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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

GCHQ secret unit involved in domestic internet manipulation - report

A secretive unit of the UK’s GCHQ intelligence agency reportedly helps traditional law enforcement with domestic spying and online propaganda, recently published documents reveal.

Documents recently published by the Intercept show how a secretive unit of the GCHQ, called the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), has been involved in domestic operations when not busy with counterterrorism operations abroad.

A 42-page report from 2011, entitled ‘Behavioral Science Support for JTRIG’s Effects and Online HUMINT [Human Intelligence] Operations,’ which details JTRIG’s activities, has recently been made public. It describes how the unit uses tactics to manipulate public opinion based on scientific and psychological analyses.

Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman, who released the report, suggest that the targets of these manipulations are “traditionally the province of law enforcement rather than intelligence agencies.”

The report states that the JTRIG works with such agencies as the Metropolitan police, Security Service (MI5), Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Border Agency, Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and National Public Order and Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).

The GCHQ unit collaborates with the agencies, “providing intelligence for judicial outcomes,” monitoring “domestic extremist groups such as the English Defence League by conducting online HUMINT,” “denying, deterring or dissuading” criminals and “hacktivists,” and “deterring, disrupting or degrading online consumerism of stolen data or child porn.”

Meanwhile, GCHQ spreadsheets recently published by the Intercept show that the spy agency provides intelligence to the Bank of England, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, departments dealing with agriculture and whaling activities, government financial divisions, as well as police agencies and law enforcement agencies to improve “civil and family justice.”


Although the British spy unit has been purported by officials to be involved in international intelligence in places like Iran, Afghanistan and Argentina, “the closest the group seemed to get to home was in its targeting of transnational ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous,” the Intercept reported.

An August 2009 JTRIG memo entitled ‘Operational Highlights’ and cited by the Intercept reportedly “boasts of 'GCHQ’s first serious crime effects operation' against a website that was identifying police informants and members of a witness protection program.” Another operation, according to the site, focused on an online forum which allegedly “used to facilitate and execute online fraud.” GCHQ's support has also been credited with helping “to assist the UK negotiating team on climate change,” according to the report.


“Beyond JTRIG’s targeting of Anonymous, other parts of GCHQ targeted political activists deemed to be “radical,” even monitoring the visits of people to the WikiLeaks website,” The Intercept reported, adding that “GCHQ also stated in one internal memo that it studied and hacked popular software programs to 'enable police operations' and gave two examples of cracking decryption software on behalf of the National Technical Assistance Centre, one 'a high-profile police case' and the other a child abuse investigation.” 

Documents leaked by Snowden revealed that JTRIG's secretive activities descended to some particularly ‘dirty tricks’ like deploying sexual ‘honey traps’ to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks and warping online discourse, just to name a few.

The Global Template for Collapse: The Enchanting Charms of Cheap, Easy Credit

Cheap, easy credit has created moral hazard and nurtured magical thinking throughout the global economy.

According to polls, the majority of Greek citizens want the benefits of membership in the euro/EU and the end of EU-imposed austerity. The idea that these are mutually exclusive doesn't seem to register.

This is the discreet charm of magical thinking: it promises an escape from the difficulties of hard choices, tough trade-offs, the disruption of vested interests and most painfully, the breakdown of the debt machine that has enabled the distribution of swag to virtually everyone in the system (a torrent to those at the top, a trickle to the majority at the bottom, but swag nonetheless).

If we had to summarize the insidious charm of magical thinking, we might start with the overpowering appeal of using credit to ease all difficulties.

Need money to fund various healthcare/national defense rackets? Borrow the money. Need to keep people employed building ghost cities in the middle of nowhere? Borrow the money. Need to keep buying shares of the company's stock to push the value of each share ever higher? Borrow the money.

The problem with cheap, easy credit is Cheap, easy credit destroys discipline. Thelifetime costs of debt taken on to fund bridges to nowhere, healthcare/national defense rackets, ghost cities, stock buybacks, etc. are never calculated. Theopportunity costs are also never calculated.

When credit is costly and hard to get, marginal borrowers can't get loans and nobody dares borrow at high rates of interest for low-yield, high-risk schemes.When credit is costly and hard to get, what doesn't pencil out doesn't get funded.

When credit is cheap and easy to get, every scheme and racket gets funding because hey, why not? The cost is low (at the moment) and the gain might be fantastic. But even if the gain is unknown, the kickback/campaign contributions make it worthwhile even if the scheme fails.

Professional economists are duty-bound to claim national economies are not merely extensions of households. But this is just another falsity passed off assophisticated truth by a profession that is being discredited by the reality of its failed policies, failed theories and failed predictions.

Since human psychology remains the dominant force in all economics, the household and national economies can only differ in scale.

In the 1970s, credit was scarce and hard to get. Young workers qualified for a $300 limit credit card, and it took careful management of that responsibility (always paying on time, etc.) to get a meager increase to $500. Mortgage rates were high (10%+) and your income and household balance sheet were scrutinized before any lender took a chance on lending you tens of thousands of dollars to buy a house. After all, the bank would be stuck with the losses if you defaulted.

Then came financialization. Banks could skim the profits from originating loans and offload the risk of default onto towns in Norway, credulous pension funds and other greater fools.

And if a default threatened the bank--for example, Greece in 2011--the bank simply bought political power and shifted the debt onto taxpayers. "The ATMs will stop working," the bankers threatened their political flunkies in Congress in 2008, and the bought-and-paid-for toadies in Congress and the Federal Reserve obediently shifted trillions of dollars in private liabilities and sketchy debt-based "assets" such as mortgages onto the taxpayers and the Fed balance sheet.

Here is the debt in 2009--mostly owed to private banks and bondholders:

Here is the debt in 2015--almost all was shifted onto the backs of taxpayers:

Ask yourself this: if you could shift risk and losses to the taxpayers, how would that affect your investing/gambling? Wouldn't you take much higher risks, knowing that losses would not fall to you but to abstract taxpayers? Of course you would, and this is the essence of moral hazard--the disconnect of risk and consequence.

Cheap, easy credit has created moral hazard and nurtured magical thinking throughout the global economy. The heart of magical thinking is that consequences have been disappeared or shifted onto others by financial enchantment.

The interest on the debt will be paid by growth.

We will make so much money on this investment/gamble, paying off the debt will be easy.

This bet can't lose because the Fed/People's Bank of China/ECB/Bank of Japan etc. will never let the market decline.

When I write about the Martian Central Bank issuing quatloos to save Earth's bankrupt financial system, we know it's a joke: the Martian Central Bank and the quatloo do not exist.

French Economy In “Dire Straits”, “Worse Than Anyone Can Imagine”, Leaked NSA Cable Reveals

Earlier today Wikileaks released a 

new batch of NSA intercepts 

among which one in particular stands out: an intercepted communication which reveals that then French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici believes the French economic situation was far worse, as of mid-2012, than perceived.

Specifically, Moscovici who served as French finance minister until 2014 and then became European commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, used some very colorful language, i.e., the French economic situation was “worse than anyone [could] imagine and drastic measures [would] have to be taken in the next two years”. 

Needless to say, no drastic measures were taken. In fact, no measures at all were taken because thanks to the ECB’s “whatever it takes” 2012 intervention and subsequent QE, pushed French yields to record low levels making the need for any reform moot (a la Greece, until the whole circus exploded).

He remarks about that the situation with the automotive industry was more critical than a pre-retirement unemployment supplement known as AER, which he also thought wouldn’t have had a severe impact on elections (while senator Bourquin thought would have driven voters to right-wing National Front).

Moscovici’s conclusion was that “the situation is dire” although the finance minister ignored warnings that without a “pre-retirement unemployment supplement known as the AER… the ruling Socialist Party will have a rough time in the industrial basin of the country, with voters turning to the rightwing National Front.”

Moscovici disagreed. Fast forward 3 years, and not only did French unemployment just hit an all time highconfirming that the economic situation has indeed never been more dire…

… but the frontrunner for the next French president is none other than National Front’s Marine Le Pen, who will no doubt seize this memo as further proof of the terrible economic state of the country and leverage it even more to her benefit, and add even more fuel to the Frexit fire. As a reminder, Le Pen now prefers to be called Madame Frexit because as she warned last week, when she becomes president, unless the Eurozone yields to her demands, France will be the next country out of the monetary project effectively ending the Eurozone. For more read “Forget Grexit, “Madame Frexit” Says France Is Next: French Presidential Frontrunner Wants Out Of “Failed” Euro.”

Here is the intercept (link):

French Finance Minister Says Economy in Dire Straits, Predicts Two Atrocious Years Ahead (TS//SI//NF) (TS//SI//NF) The French economic situation is worse than anyone can imagine and drastic measures will have to be taken in the next 2 years, according to Finance, Economy, and Trade Minister Pierre Moscovici.

On 19 July, Moscovici, under pressure to reestablish a preretirement unemployment supplement known as the AER, warned that the situation is dire. Upon learning that there are no funds available for the AER, French Senator Martial Bourquin warned Moscovici that without the AER program the ruling Socialist Party will have a rough time in the industrial basin of the country, with voters turning to the rightwing National Front. Moscovici disagreed, asserting that the inability to reinstitute the AER will have no impact in electoral terms, besides, the situation with faltering automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen is more important than the AER.

(COMMENT: PSA has announced plans to close assembly plants  and lay off some 8,000 workers.)

Moscovici warned that the 2013 budget is not going to be a “good news budget,” with the government needing to find at least an additional 33 billion euros ($39.9 billion). Nor will 2014 be a good year. Bourquin persisted, warning that the Socialist Party will find itself in a situation similar to that of Socialist former Spanish President Zapatero, who was widely criticized for his handling of his country’s debt situation. Moscovici countered that it was not Zapatero whose behavior the French government would emulate, but rather Social Democrat former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

(COMMENT: Schroeder, chancellor from 1998 to 2005, was widely credited with helping to restore German competitiveness. He favored shifting from pure austerity measures to measures that encourage economic growth and advocated a common EU financial policy.)


French diplomatic

And the pdf


This article was posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 5:58 am


Monday, 29 June 2015

Puerto Rico Announces Bond Payment "Moratorium"

Having concluded last night that Puerto Rico debt is "unpayable," and that his government could not continue to borrow money to address budget deficits while asking its residents, already struggling with high rates of poverty and crime, to shoulder most of the burden through tax increases and pension cuts, Padilla confirmed tonight that (from Bloomberg):


Likening his state's situation to that of Detroit and New York City (though not Greece), Padilla concluded, the economic situation is "extremely difficult," which is odd because just a few years ago when they issued that bond - everything was awesome?

When will PR overtake Greece again?


Puerto Rico's Governor is speaking on national TV:


And the punchline:


We suspect the 70 handle will quickly become a 50 handle or less...


As AP reports,

Puerto Rico's governor says he will create a financial team that will meet with bondholders and seek a moratorium on debt payments.


Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla made the announcement Monday night after saying that the U.S. territory's $72 billion public debt is unpayable. He said he would seek a moratorium of several years but did not provide specifics.


Garcia's comments come just hours after international economists released a gloomy report on Puerto Rico's economy.


Legislators are still debating a $9.8 billion budget that calls for $674 million in cuts and sets aside $1.5 billion to help pay off the debt. The budget has to be approved by Tuesday.

As we explained previously,

What happens next is unclear: "Puerto Rico, as a commonwealth, does not have the option of bankruptcy. A default on its debts would most likely leave the island, its creditors and its residents in a legal and financial limbo that, like the debt crisis in Greece, could take years to sort out."

So without the "luxury" of default, what is PR to do? Why petition to be allowed to file Chapter 9 naturally: after all everyone is doing it.

In Washington, the García Padilla administration has been pushing for a bill that would allow the island’s public corporations, like its electrical power authority and water agency, to declare bankruptcy. Of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion in bonds, roughly $25 billion were issued by the public corporations.


Some officials and advisers say Congress needs to go further and permit Puerto Rico’s central government to file for bankruptcy — or risk chaos.


“There are way too many creditors and way too many kinds of debt,” Mr. Rhodes said in an interview. “They need Chapter 9 for the whole commonwealth.”

García Padilla said that his government could not continue to borrow money to address budget deficits while asking its residents, already struggling with high rates of poverty and crime, to shoulder most of the burden through tax increases and pension cuts. Where have we heard that before...

He said creditors must now “share the sacrifices” that he has imposed on the island’s residents.


“If they don’t come to the table, it will be bad for them,” said Mr. García Padilla, who plans to speak about the fiscal crisis in a televised address to Puerto Rico residents on Monday evening. “What will happen is that our economy will get into a worse situation and we’ll have less money to pay them. They will be shooting themselves in the foot.”

And the punchline:

“My administration is doing everything not to default,” Mr. García Padilla said. “But we have to make the economy grow,” he added. “If not, we will be in a death spiral.”

And this one: any deal with hedge funds, who are desperate to inject more capital in PR so they can avoid writing down their bond exposure in case of a default, "would only postpone Puerto Rico’s inevitable reckoning. “It will kick the can,” Mr. García Padilla said. “I am not kicking the can.”

We wonder how long before Tsipras, who earlier was quoting FDR, steals this line too.

And speaking of Prexit, how long before Puerto Rico exits the Dollarzone... and will there be a Preferendum first or will the governor, in his can kick-less stampede, just make a unilateral decision to join Greece, Ukraine, Venezuela and countless other soon to be broke countries in the twilight zone of Keynesian sovereign failures?

*  *  *

But Puerto Rico is not Detroit... well actually it is... worse:


Puerto Rico's debt is nearly half that of California for a population one-tenth the size... (via WSJ)

IMF has made €2.5 billion profit out of Greece loans

Ahead of the payment of €462 million by Greece to the IMF on Thursday 9 April, figures released by the Jubilee Debt Campaign show that the IMF has made €2.5 billion of profit out of its loans to Greece since 2010. If Greece does repay the IMF in full this will rise to €4.3 billion by 2024.

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. Photo: IMF Staff Photographer/Michael Spilotro

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. Photo: IMF Staff Photographer/Michael Spilotro

The IMF has been charging an effective interest rate of 3.6% on its loans to Greece. This is far more than the interest rate the institution needs to meet all its costs, currently around 0.9%. If this was the actual interest rate Greece had been paying the IMF since 2010, it would have spent €2.5 billion less on payments.

Out of its lending to all countries in debt crisis between 2010 and 2014 the IMF has made a total profit of €8.4 billion, over a quarter of which is effectively from Greece. All of this money has been added to the Fund’s reserves, which now total €19 billion. These reserves would be used to meet the costs from a country defaulting on repayments. Greece’s total debt to the IMF is currently €24 billion.

Tim Jones, economist at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said:

“The IMF’s loans to Greece have not only bailed out banks which lent recklessly in the first place, they have actively taken even more money out of the country. This usurious interest adds to the unjust debt forced on the people of Greece.”


Greece: Why Is a Nation of 11 Million Causing Stock Market Losses Around the World Today?

Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece, Asks Parliament for Referendum on July 5, 2015

Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece, Asks Parliament for Referendum on July 5, 2015

Greece has just a tad more population, at 11 million, than New York City and its boroughs. But this morning, it has caused hundreds of billions of dollars to be erased from stock and bond markets around the world.

The situation in Greece this morning is as follows: banks and the Athens Stock Exchange have been closed until at least July 6, following a breakdown in talks between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the country’s creditors. The July 6 date stems from the vote in the Greek parliament over the weekend to hold a July 5 referendum allowing Greek citizens to vote on the austerity program offered by creditors in exchange for extending more loans to Greece. As a result of a run on the banks as the talks disintegrated, capital controls have now been imposed in Greece, allowing Greek depositors to withdraw no more than just €60 a day (about $66). Moody’s is out with a report this morning indicating that private sector deposits in the Greek banking system have diminished to approximately $133 billion, a decline of approximately $49 billion since November of last year.

This Tuesday, a loan made to Greece by the International Monetary Fund comes due, totaling 1.6 billion Euros, and it is highly unlikely that Greece will be able to make the payment, putting it officially into debt default.

How Greece will climb out of this predicament is very much in doubt. This morning its two year notes have sold off sharply with yields at one point reaching 33 percent. Although the Athens Stock Exchange is closed, Greek bank stocks trade on other international markets and they are seeing significant losses. Bloomberg Business reported this morning that “The National Bank of Greece SA plunged 30 percent in early New York trading.”

The crisis in Greece is spilling over into foreign stock and bond markets for a number of reasons. An immediate impact has been investors backing away from the bonds of other weak Eurozone countries like Portugal, Spain and Italy, pushing their yields up and bond prices down. Heretofore, adopting the Euro was seen as a permanent, irreversible position. But should Greece decide to exit the Euro to save itself from massive economic dislocations, the permanency of the Euro is thrown into doubt should other weak countries have similar difficulties.

How Activists Won Reparations for the Survivors of Chicago Police Department Torture

Gregory Banks, whose conviction for a 1983 murder was thrown out because his confession had been coerced, reacts at a news conference outside of a City Council meeting at City Hall in Chicago, May 6, 2015. The City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations package Wednesday for victims of police torture during the 1970s and ‘80s under the watch of a notorious police commander, Jon Burge. (Andrew Nelles/The New York Times)Gregory Banks, whose conviction for a 1983 murder was thrown out because his confession had been coerced, reacts at a news conference outside of a City Council meeting at City Hall in Chicago, May 6, 2015. The City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations package for victims of police torture during the 1970s and '80s under the watch of a notorious police commander, Jon Burge. (Andrew Nelles/The New York Times)

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The 20-year reign of police torture that was orchestrated by Commander Jon Burge - and implicated former Mayor Richard M. Daley and a myriad of high ranking police and prosecutorial officials - has haunted Chicago for decades. In These Times has covered Burge and the movement to achieve a modicum of justice for his victims very closely over the years (you can read our past coverage herehereherehere, and here). Finally, on May 6, 2015, in response to a movement that has spanned a generation, the Chicago City Council formally recognized this sordid history by passing historic legislation that provides reparations to the survivors of police torture in Chicago.

The achievement was monumental. And given that Friday was the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, it seems like an apt time to reflect on the history of this movement - and how it won.

Reparations' Beginnings

The right to financial compensation and full rehabilitation for Chicago police torture survivors who had no legal recourse was first raised in September 2005 by the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights in a submission to the UN Committee Against Torture, (CAT). The next May, Joey Mogul, an attorney at the People's Law Office (where I work) again raised these issues to the CAT when she appeared before it. The call was taken up by Black People Against Police Torture, a grassroots organization, and its leader, attorney Standish Willis, who demanded, as part of their campaign against the 2016 Olympics being held in Chicago, that Mayor Richard M. Daley and the city of Chicago make a formal apology to all Chicago police torture survivors and provide financial compensation and psychological services to them.

These demands were reasserted in a shadow report submitted in December of 2007 to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Unfortunately, these demands got little attention in the local media.

In October 2008, Jon Burge was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago for lying about whether he tortured African-American suspects with electric shock, suffocation and other medieval techniques from 1972 to 1991. The indictment followed a $20 million settlement that was approved, in January 2008, by the Chicago City Council and awarded to four African American men who were tortured into giving false confessions and spent decades on death row for crimes they did not commit.

At the City Council session that January, from which Mayor Daley was conspicuously absent, African-American Aldermen Howard Brookins and Leslie Hairston offered an impromptu apology to the men. Veteran City Hall Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman reported Brookins as saying that "this city still owes [an apology to] these people, who spent years in prison and some on Death Row, who were tortured in ways that put Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay to shame. On behalf of the City Council and the corporation counsel, we apologize to all of you."

Directly after Burge's indictment, Spielman gave Daley, who was a longtime participant in the torture scandal both as Cook County State's Attorney and as mayor, an opportunity to apologize. Two years earlier, in response to the release of the Cook County Special Prosecutors' report that found Burge and his men to have tortured numerous black suspects, an embattled Daley had offered to "apologize to anyone." This time, however, he waxed sarcastic, mocking in (characteristically less than articulate) response:

The best way is to say, "OK. I apologize to everybody [for] whatever happened to anybody in the city of Chicago. …. So, I apologize to everybody. Whatever happened to them in the city of Chicago in the past, I apologize. I didn't do it, but somebody else did it. Your editorial was bad. I apologize. Your article about the mayor, I apologize. I need an apology from you because you wrote a bad editorial.

Laughing, Daley continued "You do that, and everybody feels good. Fine. But I was not the mayor. I was not the police chief. I did not promote him. You know that. But you've never written that, and you're afraid to. I understand."

Personally affronted by Daley's sarcasm and disrespect, I challenged Daley to make a sincere apology, stating, "It is disgraceful and remarkably disrespectful to say that when he's asked to make good on an apology to the victims of the most heinous kind of police abuse and torture in the history of Chicago, particularly when he and his first assistant, Richard Devine, were responsible over 25 years ago for not taking Burge off the street and prosecuting him. … Daley has repeatedly sided with Burge and against the victims of torture in scores of cases."

The Movement Gathers Momentum

In late June 2010, Burge was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice, in significant part based on the testimony of Anthony Holmes and Melvin Jones, two men who were allegedly brutally electric shocked by Burge himself. However, neither of these men, like scores of their fellow survivors, had received any compensation, because they had never been officially exonerated for their alleged crimes and the statute of limitations had long since run out on their claims of torture.

Burge's conviction provided a platform to continue the call for restorative justice, and Holmes, Jones, and lawyers from the PLO, along with Alice Kim, a veteran activist who was working with the Illinois Coalition Against Torture, seized the opportunity to raise the issue of compensation and lack of psychological counseling for all torture survivors on a wide-ranging public stage. The demand was later included in a petition that urged a sentence for Burge that was commensurate with his underlying crimes and accounted for his refusal to accept responsibility for his serialized torture.

In late 2010, Mayor Daley announced that he would not run for re-election. A few months later, Jon Burge was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in federal prison. At the sentencing hearing, Holmes spoke through tears, saying: "What I wanted to ask Burge. … Why did you do this? Why would you take a statement you knew was not true? You were supposed to be the law. He laughed while he was torturing me."

Following Holmes' moving testimony and the imposition of the sentence that many felt was far too short, we took the opportunity to again publicly raise the apology issue, telling the press that "the new mayor will have to apologize to these victims of torture." That new mayor turned out to be Rahm Emanuel, who won easily that spring.

On the heels of Burge's conviction, a group of artists and educators joined forces with activists and PLO attorney Joey Mogul to form an organization that would become known as the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM). Devoted to restorative justice, CTJM's first project was to call on artists and activists to propose how they would memorialize the Chicago Police torture cases and the struggle for justice for victims.

At the June 2011 launch of the project, the group publicly announced its intention "to honor the survivors of torture, their family members, and the African-American communities affected by the torture," and put out a public call for people to submit proposals for the memorials.

A Second Attempt at a Mayoral Apology

Two months later, the continuing police torture scandal landed squarely in Emanuel's lap after a federal judge ruled that Daley was a proper defendant in exonerated torture survivor Michael Tillman's civil damages suit. On the heels of the ruling, PLO lawyers, who had brought Tillman's suit, subpoenaed Daley to give sworn deposition testimony.

Fran Spielman led her story in the Sun-Times on the Daley ruling as follows: "Mayor Rahm Emanuel walked a political tightrope Wednesday on the explosive police torture allegations that continue to surround convicted former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge." Emanuel refused to comment on Daley other than to say that the city would pay for his lawyers as they had done for Burge for the previous 23 years. We again responded, accusing Emanuel of adopting the "same head‑in‑the‑sand line" that the city did under Daley," while further publicly contending that

He doesn't need to do that. He's not involved in this. He should bring a fresh eye to it. Not only should he resolve these cases so taxpayers can compensate the victims rather than the torturers. He should apologize to the African American community and to the victims for this pattern of torture.

A few days later, Emanuel told Spielman that it was "time to end" the torture cases and that he was "working toward" settling the outstanding cases. He refused Spielman's invitation to apologize and, in an apparent reaction to our accusation, added

I answered one question. Some people say, "This pulls Rahm into it." … That's wrong. … This is like the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. This is the law. [Daley's] allowed to have the cost of his legal defense … That's it. I'm not part of it.

In January 2012, the Human Relations Committee of the Chicago City Council held a hearing on a resolution proposed by the Illinois Coalition Against Torture that declared Chicago to be a "torture-free zone." The subcommittee was chaired by Alderman Joe Moore, who would later become a strong supporter of reparations.

The resolution, which was backed by a petition signed by 3,500 people, was thought by many to be symbolic only, and several witnesses who testified at the hearing, including Chilean torture survivor and human rights activist Mario Venegas and myself, raised the issues of financial compensation, an official apology and funding for the treatment of all police torture survivors. With little fanfare, the full City Council, in a 45-0 vote, subsequently passed the resolution.

The issue of an apology again hit the local headlines in the summer of 2012, as the Tillman case was settled with the city, giving Daley another pass when it came to his being required to detail his role in the torture scandal under oath. In a Sun-Times op-ed, in the media firestorm that accompanied the settlement and in a subsequent editorial, the demand for an official apology was again raised. Emanuel's response continued to be no.

As reported in the Sun-Times, Emanuel told reporters when asked by Spielman why he didn't see fit to apologize:

I am focused on the future of the city, not just about the past. I wanted to settle this, which is what we have done. I also wanted to see this dark chapter in the city's history brought to a close. I think we are achieving it. And to learn the lessons from this moment so we can build a future for the city.

Calling it a missed opportunity for Emanuel to show that there had been a "true changing of the guard," we responded by asserting that it would be "an important symbolic act that would help to heal this community," and that Emanuel would have to be "tone-deaf to the African-American community not to understand that that community still feels very strongly that justice has not been done, and that the city still stands on the wrong side of the issue."

Later in the year, CTJM presented an ambitious series of cultural and educative events on the history of torture. At this important stage of the movement for reparations, CTJM co-founder Joey Mogul, drawing on the ideas advanced during the previous several years, input from the torture survivors and community members, and relevant precepts of international law, drafted the original Reparations Ordinance.

In June 2013, in recognition of Torture Awareness Month, I raised the issue of torture reparations:

What if Mayor Emanuel, on behalf of the city and its police department, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, on behalf of the county and the state's attorneys' office, stood in front of the old Area 2 "House of Screams" at 91st and Cottage Grove and issued a joint apology to all of Chicago's citizens, together with a pledge to create a reparations fund to compensate those still-suffering survivors of Chicago police torture who were cheated out of lawsuits by the cover-up of the scandal? This fund could also be used to provide treatment for the psychological damage inflicted and for job training. Perhaps Burge and Daley's publicly funded lawyers could be "persuaded" by the City and its taxpayers to return a healthy portion of their ill-gotten gains to help to fund this effort. Then and only then will the true healing begin.

A Mayoral Apology

That fall, in September 2013, the city settled two more torture cases brought on behalf of exonerated torture survivors for a total of $12.3 million. One of the survivors, Ronald Kitchen, had spent 13 of his 21 imprisoned years on death row. Confronted once again by Spielman, Emanuel reversed his field and offered an impromptu apology:

I am sorry this happened. Let us all now move on. This is a dark chapter on the history of the city of Chicago. I want to build a future for the city. … But, we have to close the books on this. We have to reconcile our past. … Yes, there has been a settlement. And I do believe that this is a way of saying all of us are sorry about what happened … and closing that stain on the city's reputation.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle praised the mayor for his apology, saying that it was "long overdue and entirely appropriate." In a powerful statement, she acknowledged the role that county prosecutors had played in the torture conspiracy, and further stated that

You've got to 'fess up and acknowledge the difficult, problematic parts of your own history if you're ever going to make any progress forward. Denial gets you nowhere. Refusing to acknowledge those reprehensible parts of our national or local history is self-destructive in the long run.

We took the occasion to again raise the concept of reparations and for the first time called for the City to establish a $20 million fund - an amount equal to that which had been paid out by the City to private lawyers to defend Burge, Daley and their cohorts - to compensate the survivors who had no legal recourse because of the official cover-up. Until then, we exhorted, "the wound on the city of Chicago will not heal and its conscience will not be cleansed." The city, through its corporation counsel Steve Patton, publicly rejected the demand for compensation, saying that "it would be very difficult to justify spending taxpayer dollars to settle a claim that's barred."

On the heels of the apology, Mogul, relying on reparations legislation passed in other countries, revised the reparations ordinance to include further input from torture survivors, their family members and communities. The ordinance specifically called for an official apology, compensation to the survivors, tuition-free education at Chicago City Colleges for all torture survivors and their families, and a center on the South Side of Chicago that would provide psychological counseling, health care services and vocational training to those affected by law enforcement torture and abuse. Repeating the call for the $20 million fund, the ordinance also called for the Chicago Public Schools to teach about the torture cases and the city to sponsor the construction of public torture memorials.

The Reparations Ordinance Is Introduced Into City Council

Armed with the ordinance, CTJM member Alice Kim, who had been a leader in the fight against the death penalty and police torture, met with Alderman Joe Moreno, who had a history of fighting for death row torture survivors, and solicited his support and leadership on the reparations ordinance. Moreno agreed to sponsor the ordinance and enlisted Alderman Howard Brookins, Jr., who was the chair of the City Council's African-American caucus, to be a co-sponsor.

Members of CTJM then took on the task of meeting with numerous progressive members of the council, explaining the ordinance and obtaining, one by one, their endorsement. Martha Biondi, a professor of African-American history at Northwestern University, who fought for reparations for slavery and had previously testified in support of such resolutions in City Council, played a crucial role in obtaining this important additional aldermanic support. Two of the enlisted aldermen, Joe Moore and Roderick Sawyer, joined Moreno and Brookins as strategists who provided valuable assistance to this effort.

A hearing on the ordinance was scheduled for March 2014 before the council's Finance Committee, which was chaired by the politically powerful Alderman Ed Burke. But the hearing was postponed after an aide to Alderman Brookins was indicted by the US Attorney on corruption charges only days before the hearing was due to begin.

In April 2014, the reparations movement was further buoyed by the entry of Amnesty International into a nascent coalition headed up by CTJM. Amnesty decided to turn its attention to police torture in the US and agreed to sign on in support of the reparations ordinance. In doing so, it featured Darrell Cannon, who had been subjected to electric shock and a mock execution by two of Burges's main operatives.

Several of Amnesty's staffers helped to organize a rally, march and vigil in downtown Chicago during the organization's national convention in April 2014. Participants in the rally each carried a black flag, created by CTJM members, emblazoned with the name of a different one of the 119 known torture survivors. In a moving ceremony at the end of the rally, each name was read and the corresponding flag was presented, with each of the flag holders then forming a line facing City Hall.

As the year wore on, other activist groups, including Project NIA and We Charge Genocide, joined the coalition that led the campaign to get the reparations ordinance passed, adding new and creative leadership, including Mariame Kaba and Page May, energetic youth and a strong infusion of young people of color. The number of aldermanic sponsors grew as a result of the diligent work of CTJM, and a petition drive was initiated. The movement got another shot in the arm when Karen Lewis, the iconic president of the Chicago Teachers Union, who at that time appeared to be mounting a strong challenge to Emanuel in the upcoming mayoral primary, publicly announced her support for the ordinance.

Electoral Politics

In October 2014, outrage over the continuing torture scandal boiled up once again as Burge was released to a halfway house after serving three-and-a-half years of his four-and-a-half year sentence. CTJM conducted a well-attended press conference that was covered in the local news, at which torture survivors, their lawyers and other CTJM members called for the city council to at long last hold a hearing on the ordinance while contrasting Burge and his release with a full pension to that of the survivors who had not received "one red cent." The local NBC TV affiliate editorialized in favor of reparations, while Spielman, after once again inquiring of Emanuel, reported that he was "riding the fence" on reparations:

At one point, Emanuel appeared to crack the door open to the idea, telling reporters that there are "a number of things" that the reparations ordinance demanded that he was prepared to "look at and work through. On the money piece, we have to study it," the mayor said, without ruling it out. "As we get ready for what we have to do from a financial standpoint, there must be some way to address those whose statute of limitations has run out. But that doesn't mean there's only one way to do it." The mayor was asked whether that answer should be construed as a "yes, no or maybe." With trademark sarcasm, he replied, "I don't know. You've got all three answers."

In response, we pointedly raised the upcoming election and emphasized Emanuel's lingering unpopularity in the African-American community for having closed 49 public schools:

There is still a tremendous amount of outrage at the unfairness of Burge getting his pension, the city paying $20 million to defend him and not compensating men who have gotten little or nothing despite being tortured by Burge. The political repercussions of him not supporting this important ordinance cannot be overstated.

Stepping Up the Pressure

In the fall of 2014, CTJM worked with the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights to submit a shadow brief calling on the United Nations Committee Against Torture to specifically recommend that it call on the US Government to support the Reparations Ordinance. CTJM member and PLO attorney Shubra Ohri and We Charge Genocide members journeyed to Geneva, Switzerland and appeared before the CAT where they raised the issue of torture reparations, which are guaranteed under Article 14 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and staged a dramatic demonstration to highlight continuing racist police violence in Chicago. A few weeks later, the CAT specifically recommended that the US support the passage of the reparations ordinance.

Darrell Cannon and Anthony Holmes, now joined by Marc Clements, and several mothers of imprisoned torture survivors, continued to be the face of the movement. Holmes had received nothing, while Cannon had received a paltry $3,000 settlement more than 25 years ago - before the cover-up began to unravel. In December, Amnesty, CTJM, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide led a five-mile march from police headquarters to the Mayor's Office at City Hall, where the marchers delivered petitions signed by nearly 40,000 people, and then peacefully demonstrated in the hallway outside of his office.

As the February 2015 mayoral primary election approached, the effort to raise the profile of reparations intensified as well. CTJM now had a majority of the 50 aldermen committed as sponsors, and a significant number of other politicians, aldermanic candidates, and community organizations had come aboard as well. After a concerted effort by the coalition, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who had replaced Karen Lewis as Emanuel's main opponent after Lewis had been diagnosed with brain cancer, declared his support for the ordinance.

Ten days before the election, the Reparations Movement held a rollicking rally in a downtown temple attended by a multi-racial and multi-generational overflow crowd. CTJM distributed a scorecard, designed by CTJM member Carla Mayer, that recorded which politicians supported the ordinance, and those (with particular emphasis on the mayor) which did not.

Many of the attendees wore black tee shirts designed by Mayer and distributed by CTJM which had the City of Chicago flag - with a fifth star, black in color added to represent the torture survivors - emblazoned on the front. The rally was timed to coincide with Burge's release from the halfway house, which followed by a week Burge's latest refusal to admit any responsibility for his actions, once again in a sworn deposition during which he invoked his Fifth Amendment right in response to all questions asked.

The demand for the long postponed hearing on the ordinance was the rallying cry. Other actions in support of reparations included a light show in front of the mayor's house that spelled out "Reparations Now," teach-ins, a "sing-in" at city hall, Sunday church presentations throughout the city, and demonstrations on CTA trains and outside of mayoral debates. The movement refused to let up.

Talk and Fight

A few days after the Rally, Chicago Corporation Counsel Steve Patton called PLO lawyers to suggest a post-primary election meeting with CTJM representatives at which the city would present its plan for reparations.

Patton - who, before becoming corporation counsel had negotiated a multi-billion dollar settlement on behalf of several leading tobacco companies - cautioned that the meeting would not take the form of negotiations, and that the city was not inclined to provide any compensation to the survivors. We responded that CTJM's position was that compensation was a non-negotiable requirement, but CTJM decided to accept the invitation in order to learn what the City had planned and to lobby for its complete reparations package.

CTJM put together a meeting team that included two PLO lawyers, a representative from BPAPT, three CTJM members and two representatives from Amnesty International. Patton headed up a group that included representatives from the mayor's Legislative, Legal, and Human Relations Departments. The first meeting was convened shortly after Emanuel had suffered a surprising setback in the primary election, as he had not won a majority of the vote and was therefore required to face Chuy Garcia in an early April runoff. Non-financial issues were at the forefront of the initial discussions, but the team insisted that financial compensation had to be part of the legislation and continued to demand a hearing on the original ordinance.

Alderman Burke had at long last set a hearing date for the week after the April election on April 14, in the wake of the coalition publicly announcing it was going to attend and disrupt the Finance Committee meeting unless there was a hearing set on the ordinance. Both sides fully understood that, depending on the outcome of the discussions, the city, and Mayor Emanuel, would, to paraphrase Mark Antony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, either be "buried" or "praised" at the hearing.

The team met with the city on several occasions throughout March and early April, and the guardedness that in several instances escalated into outright hostility, was gradually replaced by a mutual spirit of cooperation as both sides recognized the other's good faith and worked out the agreed upon parameters of the non-financial issues. At various times, Aldermen Moore, Brookins, and Moreno joined the discussions.

The elephant in the room - compensation for the survivors - was discussed with some trepidation, and as the self-imposed deadline approached, CTJM and its negotiating team, with some reluctance, agreed internally upon a bottom line of $100,000 per survivor. Based on an estimated pool of 120 potential survivors, CTJM adjusted its demand to $12 million. The city responded with an offer of $2-3 million.

Shortly before the hearing, the negotiating team re-evaluated the size of the pool, reluctantly decided to remove the deceased survivors from eligibility for financial compensation, and calculated that in all likelihood the actual compensation pool would be more in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 people, making the $100,000 per survivor realizable at $5-6 million. The city had reluctantly come up to $5 million and was holding firm, but in a last ditch phone call to Steve Patton, a compromise of $5.5 million was given as the final offer. CTJM polled a number of survivors, all of whom were enthusiastic about the compromise number, and the offer was accepted on the eve of the hearing.

Reparations Wins

At the Finance Committee hearing, which was held in the main city hall chamber and was packed with supporters of reparations, the team's agreement with the city, which had been incorporated into a resolution and an amended ordinance, was detailed by Joey Mogul, who had employed expert leadership throughout the reparations campaign, and by Patton, followed by testimony in support by Cannon, Holmes, Amnesty International USA's Executive Director Steve Hawkins, CTJM and BPAPT member Dorothy Burge and myself. The amended resolution and ordinance, which the committee approved unanimously, provided for financial compensation to the living survivors; non-financial reparations for living survivors, and for the immediate families of all survivors, living and deceased, that included psychological counseling at a South Side center, job training, and free education at the City Colleges; an official apology; required teaching of the torture scandal in the Chicago public schools; and a public memorial.

Alderman Moreno presented the resolution and ordinance to the full City Council on May 6. Fifteen survivors from as far away as Atlanta and several mothers were in attendance to bear witness to the historic event. They sat together, some with family members, in the audience, and during his presentation, Moreno called out each of the survivors' names and each person stood. The Council members then spontaneously rose, turned, faced the standing men, and, in a moment of high emotion, applauded them. After other aldermen, including Moore and Brookins, spoke, Mayor Emanuel delivered an apology that far surpassed expectations:

This is another step but an essential step in righting a wrong, removing a stain on the reputation of this great city. Chicago finally will confront its past and come to terms with it and recognize when something wrong was done and be able to be strong enough to say something was wrong.

Directly addressing the torture survivors and their families, the mayor continued:

I want to thank you for your persistence. I want to thank you for never giving in and never giving up and allowing the city to join you on that journey to come face-to-face with the past and be honest enough and strong enough to say when we are wrong and try to make right what we've done wrong. This stain cannot be removed from the history of our city. But it can be used as a lesson of what not to do and the responsibility that all of us have.

The resolution and ordinance were adopted by the council, and the survivors, their families, Amnesty, CTJM, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide members, the lawyers and all of the people who joined the movement for reparations and made the victory possible joined in the celebration that followed.

Over the course of the struggle, the movement had once again looked internationally both for support and for examples - Chile, Argentina and South Africa, to name three. The examples here in the US were precious few: Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II, the descendants of the African-American victims of the deadly 1923 race riot in Rosewood, Florida and the victims of the mass sterilizations in North Carolina. The movement was also inspired by the continuing struggle for reparations for enslaved African Americans, the movement to fully document and memorialize lynchings in the South and, most importantly, by the survivors of Chicago police torture.

While full compensation for the pain suffered at the hands of the torturers was not (and could not be) obtained - a reality that was pointed out in a Sun-Times editorial that otherwise commended the historic accomplishment - the reparations package is both symbolically and in fact substantial and unique, particularly given that the survivors had no legal recourse.

Hopefully, the victory for reparations for Chicago's torture survivors will serve as a beacon to others across the country who are fighting against racist police violence. In the words of Darrell Cannon, reparations for Chicago police torture "is something that sets a precedent that has never been done in the history of America. Reparations given to black men tortured by some white detectives. It's historic." 

New Thousand Page Pentagon War Manual Potentially Lumps Journalists in with “Unprivileged Belligerents”

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A 1,176 page Pentagon war manual was recently released that hasn’t received the attention it deserves. The book of combat instructions, titled “Department of Defense Law of War Manual,” apparently covers rules of war for all branches of the U.S. military.

One passage in particular is generating controversy, where journalists seem to be thrown into a convoluted and opaque category, in which they could be seen as “unprivileged belligerents” as opposed to civilians. Naturally, this has sparked concern that journalists the U.S. government doesn’t like could be lumped into the “unprivileged belligerents” category and subsequently murdered at will. The Washington Times covered this story, here are a few excerpts:

The Pentagon’s new thick book of instructions for waging war the legal way says that terrorists also can be journalists.

The manual pushes aside the George W. Bush-era label of “unlawful enemy combatant” for al Qaeda and the like. The new term of choice: “unprivileged belligerent.”

An eye-catching section deals with a definition of journalists and how they are expected to stay out of the fight.

The manual defines them this way: “In general, journalists are civilians. However, journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorized to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents.”

Lumping terrorist writers with bona fide scribes prompted one officer to call the paragraph “odd.” A civilian lawyer who opines on war crime cases called the wording “an odd and provocative thing for them to write.”

For another perspective, let’s turn to Georgetown University journalism professor, Chris Chambers, who was recently interviewed by RT. The Free Thought Project reports that:

In an interview with RT, Georgetown Journalism professor Chris Chambers explained why using these terms seemingly provide legal cover, explaining that the reason is “because the Geneva Convention, other tenets of international law, and even United States law – federal courts have spoken on this – doesn’t have this thing on ‘unprivileged belligerents’.”

This will result in journalists embedded with military units, who are already forced to abide by strict protocols censoring what they can show or report on, following the preferred military narrative even closer.

“It gives them license to attack or even murder journalists that they don’t particularly like but aren’t on the other side,” Chambers said.

The Pentagon failed to detail the specific circumstances under which a journalist would be declared an unprivileged belligerent, but Chambers says he is sure “their legal department is going over it, as is the National Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.”

One cannot mistake the government’s intent to tighten the control of the flow of information from the battlefield to the public at large, which raises some very troubling questions.

Now here’s the interview:

For related articles, see:

The “War on Terror” Turns Inward – DHS Report Warns of Right Wing Terror Threat

More “War on Terror” Abuses – Spying Powers Are Used for Terrorism Only 0.5% of the Time]

“War on Terror” Targets Underwear – Department of Homeland Security Raids Maker of Unlicensed World Series Panties

The Pentagon Admits: The “War on Terror” Will Never End

You’ve Been Warned – Calls for Mandatory “National Service” for Americans Aged 18-28 Has Begun

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

Why We’re Headed Toward A “Cashless Society”

Source: Bonner & Partners

Don’t Count on Your ATM Cards

Yesterday, came a report that the prime minister of Poland, Ewa Kopacz, has urged Poles traveling to Greece to take “a larger amount of cash” with them. Why? Because the situation could be “very dynamic,” she says. “Please do not count only on your ATM cards and on ATMs, but take a larger amount of cash with you.”


Queues are forming at ATMs in Greece of late. These ATMs will keep working as long as the ECB provides ELA financing to Greek banks. Unfortunately, the latter are beginning to run out of collateral. We are guessing they are probably giving the Bank of Greece IOUs now that they are issuing themselves. Yes, the situation is “dynamic”.

Photo credit: Simela Pantzartzi / EPA

It’s not the dynamic situation that would worry us. It’s the dynamite that lies beneath the whole world’s money system. It is a system that is fundamentally flawed. It depends on the intelligence and integrity of its custodians. Not that we think Madame Yellen is dumb. Nor do we doubt her honesty. But she is, after all, only human.

And centrally planning an $18 trillion economy – by manipulating asset prices and interest rates – is a super-human undertaking. The odds that something will go wrong? 100% …


It’s all data-dependent …

Cartoon by B. Rich

Controls on Cash

A reader asks a good question:

“I have a question about the recommendation to hold cash. If countries are putting controls on real cash and banking, in what form should a person hold cash? U.S. dollars or some other currency. If we truly go to a “cashless society” what good would having a hoard of cash do?”

We would like to have a better answer, but we only have the one we have. Money is always a convention. It is an understanding. People recognize money as a stand-in for wealth.

Since the beginning of civilization, people have experimented with different kinds of money. They ended up – almost always and almost everywhere – with gold and silver. Why?

Because they were handy. And because they were hard to produce. They were cash that governments could not easily control. No super-humans were needed to manage them.

Governments – the people who are able to boss other people around – always want to control money. They put their faces on it. They mint it. They clip coins. And they print pieces of paper and call it money.

But they could never completely control cash. People hoarded gold. They hid it. They ran away with it. They used it to make trades between themselves… regardless of what the feds said. And when the feds’ money went kaput – which it always did – they turned back to gold, because they knew they could trust it.

And now, the feds are making a new attempt to bring money totally under their control. For example, under the pretext of cutting funding for terrorists, the French government already has a law in the pipeline banning cash transactions of over €1,000 ($1,120).

There’s nothing stopping governments from banning cash transactions altogether… and ending the usage of paper money. Economists pretend it is a matter of convenience to the consumer (no more waiting for the clerk to make change for the fellow in front of you).

… or they try to sell it as a useful macro tool for central planners (they will be able to stimulate demand by imposing negative interest rates)…

… or they say a cashless world will be safer – you won’t be held up at gunpoint, and terrorists will find it harder to get financing.

But the real reason is control. If governments can eliminate cash, they can easily track, tax, and confiscate your money.


Bank robberies of the future

Cartoon via armstrongeconomics.com

When You Need a Stash of Cash

And if the feds can control your money, they will be able to control you. Do you voice an opinion they don’t want to hear? Do you belong to a group they want to get rid of? Do you want to know what happened to your tax money? Watch out… With a keystroke, you could be “disappeared.”

“Sometimes, when the government tells you to do something, it’s best to do the opposite,” says a French neighbor. In 1944, her father was the adjutant mayor of a small town in southwestern France. The Allies had landed in Normandy and the Germans were pulling their forces back to the Rhine. Our friend tells the story:

“Someone had blown up a German truck as it went through town. People were doing that. Taking pot shots at the Germans. The SS didn’t like it. They would gather up the mayor and a few other people. If they didn’t turn over the guilty person, they would kill the mayor. Or sometimes the whole town.

My father got a message that told him he was supposed to go to the town square. Instead, he went into the woods. It’s a good thing he did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”

When do you need a stash of cash? When the feds try to outlaw it. Hold some dollars. And some gold. We realize that our answer to the reader’s question is insufficient. After all, what good will cash be after it is declared illegal?

We’re not sure. Maybe we’ve spent too much time in Argentina, where people have more supple and more subtle attitudes to monetary regulations. Trading pesos for dollars, on the black market, is illegal. Do it and they take you for a scofflaw. Don’t do it and they take you for a fool.

More to come on this in future updates. Stay tuned …


What not to be in Argentina

Bill Bonner

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Obamacare is a Public Requiem by Supreme Decree

“The Congressional Record will forever show that [Obamacare] was passed in a romper room of overgrown children seemingly barely old enough to keep from peeing on themselves.” 
Matt Taibbi


Obamacare is a Public Requiem by Supreme Decree

Do you have an absolute right to refuse medical treatment? Well, if you recognize the immutable authority of natural rights, you must defend the birthright of individuals to reject the quackery of government-imposed medicine. Common law clearly discerns that there are limits on the power of governments to force human beings into becoming pinned up sheep, against their will. Already far too many cowardly citizens are eager to comply with the next dictate of a tyrannical regime. Subsequently, when the death panels summon you into their diagnostic pool of drugs, why would you want to accept the pharmaceutical prescription for a controlled and managed demise?

Obamacare is unmistakably a tax. If government levees a tariff on a taxpayer, that is not news. However, when inclusion into a collectivist system of government medicine becomes mandatory, the life essence of individual will is sucked out of the body of an immortal spirit.

The legality of the mandates is up for grabs by a tribunal of Star Chamber jurists. The sideshow about recusal, rivals reality TV programming and confuses the constitutional illiterates. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, in all her glory, conveyed her delight. "I hear they have the votes, Larry!! Simply amazing,"


said to Harvard Law Prof. Laurence Tribe in one of the emails.


CNSnews reports,

"The March 2010 email exchange between Kagan and Tribe raises new questions about whether Kagan must recuse herself from judging cases involving the health-care law that Obama signed--and which became the target of legal challenges--while Kagan was serving as Obama's solicitor general and was responsible for defending his administration’s positions in court disputes.

According to 28 USC 455, a Supreme Court justice must recuse from "any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." The law also says a justice must recuse anytime he has "expressed an opinion concerning the merits of the particular case in controversy" while he "served in governmental employment."

The argument made by the Nation that Justice Clarence Thomas must recuse himself from any ruling on the Affordable Care Act, because of his wife’s work as a conservative activist and lobbyist, where she specifically agitated for the repeal of "Obamacare", conveniently ignores reality. Kagan was the person appointed to represent the federal government before the Supreme Court of the United States. Thomas was not a lobbyist. The difference should be self-evident for any objective observer.

The essential question never asked is how a nation of inherent autonomous individuals, would allow a politicized court to rule on natural human right authority. Your right to refuse inclusion into a medical insurance scheme, designed for gently leading you down death’s road, is inalienable. Obamacare is a question of exercising the right NOT to participate, much less about forced tribute to pay for the costs of hypochondriacs, who believe physicians are gracious drug pushers.

The electorate made their voice heard in the 2010 elections. The Tea Party eruption was largely a spontaneous repudiation of Obamacare. Criticism of the 112th Congress should be directed against the House for not having the guts to issue and vote upon articles of impeachment against the pretender president, who is bent on destroying the civil rights of mentally healthy citizens.

So why is the nation suffering from the tyranny of the inflicted?

Wendell Potter

, a former CIGNA executive-turned-whistleblower, lays out the reason in plain simple language.

"Opponents of the Affordable Care Act who believe the Supreme Court will declare the law unconstitutional are going to be disappointed next year when a majority of the nine justices vote to uphold it. It will likely be a 5-4 decision, but moderate conservative Anthony Kennedy will, I’m confident, recognize that without the law, the free-market system of health insurance, so highly valued by conservatives, will implode, sooner rather than later.

Here’s the reality. The provision of Obamacare at the heart of the constitutional challenge — the requirement that all Americans will have to buy health insurance if they’re not eligible for a public plan like Medicare or Medicaid — is a "must have" for the nation’s health insurance industry."

If conservatives really value a free-market health insurance system, by what claim of legitimacy can court dictums be imposed, upon individuals who rationally and willfully refuse to be part of that medical injection revolving door treatment? A free-market business, especially the medicine cartel, needs to re-invent itself, not seek government imposed guaranteed funding subsidies.  

In the NBC video report, the prospects that some conservative justices may well uphold this new expansion of government fiat into the lives of Americans is chilling. Jay Sekulow on MSNBC Discussing ObamaCare at the Supreme Court asks the question: Where will it stop? Expanding brand new federal powers is not an authentic conservative viewpoint.

The supreme decree for public enslavement that Obamacare represents, does not originate with the decision from the Supreme Court. It comes from the pathological sickness of the Nanny State, accepted by millions of intellectual cripples and self-absorbed government syncopates, looking for a bigger welfare check. Just maybe self-reliant folks, who go to great pains to live a healthy lifestyle, just do not want to be part of the medical meat grinder.

Reality Check: ObamaCare & Death Panels by Raven Clabough provides an update.
"Democrats found a way to achieve their goal by way of regulation instead, introduced by Obama Medicare chief Dr. Donald Berwick. A new Medicare regulation implemented on January 1, 2011 pays doctors to advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which includes advanced directives to forego aggressive life-sustaining treatment.

In addition to the end-of-life Medicare rule, state governments are implementing "death panels" of sorts to help handle their budget woes."



Now view contracting positions on the impact of this reality in the video, Obamacare Death Panels Are Back!!! Even if you dismiss the prediction that Obamacare makes a concerted effort to rush your demise and hasten your mortality, prospects of arbitrary rationing are inevitable.

"With Medicare’s trustees predicting the Medicare program will go bankrupt in 2024 - five years earlier than was projected before the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - even Americans who strongly supported Obamacare have little choice but to acknowledge that Medicare must be reformed - and soon. While lawmakers continue to argue about the best way to protect this vital program for the seniors it serves and those who it has yet to serve, there is a growing bipartisan consensus that the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is one provision of the new health law that will do more to undermine the program than save it.

Unfortunately, most people in the country, including seniors relying on Medicare, have no idea what IPAB is or how it will affect their lives if it ever becomes operational. More concerning, President Obama decided to make the board the centerpiece of his efforts to reduce the deficit by calling for it to be strengthened - not eliminated. Starting in 2015, the IPAB will give 15 unelected bureaucrats unprecedented power to slash billions of dollars from Medicare when spending exceeds targeted growth rates. The cuts made by the board will come on top of the $500 billion that was transferred from Medicare to a new entitlement program as a result of the new health care law."

Add to this discretionary allocation, the revolting practice of exceptions. The issuance of waivers from the law to political favorites or "too big to fail" conglomerates, is blatantly a violation of equal protection. Yet, in the hologram construct that passes for lawful government, the whims of class warfare, becomes the standard for this abhorrent Obama administration. The favoritism of the corporate/state economy at the expense of main street free enterprise is as vivid as it has even been. The working poor and the self-employed can kiss their economic future goodbye. Obama wants the middle class to suck it up and become dependent parasites, in the brave new world of coerced medical experimentation.

The social fascists that bleed for universal health care, provided by a single payer bureaucracy are fundamentally statists. Strategies for repeal are weak and remote. Nina Owcharenko in Repealing Obamacare and Getting Health Care Right, describes accurately the problem but is unrealistic for a political solution.

"Congress must repeal the new law. Congress cannot build sound market-based health care reform on the PPACA foundation, which is utterly incompatible with a health care system based on consumer choice and free markets.

Beyond the unprecedented mandates, new taxes, massive entitlement expansion, unworkable and costly insurance provisions, and its failure to control costs, the new law concentrates enormous power in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It creates a giant network for the federal micromanagement of health plans, benefits, insurance markets, and unprecedented intervention into the details of health care financing and the delivery of medical care."

Repeal of Obamacare is justified. However, the supreme decree that enacted the original legislation comes from an inept and illicit political class. They will resist to the death, retracting their handy work. Even with new replacement legislators, the executive administration envisions a new cash cow for milking. If the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of Obamacare, your duty is to opt out of the government medial payment system. Encourage the implosion, or resign to total enslavement. This is your terminal and only existential choice.

DARPA: We Are Engineering the Organisms That Will Terraform Mars

It’s no secret that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is investing heavily in genetic engineering and synthetic biology. Whether that excites or terrifies you depends on how you feel about the military engineering totally new life forms. If you’re in the excitement camp, however, here’s a nugget for you: DARPA believes that it's on the way to creating organisms capable of terraforming Mars into a planet that looks more like Earth.

The goal of terraforming Mars would be to warm up and potentially thicken its atmosphere by growing green, photosynthesizing plants, bacteria, and algae on the barren Martian surface. It’s a goal that even perpetual techno-optimists like Elon Musk think isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but it’s a goal that DARPA apparently already has its eyes on.

“For the first time, we have the technological toolkit to transform not just hostile places here on Earth, but to go into space not just to visit, but to stay,” Alicia Jackson, deputy director of DARPA’s new Biological Technologies Office said Monday at a DARPA-hosted biotech conference. As she said this, Jackson was pointing at an artist's rendering of a terraformed Mars.

Ignoring Tsipras Plea For Calm, Greeks Storm ATMs, Stores, Gas Stations

Just a few hours ago Greek PM Tsipras addressed his nation imploring then to "remain calm" and reassuring them that their "deposits were safe." It appears the Greeks did not believe him. Many were wondering where the Greek bank lines were for the past several months. Turns out the local depositors were merely waiting until just after the last minute to withdraw their funds... horde gas... and stack food. Greece, it appears is Venezuela - the new socialist paradise.

Tsipras implored: "Keep Calm...."


They did not listen...

Call that an ATM line...


Now THIS is an ATM line...






Even at the airports...



And gas stations are overwhelmed...




As grocery stores and general appliance stores come under seige...



We have seen this before - in Russia recently as the Ruble collapsed and citizens spent any and every piece of currency they had on 'assets'.

The great news for Greece is that GDP for Q2 will be sent soaring.

Simply put - it's all about inflation expectations. And unlike The Fed or The BoJ, who keep trying to jawbone higher expectations into their citizens' minds, the Greek government may have achieved it implicitly through devaluation expectations and with it - a spending spree before things get more expensive and implicitly a surge in GDP. Of course, however, the spending surge can only be short-term and will stop as soon as there are no more euros to spend.

Top German Politician Blasts Nuland & Carter: "F##k US Imperialism"

With intra-Europe relations hitting a new all-time low; and, having already been busted spying on Merkel, Obama got caught with his hand in Hollande's cookie jar this week, the following exultation from one of Germany's top politicians will hardly help Washington-Brussells relations. As Russia Insider notes, Oskar Lafontaine is a major force in German politics so it caught people’s attention when he excoriated Ash Carter and Victoria Nuland on his Facebook page yesterday... "Nuland says 'F*ck the EU'. We need need an EU foreign policy that stops warmongering US imperialism... F*ck US imperialism!"

Here is the Facebook post (in German):


Lafontaine  has been an outsized figure in German politics since the mid-70s. He was chairman of the SPD (one of Germany’s two main parties) for four years, the SPD’s candidate for chancellor in 1990, minister of finance for two years, and then chairman of the Left party in the 2000s. He is married to Sarah Wagenknecht, political heavyweight, who is currently co-chairman of Left party.

Lafontaine’s outburst came a day after his wife, Sarah Wagenknecht, blasted Merkel’s Russia policy in an interview on RT. 

Here is the full translation of the post:

“The US ‘Defense’ secretary, i.e., war minister is in Berlin.  He called on Europe to counter Russian ‘aggression’.  But in fact, it is US aggression which Europeans should be opposing. 


“The Grandmaster of US diplomacy, George Kennan described the eastward expansion of NATO as the biggest US foreign policy mistake since WW2, because it will lead to a new cold war.  


“The US diplomat Victoria Nuland said we have spent $5 billion to destabilize the Ukraine. They stoke the flames ever higher, and Europe pays for it with lower trade and lost jobs.


“Nuland says ‘F*ck the EU’. We need need an EU foreign policy that stops warmongering US imperialism.


“F*ck US imperialism!”

*  *  *

When he comes out swinging this way, you know something is changing. 

*  *  *

America - making friends and influencing people for 238 years...

Greek Capital Controls Begin: Greek Banks, Stock Market Will Not Open On Monday

Update 2: Greece's Skai reports that if/when banks reopen (supposedly on Tuesday), a 60€ withdrawal limit will be imposed.

Update: In a televised address to the nation, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras assured Greeks that their deposits are safe despite an upcoming bank holiday and despite the fact that Greek stocks will not open for trading on Monday. Tsipras also said Athens has re-applied for a bailout extension and urged Greeks to "remain calm" in the face of what is sure to be a turbulent week.



Despite the reassurances from any and all elected (and unelected) officials, given the run on bank ATMs in Greece has turned into a stampede, it is not surprising that:


The announcement was made when Piraeus Bank CEO Anthimos Thomopoulos told reporters after a meeting of the government’s financial-stability panel on Sunday. The launch of capital controls just as the Greek summer tourism season starts, is sure to be the final crushing blow to Greece, whose entire economy will now grind to a halt.

At the same time, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said an announcement would be made after a Cabinet meeting due to start imminently in Athens. Which is ironic considering just earlier today Varoufakis said he is opposed to the "very concept" of capital controls:

Banks will remain shut until at least after a July 5 referendum called by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on whether to accept austerity in exchange for a European bailout, Kathemerini newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources.

Reuters is also reporting that the Greek stock market will not open on Monday (leaving us wondering just what that will do to the Greek ETFs liquidity in US markets) as hedgers scramble to protect un-closable losses wherever they can.

More from Reuters, which reports that "Greece's banks, kept afloat by emergency funding from the European Central Bank, are on the front line as Athens moves towards defaulting on a 1.6 billion euros payment due to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday."

The ECB had made it difficult for the banks to open on Monday because it decided to freeze the level of funding support it gives the banking system, rather than increasing it to cover a rise in withdrawals from worried depositors.


Amid drama in Greece, where a clear majority of people want to remain inside the euro, the next few days present a major challenge to the integrity of the 16-year-old euro zone currency bloc. The consequences for markets and the wider financial system are unclear.


The head of Piraeus Bank, one of Greece's top four banks, speaking after a meeting of the country's financial stability council, said banks would be shut on Monday while a financial industry source told Reuters the Athens stock exchange would not open.


"It is a dark hour for Europe....nevertheless from where we're sitting we have a clear conscience," Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said earlier in an interview with the BBC.


Greece's left-wing Syriza government had for months been negotiating a deal to release funding in time for its IMF payment. Then suddenly, in the early hours of Saturday, Tspiras asked for extra time to enable Greeks to vote in a referendum on the terms of the deal.


Creditors turned down this request, leaving little option for Greece but to default, piling further pressure on the country's banking system.


The creditors want Greece to cut pensions and raise taxes in ways that Tsipras has long argued would deepen one of the worst economic crises of modern times in a country where a quarter of the workforce is already unemployed.


Pro-European Greek opposition parties have united in condemning the decision to call the referendum on the bailout terms, but people on the streets of Athens backed the decision.


"I want him (Tsipras) to knock his fist on the table and to say 'enough!'," said resident Evgenoula.


Many leading economists have voiced sympathy with the Greek government's argument that further cuts in spending risk choking off the growth which would give Greece some prospect of servicing debts worth nearly twice its annual national income.


The IMF has pressed European governments to ease Athens' debt burden, something most say they will only do when Greece first shows it is trimming its budget.


Long lines formed outside many ATMs on Sunday, including some of 40 to 50 people outside some in central Athens.


The Bank of Greece said it was making "huge efforts" to ensure the machines remained stocked.

The German foreign ministry said tourists heading to Greece should take plenty of cash to avoid possible problems with local banks and some tourists said they were joining the ATM queues.

"I am trying to go over to the bigger banks," said Cassandra Preston, a Canadian tourist. "I am here for another month and I would like to make sure I have some cash on me."

* * *

In other words, Greek speculators (and of course, those depositors who were dumb enough to still have money in local banks) just got CYNK'd - you can buy stocks all you want, but if the market is about to fall out of the bottom, you simply are not allowed to sell.

Which, incidentally, is coming to every centrally-planned, banana "market" near you...