Friday, December 21, 2007

Arrest 'em All!!

Is there anything worse than a nation which bills itself as a democracy while it's political parties engaging in never ending election year dirty tricks, electoral manipulation (by means of voter-role scrubbing, democracy stealing touch tome voting machines and god only knows what else.

With the U.S.A it is and always has been about image...the image of a democracy.

Evidence Mounts Of White House Ties To New Hampshire Phone Jamming Scheme


On the morning of election day 2002, repeated hang-up calls assaulted six phone lines tied to the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Three Republican operatives, including consultant Allen Raymond, eventually ended up in jail for their involvement in the phone jamming scheme. A fourth, former RNC offical James Tobin, will begin a second trial in February.

In his new book, Raymond alleges that the scandal goes “to the top of the Republican Party” because “the Bush White House had complete control of the RNC” and there was no way such a risky tactic wouldn’t have been “vetted by” Tobin’s “high-ups”:

“The Bush White House had complete control of the RNC, and there was no way someone like Tobin was going to try what he was proposing without first getting it vetted by his high-ups,” Raymond wrote in How To Rig an Election, a book set for publication next month. “That’s if Tobin, rather than one of his bosses, had even thought of the ploy himself - which seemed unlikely.”

Phone records obtained in a civil suit brought against the NH GOP by the NH Democratic Party show that “Tobin made 22 calls to the White House political office in the 24 hours before and after the jamming” while the Republican National Committee has paid over $6 million in legal fees for Tobin.

Yesterday, McClatchy reported that “senior Justice Department officials” delayed prosecuting Tobin “until after the 2004 election” as part of an effort to protect the GOP “from the scandal until the voting was over“:

However, the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, told McClatchy that senior Justice Department officials slowed the inquiry. The official didn’t know whether top department officials ordered the delays or what motivated those decisions.

The official said that Terry O’Donnell, a former Pentagon general counsel who was representing Tobin, was in contact with senior department officials before Tobin was indicted.

Marcy Wheeler notes that Tobin’s lawyer, Terry O’Donnell, is also “Dick Cheney’s long-time personal attorney.”

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) wrote to Attorney General Michael Mukasey today, requesting documents and answers about the case. (Yeah, like that's gonna happen

Paul Kiel has more here.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Is Cheney About To Be Impeached

Our doubts are high, but so are our hopes!

December 21, 2007

Cheney to be Impeached?

By Mikael Rudolph

If you believe impeachment hearings to investigate Vice President Richard B. Cheney are warranted there has never been a better time to say so. Sign the impeachment petition at: initiated by House Judiciary Committee members Robert Wexler (D-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) TODAY!

Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) - also a member of the House Judiciary Committee - has just agreed in a communication to Bob Fertik of that he will add his name to this letter, according to an article by David Swanson published on OpEdNews.

Over a hundred and twenty thousand online signatures have been gathered in less than a week since Rep. Wexler posted the petition on his campaign website. This despite the original OpEd article: "A Case for Hearings" by the three members of Congress being refused by all major newspapers it was submitted to, including the New York Times and Washington Post, as well as multiple television networks.

This blackout by the Corporate Media led Congressman Wexler to reach out directly to the American people by posting an appeal on YouTube, entitled: "Rep. Wexler Wants Cheney Impeachment Hearings".

Eight total members of the House Judiciary Committee had either co-signed House Resolution 333 (now H. Res. 799) to impeach Vice President Cheney and/or co-authored this current appeal for impeachment before Rep. Weiner added his name. Co-signers of H. Res. 333 on the HJC include Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Clearly the House Judiciary is on the brink of possibly initiating impeachment hearings with nearly half of its Democratic members publicly committed to supporting impeachment of the Vice President.

A caller to the office of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) was told that the current impeachment bill H.R. 799 "is in special discussion", and that now is the time that we should be calling our Representatives".

Representative and Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) first introduced H. Res. 333 last April and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) just became the 24th co-signer on December 19th.

House Resolution 333 is comprised of three articles, charging that the Vice President "purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraq weapons of mass destruction" as well as lying "about an alleged relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda" among other claims.

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Minneapolis Organizer: World Can't Wait-Drive Out the Bush Regime ~~~ Co-Founder: ~~~ Theatrical Entertainer and Ballroom Dance Instructor by trade

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

DHS Hold and Tortures Innocent Icelandic Women

Innocent Icelandic Woman Chained, Held, Tortured by Homeland Security at Airport
Posted by Hubris Sonic, Group News Blog on December 21, 2007 at 5:48 AM.

This is exactly how we can expect to increase our tourism dollars. Come to America, Experience the Terror!

That can be our new tourism tag line...

During the last twenty-four hours I have probably experienced the greatest humiliation to which I have ever been subjected. During these last twenty-four hours I have been handcuffed and chained, denied the chance to sleep, been without food and drink and been confined to a place without anyone knowing my whereabouts, imprisoned.

This woman foolishly thought she could come and spend some Euro in New York. A little shopping trip. Unfortunately she hadn't realized that a computer somewhere said she overstayed a visa years ago. She's a dirty foreigner so... hilarity ensued...

I was photographed and fingerprinted. I was asked questions which I felt had nothing to do with the issue at hand. I was forbidden to contact anyone to advise of my predicament and although I was invited at the outset to contact the Icelandic consul or embassy, that invitation was later withdrawn. I don't know why.
I was then made to wait while they sought further information, and sat on a chair before the authority for 5 hours. I saw the officials in this section handle other cases and it was clear that these were men anxious to demonstrate their power. Small kings with megalomania. I was careful to remain completely cooperative, for I did not yet believe that they planned to deport me because of my "crime".

Read the rest of the post on the flip side »

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Sunday Blabathons and Global Warming

Top Political Talk Show Hosts Dedicate 0.1 Percent of Their Questions to Global Warming
Posted by Satyam Khanna, Think Progress on December 19, 2007 at 6:15 PM.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Al Gore explained the severity of the climate crisis. "We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency -- a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential," he declared.

But Sunday political talk show hosts have ignored the issue. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) today launched a campaign publicizing the fact that the top five TV political journalists have dodged the issue of global warming this year:

[I]n the more than 120 interviews and debates with the [presidential] candidates in 2007, the five political show hosts collectively have asked 2,275 questions. Of those questions, these journalists have only uttered the words "global warming" or "climate change" three times. More over, only 24 of these questions touched even remotely on the issue of global climate change.

Watch a video highlighting the questions they chose to ask instead to your right.

Ironically, Fox, which has repeatedly downplayed the climate change threat, leads the pack with two questions mentioning global warming this year:

- NBC's Tim Russert: 664 questions, 0 mentioned global warming
- CNN's Wolf Blitzer: 311 questions, 1 mentioned global warming
- ABC's George Stephanopoulos: 661 questions, 0 mentioned global warming
- CBS's Bob Scheiffer: 212 questions, 0 mentioned global warming
- Fox's Chris Wallace: 427 questions, 2 mentioned global warming

Read the rest of the post on the flip side »

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

More On Thought Crimes Legialation

These guys must be about the worst criminals on Earth or th mst paranoid nut-cases!

December 21, 2007

Now We Know Why There's A Press Blackout On S 1959 - It's Called "ENDGAME" By DHS

By William Cormier

Today I received a tip by a fellow writer that KBR (Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc.), a subsidiary of Halliburton, was behind the creation of Senate Bill S 1959, otherwise known as the Thought Crime Prevention Bill”, or by its legal designation, the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.” I wasn’t able to make a solid connection that indicated KBR was actually behind the introduction of S 1959, but what I did find demonstrates we are likely approaching the final days when Homeland Security (sic) implements their “final solution” which DHS has labeled as “EndGame.”

This is what I found, researched it thoroughly - and unfortunately, unless “the people” react in the millions, life in these United States is about to change forever, and apparently, it could also end for thousands, if not millions of Americans:

Halliburton Confirms Concentration Camps Already Constructed

On February 17, 2006, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke of the harm being done to the country’s security, not just by the enemy, but also by what he called “news informers” who needed to be combated in “a contest of wills.”

In 2002 Attorney General John Ashcroft announced his desire to see camps for U.S. citizens deemed to be “enemy combatants.”

A Defense Department document, entitled the “Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support,” has set out a military strategy against terrorism that envisions an “active, layered defense” both inside and outside U.S. territory. In the document, the Pentagon pledges to “transform U.S. military forces to execute homeland defense missions in the . . . U.S. homeland.” The strategy calls for increased military reconnaissance and surveillance

The Washington Post reported on February 15, 2006 that the National Counterterrorism Center’s (NCTC) central repository holds the names of 325,000 terrorist suspects, a fourfold increase since fall of 2003. A Pentagon official said the Counterintelligence Field Activity’s TALON program has amassed files on antiwar protesters.

Shortly after Bush orchestrated 9/11, he issued “Military Order Number One”, which empowered him to detain any noncitizen as an international terrorist or enemy combatant. Today that order extends to U.S. citizens as well.

Halliburton subsidiary “KBR has been awarded a contract announced by the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) component. The Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contingency contract is to support ICE facilities and has a maximum total value of $385 million over a five year term. The contract provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the United States, or to support the rapid development of new programs”. See Source Document on Halliburton Site or page 1, & 5 below

HOUSTON, Texas – Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) announced that income from continuing operations for the full year of 2005 was $2.4 billion. Consolidated revenue in the fourth quarter of 2005 was $5.8 billion. Consolidated operating income was $779 million in the fourth quarter of 2005. This increase was largely attributable to higher activity in the Energy Services Group (ESG), partially offset by lower revenue in KBR primarily on government services projects in the Middle East. Annual operating income more than tripled to $2.7 billion in 2005.

Why exactly are prisons being built for “the rapid development of new programs”. Halliburton’s company site confirms that the government is engaged in a massive construction and preparation exercise to build concentration camps and prisoner processing facilities in the United States. This is particularity astonishing and disturbing considering that the U.S. already incarcerates more orders of magnitude more people than any other nation, about on-par with U.S.S.R. at the height of Stalin’s era.

The contract of the Halliburton subsidiary KBR to build immigrant detention facilities is part of a longer-term Homeland Security plan titled


, which sets as its goal the removal of “all removable aliens” and “potential terrorists.” In the 1980s Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld discussed similar emergency detention powers as part of a super-secret program of planning for what was euphemistically called “Continuity of Government” (COG). These men planned for suspension of the Constitution, not just after nuclear attack, but for any “national security emergency,” which they vaguely defined in Executive Order 12656 of 1988.

Over 800 concentration camps are reported throughout the United States, all fully operational and ready to receive U.S. Prisoners who disagree with the government. The concentration camps are all staffed and manned by full-time guards, however, they are all empty. These camps are to be operated by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) when Martial Law is implemented in the United States (at the stroke of a Presidential pen and the Attorney General’s signature on a warrant).

The camps have railroad facilities as well as roads leading to and from the detention facilities, many have airports. Like Auschwitz, some of the camps have airtight buildings and furnaces. The majority of the camps can each house a population of 20,000 prisoners. Currently, the largest of these facilities is just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. The Alaskan facility is a massive “mental health” facility and can hold approximately 2 million people.

Following the Halliburton subsidiary KBR (formerly Kellogg Brown and Root) announcement on Jan. 24 that it had been awarded a $385 million contingency contract by the Department of Homeland Security to build detention camps, two weeks later, on Feb. 6, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that the Fiscal Year 2007 federal budget would allocate over $400 million to add 6,700 additional detention beds (an increase of 32 percent over 2006. What is interesting in the Homeland Security plan is that each concrete prison bed costs $60,000 per bed! Observing these concentration camps and general jail and prison facilities throughout the U.S., the Homeland Security plan is clearly buffered to build significantly more than 6,700 additional beds.

The Homeland Security $400 million allocation is more than a four-fold increase over the FY 2006 budget, which provided $90 million for the same purpose. Both the contract and the budget allocation are in partial fulfillment of an ambitious 10-year Homeland Security strategic plan, code-named ENDGAME, authorized in 2003. According to a 49-page Homeland Security document on the plan, ENDGAME expands “a mission first articulated in the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.” Its goal is the capability to “remove all removable aliens,” including “illegal economic migrants, aliens who have committed criminal acts, asylum-seekers (required to be retained by law) or potential terrorists.” The government’s definition of an enemy combatant covers almost any individual who promotes the rudimentary rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Readiness Exercise 1984 - Rex 84

Rex 84 is a United States federal government program to test their ability to detain large numbers of American citizens. Exercises similar to Rex 84 happen periodically. From 1967 to 1971 the FBI kept a list of persons to be rounded up as subversive, dubbed the “ADEX” list.

Texas Congressman Henry Gonzales revealed many years ago plans of Rex 84 which former colonel Ollie North helped design. The late Representative Jack Brooks also of Texas brought this concentration camp and internment program as well as the Continuity of Government Program to light during the Iran Contra hearing. The chairman refused to let North even talk about them in open hearings under “National Security.” Mr. Gonzales stated these camps and plans were for the detention of AMERICANS, especially those who refused to surrender their weapons.

The Rex-84 Alpha Explan (Readiness Exercise 1984, Exercise Plan), indicates that FEMA in association with 34 other federal civil departments and agencies conducted a civil readiness exercise during April 5-13, 1984. It was conducted in coordination and simultaneously with a Joint Chiefs exercise, Night Train 84, a worldwide military command post exercise (including Continental U.S. Forces or CONUS) based on multi-emergency scenarios operating both abroad and at home. In the combined exercise, Rex-84 Bravo, FEMA and DOD led the other federal agencies and departments, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service, the Treasury, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Veterans Administration through a gaming exercise to test military assistance in civil defense.
Apparently all nature contingencies are being taken care of. Photographers snapped pictures of an estimated half a million plastic coffins:

Plastic Coffins


These plans are similar in many ways to Hitler and Stalin’s plans who all have generally the same financial backers.

Clearly Presidential Executive Orders primarily from FDR and Bush Jr., which are blatantly treasonous in form, have been laying the groundwork for this Fascist Socialist takeover: Executive Order Treason - - MUCH MORE

I stated that I believed we are in the final stages of this plan based on the success of “Operation Falcon” and being aware the final readiness test is due soon in the western United States; further, just today, I noted that DHS is finalizing plans to use spy satellites on the American public:

DHS finalizing plans for domestic spy satellite program

Congress has not been updated since civil liberties concerns delayed satellite spying

A plan to dramatically widen US law enforcement agencies’ access to data from powerful spy satellites is moving toward implementation, as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff expects to finalize a charter for the program this week, according to a new report.

Chertoff insists the scheme to turn spy satellites — that were originally designed for foreign surveillance — on Americans is legal, although a House committee that would approve the program has not been updated on the program for three months.

“We still haven’t seen the legal framework we requested or the standard operation procedures on how the NAO will actually be run,” House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson tells the Wall Street Journal. Thompson was referring to the National Applications Office — a new DHS subset that would coordinate access to spy-satellite data for non-military domestic agencies, including law enforcement.

Civil liberties concerns delayed the program after lawmakers and outside activists wondered how the program would be structured to protect Americans from unconstitutional surveillance from the powerful satellites, which can see through cloud cover, trees and even concrete buildings. MORE

I don’t have a lot of commentary to offer on this issue, but it’s obvious that KBR and Halliburton would make hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions operating these so-called “detention facilities if they were filled to capacity by the plethora of services they would have to offer, i.e., meals, medical attention (if that’s included), extra security guards, and a host of cottage industries that would spring-up to supplement the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of American citizens whose only crime was to demand that Bush and Cheney adhere to our constitution and the rule of law.

If you think your voice and participation isn’t needed to fight S 1959, think again, and please visit the site where I found this information. This is not a “conspiracy Theory” but is based on factual evidence, and there’s a lot more when you visit the “Liberty For Life Association.”

It’s your life and our country - and now it looks like it’s time to pour on the pressure, and we must join together in solidarity to fight what may be the end of freedom in America. As was stated on the page where I found this information:

This is for real! - Wake Up America!

William Cormier

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: I am nothing more than a patriotic American that is doing whatever I can to further the cause of democracy, the rule of law, and am absolutely outraged on how the Bush administration is defying our Congress, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights! Footnote: I write in a style that I believe is appropriate in today’s world where we can’t trust the Mainstream News Media, and rather than concentrating on one article alone, which may or may not receive the exposure and emphasis it should, I prefer to meld several relevant stories together, that each taken alone may not expose the entire situation, but when taken-in as a whole, tend to give the reader a better understanding of the subject. One article or story alone does not represent the “Big Picture” - but when several are effectively tied-together it often reveals a trend or broader view of the subject matter that is important to completely understand any given situation.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Is CNN Trying To Out-fox Fox

Filed Under (Politics, Social Issues)

by William Cormier

The changes that have occurred at CNN in just the past few months is alarming. We all know that Faux News, The Republican Leaning Channel, has constantly bent, spun, and distorted the truth since Bush came into power; ABC wasn’t much better, but CNN used to be the one channel where an individual could actually find some news minus all of the government spin and propaganda. Then they hired Glenn Beck, a right-wing Rethuglican who is attempting to catch-up with the likes of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and the crowd at Faux News, headquarters for fascist USA’s propaganda system.

This evening, I glanced at CNN’s Political Ticker and read an article in regard Mitt Romney and his unbridled disgust that Vladimir Putin had been chosen as Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. Reading the article and knowing what’s happening to our own country was what was really disgusting, especially these quotes by Mitt Romney and John McCain that CNN doesn’t discuss or offer commentary to the otherwise:

Romney: Man of Year choice ‘disgusting’


“You know, he imprisoned his political opponents. There have been a number of highly suspicious murders,” Romney said on Beck’s radio show. “He has squelched public dissent and free press.” And to suggest that someone like that is the Man of the Year is really disgusting. I’m just appalled.”

“Clearly General Petraeus is the person, or one of a few people, who would certainly merit that designation,” the former Massachusetts governor added.

“I noticed that Time Magazine made President Putin the Time Magazine ‘Man of the Year,’” McCain said, according to NBC. “I understand that probably, but my man of the year is one Gen. David Petraeus, our general who has brought success in Iraq.” MORE

If only Vladimir Putin was the only one that “squelched public dissent and free press” we would be OK, but anyone that gets their news from the Internet knows that George W. Bush has done the same thing, yet Romney criticizes Putin on the matter and doesn’t say a word about our own cowardly press, or the many times that peaceful protesters have been arrested, and others added to a “terrorist watch list” just because they disagreed with the government. You will also note that CNN also remains silent wile Romney makes quips that equally apply to the United States.

To add insult to injury, John McCain goes on to say that General Petraeus should be man of the year because he “brought success in Iraq.” Oh, so Iraq in now a “success”; by what parameters does Mitt Romney or John McCain decide that our mission in Iraq has been successful? According to, fourteen (14) U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq so far this month - and it isn’t over yet. How many U.S. lives per month add-up to a “success in Iraq?”

What about Basra? Based on what I’ve read, Basra is no more of a success than anywhere else, except US troops aren’t there, and now the British are also gone. This is an excerpt from Time Magazine online:

What the British Left Behind in Basra

SIIC and the Sadrists are major players in the national government, and earlier this month a senior U.S. official laid the blame for the “mess” in Basra at their feet. “This government, the Shi’a parties, have failed to act responsibly,” the official told reporters. And while he pointed to signs that the various factions were trying to bring the situation under control — borne out to some extent by a recent announcement of a truce in the city — it is unlikely that those factions are ready to lay down their arms and cooperate. Basra Province contains the lion’s share of Iraq’s oil and its only port. It’s a tempting prize for groups that have shown more enthusiasm for fighting than for compromise.

So Basra will continue to be a high-stakes front in the intra-Shi’a fight for control of southern Iraq. That fight has largely escaped the notice of Americans — both because U.S. troops are not on the front lines and because the violence has not reached the appalling levels seen in other parts of the country.

But the violence in southern Iraq gives the lie to the idea that simply relinquishing control of a province constitutes progress. The local governments and security forces in these provinces do not represent some ideal of unified Iraqi control so much as they represent control by one faction or another. Assassinations of provincial governors and battles involving the Iraqi police are manifestations of militia violence, not evidence that the Iraqi government is facing down terrorists or militants. MUCH MORE

Iraqis are still dying from the sectarian violence LINK and the Turkish Army just finished an incursion into Northern Iraq, preceded with air trikes and artillery bombardments that have killed civilians, including women and children, in their attempts to quell the Kurdish rebellion and cross-border attacks from Iraq:

The Kurdish regional government has condemned the incursion.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Iraq for a surprise visit as news of the incursion was breaking.

However, she was snubbed by Kurdish officials who are angry that the US is backing Turkey’s use of force. MORE

The House of Representatives issued a report in regard S 1959 because of the uproar caused by people on the Internet, yet I still haven’t seen a word about it on the MSM; has anyone else? Is there still a press blackout in regard S 1959 - and if so, I still haven’t heard a legitimate reason from anyone - except that the Bush administration and a complicit MSM are attempting to keep this odious Bill from becoming public knowledge on a national basis, other than the Internet - which this Bill is custom-made to silence all of us that commit “Thought Crimes.”

After reading just six paragraphs of CNN’s News Ticker, I’ve completely given-up on the MSM, although it is interesting to see that the Republicans now believe Iraq is a success… I’m guessing the parents of those that continue to witness their sons and daughters paying the ultimate price for an illegal war might think otherwise - and so do millions of other Americans, the ones that CNN, ABC, and Fox News forget when they speak of winning and success; on the other hand, executives from Halliburton, KBR and the oil industry believe it is a success, but their idea of a success is profit - and there’s no doubt the killing fields of Iraq are profitable for corporate America.

William Cormier

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Thought Control On The Internet

Activists, dissenters and anyone who questions the official story of 9/11 could be arrested for thought crimes because of the broadly written HR 1955.

The back and white thinkers are at it again:

Have doubts about the official story of 9/11? You are a terrorist supporter.

Disagree with Bush foreign policy? You are a terrorist supporter.

Call the White House out n their lies about the Iraq war? You are terrorist supporter.

Well, let me just say this about that.

We are not terrorist supporters; terrorist of any kind, whether they wear bed sheets and Brogans or expensive tailored suits. Terror is terror and violence is violence. We would never support either.

What's more, no on e will control our thoughts nor our First Amendment right to write or say what we think.

Written by Michael Collins
Tuesday, 18 December 2007

By an Overwhelming Majority, Congress Brings You…
Thought Control on the Internet

You are being watched

Dec. 18, 2007 – Washington, DC (Scoop Internet News) – Part 1

Cracking the Code – Who's to Blame for "Violent Radicalization"?

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a 404 to 6 vote on Oct. 23. Not since the Iraq War Resolution have Democrats and Republicans found such a unifying cause. We're told that House Resolution 1955 (H.R. 1955) will be an essential tool enabling law enforcement to peg the sources of "homegrown terrorism" on the Internet.

The overwhelming bipartisan support makes it no surprise that the legislation presents a significant danger to citizens and the nation. This sentence is the new heart of darkness for free speech.

(2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION - The term `violent radicalization' means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change. (Author's emphasis) (House Resolution 1955)

That one word, "facilitating," takes the bill beyond aiding the hunt for terrorists on the Internet. It creates an emerging standard for wrongdoing that can be applied to everyone who exercises net-based free speech. Senate 1959, the equivalent of H.R. 1955, is up for consideration now.

Here are some scenarios under the bill that could easily be called "thought crimes", i.e., "facilitating violent radicalization."

You post one of these statements on the Internet …

· You are extremely upset about what you see as the nation's most serious problem – illegal immigration. You go to your Internet forum of choice and write a barn burner stating clearly that this administration and Congress are attacking the nation, breaking laws, and a threat to the safety of the people.

· You find the deaths of American soldiers and 1.1 million Iraqi civilians totally unacceptable. You go to your Internet forum of choice and write a very strong post accusing the president and his henchmen with war crimes.

· You're a former Reagan official, a "paleo-conservative." You argue that this administration's behavior represents tyrannical rule. You write a column published on the Internet where you ask questions about 911: "Who benefits? This question was conspicuously absent from the official investigation." You answer by naming Bush, Cheney, the Federalist Society and others.

You question the collapse of the WTC towers and conclude by arguing that a major casualty of 911"is the civil liberties that protect Americans from tyranny. President Bush and his corrupt Department of Justice (sic) have declared our constitutional protections to be null and void at the whim of the executive." Paul Craig Roberts, Sept. 10, 2007

… and a terrorist reads it. That terrorist subsequently commits a violent act. You don't know the person. You're not affiliated with him or her in any way. You don't advocate violence in your post nor do you approve of violence to achieve political goals.

None of that matters. You can be accused of facilitating "violent radicalization," which this bill specifically implies can be an outcome of flagrant opposition to the administration, even though you really just oppose the current or any future office holders. You're busted!

The scenario just mentioned is an outcome of H.R. 1955 and the yet-to-be-passed equivalent Senate Resolution 1959.

Rep. Harman's House committee just released a commentary on H.R. 1955, apparently to stem concerns about their intentions. On the opening page, the report states:

This legislation in no way restricts thought or speech. Both of these are legal activities that should be encouraged by all segments of our society and are welcomed in our system of open debate and dialogue. Radical thinking is not a crime and this legislation does not turn radical thinking into criminal behavior.

The next article on this topic will consider the full report. This language and today's report are no more convincing than the section of the bill on preserving civil rights. The actual language and evidence used to justify it are the critical concerns. The report does nothing to change those concerns other than to heighten concerns recalling Queen Gertrude's line in Hamlet: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Congressional hearing: "…these are conspiracy theories…" and apparently "extremist belief systems."


Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) is the chair of the House subcommittee that held hearings on H. R. 1955 (Full video) on Nov. 6, 2007. The bill had already passed in the House by a lopsided vote of 404 to 6 on Oct. 23, 2007. The committee met for just over an hour to consider this complex subject. During the testimony, "think tank" activists portrayed the Internet as a vehicle capable of whipping domestic extremists into a violent frenzy.

Mark Weitzman (right), of the Simon Wiesenthal Center lumped those who question official doctrine on post-2000 foul-ups with "pro-Iraqi" insurgents, a remarkable claim not supported by any evidence. That's right, by heavy-handed inference, those who seriously doubt the official explanation of 911 and speak up may be part of the domestic groups guilty of "adopting and promoting and extremist belief system." The witness said

Some of these are conspiracy theories that present a closed view of the world, such as blaming 9/11 as an "outside job" or blaming outside groups such as the U.S. government, or the Jews etc.; some of these are pro-Iraqi insurgency videos, some of them are media portals that people can enter into, ones that you saw earlier with the flags -- the U.S. flags show that thy were based on U.S. servers..." (Video at 1:20)

Weitzman's testimony was disorganized and not at all persuasive. However, by his words, he associated "pro-Iraqi insurgency" with those who question the official story of 911. Weitzman then showed slides referencing Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (Video at 5:10) among slides noting real terrorist groups.

The architects and engineers are professionals who list their names and locations on the Web site referenced above. The group seeks scientific inquiry and investigation. The only conflict that they advocate is an open debate on the science of the official 911 story.

Weitzman failed to mention growing public opinion indicating that 45% of citizens want 911 reinvestigated and that nearly as many, 42%, doubt the official version explaining the events of 911.

Political activists with strong stands against the administration and Congress understood what this attack on an activist group might mean to their efforts. This resulted in immediate outrage on both right and left.

The Senate version of this bill was the subject of a committee hearing chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in April. This barely caused a stir. But Harman's maladroit witness created a major controversy in October of this year.

H.R. 1955 authorizes structure to study "homegrown terrorism" and report back to Congress. Aside from the brief "definitions" and "findings" sections, just a few lines, the bill focuses on creating a commission which will, in turn, establish centers of "excellence" to study the supposed phenomenon. Reading the title then the timelines for reporting raises a serious question. If this is such a serious problem, how can Congress wait the 18 months the commission has to make its report?

The architects and engineers group sent a lengthy demand for an apology to Weitzman, noting the stunning inappropriateness of associating their group with any who advocate violence. In his reply, Weitzman backed away from any direct accusation but offered no apology.

We know how the game is played, don't we? It's a very crude but effective form of guilt by association and it works. Bush did it before the Iraq invasion by mentioning 911 and Saddam Hussein's name in the same speech over and over. This caused many to believe Hussein was responsible for 911 and justifying their support for the invasion. When you're caught you just say, "I never said that!" By that time, the damage is done.

Who's Really Behind "Violent Radicalization?"

The irony of all this is that those who would fit this definition most clearly, "facilitating violent radicalization," are the architects of the Iraq war and those in Congress who provide ongoing support through funding.

Here are the inevitable, empirically verified steps to radicalize individuals and groups. Initiate trade sanctions against a nation resulting in the death of 300,000 or more children. Then attack that nation because it has weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which are never found, thus negating the rationale for war. Create and implement a policy that shows disregard to for the safety of its people and their national treasures. Torture and humiliate citizens. And all the while, prolong the conflict even though the war is responsible for the death of over 1.1 million civilians.

Aren't these the type of actions that would surely "facilitate violent radicalization?" Even with all this, there has been no documented "homegrown terrorism" as a result of political posts on the Internet. However, there can be little doubt that this administration's war on Iraq is the proximate cause explaining whatever potential exists.

What's Congress Up To?

Clearly law enforcement needs to go where criminals congregate and needs to investigate, and make arrests. With or without this law, domestic and international criminals will continue to use the Internet for their goals and law enforcement will pursue them.

This bill seems more about those who harshly criticize those in power, elected officials.

Viewed from that perspective, there are at least two goals for this legislation:

  1. Chill domestic free speech by loyal, law abiding individuals or as the authors might have thought: "We're sick and tired of all these letters and accusations. Let's give them something to think about for a change. Whenever they make these accusations, they'll have to think about being tagged as a terrorist supporter."
  2. Provide a tool to defame those who get too far out of line. They now have words to use against those Internet "trouble causers" who demand impeachment, say Congress is grossly negligent, call the war a travesty, etc., or as they might have thought: We'll be able to use 'facilitating homegrown terrorism' to shut down these people whenever we want. Who wants to even log on to a site that's associated with helping terrorists? All we have to do is make the charge."

H.R.1955 is an affront to the intelligence of all citizens. It's a disgrace to those who conceived it and serious mistake by those who voted for it. A majority of citizens now know the big lies about the Iraq War. They're also smart enough to know nonsense legislation with stealth intentions of a controlling kind, if they ever get to hear the full story.

There is still a last minute chance to stop this in the Senate (S. 1959). The Senate "thought crimes" bill may be camouflaged in some other legislation, never debated, and passed before we know it. But feedback tells the Senate that the public is aware of this latest step to dismantle Constitutional rights in the name of antiterrorism.

The Loyal Opposition

There was opposition to this bill that also constituted a bipartisan coalition. The following six U.S. Representatives voted no in the face of assured criticism by their opponents in 2008 and no discernible political gain.

Voted "Nay" (no) on H. R. 1955
Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Jerry Costello (D-IL), John Duncan (R-TN),
Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
“What disturbs me most about this legislation is that it leaves the door wide open for the broadest definition of what constitutes "radicalization." Could otherwise nonviolent anti-tax, anti-war, or anti-abortion groups fall under the watchful eye of this new government commission? Assurances otherwise in this legislation are unconvincing.” – Ron Paul (R-TX)

“If you understand what his bill does, it really sets the stage for further criminalization of protest. This is the way our democracy little, by little, by little, is being stripped away from us.

“It probably should have been H.R. 1984. Because what they were doing... is they were trying to criminalize thought...” – Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)

Pending: S. 1959 Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

U.S. Senate Contact Information

Passed 404-6: H.R. 1955 Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

Understanding H.R. 1955: The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 Majority Staff, Committee on Homeland Security, Dec. 17, 2007

Michael Collins is a writer who focuses on clean elections and voting rights. He is the publisher of the web site His Scoop Independent News articles can be found here.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Fla Judge Reverses Rethug Anti-Voter Registration Law

Rethugs say they will appeal.

Surprise, surprise.

BLOGGED BY Brad Friedman ON 12/18/2007 3:33PM

A Notable Victory for Democracy Advocates Among Continuing Anti-Democracy Efforts by Republicans and the DoJ Around the Country

Court Decision May Ease Concerns Shared with BRAD BLOG by a Noted Sunshine State Election Official…

More good news out of Florida, where a judge has tossed out an outrageous anti-voter law which, critics charge, could well have disenfranchised thousands of Sunshine State voters (again) just in time for the 2008 Presidential Election. We spoke just last week with Ion Sancho, Leon County (Tallahassee)'s legendary Supervisor of Elections, who expressed grave concerns about this very law, even as Republican's promise to appeal the judge's decision, and continue other anti-voter related efforts about the country.

According to the Miami Herald's breaking coverage this morning...

TALLAHASSEE --- A federal judge ordered state election officials to stop enforcing a 2-year-old voter registration law, ruling Tuesday that there is already proof that the change put in place by the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature has resulted in ``actual harm to real individuals.''

About 14,000 people have not been able to register because of Florida's ''no match'' law that requires a citizen's name on a voter registration form be matched with a Social Security number or driver's license number. The law has been challenged by the NAACP and other groups that say the law unfairly blocks blacks and Hispanics from being able to register to vote.
U.S. District Judge Stephan Mickle rejected arguments from the state that the law is needed to deter possible voter fraud, pointing out that the state has not been able to prove that the 14,000 voters now in limbo engaged in voter fraud. He said the requirements put in place by Florida lawmakers apper to conflict with federal voting rights laws.

''The disenfranchisement, however unintentional, causes damage to the election system that cannot be repaired after the election has passed,'' Mickle wrote in the order.

The article goes on to report that FLA's appointed Republican Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, says the state will appeal the ruling, about which he says, "in my view the Legislature appropriately enacted this important anti-fraud provision as part of Florida's Election Code."

Browning's comments, unfortunately, come as little surprise for a number of disturbing reasons...

In an arguably related point, Browning, the former Pasco County, FL Supervisor of Elections, was one of the state's most ardent supporters of unverifiable, inaccurate, easily manipulated touch-screen voting machines, until forced by his new boss, Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, to support Crist's largely successful campaign to rid the state, once and for all, of such unreliable touch-screen voting systems.

For his part, Tallahassee's Sancho (one of the good guys, as seen in HBO's seminal documentary Hacking Democracy) told us last week that he was gravely concerned about the law which would have given anybody the right to challenge a voter's legitimacy, without recourse for the voter.

"We're gonna have problems in Florida. We're gonna have major problems next year" in regard to the law which was reversed today, and which Sancho told The BRAD BLOG he sees as part of a "continuing conspiracy to suppress 3% of the vote across the entire country" in next year's election.

Florida's law is one of several recently enacted by Republicans around the country making it harder to register legal voters to vote, and for registered voters to be able to cast their legal vote without obstacle on Election Day.

The Republican legislature in Ohio recently enacted a similar law to Florida's, while the DoJ's now-thankfully-former voting section chief, John Tanner, had recently upped the ante by sending notices to 10 different key states, threatening them with lawsuits if they did not carry out draconian and immediate purges of their voter registration databases.

More recently, the DoJ filed an amicus brief in the upcoming Supreme Court battle over draconian Photo ID restrictions at the polling place, meant largely --- in the absence of any notable evidence of voter fraud --- to keep Democratic-leaning voters from being able to cast a vote at all. Needless to say, by now, the Bush Administration's DoJ came out in favor of the Indiana law which will be coming before the high court in January.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hillary and Holy Joe and the Culture Wars

Hillary Clinton Joins Joe Lieberman to Resurrect the Culture Wars

By Jane Hamsher,
Posted on December 18, 2007, Printed on December 20, 2007

I guess this must be one for those of us who spent the 90s wanting to throw large objects through the television set as we watched that sanctimonious, finger wagging, judgmental scold Joe Lieberman on the floor of the Senate joining with the Republicans to derail the constitution over Bill Clinton's zipper:

Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) called for a thorough review of the video game ratings process in the wake of "Manhunt 2" receiving a "Mature" rating. In a letter to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), the Senators detailed how the change in rating opened the door to widespread release of the game, which depicts acts of horrific violence.

Well that is just peachy. Do we suppose Hillary sat down and actually played Manhunt 2 on the campaign trail in order to arrive at this conclusion, or did she just take Joe's word for it, much like she did when she voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that others have quite rightly pilloried her for? Because Joe, you'll recall, was a useful idiot for the Bushies when they discovered Iran had no nuclear weapons program and they had to find another reason to bomb them into the stone age -- something they neglected to tell the public about. And despite the fact that Clinton's excuse for voting for the AUMF was that she had "bad information" from the Bush Administration on the Iraq weapons program, she decided to trust them -- and Lieberman -- and amp up the Iran war rhetoric.

One wonders at what point she will stop following Lieberman over the cliff.

Wired magazine:

I agree that the current ratings system and all its consequences needs to be seriously re-evaluated, but not in the sense that Clinton et al apparently do, which is that Manhunt 2 never should have been released.

The uncharitable amongst us might conclude that this is simply a cynical ploy on Clinton's part to pander to old people, upon whom her Iowa chances depend. I'm sure that's not the case. Which is why I'd like to resurrect a suggestion from last year that Clinton find her voice and condemn the violent religious intolerance expressed in the Left Behind video game.

Conservative Origins Of Sub-Prime Meltdown

Hardly a day goes by without a news story about the accelerating number of foreclosures, an economic tsunami that is causing chaos in the housing and stock markets, the banking industry, and the global money markets, not to mention upending families and neighborhoods. Business leaders, activist groups, and Democratic presidential candidates are calling for our government to do something before the situation declines even further. The problem is worsening in every part of the country, but two early primary states -- Florida and Nevada -- are among the hardest hit.

The crescendo of criticism recently pushed President George W. Bush to announce a plan to freeze interest rates for up to five years for some homeowners who purchased homes with high-risk adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) that are scheduled to be "reset" at higher rates, in many cases, by hundreds of dollars a month.

The Republican candidates for president generally supported the Bush plan but were reluctant to call for further regulations to protect borrowers. Some pundits, including former Texas Rep. Dick Armey, a right-wing Republican who now runs a conservative think tank, FreedomWorks, suggested that the Bush plan violated the president's oft-spoken zeal for allowing the "free market" to work. The media fell for Bush's media spin, describing it as a interest rate "freeze" and an "agreement" hammered out with lenders and investors. But in fact the Bush plan involves no mandates or legislation, just a voluntary agreement by lenders that lacks the force of law. There's absolutely no requirement that would force banks or investors to share the pain or be part of the solution. It isn't even clear if investors in mortgage-backed securities will allow the lenders to reset the rates. They may even file suit to halt the freeze.

Consumer activists, and the Democratic candidates, pointed out that the plan excludes most sub-prime borrowers, including those who are in the deepest trouble and are delinquent on their mortgage payments and facing foreclosure. Of the perhaps 2 million adjustable-rate mortgages that are expected to reset through the end of 2009, only 240,000 of them -- 12 percent -- would be covered by Bush's proposal, according to Barclays Capital, as reported in The New York Times. The Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit group, estimates that only 145,000 households will qualify for the rate freeze. Most borrowers will be on their own to negotiate with their lenders on a case-by-case basis. Many families who persuade banks to temporarily freeze their rates still won't be able to afford to make the payments, and will face foreclosure.

"It's very disappointing," said Michael Shea, executive director of ACORN Housing, a national group that provides homeownership counseling for low-income consumers. "Wall Street has made billions and now they're hardly paying anything at all" for their role in the sub-prime crisis.

Make no mistake -- it is a crisis. Since 1998, more than 7 million borrowers bought homes with sub-prime loans. One million of those homeowners have already defaulted on their loans The crisis is likely to get worse. Financial analysts predict that at least a quarter of these people -- over 2 million families -- will default and face the financial pain and psychological grief of losing their homes over the next few years.

Bush, who once touted his administration's goal as creating an "ownership society," may now go down in history as the president on whose watch ownership declined. The nation's homeownership rate has fallen during the last two years and will plummet further next year. Moreover, Bush's unwillingness to take bold steps to regulate lenders, brokers, and investors will guarantee that the next president will inherit a much bigger mortgage mess.

To many Americans, the crisis seems too complex to comprehend. To understand it, we need to know: What is the problem? Who benefited? Who got hurt? Who is to blame? Who should we help? What should be done? Although the immediate cause is the widespread use of sub-prime mortgages, the root cause is a decades old failure of government to adequately regulate the banking industry.

What Is Sub-Prime Lending?

Sub-prime lending is a fancy financial term for high-interest loans to people who would otherwise be considered too risky for a conventional loan. These include middle-class families who have accumulated too much debt and low-income working families who want to buy a home in the inflated housing market. To cover their risk, lenders charge such borrowers higher-than-conventional interest rates. Or they make "adjustable rate" loans, which offer low initial interest rates that jump sharply after a few years. Only a decade ago, sub-prime loans were rare. But starting in the mid-1990s, sub-prime lending began surging; these loans comprised 8.6 percent of all mortgages in 2001, soaring to 20.1 percent by 2006. Since 2004, more than 90 percent of the sub-prime mortgages came with exploding adjustable rates.

With interest rates low, housing prices on a steady rise, and practically no government regulation, mortgage finance companies devised high-interest, high-fee schemes to entice families to take out loans that traditional savings banks would not make. Many of the lenders were legitimate operations providing a market for credit-risky people. But there also were huge corporations, such as Household Finance, that sought extraordinary profits through unsavory means, called predatory loans. Not subject to government regulation, they bent the rules, lowering normal banking standards.

Mortgage brokers, the street hustlers of the lending world, often used mail solicitations and ads that shouted, "Bad Credit? No Problem!" "Zero Percent Down Payment!" to find people who were closed out of homeownership, or homeowners who could be talked into refinancing. They seduced millions of people into signing on the dotted line. Although sub-prime lending has been concentrated in minority and low-income urban areas, it has spread to the middle-class suburbs.

The sub-prime lenders didn't hold on to these loans. Instead, they sold them -- and the risk -- to investment banks and investors who considered these high interest rate, sub-prime loans a goldmine. By 2007, the sub-prime business had become a $1.5 trillion global market for investors seeking high returns.

The whole scheme worked as long as borrowers made their monthly mortgage payments. When borrowers couldn't or wouldn't keep up the payments on these high-interest loans, what looked like a bonanza for everyone turned into a national foreclosure crisis and an international credit crisis. For millions of families, the American Dream of homeownership has become a nightmare.

The mortgage meltdown has serious ripple effects. Foreclosed houses become vacant, deteriorate into eyesores, and detract from the neatness and feeling of well-being in neighborhoods. Vacant houses also attract crime and make it more difficult for neighbors to purchase homeowners' insurance.

In neighborhoods with several foreclosed homes, property values, and thus local property-tax revenues, plummet, making it harder for cities to provide good schools, police protection, and other services. According to a new report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the weak housing market and the large inventory of unsold homes will likely reduce home values by $1.2 trillion next year. About half of that amount is due to the sharp increase in foreclosures.

Who Benefited and Who Got Hurt?

Mortgage brokers, who occupy an unregulated niche of the lending world, made a commission for every borrower they handed over to a mortgage lender. These brokers are like the drug dealers on the street corner. They are the smallest link in a lending chain that includes some of the largest and most respectable Wall Street firms.

Large mortgage finance companies and banks made big bucks on sub-prime loans. Last year, 10 lenders -- Countywide, New Century, Option One, Fremont, Washington Mutual, First Franklin, RFC, Lehman Brothers, WMC Mortgage, and Ameriquest -- accounted for 59 percent of all sub-prime loans, totaling $284 billion.

Wall Street investment firms set up special investment units, bought the sub-prime mortgages from the lenders, bundled them into "mortgage-backed securities," and for a fat fee sold them to wealthy investors around the world. According to The New York Times, China's second-largest bank, Bank of China Ltd, held almost $9.7 billion of securities backed by U.S. sub-prime loans. These investors, who bought the collateralized securities, were happy as long as they got paid their higher interest on the bonds or other investments.

With the bottom falling out of the sub-prime market, more than 80 mortgage companies went under in the past six months. Major Wall Street firms took billion-dollar losses as the crisis ripped into foreign money markets, from London to Shanghai. Lehman Brothers underwrote $51.8 billion in securities backed by sub-prime loans in 2006 alone; as of September, 20 percent of those loans were in default, the Times reported. Similarly, about one-fifth of the sub-prime loans packaged by Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, RBS, Countrywide, JP Morgan, and Citigroup are 60 or more days delinquent, in foreclosure, or involve homes that have already been repossessed.

The executives and officers of some mortgage finance companies cashed out before the market crashed. The poster boy is Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide Financial, the largest sub-prime lender. He made more than $270 million in profits selling stocks and options from 2004 to the beginning of 2007. And the three founders of New Century Financial, the second largest sub-prime lender, together realized $40 million in stock-sale profits between 2004 and 2006. Paul Krugman reported in The New York Times that last year the chief executives of Merrill-Lynch and Citigroup were paid $48 million and $25.6 million, respectively.

The hardest hit are the innocent borrowers of sub-prime loans. Many of them are working- and middle-class families who fell victim to the country's economic squeeze, a hardship not of their own doing but a symptom of the Bush years. They faced layoffs, stagnant wages, and rising costs of home heating, gasoline, utilities, food, and child care. For those without health insurance, one serious medical problem wiped out their savings. At a time when soaring housing prices were out of whack with the rest of the economy, sub-prime loans were the only way they could purchase a home. But when they could no longer keep up their mortgage payments, they had no safety net. They began skipping their monthly mortgage payments, especially after the adjustable-rate mortgages kicked in with higher interest rates, as high as a 30 percent spike for some borrowers.

Lenders sent letters threatening to take their homes in foreclosure if they didn't pay up. But for millions of families, the harsh warnings didn't matter. They couldn't refinance out of high-interest adjustable-rate mortgages because the value of their home had dropped below the outstanding mortgage or because they just didn't have the money. And they couldn't tap into a government aid program for at-risk homeowners facing foreclosure because none existed.

Those who deserve our greatest sympathy are the victims of predatory lending, a segment of the sub-prime market that involves deceptive practices by lenders, as well as unconscionable high fees and interest rates, sometimes running well over 22 percent. Predatory lenders range from sleazy operators in the financial netherworld to mainstream financial institutions like Household Finance. These lenders typically have salespeople who hound vulnerable families for months, soliciting and encouraging them to take out a loan to buy a house or refinance. Borrowers are charged hidden high fees, labeled with confusing terms like "discount points," suggesting that the fees will lower the interest rates, which they don't.

Predatory loans sometimes involve a conspiracy between loan agents and unscrupulous home-improvement contractors, as well as appraisers who inflate the value of a house so that families will borrow more than the houses are really worth. Predatory mortgages often include last-minute, hidden second mortgages. Using bait-and-switch tactics, predatory lenders tout low interest rates in ads targeting the elderly and residents of low-income, working-class, and minority neighborhoods, without explaining the actual interest rates or that adjustable-rate mortgages mean that the rates will increase.

Borrowers are enticed with deals that require them to pay little or nothing down. The unscrupulous lenders approve borrowers for loans even if they've recently been bankrupt or don't have sufficient income to keep up the payments. These lenders don't document an applicant's ability to pay back a loan. They often just accept the borrower's word about his income and expenses. "You could be dead and get a loan," a mortgage broker told Holden Lewis of, a leading Web source for financial rate information.

Predatory lenders turn lending logic on its head. Instead of cautiously making loans to people who can repay them, they get their money by lending to people who are unable to repay. The loans are structured to guarantee failure. Predatory lenders get borrowers to agree to an adjustable-rate mortgage without explaining how it works, including the big bump in rates with a few years after taking out the loan. Borrowers suckered by predatory lenders often wind up having a monthly mortgage payment that is more than half their income. A predatory loan is often for more than the value of the house. The victims of predatory loans frequently don't realize they've been snookered until they're about to lose their homes.

Not all sub-prime borrowers are innocent victims. Some were speculators themselves, seeking to profit from the real estate housing bubble, and had their eyes wide open. They expected to rent their houses or quickly "flip" them to another buyer in a rising housing market. Others were simply living dangerously above their means, taking on too much debt and occupying houses that, by any reasonable standard, they couldn't really afford. These borrowers should live with the consequences of their behavior, not be rewarded with any help.

Where Do We Go from Here?

What should government do to address this crisis? Public officials need to distinguish legitimate sub-prime lenders from the scam artists who engage in predatory lending. Likewise, the people facing foreclosure need to be treated differently depending on whether they failed to exercise personal responsibility or were victims of predatory practices. Banks and other lenders and investors who speculated in mortgage-backed debt must shoulder some of the blame for this debacle.

Government needs to help the victims of predatory lenders who are at risk of losing their homes, but it must also adopt preventative measures to stop the crisis from getting worse and prevent it from happening again. Congress should enact legislation to protect victims of predatory loans from foreclosure. The victims should have a right to a nonprofit loan counselor or lawyer who can help them renegotiate the loan or sue banks, including big Wall Street firms, for violations of state and federal consumer protection laws. Indeed, Congress should require lenders to restructure predatory loans and provide more funding to nonprofit groups that help homeowners renegotiate loans.

One of these groups, ACORN, a national network of community organizations, has been pressuring Citigroup to restructure loans rather than foreclose on low-income consumers. ACORN wants lenders to agree to 30-year, fixed-rate, affordable modifications to existing loans so borrowers can avoid interest rate increases that come with adjustable-rate mortgages. ACORN has also urged lenders to impose a moratorium on foreclosures, which some Democratic candidates have supported.

Another group, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, has a foreclosure prevention program that has saved thousands of homeowners from losing their homes by pressuring lenders to change adjustable-rate mortgages into fixed-rate loans. "This is not a homeowner bailout," said John Taylor, group's president. "This is a bailout for failed regulatory oversight. Infectious greed and malfeasance by lending institutions is the overwhelming culprit, not consumer misbehavior."

And UNITE HERE, the garment and hotel workers' union, has launched a campaign against Countrywide Financial, the nation's largest sub-prime lender, calling on consumers to boycott the bank until it guarantees it won't foreclose on borrowers who have fallen behind on adjustable-rate loans.

These activist groups have made some headway, but without a federal mandate they have to rely on protest and other threats to get banks to cooperate. They support a bill sponsored by Rep. Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat, that would allow bankruptcy judges to amend the terms of home mortgages. Under current law, the terms of a mortgage on a yacht or a vacation home can be adjusted during bankruptcy, but not primary residences. "This makes no sense," said Eric Stein of the Center for Responsible Lending, testifying before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law. Advocates say that the Miller-Sanchez bill could help as many as 600,000 homeowners avoid foreclosure, but the Mortgage Bankers Association is fighting the legislation.

Looking forward, we need the federal government to be a lending-industry watchdog, not a lapdog. Step one is to stop predatory lending. The Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in November, contains some useful provisions. It requires lenders to verify all applicants' income and document that borrowers have a reasonable ability to pay -- not just at the initial interest rate, but any future hike in the rate. It puts private mortgage companies and mortgage brokers under the umbrella of federal lending regulations, requiring them to be registered and licensed, just like stockbrokers and insurance brokers. It would also allow a borrower to modify an illegal loan, before being forced into foreclosure. And it allows states to pursue cases against fraud, misrepresentation, false advertising, and civil-rights abuses. Under the bill, wronged borrowers could seek some redress from the original lender, even if they're not in danger of losing their homes.

But, under pressure from the banking lobby, Congress gutted some of the better parts of the bill. The Mortgage Bankers Association and the American Banking Association lobbyists persuaded the House to allow lenders to continue the insidious practice of paying an increased fee to brokers for steering borrowers into higher cost sub-prime mortgages. It also bars borrowers whose predatory loans have been sold on Wall Street from suing investors for relief until the homeowners are facing foreclosure. In effect, it forces borrowers into foreclosure as a condition for asserting their rights.

Under the bill, in other words, victims of predatory loans have almost no ability to pursue claims against investment banks and other investors. Wall Street and the big players in the mortgage market won't be held accountable for buying abusive loans. Borrowers who were ripped off should be encouraged, not discouraged to sue Wall Street firms in state court for relief from mortgages that they never had a realistic chance of repaying.

A sweeping bill introduced last week by Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, closes many of the loopholes in the House bill by adding more consumer protections and industry penalties. The Homeownership Preservation and Protection Act of 2007 makes Wall Street and other investors liable for illegal practices of mortgage brokers and lenders. Unlike current law, which puts the burden on the borrower to identify the broker or lender who made the original deal, Dodd's bill allows the borrower to sue the current mortgage holder. The Dodd bill would prohibit lenders from steering borrowers towards more expensive loans than they would otherwise qualify for, and from influencing an appraisal's value of a house. It requires that lenders confirm that a borrower can afford to pay an adjustable rate mortgage after the rate jumps, and that loans provide a "net tangible benefit" to the borrower. It also prohibits prepayment penalties on sub-prime loans.

But to prevent the current crisis from getting worse -- and to avoid future crises -- Congress needs to take much bolder action to rein in abusive mortgage lending. Congress should simply outlaw adjustable-rate mortgages, which basically ask borrowers to treat their home mortgages like stocks, just like Bush wants to turn Social Security into individual accounts that people can invest, and risk losing their retirement savings.

Congress should also ban private lenders and brokers from issuing sub-prime loans of any kind. Instead, the focus should be on strengthening nonprofit lending institutions to serve the credit needs of high-risk borrowers. Like the old savings-and-loan (S&L) companies, these nonprofit lenders are highly regulated and devoted entirely to helping people purchase homes with transparent, stable loans.

Nonprofit lenders actually do better than their for-profit counterparts. One such lender, Neighborhood Housing Services of America (NHS), a federally charted nonprofit group with chapters in every American urban area, makes 90 percent of its loans to low and moderate income home buyers -- the so-called "risky borrowers" who only qualify for sub-prime loans in the private market. About 54 percent of NHS' borrowers are minority households. As of June 30, 2007, it has made some 3,000 loans totaling $205 million to these borrowers who otherwise would have been forced into the private sub-prime market. These NHS borrowers don't have the same mortgage problems as sub-prime borrowers in private sector. In fact, NHS' delinquency rate is only 3.34 percent -- well below the national rate of 14.5 percent for sub-prime loans in the private sector. The same is true for foreclosures. Only one half of one percent of NHS loans went into foreclosure during the second quarter of 2007, one fifth the foreclosure rate (2.45 percent) among private lenders.

NHS succeeds for two reasons. It has an effective mortgage education program carried out by its own loan counselors. It requires every borrower to participate in its counseling program before and after a loan is made. Moreover, and importantly, NHS makes no adjustable interest rates loans.

And It All Started with Deregulation

There was a time, not too long ago, when Washington did regulate banks. The Depression triggered the creation of government bank regulations and agencies, such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Home Loan Bank System, Homeowners Loan Corporation, Fannie Mae, and the Federal Housing Administration, to protect consumers and expand homeownership. After World War II, until the late 1970s, the system work. The savings-and-loan industry was highly regulated by the federal government, with a mission to take people's deposits and then provide loans for the sole purpose of helping people buy homes to live in. Washington insured those loans through the FDIC, provided mortgage discounts through FHA and the Veterans Administration, created a secondary mortgage market to guarantee a steady flow of capital, and required S&Ls to make predictable 30-year fixed loans. The result was a steady increase in homeownership and few foreclosures.

In the 1970s, when community groups discovered that lenders and the FHA were engaged in systematic racial discrimination against minority consumers and neighborhoods -- a practice called "redlining" -- they mobilized and got Congress, led by Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire, to adopt the Community Reinvestment Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, which together have significantly reduced racial disparities in lending.

But by the early 1980s, the lending industry used its political clout to push back against government regulation. In 1980, Congress adopted the Depository Institutions Deregulatory and Monetary Control Act, which eliminated interest-rate caps and made sub-prime lending more feasible for lenders. The S&Ls balked at constraints on their ability to compete with conventional banks engaged in commercial lending. They got Congress -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- to change the rules, allowing S&Ls to begin a decade-long orgy of real estate speculation, mismanagement, and fraud. The poster child for this era was Charles Keating, who used his political connections and donations to turn a small Arizona S&L into a major real estate speculator, snaring five Senators (the so-called "Keating Five," including John McCain) into his web of corruption.

The deregulation of banking led to merger mania, with banks and S&Ls gobbling each other up and making loans to finance shopping malls, golf courses, office buildings, and condo projects that had no financial logic other than a quick-buck profit. When the dust settled in the late 1980s, hundreds of S&Ls and banks had gone under, billions of dollars of commercial loans were useless, and the federal government was left to bail out the depositors whose money the speculators had put at risk.

The stable neighborhood S&L soon became a thing of the past. Banks, insurance companies, credit card firms and other money-lenders were now part of a giant "financial services" industry, while Washington walked away from its responsibility to protect consumers with rules, regulations, and enforcement. Meanwhile, starting with Reagan, the federal government slashed funding for low-income housing, and allowed the FHA, once a key player helping working-class families purchase a home, to drift into irrelevancy.

Into this vacuum stepped banks, mortgage lenders, and scam artists, looking for ways to make big profits from consumers desperate for the American Dream of homeownership. They invented new "loan products" that put borrowers at risk. Thus was born the sub-prime market.

At the heart of the crisis are the conservative free market ideologists whose views increasingly influenced American politics since the 1980s, and who still dominate the Bush administration. They believe that government is always the problem, never the solution, and that regulation of private business is always bad. Lenders and brokers who fell outside of federal regulations made most of the sub-prime and predatory loans.

In 2000, Edward M. Gramlich, a Federal Reserve Board member, repeatedly warned about sub-prime mortgages and predatory lending, which he said "jeopardize the twin American dreams of owning a home and building wealth." He tried to get chairman Alan Greenspan to crack down on irrational sub-prime lending by increasing oversight, but his warnings fell on deaf ears, including those in Congress.

As Rep. Barney Frank wrote recently in The Boston Globe, the surge of sub-prime lending was a sort of "natural experiment" testing the theories of those who favor radical deregulation of financial markets. And the lessons, Frank said, are clear: "To the extent that the system did work, it is because of prudential regulation and oversight. Where it was absent, the result was tragedy."

Some political observers believe that the American mood is shifting, finally recognizing that the frenzy of deregulation that began in the 1980s has triggered economic chaos and declining living standards. If they needed proof, the foreclosure crisis is exhibit number one.

Those who profited handsomely from the sub-prime market and predatory lending, the mortgage bankers and brokers, are working overtime to protect their profits by lobbying in state capitals and in Washington, DC to keep government off their backs. The banking industry, of course, has repeatedly warned that any restrictions on their behavior will close needy people out of the home-buying market. Its lobbyists insisted that the Bush plan be completely voluntary.

This isn't surprising, considering who was at the negotiating table when the Bush administration, led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, forged the plan. The key players were the mortgage service companies (who collect the homeowner's monthly payments, or foreclose when they fall behind) and groups representing investors holding the mortgages, dominated by Wall Street banks. The Bush plan reflected both groups' calculation that -- for some loans -- they would do better temporarily freezing interest rates than foreclosing. Groups who represent consumers -- ACORN, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the Greenlining Institute, Neighborhood Housing Services, and the Center for Responsible Lending -- were not invited to the negotiation.

The best hope for real reform rests with a Democratic Party victory in November. And after an electoral win, it will require that Democrats make sure that these consumer groups are key participants in shaping legislation..

And wouldn't it be nice to hear the next president tell the American people that, "the era of unregulated so-called free-market banking greed and sleaze is over"?

John Atlas is president of the National Housing Institute (NHI), a nonprofit research and policy center that sponsors Shelterforce magazine.
Peter Dreier is professor of politics and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy program at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and an National Housing Institute board member.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

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