Tag: ek Politics

All Mobbed Up

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

One of the things about Juries is that they are ‘finders of fact’.  After a Jury has determined the ‘facts’ of a case you can pound the table all you want, but it better be about the law, otherwise you’re just pounding the table.

So upon his conviction we can say that it’s factually true that former Juvenile Court Judge Mark Ciavarella took $997,600 from prison developer Robert Mericle, which he also failed to report on his financial disclosure forms or pay taxes on.

Now Ciavarella’s attorneys claim this is a mighty ‘victory’ for their client since he was not found guilty of actually ‘Extorting’ the money and intend to appeal and, like the abusers of Bonasera’s daughter, he walked out of the courtroom free pending.

What prosecutors chose not to make an issue of is exactly what ‘services’ Mark Ciavarella provided for nearly $1 million.

He sentenced hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent children to prison ruining their lives and those of their families.

Now on the bribery, failure to disclose, and tax evasion counts, Ciavarella is technically liable for up to 157 years of hard time and he’s already been ordered to forfeit the money, but even if he loses his appeal he’s unlikely to serve more than 12 or 15 years.

I personally think that’s too good for someone who’s systemically perverted our justice system and the rule of law from a position of public trust, privilege, and power.  He should rot in Spandau for the rest of his long, long miserable life and die alone, despised and forgotten.

Oh, you want to know about the all mobbed up thing.

Pa. judge guilty of racketeering in kickback case

Associated Press

6 hours ago

Officials disclosed for the first time Friday that they were led to the judges by the reputed boss of a northeastern Pennsylvania Mafia family. William D’Elia – who regularly met for breakfast with Conahan – became a government informant after his 2006 arrest on charges of witness tampering and conspiracy to launder drug money.

“D’Elia led us to Judge Conahan,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Zubrod. “From there we began to focus on them, the financial dealings between Judge Conahan, Judge Ciavarella, Mericle, Powell.”

I said that I would see you because I had heard that you were a serious man, to be treated with respect. But I must say no to you and let me give you my reasons. It’s true I have a lot of friends in politics, but they wouldn’t be so friendly if they knew my business was drugs instead of gambling which they consider a harmless vice. But drugs, that’s a dirty business.

A Policy of Evasion and Deception

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

(h/t emptywheel)

Defector admits to WMD lies that triggered Iraq war

  • Man codenamed Curveball ‘invented’ tales of bioweapons
  • Iraqi told lies to try to bring down Saddam Hussein regime
  • Fabrications used by US as justification for invasion

Martin Chulov and Helen Pidd in Karlsruhe, The Guardian

Tuesday 15 February 2011 12.58 GMT

The defector who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted for the first time that he lied about his story, then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war.

The admission comes just after the eighth anniversary of Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations in which the then-US secretary of state relied heavily on lies that Janabi had told the German secret service, the BND. It also follows the release of former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s memoirs, in which he admitted Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction programme.

Janabi claimed he was first exposed as a liar as early as mid-2000, when the BND travelled to a Gulf city, believed to be Dubai, to speak with his former boss at the Military Industries Commission in Iraq, Dr Bassil Latif.

The Guardian has learned separately that British intelligence officials were at that meeting, investigating a claim made by Janabi that Latif’s son, who was studying in Britain, was procuring weapons for Saddam.

That claim was proven false, and Latif strongly denied Janabi’s claim of mobile bioweapons trucks and another allegation that 12 people had died during an accident at a secret bioweapons facility in south-east Baghdad.

The German officials returned to confront him with Latif’s version. “He says, ‘There are no trucks,’ and I say, ‘OK, when [Latif says] there no trucks then [there are none],'” Janabi recalled.

February 5, 2003-

Part 1

Parts 2 through 5 and transcript below.

Good News?

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Sitting at the Stars Hollow News Desk is kind of draining most times.  It’s not really the 2 hours a day, which you get used to, it’s that the news is almost uniformly bad.

However since yesterday a few items have come to my attention that are at least somewhat encouraging.

Firstly, the Japanese "scientific research" whale hunt has been suspended about a month early and with only about 10% of the projected catch of 1000.  Japan is blaming Sea Shepherd for creating “unsafe conditions” for its crews, but in fact the decision is probably based at least as much on declining demand for whale meat (over 6000 tons, a record, is in cold storage and annual per capita consumption is a mere 4 sashimi style slices a year) and growing international opposition including a suit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague from Australia, a top Japanese trading partner, that is expected to be adjudicated in 2013.  This is a pleasant surprise after last year’s effort to raise quotas at the International Whaling Commission.

There are also rumors that David Patreus is going to be rotated out of his position as commander of the ISAF.  The down side of this is that he’ll probably fail upwards to Chairman of the JCS, the up side of this is that it will provide an opportunity for Obama to break with Patreus’ strategy of endless occupation and airstrikes.

Well, we can hope.

Finally, even though the controversial Patriot Act Extension passed, it will only be for 3 months.  As dday puts it-

Ultimately, this probably only means that the Senate will spend a week of debate three months from now and then extend the whole thing past the Presidential election. But it’s so rare that civil libertarians see even a minor speed bump in the rush to deprive liberty, and even with the three-month extension, that’s what this represents.

My niece works at a T-Shirt kiosk in the Mall and this year for Christmas she got me one that says-


… like that does any good.

Frontier Justice

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Shawna Forde is a racist bigoted xenophobe.  She’s also a murderer.

For years she’s led Minutemen American Defense, a Militia in Arizona targeting Hispanics, and in 2009 she started robbing Hispanics she thought to be ‘drug dealers’ to raise money for the purchase of some property where she could organize and train her domestic terrorists.  Armed robbery is a tactic much favored by readers of The Turner Diaries.

On May 30th, 2009 she and 3 accomplices knocked on the door of Raul Flores identifying themselves as Police Officers.  When he asked to see her badge (“Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.”) her accomplice Jason Bush shot Raul Flores dead; shot his wife, Gina Marie, severely wounding her; and finally, while she begged and pleaded for life, put 2 bullets in the head of his 9 year old daughter, Brisenia.

The murders left the home for a few moments and Gina Marie was able to get to the kitchen and call 911.  Shawna Forde and Jason Bush found her on the phone and Shawna ordered Jason to ‘finish her off’.

In a development that will warm the cockles of every NRA member’s heart, Gina Marie had armed herself and after an exchange of fire the murderers fled.

Yesterday Shawna Forde was convicted of murder after 7 hours of deliberation.

Forde convicted in killing of Arivaca man, daughter

Kim Smith, Arizona Daily Star

Monday, February 14, 2011 11:27 am

Jurors must now decide if the facts of the case warrant the possibility of the death penalty.

I’m against the death penalty.  I think she should rot in jail for the rest of her long. long miserable life until she finally passes alone and naturally, despised and forgotten.

And please remember, this is just an isolated incident.

While you were sleeping

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Troll_nicht_fuettern_urversionI know the Egyptian Revolution has been big news, but also over the last few days a story has been developing about how Bank of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been hiring law firms and private security companies to attack progressive institutions and individuals.

In summary the story goes like this-

Security Firms Pitching Bank of America on WikiLeaks Response Proposed Targeting Glenn Greenwald

By: emptywheel, Wednesday February 9, 2011 8:49 am

On Saturday, private security firm HBGary Federal bragged to the FT that it had discovered who key members of the hacking group Anonymous are. In response, Anonymous hacked HB Gary Federal and got 44,000 of their emails and made them publicly available.

As TechHerald reports, among those documents was a presentation, “The Wikileaks Threat,” put together by three data intelligence firms for Bank of America in December. As part of it, they put together what they claimed was a list of important contributors to WikiLeaks. They suggested that Glenn Greenwald’s support was key to WikiLeaks’ ongoing survival.

Now at the time the big joke was these security firms had the sadly mistaken impression that Glenn Greenwald is the kind of person who would respond to blackmail threats by putting “professional preservation” before “cause” and principle.  But the rabbit hole is deeper than that Alice.

Our Global Elites

Italian prosecutors push for speedy trial in Berlusconi prostitution case

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has weathered many scandals during his career, could be in court within weeks to face charges related to underage prostitution.

By Nick Squires, Correspondent, The Christian Science Monitor

February 9, 2011

The prosecutors in Milan said they had “sufficient evidence” for the case to be sent to trial without the need for preliminary hearings, meaning the prime minister could face court within weeks.

Prosecutors have accused Berlusconi of paying to have sexual relations with a 17-year-old nightclub dancer, Karima el-Mahroug. Investigators also allege that the prime minister abused his office by putting pressure on police in Milan to have the Moroccan-born teenager released from custody after she was arrested on suspicion of theft – an allegation that carries a maximum 12-year prison term.

Berlusconi has admitted personally calling a police station in Milan to intervene in the case, justifying his actions by saying that he believed Ms. Mahroug’s claim that she was the granddaughter of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.

More from The Guardian.

Of course he still fucked her, even though he believed that.  That’s kind of disrespectful to Muslims don’t you think?

And in other news showing how utterly corrupt our Global Elites are-

Nicolas Sarkozy orders ministers to holiday in France

President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday ordered ministers to pay the ultimate price after two scandals over hospitality from disputed North African leaders and take all their holidays in France.

By Henry Samuel, The Telegraph

5:52PM GMT 09 Feb 2011

The presidential order came a day after François Fillon, the prime minister, admitted taking a holiday in Egypt with his family paid for by President Hosni Mubarak’s government.

His admission came as Michèle Alliot-Marie, the foreign minister, fended off calls to resign for taking a hospitality jet while on holiday in Tunisia over Christmas and with unrest under way. The plane belonged to a Tunisian billionaire close to the country’s ousted president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

“The crumbling of the public spirit has reached the very top of the state,” said Jean-Marc Ayrault, the Socialist parliamentary leader who had led calls for Mrs Alliot-Marie to resign. Mr Fillon pledged to propose a law to curb conflicts of interest “in the coming weeks”.

Tip of the Iceberg

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Banks face $60 billion mortgage hit: S&P

Cleaning up the mortgage mess isn’t getting any cheaper.

Posted by Colin Barr, Fortune

February 8, 2011 12:48 pm

The banking industry could find itself picking up a $60 billion tab for souring home loans, Standard & Poor’s Ratings says in its latest report on so-called mortgage putbacks.

When S&P last looked at the issue in November, it said the six biggest U.S. lenders faced $43 billion in mortgage-repurchase costs. That was itself up from July’s estimate, which held that the leading banks would have to build their reserves to the tune of $24 billion.

February’s estimate stems largely from rising projected costs to settle claims by private mortgage securities investors and monoline insurers.

S&P has been raising its forecasts for the costs of settling disputes with private investors and monoline insurers who promised to pay when borrowers fell behind. The rating agency now estimates the cost of settling those cases at $29 billion, evenly split between the two categories.

Rising projected costs for settling the private label and monoline claims could hit bank earnings at a time when tighter rules and slow economic growth are already weighing on profits. What’s more, the report highlights the risk that the banks could yet take more lumps, depending on how various cases turn out and whether investors become more aggressive in pressing their grievances.

The world’s dumbest banks

Ireland’s disastrous banks continue to punch above their weight.

Posted by Colin Barr, Fortune

February 9, 2011 6:36 am

(A) list of the most reckless banks wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Merrill Lynch, which was sold in distress to Bank of America (BAC) with $668 billion in assets just before Lehman Brothers failed, or Wachovia, which was raffled off to Wells Fargo (WFC) a couple weeks later with $764 billion worth.

The good news is that one of the guys who made out like a bandit while running into the ground, former CEO Sean FitzPatrick (of Anglo Irish Bank), has already reached this acceptance state. This after he took 80 million euros in loans from the bank without telling shareholders, then declared he had frittered it all away.

“I am very happy to put my hands up,” he told the Irish Sunday Times last month. “I am very happy to apologize to all my creditors. I don’t feel ashamed, but I do feel regret, very serious regret, and I am sorry that it is going to cause people losses.” Talk about an understatement.

I repeat my offer to lose $24 Billion for a much more reasonable rate than 80 Million Euros.  I bet I could manage to do it for a mere Million or 2 a year.

How’s that austerity thing working out for you? Part 3

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Long story short- Samuelson Economics is science.  It’s predictive and the predictions are confirmed by observation.

Voodoo Economics is just that.  A bunch of rattle shaking shamen dancing around you shouting and chanting in tongues motivated by vanity, greed, and the academic desire for novelty.

Let’s start with Bloomberg shall we?

Conservative Austerity Idea Is Failing: David G. Blanchflower

By David Blanchflower, Bloomberg News

Jan 27, 2011 10:15 PM ET

Fiscal austerity has already been started in Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, and this seems to be pushing all of them back into recession. Over the last four quarters, growth in Greece was negative and falling, and bond investors are once more demanding sky-high returns to compensate their risk. The excuse in these countries was that they have little choice because they are stuck in the European monetary union and don’t have the ability to depreciate their exchange rate.

The U.K. may be a purer case of the harm austerity at the wrong time can inflict. Britain now looks as if it is headed back into recession on fear about the damage that will be done by massive spending cuts and tax increases, which haven’t even gone into effect yet. Government ministers with their talk of austerity have already smashed confidence.

Despite the government’s claims that its intent was to raise confidence, consumer and business confidence tumbled right after the new government took office.

Businesses and consumers know what is coming and have cut back accordingly. Retail spending has flat-lined. The balance of trade is deteriorating. Unemployment is rising, and house prices have started to fall again.

The Great British austerity experiment

With deficit hawks poised in the US, we watch with great interest UK economic policy. It’s not looking an enviable example so far

Dean Baker, The Guardian

Tuesday 1 February 2011 21.00 GMT

The elite media and the politicians whom they promote would love to see the United States follow the austerity path of the UK’s new government. However, if this path takes the UK into dangerous economic waters, it could provide a powerful warning to the public in the United States before we make the same mistake.

The British economy looks like it is doing its part. The fourth-quarter GDP report showing that the economy went into reverse and shrank at a 2.0% annual rate is exactly the sort of warning that many of us here were expecting. Weather-related factors may have slowed growth some, but you would have to do some serious violence to the data to paint a positive picture. Of course, the austerity in the UK is just beginning. There will likely be much worse pain to come, with a real possibility that the country will experience a double-dip recession, or at least a prolonged period of stagnation.

The takeaway lesson should be “austerity does not work; don’t go there.” Unfortunately, in the land of faith-based economics, evidence does not count for much. The UK may pursue a disastrous austerity path and those of us in the United States may still have to follow the same road anyhow. But we opponents of that course all appreciate the willingness of the UK to demonstrate the foolishness of this action.

McCaskill Leads Democratic Rush Toward Austerity

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Wednesday February 2, 2011 11:08 am

You could simply not accomplish the cuts in this proposal without massive reductions to Social Security and Medicare. And the fact that this puts those programs “on-budget,” despite their dedicated funding source, is the real tell here. That means that it would be part of the automatic cuts from OMB.

Harry Reid opposes this bill and will fight efforts to put it into action. But it’s only one of multiple efforts where Democrats are crossing the aisle in a bid for austerity. Mark Udall pledged support for a balanced budget amendment, introducing the bill with Richard Shelby. Kent Conrad – who finds McCaskill-Corker unacceptable because it does nothing on the revenue side, which just shows you how extreme a proposal it is – has been working to revive the Bowles-Simpson cat food plan on the Senate Budget Committee. Jeanne Shaheen and Johnny Isakson’s proposal for a two-year budget cycle is perhaps the most inoffensive of these plans (I’d actually go along with that one).

The point is that, with a struggle over the new budget and the debt limit looming, and with conservative activists rallying their representatives to stand firm, you have multiple Democrats perfectly to cut and cap spending, reduce Social Security benefits, and basically drown the government in the bathtub the way that conservatives have always wanted.

What’s In Taco Bell Beef?

Nothing unusual about Taco Bell’s meat, experts say

Ingredients what you’d expect from fast-food restaurants; no advertising rules broken

By Gregory Karp and Ellen Gabler, Tribune reporters

February 2, 2011

Soy lecithin (is) a byproduct of soy bean processing that is used as an emulsifier. That means it helps blend and bind substances that would otherwise separate like oil and water.

(A)utolyzed yeast extract. Made by breaking down yeast cells with salt, it’s a flavor-enhancing additive similar to monosodium glutamate (MSG), without the known side effects of MSG some people experience. It gives foods a full, savory, beeflike taste, Brewer said.

Maltodextrin is derived from starches, usually corn in the United States. It can be used as a sweetener and a thickener.

Isolated oat product is a binder, kind of like how an egg is used in homemade hamburgers or meatballs so they don’t fall apart in the pan. And soybean oil is used as a so-called anti-dusting agent, meaning it prevents finely ground, powdery ingredients from literally billowing into the air, as would happen if you clapped flour-coated hands.

Caramel color is caramelized sugar used to give the mixture a consistent brown appearance, Brewer said. Heating some of the ingredients, such as cocoa powder and chili pepper, causes them to change colors and potentially combine to turn the mixture a hue the customer wouldn’t like, she said. It doubles as a flavor component. Flavor experts identify caramel as a component flavor of beef that can be lost in processing, said Betsy Booren, director of scientific affairs for the American Meat Institute.

“Natural smoke flavor” can be added by burning wood chips, capturing the smoke and piping it into the oven where meat is cooking, similar to how you burn wood chips to give smoky flavor to meats on a backyard grill, Booren said. The same aroma can also be captured in a viscous liquid that can later be sprayed onto meat to give it a smoky flavor, the method probably used for ground beef, she said.

Haiti Developments

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

No doubt by now you’re aware of the return of ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, but you may have missed the news that the only democratically elected President of Haiti ever, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is also returning to Haiti.

This takes place against the backdrop of the devastating earthquake one year ago and the announcement tomorrow of the results of the first round of another Presidential election where the clear winner was Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady.

The second place on the ballot was disputed between Michel Martelly, a popular singer, and the hand picked choice of current President Rene Preval- Jude Celestin.

Celestin had a slim lead in the vote count, but widespread allegations of fraud are leading to reports of his withdrawal from the race.

Latest Wikileaks Revelation

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

It’s been a long time so in case you’ve forgotten, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is the Libyan Intellegence officer convicted of organizing the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 including 11 people in the town of Lockerbie, Scotland where the plane fell to earth.

Al-Megrahi was imprisoned from 2001 to 2009 when he was released for compassionate reasons with a supposedly terminal cancer diagnosis.  He’s still alive and was greeted on his return to Libya as a hero.

At the time of his release there was understandable outrage and the Blair/Brown British Labor government steadfastly maintained that the decision was made by Scottish authorities alone.

Well, it turns out that was a lie.

WikiLeaks cables show Government was ‘playing false’ over Lockerbie bomber

By Christopher Hope, and Robert Winnett, The Daily Telegraph

9:21 AM GMT 01 Feb 2011

A Foreign Office minister sent Libyan officials detailed legal advice on how to use Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s cancer diagnosis to ensure he was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, documents obtained by the Daily Telegraph show.

The Duke of York is also said to have played a behind-the-scenes role in encouraging the terrorist’s release.

The Scottish First Minister said the revelations confirm that while his administration acted according to its public pronouncements on the affair, Tony Blair’s Government was behaving duplicitously.

“The cables … show that the former UK Government were playing false on the issue, with a different public position from their private one,” said a statement released by Mr Salmond’s office.

Some Findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Report

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Wall Street Appears To Have Violated Federal Securities Law, Crisis Panel Finds

Shaihien Nasiripour, The Huffington Post

01/27/11 10:28 PM

Wall Street firms that sold mortgage-backed securities appear to have violated federal securities laws by misleading investors on the quality of the underlying mortgages, a bipartisan panel created by Congress to investigate the root causes of the financial crisis concluded.

In September, the crisis commission heard testimony from Keith Johnson, former president of Clayton Holdings, one of the nation’s biggest mortgage research companies. Johnson testified that some 28 percent of the loans given to homeowners with poor credit examined by his firm on behalf of Wall Street banks failed to meet basic standards. Yet nearly half appear to have been sold to investors regardless, he added.

Last April, the commission heard from Richard Bowen, a whistleblower and former chief underwriter for Citigroup’s consumer-lending unit. Bowen told the panel that in the middle of 2006, he discovered more than 60 percent of the mortgages the bank had purchased from other firms and then sold to investors were “defective,” meaning they did not satisfy the bank’s own lending criteria. On November 3, 2007, Bowen sent an e-mail to top Citi officials, including Robert Rubin, a former Treasury Secretary. Bowen’s warnings appear to have been ignored.

In Panel’s Report, Stern Warning on Repeating Financial Crisis

By SEWELL CHAN, The New York Times

Published: January 27, 2011

WASHINGTON – Behind closed doors, Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, called it “the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression.”

He said that 12 of the country’s 13 most important financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, had been on the verge of collapse “within a week or two.” (The apparent exception: JPMorgan Chase.)

Enabling those developments, the panel found, were a bias toward deregulation by government officials, and mismanagement by financiers who failed to perceive the risks.

Goldman Sachs Got Billions From AIG For Its Own Account, Crisis Panel Finds

Shaihien Nasiripour, The Huffington Post

01/26/11 10:23 PM

Goldman Sachs collected $2.9 billion from the American International Group as payout on a speculative trade it placed for the benefit of its own account, receiving the bulk of those funds after AIG received an enormous taxpayer rescue, according to the final report of an investigative panel appointed by Congress.

The fact that a significant slice of the proceeds secured by Goldman through the AIG bailout landed in its own account–as opposed to those of its clients or business partners– has not been previously disclosed. These details about the workings of the controversial AIG bailout, which eventually swelled to $182 billion, are among the more eye-catching revelations in the report to be released Thursday by the bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.

At a hearing on July 1, 2010–two weeks before Goldman sent the e-mail acknowledging how $2.9 billion in AIG funds wound up in its own account–the crisis panel questioned Goldman’s chief financial officer, David A. Viniar and managing director David Lehman. Both said they knew nothing about AIG funds landing in the bank’s private coffers, according to a transcript of the hearing.

The report concludes that Goldman collected the $2.9 billion as payment for so-called proprietary trades made for its own account–essentially successful bets on large pools of financial instruments.

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