Archive for the ‘Real News of the Day’ Category

Real News of the Day: Blagojevic indicted on Corruption charges, justice rears its ugly mug

April 2, 2009

A federal grand jury indicted former Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, his brother, and their top aides on 19 Corruption counts for operating a “wide-ranging scheme to deprive the people of Illinois of honest government.”

PWN'D

PWN'D

Blagojevich drew controversy earlier this year for allegedly attempting to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat after the Junior Senator ascended to the Presidency.  Blago’s brother Robert, his fundraiser Christopher Kelly, former chief of staff Alonzo Monk, other former chief of staff John Harris, and Springfield political strategist William Cellini were named as co-defendants.

The US Attorney’s Office issued the following statement:

Since 2002, even before he was first elected governor that November, and continuing until he was arrested on Dec. 9, 2008, former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and a circle of his closest aides and advisors allegedly engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to deprive the people of Illinois of honest government, according to a 19-count indictment returned today by a federal grand jury. Blagojevich, 52, of Chicago, was charged with 16 felony counts, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents. He allegedly used his office in numerous matters involving state appointments, business, legislation and pension fund investments to seek or obtain such financial benefits as money, campaign contributions, and employment for himself and others, in exchange for official actions, including trying to leverage his authority to appoint a United States Senator, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Also charged as co-defendants in the same indictment are:

John Harris, 47, of Chicago, Blagojevich’s chief of staff from late 2005 until last December after he was arrested along with Blagojevich. Through his attorney, Harris, who is charged with a single count of wire fraud, has authorized the Government to disclose that he has agreed to cooperate with the United States Attorney’s Office in the prosecution of this case;

Alonzo Monk, 50, of Park Ridge, a lobbyist doing business as AM3 Consulting, Ltd., and a long-time Blagojevich associate who served as his general counsel when Blagojevich represented Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District, and later managed his 2002 and 2006 gubernatorial campaigns, was his first gubernatorial chief of staff from 2003 through 2005, and later chairman of his campaign fund;

Robert Blagojevich, 53, of Nashville, Tenn., Blagojevich’s brother, who became chairman of his campaign fund in August 2008;

Christopher Kelly, 50, of Burr Ridge, a businessman and a principal campaign fundraiser who also served as chairman of Blagojevich’s campaign fund from early 2004 until August 2005. The indictment alleges that with Blagojevich’s knowledge and permission, Kelly at times exercised substantial influence over certain activities of the governor’s office; and

William F. Cellini, Sr., 74, of Springfield, a businessman who also raised significant funds for Blagojevich, in part through his role as the executive director of the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association. Cellini had longstanding relationships and influence with trustees and staff members of the Teachers Retirement System of Illinois (TRS), and he was associated with Commonwealth Realty Advisors, a real estate asset management firm that invested hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of TRS, the indictment alleges.

All six defendants will be arraigned on dates yet to be determined before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel in Federal Court in Chicago. Blagojevich was charged with 11 counts of wire fraud, two counts of attempted extortion, and one count each of racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, and making false statements. The specific counts and maximum penalties each defendant is facing are listed separately.

The stiff arm of the law only rears its vicious mug every once in a while in American politics.  Today is a good day.

RWP Rating: Real Fucking Weird

Full Story: Huffington Post

Real News of the Day: Sarkozy threatens to walk out of G20 Summit

March 31, 2009

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France threatened to “leave an empty seat” at the G20 Summit if acceptable regulations of the United States financial market were not furnished by President Barack Obama.   French Minister of Finance Christine Lagarde said, “President Sarkozy was very clear on that front, he said if the deliverables are not there, I won’t sign the communique.  It means walking away. I think he’s very determined.”

Sarkozy has a hot wife.

Sarkozy has a hot wife.

This may be that test that Joe Biden referred to before the November election.  Sarkozy is apparently unsatisfied with the way blame has been assessed in the global economic crisis.  He believes that the United States should accept the lion’s share of the blame.

Additionally, Sarkozy demands that the United States impose stricter regulations on its financial markets.  This will include everything from banks to hedge funds.   According to Lagarde, the United States and the United Kingdom want to opt for stimulus packages rather than international regulatory agencies.  The French government, in particular, wants to examine offshore tax havens and the effects they are having on the global economy.

Paul Krugman can only do so much with his lambasting of current fiscal policy.  At the end of the day, he is just a man with a bit of a higher soapbox than the rest of us.  No real power.  But it’s reassuring to see someone like Sarkozy, who does have international respect and power, demand that the United States stop its stupid financial games.  Then again, this reeks of political grandstanding.  It reminds me of officials that demanded that human rights laws be added to NAFTA but then didn’t impose any repercussions for violating them.

We’ll find out soon enough.

RWP Rating: Strange

Full Story: Telegraph

Real News of the Day: Obama asks GM CEO Rick Wagoner to be scapegoat

March 29, 2009

Bernie Madoff and Rick Wagoner don’t seem to have a lot in common on the surface.   Madoff pulled off the most notorious Ponzi scheme in American history.  Wagoner was the legitimate Chief Executive Officer of General Motors, the second largest car manufacturing company in the world.   Madoff, bad.  Wagoner, not as bad.

Wagoner fucked up, but he didnt cause the financial crisis.

Wagoner fucked up, but he didn't cause the financial crisis.

But they are about to linked in the discourse of the American media machine as those people that caused our economy to turn to shit.  Those people that caused your 401k to crash.  Those people that need to pay for what they did with jail time and a good public firing.

But Madoff and Wagoner are not to blame.  Did they fuck up?  Certainly.  But do their hijinx embody any of the systemic problems that caused the global financial crisis?  Hell no.

What Madoff did wrong: Stole money.  Plain and simple.  Madoff’s actions were against the law and he will spend every day for the rest of his life in prison because of them.

What Wagoner did wrong: Lost tons of money because of promises made to former and current workers in the auto industry.  The loss of money in GM spans several generations.  Meaning this:  GM has a lot of former employees that have pensions.  GM is obligated to pay those pensions.

Wagoner took over North American operations at GM in 2005.  He had a hell of a lot of debt to make up and closed several GM plants across the United States to curb costs.  Wagoner may be at fault for not predicting the boom of the hybrid car market.   But it is unfair that he should be fired when the executives of some of the major financial institutions that caused the economic crisis are still living large.

What actually caused the current economic crisis: The derivatives market and enormous bets by the biggest financial entities in the world.  It is unconscionable that the derivatives market is still open.

Why politicians are deflecting blame: They don’t want to change the rules of Wall Street.  Tim Geithner and the Obama Administration believe that all of the credit default swaps and naked CDO wagers should be completely legal.  At least their current actions tell me that much.   This whole thing is going to happen again if we don’t start making this shit illegal.

Next week, we’ll take a closer look at who and what caused actually caused the economic meltdown.  Until then, I recommend reading Matt Taibbi’s article that I posted earlier.  You can find it here.

Real News of the Day: Spain investigating Bush officials for war crimes

March 28, 2009

Guantanamo Bay was essential to the Bush Administration’s War on Terror.   Its location in Cuba enabled a suspension of Habeas Corpus and due process.  Many suspected terrorists from many different countries were extradited to Guantanamo Bay.  Five of those suspects were from Spain.

The Bush Administrations worst nightmare.

The Bush Administration's worst nightmare.

Each of the Spanish citizens claims that they were tortured during their time in the prison.  All were released and stood trial in Spain and all of their cases were eventually dismissed.   So now  there are five free Spanish citizens that were tortured because of decisions made by a small list of top Bush officials.  Number one on that list?  Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

Investigative judge Baltasar Garzon is examining the case in further detail.  Garzon gained fame in the 1970s for ordering the arrest of Chilean dictator (and American puppet) Augusto Pinochet.   Since then, Garzon has been a prominent human rights advocate, holding nations and terrorists, including Al-Qaeda, responsible for thier violations.

Also named in the report is former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo.  Yoo recently came under fire for writing memos in the wake of the September 11 attacks that would suspend the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment in the United States.  These memos were immediately retracted by the new chief of the Justice Department Jack Goldsmith when the Obama Administration took over.

John Yoo despises the Constitution.

John Yoo despises the Constitution.

Garzon is investigating Yoo and Gonzalez for knowingly circumventing the Geneva Conventions as well as the 1984 Convention Against Torture.  Torture tactics used by the United States including waterboarding were considered to be in violation.  Yoo and Gonzalez are also accused of attempting to redefine torture to fit in with the War on Terror ideology.

Other Bush Administration officials in the investigation include William J. Haynes II, the former general counsel for the Department of Defense, Jay Bybee, a manager at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and David S. Addington, who was the chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney are not named in the investigation…which is bullshit.  The buck stops at the President of the United States.  He is ultimately responsible and so is Cheney.

Cheney despises everything.

Dick Cheney despises everything.

I complain about the Obama Administration a lot.  I think that Geithner was a mistake and that we should not be bailing out AIG just because it cuts into the profits at Goldman Sachs.  That being said, the Justice Department of the Obama Administration is 210 million times better than the Justice Department during the Bush Administration.   After 8 long years, we can say unequivocally that the United States does not torture people.

The Bush Administration worked for 8 years to undermine our Constitution, to chip away at the Fourth Amendment, and to completely decimate the moral standing we once held in the international community.   Now we have a new President who seems to legitimately care about exceeding in the realm of foreign policy.   So today, sit back and drink some lemonade.  The blood on our hands is washing away.

Further Reading: New York Times

Real News of the Day: Obama won’t entertain marijuana lobby

March 27, 2009

Despite being the number one issue from the online community, President Obama refused to take legalization of marijuana seriously as a legitimate way to improve the economy.  From his first “Web Hall” in the White House, the Obama Administration set up a web tool where users could vote on which questions to ask the President.

The culprit.

The culprit.

With over two million votes, the overwhelming winning question asked the following:

“With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control, and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money-making, money-saving boost to the economy? Do we really need that many victimless criminals?”

Obama cleverly rephrased the question as such: Would legalizing marijuana improve the economy? And his answer verbatim was the following:

“I don’t know what this says about the online audience.  The answer is no I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.”

He didn’t take the question seriously.  Instead of a smart answer about a viable alternative to dealing with the drug cartels in Mexico, Obama poked fun at the TWO MILLION people that voted it to the top of the question list.  The online world is no longer a small and separated community from the American public.  The online world is the American public.  Obama should know this after running a successful campaign that utilized the Internet like no campaign before it.

That being said, it isn’t all Obama’s fault.  Most of the people that want marijuana legalized are young people, under the age of 40.  Most of the people that want to keep it illegal are over 50.  The problem is that people over 50 vote in every single election.  Politicians kiss geriatric ass more than any other demographic because the payoff for securing their vote is guaranteed.

The youth vote sucks and has always sucked.  Even in the midst of Obama-mania, the President still knows that he must cater his message to older voters.  If you want pot legalized, then vote in elections!

It really is Vote or Die if you live in the Southwest.

It really is Vote or Die if you live in the Southwest.

But his answer could have been a lot worse.  He actually never said anything about not legalizing weed in the future.  He just doesn’t think that legalizing it will solve our economic problems, which the question didn’t really ask.  But it’s somewhat true.  Legalizing pot will not magically pay for the huge amount of money that AIG owes to companies like Goldman Sachs.  It will not clean up naked credit default swaps and it will not act as a regulatory agency for investment banks.

But legalizing pot and other illegal drugs would stop the failed war on drugs.  It would immediately cut off revenue for the most dangerous cartels in Mexico.  It’s time that our politicians took this issue seriously and didn’t hide behind jokes.  The violence in Mexico is spreading over our border.   In 2008 alone, there were exponential increases in kidnappings in the Southwest.  We’ve got to get this under control.

These cartels are strong right now.  The footsoldiers in the biggest cartels in Mexico are as big as the entire Mexican army.  When they are in the United States, these cartels buy assault rifles.  They are heavily armed, intelligent, and extremely rich.  Yet we have the power, at any moment, to pull the rug out from under them.  By legalizing narcotics, we can dismantle these organizations and stop the violence.

The same thing happened during Prohibition.  Al Capone and his friends ran bootlegging rings that made them millions.  But when the United States gave up on their ridiculous war on alcohol, the mob never fully regained its strength.  Usage is actually less in countries where drugs are legal.  The statistics are in, yet stupidity is reigning supreme on this issue.  It’s time to take the logical steps to ensure that Mexico is not the newest failed state.

Real News of the Day: Republicans’ alternate budget proposal

March 26, 2009

I’m convinced that the Republicans are hellbent on making this country succumb to one party rule.  Republicans used to have real ideas for improving the country.   Eisenhower championed the Interstate Highway System, George H.W. Bush had the gall to call Reagan’s tax plan voodoo economics, and Ron Paul can still be taken somewhat seriously in modern economic debate.

But this alternate Republican tax plan is abysmal.

Incredibly appropriate.

Incredibly appropriate.

What happened today:  Senate minority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) convinced House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) that they needed to get behind a Republican alternate budget proposal.   Representative Mike Pence (R-Indiana) apparently conceived the plan during the last few weeks.  The congressmen held a press conference today and it was absolutely disastrous.

But what really happened: Mike Pence apparently acted like a college student that worked on a 20 page essay for weeks and then, hours before it was due, decided to forget about all the hard work and just slap together a 1 page summary.  All details were cut.   A simple pie chart at the bottom isn’t labeled and isn’t specific.  No, for that part I don’t even need to fall into the world of symbolism.  We have obtained the single chart from the alternate proposal.

Yes, this is it.

Yes, this is it.

What the alternate Budget contained: Two words.  Tax Cuts.  Yes, while criticizing Obama for increasing the federal deficit, these Republicans have the audacity to submit an alternate budget that would cease a huge amount of revenue.   Under the alternate tax plan, the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans would be slashed from 35% to 25%.  Those making under $100,000 will pay just 10% in taxes.  The alternate budget contained no cuts to federal programs.

Why it’s fucking irresponsible:  We have a HUGE federal deficit.  If we reduce revenue for the federal government we have less money to pay for the wars and the economic disaster.   That being said, we have to spend more right now.  I know it sounds stupid, but if the government stops spending right now, our economy will be shot to shit faster than a cheetah shot out of a cannon.  Examine the Paradox of Thrift for additional information.

Aftermath:  Reporters started asking questions.  Lots of them.  Involving specific numbers and details.  John Boehner was left bumbling about how they’ll have more details next week.  But they were the ones that called the press conference in the first place!  If you aren’t ready until next week, then hold the conference then.  Eric Cantor left in the middle of the conference.  Probably to catch another concert while pretending to be legitimate opposition.

This sucks for the American people.  We need real opposition in our government that holds the controlling party accountable for their decisions.  If all they come up with is a bunch of nonsense that completely contradicts their contention that Obama is going to drive us into more debt, then I have to assume that it’s all political posturing.  They are in no way interested in improving the country.  They are interested in playing politics.  And they can’t even get that right.