News & Notes June 25, 2012

The Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare is expected today.  Consensus seems to be that the Roberts Court will strike it down.  So far this court has backed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 100% on its rulings.  Elections do have consequences.

Focus on SCOTUS is increasing as the result of the total corruption of our democracy because of Citizens United.  When 30 billionaires can funnel a billion dollars into a single campaign we no longer have a democracy.  Meanwhile Justices Alito and Thomas are getting heavy criticism for their purely partisan work.  Clarence Thomas’ wife works for a think tank opposing the Affordable Care Act.  His household gets money from those working to strike down the law.  

Fast & Furious continues being a focus of the news.  The failed program begun under George W. Bush ran guns into Mexico in the hope they could be tracked.  It failed.  Concern and outrage by the Right is missing the larger issue:  the huge flow of guns from this country into Mexico fueling the rampant violence and destabilization.

The student loan interest rate issue and a transportation bill both need to be passed this week.  Is the Tea Party House capable of passing anything meaningful and progressive?

A disturbing article about a Justice Department suit against two polygamous towns is required reading.  Polygamy is illegal and residents of these Utah/Arizona border towns are openly discriminating against their non-polygamous residents to the point of destroying their crops and killing their dogs.

East coast sea levels are rising due to global warming.  How much evidence do morons need before they stop believing what they hear from Rush and Fox?  The oil companies are fueling this denial so they can continue destroying the planet for profit.  Imagine the chaos if tens of millions of people are displaced all along the east coast?  How much will that cost?

It’s time for an increase in the minimum wage.  Low wage workers are actually earning less than thirty years ago due to inflation.  Places like Santa Fe which have living wage minimum wages prove that higher wages don’t mean fewer jobs.  The business community constantly rolls out this debunked argument when the issue comes up for votes.  In Santa Fe, where the minimum wage is now $10.29 they now have more people working in the hospitality sector, a center of low wage workers, than before 2008.  Their high minimum wage has not affected employment.

A Philadelphia jury convicted Msg. William Lynn of child endangerment last Friday.  Two landmark child molestation trials ended in Pennsylvania on the same day, both with convictions.  The Catholic Church must pay for its disregard of morality.  Penn State’s mistake wa snot shuttling Sandusky from campus to campus to better hide his abuses.  It worked for the Church for decades after all.

Voters keep electing car dealers to Congress then are mystified when the corrupt businessmen become corrupt Congressmen.  Have you ever dealt with an honest car dealer?  There’s no such thing.  The latest is Florida’s Vern Buchanan.  At least this corrupt Buchanan isn’t from Pennsylvania but we have our own car dealer in Congress:  Mike Kelly in PA-03.  Before that we had Don Sherwood in PA-11 who lost after getting caught choking his mistress.

I come from a family of teachers.  My Mom was a special education teacher, a sister is a college professor, another a retired guidance counselor and two more teach in local high schools.  When I hear idiots complaining about teachers it makes my blood boil.  They have no idea how hard these jobs are, especially nowadays.  Kids who have no interest in learning because their parents fail to instill a love of it in them when young challenge every teacher.  Would you want your job dependent on such kids?  Teachers are vastly underpaid when CEO’s earn billions.  Here’s a suggestion on how to pay teachers, gotta love it.

There are so many important areas being cut by Gov. gasbag so he can shell out tax credits to energy companies it’s hard to keep up with all of them.  The Times-Tribune covers how cuts are affecting day care centers.

Congratulations to new AFSCME leaders Lee Saunders (President) and Laura Reyes (Sec-Treasurer).  Saunders succeeds Jerry McEntee who retired after a good tenure.

In yet another tragic shooting of a Black kid by an angry white man are we entering into a race war where White men are openly killing African-Americans?  This seems to have been the real motivation for Stand Your Ground laws.

Fox News is so stupid not only can’t they get facts straight (of course they don’t want to when they can just make them up) but they can’t even get people right.  In their latest flub they showed a picture of Gov. Mitch Daniels instead of Jerry Sandusky.  It may be a freudian slip though since Daniels is screwing Indiana the same way Jerry screwed his kids.

The Supreme Court did strike down Arizona’s “papers please” anti-immigration law this morning.  But they also struck down Montana’s law against unlimited corporate money in politics.  This is a double down on Citizens United.  From the Brennan Center For Justice:

“The 2012 elections make one thing clear: unlimited spending by super PACs and secretive nonprofits is corrupting our political process and threatens to swamp our democracy,” said Adam Skaggs, senior counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Increasing numbers of Americans believe our government is bought and paid for by special interests and that their votes don’t matter. By not taking this case, the Court missed a critical opportunity to rein in some of the worst excesses of Citizens United, and other rulings, that created this super PAC mess.”

Montana banned corporate election spending for more than 100 years as a result of a dramatic history of efforts by big companies to capture the state government. The state of Montana compiled an extensive and powerful factual record that demonstrated how unlimited corporate spending previously held the state hostage to mining companies and still poses severe threats to Montana’s elections and government. For the Court to strike down the state’s anti-corruption law without even reviewing that record is a serious mistake.

AIG Sues BoA for Fraud

AIG, the giant insurer which almost went under due to incompetence in its own operations is suing Bank of America for fraud.  The insurer sold policies guaranteeing derivative securities formed by bundling toxic mortgage securities which had been rated AAA by Moody’s and Standard and Poors knowing full well they were worthless then didn’t reserve any funds to pay off the policies when the junk went bad.  Bank of America’s Countrywide subsidiary engaged in massive fraud against homeowners with crooked brokers who forged false information on mortgage applications, lied to mortagees about the terms of their loans and then went under when it all collapsed in 2008.  They were bought by BoA and taxpayers bailed out AIG to keep it from collapsing.

The entire mortgage mess was rife with fraud from top to bottom and, so far, not one of those involved has even been indicted.  President Obama has determined that white collar crime is immune from prosecution by his Justice Department.  Now AIG is seeking retribution on its own terms with this lawsuit.  They suffered $10 billion in losses and Bank of America’s stock is free falling under the news.

AIG was defrauded and not only by BoA.  The ratings firms also are culpable along with Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, CitiGroup along with every other major bank.  Should the insurer begin suing all of them we’ll face total financial collapse as the dominoes begin falling.

None of these major banks are actually solvent.  In spite of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easings $1.6 trillion in new monies have been created (greatly expanding our money supply) to purchase these toxic mortgage securities from banks (not all of them domestic).  This mean the taxpayers continue bailing out the bankers who wrecked the economy, earned hundreds of billions and walked away scot free.  Trillions in these securities remain on the books however and are, essentially worthless.  Still banks show them on their balance sheets at full value.  We all know this is a fraud and if valued correctly the banks would be insolvent.  This is where Congress stepped in and passed legislation allowing them to show worthless toxic securities on their profit and loss statements at pretend values.

Bank of America, therefore, is already in a precarious situation and facing a $10 billion suit in which it clearly is defenseless means the end of the giant bank.  Some are calling this the “BoA death watch.”  As its stock continues to fall under $7/share there is little they can do to raise capital other than sell Merrill Lynch which they bought in a government managed shotgun wedding at the height of the financial crisis.  It isn’t as if Merrill Lynch is blameless in all of this fraud either and its market value is questionable.

If AIG follows this action by suing S&P, Moody’s Goldman and Morgan Stanley there will be serious repercussions throughout an already weak economy.  Congress just passed and the President signed, a serious austerity program which will cost an additional 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 million jobs and push the American economy back into recession.   Too big to fail banks should have been broken up as part of the financial reform bill but Congress failed to act on that as promised.  Now AIG is acting on its own and justice may finally happen but at a time affording maximum damage economically.  It may be time to stock up on non-perishable provisions.  If the austerity riots in Britain are any indication our streets will be filled with angry citizens shortly also.

Accountability

I wrote an article with this title back in 2003 about how the nation was allowing George W. Bush and his appointees a free ride with no accountability for their actions.  Congress bent over and allowed Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby to screw them and the country.  Six years later Bush Administration officials remain unaccountable for their war crimes and debate actually exists about letting them off.

Why not just release that pirate too or mass murderers?  Why should we prosecute anyone for any crime if we let those who committed war crimes in our name off the hook?  War crimes, torture and murder are serious crimes and must be investigated and, if the evidence warrants, prosecuted.

I understand President Obama’s sentiment that this could be seen by some as further political polarization but if you or I kidnapped some and tortured them, killed a few, and admitted most of it was by mistake we’d be doing hard time on death row.  Why shouldn’t those who did this for George W. Bush?  There crimes are even worse because what they did emboldened our enemies, made recruitment by our enemies easier and will lead to many further terrorist attacks upon our people and the death of more innocent people.

Abu Ghraib and Gitmo became symbols of American imperialism, arrogance, hypocrisy and brutality.  Bush and Cheney made it easy for those who hate us to recruit many more people to hate us.  The entire world came to hate America for what we did.  It may take generations to heal these breaches, to make people forget we became as brutal and terrible as Al Qaeda.

There must be accountability.  Without being held to account for their crimes what deterrence is there for future leaders and officials to further weaken our security?  None.

Republicans once stood for something called personal responsibility.  This held that people are held to account for what they do, good or bad.  How soon now that they toss this central tenet of their ideology in the name of partisanship and the torture of human beings.  If conservatives truly believe in personal responsibility they will support the fair investigation of war crimes and prosecution of any officials as evidence requires.

This isn’t about partisanship it is about accountability.

Confirm Dawn Johnsen

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island conducted a conference call today concerning the Senate confirmation of Dawn Johnsen to be head of the Office of Legal Counsel.  That office of the Department of Justice is in the news following the release yesterday of several memos justifying and detailing torture of human beings in American custody.  They were written as political documents under orders of the Bush White House to provide legal protection for CIA employees conducting torture.  They were written by people in the OLC.

This is why it is so important to have a person of integrity, high moral character and a substantive respect for the rule of law in charge of the OLC.  Dawn Johnsen worked in this office for five years previously and did so with distinction.  She left her personal agenda at the door and performed admirably.  Now Republican Senators, once opposed to filibusters on “advice and consent” presidential nominees, are threatening to filibuster her appointment.  Arlen Specter is one of the Republicans who might oppose an up or down vote.

Funny isn’t it?  These are the very same Republican Senators who passionately defended against filibusters of George W.Bush’s nominees.  Now they are flip flopping more than flapjacks on a hot griddle.  They are on a hot seat however because Sen. Whitehouse is planning on turning their own words against them.

The Bush White House totally politicized the Department of Justice and had the Office of Legal Counsel undermine the rule of law by inventing legal justification for torture.  They conducted political prosecutions and jailed Democrats as political prisoners.  They tapped telephone trunk lines without warrants and denied Americans the right to due process.  Now the GOP is preparing to block the depoliticization of Justice.

Dawn Johnsen is a Sunday School teacher from Bloomington, Indiana.  She is highly qualified and the argument against her appointment seems to be that she’d weaken the presidency.  Bush and his DOJ cronies sought to create an imperial presidency and greatly weakened Congress by violating the rule of law.  Their wretched torture memos weakened us because they undermined everything America once stood for.  They made us enemies of all justice loving people in the world and eliminated our moral high ground.

Republicans continue to espouse this weakness by opposing Johnsen.  It is time to re-establish the supremacy of the rule of law.  The presidency is NOT all powerful and isn’t it ironic that Senators would vote to substantially undermine their own constitutional role?  These people who took oaths of office to preserve, protect and defend the constitution are working to undermine our system of government.

It takes but 41 votes for the GOP to filibuster bills and nominations.  They are preventing Sen. Franken from duly and constitutionally representing the people of Minnesota while, at the same time, attending tea parties decrying taxation without representation.  Tell that to Minnesotans.  With Sen. Specter, a former District Attorney, voting against the rule of law we cannot restore the rule of law and integrity back into the Department of Justice.

Sen. Specter, where will you stand?

Justice Ends Stevens Prosecution

Ted Stevens is off the hook.  Attorney General Eric Holder threw in the towel at Justice due to the massive prosecutorial misconduct committed by the Bush Administration.  Signaling a return to integrity and ethics in the Department of Justice Holder notified the Judge in the case that Justice will not contest Stevens’ appeal.

DOJ prosecutors were penalized by the Judge for extreme misconduct allowing witnesses to testify to things Justice knew to be wrong and then failing to notify the defense with witness statements which contradicted their testimony.  The witnesses were oil company executives who paid for renovations and furniture for the Senator’s home in return for favorable legislation and representation in Washington.  The wiretaps and other evidence against Sen. Stevens would have been enough to convict the man without the misconduct perpetrated by the prosecution but in our system of justice we have, and should have, zero tolerance for prosecutorial misconduct.

Kudos to AG Holder for standing up for the rule of law, something desperately lacking the past eight years.  We hate to see crooks like Stevens get off but the alternative is worse as we saw recently in Luzerne County with corrupt Judges.

DOJ Restoring COPS Program

One of the most successful programs of the Clinton years was the COPS program.  This funded 100,000 community police officers and resulted in dramatic decreases in crime levels.  COPS funded additional police officers in communities all over the country.  George Bush cut its funding 80% almost totally destroying COPS.  Barack Obama’s Department of Justice announced today it is restoring $1 billion to COPS through Recovery Act funds.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the Department of Justice is now accepting applications for $1 billion in Recovery Act Funds for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program.  Approximately 5,500 law enforcement officer jobs will be created or saved in law enforcement agencies across the country through funding provided by the Department of Justice.

“This investment of Recovery Act funds will pump new resources into our communities through a program with a proven track record,” said U.S. Attorney General Holder. “We will not just create and preserve jobs, but also increase community policing capacity and crime-prevention efforts.”

Funds awarded to law enforcement agencies by the COPS Office provide 100 percent of entry-level salary and benefits for each officer for three years.  All jurisdictions that receive funding must plan to retain COPS-funded officer positions for at least one year after the grant ends.

The COPS Office is a federal agency responsible for advancing community policing nationwide.  Since 1995, COPS has awarded more than $10 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,300 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of nearly 117,000 officers.  In addition to funding law enforcement positions, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has been the catalyst for innovations in community policing, and the broad implementation of this effective law enforcement strategy.  Currently, departments that employ community policing serve 87 percent of American communities.

Meehan Stepping Down as US Attorney

Patrick Meehan announced today he is resigning as United States Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania.  He will join a private law firm as he mulls a run for Governor in 2010 in what promises to be a crowded field in both Parties.

Meehan prosecuted many drug cases and worked quite well with local authorities breaking up major drug rings.  He also was known for political prosecutions such as Mayor Street and Vince Fumo.  There have been claims he only went after Democrats.

Justice to Begin Racial Profiling

Speaking of politicizing the rule of law this next item shows how this continues. The Fourth Amendment has been completely eviscerated by this corrupt and crooked Administration.  The law of the land clearly requires probable cause and warrants for the police to engage in investigations, arrests and detentions.  This fundamental law of the land has been shattered by the White House and Congress, Republicans and Democrats, have gone along for political expediency, terrorized that Bush and Cheney will paint them as traitors if they stand up for the constitution.

Now the Justice Department wants to legalize racial profiling.  A practice declared unconstitutional by the courts, racial profiling means you can be suspected of wrongdoing simply for who you are.  No evidence of wrongdoing is necessary for the FBI or your local police to begin surveillence of your actions and activities.

Coming off historic abuses where the FBI infiltrated peace groups (including under Bush), churches and opposition political organizations, this is very dangerous.  What better way to welcome those Arabs who took the pledge before the President last week than to tell them they are subject to investigation now because they wore head scarves?

Why did we require them to read the constitution if it doesn’t mean anything?

This is one of those slippery slope deals:  once it begins where does it end?  Once it is permissable to infiltrate and spy on Arabs it is easy to expand it to Young Republicans, the John Birch Society, or any other organization the new, Democratic President, deems.

This isn’t a partisan issue, its an American one.  Sign a petition here to show your disgust with the politicization of the law.