Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Plutocracy Now

Eight charts that explain something of what's wrong with America.

How Rich Are the Super-rich?

— By Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot

A huge share of the nation's economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

The richest controls 2/3 of America's net worth

Note: The 2007 data (the most current) doesn't reflect the impact of the housing market crash. In 2007, the bottom 60% of Americans had 65% of their net worth tied up in their homes. The top 1%, in contrast, had just 10%. The housing crisis has no doubt further swelled the share of total net worth held by the superrich.

Winners Take All

The superrich have grabbed the bulk of the past three decades' gains.

Aevrage Household income before taxes.

Out of Balance

A Harvard business prof and a behavioral economist recently asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth is distributed in the United States. Most thought that it’s more balanced than it actually is. Asked to choose their ideal distribution of wealth, 92% picked one that was even more equitable.

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

Capitol Gain

Why Washington is closer to Wall Street than Main Street.

median net worth of american families, median net worth for mebers of congress, your odds of being a millionaire, member of congress's odds of being a millionaire
member max. est. net worth
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) $451.1 million
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) $435.4 million
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) $366.2 million
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) $294.9 million
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) $285.1 million
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) $283.1 million
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) $231.2 million
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) $201.5 million
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) $136.2 million
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) $108.1 million
combined net worth: $2.8 billion
10 Richest Members of Congress 100% Voted to extend the cuts

Congressional data from 2009. Family net worth data from 2007. Sources: Center for Responsive Politics; US Census; Edward Wolff, Bard College.

Who's Winning?

For a healthy few, it's getting better all the time.

Gains and Losses in 2007-2009, Average CEO Pay vs. Average Worker Pay

A millionaire's atx rate, now and then. Share of Federal Tax revenue


Income distribution: Emmanuel Saez (PDF)

Net worth: Edward Wolff (PDF)

Household income/income share: Congressional Budget Office

Real vs. desired distribution of wealth: Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely (PDF)

Net worth of Americans vs. Congress: Federal Reserve (average); Center for Responsive Politics (Congress)

Your chances of being a millionaire: Calculation based on data from Wolff (PDF); US Census (household and population data)

Member of Congress' chances: Center for Responsive Politics

Wealthiest members of Congress: Center for Responsive Politics

Tax cut votes: New York Times (Senate; House)

Wall street profits, 2007-2009: New York State Comptroller (PDF)

Unemployment rate, 2007-2009: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Home equity, 2007-2009: Federal Reserve, Flow of Funds data, 1995-2004 and 2005-2009 (PDFs)

CEO vs. worker pay: Economic Policy Institute

Historic tax rates: Calculations based on data from The Tax Foundation

Federal tax revenue: Joint Committee on Taxation (PDF)

Read also: Kevin Drum on the decline of Big Labor, the rise of Big Business, and why the Obama era fizzled so soon.

Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

The Veto and the Case for Impeaching President Obama

By Alan Hart

In my view a president who allows a lobby group to put the interests of a foreign power above those of the country of which they are citizens, and who by doing so puts his fellow citizens more in harm’s way than they otherwise would be, is guilty of treason. Continue

With settlement resolution veto
Obama Has Joined Likud

By Gideon Levy

This weekend, a new member enrolled in Likud - and not just in the ruling party, but in its most hawkish wing.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like in Wisconsin,
Largest Crowd Yet—80,000—Opposes Union Busting

By John Nichols

The governor’s radical proposal [1] went to such extremes in its anti-labor bias that it sparked a protest movement so large, so steady and so determined in its demands that it is now commonly compared with the protests that have rocked Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.

Wisconsin: The First Stop in An American Uprising?

By Sarah van Gelder

It took awhile, but Wisconsin shows that the poor and middle class of the U.S. may be ready to push back. Madison may be only the beginning. Continue

Obama to Teachers: "Drop Dead"

By Mike Whitney

Obama could simply fly into Madison, deliver a few words of support for the strikers, and assure himself of a landslide victory in 2012. But he won't do that, because he's not the man that people thought he was. Continue

American who Sparked Diplomatic Crisis over Lahore Shooting was CIA Spy

By Declan Walsh in Lahore and Ewen MacAskill

Raymond Davis employed by CIA 'beyond shadow of doubt'. Continue

A CIA spy, a hail of bullets, three killed and a US-Pakistan diplomatic row : Barack Obama weighs in to Raymond Davis row as Pakistani anger grows over CIA agent blamed for civilian deaths in Lahore

American Held in Pakistan Shootings Worked With the C.I.A.: The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis’s ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk.

Davis CIA’s acting chief in Pakistan: Well-placed sources said that the highly-trained operative of the CIA was the second important man of the CIA in Pakistan after ex-station chief Jonathan Banks who left Pakistan after his cover was blown.

Why Pakistan Cannot Release the Man Who Calls Himself Raymond Davis

By Shaukat Qadir

By now journalists everywhere (except in the US) have come to the conclusion that there is far, far more to Raymond Davis than is being revealed by the US or by Pakistani officials.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?

By Matt Taibbi

February 17, 2011 "Rolling Stone"

Financial crooks brought down the world's economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them.

.... Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.

The rest of them, all of them, got off. Not a single executive who ran the companies that cooked up and cashed in on the phony financial boom — an industrywide scam that involved the mass sale of mismarked, fraudulent mortgage-backed securities — has ever been convicted. Their names by now are familiar to even the most casual Middle American news consumer: companies like AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley.

Most of these firms were directly involved in elaborate fraud and theft. Lehman Brothers hid billions in loans from its investors. Bank of America lied about billions in bonuses. Goldman Sachs failed to tell clients how it put together the born-to-lose toxic mortgage deals it was selling....

Yet not one of them has faced time behind bars....

Instead, federal regulators and prosecutors have let the banks and finance companies that tried to burn the world economy to the ground get off with carefully orchestrated settlements — whitewash jobs that involve the firms paying pathetically small fines without even being required to admit wrongdoing....

The systematic lack of regulation has left even the country's top regulators frustrated. Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant for the SEC, laughs darkly at the idea that the criminal justice system is broken when it comes to Wall Street. "I think you've got a wrong assumption — that we even have a law-enforcement agency when it comes to Wall Street," he says....

Episodes like this help explain why so many Wall Street executives felt emboldened to push the regulatory envelope during the mid-2000s. Over and over, even the most obvious cases of fraud and insider dealing got gummed up in the works, and high-ranking executives were almost never prosecuted for their crimes.

In 2003, Freddie Mac coughed up $125 million after it was caught misreporting its earnings by $5 billion; nobody went to jail. In 2006, Fannie Mae was fined $400 million, but executives who had overseen phony accounting techniques to jack up their bonuses faced no criminal charges. That same year, AIG paid $1.6 billion after it was caught in a major accounting scandal that would indirectly lead to its collapse two years later, but no executives at the insurance giant were prosecuted.

All of this behavior set the stage for the crash of 2008....

In the end, of course, it wasn't just the executives of Lehman and AIGFP who got passes. Virtually every one of the major players on Wall Street was similarly embroiled in scandal, yet their executives skated off into the sunset, uncharged and unfined....

All of which raises an obvious question: Why the hell not?

Gary Aguirre, the SEC investigator who lost his job when he drew the ire of Morgan Stanley, thinks he knows the answer....

All of this paints a disturbing picture of a closed and corrupt system, a timeless circle of friends that virtually guarantees a collegial approach to the policing of high finance. Even before the corruption starts, the state is crippled by economic reality: Since law enforcement on Wall Street requires serious intellectual firepower, the banks seize a huge advantage from the start by hiring away the top talent....

But even beyond that, the system is skewed by the irrepressible pull of riches and power. If talent rises in the SEC or the Justice Department, it sooner or later jumps ship for those fat NBA contracts. Or, conversely, graduates of the big corporate firms take sabbaticals from their rich lifestyles to slum it in government service for a year or two. Many of those appointments are inevitably hand-picked by lifelong stooges for Wall Street like Chuck Schumer, who has accepted $14.6 million in campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other major players in the finance industry, along with their corporate lawyers.

As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, his new chief of staff....

Which is not to say that the Obama era has meant an end to law enforcement. On the contrary: In the past few years, the administration has allocated massive amounts of federal resources to catching wrongdoers — of a certain type. Last year, the government deported 393,000 people, at a cost of $5 billion.... In Ohio last month, a single mother was caught lying about where she lived to put her kids into a better school district; the judge in the case tried to sentence her to 10 days in jail for fraud, declaring that letting her go free would "demean the seriousness" of the offenses.

So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000. Lying moms: one. Bankers: zero.

The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players.

But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It's not a crime.

Prison is too harsh. Get them to say they're sorry, and move on. Oh, wait — let's not even make them say they're sorry. That's too mean; let's just give them a piece of paper with a government stamp on it, officially clearing them of the need to apologize, and make them pay a fine instead. But don't make them pay it out of their own pockets, and don't ask them to give back the money they stole. In fact, let them profit from their collective crimes, to the tune of a record $135 billion in pay and benefits last year....

The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don't feel real; you don't see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes.

But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They're crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let's steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy.

They're attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone's claims of ownership equally.

When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality.

This article appears in the March 3, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available now on newsstands and will appear in the online archive February 18.

Read the complete article, and comments

Thursday, February 17, 2011

As Hillary (Hypocrite) Clinton Spoke On Freedom Of Speech
Veteran Bloodied, Bruised and Arrested for Standing Silently

By Partnership for Civil Justice

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her speech at George Washington University yesterday condemning governments that arrest protestors and do not allow free expression, 71-year-old Ray McGovern was grabbed from the audience in plain view of her by police and an unidentified official in plain clothes, brutalized and left bleeding in jail.

She never paused speaking.

When Secretary Clinton began her speech, Mr. McGovern remained standing silently in the audience and turned his back. Mr. McGovern, a veteran Army officer who also worked as a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years, was wearing a Veterans for Peace t-shirt.

Blind-sided by security officers who pounced upon him, Mr. McGovern remarked, as he was hauled out the door, "So this is America?" Mr. McGovern is covered with bruises, lacerations and contusions inflicted in the assault.

Mr. McGovern is being represented by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).

"It is the ultimate definition of lip service that Secretary of State Clinton would be trumpeting the U.S. government's supposed concerns for free speech rights and this man would be simultaneously brutalized and arrested for engaging in a peaceful act of dissent at her speech," stated attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the PCJF.

Mr. McGovern now works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Ray McGovern with bruises
Ray McGovern with bruises

Watch on Youtube:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Forgotten Man: Bradley Manning

Video Report - ABC '4 Corners', Australia

WikiLeaks & Julian Assange champion free speech, and expose the crimes of the powerful.

Bradley Manning, who allegedly released the incriminating classified documents published by WikiLeaks, is now languishing in a US military prison, suffering deprivation, torture and denial of legal rights - yet no charges have been laid against him.



The Trials of Bradley Manning, A Defense

Tomgram: Chase Madar

February 10, 2011

...When some of the U.S. government's dirty laundry was laid out in the bright light of day by WikiLeaks, ... its officials responded in a knee-jerk punitive manner in the case of Bradley Manning, now in extreme isolation in a Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia.

The urge of the Obama administration and the U.S. military to break his will, to crush him, is unsettling, to say the least. Whatever happens to Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, Washington is clearly intent on destroying this young Army private and then putting him away until hell freezes over.

It should not be this way.

Today, thanks to lawyer and essayist Chase Madar, TomDispatch is making a long-planned gesture towards Manning, whose acts, aimed at revealing the worst this country had to offer in recent years, will someday make him a genuine American hero -- but that’s undoubtedly little consolation to him now.

When it comes to America’s recent wars, its torture regimes, black sites, and extraordinary renditions, as well as the death and destruction visited on distant lands, blood is on many official American hands, but not on Manning’s. Those officials should be held accountable, not him.

With that in mind, TomDispatch offers its version of the defense of Bradley Manning.

(To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast video interview in which Chase Madar explores Manning’s case and his defense, click here, or download it to your iPod here.)


Why Bradley Manning Is a Patriot, Not a Criminal
An Opening Statement for the Defense of Private Manning

By Chase Madar

Click here to read more of this dispatch.




Higher Education in Venezuela: A New Citizen for a New Society

Saturday February 26 at 2pm

Venezuelan Embassy, 1 Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2HW

With guest speaker:

Ambassador Samuel Moncada



And British Venezuela specialists to be announced.

Currently, over 2 million Venezuelans are in higher education, compared to 600,000 in 1998, making Venezuela the country with the second largest percentage of students in HE in the region.

Since the Chávez government came to power, thirteen new universities have been created and over 1,600 university communities have been set up, which enable people to study close to where they live.

Furthermore, the Venezuelan Constitution guarantees education as a human right and social duty, with the state being responsible for it.

Come to this event to find out more about Venezuela's inspiring example that proves free education for all is possible.

A graph showing how Higher Education continues to expand in Venezuela.

Supported by Academics for Venezuela and:

Please register in advance for this event by emailing .

For more information, contact Dr Francisco Dominguez on . 11th National Congress
Communist Party of Viet Nam
Hanoi, January 12-19, 2011

Congress theme:
“Continuing the Party’s leadership and fighting capacity, upholding national strength, comprehensively spurring the renovation, and laying the foundations for Vietnam to become a modern industrial country by 2020”

Vietnam Kulturdag 19. marts 2011 på Østerbro - News from Vietnam

From -

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Only The Greedy

From David Grayling's blog:

Dangerous Creation

Check it out!

Building a Perfect Machine of Perpetual War
The Mexico-to-Colombia Security Corridor Advances

By Greg Grandin

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bomber Names Ex-CIA Operative in Cuba Bombings


Salvadoran Man Says He Received Explosives and $2K in Cash from U.S. Agent to Carry Out 1997 Hotel Bombing.

February 10, 2011 "Castro Slams U.S. Release of Ex-CIA Agent" - -(CBS News)

HAVANA — A Salvadoran man jailed in Cuba in connection with a string of 1990s hotel bombings says he told a U.S. prosecutor that he got explosives and money directly from a former CIA operative now on trial in Texas, and that he is willing to testify against him.

Otto Rene Rodriguez told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday that he received powerful C-4 explosives and $2,000 in cash directly from Luis Posada Carriles to carry out an Aug. 3, 1997, bombing at Havana's Melia Cohiba hotel. He was captured trying to enter the country on a subsequent trip with 1.5 kilos (3.3 pounds) of C-4 that Posada had given him, he said....

Posada, 82, is not on trial directly for the bombing campaign — but rather for allegedly lying about his involvement to federal authorities during immigration hearings after he sneaked into the U.S. in March 2005.

Cuba's decision to make Rodriguez and another confessed bomber, Ernesto Cruz Leon, available for the AP interview was part of an effort to show its willingness to help in the U.S. case against the Cuba-born Posada, who is considered Public Enemy No. 1 on his native island....

Rodriguez's story could be an important piece of the case against Posada, though he said that up until now he has not been asked to testify. He said he could not recall the name of the U.S. prosecutor who visited him in jail along with four FBI agents in late 2009 or early 2010.

Posada was on the CIA payroll from the early 1960s until 1976.

He participated indirectly in the Bay of Pigs invasion and later moved to Venezuela, where he served as head of that country's intelligence service. He was arrested for planning the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. A military court dismissed the charges, then Posada escaped from prison before a civilian trial against him was completed.

In the 1980s, he helped Washington provide aid to the Contra rebels fighting Nicaragua's leftist government. In 2000, he was arrested in Panama in connection with a plot to kill Fidel Castro during a summit there. He was pardoned in 2004 and turned up in the U.S. the following March, seeking American citizenship and prompting the immigration hearings that led to the current charges against him.

Cuba has complained bitterly that Posada has never been brought to justice for the bombings and other terrorist acts,
and that even now the most serious sanction he could face on the charge of lying to immigration officials is likely to be well under 10 years in jail....


There are five Cuban citizens who infiltrated the Cuban exile terrorists organizations in Miami, who are now in jail, For LIFE! These people infiltrated the organizations to protect Cuba from the kind of operations that Posada Carriles carried out and directed for a lifetime. After 9/11, when the US Govt asked the world for information about terrorist organizations, the Cuban govt shared the information it had of the Miami Cuban terrorist groups with the US Govt, and the US government response was to jail the five Cuban agents and charge them with espionage!

For more information, see "Cuban 5" under Links to Recommended Websites on this blog.