From Obi Egbuna in Washington DC.
For May, 2011
Public Banking: An Idea Whose Time Has Come – by Stephen Lendman
The 1913 Federal Reserve Act let powerful bankers usurp America’s money system in violation of the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, giving only Congress the power to “coin Money (and) regulate the Value thereof….” Thereafter, powerful bankers victimized working Americans, using money, credit and debt for private self-enrichment by bankrolling and colluding with Congress and administrations to implement laws favoring them.
As a result, decades of deregulation, outsourcing, economic financialization, and casino capitalism followed, eroding purchasing power, producing asset bubbles, record budget and national debt levels, and depression-sized unemployment far higher than reported numbers, manipulated to look better.
After financial crisis erupted in late 2007, harder than ever Main Street hard times followed, getting worse, not better. As a result, high levels of personal and business bankruptcies resulted. Millions of homes have been lost. Record numbers of Americans are impoverished. An unprecedented wealth gap grows steadily. America’s unstable economy lurches from one crisis to another, the current one miring Main Street in depression, still in its early stages.
Recovery is pure illusion. Today’s contagion spread out-of-control globally. No one’s sure how to contain it, so Wall Street got trillions of dollars in a desperate attempt to socialize losses, privatize profits, and pump life back into a corpse through grand theft by sucking public wealth to the financial sector, other corporate favorites, and America’s aristocracy already with too much.
Speculation and debt need more of it to prosper, but ultimately it’s a losing game. The greater the expansion, the harder it falls, especially when credit contraction persists. Job creation is moribund. Industrial America keeps imploding. High-paying jobs are exported. Economic prospects are eroding. Workers are exploited for greater corporate profits, and no one’s sure how to revive stable, sustainable long-term growth.
Privatized money control is the problem, representing democracy’s greatest threat. Regaining public control can restore it. The time for launching public banking across America is now when more than ever it’s needed.
Cause and Effect
Economist Michael Hudson explains that “debt leveraging” caused America’s economic collapse, so piling on more exacerbates conditions, especially the way it’s done:
– by bailing out giant Wall Street banks;
– letting them used trillions in public funds for more speculation, big bonuses, and acquisitions, not direct lending to revive growth;
– not acting as a lender of last resort to facilitate private investment to create jobs, turn around a sick economy, and stimulate demand; and
– letting federal debt unproductively skyrocket to stratospheric levels, affirming Adam Smith’s dictum that no country ever repaid theirs, especially the kind banking cartels create in lieu of workable alternatives not taken.
Key among them is:
– nationalizing the Fed; returning money creation power to Congress;
– abolishing Wall Street’s franchise;
– breaking up giant banks;
– liquidating insolvent too-big-to-fail ones; and
– replacing them with publicly run banks, providing low-interest loans to businesses, farmers, communities, households, students, and other worthy borrowers as a way to revive and sustain inflation-free prosperity. It’s no pipe dream. It’s real. It happened before and can again. Short of that, according to Hudson:
“debt service will (keep) crowd(ing) out spending on goods and services and there will be no recovery. Debt deflation will drag the economy down while assets are transferred further into the hands of the wealthiest 10% of the population (mainly the top 1%), operating via the financial sector.”
Eventually the economy will collapse, but not Wall Street, profiting hugely with public handouts – aided and abetted by corrupted public officials, turning America into what Hudson calls a “zombie economy” and banana republic.
Workable Alternatives Can Prevent It
Ellen Brown’s extraordinary book titled, “Web of Debt” explains how private money power trapped Americans in debt and how they can break free. At issue is private v. publicly created credit, Brown saying:
“Readily available credit made America ‘the land of opportunity’ ever since the days of the American colonists. What transformed this credit system into a Ponzi scheme, that must continually be propped up with bailout money, is that the credit power has been turned over to private bankers who always require more money back than they create” because they charge high interest rates for maximum profits.
In contrast, when federal, state or local governments lend their own money, profit isn’t at issue so rates can be low and affordable to businesses, farmers, and private individuals. Moreover, for federal and municipality needs, government-issued credit is interest-free.
Brown explained that “fractional reserve banking” dates from the 17th century, done then mainly in gold and silver coins. Early bankers soon realized it was simpler to use deposit receipts (called notes) as a means of payment so they began creating money by making loans through promises to pay, and more could be issued than the amount of coins on hand as only enough were needed to service redemptions – today’s idea of a reserve requirement.
What began earlier as notes, today are accounting entries that literally create money out of thin air. Moreover, it works the same for government as for privately-owned banks, except as publicly-run institutions, their mandate greatly differs:
– they don’t have to earn profits;
– they’re not beholden to Wall Street or shareholders; and
– only the state, community, (or federal government’s) creditworthiness matters. So far, in over 230 years, no state ever went out of business, and, except for Arkansas during the Great Depression, none ever defaulted, even when poorly governed.
Further, they can lend to themselves and municipalities interest-free, as well as to businesses, farmers, and individuals at low affordable rates to create sustainable, inflation-free growth. Moreover, the more often loans roll over, the more debt-free money is created – inflation-free if used productively for growth, not speculation, big bonuses and other excesses.
In fact, as long as new money produces goods and services, inflation can’t occur. Only imbalances cause problems – “when ‘demand’ (money) exceeds ‘supply’ (goods and services).” Price stability is assured when both increase proportionally, and that’s exactly how it worked in colonial America and under Lincoln during the Civil War.
Colonial America’s success is explained below. An earlier chapter discussed Lincoln’s achievements, reviewed again below. Brown’s “Web of Debt” also covered early 20th century Australia under its publicly-run Commonwealth Bank. Like others, it created money, made loans, and collected interest at a fraction of what private bankers charge. It worked well enough, in fact, for the country to have one of the highest global living standards at the time.
However, once private bankers took over, Australia became heavily indebted, its living standard falling precipitously. It showed benefits possible by government created credit compared to privatized banking power destructiveness – Australia one of several examples of what works best. “Web of Debt” explained them, including:
– colonial America;
– Lincoln’s achievements;
—- the Middle Ages, falsely portrayed as a backward and impoverishing era saved only by industrial capitalism; in fact, under its banker-free tally system, it prospered for hundreds of years;
– China did for thousands of years before the privatized banking, and today because Beijing directs The People’s Bank of China (its semi-independent central bank) to grow the nation’s economy and create millions of jobs for its burgeoning population; and
– Venezuela under its public service mandated quasi-public/private system, a topic a previous chapter explained about a far more stable/responsible system than America’s predatory Fed-run one.
Imagine the possibilities under public banks:
– federal, state and local debt could be substantially reduced or eliminated;
– so could personal and payroll taxes federal taxes;
– America’s manufacturing base could be rebuilt;
– social programs could be funded inflation-free;
– vital infrastructure projects could be undertaken on a scale never before imagined, including cleaning up the environment and developing alternate, sustainable, clean, safe, affordable energy sources;
– millions of new good-paying jobs could be created, ending unemployment for everyone able work; and for those willing but unable, aid could be provided;
– foreclosures would end, and the dream of home ownership would be reachable for everyone because mortgages would be plentiful, cheap, and not designed to scam the unwary;
– booms and busts would end;
– destructive currency devaluations and economic warfare for private gain no longer would threaten;
– private pensions, savings, and investments would be secure;
– Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would be secure in perpetuity;
– Washington, the states and local communities could produce comfortable surpluses; and
– sustained prosperity overall would result, providing everyone affordable or free healthcare, education, and other essential social benefits.
It’s not pie-in-the-sky. In colonial America, it worked impressively, first Massachusetts in 1691 with its own paper money called scrip, backed by the government’s full faith and credit. Other colonies followed, freeing them from British banks, letting their economies prosper, inflation-free, with no taxation for 25 years, paying no interest to bankers. The secret wasn’t issuing too much. It was recycling money into local economies for productive growth. Wherever it’s been tried, it’s work impressively. Brown’s “Web of Debt” explained it.
Lincoln did the same thing with government-created money, interest free. What followed turned America into an industrial giant by launching the steel industry, a continental railroad system, and new era of farm machinery and cheap tools. Free education was also established. The Homestead Act gave settlers ownership rights and encouraged land development. Government supported science.
Mass production methods were standardized. Labor productivity rose exponentially during America’s greatest growth period before the Fed’s 1913 creation changed everything.
Now’s the time to change back by replacing their franchise with public banking, giving federal, state and local governments their own money system, interest-free to grow their areas and the nation sustainably and impressively, interest-free with low or no taxes. America’s lacked it for the last century.
Doing so would revolutionize the country en route perhaps to ending predatory capitalism entirely, the ultimate aim, replacing a destructive system with an equitable one, serving everyone fairly.
More Evidence Why It’s Needed
A new US census report offers more evidence why, saying one-fourth of US counties are dying (760 of 3,142), meaning they’re showing more deaths than births. Why is at issue – because of the deepening economic crisis causing record high unemployment, home foreclosures, and human misery. According to Professor Kenneth Johnson:
“The downturn in the US economy is only exacerbating the problem. In some cases, the only thing that can pull an area out is an influx of young Hispanic immigrants or new economic development,” not forthcoming.
University of Albany senior fellow James Follain said, “The housing (market decline) is creating a new type of ghost cities” because of waves of foreclosures in overbuilt urban areas. Recovery will be very slow, he said, because of fiscal restraint when stimulus is badly needed.
Instead of curing the patient, we’re killing it because giant banks control money, and government is colluding with them to wreck Main Stream America to create assets they can buy cheap at the expense of working households losing out. That’s how private money power works – for them against the common good. What more incentive is there for returning it to public hands where it belongs, serving everyone equitably and fairly.
Replicating a Workable Model
One state alone has it, North Dakota establishing the Bank of North Dakota (BND) in 1919. Access its web site at:
In contrast to privatized banks, it’s not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for good reason. Instead, its deposits “are guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the State of North Dakota,” proved trustworthy after over 90 years of sound money practices, unlike banks trapped by Fed control, wrecking many over decades.
Its deposit base is also unique, comprised mainly from state residents and funds of state institutions. However, other deposits are accepted from any private or public source. As mandated in 1919, North Dakota’s Industrial Commission oversees BND. Its members include the governor as chairman, attorney general and commissioner of agriculture. The bank also has a seven-member governor appointed advisory board, knowledgeable in banking and finance.
On December 8, 2010, Governor Jack Dalrymple’s 2011 – 2013 Budget Address highlighted a performance record other states would envy, struggling to cope with out-of-control deficits. In contrast, North Dakota had surpluses throughout the economic crisis. As a result, it’s budgeting “unprecedented funding for transportation infrastructure, housing, water supply and water control projects and other infrastructure investments throughout the state.”
Greater funding will also go for K -12 and higher education, economic development, agricultural research, health and human services, as well as quality of life enhancements, public worker pay increases, besides more for tax relief for state residents, amounting to $900 million in the 2011-2013 bienniums.
Moreover, strong reserves will be grown and maintained. Instead of cutting back like most other states, North Dakota is expanding and passing on benefits to residents. In December 2010, it also had the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.3%. BNB deserves the credit.
On January 4, Dalrymple delivered his State of the State Address, saying:
“While other states (struggle with weak economies), we in North Dakota are in a position of strength and can use our surplus funds to meet the needs of the state” adequately, despite $174 million less federal human services aid than last year.
Nonetheless, North Dakota is prosperous. “You can see it in the progress of our industries, our main streets, in our schools, and in our overall economic growth. Our progress is getting national attention. It’s attracting people from other states and it’s allowing (our) people to stay close to home.”
North Dakota’s impressive record includes:
– large budget surpluses;
– merchandise exports nearly doubled to $2 billion in the last five years alone;
– 40,000 new jobs added in the last decade while the nation lost them;
– the country’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.3%; and
– much more revealing progress and prosperity, Dalrymple saying he’s “fortunate today to be able to say with complete confidence that the state of our state is strong and growing stronger!” As a result, more impressive things are planned because North Dakota has resources to implement them, while other states cut back.
On February 20, 2011 the Bismark Tribune reported:
“North Dakota’s economy has been (producing) black gold, a $1 billion budget surplus, the nation’s lowest unemployment,” even though some residents need help. “It means there are still people, and families, who face a variety of challenges.” As a result, state and local governments “have been proactive about” helping them get benefits they need and deserve. The state has plenty of resources to do it.
An October 12, 2010 Before It’s News headline said:
“North Dakota Has A One Billion Dollar Budget Surplus this year and is looking for ways to spend it – Maine has a billion-dollar deficit and is looking for ways to fund it.”
Sub head: “North Dakota is the only state with a surplus. It is also adding jobs when other states are losing them. Why is this not headline news?”
It’s not only solvent, it’s thriving with impressive 43% personal income growth besides 34% more in total wages.
According to Brown, it’s because BND has been a “credit machine,” for over 90 years, delivering “sound financial services that promote agriculture, commerce and industry,” something no other state can match because they don’t have state-owned banks.
With one, BND “create(s) ‘credit’ with accounting entries on (its) books” through fractional reserve banking that multiplies each deposited amount magically about tenfold in the form of loans or computer-generated funds. As a result, the bank can re-lend many times over, and the more deposits, the greater amount of it for sustained, productive growth. If all states owned public banks, they’d be as prosperous as North Dakota and be able to rebate taxes and expand public services, not extract more or cut them.
Brown explains that the BND:
“chiefly acts as a central bank, with functions similar to those of a branch of the Federal Reserve,” that’s neither federal or has reserves as it’s owned by major private banks in each of the 12 Fed districts, New York by far the most dominant with Wall Street’s majority control and a Fed chairman doing its bidding.
In contrast, BND is a public bank, 100% owned by the state, operating in the public interest and those of the state. It “avoids rivalry with private banks by partnering with them.” Local banks do most lending. “The BND then comes in to participate in the loan, share risk, buy down the interest rate and buy up loans, thereby freeing up banks to lend more” as part of a continuing prosperity-creating virtuous circle. One of its functions “is to provide a secondary market for real estate loans, which it buys from local banks. Its residential loan portfolio is now $500 to $600 billion” in a state with around 700,000 people and thriving.
Its function in the property market helped it “avoid the credit crisis that afflicted Wall Street when the secondary market for loans collapsed in late 2007 and helped it reduce its foreclosure rate….(Its other services) include guarantees for entrepreneurial startups and student loans, the purchase of municipal bonds from public institutions, and a well-funded disaster loan program.” When the state didn’t meet its budget “a few years ago, the BND met the shortfall.”
Year after year it works, freeing North Dakota from today’s credit crisis and worst of the economic downturn. It’s a win-win for the state, its agriculture, commerce, industry, entrepreneurial startups, students, homebuyers needing loans, and virtually anyone in the state able to qualify.
In sum, state-owned banks have “enormous advantages over smaller private institutions….Their asset bases are not marred by oversized salaries and bonuses, they have no shareholders” demanding high returns, and they don’t speculate in derivatives or other high-risk investments. As a result, BND is healthy with a 25% return on equity, paying “a hefty dividend to the state projected at over $60 million in 2009″ and well over five times that amount in the last decade, so it begs the question why other states don’t operate the same way. With them, they might be struggling the way nearly all of them are today, especially major ones like California, New York, Michigan and Illinois.
Growing State Interest in Public Banks
On March 25, 2011, Ellen Brown’s article headlined, “A Choice for States: Banks, Not Budget Crises,” highlighting the growing interest in state-owned banks, including new initiatives exploring the idea – at least 12 so far with pending bills or feasibility studies to determine their potential. They include Oregon, Washington, Maryland, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Louisiana, California, Arizona, Maine, Vermont and Hawaii, considering public bank options like North Dakota, America’s most prosperous state with one.
At issue is while “Wall Street is (thriving), local banks are floundering, credit for small businesses and consumers remains tight, and local governments are teetering on bankruptcy.” Congress is even considering new legislation to let states do it as a way to avoid pension and other obligations. Yet, according to what’s known, the Fed gave giant banks $12.3 trillion dollars, providing nothing for strapped states, local communities, and beleaguered households struggling to stay afloat.
North Dakota avoids economic hardships. So can other states and communities with publicly owned banks. It’s not rocket science. It’s simple. That’s its beauty, and what works for North Dakota can work anywhere. Size isn’t the issue. Policy is.
As a result, momentum’s slowly building for change, in Illinois, for example, on February 5, 2011 where Rep. Mary Flowers introduced the Community Bank of Illinois Act. It:
“Provides that the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation shall operate the Community Bank of Illinois. Specifies the authority of the advisory board of directors to the Bank. Provides that the Secretary is to employ a president and employees. Contains provisions concerning the removal and discharge of appointees. Provides that State funds must be deposited in the Bank. Contains provisions concerning the nonliability of officers and sureties after deposit. Specifies the powers of the Bank.”
“Contains provisions concerning the guaranty of deposits and the Bank’s role as a clearinghouse, the authorization of loans (to) the General Revenue Fund, bank loans to farmers, limitations on the loans by the Bank, the name in which business is conducted and titles taken, civil actions, surety on appeal, audits, electronic fund transfer systems, confidentiality of bank records, the sale and leasing of acquired agricultural real estate, and the illinois higher education savings plan.”
“Provides that the Bank is the custodian of securities. Amends the Illinois State Auditing Act to require that the Auditor General must contract with an independent certified accounting firm for an annual audit of the Community Bank of Illinois as provided in the Community Bank of Illinois Act. Amends the Eminent Domain Act to allow the Bank to acquire property by eminent domain.”
In California, on February 17, 2011, Assembly Member Ben Hueso introduced AB 750 (as amended March 31, 2011), “Finance: investment trust blue ribbon task force.”
Besides other provisions:
“This bill would establish the investment blue ribbon task force to consider the viability of establishing the California Investment Trust, which would be a state bank receiving deposits of all state funds. The trust would support economic development, provide financing for housing development, public works and educational infrastructure, provide stability to the financial sector, provide state government banking services, lend capital to specified financial institutions, and provide for excess earnings of the trust to be used for state General Fund purposes.”
“The bill would establish the membership of the task force, which would include designated Members of the Legislature and designees of the Governor, Controller, and Treasurer….The bill would require the task force to report to the Legislature by December 1, 2012, on its findings and recommendations to the viability of establishing the California Investment Trust” and state-owned bank.
Candidates in last fall’s November elections also proposed state banks in California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Vermont, and Michigan, though legislation for them hasn’t passed.
In 2010, Michigan’s bill got the most coverage. An initiative for it can be accessed through the following link:
It calls a State of Michigan Development Bank an instrument to “provide credit worthy (state) Businesses loans and lines of credit on fair terms to protect and expand existing businesses and jobs, to attract new high technology and manufacturing businesses to Michigan, to put Michigan’s skilled workforce to work, and provide needed credit for Michigan farm businesses and the important tourism industry.”
It proposed using some of the $58 billion from four Michigan pension funds as initial seed capital to launch it to help local businesses and create jobs. So far the measure stalled without a legislative majority to pass it.
In the 19th century, Louisiana once had a state bank but liquidated it in 1908. Louisiana State Bank Records show the legislature created the Louisiana State Bank in March 1818 after the charter of the Louisiana Bank neared expiration.
At the time, the bank was endowed with $2 million in seed capital. Funded with $100,000, each of five branches operated autonomously. Besides providing capital for state agriculture, the bank also participated in financing the railroad industry in the mid-1800s.
It operated during Louisiana’s unprecedented growth period, with state imports and exports rivaling most other states. In 1871, it became the State National Bank, then unfortunately liquidated 11 years before North Dakota’s BND was established. Perhaps its reemergence lies ahead.
Brown explains that today’s budget crisis affecting nearly all states didn’t “arise from too much spending or too little taxation.” A Wall Street created credit freeze caused them, easily avoided with a state bank like North Dakota’s, a prosperous oasis during the worst economic crunch since the Great Depression.
The Public Banking Institute: Banking in the Public Interest
Ellen Brown heads the initiative to promote an idea whose time has come, explaining that public banks are:
– viable economic solutions to promote sustainable growth and prosperity;
– available to states, cities and local communities of any size;
– owned and operated by states or local communities, not private investors, scamming the system for profit at the public’s expense;
– economically viable like private banks, but more stable and secure;
– “able to offset tax increases with returned credit income to” communities;
– ready resources for state and local governments, “eliminating the need for large ‘rainy day’ funds,” sitting dormant unused;
– help for local businesses, farmers, working households and students, not casinos to speculate recklessly like private banks; and
– legal according to the Supreme Court.
In contrast, public banks aren’t:
– run by politicians, but by bankers responsible to states, local communities and the public welfare;
– “boondoggles for bank executives; rather, their employees are salaried public servants (paid by states or local governments with transparent pay structures) who (won’t likely) earn bonuses, commissions or fees for generating loans;” or
– “speculative ventures that maximize (short-term) profits without regard to the long-term” public interest, what responsible banking is support to stress.
Overall, public banks differ from private ones by being mandated to serve the public interest, not shareholders or corporate executives seeking maximum profits for personal gain. Moreover, by returning profits generated, lower taxes and interest rates are possible. In addition, by not needing to pay themselves interest, state project costs can, on average, be reduced by 50%.
In short, public banks work, serving people responsibly, not greedy bankers, ripping them off for personal gain. The time for change is now. The way forward: public banks serving all Americans equitably and fairly for sustainable long-term growth and prosperity.
Besides peace, good will, democratic values, and equity and justice for all, what better idea is there than that.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Waging War at Home and Abroad While Pledging Peace – by Stephen Lendman
Promising peace on May 19, Obama wages war against Middle East/North African and Central Asian states, as well as Muslim Americans at home. Earlier articles explained they’ve:
– been targeted;
– hunted down;
– bogusly entrapped by stings, false evidence or other means;
– rounded up;
– held in detention;
– kept in isolation;
– denied bail;
– restricted in their right to counsel;
– tried on secret evidence;
– convicted on bogus charges;
– given long sentences; and
– incarcerated for extra harsh treatment as political prisoners in supermax confinement or segregated Communication Management Units (CMUs).
In fact, they violate US Prison Bureau regulations, stipulating that “staff shall not discriminate against inmates on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or political belief (including) administrative decisions (involving) access to work, housing and programs.”
Moreover, the Supreme Court’s February 2005 Johnson V. California decision prohibited segregating prisoners by race, national origin, or language, citing 14th Amendment protections against racial discrimination.
Nonetheless, post-9/11, Muslims have been vilified for their faith, ethnicity, activism, prominence, and, in the case of the Holy Land Foundation, charity. Bogusly, however, they were called a terrorist group and shut down, its principles given long prison terms for providing legitimate financial and other assistance, not aid to global terror groups.
Imam Amin Abdul Latif understands well. Recently, without explanation, he was removed from a plane with his son, also an Iman, despite having cleared security. Angrily he responded:
“I’ve never experienced anything like that before, that level of humiliation and disrespect. Never in my life! As an American citizen, you expect more. The whole idea of freedom of religion – that’s what we pride ourselves over. As Americans, we pride ourselves! Now, we (no longer can) take pride. You single out a group of people (for their faith). This is just horrible.”
Ironically, he and his son were headed for an Islamophobia conference.
More serious are bogus indictments, charging innocent men and women with terrorism, conspiracy to commit it, and related offenses. Two Queens, NY men, both Muslims, are likely victims, Ahmed Ferhani and Mohammed Mamdou, charged with planning to bomb synagogues in Manhattan.
On May 12, New York Times writers William Rashbaum and Al Baker headlined, “Suspects in Terror Case Wanted to Kill Jews, Officials Say,” both writers implying prosecutorial credibility by their inflammatory headline, saying:
According to New York police commissioner Raymond Kelly, their ambitions didn’t end there, expressing an interest also “in blowing up the Empire State Building.”
Earlier, innocent men and women were charged with alleged plots against various New York landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, Times Square, Kennedy Airport, and the Empire State Building.
Others were falsely accused of plots against US soldiers at Fort Dix, NJ, marines at Quantico, VA, National Guard jets with stinger missiles, Pakistan’s ambassador with a surface-to-air missile, an armed forces recruiting station, and other just as preposterous targets. All charges were bogus. Some, in fact, were dropped from indictments. All were to stoke fear and enlist public support for the fake war on terror, filling prison cells with innocent Muslims to do it.
On May 13, Ferhani and Mamdou were arraigned before Judge Melissa C. Jackson in Manhattan’s State Supreme Court on conspiracy, hate crimes, weapons possession, and terrorism. According to prosecutor Margaret Gandy:
“The seriousness of this crime is considerable,” adding that investigators had convincing, undisclosed evidence. Both men were held without bail. Neither one entered a formal plea, but lawyers said their clients denied wrongdoing.
The previous day, at a City Hall press conference, commissioner Kelly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. said both men wanted to kill Jews and considered blowing up churches.
Of course, authorities will say anything to incite fear and get convictions, leaving no one safe in today’s environment, no matter how pristine pure.
According to Vance:
“They conspired and took concrete steps to blow up synagogues and churches to advance (their) ideological goals and to possess and use illegal firearms and explosives. They did it for jihad, something they referred simply to as the cause, which meant the violence and armed fight against Israel, Jews and other non-Muslims and the West….He was committed to violent jihad, and his plans became bigger and more violent with each passing week.”
However, according to Ferhani’s father, his son was falsely accused, saying:
“He’s a very good kid….He has a very good heart, but if somebody tries tries to tell him something, he always believes it.” As for the charges, he added: “Bomb a synagogue? That’s not my son….he’s not a religious fanatic.”
A seven-month long New York city police sting, in fact, entrapped the men. This occurs when law enforcement officials or agents induce, influence, or provoke crimes that otherwise wouldn’t be committed. However, it doesn’t apply in cases of willingness to act lawlessly, government merely aiding, abetting, or facilitating a good chance to do so.
Entrapment involves the following:
– government officials or agents initiated the idea;
– individuals were persuaded to act; and
– they had no previous intent or willingness to do so.
Key is that prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that subjects weren’t entrapped. Otherwise, due process convictions are prohibited, though judicial fairness seldom occurs in cases involving anyone for political reasons, especially Muslims.
If convicted, Ferhani and Mamdou face potential life sentences, most likely on false charges.
FBI Charges Six South Florida Muslims
On May 14, New York Times writer Dan Van Natta headlined, “Florida Men Accused of Supporting Pakistani Taliban,” saying:
“Six people, including two Imams at South Florida mosques, have been indicted on federal charges of providing financial support and encouraging violence by the Pakistani Taliban, the United States attorney here announced Saturday.”
Charged were Hafiz Mumammed Sher Ali Khan, an elderly Miami Mosque Imam, known as the Flagler Mosque, Miami’s oldest. Others accused included:
– Izhar Khan, Mumammed’s son, an Imam at Margate, FL’s Jamaat Al-Mumineen Mosque;
– Irfan Khan, another son;
– Ali Rehman (aka Faisal Ali Rehman);
– Alam Zeb; and
– Amina Khan (Amina Bibi).
Rehman, Zeb, and Amina Khan reside in Pakistan. The others are in South Florida. Amina is Mumammed’s daughter. Alam is his grandson.
Another son, Ikram, called the arrests “ridiculous,” saying:
“They can do anything they want in America. They want to scare more people.”
Accused of providing material support to a terrorist organization, the Taliban, Ikram explained that his father sent money to a Pakistan madrasa (a school) for charitable purposes only, adding:
“It only does good things for people, and it only does the right thing….None of my family supports the Taliban. We support this country.”
According to Rafiq Mahdi, a Fort Lauderdale, FL Imam:
“I have not heard anything or know anything that would lead me to think” these charges are legitimate. “I think as Imams here in the United States, we are keenly aware of the scrutiny that we are receiving. We have a big job to combat the prejudice that has been focused on Islam and Muslims in this country. We have to be careful,” as a result.
There are “many of our immigrant brothers who (may) be sending money to family members for charitable purposes and that can possibly be misconstrued.”
In other words, six more Muslims were falsely accused of what they didn’t do and don’t support. Nonetheless, on May 14, a Department of Justice press release headlined, “Six Individuals Charged for Providing Material Support to the Pakistani Taliban,” saying:
The four-count indictment charged all six “defendants (with) conspiring to provide and providing material support to a conspiracy to murder, maim, and kidnap persons overseas, as well as conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically the Pakistani Taliban.”
Two individuals were arrested in South Florida, another in Los Angeles. The others are at large in Pakistan. All are Pakistani natives.
According to US Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer:
“Despite being an Imam, or spiritual leader, Hafiz Khan was by no means a man of peace,” though no evidence corroborates DOJ charges against any of those accused.
In later 2008, US banks noticed financial transactions to Pakistan accounts. The FBI was notified. Supposedly they wiretapped phone conversations about transferring funds to Pakistani insurgents for planned assaults against US interests there and in Afghanistan.
Since 9/11, hundreds of innocent Muslims have been bogusly accused of other terror plots, including conspiring with overseas terrorists.
After pleading innocent at a May 16 Federal District Court hearing, Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan’s lawyer, Khurrum Wahid, asked community members not to prejudge his client, saying:
“The public may have preconceived notions. I would ask the public to keep an open mind, and remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in this country.”
Moreover, Khan family relatives and friends asserted that all money sent to Pakistan was to help indigent people as well as to provide charitable support for a madrasa.
According to Fort Laudedale lawyer Victor Comras:
“The key difficulty in prosecuting (these type) cases is proving that the contribution was made ‘knowingly’ ” for purposes other than those claimed. In previous cases, he explained, prosecutors have struggled to prove intent without clear evidence.
However, prosecutors often manipulate alleged evidence to convince juries of terrorist connections and intent. Secret evidence is also used. As a result, innocent victims are wrongfully charged and convicted.
In a post-9/11 climate of fear, it’s the wrong time to be Muslim in America. As a result, federal prisons are filled with them for political advantage, not for alleged wrongdoing.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Obama Plans Gutting Regulations for Corporate Favorites – by Stephen Lendman
Promising change after eight Republican dominated years, Obama betrayed the public trust by special favors given business at the expense of essential growing needs.
Spurning them, in fact, he shows contempt for the things he rhetorically supports, proving he’s no different from the worst of the bipartisan criminal class, serving wealth and power interests only.
As a result, he backed Wall Street’s financial coup d’etat, looted the nation’s wealth for them, institutionalized speculation and corporate racketeering, wrecked the economy, and consigned millions to impoverishment without jobs, homes, savings, social services, or futures.
Now more is planned, first announced in a January 18, 2011 Executive Order, (EO) titled, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review” to benefit business, no matter the public cost.
On February 7, Obama elaborated in a Chamber of Commerce speech, promising to “remove outdated, unnecessary regulations” to free business more than ever since the roaring twenties to do whatever they damn well please, saying:
“I understand the challenges you face. I understand you are under incredible pressure to cut costs and keep your margins up. I understand the significance of your obligations to your shareholders and the pressures that are created by quarterly reports. I get it.”
What he doesn’t “get” or give a damn about is growing human need. Instead, he focuses solely corporate bottom line concerns no leader should prioritize over greater ones affecting millions of troubled households during the nation’s gravest economic crisis in decades, one he’s worsening, not alleviating.
In fact, acting more like one of them than one of us, he discussed various special favors he had in mind, including lowering corporate taxes and “breaking down some of the barriers that stand in the way of your success,” eliminating “outdated and unnecessary regulations” to save billions of dollars annually, no matter the incalculable public cost.
Dismissively he said:
“I’ve ordered a government-wide review,” and if there are rules on the books that are needlessly stifling job creation and economic growth, we will fix them….I’ve also ordered agencies to find ways to make regulations more flexible for small business,” promising to make government as accommodative as possible, giving away the store if there’s anything left from the wreckage he already caused.
Obama Unveils Corporate Friendly Deregulation Plan
On May 26, Reuters writer Alister Bull headlined, “White House takes steps to cut business red tape,” saying:
Obama unveiled a plan to save corporations “billions of dollars over time, seeking to placate businesses complaining about what they see as undue regulatory burden.”
In fact, billions of dollars in political contributions freed corporate giants from numerous regulations since the 1970s.
Jimmy Carter, in fact, spearheaded deregulation Nixon and Ford began by hiring Alfred Kahn to head the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). The 1978 Airline Deregulation Act followed. It dissolved the CAB, removed industry restraints, eased consolidation, and subsequent bills deregulated trucking and railroads – the 1980 Motor Carrier Act and 1980 Staggers Rail Act, following the 1976 Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act.
Carter also phased out interest rate deposit ceilings, and gave the Fed more power through the 1980 Depository Institutions and Monetary Control Act, removing New Deal restraints and enabling subsequent administrations to go further.
Under Reagan, energy deregulation followed, notably oil and gas, then electric utilities under GHW Bush and Clinton, the result being high prices, brownouts, and Enron-like scandals.
In the 1980s, the 1982 Alternative Mortgage Transactions Parity Act led to exotic feature mortgages with adjustable rates or interest-only. They carry low “teaser” rates for several years, after which they’re adjusted much higher, often making loans unaffordable, especially for low-income, high-risk borrowers using subprime and Alt-A loans.
The 1982 Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act deregulated thrifts and fueled fraud, so much that the Savings and Loan crisis followed. As a result, hundreds of banks failed, sticking taxpayers with most of the $160 billion cost. In 1987, the Government Accountability Office (GOA) declared the S & L deposit insurance fund insolvent because of mounting bank failures.
In 1988, global regulators imposed minimum bank capital requirements, known as the Basel Accord or Basel I, enforced in G-10 countries.
In 1989, the Financial Institutions Reform and Recovery Act abolished the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and FSLIC, transferring them to the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) and FDIC. It also created the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) to liquidate troubled assets, assume Federal Home Loan Bank Board insurance functions, and clean up a troubled system.
Clinton era telecommunications deregulation let media and telecommunication giants consolidate, gave new digital television broadcast spectrum space to current TV station owners, and let cable companies increase their local monopoly positions.
His 1994 Reigle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act let bank holding companies operate in more than one state. In 1996, the Fed reinterpreted Glass-Steagall to let bank holding companies earn up to 25% of their revenue from investment banking. The 1998 Citicorp-Travelers merger followed, combining a commercial/investment bank with an insurance company ahead of the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act, also called the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) authorizing it.
In 2000, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA) passed, legitimizing swap agreements and other hybrid instruments, at the heart of today’s problems by ending regulatory oversight of derivatives and leveraging that turned Wall Street more than ever into a casino.
New Deal reforms were enacted to restrain corporate fraud and abuse. Gutting them decades later to the present, business was freed to pillage at will, Washington turning a blind eye to the worst of their racketeering.
Obama, in fact, exacerbated the worst of bad practices, especially for his Wall Street favorites, literally rewarding their criminal fraud with at least $12.3 trillion dollars of taxpayer money and perhaps more yet to be disclosed, if ever.
Obama’s “Simpler, Smarter Regulatory System”
Thirty federal agencies proposed eliminating or modifying hundreds of regulations to benefit business, despite compromising environmental concerns, sacrificing public safety, and disregarding general welfare issues.
While details so far are sketchy, several proposals include:
– excusing states from requiring air pollution vapor recovery systems at gas stations;
– ending “outdated” Endangered Species Act regulations;
– freeing business from 1.9 million regulatory reporting hours relating to workplace safety;
– curtailing railroad and other safety standards;
– stressing bottom line priorities over public benefits; and
– assuring further deregulation follows current proposals.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Jacob Lew said:
“Paperwork and reporting burdens are a serious problem….This is not a one time project. This is the beginning of what will become a new way of doing business.”
Responding, the Chamber of Commerce applauded “some commonsense recommendations that will save businesses some time, money, headaches, and resources,” adding much more needs to be done, saying:
“What we need is a plan to make our flawed regulatory system smarter, less intrusive, and more accountable.”
National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Legislative Director Scott Slesinger said:
“The purpose of the regulatory system is to protect the health and well-being of the American public. Any proposed changes should be closely evaluated to ensure they protect the public, first and foremost.”
“Coming at a time when the entire system for protecting (public safety) is already under political attack by some in Congress, we will closely examine these specific change to ensure that federal agencies continue to put the public’s interest above all else.”
From what’s so far known, public safety and welfare are being sacrificed for bottom line considerations, Obama prioritizing his efforts for them.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Memorial and Veterans Day Hypocrisy – by Stephen Lendman
Annually America’s warrior tradition is commemorated in major media editorials and op-eds, honoring fallen men and women for reasons not explained. More on that below.
On May 29, The New York Times headlined, “Among the Graves This Memorial Day,” saying:
Besides families mourning soldiers “recently lost in Iraq or Afghanistan….(t)here is still a generation mourning friends, relatives and fellow servicemen lost in Vietnam, Korea and World War II….”
“Whatever you make of the wars in which those soldiers fought, whatever you make of war itself, their sacrifices are real and permanent,” omitting what most needs explained about imperial arrogance responsibility for lost lives.
The Chicago Tribune headlined, “Hoist a glass for Red,” saying:
Red Madsen and others like him “gave portions of their lives to warfare but survived. This day is theirs too,” stressing shared sacrifices they all made “defend(ing) this country,” leaving unexplained that America’s war are imperial, unrelated to defense.
The Washington Post also reflected in an editorial headlined, “A Memorial Day remembrance.” It honored Navy Seals involved in the alleged bin Laden killing stunt and (until his May 25 death) Maryland’s last living Medal of Honor recipient (Baltimore’s Paul J. Wiedorfer).
It was mostly reflective boilerplate until the final thought, recalling an earlier Wiedorfer comment, saying:
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Medal of Honor didn’t exist because there were no wars and we could all live in peace?”
Rarely ever do America’s media express that sentiment, never its warrior leaders, reflected in Obama’s 2011 proclamation saying:
“On this Memorial Day, we honor the generations of Americans who have fought and died to defend our freedom….From Gettysburg to Kandahar, America’s sons and daughters have served with honor and distinction, securing our liberties and laying a foundation for lasting peace.”
Waging multiple imperial wars, ready plans for others, and numerous proxy ones, his hypocrisy requires no comment, desecrating the graves he pretends to honor.
Memorial and Veterans Days of Shame
Commemorated on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day was first observed in 1866, called Decoration Day in 1868. In 1967, federal law officially made it the time to honor America’s fallen men and women. More on that below.
Veterans Day was formerly Armistice Day (Remembrance Day in Europe), commemorating WW I’s end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in 1918 when guns on both went silent, or were supposed to. First observed in America in 1919, it became a legal holiday in 1938. In June, 1954, Congress changed its name to Veterans Day.
Both days, in fact, dishonor America’s war dead, omitting why they fought and died in vain, sacrificing their lives for imperial conquest, plunder, and new ones in an endless cycle of gratuitous violence, militarism, brutality, and destruction for power and profit.
Comfortably at home during hostilities, America’s privileged, in fact, let others do their dying for them, making the world safe for bankers, war profiteers, and other corporate favorites, sending innocent youths to conflicts based on lies, duplicitously saying it’s for freedom, democracy, and humanitarian concerns.
In fact, it’s for wealth and power, nothing else, conquering, colonizing, and exploiting resources and people ruthlessly, shifting from one theater to another, satisfying an insatiable desire for more, sucking life out of countries one at a time or several simultaneously, an American tradition from inception.
As a result, these holidays warrant special condemnation, representing a galling legacy of perpetual wars, false patriotism, and unattainable peace, the very notion intolerable to America’s leaders for generations, notably since WW II.
These days, in fact, testify to the nation’s depravity, commemorating the ultimate crime by wasting human lives, ignoring Lincoln in November 1863 at Gettsburg, saying:
“(W)e here resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
The horror of America’s Civil War still continued, finally ending on June 22, 1865, the day the last shot was fired, weeks after another killed Lincoln on April 22 that year.
Both, in fact, metaphorically reflect endless death, destruction, and human suffering wars guarantee, at times consuming presidents, but mostly deceived youths sent to battle for reasons unexplained, not the fabricated ones used to rally them.
A Final Thought
Future commemorations should chart a new course, vowing never again and meaning it. Remembrance should be an act of contrition and path to redemption, honoring the living, pledging peace, non-violence, equity and justice by leaders backing rhetoric with policy.
Perhaps one day new generations will wonder why older ones fought wars, they long ago renounced. If so, commemorating dead and living warriors may be replaced by a Peace Day, honoring sacred life so dead soldiers didn’t die in vain. Pray it comes in time to matter.
Encircling Russia with US Bases – by Stephen Lendman
In 1991, after the Soviet Union dissolved, everything changed but stayed the same. As a result, today’s stakes are far greater, presenting much larger threats to world peace.
In America, neocons are still dominant. Obama is more belligerent than Bush, waging four wars and various proxy ones. The Israeli Lobby, Christian Right, and other extremist elements drive them. Conflict is preferred over diplomacy.
Congressional majorities support Washington’s imperial agenda, including global militarization against potential challengers and America’s main rivals – China and Russia, encircling them belligerently with bases and strategic weapons. It’s a policy fraught with danger.
NATO has 28 member states, including 10 former Soviet Republics and Warsaw Pact countries. Prospective new candidates include Georgia, Ukraine, and potentially others later to more tightly encircle Russia and China.
At the same time, the Middle East and parts of Eurasia have been increasingly militarized with a network of US bases from Qatar to Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond – a clear breach of GHW Bush’s promise to Mikhail Gorbachev that paved the way for unifying Germany in 1990 and dissolving the Soviet Union.
Washington’s promises, of course, aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, a hard lesson many nations later learn painfully.
Moreover, the Pentagon has an expanding network of 1,000 or more global bases, including secret and shared ones for greater control. In fact, at a time no nation threatens America, trillions of dollars are spent anyway for what military planners call “full spectrum dominance” over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary, including with nuclear weapons preemptively.
Encroaching Belligerently Near Russia’s Borders
In late summer 2009, Obama suspended Bush administration plans for interceptor missiles in Poland and advanced tracking radar in the Czech Republic, both NATO members. Purportedly targeting Iran and other “rogue states,” they, in fact, very much aimed at Russia, what new ones will do when installed.
At issue is assuring first strike capability, preventing or diminishing retaliation if America attacks Russia or China, a potentially catastrophic possibility under any scenario, but especially if nuclear war erupts.
For now, according to Obama, Washington will pursue “stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America’s allies,” including Poland and the Czech Republic. Tactics alone may change, not hardline imperial policies.
Last September, Defense Secretary Gates explained a four-phase missile shield plan, including deploying Aegis class warships in the Eastern Mediterranean equipped with SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles and anti-satellite interceptors, followed by upgraded land and sea versions when available.
Moreover, stationing SM-3s in Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland were announced. Last summer, in fact, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors and about 100 US troops were sent to eastern Poland, close to Russia’s Kaliningrad region, 200 miles from its border.
This same capability was installed in the Persian Gulf, including supplying regional allies with longer range Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems, the strategy being to have in place impenetrable interceptors from the Baltic to the Arabian, Black and Red Seas.
In addition, a warning system is planned for the Czech Republic and other countries as well as centrally controlled missile interceptors – from Southern and Eastern Europe through the Middle East to close to Russia’s borders, too close perhaps for comfort.
Instead of abandoning Bush’s scheme, Obama’s plans a far more extensive, sophisticated, flexible, mobile system to be developed through 2020. Included is nearly doubling the number of Aegis class warships to 38 by 2015, equipped with state-of-the-art missile interceptors.
As a result, America’s front line capability will shift from Eastern Germany through the Middle East to the Black Sea and other strategic waterways to the Caucasus and Russia proper, encroaching on Moscow with new Eastern European bases in Bulgaria, Romania and Poland.
It represents the most significant US presence there since WW II. Currently, only limited troop numbers are involved up to 150 or so permanently, but expect an expanded presence ahead.
Last March, in fact, Secretary of State Clinton said Washington will deploy missile interceptor elements and F-16s in Poland. Russia expressed concern, Dmitry Rogozin, its permanent NATO representative, saying US plans complicate dialogue regarding creating a joint European anti-ballistic missile system, adding:
“Mrs. Clinton’s statement contradicts the foundational relationship (between the) Russian Federation and NATO signed in 1997, (stipulating) that NATO must not strengthen the military structure close to the borders of Russia.”
A Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement also expressed concern, saying:
“We have known about plans regarding (an) anti-ballistic missiles system long ago and we plan to (react in response) in the network of the EuroABM project. As for the idea of (US) Air Force base deployment, it requires an additional explanation.”
In late April, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reacted as well, saying:
“The expansion of NATO infrastructure towards our borders is causing us concern. NATO is not simply a political bloc. It is a military bloc. No one cancelled the agreements on how the bloc reacts to external threats. It is a defense structure,” but it’s acting aggressively.
In a post-G-8 Summit press conference, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said:
“I am not satisfied with the American side’s reaction to my proposals and with NATO’s reaction in general. Why? Because we are wasting time. Even though I spoke about the year 2020 yesterday as a deadline, (the) year when the construction of a four-stage system of the so-called adaptive approach ends. After 2020, if we do not come to terms, a real arms race will begin.”
Perhaps much sooner as he’s gotten no assurances that Russia isn’t being targeted. As a result, he added:
“When we ask for the name of the countries that the shield is aimed at, we get silence. When we ask if the country has missiles (able to strike Europe), the answer is no.”
So “who has those type of missiles” interceptors wish to deter? “We do. So we can only think that this system is being aimed against us.”
He and other Russian officials worry about it expanding to Ukraine and Georgia with missile interceptors, attack aircraft, and US troops on its borders, threatening its security.
Obama in Poland
On May 28, Obama met with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk, discussing, among other issues, reaffirming a US military presence with “American boots on the ground,” including a permanent aerial detachment of F-16s and C-130 transport planes.
White House national security official Liz Sherwood-Randall said:
“What we will be doing is rotating trainers and aircraft to Poland so they can become more inter-operable with NATO. It will be a small permanent presence on the ground and then a rotational presence that will be more substantial.”
On May 28, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said:
“To the east of the Oder River (dividing Germany and Poland), American forces will appear, and this at a time when America is reducing its overall military presence in Europe.”
In fact, redeployment with interceptor missiles, other offensive weapons, and boots on the ground close to Russia’s borders, not reduction, is planned, what clearly has Moscow officials alarmed.
On May 29, however, Obama disingenuously downplayed those concerns, reaffirming mutual defense and inviting Russia to participate in European missile defense plans, saying:
“I am very proud of (America’s) reset process (with Russia). We believe missile defense is something where we can cooperate with Russia….This will not be a threat to the strategic balance.”
Concerned Russian officials very much disagree, Vladimir Putin’s earlier sentiment likely again being discussed.
In February 2007, in response to US planned missile defense then, he said:
“NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders. (It) does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represent a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have a right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”
At the time, his comments drew a storm of US media Russia bashing, as well as an article by this writer titled, “Reinventing the Evil Empire,” saying:
Russia is back, proud and re-assertive, not about to roll over for America, especially in Eurasia. For Washington, it’s back to the future with a new Cold War, but this time for greater stakes and much larger threats to world peace.
It’s especially true during economic hard times, especially with austerity policies addressing them when social stimulus is needed, provoking spreading discontent for change.
As a result, Western powers may invent threats to distract people, waging greater war for imperial dominance, Russia and China perhaps directly threatened this time.
Vermont Enacts Conditional Universal Healthcare Coverage – by Stephen Lendman
Numerous previous articles discussed Obamacare, described accurately as a rationing scheme to enrich insurers, drug companies and large hospital chains in lieu of universal single payer coverage.
Obama hailed its March 2010 passage as answering “the call of history.” In fact, Ralph Nader was right calling it a “pay-or-die system that is the disgrace of the Western world,” costing double what other Western countries spend and delivering less, rationing care to enrich corporate providers while making a dysfunctional system worse.
Under it, junk insurance policies leave millions underinsured. Costs remain out-of-control. Insurers can still deny care by delaying, contesting, preventing or over-charging people from accessing it. Yet everyone must be covered or penalized if opt out, a provision many states are contesting as a lawless unconstitutional infringement.
Moreover, company-provided policies will be taxed as ordinary income, harming working households most of all.
After passage, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) denounced it, saying the new law “enrich(es) and further entrench(es private insurers, forcing) millions of Americans to buy” defective coverage leaving most worse off than before at a cost of hundreds of billions of tax dollars given predators to game the system for profit, the public losing out. Moreover, 23 million Americans will remain uninsured, “translate(d) into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering.”
In fact, Obama’s centerpiece domestic policy scammed the public with a package of expensive mandates, new taxes, and sweetheart deals, creating a fragmented, dysfunctional, unsustainable system, denying Americans what they urgently need – universal coverage, an expanded, improved Medicare for all. Everyone in, no one out, what neither party or Obama delivered.
Vermont Perhaps Heading for Affordable Universal Coverage
After Vermont lawmakers passed the Universal and Unified Health System Act (H. 202), Governor Peter Shumlim, on May 26, signed America’s first universal system, a measure heading state residents for full coverage with lots of hurdles to overcome to make it fair, equitable and affordable.
Nonetheless, Shumlin relished the moment, saying we’re:
“here today to launch the first single payer system in America, to do in Vermont what has taken too long – to have health care that is the best in the world that treats (it) as a right and not a privilege, where health care follows the individual not the employer.”
“This law recognizes an economic and fiscal imperative. We must control the growth in health care costs that are putting families at economic risk and making it harder for small employers to do business.”
On May 26, Physicians for a National Health Program’s (PNHP) National Coordinator, Dr. Quentin D. Young said:
“We salute the single-payer activists in Vermont and applaud their efforts. Although this is not a (true) single-payer bill, we will continue to support the struggle to achieve health care justice in Vermont and across the nation.”
A PNHP press release said H. 202 “is much more modest in its actual reach than a (true) single-payer plan,” providing universal affordable coverage as a human right, no strings attached.
“As of now, the federal Affordable Care Act prohibits states like Vermont from adopting their own models of reform until 2017.” Shumlin and other Vermonters want it earlier in 2014. Other states, including California, are considering variations of single-payer.
Vermont’s bill, in fact, falls short of universal, high-quality, affordable coverage by permitting multiple private insurers, able to game the system through “multi-tiered care, rising costs and needless waste.”
Moreover, enormous administrative costs remain instead of eliminating them altogether under a single-payer system, removing the middleman so state officials can negotiate reduced prices for drugs and other health services.
Among other limitations, Vermont’s bill establishes a state healthcare exchange called Green Mountain Care, managed by a five-member board. It interfaces with providers on reimbursement rates under a system leaving them largely in control, a serious flaw needing correcting. Otherwise they’ll game the system to their advantage.
According to PNHP co-founder Dr. David Himmelstein:
Vermont’s law “leave(s) the door open for burdensome co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses that deter people from seeking timely care. (Moreover), to the extent the law permits, large for-profit institutional providers (may) allocate their profits as they see fit, (denying) the system (of) the ability to do effective health planning.”
As a result, much more work needs to be done to make universal coverage a reality.
On Democracy Now, Dr. Deb Richter, president of Vermont Health Care for All and past PNHP president, explained the bill’s shortcomings and need to change federal law. The goal, she stressed, is true universal coverage. Everyone in, no one out in a system excluding private insurers except for those choosing that option.
In fact, Vermont for Single Payer: Everybody In, Nobody Out’s Statement of Principles is as follows:
“We support a universal health care system for the State of Vermont, one that includes all Vermonters, offers free choice of providers, is progressively financed, decoupled from employment, affordable for all, and pays for all necessary care out of public funds; a system which retains the private delivery of health care and has a publicly accountable budget process to ensure adequate capacity to meet the health care needs of all Vermonters.”
Access VSP’s site through the following link:
On May 26, Vermont took an important first step toward universal coverage. It’s for Vermonters and other state residents to follow through for true affordable universality, establishing affordable health care as an inalienable human right no corporate predators or politicians can deny.
Posting on a Tanzanian web message board, translated from Swahili: one of many abusive and threatening posts about Edson Cosmas, gay activist threatened with deportation to Tanzania
Edson “Eddy” Cosmas is a young gay man from Tanzania (TZ) facing imminent deportation from the UK where he applied for, but was denied, asylum. He is an activist whose case is well-known internationally, and the abuse and death threats directed against him on the Internet make it clear he will face death or certain persecution if he is sent back.
Because there is little up to date country guidance about human rights abuses against LGBT people in TZ, the Home Office have decided it is a safe enough country for LGBT people; they base this on the fact that there are few documented cases of prosecution under TZ’s anti homosexual laws (up to 25 years imprisonment); this is true, instead, LGBT people are frequently arrested under prostitution, indecency and vagrancy laws. LGBT people in TZ are subjected to harassment, violence, beatings, discrimination and torture – all with the sanction of the state who do nothing to protect LGBT people from abuse.
On 25th May, Movement for Justice received a reply from a gay activist in TZ in response to our search for people who can talk about the real, lived experience of LGBT people in TZ. Below are extracts from his response, unfortunately we cannot disclose this source’s name publicly because it would endanger his life. We hope to organise telephone interviews as long as his anonymity can be protected.
“Edson will face a lot of trouble (beaten, or death) if he will be returned back to Tanzania. Tanzania is not safe at all, especial for gays. Edson Cosmas who was publicized in magazine and documented in some websites in UK and most of the people here in Tanzania heard about him and main discussion is negative thought so for him it will not safe
I had experience some cases concern gay people who had been deported back to Tanzania, when they arrive at the airport some conservative people and religious who hate the gays are just waited outside the airport with slogan of disdain and stigmatize the person and also the police are usually waiting for them to arrest, absolutely. Edson has become quite well known because of the campaign to stop his deportation this will make him to be arrested.”
Eddy’s case is a test of the UK governments commitment to the protection of lesbian and gay people fleeing persecution, a commitment legally enshrined in the Supreme Court ruling last summer which ruled that LGBT people could no longer be sent back to countries where they face persecution on the basis that you can ‘hide’ your sexuality. This decision is being regularly flouted by UKBA, Home Office officials and decision makers who instead of telling LGBT people to be ‘discreet’ have switched to demanding impossible ‘proofs’ from the individual that they are gay and using lack of country information to say that its probably safe.
“The consideration of Edson’s claim appears to be a textbook example of how not to judge a gay asylum claim. He is well-known as gay by a large number of people who have worked with him to submit evidence about his sexuality because they know the system is adversarial, but to no effect.
Simply put: if Edson’s case isn’t waved through then what cases would be? Many of those who work with LGBT asylum seekers believe that the attitude of border agents has shifted now they cannot say ‘go home and be discrete’ anymore. Instead they say ‘you’re not gay’. Paul Canning writing for LGBT Asylum News
Wide speculation abounded at the time of the Supreme Court decision that its ruling would open the ‘flootgates’ to asylum seekers falsely claiming to be gay. This has not happened because the fact is, gay asylum seekers find it hard to come out as gay in the asylum process because a well founded fear that if they declare their sexuality publicly in the asylum process and are still deported, they face certain death in countries where homosexuality is illegal and societal abuse is widespread. Anyone who is not truly gay would not see claiming homosexuality as an ‘easy’ option. In fact, LGBT asylum seekers are MORE likely to be deported from the UK than other asylum seekers (source, stonewall report). This reality is illustrated starkly in Eddy’s case…
“Whether or not the Home Office believe Eddy is a gay man, it is an indisputable fact that he is now internationally known to be gay, we know his case is being discussed in Tanzania itself and he has received death threats because of that. If Eddy is deported to Tanzania, the UK immigration authorities and government will be guilty of murder
While countries like Uganda and Iran are receiving widespread publicity about their persecution of LGBT people, many other countries not so well known for human rights abuses or who have friendly relations with the UK are being ignored. Eddy’s case is the perfect opportunity for the UK to make clear that persecution of LGBT people anywhere in the world is not acceptable and that Britain will become a beacon of freedom.
If the UK proceed on a track of deportation for Eddy, we call on other nations to step forward and offer Eddy the protection and safety he needs.” Karen Doyle (Movement for Justice)
Edson Cosmas is known across the world as a gay activist
Over 700 online signatures have been gathered in support of Edson from right across Europe & America as well as support from people in Africa, Australia, Canada, China, Turkey and New Zealand.
Signatories include Peter Tatchell, John McDonnell MP, the Mayor of Richmond, California, and organisations including the National Union of Students (NUS) Black Students Campaign, NUS LGBT campaign, Gays without Borders (San Francisco), Skyline High School Gay/Straight Alliance (California), Every One Group (Italy).
Demonstrations have been held for Eddy in London and California, hundreds of petition signatures have been gathered by high school students in the USA, organisations in Italy have been faxing their embassies
In London petitioning rallies have been held in Brixton, Whitechapel and Old Compton street – over 1700 petition signatures have been gathered.
Timeline for Eddy on Fast Track – an inhumane and unjust system
On 9th May 2011: Eddy attends initial screening interview at the Home Office in Croydon; he submits claim for asylum based on sexual orientation. He is taken into detention, removed to Harmondsworth detention centre.
Fri 13th May 2011: Eddy starts a gruelling, adversarial interview process while being held in detention. He is appointed a solicitor he has never met before who only has 30minutes to get to know Eddie.
Mon 16th May 2011: Interview continues, after 1 week in detention Edson is confused & scared, he has become even more scared over the weekend, feels he is being tested, cannot hold on to what had happened on Friday 13th.
Wed 18th May 2011: The decision: key points are all based on confusion displayed by Eddy in the interview process (inability to remember details, timeline etc) taken, not as a natural response to being wrongly imprisoned or an expression of someone who is traumatised; but as meaning he lacks ‘credibility’,. Decision also stated that TZ really was not that bad for LGBT people, citing a quote from one TZ bishop as ‘key’ evidence. All witness statements from Eddy’s friends& fellow MFJ members are completely dismissed.
Mon 23rd May 2011: Eddy is examined by a doctor from Medical Justice who has been asked to provide a medico-legal report for Edson’s appeal. Report cannot be completed until 31st May 2011 (1 weeks time)
Tue 24th May: Eddy has psychological assessment. With less than one days notice the assessment cannot be carried out in a private room. Psychologist gathers enough information & observations to provide an interim report stating clearly that Eddy was not fit to appear on his own behalf at an appeal, that his mental health is deteriorating in detention and that she needed at least two more sessions to be able to complete the assessment. Eddy’s appeal hearing is scheduled for 26th May
Wed 25th May: Today is spent trying to finalise Edson’s witness statement, gathering other evidence and ensuring witnesses could attend, key witnesses, including an ex partner could not attend at such short notice. Gay activist in Tanzania gets in touch to say it is not at all safe for eddy to go back.
Thu 26th Mar: Edson’s appeal hearing - application made to take Eddy off fast track and adjourn the hearing so medical and psychological assessments could be completed, death threats from Tanzania could be translated and two key witnesses could attend. Judge S Chana, disregarded all this & refused to end Eddy’s detention or adjourn the hearing, he is subjected to almost two hours of gruelling cross examination.
Here is a summary of his case:
In Tanzania, sexual relations between men are criminalized under the penal code, Section 154 and 257 and punishable with up to 30 year imprisonment.
Throughout his life in Tanzania, Edson experienced beatings, stoning and other assaults for his sexual orientation. His family disowned him, in part to protect themselves from persecution.
In 2006, in order to distance him, his family helped him escape to Britain, where he lived as an undocumented immigrant for several years.
For the past year, he has been an active member of Movement for Justice, a civil rights organization that has been fighting to win asylum for LGBT refugees in Britain. MFJ has been successful in winning asylum for a number of political and LGBT refugees, which inspired Edy to make the fight for himself.
British law requires the Government to grant asylum to anyone who is gay and would face political persecution for being gay if they were returned to the country they were born in.
On 9th May, 2011 Edson Cosmas went to the Home Office in Croydon to submit his initial claim for asylum in Britain and to go to a screening interview. At the end of the interview, Eddy was stunned to be told that he was going to be taken into detention.
Edy was interrogated by immigration officers for over 20 hours over 2 days, without an attorney or representative present.
On May 18, 2011 the Home Office issued a ruling denying Edy asylum.If Edy returns to Tanzania, he will face imprisonment, torture and possible death, which has been the fate of many other LGBT people in Tanzania.
More information is available on the Movement for Justice Website at: http://www.movementforjustice.org./
|Reject U.S. Sanctions Against Venezuela|
If you are a citizen/resident of the US, we would greatly appreciate your signature on this declaration rejecting the unilateral sanctions imposed against Venezuela this Tuesday, May 24, by the US State Department. This is a grave and dangerous move by Washington to justify further aggression against the Venezuelan people. Please let Chuck Kaufman know at firstname.lastname@example.org if you or your organization would like to sign on to the declaration below.
We Reject United States Sanctions Against Venezuela
As citizens of the United States, we unequivocally reject this latest attempt of our administration to demonize the Venezuelan government and undermine the vibrant democracy of the Venezuelan people. The Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez has already been victim of a coup d’etat in 2002, backed by Washington, which briefly ousted the President from power. Fortunately for the health of Venezuela’s democracy, the people fought back, rescued their President, and reinstated constitutional order. Then, as now, the United States stood alone in its support for hostilities against Venezuela’s democratically-elected government.
The government of Hugo Chavez has used its oil wealth to invest heavily in improving the wellbeing of its people. Currently, more than 60% of oil industry profits are directed towards social programs in Venezuela, including free healthcare, education, job training, community media, grassroots organizations and subsidized food and housing. The results are notable. Poverty in Venezuela has been reduced by over 50% during the Chavez administration, illiteracy has been eradicated and free, universal healthcare and education are available and accesible to all. These policies of social justice have extended well beyond the borders of Venezuela to the United States though programs that supply free, discounted or subsidized heating oil and fuel to low income neighborhoods, indigenous peoples’ communities and homeless shelters throughout the nation.
More than 250,000 US citizens in 25 states and the District of Columbia have benefited to date from the Venezuelan government’s subsidized heating oil program, which is run through PDVSA’s subsidiary in the United States, CITGO. No other oil company in the world – including US companies – has offered to help low income families suffering from the inflated cost of heating oil during the past six years, except for CITGO. Venezuela’s solidarity with the people of the United States has enabled thousands of families to survive through these difficult economic times.
We find it outrageous that the United States government would attempt to demonize the one company, and country, that has been there for our neighbors, putting people before profits. And we call on our representatives in Washington to suspend these sanctions against Venezuela immediately.
Alliance for Global Justice
1247 E St., SE
Washington, DC 20003