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Archive for the ‘abuse of power’ Category

Preserved for posterity: The lies of the IMF, Euro Commission, and ECB

Posted by Charles II on June 30, 2015

Alberto Nardelli, The Guardian:

Greece would face an unsustainable level of debt by 2030 even if it signs up to the full package of tax and spending reforms demanded of it, according to unpublished documents compiled by its three main creditors.

The documents, drawn up by the so-called troika of lenders, support Greece’s argument that it needs substantial debt relief for a lasting economic recovery.

The second document in the pack of six, titled Reforms for the Completion of the Current Programme and Beyond, show there was less to this offer than suggested by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Germany’s vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. The cash on offer is not an ad hoc investment but is actually an EU grant that is regularly available to all member states. And, as Süddeutsche Zeitung points out, accessing the cash requires a 15% co-financing in Greece’s case, which it cannot afford.

A third document outlines the “financing needs and draft disbursement schedule linked to the completion of the fifth review”, spelling out how Greece would have received €15bn to meet its obligations until the end of November. The cash would have been handed over in five tranches starting in June (as soon as the Greek parliament approved the proposals) to cover Greece’s financing needs. However, 93% of the funds would have gone straight to cover the cost of maturing debt for the duration of the extension.

So, the Troika handed Greece a time bomb and, in exchange, demanded that they slash pensions, raise health co-pays, and make their taxes more regressive. Unsurprisingly, Greece is handing the device back to Europe.

Added: Deutsche Welle has picked up this meme, though without the documents from Suddeutsche Zeitung that The Guardian reported.

And The Independent, again without mentioning the SZ.

Posted in abuse of power, banking, capitalism as cancer | 2 Comments »

Here, they die silently, invisible

Posted by Charles II on June 23, 2015

Frances Ryan, The Guardian:

If the government would care for an insight into what its “safety net” has become, it could do worse than looking at the case of Nick Gaskin.

Gaskin, who has primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), cannot walk, feed himself or talk but, last month, received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) informing him he should attend an interview about “the possibility” of getting a job.

People who have such severe disabilities they are unable to work are – by definition of being put in the support group of employment and support allowance (ESA) – not required to attend mandatory meetings. As Gaskin can only communicate through blinking, it was his wife, Tracy, who called the jobcentre in Loughborough to explain this. The DWP now says it will apologise over the “misunderstanding”. But not before Tracy was told that if her husband did not attend the interview his benefits would be stopped. [Had the crisis occurred earlier, in the midst of Tracy’s cancer therapy, it’s likely Nick Gaskin would have lost his benefits, endangering both him and Tracy.]

Currently, Iain Duncan Smith is embroiled in a row over burying figures that show how many people have died within six weeks of their benefits being stopped…. It gives an insight into Duncan Smith’s thinking that when confronted on the issue in the House of Commons, it was the campaign to disclose the statistics – rather than the deaths themselves – that he called “disgraceful”.

I have written about some of the people who fell past the edge. Malcolm Burge, the retired gardener who had his housing benefit cut by 50% and drove to Cheddar Gorge in Somerset and set his car on fire. David Clapson, the diabetic jobseeker who had his benefits sanctioned and was found with no food in his stomach and CVs next to his body.

Here, helpless people shoved off of the SSI or Food Stamp/SNAP rolls die silently, invisible to our media. At least in the U.K., one newspaper mentions them.

Sure, there are cheaters on the rolls here. Partly that’s because the benefits that they provide are nopt enough to actually live on, so people supplement them with money made from hustling or by claiming more than they are entitled to. But, sure, there are some real out-and-out fraudsters. So… how many helpless people are we willing to kill in order to punish the undeserving?

The answer is that we don’t know and, with our current media, never will.

Posted in abuse of power, Media machine, poverty | Leave a Comment »

Obama’s TPP Betrayal

Posted by Charles II on June 4, 2015

Michael Wessel, Politico:

“You need to tell me what’s wrong with this trade agreement, not one that was passed 25 years ago,” a frustrated President Barack Obama recently complained about criticisms of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). He’s right. The public criticisms of the TPP have been vague. That’s by design—anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I’ve actually read the TPP text provided to the government’s own advisors, and I’ve given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can’t share my criticisms with you.

I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal. We should be very concerned about what’s hidden in this trade deal—and particularly how the Obama administration is keeping information secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice.

Via Avedon.

Posted in abuse of power, Obama Administration, TPP | 4 Comments »

Red Cross funds for Haitian relief have gone missing

Posted by Charles II on June 4, 2015

(Via Eschaton)

Laura Sullivan, NPR:

When a devastating earthquake leveled Haiti in 2010, millions of people donated to the American Red Cross. The charity raised almost half a billion dollars. It was one of its most successful fundraising efforts ever.

The American Red Cross vowed to help Haitians rebuild, but after five years the Red Cross’ legacy in Haiti is not new roads, or schools, or hundreds of new homes. It’s difficult to know where all the money went.

NPR and ProPublica went in search of the nearly $500 million and found a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success, according to a review of hundreds of pages of the charity’s internal documents and emails, as well as interviews with a dozen current and former officials.
NPR and ProPublica

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people, but the number of permanent homes the charity has built is six.

The organization, which in 2010 had a $100 million deficit, out-raised other charities by hundreds of millions of dollars — and kept raising money well after it had enough for its emergency relief. But where exactly did that money go?

Ask a lot of Haitians — even the country’s former prime minister — and they will tell you they don’t have any idea.

“Five hundred million in Haiti is a lot of money,” says Jean-Max Bellerive, who was prime minister until 2011. “I’m not a big mathematician, but I can make some additions. It doesn’t add up for me.”

On a recent day, Bellerive was sipping coffee in his living room, high above Port-au-Prince, with Joel Boutroue, who was the United Nations deputy special representative in Haiti before the earthquake and an advisor to the Haitian government afterward. Boutroue says he can’t account for where the nearly $500 million went either.

They considered the Red Cross’ claim on its website and press releases: That all the money went to help 4.5 million Haitians get “back on their feet.”

“No, no, not possible,” Bellerive says. “We don’t have that population in the area affected by the earthquake.”

The charity’s own documents, however, give some insight: Much of the money never reached people in need.

The Red Cross gave much of the money to other groups to do the hands-on work, resulting in additional fees.

First the Red Cross took a customary administrative cut, then the charities that received the money took their own fees. And then, according to the Red Cross’ records, the charity took out an additional amount to pay for what it calls the “program costs incurred in managing” these third-party projects.

In one of the programs reviewed by NPR and ProPublica, these costs ate up a third of the money that was supposed to help Haitians.

Posted in abuse of power, capitalism as cancer, Haiti | Leave a Comment »

National Security Apparatus: The law is for you to obey, not for us to obey

Posted by Charles II on May 28, 2015

From Democracy Now:

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, ICWatch is a database of more than 27,000 profiles of people associated with the U.S. intelligence community or intelligence industry, so that includes people who work for government and people who work for private industry. It was created by a little journalism startup … called Transparency Toolkit. … This information was all originally … from LinkedIn, so these are CVs of people involved in various intelligence activities. By searching LinkedIn for key wor[d]s… say, Joint Priority Effects List, the assassination program in Afghanistan, these were scraped out and then linked together so you can easily see, for example, who claims that they had worked at the National Security Agency at some stage or on various code-worded projects that the National Security Agency uses.

JULIAN ASSANGE: [They faced death threats for] Indexing what was already public. An example of one of those death threats, from Washington, D.C., from a counterintelligence operative, who was also a former marine, saying that he would hunt them down and kill them no matter where they were in the world, and there’s no place in the world that they can hide.

JULIAN ASSANGE: … Now, I think this—it actually perfectly explains why the U.S. intelligence community must itself be scrutinized. What do we have in that statement? Murderous criminal arrogance…—and I should add one further point: and deeply incompetent […for a] a counterintelligence person […to] they themselves put that information on LinkedIn. They themselves are irritated about their own incompetence, to the degree where they get threatening to kill people involved with a journalism project.

That’s right: breach security by posting your claim to be a code-word program professional assassin onto LinkedIn and then get angry because someone notices. Please don’t give these people actual guns. They might hurt themselves.

And (ibid) in addition, a larger institutional hypocrisy, which could amount to a crime:

JULIAN ASSANGE:…So, the U.S. has kind of made a bit of a legal—the Pentagon has made a bit of a legal ruse in terms of how it describes these assassination lists. They always say it’s a kill/capture list. And this is to create some kind of ambiguity, which is you go in to capture them, but they resist, and then they’re killed. But, in fact…there’s no actual attempt to capture. And here we have evidence, confessions even… bragging on their CV about how they were involved in these programs to assassinate people.

So, when it comes down to the USG, they don’t have to obey the law. And this is nowhere more evident than in the persecution of Assange:

JULIAN ASSANGE:…There are some 500 information requests from the media and us, that have been blocked by the U.S. government, into what has been happening with WikiLeaks. And they’ve been blocked under the excuse that to release such information would be to help us resist the prosecution, and that they want to use that in the prosecution, and therefore they can’t release it to anyone. Now, the FBI has admitted that they have more than 42,135 pages just in the FBI file. There’s the DOJ file. There’s the grand jury file. And they’re not going to release a single sentence, not a single paragraph.

EPIC lost that case to get those documents, because the court accepted that to release any information about the WikiLeaks prosecution would affect the WikiLeaks prosecution, that we could use this to defend ourselves. And the argument used is quite incredible…. It is that …the court doesn’t have a right to, itself, make this determination [about what should be released and what restricted]

the government argues, “The court does not have a right to make this assessment. This is a question of a national security fact. Either it is a fact that the information held by the DOJ and held by the FBI would—about WikiLeaks, would affect national security or not. And it is the government that is best placed to determine this fact, not the court.” And so, in the judgment, the judge states that it is necessary to show, quote, “appropriate deference to the executive on matters of national security,” and therefore she is simply going to defer to the government’s claim without looking at the material at all.

If the Tea Party gave an actual d–n about overweening Executive actions, the Wikileaks case would be a central rallying point. The excuse of national security is being used to gut the power of the judiciary to oversee the Executive’s administration of the laws, pushing us quite close–since Congress is so ineffectual–to being a totalitarian state.

But just in case we didn’t get the point that our government is not just completely above the law, but totally incompetent,

the U.S. picked up a statement, a supportive statement made in Moscow by President Evo Morales, and appears to have picked up our codeword for the actual operation [to smuggle Edward Snowden to Latin America], and put two and two together and made 22, and then pressured France—successfully pressured France, Portugal and Spain to close their airspace to President Evo Morales’s jet in its flight from Moscow to the Canary Islands for refueling and then back to Bolivia. And as a result, it was forced to land in Vienna. And then, once in Vienna, there was pressure to search the plane.

So, it’s really a quite extraordinary situation that reveals the true nature of the relationship between Western Europe and the United States and what it claims are its values of human rights and asylum and the rights to asylum and so, and respecting the rule of law, the Vienna Convention. Just a phone call from U.S. intelligence was enough to close the airspace to a booked presidential flight, which has immunity. And they got it wrong.

The United States is a very powerful country. It does not have to get its way in everything, or suppress every bit of adverse publicity, or force every world leader to heel. By trying to do so, it–by which I mean the cabal inside the national security apparatus that is committing these abuses– shows how dangerous the government–by which I mean that cabal– itself has become.

And, on top of that, see how completely ineffectual it is at actually stopping terrorism, guarding secrets, or persuading other nations to join with us. How ashamed this nation’s Founders would be at what their dream has become.

Posted in abuse of power, NSA eavesdropping, totalitarianism, Wikileaks | 2 Comments »

MoJo Magazine: Baltimore Police Started the Riots

Posted by Charles II on April 29, 2015

Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin, Mother Jones:

A teacher at Douglass High School, who asked not to be identified, tells a similar story: “When school was winding down, many students were leaving early with their parents or of their own accord.” Those who didn’t depart early, she says, were stranded. Many of the students still at school at that point, she notes, wanted to get out of the area and avoid any Purge-like violence. Some were requesting rides home from teachers. But by now, it was difficult to leave the neighborhood. “I rode with another teacher home,” this teacher recalls, “and we had to route our travel around the police in riot gear blocking the road… The majority of my students thought what was going to happen was stupid or were frightened at the idea. Very few seemed to want to participate in ‘the purge.'”

Posted in abuse of power | Leave a Comment »

When even Lawrence Fink agrees that Wall Street has gone too far…

Posted by Charles II on April 24, 2015

Lawrence Fink, CEO of Blackrock, is one of the great pirates of our age. So, when even he is saying that executives are looting their companies and destroying the middle class, maybe someone will listen. Rex Nutting, Marketwatch:

There’s something seriously wrong with an economy that nurtures a few billionaires but can’t sustain the middle class.

Last week, the CEOs of America’s 500 biggest companies received a letter from Lawrence Fink, CEO of BlackRock BLK, +0.25% the largest asset manager in the world, saying exactly the same thing.

“The effects of the short-termist phenomenon are troubling both to those seeking to save for long-term goals such as retirement and for our broader economy,” Fink wrote, adding that favoring shareholders comes at the expense of investing in “innovation, skilled work forces or essential capital expenditures necessary to sustain long-term growth.”

In case you have forgotten who Larry Fink is, click here.

Posted in abuse of power, economy, stock market | 2 Comments »

ISIS’s treatment of women: Outsourced to Echidne

Posted by Charles II on April 20, 2015

Read ’em and weep:

Introduction

Part 1: The Rules for Sunni Muslim women

Part 2: Sexual Slavery and Rape of “Non-Believers”

Part 3: The Western Female IS Militants

Part 4: To be written when Echidne recovers from writing the preceding.

Posted in abuse of power, Conflict in the Middle East, evil, international | Leave a Comment »

General Strangelove and the lovely war in Ukraine

Posted by Charles II on March 7, 2015

Matthias Gebauer, Christiane Hoffmann, Marc Hujer, Gordon Repinski, Matthias Schepp, Christoph Schult, Holger Stark and Klaus Wiegrefe, Der Spiegel:

… The battles between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists had largely stopped and heavy weaponry was being withdrawn. The Minsk cease-fire wasn’t holding perfectly, but it was holding.

On that same day, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington. Putin, the 59-year-old said, had once again “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine — with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” having been sent to the Donbass. “What is clear,” Breedlove said, “is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”

German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel? Sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove’s comments as “dangerous propaganda.” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even found it necessary recently to bring up Breedlove’s comments with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

The government in Berlin is concerned that Breedlove’s statements could harm the West’s credibility. The West can’t counter Russian propaganda with its own propaganda….
…Berlin sources also say that it has become conspicuous that Breedlove’s controversial statements are often made just as a step forward has been made in the difficult negotiations aimed at a political resolution.

Although President Obama has decided for the time being to give European diplomacy a chance, hawks like Breedlove or Victoria Nuland are doing what they can to pave the way for weapons deliveries. “We can fight against the Europeans, fight against them rhetorically,” Nuland said during a private meeting of American officials…

Nuland, who is seen as a possible secretary of state should the Republicans win back the White House in next year’s presidential election

So, we’re going to start World War III so Victoria Nuland can become the next Republican Secretary of State?

What is the Obama White House doing?

Posted in abuse of power, Russia, Ukraine | 2 Comments »

America’s black sites

Posted by Charles II on February 26, 2015

Most of our readers doubtless know that a police facility in Chicago has been designated as equivalent to a CIA black site. Suspects are disappeared to there and subjected to mild to moderate torture. The connection is police lieutenant Richard Zuley, who transferred his skills at harming human beings to Guantanamo. So, this post is mostly for the record. Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian:

The Guardian examined thousands of court documents from Chicago and interviewed two dozen people with experience at Guantánamo and in the Chicago criminal-justice system. The results of its investigation suggests a continuum between Guantánamo interrogation rooms and Chicago police precincts. Zuley’s detective work, particularly when visited on Chicago’s minority communities, contains a dark foreshadowing of the United States’ post-9/11 descent into torture.

When called up to active duty, Zuley, by his own telling, deployed for some attention-grabbing missions. He told a Chicago court in a mid-1990s murder case that he “took assignments with Naval intelligence” for four years after getting shot on the job in 1982: “I did counter terrorists work for them.”

A detective colleague, Ray Kaminski, testified in a 1997 murder trial that he understood Zuley was “somewhere in South America … working with the US Navy”.

Guantanamo was not optimized for gathering intelligence. Herrington bristled to see orange-jumpsuited detainees carried to wooden shacks by guards and shackled to the floor – techniques that reinforced the detainees’ anger at their confinement, undercutting the rapports Herrington advised would be critical for getting them to talk.

Guantánamo veterans said Zuley influenced and cultivated the patronage of Major General Geoffrey Miller, who later recommended that he wanted to ‘Gitmo-ize’ Abu Ghraib. Illustration: Nate Kitch for the Guardian

Into that dynamic stepped Zuley. Fallon remembered Zuley making an immediate impression on Major General Geoffrey Miller, who assumed command of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo in November 2002. Zuley had a reputation as “a big self-promoter,” Couch, the military prosecutor, recalled as well.

“From what I was told, General Miller thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Couch said. “Miller was amazed at the information he was getting. So apparently Zuley ratcheted up these techniques, with the backing of Miller, to go up the chain of command for approval.”

Chicago, in particular, has its own deep and infamous history with police torture, with black Chicagoans its primary victims.

The city’s police violence “was institutionalized,” said Tracy Siska, the executive director of the Chicago Justice Project – and continues, in different forms, to this day.

“Today’s interrogation rooms … the techniques are more sophisticated,” Siska told the Guardian. “It’s around sleep deprivation, around food deprivation, isolation, what you’d consider touchless torture, which is more effective and doesn’t leave any marks.”

Spencer Ackerman, Zach Stafford, Mark Guarino , and Oliver Laughland, The Guardian:

The US Department of Justice and embattled mayor Rahm Emanuel are under mounting pressure to investigate allegations of what one politician called “CIA or Gestapo tactics” at a secretive Chicago police facility exposed by the Guardian.

Politicians and civil-rights groups across the US expressed shock upon hearing descriptions of off-the-books interrogation at Homan Square, the Chicago warehouse that multiple lawyers and one shackled-up protester likened to a US counter-terrorist black site in a Guardian investigation published this week.

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that police in Chicago detain suspects at Homan Square without booking them, thereby preventing their relatives and lawyers from knowing their whereabouts, reminiscent in the eyes of some lawyers and civil-rights activists of a CIA black site.

Posted in abuse of power | 3 Comments »

 
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