots

No that's not a typo.

It appears that a number of prominent sub-prime mortgage lenders are now offering their customers a product known as "Equity Accelerator".

The "Equity Accelerator" program promises homeowners that they can pay off their mortgage years in advance and save thousands of dollars in interest payments simply by signing up for automatic electronic fund transfers and paying their mortgage every other week instead of once a month. Sounds terrific right?

Maybe, maybe not.

Most of these programs have a one time enrollment fee that is collected from your first extra principle payment, a monthly participation fee, variable rates based on the payment dates and of course, lots of fine print on the agreement.

I recently reviewed one of these agreements and had to laugh when I saw that the terms of the program which the lender suggests that customers "read carefully and retain for your records", is printed on the opposite side of the section that you are supposed to detach and mail back to the company.

So if you're considering enrolling in an "Equity Accelerator" program, you may want to visit the Community Forum thread and learn more before you sign on the dotted line.

Go to:

ICRC Calls Gaza A Full-Blown Humanitarian Crisis

excerpt from:
BBC NEWS | Middle East | Gaza clashes spark 'major crisis'

The Gaza Strip faces a "a full-blown humanitarian crisis", the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says.

The ICRC's head of operations for Gaza, Pierre Kraehenbuhl, told the BBC that life was becoming intolerable in Gaza after 10 days of conflict.

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen continue as Israel attempts to end militant rocket fire.

At least 12 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike on UN-run school in in Gaza, medical officials said.

At least 110 people have died since the ground assault began on Saturday, medical officials say.

More than 560 Palestinians have been killed since Israel moved to end rocket attacks from Gaza 11 days ago, Palestinian medical officials say. The UN says at least 25% of those are civilians.

At least 30 Palestinians were killed on Tuesday, while four Israeli soldiers were killed by fire from one of their own tanks.

Israel says it has killed 130 Hamas fighters and has denied claims that Hamas has killed 10 of its soldiers.

Israel says its offensive is stopping militants firing rockets, but at least five missiles hit southern Israel on Tuesday, with one reaching the town of Gedera, about 40km (25 miles) from the Gaza Strip.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ann Coulter's "Today" Show Appearance Canceled

Have Americans had enough of Ann Coulter? Let's hope so. Time will tell.

Has NBC developed a conscience? I doubt it. They probably just calculated that Ann Coulter and people of her ilk who spread hate rhetoric are not marketable right now. Apparently, CBS is willing to take the gamble. Let's see how it pays off.
About NBC
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Foreign & Domestic Automakers Reporting Declining Sales

This should not surprise anyone. 

Once upon a time, the problem might have be defined as US automakers losing ground to foreign competitors.  But today there is a new reality. Consumers are cash strapped and maxed out on credit.  Wages are stagnant.  Home equity has declined.

excerpt from:

US auto sales fall for many firms beyond Big Three |

The auto industry's downturn is not a Detroit problem, it's affecting companies around the world.

As the automotive industry closed out the 2008 calendar year, brands like Toyota, Honda, and BMW joined the US-based carmakers in reporting sizable sales declines. During the month of December, all those companies reported that sales were down 30 percent or more from the same month a year before.

It's a sign that the industry's problems are rooted heavily in the wider recession for US consumers, not just in the long-term challenges of product mix and labor costs that burden America's homegrown automakers.

The shared sacrifice doesn't make things any easier for the Detroit Three: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. GM reported a sales drop of 31 percent Monday, while Ford said its sales volume was down 32 percent. Chrysler's sales fell 53 percent in December.

The auto industry gets hit early and hard during recessions. That's because cars are big-ticket purchases that consumers can choose to postpone. In the current economic downturn, a range of factors have piled on: once-high gasoline prices, a squeeze on the availability of loans, and the decline in household wealth rooted in the drops in the housing and stock markets.